The Infinite yet Approachable God-Man

The Infinite yet Approachable God-Man

Holy Week 2022 What I Learned Last Sunday

It is Wednesday of Holy Week. Sunday is coming.

And while [Jesus] was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman [Mary, the sister of Martha] came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” – Mark 14:3-9

Just days before His death, Jesus was the recipient of a gift. Mark 14:3-9 records that Mary anointed His head with costly* ointment. However, Mary soon became an object of scorn. Her act was seen by some disciples as wasteful.

Question: What did Mary see in Jesus that would lead to such an offering, while others scoffed at her “wastefulness”?

Last Sunday, Pastor Mike shared (check out the sermon here) the infinite value of Christ as described in Hebrews 1:1-4. Who is this Jesus whom Mary anointed?

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. -Hebrews 1:1–4

Jesus is…

Jesus is the Heir of all things. (Hebrews 1:2)
The One Mary anointed is the Heir of all. The future points to Jesus, who will one day be acknowledged across space and time, and among every people and language, as Lord of all (Philippians 2:10-11). How then could Mary’s offering be a waste? If anything, first century A.D. Pure nard ointment seems to be an inadequate offering for the Heir who deserves all things.

Yet, the Heir came to Mary in sympathetic flesh (Hebrews 4:15). The Heir became accessible to humanity, so Mary could offer what she could to the person of Christ. She approached Jesus, falling at His smelly feet. She stood and raised the flask over her Lord’s head, drenching His figure in an offering of worship. How wonderful! The truly human Christ actually received her gift, calling it, “beautiful”? What grace and kindness!

Jesus is the Agent of the world’s creation. (Hebrews 1:2)
Mary, and all humanity, are the very handiwork and possession of God through Christ. Therefore, our identity and purpose are intimately tied to the triune Creator God’s purposes.

Yet, Jesus became a creature to create (through torn body and shed blood) a reunion between His creation and the Creator. So, Mary’s offering was, to Jesus, a pre-burial ritual, pointing to His sacrificial payment for sin (1 John 2:2). The Agent of creation became flesh, dwelt with His creation, and would suffer a horrific death under a wrath destined for His creation. Mary’s offering worshiped Christ’s worth as the infinitely worthy sin payer.

Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory. (Hebrews 1:3)
Mary’s forefather, Moses, could only look at God’s back to avoid instant death when enraptured with God’s presence. Even so, Moses’ face was changed to brightness by the glory of God (Exodus 34:29).

Yet, God in Christ stepped into flesh. He became utterly approachable, fully dressed in humanity. Mary could enter Jesus’ presence and honor His person. Her gift ran through Christ’s hair and beard, a fragrant act of worship. As Christ’s physical body made it possible for Mary to offer her gift (He was not a spirit), so also our offerings to God are possible through Christ’s sacrificed body (Romans 12:1-2).

Question: What did Mary see in Jesus that would lead to such an offering?

Answer: Mary saw that Jesus is worthy! He is the Heir of all, the Agent of creation, and the shining splendor of God. No gift is too costly for this Christ.

Yet, Jesus is more worthy. He embodies God’s unfailing love. He came in flesh and received Mary’s offering as His burial preparation, the burial of His body which would endure the weight of God’s punishment against our sin.

Challenge: Today prayerfully consider both the infinite value of Christ and the humility of Christ, and ask God to lift up your heart in worship to Him.

*There are estimates that a flask of pure nard would cost up to one year’s salary in the first century A.D.

The Scriptures and the Power of God

The Scriptures and the Power of God

Holy Week 2022

It is Tuesday of the Holy Week. Jesus engages with the Jewish leaders and calls out their errors.

Sunday is coming.

But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” – Matthew 22:29

Picture this: the King of kings, Lord of lords, almighty and everlasting Savior of the world is walking the earth. Previously during the week, Jesus had been praised when entering the town of Jerusalem (Mk 11:1-11). He had cleansed the temple and cursed the fig tree (Mk 11:12-26). Now, his authority is being questioned by the Jewish leaders.

Tension amongst the Jewish leaders had been steadily rising as Jesus had administered authoritative teachings, discussing the Kingdom of God, throughout his ministry (Mt 7:29). As Jesus was walking into the Temple he was met by the Jewish leaders (Mk 11:27). How did they respond? They scrutinized, challenged, and doubted the authority God has given to his son, Jesus Christ. Instead of having open ears and tender hearts, the Jewish leaders immediately saw Jesus as a threat to their own righteousness.

