Christianity 201

May 10, 2019

Limited Love

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” – Jesus in Acts 1:8

Okay.

Wait a minute, Samaria?

No way!

…If there are situations you would prefer not to get into, and types of people you would prefer not to help, perhaps your love is too limited…


Today’s devotional comes from a source we frequently link to at Thinking Out Loud but not here at C201. The website A Life Overseas is an online point of connection for people in missions for whom “home” means two (or more) places. Today’s writer is Ivy Chiu whose background includes Taiwan, traveling by ship to different countries with OM, and now, as she writes this, living in Zambia. Click the header below to read at source and then visit some of the other articles by her and other writers.

Touch the Untouchables

o love God and His people is the core of missions. That’s why missionaries leave their homes and move to places far away from anything familiar. Love is the reason for this crazy movement.

Well, that sounds all great and wonderful. But as I’ve entered long-term missions, I’ve realised it’s not always natural for me to love the people I serve. I’ve found it’s possible to be on the mission field and do all the work but at the same time, not love the people. Instead, I’m there simply to fix a problem. Trying to understand people’s situations, but not wanting to really relate to them. Standing a safe distance away from the ‘untouchable.’

As an Asian with a lot of straight and silky hair (that is hard to braid), African hairstyles were a completely new territory for me. I am always amazed by the endless creativeness and possibilities with African hair. I enjoy watching the ladies braiding their hair, but I never tried it myself until one day a girl called my name and asked me to help her take off her weave. I said yes without realizing what I was getting myself into. The other lady knew this was my first time, so she gave me a warning “This is going to take some time and she hasn’t washed her hair for a while. It’s a bit greasy and messy.” Immediately, I felt the dirt with my finger and I could smell the grease on the wig which had been used by multiple people. To be honest, I was not comfortable, but it was too late to say no. With clumsy fingers, I dug in.

If I had thought about it before, I would not have agreed to help. I would have wanted to keep myself clean. Dirty hair might not sound like a big deal. However, this shows that in some parts of me, I still wanted to stay in my comfort zone. I wanted to make sure the ‘mess’ of people would not affect me. I didn’t want to take the risk. Deep in my heart, I still separated myself from the people I served. I might be friends with them, but I was not willing to put myself in their shoes. But this is not the attitude of love.

I also started working with people who are HIV+. I thought as a missionary I was totally ready to love these people who are often pushed away from communities – I was there to serve the outcasts with the love of God. The reality struck me when I had a few people over to my house. I am not proud of my reaction to that first visit. I freaked out over the possibility that someone would cut their finger and bleed and I would somehow come into contact with it. I have received many teachings and trainings about HIV – I knew I just needed to be aware. Even with all the knowledge in my head, my heart still panicked. Love should be without fear and there I was, a missionary afraid to get close to the very people she was called to serve.

‘’While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him.’’ – Luke 5:12-13 (NIV)

Lepers were some of the most untouchable people in the Bible. Everyone was afraid to get leprosy, a sign of uncleanliness, and so lepers were often isolated from the rest of the world. To me, the most amazing part of the story in Luke is not that Jesus had the ability to heal the leper, but that Jesus chose to touch him. From other scriptures, we know that Jesus could heal people via simply speaking – it was not necessary for Jesus to touch a person for healing. However, He touched the untouchable as the way of healing. Jesus didn’t stand far off and pray for the man. He reached out His hand without fear. He loved this man and knew what the leper desired most. Jesus didn’t care what other people might think and He truly acted out the belief that the man was worthy to be loved and accepted.

This story brings me back to my knees in prayer for God’s forgiveness and love. My love is too limited and I need God to help me overcome the fear. It’s by God’s grace I am able to serve and love the people I work with because I am too weak. I don’t want focus on the work instead of the people; creating a comfort zone within the mission field. I need to daily remind myself that love is the reason why I am here and it’s risky. I know there will be times when I want to run away and pray from a distance, but instead I need to run to God and ask for His power and love to fill me and help me reach out my hand to touch the untouchable.

May 9, 2019

Compelling Mission

by Clarke Dixon

Does the way in which we engage people outside the church point to the reality of God?

In previous posts we have looked at Christianity as compelling because it is true. This week we begin looking at how Christianity is compelling because it is beautiful.

My boys are now reading Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which I also read in school. In this book and corresponding TV series American society has been ordered, supposedly, according to the teachings of the Bible. However, it is not long before the reader realizes that this is a very ugly society. If that is what Christianity leads to, it is not compelling at all! If Christianity is true, reflecting a good and loving God, we will expect it to bring beauty, not ugliness. Does Christianity lead to beauty or ugliness? Specifically, is the way Christians engage non-Christians beautiful?

First, freedom is beautiful. Imprisonment is always an ugly thing. With Christianity there is to be freedom. When we read the New Testament we find people freely choosing to be followers of Jesus. In the “Great Commission” of Matthew 28, Jesus did not say “go and force everyone to be a Christian,” but “go and make disciples.”

This means that everyone should have freedom to not be a Christian. Some religions and worldviews use power to keep people in. We can think of fundamentalist versions of Islam. In some nations it is illegal to convert from Islam to another faith! My own children have been raised with a strong connection with the church family. But they are free to not be Christians. While my heart’s desire is that all three will follow Jesus, it is not my decision to make. They are free to choose their relationship with Jesus. As they grow into adulthood they will be free to choose their connection with the church family also. Sometimes we as Christians have made it difficult for people to leave the faith. That gets ugly. Freedom is beautiful.

