Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Little Dash Of Salt Will Do!


This is a short story that I told to the members of Valley Baptist Church of Salinas to help them understand the missional posture that we who are followers of Christ are to have. I pray that it gives you encouragement as well. It is called:

A Little Dash Of Salt Will Do!


“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” Matthew 5:13 (NIV)
There’s a story about a young inquisitive man who wanted to understand the meaning for life. He tried different things like reading books and watching movies to discover it but none of them seem to give him a clear understanding of what would be his purpose in life. Then one day he was told about this old sage that live high atop a mountain in one of the far corners of the world. It was said that this sage was very wise and had been able to help many a person in their quest for knowledge and understanding. So the inquisitive man decided that he would make the long journey to this far off corner of the world, climb to the top of this mountain and ask this wise sage, “What is the meaning and purpose of life?”
It took a lot of preparation but finally this inquisitive man was ready to set out on his journey to inquire of the wise, old sage about the purpose of life. After several months of traveling he finally arrived at the monastery where the wise old sage lived. He walked up al long but narrow flight of stairs came up to two huge oak doors and rang a big bell to make known his presence. From around the corner came a small, lean and elderly man. In a very quiet voice he ask, “May I help you?” The young inquisitive man replied, “I have traveled a long distance to speak with the wise old sage that lives here. May I speak to him?” He invited the inquisitive man to come around the corner and then into a very small and humble hut where he asked, “what do you wish to ask of the wise old sage?” “I would like to ask him,’what is the meaning of life and what is the purpose for me living?” The elderly gentleman quietly gazed at the inquisitive man and then walked over to a pile of sacks of salt, picked one up and handed it over to the inquisitive man. “What’s this?” The man asked. That is a sack of salt. Why did you give this to me? Because you wish to know the meaning of life! How does a sack of salt reveal to me the meaning of life? It doesn’t but what you do with it will. I want you to leave this place and go out to where the people live and I want you to find different uses for the salt that help people. Once you have found three different uses then come back and tell me.
The inquisitive man left monastery and climbed down the mountain where he entered the first village that he came along. He thought to himself, “How in the world am I going to be able to use this salt to help other people?” He began to walk around and observe the people who were in village. Many of them were out doing their daily chores. They were buying, selling, and working. But then all of a sudden he saw a store owner of a meat market ranting and raving to one of his employees. The man obviously distressed and concerned about something. So the inquisitive man walked up to the meat market owner and ask him what was wrong and why he so upset. The meat market owner began to tell him how he had left instructions with his employee to get some salt to keep the meat fresh for the day but his employee had forgotten and now the meat was about to rot. In reply the inquisitive man offered to give the meat owner most of the salt in the bag but he would have to keep a little for himself. The owner of the meat market was extremely grateful and offered to pay for the salt but the inquisitive man refused to accept the payment.
Once the inquisitive man had filled a couple of small bags with some salt and had given the remainder of the salt to the owner of the meat market he then set out for the next village. The inquisitive man had learned some things from his first experienced. He learned that in order to know how to use the salt he would have to watch the people to see who may need it. So he once again began observing the people as he was walking through the village. When he came up to one particular house he saw a man sitting down to have a bowl of soup for lunch. The man took a big spoon full of the soup, put it to his lips and began to swallow when all of sudden he spit the soup out and began to make an ugly face. He began yelling and screaming at his wife that the soup was horrible and tasteless. He ordered her to go back into the kitchen and fix him another bowl of soup but this time it better taste good. The wife horrified over her husband’s outburst went back into her kitchen with tears filling her eyes. The inquisitive man went around back of the house and knocked on the back kitchen door. When the wife came to the door he shared with her that he could help notice commotion that had happened between her and her husband. He asked her, “Is there anything I can do to help?” The woman looked at the man with big tears in her eyes and said, “We have had a very hard year and all of our spices are gone and I have nothing to season my husband’s soup. The inquisitive man took out of his pocket some of the salt that he had left and offered it to her to use in her husband’s soup. The woman was extremely grateful and repeatedly thanked him for his generosity. She took the salt put it into the soup and then took it out to her husband who was very pleased with the taste.
Inquisitive Bob then left that town and traveled to the next village along the way. When he arrived he now knew that all he needed to do was to look around at the people in the town and see who might be able to use the remaining salt. As he was walking around he noticed a wedding procession beginning to form. However, the bride was extremely distraught. As he walked closer he could the bride telling her mother that she had nothing that could be used to symbolize purity as she offered herself to her new husband. So the Inquisitive Bob said to the bride, “Where I come from salt often symbolizes purity would this little bit of salt help solve your problem?” The Bride began to smile with the biggest smile that anyone had ever seen and, “yes, oh yes. Salt also symbolizes purity here in our town also. I how much can I pay you for the salt that you have?” Inquisitive Bob would not take any money. He was just extremely happy that he could help someone on their very special day of their wedding.
After Inquisitive Bob had given her the remainder of the salt he then set out to return to the wise old sage back up the tall mountain to the monastery. As he arrived he saw the wise old sage. The sage asked him, “What have you done with the salt that I gave you?” Inquisitive Bob answered, “I saw a man who owned a meat market and had no salt to keep his meat from decaying. So I gave it to him. I saw a woman who had not seasoning to put into her husband’s soup for flavor. So I gave her some. And then I saw a bride who had nothing to use as a symbol of her purity. And so I gave her the last of the salt that I had.” The wise old sage said, “Well done, go on your way and live your life.” However, Inquisitive Bob shouted out, “Wait just one minute! You said that if I would go out and help people with this salt that you would tell the purpose of life! So tell me and make me wait no longer.” The wise old sage looked at Inquisitive Bob and quietly said, “YOU ARE THE SALT OF THE EARTH. Now go out and help preserve people’s lives. Go out and be the flavor in other people’s lives. And go out and be a symbol of what a life of purity is like.”
YOU BEING THE SALT OF THE EARTH

