“My sermons were 5% Bible and 95% me”

Dear friends and partners,

Slavic* couldn’t believe what God had done in his life.

Growing up on a farm in Central Asia, Slavic never imagined he’d become a pastor, let alone the regional head of his denomination. Recently, he found out that many wanted to see him as the president of his denomination in the future.

This possibility doesn’t excite Slavic. One of the things he loves about serving in the local and regional church is the opportunity to work with LRI equipping pastors. Why? He wants others to experience the same transformation from God’s Word that he experienced. 

I remember when I used to prepare my sermons for my congregation. I worked to make the Bible better. I’d find a text or a verse that spoke about a topic that I wanted to bring to my people. Then I’d “improve” on God’s Word with my own stories and illustrations. 

Then LRI came. God used the training to change me. The Word transformed me. Before, my sermons were 5% from the Word and 95% from me. Today it’s completely flipped. Today the Word is king in my life – in my preaching and in my teaching.

It’s transforming my people, too. And now I have a passion to train people in my church as well as other pastors so they can learn what I’ve learned.

Motivated by the transformation he has seen in his own ministry, Slavic is now part of a team developing a regional strategy for Central Asia. He has already helped start training groups in neighboring countries due to his denominational connections.

What a joy it is for us to partner with men like Slavic! And what a joy it is to call you a partner in this crucial ministry as well!

Yours in Christ, 

Craig Parro

PS: Thanks to a generous partner, every gift from new donors will be matched dollar for dollar! There has never been a better time to partner with us to equip and encourage pastors around the world to teach God’s Word with God’s heart. Would you consider a gift today?

* Slavic’s name has been changed for security purposes.

Seeing God’s Word flow powerfully . . . through partners in Serbia

“Lord, send us the right partner!” 

That was the prayer of a Christian brother named Riste. Riste serves in the small European country of Serbia and has led a ministry training Serbian pastors how to preach the Bible faithfully for several years. Early on he realized the ministry could be stronger if he had the right partner.  So he and another pastor named Slavko prayed.

About a year later, Riste received an email from Leadership Resources’ Sean Martin. Sean had been connected to Riste through mutual friends in Ireland and would soon travel to Serbia to meet Riste and give an introductory workshop to ten Serbian leaders. 

Nine months later, the first LRI training group in Serbia began. Leadership Resources was just the type of partner Riste needed. Reflecting on his original prayers for a partner, Riste commented,

When I prayed, I asked God for a true partnership, another organization with the same vision, the same goals, same desires, and also a bigger vision for myself. When I met Sean, he treated me like a partner, not like a project. He didn’t come just once to Serbia and then leave. My eyes were opened, I felt peace, and knew that God had given me answers to my prayers. After four years, I am more and more sure that God started this partnership.

LRI’s Sean Martin (left) with our partner Riste (right)

A Ripple Effect into Lives and Communities

God has done remarkable things through this partnership and the original training group that started in 2016. Riste shared with our staff a few ways God has used LRI training in Serbia:

We have heard so many testimonies from long-time pastors that realized they needed to change the way they were preaching the Word. Leadership Resources is often training pastors who had no formal seminary training, and it has changed their teaching.  People in the churches are talking about how different the teaching is now. 

One pastor, after the first hour of training, said, “This has given me a new perspective of God, for ministry, and a desire to teach everyone how to study the Bible using these principles.” He is today [a part] of our core team here. He now has 15 or 16 camps for young people and teaches them the Dig and Discover principles. This is one of the ways we believe that God will bring revival to Serbia.  When His Word is being preached, people will come to faith. 

One of the young pastors (thirty years old) has been preaching in two churches over the last two years. The members are older people, and they have started to say that this type of preaching is very new to them and transforming them.  He is also teaching a nineteen-year-old man the principles so that he can learn to preach.

The first training group in Serbia

Bringing Gospel Light to the Roma Community

God continues to answer prayer in amazing ways. When Sean and Riste first connected and dreamed about seeing God’s Word flow more powerfully through the churches in Serbia, they prayed for open doors to serve the Roma people (sometimes called “Gypsies”) in Europe. The Roma people face great racism in Europe, at times even in churches as well.

The first training group in Serbia featured a Roma pastor named Marijan, who drove six hours to attend the training sessions every six months. As the impact of the training deepened in his life, so did Marijan’s desire to bring training to other Roma pastors.

