[shoulders] SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #108B ---- 2/9/00

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From: lifeunlimited@...
Date: Wed, 9 Feb 2000 22:03:12 +0000
 Standing Shoulder To Shoulder With You In The Trenches
As We fight The Good Fight

SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #108B ---- 2/9/00

TITLE: "Vision ---- It's Development" (Part Five-B in series)



Dear Friend and Partner:

As you remember from Monday's letter it was clear that this part of the
"vision" study was far too long to include in one letter (Frankly, most
of my letters are, and it bothers me), so I've opted to send a second one
today and another Friday rather than prolong the series another week.

Hope you are encouraged by it.


IN REVIEW:

So far, we have looked at four elements and part of the fifth in finding
God's vision for your life and ministry:
The Definition of Vision ---- what it is and isn't.
The Description of Vision ---- what it is like.
The Demand for Vision ---- why it is necessary.
The Discovery of Vision ---- how to "see what God sees".
The Development of Vision ---- how a vision grows and matures.

As I began the examination of what all is involved in the progressive
Development of a vision, I mentioned six principles that have been so
important to my understanding of how a vision works.  They were . . .
  1.  A vision is only born in a heart prepared to receive it, and it
begins as a seed.
  2.  Initial vision often comes years before any fulfillment is
realized.
  3.  A vision is almost always flawed in some way by the weaknesses of
humanity, the carnality of the flesh, and the pressures of the world.
  4.  A vision is sometimes fulfilled in a location other than the
original setting of it's revelation.
  5.  There are two types of vision ---- personal and situational.
  6.  Vision is sometimes never fulfilled in you, but in someone else.

Monday night I spoke an a regional evangelism conference, using Isaiah's
experience in 6:1-13 as my text.  I was refreshed again as I saw the
faithfulness of God in letting Isaiah see, from his seemingly crisis
situation, what God was seeing.  Today I want to  look at four more
principles which have really been used of God to change my life.



DEVELOPING YOUR VISION (Part B):

 #7.  Sometimes God links your vision up with that of another person.  

This is an added principle that really came to mind just this morning. 
The more I think of it, the more exuberant I feel about it.

Meet my friend, Stevo Dereta ---- a former pastor in Croatia.  I heard of
him in the Spring of 1994 at a national conference in Dallas, Texas.  The
war in Bosnia and Croatia was raging.  Stevo had spent all his pastoral
life under a Communist regime, and now that yoke had been thrown off, the
doors of opportunity were wide open, ---- and the unbelievable suffering
was soon to become very real and personal to him, his family, and his
church.

Stevo was pastoring in the City of Rijeka on the northern most coast of
the Adriatic Sea in an industrial city not many miles from the countries
of Slovenia and Italy.  When the war began, northwestern Croatia became a
small pocket that was spared actual fighting.  Because of that, some
800,000 Slovenes, Croats, Serbs, and Bosnians fled to that area for
refuge and safety.  Another two million fled north, east, and south.

Stevo's little church jumped in with both feet and began trying to
minister to the thousands upon thousands homeless and disenfranchised
casualties of war ---- not only in their immediate locale, but also
through out the Balkans.  They were soon overwhelmed and taxed to the
limit of their meager resources.  The burden of the need flooded over
them like a tidal wave.  

In the midst of that crisis, a new vision was born in Stevo's heart, and
he resigned his pastorate to devote all his time and energies to
ministering to the untold masses of humanity streaming from the
war-ravaged hills of the Balkans.  The end result was that a
nondenominational ministry was born exclusively to minister to the
victims of war, no matter what their religious or ethnic origins might
be.

They were the first and, for a long time, the only Christian refugee
center in all of the former Yugoslavia.  It took far too long for
Christians and ministries from western countries to come to their aid. 
If you can ever locate the book, *Miracle At Mostar*, it tells much of
the story of the Life Center.  My experience has been that I can only
locate it through a contact in England.

During those horrendous days an international ministry located in the
United States learned of Stevo's work and, like a good Barnabas, came
along side and began helping with finances and manpower.  As a result of
their assistance, Jo Ann and I initially learned of  The Life Center's
work  while attending a conference held by that U.S. ministry.

