Blessed in Bereavement

While in Guam, on Next Steps 2015, the missionary’s Dad passed away leaving a tremendous heritage. My missionary friend could have gone home. He didn’t. He had a choice. He stayed. What sacrifice. What commitment. I’m forever grateful.

One morning the Next Steps team gathered round. We prayed. We gave flowers. We hugged.


Blessed with prayers. Blessed with concern. Blessed with flowers. But, Bailey, blessed with words. Words worth sharing:

“I heard one time that from pain we grow, and through growing we learn, and after learning we teach.

Through every painful experience that you have been through, God wants to use you to teach others to grow in Him. Knowing that God has His hand on your lives and on your ministry, you confidently grow and heal and learn to use this pain for His glory.

As you see the bloom of these flowers, know and understand that although they made fade, the word of our God stands forever. The promises God has given you still remains, His call is still active. Stay strong. And lean on His word.

The Next Steps team, and the Next Steps individuals are praying for you constantly. We love you very dearly.”

Thanks, Bailey! You’ve taught us in a few words we can be blessed in bereavement. Thanks, Brother and Sister David Brott, you’ve blessed us even in your bereavement.

photo credit: Red Carnations in a vase via photopin (license)

Give All You’ve Got

The story is often told of Mary and Joseph making the long journey to Bethlehem for the census.  Mary and Joseph are turned away by an innkeeper who proclaims,  “There is no room for you in the Inn.”  Songs have been written about this, and messages preached.  As the Innkeeper turns the couple away, he remembers that he has a stable, and offers for them to stay there.  The Innkeeper is blamed for being insensitive to Mary’s condition and not being able to discern that it was the King of Kings that would be born in that stable.  However, there is another aspect.  He could have sent the family away from his premises all together.  But, when he saw Mary’s condition and assessed the situation, he offered the only available space in his inn – a stable.  The Innkeeper’s suggested response reminds us that:

God never requires anything more from us, than what we are able to give.  


How often have we declined to offer what we had because we didn’t think it was good enough?  He can take our little and make it grow just by His touch.  One man has said, “Little is much when the Master is in it.” How many times have you failed to give what you had because you did not feel it was enough?  Even in areas of financial giving, be reminded that if you can’t do something BIG, why not do something Small?  If we all would give a little then a lot would be accomplished.  Don’t do nothing just because you can’t do everything.  And when it comes to you, God only expects you to give what you have.  The few talents that you have when yielded to the Lord Jesus can accomplish much.  You may feel that you are not rich enough, talented enough, or smart enough to be used of the Lord.  Put these feelings aside, surrender yourself to God, and give it all you’ve got.

Discovering Ministry in the Midst of the Stuff – Part 5

Discovering Ministry (2)

Ministry; It’s What We Do to Advance His Kingdom

What is ministry anyway? Several definitions emerge from random, rapid research:

  • Ministry means service. It involves preparing God’s people for works of service (diakonia). A minister is one that serves. We often think of Acts 6 as where deacons were selected. That’s true. But, it was also the place where the disciples chose to redefine and realign their own ministries in the midst of the stuff. Both groups of people were serving, separately, yet specifically.
  • “Faithful service of God’s people rendered unto God and others on His behalf to bring Him glory, build up His church, and reach out to His world” (
  • “Ministry is meeting people where they are and taking them to where God wants them to be” (
  • Ministry is alignment, agreement, and accomplishment of His purpose. (Seek and to save the lost; (Luke 19:10) give life and life more abundantly (John 10:10); destroy the works of Satan (1 John 3:8); and so forth).

All the above are grand definitions but I prefer mine (I know; I’m biased). Ministry is “anything we do to advance His kingdom.” Focus and faithfulness are imperative in getting the job done.

Keeping the big picture front and center encourages me (us) to take responsibility over choices and decisions. Focus begs for the questions, “Is this advancing His kingdom? Am I doing this in a way that advances His kingdom?”

Discovering Ministry in the Midst of the Stuff – Part 1

I’m working and writing on the premise that God speaks best through me what He has been speaking in me. God has been prodding me onward and helping me wade through some of the tough stuff in every day ministry.

A missionary associate recently discussed with me an AIMer (short-term missionary) that had arrived on the field. He/she felt bewildered and blameworthy he/she wasn’t doing actual “ministry.” It’s a repetitive regular restlessness among those in kingdom business.

In 1999 I visited one of the executives in his office at World Evangelism Center. I asked if it were possible to do ministry in the midst of his administrative responsibilities. He pointed to a large stack of files and said, “Ministry, every time I want to do ministry, there is all this work staring at me.”