In January of 2020, God further answered Sean and Riste’s prayer when a training group of Roma pastors was launched. During the training, the Roma pastors shared that they had been praying for years for trainers like Riste, Slavko, and to come equip them. This training was God’s answer!

Marijan (left) with Sean Martin (right)

While the COVID-19 global pandemic has slowed work in Serbia, our God still answers prayers. Would you pray with us for God to continue to accelerate a movement of His Word in this European nation?

Prayer Points

  • Praise God for answering so many prayers for Serbia! Praise God for open doors and transformed hearts.
  • Pray that God would use the men we’ve equipped to bring revival to Serbia.
  • Pray for Riste’s translation and publishing ministry to bear much fruit and strengthen the Serbian church with sound doctrine.

Reflecting on Our 2020 Global Summit


Dear friends,

It was a week I will never, never forget – now for more reasons than I first thought.

In March, one hundred thirty of our global partners and staff members gathered for a Global Summit in Brazil – the realization of a dream we’d had for years. It was a week filled with profound conversations, vision casting, learning, and worship.  

The Lord far exceeded our expectations. New partnerships formed. A shared vision for a movement of the Word deepened. Complicated problems were discussed and, in some cases, resolved. The book of Acts was expounded. And the Lord was magnified in Portuguese, English, Spanish, French, Russian, and Amharic (Ethiopia) – indeed, a small preview of Revelation 5:9! 

There was universal delight in our time together. The Lord graciously deepened our love for one another and our commitment to a common vision and mission.


Pastor José from Peru described his experience this way:

Having all of that fellowship with pastors from around the world was amazing – having the opportunity to have lunch at one table with people from Asia and then another meal with people from Russia, and from this country and that. And even if we were from different cultures, we were talking the same language – not only English but the language of the hermeneutical principles. I felt like I knew those pastors for a long time! I felt that we were a big family with the same vision. . . . I felt really blessed to be part of this summit.

Pastor Aeron from the Philippines said,

Pastor Aeron

The Summit gave me a larger and global vision. It enlarged my heart and my vision of the glory of God. I praise God to be a part of this desire to see God’s Word flow to every nation. [I saw that] everything in the church should be shaped by the Word of God. I was refreshed and excited to echo this blessing to my congregation.

The immediate fruit of the Global Summit in Brazil was that I launched a Bible-reading movement now, even in the midst of the pandemic. . . . Over the last five weeks, God has enabled me to introduce members of my congregation to the training tools on how to study the Bible, and it has helped them to be able to do their own Bible studies in their own homes. . . . It’s a real comfort for me that the Word of God is like a fire that has spread. It’s my prayer that God will sustain the movement.

As you can hear, what God did during our time together was amazing.


As I look back, two events surrounding the Global Summit gave it even more significance:


The first event was a global pandemic that threatened to throw everything into disarray

We had been in Brazil only a few days when the COVID-19 alarm bells began to ring. Each day they became louder and louder. Should the conference continue? Country borders were closing and travel began to be restricted. These actions stirred concern among family members back home as well as among attendees. By the mid-point of the summit, there was one thing on everyone’s minds: home. So, we encouraged our partners to head home as soon as they were able. 

Programming was rearranged to end two days early. Our staff worked heroically to rebook dozens of flights on razor-thin deadlines. (Our Polish partners arrived in Warsaw on the very last flight before the airport shut down!) There was certainly some anxiety, but there was no panic as we turned to God’s Word for assurance of His sovereignty and care. The remaining meetings continued to be fruitful even as hearts turned homeward. As one staff member reflected, “Nothing was stolen from us.” 

The one burden in our hearts is that two pastors from Haiti, Serge and Ezechiel, were not able to return home before Haiti closed its borders. Our Brazilian partners (and hosts), Preach the Word and PIBA (First Baptist Church of Atibaia), as well as a Haitian church in Brazil, have done an absolutely amazing job serving and caring for them until they are able to go back, hopefully next month. Until then, we ask you to please pray for them and their families.

Everyone senses that the Lord orchestrated the time in Brazil to accelerate a global movement of His Word, even in the midst of a global pandemic. Only God can do that – to Him be the glory!


