If (book review)

Amy Carmichael was a committed follower of Jesus Christ! She served as a missionary in India, where she operated an orphanage, for 55 years. During all that time, she never took a furlough, but remained at her post, faithfully loving Indian children with God’s love. She wrote a number of books, but perhaps the most hard-hitting is a little book simply called If.

This isn’t a book for everyone. In fact, Amy herself wrote, “It is clear, I think, that such a booklet as this is not meant for everyone, but only for those who are called to be undershepherds.” By ‘undershepherds,’ Amy is referring to those who feel God has called them into full-time vocational ministry.

(A little side-note. I feel the Bible is clear that all followers of Christ are to be involved in ministry [see Ephesians 4:11-16], but God has appointed some to positions where their ministry is also their vocation. These ‘undershepherds’ [see 1 Peter 5:2-3] will have to give account to God for the handling of their vocational ministry [Hebrews 13:17]. It is to these folks that Amy writes.)

Amy set the bar high for herself. She expected to be continually growing in her level of commitment to Christ, and she expected that her outward life would continually show greater devotion to her Savior. If comes out of Amy’s personal introspection in the Holy Spirit’s presence on how she was progressing in her faith-walk with God.

If is written as a series of challenges that all follow the same format: “If I don’t measure up to God’s standard in this area … then I know nothing of Calvary love.” I realize this sounds challenging. In fact, this book smacked me right between the eyes! This is why If is only for a small segment of people.

What Does The Bible Say About Church Leaders?

God’s plan has always been for His leaders to organize and oversee His ministry.

The important thing for us to distinguish is “His.” It’s not a man or woman saying, “I will be a leader,” or even a God-appointed leader saying, “I am going to build up my ministry.”

The New Testament gives us a fourfold purpose for the Body of Christ:

  1. Mobilizing for evangelism
  2. Organizing for more meaningful ministry
  3. Making disciple-makers
  4. Caring for one another

We see God’s leaders involved in all of these aspects—

Mobilizing for evangelism—Peter pointed out the need for an apostle to be appointed to replace Judas, thus returning their ranks to the 12 apostles just as Jesus had originally said (Acts 1:15-22).

Organizing for more meaningful ministry—Everywhere Paul founded a church, he also appointed leaders to oversee and shepherd that church.

Making disciple-makers—Paul tells us that God appointed five offices of leaders in the church who had the specific task of preparing church members to do the ministry of building maturity in the church (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Caring for one another—The First Church set the pace for providing care for all who were in need, including organizing leaders to oversee specific care ministries (Acts 6:1-5).

What about a church congregation’s responsibility to their leaders? I see five areas:

  1. Hold them accountable to the Word (Acts 17:11). The Bible has to be THE standard to which leaders are held.
  2. Give them your confidence and submission after they have shown accountability to their biblical mandate (Hebrews 13:17).
  3. Pray for them (Ephesians 6:19).
  4. Pay them (1 Timothy 5:17).
  5. Be very careful about accusing them (1 Timothy 5:19).

A church and its leaders following this biblical pattern is a church that can effectively fulfill the Great Commission which Jesus gave us.

Thursdays With Oswald—Ready For God … No Matter What

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Ready For God—No Matter What

     The greatest need of the missionary is to be ready to face Jesus Christ at any and every turn…. The great battle all along is not so much against sin, as against being so absorbed in work that we are not ready to face Jesus Christ. … This attitude of being ready to face Him means more and more disentanglement from so-called religious work, and more and more intense spiritual reality in so-called secular work. The whole meaning of the Christian life from Our Lord’s standpoint is to be ready for Him. … 

     Jesus appears in the most illogical connections, where we least expect Him…. When we are rightly related to God, life is full of spontaneous joyful uncertainty and expectancy—we do not know what God is going to do next; and He packs our life with surprises all the time. …  

     Readiness implies a right relationship to God and a knowledge of where we are at present. We are so busy telling God where we should like to go. Most of us are waiting for some great opportunity, something that is sensational, then we cry—“Here am I; send me.” … But readiness for God and for His work means that we are ready to do the tiniest thing or the great big thing, it makes no difference. … 

     Remember there is no such thing as prominent service and obscure service; it is all the same with God. 