Discovering Ministry (2)

Lest we think this is a phenomenon isolated to World Evangelism Center, or AIMers on the mission field, I wonder how many pastors feel the same way. I recall, after marrying my wife, Linda, receiving a letter from her pastor-Dad. He wondered if he was truly making a difference in the small church he pastored and was close to giving up and throwing in the towel. Thankfully, he faithfully pressed on.

Regardless of the particular aspect of ministry one is involved in, it has its own share of unexciting, undesirable aspects and assignments. It’s inescapable! Sometimes ministry is reduced to a four letter word: “W-O-R-K!” And it is repeated day after day.

“And David said unto his men, Gird ye on every man his sword. And they girded on every man his sword; and David also girded on his sword: and there went up after David about four hundred men; and two hundred abode by the stuff” (I Samuel 25:13).

Notice what a few other translations bring out:

  • Stayed with the supplies (NKJV)
  • Stayed with the equipment
  • Stayed with the baggage (ESV, NASU, NASB)

Admittedly, there are a few things in my ministry and serving the Lord that feel a whole lot like baggage to me. But, every traveler knows the frustrations of arriving at one’s destination and baggage has been delayed or lost. This worsens when one forgets or ignores packing an extra set of clothes in the carryon. Guilty!

As I started to Google those words “staying by the…” here is what popped up.

  • Staying on course
  • Staying in the Word

All involving focus. Staying by the stuff (involves focus). Simple as that or should I state it is as hard as that. Maintaining focus is never easy. It requires deliberate determination.

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead” (Philippians 3:13, New Living Translation).

A Bee or Not a Be

Recently I was asked by a pastor friend to write a letter or words of encouragement to his son who was feeling his call into ministry. My words would be coupled with those of other leaders into a special book for the young man’s upcoming birthday celebration. Here’s what I wrote provided in hopes it will strengthen you in your ministry journey as well.

My rendition of an old cliché says, let me put a “be” in your bonnet or a “be” in your cap. No mistake there. I actually meant “be” instead of “bee.” If you were wearing a hat and a bee flew into it, you’d be focused on that bee. It would—excuse the pun—really be “bugging” you. It would immediately become something you were passionate about. You wouldn’t be able to get it out of your mind and off your head. It would become your number one obsession and intricate part of your mission in life. It would be something you want and by all means you would do just about anything to get it. Now. Perpetually. A lifetime goal!


But, I’m not talking about a “bee” but “be.” The same applies. When you decide you want to “be” something for God it becomes paramount; your one burning desire. It is your focus, passion, and mission. You won’t be able to get it out of your head, your heart, or your spirit. It will consume you. So, life becomes a little like what Shakespeare said in Hamlet, “To be, or not to be: that is the question.”

Some spend a lot of time on where God wants them to “go.” They are concerned with “location.” Some spend ample time on what God wants them to “do.” They are grappling for a “vocation.” Both are important and have their place in God’s plan. However, I suggest the majority of time should be poured into what God wants us to “be.” Often we view “calling” as what we ought to do when “calling” is more about what we ought to “be.” When the people of Antioch studied the believers, they called them “Christians.” It had little to do with their location or vocation, but a whole lot to do with their lifestyle. They had become Christ-like!

After serving God for more than thirty years I have a burning, daily desire to “be” on the inside what I profess to “be’ on the outside. I’m not talking about letting up on outward standards of righteousness and holiness. God forbid. But, it seems easier to have everything right on the outside and yet still struggle with the battle on the inside. God is interested in character; what we are when no one is watching. With the Apostle Paul I pray for you “…to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16, NKJV). Win the battle. It takes a daily sacrifice. When you fall and fail, get up again, brush yourself off, and keep moving on the journey.

I don’t like to hear or use the word “hypocrite” and I most certainly don’t want to “be” one. A hypocrite is a fake, counterfeit, and someone that pretends. It comes from the Greek and refers to play-acting; someone that hides behind a mask. “Be” genuine, vulnerable, and the real deal. Practice what you preach. Better still, preach what you practice.

Scrolling down through Titus 2 I am amazed with the number of times “be” is mentioned. Here’s just one: “Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us” (Titus 2:6-8, NASU).

An unknown author mentioned, “’Your task…to build a better world,’ God said. I answered, ‘How? The world is such a large, vast place, and there’s nothing I can do.’ But God in all His wisdom said, ‘Just build a better you.’” That is a journey that takes a lifetime.

Photo by Shawn Caza