So, in February, 1995 Jo Ann and I found ourselves, Americans speaking no
Croatian and having little resources, lodging in that old European style
hotel on the shores of the Adriatic with 41 broken and bewildered Croats,
Bosnians, and Serbs, ministering to them from our meager resources ----
yet with hands linked in common purpose and vision with a man who spoke
broken English and ministered from a broken heart to a people whose lives
and countries were being destroyed by the explosions of unforgiveness and
hatred that went centuries deep in their souls.

I've never seen in a man's eyes before the sadness of burden mingle with
the joy of hope, alternately expressing such compassion on one hand, and
such determined purpose on the other.  He was a broken hearted man with
an unstoppable drive.  When I saw him last May, he remained the same ----
though older and weary.  

Sometimes God puts men like that into our lives to bring us to the same
place in our own ministries.

At night we could hear the explosions of bombs and dynamite going off in
Bijac, some 90 to 100 miles away.  As we spent some eight days with those
precious people, we cried with them, we embraced them with helpless arms,
and we shared as simply as we could the love and hope that is found only
in Jesus.  Then we left ---- with the memory of lifelong friends in our
hearts.

When we came away from that experience and returned home, we were
overwhelmed with grief and compassion.  We could rejoice in only three
things ---- one, that God had permitted us to be there; two, that 36 of
those wonderful friends became followers of Jesus; and three, that the
God who let us link Hands with Stevo and his wonderful staff had
subsequently let us also link Vision for ministry ---- and we have been
going back as often as possible ever since.  

This coming May we will make our eighth or ninth trip, with another
planned for next Fall, and still others on the agenda.  Just last week I
wrote a missionary friend, and concluded my letter with this statement
---- "Our hearts are forever buried in the Balkans."  Even now I weep as
my mind is flooded with the memories of sharing a vision with another
brother in ministry.  Stevo, you are my friend and my brother.  Thank you
for what you have taught me.

How wonderful it is when God allows the vision of one to be linked with
the vision of another, and you can walk hand in hand through the
vineyard.  Indeed, how blessed it is when brothers dwell together in
unity ---- and nothing develops unity more than visions merging.

I wrote to Stevo today.  I think of him and his staff constantly ----
virtually every day.  If I could, I'd send $10,000 a month ---- or more!
---- to support his ministry.

Why?  Because he has a vision, he is literally driven by that vision ----
and his vision has linked with ours.  When he weeps, we weep.  When he
laughs, we laugh.  When he has needs, we have needs.  While our
respective ministries remain separate and independent from each other,
our vision has, at least for that part of the world, become one ---- and
we long to do everything we can to see his vision fulfilled, for in so
doing, we see ours also fulfilled.

Friend, do you have that kind of visionary relationship with someone ----
or are you a "Lone Ranger" visionary?  If you're a "Lone Ranger"
visionary, you're a Lonely Visionary.  We need each other.  

Every minister needs to have a vision that is linked with that of his
church ---- otherwise he'll never get anything accomplished.  If the
church hasn't bought yours or you haven't bought theirs, you're going to
spend most of your waking hours frustrated, disappointed, restless, and
wishing you were somewhere else.

If your vision hasn't linked up with that of another pastor in town,
you'll always be in competition with him ---- and the community will
continue to believe that the two of your are adversaries rather than
members of the same team.

One of the greatest blessings you'll ever experience is when your vision
and that of your spouse, or that of your church, or that of another
pastor or group of pastors get married and begin to love each other so
fully in ministry purpose that a new fresh vision of mutual origin is
birthed in your midst.

May it be so, dear Father, for the glory of Your Son!

 #8.  If vision, for some reason, is not fulfilled at all, it isn't God's
fault.

This is a tough truth, especially if we find ourselves floundering in the
swamp of broken dreams, unfulfilled hopes, disappointing memories, and
unrealized expectations.  And, as best I can see it, if my vision was
somehow not fulfilled at all in some form, it was absolutely not God's
fault.

It was somebody else's.

But, whose?

Well, there really aren't many other possibilities.

Either your fault ---- or someone else's.  But never God's.

