Please Read This Christmas!!

This is a short journal entry by the teen daughter of some missionary friends who are serving in the desert of Northern Africa. I am not at liberty to give their names, or their location. She even gives their town a fictitious name in her writing: Wakanda. It is very thought provoking and convicting, and should remind us of the real reason for the season.

It is worth the read.

‘I’m dreaming of a . . .’

Brown Christmas because that’s all I’m getting.

Yep, no snow. No ice-skating. No peppermint. No people dressed up as Santa or elves. No Christmas light exhibits. Or hot chocolate. Or caroling. Or fireplaces burning bright. Pretty much the line of any Christmas song in existence? Ain’t got it. Not even Mele Kalikimaka because we don’t have palm trees. We have thorn bushrees. (Trees, but only I would think that because I’ve lived here so long that they’ve begun to look an almost normal height.)

So, what does Christmas look like here?

Stripped. Raw. Real. The material things have been scraped away by the sand-filled wind and all that’s left is what really matters.

Christmas in Wakanda means every night we gather around our advent candles and count off another day. We watch the flames flicker on our faces. We hang an ornament on our Jesse Tree. We sing Joy to the World in defiance of a world that wishes the opposite.

Christmas in Wakanda means we are more excited to give than to get. We spend hours making presents and don’t bother counting the number under our Christmas tree.

Christmas in Wakanda means we cover our windows in paper snowflakes and joke about the weather. We tell stories about sledding and snowball fights and Christmases from when we still lived in the U.S. But we never miss it.

Christmas in Wakanda means we laugh with our adopted family here. We hold Christmas parties and eat way too much. We buy presents, sing together, and feel the warm gentleness of community.

Our computer still pumps out Christmas music. We still watch ‘Home Alone’ and ‘White Christmas’. We still hang up stockings and decorate our Christmas tree. We have candy canes stashed up. Our Christmas is still Christmas. It’s just richer and more. We miss our family in the States. We miss the snow. But this is our Christmas and it’s more precious than in any other place. We don’t have to fight to ‘capture the true meaning of Christmas’. It shines in our Advent candles. It burns in our hearts.

Christmas in Wakanda looks like Bethlehem before Christ. People shout and talk and go about their business as usual. The ‘roads’ are made up of dirt, rocks, and a few more rocks. There are goats and donkeys and camels everywhere. There’s darkness. But hope. There’s blindness. But the healer has come. There’s ignorance. But soon a light will shine so brightly that no one will be able to hide any longer.

And so we sing ‘O Come, O Come, Emanuel’ at the top of our lungs, waiting for the darkness to fall.

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Important Prayer need and opportunity

Please pray for an upcoming Africa mission and consider an amazing opportunity to be a part of reaching an unreached people in Papua New Guinea.

Dear Friends of Mission Surge,

I wanted to ask you to please be in prayer for me as I travel to Africa as part of a mission team (which includes my two oldest sons on their first overseas trip).  We will be leaving on October 30 and returning on November 8.  We will do some minor construction work for a couple of days, but most of our time will be spent helping a new church do evangelism and discipleship in their community.  I will also be teaching in the local seminary chapel service.  

1.  Please pray that God would protect us as we travel.

2.  Please pray that God would keep us physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy and strong.

3.  Please pray that God would go before us and prepare hearts.

4.  Pray that God would go with us, open doors to us, and use us greatly while there.

5.  Pray that God would continue working powerfully after we are gone.

6.  Please pray specifically that God would do a powerful powerful work in our hearts and lives while we are there!  We need revival.  We need growth.  We need God to work in our lives on this trip.  Please pray for us.

7.  And finally, please pray for one of the team members who will be staying in Africa until the end of the month.  

I greatly appreciate your prayers for us.  

I would also like to make those of you who give faithfully to Mission Surge aware of the fact that your gifts have made it possible for us to make a generous donation to the Moka air strip fund of Caleb and Mellissa Gibello in Papua New Guinea.  We, and they, thank you so much for your generosity!  If any of you would like to contribute to this effort you can read more about it below and give directly to the Gibellos for this effort!  Just make sure you designate your gift to “Building of Moka Airstrip.”