Bill with Alonso Ramos, from Costa Rica

The second event was the homegoing of our friend and founder, Bill Mills

Looking back, what a precious gift the Lord gave Bill to cap off fifty years of ministry. The Global Summit was Bill’s last ministry trip, and the Lord allowed him to see the amazing fruit of a ministry that began in the laundry room of his and Karen’s home. After decades of trusting God for the work, Bill was surrounded by ministry partners from thirty-five countries around the world – brothers who are carrying on the legacy of teaching God’s Word with God’s heart and equipping others around the world to do the same. 

Those global partners loved Bill. José from Peru told us,

I had the opportunity to say thank you to Bill for establishing this ministry – because this ministry has changed my life. And he was so humble the whole time to answer every question. . . . He took the time to tell me his story. Just listening to him from his own mouth tell how everything started was really something that impacted my life.

Our hearts are amazed at how God orchestrated such a monumental event in the life of our ministry. But it’s not just something to look back on. With hearts of faith, we eagerly look forward to all that God will bring about from our time there. 

And yet we know that none of that would have been possible without the partners God used to get us there. And so, with hearts of gratitude we thank you for helping to make what happened – and what will happen – possible. You are part of what God is orchestrating not just in Brazil but all around the world.


With much gratitude in Christ,

Craig Parro


P.S. The full impact of the Brazil Summit won’t be known for years, but already we’re seeing wonderful ways God is using it to advance His Kingdom. And God is using your prayers and support to enable that. Would you consider a gift today so that we can continue to serve and strengthen our global partners who are faithfully leading a movement of His Word?



Below are a few encouraging quotes from attendees:


I count it a great privilege of my life to be part of this partnership network. — Lito Manguera, the Philippines


I saw God-transformed people, united around one vision, learning and teachable, ready to work with God and where He is working. I felt like I was participating in an event like the gathering of Israel under Moses’ or Ezra’s teaching or in the apostolic council in Acts 15. — V., LRI’s Director for Russia


[The Summit was] a reminder that the Holy Spirit empowered ordinary men to do extraordinary things. Of course, I know this, but somehow this truth was profoundly impactful during the summit. — Doug Dunton, LRI’s Director for Africa


LRI’s president, Craig Parro, leads a session titled, “A Vision for Global Partnership.”


Latin American trainers dressed in their traditional clothing.


Our Haitian brothers, (left to right) Ezechiel, Serge, and Dony, blessed us with powerful singing.


Pastor Harold from Zambia participates in a session.





The Asia team listens to the Africa team share their vision for their region and how God has worked.



Watch a few highlights of our reflection time:

This is How My Lord Jesus Has Taught Me to Love: Loving an Enemy in the Face of Persecution

The apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 1:8 to “not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord . . . but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God.” The following story of a man we have trained in Southeast Asia illustrates this verse well.

Gunadi* was a Muslim for twenty-five years and a teacher of Islam. His wife and three kids were Muslim, and he taught them in their religion.  

One day Gunadi traveled to a town known for having many Christians. He initially dreaded the visit, but to his surprise, the Christians he met were friendly and hospitable – a special new experience for Gunadi. 

Gunadi traveled to this city a second time, and again, had a special experience when he came upon a huge monument of the cross while traversing the city.  

When I saw that cross, there were mixed feelings inside of me. I was used to hating the cross, and I taught my followers to hate the cross. . . . I should’ve had feelings of even greater hate for such a large cross – but praise the Lord, what I felt was a feeling of need.

This experience motivated Gunadi to begin listening to a Christian radio station – with headphones, of course. He would never want his family to know he was listening to a Christian broadcast! Then months later after listening to the radio broadcast, Gunadi prayed along with the radio pastor and received Jesus as his Savior. That was October 2012. 

The feelings that came up were of peace and joy, but I understood at that point that the journey ahead would not be easy.

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, you and your household.”

A couple of months went by and there was a difference in my house. My wife and my three children were confused, seeing me as a teacher of Islam now telling them about Jesus Christ. 

One night my wife came to me and she told me, “Tonight I will receive Jesus Christ.”

One night my wife came to me and she told me, “Tonight I will receive Jesus Christ.” My wife called all my children one by one. And to my surprise she had already taught the children to believe! That night each of my children came and told me that they had received Jesus Christ. That night was a very joyful night.

