Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Receiving the Word of God (February 2016 Newsletter)

And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.”

File_001So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. The place in the Scripture which he read was this:
“He was led as a sheep to the slaughter;
And as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
In His humiliation His justice was taken away,
And who will declare His generation?
For His life is taken from the earth.”
So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. Acts 8:27-35

This month I went to L____’s house in the morning with my brother in Christ Neil to read Isaiah 53 with L____. L____ comes from a Muslim background and has been very responsive to the gospel and articulated his faith in Jesus as the sacrifice for his sin and that Jesus was King over his life. English is not L____’s first language, and I wanted to be sure of his understanding and commitment to Christ.

We caught up with L___, prayed with him, and asked him about sharing last week’s story, which was the story of Moses and the Passover. L____ had shared the story of the Passover with a Muslim friend from work.

“Some things are different,” L____ explained, “He didn’t know about the blood on the door.” We talked more about the sacrifice of the lamb and how the Bible is different from what he had heard before. Then we began to read Isaiah 53. We read it in English and then in L____’s language. He took his time and asked questions, “This is a poem,” he said. “Does Isaiah write this about himself or someone else?” Neil and I looked at each other, reminded of the Ethiopian eunuch who asked the same question. We explained that Isaiah was writing about Jesus. We asked L____ what he would say if he were to retell this story to a friend in his own words. He took a long time to reread the passage several times and then explained, “God had a plan for Jesus to be the sacrifice for our sins.” He continued to retell the passage, ending with “Some people, they like Jesus, and some people, they do not.” He reaffirmed his faith in the cross and resurrection.

Two weeks later we returned to his house to read the story in Mark 5 of the demoniac who Jesus delivered from bondage. We looked at how the man wanted to stay with Jesus, but Jesus commanded him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you” (Mark 5:19). After thoroughly going through the passage in two languages we asked L____ to make a map of friends and family who he needed to tell about what God had done in his life through Jesus. He listed four Muslim friends and his mother! All five of the people L____ were from unreached people groups and there were two different people groups on his list. He will be sharing across cultures. Please pray for continued miracles, blessing, and Holy Spirit transformation in L____’s life. The best for him is yet to come!

Read the rest of the February 2016 Newsletter

Thursday, January 7, 2016

To Him Who Knocks (January 2016 Newsletter)

And He said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.
“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. – Luke 11:5-9

Jesus’s parable illustrates the necessity of perseverance and persistence in prayer. While Jesus is not comparing God to a friend who does not want to rise and give us what we need, he does compare our situation with being in need of something we don’t have. We live as dependents on our Heavenly Father, and Jesus commands us to ask, to seek, to knock, and to not stop until we receive what we need.
There are many things we don’t see, many things we don’t understand, and activity in the spiritual realm that we can only glimpse into. But we have a promise from the King of Kings and Lord of Lords that if we ask we will receive, if we seek we will find, and if we knock the door will be opened. We have a guarantee from the Faithful One that our persistence, our consistency, and our impertinent, nonstop asking will be rewarded.
The last year has been a lesson in the miracle of the long battle, the victories that come after a long grind for growth and breakthrough, the advances that come in inches everyday but turn into miles. Growth is a powerful promise and a powerful lesson in the Spirit. If we are growing in Christ we are growing in freedom, growing in victory, growing in health and wholeness, growing in the overcoming life, and growing in our calling. We rejoice in the instant breakthrough miracles and moments of faith, but we also rejoice that we have a promise in Christ that we can keep knocking and knocking and knocking until the door opens and we receive the desires that God has placed within.
This passage has taken on a new significance as I knock on doors in Hamtramck, presenting the gospel. I receive many rejections, and even more lukewarm responses. I am looking for a needle in a haystack, the spiritually hungry and responsive soul, the person of peace, in the midst of the city. Door knocking allows me to talk to a high volume of people and sow very widely, but there are times when I have felt discouraged. The Holy Spirit reminds me of Christ’s words “to him who knocks it will be opened.”
Every door I knock on is a pursuit of a disciple, a church, a movement. Every knock is a searchlight for hungry hearts and God at work. Every knock is a prayer to the Lord of the Harvest to send laborers into His harvest, and a prayer to reach and touch the lost and dying world.
I knock on doors almost everyday, and I’ve come to rejoice in the everyday effort and consistency. I know that my effort attracts the Spirit and that this canvassing of the neighborhood is as much a prayer to God for fruit as it is an appeal to man to receive the love of God.

I am excited about preaching the gospel in new ways and new venues, seeing miracles I’ve never seen before and learning more effective methods in making disciples this year. I am also excited about what God will do in the everyday abiding in Christ: the daily prayer and meditations, the daily requests for the saturation of the Holy Spirit, the daily interactions with the lost, the daily meetings with church planters, disciples, and mentors. God is working in all these things, refining us day by day, speaking as we walk in the Spirit, blessing us with the patience of love and the perseverance of the Holy Spirit. 2016 will be an incredible year of transformation in the Spirit of God. I know that the very best is yet to come!

