Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Service, Sacrifice, Sincerity

When I think about the life of Jesus and how he is our example to follow, three things among many stand out. These three things to me typify what we as his followers should also put into practice in our lives.
The three things are , service, sacrifice and sincerity.
Jesus came to serve and not be served. 

Mark 10:45  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Philippians 2.5-7
 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,   who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 

His humility enabled him to take on the form of a slave. Slaves did not have a life of their own. They were the property of their owner. Jesus condescended from a position of equality to become one of the lowest forms of life regarding status as a slave. He came to serve his father by being obedient to whatever his father asked him to do. He only did what the father told him to do. A servant always put his personal desires below the desires of his master. When the master returned home the servant immediately served the needs of his master. It did not matter what hour of the day  the master returned nor how tired the servant may have been, he had to attend to his master. As believers in Christ we are called to serve our father and do what he calls us to do to serve each other and the people in the world. Our lives must testify that we truly are servants and not masters.
Jesus demonstrated being a servant in many ways but the greatest example is when he washed his disciples feet at the last supper. Washing dirty feet was not in the minds of his disciples but it was in the heart of Jesus. What lowly job are we willing to do in obedience to our father and in service to others?
George Washington Carver was serving as professor  of a college during a time in the United States when there was much discrimination against his ethnic group, black African Americans. He was walking past a home of a white lady who was standing in her front yard. She assumed his was a slave and asked him to chop some wood for her. He did not rebuke the lady but kingly agreed to cut her wood. He did not reveal his identity but one day she attended a fund raising event for the college and suddenly realized that the president of the college was the man who cut her wood! She was very embarrassed by her treatment of him and later apologized and then gave a generous donation.
A humble heart enables us to serve people and not be controlled by status or preference. I am always impressed by people who are willing to serve when the opportunity is offered to do something that may not be the most exciting or glamorous task. Whatever we do must be done to please the Lord. it does not matter if we are recognized or rewarded by others, our true reward will be the words of our father when he days, "well done good and faithful servant..."

The second element I find in the life of Jesus was his willingness to make sacrifices and ultimately give himself as the sacrifice for our sins. When Jesus came to earth he sacrificed his position of equality. He gave up his heavenly home as well as his earthly home when he began his ministry at the age of 30. For 3 years he lived as a guest in the home of whoever would receive him. He said of himself that birds and foxes have places to rest but he did not have a place to rest his head. In YWAM we are taught to be willing to lay down your rights in order to make yourself available to be used of God in areas of need and perhaps danger. We are not to be irresponsible to meet our obligations when we lay down our rights. You don't abandon your responsibilities to your children or spouse or ignore a debt you owe because you want to go somewhere else. God  will help us meet those needs as we act responsibly and faithfully to his calling. Whatever we have comes from God and his blessing on our lives. When we give up anything in service to him he will remember and reward us in this life and in the life to come. Are we willing to sacrifice our possessions, our time, our finances,our home, our life style, our desire to be married, our have a good job in order to obey God's call on our lives? 
John Maxwell states that in order for leaders to go up, they must be willing to give up. Sacrificial living should be a way of life and not a random act when our motivation may not be pure or correct.
The Moravians were willing to sacrifice their homeland, their fortunes and future families in order to have the opportunity to spread the gospel to St. Thomas island. The only way they could access this island was to sell themselves as slaves to work in the sugar cane fields. If we are going to reach the unreached people group of which there are more than 6,000 sacrifices will need to be made by both those who go and those who send them. What are we willing to sacrifice to be sent and minister to the needs of others who do not know the Savior?

The final trait I see in Christ was his sincerity. This word in Latin and Spanish means to be without wax. It was used to describe pots that did not wax to fill in the cracks. It was the mark of person who did not try to put on a false front to deceive or impress others. Jesus had the right attitude and motivation for everything he did. He did not try to call attention to himself but often told those who were healed or delivered to not say anything to others about what happened.  His actions were motivated by genuine love for his father and people. Our motivation and attitude must be to bring glory and honor to God in everything we do. 
The Pharisees were rebuked by Jesus because of their desire to have attention given to them. They were the original inventors of the Selfy.
Politicians often pose to have pictures of them doing acts of service to the poor or needy people. It is all about presenting an image that will make them look like they care for others. Their sincerity is immediately called into question.
This should never be the case of a true follower of Jesus. Whatever we do should be done with all of our heart and with the goal of honoring God. Why we do what we do will determine how we do it.
Let's make sure we have sincerity in all we do in our service to the Lord and others.

Jesus is our model of how we are to live each day. His life of service, sacrifice and sincerity should describe our lives each day. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Humility of Jesus

The birth of Christ will be celebrated around the world on Sunday.  For many it will be a time of partying and very little thought of the true meaning of Christ’s birth.  One aspect of his birth that set the stage for his entire life is the humility that God ordained for the birth as well as the entire life of His Son, the Savior of the world.

