Tag Archives: just one minute

God’s Sovereignty, Human Responsibility

creation-of-adamHolistic healing—the harmonious relationship of body, soul and spirit— comes when we learn to live our lives governed by the grace of God. How do we know we are governed by the grace of God? I submit to you a simple test. Ask yourself this question: When were you saved?

Now—what is the very first thing that comes into your mind when you read this question? The answer to this question—the only biblical answer—is, “At the cross, by the eternal plan of God the Father before He created the world.” (Read the details in Romans and Ephesians.)

There is a delicate balance between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. To the degree we tip that balance to the human side, we err. God takes the initiative. We love Him because He first loved us. Even the process of conviction comes from the Holy Spirit. If we associate the moment of our salvation mainly with the day we knelt at our bedside, walked down an aisle, prayed the sinner’s prayer or any other thing, to that degree we make our salvation a thing of our own doing more than God’s grace.

To the extent we tip that balance, we become less able to hear the Holy Spirit, and we become more vulnerable to the lies of the world, the flesh and the devil. We become more prone to the stress of believing lies rather than truth, of living at a lower level than God intended for us.

If we are honest with ourselves, none of us fully accepts the grace of God in our hearts, even if we believe it in our minds. Our habits of thinking and doing are still deeply rooted in fallen natures which want to do everything in our own strength. We are more ungodly in our thinking than we imagine.

Instead of kicking ourselves for our failures, we must daily remind ourselves that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.” Learning to live by God’s grace is a lifelong process. Knowing God saved us at the cross through His Son should better help us to accept ourselves because HE accepts us and aids us in transforming our awed lives and characters. This is a difficult, but necessary step toward holistic healing.

Psychology tells us that to accept ourselves, we must look into our past to heal ourselves. But God, the Great Physician, accepts us at a deeper level, and He did it before we were born. To experience full healing, we come to know ourselves best when we first learn to know God’s grace. This is when true healing takes place.

Our failure to live by God’s grace explains the poor health of so many churches and our culture. When the church does not live out the full healing power of grace, we cannot live as salt and light, and we cannot change the culture around us. All of this makes the church appear powerless, unable to bring the Great Physician to a hurting world.

Paul preached the finished work of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). His emphasis upon God’s grace in Jesus Christ helped to spread the gospel across the Roman Empire. Let us pray for an unprecedented Great Awakening to the truth of God’s holiness and God’s grace and see the gospel once again spread like wild fire throughout the unreached world!

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Slaves to Stress

IMG_3180Body, soul and spirit—we are all three, and each affects the others.

Did you know that 75-90% of doctor visits take place for stress-related ailments—headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, anxiety, upset stomach, sleeping problems? These stress-related issues chronically affect 43% of adults, costing billions of dollars a year to the workplace, causing hazards to others. The tendency is to self-medicate with alcohol, tobacco, drugs and sex.

These issues affect Christians as well as non-Christians. The real cause of stress often has spiritual roots. It may affect people who have gone to church all their lives and are busy in the Lord’s work. Why? Because they have unresolved issues they can’t resolve simply by reading a good book, going to church or Bible study, memorizing scripture, as good as these things are.

Stress often comes because we have learned lies about ourselves from life experiences and from the father of lies, to render us useless, to harm us and even kill us. Often, we have little idea how sin corrupts everything. The enemy, more clever than we, has kept us from seeing the truth.

The Bible warns us that sin has power in this world. Lies about life can destroy us. The enemy keeps these lies below our consciousness to wound and harm us for decades without our knowing the lies are there. We experience continual defeat, and defeat causes stress.

“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free,” Jesus said. Paul also said this when he wrote, “…be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

For this, we need not just to “get information” but get the help of the Holy Spirit to discern our situation and to speak truth to us through applied scripture. When the truth of scripture shines on the lies of the enemy and of life that have governed and limited us, the enemy retreats, and we gain freedom. The source of our stress is removed, and we regain physical and emotional health as well as spiritual health.

