Advancing Together with Global Action (No. 8)

God Wants More Than Our Leftovers

Our lives are meant to be lived with purpose.  But so many times, we get too busy....and distracted.  We end up living busy lives, and not purposeful ones.  We end up working too much, playing too much, and having zero availability for God, either from a time or money perspective.

That is not God's plan for our lives.  One of my favorite verses is Jeremiah 29:11 - "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."  God's plan is for us to live an abundant life filled with intentional and persistent focus on Him and with proclaiming Him to those around us (and throughout the world).  God is at work and He wants us to join Him - not because He needs us, but because it gives Him glory and gives us delight to do so!

But we are too often content to throw God our scraps rather than giving Him our passion.  We can't be Life Changers if we don't pursue God with our all.  Proverbs 3:9-10 says "Honor the LORD from your wealth and from the first of all your produce; So, your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine."  It's an incredible principle that God sets forth throughout scripture.  Prioritize God -first-, and you will live an abundant life.  A life of blessing.  The promise is not about financial blessing, but of a life of purpose, joy and heavenly treasure-focused. 

Prioritize God with you time - have you ever thought about tithing your time?  Building margin into your life so that you can tithe your skills and talents to God's work is a wonderful way to honor God.  And prioritize God with your stuff - "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  Matthew 6:21. God wants your heart and that means prioritizing Him with the first fruits of our time and treasure that has come from Him. 

So, how are you doing?  (As I write this, I'm also asking myself "how am I doing"?).  What can you do differently today to be more purposeful about sharing the love of Jesus with a lost and dying world?  Develop a personal and family mission statement that can be your launching pad for a deep and consistent life legacy of pointing others to Jesus.  But don't just write the mission statement - put it into action.  Pray daily for God to open doors for you to serve Him with your first fruits and to make a real and sustainable difference for Him in the world.  Get active supporting your church and efficient organizations that are making a mark on the world for Him.  Global Action is one such organization, but there are many and you need to find your passion for the Lord. 

Let's join together and give Him the first fruits of our lives.  Let's change the world for Him.  We can do it, but it takes our banding together and locking arms as we surge forward together for His glory and for His Name's sake. 

Advancing Together with Global Action (No. 7)

We are stronger together

Last week, we had the opportunity to be in Honduras and Guatemala where we graduated 250 pastors and ministry leaders.  It was such a profound and moving time as we soaked in the passion and gratitude toward the Lord that these influencers have.  We were there to teach them and to graduate them from our GLOMOS Foundations program, and yet they taught us much as well!

One man, Marvin, had been abducted at the age of 12 and then forced to fight with the guerrilla fighters in Nicaragua.  Marvin had an amazing story of how God had brought him to faith in the Lord.  He started a church about 10 years ago, with no Bible training and none was available to him, until GLOMOS Foundations. Through tears of joy, he expressed thanks and told us that, since he had started the Glomos training, people started coming back to the church and coming to faith in the Lord.  His church is now at 100 people per week (in a very remote area) and they had just planted a new church that had an additional 50 people attending.  On the night of our graduation dinner, he had a chance to speak to the large group of graduates and guests and he had a great message and reminder - we are stronger together!  He called his friend, his "Timothy", to the stage and they demonstrated how we are to "watch each other's backs."

This is close to God's heart as well.  There are many scriptures that deal with our approaching each other in love when sin is present.  Proverbs 27:17 says "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another."  James 5:16 tells us that there is tremendous power in confessing our sins to each other and praying with each other.  

God wants us to thrive in our relationship with him, not just survive in a distracted and half-hearted way.  So, find someone to walk this journey with.  It can be as simple as discussing the 3 questions developed by Casey Sanders at Jesus Spoken Here Ministries:  

  1. Where are you with God right now? What has He been showing you in His Word? 
  2. Tell me about an experience with God you had this week that was undeniably Him. 
  3. Tell me about an experience with God you had this week that was undeniably Him.  

Questions like these, when asked in love, and answered with purpose and vulnerability will bring us closer together and, more importantly, closer to God as we make the effort to regularly seek Him.

Marvin with his "Timothy."

Marvin with his "Timothy."

Advancing Together with Global Action (No.6)

The beauty of God's love

How do we reconcile Jesus' command for us to abide in Him with our continuing sinful nature? Should we be discouraged because we cannot be victorious over sin?

A sermon by Steve DeWitt of Bethel Church in Crown Point, Indiana, addressed this point and was both challenging and encouraging! The starting point... God's holiness.  1 John 1:5 says, "God is light and there is no darkness at all in Him." God hates sin and cannot tolerate it in His presence. Yet, we are sinners (as evidenced by our daily selfish and wrong actions). The great news is that Jesus' sacrifice on the cross and resurrection was a substitutionary act of atonement for our sins (1 John 2:2) and Jesus is an advocate to God on our behalf when we do sin (1 John 2:1). This means that, when we sin, Jesus intercedes and we get the benefit of His perfection and atoning sacrifice.

