Paul Madson

THOUGHTS, QUOTES & REFLECTIONS

Year: 2021

‘All In’ for Jesus… All the Way to the End

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Two weeks ago, Global Training Network held its annual All-Staff Leadership Gathering via Zoom. Even with the virtual constraints, our team enjoyed a rich time of encouragement, thoughtful reflection and biblical challenge. I came away refreshed!

In one of the sessions, I had the privilege of sharing a few thoughts about our values as a ministry. Below is one five-minute segment of my original 35-minute president’s update:


GTN has several core values, but the one I want to highlight today centers on being a team of people who are “spiritually thriving.”

By that, I mean we live our lives “all in for Jesus… all the way to the end.”

A distinct memory from my early twenties is hearing the late Howard Hendricks speak. He would often say that one of his greatest concerns for Christian leaders was that they were “sliding for home” in their fifties and sixties.

Hendricks said, “Just when these leaders have the most to offer the body of Christ (both locally and globally), they are looking to ‘pack it in.’”

They have “the most to offer” because leaders in these particular decades of life have accumulated an abundance of education (both formal and informal) and practical experience (ministry, family, and life in general).

God’s desire for us is that we leverage for His glory the lessons He has built into our lives over the years.

Here at GTN, we all realize that we have a job to do – a mission to accomplish that is transcendent.

Our mission (to equip and encourage pastors and leaders throughout the Majority World) is not some “social construct” that we have simply made up, but rather it is a divine, God-given, biblical mandate to equip the next generation of pastors and leaders globally.

The Apostle Paul articulated this in 2 Timothy 2:2

“…and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.”

Central to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) is to “make disciples of all the nations… [by] teaching them…”

If this is our mandate from Scripture, we must begin by properly understanding what “the nations” represents. In his book entitled The Hole in our Gospel, author Richard Stearns painted a helpful picture of our world today:

If the world were a village of 100 people…

60 would be Asian
14 would be African
12 would be European
8 would be Latin American
5 would be American or Canadian
1 would be a Pacific Islander

Add to this image the fact that over 80% of all indigenous pastors and leaders throughout the Majority World have no formal (and very little informal) biblical and theological training.

Now, if you saw 10 people trying to carry a huge, heavy log and wanted to help, and nine were on one end and one on the other, which end would you go to?

Truly, the need is great, and the need is global!

Scripture makes it very clear that
we have been blessed to be a blessing to all nations.
(Genesis 12:1-3; Psalm 67)

Renowned author/theologian John Stott regularly reminded believers of the following truth: “We must be global Christians with a global vision because our God is a global God.”

On a more personal note, I am still praying for God to give me the physical and mental health to keep serving Him until I’m 85, which is 25 years away.

25 years is a long time. I would suggest that God can do an incredible amount in 25 years through a person who is wholly yielded to Him – even if those 25 years are in the latter half of a person’s life.

Having said that, I realize that Jesus never promised that serving Him all the way to the end would be easy.

Someone once said, “The life of faith really begins where your comfort zone ends.”

One of my life verses has always been Acts 20:24. In this passage, the Apostle Paul writes the following to the leaders of the church at Ephesus:

“But I consider my life of no value to myself; my purpose is to finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24 CSB)

When I was in college, one of the quotes that most inspired me – and that I have repeated to myself almost every week since – is this one from Jonathan Edwards:

“Resolved: To follow God with all my heart.
Resolved also: Whether others do or not, I will.”

What does this mean for us? It’s setting our face like ‘flint’ – as Jesus did toward Jerusalem.

It’s continuing with that kind of resolve until our final breath on earth.

Dave Maddox, a fellow GTN staff member, recently shared the following quote that I found particularly fitting for this season of life:

“… History tells us that [the Apostle] John was actively involved in ministry in Ephesus until the very end of his life. In fact, it is striking that the literary corpus traditionally ascribed to him (the fourth gospel, the apocalypse, and three epistles) are generally dated to his ‘retirement’ years.”
(Nicholas Perrin)

Pretty amazing ministry for an “old, retired person.”

Here is my challenge for all of us:
Let’s continue to trust God to do great things through us
in the years and decades to come, as we give our lives fully
(as living sacrifices – Romans 12:1)
to serving Him until our final breath.

Is there really anything more important, more valuable – and ultimately more fulfilling – than living for the glory of God?