Psychology alone, which depends upon humanistic theories, does not suffice for this spiritual work of renewal and setting free. But it can take place through the help of men and women gifted and trained in biblical counseling.

Biblical counseling is not just another form of psychology, nor is it simply limited to spiritual issues. Rather, it is a means of applying the truth of the Bible to all of life—spiritual, emotional, mental, physical. A biblical counselor enables a person to identify the source of his problem—the lie that is keeping him in bondage—and to shine the light of the Word upon it. The light of truth always dispels the works of darkness.

Biblical counseling is a new and growing avenue of grace and redemption, setting people free and renewing minds for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom. It is winning people to Christ and setting men, women and children free to become the people God meant them to be.

We thank God for this new avenue of grace and redemption that has become available at India Bible College & Seminary. Pray that God will call more men and women into this unique ministry, and that millions of people in India and beyond will receive its benefits.

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Walk in God’s Light

2016-11-in-the-lightThe light of God is like a great feast of endless delight for all who accept His invitation to partake of it. With His light, we know we are headed in the right direction. He sent His light into the world through His Son, Jesus Christ, in whom there is no darkness at all.

Those who gladly receive the Light that is Jesus Christ will experience transformation. We receive a changed nature and become part of His new humanity. We receive a more childlike nature, more inclined to trust the word and the person of Jesus Christ in opposition to the prevailing culture. We more readily delight in the truth of God.

Our eyes will open to things we never saw before, and which others, who do not have the Light, cannot see. We will more readily speak the truth. We will more readily see the true mind and character of God and desire that above all else. We will more readily live a life of fruitfulness, joy and peace.

This does not mean we can or will attain sinless perfection in this earthly life, but we will have greater ability to understand ourselves and our world from God’s viewpoint. We will put less trust in human wisdom. We will better understand that human wisdom will disappoint us in some way because human understanding always falls short of God’s perfect Light.

Every follower of Christ has the Holy Spirit who provides the potential to experience all the light of Christ. Because of sinful habits we have developed since birth, we may still allow emotions, social or business pressures, cultural norms and other things to sway us—things that seem logical and even good to us, but do not take into account the full truth God makes available to us.

David was a man after God’s own heart, and yet he allowed Bathsheba’s beauty to capture him more than the Light of God. He suffered dire consequences for his acts, and brought untold suffering upon himself and others that continued even after he repented. In many ways, Judas and Peter perceived the Light better than any of us, yet they betrayed and cursed the Light for short-sighted reasons. If they failed, we are also subject to failure.

Jesus invites and warns us at the same time when He says, “While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.” We have the Light now, but if we ignore the Light, we will not always have Him. If we continually look to our own light, darkness will overtake us, and he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes.

The Light of God is found in the Word of God through the Spirit of God. We must learn to let His Word speak to us in our daily lives, let it challenge our ideas, let it take precedence over cultural norms and trendy presumptions. Learning to follow the light is difficult for people like us with sinful tendencies to wander.

Let us remember that in the end, it is not we who possess the Light, but the Light Who possesses us. This is the ultimate message of the Good News, and let us make sure that others see signs of the Light in us.

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Grace to the Graceless

2016-10-graceOur effective fulfilling the Great Commission sometimes depends upon how we honor the most dishonorable people of our lives with God’s grace. This may include parents who mistreated, neglected and abused us.

To a degree, we all experience dysfunction. All parents are sinners. Yet some of us have or had parents who gave us little more than misery and torment. Just the thought of them revolts us. God commands us to honor our parents, but how do we honor them?

You cannot truly obey this command until you first know God and the great work He has already done for you through Jesus Christ — deep in your heart, not just in your head. This requires a supernatural act, the earnest of the Holy Spirit, assuring you of deep gospel truths in deep ways, as they apply to your unique situation.

Those truths include God’s foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justifying and glorifying of you before creation (Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:3-5). You may have terrifying or awful parents, but long before God created Adam and Eve, He chose to pull you from this muck and make you His own. Not even the cruelest parents can pluck you from His hand.

