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Of Greater Importance Part 2 – Gospel for Asia

September 29th, 2010 No comments

It would have been natural for David to respond to this battle as he did the one before. After all, the previous plan had been a success, and the enemy and the location were exactly the same. David could have easily said, “Well, it’s the same situation so let’s just forget about another prayer meeting. We know how to get the job done. Let’s go and put these Philistines to flight.”

But David didn’t do that. Instead, he took the time to once again seek the Lord.

Second Samuel 5:23 says, “Therefore David inquired of the LORD, and He said, ‘You shall not go up; circle around behind them, and come upon them in front of the mulberry trees.’ ”

“You shall not go up.” Do you see that? God had a different plan this time, and David only learned of it because he lived in the atmosphere of waiting upon God, to hear from Him and obey. By this, his ministry was done in connection with Him and unto Him.

There is the requirement that as we continue in the journey the Lord has us on, we must stop often along the way and find out what He is saying. By doing this, our love for the Lord stays strong, the ministry that began out of that love for Him remains in Him and the work done is accomplished in His way.

There are hundreds of Christian organizations, churches, groups and ministries that began so well. But somewhere along the way, somehow, a lot of them stopped waiting upon the Lord, causing their love for Him to grow cold. As a result, their ministry ended up in the flesh, and once again the Scripture is fulfilled—“Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3, NASB).

God addresses this same issue with His prophets in Isaiah 29:13 (NIV), saying, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” They may look real and authentic; they may have started well; their service may appear genuine, but it is not. It cannot be because their hearts are now far from Him.

When we stay in the attitude of continuous dependence upon God, what has begun in the Spirit remains in the Spirit and bears lasting fruit.

Doing the Lord’s work in His way is of paramount importance. If we continue the work without His direction, leading and strength, it won’t be His work at all. It will be only a hollow shell that might look all right but in reality has no life and bears no lasting fruit.

We must come into His presence and wait upon Him, to hear from Him and know His ways.

This entry was written by K.P Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia, with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

 

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A Humble Testimony – Gospel for Asia

September 29th, 2010 No comments

But God didn’t do that. Instead, He sent Paul to the Gentiles. That doesn’t seem to sound right. Paul could have spoken eloquently with the Jews, confounding them with his wisdom and his ability to decisively argue the facts. He knew all the laws, all the Scriptures, all the history and culture. In order for Paul to reach the Gentiles, he had to lay aside everything he knew so well, leaving him with nothing to fall back on. In his own words, Paul said,

“And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1, 4–5).

It is not that God only uses amateurs, the poor, the uneducated and those who lack ability. It is that God will only use those who will depend on Him—those who will give Him the glory for is done. The real issue is not how much education we have or do not have. The real issue is whether we are dependent upon God. God wants to use us all—professionals and amateurs alike. But He is not going to bless a work that leads anyone to depend more upon his or her own strength rather than on the strength of God.

Throughout his ministry, Paul learned how the “power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7, NIV) and how “our adequacy is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5, NASB), not from our experience or training. Even after years of preaching and service to God, numerous churches planted and incredible fruitfulness of his ministry, Paul still said, “ I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells” (Romans 7:18). In Philippians 3:3 (NIV), he said, “[We] put no confidence in the flesh.” May the Lord give us the attitude and understanding that Paul had in this—that we, in our flesh, are incapable of bearing good fruit that remains. But through Him, our lives can bear good fruit and bring glory to God.

This entry was written by K.P Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia, with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

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Of Greater Importance Part 1 – Gospel for Asia

September 22nd, 2010 No comments

It was not when they had a committee meeting (although there is nothing wrong with committee meetings). It was not when they met to discuss the tremendous needs (although that is a good thing to do). It did not happen because somebody challenged them and said, “You had better get out there and do something about all those lost people.” It was not when they did something that was a nice, wholesome, well-planned and thought-out thing to do. It was as they waited upon the Lord.

Before the world began, God knew Barnabas and Saul would be the ones serving Him in this manner. We see this same principle at work in the life of the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”

It is encouraging to know that before the world began, God knew the purpose and plan that He has for each one of us (see Acts 17:26). Whether our human mind and our logic can grasp it or not, it is true. ‘‘ ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NASB).

