Jesus, God’s First Missionary

13 12 2017

jesusgodsfirstmissionaryJesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
John 20:21 CSB

For the most part, followers of Jesus do a good job of trying to understand the true meaning of Christmas. Pastors preach great sermons on the purpose of Jesus’ coming. Choirs sing carols that focus on the incarnation. Every home has a miniature manger scene, and we all read the Luke 2 account of the birth of Jesus before opening presents.

Something is missing, though.

Jesus did not just come to redeem me or my family back to God. He was sent by the Father to redeem every people group.

If I am a follower of Jesus, certainly, I need to be grateful for the Father sending Him to me, but Christmas is now no longer about me! It now serves as an example that I am to be about the business of redeeming those who are lost.

The Father sent Jesus. Now, in the same way, Jesus is sending us. Jesus was and is our atoning sacrifice. His blood covers my sin so that I now stand before God in righteousness. But Jesus was also God’s first missionary in a long line that extends to you and me.

Once we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, we are saved (Romans 10:9). We are not then immediately translated to heaven, but physically still remain on earth. The reason we are left is that God in His incredible grace allows us to be His plan to reach the rest of the world.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that Christmas is a love-fest on you and your immediate family. Yes, it should remind us of God’s grace and mercy and blessing, but more importantly it should spur us on to sharing the good news of Jesus with those who need to hear it.

5 Ways That You Can Be A Missionary This Christmas…

  1. Consider giving to your church’s world missions offering. Our church takes up the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering every December. 100% of the funds collected go straight to the more than 4,000 missionaries serving on the field with the International Mission Board.
  2. Make plates of Christmas goodies or cookies and take them to your neighbors. Place the treats on a dish that needs to be returned. Ask your neighbor how you can pray for them through the Christmas season and invite them to church. When they return the dish to you, follow up on the prayer request.
  3. Just determine in your mind that you are going to intentionally engage people in spiritual conversations over the course of the next few weeks.
  4. Take time to pray for missionaries that you know serving overseas and who will not be able to be with their families on Christmas Day. On December 25th, take a moment and send them an email, letting them know that you are thinking of them. Holidays are especially difficult for our missionaries.
  5. Find someone in your area who is fostering children in their home and offer to help with Christmas gifts, a meal, or finances.




Stress

4 12 2013

stress

I realize that everyone deals with some kind of stress day in and day out. I certainly do not want to minimize that, but there is a phrase out there that I am hearing more and more that makes me chuckle.  Someone describes a stress or problem, and another replies sarcastically, “First-world problems.” I realize that there are real and serious stresses and problems out there, but I believe that the majority of our stresses are “first-world problems.” The idea behind this is that our problem might be not being able to get our email to work correctly (1st world), while someone else’s stress might be putting food on the table for their family or if their baby will die of malaria (3rd world). Perspective is everything, and many times our stresses are self-imposed.

A month ago I was reminded of this topic when we hosted a missionary family from Ecuador at our church. They were in need of a boat motor in order for them to be able to have their own boat so that they could get to the tribes that they are working with. They also, though, needed that motor in case of an emergency. Snake bites, parasites, sicknesses, broken bones – all of these and more are realities that can happen when living in the rain forest, especially when you have a bunch of curious and active children. This boat motor is a simple way that we as a church can reduce the stress of our missionary family on the field. I am happy to report that we were able to raise enough money to more than cover the cost of the motor. The result of this is that we may have just increased the longevity that this family will stay on the field, because of less stress, and therefore increase the work they do for the gospel.

I would like to challenge us all that when we experience stress in our personal life, that we would remember and pray for our missionaries that are constantly living at an increased level of stress. Our missionaries around the world are automatically targets, because of their nationality and skin color. When we lived in Tanzania, we were perceived as the rich, white people, and were therefore targets for robberies. Most people in the US don’t think about going to different ATM’s each time, utilizing counter-surveilance tactics all the time, and carrying a year’s worth of salary in cash on them. This was my life for three years. At the same time, we lived eight hours from where we would consider medical care similar to what we have in the US. One of our biggest times of stress was when our oldest son had a grand mal seizure in our little village.

Our top priority for working with our missionary partners is to come alongside their strategy to see indigenous church planting take place among their people group. Our second priority, but very close to the first one, is to encourage our missionary families. This includes helping all we can to reduce their stress. I fully believe that if we can increase the longevity of our missionaries on the field – we will see an increase in the work of the gospel. A gospel movement among an unreached people group normally does not take place in the short term. It is through long term effort and prayer and perseverance that people are reached, and if we can be apart of helping our missionaries stay long term through encouragement and reducing their stress, then we are going to do that.

 

 





Give Recognition

15 08 2013

recognition

Now we ask you, brothers, to give recognition to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you, and to regard them very highly in love because of their work…
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

Not too long ago we hosted a couple who are missionaries to a country in Central Asia in our church. I had the opportunity to interview them during the morning worship service. At the conclusion of the interview, I shared the above passage of scripture with our church and asked our congregation to help me honor them. Our church gave them a LONG standing ovation for their service and work for the Lord. It was an incredibly touching moment as I watched as our church gave recognition to these two unsung heroes of the faith. After the clapping died down and we all were seated again, with tears in their eyes, this missionary couple gave all the glory to God and rightly so. I know this couple personally, and I know how humble they are, so they certainly did not expect this outpouring of love. I simply stated that we were doing what the Word of God told us to do.

One of the top reasons for missionaries leaving the field and pastors leaving the ministry is simple burnout. When we lived overseas, our closest Christian, American friends lived more than three hours away. I understand how lonely it can be for our missionaries. It is only on rare occasions that they are able to come together and worship in their heart language with other believers and just talk about everyday things. Paul understood this as well, and that is why, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he wrote this passage of scripture.

Our church has the opportunity to partner with some fantastic missionaries all over the world. Our number one reason for participating in these partnerships is to come alongside them in their work to reach the unreached people group that they are working with. Our second reason for participating in these partnerships is to encourage them and to keep them going strong. I believe that if we can help to increase the longevity of our missionaries on the field, then we can increase the work. I tell all of our short-term teams that are heading out that I want it to be like Christmas morning when you arrive. Our teams going to Central Asia, for instance, will never be able to share the gospel to someone in their own Central Asian heart language, but they can encourage the missionaries that are there and do know the language. In verse 13 of our passage it says to regard them very highly in love. To me, this means that we should encourage them, pray for them continually, remember their birthdays, do something for them on holidays when it gets really lonely, keep up with their children’s lives, email them notes, and even go and visit them just to visit with them. You may be wondering if we actually spend thousands of dollars in airfare just to go and visit our missionaries, and the answer is a resounding yes! Paul tells us that we should regard our missionaries highly.

In light of this scripture, what can you do to encourage our missionaries and ministers and pastors? Can you go on a mission trip to hang out with the missionary kids? Can you write your pastor an encouraging note? Can you send a gift to one of our missionaries on their birthday? God’s plan is not for lone rangers to go out into the mission field and work it by themselves, but to have His church come alongside those who are following Him to the uttermost parts of the earth and participate as co-laborers and encouragers.








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