Vietnamese people have a proverb that well illustrates this fantastic truth: “The lotus grows in mud, but it doesn’t smell of mud.” You are that lotus. Discover who you really are in Him, and He will give you the grace to honor wretched parents even as He has chosen to honor you.

Remember that God is a “Father to the fatherless” (Psalm 65:8). He can use everything for the good of those who love Him and are called of Him (Romans 8:28). Take a small step of faith toward Him, see Him act, then take another step. Be honest with God about your feelings. As a man, He was “despised and rejected . . . a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” (Isaiah 53:3) so He understands your situation perfectly. He wants to help you do what you can’t do yourself.

Remember that honor is primarily an action, not a feeling. It is an offer of God’s grace to graceless people. It does not mean trusting them or tolerating further abuse or rewarding their evildoing. Thank God He is big enough he can even use such nasty people to bring you into the world and adopt you into His royal family!

Practically speaking, how can we honor dishonorable parents? Here are some suggestions:

  • Become willing to forgive them and release emotional baggage. Only the Holy Spirit can help you do this. With Him all things are possible (Mark 10:22). Read Lewis Smedes’ Forgive and Forget—a helpful book.
  • When possible, call and listen to them, and say nothing when they say hurtful things.
  • When possible, do acts of kindness for them.
  • Accept them where they are. Don’t expect them to match your expectations.
  • Note any good things they may have done and express gratitude for them.
  • Don’t criticize your parents before other family members.
  • Create safe boundaries to prevent manipulation.
  • Teach your children to love their grandparents.
  • Pray for parents who mistreated you.
  • Let your relationship with Christ shine through. Who knows? God’s grace in your life, shown to them, may eventually bring them to Christ. It happens.

Sometimes the hardest people to win for Christ come from under our own roof. Let God use this acid test to train you to reach around the world in His name.

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Do You Truly Know Him?

More than 50 years ago, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached, “What this world needs more than anything else is personal knowledge of the true character of God. Our basic problem is a profound ignorance of God’s character.”

If anything, those words are truer today than ever before—a profound ignorance of the character of God. Tragically, this is true even in many churches that call themselves “Christian.”

Too many Christians have bought into the lie that God is a creation of our psychological state, and that we can pick and choose what parts of God we like and leave out whatever makes us feel uncomfortable. Too many Christians have bought into the lie that religion begins and ends with ourselves, that God is about “meeting my needs and the needs of my family.”

The names of God in the Bible do not allow us this fantasy. God’s names in the Bible do not result from philosophical speculation but are the names God gives to Himself. They reveal His true being. They shatter our ignorance. They remind us that He makes us, we don’t make Him.

God reveals who He is through His names because He wants us to experience Him. He wants us to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” God is always greater than what we think of Him. If we are attracted to the God of love and grace, we must also experience the holy and righteous God who hates and judges our sin. We must also experience the God who demands our total submission to Him. In our present culture, these truths cause discomfort even in the church.

When we adapt God to our own desires and dreams, we cannot experience a true relationship with Him. True relationship with anyone is impossible with fantasies about that person, even more so with God. Whenever we leave something out of God’s character, we experience less of Him, not more. We know less of His love and grace. We know less of His power. In the end, He becomes remote and impotent to us, and we trust Him less, not more.

In today’s world, a remote God is the last thing we need. With all its confusion and turmoil, the world looms large, and God appears small and ineffective even to many Christians, unable to help them overcome daily problems of raising families, deal with health issues, find hope in turbulent electoral politics, face the prospect of death.

God is pleased to reveal hundreds of names of Himself in the Bible. The multiplicity of God’s names in scripture reveal how great He really is—and how little we truly know Him. The multiplicity of His names also demonstrate God’s continuing and patient invitation to us to know Him better.

When we allow Him to surround and embrace us with who He really is, and not who we want Him to be, we discover joy in the midst of sorrow, peace in the midst of war, opportunities in the midst of obstacles, accomplishment in the midst of mundane toil.

