Senders Needed

As I sit to write this I struggle with how to begin; only clichés come to mind:

“Some go and others send.”

“One goes into the well while one holds the rope, but they both have scars on their hands.”

The point being: those who go and those who send are equally significant. Yet, I feel as though many would-be senders don’t realize their vital importance to our ministry.

As a person who has spent the last 12 years on the going side of the equation, I can honestly say nothing is more encouraging to me as when others partner with me in ministry. I often receive encouraging words from many, and I am grateful. However, when someone shows they believe in what we’re  doing by investing in the work, I am encouraged to persevere. I can relate to what Paul told the church in Philippi, “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.” (Phil 4:17). I am passionate about this ministry and want to give others an opportunity to join us in serving Jesus by serving some of the poorest people on the planet.

Hubbard Family

When Barbara and I launched Living Bread Ministries almost 12 years ago we were torn between the need to fundraise and the responsibility of proving our ministry model was worthy of investment. Since it was a new organization we felt we must bear fruit before asking others to join us. So, for the first few years we did not seek to raise personal support. We supported ourselves through our personal savings and odd jobs. With this we also launched the work in Brazil. After a few years of this our savings was exhausted and many of our personal belongings had been sold off, but an exciting church planting movement among the poor in Brazil was taking shape!

Eventually, we began raising personal support toward a set goal of $3,000 per month. We worked to raise this money while concurrently fundraising for the work in Brazil. It took seven years to reach our goal and we have not sought to increase our personal funding since. However, as sender’s circumstances have changed over the past two years, we have watched our personal support dwindle. The problem has been compounded for us as living expenses increase—including our health insurance which we pay out of our personal support.

As a result, we currently find ourselves needing to raise $1,500 per month in personal support to cover the decrease in giving, and cost of living and health insurance increases. Would you please consider partnering with us by committing to a monthly contribution or a special one-time gift? In doing so you join us in the important work of comprehensive church planting among the global poor. As a sender, you become a catalyst for church planting movements in Brazil, Thailand, Cambodia, and beyond. All donations are tax deductible and can be made using the secure link below. We are grateful for your generosity!

Join the Hubbard’s in Comprehensive Church Planting Among the Global Poor

Service: The Way of Thriving in the Kingdom

In Mark 10:35-45 Jesus explains to His disciples how His kingdom is different from the World.  He calls His followers to lives of service because of and empowered by His service on their behalf.

 

True Sacrifice: Planting Churches Among the Poor and Undesired

Globally there is not a organized vision to plant churches among the very poor, but there should be.  I addressed this issue in an article I wrote for Church Planter Magazine.  You can find True Sacrifice: Planting Churches Among the Poor and Undesired on page 26 of the premiere issue of the magazine.  If you would like a subscription visit their page in the App Store.

I would love to hear your feedback on the article.

Wrestling with God Interview

Below is an interview I did with Scott Blair from Grapplers Church.  We discuss church planting, missions, discipleship, getting punched in the face, and much more.  I hope you find it helpful as you seek to serve King Jesus.

To learn more check out Living Bread Ministries.

 

Serving God by Serving Man

I am a very self-centered person.  I desire my own comfort and happiness.  Quite often I will go to any length to accomplish something that I want for myself.  I will endure hardship and overcome great obstacles when it benefits me.  I am always willing to serve myself.  Yet, when it comes to helping someone else, I am not always willing to work as hard to be inconvenienced.  We all have a self problem.

This may shock you, but when we serve self we are actually serving Satan.  There is a cosmic battle underway between almighty God and his enemy, Satan.  In the Scriptures we see two adversarial kingdoms.  We can either align ourselves with Christ and his Kingdom, or Satan and the World.  Satan is indeed the ruler of the kingdom of the world as seen in Eph 2:2 where, in reference to the world system he is referred to as the “prince of the power of the air.”

When we love the world and thus it’s ruler we are in opposition to God and his kingdom and therefore, make ourselves enemies of God.

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)

If loving the world makes us an enemy of God then it is important that we understand what loving the world is.  Look at how the Apostle John describes love of the world.

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

John describes love of the world as simply the love of self and it is a testimony to the fact that the love of God and his kingdom are absent in a person’s life.

