Struggling with God’s Will

By Scott Armstrong

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done. Matthew 26:39-42 (NIV).

How many of us have complained that we do not know God’s will for our lives? Many times we are aware of what he wants, but we just struggle with actually doing it.  I know I should reach out to my friends at school, but opening my mouth and starting a conversation about God or church is hard.  I know God wants me to spend time with him every day, so why is my devotional time so inconsistent?

Good news: even Jesus struggled with doing God’s will.  We have recorded in Matthew 26 the very real struggle of Jesus Christ before he went to the cross.  He already knows the will of his Father, but he is wrestling with what that means for him.  It means suffering.  It means torture and scorn and embarrassment.  It means death.  And instead of standing firm and calmly accepting his fate like some fake superhero would, he falls on his face in anguish as he begs the Father to find another way.

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But this struggle is heroic.  Jesus is not cowardly looking for an escape hatch.  He is not debating whether or not he should do God’s will.  He is rather struggling with WHY God’s will has to be accomplished in such a brutal way.  And in the middle of this agony, he resolutely prays, “Not what I want!  What you want!  Even though it does not make sense to me.  Even though it means horrible suffering!  Get me out of this if there is any other way!  But know that I am fully committed to doing your will if this is it.”

Can you say the same thing? Comparing some of our decisions with Jesus’ decision to go to the cross seems odd.  But what if we sought God’s will in every decision with the same strong attitude as Jesus? “Yet, not as I will, but as you will.”

What are you struggling with today? What if God’s will does not match your liking? May we always proclaim with everything in us (through tears and struggle, perhaps), “Not as I will, Father, but your will be done.”

 

Contempt

By Ken Childress

1 Chronicles 15:29 (NLT) – “But as the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant entered the City of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window. When she saw King David skipping about and laughing with Joy, she was filled with contempt for him.”

Finding a place of worship is a wonderful experience. Sometimes a place of worship is found under an old tree near a stream or lake. Sometimes in the middle of a noisy work place. Sometimes in a church service. I often find a place of worship and solitude under massive oak trees in a cemetery not far from my growing place in Northwest Indiana. It is a very quiet place and sometimes it seems you can almost hear the voice of God speak to you through the trees.

On this particular scripture, David was in a celebration mood. He had gathered together nearly everyone, including generals, priests, singers, high ranking officials, and common folk – all came together to celebrate the placing of the Ark of God. It was a huge celebration – singing, dancing, trumpets, harps, shouting and more. The noise must have been an awesome thing to hear. David was getting into it as the celebration came closer to the Temple and the tent where the Ark would be placed. Suddenly, Michal, Saul’s daughter, sees David dancing in the street. The word says her heart filled with contempt. I could think of reasons why, but that really is not the point I wish to make this time.

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The point today is this, God’s people were celebrating and she withdrew into a heart of contempt. For whatever reason she missed out on two things. One, she missed out on a wonderful celebration of worship to God. She missed out on a passion and the awesomeness of this wonderful day. She missed out on a visitation of God’s Spirit on His people. What a terrible thing to miss – all because she had contempt for David. Second, she was probably not silent about her contempt – contemptuous people rarely keep these things to themselves. Amen! In sharing any of her contempt with anyone, she rained on the worship celebration parade and poisoned the minds of any with whom she talked.

Not a pretty picture and yet one often repeated in modern day history. I can think of many times we rain on someone’s parade of worship celebration simply because we think they are just a little over the edge with enthusiasm. Or maybe they are just a little too loud in their singing and celebration mood. Or maybe they are singing songs we don’t enjoy. Or they are dancing and we don’t dance. Or maybe – we are jealous because we have not had a visitation of God’s Spirit for a long time personally.

I hope we are not like Michal. It would be well to watch in awe as God brings His Spirit down on an event or a person and rather than be contemptuous of that moment, join in the celebration. How may visitations do we miss because of a spirit of contempt?

 

 

Let’s Not Forget

For many around the world, a disaster in another country grabs our attention as long as media covers it.  We are moved to pray, often to give, and sometimes even to send a relief team.  Thank you, Lord, for your Church worldwide that has done all this and helped meet the enormous needs before us!

At the same time, in the Caribbean we have not forgotten the devastation of the recent hurricanes that have destroyed many of our islands. Long after television crews have left, the hard work of rebuilding is still taking place. And it will be so for months and years to come in places like Puerto Rico, Dominica, and St. Maarten.  Nazarene Compassionate Ministries has released three videos in the past month that show how those three countries are still reeling. However, at the end of the videos they have chosen to highlight images of hope: a smile of a woman who has lost her home, a congregation praying and embracing, a pastor standing at his pulpit even with his church walls demolished around him. You can be a part of this rebuilding process still.  You can help bring hope to thousands of hurting families in these places.  Please visit www.ncm.org for more information.

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Here are the videos.  Let’s not forget.  Let’s act.

