Lucky or Blessed?

MACAU. For the past week I have been on a small island, that looks and feels like a large casino. Every Nation Macau Church hosted our annual Asia Leadership Team meeting and a day later our China Discipleship Convergence. I wish I could blog about the reports I heard from Every Nation leaders in China, Pakistan, Laos, Tibet, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia, but I can’t because of security concerns.

Here’s my Every Nation Asia summary, in the words of Apostle Paul, “The Gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace.” (Colossians 1:6)

While the spread of the Gospel brings great joy to my heart, there is also a deep sadness as I watch thousands and thousands march into the casinos to throw away their money and their future. I have observed a strange mix of greed and hope in the eyes of those coming into the glittery casinos, and a zombie-like hopelessness in the eyes of those shuffling towards the exit doors.

Luck is the operative word around here. Some, a very few, have good luck. Most have very bad luck.

While watching this tragedy play out before me, I read an interesting story about blessing this morning. Many people see blessing as the religious version of luck, but the two concepts have nothing in common. Luck is something that randomly happens to one and not to another. Blessings are often the direct results of our decisions and actions.

It is common for religious people to have wrong ideas about the blessing of God. Consider Luke 11. Jesus just taught his disciples how to pray the “Our Father.” Next He heals a mute boy by casting out a demon. Then He teaches the crowd. Typical day in the life of Jesus.

Watch what happens next, and notice the response of a random woman in the crowd.

As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” Luke 11:27 ESV

Like many people today, most people in Jesus’ day wrongly believed that a person was blessed or not blessed solely based on who their parents were. A person’s family background determined ethnicity and nationality. That was true then, and now. But ethnicity and nationality do not determine divine blessing.

In His response to the woman in the crowd, Jesus redefined what it means to be blessed and corrected a false belief about the source of the blessing.

“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Luke 11:28 ESV

How then is one “blessed” according to Jesus? In this passage in Luke, Jesus clearly ties the blessing of God to hearing and living God’s Word.

Never allow your family background, your ethnicity, or your nationality determine your blessing. Hear, read, obey, and live God’s word and you will find the true source of the blessing of God.

A Simple Explanation for Extreme Generosity

NASHVILLE. Have you ever known someone who is crazy generous? Not the guy who occasionally drops a few coins in the tip box at Starbucks. I’m talking about those people who love to give and who live to give. Are you one of those extremely rare extreme givers?

Luke recorded a story about a woman who didn’t have much, but all she had, she gave to Jesus. She gave joyfully and sacrificially. She was not a pious religious woman. She was a woman with a past. A sinful past. A shameful past. A past filled with regret. But she gave Jesus her all and her best.

The reason for her extreme generosity was simple. Here’s how Jesus explained it to his small group of Rhodes Scholars.

“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:47)

Those who have been forgiven much, love much. Those who suppose they have been forgiven little, love little.

This idea of reciprocating love is the explanation for crazy generosity. So, if we have been forgiven much, we will show much generosity, but if we have been forgiven little we will show little generosity.

Two summary thoughts about generosity from this story in Luke’s Gospel:

1. Generosity is an expression of love and gratitude.
2. Generosity is a response to being forgiven.

I have been forgiven much, therefore I should be extremely generous. What about you, have you been forgiven much, or little?

How Every Nation Churches Started in My Manila Home 20 Years Ago

NASHVILLE. This week, twenty years ago, Every Nation Churches & Ministries serendipitously started in my home when a couple of old friends had a layover in Manila. The date was March 4. The time of day was late, close to midnight. The place was my house in Pasig, Philippines. Our fledgling ministry had no legal documents, no headquarters, no budget, no plan, no logo, but we had a clear call from God and a sense of stewardship for the university campuses of the world.

Here’s how I described that night in my book, 100 Years from Now.

Six years after the demise of the ministry and mission agency that sent us to the Philippines, I received a call from Rice Broocks that would change our lives. Every decade or so, I get a call like that from him. Rice called to ask if he and an old friend, Phil Bonasso, could crash at my house in Manila for a couple of nights on their way to Singapore and Malaysia. Rice and Phil’s Asian adventure was a response to a “Macedonian call” from a friend of a friend asking them to consider assisting two new church-planting opportunities in Asia.