However, like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Saul and Barnabas, we only learn of the plans He already has prepared for us as we take the time to come into His presence and hear from Him.

There is also another principle we see all throughout Scripture, one that I am much more concerned about. That is, we must remain in the attitude of waiting upon the Lord.

One incident in David’s life perfectly illustrates the importance of this.

In 2 Samuel 5:19, we are told, “David inquired of the LORD, saying, ‘Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You deliver them into my hand?’ And the LORD said to David, ‘Go up, for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into your hand.’ ”

And so, after hearing from the Lord, David did what He said, and he was victorious.

A few verses later, David is faced with an almost identical circumstance. Once more the Philistines had stationed themselves in the same valley, and once more, they were waiting to attack Israel.

This entry was written by K.P Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia, with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

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Great Things for Him – Gospel for Asia

September 22nd, 2010 No comments

Please understand; I am not making light of education, skills or talents. But I do believe that it is only as we surrender our abilities to Him—give up our rights to own and rely on our strengths—that He can use us to accomplish great things for Him. There are biblical examples of this. Just think of Moses. Having been raised in Pharaoh’s house, Moses received some of the best leadership training of his day. Certainly God ordained this training for Moses, knowing that he could use this later in his life when leading the children of Israel, right? But such is not the case.

While Moses was in the desert as a criminal and serving as a shepherd (one of the lowliest of jobs in that day), God began to prepare Moses for fruitful service. How did God do this? By unraveling Moses’ confidence in himself, bringing him to the place where he even said, “God, I can’t do the job.” It was then that God was able to use Moses in a mighty way because he had nothing of his own to rely upon anymore—no previous training, no experiences to fall back on—nothing. Just simple dependence upon the Lord.

The same is true with the apostle Paul. He was an incredibly brilliant, well-trained individual. He studied under Gamaliel, a well-known philosopher and theologian, and was perfect in the Law. He was a Pharisee of Pharisees. History tells us that Paul was trained to perfectly debate and defend his faith. In Philippians 3:4 (NIV), Paul says of himself, “If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more” and he goes on to list his professional credentials—the things that, under the law, qualified him for service.

Yet after Paul’s Damascus Road experience, God did not send him to the Jews where all these credentials would have seemed to be of great value. If I were God, I would have said, “Finally, I have found someone that I can use to impact the whole Jewish nation! Through his abilities, his knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures and his power of debate, the Jews will finally come to believe in my Son, Jesus.” If I were God, I would have said, “Look at his credentials, his education and his experience! He is definitely the one to do the work among the Jews.”

This entry was written by K.P Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia, with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

 

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Relational Becomes Rational – Gospel for Asia

September 21st, 2010 No comments

Back in the mid-80s, when God led one young man to join us and help with our computer, I remember the one question I asked him before we accepted him: “Are you willing to clean the toilets and wash the dishes for the rest of your life, and never touch another computer again?” You see, I wanted to know if he was willing to become a servant—that’s all I wanted. When I heard that he was willing to do anything, then I was glad to have him join us.

I tell you this to make a point. My concern was not so much about whether or not he had a big degree or his expertise and skill in his area. I was looking for someone with a servant heart.

When an organization goes from relational to rational, its values change. Skill and competency become more important than allowing the Lord to work through people. Things are perceived rationally and logically rather than based on faith that will produce miracles.

But when God calls people to serve Him, He will look beyond the 99, who have the best brains but are not broken, to the 1 who is perhaps not as smart but who is humble and willing to be used. Paul says that God chose the foolish things of this world—the least and last, the nobodies—to confound the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27, KJV). That is His way. Paul tells us that he himself was gifted with a brilliant mind, a stellar education, an impeccable pedigree—but he valued knowing Christ above it all so he threw it away and regarded it as dung (Philippians 3:4–8, KJV).

What matters to God? Servanthood, brokenness and faithfulness. Look at Joseph’s life. How much education and training did he have to become prime minister? I don’t think he had ever been to school. How about Daniel—what type of preparation did he have to become one of the top rulers of Babylon? And what was Amos’s job that led him to become a prophet of the living God? David’s qualifications to become the mightiest king of Israel included sheep herding and being a refugee. These are not fairy tales. This is reality. This is the way God works.

