Christianity 201

February 10, 2017

The War on Terror is Fought with Love

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Some of you will recognize the name Floyd McClung in context with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) or more recently, All Nations. Floyd has not been well for over a year now. This article was posted to his blog in November of 2015, and was one of the last half dozen things he posted there before being unable to write.

Perfect Love Casts Out Terror!

That’s how Jonathan, a co-worker living in the Middle East described his response to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut. “Perfect love casts out terror.” The outpouring of terror in Paris and Beirut make me angry – but it does not dictate my attitude to terrorists. Jesus defines my responses to terror, more than any government or act of terror ever will be able to do!

I know the difference between my response as an American citizen and my response as a citizen of the Kingdom of God. God’s kingdom comes above America, as much as I love my country.

There is a place for governments to protects it’s citizens. God has created them for that purpose. But while government armies can protect us, they cannot win the real war, the war for people’s hearts. That is the war that counts for eternity. And it is not fought with human weapons.

God challenged me years ago with these words, “You see yourself more as an American than a Christian –I want that to change.” I made a covenant with God in that moment to build my life – and my identity – on the words of Jesus

Perhaps these words from Jesus in John 10:10 can help you as much as they did me to respond like Jesus to terrorists and others far from God – I know they helped me:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

What we’re seeing in ISIS and its associates is a movement of fear: of killing and destroying.

Jesus is the leader of another kind of movement, a movement of life and love. People who use terror and violence to advance their cause do so because they are losing the battle for people’s hearts and minds.

That’s right. They are losing the battle precisely because they fight with hate and violence.

Terrorists get the media’s attention, but they don’t win the battle for people’s hearts. There are far more people responding to the love of Jesus than will ever join up with ISIS and it’s movement of fear!

Millions of Muslims are turning to Jesus around the world and it is precisely for that reason: they are sick and tired of hate and violence. They are tired of man-made religion. Of rules and self-righteousness. They want something more. They hunger for what only Jesus can offer.

All Nations, through our ministry called Serve Syria, is part of a movement of love and life. We are sharing the love of Jesus with Muslims in many countries, especially with the Syrian refugees.

One such Syrian refugee named Ishmael was a former secret service agent in Syria – assigned to assassinate those who opposed the regime. He was sickened by what he was doing, but fearful to speak up. He decided to run for his life – literally. He escaped at night across the desert with his family to Jordan.

There Ishmael met “George” (not his real name – changed to protect his identity as he continues to minister in Jordan). George led him to faith in Christ and Ishmael in turn started 38 Bible studies with other refugees – including back in Syria itself.

The real war on terror isn’t fought with drones and AK47s! It is being combated with love by our dedicated workers who are right now serving on the Syrian border and in refugee camps in Europe.

Terror is just another word for fear. And perfect love casts out terror and fear!

 

January 15, 2015

If Acts 9 Were Your Story, My Story

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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This is an article that appeared in the summer at Persecution Blog, part of Voice of the Martyrs. I felt it important to share here. Click the title below to read at source:

March 27, 2013

The Apostles’ Short Term Missions Trip

This great study of a passage in Luke  — where the disciples’ story meets contemporary stories — first appeared last month at the blog of Bob Rogers, under the title Ten Secrets to Successful Missions.  (Click through to read at source.)

Luke 10:1-20 New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Sends Out the Seventy-Two

10 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.

16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Luke 10:1-20 records that Jesus sent out 70 people to go on a mission trip, going in pairs to towns and villages where He was about to go. Apparently it was very successful, because we read in verse 17,“The Seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’” And Jesus replied in verse 18, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a lightning flash.”

What made their mission so successful? And how can our mission work and the missionaries we pray for discover the same power in their ministry?

This passages gives us ten secrets to successful missions. Here they are. Open your Bible to Luke 10, and notice these ten truths:

1. Multiplication. (v. 1) Use everybody, not just professional clergy. The Lord commissioned the 12 apostles in Luke 9:1-6, but here he sends out 70. Multiply your ministry. Use volunteers.

2. Teamwork (v. 1) He sent them in pairs, not alone. We can be so much more effective by working together, and it is a testimony to our unity in Christ to work in teams. Southern Baptists believe in the Cooperative Program as an excellent strategy, as thousands of churches pool their resources to support missionaries.