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Please pray for us as often as you think of it over these next 2 weeks!  I will look forward to updating you upon our return.  Thanks again!

Kevin

 

To return to America would be worse... it would be heart-breaking, to be honest.

Pray for my friend in Papua Indonesia


HEALTH PROBLEMS:

I have an enlarged spleen from malaria.  It got so bad I could barely walk or stand, and so we went to Bali and rented a hotel nearby the SOS Clinic and the Siloam Hospital, two of the best facilities around.  There I found out my liver was also swollen. 

So both my spleen and my liver are abnormally enlarged. The medical terms for this would be splenomegaly and hepatomegaly. I have had malaria 23 times since 2004, even while taking precautions. We live in a lowland area where more than half the population dies before adulthood. It takes a toll.

The doctor warns me against going to any malarial endemic area for at least 6 months. All of Papua is malarial (except the highest mountain peaks, I suppose).  

So we have booked a hotel very near the hospital until November 5th to give me time to recover.  

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But I truthfully don't think I will be healed by then, because I am in near-constant pain that sometimes gets agonizing. 

I was having 5-6 bad dry-heaving spells per day and I am down to 1-2 now.  I also feel better when I force myself to go walk in nature (albeit very slowly...a slow limp sometimes). If I can slowly do this for an hour without stress or strain I seem to improve, or at least sleep. 

I am going into my 3rd week of constant pain. My prayers go out and I have a new sympathy for anyone who has ever struggled with any chronic illness or pain issue. May the Lord bless you. It is a difficult thing. 

Because I cannot sleep unless I am totally exhausted or until I take medication, and then I still wake up 3 hours later when I roll over on my left side, I even have dreams of being stabbed while asleep due to pain. So this inability to escape constant pain can wear on a person. 

So please pray as we recover.  Teresa has been very tired as well and a medical test showed slightly low platelets of 135,000 (normal range begins at 150,000). We are hoping some better rest quickly reverse this before it dips any lower.

WHY DON'T WE JUST COME "HOME" TO AMERICA?

Several have asked why we don't just come "home" to the US. We just talked about this two nights ago and concluded that (aside from our "home" being here now): 

--(1). We could stay here in Bali - a place often considered a vacation spot, and which has the high-quality SOS Clinic and the Siloam Hospital for 6 months for what we'd be spending the first 3 weeks just to get established in the US.

We could stay 2 months in a decent hotel near the hospital just for the cost of the plane tickets home. So it is actually cheaper for us to stay in Bali than to come "home."

--Plus, (2) the international flights sounds like a horror to me at this point unless I have very good medication to control the pain and occasional bouts of dry-heaving.  

--Also, (3) I have had some progress over the past 3 weeks, but not consistently. While in the village 3 weeks ago, I had trouble standing up straight and walking just to the airport was a major ordeal. Some days I could barely walk. This morning I slowly hiked an hour through rice paddies to help me relax and felt better afterwards (mentally at least), 

--(4) I have several in Bali who want to meet and once I can function without pain I plan to speak at a few churches if able to finish raising money for new school buildings in Burukmahkot plus fund the teachers in Fuau. But this is a plan for next month, not now. It will help me to stay useful while I recover.

--(5) I think I might be able to rest better here. Once back in the US there are family and friends who will want to see us. To be honest, I don't want anyone I know to see me in pain. I remember a deacon visiting me once during a malarial bout in the US in 2005 and while I am glad for his kind-heartedness, he looked a bit shocked at my malarial convulsions. I can be more anonymous here and just ask for prayer from afar. Online interaction is easier when you feel like rubbish. I have began dry-heaving in 2 restaurants this past week uncontrollably and it is terribly shaming. I think even moreso in the American culture than here, which might be more forgiving (or at least refrain from disapproving looks) 

--(6) Last week, I got an ultrasound for 42 bucks and extensive blood tests for a few hundred dollars and walked right in without hours of waiting. It seems I mainly need rest and sleep and time for my spleen and liver to reduce in size. The US medical system might eat up my time and money in no time without any better result. I'd rather use top-tier medical services for less money in the Third World than normal US medical services for 10 times the price in America. 