There is also to be freedom for the non-Christian to not have to act like a Christian. Jesus did not say in Matthew 28 “go and make Christian nations, forcing everyone to have Christian morals,” but,

. . . go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (NLT emphasis added)

The New Living Translation goes beyond what is in the original Greek, but captures for us well who is to learn Christ’s ways, namely, His disciples. As a Canadian I am watching the culture war in the States with interest. I see a desire to ‘make America Christian again.’ However, forcing an entire nation to follow Jesus gets ugly. We understand that Christianity is spreading very well in China. I imagine that the Chinese Christians are focused on making disciples, one person at a time, not fighting a culture war, one law at time. That is not to say that Christians should not be involved in politics. But when we are, let us not confuse lawmaking with evangelism.

We Christians have sometimes denied freedom, and sometimes still do. It has been and can get ugly. But we will not deny freedom if we are looking to Jesus, if the New Testament is our guide. Freedom is beautiful, and a Biblical Christianity promotes freedom.

Second, words are a beautiful way to share truth. Forced conversion through violence is ugly. Conversion through force or manipulation is something you will not find happening in the New Testament, nor is it something Jesus told us to do. Instead, we find people sharing what they know to be true about Jesus using words. You will not find a Christian going to war in the New Testament to ‘take the land for Jesus.’ You will find honest sharing. You will find conversations. You will not find warriors. You will find preachers.

We Christians have sometimes resorted to power, and sometimes we still do. It has been and can get ugly. However, we will not use force if we are looking to Jesus, if the New Testament is our guide. Words are beautiful. A Biblical Christianity promotes conversation and sharing through words.

Third, it is a beautiful thing to share good news. Keeping life changing good news to oneself would be ugly. Keeping Jesus for ourselves would be ugly. Keeping quiet about the amazing news of God’s amazing grace would be ugly. Some religions may promote a ‘keep to yourself’ attitude. That might be okay if you are keeping your love for liver and onions to yourself. But imagine finding the cure for cancer. We have learned of the cure for death itself! We have learned that God has a love solution for our separation-from-God problem. Keeping that to ourselves would demonstrate an ugly, ugly lack of love for others. From the very earliest days, Christians have been involved in missions. Because we must in order to get to heaven? Nope! Because sharing good news is a beautiful thing, a natural thing. The good news is too good to keep to ourselves!

The way Christians are to relate with non-Christians is not ugly, but beautiful. Freedom is beautiful, words are a beautiful way to share truth, and it is a beautiful thing to share good news. God’s call for how the Christian should engage with the non-Christian is, just as you would expect from a good God, beautiful. This is yet another aspect of Christianity that is compelling.


This post is part of a series called “Compelling” which begins here. The full sermon can be heard on the podcast which is found here.

January 23, 2018

We Must Obey God

A year ago we paid our first visit to The Life Project written by Don Merritt who was at that time working his way through the Gospel of Luke. We caught up with him yesterday to find him in the Acts of the Apostles. If you’re looking for more in your Bible study time, this would be a great journey to join. They’re still in early chapters so you can catch up. Click the title below to read this one at source. (With yesterday’s cliff-hanger ending, you might want to go back again today!)

The Apostles Before the Sanhedrin

When Peter and John had first appeared before the Sanhedrin (4:1-22), they were not guilty of any particular offense against the Jewish leadership, but this time they were guilty of continuing to preach Christ after they had been ordered to cease and desist. In addition, there was the matter of their little escape from custody; surely the Twelve had cause for concern, and ample reason to be very careful about what they said.

The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” (5:27-28)

So, here is the scene: They have been brought forward to be questioned by the high priest in front of the full leadership, only the high priest has no questions for them; look at what he said, there was no question asked at all. Any lawyer would tell the apostles to remain silent at this point.

The high priest, rather than ask a question, has made accusation without asking a question which I would suggest is a rather ominous sign that he has already made up his mind about what happens next. In fact, his accusation that the apostles have acted in disobedience to his previous command is accurate, for they have most assuredly disobeyed his order to cease and desist. Of course, there is a rather humorous note to all of this when he accuses the apostles of being “determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood” which of course everyone in the room knows that they are guilty of.

If you were in the apostles’ sandals, what would you do at this point?

Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” (5:29-32)

Well, “in for a penny, in for a pound” as the saying goes; Peter and the others fire a full broadside at their attackers, who by the way are also their judges. That they must obey God and not humans is about the equivalent of telling the court that it lacks competent jurisdiction to judge them, not usually a wise assertion for a defendant to make. Then, they make their assertion that the Jewish leaders were in fact guilty of Jesus’ blood, which in this instance would be essentially a guilty plea considering what they’ve been accused of. Finally, they claim that Jesus sits at the right hand of Almighty God and is ready to forgive the Jewish leaders of their sins if they will only repent of their misdeeds.

At this point, we must remember who these leaders are; they consider themselves the most righteous and holy of all Creation, they keep the Law of God best of all, just ask them. Forgiveness − they don’t need forgiveness; they keep the Law.

At this point, we must come to grips with the real facts of the matter, which are that the apostles have only just begun to carry out their Commission from our Lord, and that Commission is God’s eternal purpose to build up a Body of believers on the earth. As long as the apostles still have work to do on the earth, no human authority is going to stop them.