The multiplicity of God’s names speak of the greatness of God. Let us proclaim this great God to a fragmented world and anticipate His promise of that day when “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”

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Monica’s Prayers

Monica's-PrayersEach believer in Christ is called to do great and mighty things for God. To say, “I am just a small and insignificant person” shows lack of faith and insults God to think He cannot work through you.

The name of “Monica” is remembered for the lasting influence she had upon her son, Augustine. A Christian woman of the 4th century, she was called by God to pray him into the Kingdom. It doesn’t sound like much of a calling—to pray for a single person—but Monica did not waver in her commitment because she knew God had placed this upon her.

Augustine was not a promising prospect. Highly intelligent, he was also lazy, a lover of pleasure and sensuality. Monica tried to teach him to pray, but he twisted her intentions by praying, “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet!” He took a lover and had a son out of wedlock, and he did many other things that broke Monica’s heart, but she never stopped praying for her son with many tears.

One day, as Augustine tells it himself, he heard a childlike voice say to him, “Take up and read.” He saw this as a divine command to open the Bible and read the first thing he saw. When he opened the Bible, he found himself in the Book of Romans, and his eyes fell upon these words:

“…not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision of the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:13-14).

These short words struck him as a summary of his own life and a call to commit his life to Jesus Christ. It came as a word from the Holy Spirit. From this moment on, Augustine became a new man in Christ.

In coming days, Augustine became one of the most prolific and influential Christian thinkers and writers of all time, influencing Protestants and Catholics alike. Martin Luther and John Calvin were strongly indebted to him. His influence helped to end slavery in Europe. He helped to lay early Christian foundations for later scientific learning and research.

Augustine gave credit for his transformation to the faithful prayers of his mother, Monica, who never gave up on him even in his darkest days. In the end, Monica’s prayers not only influenced her son’s life but also generations of believers and of human society around the world.

Monica’s story and that of her son, Augustine, teach all of us the power of our influence, and how it may even change generations not yet born. God is glorified when we put ourselves into His hands. God told Jeremiah, “Call unto me, and I will answer and do great and mighty things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3). God’s invitation to Jeremiah is also His invitation to us.

In dark days like our own, God especially loves to work His greatest works, through people willing for Him to use them.

All major revivals and awakenings begin in dark days when nameless people, known only to God, cry out to Him. The most influential people in the world are those not paralyzed by the times but energized by them because they anticipate His victory and their part in helping to make it happen.

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We Are Not Powerless

Not-PowerlessToday, millions of people feel alienated from society. To feel alienated is to feel excluded and powerless. Right now, Christians are coming under increasing attack. We are told we live in a “post-Christian generation.” Christians and Christian values are mocked as backward, stupid and harmful.

In the past, Christians have influenced society in dark days. In many ways, they have helped to reduce illiteracy, increase freedom, free slaves and addictions, helped children, increase scientific knowledge and invent new devices to improve life. Persecuted Christians held civilization together after the Roman Empire deteriorated and collapsed.

Do Christians have any influence in our world today? Is the 2nd coming of Christ our only hope? “We are not powerless…” said John Stott, “What we are, rather, is often lazy and shortsighted and unbelieving and disobedient to the commission of Jesus.”

John Stott, English preacher, author, and influential evangelical leader was named by Time magazine as one of the “100 most influential people of the world.” He has offered four ways by which the average Christian can influence this generation for Christ:

  1. Prayer. Most people dismiss prayer as a psychological device, but serious, Spirit-led prayer is the creative power of God to accomplish humanly impossible things for God’s kingdom and glory. Most people do not pray with power or seriousness. Even when we pray, we still act as if everything depends upon us. True prayers of faith move God to move mountains, including spiritually dull and rebellious cultures.
  2. Truth. All truth is God’s truth, never the devil’s truth. All lies are the devil’s lies. Writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said, “One word of truth outweighs the whole world.” The world needs more Christians who can effectively communicate Bible truth through words, art, literature, science and every other part of life. All truth vindicates the Bible, and the wise Christian who advocates the truth changes lives and society.
  3. Example. We help others see the advantages of Christian values by the way we live, work, raise our families and help others. Our example should present a clear difference between Christian and world values. Jesus tells us that when people see our good deeds, “they will glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). A complaint of many people is that they see no difference between a professed Christian’s life and that of anyone else’s.
  4. Group solidarity. Jesus began His ministry with only 12 dedicated men filled with the Holy Spirit, yet those 12 men’s influence changed the world, even in their own day. God has not changed. Robert Belair of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University has said, “The quality of a whole culture may be changed when 2% of its people have a new vision.”