He was born into a family that was not wealthy.  Joseph was a carpenter and made a humble living.  When they went to the temple to bring their offering, he only gave a bird which was allowed for people who were poor.

His mother Mary was an ordinary young girl.  When she became pregnant out of wedlock, the locals probably began to ask questions or accuse her of having premarital relationships.  Joseph was caught in the middle and people probably thought badly of him because of Mary’s pregnancy.

The birth of Jesus was not in a place anyone would choose to have a baby.  The humility of a stable which most likely was simple a cave in the wall was far beneath what a future King would deserve.  It was most likely a place where animals were kept. Not a clean place that is depicted in the manger scenes we see at this time of year.  It probably was filled with the stench of the animals along with their excrement.  A sanitary place fit for a king, it was not. Yet God ordained that he be born in Bethlehem and in a very humble place.

The first to hear of the Saviors birth were shepherds.  Shepherds were not viewed as important people.  Their job was a low level job, a job most people would never want. Shepherds were the lowest level of society. Shepherds were so despised that they couldn’t even testify in court.But to these outcasts, God through his angels announced to them the birth of Jesus the Messiah.  The first visitors of the King were the lowly shepherds who were excited to see him and then tell others about him.

Later the 3 kings came to give their worship and gifts to Jesus.  When Herod learned of the new king, he was enraged that his kingdom would be overthrown and thus ordered the death of all males 2 years old or less.  As a result Jesus and his parents became refugees who fled to Egypt for their safety.  A king becoming a refugee, another sign of the humility of God.  He could have commanded his angels to protect him where he was living but instead chose to have his Son flee for his life.  Jesus spent the early years of his life as a refugee in hiding, how humbling is that for the Savior and Son of God.

His early years after returning from Egypt were as far as we know just ordinary years of development.  He was raised in a poor home and learned the trade of carpentry with his father.  At 12, the age of recognition of his manhood, he went with his parents and relatives to the temple.  He had a new focus for his life which was being about his heavenly Father’s business.  His parents must have been shocked when he gave them this reply.  Yet he did not make a public announcement of his true identity but humbly continued to work with his father and live a normal life until he was 30 years old.  What must it have been like for Jesus to know his true identity and purpose in coming in human form and not be able to say anything until the time was right?  His humanity was firmly established such that when he began his public ministry many questioned how he could be the Messiah when they knew him as a son of Mary and Joseph.  His identity was in question throughout his life not only by those who knew him as he grew up but also by the religious leaders.  Jesus remained humble throughout his ministry.  He did not demand special treatment from those who were with him nor did he have a huge ministry center named after him.  He simply walked among the common people, ministered to people who were despised and rejected such as prostitutes, tax collectors, and lepers. He lived as an invited guest in the homes of others who followed him, ate the food that was given to him and kept a low profile as long as he could to avoid creating chaos among those who were increasing in number as they witnessed his miracles and listened to his teachings.

His teachings came from his father, he only did what his father revealed to him to do.  He lived in submission to his heavenly father and did not act on his own. For most people they pride themselves on being independent, not really needing anyone but are content to be self-sufficient.  We want to be the boss of our own lives yet Jesus was not interested in doing his own thing but doing what his father wanted him to do.  He was tempted to do his own thing just as we are yet did not give in to the temptations. 

As his time drew near to go to Jerusalem and celebrate the Passover with his disciples, he entered the city riding on a donkey, a beast of burden and not a beautiful horse or chariot that would be the normal way a king would enter a city.

 They say that Alexander the Great entered India in a grand procession of 200 painted elephants, 200 soldiers on black horses and 200 lions surrounding him as he sat on a golden throne atop an ivory chariot proclaiming "I am the Lord of the universe. I conquered the world. Now I will conquer the stars". Alexander died at 33 and today owns nothing.

When he celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples, he washed the feet of each one of them.  This was a task of a servant.  The disciples failed to find someone to do this lowly task, but Jesus humbled himself to do this for them as an example of what he expected of them in the future.  Jesus had taught them that the greatest in his kingdom would have to be the servant of all.  This was radical thinking and contrary to the way of life the disciples had witnessed with their leaders as well as the Roman government.  The fact that Jesus would wash the feet of Judas whom he knew would soon betray him, demonstrates the extreme humility of Jesus.

His arrest in the garden is also an example of his humility in how he responded.  He did not defend himself or try to flee from an unjust situation but submitted himself to the will of his father which would soon lead to his death.  Jesus knew what was coming and humbly submitted himself to his father. He accepted his role as the sacrifice for the sins of mankind and followed through with the painful process of the trial, false accusations, beatings, ridicule, mocking and intense physical pain.  At any point he could have stopped the abuse and been liberated by the host of angels who were watching.  Yet he endured it all for you and I.