Yet if we look upon this scene from an earthly perspective, the apostles are doomed:

When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. (5:33)

It was now time for God to make His next move…

May 24, 2016

The Gift of Evangelism

EvangelismWe all know that The Great Commission is a call to evangelism, but many prefer to think in terms of the gift of Evangelism, which affords the opportunity to say, “I don’t have that gift.” If we’re all called to “Go and tell” then why is evangelism listed among gifts that not all possess?

Let’s begin at the website Spiritual Gifts Test:

All Christians are called to evangelize and reach out to the lost with the Gospel (Matthew 28:18-20), but some are given an extra measure of faith and effectiveness in this area.  The spiritual gift of evangelism is found in Ephesians 4:11-12 where Paul says that Jesus “gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”  The Greek word for evangelists is Euaggelistes which means “one who brings good news.”  This word is only found two other places in the New Testament: Acts 21:8 and 2 Timothy 4:5.

Evangelists are given the unique ability by the Holy Spirit to clearly and effectively communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ to others.  They are burdened in their hearts for the lost and will go out of their way to share the truth with them.  Evangelists are able to overcome the normal fear of rejection and engage non-believers in meaningful conversations about Jesus.  Their gift allows them to communicate with all types of people and therefore they receive a greater response to the message of salvation through Jesus Christ.  They continually seek out relationships with those who don’t know Jesus and are open to the leading of the Holy Spirit to approach different people.  They love giving free treasure away for Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:7), and it brings them great joy knowing that the “feet that bring good news” are beautiful to those who believe (Isaiah 52:7).  See Ephesians 4:11, Acts 8:5-12, 26-40, 21:8, Matthew 28:18-20.

We continue at Biblical Studies:

…In the early church, the evangelists were considered the successors of the apostles. They did not think that evangelists were the same as the apostles but merely that they continued the apostles’ ministry.

The term in the Greek is related to the word “gospel.” The euangelion is the “gospel,” or the “good news.” Euangelizo (the verb form) means to announce the gospel, “to evangelize.” The euangelistes is “the one who evangelizes,” or the “evangelist.”

The term “evangelist” occurs only three times in the New Testament, none of which actually define what an evangelist is. Acts 21:8 simply tells us that Philip was an evangelist; Ephesians 4:11 teaches that evangelists are gifts to the church; and II Timothy 4:5 commands Timothy to do the work of an evangelist.

Pulling together the information available from these verses, we can come to an understanding of the term. The word itself, we know, means to announce the good news, to evangelize. Ephesians 4:11-12 teaches that the evangelist is for the purpose of equipping the saints to the work of the ministry to the edifying of the body of Christ. And with the ministry of Philip recorded in Acts 8, we have an example of what an evangelist is and does. An evangelist, then, is one who is especially effective in presenting the message of the gospel to the lost and instructing believers in the faith. His ministry is an itinerant one, ministering to believers and unbelievers alike in various locations. He is not one who announces new truth — that is a prophet. But he is one who announces truth. It seems that the New Testament evangelist more closely resembles our present day missionary. He brings the good news to an unevangelized community, disciples, establishes a church, and moves on. Our present day evangelists, as we have known them since the days of Wesley and Whitefield with their itinerant ministries, whose ministries are extremely valuable to our churches, do properly wear the title “evangelist,” but the evangelist of the New Testament, it seems from the example of Philip, had a broader work.

For a third perspective on this, I wanted to go to the site Lay Evangelism, but the article was too long here to print in full. (I hope you’ll click the link.) I did want to make sure you didn’t miss something that appears later on, regarding the difference between sowing and reaping.

… Other Christians pose the argument this way, they will say, “In our Church we feel that Evangelizing our community at this time is not right. Our community is not ripe yet for Evangelism.” What does Jesus and the leading of the Holy Spirit through the writer John say about this argument? Jesus said,

John 4:35-38 “Do you not say, “There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. Already he who Reaps is receiving wages, and is gathering fruit for life eternal; that he who Sows and he who Reaps may rejoice together. For in this case the saying is true, ‘One Sows, and another Reaps.’

evangelism quoteJesus asks us in this passage, “Are you saying you need to wait until your community is ripe? You are wrong. I say to you look out on your community and see that it is ripe for Evangelism now!” To help the reader, Jesus goes on to explain what he means by Evangelism and ripe for Evangelism. He explains that not all Christians are called to be Reapers but all Christians are called to be Sowers.

What is the difference between a Sower and a Reaper? In farming terms, the Sower is the farmer. The farmer goes out and plants the seed, waters and fertilizes the ground and weeds the ground. Who does the reaping? Hired labor. Is not an Evangelist someone who is hired to Reap where he did not Sow? Your community may not always be ready for an anointed Evangelist, but your community is always ripe to be Evangelized. Not all Christians are called to be Evangelists, but all Christians are called to do Evangelism. If you are not called specifically to be an Evangelist, you along with all other Christians are called to do Evangelism. You are called to be a farmer. You are called to Sow, water, fertilize and weed. You are called to go and plant the seed of the Word into the hearts of men. You are called to prepare the ground for the Evangelist. The command to do this has already been given. You do not need to wait for the leading of the Holy Spirit. Jesus has commanded you and I to GO THEREFORE! Behold the fields are WHITE for harvest!

Part of the problem of getting Christians involved in aggressive Evangelism is that unless they can be guaranteed to reap a harvest every time they go out, they get discouraged and won’t continue. That would be like a farmer saying that unless he can have a harvest now, he won’t sow seed, water, fertilize and weed his field. If the farmer refused to sow seed and then water, fertilize and weed his field, there would never be a crop for the Reapers to harvest. If Christians do not Sow the seed of the Word and then water, fertilize and weed the field, there won’t be a harvest when the Reaper comes. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 11:4 “He who watches the wind will not sow and he who looks at the clouds will not reap.” …

(Again, here is the link for the article Evangelism is Not a Spiritual Gift.)