Jesus debates with the Jewish leaders while covering several topics (Mk 11:27-12:40; Mt 21:23-23:39; Lk 20:1-21:4). The Jewish leaders had intended to entrap and find fault in Jesus’ teachings to discredit him. They sought to belittle and ensnare Christ through their questioning and prompting. The Jewish leaders hated Jesus because he claimed to not only be from God but to be equal to God (John 5:18). They could not accept his authority.

These religious leaders were supposed to be the trained or ‘certified’ ones when it came to such matters, involving the Scriptures. Jesus comes swooping in. He interferes, in the best way, with the Jewish leaders and their inability to uphold God’s teachings as they have now turned Scripture into fallible human tradition. For the Jewish leaders, Jesus is a threat to their way of life. He is a threat to their identity. Jesus was not ‘certified’ by man, but was given all authority – in heaven and on earth – by the God of the universe (Mt 28:18).

As Jesus stated, the Jewish leaders were wrong (Mt 22:29). They did not know the Scriptures. They did not know the power of God.

In application, the Christian has to know the Scriptures as they reveal the power of God. The Christian has to know the power of God in order to see the value of the Scriptures. This is not surface-level knowledge. The knowledge Jesus is referring to requires soul change. Jesus Christ and the Salvation he provides has to threaten our own self-perceived and sinful righteousness, just as it threatened that of the Jewish leaders.

While our sinful nature dashes our hopes of being justified by our good deeds, Jesus’ death and resurrection demand an internal change that translates to an eternal change of our very soul. Jesus interferes in our lives in the best way. He requires a change in the depths and crevices of our soul, which then produces an outward transformation.

We have no righteousness outside of Christ. Because of Christ’s authority, we can be hidden, in him, by his wondrous acts on the cross (Col 3:3). As Christ’s authority comes from God and only by the work of Christ, we can be made righteous.

My House Shall Be Called a House of Prayer

My House Shall Be Called a House of Prayer

Holy Week 2022

It is Monday of Holy Week. Jesus clears the temple of merchants.

Sunday is coming.

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”

And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,  ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?”

And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there. -Matthew 21:12–22

Jesus begins his busy week riding into Jerusalem. That was yesterday. Today, he continues his work by going to the temple. At this time of day the business of Jewish worship of God has begun. The temple wakes up early and people are bringing all their livestock to get their booths set up so people can come and purchase their animals. There are birds in cages, livestock, and many other animals. People are shouting their wares for sale and men looking over the animals. Money is changing hands.

This is quite a different sight than the utterly dependent on God worshipful people in the desert. When God’s people erected the tabernacle in the wilderness they were utterly dependent on their God. The presence of the Lord dwelled with his people.

Now the process of Godly worship had been streamlined. You didn’t have to deal with an animal all year and bring it on your journey. You show up purchase your animal walk it in and hand it off. This is a people no longer utterly dependent on God. This is a people that have figured out the system to do their service to God as quickly and easily as possible. This has become a brief and probably uncomfortable exchange between the people and the Creator of the universe.

Jesus, knowing true worship and closeness to the Father, sees this and he drives them out of his Father’s house. Imagine how the Son of God felt, knowing that true relationship with the Father meant being utterly dependent on him! The temple was a place of prayer and worship; where the people of God are to worship God fully. And they had made it… a market!

If someone came into your house disrespected your family and stayed, what would you do? You would probably ask them to leave, right? Now think of how much more it means when it’s the Creator of the World’s house. God is meant to be worshipped!

This also shows Jesus’ compassion because in the midst of driving all these robbers out he begins healing the needy. This shows God’s heart for people. Jesus makes time for the people that come to him needing healing. He isn’t far off like the priests. He is here in among the people healing them and caring for them.

On Monday of Holy Week, Jesus has caused quite an uproar in Jerusalem and he doesn’t plan on stopping.

As individuals, we have to think:

  • Do I pray and worship God to check it off the list or to worship him to be in his presence today?
  • Am I dependent on God today?
  • Is my worship streamlined?
  • Is his house (my body) a place of worship?
Save Me, Son of David

Save Me, Son of David

Holy Week 2022

It is Sunday of the Holy Week. Palm Sunday. Jesus triumphantly enters Jerusalem.

Sunday is coming.