3. Prayer (v. 2) Before sending them out, He told them to pray for workers for the harvest. When Jerry Rankin was president of the International Mission Board, he spoke at Ridgecrest Baptist Assembly and mentioned that the IMB has recently appointed our first missionary to serve openly in Albania. After the service, a woman came up to Dr. Rankin, crying. When she gained her composure, she said that seven years before, she had read that Albania was the most atheistic country in the world, and she called the IMB to ask what we were doing there, only to learn that Albania was completely closed to missionaries. So she went back to her ladies’ group in her church, and asked them to pray for Albania. “For seven years we have been praying for Albania!” she wept, and Dr. Rankin wept tears of joy with her. (Jerry Rankin, To the Ends of the Earth, p. 57-58)

4. Expect opposition (“like lambs among wolves”). (v. 3) A Christian pastor took a group of school children whom he was teaching, for a walk. The Secret Police dogged them at first, but when they went into a zoo, they left them alone. He led them to a lion’s cage and gathered them around so he could speak quietly. He said, “Your forefathers in the Christian faith were thrown to wild beasts like these. They died gladly, because they believed in Jesus. The time may come when you also will be imprisoned, and suffer for being a Christian. Now you must decide whether you are ready to face that day. With tears in their eyes, each in turn said, ‘yes.’ It was the last class he taught before he had to leave his country. (Richard Wurmbrand, God’s Underground. Cited in “The Last Class,” The Voice of the Martyrs, February 2013.)

5. Commitment (v. 4, 7-8) If you care too much about your personal comfort (“money-bag, traveling bag,” “eating what they offer,”) you will become discouraged. If you care too much for sightseeing and socializing (“don’t greet anyone along the road”), you will lose your focus. When William Carey arrived in India, his wife was sick, he face financial hardship, and he was so lonely that he wrote in his journal, “O that I had … an earthly friend to whom I could unbosom my soul!” (Mary Drewery, William Carey, p. 74.) Andrew Baldwin, who ministers to an unreached people group in London, England, says, “This also emphasizes the need to move out in faith and in total dependence on God. Some people insist on having everything in place and being totally prepared – preparation is good, but as the leader who first recruited me to Turkey wisely said, if we waited till we felt completely ready, we’d never go!”

6. Look for a person of peace (v. 5-6). “Shalom” means more than just peace; it means wholeness and health. A person of peace was a person who fully receives the missionary. This is a person living in the culture you are reaching, who welcomes you, receives the message, and can be a bridge between you and your target culture. When Lottie Moon was serving in China, she learned of a village ten miles from where she was, that was open to the gospel. There lived a man named Dan Ho-bang. He had heard from another missionary that Jesus could remove sins from people. Then he learned that Lottie Moon was teaching about Jesus. Mr. Dan sent three people to invite Miss Moon to preach the way of Jesus in his home. She went, and great crowds of people came to the home to listen to the gospel. It became possible, because of Mr. Dan, a man of peace. (Catherine B. Allen, The New Lottie Moon Story, p. 171)

7. Show and tell the gospel (v. 9) In other words, meet their physical needs and also their spiritual needs– by sharing the gospel. While we always have the authority to share the gospel, often they are more receptive to hearing it when we show that we love them in a practical way. But beware: don’t use service or meeting physical needs as an excuse to not share the gospel. James Harvey, who ministers to an unreached people in Nashville, Tennessee, says, “I spent four years of our work among K-people ‘earning the right’ to share the gospel, and I was wrong to do that, because waiting to share the gospel can end up hurting or killing the relationship. It is so much better to begin a relationship with lost people by sharing the gospel with them and starting your friendship on an openness about spiritual conversations and pursuing divine TRUTH together. We are beginning to see fruit through miraculous healings, power encounters, and bold evangelism in the K-community. I have not seen a single Muslim convert become Christian through the servant evangelism movement.” Servant evangelism alone is not a substitute for preaching. Harvey goes on to say, “people use it as an excuse to be lazy and non-strategic in declaring the gospel message up front with people in their first meeting/encounter, whether it’s a waitress at a lunch meeting, a wordly relative at a family reunion, or a lost co-worker they pass by every day.”

8. Don’t take rejection personally (v. 10-12). If they reject you, they are actually rejecting Jesus, not you. You’re only accountable for sharing the gospel; you are not accountable for their response. When Lottie Moon first went to China, the Chinese called her a “devil woman” because she was a foreigner. She patiently responded, “Do not curse me. I am a human like you.” It took time for them to even accept her. (Catherine B. Allen, The New Lottie Moon Story, p. 158.)