November 28, 2015

Go. Serve. Love.

Today we look at another blog that is indexed with Faithful Bloggers. Morgan Murphy blogs at Look Upon The Light, and posted this in September. To read more click the title below, and then click the “home” button at the top to look around at other articles.

Why I Believe in Going to Haiti (or Wherever)

I leave in a couple of days for a trip to Haiti. I have been out of the country a couple of other times for mission trips, and every time before I go the responses I get about my upcoming plans are generally the same:

A) “That’s cool, but I could never do that.”
B) “That’s good and all, but there’s people here that need help, too.”
C) “Why would you want to go there?”
D) All of the above.

So here’s why I believe in going to Haiti (or wherever)…

I believe with all my heart in the Great Commission. Jesus’s last words should be our first priority. In Matthew 28, He says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age.” There is plenty of work yet to be done, and not enough willing to just go. We have to start taking Jesus for his word.

I believe that someone can’t do everything, but everyone can do something. It is impossible for a single person to go to every place that needs the Gospel. As followers of Christ, we are all called to do something. Every person’s calling won’t take them across the country or around the world, but we all have a mission field. It might be the classroom, hospital, football field, study group, office, gym, wherever…the opportunities are endless. The important thing is to discover what you love and use your passion to fulfill your potential and God-given purpose.

I would rather be in dangerI believe in being dangerous to the kingdom of darkness. In 2 Corinthians 11 and 12, Paul talks about things he has suffered for the sake of the Gospel. He was stoned, beaten, imprisoned, and shipwrecked. He was in danger from rivers, robbers, his own people, Gentiles, the city, the wilderness, the sea, sleepless nights, and more (see verses 23-28). Let me tell you…I would rather be in danger while chasing Jesus than safe while chasing the American Dream. I don’t believe in playing it safe when something as serious as eternity is on the line.

I believe that our God is global. John 3:16 says that God so loved this world. It does not say that God so loved the United States of America. We tend to be really ethnocentric, but the love Jesus has for all of us transcends any and all borders. It reminds me of the children’s Bible song that says red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight…it really is true. I am aware that there are people in America that need help. There are people in our own backyards that need Jesus, and we should treat these people no different than Haitians or Ugandans or Indians or whoever. We can’t get so caught up in the ethnicity or geographical location that we neglect the status of the heart or knowledge of the Gospel.

I believe in the sovereignty of the Lord. With Him, I have everything. Without Him, I have nothing. He will never misguide or mislead me. They say that the safest place to be is in the center of God’s will, and I so believe that. If Haiti is where I am supposed to be, then I am safer there than here. People die in motor vehicles accidents every day, but that doesn’t keep us from getting in our cars every morning. We have to stop letting fear dictate how we live our lives. Fear is not of the Lord. I trust the Lord with every bit of my heart, so I can rest assured that He is always with me…whatever happens will be okay as long as I know I am following the Lord. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).

All of this and more is why I believe in going to Haiti. Thomazeau, Haiti will be my mission field. When I get home, things will be different. My mission field is usually the intensive care unit where I am a nurse. The key is to go with the flow and serve wherever the Lord leads you. Be the hands and feet of Jesus however and whenever possible. Let someone know that they are loved and chosen and accepted. Step up and do your part because we are living in critical times…the possibilities and opportunities are endless. Whatever your calling, let others see the wonder of Christ in you. That is what will make all the difference.

So wherever the Lord may lead you…in your neighborhood or around the world…

Go.
Serve.
Love.

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send our laborers into his harvest.” Matthew 9:37-38

 

January 31, 2015

Babel Vs. Pentecost: Which Do We Reflect?

In preparing yesterday’s devotional/study, which looked at The Great Commission, I ran across a post we did several years ago that was taken from the blog Commissionary. Great Commission + Missionary = Commissionary. I like the name.

The article sets out the contrast between Babel and Pentecost in light of the characteristics of both, and asks us which one we reflect. To link to the original, click on: A commissionary’s conundrum: Babel or Pentecost? (Acts 2:5-13)

A commissionary aims to glorify Christ by making disciples of all nations. What is more worshipful to God than gathering more worshippers for God? This act of “gathering in,” however, first requires a “going out.” What then could be more glorifying to God than to devote one’s life to the spreading of His renown to all peoples of the world?

The early church began to understand this at Pentecost. It was not an innate part of their personality. On the contrary, they only started to participate in mission because they received the power for mission – the Holy Spirit. Pentecost happens, and right from the start God exposes his global purposes. What God did at Pentecost is a sharp contrast to what man tried at Babel. Let me explain.

First, here’s the text Acts 2:5-13

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians – we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

At Pentecost, God gathered the nations together for the purpose of announcing his gospel (the good news of Jesus Christ) to all nations. At Pentecost, many people from many languages understood the gospel through those possessed by the Holy Spirit. At Pentecost, it was God displaying His mighty work.

Babel is a completely different story (Genesis 11). At Babel, God scatters the people because man was told to fill the earth (Gen 1:28, 9:1,7) and they chose to gather and build a tower instead. At Babel, God intervenes and confuses their language. At Babel, it was not God displaying a mighty work, but man attempting a mighty work. Ultimately, Babel represents the opposite of a commissionary’s purpose in two ways. One, Babel represents self-reliance. The attitude that one doesn’t need God but can do it alone. Two, Babel represents self-exaltation. The motive to make oneself famous, instead of being motivated to make much of God.