Read the rest of the January 2016 Newsletter
Read previous Newsletters

Saturday, January 2, 2016

My 2016 Bible Reading Plan

Happy New Year! It is that time again, as we ramp up to read the Bible with intentionality, persistence, and consistency in 2016. In 2015 I said hello again to my ESV Journaling Bible and the Four Fields Study I did in 2014. This year I will be continuing that study with some fun tweaks.
  • Read five Chapters per day: two chapters in the Old Testament, one chapter in Psalms or Proverbs, and two chapters in the New Testament.
  • Read each chapter out loud.
  • Take notes on the Four Fields:
    • Connecting with the lost (Go)
    • Proclaiming the Gospel (Gospel)
    • Discipleship/making disciples (Grow)
    • Church Formation (Gather)
    • Multiplying leaders and laborers (Guide)
    • Abding in Christ
  • Memorize First John
Check out Basic Bible Reading Plans here and even more plans here.

Also, check out this sermon for the New Year:

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

True Repentance: A 3/3rds Study

I recently went through this short, but powerful study with a group on what Repentance is and how we repent. It uses the 3/3rds process. You may have to snoop around here to learn more. You can also jump over to http://www.jonathanammon.org/movements-training and learn a whole lot more.

The study: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4Gp5HabTdUlbDZmV3c5SFVjOU0/view?usp=sharing

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Servant's Success (November 2015 Newsletter)

A graphic of the laborers I am training and churches they have started
The greatest among you will be your servant. – Matthew 23:11

Jesus regularly equated leadership with serving. In a number of passages (Mark 10:42-45, Luke 22:24-27, John 13:12-17), Jesus challenged the world’s perspective on leadership and service. In the world it is obvious that the lesser serve the greater, that the least gifted serve the most gifted, that the least successful are servants or even slaves of the most successful. Jesus said, “But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant” Mark 10:43. In the Kingdom of God the greatest serve the least, and the most gifted serve the least gifted.

I’ve read these passages for many years, but they didn’t come to life for me until I started obeying the great commission and making disciples. Scripture takes on a new meaning when we put it into practice and find ourselves in the practical context of obedience. My mentor (Chuck Wood) trained me, encouraged me, honored me, prayed for me daily, and loved me through thick and thin. He served me. His goal and his labor were in order to see me be successful in making disciples and spreading the Kingdom of God. Rather than demanding honor or labor towards his ends, goals, vision, or ambition; Chuck served my ministry with his prayers, patience, and training.

As I train others to share the gospel, make disciples, and plant groups and churches; I find myself with the responsibility of serving their callings and ministries. I cannot demand that they serve my calling, my city, or my vision. They are not my servant. They are the Lord’s. Instead, as I train and mentor others to obey scripture and the Great Commission, I become their servant. It becomes my job to support them, encourage them, pray for them, and serve their ministry in whatever way I can. I am invested in making them successful.

Multiple hours of my day are spent encouraging, counseling, coaching, training, and praying with disciple-makers, church planters, and gospel laborers around the nation and even in different nations. Through video conference and the phone, I can connect with, train, and coach people around the nation who are hungry to see God’s kingdom spread through their city with a movement of the gospel. I would have never seen myself in this role, but it enables me to serve others and their ministries on a daily basis. I become invested in their success and their interests. I get to share their highs and lows. I get to celebrate their victories and testimonies, and I get to join in their battles.
This year God has done amazing things our network of groups and church starts. Multiple Muslims have come to Christ, many from other backgrounds as well. God has performed many miracles in people’s bodies and lives. New believers have been baptized. Many have been mobilized and trained to share the gospel. Communities of faith have been formed and built with Jesus as Lord. I praise God for every single testimony and every story of His blessing. I am even more thankful that the vast majority of these successes are not mine, but the faithful laborers God has given me to train and serve as they go out into the harvest.

Multiplication has changed my ministry. I wake up in the morning and I wander, “What is God doing in Steve’s life today? What is happening in Robert’s ministry? How is Konstantin doing today?” I know they are laboring for His Kingdom, and I know the best is yet to come!

Read the rest of the November 2015 Newsletter
Read previous Newsletters

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Walk of Repentance: Lying

I'm doing a series of Bible studies on specific sin or issues and focusing on turning away from those things as the Lord and the Scripture commands. These posts will mostly be short, simple, and full of Scripture. The idea is to meditate on the verses and apply them through turning from sin and turning to God.

You will destroy those who tell lies.
    The Lord detests murderers and deceivers.
Psalm 5:6

Scripture promises the destruction of those who tell lies, which is reinforced by a powerful description in the book of Revelation. God is displeased with those who lie. The tone of much teaching in the body of Christ is that God is universally pleased. He is not pleased by lying or liars.