Confident in the Face of Persecution

[The conversion of my family] made me very grateful to the Lord and also gave me confidence to be a bold witness to others. With the minimal knowledge that I had, I started to teach those surrounding me. I reached out to the people that were my followers as a Muslim teacher.

One day, Gunadi shared the gospel with some former students, angering a family member of one of the students. This family member approached Gunadi with a small sword and stabbed him. 

I tried to defend myself. To save my life I had to break that man’s arm. I was bleeding at that point, but I brought my attacker to the hospital with me. I asked the hospital to treat him first instead of me, because his arm was broken and his bone was sticking out. It’s funny when I think of it now – I took my attacker to the hospital and paid for all of his expenses. After he was taken care of, then I asked the hospital to treat me.

A few months after the attack, this man came up to me. He was confused because he had stabbed me and I was still willing to help him and pay for all the treatment for his broken arm. He asked me, “Why are you doing this?” My answer was very simple: I told him, “This is how my Lord Jesus has taught me to love.” 

Until now that person is still not a believer. But praise the Lord, a couple people who know my attacker and me have heard this story and have become believers as a result.

“Why are you doing this?” My answer was very simple: I told him, “This is how my Lord Jesus has taught me to love.”

This isn’t the only time Gunadi has suffered for Jesus. Bricks have shattered windows in his house because of the gospel. Another time, while conversing with “friends” of a different religion, he noticed that the sweet tea given him to drink tasted strangely bitter. He had been poisoned. 

At the hospital, the doctor told me that the amount of poison in my blood was enough to kill a cow. I had surgery one week later. They cut open my liver and cleaned my blood. The surgeon told me that there was a time during the surgery where I was dead. I know that it was God’s power that allowed me to regain consciousness. It took a couple months to recover and even now I still feel the effect of that poison.

But what I believe is that when Jesus takes care of us, many men can do many things to us but God can always keep us safe. It brings me great joy to know that as believers we will never be alone and God’s promises are always true for us. I’m very blessed to see this in my own life. God promises to be with the believer who’s not afraid and not ashamed to proclaim the gospel.

Gunadi (center) with two trainers
Gunadi sharing his story with LRI staff

Please pray with us for Gunadi and other persecuted brothers and sisters in his region.

  • Pray that they would be rescued from wicked men (Romans 15:31). 
  • Pray that they would “not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord . . . but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:8). 
  • Pray that their proclamation of God’s Word would bear much fruit and that their joy in the gospel would grow each day.

* His name has been changed to protect his identity.

COVID-19 Cannot Bind the Word of God

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!– 2 Timothy 2:8-9 (ESV)

COVID-19 has brought the world to its knees. Even so, I thank God that even in tremendous suffering and uncertainty, He is faithful and will do His work through His Word. 

Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy from prison. He knew suffering, and yet he could write, “I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!” (2 Timothy 2:8–9, ESV). That is our great hope as believers! And that is what we are witnessing around the world.

Below you’ll find several snapshots of how God’s Word is going forth in the midst of crisis. As you read, would you please pray for these dear partners – that they may have deep joy in the Lord and a fruitful season of ministry? 



When the COVID-19 crisis started to intensify, two trainers, Oscar and Alexander, found themselves quarantined in the house of another trainer, Clever (pictured above), in a city seven hours by car away from their families and church. God used their two weeks together to deepen friendships and further ministry. These three trainers experimented with training and preaching over Facebook Live and have since led several trainings over social media for church members and others in their community. One Facebook commenter shared at the end of the training in Ruth:

God has taught me that in spite of our circumstances, He has control of all things. And he has taught me that we are the people who should be encouraging others without losing hope because MY REDEEMER LIVES!

Latin American Mentor Trainers


Patricio Paredes, LRI’s regional director for Latin America, and the mentor trainers from that region, meet weekly to study the book of Daniel and sharpen each other as trainers. A hopeful outcome of this group is that new and strengthened relationships will result in expanding our training into new Latin American countries. One trainer commented, “I’m convinced amazing things are coming!”

A Security-Sensitive Country in Asia

A core group of forty pastors meet weekly over video to go through Hebrews, taking turns to teach a passage they have prepared using LRI’s principles. In turn, these forty train about forty other groups (each ranging from about ten to twenty participants) in what they have learned, reaching somewhere between 400 and 800. 