The beauty of this act cannot be overstated.

When we truly understand this and appreciate it to the point of unconditionally following Him, we don't cheapen Jesus' atoning gift by making purposeful decisions to sin or live selfishly (because we know that we are and will be forgiven). 1 John 3:9 says, "No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God." Instead, our understanding of the depth of God's love for us should inspire us to know Him more and to "walk in the light, as He is in the light."

Be amazed at God's great love for you and allow that amazement to cause you to strive for holiness each day! 

 

Advancing Together with Global Action (No. 5)

Doing good for God's glory

Galatians 6:9 says, "And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart."

We often make excuses for not doing good things because we're afraid that if we do something extraordinary for one person, it will be expected of us for all people. This is not biblical thinking. God calls us to do for one, what we would like to do for all - even if we can't do it for all.  

I Peter 4:8-11 instructs us on this further: "Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless-cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God's words; if help, let it be God's hearty help. That way, God's bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he'll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything-encores to the end of time."

While each of us can't eradicate poverty or change the world, we can impact those around us for Christ and show them the love of God. It comes one person, one act of love at a time. Find one person for whom you can do good and then do it as unto the Lord.  Or, join with an organization like Global Action that is focused on changing the world for God - one person and one community at a time.

Remember, if we abide in Christ, we WILL bear MUCH fruit (John 15:5). So, don't grow weary while doing good - do good for the glory of God.  Shine the light of His love - one good deed at a time.  We will shine His light and He will get the credit and glory through our acts of love and kindness. 

 

Ukraine Summer Camp Updates 2017

Liubotyn

(Lyubotin Holy Trinity Church, Kharkiv region)

Graduates of the GLOMOS program and the Holy Trinity Church organized a summer camp for children in Meref that lasted seven days.

The children learned Bible stories, sang songs, painted, colored pictures, danced, composed fairy tales, staged scenes.

The participants really liked to perform the story about the Gypsy believers who came to the unbelievers. The story about King Artaxerxes’s feast performed by the teenagers was also very popular.

"Gypsy Club of Сheerful and Clever" was the final and one of the most interesting parts of the camp. The children received small gifts and the "Noah's Ark" magazine.

According to the feedback of the campers, "it was the best summer event ever".

It is worth emphasizing that the camp was held in the place of a compact settlement of the Roma people. There were 42 campers. Among them, there were children from low-income, vulnerable and socially inept Roma families and families of immigrants from the East of Ukraine (the warfare territories).

For many children, the camp was the only opportunity for a proper holiday, the only chance to receive a gift and to hear the Gospel ... which is the most important!

After the camp, we decided to follow up and organize a Sunday school.

We practice the vision we had received while studying in GLOMOS ...

"to go and teach others to be the disciples of Jesus Christ!"

Advancing Together with Global Action (No. 4)

Bearing fruit and loving others

God chose you. God chose me. If you are a Christ follower, the reality is that God drew you to Him and chose you to be His representative to the world - to show others how to abide in Him and to bear much fruit. In John 15:16, Jesus tells us, "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last [or abide]. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name."

We are called by God to bear fruit, to love others, to show God's attributes, to speak truth in love, to pursue holiness, and to desire knowing more and more about God. I'm reminded of the song by Steven Curtis Chapman that says, "We will abandon it all for the sake of the call." Yet many days, we barely acknowledge God, or worse, we live selfishly. Distractions are not our calling. They do not bear fruit for God. We are to do our very best to the glory of God in everything we do. We are to not allow the distractions and worries of the world to sidetrack us from what God has called us to do. This means being intentional about God's mission for you every day right where God has called you in that moment.

Think of it ... the holy, true, all-powerful creator loved you enough to send His Son as savior and then redeem you for a holy purpose (which none of us deserve). What an honor to be called by Him!

Each day, with each decision, we have a choice to honor God, honor His calling, and reflect Him or to live selfishly and squander His calling. Remain in Him and let His purposes drive your everyday decision-making. Worship Him with your life today. Put Him first and don't be afraid to "abandon it all" for the higher calling of His purpose - bearing lasting fruit for His eternal glory.

Advancing Together with Global Action (No. 3)

Imitator's of Christ

Last week, we discussed abiding in Christ and determined that it is remaining in Him and Him in us.  So, how exactly do we do that?  Ephesians 5:1-2 gives us one way, "Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and has given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma."

Be imitators of God. To do this, we must know Him intimately. We need to be students of who God is and then apply his character to our daily actions.

Walk in love as Christ did. This is a call to selflessness. This is a call to living intentionally.  We need to live for God and others (and not for our selfish desires) so that we can be a sweet-smelling aroma to God. Would God describe the offering of our life as "sweet-smelling" to Him or would it be the opposite?  Does the aroma of our life draw people to God or make them run the other direction?