A Return to Rainy Season

By Scott Armstrong

I need to confess something at the onset of this article.  It’s regarding my spiritual walk and I am not proud of what I’m about to say.

I am very faithful at doing my devotions every day, but I do not always meet with God.

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Your reaction is probably this right now

What?! Doing your devotions is reading the Bible, praying and reflecting, all with the purpose of growing closer to God.  How can you do all those things and not meet with God? It doesn’t make sense!

You are right; it’s insane!  It’s like meeting up at a café with a friend you’ve longed to catch up with, and then spending the entire time on your cellphone.  I’ll go further: it’s like doing THAT and then returning home and contentedly checking “Meet with friend” off your to-do list.

I am faithful every day to read my Bible.  I pray and sometimes listen to Christian music.  But if I am not careful, it is all hurried.  Lost in the assault of appointments to come.  And worst of all, forgotten 5 minutes after I close the Bible.

It needs to change.  And that is why we took yesterday as our office to dedicate to a day-long spiritual retreat: listening to God through silence and his Word, confessing to one another, and praying for individual and ministry requests.  It was a necessary time of renewal that each one of us sorely needed.

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As the rain started to softly fall upon the grass and shrubs in our front yard, God led me to Isaiah 55, especially verses 10-11:

“As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

I sensed him say:

“Just as the literal rain falling around you replenishes the soil,

allow me to refresh your soul every morning.

Don’t just open your Bible; dwell in my Word and let it dwell in you.

I desire to remake you into my likeness, but that takes time.

Are you willing to enjoy me or do you see me as another task to be completed?”

Ouch.

So I have committed to preparing the soil of my life to receive his nourishment every morning.  That can’t happen in five minutes of express-devotions.  Honestly, it won’t occur in 15 minutes either.  It will require making sacrifices in other areas.  THIS is the most important area.  THIS is the only real area that matters anyway.

If you have no devotional life, creating a habit of 5 minutes a day may be the first step.  God will honor that.  But if you have already developed the habit (or fallen into a rut), you need to take the next step.  Will you commit with me to make the necessary adjustments in order to move from ritual back to relationship?

In other words, let’s make sure we are faithful at “doing our devotions” every day.  But let’s make sure we truly meet with God during those times as well.

“Listen, listen to me…and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.” –Is. 55:2

 

“Ascribe to the Lord”

Annual Report of Global Mission & Genesis

As Global Mission and GENESIS coordinators we have spent the last month remembering 2017.  One thing has been clear: God has done amazing things and will continue to do so!

Just a reminder: The Mesoamerica Global Mission ministry seeks to Discover, Develop, and Deploy missionaries from our region. GENESIS seeks to make Christlike disciples in the urban centers of Mesoamerica. Mobilizing our entire region to send missionaries, as well as focusing on the transformation of our cities has proven challenging and, at the same time, endlessly rewarding.

Here are a few of the exciting things that have occurred in the past year:

  1. In January and February 2017 the entire region dedicated the first 40 days to praying for the cities of Mesoamerica. This initiative has been launched again in 2018 and is proving highly effective.
  2. Three new Genesis missionaries were trained and deployed last year: Joselyn García was sent from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico to Santiago, Dominican Republic and AJ and Chelsea Fry were sent from Florida, USA to become the Coordinators of construction of the new Center of Missionary Formation (CMF) in Los Alcarrizos, Dominican Republic.
  3. Current Genesis missionaries in Santiago (DR), Grenada, and Guadalajara (Mexico) have done a stellar job planting five churches, and encouraging dozens of other existing congregations. Their testimonies are amazing, but I lack the space to tell them all here; thus, seek them out on the new Genesis app available in the App Store on iTunes.
  4. Five Work and Witness teams have come already to better the seminary campus and prepare the land for the CMF, and fifteen more are scheduled for the coming year.
  5. Although for nine years we had published articles and reflections on culture, leadership, missions, and much more in the transformaelmundo.com blog, on April 9, 2017 we began to do so as well in English at transformtheglobe.com.
  6. In May of 2017 we launched the Worthless Servants Podcast in both Spanish and English. Each episode includes a conversation on missions, culture, the Church, or other topics, and we currently have hundreds of listeners through iTunes, WhatsApp, and other platforms.
  7. Created in 2016, the 10 Characteristics of a Genesis Church (i.e. healthy and missional) have been further developed and publicized throughout the region in district training events, on all social media, and through the podcast.
  8. Two promotional videos were created in Spanish and English to be used in promoting Genesis in the local churches and at District Assemblies throughout the region.
  9. At General Assembly in June 2017 we utilized this once-every-four-years platform in order to promote Genesis in the region and in our entire denomination. We literally came in contact with thousands of people, shared information more closely with hundreds, and recruited dozens of potential missionaries, prayer partners, Work and Witness teams, and donors.
  10. Ten Cross-Cultural Orientations were held across the region with a total of 181 youth and adults interested in missions attending. This includes the first-ever CCO in Haiti held in December 2017. God is truly raising up his church in missions-sending!
  11. A multitude of inter- and intra-field short-term trips have been offered with an estimate of a whopping 112 volunteer missionaries dedicating over 2,000 days in service to the mission-field! I should also note that an estimate of 2,500+ people have participated in Maximum Mission or similar trips in the past year.
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Cross-Cultural Orientation in Guatemala, 2017

Looking back has been encouraging, but we must also look forward with expectation.  What do we sense God calling us to do in these ministries in 2018?

