Thursday, June 23, 2016

Off to Alaska

"Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
(Mark 16:15-16 ESV)

When I arrived in Beulah to serve as their pastor, the deacons immediately raised a question.  They heard that I’d taken a group from my previous congregation up to the AFLC mission work in Naknek, Alaska.  And so, with drool practically dripping from their mouths, they asked: “Can we go too?”
That question sparked the trip on which we’ll be embarking early Monday morning.  A group of twelve from Prince of Peace will be heading to the mission.  And I pray that, not only will we be able to serve the missionaries and the community of Naknek, but that it will also be a life transforming experience for all who go.
Even though I feel called to serve as a pastor here in the United States, missions is a great interest of mine.  It’s heavy on my heart.  I’ve always enjoyed praying for our missionaries and hearing from them when they’ve returned on furlough.  But I’d never been able to take part in a trip until I first went to Alaska.
A year later, I was elected to the World Mission Committee of the AFLC.  I was immediately invited to go to our mission fields in Uganda and India.  And what a blessing it was to not only hear about these ministries and to pray for them, but to see them first hand.  What a blessing it was to be given the opportunity to serve.
It’s for this reason that, as our current Alaska trip was being planned, I decided to bring along my oldest son.  I want him to see what the Lord is doing outside of our own community and culture.  I want him to experience the blessing of coming alongside our missionaries to serve them.  I want him to experience the blessing of being a blessing to the community served by the mission.
With that, I want to thank all of those who’ve contributed to this trip.  You are a greater blessing than you even realize.  I ask also that you’ll pray for us as we go.  Pray for our safety and that the Lord will use us.  Pray that the Lord will work in us as we ask him to work through us.
Consider also what you might do to proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.  If you can go on a mission trip, I encourage you to go.  But, by all means, share the gospel right where you are.  Support the work of your local congregation and also the missionaries who serve around the world with your gifts and prayers.  Use the gifts that God has given to you to point people to Christ and to simply be a blessing.  But, by all means, go.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Making Disciples

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

(Matthew28:19-20 ESV)

            This is a passage with which most of us are very familiar.  In fact, I would dare to say that a good number of us have it memorized.  However, even though we know it so well, are we actually living it out? Are we actively making disciples?

            If I were to make an educated guess, I would venture to say that most of us are not obeying Jesus’ call.  Most of us view this passage as a call to missions (which it is).  And, for this reason, we think the only way it can be lived out is by moving to a foreign country and making it our full-time endeavor to tell people about Jesus.

            So, when we think of this passage, we think of our missionaries in Brazil.  We think of our missionaries in Uganda.  We think of our missionaries in India, Ecuador, and Mexico.  We don’t see how we fit into the picture.

            This call, however, is something that’s been given to each one of us.  And, while some are called to move overseas, it’s something that can also be fulfilled right where we currently find ourselves.  We can make disciples in our own community, while working our regular job.

            Fulfilling this command of Christ simply requires us to invest in the lives of unbelievers.  It means that we share with them the good news of Jesus.  It means that we share with them his Word. 

            All it takes is for us to befriend an unbeliever.  All it takes is for us to show interest in them and to spend a small amount of time with them.  We can get together with them for a cup of coffee once a week.  We can visit with them while our kids play at the pool.  And, as we do so, we can share with them the hope that we have in Jesus.

            If they place their faith in the Lord, we can continue to invest in them.  We can take the time to teach them, perhaps by going through a Bible study together.  We can help them to find answers to their questions.  We can pray with them and for them.  We can invite them to church and introduce them to the body of Christ.

            I realize that we’re all busy.  I realize that we have enough to do between our job and our family.  We don’t need one more responsibility thrust upon us.  However, when I say that we’re to invest in the lives of unbelievers, I’m not saying that we have to minister to a great multitude.  We can make a huge difference by working with only one at a time.

            As I think back on my life of faith, I can point to several people who took an interest in me.  I can point to those who invested in me and discipled me.  Through regular interaction with them, I grew in my faith.  Perhaps the same is true of you as well.  And you can be that person for someone else. 

            I realize that most of us feel unqualified for such a task.  But just as the Spirit of God worked through the disciples, he can work through us as well.  He can work through us to build up others in faith.  And they, in turn, can do the same for still others.

            I challenge each of you to pray that God might bring into your life someone with whom you can share the good news.  I challenge you to then invest in that person.  In this way, one person at a time, we can carry out the call of Christ.  In this way, we can fulfill the Great Commission.

Monday, June 06, 2016

An Imperfect Record?

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

(John 14:26 ESV)

            One of the primary objections people raise, when it comes to Scripture, is that it was written by men.  Men are imperfect, they tell us.  Men make mistakes.  And, for this reason, we cannot trust every word of Scripture.  We cannot rely on it completely.

            They then begin to dissect the Bible.  They look at it, using their own wisdom and understanding, to determine whether its statements are true or false.  And when they find something that challenges them, when they encounter something they don’t want to believe, they declare that God would never say such a thing.

            They are right when they say that men are imperfect.  They are absolutely correct when they say that men make mistakes.  However, they fail to understand the blessing given to the apostles, enabling them to accurately and precisely record the words of Jesus, the things that took place, and to correctly teach the church.

            Before Jesus died on the cross, he made a great promise to his followers.  He promised them the gift of the Holy Spirit.  And, in the above verse, we see how the Spirit of God would help them to correctly communicate the Word of God to the people of their day, as well as to our own.

            According to Jesus, the Spirit of God would enable them to remember all that he’d said to them.  For this reason, they weren’t dependent upon their faulty memory when teaching the people of their day or when writing the gospel accounts.  They remembered everything just as Jesus had said it.

            Jesus also said that the Spirit would teach them all things.  So, as they taught the church, and as they penned the epistles, they communicated right doctrine.  They did not have to deal with flawed reasoning or a false understanding.  Everything they wrote to the people of their day, everything that we have in our Bible today, is right and true.

            If in writing the gospels and the epistles, the apostles were dependent solely upon their human memory and understanding, there would absolutely be flaws.  There would be places where a memory lapse clouded the account.  There would be places where a flawed understanding caused them to impart wrong doctrine.  However, as we’ve seen, they were blessed with a supernatural ability to remember and to understand.

            For this reason, as we read the words of Scripture, let us not critically pick them apart.  Let us not judge them by our own wisdom and understanding.  Let us, instead, rely on them to judge us.  Let us rely on them to correct our natural way of thinking and believing.