Become a LifeChanger today by intentionally living an available and generous life.  Available and intentional to God so that you can imitate Him and abide with Him each day (starting with today).  Available and intentional with with your time, money and emotions so that you can be a light to those around you near and far.  Invest in the Kingdom today by investing in your daily walk and in reaching out to others - a LifeChanging legacy and a sweet aroma to God and others!

If you'd like to learn how to prioritize God more or how to abide in Christ, email us here at Global Action and we can talk with you and help you get on track in your walk with and service to the Lord. Let's become LifeChangers together!

Advancing Together with Global Action (No. 2)

Abiding in Christ

Jesus said in John 15:5, "I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who abide in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me, you can do nothing."

Abiding = much fruit. No fruit = not abiding. We all want fruit in our lives, right? Think about it for a second... no one wants to leave behind a life without meaning and purpose. That is the essence of being a Life-Changer for Christ. Making a difference for Him through the fruit of our lives. This means that in order to be a Life-Changer and to make our maximum difference for the Kingdom, we need to be abiding in the Lord each day.

We abide in the Lord when we remain in Him and He in us. (John 15:5) We remain in Him when we prioritize Him before busyness, money, things, and fleshly or worldly desires. "Love not the world, neither the things [that are] in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (1 John 2:15). Last week, we talked about the importance of delighting in the Lord - this same principal applies in 1 John 2. We become what we love in our hearts.

Let's do a heart check and see what is driving us and where our affection toward God truly lies ... where are our time, energy and resources spent? If the Lord isn't first in importance here, then it's time for some inward renovation!

Let's abide with the Lord today and follow His lead in our activities and priorities. Begin spending time in prayer and Bible study today. Begin touching lives for Christ every day and watch His love spread!

Advancing Together with Global Action (No. 1)

Delight in the Lord

"Delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." (Prov 37:4) A simple yet profoundly deep and life-changing principal. "Delight" means to take great joy and pleasure in - to derive joy from. If something delights us, we want to experience it more. It drives us and we want to make sure that nothing gets in the way of our experiencing it. Delight in the Lord.

You could read this verse very shallowly and read it as a selfish action - we delight in the Lord SO THAT we get something ... If you do, your missing the point! This is NOT a "Give to Get" formula. Rather, it is selfless and life-changing. As we delight in the Lord, we want to know Him better. We spend more time with Him in prayer. We study His attributes and His desires. We sacrifice for others. We serve Him with our life. We give freely and generously because we are motivated to further the Kingdom. We become more like Him.

As we become more like Him, our desires change from being self-centered, focused on earthly things and pleasures, to being the same as His desires. We gain His perspective and His outlook. As a result, His will is done and, guess what, that IS our heart's desire. We also begin to know Him more intimately. Again, because this is our heart's desire. Old things are passed away and, behold, all things become new.

This simple Proverb can be life changing if you let it soak in deeply. Are your daily decisions motivated by your delight in the Lord? What will give Him the most glory? This is the essence of calling. This is the essence of the Christian walk ... we become like that in which we delight. Are you having trouble consistently abiding in the Lord and walking in His ways? Check your heart; what are you delighting in? Delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. To His glory.

Advancing Together with Global Action

Note from the President

Let's grow closer to God, together!

At Global Action, we have a desire to work with all of our ministry partners to grow closer to God. God calls us to pursue Him with our whole hearts. We can pursue him through acts of service in the ministry setting, through prayer, through giving, and through encouragement in the Word.

It is my prayer that our Advance Together devotionals will encourage you in the Word and draw you to Him as we say, "Thank you for your prayers and support of Global Action and the over 7,000 pastors that have been trained around the world."

God is so good, and it is exciting to watch the incredible impact of our collective ministry as we reach the world for Christ. Please email me any questions or feedback to globalaction@globalaction.com. I'd love to hear from you and walk together with you on your personal journey to know Christ and to make Him known.

Blessings,

Bob Smith
Interim President
Global Action

www.globalaction.com

P.S. Want to know more about Global Action or support us financially? Donate today!

Read More

Teaching Them... What?!

I don't get to share devotions in our office that often but when I do, I usually like to make them short. It's a tough crowd usually around here with everyone constantly checking their watches while I share... It reminds me of my youth group but I digress...

Here's my "short" take from our devotions yesterday. I'll try and make it short and sweet but you can always jump to the end...


Matthew 28:20. We all know it. We should know it. I's Jesus's command to go and make disciples of all nations, right? What does His command tell us? It tells us to go. It tells us to make disciples. It tells us to teach them. But - hold that thought for a second? Teaching them what?

We've done a good job teaching them the doctrines and teaching them how to study the Bible. Countless Christian organizations and missionaries are teaching "them" how to pray, how to evangelize, how to serve. Countless seminaries and Bible schools are teaching "them" Hebrew and Greek (sorry but I only took Hebrew because I had to have it for my credit hours!) but what about the part of "teaching them to obey?" When was the last time you took a class or went to a Bible conference on "Christian Obedience?"