A Security-Sensitive Country in Central Asia

One mentor trainer from Central Asia leads an online training with eleven preachers, mainly from his church. Another more experienced trainer sits in on the training to share feedback. While training over the internet has its disadvantages and will never equal face-to-face training, the trainer and his preaching team are growing in their handling of God’s Word.

South Africa


From LRI staff member Jeff Gage (pictured above) in South Africa: “Shepherds School at our church is a two-year course in which we work through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Using the Dig and Discover tools, students are equipped to read, study, apply, and disciple others. We meet once each month for four hours in a workshop setting. Since we are under a strict lockdown in South Africa and unable to gather, we all joined in a Zoom meeting while I taught from home. We interacted about the students’ assignments from last month, and filled out our understanding of Biblical theology. While some of the workshop dynamic was lost by not being able to work in small groups, the experience was positive and beneficial for all.”

Three Countries in South Asia

God’s Word is impacting people in three South Asian countries in which we work in a variety of ways. Several pastors are recording audio messages or preaching every day on Facebook. One brother is preparing a study in 2 Corinthians for the next mentor trainer workshop that will take place when the shelter-in-place order is lifted. Several pastors (including the two brothers pictured), are meeting physical needs in their community and calling other pastors from their training groups for prayer and mutual encouragement. 


One Ethiopian partner shared the following with an LRI staff member about a training group (pictured above) that just graduated from our four-year program:

“Your labor is not in vain, it is bearing much fruit in Ethiopia. We give thanks to the Lord and our heartfelt gratitude for you all who are standing alongside us in your prayers and support! No one can stop the movement of the Word!”

United States


After experiencing two of our workshops, Pastor Marty Paparo (pictured above), from a training group in North Florida, decided to lead the people in his Wednesday night Bible study through the book of Ruth using the Dig and Discover principles. After the coronavirus situation led them to stop meeting in person, they’ve continued their interactive study of Ruth online over video. Pastor Marty commented that it’s so great, rather than simply spoon-feeding people week after week, to equip them to read and understand the Bible for themselves.

Pray with us

We praise God that His Word continues impacting lives during COVID-19! And yet we hurt because many partners have lost loved ones, church members, income, and safety due to this crisis.

  • Pray for the family of one of our key partners in Honduras, Jorge Guillen. Jorge contracted COVID-19 and passed away just a few weeks ago. Jorge was a dear brother to us and will be sorely missed. Please pray for his wife and family and church during this time.
  • Pray for healing for others who are sick and for God to use their suffering for His glory.
  • Pray that God’s Word will continue to go forth in power, strengthening preachers and bringing many to faith. 
  • Pray that God would increase the faith and endurance of discouraged and suffering partners.
  • Pray that God would use COVID-19 difficulties to strengthen a global movement of His Word.

Legalism vs. Liberalism vs. Gospel – A Helpful Chart about Staying on the Line

The hermeneutical principle called “Staying on the Line” teaches the biblical truth that God wants us to take Him at His Word, not adding to what He has said or subtracting from it. 

To truly stay on the line of God’s Word, we need to understand the what (the content) and also the why (the intent) of Scripture. When we fail to adequately understand each of those, we find ourselves on shifting ground, prone to both legalism and liberalism.

I recently came across a helpful chart that shares theological examples of how legalism and liberalism may manifest themselves. (Gospel in the chart is interchangeable with The Word of God.)

*This helpful chart is from Romans 1–7 For You by Timothy Keller, copyright 2014 by The Good Book Company, used by kind permission.

Other Resources about Staying on the Line:

5 Ways Exodus Confronts Our Secular Age

Exodus is epic. An underdog leader of a slave nation stands up to the world’s most powerful man. Hail, frogs, flies, and rivers of blood plague the most prosperous nation on the planet. God miraculously divides a major body of water so his people can escape their captors.

That’s just the first half.

No wonder Exodus has held Hollywood’s attention for a long time. Consider full-length feature films including The Ten Commandments (1956), The Prince of Egypt (1998), and more recently, Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014). While these movies get some things right, the true message of Exodus is often lost to make it more palatable for modern taste or for more sensational storytelling.

That’s a shame, because I’m convinced that the true story of Exodus speaks powerfully to our secular world in several ways.