Our self-love reveals that we reject the Lord’s kingdom and have aligned ourselves with the rule of his enemy.  Just a few examples from scripture are needed to make this point.  Jesus says:

23 “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? (Luke 9:23-25)

Jesus makes it clear that an unwillingness to deny self is synonymous with man’s desire to cling to the kingdom of the world.  This is futile because the one who seeks to preserve his life in the world, will ultimately lose it when Christ establishes his kingdom in its fullness.  The one who loves himself loves the world, but the one who denies himself loves the Lord and his kingdom.

Earlier I mentioned Ephesians 2.  In this passage Paul likewise equates love of self with love of the world.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Eph 2:1-3)

Prior to being reconciled to God each of us were actively following the course of the world in submission to its ruler.  We lived in and pursed the kingdom of the world with the result that we lived in the passions of our flesh carrying out the desires of the body and mind.  We were lovers of self!  As a result we were children of wrath; enemies of God.

In Romans 12, Paul urges followers of Christ to no longer be conformed to the world but to be transformed by the renewing of their minds.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)

What does this non-conformity to the world look like?  It’s simply the denial of self as an act of worship to God.  By deduction we conclude that the love of self is the result of conformity with the world.  Loving self communicates alignment with the world, while the act of self-denial communicates that the believer has been transformed and changed his allegiance to the kingdom of God.

It is clear that when we practice the love of self we are aligning ourselves with the kingdom of the world and serving Satan.  It is equally true that when we deny self and love others we are aligning ourselves with the kingdom of God and serving God.  This can also be illustrated with a few examples from scripture.

In Mark 10 Jesus gives a very clear example of serving God by serving man.  While the disciples were fighting for prominent positions in the kingdom of God, Jesus pointed to his own humble service to man as the model of kingdom life.

35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”… 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. 42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:35-37, 41-45)

Having just heard Jesus foretell his death, James and John could only ask the Lord to guarantee them the most prominent spots in his coming kingdom.  The other ten disciples are infuriated by this not because John and James asked, but because they asked first!

In rebuke, Jesus points out how the kingdom of the world operates; it’s rulers lord over those they lead.  This is not the case in the kingdom of God.  To the contrary the leaders in Christ’s kingdom humbly serve those they lead.  They become their slaves.  This principle is illustrated in that the incarnate Son of God came not to be served but to serve and his service is defined by the cross.

By serving man Christ was also serving God.  His atoning death on the cross was service to man in that it allowed us to be reconciled to God.  However, it was also service to God because it was the Father’s will for Christ to die in our place as a ransom.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief;…. (Isaiah 53:10)

This is a great kingdom principle.  Christ’s service to man in obedience to the will of God demonstrated his love for the Father.  He served the Father by serving man.

Love of God and love of neighbor are so interconnected that they cannot be separated.  When asked what was the greatest single commandment in the Law Jesus refused to give only one.  Instead he forever connected service to man and service to God.

37 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt 22:37-40)

The Law and Prophets were summed up in love for God and love for neighbor.  You simply cannot love God without loving your neighbor; nor can you serve God without serving your neighbor.

The Apostle John likewise connects love for neighbor with love for God.  This is seen in his First Epistle.

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. (1 John 5:2)

In other words we love our neighbor when we love God.  Like Jesus, John joins love of God and love of neighbor together in such a way that they cannot be separated and he defines love by the self-denial of the cross.

16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:16-18)

The motivation of our self-denying love for one another is that Jesus denied himself and laid down his life for us.

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:9-11)

Likewise, the Father sacrificially demonstrated his love for us by sending his son to die for our sins.  Again, the self-denying love of God seen in the gospel is our motivation to love God and our neighbor.

It is clear that for Jesus and John the love of God is directly connected to our love for our neighbor.  It is equally true that love is defined as the sacrificial denial of self.  Thus, for the Christian, we serve God when we align ourselves with his kingdom by denying self and sacrificially serving our neighbor in obedience to the commands of God.

This is of course a problem for all of us, because as we have already seen, we have a self problem.  Paul described every one of us when he was writing to Timothy.