Sure, we can spend more countless hours (yes, the key word for today is countless but that what happens when you can't afford to hire an editor!) defining the word "obedience" and why other translations use the word "observe" (the word is also translated as "preserve" - now you can thank me for the image above!)- and we can look into the Greek word for it but at the end of the day these two questions still remain:

  1. How I am doing in the Department of Christian Obedience [to the teachings of Jesus]?; and,
  2. How am I teaching others to obey [the teachings of Jesus]?

Here's my take on both. It boils down to "Am I doing what I know that I am supposed to be doing?" And it starts with the "small stuff of life" - like, for example, responding to the nudging of the Holy Spirit when he tells me to "Call so and so..." or, when I hear Him whisper, "Pray for this or that..." - or, when grocery shopping, He tells me, "Buy an extra bread for your neighbors!" Obedience to the "big things" - absolutely! - but it is usually the small rocks that turn off the horse cart and I know that for me, it's about the "small things" that I need to be careful and obedient.

The second one is a bit more tricky because it will require vulnerability and making myself open to those I disciple. Most of us will agree and even say that nobody is perfect but unless my closest friends and fellow disciples see my own struggles in modeling obedience, I risk growing and teaching the next class of Christian hypocrites. I am what I am today because of the grace of God but also because of people I admired and people I wanted to grow up and be like them - it was their example that got my attention. Were they perfect? Absolutely not but making themselves vulnerable and even sharing their own struggles of dealing with obedience had helped me see it in action and made me wanting to do better.

So, how are you doing in the Obedience Department? Are you helping others do better in that department? I will be surprised but if you hear about a conference on Christian Obedience, let me know.

Press In!

“Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on.” Mark 2:4

This story, found in Mark chapter 2, is really an incredible one. Here’s the picture… Jesus is preaching to a packed house, literally, so much so that people were standing outside and no one else could get in. Four men brought their paralyzed friend to the house so that Jesus would heal him but they couldn’t get to Him. They climbed up on the roof and started digging into the roof and opened a hole. Imagine! Jesus is preaching and all of a sudden dirt begins to fall on His head as well as everyone around. It doesn’t say that Jesus said anything until the man was laying in front of Him. He saw their faith, forgave the man’s sins, and then healed Him. The man simply got up, took his mat, and walked out… no big deal!

As I was reading this story again this week, there are so many directions I could have gone but the imprint it made on me was that these were desperate people and they resorted to desperate measures. To say the least, they pressed in to see Jesus and would not be deterred. They destroyed somebody’s roof in order to get to Jesus! This took some work and they were willing to face the possible repercussions of their handiwork.

Life has its ups and downs. But, sometimes we just need to see Jesus, for whatever reason. Maybe we haven’t been in the presence of God much or maybe we have a desperate need. Recorded throughout the gospels, it was those who seemed most desperate and pressed in to Jesus that He touched. In almost every situation, He mentioned their faith. In this situation, it was “their” faith, not just the one that was healed. Faith is not a mystic thing. Faith is not always getting what we want. Faith is not believing that God is able to do something for us. Faith is trusting God that He has the best planned for us regardless whether we understand it or not (Heb. 11:40).

Over the last few weeks, I have felt a tug from God to press in. It’s not that I have an extra special need or that this is a challenging time. On the contrary, sometimes we can be satisfied where we are. God wants us to be desperate. The Bible talks about the value of being content and it is good to be content but there is a difference with contentment and satisfaction. Contentment is part of who you are, satisfaction is a temporary state of being full. Contentment grows, satisfaction exists.

I want to be like those four friends who didn’t care what others thought, how difficult the task may be, how long it would take, or fear of rejection. I desperately need Jesus and want to routinely press in to His presence in the good times and the bad!

 
James Tissot [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

James Tissot [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Interview with GotQuestions

Our friends and partners from GotQuestions.org sat down with Phil Long to ask about our work and ministry. Here's Part One of their interview...


Did you know that over half of the world's Christians are led by people who don't know the Bible? In the developing world, where the vast majority of Christians live, 85 percent of the pastors have less than one hour of Bible training. Let that stat sink in for a minute. What if your pastor only had one hour of ministry education? How would that impact your church? We came in contact with a ministry that is seeking to change that statistic, especially in developing countries.

Global Action trains and equips front-line pastors in developing countries to make disciples. The ministry reports that one of the greatest challenges to the body of Christ and the growth of Christianity in the world is the lack of spiritually mature leadership. To counteract that challenge, Global Action focuses their energies on equipping pastors in these areas, most of them front-line, bi-vocational, first generation Christians. Global Action equips these ministers with the Bible and ministry skills so they can be successful as church leaders. Phil Long, president of Global Action, explains:

Some experts estimate that 82 percent of church plants (especially those in the developing world) will fail within two years. There are conflicting statistics about the success of church plants, but regardless of the exact amount, we know that the percentage of failure among church plants is high. The leader of the church is often the major reason for failure. These leaders are highly susceptible to false teaching and frustration from the lack of knowledge and support. We equip them so they can be successful and we connect them with other leaders. We want them to become a reproducing church...a church who is making disciples.

