What We’re Reading Today

From Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend’s How People Grow.

The best way to think about the Holy Spirit and growth is to think about a moment-by-moment relationship of dependency on him…But all this happens in an “abiding” sort of way. We yield to him and follow. We open up our hearts and beings to be “filled” with him. We ask him to invade all that we are and to work in us. In a sense, we give ourselves to him as we live out the life of growth.

Success is Not in the Size

Karl Vaters reminds us that the size of a church does not determine its success.

 Namely, “what is a successful church?”

The answer to that question is not found in buildings, budgets or butts in the seats. It’s found in the simple, two-part formula for success laid out by Jesus himself. The Great Commandment and Great Commission.

Are we loving God? Loving each other? Making disciples? Sharing our faith? Any church that’s spending its time doing that instead of obsessing over budgets, building projects, making a name for the pastor, petty infighting and the like, is a successful church. No matter how big or small it is.

Read the whole thing.

Persevering Under God’s Training

As disciples, we should always think of ourselves as being trained to go somewhere someday or to stay where we are at to help train others to go.

In the Bible, training has another word “discipline”.  We find in 1 Corinthians, Paul making the connection between training and discipline. Paul saw a need for discipline to keep him from being disqualified from the prize.

Not only are we to discipline ourselves, God disciplines us to. He is our coach and He is our trainer. To him discipline is a sign of his affection and love towards us. As a father disciplines his sons, so does God discipline us and trains us all for holiness and ministry. We need to be careful not to despise or harden our hearts towards the Lord’s discipline.

If you are considering on going on a One Year Challenge, you may be finding yourself now entering a period of discipline or training. Training can come from your ministry leader or discipler. It can also come from a difficult life-situation that you are facing or an illness or a difficult relationship. In some cases God may not be behind the difficulty that you are facing, but He may be using it to refine and discipline your character. In all of these cases, you can believe that God has already been preparing you for your One Year Challenge!

The Bible encourages us to persevere in discipline. Here are three, from the book of Hebrews.

  1. We are disciplined because we are God’s children (Hebrews 12:7).

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?

We grow weary in discipline because we forget that behind it is God’s fatherly love. It is easy to grow despondent in hardship and begin to believe that God has harmful motivations behind His discipline. We must remember that God’s love is not just endearing and sweet, its firm and challenging.

2. We are disciplined because God wants us to share in His holiness (12:10).

…but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.

What could be more valuable than sharing in God’s holiness? His holiness is more precious than gold and pursuing it brings more fulfilment than in pursuing any relationship. God’s holiness is also what the world needs for people’s hearts to change. If we strive to share in his holiness, God will shine through our lives and our actions — and that will change the world.

  1. We are disciplined for righteousness and peace.

Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Ever wondered if Moses felt discouraged that it took him so long to find his life purpose? Yet Moses was trained in all his 80 years before leading the Israelites to the promise land. Everything that he learned as an Egyptian prince, as a shepherd and as the husband of Zipporah and all that he learned after murdering an Egyptian was training for his eventual life purpose. Training and discipline can be unpleasant at first and sometimes can even seem pointless now, but later on it produces within us what we need to complete God’s will in our lives.

Great Missionary Lives: Robert Moffat

Robert Moffat was a Scottish pioneer missionary to South Africa. During his life, he was mainly a missionary to the Tswana people. He was also instrumental in convincing fellow missionary David Livingston to come to Africa, rather than China. While we would not agree with all that he taught or believed in, his example of humble diligence is an example for us all.

It was twelve more years before his message bore the fruit of revival. Suddenly the meeting house was crowded. Heathen songs were not sung in the village and dancing stopped. Prayers came to the lips of the Bechuanas, and the songs of Zion were sung. They began to give up their dirty habits.

Read the whole thing.

Three Promises for Those Who Go

When it comes to making a big decision, like going on a One Year Challenge, we often times will prioritize making it based on circumstantial certainty — like securing a job — rather than making the decision on faith.

Yet as Christians, we can have a greater sense of certainty than even those who could see the future. This is because we have the promises of God. We can be sure of God’s promises, because God is faithful and He keeps His word.

God makes promises to those who do the work of Christ through different scriptures in the Bible. Below are just three that you can take courage in.

Promise: You’ll go out weeping, you’ll return laughing.

Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them (Psalm 126:5-6).

No doubt, walking with people through Bible studies can be painful. It involves sacrifice and great love for our friends. Just like farming, one year can return a great harvest and other years can bring about famine. The Bible doesn’t over gloss over this fact, but it does promise that those who go out weeping will one day return with joy and a harvest. Not everyone that you reach out to will become Christians, but if we persevere, we will one day find souls who will worship God with their lives.

Promise: You’ll receive more than you give.

‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus replied, ‘no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first (Mark 10:29-31).

If you go, Jesus promises that we will receive more than what we give. In fact, we will receive a 100 times more. This can be especially encouraging if we feel daunted by the sacrifice of leaving home. Ultimately this is God’s promise that He will take care of us (you can read about a brother’s experience of this here). Our needs for a family and a home will be met if we go for the Gospel. But God also promises that we will face challenges, namely persecutions.

Promise: You’ll be lead triumphantly by Christ.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere (2 Corinthians 2:14).

We can be comforted by the promise that if Christ leads us — if we do things His way and in prayer — we will be triumphant. What does triumph look like? Not only that Jesus has risen from the dead, but also that the knowledge of Him will spread everywhere. In this way we don’t have to worry that our work is in vain. Christ will be known, whether in surrendered hearts or conquered hearts.

If you’re considering any big faith decision today, especially if you’re considering going on a One Year Challenge, know that the Biblical promises can be enough. They contain the certainty that you are looking for.