--(7) There are folks who want me out of the country. I have enemies because I have opposed illegal mining in Papua. I have slanderous articles accusing me of being an American spy, traced to Indonesian military personnel. It is easier to stay in the country by staying in the country than being flagged upon re-entry and trying to fight back from outside the country. 

--(8). I simply don't want to say I have left the country because I was sick. There are several goals to reach before I transition somewhere else. There is more work to do. The progress has just begun after many hard and fruitless years.  

Plus, Papuan evangelists do not have these options to just pack up and leave whenever they get sick, and I don't want to just leave just because I am sick. 

--(9) It is easier to fly back (3.5 hours) to Papua from here than from America (like 27 hours). We want to keep the goal close by and within easy range. I don't want to be any further from my place of duty, it grieves us even to be here. 

To return to America would be worse... it would be heart-breaking, to be honest.

So please pray for us as I seek to rest and recover.  A swollen liver and spleen are clear signs that I must stop and rest and so we yield to the will of God, but do not want to abandon the field. It is closer here, cheaper, and possibly more restful. And only 3.5 hours away from Papua by flight.  

Please pray for me as well due to depression caused by constant pain and lack of sleep. In the quiet hours of the morning when you are trying to be quiet but are in pain and cannot sleep, very negative thinking can intrude upon one's thoughts and a black cloud roll in. Since being sick we've received reports of sick people and attempts at child marriage, and the week after I left (and despite government promises) illegal gold miners began again to arrive into Danowage after we succeeded in hundreds being evicted just 2-3 weeks ago. And of course, there are slanders and even news articles with my face on them reporting that I am an American spy and that I want the gold myself (all conveniently published just after I reported Indonesian army personnel being involved in the mining...traced to an IP address from a Javanese army base). I also just heard of members of the Papuan denomination that I work with, GIDI, who are also involved in the illegal gold mining. Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor. Let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised (Psalm 10). Being sent to search for souls, several have become content to search for earthly Mammon. I am disillusioned and feel lonely and now I am compelled to make enemies within the church here as I oppose several of them, too. I have very low trust or confidence in mankind and my heart burns hot against things I see here in Papua constantly, especially the sins and failures of those within the church.

 Thank God that the reality is different than our perceptions of God being distant and silent. Thank God that our faith is in God and not in mankind. We are all a dreadfully disappointing lot. The continued love and kindness of God to sinful men shocks me, and the tenderness of Jesus even to those who opposed him regularly continues to awe me. Thank you, Lord. 

"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." (Psalm 34). 

Pray for the Gibello Family in PNG

I want to introduce you to some friends of ours who are serving on the front lines in Papua New Guinea among an unreached people group, known as the Moka.  I want to encourage you to read, pray, and share with other, and be sure to follow them on their blog, which is linked below in this email.  Thanks!

Home on Furlough!

As we traveled from PNG to NJ I was able to see a lot of change throughout the world. Our family traveled on four continents in 1 week (Australia/Oceania, Asia, Europe, & North America). It was a great homeschooling ‘fieldtrip.’ I have seen first-world to third-world: New Jersey to New Guinea, New York City to Moka. We have seen, heard, touched, and smelled people from all over God’s earth. It has been an eye-opener for our family to experience so many different people, all created in the image of God.

Here in the west, we live easy and comfortable lives; often many of us do not realize this fact. I am glad to have been born into America; and I enjoy living in America when we are on furlough. God has indeed blessed this country in many ways. But there is more to reality than meets the average American-eye. Consider the people in our village of Moka, who, for thousands of years, have been dying with no hope and going to hell because they have never heard the Gospel message. They live simple lives, and compared to us in the west, have nothing of this world’s ‘goods.’ So remember to thank God often for the many Gospel blessings you have here in the west, especially biblical preachers and Gospel-churches. Jesus, by His Word and Spirit, has saved countless in the west, and transferred many from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of God. Pray with us that many will be saved in Moka and the surrounding villages, that they too will be a part of Jesus’ eternal and blessed Kingdom.