We sat down with Phil Long to learn more about what God is doing in the developing world. Let's listen in as he shares how to help pastors in developing countries. One of Global Action's core values is to empower people.

How does Global Action empower pastors in developing countries? 

First, we help them understand God's Word in a personal way and teach them how to study the Bible. Once they understand it personally, they can share it with their churches. We seek to empower them with the skills and training to serve. Our training is unique because we empower these church leaders to make disciples and become intimate followers of Christ. We help create a foundation where they can build their personal faith which does the same for members in their churches. We don't give them a salary, but we will sow into their ministries which allows them to do outreach from their churches into their own communities. We help them develop a strategy so they can reach their communities for Christ. 

According to your website, 85 percent of churches in developing countries are led by people who have less than 1 hour of ministry education. How is that impacting the growth of the church in developing countries? 

Because of the incredible growth of Christianity world-wide, many of these church leaders are first-generation Christians, which means they grew up in a religion other than Christian. They have become pastors by default because there is no one else. They need help and relationship support. 

Many of these church leaders have a limited understanding of salvation when they come to Christ. They may have experienced a miracle or maybe God came to them in a vision, or they may have seen the life of their Christian neighbor and how different it was. Whatever it was, it made them realize that Jesus is the way. They believe the gospel and they would die for it. But they don't always fully understand it. Sometimes, that carries over from the culture they grew up in. Christianity may look a lot like their past life...just because they don't know any different. 

For example, if you grew up in a Christian family in the USA, would you know how to be a Hindu? One day, you decide to become Hindu, but you don't know anything about Hinduism because you grew up in a Christian culture. As a result, your new found Hinduism is going to look a lot like your past life. You might go to the temple on Sunday morning and praise and worship the Hindu gods. Since you don't know how to be a Hindu, you base your new faith on what you know. It is the same way when someone converts to Christianity. 

How do you leave the culture intact without changing the gospel to fit that culture? 

It's important for us as western Christians to remember that the Bible is transcultural — it is for every culture. We try to ensure that Global Action is transcultural, too. We can train church leaders how to keep cultures intact while removing the cultural elements that are ungodly. For instance, if you are from Nepal and become a Christian, you are still Nepali. Buddhism is a major religion in Nepal so it is engrained into many of the customs of that country. By using the Word of God, we help them determine and apply its truths within the culture. 

According to Pew Research, over the last 100 years, there has been a significant decline in Christianity among "developed" nations like the United States and many countries of Europe, with the total Christian population dropping from 87 percent to 69 percent. What about the developing world? 

It's true that in the developed world, Christianity has declined 18 percent over the last 100 years. In the developing world, Christianity has grown significantly. One hundred years ago, only 17.8 percent of the world's Christians lived in developing countries, while today that number is 60.8 percent. However, a closer look will reveal that while population has more than quadrupled, the percentage of Christians has only slightly doubled. That's good, but it still hasn't kept pace with the population growth. Considering that a vast majority of the Christian leaders in those countries do not have a firm grasp on the Bible and in some cases, even their personal relationship with God, what we do is imperative to the growth of Christianity in the world. 

With that in mind, what do we do about reversing the downward trend of Christianity? 

Make disciples. Very simply, the church has to go out and make disciples, regardless of where in the world you are. We absolutely have to share the good news of Christ, but we must make disciples, not just converts. As we make disciples, they will help others grow in the Lord and do the same. We seek to help pastors have the necessary skills to reach their communities for Christ. 

#makedisciplesnow

How are we doing?

 “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you…”  ~Jesus Christ

Two thousand years ago, this is the task that Jesus left for His disciples. Today as His church, the question we must ask ourselves as followers of Christ is, “How are we doing?” The only way to measure our effectiveness is to measure ourselves based on His original commission. Are we making disciples, baptizing and teaching in ALL nations?

According to Pew Research, there has been an explosion in population growth of almost 400% in the “developing” world, sometimes referred to as the third world. Likewise, the church in these countries has also grown from 9% to 23.5% of the overall population. This accounts for 60% of the world’s Christians.

However, a closer look shows us that only 10 nations around the world hold one-half of the world’s Christians and 90% of all Christians live in a country where Christianity is the major religion. Over the last 100 years, there has been a significant decline in Christianity among “developed” nations like the United States and many countries of Europe, with the total Christian population dropping from 87% to 69%.

So in reality, the growth of Christianity has not kept pace with population growth overall and is down several percentage points from 100 years ago. One could say that the church has not effectively done the “WHAT” of Christ’s commission or the “WHERE” because we still have almost no impact on at least 25% of the countries in the world, not even considering individual people groups.

So the big question is what do we do about it?