His death on the cross was a very humbling experience.  This form of death was for notorious criminals and was one of the cruelest forms of punishment.  Death often took many days to complete.  Jesus was viewed in public naked as a form of humiliation by the soldiers. 

The birth of Jesus should always remind us of his life of humility.  He came to earth in the form of a human being and became a servant rather than a political or religious leader who could command respect.  God chose a different way to enter into the world, a way that had little appeal to anyone seeking a position of power or authority. 

As we reflect on the birth of Christ, may we always be reminded that we too are called to be humble servants to mankind.  We live in a world that seeks after fame and recognition.  It is a world that pushes people out of their way to get what they want.  Christ modeled to us from the very beginning of his life, that greatness comes through humble service to God and man.   May our lives be ones of service in which we do not care if we are recognized for what we do. 

The Making of a disciple, part 3

The Making of a disciple Part 3

Mar 2:1-17  And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven. “Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,  "Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, "Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"—he said to the paralytic—"I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home." And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!"  He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them.   And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, "Follow me." And he rose and followed him.   And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?"  And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."

Jesus the healer and forgiver of sins

Jesus fame continued to grow throughout the region of Galilee.  When he returned after visiting several towns, preaching the good news and healing the sick and casting out demons he was ready for a break.  Once the people heard he was back in Capernaum, they flocked to the house he was staying at.  Jesus did not send them away but began to teach them.  His teaching is interrupted by four men and a paralytic who wanted desperately to see Jesus.  The only access they had was through the roof.

We see in the four heroic men several things that are worth noting.

1.     Their love for the paralytic.  They made it possible for him to be in the presence of Jesus.  Love is an action word and these four men demonstrated their love by carrying him to Jesus.  When we love people we are willing to make sacrifices for them.

2.     Their determination to bring their friend to Jesus that caused them to tear the roof off of the home.  You have to wonder what the owner of the home was thinking when his roof started to fall apart.  Yet we do not read anything about the owner’s reaction due to the tremendous miracle that took place.

3.     The faith of the friends and the paralytic.  They knew that Jesus could heal the paralytic.  They would not have made all the effort to bring him to Jesus if they were not sure.  Tearing off the roof of a home that was not theirs could have been a risky move.  They were willing to suffer any consequence.  They only wanted the opportunity for their friend to be set free from his condition.

Jesus’ Surprise and Shocking Statement about himself

Jesus surprised the crowd and disturbed the scribes when he made the statement, “Son your sins are forgiven.”

No one was expecting him to say that.  They probably thought Jesus was going to command the man to walk.

For Jesus to make this statement was to equate himself with God.  He was making very clear his true identity as one equal to God. When the scribes questioned him and accused him of blasphemy he gave them a question.

Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven, ‘or to say ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’?

The response of Jesus reflects the Jewish view that forgiveness of sins must precede physical healing.  Whether or not this particular disease was the consequence of sin, Jesus went to the heart of the matter.  Sin and disease are effects of evil, and Jesus reveals God’s opposition to evil in any way it may manifest.  His goal is to bring complete wholeness to people.

Jesus proved his authority to forgive sins by healing the paralytic.  The scribes could not say anything.  He silenced them with his act of healing, something they could not do.

The people were amazed and glorified God.  They had never seen anything like this.

Jesus the Teacher

Jesus takes advantage of the opportunity to teach the people by going out in a boat while the people were on shore.  The acoustic effect of the water made it easier for his voice to be heard by the crowd.  It also gave him a barrier between himself and the people.

Jesus demonstrate his love for people by healing the paralytic but he also used this miracle to clarify his identity and why he came to earth.  Only through Jesus can we receive forgiveness of our sins.  John the Baptist declared that Jesus was the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world.  The scribes and Pharisees did not receive Jesus as the Lamb of God.  They did not know his true identity and rejected him as their Messiah. 

What the disciples are learning about Jesus.

The disciples were taking all of this in and I am sure were trying to understand who Jesus was.  They have seen him as a miracle worker, a teacher who taught with authority and anointing, as one who had power of the demonic realm and now they learn that he can forgive sins.

Another radical move of Jesus

Jesus next act was to call Levi, a tax collector to follow him.  Tax collectors were not respected by the public.  They often took advantage of collecting extra money for their services. They were grouped with sinners and signify those people who by vocation or morality place themselves outside the society of Gods covenant people.  For Jesus to have fellowship with such people would bring Him into conflict with the Pharisees.

Jesus crossed over the Jewish boundary lines when he met with the sinners and tax collectors.  These people where not even to be taught the statutes of God, since their vocation and life-style made them ritually unclean.

What the disciples are learning

The disciples are now witnessing another aspect of the character of Jesus.  He was willing to interact with groups of people who were outcasts and held in contempt.  Jesus demonstrated his love for people who were not accepted by the Jewish authorities.  He saw in Levi potential to be one of his chosen disciples and took the time to be with him and invite him into his inner circle of 12.

