Praise the Lord, all nations!
Extol him, all peoples For great is his steadfast love toward us,and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.
Praise the Lord!
~ Psalm 117
There are trips that are easy to put into words and there are trips that a week and a half later you are still seeking to fully process them. The trip we took to India falls into the later category. If we were to sum in up in one phrase it would be God is Faithful. He is faithful to use His people; He is faithful to equip and prepare His people; and He is faithful to sovereignly control all things in the midst of chaos.
The trip consisted two different parts, while a group of ten loved on two hundred-sixty children through a VBS, Richard Brindley and I were loving on and teaching one hundred and twenty Village Pastors.
Vision Natives Training Conference: The Church and its Leadership
“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:14
While in India, Richard and I had the humbling task of training one hundred and twenty pastors from surrounding villages, some who came from the city and some who came from 400km away. We were asked to teach on the subject of The Church and Its Leadership, where we would over four days pour into these pastors on what the scriptures says about the Church, how it is to be set up, what are the qualifications of leaders as well as how do we raise up leaders from within our bodies in a biblical way.
Through it all the Lord remained faithful to use us to encourage those He has called to the task of ministry for the sake of the Gospel in their villages. These men, as we begin to converse with them, we would see that they were tired, and here to be reminded of their calling and find encouragement. These men came in weary, tired and the Lord ministered to them greatly, through worship, His Word and prayer. Was a humbling experience to be allowed to be a small part of what the Lord is doing in and around the world. To be able to open up His Word to speak to His People as He offers rest, encouragement and strength so they can carry on with their calling.
Vacation Bible School
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
~ Matthew 5:16
While Richard and I were speaking at the Pastor’s Conference, ten members of the group spent the week pouring into the lives of about 260 children; many of whom had no personal relationship with the Lord. Only around ten of the children were known to be believers in Christ; while of the eighteen teachers working at this school, ten are professing Christians. Many of the teachers and children are practicing Hindus, living without the hope and love of Christ. The team could feel the weight of the situation, and the glorious opportunity to shine Light in the midst of darkness. With this in mind the team sought to impact the lives of not only the children and teachers, but anyone they encountered in hopes of leaving behind an understanding of Christ’s unconditional love. Twice a day for five days, they would meet with the children and center every lesson on how each child was created to be special and the one, true God saw them, knew them, and loved them deeply.
Seeing the pictures and videos, and hearing the stories each evening made their success clear– this team did a phenomenal job. Each member sought new ways to engage, entertain, and ensure that the biblical truths of the gospel would be remembered. Watching the team transition from being shocked the first day at the amount of children and scheduling issues, to passionately loving the children to the point of tears on the final day, showed commitment and dedication to serving others in order to serve the Lord.
“He is not here, for He has risen, as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead…”
~ Matthew 28:6-7a
On our final Saturday in India, we all hopped on a train from New Delhi to Arga, a two-hour trip, to see the Taj Mahal. Let me tell you, nothing about this 7th wonder of the world was disappointing; completely worth the hectic travel circumstances we all endured. The Taj Mahal is a wonder that many in the world will not have the opportunity to behold. However, as we stared in awe, we marveled at the fact that the tomb was built-in 1632 (pre-power tools). This beautiful tomb was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his favorite wife. As I was struck by the beauty and looked in astonishment at the details, I kept remembering that this is just a tomb. This particular tomb is still full, but there is a tomb that perhaps to the human eye is not as glorious, but is infinitely more astounding than the Taj Mahal. King Jesus’ tomb is empty, but because He is risen, we have the privilege of being welcomed in and adopted into the Holy Family. A love story unlike any other. One leader built a home for his favorite wife to wither away as he eventually would do the same. Another King came as a servant, willingly went to the cross, died, and rose again in order to prepare a place for us to not just die and become ashes, but instead enter into eternity as His bride, the Church.
“The overriding reason why we should take other people’s cultures seriously is because God has taken ours seriously!”
~ John Scott
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
~ 1 Corinthians 12:4-7
You, me, your co-worker, my neighbor, the lady at the supermarket, we all have them; special gifts that make us come alive. Those gifts and desires that we long for opportunities to use them. They are part of who we are, and come naturally to us, and that is because we have been created this way. All of us have special gifts and talents the Lord has specifically designed us with; the reason we have these longings is because He created us to express them and use them, to serve the Church, and to honor Him.