Stay Focused. First, having been involved in world missions for over 40 years, I’ve noticed that the church, individual and corporate, tends to get easily distracted from Christ’s commission.  Making disciples can often take a back seat to our “humanitarian” efforts. It’s like we are putting the cart before the horse.

For example, a major trend affecting many Christians and churches is the social justice issue.   Social justice by definition is “promoting a just society by challenging injustice and valuing diversity.” Don’t misunderstand me, I believe that Jesus himself challenged injustice and valued diversity. I believe that He had compassion on those who were poor and hungry, naked and sick. I believe that a major part of the local church’s responsibility is helping the needy and should be a part of each Christ follower’s life to do these things. But until Jesus returns and establishes His “Kingdom” on earth, sorry to say, there will never be a “just” society, regardless of our efforts.

However, I am convinced that Jesus’ focus on making disciples set up a system that would accomplish these humanitarian goals, not through an institution, but by individuals practicing His example. True disciples of Christ will take care of widows and orphans. They help those who are really in need. My intent is not to criticize what others are doing; in fact, I applaud good works and compassion. Global Action helps churches in developing nations realize that part of their mission as a church is to show the love of God by reaching out to those in need in their communities.

Back to the question of “What do we do about reversing the downward trend of Christianity?”

Make Disciples. Very simply, the church has to go out and make disciples. We have to share the good news of Christ. Then those disciples will help others grow in the Lord and do the same.

My charge is this… if we concentrate on helping others mature as Christ followers, they will exemplify Christ and take care of others, physically and spiritually. If we just ask people to give us their money so that the church will take care of society’s needs, we will make passive Christians, not disciples. Just a thought…

Your thoughts?

Crossing Rivers for Jesus

Euan (right) and I, before another "river cross" in Honduras

Euan (right) and I, before another "river cross" in Honduras

This year we’ve had training locations in so many diverse locations. Our heart is to equip pastors in some of the most remote areas on the globe. We’ve gone into the mountains of Central America, Eastern Europe, and India on the border of Tibet and Bhutan, down into the jungles, and into villages where the temperatures were over 120 degrees. I personally visited most of these extreme locations this year but wanted to share a little about my most recent trip to Honduras.

As I landed in San Pedro Sula, Honduras in September, I looked out of the airplane window and saw the muddy, swollen rivers and thought about the journey ahead of me. I had been told about the many rivers we would be crossing on our trip into the jungles of the Mosquito Coast but had no idea just how exciting this trip would become.

After a nice brunch of bean and cheese baleadas by Sister Tula, we set out for our first graduation six hours away in the town of Tocoa, which is a well-known narcotrafficking center in Central America. After many police stops and big potholes, we arrived at our host church where over 200 people had been waiting for us for 2 hours. Although they were tired and hungry, nothing deterred their enthusiasm to see their friends and loved ones graduate from their studies. This was serious! We finished all the festivities about 11pm and headed to our little hotel.

The next morning at 5, we started our long adventure into the jungle. After about 30 minutes, we hit bumpy, dirt roads and got a phone call that our trucks would not make it through the deepest river. We had to find a ride! At a breakfast stop, we convinced someone in the village “café” to take us through the river. Five hours later, we parked our trucks at a small house in the middle of nowhere and loaded all of our Bibles, water, suitcases, and all 9 team members in the back of a monster 4x4. Within minutes, we were crossing through 4 feet of a raging river!

To add to the excitement, we hit a rock in the river that bent the front tore to a 45 degree angle. We had to limp along for another 15 miles to another 100 ft. wide river with no bridge. We carried all our belongings down a muddy road and loaded it onto 2 boats for a nice 20 minute boat ride into the jungle to reach our final destination, the small village of Palacios.

After teaching our class for 2 hours on leadership and a little nap, we walked to the graduation location where almost 400 people were waiting. Everyone in the nearby area was attending including all community officials. There had never been a meeting like this and everyone wanted to participate. It was a great meeting and I was able to share the gospel with them all. And not one mosquito bite!

The next day, we headed back to the city, all events in reverse. Can I tell you that after an equally eventful 13 -hour journey back, both my traveling partner, Euan Woolley, and I were ready for a good bed! What a great trip!

My trips aren’t always this eventful but they are more times than not. I’m always looking for traveling partners to see what God is doing and have some great adventures. If you’re ever up for it, let me know!

Beware the "Bats"

Recently, I took a trip across the country in my wife’s car. On the way back, I kept hearing a rattling noise under the dashboard. I thought maybe the fan in the air-conditioner was going bad but half way through my trip, the noise stopped and the air started working again. 

The day after I returned, my wife, Shary, was taking my daughter somewhere in the car and all of a sudden, something flew out from under the dash and landed on my daughter’s window. At first glance, they thought it was a big moth but realized it was a bat. The bat was confused and afraid and flew all over the front of the car. Shary and Abby simultaneously screamed and laughed. Then, in a twist of events, the bat somehow made it into my wife’s seat between the seat and her back. I’m sure you can imagine the panic in my wife. She quickly pulled off the road and fumbled at the seatbelt until she could “escape.” When she threw open the door, the relieved bat flew off. After Shary caught her breath, they laughed and laughed. It was a great story!