I will continue to write my Moka journal entries while I am on furlough in the States. You can read our blog as we travel here in America. We will be visiting many churches and individuals, supports and partners. Be part of this Gospel ministry with us, and let us together see the wonderful works of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Click the blog link below to check out our blog, and please forward this to your contacts via email and facebook that more would read of Jesus' work in pioneer Gospel missions

Thank you for your willingness to pray for missionaries.  There are many missionaries around the world that we are connected with that we cannot share or publicize, so it is great to be able to forward news and information to you from people like the Gibello's.  If you would like more information on missionaries in more closed and restricted areas, I would be glad to share with you  needs that they have in a more secure fashion.  Thanks again for your prayers and support!

Monday Message: 7 Qualities, 1 Focus, 3 Realities

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Monday Message: Risk: Fulfilling the Great Commission, How?

Monday Message:  Risk: Fulfilling the Great Commission, How?

How do we fulfill the Great Commission? Just like Jesus modeled for us. We pray, we give, we go, and we send. Ultimately however, we cultivate a love and an astonishment with Christ Himself that will not let us keep quiet!

RISK: Fulfilling the Great Commission, WHERE? Part 3

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If you missed the blogs from earlier this week, please go back and read them.  They all tie together.

III.  Ends of the Earth

 

    Matthew 28:18-20 is a commission to get the gospel, not to as many people as possible, but to as many people groups as possible.  We are to make disciples of all….ALL…the nations.  We are not just to make disciples of as many people as possible. We are not just to make disciples of our nation.  We are to make disciples of all the nations, literally all of the people groups.

There are roughly 6000 unreached people groups on earth totaling more than 2 billion people.  Unreached does not just mean unsaved.  There are unsaved people everywhere!   Unreached means that they have little to no access to the gospel.  For example, in northern Yemen there is a people group of 8 million people.  In that people group there are roughly 20-30 known believers.  We have more people in one Sunday school class in the church that I pastor than they have in their whole people group of 8 million people!  The population of Tennessee is just under 7 million people.  Could you imagine how this one Sunday school class would feel if they were the only believers in the whole state of Tennessee?  This is what it feels like to be one of the few believers in an unreached people group.  It is no wonder that a missionary to Yemen once said, “I have but one life to burn and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light.”  That same missionary died 6 months after arriving in Yemen.

There are roughly 1200 unreached, unengaged people groups.  An unengaged people group has no gospel witness.  They have no church, no preacher, and no missionary.  Someone once asked, “Does anyone deserve to hear the gospel twice, as long as there are those who have never heard it once?”  We are obligated to lay our lives down, our families down, and this church down and do whatever we need to do to get the gospel to the ends of the earth because that is what our king has commanded us to do!

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RISK: Fulfilling the Great Commission, WHERE? Part 2

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II.  Judea and Samaria

 

    As we consider Judea and Samaria, we are considering those areas that are outside of our immediate towns, cities, and communities and/or those people who are nearby, but who are unlike us.  Internationals who are living nearby are a good example of Judea and Samaria in our context.  Consider the fact that the percentage of people living in the USA who were born outside the country reached 13.7% in 2015 and is projected to hit a record 14.9% in 2025.  This is not coincidental!  This is providential.  

    We read in Acts 17:26-27, “and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.”  God providentially orders where we live so that people might come to know Him.  Our role is to embrace the nations that He brings to our door.  But how?    