Over the past ten days I have been reminded that much like everything else in our lives we can completely rest in His Faithfulness regarding our gifts and talents. We can trust Him, because if He has created us with these specific talents and longings, He will provide us opportunities to express them. David writes in Psalm 139 that God, formed our inward parts, knitted us together, and that every day we would live He wrote out for us before there was anything in creation. This is an intensely personal God being extremely active in creating us.
If He has hardwired us with these desires and talents, we can trust Him for the opportunities to use them. We don’t have to stress over when will we get to express them, we don’t have to wonder will the opportunities come, they will because He was written them out for us before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 2:10; Psalm 139:16). We simply have to be faithful and obedient in our pursuit of Him. When we are faithful in our pursuit of Him and faithful in our exercising of our gifts, He is faithful to provide those opportunities.
Since He is the One gifting us, shaping us, and writing out our days we can trust Him with our gifts and talents for opportunities to use them. I spent the past ten days with a team in East India using our gifts and talents the Lord has granted us for kingdom work. There were several on the team that a month ago this opportunity wasn’t even on the radar, but yet the Lord opened the door, provided the means, and made much of Himself to strengthen His Church. Our role was to walk in obedience and faithfulness by putting in the appropriate preparation time, and then to trust Him.
As we are in pursuit of Him and seeking to honor Him with our lives, giftings, and talents, let us remember that He is the one writing our stories. Because He is the One writing, we may be given opportunities that we don’t expect; He may lead us to places we never could have even thought of, and He can be trusted in those moments. For He has prepared these moments for us to make much of His Name and to bring us ultimate joy.
He has wired us with special gifts and talents that we may worship Him in the use of them.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
~ Genesis 1:28
Its simple to do, the alarm goes off in the morning maybe you hit snooze, or maybe you jump out of bed and begin your day of work, errands, meetings and before you know it the day is over and you’re back in bed wondering if you accomplished anything at all. Asking if tomorrow will be the same busy pace as today; if this is what you will do with the rest of your life? Will the bills be paid this month? Will my co-worker annoy me again tomorrow? Is this all there is?
What about the future? Will I work here forever? In 5 years or 10 years, where will I be? In the same city? Same Job? Will I be married? Have Kids? Will I be retired? These questions and many more run through our brains, keeping our focus simply on ourself, and on trying to write and finish our stories.
But, there is a Greater Story being written, one that is being written across the course of history, since the creation of the world, and we have been invited in to play a part. From the Garden in Genesis One and Two and the First Commission of, “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it;” that is to Edenize the rest of the world to look like to Garden; that all of creation may be brought to the footstool of Christ in worship. Through the Fall of Man in Genesis 3, and into God’s glorious working of redemption as He establishes His dwelling, dominion, and dynasty over and with all creation across the pages of the Bible. To today and into the future, God is writing a story, one that is more glorious than anything we could write ourselves and we have been invited in.
To see the Greater Story we simply have to look around, to take our eyes off self and our small stories. Only then are we able to see the Greater Story and how our stories play a part in it.
Earlier this month I traveled to Guatemala and was reminded yet again that the Lord is doing a great work in and around the world, and we have been invited into the story to be active participates not simply spectators. Seeing the Greater Story play out and actively participating along with others left me encouraged.
- Gospel: The Gospel crosses boundaries of language, cultures, and all barriers and simply does work. The power of the Gospel is going forth in lives that have been forever changed by it, and into lives of others never leaving them the same.
- Students: Seeing former students the Lord allowed me to opportunity to pour into over the years, take time away after the school year to go and participate in the Story.
- Missionaries: Being around and serving alongside those who have stepped out in obedience into the Lord’s Greater Story, left me greatly encouraged. As I had conversations with them and many shared how they don’t know where they will be in a few months but currently the Lord has them in Guatemala and that they trust if the Lord shuts that door He will open another for them to walk though.
- Creation: Guatemala is beautiful, to stare in awe and remember there is a Creator God that spoke all of this into being and who holds it all in His hands.
- Changed Lives: To hear the stories of lives that have been changed by the Gospel and to see how they are now participating in the Greater Story.
