Dear praying friends,
Twenty-one (21) years ago on January 13, 1999, the Johnson family landed in Bangkok, Thailand. Our oldest daughter Jessica was 9, Elizabeth was 6, Joshua was almost 2, and Caleb was 7 months in the oven. Wow, what an adventure this past 21 years has been for us. We have been blessed beyond measure as we have faithfully served God these last 21 years in Thailand.
We started our journey with the International Mission Board and served faithfully with them for the first 7 years. (We are still SBC missionaries just no longer with the IMB). Those first 7 years were good years and we are grateful for the IMB's investment in our lives. BUT THESE LAST 14 years have been nothing short of “incredibly amazing.”
We have been on an awesome journey of faith with a sense of great freedom and blessing from God to follow God’s leadership to use the gifts and abilities God has given to us to reach some of the least reached people and people groups in our world today. We are so grateful for the godly board members of NTIM who love and support us and help keep us on the right path. We are ever so grateful for the financial supporters that donate to God's work every month on our behalf. We are also thankful for the hundreds of volunteers that have come to help God's Work flourish in Northern Thailand. We are deeply grateful to all the partners both Western and Thai who have come along side us to work together to advance God’s kingdom over the last 21 years.
This is my prayer this morning,
"Lord, we want to thank You for these last 21 years. You have blessed, lead, provided, and given this ordinary family a chance to see a Faithful and Extraordinary God at work in and around Northern Thailand and allowed us the awesome privilege of joining You in Your work in seeing dozens and dozens of people become the first persons in their entire families to become followers of Jesus. Our hearts are grateful that You are our God and that there is no one like you in all of creation. Help us to continue to be your hands and your feet in this very needy part of your world and help us to continue making disciples from some of the least reached peoples here in and around Northern Thailand."
This is very similar to a post that I posted on Facebook two days ago but I have also felt compelled from the Lord to also share with you 7 lessons that we have learned over the past 21 years. We have learned hundreds of lessons but today we simply want to share 7 of these with you and hope that they will encourage you in your walk with Christ.
7 LESSONS LEARNED WHILE SERVING GOD IN THAILAND
OVER THE PAST 21 YEARS.
LESSON 1 – God is more concerned with His children willingly and whole heartedly embracing His plans for our lives than He is interested in us doing some great thing for God.
When we think about how much God loves us and how much He has done in our lives, sometimes our heart is overwhelmed and we want to do something for God. I am not saying that is all bad but what I have learned is that if I truly want to be pleasing to God, I will recognize that He already has a plan for our lives and what gives Him the greatest joy is when I recognize those plans and then embrace them as my own and live out the life that God has already planned for me to live. One of my favorite verses is Jeremiah 29:11 and I think applies to this very concept and lesson that I am sharing with you. Jeremiah 29:11 says this, “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”
LESSON 2 – God is continually shaping the lives of His children and helping them be transformed in our thoughts, our motivations, our attitudes, our words, and our actions.
When we really are honest with ourselves, we recognize that we are all a work in progress. We still have so much farther to grow when it comes to being made into the image of Jesus but oh, we are not the person we used to be. This man named Michael Johnson today is so very different than I was some 40 years ago. What is truly amazing to me is that God does not give up on us but is committed to conforming us into the image of Jesus and we need to not give up on others so quickly just as God doesn’t give up on us. I am reminded of what the Apostle Paul shared with us in Romans chapter 8 when he said, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son….” Romans 8:29
LESSON 3 – God deeply desires His people to be known not for how smart they are or how much ability they have but He desires that they be known for how well they reflect the unconditional love they have received from God and how well they give that love to the people around them.
It is human nature to want your life to count for something important. We all want that but God has created us to give glory to Him and to live for Him and He has told us in His Word that if we want others to know if we are authentic genuine followers of Jesus, then we must be known by our love for one another. Remember what our Lord Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35
LESSON 4 – Organizations and leaders who seek to make a name for themselves more than they desire to make Jesus famous, often find themselves placed on a shelf where God will not use them while God chooses to use those organizations and leaders whose heart is completely His.
Sometimes we let our success go to our heads and forget that God does not desire to share His glory with anyone. We must be constantly aware of the temptation to think more highly of our ourselves and our organizations than we ought to think. I am reminded of a great passage in the Old Testament that says this, “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His….” 2 Chronicles 16:9a
LESSON 5 – God deeply desires that His people learn to be filled with His Spirit so that they will take the message of His salvation to the ends of the earth with the authority of God and be His witnesses to those who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We live in a place where only 1 person in every 100 people know Jesus as their personal Savior. We live in a place that is so unreached that most of the people who come to know Jesus as their personal Savior are the first persons in their entire family to become followers of Jesus. Oh, how we pray that God would stir up His people all over the world to take this great message to the least reached people group populations in our world today. How will they be saved unless they hear. How will they hear unless someone sends them? How can those who are sent stay and serve the Lord if they have no resources? Let us renew our commitment to missions, missionaries, and reaching the least reached people in our world today for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom. Please consider giving regularly at www.gontim.org
LESSON 6 – Keep your eyes and heart focused on Jesus and obeying His will for your life.
People are people and will make mistakes from time to time and cause your heart to be disappointed. This is why we need to keep our eyes fixed on the author and finisher of our faith. I am reminded of something the writer of Hebrews wrote when he said, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2
LESSON 7 – “Relationships” “Staying the course” “obedience” and “Finishing the race” is very important to God.
There are times in our lives when God allows circumstances to come into our lives that force us into a place where we are at a fork in the road where we have two very different paths to choose. One path is the path that sometimes is the harder path but the path of obedience, faith, and perseverance. The other path leads us down the road of disobedience, the comforts of life, and is a much more heavily traveled road. As we reflect on these past 21 years, we are so grateful for the grace of God, the Spirit of God, and the people of God who have helped us make some of those hard choices of the path of obedience, faith, and finishing the task God has given us to finish. We are not there yet but we have come oh so much farther by the grace of God. I am reminded of a passage tucked away in Acts 13:36 that talks about David completing all of the purposes of God for his life. Notice what God’s Word says, “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay.” I want to finish my life much like David did having done everything that God wanted him to do and then “fall asleep.” What a great reminder of this important lesson I have learned over these last 21 years of the importance of relationship, the importance of “staying the course” the importance of “obedience, and the importance of “finishing the race.”
What a great journey God has allowed us to be on these last 21 years and we look forward to serving the purpose of God in our own generation well. Please continue to pray for us as we continue to complete this next phase of ministry here in Northern Thailand.
We are also so very thankful for those of you who realize that we could not live and serve here in Thailand without your financial support. Thank you for loving us enough to give. Thank you for loving the Lord enough to give to missions because you want to see the precious Thai people have a chance to be blessed by the one true God we serve.
Here is a reminder of just a few of the ways in which NTIM reaches out into this part of God’s world with the love and message of our great Savior. Remember these as you bring us before the throne of grace in your prayers.
"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord."
1 Corinthians 15:58
Michael for the team.