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ ”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” – Matthew 21:1-11

The time has come for Jesus to do what the Father has planned for him to do before the foundation of the world. It all begins with the king entering Jerusalem. The town is significant. At that time, Jerusalem was the epicenter of Jewish worship. It was here where sacrifices were brought before God in the temple which was the place where God met with his people. Both of which were meant to point to King Jesus. In him we find the place where man meets with God and the ultimate sacrifice that the killing of bulls and goats foreshadowed. In a few days there would be one final sacrifice in Jerusalem.

The king enters with much pomp and circumstance. The crowd goes wild! No, this is not what we would expect. Things work differently in the Kingdom of God. Christ’s entrance exudes humility and involves an animal not fit for a king, a donkey. An animal that he knew would be exactly where he would need it to be at the very minute he needed it. An animal that was part of the fulfillment of a prophecy about the Messiah over 500 years before this moment (Zechariah 9:9). All is happening as God has ordained it.

Some understand the significance of this moment. “Hosanna to the Son of David.” Hosanna means, ‘save us.” Save us, Son of David. Their words reveal they understand what Jesus is declaring with this entrance into Jerusalem: I am the Messiah you have been waiting for. He was here to save them, but maybe not in the way they thought. No armies, battles, or overthrowing of political rulers. This is a spiritual rescue.

Others were baffled and wondered who this man was.

What riches we find here in this short passage:

  • God is Trustworthy: What he says will happen will happen just as he says it will happen
  • God is Faithful and full of Love: His people need saving and he will provide the sacrifice
  • God is Providential: He is purposefully over all things (even details like the donkey)
  • Christ is the Messiah, the Son of David, the King
  • Christ is a humble, obedient servant

How shall we respond?

  • Lord, I can trust you today with what is hard to trust you with because you always keep your word.
  • I praise you Lord for the faithfulness you have shown me in Christ. What grace!
  • Lord, I need help to not lean on my own understanding when life doesn’t make sense. Help me walk in faith as you build your kingdom. Everything is going perfectly according to your plan.
  • Help me to humbly serve you and others as Jesus has served me.
  • I see my sin again today and turn to Jesus, and cry out: Save me, Son of David. Lord keep me from turning from Jesus and going my own way. Apart from Christ I have no good.
Awakened to Sin and Sin-fighting

Awakened to Sin and Sin-fighting

What I Learned Last Sunday

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. -Matthew 5:27–30

Check out last week’s message here.

Awakened to My Sin
Ok, I am convinced and cut to the heart about my sin. Jesus is not playing games in Matthew 5:27-30. I no longer believe that a particular sinful act (like cheating on my spouse) is all that I should avoid. I now see sin as that pervasive menace, foiling everything good and true. Whether the covetous lust of my heart or my physical actions, both are sinful. The simple difference between these is not of content but of location, for, “…one is [SIN] carried out in the heart and one is [SIN] expressed in the body*.”
…And, sin leads to hell (Matthew 5:30).

Awakened to Sin-Fighting
Ok, so I must fight. Where do I begin?
Pastor Mike shared* that we uphold two truths in our sin-fighting:

  1. Sin leads to hell.
  2. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in the finished work of Christ alone.

In terms of practical steps to fight sin, we have many grace-powered tools God grants, two of which Pastor Mike shared.

First, remember the heart of the Gospel when the weight of sin bears down on your soul.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. -1 John 2:1–2

Second, A.P.T.A.T. (an acronym shared from Pastor John Piper).

ADMIT: your needs to God.
PRAY: for help and strength from God.
TRUST: that God will answer your prayer.
ACT: in dead-serious obedience to fight your sin.
THANK: God for every victory AND thank Him as a means of replacing temptations with Gospel truths.

Each point in that acronym is helpful, but consider THANK for a moment. Is thankfulness really a sin-fighter?
Paul would say, “Yes!” In Colossians 3, Paul mentions thankfulness three times as an attitude we “put on,” in contrast to the sinful flesh which we remove.

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. -Colossians 3:15–17

The more you consider the eternal peace Christ has won, the more you will be thankful (Colossians 3:15). The more you ponder Christ in your heart, the more your heart will abound with thankfulness (Colossians 3:16). And, the more you are thankful, the more you will return thanksgiving to God in obedience (Colossians 3:17). “Your heart cannot, in the same moment, be full of gratitude towards God in Christ and be tempted to sin…your heart simply does not have the capacity*.”