As I thought about the bat, I thought about how we pick up “bats” or unsolicited baggage in life’s journey and many times, we don’t even realize it. That’s why we must pay attention to what we expose ourselves and watch our attitudes. Several times, Paul told us in the New Testament to pay attention, walk carefully, because the “days are evil”.  

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Ephesians 5:15-17

If we are not careful and protect ourselves, if we don’t pay close attention, these “bats” manifest at some of the most inopportune times, like the bat, and usually, it not only will affect us but others around us. As an example, pride is one of those tricky “bats.” Most of the time, we don’t wake up one morning and say, “Today, I think I’ll be prideful!” Pride sneaks in. Maybe the pride trigger is success. Sometimes, it might be a defense mechanism. But pride does sneak in to all of our lives and it hurts us, our reputation, and many times those to whom we are closest. It’s one of the many “bats” that can attach itself to our lives.

The “bat” incident has made me take a closer look at some of the rattles under the dashboard, so to speak, in my life. If we listen, we can see some indicators of unwanted guests in our lives. As we do, we can’t ignore them, as I did, but we must take a closer look and find out what’s causing the problem. If we don’t, we could be looking at a wreck down the road.

Drive carefully and beware the bats!

Hurdling Is Just A Part Of Life

Thinking about my most recent journey to India and my journey over the last 3 1/2 years, the old saying "you can't always control what happens to you, but you can control what you do about it" came to mind.

I made a conscience decision a few years ago that I would do my best to only allow what happens to me affect me in a positive way. Life will always have its challenges. This is just a fact of life, regardless of our financial state, physical health situation, or the status of a relationship. I like to think of challenges as hurdles we face and must get over to finish the race.  Here are several “secrets” that we probably all know but it’s good to be reminded:

One secret of getting over the hurdles of life is learning the true meaning of being content whatever situation you may find yourself. This isn’t a “whatever will be, will be” attitude. It has everything to do with understanding God’s divine providence, He has all under control, and strength is available to handle every situation the right way. The Apostle Paul understood this best when he wrote in Philippians 4,

 
“…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Contentment is the offspring of humility and it brings ease of mind. Discontentment brings turmoil and negativity and can lead to further hardship. We control how we will behave in all situations, whether we caused it or not – 100% of the time. We choose to be bitter or forgive. We choose to complain or be victorious. Contentment is a state of mind.

Another secret to getting over hurdles in life is to simply refuse to quit. Although I never ran hurdles competitively, after practice we would sometimes play around with the hurdles. Hurdles are hard, especially when you caught your toe and went face down. But, the more you practice, the better you got. And, regardless of how good you are, all hurdlers, including the Olympians, fall at one time or another and it hurts. It’s the same way in life. The key is that you don't quit. You face your “hurdle” and even if you fall and get hurt, you get up and keep going. You stay positive and believe that you'll clear the next one.

Last, understand that God loves us and nothing can separate us from His love.  That understanding comes out of knowing God and what we mean to Him. God wants us to succeed in life more than anyone.

I like how Eugene Peterson interpreted the last part of Romans 8,

 
“So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? …is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? …The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture…None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.”

Keep hurdling!

Everything Starts With the Heart

“Before God can do a great work in an organization, that work must be done first in the heart of a leader… Unless God has taken our hearts captive, all of our good ‘doing’ will lack spiritual integrity and authority. Our work will expose the absence of God’s anointing. And it is at the exact moment that we think we ‘have it all together’ that we cease to be usable in the work of the Kingdom.”  ~Scott Rodin

I am a part of a monthly meeting where a group of CEO's and business owners meet together to talk about our organizations, discuss personal and business issues we’re dealing with, and challenge each other on how we can use our positions to make a spiritual difference in the lives of the people we lead. This week, we started our meeting by discussing the statement above. Keeping our hearts pure is difficult challenge but necessary, if we want God to use us and the positions that He has us in.

We discussed that letting God take our hearts captive is two-fold. First, we must yield to what He wants, seek His will with a passion, and refuse to move until we find it. Second, we must be on guard to keep our hearts pure and be alert for any sin that may entangle us. We all have sin and if we don’t admit that, we only fool ourselves (I John 1:8).

We all face temptations. Temptations of failure lead to fear, cutting corners, using people to get things, seeking comfort and love in the wrong places, anger, and on and on. But, there are also temptations we face in success that can equally cause setbacks. We can grow proud in our accomplishments, selfish, and greedy. We begin to think more highly of ourselves because of what “we” have done. We become entitled and expect others to place us at the head of the line. Again, we all deal with temptation and if we allow God to captivate our hearts, we’ll make it.

