Publication:Pastoral Letter, June 2000
Dear Friend in Christ:
Greetings in our Lord’s name.
I pray that you are progressing and prospering in God’s purpose. There are many ways to measure our lives; one is by years, as in, “I am now 63 years old.” Another way to measure life is by deeds and achievements, as in “We have completed another building.” Some people measure their lives by places that they have been, as in, “I have been to all fifty states.” The big question is, “How will God measure our lives?”
WHAT IS PROGRESS?
There are two key words that are synonyms for progress: advance and increase. Both describe a biblical view of progress, or how God might measure our lives. A person may spend a long time at a task…and make little or no progress. Or, they might be very active, but make little progress (as in a chicken’s effort to fly). Activity is not always progress!
The Scripture gives us a linear view of history…Alpha to Omega…Beginning to End…not a cyclical or “going in circles” view. God has a purpose; all of life is meant to advance toward that purpose. Life is meant to contribute to the increase of His Kingdom (see Isaiah 9:6-7).
The prophets called people to purpose; Jesus came to fulfill a mission; the apostles were told to go into all of the world and preach the Gospel. The Christian life marches to a sense of mission, rather than meandering through meaninglessness.
Noah’s mission was profoundly important to history: preach righteousness, prepare for judgment. He successfully led his family in building a great ship 450 feet long. And he led them into salvation. He must have been an exceptional husband and father, though he had no success in reaching others. And, he must have been a good builder!
The first part of his ministry was both back-breaking and heart-rending. He worked hard and got nothing but rejection. Seeing the flood, seeing his prophecy come to pass, must have also been a grievous experience, as so many died. But he and his family were saved.
In Genesis 8:16, God says, “Go out of the ark.” After destruction, there came a time for progress. Most of the prophets tell us the same thing – “punishment precedes progress.” God told Jeremiah to tear down nations, so that He could plant and build up.
God’s intent for the ark was to use it – not make it a shrine. It was a tool of salvation, but God was the Savior. There came a time to progress beyond the ark. Humanity is not good at this. We get “hung up” on yesterday, on God’s tools, on unresolved issues, and so many other things. Meanwhile, progress goes lacking. God has the whole earth in mind.
Noah’s mission went well beyond the ark, to fathering tribes that would populate the earth. He entered a new covenant signified by the rainbow, and a new era of progress (see Genesis 9:9).
Genesis 12:1-3 records that God told Abraham to go forth from his country and the land of his relatives, and He would make Abraham a great nation that would bless all the families of the earth. As you read the life of Abraham, you will see many “Go’s.” He was always going.
Abraham’s progress was primarily on two fronts: having an heir, and seeking a city or land. God not only gave him an heir in Isaac, but seed as numerous as the stars (see Galatians 3:29). God gave lands to His natural seed and the whole earth to His spiritual seed. But it has all happened because Abraham obeyed the word, “Go.” He advanced and increased (see Genesis 13:2; Genesis 14; Genesis 17:6).
Going forth in obedience did not mean Abraham would make no mistakes. Quite the opposite; going forth means that you will make mistakes. But the biggest mistake is not going forth. That is unbelief and it robs us of the pleasure of God and real progress. God can forgive sin, but will not forgive unbelief.
Israel was being pursued by Pharaoh’s armies, and the Red Sea was in front of them. “Tell Israel to go forward,” God said to Moses. God makes no compromise with circumstance; He seems to always require us to advance. We know that as they obeyed, an awesome miracle happened_the Sea opened up! But the miracle did not happen until they obeyed the order, “Go forward.”
Israel’s biggest mistake – sin – was later on when they came to Kadesh Barnea, spied out the land, and refused to go forward. Because of that, they spent forty years wandering in the wilderness. Finally, the Lord told Moses, “You have stayed at this mountain long enough.” It was finally time to advance.
No one can appreciate progress like someone who has been stuck in a quagmire for a long time. Moses and Israel spent an entire generation going in circles. The next generation was ready to go forward and take the land.
FEARS AND FOXHOLES
General George Patton was one of the greatest generals in history. I have a book in my library entitled Patton’s Principles, by Porter B. Williamson, an aide to General Patton. The General was highly successful in warfare, and particularly tank warfare. Many books have been written about him. Here are some principles that he used in training good soldiers.
- Don’t fear failure
- Don’t take counsel of your fears
- Fear kills more people than death
- Better to fight for something in life than to die for nothing
- Success is how you bounce on the bottom
- When you dig a foxhole, you dig your grave
Needless to say, Patton was controversial, but his success against great odds were undeniable. His motto was, “When in doubt, attack.” He believed in advancing.
There is something godly about these principles. They characterized Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and multitudes that have gone before us. The four lepers who sat at the gate of Samaria as it was under siege asked, “Why sit here until we die?” (see 2 Kings 7). Many people are doing just that – sitting and dying.
COMING TO JORDAN
God limited Moses’ advance because of Moses’ sin of anger. He brought Moses and Israel all the way to Jordan, but Moses could go no further. In Deuteronomy 31, He told Moses, “You shall not cross this Jordan.” Moses appointed his successor, Joshua, and then went up the mountain to survey the land and go to sleep in the arms of God.
Someday, we will “come to Jordan.” Life and opportunity have limits. Hebrews 3:7-19 warns us to listen to His voice while there is still time. There will come a time when our day will be over, then how will you measure progress? Age? Activity? Places you have been? I believe the question will be, “Did we advance the cause and increase the resources?”
We are not here to mark time or become lost in the maintenance of our lifestyle. God has the whole earth in mind, and we are Abraham’s seed. Our mission is to bless all the people groups of the earth.
EXTENDING CHRIST’S KINGDOM
Our mission here at CSM is to “Extend Christ’s Kingdom through relational evangelism and publishing Biblical Truth.” We are grateful for the opportunity to proclaim classic Biblical Truth and motivate people to engage in the historic Christian mission of proclaiming Christ’s Kingdom to all of the people groups of the earth. You are our partner in this great cause; thank you for your prayers and sacrificial gifts.
Did you know that your prayer and financial support is a vital part of our being able to reach more than 70 nations worldwide? We are receiving so many letters of encouragement from places such as southern Asia, eastern Africa, eastern Europe, and Latin America.
Speaking of Latin America, my wife, Carolyn, and I have a daughter, Charlyn, who has a special outreach to children in Costa Rica. Charlyn now has nine children living with her in her home just outside of the capital city of San Jose´. These children come out of some of the most difficult situations imaginable. God has opened the door for Charlyn to provide love, care, and shelter for them. It is an exciting and heart-touching story. The budget for house, clothes, food, staff, car, medical help, and education for the children is nearly $6,000 per month. Please keep her in your prayers.
There are many other testimonies from around the world that I could share. If you would like more information on the outreach of CSM, please visit our regularly updated website at www.csmpublishing.org. Please keep us in your budget and on your prayer list. Thanks again for standing with us.
Scripture References: Isaiah 9:6-7; Genesis 9:9, 12:1-3, 13:2, 14, 17:6; 2 Kinigs 7; Deuteronomy 31; Hebrews 3:7-19