So, fight sin today, fully aware of its pervasive effects, and more fully aware of what Christ has accomplished in you.

And be Thankful
When tempted to flee God’s face;
To think that I should cheapen grace,
I remember my sin leads to death,
God’s judgment in the form of wrath,

“I never knew you!” were His decree,
Directed toward none other, only me;
Torn from all things bright and true,
Eternal anguish and regret, no hope for something new.

But if that wrath, placed on His Son,
Eternal joy, my blessing won,
Could I stand thankful in that purchased peace?
Saying to temptation, “No thanks!”

*Quotes from Pastor Mike shared in the sermon preached on April 4, 2022.

Worse (and Better) Than I Thought

Worse (and Better) Than I Thought

What I Learned Last Sunday

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. – Matthew 5:21–26

Check out last week’s message here.

“It’s worse than I thought!”

A variation of that phrase has been conveyed in past sermons at Ridgeview, as we have walked through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It seems to have recurring applications for us. For example, Matthew 5:21-26 shows, first, that my sin is worse than I often think it is. Second, my sin is also more costly than I think it is.

Sin: More Sinful Than I Thought

When my toddler spills my “precious” coffee, and I feel anger and frustration swell in my heart, I cannot stand before God in innocence. “But, I haven’t murdered anyone!” is not a good defense before a holy God. My sin of anger is worthy of judgment.

Jesus himself says to me;

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire… -Matthew 5:22

I can attempt to explain away or soften Christ’s words, yet they still attack the condition of my heart. Jesus has exposed me as a sinner.

Sin: More Costly Than I Thought

However, Pastor Mike highlighted that Jesus is not simply identifying our inability to follow God’s law. Christ is also showing us that our sin (here in particular He speaks of our anger and evil words) comes with great cost.

When my toddler spills my delicious coffee (possible minutes before Sunday worship is about to start), and I respond in anger, my sin has an effect on my relationship with God. “Anger hinders our worship,” as Pastor Mike shared. Therefore, we must deal with sin seriously.

…if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. -Matthew 5:23-24

We must deal with sin seriously. The little things we do alone, the attitudes we share and the words we believe to be hidden are truly exposed before God. I cannot separate my actions on the Lord’s day from my actions Monday through Saturday. All of my life is God’s, even the “boxes” of costly little unaddressed sins. I can pretend they do exist with an outward smile, yet I can never fool God about such rebellion.

These sins are those which I will give an account to God for one day. Deadly serious.

The Gospel: Better News Than I Could Imagine

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. -Romans 8:1-4

The Good News that Jesus bled and died for me means HOPE that God’s law (more perfect than I thought) will not condemn me in the end. His holy standard, which brings me to my knees in humility, is fully and forever accomplished in Christ. No condemnation can come upon one who is in Christ Jesus!

The Gospel also means Holy Spirit POWER for the Christian. I can and will truly move forward in obedience by God’s grace and the Spirit’s work. My sin will not overcome me in the end, for I will produce the Spirit-filled fruits of love and joy and peace instead of anger and retaliation.

So, when I go to worship, and am reminded of my sin against a brother or sister, I can stand in Christ’s forgiveness, repent for reconciliation, and walk forward in resolve to not go after that sin again. Christ produces in us serious sin-fighting that is guaranteed by the sweetness of grace.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. When was the last time I thought about the Gospel and its implications for my life?
  2. Is there a sphere of my life where I minimize my sin?
  3. What barriers are keeping me from repentance and reconciliation?
Go, Send, or Disobey

Go, Send, or Disobey

Missions What I Learned Last Sunday

Two words sum up Brooks Buser’s (the keynote speaker at the Ridgeview Conference for Global Missions) call to action. Go. Send.

Go
Two weeks. Two weeks after the gospel was shared to an unreached people group Brooks and his team had been working with, he was woken up in the middle of the night by several brand new Christians. What did they want so urgently in the middle of the night? They wanted to know when it was time for them to go. Where did they want to go? They wanted to spread the gospel to other tribes around them that had not yet heard the gospel. They knew Jesus called them to go spread the best news ever. We too are called to live out the great commission. This means some of us will go. Must go. May we let the urgency and obedience of these men sink into our hearts.