Friday, October 9, 2009

THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE


"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

Back in early 2009 I wrote this short story to help the members of Valley Baptist Church understand that God expects us to take the light of his glory, that he has placed within us, and go out into our dark communities and shine so that Christ can receive all the glory. I share this with you now in the hopes that it will motivate you to be more intentional about engaging the community with the good news of Jesus Christ. Read it and go do something about it!

"In a world filled with darkness there existed a large elegant building with beautiful renaissance architecture. The inside of this building was bright with a brilliance that is almost unimaginable. It was so bright that there was not even a shadow that was able to be cast. It seemed as though the light came from every direction. The reason why it was so bright was because inside this building lived hundreds, maybe even thousands, of individual lights that illuminated at different degrees of brightness.
These lights usually spent their time trying to outshine each other. One light would get up on stage and begin to show how bright his light was only to have a different light stand up and try to out shine him. These lights looked for creative ways to shine their lights. Some would get up on stage and shine their light in such a way that it seemed that a choir was singing a beautiful cantata but others would display the brilliance of their light by gathering a few other lights around them and make it seemed like they were teaching the great lessons of the century. Other lights shined in ways that seemed as though the greatest chiefs were creating a delicious and delectable multicourse meal. It seemed as though the only reason for their existence was to try and outshine each.
Then one day one of the younger lights was wondering around the building exploring when he came upon a room that appeared to have been closed up for a very long time. He opened the door and found lots of old books and files just stack up in the four corners of the room. They were stacked high and filled most of the room. There was only a very small place for this young light to stand. Being young and curious this young light began to look through all the stuff. There were all kinds of things. There were birth certificates, legal papers and books with stories. But as he was looking through all the boxes he came across a book that looked older than all the rest. A he opened the book he read the first line, “The official manual on how all lights are to conduct themselves as they go out into the darkness and shine.” That really got this young lights attention. He had never heard of any light ever going out into the darkness. He thought the only reason for lights to exist was to try and outshine each other but now this book was saying their purpose was to go out into the darkness and shine where the evil and scary unlit wicks lived. As the young light read farther into the book it also said that they were to not only shine but also do good things for these unlit wicks because they are cold, lost and afraid. This young light at first thought this book must be some practical joke but then he saw that this book was signed and had the official inscription mark of the FIRST AND BRIGHTEST LIGHT. It also stated that the teachings of this book were to be followed and obeyed completely. The first light was also the light from which all other lights were able to be lit. He was not only the first light and the brightest light but he was also the creator of all lights. He knew all things, heard all things and could do all things. This young light had always been taught that all other lights were to obey the first light totally and completely. With this new information this young light became very concerned because he realized that for as long as he could remember the only thing all lights ever did was stay inside their nice, warm and beautiful building and try to out shine each other in new and creative ways. Never once had he ever heard that they were actually to go out into the dark world that existed and shine. He had never heard of any light ever doing that.
So this young light decided he needed to show this very important and old book to the elders so that they could know that the lights have not been doing what they were supposed to be doing and that they needed to go out into the darkness and shine brightly. Bu when he shared with the elders about what he had found and what they needed to do they all said in one accord, “We cannot go outside where it is dark! We don’t know what’s out there or what will happen to us. It is scary outside. No, it would be better for us just to stay inside our nice warm, bright and safe building and keep on trying to outshine each other.”