For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power… (2 Timothy 3:2-5)

Paul could easily have been referring to me in this passage.  I am guilty as charged, we all are!  What’s the answer?  Work harder?  Be nicer?  We can’t do that; we love ourselves too much!  The solution has already been discussed.

It’s the self-denying love of Christ that transforms us from serving self and Satan to serving others and God.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. (Romans 6:3-8)

In the gospel, when we repent of our sin and place our faith in Christ we identify with his death.  Our old self is crucified with Christ and a new self is raised with him to walk in a new way; a way that is transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Our new life, like the life of Christ, is marked by self-denial and service to God that is fleshed out in humble service to man.

Worship that Pleases God

I have long been intrigued with Isaiah 58.  It’s a very interesting passage because it seems to view the worship of God in a way that is very different from what is often considered the norm in the western Church.  In the first verse we see God commanding the prophet to “cry aloud; do not hold back” (ESV) in declaring the sins of the people.  Then the Lord goes on to describe them as people who “seek me daily” and “delight to know my ways”.  They ask for “righteous judgments and delight to draw near to their God”.  To put this in our terms you might say these are people who have a daily quiet time; reading the word and praying.  They desire to worship and attend church regularly.  These things are considered synonymous with someone who has their act together as a Christian; someone who faithfully loves the Lord.

Yet in this case these seemingly faithful followers of the Lord are complaining because he is ignoring them and their religious practices, specifically fasting.  Why is God ignoring these people who seek him and desire to know him?  As the prophet said in Is 29:13 and as Jesus described the Pharisees in Matt 15:8-9 “These people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me teaching as doctrines the commandments of men”.  While they were faithful to practice spiritual aspects of their faith, they were neglecting, or even ignoring, the practical outworking of the word of God in their lives.

While daily quiet time, prayer, and even fasting are essential to the Christian life, when they are done in a vacuum and do not penetrate into our daily lives they are displeasing to God.  According to this passage that is sin and results in God’s judgment.  Jesus summed up all of the law and prophets in this “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind… And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” Matt 22:37-40.  This is exactly the problem for these people; their one-sided religious practices revealed that they did not sacrificially love others and thus did not love God.

The people fasted to seek their own pleasure and beyond neglecting the needy actually oppressed them further (vs.3).  They would declare a fast day in order to win God’s favor and blessing, but would not allow their workers to participate.  Instead, they were forced to make up for the lack of productivity resulting from the masters fast.  Further, they would visibly humble themselves, which Jesus warned against in Matt 6:16-18 “do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others”.  This is not normative of a heart that has been transformed by the gospel of grace, but illustrates legalistic religion being practiced to somehow please God and earn the praise of men!

In reply to the people’s question of why the Lord had not responded to their fasting the Lord explains the type of worship he will respond to.  In vs. 6-14 he gives several if/then statements that make it very clear what moves his heart.  In vs. 6 God says he responds to worship that will “loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke”.  This refers to God’s people actively working to see that those who are marginalized or oppressed are freed from those bonds and treated fairly.

In vs. 7 he goes on to say worship that pleases him is to “share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house” and to care for your fellow man by clothing the naked.  He also says “not to hide yourself from your own flesh”.  When the people turned a blind eye to their fellow Israelites who were oppressed, hungry, homeless, and naked they were hiding themselves from their own flesh, or people.  They didn’t want to deal with them so they avoided them.  When we see the oppressed, hungry, homeless, and naked who are members of the global body of Christ and ignore them, turn a blind eye, or rationalize how their condition is their own fault are we not doing the same thing?

So God is looking for worshipers who have their eyes and hearts open to the hurting.  People who will free the oppressed, feed the hungry, house the homeless, and clothe the naked.  Are these aspects of our faith things that we normally think of as equally important to a daily quiet time or going to church?  Romans 12:1 says “present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship”.   These acts of sacrificial love for others are indeed acts or worship!

Having shown the people the type of worship he desires the Lord proceeds to give them a glorious promise.  If they will worship him in this way then God will bless them abundantly.  He promises that their light will break forth like the dawn.  We are the light of the world and when we love others sacrificially God will cause that light to shine in such a way that the world will not only see it, but they will respond.  Like with the early church in Acts 2 and 4 when they worshiped God in this way “great grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:33) and they had “favor with all the people.  And the Lord added to their number day by day” (Acts 2:47).