“After this I looked, and behold,
a great multitude that no one could number,
from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages,
standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice,
“Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
And all the angels were standing around the throne
and around the elders and the four living creatures,
and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,
saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

(Revelation 7:9-12 ESV)
Soli Deo Gloria.

Secure in the Everlasting Arms

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Over the years, a book that I have often returned to for encouragement is Elisabeth Elliot’s Secure in the Everlasting Arms.

Below are several of my favorite quotes:

“The eternal God is your refuge,
and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
(Deuteronomy 33:27)


“We have a calming word in Psalm 138:8,
‘The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever – do not abandon the works of your hands.’

That word stands.
He will fulfill.
His love endures.
He will not abandon.

We are meddling with God’s business when we let all manner of imaginings loose, predicting disaster, contemplating possibilities instead of following, one day at a time, God’s plain and simple pathway. When we try to meet difficulties prematurely we have neither the light nor the strength for them yet.

‘As thy days so shall thy strength be’ was Moses’ blessing for Asher – in other words, your strength will equal your days. God knows how to apportion each one’s strength according to that day’s need, however great or small.”


“Faithfulness today is the best preparation
for the demands of tomorrow.”


“Can we wholeheartedly surrender to God, leaving quietly with Him all the ‘what ifs’ and ‘but what abouts’?

Will we truthfully say to Him,
‘Anything You choose for me, Lord – to have to be, to do, or to suffer. I am at Your orders. I have no agenda of my own’?

It comes down to Trust and Obey, ‘for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus,’ as the old gospel song goes.

Our future may look fearfully intimidating, yet we can look up to the Engineer of the Universe, confident that nothing escapes His attention or slips out of the control of those strong hands.”


“But I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, ‘You are my God.
My times are in your hand.’”
(Psalm 31:14-15 ESV)


“Thomas Carlyle said,
‘Doubt of any sort cannot be removed except by action.’

There is wonderful therapy in taking oneself by the scruff of the neck, getting up, and doing something. While you are doing, time passes quickly. Time itself will in some measure heal, and ‘light arises in the darkness’ – slowly, it seems, but certainly.

I myself have been hauled out of the Slough of Despond by following the advice of the simple Saxon legend inscribed in an old English parsonage: ‘Doe the nexte thynge.’”


“…and as your days, so shall your strength be.”
(Deuteronomy 33:25b ESV)


“The ancients were commended for a solid faith full of hope and based on a strong certainty. We might take an invaluable lesson from them: Obedience to God is our job. The results of that obedience are God’s.”


“If God were small enough to be understood He would not be big enough to be worshipped.”
(Evelyn Underhill)

God’s great, gracious love for us

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The longer I walk with Christ, the more convinced I become that most Christians do not truly believe that God loves them with an inexhaustible, everlasting, gracious love.

Why?

Because when we do believe that God truly loves us, it will radically revolutionize every relationship in our life.

When we understand, grasp and believe the immensity and magnitude of God’s love for us, here are a few things that happen:

  • We become secure in our relationship with God.
  • We are filled with joy that no one can take away.
  • We are able to forgive the hurts and offenses that others commit against us.
  • We become far more humble, realizing the grace that He has given to us.

In other words, we become so filled up with God’s love for us that it spills over to others.

We are able to give love and kindness and grace and mercy to others out of the overflow of what is in our hearts because of Christ.

We no longer have to operate from a love deficit, but rather out of a love surplus.

Notice what the Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 3:17-19….

“…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (ESV)

He prays here for us to “know the love of Christ,” but then immediately says it “surpasses knowledge.”

No matter how hard we try to fully grasp God’s immense love for us, it will always be far greater and grander.

But that shouldn’t stop us from both praying to understand it better and learning more about its breadth and depth.

Sam Storms wrote a book years ago entitled The Singing God. It is based on Zephaniah 3:17.

“The Lord your God is with you; he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

Did you ever think about the fact that God “rejoices over you with singing?”

J.I. Packer said this about God’s love for his children:

“There is tremendous relief in knowing [that] his love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on [his] prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery can disillusion him about me.”

Think about that for a minute.

God’s love for you includes the fact that He knows everything you have done or thought or imagined – or will ever do or will ever think – and He still says: “I love you! You’re mine!”

