Think Ahead

Our Let’s Start Talking (LST) mission project this summer is unusual in that we know the people we will be working with. We worked with the same brothers and sisters two summers ago. In our previous LST projects, we were working with a congregation for the first time. Because I know many of the key people involved in making this mission work a success, I have been praying for them by name for some time.

Knowing I will have some of the same readers I had in 2012, I have a list of names I remember and lift up in prayer. I look ahead to the month of July when we will do most of our work; I pray about the social events that help everyone get acquainted with the local church members. I pray about the worship services which we hope some of our readers will visit.

I think of the preparation missionary Cris Carpenter has done and is doing to help make our work as smooth and trouble-free as possible.

This was certainly an approach Paul used in some of his letters. After he had worked with a congregation and was anticipating visiting again, he would begin or end the letter by remembering them fondly and affirming his prayers for them. For example, he wrote to the church at Philippi: “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians1:3-4.) He lets them know he is looking forward to seeing them again soon, but in the meantime he hopes to send his special follow worker, Timothy, to them (Philippians 2:19-24). He tells them he is sending Epaphroditus back to them because he longs to see his friends after his serious illness (Philippians 2:25-27).

I think about the community of Christians we are leaving in Cheviot and all the things happening in ministry there in July and August. There will be Vacation Bible School, church camps, weekly volleyball, Life Groups, the Bread of Life Cafe, and the men’s retreat, among other ministries. Often our prayers are for what is happening today or this week, but we can also think to the weeks and months ahead.

Get a head start in prayer time by considering the ministries you will be involved with the rest of the summer. The LST projects motivate me to plan ahead to ways I can serve the Lord that my day-to-day activities often push aside.

Why should these ministries be of such great concern to us? Why should our thoughts be on people we want to obey the gospel of Jesus Christ? As Paul writes in the same Philippian letter, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20.)


Numbers Matter

Most of us remember Count von Count from “Sesame Street.” He counted anything and everything. We chuckled at his obsession, but our God is also concerned with numbers.

In fact, the fourth book of the Old Testament is named Numbers. An important aspect of the book is Moses’ taking a census of the people in the beginning and also near the end (chapter 26). In Psalm 90:10, the psalmist writes that our life span will be between 70 and 80 years. God took seven days for creation. The Israelites wandered 40 years in the wilderness. Jesus chose twelve apostles. John addressed the seven churches of Asia and 3,000 were baptized on the day of Pentecost. The list goes on and on. God even counted the stars (Psalm 147:4).

One of the most significant uses of numbers in the Bible is a part of the conversation between Peter and Jesus about forgiveness. Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive someone, and, being generous, he thought, he suggested seven times. Jesus responded with seventy times seven (Mathew 18:20-22). He meant there is no limit to the number of times we forgive someone. There is no limit to the number of times God will forgive us (I John 1:7-9). Our God gives us second chances and third chances. His grace is limitless when we seek forgiveness.

We can’t become despondent about our sins, because we all falter and give in to temptation (Romans 3:23). We just move on in our Christian walk. We stumble and God picks us up again. A decent major league ball player will get a hit about 25 times out of a hundred. When he goes 0 for 4 a couple of games in a row, he doesn’t give up. He just moves on to the next opportunity to get a hit. Paul makes a similar point when he talks about his own sins. “I forget what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me… (Philippians 4:12).

Each time we fall short of what God wants us to be, we just keep adding numbers. As one salesman told me in handling rejection, you just simply say “next” and move on to your next call. When we fail in our Christian walk, each new day gives us another chance. Numbers count to God, but for us, in the end, praise God that he doesn’t keep score of our sins. Praise God for his mercy and grace!