Send
Many of us won’t go but we are still called to live out the great commission in sending. What does this practically look like? Brooks gave three ways we can be faithful senders:

  1. Raise your kids with an understanding of missions. Pray you will be a parent whose children will go. What a challenge for me personally. Maybe you start reading missionary biographies, involve your kids in supporting and engaging missionaries, and make it a point to study together what the Bible says about missions. Let’s pray that if the Lord wills, our kids would go and that no one (including us) would hinder them.
  2. Live in a way that the great commission affects your life every day. That could mean owning an older car or living in a smaller home to free up more resources for support. Maybe Monday becomes “missionary Monday ” where your family intentionally prays for the missionaries you support and reaches out to connect with them. It also means that we welcome visiting missionaries with Christain hospitality and send them off in a manner worthy of the Lord (3 John 6, 8).
  3. Be a faithful church member. Faithful and engaged church members are good senders. Commit to your church. Pour yourself into your church and make it a point to invest your time, energy, and talents into your local body.

The time is now for us to go and to send. But so many of us don’t go. Why? Brooks closed the conference with three obstacles that keep us from missions:

  1. Authority: We live as if we have no Lord even though all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Christ. He gave his life for ours. He gets to say what we do and how we spend our lives for him. We must lay our lives down in humble obedience.
  2. Cost: The cost seems too high when we have other things we love more than Christ. If we hold anything tighter than we hold on to Christ, it’s too hard for us to give it up for him. This could be anything from comfort, hobbies, children, safety, money, retirement, status, health, and the list goes on etc.
  3. No Action: Many of us hear the gospel and yet it never changes the way we live. Christ calls us to radical obedience and a complete transformation of our lives. This is fueled by the grace and mercy we have received from him and through him.

We prefer to hold on to rubbish instead of Christ and his surpassing worth.

Will you go? If so, seek the Lord and set Him always before you and you will not be shaken (Psalm 16:8). Talk to the elders at your church as it is the local church that confirms and sends out faithful members to the nations. The only thing you risk losing is rubbish.

So You are Thinking About Doing Missions?

So You are Thinking About Doing Missions?

Missions What I Learned Last Sunday

The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. -Matthew 9:37–38

Missions is not a novel thing. It’s not some new career path no one has ever done you have to figure out alone. Many, many missionaries have been sent into the field so we know a bit about how to prepare and support missionaries.

In his Sunday afternoon breakout session, “So you are Thinking About Doing Missions,” Jack* from Global Serve International explored the traits of goers and senders, how people considering going can prepare, and what the chain of sending a missionary looks like.

Jack highlighted several traits of a goer, starting with a goer’s spiritual maturity. A personal relationship with Jesus is the foundation for everything else. Goers are also focused on the end goal and have an eternal perspective. They see the spiritual need of those without Christ and want to obey the command to reach the ends of the world with the good news that makes peace between sinners and a holy God.

One summer as a counselor out at Camp Witness I heard Tim Carmichael, a representative for Ethnos 360, speak on the importance of missions to unreached people groups. After hearing his story about coordinating missions supply chains in Papua New Guinea, I asked him what we should do now to prepare, in case we became missionaries.

I don’t know exactly what I expected- maybe he’d tell me to start learning a foreign language or something- but he didn’t say that. Instead, he pointed back to Matthew 9:37 and said the number one thing we should be doing today was praying that the Lord of the harvest would send more workers to the harvest. The first step is not acquiring some obscure life skill, it’s a mindset and a prayer. Goers understand the end goal and seek to fulfill the great commission.

Goers practice missional living now. If missions is close to your heart, don’t only focus on your personal maturity. Be involved in the local church. Reach out to those around you. Teach in small groups and children’s ministries, disciple others and be discipled formally or informally, learn and seek to understand the Bible. This is not the Matrix. If you become a missionary, the wisdom of years of small group teaching and engaging others in spiritual conversations will not just download into your brain.

Goers are confirmed by the local church. Jack pointed out that in scripture every time a missionary goes out, they are sent by a local church. Goers don’t just drop everything and drive themselves down to the amazon to try to witness to the locals. They are sent and supported by a church. The church confirms the goer’s readiness and commitment and then actively sends them and participates in the goer’s ministry.

Jack illustrated by placing an individual representing the church on one side of the room and someone representing the unreached people group on the opposite side of the room. Through adding other people to the line started by the local church the missionary (represented by yours truly) slowly stepped all the way across the room to the unreached people group. Each person in the line represented godly parents, prayer support, financial support, emotional support, language and culture training and other types of support. Without people pushing them forward, the missionary could never reach the unreached. As church members, we are part of that chain.