But something in the heart of this young light knew that was not the right thing to do. He had this pounding conviction that he needed to go out into the dark world and do what that book said they were to do. So he got some of his friends and shared with them what he had discovered and asked them if they would be willing to join him on this adventure out into the dark world outside. Most of his friends were too afraid and refused to go with him. But his best friend, who was a very bright and brave light, said they would go and together they would face the challenges and the unknowns of the dark world outside. So shoulder to shoulder they walked to the front door, a door that had never been opened that they could remember, and opened it. All of sudden everyone in the building stopped what they were doing, stood perfectly still. They just stood there and stared at these two young but brave lights as they stepped out into the dark world. In amazement all the lights stood at the entrance of the beautiful building looking with amazement as these two young lights began to go farther and farther into the darkness. The other lights began to scream and holler, “Come back! Come back!” But it was too late they were so far into the darkness they could no longer see their lights shining. Everyone feared the worst. They thought that these two young lights had been lost in the darkness.
As these two lights walk together they began to notice two things: First, they noticed that wherever they went the darkness seemed to run away. Each time they took another step the light that shined from them began to illuminate the way and there would be no more darkness. Secondly, they noticed that there were others who were out there. They were not alone. These others were different from them because they did not have any light but also in some ways they were very similar. They weren’t exactly sure how but they just knew inside they were a lot alike. Some of these others would run away and hide when these two young lights began to shine on them but others seemed to be gravitated to the light and would come close. As these others came close it was apparent that they were sad and in need of help. So in little ways they began to do whatever they could to help these others. As they did the others asked them why they were being so kind. So the two young lights began to tell them about the FIRST LIGHT, how he is the giver of all lights and how he commanded them to come out here into the darkness and do good to those they found. Some of these others asked, “Can we be lights also?” The two young lights replied, “Well the first lights knows all things, hears all things and can do all things so I guess if you call out to him and believe in him you to could also be a light.” Some of the others believed what the two lights had said and called out to the first light saying, “We believe in you! Would you give us also the light that shines?” All of sudden something happened! A flash of light exploded and the others who had cried out to the first light began to shine with a brilliant light. The two young lights stood in amazement as they saw these others now shining as bright as they. The others began to sing and rejoice because now their life was bright and filled with hope. They shouted praises and thanks to the FIRST LIGHT for the wonderful and powerful thing he had done.
The two lights said to the new lights, “You must come back with us so that we can show and tell all the other lights what has happened with you and how they can come and join us as we all together go and light the world and chase away the darkness." by Jay Moore
Jesus said that we are to be the light of the world and to do good deeds in such a way that it brings glory to God our Father. Too often we fail to do good things for other people. We have become insensitive to the needs and hurt of others around us. We walk past people on the street but never really look at them. We don’t smile or even acknowledge their presence. If that is the case how can anyone expect us to help others in need? But that is exactly what Jesus is asking us to do. It is time to get out of our comfortable church buildings, homes and offices and engage people in the real world. There is a lot of darkness in this world but we have the ability to ignite a light that can chase the darkness away.
Some people are not able to shine a light into the darkness because they have no light to shine. Their life is filled with nothing more than darkness but it doesn’t have to stay that way. If you feel that you are walking around in spiritual darkness and desire to see the truth of the light then I invite you to discover THE FIRST AND BRIGHTEST OF ALL LIGHTS, JESUS CHRIST. He will se t your life on fire and help you to shine brightly for His Glory. Developing a personal relationship with him can totally transform your life from one of darkness to one of light.
If you already do have the light of Jesus shinning in you where do you shine that light at? Are you hiding in some nice building that you call a church. Remember this: Jesus did not call us to be the light of the Church, he called us to be the LIGHT OF THE WORLD. I want to challenge you with the same challenge Jesus gave us, “Let your light so shine before men, in such away, that they see your good deeds and glory your Father in Heaven.” GET OUT INTO THE REAL WORLD – WHERE REAL LOST PEOPLE ARE AT AND LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Missional Keys For Fulfillment