All major revivals, awakenings and evangelism explosions begin in dark days when people get on their knees and cry out to God. Our crises become God’s opportunities to act in great and mighty ways. The most influential people in the world are those who are not paralyzed by the times but energized by them because they anticipate His victory and their part in helping to make it happen.

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Pray for Persecuted Christians

India-ChurchAround the world, in many ways, the gospel of Jesus Christ is under assault. With recent headlines, we tend to equate this with Islamic attacks upon Christians in the Middle East and Africa, but the enemy wars against Jesus Christ everywhere and in many ways. This includes India.

Open Doors International reports that the Word Watch List of persecuted Christians, based upon the number of attacks between November 1, 2012 and March 31, 2014, places India at #8 of the top 10 nations undergoing the heaviest persecution of Christians. That list was made up before the accession of a BJP majority in India’s parliamentary election of May 2014.

Since that election, the number of incidents involving persecution of Christians has increased at least 55% under the fascistic BJP government of Narendra Modi. The goal of the BJP and its af liates is to unite India under a Hindu religion and culture. They encourage violence against Christians, and many misguided people comply. Persecution takes place in every state of India.

Persecution comes in many forms. BJP-controlled governments enforce anti-conversion laws. Mobs raid churches, beating and killing church members, burning Bibles, raping women, erecting Hindu idols. Some villages forbid Christians from earning a living and using village wells. Policemen arrest Christians on false charges. Spies enter churches to monitor Christian activities. Christian children are seized and indoctrinated into Hinduism.

All of this comes just as the Spirit of God continues to enlarge the scope of the gospel in India through IGO and other like-minded ministries. In the past year, IGO has made great strides in Odisha, Darjeeling and Mizoram in addition to our main training center at India Bible College and Seminary. God gives us new opportunities to enlarge our witness through ministries that uplift those in poverty—schools in the slums, sewing ministries to women, and others.

God continues to enlarge His harvest force in all these places, and to give us new means to communicate the gospel to greater numbers of people. But we must always engage in spiritual battle with an enemy who will not give up though one day he must lose.

At the heart of opposition to the gospel is a spiritual enemy who darkens sinful hearts with lies. Paul, who experienced persecution many times, warns us that we struggle “not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” As we engage the enemy on our knees in prayer, we will gain the victory even as the early church gained the victory.

Pray for our brothers and sisters in India’s persecuted church. Let us “remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are ill-treated as if you yourselves were suffering.” (Hebrews 13:3). Let us also pray that God continues to bring opportunities our way in the midst of trials and opens the door for an unprecedented Great Awakening.

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Jesus Loves the Children

Jesus Christ came into the world as a helpless child. That says everything about the importance of children to God. During His ministry, Jesus attracted children, and He enjoyed their company. He exploded with indignation when His disciples treated children as pests and drove them away.

IGO Boy 2015 BChildren especially have the right to hear and see Jesus in their own parents. It is understandable how non-Christian parents would ignore this. But do we believers, including pastors, evangelists and church leaders, inadvertently quench the Holy Spirit in our children and withhold them from vital relationships with Christ

Parents have high expectations for their children, but do our noble expectations match gifts and personalities God has given them? Do we frustrate our children’s walk with Christ by creating doubts in their minds about whom God made them to be?