 

    A good example of how to engage those who live among us, who are unlike us, can be found in John 4:3-42.  I know that this is a lengthy passage of Scripture, but what is more important, impactful, and applicable than Scripture?  In John 4, we notice that Jesus was intentional.  Jews usually walked around Samaria when traveling between Judea and Galilee, but Jesus “had to” travel through there.  He put himself at a prime location once He arrived in Samaria:  a well.  We read:

 

He left Judea and went away again into Galilee. 4 And He had to pass through Samaria. 5 So He came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; 6 and Jacob’s well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 

 

There are population segments around us with whom we rarely come in contact unless we make a point of doing so.  To reach our Samaria, we will need to be intentional about putting ourselves in close proximity to them and where they congregate.

    Jesus was not only intentional, but He was engaging.  Jesus was interested in the woman as a person and as a Samaritan.  Most Samaritans hated Jews because of their superior attitude, and the feeling was mutual.  Jesus showed an interest in her, her family, her beliefs, her culture, and her hurts and needs.  He did not approach her with a superior attitude, but as a man desiring a drink.  We read on:

 

There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” 11 She said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? 12 You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?” 13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” 

    15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.” 16 He said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.” 17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.” 19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” 

    27 At this point His disciples came, and they were amazed that He had been speaking with a woman, yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why do You speak with her?”

 

Just showing interest in someone can open such a huge door.  Engaging people, even people from other parts of the world, is not that difficult.  People are people and they are the same no matter where they are from.  They experience emotions like you and me.  They experience happiness and joy, sorrow and fear, loneliness and pain, and love.  Jesus was engaging to the Samaritan woman, and we must be engaging with those we come in contact with as well. 

    Jesus was also strategic.  He saw beyond the woman in front of Him.  He saw her as a catalyst to reach her family, friends, and community.  We read in verses 28-39:

 

So the woman left her waterpot, and went into the city and said to the men, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?” 30 They went out of the city, and were coming to Him. 

    31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But He said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples were saying to one another, “No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. 36 Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. 37 For in this case the saying is true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor.” 

  39 From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all the things that I have done.”

    

    Jesus was intentional, engaging, and strategic in His encounter with the Samaritan woman, and this was all necessary.  These Samaritans needed to see Jesus and hear from Jesus to believe in Jesus.  We read in verses 40-42 that this is exactly what occurred.

 

So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. 41 Many more believed because of His word; 42 and they were saying to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.”

 

We must understand that a Samaritan would never have walked into a Jerusalem synagogue to hear the law, or even to hear Jesus for that matter, so Jesus came to Samaria Himself.  It is the same for the most part with our Samaria today.  People from other nations, tongues, and tribes may walk into our country and community, but they aren’t going to walk up into our churches.  However, like Jesus crossed the barriers to engage this woman, we can remove some barriers as well by opening up our homes to them.  For a person from another nation to be invited into our homes will absolutely floor them, for the most part!  

    There was a Saudi Arabian student who came to American to attend college.  He brought a very special gift from his country to give to the first American family who showed him hospitality and invited him into their home.  After 2 years at the university, he was moving out of his dorm to return to Saudi.  A brand new Saudi student was moving in, as he was moving out.  Almost as if he had forgotten something, he turned around, fell down to the floor and began to look underneath his bed.  He pulled out from beneath the bed he had slept in for two years the gift he had brought from his native country.  He handed it to the new student and said, “I brought this to give to the first American family who invited me into their home, but I never had the chance to use it.  Here.  You have it.  Maybe someone will show you hospitality.”  

    People are all around us from other nations.  We do not have to get on an airplane to go to them.  We do not have to spend a lot of money or even learn another language. We simply need to be willing to open our doors and entertain strangers for the sake of the gospel.  In the words of Hebrews 13:2, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

 

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RISK: Fulfilling the Great Commission, WHERE? Part 1

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Matthew 28:18-20

 

The next question that we want to answer from our consideration of Acts 1:8 is “where?”  We have answered, who?  You!  You and I as followers of Jesus are the audience and target of Acts 1:8.  What?  Witnesses! We are to be witnesses: people who have had such an experience with Jesus Christ that we are willing to lay down our lives for Him and His mission.  When? When the Holy Spirit has come upon us.  When we see with Jesus’ eyes what He saw and feel what Jesus felt in His gut so that we are pushed to our knees in prayer for God to send laborers into the harvest, and are willing to be one of those laborers we know that the Holy Spirit is on the move.  Today, we answer the question, “where?”