So today, be in prayer, be part of the chain reaching out to the missionaries who have been sent and participate in their ministry, practice missional living and keep an eternal focus clear in your mind.

*We have withheld Jack’s real name since he often serves in sensitive countries.

 

Discipleship in Missions

Discipleship in Missions

Missions What I Learned Last Sunday

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. -Matthew 28:19–20

Discipleship is part of the Great Commission and thus is a large part of missions. Michael & Debbie Bannon from World Venture held a breakout session where they shared their experience of disciple-making in a variety of overseas contexts. Lyubov Zheleva, with Josiah Venture, also joined us at the missions conference, and discipling is also a large part of her role in reaching the youth of Bulgaria.

The Bannon’s mentioned three areas they see as crucial elements of discipleship:

Time: Making disciples isn’t an overnight process. It may require long evenings, many hours of listening ears, and Christ-like compassion. It is an investment into the soul of another for the sake of Christ. Expect it to take time and much patience.

The Word: Discipleship, very simply, is helping someone know and love Christ. We know Christ through the Word where He is revealed. Thus, discipleship must include spending time in God’s Word together, studying, and asking questions.

Prayer: It is the Lord who brings fruit. We can do nothing without his help. Pray together with those whom you are discipling. Show them the reliance and relationship we have with God through prayer. Pray alone for those you disciple. The church was also huge in helping Debbie pray for women she was trying to reach for Christ. They asked the church to pray daily for these women and sent them monthly calendars with prayers for each day.

It was encouraging and a great reminder to me that discipleship in missions and discipleship in our own lives is very much the same. It takes time, God’s Word, and much prayer. I would also add that it takes hospitality. I could see this trait in both the Bannon’s and Lyubov. This hospitality I’m referring to is not limited to when you open up your home. Discipleship requires hospitality where you have a posture that welcomes people into all of your life with open arms. This is the posture of Christ. We move towards people with open arms as he moves towards us.

A passion of our church is to make disciples here and help missionaries do the same afar – and we believe that this is in obedience to God’s Word. I pray this encourages us in our local disciple-making and spurs us on to pray for the missionaries we support as they labor to make disciples among the nations.

What is Good?

What is Good?

Missions What I Learned Last Sunday

Christ’s death and resurrection demands change at the innermost, conflictory aspects of our souls. At the Ridgeview Conference for Global Missions, a woman named AN* described her life’s story in light of God’s convictions and holiness through Scripture. She described her need for a savior after her empty and meaningless pursuit of Buddhism. She said she desired a personable, accessible, and relevant God. She discussed how the Lord used fellow believers to encourage her towards Christ’s saving works on the cross. AN explained her experience of undergoing the devastating diagnosis of tuberculosis (TB). Throughout her battle with TB, she stated she had experienced the significance of Romans 8:28 to an incredible degree.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28

As I was reflecting on her story, I was struck by her discussion of suffering working out for good. Humanity’s perception of goodness is often misaligned with what the Bible reveals as good. Through life’s experiences, at some point, we come up with the characteristics of goodness whether we realize it or not. We determine that certain things are ideal and acceptable as others are unfavorable and negative. Our lives are defined by crucial events that shape and mold our worldview. For AN, her suffering gave opportunity for growth in Christ. It gave way to the eternal change of salvation. Most of the global population would deem AN’s TB diagnosis as a negative or unfavorable aspect of life. But for AN, the outcome of her challenging experience was good.

When we believe that the Bible is true, relevant, sufficient, and inerrant, we proclaim that God is good. We proclaim that the things he sets before us on this earth have purpose and reason. We trust that he is in control and holding us in our sorrow. We believe that God is the very definition of goodness.

Another passage that was heavily discussed involved Romans 10:13-15.

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

AN called on the name of the Lord. She was saved. AN believed that Jesus Christ died and rose again for the reconciliation of her sin. She was able to believe in Christ because of what she had heard. AN heard of this saving grace because someone preached to her. These individuals and vessels of truth were sent to reach AN. At the heart of this Biblical process, AN heard and believed the good news.

I ask you, what defines goodness?

In Titus 3:3-5, it is stated that “when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us…” Because God is good, sending his Son to die, for our sake, became his outpouring action of goodness. God, in Christ, bringing us from death to life is the good news.

*As she often does ministry in closed countries, we have withheld AN’s real name.