So in light of this comparison, a commissionary has a choice between reflecting Pentecost or reflecting Babel. God has purposed for His children to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Three closing questions.

1. Are you reliant on self (Babel) or reliant on God (Pentecost)?

2. Are you exalting self (Babel) or exalting God (Pentecost)?

3. Are you more concerned with your story of achievement (Babel) or with God’s story of achievement (Pentecost), what God has done in Christ?

Don’t be Babel. Be Pentecost. Be a commissionary.

Here is that blog’s purpose statement:

  • A Great Commissionary

    Before pulpits and pews, pastors and preachers, before deacons and elders and Sunday School teachers, before flowery Lord’s tables and cross adorned steeples, there existed a mission for all of God’s people. Before programs and services, proper methods, proper times, before music and preaching, our sometimes silly pantomimes, before “Sunday morning church” and “Wednesday night prayer,” there existed a mentality, “Anytime, Anywhere.” Before statements of faith and superfluous vision, before gallivanting doctrine and convenient religion, before I follow Calvin or Luther, Peter or Paul, there existed one Lord with a mandate for all. Before baptist or catholic, various sects and denominations, before division and distinction, seemingly appropriate separations, before the ninety-five theses or even the edict of Milan, there existed one standard which the church was built upon. Go and make disciples we still hear our Jesus say, baptizing them in haste, for tomorrow is today, in name of the Father, and the Son, and Holy Ghost, teaching them to obey for He is with us to the uttermost. So before saying church member, church deacon, church teacher, church pastor, church apostle, church planter, church preacher, we advance the words of Christ, the only true visionary, declaring now and forever more, I AM A GREAT COMMISSIONARY!

January 20, 2015

Keep Your Love Alive…And the Gospel Will Be Preached

We used a brief excerpt a year ago from the daily devotional Johnny B. Daily. Sometimes we return to a previous source only to find that they’ve stopped writing, or have lost the focus that we saw evident at an earlier stage. So it’s nice to go back and see someone faithfully writing, in this case since June, 2006.  For our return visit we find Johnny going verse-by-verse through Matthew. This is actually two posts, and our headline above is our attempt to link the two thoughts in the consecutive verses.

But first, Johnny always starts each day to his readers with these words:

God is good all the time, all the time God is good.  TOO BLESSED TO BE STRESSED!!!!

I love his passion and the personal tone with which he writes to his readers. To reach each piece below at source, click the individual titles:

Is your love cold? Is your love all about you? Matthew 24:12,13

Yesterday I visited with you about false prophets. Do not get me wrong, many preachers on the radio and TV are good God fearing Bible teaching men; just be aware of the ones that are not. Johnny, are you judging them. No, but the Bible says to test them by the word. Do this and see for yourself.

Matthew 24: 12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.

Jesus is telling us here that with false teachings and loose morals comes a very destructive element. What is this element? LOVE that IS NO MORE! Huh? Because of false teachings, or teaching about caring for yourself, that you will prosper and do well and loose morals we lose the love for God and the love for anything except SELF!!

Look around, where is your focus? Are you thinking only of yourself? If so, you love is not for God first; then love neighbors and family. Hmmm! Something to think about. If you are #1 then you cannot truly love.

13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

However, with Jesus there is always hope. If you endure, don’t compromise your Christian beliefs, stay true to the one true living GOD, then you shall be saved. These are Jesus’ words.

Come my friend, now, take time this very moment to pray, asking God to make you strong and a dedicated follower of Jesus Christ. Love you all.


The song, “Just spreadin’ the news” should be our theme song. Matthew 24:14

Matthew 24:14 tells us that before Jesus returns, the Good News about the Kingdom, the message of salvation, would be preached throughout the world.

This was the disciples mission. This is your mission. To take the Good News to others worldwide. Are you sharing the word with others? How can you more effectively share the good news where ever you walk? A man had lots of little small crosses and he would lay one on the sidewalk of businesses he entered when the Spirit moved him. He said he has yet to exit and the cross still be there — YES, someone picked it up. A great way to stir the curiosity and move people. What way can you leave small subtle hints? Hints to stir people and get them to thinking about Jesus, about salvation, about eternity after death.

Your walk in life should be one way to share the gospel. So others look and say what does he/she have that I don’t have? Hmmm!

Jesus talked about the end times and final judgment to show his followers the urgency of spreading the Good News of salvation to everyone.

Here are Jesus’ words: 14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

May your day be filled with glory from our Father in Heaven. Love you all.


I’m not sure that the original text is meant to read this way, as a conditional promise, but as we join the two verses we could say: Kindling our love for God and faithfully enduring means that the gospel will go out into the world.

Oh, and I almost forgot, Johnny ends each day’s writing with these words:

In Christ’s Love and Grace

To which we add, Amen!

October 6, 2014

Sowing and Reaping Can Me More Than Just Economics

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:

“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
    their righteousness endures forever.”

10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

Today we return to the website of Ralph Howe Ministries. When we think of sowing and reaping we tend to think of it in bottom-line, dollars-and-cents terms. (That would be pounds-and-pence for my UK readers!) But in the much larger Bible context, planting, reaping, seeds and fruit are all referring to the spread of the gospel story and the establishment and growth of Christ-followers. It is to that end that Ralph writes the following; click the title to read at source.