It is time for every follower of Christ to consider themselves a missionary. A missionary to their neighborhood, work and social group.

in reference to: Google (view on Google Sidewiki)

THE ROLE OF PROFESSIONAL MINISTERS IN FULFILLING CHRIST'S MISSION


"It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." Ephesians 4:11-13

In my last post because of my strong emphasis on ordinary believers being raised up, trained up and unleashed into the church planting fields some may have felt that I have little regard for professional ministers. That would not be accurate. I myself am a professional minister and make my livelihood serving our Lord in full time capacity. There is an important role that professional ministers play. It is not only important it is also vital. If the professional minister do not fulfill their task completely then the laymen will not be able to do their job fully.

But what exactly is that role the professional minister is to play? I believe the verse at the beginning of this post gives the best description. Professional ministers exist to prepare and to equip God's people to be effective in doing the work of the ministry. In that verse Paul list four different gifts to the church or as some would call four different servants. They are apostles, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teachers. If the church is going to get serious about raising up, training up and unleashing ordinary Christians into the church planting fields then the professional ministers will need to get serious about performing their jobs with excellence.

If the ordinary believer is going to be effective in being the church planters then they will need excellent Bible and theological training, they are going to need good training in witnessing and church planting, they are going to need direction given on where the gospel needs to spread and they will need a strong prophet voice warning them against the subtle evils that will encroach upon the church. To fulfill this mission that Christ has given us will require both the professional minister and the ordinary believer fulfilling their responsibility. You can't have one without the other. We need both.

PROFESSIONAL MINISTERS WE HAVE TO GET SERIOUS ABOUT RAISING UP AND TRAINING UP THE PEOPLE OF GOD TO DO THE
WORK OF THE MINISTRY.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

FULFILLING CHRIST'S MISSION IN NORTH AMERICA


What is it going to take for the church in North America to become vibrant, powerful and able to fulfill the mission that God has given it to pursue? Along with the need for a special anointing of the Holy Spirit and a revival of Holiness to fall upon our churches I also feel that there is another major component that has been missing for a very long time. This component comes from a doctrinal distinctive that Baptist and other groups have believed but I have not been fleshed out to its fullest extent in Christian living in these recent times. And that is the doctrine of:

The Priesthood of the Believer.

We talk about it and say that we believe it but when it comes to putting it into practice we are very slow to respond. I believe that if we fully understand and implement this doctrine more fully in our church lives we would begin to see a major movement of God sweeping our North American Continent in the form of a Church Planting Movement.

According to James Leo Garrett Jr.:

"Each believer priest has a responsibility to be committed to Christ and to share Christ through word and deed. As Peter stated it: to “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light" (1 Peter 2:9 NIV)."
We clearly say that we believe it is the responsibility of every believer to share Christ through word and deed. We also see the New Testament believers doing exactly that:

"On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria ... Those who
had been scattered preached the word wherever they went."
Acts 8:1, 4 (NIV)


Who were the ones who went out preaching the word? Not the apostles for they remained in Jerusalem. It was those ordinary believers who had to scattered due to the persecution. These ordinary believers left Jerusalem and went to other towns and when they got there they began to preach the good news of Christ. As people began to receive Christ and his salvation those same ordinary believers gathered those new followers into small communities of faith (churches) that met in houses.