1. God’s focus is his own glory—a good thing.

Throughout Exodus, God unabashedly seeks his glory and wields his sovereign power over creation to achieve it. At the burning bush, he called a self-doubting octogenarian with murder in his past to deliver his people from bondage and lead them to worship in the desert (Ex. 3:1–4:11).

In the plagues, God showed his supremacy over the gods of Egypt by using elements of his creation to prove his power over them (Ex. 7–12). In hardening Pharaoh’s heart (4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8, 17), he demonstrated his sovereign power over world rulers and nations.

God alone is worthy of all praise—a truth that drives many in our secular culture crazy. While the secular mindset may tolerate some “religious plurality” or say “you can believe your truth while I’ll believe mine,” Exodus makes clear that every false god will one day be crushed, and every knee will bow before our Creator and judge (Phil. 2:10–11).

God isn’t a megalomaniac who desperately wants attention; he’s a loving Creator accomplishing his good purposes by redeeming a people for himself. No raging nation or hardhearted leader will steal his glory or thwart his good purposes for this world or his people.

2. God’s holiness requires judgment of the wicked.

God’s holy wrath burned hot against Egypt’s pharaoh. Egypt’s leader mandated the Hebrew people abort their male offspring (Ex. 1:15–16), enslaved God’s chosen people, and forced them to serve Egypt instead of God (Ex. 5:1, 7:16, etc.). God’s holy wrath led to the final plague that took the lives of all the firstborn in Egypt, from pharaoh’s house to Egyptian slaves to cattle (see Ex. 12:29–30). God even graciously warned them (Ex. 11:4–7).

The righteous judgment of God isn’t the most popular of topics in our supposedly tolerant secular world. Even so, our culture cries out for justice that can be found only in a sovereign God who sets the standards and executes judgment on the guilty.

Without a sovereign God of justice, we have no hope that ultimate justice will come against this world’s oppressors, abusers, traffickers, and murderers. A God of perfect justice will judge every evil deed, and he alone can help us endure this unjust world.

3. Redemption comes by the blood of the Lamb.

The exodus from Egypt is the greatest picture of redemption in the Old Testament, pointing forward to the rescue from the bondage to sin led forth by Jesus Christ, the new and better Moses (Heb. 3:1–6).

A secular worldview doesn’t leave room for redemption, because it would require acknowledging sin as the Bible defines it. According to Kevin DeYoung, the secular confession is not, “‘Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips,’ but ‘Woe to me if I think myself unclean.’”

With personal autonomy and finding the authentic self as key aims of the secular worldview, Christian redemption is as offensive as it is esoteric. The secular world must grasp that sin exists and has consequences. Not even Israel could escape God’s judgment without a blood sacrifice of a lamb (Ex. 12:1–3). No sin disqualifies us from redemption that the true Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7) offers by the blood of his cross.

4. God’s grace precedes God’s law.

God gives Israel his law in Exodus 20–24, and as always, context is key. God reminds Israel of how he saved them from Egypt (Ex. 19:4; 20:2) before he explains how the law will help them live out their holy calling among the nations (Ex. 19:5–6; 20:3–17; cf. Eph. 2:1–10; Titus 2:11–14). Stripping the law from this loving, relational context twists its purpose and warps our understanding of God. We should obey because he has saved us, not because a divine taskmaster requires obedience for salvation.

I fear many in our secular age have a bad taste of Christianity due to leaders and churches missing this crucial point. Instead of gospel-motivated obedience that produces life and joy, legalistic understandings of the law lead to fear, misery, and at worst, apostasy.

5. God’s presence brings the transcendent close.

Exodus 1–20 may be the most vivid story of the Old Testament, but that’s only half of the book. The second half focuses on the plans and construction of the tabernacle, the earthly place where God would dwell. Exodus 29:46 is the driving force for the whole book: “And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them” (ESV, emphasis mine).

Our secular world champions the notion that every person is equally good and right, yet the tabernacle flies in the face of this notion. The tabernacle shows that nobody is naturally good, and nobody naturally has access to God’s presence without a mediator and a sacrifice for sin. In Jesus, simultaneously our mediator and sacrifice for sin, the transcendent God draws us close.

If our world understood what the tabernacle represents, it wouldn’t search for the transcendent in celebrities, athletes, technology, or astrology. It would rejoice that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory” (John 1:14, ESV).