A Biblical Principle

Here’s a biblical principle we can take to the bank: If we sow sparingly, we will reap sparingly; if we sow the gospel abundantly we will reap abundantly (2 Corinthians 9:6). Some believe this is why evangelists are so effective in leading people to Christ – they sow abundantly. I believe there is some merit to the idea. The Good News itself is powerful because the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). And, the more often it is shared, the more often it will bear fruit.

sowing and reapingPeter, one of the original twelve, states that we are “born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding Word of God.” So, obviously, the more ’seeds’ we plant the better the harvest we will reap. Sow seldom – see little fruit because you are planting very few seeds. Sow regularly and often – you will reap a harvest from some of the seeds that you planted – some of the times that you shared the Gospel.

Our job is to share Christ. Not to bring people to Christ – that is the job of the Holy Spirit. Our task is to take Christ to the people. In case you have not noticed, unbelievers are not flocking to the church where they can hear the Gospel. So, we are to take the Gospel to them. Then the Holy Spirit works with the seed we planted and convicts them of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8-10). As hearts become warm towards God people respond and we see a harvest of souls for the Kingdom. The Holy Spirit is the true evangelist who convicts people’s hearts, opens their spiritual eyes, and points them to Christ. He resides in all of us, not just in the evangelists (one of the five-fold ministry gifts of Ephesians 4:11-12).

This is the task of all true disciples. Some excuse themselves from the work of winning the lost by saying that they don’t have the gift of evangelism. There is no such gift in the Bible. Every true disciple of Jesus is called to “follow Him” (Matthew 4:19) and, as we do, He “makes us into fishers of men.” So, if we are not fishing we are not following. And, we are not “becoming.” We have traded ’safe,’ ’secure,’ and ‘comfortable’ for exciting, risky, and an adventure.

We all need to remember that one day we will be held accountable by the Lord Jesus as to what we did with what He commanded us to do. He was not joking when He said, “Go into all the world and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). And, it was not an option that we can choose to become involved in or choose to let others do it while we stay safe and secure. Of course, we will become involved in other areas of ministry – caring, hospitality, worship, leading … but, Jesus will still bring us back to the basic and foundational calling that is upon every believer’s life – the “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10) as He did.

So, time to learn to share the Gospel so we can plant these powerful seeds of Good News in the life of people that we know and the hearts of total strangers. Of course, this will mean having the learn how to express the Gospel as most believers know the Gospel but because they have never shared it – really find it hard to express the Good News of salvation in a way that makes sense of this powerful message. And, we need to learn to share it in a way that today’s generation can understand it. We live in a post-Christian society and so we need to learn how to communicate the message in new ways to those who do not have a Christian consciousness.

Remember, every one of us will be held accountable for what we have done with the gifts that He gave us – and the greatest gift is the message of salvation – the Gospel of the Kingdom.

May 26, 2014

Missions Doesn’t Have to Be Foreign

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Something a little different today, but I wanted readers here to see it. The author is Jessinia, the blog is called Blogs by Christian Women and if you wish to read the article at source, click here.

These past 8 months I have been on a journey in the Dominican Republic as a missionary student. I have been studying Spanish and Bible and working with a village preschool. I’m currently in the States for a couple more weeks before heading back for two more months. I want to share with you how missions doesn’t have to be so foreign.

As the Church, we are called to not only work on our relationships with God and within the church but also our relationships out in the world. We have to take God out of our churches and into the world. Even though God is everywhere, I think we often get caught up in the idea of God only being in church.

In Matthew 28 Jesus Himself said:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (18-20).” 

Jesus was giving a command to His disciples here. By loving Jesus, we should want to make Him known everywhere. By living for Jesus, we should share our lives with others. While missions isn’t the goal, but a goal, of the church, worship and glorifying God is our ultimate goal.

“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. The Great Commission is first to “delight yourself in the Lord” (Ps. 37:4) and then to declare, “Let the nation be glad and sing for joy” (Ps. 76:4).  In this way, God will be glorified from beginning to end” 

(John Piper Let the Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions). 

God gets the glory. It’s a daily reminder for us all. We cannot carry the glory on our own for we will be crushed be the weight of it.  By worshipping God, we are giving Him the glory. Worship happens in our daily lives, in the mundane tasks. As Christians, we are constantly looked at by others.  If we are so focused on worshipping our God we will automatically point others to Jesus.

So wherever you are right now, be all there (as missionary Jim Elliot once said). You are in this time and this place for a purpose, even if you do not know why right now, God knows. God needs people in every place, not just missionaries in a foreign country. Everyone needs Jesus, so we need to bring Him into every relationship we have, Christian and non-Christian. This does not mean go evangelize in every conversation you have, rather I am saying that we need to live our lives as Christ-like examples.

While saying that, we need to realize that cross-cultural ministry is SO important. We are called to go into all nations.  If you are reading this and have a tug at your heart, or the “Holy Spirit tingles” as my friend calls them, listen to Him. God needs you to be a messenger of the Good News. He is calling you to carry the Gospel to the nations, to disciple the people, to baptize them, to teach them, to serve them, and to most importantly build loving relationships with them.

“For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'” 

Romans 10:13-15

Missions isn’t so foreign because God can use you in every place. Don’t know how? God will lead you. Don’t know what to say? God will give you wisdom. Don’t think it’s possible? Nothing’s impossible with God. Can’t do it? You can do all things. Afraid? God has not given us fear. Not able? God is able.

There are no excuses. Missions can be lived out right where you are, in every moment.