We have to see the potential in people like Jesus did rather than focus on the problems they may have.  He was willing to risk his reputation among the religious people because he knew who he was and he was more concerned about his obedience to God that the praise of the religious leaders.  John Maxwell says that we must put a 10 on people’s foreheads instead of a 3 or lower.  We have to value people and believe that God can make changes in them as they come to know Christ and allow him to transform their lives.

Can you imagine what Levi felt like when Jesus called him to follow him.  He knew he was rejected by the people yet here was a man who wanted him to be one of his followers, his disciple.  Jesus knew how to bring out the best in others by believing in the potential of the person.

Doctor Jesus

The final thing the disciples learn about Jesus is that he likened himself to a doctor who came to help those who were in need.  He could not ignore the sinners who were publicly acknowledged as such just as a doctor cannot refuse to treat the sick.  He came to seek and to save those who were lost in their sins.

The disciples’ minds were being opened to a new reality of love and forgiveness.  Jesus was not in a ministry of condemnation but of healing people who were physically and spiritually sick.  He went out of his way to minister to people who were despised and rejected.  He honored people who had faith to believe in him. He spent time with people labeled as sinners and unclean.  He broke the rules of the Pharisees and scribes to show the people the heart of God.

Jesus is revealing himself to his disciples.  People must first believe in the leader before they will commit to follow him. As leaders of others we have to demonstrate our character through our conduct if we want people to believe in us and follow our leadership. The disciples were learning new principles through the teachings and actions of Jesus.  This was an intense time of learning for them and even though they did not understand everything that was happening, it was being planted in their minds and the Holy Spirit would bring these things to their remembrance in the days to come.

The Call to discipleship

The Call

Mar 1:16  Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.

Mar 1:17  And Jesus said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men."

Mar 1:18  And immediately they left their nets and followed him.

Mar 1:19  And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets.

Mar 1:20  And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.

The Call: to follow, to fish, to fix

Jesus chose 12 men to be his closest followers. He conducted no job interviews, did not check their backgrounds or do anything that we would normally happen when choosing a team to work with you.

John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus.  He was a wild man that must have drawn attention just by looking at his clothing.  He did not try to smooth talk people into repentance and getting their hearts prepared for the Messiah to arrive.  Perhaps the 12 disciples had some information about the coming Messiah that made it easier for them to make a decision to leave the fishing business in the hands of their father and follow Jesus. 

The calling of God upon our lives is to abandon our plans even though they may seem good to follow the Lord wherever he leads us.  The 3 fisherman, Peter, James and John along with Andrew had no idea what they were getting into when they left their businesses to become a disciple. 

Jesus simply ask them to “Follow me”.  Jesus assumed responsibility for them if they would follow him.  He would be investing his life into them and through this they would be transformed into “Fishers of Men.” The first requirement Jesus gave them was to simply follow him.  They were to go with him wherever he went, observe what he was doing and learn what he was going to teach them.  He would be their model and demonstrate the ministry that they would soon be doing on their own. 

In our relationship with Jesus we have to always remember that our first obligation is to follow him.  To allow him to lead us where we are to go, what we are to do and how we are to do it.

Jesus modeled how to pray, how to heal the sick and raise the dead, how to deal with religious people who lead people astray, how to take care of the needs of people, how to love the people who were rejected by society, how to trust his father in difficult situations, how to overcome temptation, how to forgive, how to honor others, how to stay focused on the mission, and how to teach God’s word and the principles to live by.

Jesus was one who preached what he practiced rather than one who tried to practice what he preached.

His life is our example, our model that we must follow.  We have to have Christ living in us as Paul stated in

 Galatians 2.20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The words of Christ are to live in us.

 Col 3:16  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.

His words must saturate our lives so we can become imitators of him.

 We are to imitate Christ and let our lives be an example for others to follow.

2Th 3:7  For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you,

 Paul knew that he had to walk in obedience to the leadership of Jesus.  He was not interested in pursuing his own desires but submitted his life to accomplish the mission Jesus had given him and to seek him for guidance on how to carry out the mission.

Fish for men

After the call to “follow me” Jesus told them they would have a new identity and focus for their lives.  Jesus was going to make something different of their lives.  The fishing business was their livelihood but they were going to be made into something very different as they allow Jesus to make them into what he wanted them to be.

As we follow Jesus we have the assurance that he is going to make something different of our lives.  We become a new creation in him.  The old life has passed away and he begins the process of transformation. He exchanges our life for his life.  He orders our circumstances to bring about the changes that he wants us to experience.  He has good things planned for us and sometimes we go through difficulties that are designed to bring about the changes he desires of us.  He is molding our lives each day through our experiences, our interaction with the Word, through the power of the Holy Spirit and through the people he has placed in our lives. He is at work in us to make us into the image of Jesus.  Our awareness of what he is doing and our cooperation with him.  He gives us the freedom to make the choice to follow him and allow him to make us or go our own way.