Greatest Miracle

There’s a lot in Exodus the secularist would reject. First to go would likely be the miraculous events like the burning bush, the plagues, the provision of manna, or the parting of the Red Sea. But the greatest miracle of Exodus—and of the entire Bible—is how a holy God would make a way for sinful people to dwell with him.

That’s a miracle you won’t see in the movies.

This article originally ran on The Gospel Coalition.

Encouragement from Our Founder, Bill Mills

Editor’s note: We had no idea that less than a month after Bill wrote the letter below, God would take Bill from us and bring him into His presence. You can read more on our web page, “Remembering Bill Mills.” The letter was originally written as an encouragement to our partners during the COVID-19 pandemic. But now knowing that these are Bill’s last widely published words has caused the words to take on much more added significance.

Dear friends,

My beloved friend Craig Parro, president of Leadership Resources, asked if I would write a letter of encouragement to our friends, prayer partners, and supporters around the world. 

My first thought was, How can I write a letter like that now, when I am so in need of encouragement myself? That is the place where we are all living right now! We all want to protect one another’s hearts, even when our present circumstances drive us toward fear and anxiety concerning those we love and our hopes for the future.

But, like me, you look back on the times when sickness, poverty, pain in your family, or threats to your career caused you to despair . . . and then remember how God brought you through. We are learning once again that everything in this world keeps changing around us. Health, finances, relationships, and circumstances keep changing, but three things never change: our God, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever; His Word, which is forever settled in heaven; and His steadfast love for His children. We live in that eternal God and in His faithful love!

Just a note about how our ministry is doing these days: This year we are celebrating the ministry’s fiftieth anniversary! And in this fiftieth year, we just learned from our logistics team that we are now training 12,051 pastors in 60 countries around the world through 224 indigenous mentor trainers. Many of you have been partners, people who pray and give to this work from the earliest days. May God fill us with worship and thanksgiving now as we think of how God has used us together in this great work! 

A couple of years ago, I was invited to a retreat with the leaders of our partner work in Brazil, Preach the Word. Their training has flourished not only through that great country but in many Portuguese-speaking places in the world. During a coffee break, one of the leaders asked me, “If God had fulfilled your dreams when you began this ministry, what would it look like today?” I quickly responded, “It would have been much smaller – and more about me.” God graciously taught us early to follow the ministry models of the Lord Jesus and the apostle Paul, so the fruit multiplies by the Holy Spirit to the glory of God, even when we “shelter at home.” 

We all have been set free for a time to think about life realities in new ways because of our present circumstances. I have been thinking a lot about the prophet Habakkuk and his very short and very powerful Old Testament story. His book begins with his complaint to God that God is doing nothing in the midst of the violence and corruption of His people. God responds by telling His prophet that He is indeed doing something: He is going to bring the hated Babylonians to invade Judah.

Habakkuk is immediately filled with fear. The Babylonians were the terrorists of the age, and their evil devastation of the surrounding nations was well known. Habakkuk confronts God and pleads with Him to relent. When God tells the prophet that the issue is settled, Habakkuk’s anxiety grows as he waits for this horrific reality to be fulfilled. 

But when we come to the end of the book, we find the prophet dancing on the mountaintops! What has changed? Did God actually relent in light of the prophet’s arguments? Did God promise that Habakkuk would not personally be touched by the devastation? No, in fact Habakkuk’s circumstances are actually worse than at the beginning of the book. He describes so graphically his level of fear and dread, along with the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of it all:

I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me. (Habakkuk 3:16, ESV)

Sounds a lot like what is going on within all of us to some degree during these frightening days, doesn’t it?

So what is it that enables Habakkuk to dance with God on the mountaintops? His circumstances have gotten worse, but His view of God has gotten bigger! How has God done that? Through His powerful, life-giving Word!

God calls Habakkuk to hang on to Him and walk by faith in this situation:

The righteous shall live by his faith. (Habakkuk 2:4, ESV)

He reminds Habakkuk that even in the midst of Judah’s depravity and Babylon’s evil, His purposes will be fulfilled: 

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Habakkuk 2:14, ESV)

God assures Habakkuk that He remains on His throne, sovereign over everything happening on earth:

But the LORD is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him. (Habakkuk 2:20, ESV)

Even though the Babylonians are marching through the earth in the beginning of the book, God is now marching through the earth for the salvation of His people! 