May 7, 2014

The Church Behind Closed Doors

NRSV John 20:19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Early Church 1

Our featured writer today is Canadian pastor Clarke Dixon whose “Shrunk Sermons” appear weekly on his blog. You’re encouraged (as always!) to read this at source where it appeared as The Church Behind Locked Doors.

The doors are locked. Locked from the inside by the disciples out of fear of the religious leaders. It is a scary time with Jesus so recently crucified and the women besides themselves with the strange news that He has risen. But for now there is no celebration, just confusion, wondering, and locked doors.

That could an apt description of the church in Canada. Confusion, wondering, and hiding behind locked doors. Locked doors? How so you ask? We hide behind locked doors when:

  • we consider religion and faith as a private matter.
  • we fear turning people off by being open about our faith.
  • we leave speaking to people about Jesus to the “professionals.”
  • all our friends are Christians, and all events we attend are Christian.
  • we immerse ourselves in a thoroughly Christian subculture.
  • fear over our reputation overpowers our courage.

And so while there is no need for we Canadian Christians to fear for our lives like the disciples, or like many disciples around the world today, we can all too easily hide behind locked doors. Is there hope that we can get out?

Despite the fear and the locked doors the disciples are on the verge of a turning point. Fear will be replaced with courage, the huddled group will be out and about. Though it will be Pentecost, several weeks later, before that turn is complete, it begins here in this moment behind locked doors. What makes this change possible?

The Presence of Jesus. It begins with Jesus, oblivious to all doors locked or otherwise, standing before the disciples. He says “Peace be with you” (John 2-:19 NRSV). Given that the disciples deserted Jesus not too many days before, Jesus’ greeting would be encouraging, a sign of forgiveness. “After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side” (John 20:20 NRSV). Seeing the wounds, there could be no doubt that yes, this really is Jesus, back from the dead. But those wounds say more than that. It is as if Jesus is saying “You have your doors locked out of fear of what they will do to you? Look what they did to me, and yet look at what they could not do to me! I am not dead, but alive!” That’s encouraging and a reason for courage.

The Task. Next we hear of an incredible task: “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you’” (John 20:21 NRSV). The implication of this is clear, the doors will need to be unlocked. Not so that people can get in, but so that the disciples can get out with the incredible message of Jesus. A massive change will need to take place.

The Gift. Next an incredible gift is given to enable that change: “When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22 NRSV). We are to be reminded here of the creation of humanity when God breathed life into Adam (Genesis 2:7) and so are to think of the creation of a new humanity, in perfect relationship with God and with God’s creation. Think back to that time of dwelling with God in the garden. There is no need for locked doors there. Nor here now.

The Responsibility. But finally we read of an incredible responsibility: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:23 NRSV). Now some will read this in a far too black and white fashion and will question what role we could have in forgiveness when the forgiveness of sin is God’s work. Yes it is, but the point shines through loud and clear, God will use His people in a significant way to help people become aware of that forgiveness He offers. This will go beyond the declaration of God’s offer of forgiveness, though, yes, that is supremely important, to modelling forgiveness and demonstrating how grace works. It will not be long before a Jesus follower, Stephen, will be doing just that as his last words echo the words of Jesus from the cross: “Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he died (Acts 7:60 NRSV) Such incredible grace would never have been seen had Stephen kept himself safe and sound behind locked doors. Forgiveness does not work very well when we are huddled together behind locked doors but works best when we are rubbing shoulders with people who will hurt us.

There is hope that we as Canadian Christians can get out from behind our locked doors. But it will not happen if we are not with Jesus experiencing His forgiveness and peace. It will happen when we hear the call, receive the Spirit, and realize the awesome responsibility and privilege that comes with being forgiven. Do you have some doors to unlock?

January 10, 2013

Jesus’ Last Words

ESV Matt 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…

In the western world much is made of being present when someone issues their last words. We want to know what the final words were from politicians, authors, great military men and preachers.

The first time my father was hospitalized with a heart attack, he pulled me close to his hospital bed and said, “I want you to know, I have always been very proud of you.”  You have no idea how much I needed to hear that. My father worked in the world of finance, dealing with budgets, financial forecasting and investments. I have only once in my life — a very brief time working with InterVarsity — had anything resembling a regular, normal salary. I’ve always felt like that by the standard he would measure achievement, there wouldn’t be much to be proud of.

But he said he was, and although it was twelve years later when he finally passed away, I have always regarded that sentence as his ‘official’ last words to me; his blessing.

Famous Last Words

So what were Jesus’ last words to his disciples?  Ask most people, and they will say, “The Great Commission;” the command to, as The Message bible puts  it, “Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you.”

But another phrase follows that,

(ESV)20 … And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

It’s a promise of his ongoing presence and comfort.  You have no idea how much you and I need to hear that. We live in a world where it is so easy to lapse into the mindset that, as a song once said, “God is watching us, from a distance.” But the scriptures teach that God is very close, very present, very much at hand.

While Luke doesn’t reiterate the exact words, he mentions this blessing.

(NIV) Luke 24:50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.

This was Jesus’ benediction to us.

Matthew Henry writes:

Two solemn farewells we find our Lord Jesus giving to his church, and his parting word at both of them is very encouraging; one was here, when he closed up his personal converse with them, and then his parting word was, “Lo, I am with you always; I leave you, and yet still I am with you;” the other was, when he closed up the canon of the scripture by the pen of his beloved disciple, and then his parting word was, “Surely, I come quickly. I leave you for awhile, but I will be with you again shortly,” Rev. 22:20. By this it appears that he did not part in anger, but in love, and that it is his will we should keep up both our communion with him and our expectation of him.