The Navy Seals have a rigorous training program that is designed to eliminate anyone who does not have what they feel is necessary to be in this elite group.  The trainees at any time can ring the bell that tells everyone that they are no longer in the program. We too have this option but in choosing to ring the bell we miss out on what God has for us in the situation.  Don’t ring the bell! Believe God is working in you and will bring you through whatever is happening to make you more like him.

The disciples were going to be given a new identity and a new purpose for their lives.  Jesus was going to make them fishers of men. The focus of their life would now be something completely different.  You have to wonder what the disciple where thinking when Jesus made this comment.  What could this possible mean to become a fisher of men?  How would they do it, what would they do with the men they caught?  I images they had a lot of questions in their minds about what it meant to become a fisher of men.

Over time they would understand this new spiritual language Jesus was using to communicate with them.  They would become evangelists who would win thousands of people to the Lord and make them disciples like they were trained to be. A fisherman in the time of Christ did not have an easy job.  They worked long hours and the best fishing was at night.  They had to make sacrifices if they wanted to be successful in the business.  It was hard work, manual work that demanded a lot from them.  They had to cast their nets throughout the night with the hope that they were in the right spot to bring in a large catch of fish.  They were probably not successful 100% of the time but they continued to do what they knew they had to do to get results.  As a fisher of men they would experience times of harvest and fruitfulness in their labors but also times when it was very difficult to share the gospel message to certain groups of people. Fishing was not a complicated business at that time.  It was repetitious work and the results were not guaranteed.  To be a fisher of men would require work on their part, faithfulness to share the gospel message and confidence in the Holy Spirit to take the words we share and make them alive in the person receiving them.  We don’t control the results but we can present the message in the clearest way we know to help them understand what Christ has done for them.

The calling to be a “fisher of men” did not change throughout their lives.  These disciples carried out their mission until their death.  We can never lose sight of this calling each one of us has to be sharing the gospel and modeling the gospel to others.  We have to be active in being a fisherman for the Lord and look for opportunities to share with others.

Fix the hurting

The other aspect of the life of a fisherman was that they had to mend the nets that were torn.  When I grew up my family was involved in seining the lake where we live to get rid of the unwanted fish.  We were part of a Sportsman Club that bought a huge net, over a thousand feet long that was placed out in the lake.  The net was drawn in by a rope that was wrapped around a machine that had a revolving part.  We would pull in one side of the net and then move to the other side to pull it in. It was a long process to get the huge net to shore.  Always the net would get torn and we would spend a lot of time afterward repairing the net.

Repairing the net to me is like repairing the lives of people that come to Christ who are hurt and who need someone to help them with the healing process.  As fishers of men we have to take care of those who are hurting and help them mend the wounds they have suffered. We all come to Christ with damage from the past.  Sin has a way of destroying our lives and causes great damage to our spirit, soul and body.  The call to follow and fish is also a call to fix broken lives with the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.  We live in a fallen world that is becoming more fallen do to the increase of evil through the media.  Pornography is just one area the enemy is using to corrupt the minds of children.  One of the videos we watched in the Leadership school stated the children as young as 8 years old are now accessing porn via the internet. Their minds are being destroyed at an early age and their abilities to relate in a healthy manner with the opposite sex are being damaged.  Abuse of children by adults, sexual identity confusion, depression and suicide are not seeing improvement in the statistics.  There are many nets to be mended as we make Disciples of Christ. The good news is that there is great freedom available to all who come to Christ.  He is the healer and we can become his healing hands as we involve our lives with those who have been hurt.

The process of becoming a disciple

The disciples of Jesus went through several learning processes as they accepted the invitation and the call to become part of a select group of individuals who would carry out the mission of spreading the gospel message to the world as they knew it.  They first were followers, then trained to become fishers of men and finally menders of broken lives.

The Call to leave all was the first step in becoming one of Jesus’ disciples. His cause was more important than any job that they currently had or would have in the future.  Jesus was inviting them to follow him.  His invitation meant that:

                He would take care of their needs

                He would guide them

                He would teach them his ways of ministry

The followers were given a new identity: They would become disciples of Jesus

Along with a new identity came a new purpose: They would become fishers of men, healers of broken lives

Jesus was their model, they were to learn from him and follow his example of ministry.

Capernaum Ministry

Mar 1:21  And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching.

Mar 1:22  And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.

Mar 1:23  And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out,

Mar 1:24  "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God."

Mar 1:25  But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!"

Mar 1:26  And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him.

Mar 1:27  And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, "What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him."

Mar 1:28  And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.

What did the disciple learn from this experience?

1.        His teaching different, he taught with authority.  The scribes just quoted the teaching of the rabbi’s.  Jesus’ teaching was fresh, new perspective, truth

a.       Our teaching should be from revelation and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  We should preach what we practice as well as practice what we preach.

b.      People hunger for truth that is spoken with authority and conviction.