Lovingly and sacrificially caring for the hurting not only results in the poor and needy coming to Christ but our middleclass neighbors as well.  When our neighbor the moral businessman, who though not a Christian is honest, faithful to his wife and loves his family, looks at us often he sees no discernable difference between our lives and his apart from the fact that we go to church.  He simply believes that we need to go to church, but he is able to live like us without religion.  On the other hand when that same neighbor sees us forgoing the things of this world, sacrificially caring for the hurting, and generously investing in the Kingdom of God he will ask why.  When we explain we are motivated to live this way, because of the gospel of the grace of God our “light will burst forth like the dawn” (vs. 8) and our “righteousness will go before us” (vs. 8).  God will move and our neighbors, friends, and families will be saved.

Further, the Lord says if his people will worship him in this way he will answer when they call.  God does not respond to those who practice dead religion, but when those whose hearts have been transformed by grace sacrificially love others God is moved to respond to them.  He no longer closes his ear to their cries, but answers their prayers.  Are your prayers not being answered?  Is it because you are practicing self-centered religion; seeking your own pleasure?

Next the Lord reiterates this teaching.  In vs. 9b-10 he says that if his people will “take away the yoke” that is work to remove oppression and will stop the “pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness” or being judgmental and “pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted”, then he will indeed bless.  To pour ourselves out on behalf of the hungry means to deny self and faithfully love them as we love ourselves.

Again, the Lord promises that if we will worship him in this way he will guide us and satisfy our needs and desires.  He will strengthen us and we will be like a refreshing spring of water to the lost world around us.  We will be the “repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in” (vs. 12).  That is to say we will be agents of transformation and restoration to the fallen world.

Finally, in the last if/then series the Lord promises that if his people will honor the Sabbath by not seeking to gratify self then he will cause us to delight in him.  Our true worship, as described in this passage, will result in satisfaction and resting in the Lord.  This transition to the Sabbath is interesting because up to this point one could get the impression that God is only interested in mercy ministry, yet here he specifically says to honor the Sabbath.  We see a balance here where God is showing the fullness of what it means to worship him.  Just as it is wrong to focus on the physical (feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc.) and neglect the spiritual (church attendance, daily quiet time, prayer) it is equally wrong to focus on the spiritual to the neglect of the physical.

The focus on one over the other is an indication of a deficiency in our Christian faith. This is demonstrated in the ministry of Jesus.  In Matt 23:23 Jesus pointed out that the Pharisees were extremely faithful in their religious practice of tithing to the point of giving 10% even of their spices.  Yet they neglected the “weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness”.  It would be as if you were so committed to tithing that when you found a dollar on the street you were faithful to give a dime, yet when you walked by a hungry man you refused to give him the remaining $0.90.  What good is your commitment to tithe if you have no mercy for the hungry?

His solution was not to stop tithing and start helping the poor, but to do the former without neglecting the latter.  In other words true followers of Christ would worship God in word and deed.  They would spend time in God’s word; reading, praying, and fasting.  They would gather together to worship and learn from the preaching of God’s word.  However, those things would not be done in a vacuum.  The word of God would penetrate their hearts and be obediently applied to their lives.  It would result in righteous action not passive complacency.

How can we live this way when our hearts and our culture are sinfully self-centered?  The answer is the same for us as it was for Israel.  In chapter 59 God said that his “hand was not shortened, that it cannot save” (vs. 1) and he promised the people that a redeemer would come to Zion (vs. 20).  That redeemer is Jesus Christ and he came to free us from the bondage of self-love and sinful complacency by denying self and laying down his life for us while we were self-centered sinners.  He came to give us a new heart that loves God fully and thus loves others sacrificially.  He saved us that we might worship God fully by fulfilling the good works that he prepared for us (Eph 2:10).

Caring for the Body

Caring for the physical body is a natural thing.  If we are wounded we do not have to be persuaded that we must care for our body so that it will be healed and restored.  We do not need to be convinced that the other members of our body should bear the burden of the injured member.  For example if the right ankle is injured the left leg will without hesitation bear the extra burden of the weight of the whole body.  This is how the physical body naturally cares for itself.