Those ordinary believers were the first missionary church planters.

They weren't professionals! They hadn't received any special training from some fancy institution! They were just your garden variety believers who understood that their responsibility was to faithfully share the good news and gather the people together (church) to learn what they had learned.

We see this same process happening all over the world where there is an explosion of a church planting movement. Churches in India, China, Middle East, Asia, Africa, South America are all being started and multiplying at an exponential rate. The church is growing so fast in those areas that it is out growing the general population. In contrast the church in North America is growing slower than the general population. Why? Why is the church in the rest of the world growing faster than the church in North America? I believe, in part, it is because the church in North America has failed to:

raise up, train up and unleash its members into the church planting fields.


Instead of entrusting this vital ministry to our members we have put the major amount of our eggs into the basket of professional church planters. We have become very sophisticated in how we select those who will be start our new churches. And the results have come in from that approach:
IT'S NOT WORKING!

We failed miserably with that approach. There is not enough personnel or financial resources available to start the number of churches that need to be started with that kind of approach. We desperately need a much bigger personnel pool to chose from and a style of church that uses very little financial resources. And from what I have seen in scripture and church history that unlimited pool of personnel are sitting right in our pews just waiting to be unleashed. Ordinary believers were the main workers that God used in the New Testament. Ordinary believers are the workers we see throughout church history as being the primary church planters. If those believers who are part of our churches refuse to take up mantle of responsibility to be the new church planters it will be due to the fact that we trained them to be satisfied as pew warmers. If our church members refuse to take up this church planting responsibility I am convinced that there will be plenty of new church planters found in the harvest if, we train up these new believers to understand that their purpose in life is to be a missionary that reaches their neighborhood for Christ and gathers them into small communities of faith (church).

THE TIME HAS COME FOR US TO RAISE UP, TRAIN UP AND UNLEASHED OUR MEMBERS AS MISSIONARIES INTO THE CHURCH PLANTING FIELDS.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

JESUS' MISSIONARY STRATEGY: Part 4 FindingThe Man of Peace


"When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house."
Luke 10: 5-7 (NIV)

We now come to the fourth component of Jesus' Missionary Strategy. The first three are: Work in teams; know where you're going; and develop a powerful prayer emphasis. Now we are approaching where the rubber hits the road and where we begin to engage the targeted community to form a beachhead for missional operations. A new term is being introduced, Man of Peace, to describe the targeted audience. Understanding this targeted audience is of the utmost strategic importance for the powerful penetration and the rapid spreading of the gospel throughout a mission field.

Finding the Man of Peace is the answer to the prayers that were offered up to the Lord of the Harvest to send more laborers into the field. First one prays for more help in the harvest field and then one begins to search for the answer to that prayer. Finding the Man of Peace and establishing a beachhead for kingdom operations within his home is how the team is to prepare the community for Jesus' arrival or in the case of the book of Acts for the Holy Spirit's arrival. The home of the Man of Peace is to be the place where Jesus would base his ministry and operations within that town. This home would be the place where Jesus would teach, preach, heal and fellowship with his disciples and the residents of the community. This Man of Peace and his home would become the epicenter of Jesus' missional movement within that community that would naturally spread through his web of influence. This Man of Peace would be the key to opening the hearts of large numbers of people to receive Christ. Finding this man is critical to the success of saturating Christ's kingdom in that community.

But how does one recognize the Man of Peace and How does one find him? According to Thom Wolfe, former pastor of Church on Brady Street in East LA and mission professor at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, there are three characteristics that will identify the Person of Peace.

  • First, The Person of Peace has been prepared to received Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said,
"When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' If a man of peace is
there, your peace will rest on him;
if not, it will return to you."