2.       His supernatural power over unclean spirits. 

a.       The person with the unclean spirit was in the synagogue.  Unexpected place?

b.      The demons recognized his true identity and his mission: Son of God, He came to destroy the works of the devil and his demonic forces.  The scribes and Pharisees did not believe what the demons recognized as truth.

c.       As Christ’s disciples we have been given authority over the demonic realm through the name of Jesus.

Peter’s Mother in law

Mar 1:29  And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.

Mar 1:30  Now Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her.

Mar 1:31  And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

What did the disciples learn?

1.        Jesus had compassion for the sick, he cared for his disciples family members.

2.       Jesus had power over sickness

3.       Jesus allowed Peter’s mother in law to serve them.  He allow her to honor him through her hospitality. Refusing hospitality was offensive to the person offering it.

4.       As Christ’s disciples we have authority over sickness and disease.  The power of God was released in Jesus without him saying anything.

The ministry to the people

Mar 1:32  That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons.

Mar 1:33  And the whole city was gathered together at the door.

Mar 1:34  And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

What the disciples learned

1.        Jesus was not bound by time.  It was late, getting dark and he took the time to heal the sick and deliver the demonized people.

2.       He had compassion for the people and the power to set them free.  He did not refuse to minister to them.

3.       We have to have the same compassion Jesus had for people and be willing to extend ourselves to minister to them. 

Jesus’ prayer life

Mar 1:35  And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.

Mar 1:36  And Simon and those who were with him searched for him,

Mar 1:37  and they found him and said to him, "Everyone is looking for you."

We do not know how long Jesus spent healing the sick and delivering the demonized the night before.  It may have been a short night of sleep for him but he got up early to pray.

What did the disciples learn?

1.        The demands of the people or the influence of crowds did not keep Jesus from his time of prayer.  The connection with his Father was more important than his ministry to the people. 

2.       Ministry is a 24/7 job.  You can always find something more that needs to be done and if we are not careful our personal time with God can quickly be consumed by other things even good things.

3.       Martin Luther stated that he had so much work to do that he had to spend several hours in prayer before doing the work.  We often reverse this by cutting short our time of prayer because of all the activities we have planned.

4.       Our first ministry must always be to God.  Spending time with him daily in prayer and in his word are non-negotiables for disciples.  We have to set aside the time, it must become a discipline.

Jesus continues his mission

Mar 1:38  And he said to them, "Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out."

Mar 1:39  And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Mar 1:40  And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, "If you will, you can make me clean."

Mar 1:41  Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, "I will; be clean."

Mar 1:42  And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.

Mar 1:43  And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once,

Mar 1:44  and said to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them."

Mar 1:45  But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter. Mar 1:38  And he said to them, "Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out."

Mar 1:39  And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Mar 1:40  And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, "If you will, you can make me clean."

Mar 1:41  Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, "I will; be clean."

Mar 1:42  And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.

Mar 1:43  And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once,

Mar 1:44  and said to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them."

Mar 1:45  But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.

What did the disciples learn?

1.       Jesus stayed focused on his calling to preach the good news of the Kingdom.  The crowds were coming to him but he wanted to visit all the towns and not be contained in one area.

2.       He went to the synagogues where he would have a more receptive audience.  He knew where the fish were located and that is where he went.

3.       The laws regarding treatment of lepers did not apply to Jesus.  He touched the untouchables and brought healing to them.  Lepers had to stay away from the people, ring a bell and announce in a loud voice their condition.

4.       No one is untouchable or unreachable.

The disciples were on a fast track of learning from Jesus.  It had to be exciting to be with him to see all the miracles and listen to his teachings.  Jesus was modeling ministry and it would not be long until they would have their opportunity to replicate his ministry. 

We see in Jesus:

1.       An anointed teacher who taught with authority

2.       His power over demonic forces.

3.       His power over sickness and disease

4.       His compassion for people in need and willingness to minister to them at an inconvenient time.

5.       His time with God was a priority, more than ministry

6.       He stayed focused on what he was called to to.

7.       He knew where the fish were located and made it a practice to go there.

8.       No one was untouchable or unreachable.  He had compassion for all people in spite of their conditions.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Missionary Call and Challenge

