I have been thinking about Johann Dober and David Nitschmann who were so determined to minister to the slaves in St Thomas and St Croix that they were willing to sell themselves as slaves. I don’t think they ended having to do this, but they were willing to go the distance. I have also been thinking about Gladys Aylward who was so determined to get to China to be part of the ministry there that she worked for years as a maid to pay her own way. She was willing to go the distance. When I think missions, I think a lot of things, and one of those things is that we must be willing to go the distance. We must be willing to do whatever it takes (biblically) to reach the people we so desire to serve. What cost is too high?
Paul says 1 Corinthians 9:22 I have become all things to all people so that some might be saved. Yes, this means we take interest in the things that interest other people and yes it means we give up things so not to as offend but it also means we are willing to go the distance and be uncomfortable. In Acts 18:3 it says Paul was a tentmaker in Italy because the people he was with were tentmakers (he was also a tentmaker). In 2 Corinthians 11:7-15 Paul says he did not take money from the Corinthians because he did not want to offend or burden. Paul was willing to go the distance.
I don’t exactly know what it means for me to go the distance and I more certainly don’t know what it means for you to go the distance in missions. But I do know we must be willing to do it. We must be willing to sacrifice and live a life that gives preference to the call of God. It can be hard, and it can be tough, but it will always be worth it.
When we serve God when we are willing to take up our cross when we are willing to go the distance people and things change. Yes, the people around us see Christ and find hope and healing but we also change. We become filled with less of us and more of Him. We pour out our lives as a drink offering and in return, God fills us with more of Him.
So as Dober and Nitschmann said as they left for the West Indies “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering”
Just a thought,
Daniel 3:16-18 The Message (MSG)
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, “Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn’t serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”
One of the amazing things about the Bible is that there is more there than is at first visible. This is one of the reasons we can read the Bible so many times and find something new each time. One of my favorite quotes about this comes from Augustine who said, “The Bible is shallow enough for a child not to drown, yet deep enough for an elephant to swim.” What that means is there are layers of depth in the Word of God. It has surface meanings and deeper meanings. It has what was said to the original audience and then it has things that can be applied to our situation today. It stands the test of time and breaths live into every new generation.
I was rereading the verses above recently and it struck me that there is a larger principle at work. For Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego they made a choice to follow God regardless of the consequences. They said no matter what the cost we will not bow down and serve false gods. But the larger principle is that when you are doing what you know is right and what God would have you do there are obstacles. This is partly because life just has obstacles.
Life is just hard sometimes. Sometimes life is hard because we are dumb and make dumb choices. We sin, we make mistakes, we get it wrong. Sometimes life is hard because we make it hard. Other times life is hard because we live in a broken and fallen world. As Christians, we believe that the kingdom of God has come but we live in this tension of the now and not yet reality of the kingdom. We live in a tension of belonging to the kingdom of God and being Christ’s ambassadors but being here on earth. That is hard and causes tension.
This is also partly because sometimes doing God’s will is hard. Doing God’s will is hard sometimes because we might not like it. We find that Paul’s words ring true when he says, “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” So sometimes the difficulty comes in obeying despite ourselves. We like to blame the devil but sometimes we are own worst enemy. However, there is a real enemy and he has many servants. So sometimes life is hard because there is opposition to serving God. Whether it be people or spiritual forces there are things that come against us. We must understand this, and we must acknowledge that this a reality.
In the end, we have options in the face of that adversity. We can shrink back and surrender, or we can stand and say, “my God will rescue me, but even if He doesn’t, I will still serve Him.” Our faith must be strong enough to say I will serve God and He will rescue me. I trust completely God in this situation to come to my aide and deliver me. We must look past the circumstance and the situation and move forward in faith when we know we are obeying God’s will. We also have to be willing to admit that we are not God and if He does not come in the way we want, we have to be secure enough in Him to still serve. Service to God cannot be about the reward or the deliverance. Yes, He is a God who rewards and delivers but God told Abraham that He (God) was Abrahams great and mighty reward. God, Himself is the ultimate reward and goal. In the end, this means our service and faith must be grounded in God Himself and not our desires or wants.
Just a thought,
Do you ever just stop when reading your Bible? You’re reading and moving along and then all of a sudden your read something and it makes you slam on the brakes? I love it when that happens because it reminds me that the Bible, this amazing book is more than just a book of stories. It is more than just a record of what happened. It does more than just communicate the past because it is alive.
Hebrews 4:12 says that the Word of God is alive and active. In the NLT it says “it exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” which is pretty amazing when you think about it. The words in this book can in an instant expose our innermost thoughts, desires, and fears.