 

The answer to where is very clear in Acts 1:8.  “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”  Where?  In Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest, or uttermost, part of the earth.  For our purposes, we will treat Jerusalem as our own cities, town, and communities.  It is where we live and do life.  It is where we are most comfortable.  All Judea and Samaria, we will treat as those areas that are nearby, but outside of our comfort zones, or those people who are nearby, but not like us.  Finally, we will treat the uttermost part of the earth as the regions of the world where unreached and unengaged people reside; all the nations.  Let us take time to consider each of these regions, or areas.  As we consider these different areas, we are going to use Matthew 28:18-20 as our guide for how to engage them.  Jesus said in Matthew 28:18-20, “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  

 

I.  Jerusalem  

 

    Our Jerusalem is where we have lived most of our lives.  It is home.  We are to be witnesses locally first and foremost.  We can learn what it means to be effective witnesses in Matthew 28:18-20.  We must first go.  Jesus said that all authority was His, therefore go, or more literally, as you are going.  As you go about your daily life at home, at school, at work, in town, make disciples.  We are to intentionally make disciples as we go about our life.  I don’t believe that the word disciples here refers to Christians.  Rather, I believe it refers to learners.  That is what a disciple is.  It is someone who is learning.  Jesus is telling us, as we go, to make learners.  Find people who are willing to learn and who are willing to be your own disciples as you teach them about the gospel and about Christ.

    If you read the New Testament you might notice that the word disciple is the “word of choice” in the Gospels.  After Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection Jesus followers begin to be called believers.  I want to propose that disciples, at least in the gospels, may or may not refer to true believers.  This is made clear in John’s gospel as he describes the response of many of Jesus’ disciples (not the 12) to some of His most difficult teachings.  John 6:66 says, “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.”  Clearly disciples were learners, exploring the claims of Christ, but not necessarily fully committed followers of Christ.  According to Matthew 28, we are to go and make learners.  Find people who are willing to explore and consider the claims of Christ.  Then, those who believer and are converted, we baptize.  

    After the converts are baptized, we then teach them to obey.  Notice that we are not just to teach them.  Churches have been teaching information for information’s sake for decades!  We teach, teach, and teach more, but we aren’t real great at teaching people to obey.  Maturity is based on obedience, not just knowledge.  A person who has knowledge of 90% of the Bible, but is obedient to only 10% of what they know is far less mature than the person who only has knowledge of 10% of the Bible, but is obedient to 90% of what they know.  We are to teach people, not just for the sake of knowledge, but for the sake of obeying!  So, in order to reach our Jerusalems, as we go, we are to make learners.  Those who go beyond learning, and believe, are baptized.  Then we invest in those people teaching them to obey the commands of Christ, remembering that Jesus is with us through this entire process.

We will look at Judea and Samaria tomorrow.  Until then....

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Monday Message: Risk: Fulfilling the Great Commission, WHERE?

Monday Message:  Risk: Fulfilling the Great Commission, WHERE?

Where? Where do we go? We go to our Jerusalem, and as we go, we make learners, baptize the converts, and teach them to obey all that Christ has commanded. We go to our Judea and Samaria, those who are within arms reach of us, but unlike us by intentionally engaging them and showing them hospitality for Chris't’s sake. We go to the uttermost parts of the earth because no one deserves to hear the gospel twice as long as there are those who have never heard it once.

RISK: Fulfilling the Great Commission, WHEN? Part 3

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If you missed the blogs from earlier this week, please go back and read them.  They all tie together.