God has called each one of us to be involved in world missions.  This is his greatest desire to reach the world with the message of the gospel that will restore the broken relationship between mankind and God. 
The mission of Coca Cola is to put a can of coke into the hand of every person on the planet.  They have been very successful in accomplishing their mission.  Our mission is to reach every person and progress is being made yet there remains a large number of people unreached.
The Joshua Project has been working for many years to compile statistics on the status of world evangelization.  The world population is about 7 billion people and their statistics show:
10% are true followers of Christ
20 % are nominal believers
40% have heard the gospel but have not responded
30% have never heard, no exposure to the Gospel.
God needs each one of us to be involved in going to the mission field or supporting those who are sent through our finances, prayers and communication.
The greatest concentration of unreached people is in the 10/40 window.  This areas has high concentration of Muslims as well as other religions.
The nation with the greatest number of the 6700 unreached people groups is India (2034) followed by China (456).  80% of the population of India are Hindu and Nepal is mainly Buddhist.  Both countries have less than 5 % of the population who are Christians.
In the USA less than one cent of every dollar that is given to the church is used to reach the unreached people groups.
God’s heart is to reach the every ethnic group and he will use whatever means available to get the good news to them. Only 1 of 10 cross cultural missionaries is working among the unreached people groups.  The greatest need has the fewest missionaries
As a church the need of the day is to train and send missionaries to the unreached people.  According to Fred Markert from YWAM’s frontier missions work there is only 1 missionary for every 1 million Muslims. 
God will find a way to reach the unreached people.  Ralph Winter a missiologist has identified 4 ways God reaches people through us.
1.       We go voluntarily to them in obedience to the Great Commission
2.       We go involuntarily such as when the Israelites were taken captive. Jonah was the reluctant prophet. Young slave girl who told Naaman about the prophet Elijah.     2Ki_5:1-6  Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.   Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman's wife.  So Naaman went in and told his lord, "Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel." And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, "When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy."
 IIt is important for children to witness the power of God and hear the testimonies of their parents of how God has demonstrated his power in their lives. One generation must pass on to another the history of God's work among them.
Psa_78:4  We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.
Psa_78:6  that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children,
3.       People come voluntarily: immigrants, Queen of Sheba, 1Ki_10:1  Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to test him with hard questions. 1Ki 10:9  Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the LORD loved Israel forever, he has made you king, that you may execute justice and righteousness."
4.       People come involuntarily.  Sent by governing authorities to live in another country or area.

God is reaching the Muslim world by revealing himself through visions and dreams to the Muslims but messengers are still needed to bring the gospel message and make disciples.  Public proclamation of the gospel is forbidden in most of the Muslim controlled countries and the most effective way of spreading the gospel is through relationships that begin with people of peace who are willing to open their homes to missionaries who want to develop relationships with them. 
David Garrison in his book “A wind in the House of Islam” documents Movements of Muslims to Christ.
AD 600-1800      No known movements
AD 1800-1980    2 movements
AD 1980-2000    11 Movements (Iran, Algeria, Bulgaria, Albania, West Africa, Bangladesh, Central Asia)
2000-2013           69 Movements (across the globe)
Definition of a movement: at least 1,000 baptized believers or 100 new church starts, over a 2 decade period.
We are living in exciting days as we see God move in nations to declare his glory.  His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom that knows no end.  His government will increase and the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord. 
Isa_9:7  Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
Hab 2:14  For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
We get to be part of this harvest of souls who are waiting for someone to come and share the gospel with them.  Jesus looked upon the lost nation of Israel and saw them as sheep without a shepherd.  When he saw them in their lost condition he was moved with compassion.
Mat 9:35  And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.
Mat 9:36  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Mat 9:37  Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;
Mat 9:38  therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."

We have to have open eyes that see people as Jesus sees them.  We cannot ignore them, wait for someone else to go to them.
Jesus had compassion on them and we also must have an open heart to understand their condition and the lostness of their situation.
Jesus prayed for workers to be sent and we must also have open hands to do the work he has called us to do.  We must be willing to be the answer to the prayer of workers being sent out into the harvest field.
Who will go?  Who will send them?
What part will you play in reaching the unreached people?

