They Just Showed Up

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I happened to be watching the baseball game that night in 1998 when Cal Ripkin, Jr. ended his unbelievable record of playing in 2632 consecutive games. When Ripkin passed Lou Gehrig's record of 2130 in 1995, he had broken a record people said would never be broken. But he went way past that - some 500 games past Gehrig's "unbreakable" record. That night in 1998 the whole stadium, all the fans from both teams, erupted in thunderous ovation that lasted, as I recall, around fifteen minutes.

Cal Ripkin, Jr. had defied the spirit of our age. No fake calling in sick. No time off for good behavior. He just did his job, and kept doing his job. Along the way Ripkin had many notable achievements: Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player in the American League, two Gold Glove Awards, inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. But most important - his lasting legacy - he just kept showing up.

Today I want to honor two of our dearest friends who also just kept showing up. David and Jeanene Rogers are celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary. They are acclaimed Christian educators. Jeanene is renowned as someone to whom children seem magnetically attracted. David is known for his expertise in church administration and home groups. They have done many notable things. But their lasting legacy is they just kept showing up.

They have been faithful to Jesus, to their calling, and to one another. They both came from homes where their parents could be trusted to keep their word. "I promise" meant exactly that. Just knowing David and Jeanene are your friends brings a deep-seated calm and assurance. These friends are lifers and lifters. Loyalty is second nature to them. They are trustworthy; trust-worthy.

Leviticus 25:10 is inscribed on our Liberty Bell: Proclaim liberty throughout the land to all the inhabitants thereof. It's the Jubilee verse, declaring freedom from debt and freedom from enslavement. But what makes this 50th year proclamation especially meaningful is the admonition at the beginning of the verse: Set apart the fiftieth year as holy.

The Jubilee year marked a literal returning to roots. It was a sacred, joyous year where liberty was experienced and enjoyed. All the good seeds that had been sown for the previous decades then tumbled into a glad reaping, harvesting the fruit of lives well lived. How we need loyal friends in our lives like David and Jeannene Rogers. How our nation and world need such examples of long-term faithfulness.

May their lives do more than merely impress us. May their lives inspire us to just keep showing up.

Faithful Men

God’s Word has much to say about faithfulness. I am privileged to have faithful friends and to serve the Lord in the company of faithful men. A week ago I preached at Southwest Harvest Church in Duncanville, Texas, where Sonny Conatser serves as senior pastor. Yesterday I preached at Lakeshore Church in Rockwall, Texas, where Brad Howard is senior pastor. These are faithful friends, faithful men.

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Don’t Play It Safe

If we live large for Jesus our days may see conflict but our sleep will be sweet. Being a gospel advocate has never been easy. From the beginning of the church followers of Jesus faced threats, persecution, and often martyrdom. Bishop Stephen Neill reminded his readers of the cost of confessing Christ in the church’s infancy. “Every Christian knew that sooner or later he might have to testify to his faith at the cost of his life.” Today the situation is similar in many respects to that faced by the early disciples of Jesus. Like them, we must be adaptable without compromising and gracious in our speech. Like the first century church, today’s global church is again becoming a church of miracles, martyrdom, and massive growth.

As did our predecessors, we’re to live out the gospel in truth and love. Missionary great Hudson Taylor admonished, “Let them see that you are rejoicing in God, you do not need any other protection, you put your trust in God, you are prepared either to suffer or be delivered as He sees best. They will learn that there is something in the gospel worth risking life for.”

More than ever in my lifetime I’m taking special note when I read words like these: “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God” (2 Tim. 1:8). When we’re mistreated for Jesus’ sake our testimony is only strengthened when we forgive the assailants.

Jesus said, “Because iniquity will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:12-14). He warned that the love impulse of many would be choked off because of sin and lawlessness. In other words, there is a natural tendency to “circle the wagons” and give our focus and energy to self-preservation. Tragically, many Christians today are in no mood to do anything redemptive for the rest of the world. Yet Jesus prophesied that in the midst of a climate of global anger and recrimination the gospel would go to every nation and people. If we are to respond to the crisis of our times in a God-glorifying way we must recommit ourselves to fulfilling the Great Commission.

“But realize this,” Paul counseled, “difficult days will come” (2 Tim. 3:1, NASB). In a real sense these are both the best and worst of times. We cannot be reticent in our gospel witness. Playing it safe isn’t safe. Jesus taught that those who are self-protective are actually the most at risk. “Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses His life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mk. 8:34-35).

The Imperative Gospel

All the gospel “invitations” in the New Testament are in the imperative mood. The gospel is not a choice to consider, it is a command either to obey or reject. You can forestall an invitation with nebulous niceties. But you must either obey or reject a command. The gospel doesn’t merely invite belief. It demands it. “Repent, and believe the gospel” (Mk. 1:15).