9. Celebrate spiritual victories. (v. 17-19) When the 70 returned with joy that the demons submitted, Jesus rejoiced with them that Satan was being defeated. Whether you experience small victories, such as a person listening to the gospel, or great victories, such as a person coming to faith in Jesus, it is always reason to celebrate God’s work.

10. Find your greatest satisfaction in your own salvation (v. 20) Jesus reminded them that the greatest rejoicing was that their own names are written in the Book of Life. If you have been obedient to your call to be on mission, you will always be successful, no matter what numerical results you see in your lifetime.

A famous artist was asked to paint a picture of a dying church. One would expect that he would paint a small congregation in a dilapidated building. Instead, he painted a beautiful edifice with a rich pulpit and magnificent stained glass windows—and near the door, an offering box marked “Missions,” with the contribution slot covered with cobwebs. (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes, p. 378.)

It’s very true. If the church of Jesus neglects mission, the church will die, for the heart of Christ is a heart for missions. But if a church will follow the words of Christ for missions listed here in Luke 10, that church will be alive.

Which kind of church will we be? What kind of missionary will you be?

June 3, 2012

The Great Empowerment for The Great Commission as Prayer Pattern

Okay, a long title today…

Acts 1:8 NLT But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Growing up in Toronto, Canada in Sunday School, our teachers tried to make this somewhat applicable by changing it to, “You will be witnesses… in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and the uttermost parts of the earth.”  If you grew up in Chicago, it would be “…in Chicago, in Illinois, in the United States, and the farthest parts of the world.”  Then they would draw concentric circles showing the geographic destinations; and perhaps, maybe in the upper grades, a more astute teacher would reconfigure the verse to suggest that the first destination is the people only you can reach: Your immediate and extended family, your neighbor, your co-worker, your friend.

But as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, the verse wouldn’t be interpreted that way by the audience that heard it spoken.  Samaria, would mean the place you don’t want to go to.

But Samaria would not be seen that way by those receiving the great commission. In Judea they will like me and receive but in Samaria we have a mutual distrust and dislike for each other. Samaria is the place you don’t want to go to. Your Samaria may be geographically intertwined in your Jerusalem or your Judea. Your Samaria may be at the remotest part the earth and it’s your Samaria because it’s at the ends of the earth.

Your Samaria may be the guy in the next cubicle that you just don’t want to talk to about your faith, but feel a strong conviction both that you need to and he needs you to. Your Samaria may be the next door neighbor whose dogs run all over your lawn doing things that dogs do. Your Samaria may be the family that runs the convenience store where you rent DVDs who are of a faith background that you associate with hatred and violence. Your Samaria may be atheists, abortionists, gays, or just simply people who are on the opposite side of the fence politically. Your Samaritan might just be someone who was sitting across the aisle in Church this weekend.

[At this point I’m reminded of the tongue-in-cheek Scott Wesley Brown song, Please Don’t Send Me To Africa.]

…This morning however it occurred to me that there is a place where it would be appropriate to use the concentric circles: In our prayer lives. Most of our prayer petitions are so centered on our family; I believe the phrase is “Us four, no more.”

We need to make the needs of the greater world part of our prayer life.  I want to use the phrase, we need to “pray big,” but Will Davis has already used that phrase for his series of books.  Here’s the publisher’s precis of the first book:

Do we test the Holy Spirit’s patience with prayer that asks nothing of him? This might sound surprising at first blush, but most people have experienced being at a prayer meeting, in church, or (gasp!) in their own personal prayer time and hearing prayers like this: “God, bless Tom” or “God, just be with Sue in her need.” Will Davis Jr… calls believers to a more risky and rewarding practice of prayer. Pray Big teaches readers how to pray with biblical, pinpoint accuracy. In other words, it teaches them prayers that get things done. From audacious prayers for miracles to mundane prayers about lost car keys, Davis takes the reader from a point of weakness to one of boldness. As a result, readers will want to pray more, they will see more results from their prayers, and they will be emboldened to ask God for everything he has promised them.

There have been several recent books written about “praying big,” and I’ve referred to three of them on this blog and at Thinking out Loud:  Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick, The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson, and Spirit Rising by Jim Cymbala.

But as important as it is to ask God to increase our faith, I think we need to think about the concentric circles and pray wide.  (Or for you American football players, pray long.)  We need to take the verse above from Acts, the verse that tells us we will be empowered by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the command to “go into all the world and share the gospel;” and use its geographic model — JJSR, where R=rest of the world — and use it as our prayer pattern.