Love with Shoes on….Darrell Champlin
He opened the field of Surinam, South America to us. It had been abandoned as a waste of time, men, and money. We found out why when we arrived there in May of 1965. They’d been under the absolute control of demon empowered witch doctors. I’m talking about real power. I’m talking about a witch doctor that could go out here on this street and call lightning and thunder down out of a clear blue sky that would shake this building to the very rafters, and the sulfur smell would singe your nostrils. I’m talking about witch doctors who will send little boys up thorn trees with thousands of steel strong, needle-sharp thorns in rings, just about four inches apart, sticking straight up. They would send the boy up over those and down through those picking fruit. Not a single wound. Not a drop of blood. Under that power this people had lived for two hundred without a soul being saved.
They persecuted us, as they had three couples, driving them all out in less than a year, the last couple lasting five months. You see, there were no roads between those villages. No trails, even. You had to reach them, and still today you must reach them by boat. You’re talking about a climate where we have, in our living room when we sit down to lunch, an average temperature of 94 degrees. Humidity sits at about 70, or 75%. That’s inside the house. In the shade it’s 110. In the open sun . . . I don’t know because we haven’t found a thermometer that will stay in the sun without breaking. They made us sit in our boats and wait till they jolly well pleased to let us come ashore in any one of the villages. They burned us and parboiled us and roasted us until my nose and my mouth were covered with great blisters again and again. The scars are still there. Sadistic people, you say.
No. It was my blessed Lord Jesus asking one of His servants, “Do you love Me? How do you love Me?”
Then miraculously souls began to be saved. A witch doctor was saved. The whole fabric of their demon possessed government was being shaken by a power that they could not imagine. A power they had never experienced. In panic they ratcheted up their persecution until at last, all else failing, they brought out their trump card. They brought Apotu, the fire dancing witch doctor. They invited me to come and watch.
Louise stayed home to pray. I walked over the jungle trail to the village. There a great crowd of people, 400 or more up in the trees or on the ground crowded around a blazing fire over here and a heap of broken beer bottle glass there. I looked around. There behind them I could see the witch doctor clad only in a loin cloth, bare headed and footed, communing with his demon spirits and washing with his herb water. Then he came out to the beat of drums modeled after those brought from Africa many years ago. He began to dance around and around that broken beer bottle glass. He leaped on it, danced on it, rolled in it, and he wasn’t cut. The people began to shout “The demon is on him! The demon is on him!” They knew the source of the power. He left that heap of glass and went into the fire. There he stood in it, playing in it, picking up the blazing brands -- in a knee high fire – running them over his face and through his hair. Back into the glass, back into the fire. Now he has the people in the palm of his hand, and he said, “Now if you will follow me. I’ll give you this power.”
It dawned on me why he’d come. He’d come to break the power of the gospel by demonstrating the power of Satan. My heart broke. “Oh God! Here are babes in Christ. Here are those who are counting the cost of losing their families if they trust Jesus as their Savior, of being ostracized from their nation if they follow the Lord Jesus. They’re being tempted to follow the devil again. Oh God, what can I do to stop them?”
My Lord Jesus simply asked me, “Do you love Me?”
“Yes Lord.”
“Then you just do the dance he has just done to show them that I have power.”
“Yes, Lord.”
They got a couple of candidates and took them off to the side. They heaped the glass again, built the fire blazing again. They didn’t notice that I was able to slip through the crowd. Before they knew what I was about to do I pulled off my shoes and socks and jumped on that glass. I have to admit, beloved, that I jumped rather gingerly, but I found God was protecting me. I stomped in it, it could not cut me. You don’t have to be charismatic to believe that. You just have to know that you serve Jehovah Sabaoth, General of the hosts of the universe.
People began to shout “The demon is on the missionary!” They didn’t understand yet. I tell you I didn’t feel the glass, but beloved, when I went into that fire, it was hot! I was a good Baptist boy, and I never learned to dance, but I did some kind of dance on that fire. Stomped in it, jumped up and down in it, and by God’s grace a few minutes later it was out. I looked down and could see those red hot coals glowing there like little Christmas tree lights between my toes. You can imagine the effect on the people. I turned to them and said, “Now listen. God’s not in the business of fire dances. You have the Bible, His Word. You have His messenger. You have the gospel. If you did not believe and receive the Lord Jesus He could have sent you to hell, and it would have been just. But God had mercy on you tonight to show you His power. Now you can follow this man Apotu, and he’ll give you this demonic power, but it will carry you to hell. If you follow my Lord Jesus He’ll forgive your sins, and he’ll take you to heaven. Make your choice.”
They made it just like that. The drummers got up and left their drums. “Fire dance is over,” they said. The crowd began to break up and go back into the village. The witch doctor and leadership of the village were furious! I’ve been stoned a couple times, but I thought that night, “They are going kill me!” Swarming around, clenching their fists, gnashing their teeth. A couple of our young Christians, just saved, came to help protect me and we had a hot time for about 30 minutes. Finally they let me go. I went over that little trail that they’d just allowed us to cut through the jungle. Back over that swampy place to our house. My feet were hot. I got down and looked at them, but couldn’t see anything wrong. I prayed, “Oh God, if I wake in the morning burned and blistered You have suffered an awful defeat. Lord, you must help me. Your people, Lord. Your glory, Lord. Your mission, Lord.” I went to bed. About six-o-clock in the morning I woke up and looked at my feet. They were perfect. Praise the Lord!

No sooner was I out of bed than there came a knock at the door. But they don’t knock like that. They call out “Kokoko?” I went to the door. It’s people from the village.
“Missionary, how are your feet?”
“Well, you just take a look.” I said. “They’re just fine.”
A couple of our young men, just starting in training to serve, came to me and said, “Missionary, if that’s the kind of God we serve you show us the way and we’ll walk in it.” Today, beloved, they preach in 40 towns and villages across an area half the size of the state of Michigan. They’re walking.

The missionary call and challenge is for each one of us.  We must do our part to support through prayer and finances or be sent to the unreached harvest field.  Pray that the Lord of the Harvest will speak to you what your role should be to fulfill the desire of God's heart to reach all nations and declare his glory.