The Apostle Paul said in Romans 8:

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (vv. 38-39)

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (v. 15)

Brennan Manning, in his well-known book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, wrote:

“Whatever our failings may be, we need not lower our eyes in the presence of Jesus. Unlike Quasimodo, the hunchback of Notre Dame, we need not hide all that is ugly and repulsive in us.  Jesus comes not for the super-spiritual but for the wobbly and weak-kneed who know they don’t have it all together, and who are not too proud to accept the handout of amazing grace.”

We must always remember that the cross of Calvary is the one objective, absolute, irrefutable proof of God’s love for us.

What does the Apostle John say in 1 John 4?

“This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrificed for our sins.” (vv. 9-10)

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Jerry Bridges, in his book Trusting God, wrote:

“God’s unfailing love for us is an objective fact affirmed over and over in the Scriptures. It is true whether we believe it or not. Our doubts do not destroy God’s love, nor does our faith create it.  It originates in the very nature of God, who is love, and it flows to us through our union with His beloved Son. But the experience of that love and the comfort it is intended to bring is dependent upon our believing the truth about God’s love as it is revealed to us in the Scriptures.”

Isaiah writes in chapter 62:

“As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” (v. 5)

And finally, the Apostle John writes in 1 John 3:

“How great a love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are!” (v. 1)

Your central identity as a believer in Jesus Christ is “a beloved child of God.”

That’s who you are.

No one can take that away from you.

You are loved and you are accepted in Christ never to be rejected.

Now, let Christ’s love so fill your heart that each day you go out and live from a love “surplus” rather than a love “deficit.”

“Whatever God’s love is, it is not exhausted by our concept of it. It transcends our best efforts to describe it. It is higher than our loftiest notions of it.” (R.C. Sproul)

Every day, we are becoming someone…

The question is, who?

Beautiful sunrise over iconic Monument Valley, Arizona, USA

Randy Alcorn writes on the role self-control (or self-discipline) plays in our personal growth…


Every day we’re becoming someone—the question is, who?

Author Jerry Bridges, hearing me address this, told me that Dawson Trotman, founder of The Navigators, used to say, “You are going to be what you are now becoming.”

Who you become will be the cumulative result of the daily choices you make.

“A long obedience in the same direction,” to borrow a Eugene Peterson phrase, is sustained by the small choices we make each day.

Most of us know the difference between eating cottage cheese and donuts, or the difference between a daily workout and spend­ing life on a couch. What I eat and whether I exercise will determine the state of my body.

The same is true of our spiritual lives. Whether I read Scripture and great books, or spend my best hours watching TV and looking at my phone, will make me into the person I will be several years from now. I should discipline myself today, not for discipline’s sake, but for the purpose of godliness (1 Timothy 4:7, 8).

Following Christ isn’t magic. It requires repeated actions on our part, which develop into habits and life disciplines.

Our spirituality hinges on the development of these little habits, such as Bible reading and memorization and prayer. In putting one foot in front of the other day after day, we become the kind of person who grows in Christlikeness.

Once we develop Christ-honoring habits and experience their rewards, we’ll instinctively turn our minds to what makes us happy in Christ.

A decade from now, would you like to look back at your life, knowing you’ve made consistently good decisions about eating right and exercising regularly? Sure. But there’s a huge gap between wishes and reality. The bridge over the gap is self-control, a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23).

The key to self-control is discipline, which produces a long-term track record of small choices in which we yield to God’s Spirit, resulting in new habits and lifestyles. In fact, Spirit-control and self-control are interrelated in Scripture, because godly self-control is a yielding of self to the Holy Spirit.

It’s true we are creatures of habit—but it’s also true Christ can empower us to form new habits.

So how can you start to make the right small choices?

Ephesians 5:15-16 tells us to “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time.”

Why not redeem two hours of your day that you would have spent on television, newspa­per, video games, phone, working overtime, or hobbies? Change your habits.

Spend one hour meditating on and/or memorizing Scripture. Spend the other hour reading a great book. Share what you’re learn­ing with your spouse and children, or a friend.

May we call upon Christ’s strength today to make choices that will honor Him, bring us great happiness, and help us become the kind of people we want to be ten years from now!


*Originally posted on the Eternal Perspective Ministries blog under the title “The Cumulative Effect of our Little Choices.”

Lord, let me learn by paradox

 

Lord, let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;
Let me find thy light in my darkness,
thy life in my death,
thy joy in my sorrow,
thy grace in my sin,
thy riches in my poverty,
thy glory in my valley.

– from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions

“So we do not lose heart.
Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.
For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV)

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