Monthly Archives: March 2013

Stirring and Waiting

Jones, GarryBy Garry Jones

Stirring and waiting sounds more like a cooking exercise than a spiritual reality in the life of a believer. For many in the gospel ministry there is a temptation to make things happen by a certain strategy or process that has been implemented by a successful pastor and then written in a book to encourage others to do likewise.  I would like to start a conversation today about the reality of stirring and waiting in order for anything to be “done” that brings glory to God.

First of all is the stirring.  I am not against reading books – I have read many and benefited greatly by those moved by God to write them.  However, the attitude with which we read must be, “Is God stirring my heart through this?” instead of “How am I going to copy this in my ministry?”  Many of the books we read are because God stirred the heart of a man and, as a result, changes were made that brought glory to God.  Where there is no stirring from God there is no glory for Him.

Second, there is a waiting on God to speak/stir before making changes.  Again, the temptation is sometimes great to do or try something in the hope of something happening in the life of our ministry without hearing from God.  I have heard someone actually say:  “Let’s just do something so people can see that something is happening!”  How about this one: “We need to get people excited about our ministry!”  I believe trying things is sinful.  How so?  It is because we have forged ahead in our own strength or wisdom without being stirred by God.  When we are stirred by God and follow His leading we stop trying things (what others have done) and begin doing His will.  This brings glory to God, and I believe that is the chief aim of man.

As Isaiah says, “For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear, nor has the eye seen a God besides You, Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him,” (Isaiah 64: 4).  We wait; He acts.  Anything of Kingdom value that is done is initiated by God.  After all, it is His Kingdom and He knows how to build it.  His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8).  We believe that God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent, but yet sometimes we act like He needs some help with knowledge and power to get things done in our area of ministry.

For today, we can look at two examples in the Old Testament that illustrate the stirring of God.  The first one is found in Exodus 35-36.  Moses shared with the people that God was commanding them to build a tabernacle with detailed specifications.  He was telling them how they are to fund the project – out of their own pockets!  He also was telling them that the skillful men and women would make all of the materials, furnishings, and clothing for the tabernacle.  God initiated the tabernacle project and gifted men and women with the possessions and skill to complete it.  Now pay close attention to these verses from Exodus 35:

21 Then everyone came whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and they brought the LORD’S offering for the work of the tabernacle of meeting, for all its service, and for the holy garments.

22  They came, both men and women, as many as had a willing heart, and brought earrings and nose rings, rings and necklaces, all jewelry of gold, that is, every man who made an offering of gold to the LORD.

26 And all the women whose heart stirred with wisdom spun yarn of goats’ hair.

29 The children of Israel brought a freewill offering to the LORD, all the men and women whose hearts were willing to bring material for all kinds of work which the LORD, by the hand of Moses, had commanded to be done.

God stirs the heart and we respond to His glory.  He even called Bezalel out by name and said the following about him:

31 and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship, 32 to design artistic works, to work in gold and silver and bronze, 33 in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of artistic workmanship.  34 And He has put in his heart the ability to teach, in him and Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan.

When God stirred them and they responded faithfully, they had more than enough to do it (Exodus 36:5).  No one could boast of his materials, money or skill because God gave them everything they possessed.

The second example is one less appealing but yet giving glory to God just the same – stirring cuts both ways.  Some of the tribes of Israel decided to walk their own way:

 But they acted treacherously against the God of their fathers and played the harlot after the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them.  So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul, king of Assyria, even the spirit of Tilgath-pilneser king of Assyria, and he carried them away into exile, namely the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and brought them to Halah, Habor, Hara and to the river of Gozan, to this day,” (1 Chronicles 5:25-26).

Yes, God sometimes stirs the hearts of unbelievers to bring glory to Himself.  This is probably the most humiliating stirring of God for the unsatisfied believer.

What does this mean for our ministries?  Our plans and strategies bring us glory and there are many church members who not only like the pastor with a plan, but even demand it of him.  There is a word to describe trying to build the Kingdom without God; it is called trespassing.  We should wait for the Lord to stir our hearts before engaging without Him.  Rather than trusting in our wisdom and experience or that of another, we should wait and seek the plan of Him who knows absolutely everything and has the power to complete it.

 “I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images,” (Isaiah 42: 8). 

The Gospel Changes the World

Dr. C. Michael Wren, Jr.,
Pastor, New Life Baptist Church, Greencastle

Jesus changes the world.  This is not a new idea.  In fact, when Jesus taught that his followers were supposed to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world, and a city set on a hill (Matthew 5:13-14), surely he meant for his followers to be active in changing the world as well.  But changing the world is in vogue these days.  Making the world a better place has become a common crusade, though a multitude of organizations have a kaleidoscope of agendas to help make that happen.   Reduce obesity by cutting out sugars.  Eat organic.  Go vegan.  Make healthcare affordable for all.  Make it possible for everyone to earn a living wage.  Ensure equal rights for all.  End war, and the list goes on.  None of these crusades are bad, per se.  (Though I have to confess: I like meat.  I’m not going vegan.  Sorry).  Because of the plethora of causes that crowd for space on our agendas, we have to ask, “How does Jesus intend us to change the world?”

I ask this question because this is precisely what Jesus tells Peter they’re going to do in the current History Channel mini-series, The Bible.  After the miraculous catch of fish, Peter is evidently overwhelmed by Jesus’ power and asks, “What are we going to do?”  Jesus replies, “Change the world.”  Of course, Jesus never actually said those words.  At least the gospel writers have not recorded them, but it is hard to read the gospels, or the rest of the New Testament for that matter, and miss the truth that Jesus came to do exactly this.  So how did Jesus intend to change the world and how does this influence the church’s mission?  Let’s think about this.

The Bible consistently tells us that following God obediently involves acting to address the needs of the world around us.  Take, for instance, the opening chapter of Isaiah.  The prophet condemns Israel for worshipping God without faith.  Following this devastating critique of their worship, he calls on them to repent and change their ways.  He tells them, “Wash yourselves. Cleanse yourselves. Remove your evil deeds from My sight. Stop doing evil.  Learn to do what is good. Seek justice. Correct the oppressor. Defend the rights of the fatherless. Plead the widow’s cause,” (1:16-17).  If we are going to worship God with a clear conscience, we work to see that God’s righteousness is honored and upheld in society.  It is part of our calling.

Jesus understood it as part of his mission as Messiah.  When Jesus began his public ministry, he spoke at the synagogue in Nazareth, his hometown.  He could have spoken out of any Old Testament text, but he asked for the Isaiah scroll and opened it to the 61st chapter and began reading: “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of our God’s vengeance; to comfort all who mourn,” (61:1-2).  Part of Jesus’ mission as Messiah was to heal and liberate.  The Messiah came to change the world around him.

And yet Jesus came to do more than to change the plight of those suffering here in this world.  Repeatedly in the Gospel of John our Lord makes this point.  He is the water that quenches the thirst of the soul.  He is the bread that gives eternal life.  He is the way, the truth, and the life.  He is the resurrection and the life.  Jesus came to change the plight of those who suffer from the oppression and domination of sin.  He came to bring eternal freedom.

How do we wed the two?  How can the church pursue the goal of alleviating human suffering and seeking eternal salvation for those who do not know Christ?  We evangelize through service.  As an example of how to do this well, check out Operation Inasmuch, a movement Indiana Baptists will hear more about in the coming days.  Our calling is to connect with people who are in need, share the resources we have, and share the message we have received.  In our world today, people are looking for a gospel that changes the world.  With Jesus, they will find so much more.  Let’s make sure they get to hear Him.