Celebrating Christmas with Each of You

Last night after our Christmas Eve Service, our family sat around our table and lit the advent candles as we have done most every night in December. As we reflected on Christ’s birth amid the sugar buzz from the cookies, we talked about how millions and millions of people in every corner of the world were celebrating with us this very evening!

It’s an amazing thought. As I celebrate Christmas with my family today, I will actually be remembering our Savior with each of you and millions of others on every continent and in every country. The Good News of Jesus’ birth has spread that far!

That takes our Christmas celebrations to a whole new level. As we more clearly understand that God’s words throughout the Bible are being realized in front of us, the only response is stop all the activity of the holidays and worship Him.

In Isaiah 25:8 God’s Word says, “The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth.” Each Christmas is a step closer to this promise. As we celebrate with those we love today, let us ask God to allow us to be part of bringing in His Kingdom as we get ready to begin a new year.

I pray that each of you will have a Spirit-led, intentional role in God’s Kingdom this year.

Listening to Who God Brings Your Way

There are many disciplines related to listening. That is something that our team at GMI is always processing as listening is such an important part of what we do. Listening is so multifaceted because it is an exercise focused on the needs and opportunities in the lives of others.

One area of discipline for us in listening is to those who God brings. We like to listen to people we choose, but many times God has the most to say through people we would never have asked or paid attention to.

Think of the word of wisdom that comes from your child, the idea that arises from someone in another department or the insight that comes to you from a news article. Those might not be the sources you expect to learn from, but God can use those voices in powerful ways.

Throughout the Bible people were constantly being surprised by the sources God used to provide insight. Think of Moses and the burning bush, Balaam and the donkey, Elijah and the wind, and finally Israel and a tiny baby boy born in Bethlehem.

In the first few months of 2013 GMI will be challenging our partners and friends in the global mission community to do some listening about the effectiveness of their Websites in engaging with potential missionaries. We are launching our 2013 Agency Web Review to help Great Commission organizations listen to potential missionaries and hear what they have to say. We hope that as these organizations listen to those who are being called into missionary service, that they will be able to make Spirit-led decisions about how to best engage them online.

So many times Web strategy is driven by the latest technology, the blogs of Internet gurus or the internal politics of an organization. Wouldn’t it be better to be driven by listening to those we strive to serve.

If you are an agency serving missionaries, I challenge you to connect with us and take this opportunity to listen to those who are engaging with you through your site. I also pray that God will show each person reading this blog the people in your life He wants you to be listening to today.

Settling for Worry instead of Wisdom

“Worry is undisciplined foresight.” E. Stanley Jones, The Way

You are probably worrying right now! You might be concerned about some decision you have to make at work or a situation you are wrestling through with a family member. Whatever it might be, our brains are wired to plan and process all of the time. Since we are constantly processing, our sin nature takes over and focuses our planning on speculation and consternation.

When Jesus warns us against worry in Matthew chapter six, he is trying to reorient our minds and our efforts to plan. He knew that his disciples (like everyone else) naturally fixated on things that most directly impacted their quality of life. So Jesus mentions clothes, food and drink as examples of those immediate and all-consuming things. But this passage isn’t about clothes or food. It is all about reorienting us around the Kingdom instead of the concerns in this world. In verse 33, Jesus challenges the Disciples to “…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness”.

So why is this reorientation so important? We are wired to process our future, seek insight, and make decisions. God made us that way! But unless we are seeking Kingdom insight, we are squandering the gift of foresight God gave us. On most days we use God’s gift poorly and we miss the chance to engage with what God is doing in His Kingdom. We focus our desire to seek insight on worrying about how this or that might turn out and how it might affect us. This makes it almost impossible for us to make wise decisions for Him. We settle for worry instead of wisdom. This is a tragedy and a victory for the Evil One.

But it doesn’t have to be. If we will seek God each day and ask Him to reorient our thoughts in order to seek His Kingdom, then our thoughts would lead to the discernment we desperately need. Are you settling for worry instead of wisdom? Ask God today to transform your self-focused foresight into God-focused discernment.

Making Shifts When the World Changes

How are we at shifting our assumptions and decision making when the world changes around us? It’s harder than we think isn’t it? But it could not be more critical to our success as leaders.

Take the most recent conflict between Israel and Gaza. The November 24th issue of the Economist led with this title “Old battles, new Middle East . . . Gaza, Israel and the Arab Spring.”

What we have all learned from watching the latest outbreak of violence in the region is that the rules have fundamentally changed since the revolutions of 2011. These changes require all the parties to adjust their thinking and expectations as they seek a way forward.

The same is true for all of us on mission. The rules of global mission have fundamentally changed. These changes are being documented well in many corners of the Kingdom, but much of the time we fail to change our decision-making accordingly.

We read the latest book on mission trends and then go out and make our next major ministry decision as if those words had never been written. Why do we do this? Partly it is because of familiarity, it could also be a lack of discipline in our decision-making and it may have to do with the inherent risks involved in making decisions in new ways.

Whatever the reason, the affects are obvious. We see poor decisions being made in every corner of the missional endeavor. People are working off of old rules and wondering why they do not see the expected results. This is so sad because most of the time people do not mean to make these misinformed decisions. They simply don’t have the framework necessary to make a successful decision.

But these failures in decision-making can be avoided. Here are a few simple questions to ask yourself before you make your next major decision:

  1. Are the rules that I am using to make this decision still in place or have they changed?
  2. What new realities are influencing the decision I am making today? Have I considered their implications?
  3. How would someone in a different generation or culture look at this decision differently? Do they bring key insights I need to evaluate?
  4. Do I have relevant and up-to-date information that will allow me to pray intentionally for God’s wisdom?

Try asking a few of these questions and give me some feedback about what you hear as a result. Let’s strive to shift with our world and seek God about decisions with a more realistic understanding of the situations that we are called to influence.