From So Send I You (emphasis mine)

I fear that many Christians have the idea that “missionary work” or “ministry work” is a separate calling from their “real work.” But according to both the biblical examples and these thoughts from Oswald Chambers, ALL work can be spiritual / missionary / ministry work if we are simply ready for God to use us.

What about you? Are you ready to be surprised by God? Are you ready to be His ministry whenever and wherever He wants to use you?

Prevailing Prayer (book review)

prevailing-prayerWhile I was growing up I heard an oft-repeated phrase around our church: “I prayed it through.” I think this would resonate with the heart of Dwight Moody, as he clearly articulates this concept in his book Prevailing Prayer.

Quite simply, Moody defines prevailing prayer as prayer that “involves the whole of our being. It affects our minds because we are occupied with God; it affects our wills because we desire to be yielded to God; and it affects our emotions because we are consumed with a love for God.” But many people—even seasoned Christians—wold probably confess that praying like this is challenging. Moody would agree with this, which is why he has given us such a practical book.

Moody not only lays out for us what will increase the likelihood that we will prevail in prayer, but he also diagnoses some of the roadblocks to this kind of consuming prayer. Each chapter links with the other chapters to build a convincing case that every Christian can learn how to prevail in prayer.

Moody uses stories from the Bible, stories from his own life and ministry, quotes from other Christian thinkers, as well as common-sensical ideas to create a desire to pray in this powerful, sustained way.

Whether you are a brand new Christian or a “seasoned saint,” Prevailing Prayer will energize your prayer life!

Thursdays With Oswald—My God-Given Vocation

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

My God-Given Vocation

     The vocation of our Lord had accepted was that of sin-bearer, not of dominating world-lord. satan’s aim was to get Him to fulfill His vocation on another line, “There is no need to die for sin, You can fulfill Your vocation by a ‘short cut’ and evade the Cross.” Our Lord came here for one purpose only—to bear away the sin of the world in His own Person on the Cross. He came to redeem man, not to set them a wonderful example. … 

     Have we accepted that kind of vocation, or are we only concerned that we get deep conscious communion with God? The acceptance of the saint for himself is that he is concerned about nothing at all saving this one thing, “that I might finish my course with joy,” not happiness. Joy is the result of the perfect fulfillment of what a man is created for. Happiness depends on things that happen, and may sometimes be an insult. It is continually necessary to revert to what the New Testament asks us to accept about ourselves. 

     Have we received to this ministry from Jesus, “As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world”? How did the Father send Him? “For I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me.” The first obedience of Jesus was to the will of His Father, not to the needs of men. Then our first accepted vocation is not to help men, but to obey God, and when we accept that vocation we enter into relationship with the despised and the neglected. 

From The Psychology Of Redemption

Do I sometimes wish God would give me a “bigger ministry”? Or that He would use me in more visible ways? Am I looking for applause or recognition?

Jesus prayed, “Not My will, but Yours be done.” And He taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done.”

If I truly accept the vocation God has given me, I will see that it is the same vocation He gave Jesus: to go to the “despised and neglected,” and in the process to be despised and rejected by the world, just as Jesus was. But I’m not looking for the applause of men; I just want to obey God regardless of the personal cost. This is my God-given vocation.

Never Hurry, Just Persist

This is from On This Day.

Sheldon JacksonWe often rush when we should plod, forgetting that we usually accomplish more by persisting than by hurrying. 

Sheldon Jackson was born on May 18, 1834 in the Mohawk Valley of New York. When he was four his parents dedicated him to God’s service, and his ambition from youth was to be a missionary. After graduating from Princeton Theological Seminary, he joined the thousands trekking to the American West. Most were searching for gold, land, and open skies. Wagon trains were leaving St. Louis daily. The golden spike tied East to West in 1866 as the Union Pacific Railway opened. Boom towns arose. Cowboys and mining camps, rowdy saloons and gunfighters filled the frontier. Jackson was everywhere, searching for souls with the fervor of a prairie fire. He once organized seven churches in 15 days. 

He stood just over five feet tall, but his size, he said, allowed him to sleep anywhere. His bed was a stagecoach floor, a saloon loft, a hollow log, a teepee, a canoe. Someone described him as “short, bewhiskered, bespectacled, but a giant.”And his field was immense. He served as superintendent of Presbyterian missions from New Mexico to Minnesota. 

