Not By Might

We are so often lured to believe power is necessary to affect change. Truthfully, power can bring about change in the physical world, but rarely positive, impactful, lasting changes. One powerful kingdom gets replaced by the next; the leadership landscape changes but not the lives of the people.

From the time of the exile to Babylon until Jesus coming, the people of Israel languished under one occupation and then another, experiencing very brief moments of freedom. When Jesus arrived on the scene as a baby, the Roman empire had only been around for 27 years; but by the time he was beginning ministry in his 30s, their domination was in full swing. The Jews were ready for a redeemer, someone to free them from Roman rule and reestablish Israel as a kingdom, one to influence the whole world – just as they understood the prophesies to read.

But Jesus didn’t come to establish a physical kingdom on earth. He came to establish the kingdom of God, a spiritual kingdom, one that fills the whole earth and supersedes all other kingdoms. God’s kingdom binds people together regardless of their physical status or ethnicity, slave or free, rich or poor, man or woman, child or adult, barbarian or educated… the list goes on. When Jesus said that the kingdom of God was near, and was in fact at hand, this is the kingdom he meant.

We are living in the kingdom of God right now.

God’s spiritual kingdom operates opposite to earthly kingdoms in nearly every aspect. In God’s kingdom the physically poor are spiritually rich; those who appear to be first and the greatest physically are last and the least spiritually. The servant is the leader. In God’s kingdom, the ruler doesn’t lord himself over his subjects but gives his life for them.

A spiritual kingdom requires spiritual power. Physical might means nothing. We are tempted to believe that our ingenuity and ability will get us through, but that could not be farther from the truth. Though it’s a great movie story line – how the hopelessly overmatched underdog finds a miraculous way to win in the conflict – it is not spiritually real. Yes, David defeated Goliath, but who really won the battle.? Here are David’s exact words:

“This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands…” (1 Samuel 17:46)

Our might cannot save us. Our might cannot protect us. But we are not helpless; we have the Spirit of power living in and through us, and the living Word of God as our sword. He has already conquered death and we are in him.

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” (Zachariah 4:6)

The transition we need to make is to let go of what we think we can do and to embrace what we know God can do.

 

 

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Actively Waiting

It seems we are always waiting for something. Maybe you are waiting for graduation or for a baby to be born or for a promotion at work. Once it happens, we then look forward to something else, and the waiting begins again.

No one really likes waiting but it is a necessary part of our earthly life. It is also a part of kingdom life – in the mission world, we find ourselves waiting for many things. Some of us are waiting for an organization to accept us, others are waiting for God to provide the financial support to get started in ministry. Once in our new country, we wait while we learn the different culture and language. As we get involved in ministry, we wait for “fruit” from that work. And in the end, we are all waiting for Christ’s return!

We may be tempted to consider waiting as wasted time, but that would be wrong. Externally, God may have us waiting because the right time has not yet arrived. Only he knows the best time for things to happen. The apostle Paul used the term “the fullness of time” in his letter to the church in Galatia:

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Galatians 4:4 (ESV)

The Jews had waited for their Messiah for centuries, but God sent Jesus just when the time was right.

Most of us may be able to list examples in our own lives when God has delayed. During the wait we probably called out to God in desperation. The time certainly seemed right to us; but when his answer finally arrived, we saw his wisdom and love for us in the waiting.

Waiting has an internal purpose as well. In waiting, we develop character. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit worth waiting for! In waiting, our faith is deepened. That deepened faith may be needed for deeper waters lying ahead on our path. In waiting, we understand that God is in control and not ourselves. Learning to submit to the lordship of Christ brings about greater dependence on him and others.

Waiting does not have to be without action, though. In fact, actively waiting often brings about greater things. We must learn to embrace the fact that there is purpose in God’s process for us. Here are some suggestions for how to stay active in waiting on God:

Pray – prayer is to our lives of faith what breathing is to our physical lives. It should be constant. We get a better understanding of who God is and what he is about as we spend time with him in prayer. Prayer spiritually prepares us for God’s plan for us.

Learn – our lives should be about learning, whether we are waiting or acting. Learning almost always involves listening and listening well. Interacting with what we hear is the first step to understanding and moving forward. Learning helps prepare us for what is ahead when the waiting ends.

Love – engaging with those around us while we wait will reap benefits for both us and them. Our service will meet needs and prepares us for what God has in store. Love should be our priority. In the end, three things will remain, faith, hope, love… but the greatest of these is love (1 Cor 13:13).

Love God. Love others. That covers it all.

Moving Forward, Looking Back

Don’t literally do this, while driving or walking! We’ve all seen people, intent on their phones, run into other people or solid objects. We are not promoting distracted moving!