3 Who may climb the mountain of the Lord?
    Who may stand in his holy place?
4 Only those whose hands and hearts are pure,
    who do not worship idols
    and never tell lies.
5 They will receive the Lord’s blessing
    and have a right relationship with God their savior.
Psalm 24:3-5

Psalm 24 describes the qualities of those who are welcomed into God's presence in the Old Covenant. This required purity of heart and life, undivided worship of God alone and complete abstinence from lying. Jesus welcomes all into His presence, transforming us into people whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and who never tell lies.

12 Does anyone want to live a life
    that is long and prosperous?
13 Then keep your tongue from speaking evil
    and your lips from telling lies!
14 Turn away from evil and do good.
    Search for peace, and work to maintain it.
Psalm 34:12-14

Lying cuts off prosperity and success in our earthly life. The truth is always the most effective.

Keep me from lying to myself; give me the privilege of knowing your instructions.
Psalm 119:29

The psalmist asks God to keep him honest with himself. He wants to be free from rationalization and excuses.

What are worthless and wicked people like? They are constant liars,
Proverbs 6:12

Truthful words stand the test of time, but lies are soon exposed.
Proverbs 12:19

Lies do not last. They are exposed. They are found out.

The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth.
Proverbs 12:22

The godly hate lies; the wicked cause shame and disgrace.
Proverbs 13:5

The crooked heart will not prosper; the lying tongue tumbles into trouble.
Proverbs 17:20

A false witness will not go unpunished, nor will a liar escape.
Proverbs 19:5

A false witness will not go unpunished, and a liar will be destroyed.
Proverbs 19:9

For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.
Matthew 15:19

Lying comes from the heart. It is what we want and choose to do. In order to repent, the heart must be addressed and the heart must turn to the truth.

For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.
John 8:44

When we lie, we align ourselves with the devil and his character. We are not children of the devil, but children of God.

 But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. 2 He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest.

3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. 4 The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!”

5 As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified. 6 Then some young men got up, wrapped him in a sheet, and took him out and buried him.

7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, “Was this the price you and your husband received for your land?”

“Yes,” she replied, “that was the price.”

9 And Peter said, “How could the two of you even think of conspiring to test the Spirit of the Lord like this? The young men who buried your husband are just outside the door, and they will carry you out, too.”

10 Instantly, she fell to the floor and died. When the young men came in and saw that she was dead, they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear gripped the entire church and everyone else who heard what had happened.
Acts 5:1-10

Lying, especially in matters regarding the church and the body of believers, can have disastrous results. The death of Ananias and Sapphira produced fear in the church. The story is meant to produce a healthy fear in us. God desires us to be motivated by love for Him and for His glory. But if that will not motivate us, fear of discipline should. God would rather His children obey because they know the consequences of disobedience than disobey and destroy their lives.

So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.
Ephesians 4:25

The New Testament forbids lying. This verse specifically targets lying within the Church.

Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds.
Colossians 3:9

Paul instructs the Colossians to stop lying because they have put off their old lives and old sinful ways. Their sinful nature has been stripped off along with its deeds. We are no longer bound to its behaviors including lies.

But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying.
James 3:14

They have told no lies; they are without blame.
Revelation 14:5

The context is a group of believers who have overcome in the last days and receive the reward of the Lord. Regardless of how you interpret the rest of the passage, God honors those who have a record of being totally honest. He considers them blameless.

“But cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt, murderers, the immoral, those who practice witchcraft, idol worshipers, and all liars—their fate is in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
Revelation 21:8

Liars are coupled with unbelievers, murders, those who practice witchcraft, etc. and have their place in hell or everlasting destruction. Those who lie to the point that it identifies them will perish regardless of their confession of faith.

Outside the city are the dogs—the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idol worshipers, and all who love to live a lie.
Revelation 22:15

Living a lie, living a hypocritical life, separates you from the Kingdom and City of God. Honesty in our mouths and our lives identifies us as citizens of Heaven.

Father, I have told so many lies in my life. I can remember many of them with shame. I have a reputation as honest and transparent person. Lord, I don't want to be a hypocrite or a faker. I don't want to be a liar or deceiver. There are so many past sins I've hidden and covered up in my life. I don't want to be dishonest. I don't want to be deceptive when it comes to my life. Lord I don't want any lie to stand. I repent, Lord. I never want to lie again. If there are any lies or deceptions in my life identify them, convict me, and help me repent and hold up the truth. I want to be on of the ones who is blameless when it comes to lie. I want to be honest. I want to have a good testimony. I want to live and believe and honor the truth. I know that the truth is always the most effective thing in any situation. Help me to live that out always. Forgive me of past lies. Cleanse me of any lying that has been in my life. I want to be honest with myself and honest with others. Father, if there is sin that I am hiding, help me to confess, and to trust your forgiveness and grace. Help me to not try to keep or preserve my reputation. I would rather be honest than be a hypocrite. Lord, you know that I love You. I turn from the sin of lying today. I commit to walking in the truth. Because I love You and I trust You with my life. In Jesus name, Amen.