Tragically, as I noted a few weeks ago concerning a fellow minister
acquaintance who had the whole world before him but lost it all, it is
easy for us to make some terrible mistakes in our lives that cost us
greatly ---- and then blame someone else for the lack of fulfillment in
our ministries ---- maybe even blame God.

It may cost us our reputation, our credibility, our goals, our honor. 
But the greatest spiritual loss comes when it costs us the fulfillment of
our vision.  

When we get to the point that we no longer can see what God sees for us,
it is often because we no longer can see what God sees for the world. 
Therefore, our field of view is so limited that all we see is ourselves. 
It's like we suddenly quit looking through a window and began looking
into a mirror.  Instead of seeing "out there" where the needs are, we see
only ourselves, our needs, our situation, or wants.

The only thing that made the difference was the silver coating on the
back ---- the silver coating of "Self".

And, that can only come in our lives if and when the god of this age, who
blinded the eyes of the unbelievers so they not see the light of the
glorious Gospel and come to Him, has also blinded our eyes by convincing
us that we are more important that we really are, and that motivation and
success by the world's standards are synonymous with or at least
compatible with humility and service that is possible only through a
crucified life and the power of the Holy Spirit.

The wonderful truth is that, out of His compassion and mercy, God can
take us in even our most horrible and humiliating failures, or our most
rebellious demonstrations of carnality and selfishness, and can make us
anew and give us a fresh vision ---- and then burn us out and wear us out
using us in even a more dynamic way.  

Two of many examples come to mind ---- Gordon McDonald and Jim Bakker. 
Both of these men, because of failure, lost everything.  However, because
of brokenness, repentance, humility, and submission to restoration, both
have been raised up again to fresh vision and new ministry of more
significance and effectiveness, in my opinion, than what they had before.
 And, no matter what you may personally think of these two men,  God is
blessing their ministries ---- and we should be thankful ---- and
thrilled.

Why did He do it?  One simple reason ---- His compassion.  The compassion
of Jesus is a far-too-neglected subject of our Savior.

I know of another minister from the same time spectrum who seemingly
continues to live and minister without a God-born vision because he still
has not met the criteria by which to again live and serve with vision.  

Before there can be a renewing of the vision, there must be the
restoration of the life.  Until that happens, whatever vision the
minister has will at best be filtered through a scarred and broken life
and, at worst, be nothing more than a manmade vision filled with
distorted motives and carnal agendas.

My friend, perhaps you are a broken servant tripped up by the enemy, and
you are either living in hopelessness or you are trying to rebuild your
ministry before healing and restoration have taken place.  Oh, dear
friend ---- if that is the case, you are wasting your time.

If your vision is lost, if it fails, if it is never ever fulfilled, it
won't be because God cheated or failed.  Maybe you did, but He didn't.

And, friend, if you find yourself in a situation where the vision of your
heart has never been realized, it will only be for one of three reasons
---- either the vision was not from God in the first place, you may have
done something that short circuited it and you haven't dealt with that
yet, or God has not yet finished restoring you to where you're ready for
a fresh vision or a renewal of the old.

But, be patient.

More importantly ---- be available ---- and obedient.

  #9.  Vision is usually given partially and progressively.

Of all the lessons I've learned concerning vision, this may be one of the
most important.  When I first began to encounter the concept of having a
real vision for ministry (I always knew I had a calling, a purpose, and a
task), it was pretty simple.

In my first pastorate, just over 100 miles from where I now live, I knew
God wanted me to shepherd a group of people and introduce to them the
principles of revival and Christ's Lordship.  That was basically it ----
and it was enough at that time, because that's what God wanted from me. 
I lived in a world of pure joy and fulfillment during that time, lacking
nothing and enjoying everything.

He also blessed my ministry with many people coming to Christ, a large
number of whom were, interestingly, existing members of the church. 
(Talk about stirring up a hornet's nest!  Just see a bunch of church
members getting saved, and all kinds of things happen.)

After a brief two-year pastorate, the Lord moved me to a large church in
a metropolitan area of some two million people.  During that time I
attended a conference where Dr. Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade
for Christ, challenged me with a simple question ---- "Is your church
geared for survival, or for impact?"