What we are saying is this: the courage and resolve to move forward toward a God-sized vision comes from looking back at God’s faithfulness in the past.

Gideon took his 300 soldiers up against 300,000 because God had been faithful in answering his prayers for a sign.

Paul faced persecution, imprisonment, and martyrdom to take the gospel to the world, because Jesus appeared to him and commissioned him personally.

Mission workers draw courage in the same way.

The courage to move forward with fundraising for ministry comes from the joy and confidence of knowing you are on the right path. One definition of the word interpreted “blessed” in Matthew 5 is the joy experienced when you know that, of the many paths there are to take, you have chosen the right one! If God has you on the right path, he will certainly provide.

The courage to face the challenges of moving to a new country, establishing a new home, learning a new language and culture, and looking like a fool frequently comes from seeing God be faithful in raising the money you needed to get there in the first place.

We move forward in faith – the assurance of what we hope for and the substance of things we can’t see – because we have seen God work in and through us in the past. Since we see his faithfulness in the little things, we can trust him for the big things.

 

What God-sized things are you facing today? As you consider them, think back over his faithfulness to you yesterday. If you don’t already journal your walk of faith, you might consider giving that a try. It is easier to remember things that we write down.

I have told you this, so that you might have peace in your hearts because of me. While you are in the world, you will have to suffer. But cheer up! I have defeated the world.

John 16:33 (CEV)

 

Interested in missions? Fill out our contact form here!

 

 

God Wants You… to Be You

Have you ever wished you had someone else’s gifts and abilities? Someone who gets so much done. People listen to them. They have tremendous impact, and they look great too.

You have similar gifts and goals, but things just don’t work out the same for you. Try as you might, your impact just creates a smaller footprint. God doesn’t seem to use you the way he uses other people.

Here is the truth. God wants you, actually needs you, to be the best “you” that you can be and nothing more. He is the one who put you together. He has plans for you. He gave you his Spirit so you could become all he wanted you to be.

An Oscar-nominated musician, who has achieved some of his goals but failed in many more of them, wrote a note to himself which he keeps in his car. It says, “God is my only audience.”

God is our only audience, and he just wants you to be you.

Consider also that we each have no idea what our impact truly is (or isn’t). Only God really knows how we are changing the lives of those around us. You may smile at someone today, which could inspire kindness in them toward someone else, then that next person pays it forward, and so on. Your entire community can brighten because you genuinely smiled at someone.

The kingdom doesn’t need another Billy Graham, Chris Tomlin, Amy Carmichael, or Andy Stanley. The kingdom, and our King, needs you to be who he designed you to be. By being the best, Spirit-empowered you that you can be, you grow the kingdom, wherever you are and whatever you do.

So don’t fall into the comparing game. Keep God as your only audience, living to please him and bring him glory. Use every opportunity to share the gifts that he has given you to make a difference in your world. Leave everything else up to him.

You never know when you might be entertaining angels. (Hebrews 13:2)

I Resolve…

A new year, a new chance to focus on priorities that will make a difference. What will you resolve to do with 2019?

Most resolutions are quite predictable – lose weight, exercise more, and quit smoking are all in the top ten. Watch less TV or limit social media might be in there for most people, too. Almost all resolutions revolve around trying to use our resources in better ways.

We would like to encourage you to have some kingdom-focused resolutions. What might you focus on this year, beginning right now, that would advance the kingdom?

Pray around the world. Probably the best resource for this is Operation World (http://www.operationworld.org/). They list every country in the world along with statistics related to it and to the kingdom. It helps us pray knowledgeably for people we’ve never met. Oh, and don’t forget to pray for more harvesters, too!

Connect personally with a missionary supported by your church. Most missionaries get very little communication from people that know them back in their home country. Encourage them today by sending them an email or connecting with them in some other way.

Consider supporting a missionary financially. This doesn’t have to be a lot of money. God can take a small amount and multiply it. Consider the loaves and the fishes, and the teaching moment when disciples watched the widow give her two only pennies. If you don’t know a missionary already, your local church leadership could suggest someone.

Engage someone from a different culture. Choose someone in your community with whom you can continue the relationship. Begin by just starting up a conversation and work toward inviting them to your home for a meal.

Commit to getting to know people, those who are regularly in your life like the barista at your coffee shop or the cashier where you get groceries. Find out who they are and what they are going through. Pray for them regularly.

 

Pick one of the above and try to stick with it. We will join you. Even just one act of kindness can change someone’s day… or someone’s life. As you make yourself available to God, he will use you.

Happy New Year!