This morning I was finishing up the book of John for the hundredth time and I read John 20:16 where Mary is looking for the body of Jesus. Mary is confused and crying, not know where His body was. Jesus was there with her but in her pain and confusion, she could not see Him. That changed when He called her name. Just her name from His mouth made her see.
How many times in my own life do I miss Christ and think that I cannot find Him because of my circumstances? How many times do I miss the Lord? Yet the whole time He is right there. Something changes when He calls our name. When He speaks our name, we can see anew and come alive. Jesus called Mary’s name and she could see Him and was comforted. Jesus called Lazarus’ name and he came out of the grave. Jesus called my name this morning and my worry ceased. Something happens when Jesus calls your name, we just need to be listening. Are you listening?
Just a thought.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever would believe in Him would not die but have everlasting life.
There is a constant theme that runs throughout the Bible that God has been and is calling people to Himself. He desires a relationship with creation. That is His desire and His will. That is the reason behind the sending of Christ to live, die, and rise again.
I want to show you the reason that France needs churches. So, we are going to compare Houston and Paris because they have the same population.
In Houston, there is 1 church for every 1,000 people. These are people who have the opportunity to gather together to rejoice, find love and hope, they can come and hear the words of life, they can come and sing songs of praise to their creator. They can serve the community. They have the opportunity to find the truth and be Gods called people. This is beautiful and wonderful. This is powerful and we should celebrate that this is a possibility.
In France, there is 1 evangelical church per 30,000 people in France. This 1 lone church for 30,000 people is overwhelmed. These are people who do not have the opportunity to gather together to rejoice, find love and hope, they cannot come and hear the words of life, they cannot come and sing songs of praise to their creator. How can we expect this 1 church to reach 30,000 people? It does not have the resources, the people, the funds, the time, the energy to do this. On top of that to do it on hard soil.
France is often called the missionary graveyard because of how hard it is. In France, most people have no idea about the Christian faith. They have never heard basic Bible stories and in times of trouble, hardship, fear, and doubt they have nowhere to turn. In France, it is a battle for the hearts and souls of people. This, of course, does not even touch the problem they face with Arab refugees. Men and women who have had to leave their homes because of wars and political uncertainty. People who have lost everything and fled to France for safety. Thousands who left everything and now live homeless in a new land where they cannot speak the language and have little to no access to help. In some areas, there are children as young as 10 wandering around in groups who have no parents no structure no hope. That 1 church cannot help. There is just too much to do. Their world is just too hard. Just as we should celebrate the situation in Houston, we should mourn the situation in France.
Missions can and should be a lot of things. It can be digging wells, creating education programs, job training, teaching English or French or whatever. It can be medical and psychological help. We know that because we can look at Jesus and see that He did many of these types of things. Jesus was amazing at medical missions. It can be all these things, but it must also first be Jesus. It must first be for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. If missions is anything it is first a message of reconciliation to God.
Julie and I more or less grew up in New England under the shadow of post-Christian and secular ideals. We were like those who did not care for the things of God but because of what God brought us through we are called to go and serve those who not only know nothing of the great and mighty Savior but also those who are alone and left to fend for themselves. We are called to go and minister to the lost, the hurting, and the left the behind. My question is seeing this need can you call yourself called along with us. If you are, then click here and partner with us as bring Christ to France.
Just a thought,
Have you ever heard the saying your attitude determines your altitude? It’s an OK saying, and when things are going ok and sometimes when it is a matter of focus it is helpful. In truth, our attitude does determine a lot of things and when we have the wrong attitude or cannot get our focus right, we generally keep sinking. I think having the right attitude is very important but sometimes life is too heavy for just the right attitude. Sometimes the weight and heaviness of life are crushing, and we cannot think ourselves into a better situation. Thankfully we don’t have to.
In Ephesians 1:20-21 Paul talks about Jesus and says that God raised Christ from the dead and now Christ is seated in heaven above every power, ruler, and authority that was, is, and will be. Jesus is above everything. There is nothing that is higher than our risen Messiah. No political party, no recession, no fear, no doubt, nothing is higher than Christ. He is supremely above everything. Bad things still happen on earth. Loved ones still die. Wars still occur. The church still fails at times. But in all of it, Christ is still above all these things. No matter what is happening here on earth Jesus is above everything.
That is awesome and so helpful to remember. To know that in our situations, when things are so bad we can hardly stand, we still have a Lord who is above everything. To remember that the love that has been poured out on us was poured by the one who is above and sustains all things can give us peace in the midst of the storms. It can remind us to look to Christ and not our own ability. It can give us the courage to keep pressing on. I would say there is nothing better than that, except Paul says there is something better.