One important key that helps us to keep our hearts pure is having others that will tell you the truth but still love you. You need people surrounding you that don’t just tell you how great you are but those who will call you out when necessary. Accountability is important so that we can push each other to a deeper level of integrity.

Another important key for having a right heart is being content. In Philippians, Paul tells us that we need to learn to be content in every situation we find ourselves in. At the center of contentedness is servanthood.  A true servant is never frustrated. Frustration leads to discontent. At times, this has been one of the most difficult lessons for me to learn in life because it is a tendency, as humans, to be self-centered not serving to others.

God wants to do great things through us, but He is always so much more interested in what we become to Him than what we do for Him.  Never forget that!

#MakeDisciplesNow Re-launch

Just a few weeks ago, I returned from a long trip overseas. Every time I visit the church in other countries, I realize the great need for making disciples, all over the world, both here and there.  People talk about it but few are truly doing it. I was going to speak in a church recently on the importance of disciple making.  In his own words, the pastor asked me to share about something more relevant because they already were great at making disciples. In my own experience, a church that is truly great at discipleship can never get enough of it. There is nothing more relevant in our service to God than fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission. And by the way, after a little digging, that church did not have a reputation for making disciples.

Last year, we started a campaign called #MakeDisciplesNow and now, we will re-launch that campaign again. Although we want to expose/re-expose our ministry to as many as possible, we want to get people thinking about discipleship and missions. We want to ask questions that spark the answers to the challenges that face the global church today. We are not doing this as a criticism of what others are doing but to create an atmosphere of encouragement and creative ideas for one another in the area of discipleship, outreach, and missions. There is a series of six videos that introduce a thought or idea and then recipients are invited to comment or ask questions on our Global Action's Facebook page.

Our desire is that people would talk about this and we can develop a “community” of like-minded believers that understand or want to understand our foundational responsibilities as Christians.  Hopefully, we can encourage one another because true disciple making is not complicated but it is work and requires us to step out of our comfort zone sometimes. Christ’s Great Commission inspires and motivates us every day at Global Action to make disciples and challenge others to do the same. Please join us over the next 6 or 7 weeks by giving your input on this very important subject. 

If you would like to receive our emails, please let us know at office@globalaction.com or check out our Global Action's Facebook page or our Twitter and Instagram feeds.

Funny Moments: The Rains Down in Africa

As I was discussing possible things to write about with a member of our staff, we decided to go off track a little and write about how important humor is when traveling abroad. One person that sticks out the most in my mind is my good friend, Mike H., who I had the privilege of working with and who happens to be a gifted children’s pastor. No matter the situation, whether appropriate or not, he always seemed to come up with something that made you laugh.

I’ve had the opportunity to take multiple teams on mission trips but one such trip was probably the most physically demanding one that I’d ever lead a group of Americans. Mike just so happened to be on that trip. We had just been 10 days in the country of Niger, which is predominately a Muslim nation, and not for the faint of heart. We had spent much of our time in the bush country of the Sahel, the southern part of the Sahara desert. We had little water, bad food, and slept in mud huts on beds made of sticks. The last night, termites had infected the men’s hut and we were forced to sleep under the stars in the sand with all things that crawl in the night. I tell you this because I want you to get some picture of what our trip was like. Ministry was amazing but the physical conditions left much to be desired. I was so proud of the resiliency of the team but we were all tired.

Our flight left Niamey, the capital of Niger, at 4 o’clock in the morning. We had gotten no sleep that night at the end of a grueling trip. As we sat in the airport at 3 am, the temperature was about 95 and no air conditioner. Most everyone in the waiting area was napping or reading when all of a sudden Mike began to sing at the top of his lungs. He was singing the old Toto song, “I felt the rains down in Africa.” What made it so funny, besides the fact that he couldn't sing very well, was that it was so hot and we were in the desert where it rarely rains. All the Africans were looking at this crazy American singing as loud as he could in the middle of the night, on a hot night, about rain.

As we boarded the plane, soldiers stopped us on the tarmac to check our carry-on baggage and frisk us for weapons. I was near the front of the line and a soldier approached me and questioned me as to if I was the one who had been singing. In my compassionate way, I thought I would teach Mike a lesson. I turned around and pointed to him and let the soldier know that he should be asking “that guy” who was the culprit. I stopped at the stairs to the plane to watch what would transpire. When Mike reached the soldier with the AK on his shoulder, he was asked if he was the one singing and Mike sheepishly confirmed that it he was the guilty one. What happened next was one of the funniest moments I have experienced. The soldier commanded him to sing the whole song! Mike sang for him and then looking very relieved, picked up his bag and started to move toward the plane when the soldier roughly put his hand on Mike’s chest and said, “Again!” I died laughing as Mike sang the song again!

Every now and again, I get a video of Mike driving down the road in his car singing that song. Too funny! It’s good to laugh!

If you have a funny missions story to tell, I invite you to post on this blog and share it. We would all benefit laughing with you!