Reckless Abandon

I Have People in This City

i-have-peopleThe following was originally addressed to the Missionary Trainees at To Every Tribe’s Center for Pioneer Church Planting 2016 Graduation Ceremony.

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “‘Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.  For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city’” (Acts 18:9-10). This is the tenth anniversary of the first graduating class of the Center for Pioneer Church Planting and certainly God has been faithful to this ministry through these years. As you embark on your calling to your field of service, you may have some sense of fear and trepidation as even Paul the Apostle, had going into Corinth. 

If you wanted me to describe the Apostle Paul, I probably wouldn’t use words such as frightened, alarmed or fearful. The words I would use are fearless, and courageous, and determined. Yet when Paul describes in 1 Thessalonians 3:7 how he felt during his early days in Corinth, he uses the word “distressed.” Then, in 1 Corinthians 2:3, he says, “I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.”

Why would this spiritual giant be afraid? It’s because he was struggling with the same emotions that we all struggle with. In Athens, Paul had faced persecution and ridicule wherever he preached. Now he was going to Corinth, the “Sin City” of Greece. The city was so notorious for its immorality that in the fifth century B.C., the Greeks coined a verb, “to Corinthianize,” that meant to commit sexual immorality.

Fear has a paralyzing effect on all of us. Even the Apostle Paul. He was made of the same flesh and blood that we are. God has never promised us to be exempt from trials and hardships. There is no promise of a “rose garden.” All of God’s servants go through difficult times and calamities. Missionary David Sitton said, “We have learned that our particular ministry (pioneer work among the unreached) makes us high-priority targets for the Enemy.”

Just at the precise time, the Lord appears to Paul in a vision and gives him words of encouragement and comfort.  The Lord appears to him and says, “Don’t be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent.” He then gives Paul three statements to support His exhortation. 

1. “I am with you.”
Having the presence of the Lord is paramount to accomplishing any task in the Name of Jesus. In the Great Commission Jesus promised, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age”  (Matthew 28:20). The Prophet Isaiah records, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are Mine!  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you.   For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 43:1-3). To know that the Lord is with you in whatever you endeavor to do is an unspeakable comfort.

2. “No man will attack you in order to harm you.”
What a blessing to know the protective hand of God’s mercy. Does that mean we will never have physical harm or danger? No. This is a general promise that doesn’t apply to every situation. Paul was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, and put into prison wherever he preached the gospel. The application is not that God’s servants have assurance of safety. After all, the history of the Church is filled with martyrs because of their testimony. The application is that no one can touch us without the Father’s permission and purpose. As long as God has a purpose for your life to fulfill His mission, He will protect you.

3. “For I have many people in this city.”
This is the most encouraging thing that the Lord could say to Paul. When you preach the gospel in Corinth, there will be those that will hear and respond.  He is referring to the “elect”−the ones whom God has chosen. God has not only ordained their salvation but also the means. Paul would be a part of that means in the preaching of the gospel. If unredeemed man were given a free choice, every sinner would choose sin. But if God the Father purposed to save a sinner, and Jesus has given His life to save that sinner, and the Holy Spirit grants him faith, then there is salvation for that sinner. Paul says, “For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10).

God would not have told Paul not to be afraid unless he was afraid. May the Lord give us boldness and determination to preach the gospel in the midst of opposition. Continue speaking and do not be silent. 

*Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the September 2016 edition of To Every Tribe’s Ekballo Magazine.

Death of a Chambri Chief

Wapi Death

Wapi was knee high tall when World War 2 soldiers occupied Chambri Island in Papua New Guinea (1942-43).  During late night pow-wows, he detailed for me the atrocities of war and the hardships of growing up in a war-ravaged village. Eventually, Wapi ascended to chieftain status as a fierce warrior and leader among his formerly headhunting people. More

Go, and Let God Stop You

Go Let God Stop YouWhen I was exploring and testing the stirring in my soul to abandon my career, the comfort of my community, and the fellowship of my church in order to possibly serve with To Every Tribe, I made a seemingly “christianese” comment to a highly respected theologian friend of mind. Little did I know that his encouraging rebuke would change my perspective on how I move forward in life. As I surveyed the landscape of risks and rewards of such reckless radical abandon for the sake of the gospel, I simply said, “If the Lord opens the doors, I will go.” My friend’s octavian Dutch brow furled and he gave a small growl before he said in a mocking manner, “I am so sick of hearing Christians talk that way, ‘if He opens a door, I will go.'” Then with a deep rich tone of authority he bellowed “Go, and let God stop you.” At that moment, I envisioned God had a heavy Dutch accent. More

Martyring the Layman

Marty Layman 2My desire here is to briefly reflect on the accounts of the New Testament authors and the deaths they died for the name of Christ. In particular, I want to draw attention to the lives and professions of these men before meeting their Lord, Jesus Christ and what could possibly be an implication for the way we think today. In the West, we would call this kind of living “radical.” Scripture calls this “normal.” Normal people, amazing transformation, normal faith in Christ, normal endurance, powerful God, normal truth, unashamed outcome.


Forward in Darkness

forward-in-darkness“When we get our spiritual house in order, we’ll be dead. This goes on. You arrive at enough certainty to be able to make your way, but it is making it in darkness. Don’t expect faith to clear things up for you. It is trust, not certainty.” – Flannery O’Connor

A year and a half ago, our family of five moved ten thousand miles away from home and everything we know and love. Our new home is high in the mountainous interior of a large island in the South Pacific where we are like children, learning to speak, eat, walk, and live all over again. The reason for coming to this place was to see Christ glorified where the gospel has not yet been preached. More

Horrific and Beautiful

horrific-beautiful-blog-postIn the time it takes to read this page, another Christian will be killed because of his or her faith in Jesus Christ. 160,000 believers around the world will be slaughtered this year alone, simply because they love Jesus.

This is not a news flash. The physical risk of “going public with the glory of God” (John Piper) among satanically dominated peoples is obvious. Jesus predicted that you will probably be chugged (disposed of quickly and without pause) like a lion eats a lamb (Matthew 10:16; 1 Peter 5:8). That’s the risk in this world and too many shrivel up at the thought. More

« Older Entries