You marched through the earth in fury; you threshed the nations in anger. You went out for the salvation of your people, for the salvation of your anointed. (Habakkuk 3:12-13, ESV)

As Habakkuk’s view of God grows, as he sees more of God’s power and faithfulness, he sings this song of worship:

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will take joy in the God of my salvation. (Habakkuk 3:17-18, ESV)

God has done an amazing thing with Habakkuk. As the prophet’s view of God has grown, he is able to turn his what-if questions in chapter one into the strong affirmations of confidence and hope in chapter three! When God told him of the coming invasion, surely he wondered, “What if the Babylonians destroy our homes and our fields? What if they take our cattle? What if the vines dry up through lack of care? What if we have nothing to eat and no place to live?” 

Now Habakkuk knows that even if the things he fears the most come to pass, even if the worst happens, God is still there, and God is enough. And he begins to dance.

Even in this time when so much is uncertain and very scary, and we see the things we fear happening all around us, can the knowledge that our God is still on His throne, working for our salvation, and fulfilling His glorious purposes set our hearts free to worship? There are still high places in the mountains, and the God of all the earth is calling us to dance with Him there. I can almost hear the music beginning in your heart and in your home. Let’s get up and dance with Him and grasp onto the joy and rest He brings right now in His great power and in His steadfast, unchanging love! 

Bill Mills

Founder, Leadership Resources International

P.S.: Craig has just completed a beautiful, encouraging five-part video series on Habakkuk. Each video is about 15 minutes. Watch it at www.LeadershipResources.org/HowLongOLord.

How Long, O Lord? COVID-19, Habakkuk, and You

We live in unprecedented times.

The COVID-19 virus has brought the world to its knees. Nobody knows how it will impact the future. Thankfully, God’s Word speaks powerfully to our current crisis.

Join Craig Parro, President of Leadership Resources International, as he teaches through the book of Habakkuk and applies its message to our current crisis. The messages average 15 minutes and will help you journey from fear and anxiety to joy and confidence in the Lord just like the prophet Habakkuk.

Grab your Bible, gather loved ones, and make Psalm 119:18 your prayer for this series:

“Open my eyes to see wonderful things from your Word.”

Download audio of the series (click on down arrow): Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

“There are only two types of people: those who submit to King Jesus and those who don’t. Jesus makes a fantastic friend and an awful enemy. You don’t want to be on the wrong side of Jesus. But, if you become His friend, He will love you like you’ve never been loved before. He will bring you into a perfect heaven and earth that has no more sin, no more tears, no more pandemics, no more death. Only life.”

Part Five

The Big Takeaway for Habakkuk:

“In times of trouble, find strength and joy in the Sovereign Lord who will surely come…both to judge and to save.”

How did God’s Word speak to you through these videos? Share in a comment!

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

4 Free Disciple-Making Resources from Matthias Media

Our friends at Matthias Media are doing what they can to continue to partner with the church by providing top-notch resources for making disciples.

Some of their books we’ve mentioned on this blog before include The Trellis and the Vine by Tony Payne and Colin Marshall, One-to-One Bible Reading by David Helm, and God of Word: The Word, the Spirit and how God speaks to us by John Woodhouse.

In a recent COVID-19 related update, Matthias Media announced how they are operating and shared how to get a few resources in the “Free Digital Resources for You” section.

If you email Marty (msweeney@matthiasmedia.com) or call the Matthias Media office (1-866-407-4530), you can get a copy (PDF and/or Kindle) of the following titles:

You’ll also be interested to note a 50% off sale on the following resources:

  • The Everlasting God by Broughton Knox – “Few minds have explored the depths of God’s revelation with such humble and innovative perception,” says Phillip Jenson of this book’s author.
  • Full of Promise – Learn how the entire Old Testament fits together as one great story about God.
  • From Sinner to Saint DVD Study by John Chapman – Though Chappo is well into his 70’s when this video was made, I had a youth pastor tell me that his kids were enthralled going through this course. Great for a weekly family study!
  • Wisdom in Leadership by Craig Hamilton – what better time to dive into this thick but valuable book? As one Amazon review says “this is the best kept secret in ministry leadership.”

In addition to these suggestions, all orders with Matthias Media have free shipping to US addresses.

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