It was then I began to see the vision for that particular church develop.
 It took several months of prayer, soul searching, and listening for the
voice of God before I began to see what God was seeing.  Time and space
won't allow me to elaborate.  

Suffice it to say that the vision grew and matured.  I knew God wanted
that church to become a discipleship training center reaching out into
the more than 25 apartment complexes located within a one mile radius of
our church building.  I knew God wanted evangelism and discipleship to
become a way of life for the people of my congregation.

Then, just four years later, God moved me from that church, to the little
Iowa congregation I mentioned in the last letter.  The final Sunday in
one church I preached to 400, the next Sunday in the new church to 22,
including my family of six. 

By then the Lord began revealing that, along with the vision I described
earlier under point #4, He also wanted me to be a Barnabas to pastors,
offering them encouragement and my unconditional friendship, love, and
support.

Then, nine years later moving on to the next church I mentioned, and
ultimately to where I am today, all I can do is stand around with my eyes
wide and my mouth stupidly hanging open, and mutter ---- "Wow!  Wow!  wo
. . . . . ."

Can you imagine getting the whole dose at the very beginning?  God is a
caring God who doesn't want to blow His servants away with a
fully-developed understanding all at once.

Worse ---- can you imagine trying to stay motivated after the vision has
become stale because no fresh life has been breathed into it?

Thank you, Father, for giving it to us progressively.

#10.  Vision is always in need of refining and fine tuning.

We often come to the erroneous conclusion that somewhere along the line
our vision becomes so complete and so clear that we can cast it in
concrete, assume it is clear, definitive and final, and begin building
permanently around it.

That's not good, because concrete is what monuments are made of.

There is a difference between organization and organism.  The difference
is life.  There is a difference between vision and plans ---- between
vision and programs.  A monument is a rigid structure that identifies
where life used to be ---- but no longer exists.  Our churches are filled
with such monuments of organizations, ideas, and activities that used to
produce life, but now only remind us of life that once way.

Yet, churches keep them around, thinking that bowing down to them weekly
will somehow invigorate them with new life ---- and therefore usefulness.

Quit wasting your time, friend.  It won't work.

The same is true with your vision.  That's why God is always refining and
fine tuning it.  If it's really from Him, you wouldn't want it to become
just another grave marker.  And yet, that's what has happened to many
ministers ---- and they are buried beneath it at it's feet.

If you want your ministry and your life to maintain vibrancy and
vitality, you must be ready for God's frequent visitations to refine,
upgrade, and revive your vision.  Don't assume ownership of your vision
---- just stewardship over it.



STILL TO COME:

You have been so gracious in allowing me to take all this time on a
subject that is apparently of major importance to many people.  So, with
that blessing, we'll continue by looking at the following aspects of
Vision in coming letters:

The Development of Vision (Part C) on Friday.
The Decisiveness of Vision ---- a line-in-the-sand "no turning back"
requirement.
The Danger of Vision ---- dangerous to have; dangerous to not have.
The Distractions from Vision ---- things that interfere with your focus
on your vision.
The Destruction of Vision ---- things that will kill a vision.
The Death of Vision ---- the necessity of letting it die.
The Demonstration of Vision ---- what happens when you're "right on" with
your vision.
The Determination for a Vision ---- pursuing it until it comes.

Thanks again for letting me share my heart with you.  Many letters
continue encouraging me to pursue this subject of Vision.  Frankly, I
don't know what one could expect as the world continues down hill if he
did not have a real vision from God ---- if he had not been able to see
what God sees.

In His Matchless Grace and Unbreakable Bond,

Bob Tolliver ---- (Rom 1:11-12)
Copyright February, 2000.  All rights reserved.

We would love to hear from you ---- prayer requests, insights, etc.  Feel
free to drop us a note at <lifeunlimited@...>.

If this letter has blessed you and you know of someone else who needs to
be encouraged, feel free to forward it in its entirety to all such people
you know.

If you would like a list of past issues which you could receive upon
request, just let us know.  Write <lifeunlimited@...>.

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        Hang in there!   I'm with you!

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