When the United States purchased Alaska, he headed there at once, and the North soon became his passion. He explored the dangerous, uncharted fog-hidden coasts of the Bering Sea and the Arctic Ocean. He established schools for the young and placed missionaries in the hamlets. He evangelized, established churches, and brought Bibles to the Eskimos. 

He worried that explorers and exploiters were slaughtering whales and seals, depriving Eskimos of their natural food supplies. So, braving criticism and ridicule, Sheldon raised $2,000 and brought reindeer from Siberia. Soon great herds were providing transportation, food, clothing, and livelihood for the people. Sheldon made 26 trips to Alaska, and during 50 years of ministry he traveled a million miles through the West and North. He oversaw the establishing of 886 churches. Few men have ever so planted the Christian faith over such a wide area. His secret? His friends simply explained, “He never hurried. He just persisted.” 

Blessing Others

CAG ministry teamI am so proud of my Calvary Assembly of God family! Everyone pitched in to donate supplies, pack everything up, and then take these vital supplies to the needy in the inner city of Grand Rapids. One of the best compliments I heard was from a gentleman who stopped by for some items, when he said, “Thank you for treating us like human beings!”

Our team was there to show the love of Jesus in the most tangible way they could.

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Encampment Of Blessings

I am so proud of our Sunday School class! They don’t just talk about being disciples of Jesus Christ, they live it out daily.

33-Scott & HungarianOn New Year’s Day, they braved the frigid temperatures to minister to needy people in the inner city of Grand Rapids. They are going back again on Saturday, April 23.

You can help in several ways:

  1. Go with them on April 23. They will be leaving 1:00pm.
  2. Donate some items that they will be passing out. You can find a complete list here → Encampment of Blessings
  3. Make a financial donation. If you cannot purchase these items, you may make a financial donation via PayPal on the church’s website. Please write “Encampment” on the memo line.
  4. Help with the organization of all the donated items on Sunday, April 17, right after church.
  5. Pray that God will use this outreach to open doors for these folks to hear and see the love of Jesus.

Jesus said, “For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me. Then the righteous will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and invite You in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see You sick or in prison and go to visit You?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.’” (Matthew 25:35-40)

Inner City Ministry

I am so proud of a group from our Sunday School class who went out into the cold, snowy streets to share the love of Jesus! Not content with merely talking about being disciples of Jesus, this group wanted to be disciples of Christ.

On New Year’s Day, they walked the streets of downtown Grand Rapids to find those who needed to keep warm. They handed out gloves, hats, blankets, candy, Bibles, hugs and prayer to those in need. After they returned home, my favorite comment from the group was this: “When can we do this again?” I love it!

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This group meets for their Sunday School class every Sunday morning at 9:30am. If you’d like to spend some time with a really great bunch of folks, this is the group for you!

Links & Quotes

link quote

“Ah, what a thing is prayer! The simplest form of speech—such as even a child could utter—yet the highest and divinest of all utterances; such as the Holy Spirit alone can enable us to give fourth.” —Horatius Bonar

“When God feels distant, remember the Christmas story. When you feel alone, unloved, or unlovable, remember that God loves you. And He travelled a great distance to be close to you. Why? Because He loves to be with the ones He loves!” —Max Lucado

“Do you ever take a moment to pray but feel like you stumble out of the gate? Do you have trouble finding the words when it comes time to bow your head? Remember, the One who hears your prayers is your Daddy. You don’t need to wow him with eloquence. Jesus downplayed the importance of words in prayers. We tend to do the opposite. The more words the better. The better words the better. … Just as a happy child cannot mis-hug, the sincere heart cannot mis-pray.” —Max Lucado

J.Warner Wallace answers a good question: Why doesn’t the birth record of Jesus appear in every Gospel?

Dan Reiland has some good words for those in leadership positions in ministry.

Far too many school administrators and teachers think they are limited by the so-called “separation of church and state.” Here’s a post from Eric Buehrer you should share with any of your friends who work in the public school system.

John Stonestreet says, “Remember when people laughed about ‘death panels’?” Check out Who decides to end a life?

Frank Turek asks, “How do we fix a world filled with murder, rape, betrayal, adultery, fraud, theft, sexual exploitation, pornography, bullying, abortion, terrorism, cheating, lying, child abuse, racism, assault, drugs, robbery, and countless other evils?” He says we may not like the answer.

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