Likewise, the Church has a responsibility to care for its body, which is the body of Christ.  While we see this truth throughout the scriptures it is clearly and concisely set forth in Galatians 6:1-5.  At the end of chapter five Paul described what it looks like to walk by the Spirit, displaying: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-25).  He then admonished believers to remain humble and not provoke or envy one another (Gal 5:26).  Rather, as he explains in our passage we should humbly seek to restore one another and bear one another’s burdens.

It is the responsibility of the spiritual person, the one who is walking in the spirit and thus exhibiting the fruit of the spirit, to restore the brother who has fallen into sin (vs.1).  This is not to say that we must be perfect before we can restore a brother, but only that we must be seeking the Lord ourselves.  Neither does he Apostle mean that it is the job of the spiritual person to judge or condemn the fallen brother, thus the note to “Keep watch on yourself, lest you to be tempted.

The spiritual person realizes that apart from the grace of God they too are capable of falling into sin at any moment.  The term “falling into sin” is indeed accurate because Paul uses a word that portrays just that, a person sinning because of weakness, inattention, or a false view of their own strength.  The picture is not of the hardened sinner willfully acting in sin; even the most spiritual among must realize that we are all prone to wander and fall into sin, thus we must in a spirit of gentleness seek to restore our brother or sister.

The concept of restoration is significant.  When a member of the physical body is injured we seek its healing and restoration so that it might once again fulfill its role in the body.  Its complete restoration will allow the entire body to function as it should.  This is also true in the body of Christ.  Our goal is not punishment or condemnation; that is not our concern.  We are to be about the business of restoration in a spirit of gentleness fueled by humility.

As we seek to restore a fallen brother we must likewise bear their burdens (vs. 2).  Certainly this means we assist them in overcoming their sin and living a victorious life.  However, I believe more is in view here.  The idea of bearing one another’s burdens is much bigger than simply helping one another overcome sin.  It involves the whole of life.  The spiritual person understands the reality of their participation in the body of Christ and thus seeks to bear the burdens of weaker members in order that the entire body will function properly and fulfill its mission in the world.

Paul states that bearing one another’s burdens will fulfill the law of Christ, which is summed up in John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”  If our bearing of burdens is to be reflective of the love Christ has for us then it must necessarily include more than helping one gain victory over sin.  Indeed in his first epistle John says “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16).  Thus, if we are to function properly within the body, we must love as Christ loved which will involve the death of self for the bearing of the burdens of others.  This is what the spiritual person does.

One of the biggest obstacles to this kind of love and care within the church is pride (vs. 3).  We are all prone to being deceived by it.  We think we are better than others or that they are suffering because of their own sinfulness and are thus receiving their just rewards.  However, the spiritual person is not deceived by pride.  He realizes that he is nothing apart from the grace of God and therefore does not look down upon his neighbor who is fallen in sin or struggling under the weight of a heavy burden.  He responds with meekness and love because he knows that this is the response he received from the Lord.

Pride is an easy response when we compare ourselves to our neighbor (vs.4).  We can always find ways in which we are better, but this is not the case when we test ourselves in comparison to Christ.  Comparing ourselves to Christ promotes humility and an understanding that anything good in us is a work of grace and the result of mercy.  Thus, rather than boasting in our flesh as compared to our neighbor, we can boast in what Christ has done in us.  Paul is not advocating an arrogant boasting in self because when compared to Christ, pride must flee.  Instead his point is that the spiritual man can boast in all that Christ has done in him.

It would seem that Paul makes a shift in vs. 5 and contradicts himself.  However, this is not at all the case.  His point is that each believer will be accountable for how we bear our load.  That is the load of restoring fallen brothers and sisters and the load of bearing their burdens.  So each Christian will be judged by God for how faithful we are in these areas.  If we are prideful and shirk these responsibilities because of self-love or some warped sense of superiority, we will be judged for our lack of faithfulness.

It’s clear that for Paul the church is to care for its members.  For us this must be viewed on a local and global level.  We are individual members of a local body that is itself, a member of a global body.  Therefore, we must seek to restore fallen brothers and sisters and lovingly bear one another’s burdens both locally and globally.  This requires humility, hard work, diligence, and most of all grace.