I’ll never forget that late night in my house in Manila. Rice and Phil were talking about the open doors in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, and then one of them said, “We need to plant churches in those cities.” I responded, “Who is ‘we?’ There is no ‘we.’ There is only you, and you, and me.” In 1989, when Maranatha Campus Ministries ended and we all went our separate ways, any semblance of “we” had abruptly ended. I can’t remember the whole conversation, but by the time Rice and Phil left my house, there was a “we” that the three of us agreed to call Morning Star International. God had connected us together for the purpose of “church planting, campus ministry, and world missions.” Phil and I agreed to join our ministries together if Rice would take the lead. We never imagined anyone would want to join with us. We simply wanted to plant new churches, not gather existing churches. To our surprise, as soon as Rice and Phil landed in the USA a week later, old friends started calling to ask if they could join our little church-planting group. A few years later, we changed our name to Every Nation, but we never changed our commitment to church planting, campus ministry, and world missions.

When God reconnected Rice, Phil, and me that night in Manila, it was not because we were all struggling and failing. Quite the contrary—all three of us were leading what most people would consider growing and successful ministries. Every Nation came about because the three of us believed we could accomplish more together than apart. We believed we could be better together.

That’s how we started. It has been quite a ride these past twenty years. Together we have made a lot of disciples, a lot of mistakes, and a lot of great memories. I thank God for allowing me to preach the Gospel, make disciples, and plant churches with good friends all over the world.

By His grace, eventually we will reach every nation with the Gospel.

 

How You Can Help Typhoon Victims in the Philippines

TOKYO AIRPORT. It has been five days since the strongest storm to hit land in recorded history wreaked havoc in the central Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan, known in the Philippines as Typhoon Yolanda, produced wind speeds up to 315 km (195 mph) and storm surges (tsunami-like waves) up to 17 feet high.

Damage estimates change by the hour, but the latest say over 11 million people were affected by the storm, and as many as 10,000 are dead. Around 500,000 are now homeless. Ninety-five percent of the homes and buildings in Tacloban were destroyed or damaged.

I am now sitting in the Tokyo airport on my way to Nashville, but my heart is still in the Philippines where our Every Nation and Victory staff and volunteers are working around the clock receiving, processing, and delivering relief goods. So far, we have received, packaged, and sent 10 tons of relief goods from Victory centers in Metro Manila.

THANK YOU to all who have given, volunteered, and prayed. Much more is needed. Many friends from all over the world have asked how they can help. Here’s some info:

Info about how to give, volunteer, or donate relief goods is available on the Victory Philippines website.

Financial contributions can also be given through Every Nation North America.

Trustworthy organizations we work with in the Philippines include: Operation Blessing Philippines, Samaritan’s Purse and Habitat for Humanity Philippines.

If you live in the Philippines and want to help, we are still receiving and processing relief goods at Victory centers nationwide. Click here to find the Victory center nearest you. If you live anywhere else in the world, the best way you can help is to pray and give money. One hundred per cent of the money will be used in our relief and rebuilding operations.

I heard yesterday that over sixty Victory church members in our Roxas City church have lost everything – homes, clothes, vehicles, computers,…  I am certain many of our Victory members in Tacloban also lost everything, but I have not seen the list of names yet. Anything you send would be a huge help for these families.

Gotta board my plane now. Please continue to pray, volunteer, and give. Thanks.

CNN: “Worse than Hell in Philippines”

MANILA, PHILIPPINES.  I’m sitting in my Manila office, teary-eyed, heavyhearted, and feeling powerless. Downstairs Pastor Paolo, and our Every Nation Philippines staff are collecting and sorting relief goods to be delivered to victims. We are doing all we can, but it is not nearly enough. And it is a frustratingly slow process.

Most of the world is now aware that the Philippines was once again pounded by a super-typhoon. The CNN headline this morning read:  “Worse than Hell in Philippines.” Some news sources have reported that this one was the strongest storm to hit ground in recorded history. It was 3.5 times stronger than Katrina. The storm pummeled 36 Philippine provinces, left 340,000 homeless, and affected more than 4.3million Filipinos.

No one really knows the death toll at this time. The International Red Cross is estimating that as many as 10,000 people may have died during the storm. My friend, Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez was quoted in the CNN article: “I have not spoken to anyone who has not lost someone, a relative close to them. We are looking for as many as we can.”

Here are some of the descriptions of the devastation from various CNN articles:

- The stories coming out of the Philippines are unimaginable. Rushing water and wind tearing children away from their parents’ arms. Tacloban, a city of 200,000 in which no buildings appear to have survived intact.

- Super Typhoon Haiyan roared into the central islands of the Philippines last week, wiping out entire neighborhoods, ripping children off their parents’ arms and leaving a trail of devastation.

- An estimated 1,000 bodies were seen floating in Tacloban as reported by Red Cross teams.

- Entire houses leveled. Bodies scattered on streets. In the aftermath of Haiyan, Filipinos are grappling with unimaginable devastation.

The Victory  and Every Nation Churches websites have info for those who want to help.

Go to the Nations [Podcast]

© 2012 Steve Murrell

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