- Love: Love of God’s people. Love for friends to come to know Him. The love and joy that only comes from the Father impacting and filling the lives of those around us.
- Friendship: This trip created friends amongst those who were strangers at the beginning of the week. Centered on the Gospel not only are friends but family. Brothers and sisters in Christ who have been called to be active participates in the Greater Story.
There is a Greater Story being written, and we have been invited in to be active participates for the Glory of God and joy of His people. The people of Guatemala helped remind me of this. We are all writing a story, and our story only has purpose and fulfillment when it is part of the Greater Story, let us look up and see.
“The church has become the theater of the gospel, and in this theater, there are no passive spectators, only engaged participants, acting out what is in Christ.”
~ Kevin Vanhoozer
John Piper begins his book on missions, Let the Nations Be Glad, with the quote:
“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the Church. Worship is. Missions exist because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate not man.”
His point being that and God alone is worthy the be worshipped, therefore we go. We go because there are people across the street and around the world that God is worthy to be worshipped by. There are people in the States in cities we know on a map, and people in the fields in cities around the world that He is worthy to be worshipped by. Many are worshipping idols of self or false gods that will never satisfy. Therefore we go. We go because He is worthy to be worshipped by the self-consumed american, the one in a field who has never heard His Name, and the one chasing another god. We Go!
The call to go isn’t one for just for “special Christians” but for all. We all have been commanded by our Lord to go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). All nations includes the one next door that we may not get along with and the one around the world who is hostile to Americans and Christians, therefore we all have a part in the call to go.
Is it sometimes uncomfortable or dangerous? Yes, but remember that our Lord alone is WORTHY, He is Worthy to receive the praise and worship of all peoples. So we go! We all do our part. And in answering the call we seek opportunities where we are at to make disciples and be about obedience.
Some can’t go around the world, but all can go next door and in our communities. Some in obedience answer to call to go around the world when the opportunity presents itself, but it takes the Church for this to happen. Therefore some answer the opportunity in obedience by sending and helping those who are going.
Piper goes on to say: “So worship is the fuel and goal of missions.”
Having our hearts captivated by the beauty of the Lord we go, so others may be captivated as well and give Him the worship He alone is worthy of.
“Every Chriatian is either a missionary or an imposter” ~ Charles Spurgeon
“There are only 3 kinds of Christians when it comes to missions:
Zealous goers, zealous senders and the disobedient.”
~ John Piper
According to the International Mission Board website (imb.org) there are currently 2,987 Unreached and Unengaged People Groups in the world. That is People Groups where there are no current plans to reach them, no missionaries living among their midst for the purpose of reaching the Group with the Gospel, and no Bibles available in their language.
If roughly 2000 years ago a Commission was given to go and make disciples of all nations, why are there still 2,987 People Groups who haven’t heard, and with no plan to reach them? I know we have heard the illustration but it is spot on, if Coca-Cola has been around for 127 years and is available all over the world, what’s the missing link in the spread of the Gospel to all Nations?
I have been thinking about this the past few weeks and this is a simple stab at what is missing.
A + B + C = Missions Task is Accomplished
A & B will be Constant Variables (variables that cannot change)
C will be an Independent Variable
A = Gods Commission to Go and Make Disciples of All Nations
B = Power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish the task given
So far we have:
Commission Given + Holy Spirit + C = Missions Task Accomplished
Jesus states that all authority in Heaven is His, and has given the command to Go and Make Disciples of all Nations (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:14-20)
Then in Acts we get the promise of the Holy Spirit coming that will provide the power needed to accomplish the Great Commission (Acts 1:8). The Disciples are told that once they receive power from the Holy Spirit they will be His Witnesses to the end of earth.
So if Jesus has given his Commission for the Spread of the Gospel among all Nations and has provided the Power needed to accomplish this task. What’s the missing link? We know the Lord has a plan to have His Gospel to all the World then He is going to come back (Matt. 24:14); and we know His plans will not be thwarted (Job 42:2). What is Our Independent Variable? I believe the independent variable in our simple equation here, which determines the accomplished task finished date is:
Commission Given + Holy Spirit + Believer’s Obedience = Missions Task Accomplished.
