Saturday, April 24, 2010

Enlarged Territory

We are going through the Prayer of Jabez study on Wednesday evenings and have just completed the section where Jabez asked God to expand (enlarge) his territory. As I listened and studied, I began to think about the mission trip to Kenya that our church is sponsoring in June. The main idea of the trip, as I believe, is to help build a school for girls in northern Kenya -- A great task and a difficult one as well. I began to think that as Jabez asked for expanded territory (influence), that maybe God has something even bigger for the participants in this trip.

There is an obvious passion that our people have for the nation of Kenya. God, through Ezekiel, said, "I searched for someone that they should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land (Kenya), that I should not destroy it: but I found none." Ezk. 22:30. God loves the nation of Kenya but it is a nation on the brink. I don't think there is a big window of time for the Gospel to be brought to this nation. I want God to do something way beyond what our team expects Him to do -- something only He can do.

"Lord, expand the territory (the mission) of this trip. Do something even bigger than has been asked for to this point. As you heard the prayer of Jabez and answered, so hear and answer this prayer. Let everything about this trip be supernatural. Let the "expansion," the "enlarging" of territory begin right now. Let the salvation of souls begin now. Let the witness of the mission team be given now. Let people be saved even now all the way through the completion of the mission and even beyond. Let those flying on the same plane be open to the Gospel. Let people in the airports be open to the Gospel. Let neighbors and friends of the mission trip participants be open to the Gospel. Let every mission trip participant be fully expectant NOW for the giving out of the Gospel. Before the trip, during the trip, during the time in Kenya, the trip back, and after each one returns, Lord, let the Gospel be given powerfully for your Kingdom's sake. Amen!"

Just as important as the trip members are the intercessors who will cover everything about the mission with prayer. The attack of the enemy really begins now in earnest if we pray for expanded territory now. We must fight the good fight of faith. The prayers of God's people are powerful. Be a part of this trip with yours. Assist those going on the trip not only with prayers but with your financial support. Many of you have already. Many of you still can. When Paul writes of his journeys, he mentions not only Timothy and Titus as his helpers, but also Lydia and the other precious women who aided him. They were all devoted servants whose assistance helped touch entire nations with the Gospel.

Soooooo, let's pray the prayer of Jabez for this trip. "Lord, bless indeed, each mission trip participant. Expand their territories way beyond their present thinking and believing. Put your hand upon each one and keep them from any evil that the enemy would bring upon them. For Your Glory, and Honor, and for Your Kingdom's sake. AMEN!!!!

Friday, April 2, 2010

One More Year

Little Tony gave a good tribute to his father on his 70th birthday. He talked about the influence his dad has on him. So I am turning 64 today. Happy Birthday to me, right. Let me share some things that I have learned from the founding pastor of Living Hope Church: Jim Erickson. Another way to put this is: what are some things I have learned in 64 years of life? By the way, Tony, Jim loved to preach on the balanced life which you said your dad was a good example of.

A couple of verses from Proverbs about anger were often quoted by Jim. One was "A soft answer turns away anger." Another was like that: "A fool is quick-tempered, but a wise person stays calm when hurt." Wow! Those two keep resonating in my mind often. Anger can be a killer of relationships and a killer of testimonies. I want to keep growing in the truth of these wise scriptures. I don't want to be controlled by anger, do you? We are told by the Apostle James to be quick to listen, slow to speak and SLOW to become angry because anger brings the opposite of righteousness. Where are you in these verses, friend?

Jim used to say to me that if a lesson only costs me money, it is a cheap lesson. And I used to think, "Ya, that's easy for you to say." But how right he was and how true that is. I needed to take ownership of my mistakes. I have made some decisions in the past that were costly in dollars but how I responded to the results were the real test. Sometimes anger, sometimes discouragement, sometimes putting myself down. But I have and still continue to learn that God will use those times to teach me things that will save me in the long run, both in dollars and in the things that really count.

Another Jimism: Just because I call myself a pastor/leader doesn't mean that it is true. If no one follows my leadership than I am a leader/pastor in name only. Every morning when I get into my car and drive to the office, I wonder what I am doing. I feel often that I am not qualified to be a pastor. I think that I am in way over my head and my abilities fall so far short. And it is then God reminds that I am right. I don't have it in me but God does and since He has called me, He equips me and empowers me to do the ministry of a pastor. His strength is made perfect in my weakness. He just calls for my availability and faithfulness. So it is always "To God Be The Glory, Great Things He Hath Done". Amen.

Another (and I could probably write a short book) one of the biggest and best is this: "Circumstances will make me a bitter or better person; it's my choice." Not much of a choice, right? And yet so many chose bitterness and thereby bring hurt and defilement upon themselves and others around them. I have to chose often not to let even a tiny root of bitterness get a foothold in my life. Those tiny roots can grow quickly into something very ugly. And it will ruin my witness and testimony. How can we do this? As the scripture says, it is not by might or by power but by God's Spirit. We (I) are without excuse. We must let the past things go and look forward to what God has for us. Truly the best is yet to come if we do it God's way.

Finally, how about this truth: If I fail at home and in my relationships with my family and others, then I fail no matter how much "success" I seem to enjoy in my work or other pursuits. I am not going to elaborate on this too much except to say this: Can the people around you (me) really be honest with you? Are you (am I) really open to honest criticism? If you are, then ask them to be honest with you in how you are doing in your relationship with them. If I don't let those who know me and love me be honest with me without getting defensive, then I will never grow in many critical areas that God wants me to grow in. How's that for meddling?

So Up North Wisdom says, Thank you, Pastor Jim for your wise counsel over the years. You are now enjoying your Heavenly reward and we will see each other again. I will by the Grace of God continue to try to stay true to your great legacy. Your example is the best birthday gift a person could receive.