Not Fair, But Righteous

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?” – Genesis 50:19

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Have you ever wished you could take God’s place? Even for a moment?

After Jacob died, Joseph’s brothers feared for their lives. With dad out of the way, they figured he would finally take revenge for the evil acts they had committed against him. Their fear was misplaced, however, because Joseph followed God and was submitted to His authority. There was no place in his heart for vengeance.

Sometimes it seems like justice is not served; a criminal goes free … a wrong is not righted … or maybe life just isn’t fair. In moments like these, we would like to be the judge (and jury) and maybe even God Himself … at least for a moment. We may even wonder, “Where is God in this?!”

While the entire book of Job deals with this subject, basically the answer to this dilemma is found in our understanding (or lack of understanding) of the transcendent nature of the Almighty. Joseph (rhetorically) asked, “Am I in the place of God?” Of course, he was not and neither are we. We do not know the end from the beginning. Only God does. Vengeance (and justice) belong to Him and His timing, because He alone is righteous … which may not always seem necessarily “fair.”

Of course, if God was truly fair, then man would die in his sins, so I will take righteous over fair any day.

I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice. – Abraham Lincoln

Empty Seats

All You have made will praise You, LORD; the godly will bless You. – Psalm 145:10

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Do you worship God?

Please understand that I’m not asking if you “attend” a church, because from my experience it is possible to be involved in that activity and never actually worship. Without removing personal responsibility, much of what occurs in “worship services” today seems more directed at improving our feelings than worshiping the Savior.

David wrote that all God has made will praise Him and that the godly will also bless Him (God). In other words, if you are not blessing or praising God, then maybe you’re not really godly … or dare I say it … He didn’t even MAKE you? Ouch! Doesn’t that seem a little harsh? Not if you really think about it.

Is it possible for a creation to ignore its Creator; moreover, for His RE-creation to ignore his RE-CREATOR? Logically, one would think not, but sometimes our actions indicate otherwise. Worshiping God is to live one’s life in such a way that brings Him supreme glory. Anything else is just idolatry, which really does require each of us to consider if we are worshiping God or just “going to church?”

An empty seat isn’t the only indication of a person’s absence.

Worship is transcendent wonder. – Thomas Carlyle

Why “Project Manage” Missions – Part Two

Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty. – Proverbs 21:5

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As I said in my last post, working with the Issachar Initiative in 2016, we brought together (aggregated) a group of four ministries to send workers to )as far as we could determine) the last remaining unengaged people groups in the country of Nepal. Reports, after three years, seem to indicate that this was successful, even though there was little collaboration on the field and certainly no integration of process.

It was at this time that I also attended an Unreached People Group Consultation hosted by Strategic Resource Group aimed at starting a conversation among ministry sector leaders (Bible Translation, Orality, Prayer Mobilization, Film/Video Production, Media, Evangelism, Discipleship, Leadership Development, and Church Formation) working in one region of the world (the Greater Middle East). We had discussed the need for “end-to-end” approaches to mission advancement (multiple sectors working together toward one common goal), but this was the first time I had seen a major funding group seeking to tangibly bring them together.

Over the next twelve months, I (along with many others) was invited to participate in multiple web meetings on topics covering each of the ministry sectors identified above. What were the best practices? Where was success being observed? How could this strategic region of the world truly be reached? An idea began to form in my mind that was more comprehensive than what we had attempted at Issachar (by then, twice … including a West Africa Engagement Alliance launched in Birmingham, AL) and then I got invited to lunch…. Stay tuned.

Epitaph

These are the last words of David: The declaration of David son of Jesse, the declaration of the man raised on high, the one anointed by the God of Jacob, the favorite singer of Israel: The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me, His word was on my tongue. – 2 Samuel 23:1-2

I don’t mean to be morbid, but there are often events in life than can cause you to reflect on the message you leave when you depart this world and embrace eternity. In light of that reflection, David’s words above are, to me, inspirational.

After a short summation of his credentials (exalted, anointed, son of Jesse, and favored singer of a nation), the dying king gave credit and honor where it was most due … God Himself. Of all David could have said, he chose to clarify the source of his success, which was the Spirit and the Word.