A Holy Whirlwind

I’m in a happy, holy whirlwind! Last Thursday and Friday Naomi and I were with many friends of long standing at the Church on the Rock Network of Ministers Conference in Texarkana. Yesterday I was privileged to preach at Hilltop Church in Dallas. Eldred Sawyer is the senior pastor of this wonderful church, along with the outreach of Care Center Ministries. Rejoice with me: ten people professed faith in Christ yesterday morning at the close of my message! Please pray that they will “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

Also, I’m asking all Facebook friends to pray for Global Advance during the next couple of weeks. Next Monday, October 6, we will host around 50 of our key international partners at Global Advance’s International Summit in Dallas. Pray that each delegate will arrive safely and that the Holy Spirit will meet with us in a special way.

Then Friday night, October 9, is our annual Dallas dinner at the Intercontinental Hotel in Dallas. This is a complimentary dinner but you must be registered to attend. You can register at www.globaladvance.org. I would love for you to celebrate with us a quarter century of God’s unfailing faithfulness. I hope to see you there!

Be Careful, Little Eyes, What You See

As a boy in Sunday school we sang, “O be careful, little eyes, what you see.” This was a caution not to set our eyes on what was unholy.  It’s also a good reminder for Christians today whose eyes need to be redirected. Too many Christians are looking around them. Their focus is on events, prophetic and otherwise. As a result, there are far too many panic-prone Christians. Yes, Jesus said we are to discern times and seasons. There are multiple prophetic indicators that are aligning. We’re in very challenging times. God’s judgment seems to be imminent. But this does not mean we’re to panic. On the contrary, we’re to rise to the call of this hour as Christ’s ambassadors – and redirect our eyes. God’s Word is clear where we need to set our spiritual eyes in times like these.

Look in. In such serious times we’re to examine our own spiritual condition. “Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the day of God” (2 Peter 3:11-12).

Look out. Jesus calls us, “Lift up your eyes and look on the fields, for they are already white for harvest” (John 4:35). There is something fundamentally wrong when Christians are caught up with end time events but that somehow doesn’t translate into bringing lost people to faith in Jesus Christ. If we are indeed very close to the coming of the Lord, our first inclination should be to reach as many as we can as fast as we can with the gospel.

Look up. We’re closer to Christ’s return today than ever in history – at least by one day! There are many signs that indicate the imminence of His return. Jesus encourages us, “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28).

But until He returns our job remains unchanged: “Preach the gospel to all creation. Make disciples of all the nations” (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19).  And in all of life’s challenges, let’s be “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2, NIV).

 

New Every Morning

In the midst of severe testing, with devastation all around, the prophet Jeremiah declared, “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23). Global Advance, the ministry I was privileged to found in 1990, is celebrating a quarter century of God’s unfailing faithfulness. Literally every day at our offices we hear stories of how leaders’ lives and ministries are impacted through the multiple, multi-nation outreaches of Global Advance.

My soul magnifies the Lord –

  • for a faithful, supportive wife who has served the Lord with me, not just for Global Advance’s 25 years, but for the 43 years of our marriage,
  • for Jonathan, our son, who serves as the fruitful, spiritually sensitive, and visionary president of Global Advance,
  • for a great staff, board, and worldwide team who work together to obey Christ’s Great Commission,
  • for friends and partners who faithfully pray and sow financially into this missions ministry,
  • for a debt-free ministry that has always paid its bills expeditiously.

In just a couple of weeks we will host some 50 of our key leaders from many nations. We’ll collaborate at a week-long Summit as we prayerfully strategize for the future – and our greatest days of impact for Jesus Christ and His global cause.

If you will be in the Dallas area Friday, October 9, I’m inviting you to celebrate God’s faithfulness with us. The 25th Anniversary Global Advance Dinner will be held that evening at 6:30 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Dallas. You will hear thrilling stories of God’s work worldwide. An opportunity will be given for you to invest in this ministry.

But you must be registered to attend, and we need to know soon if you will be joining us. You can register online or find out more at www.globaladvance.org.

“Here we are, in Your presence,

Lifting holy hands to You.

Here we are, praising Jesus

For the things He’s brought us through.”

– Dallas Holm

Sweet to the Soul

I’ve been absent from Facebook the last couple of weeks for good reason. Last week I was on assignment, training, resourcing, and encouraging 175 ministry couples in the eastern European nation of Romania. Many of these pastoral leaders are aggressive church planters. Since the demise of the cruel Communist despot, Nicolae Ceausescu, on Christmas Day in 1989, many Romanian pastors have been aggressively planting new churches. My host, Pastor Cornel, has planted over 40 fellowships in the last 25 years. Also, several times I’ve mentioned my almost total absorption in two writing projects. I’m very thankful and happy to say that, as of today, both of those writing assignments are completed and will soon go to press.  So how does this make me feel? It’s very similar to the sensation of coming up for air after being submerged for a long time!

I’ll replenish my oxygen (literally and spiritually), then move into a very full Fall ministry season. All glory to God, this year three products have been developed that have been in my heart for years. First, a memorial CD of several of my dad’s radio messages was completed earlier this year. Second, I’ve completed the final book of a three book series on personal and ministry development designed for Majority World pastoral leaders. Third, I’ve just completed my most important book – a book about anchoring our lives in the gospel.

Proverbs 13:19 says, “A desire accomplished is sweet to the soul.”  My soul says, “Amen.”