I believe our obedience, or lack thereof, directly affects the pace at which the Gospel spreads into all the World.
I believe that God is Sovereign over all, and that He will accomplish His task, even of it takes using the rocks to do this. But He has provided all that we need to accomplish His Commission.
The question I’ve been chewing on this past week or so is this:
“If we really long for the return of the Lord and a new heaven and new earth,
as much as we say and sing; then why not give our lives to the one task that
this happening hinges on?”
The Accomplished Task of the Spread of the Gospel to All Nations Needs Believers Who:
- Are obedient to sell all and GO when God tells them to sell all and Go.
- Will be obedient when God tells them to move to an inner city to part of a Church Plant.
- Are obedient to stay where they are and live life on mission daily where they are if God tells you to stay.
- Will be obedient and be generous with the funds God has blessed them with for the advance of the Gospel, among all Peoples.
- As parents who are obedient and train up their children to love Christ rightly, and teach them about God’s heart for the Nations.
- Will be obedient and plant and lead churches in the hard areas where they are or where ever God will lead them too.
- Will be obedient till the end of their race on earth, and give their lives to the advancement of the Gospel to the ends of their earth.
- Are OBEDIENT!
The bottom line the advancement of the Gospel requires one thing from us, and that’s obedience. He has given the commission, provided all we need to accomplish it, and promised He will complete the task. Its just on us to trust and obey.
Church, the world should not be better at providing the world with a drink than we are at providing the world with the Gospel.
You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltines be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
~ Matthew 5:13-16
A few months ago, I was down in Brazil on a mission trip to a Children’s Home for two weeks. While there I was reminded of a few things:
- The World is a Dark and Hurting place
- Sometimes we have to get outside of our small comfortable bubble to realize this
- The truth is there are hurting people in other countries, but there are also hurting people in the cubicle next to us, in line at Wal-Mart, and across the street
- We just have to have eyes to see
- Jesus said that, us believers ARE the light of the world
- Not that we should be, or if we get a chance to be to do it but that we ARE
- You see light makes what was once unseen now seen
- Light is only effective in the midst of darkness
- When you turn on a flash light in a well-lit room it adds no benefit
- When I was walking back to my house at night in Brazil, a flashlight was a huge benefit
- As Christians we love simply hanging out with each other, so all of our lights are together, essentially turning on a flashlight in a well-lit room
- For light to be effective it must be shown in the darkness – in order for Christ light to shine in the World, His disciples must go out into the world
- Sometimes that means jumping on a plane and traveling thousand of miles away, and sometimes it means meeting your neighbor where they are
- We do this to shine in the darkness, so that the world can be shown Christ
- We shine our lights so others may see and give Glory to God
Read this last week as I’ve continued to think over all that the Lord showed me this summer:
Charles H. Spurgeon – Morning and Evening Devotional
Morning September 6th
“In the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.”
— Philippians 2:15
We use lights to make manifest. A Christian man should so shine in his life, that a person could not live with him a week without knowing the gospel. His conversation should be such that all who are about him should clearly perceive whose he is, and whom he serves; and should see the image of Jesus reflected in his daily actions. Lights are intended for guidance. We are to help those around us who are in the dark. We are to hold forth to them the Word of life. We are to point sinners to the Saviour, and the weary to a divine resting-place. Men sometimes read their Bibles, and fail to understand them; we should be ready, like Philip, to instruct the inquirer in the meaning of God’s Word, the way of salvation, and the life of godliness. Lights are also used for warning. On our rocks and shoals a light-house is sure to be erected. Christian men should know that there are many false lights shown everywhere in the world, and therefore the right light is needed. The wreckers of Satan are always abroad, tempting the ungodly to sin under the name of pleasure; they hoist the wrong light, be it ours to put up the true light upon every dangerous rock, to point out every sin, and tell what it leads to, that so we may be clear of the blood of all men, shining as lights in the world. Lights also have a very cheering influence, and so have Christians. A Christian ought to be a comforter, with kind words on his lips, and sympathy in his heart; he should carry sunshine wherever he goes, and diffuse happiness around him.
Gracious Spirit dwell with me;
I myself would gracious be,
And with words that help and heal
Would thy life in mine reveal,
And with actions bold and meek
Would for Christ my Saviour speak.