I’ll be the first to admit that we struggle with this as a family, but help is available through websites that will keep us abreast of what’s going on in areas of hunger and persecution.

We need to broaden our prayer horizons.  We need to pray wide.

~Paul Wilkinson

May 16, 2012

Oswald J. Smith Quotations

I was blessed to spend some very spiritually formative years, from age eleven to age 21 in The Peoples Church, Toronto; the church founded by Rev. Dr. Oswald J. Smith, although when I attended the torch had already been passed to his son, Dr. Paul B. Smith.  Peoples was and still is a very missions-focused church, so it’s not surprising that many of the quotations here have to do with missions and evangelism.  Oswald Smith was turned down for missionary service because his health was considered too fragile, but in the end, he lived into his late ’90s and traveled the world as a missionary speaker.

One of the things that is most striking here is that although the quotations are short — some critics would say ‘pithy’ — they are totally focused; Oswald Smith was totally driven by his desire to see the gospel taken to the four corners of the earth. It would not be a stretch to say that Oswald’s regard for evangelization was as intentional as that of the Apostle Paul.  .

While the church you grew up in may have had its yearly highlights at Christmas or Easter, at Peoples Church, the World Missions Conference was the high point on the church calendar, and funds were raised not through cash offerings, but through a “Faith Promise Offering” system of giving whereby parishioners pledged to support missions sacrificially through regular giving over a twelve-month period.

Sadly, almost all of the dozens of books Oswald J. Smith wrote are out of print, but with today’s print-on-demand technology, it might be possible to make some of them available in the future.


God wills the evangelization of the world, and you refuse to support missions, then you are opposed to the will of God.   


Give according to your income lest God make your income according to your giving. 


So long as there is a human being who does not know Jesus Christ, I am his debtor to serve him until he does.


The church that does not evangelize will fossilize.


This last month I have felt the burden of a city. Its great sorrow has pressed in on my soul. Its vice and sin have bowed me upon my knees in tears. I cried and cried to God to have mercy on the poor fallen girls; and the burden is crushing.


We talk of the Second Coming; half the world has never heard of the first.


No one has the right to hear the gospel twice, while there remains someone who has not heard it once.


Oh, to realize that souls, precious, never dying souls, are perishing all around us, going out into the blackness of darkness and despair, eternally lost, and yet to feel no anguish, shed no tears, know no travail! How little we know of the compassion of Jesus!


Sources: Biserica, FrontierNet, SermonIndex.net, TentMaker.org, DailyChristianQuote

June 1, 2011

Cross Cultural Beatitudes

I have no objection to people using the “forms” of some classic Bible passages and allowing them to be updated, or in this case made into something that reflects the passion of world mission.  What I objected to with this one was that on the final stanza, they turned it into a commercial for their particular mission agency.  (I did not reprint that here, nor credit them.)  If you want to update The Lord’s Prayer or The 23rd Psalm, that’s fine, but don’t cheapen the exercise by rendering the whole thing as a slogan for a particular cause.  Still, I guess seven out of eight ain’t bad.

The Luke and Matthew versions of the original beatitudes vary.  Here’s an interesting quote from Wikipedia:

According to The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church, the blessings in the Bible under Luke refer to spiritual rewards that will be bestowed upon sufferers of external tribulations while those in Matthew refer to the rewards waiting to those who suffer internal, spiritual and/or moral conflicts, in either case it is speculated that they represented a deliberate inversion of perception of commonplace “blessings” and “sorrows” at the time.

So what do you think of the text that follows?  It makes some good points — I wouldn’t have placed it here at all if I didn’t think it has value — but does it cross a line framing its message in a kind of pseudo-scripture?  Or is that the best way to make its point?

Blessed are those who live each day with eternity in view,
For in looking back on life there will be no regrets.

Blessed are those who embrace a vision greater than themselves,
For what they give their lives to will endure forever.

Blessed are those who are passionate about the world to come,
For assembled will be every tribe, nation, people and language.

Blessed are those who leave houses and land for the 10/40 Window,
For there most of the unfinished task remains, but laborers are few.

Blessed are those who commit to staying for the long term,
For cross-cultural effectiveness increases with time.

Blessed are those who are committed to prayer and small groups,
For in those contexts lives are forever changed.

Blessed are those who serve with a vibrant, caring, visionary team,
For in the midst of healthy community, results dramatically increase.