Oh, that every man who regularly opens his mouth to proclaim God’s truth might be able to make the same claim, that the Spirit of the Lord spoke through him and that the Word was on his tongue! Of course, it cannot be true if that Spirit and Word are not first in the heart and mind of the one who is speaking.

The rarest quality in an epitaph is truth. – Henry David Thoreau

Photo by Miguel u00c1. Padriu00f1u00e1n on Pexels.com

The ONLY Answer

God saw the Israelites, and He took notice. – Exodus 2:25

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Sometimes it may seem like God has distanced Himself from your situation and present difficulties. It is similar to those times on the telephone with a friend and the other end of your conversation goes into “silent mode” causing you to ask, “Hey, are you still there?!”

God, though He is all-powerful and certainly hears everything, apparently does not always heed or pay attention to what He hears. The scriptural record tells us that the Israelites groaned under the weight of their slavery in Egypt and eventually cried out to God. It was only then that He heard their complaint, took notice of their need, and moved in response. Perhaps, from these various accounts, we can deduce a reason for this “behavior” that is rooted in God’s character and attributes.

When you pray do you believe that God is ONE possible answer for your every need or the ONLY answer? Do you cry out to Him as your ONE hope or YOUR LAST hope? God demands our entire devotion and perhaps He is waiting for us to come to that desperate understanding so that when He responds He gets all the worship He deserves.

Could it be that He has not answered, because He is still not ALL?

If any of you should ask me for an epitome of the Christian religion, I should say that it is in one word – prayer. Live and die without prayer, and you will pray long enough when you get to hell. – Charles Spurgeon

Don’t Shoot the Messenger

“May the LORD take note of you and judge,” they said to them, “because you have made us reek in front of Pharaoh and his officials — putting a sword in their hand to kill us! – Exodus 5:21

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Have you ever heard the saying, “Don’t shoot the messenger?” After Moses went to see the king of Egypt, Pharaoh added to the burden which was already on the backs of the Israelites. The Israelite leaders weren’t very pleased with this new development and blamed Moses and Aaron for upsetting the status quo (even though “status quo” was a life of slavery). Perhaps it was just easier to blame the prophets rather than the king … or themselves.

If you happen to be a leader, there will be times when your actions may bring injury to those who follow. If you make a mistake in leadership, then don’t be too proud to admit it. On the other hand, if your actions were taken in response to obedience to God, then you have nothing for which to apologize. Of course, be reminded it isn’t just what is done, but how it is done matters as well.

Leaders, “Remain humble, look to God for your strength, affirm your position in Him, and be assured that God is using you to accomplish His purposes.” Followers, “Don’t shoot the messenger!”

Leadership demands that we make tough choices. – Alan Autry

Why “Project Manage” Missions? – Part One

Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty. – Proverbs 21:5

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I have always been a “process” thinker. By this, I mean that I first determined what needed to be done and then tried to figure out what needed to happen in order for the task to be completed. Being an accountant (by trade), analytical approaches have always been more comfortable than “winging it.” In ministry (pastoral, missionary, etc.), of course, things weren’t always so “cut and dried” and I had to learn (still learning after 30 years) how to marry “God’s speed” (the pace at which God works to fulfill His purposes) with a well-planned and thought out approach to accomplishing a task.

In 2015, I went to work with the Issachar Initiative and was blessed to come under the influence of Paul Eshleman (The JESUS Film) … quite possibly one of the most influential process-thinking, project managers to influence the modern missions movement. After more than two decades of taking The JESUS Film around the world, Paul had been looking to see the remaining people groups without any workers (the “unengaged”) engaged with full-time indigenous missionaries.

Working together, we and our amazing team decided in 2016 to bring together four ministries to send workers to the last remaining ( as far as we knew) unengaged people groups in Nepal. Ultimately, through the generosity of some major funders in Kentucky, the project came together, workers were sent, thousands heard the gospel for the first time, and hundreds of churches formed and multiplied … including the first Deaf church in that country!

I managed this “Nepal Engagement Alliance” and it is where I first saw the benefit of aggregating (bringing together) disparate partners to accomplish a pre-determined, biblical goal.

It was just the beginning and where the broader idea began to form.