Many of you will find this verse echoing in your minds as you’ve thought about this:

Hebrews 13:5b God has said,

“Never will I leave you;
    never will I forsake you.” (NIV)

The writer of Hebrews is recollecting several passages including Deut 31:6, Deu 31:8, Joshua 1:5  and 1Kings 8:57  Again, Peterson renders this:  God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,”

You have no idea how much the world needs to hear this. Maybe that’s why it’s paired with the command to go out into the world…

PW

September 8, 2012

God Multiplies What We Give Into Something Beyond Imagining

Hey, you never know… click to follow this blog and you might find yourself reading your own words a few days later!  That’s how we discovered Ben Nelson who blogs at Another Red Letter Day. (Great devotional blog title, don’t you think?) He’s currently in a series on letting your light shine; but this one is from several days back where it appeared as Promises, Promises.  Be sure to click through to read at source and then browse other entries.

Have you ever noticed how Jesus’ first promise…

And He said to them, ”Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

…and last promise…

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

…are related?

Jesus promises that if you will follow Him, He will make you a “fisher of men,” and if you are a “fisher of men” He will “be with you always, even to the end of the age.“

This is so like Jesus.

I promise to take what you give me

  • Your Lunch
  • Your Life

I will turn it in to more than you can even imagine

  • A new creation
  • New species never before seen
  • A human filled with the Spirit of the Living God!

I will supply you with exactly what you need to succeed in what I create you for

  • My Authority
  • My Commission
  • My Abiding Presence

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10 NASB)

His promises hold wonder for us, and give us a life to walk out. With every promise is the ability, authority, and desire to do what He is calling us to do.

And notice the calling does not change either.

  • Fishers of men
  • Make disciples

Let’s get about the Father’s business.

~Ben Nelson

Maybe we’re the green letter bible here at C201; all scripture passages appear daily in green because the Word of God is life.

July 25, 2012

Do We Reflect Babel or Do We Reflect Pentecost?

This post is taken from the blog Commissionary. Great Commission. Missionary. I like the name. It sets out the contrast between Babel and Pentecost in light of the characteristics of both, and asks us which one we reflect.  To link to the original, click on: A commissionary’s conundrum: Babel or Pentecost? (Acts 2:5-13)

A commissionary aims to glorify Christ by making disciples of all nations. What is more worshipful to God than gathering more worshippers for God? This act of “gathering in,” however, first requires a “going out.” What then could be more glorifying to God than to devote one’s life to the spreading of His renown to all peoples of the world?

The early church began to understand this at Pentecost. It was not an innate part of their personality. On the contrary, they only started to participate in mission because they received the power for mission – the Holy Spirit. Pentecost happens, and right from the start God exposes his global purposes. What God did at Pentecost is a sharp contrast to what man tried at Babel. Let me explain.

First, here’s the text Acts 2:5-13

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians – we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

At Pentecost, God gathered the nations together for the purpose of announcing his gospel (the good news of Jesus Christ) to all nations. At Pentecost, many people from many languages understood the gospel through those possessed by the Holy Spirit. At Pentecost, it was God displaying His mighty work.

Babel is a completely different story (Genesis 11). At Babel, God scatters the people because man was told to fill the earth (Gen 1:28, 9:1,7) and they chose to gather and build a tower instead. At Babel, God intervenes and confuses their language. At Babel, it was not God displaying a mighty work, but man attempting a mighty work. Ultimately, Babel represents the opposite of a commissionary’s purpose in two ways. One, Babel represents self-reliance. The attitude that one doesn’t need God but can do it alone. Two, Babel represents self-exaltation. The motive to make oneself famous, instead of being motivated to make much of God.

So in light of this comparison, a commissionary has a choice between reflecting Pentecost or reflecting Babel. God has purposed for His children to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Three closing questions.

1. Are you reliant on self (Babel) or reliant on God (Pentecost)?

2. Are you exalting self (Babel) or exalting God (Pentecost)?

3. Are you more concerned with your story of achievement (Babel) or with God’s story of achievement (Pentecost), what God has done in Christ?

Don’t be Babel. Be Pentecost. Be a commissionary.

Here is that blog’s purpose statement:

  • A Great Commissionary

    Before pulpits and pews, pastors and preachers, before deacons and elders and Sunday School teachers, before flowery Lord’s tables and cross adorned steeples, there existed a mission for all of God’s people. Before programs and services, proper methods, proper times, before music and preaching, our sometimes silly pantomimes, before “Sunday morning church” and “Wednesday night prayer,” there existed a mentality, “Anytime, Anywhere.” Before statements of faith and superfluous vision, before gallivanting doctrine and convenient religion, before I follow Calvin or Luther, Peter or Paul, there existed one Lord with a mandate for all. Before baptist or catholic, various sects and denominations, before division and distinction, seemingly appropriate separations, before the ninety-five theses or even the edict of Milan, there existed one standard which the church was built upon. Go and make disciples we still hear our Jesus say, baptizing them in haste, for tomorrow is today, in name of the Father, and the Son, and Holy Ghost, teaching them to obey for He is with us to the uttermost. So before saying church member, church deacon, church teacher, church pastor, church apostle, church planter, church preacher, we advance the words of Christ, the only true visionary, declaring now and forever more, I AM A GREAT COMMISSIONARY!