III.  What Jesus Felt    v36

    According to verse 36, He felt compassion:  “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them.”  When Jesus saw the multitudes he was not moved with wonder, or with admiration, or interest.  He wasn’t on a mission vacation to see the sites and get his passport stamped.  He was moved with compassion.  The word “compassion” here means "feeling with,” “feeling for,” or “sympathy.”  It is a taking upon oneself the pain, poverty, and anguish of those who are suffering.  The word literally points us to the gut. We might say today, “my heart aches for the crowds,” but in Jesus’ day they would saw my intestines churn or my stomach is upset for the crowds.  This is really a more accurate description of what takes place is it not?  What happens when you get some tragic news about a loved one?  Your stomach is affected.  As most of us know from personal experience, many intense emotions can directly, and often immediately, affect the stomach. So this makes perfect sense.  

    Jesus, felt such compassion for the crowds that His stomach hurt for them.  We must step out of the temporal and into the spiritual and see the world with Jesus’ eyes.  Is it a time for us to be flattering our heart and saying all is well, when Jesus is torn up inside? If he is uneasy, even to the point of agony, is it time for us to be resting on a soft church pew and to be saying all is well?

IV.  What Jesus Determined

    Finally we see what Jesus determined as a result of what He preached, saw, and felt.  He determined three things.  First, he determined that the harvest is plentiful.  We read in verse 37, “Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful…”  In John 4:35 after speaking with the Samaritan woman, Jesus said to his shocked followers, “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.”  Second, Jesus determined that the laborers are few.  In the second part of verse 37 we read, “but the workers are few.”  It has been said that the evangelization of the world waits not on the readiness of God but on the obedience of Christians.  K.P. Yohannan wrote, “Believers who have the gospel keep mumbling it over and over to themselves. Meanwhile, millions who have never heard it once fall into the flames of eternal hell without ever hearing the salvation story.”  The laborers are few!  Thirdly, Jesus determined that there is an answer!

    What is the answer?  In verse 38, Jesus said, “Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”  The answer is prayer!  Pray.  Pray.  Pray.  According to A.B. Simpson, “prayer is the mighty engine that is to move the missionary work.”  The answer is not just prayer, but earnest prayer.  The mission is serious.  The mission field is a battle field. There must be earnest prayer!  In the words of John Piper, “Prayer is primarily a wartime walkie-talkie for the mission of the church as it advances against he powers of darkness and unbelief.  It is not surprising that prayer malfunctions when we try to make it a domestic intercom to call upstairs for more comforts in the den.  God has given us prayer as a wartime walkie-talkie so that we can call headquarters for everything we need as the kingdom of Christ advances in the world.”   The answer to the plight of the world is earnest prayer, but earnest prayer for what?  The harvest?  No.  The answer to the plight of the world is earnest prayer for God to send out laborers; literally to squeeze out, fling out, or send out.  And let us understand that praying earnestly for laborers to be squeezed out by God, with a P.S. “not me” doesn’t work.  When we earnestly pray to the Lord to send someone to witness to them, we place ourselves at his disposal to become one of His workers in that ministry.  This is evident from Luke’s account of Jesus’ teaching on this subject.  We read in Luke 10:2-3, “And he said to them, “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. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”  Notice.  Pray earnestly for more laborers.  Now, go your way!  I am sending YOU out as lambs in the midst of wolves.  Praying earnestly for laborers generally includes and eventual willingness to be sent out.  This is Jesus’ strategy for reaching the world with the gospel of the kingdom.

        Now, we conclude with our original question.  When do we go?  We go when we feel what Jesus feels and begin to pray earnestly…Lord, send laborers, and P.S., “Here am I.”  Are you wiling to add that to your prayer for the nations this morning?  If so, then we are getting real close to experiencing the answer to when!

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Monday Message: Risk: Fulfilling the Great Commission, WHEN?

Monday Message:  Risk: Fulfilling the Great Commission, WHEN?

When? When do we go? When the Holy Spirit has come upon us? How do we know the Holy Spirit has come upon us? When we see what Jesus saw and feel what he felt in such a way that we are driven to our knees to pray for laborers to go into the harvest…and we add a P.S. Here am I, send me Lord! That is when you know the Holy Spirit is working!