Goals for 2018:

  1. Discover, develop and deploy 12 volunteer missionaries to 3 priority Genesis sites (Monterrey, Querétaro, and Panama City).
  2. Receive 15 teams in 2018 that participate in the refurbishing of the seminary and construction of the Center of Missionary Formation in the Dominican Republic.
  3. Acquire 7 new partnerships for Genesis development, 2018 priority Genesis sites, and the CMF.
  4. Utilize technology and creative strategies (podcast, social media, etc.) to promote dialogue regarding issues of urban mission, missiology, and the 10 Characteristics of a Genesis church.
  5. Create “Continuing Education” training classes for Genesis missionaries to participate in during their 2-year deployment.
  6. Offer 1 or more Cross Cultural Orientation and short-term missions experience in each field.
  7. Recruit and deploy at least 18 youth and adults in six different “Urban Immersion” programs according to field.
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Genesis missionary serving in Grenada

Please pray with us that these goals would become a reality!

As we evaluate 2017 and as we plan for 2018, we must proclaim with King David that any fruit we have seen or any positive things that will ever be done in our ministry are only due to God’s strong hand and his astounding grace.  We ascribe it all to him!

“Ascribe to the Lord, O mighty ones,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.” (Psalm 29:1-2)

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Youth in Mission serving in Haiti

4×4: A Cold and Rainy Terrain – Part 2 of 2

*This is part two of the article published in the previous post.

Each young person, upon arriving at the event, shared the obstacles they had to overcome in order to be part of this evangelistic experience. In each activity God showed them that He was with them and His Spirit encouraged them to be intentional about the time to evangelize. The Word of God reached the hearts of many people in this neighborhood and although some remained undecided, others gave their lives to the Lord. There was tears and smiles alike. Even though the children’s attendance dropped due to the intense cold, there were always children present to share the gospel. At night during the movie, when they thought no one would show up, God surprised them. There is a need, people thirst for God. Even though some got sick we still sang the hymn,

“In Him there is joy without an alloy;
’Tis Heaven to trust Him and rest on His words;
It pays to serve Jesus each day.

It pays to serve Jesus, it pays every day,
It pays every step of the way,
Though the pathway to glory may sometimes be drear,
You’ll be happy each step of the way.”

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To the glory of God, we can report that 33 people accepted Christ through the door to door evangelism, 22 kids also accepted salvation at Vacation Bible School and 5 kids accepted Christ thanks to the Project Goal sport event, and 3 accepted Christ through evangelistic movies. A total of 63 souls won for Christ! The Sanchez family and the hosting church have a lot of work now to do.

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Let us pray for these new souls and for those who have to believe by the word that will be given in the following days.

“God has called us to be bearers of His love, to share joy, to give hope to those who do not have it, to comfort the afflicted, He has called us to be light. No matter what you have to leave or if you have to make some sacrifice to be there, the best you can receive is the satisfaction of crying with someone in need, wiping a tear, giving a hug and looking at a smile on a child’s face and the satisfaction of being able to share with others the Good News and hope in JESUS!”–Lupita Calderón.

“I still marvel at how God uses us despite all our shortcomings. His love continues to mold us. It was not necessary to try to convince anyone, simply to just proclaim, serve and love. God took care of all involved because His grace covers everything. We have lived through difficult things before, during and after our travels; The enemy wanted to attack, but we were safe in the rock of our faith, Jesus Christ. The Father takes care of us and the Holy Spirit guides us. This experience made me grow in faith, humility and in love. I was very happy that people could meet their Savior and surrender their lives to Him.”–Mitzi Villegas

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” I met Mrs. Silvia, who is one of the people we evangelized. When we finished sharing the message, she was engulfed in tears, then calmed down and told us the following, ‘I’ve had days of great despair and I don’t know why. It’s an anxiety that does not go away. All of a sudden I cry, I get sad. Last night I was full of anxiousness, I had despair and nothing calmed me, so I asked God to help me and to show me what I should do, and now you are here! I know God heard my cry.’ This tells us a lot about the need that exists in the world, and the responsibility that we have as a church. Thank God, Silvia accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. “–Adriana L. Barraza 

We give thanks to God for the life of these young people, if you are interested in missions or would like to participate in a 4×4, contact us at misionglobal@mesoamericaregion.org or on our Facebook page .

This article was written by Maru Rodriguez, coordinator of Global Mission for the Mexico Field.