Do our own lives reflect childlike humility that Jesus praises? A child instinctively feels the crush of parental pride even if they have no words for it. Children know we aren’t perfect. Do we willingly admit when we are wrong? Do we model humble and repentant attitudes so they more easily reflect the same before their heavenly Father?

If you want to test your humility, ask your children, especially your older ones, about your mistakes in raising them. Let them speak without intimidation or interruption. Be sure to ask forgiveness of them and of God. It will bring healing to all.

Do your children often see you pray, read your Bible and apply what you have read? Do they hear you pray for great things? Do you speak to your children of your faith, including your struggles? Your children may not understand all your faith struggles, but do you try to communicate in ways that will encourage them when they inevitably ask hard questions?

Do you understand the Bible so well that you regularly teach your children the great doctrines with simplicity and accuracy? Children have strong spiritual instincts, and they absorb great truths if taught on their level. Some of our best prayer warriors are young children.

If you teach a child just 15 minutes a day in the things of the Lord, you will give them the equivalent of half a Master of Divinity degree by the time they graduate from high school. You will also give them valuable lessons of life and faith that can never be measured in time.

As believers in Christ, we do well to stand for the rights of children forced to work, sell their bodies and sacrifice their educations and futures for adults who view them as commodities or extensions of themselves. Standing for children’s rights is the way of Jesus, and it also opens receptive young lives to the Good News.

While we defend their rights, let us not hinder our own children’s walks with God. God will heal us when we repent of our failures in raising them. In so doing, we will speak of children’s rights with greater authority and bear more fruit.

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“Subdue” the Earth

Earth-02When God created man in His image, He mandated him to “subdue” the earth. What does “subdue” mean in today’s world?

Everywhere, it seems, human society faces dangers of air and water pollution, destruction of rainforests, animal, fish and plant species, resulting in poverty and disease for millions. A recent National Geographic article describes an ecological horror in Africa where poachers destroy 30,000 African elephants a year to supply their tusks to an illegal ivory market in China. They kill anyone who tries to stop them. Is this what God meant by “subdue”?

Nearly fifty years ago, American history Professor Lynn White said, “We shall continue to have a worsening ecological crisis until we reject the Christian [italics mine] axiom that nature has no reason for existence save to serve man.” Dr. White represents many secular ecologists convinced that belief in the Bible caused today’s ecological crisis.

God could not have meant what Professor White thinks He meant. He created the earth in all its complexity. He declared it “good,” independent of its usefulness to human beings. God has compassion upon all He makes (Revelation 4:11).

When He assigned humanity to care for creation, they were, at that time, without sin. He intended them to care for creation as He would care for it Himself. Those who seek to become great in the kingdom of God must become servants of all. That means to serve both humans and the environment He has created.

When God commanded humanity to “subdue” the earth, He did not command the first humans to selfishly exploit the earth for profit but to treat it as benevolent rulers. Benevolence toward His creation reflects His image in us.

The Fall produced not only hostility toward God but also toward His creation. The environment became an instrument to serve our own ends independent of God’s intent.

Today, most corporations still care little about stewardship, even if it destroys the environment and the lives and livelihoods of others. Many are servants of greed rather than servants of God, and millions pay the price, even with their lives. “Subdue” has come to mean “exploit,” but that was never God’s intent.

Jesus Christ came into the world He created, not just to redeem fallen humanity but to redeem all creation (Romans 8:21). His kingdom is already at work in our fallen and polluted world, and we who are called by His name are called to become His agents in renewal.

One of those avenues of renewal is care for His created world. Environmental exploitation and human poverty go together. As believers in Christ, we care for others by caring for the environment in which they live. We help needy and exploited people to recover their water supplies, fish stock, soil and other resources destroyed by exploiters. In so doing, we echo Jesus’ concern for the oppressed.

While we help others to recover from ecological destruction, we also open doors for the Good News of Christ who will ultimately and perfectly redeem all His creation.

Ecology and missions go together. God did not separate Himself from His creation but came into the world to participate in our lives and redeem His world. We must follow the pattern of Jesus, and like Him, depend upon the Holy Spirit to help us.

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