Do I place a premium on ignorance, on people who have no ideas or education? No, that is not my point. What I am saying to you is that when an organization comes to the place where passion is no longer a central value and, instead, titles, recognition and degrees hold priority, it will go astray.

So what must be done in a situation like this? How can we walk carefully so that we can avoid these three pitfalls? Let us explore that in the next chapter.

This entry was written by K.P Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia, with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

 

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Transformational Becomes Transactional – Gospel for Asia

September 14th, 2010 No comments

This is when the motivation changes from one of heart condition to one of external rewards and benefits. Instead of, “I am so excited to be here; God is fresh and real, and our family is growing in His grace,” the attitude is more like, “What do I get out of it—money, position, recognition?” As time goes by in an organization, people start thinking more about benefits and vacation time than service from a sold-out heart.

When believers in the book of Acts were beaten up and persecuted, the Bible says that they regarded it as a privilege that they were considered worthy to suffer for Jesus’ name (see Acts 5:41). Paul tells us in Philippians 1:29 that “it has been granted [to us] . . . to suffer for His sake,” or in other words, our “gift to suffer.” Tradition says that when Peter was eventually sentenced to die by crucifixion, he asked to be crucified head down, as he did not feel worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord. For those who sold all to receive the precious pearl of great price, nothing could hold them back. They wouldn’t ask, “What can I get out of it?” but rather, “What can I give?”

But as time passed, things began to change in the first-century church as well. Paul writes in Philippians 2:21, “All seek their own.”

And what about you—where do you stand in this chronology? Are you feeling that the burden is too heavy for you? Do you wonder, “How long can I keep doing this? It’s too hard to keep going. I don’t know why I am doing it anymore. What about the future? Is all this worth doing?” Somehow, very privately, deep within your heart, these questions and thoughts can begin to burn and grow, even while outwardly you appear to be full of enthusiasm and praise to God.

I am not saying in any way that we should not have a plan for vacation time, insurance benefits or any of these things. The danger lies, though, in our hearts going after these externals or after some kind of promotion or recognition. When that happens, the joy that used to fill your heart will fade away, and all that will be left is self-centered motivation.

This entry was written by K.P Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia, with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

 

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Founded by God – Gospel for Asia

September 13th, 2010 No comments

All that brings glory to God and lasts in eternity must have its origin with God, not with ourselves. Ministry is something given to us by God. Jesus called the disciples to follow Him; they did not call themselves. Jesus called Paul. John the Baptist was a man “sent from God” (John 1:6, emphasis mine).

Along with this, there is another principle present all throughout the lives of people mentioned in the Bible. Over and over again we see that waiting upon God precedes the unfolding of His plan or purpose.

One example is seen in the life of Isaiah. It was as he waited in God’s presence that he received the call to be a messenger to the children of Israel (see Isaiah 6:1–9).

This is also how it happened with the disciples’ ministry after the ascension of Christ. Scripture says, “[Jesus] commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4). It was as they waited upon God that they received His call for their lives, and then they went out proclaiming His resurrection and salvation.

The calling of Saul and Barnabas happened in a similar manner. Acts 13:2–3 tells us, “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.”

Notice especially verse two—it was “as they ministered to the Lord” that they heard Him and found out His plan.

This entry was written by K.P Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia, with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

 

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No Confidence in the Flesh – Gospel for Asia

September 13th, 2010 No comments

Back in the 80s I had the opportunity to visit with Keith Green and the staff of Last Days Ministries. For a long time, I had received their newsletters and was quite impressed, thinking they must have some of the finest graphic designers working with them. However, during my visit I came to discover that the artists designing the Last Days newsletter weren’t trained professionals at all! They were just kids from the streets whose lives had been changed by Christ. Having given up the right to run their own life, these men and women simply served at Last Days Ministries the best they could. And because of their surrender and dependence upon what Christ could do through them, they were used to do great things.