Paul tells us this and it is supposed to give us peace. It is supposed to get us excited about how great Jesus is. It is supposed to elicit a specific response of amazement because then Ephesians 2:4-6 says that we are now with Him! That’s right we start with this feeling of awe and sense of the greatness of Christ being above all things and then Paul hits us with the fact that our place is in Him in heaven. Now obviously we are still here on earth but our position, where we belong, is in Christ above it all.
I remember when I quit a bad job one time. I thoroughly disliked that job. Most of my days were spent very annoyed and aggravated with the company, co-workers, and the tasks themselves. I was given an opportunity to take a new job, so I did. I remember when I gave my notice it was the best feeling. For the next two weeks, I still worked that bad job, with the bad co-workers, and the dysfunctional management but it did not bother me as much because I knew my proper position. I was still there but I had a different place I belong to. I understood that the time I had was short and then I would be where I really belonged.
In the same way, but much more, we belong in Christ and that is where we are headed. Our placement is set. We have been sealed with the Holy Spirit. The notice has been given and now we go about whatever it is we are doing with an understanding that eventually we will be where we belong. Stuff still happens. Life still gets hard. Things still break. Shoulders are still sore but praise God Hallelujah this is not our final stop. Wow, am I glad.
We have spoken about fight time. That magical moment when it is go time. We have also looked at what we can do when the going gets hard. Those times when we feel like quitting or we if not quitting when we just don’t understand why it has to be so hard. This week I want to look at why. Why do it at all?
In the Bible (Luke 7:36-50) there is this story about a woman who washes Jesus feet with perfume and tears. When I read this story, I cannot help but stand in awe. I stand in awe of Jesus who loved her, I stand in awe of the woman who wept her tears on His feet, and I stand in awe at the religious who would have cast her aside. This woman serves as an inspiration and an example to me.
She is an inspiration because she did not care who else was around. She was going to give the Master the respect that was due to Him. She did not care what was going on or who might see her. She knew who she was, and she knew what she was doing. She was a sinner. She knew this. Simon the Pharisee knew it. More importantly, Jesus knew this. It does not say what her sin was that got her labeled a sinner, but it does say that her sins were many. I think that the simple label of sinner is for our benefit. She was a sinner that is all we know. Is it not the same with us?
We are all sinners. Don’t take that as an attack or an accusation from me. It is just a simple statement of fact. It would be the same as me saying we are all human. We sin. Sin is anything that goes against the nature of a holy and perfect God. It is not an attack but a statement. It doesn’t really matter what your sin is. Some are big and some are small. Some carry more consequence than others, but we are all relatively in the same boat. We all sin against God. The point I want to make is this woman knew that but more importantly, she knew what to do about it.
What good does it do to know you have a problem if you are not willing to do anything about it? If I find out I have some illness that does not really help me. I need to know what the illness is and how to fix it. I broke my wrist once. It was swollen and I was in a good amount of pain. Because I had never broken anything before, I thought it was just a bad sprain. After some encouragement from my wife, I went to the hospital and low and behold I had a broken wrist. That was good information. Bad situation but good info. My first question was “ok now what?” I needed to know what to do with the information I had.
This woman had the information. She was a sinner. That did not help her. Knowing you are a sinner, knowing that you are separated from God, knowing that the entire community looks down on you, knowing that you cry yourself to sleep does not help. Knowing what to do about that problem does. So, she went to Jesus because she had heard all about Him. She had heard about how He went around healing people. She heard stories about how He healed the lepers, restored sight to the blind, and healed withered hands but she also heard that He forgave sins. This woman came to Jesus and washed His feet with her tears and perfume before He ever said I forgive you. She was confident that He would because of what she heard about Him.
When I think about the question, why missions the only answer I can come up with is because both Christ and you are worth it. I cannot stand that some people don’t have that confidence in Jesus. There are all sorts of theological reasons and I could give you some, but the simple truth is that there are so many people who have never heard His name or know that He loves them. That even while we were sinners Christ died for the ungodly. Why missions? Because they have to know, and I have to tell them. There are millions and billions of people who don’t know the story of Jesus. There are millions and billions of people who don’t know that God loves them. How can I be expected to sit in my home and do nothing about this? I was once a person who did not know this. I know what it is like to feel alone and outcast. But not anymore. So why missions? Because Jesus and you are worth it. Because I must!
What about you? Can you answer your why question? Why are you involved in the ministry you are involved in? Or why are you not involved? You have to be able to answer the question of why? God does not create sideline Christians. We are all called to serve in some area. Some are called to multiple areas, but we are all called.
Just a thought,