Even though I’ve seen God use untrained men and women countless times, my eyes still search for the professionals. Just yesterday, I was looking at an application of someone who desired to serve with the Gospel for Asia staff. The first thing my eyes went to was the section about the applicant’s education and experience, scanning what kind of training and expertise the person had.

I am not saying there is something wrong with utilizing the gifts that God has given people or recognizing certain abilities—not at all. The leadership at GFA prays for God to bring people with specific skills and talents to work within the ministry. That is legitimate and appropriate. For it is God who gives us different skills, all so that we can use them to glorify His name. To one He gives five talents, to another two, and to another one, expecting us to invest them wisely (see Matthew 25). But I have seen time and again that a lack of education never hinders God from using an individual.

This entry was written by K.P Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia, with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

 

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Not What but How – Gospel for Asia

September 8th, 2010 No comments

Romans 14:23 (NIV) reminds us, “Everything that does not come from faith is sin.” When we depend upon ourselves, we cancel out any reason to have faith and depend on God. So then, whatever is done in our own strength, rather than in dependence upon God, is sin. And Scripture testifies that we can bear good fruit only when we, as the branch, remain dependent upon the life from the Vine. In John 15:4–5 (NIV), Jesus said, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

When we stop depending upon the Lord, our lives stop producing good fruit. This is exactly what happened to King Uzziah. Becoming king when he was only 16 years old, King Uzziah ruled in humility and depended on God to guide him and give him wisdom to rule. Second Chronicles 26:4–5 (NIV) says, “[Uzziah] did what was right in the eyes of the LORD. . . As long as he sought the LORD, God gave him success.” King Uzziah was successful because he depended upon the Lord. But sadly, as he became a more “competent” king, growing older and having some experience to fall back on, he no longer trusted or obeyed God. Instead, he did things his own way. Scripture says of him, “But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the LORD his God. . .” (2 Chronicles 26:16, NIV). His life ended in terrible tragedy; he became a leper.

The same downfall also happened to King Saul. He started out little in his own eyes, trusting the Lord in the beginning of his reign. But soon things changed. He became prideful, self-willed and strong in his own strength, seeing himself as important and competent. He stopped depending upon the Lord, and it cost him his throne and his life.

In the end, we must remember that the most important thing is not what was accomplished, but how it was accomplished. Were things done relying upon you—your strength and your provision—or were things accomplished by relying upon God? Jeremiah 17:5–6 says, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited.”

The Lord sets the choice before us to depend upon ourselves or to depend upon Him. The rest of Jeremiah 17 tells us the outcome of the man who, indeed, does rely upon the Lord: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7–8). Let us be those people who choose the way of blessing by honoring the Lord with hearts dependent upon Him.

This entry was written by K.P Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia, with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

 

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The Lord’s Work Done in His Way – Gospel for Asia

September 6th, 2010 No comments

We can be spending all our time trying to get the track built for the train to run on, trying to organize and facilitate, yet never stopping to consider that maybe the Lord doesn’t need all these structures and plans. Maybe He has all kinds of other ways to do this ministry. But we are so consumed with our business mind and structure and logic that we just keep on doing things in our own ways.

Recently I have been increasingly concerned about this, and God’s speaking to us has strengthened that concern. I wonder, “Lord, is this the way we should be functioning and serving You?”

We have often seen how God, in His mercy, steps in, like in our leaders meeting, and changes our plans, setting first thing first.

I am so thankful that the Lord had the freedom to come to us in that way even when none of our leaders expected it. It is a relief to know He is with us, watching over the work. It was like spending a day out in hot, humid summer weather and finally getting a good, cool shower. It is refreshing! “Ah yes!” He is with us and He is leading us.

At the same time, I was made aware that we must be careful and concerned about how we proceed in serving the Lord. By no means do I want you to think I am saying we should stop our work and not do what we are doing. That is not how it works. In fact, it seems the more we take the time to wait and hear from the Lord, the more actual work that we do—but rather in His strength, not ours.

This is how the Lord’s work is done in His way—by loving Him more than the ministry He gave us to do, by waiting in His presence to hear His voice and by continuing in that sensitivity to Him so that we are always doing His will, in His strength.

This entry was written by K.P Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia, with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

 

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