Jesus is clearly indicating that the man of peace is one who is ready to receive the message of salvation. He is that fruit that is ripe for the picking. Every person who can be identified as a Person of Peace in the Gospels or the Book of Acts has been a person ready and eager to receive Christ. That doesn't mean that there are not others who are ready to receive Christ. There are. But remember the Person of Peace is a strategic tool, that Christ uses, to unlock the doors to large groups of people. Now while we are ready and willing to lead any and all people to Christ we must also be looking for that strategic Person of Peace whom God will use to open up large numbers of other hearts for his glory. Therefore, understanding the other two characteristics is vital.

  • The second characteristic is that they are people with a reputation. This reputation may be positive or negative. It doesn't really matter. The point is that large numbers of people know who they are. They have a familiar face or name within that targeted mission field. Hearing of this person has come to faith in Christ would cause the ears of many to perk up. People might even be shocked at the news that this particular person has become a believer in Christ.
The woman at the well that Jesus talked to was a person with a negative reputation. The Roman Centurion, Cornelius, was a person with a positive reputation. As I said before the kind of reputation is not important but the fact that they have notoriety or famous is what catches the eyes and ears of those that know of them. My very good friend, Larry Munguia, is such a man. Heavy into rock and roll music, drugs and alcohol Larry messed up his life so bad that he had lost everything including all respect from his family. Then at a Promise Keepers meeting he gave his life over to Christ and a few years later God called him into the ministry. People who knew Larry were shocked, to say the least, to hear of his new found faith! But now God has used Larry to start a church, THE SOBER PROJECT in Tucson, AZ, that has over 300 people in weekly attendance who are in recovery. God used his negative reputation to bring glory to himself. Larry is a Person of Peace.

  • The third characteristic is that the Person of Peace is highly influential. They are natural leaders. When they speak people, in their mission field listen and follow. The Person of Peace has a web of influence that can be very large. When he speaks about his conversion experience he has instant credibility the people. Because of their credibility people believe the validity of their testimony.
The Philippian Jailer had so much influence that his entire household believed and was baptized. The Samaritan woman at the well was instrumental for the whole town coming to faith.

When all three characteristics are present there is the potential for an explosion of people coming to faith in Christ. But we have to learn how to recognize them and how to capitalize on it. To many missed opportunities of large numbers of people coming to faith in Christ happen simply because we have not learned how to capitalize on this strategic missional principle. But that is a discussion for another post.

How do you find such people? Jesus instructed the 72 to go door to door until they found the person who match the description of the Person of Peace. Once that person was identified they were to stop their search and stay with that person. I will share more about that later but for now just understand the way you find the Person of Peace is the same way you look for a needle in a haystack, one house at a time.

If we are going to be effective in the rapid spreading of the Kingdom of God and the gospel, we must be determined to find the Persons of Peace that God has prepared. Being able to identify the Man of Peace is the skill that effective missionaries need to develop. It is important to understand that we are unable to create or even develop people to become a Person of Peace. This is the work of the God. It is God, the Lord of the Harvest, who is responsible for calling out the workers (Man of Peace) into the fields but it is our job to find this person, walk alongside them with encouragement, equip them and then unleash them into the harvest fields.

LET'S DO IT!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

JESUS' MISSIONARY STRATEGY: Part 3 Pray For More Workers

"He told them, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into the harvest field." Luke 10:2 (NIV)

So far we have observed that Jesus' missionary strategy consisted of developing a team concept, the disciples and the 72 were to go out 2 by 2. We then see that Jesus had a plan of where he was about to go and he sent his disciples out to prepare the way. We see this same pattern among the disciples in the book of Acts. They also went out in teams of at least two people and we see that, in particular, the Apostle Paul had a very clear plan of where he wanted to go. This plan however, was always subject to change based upon the guiding and leading of the Holy Spirit.

Now we come to the third part of Jesus' strategy which is prayer. In this verse Jesus stated an observation that he has made:

The Harvest Is Full And Ready To Be Picked But There Is Just Not Enough Workers To Gather It All In!

In other words there are a whole lot of people ready and prepared to repent and follow Jesus but there is just one problem! There's not enough people to share the good news of God's forgiveness of sin to the people ready to receive it.

The same is true today. There are people all over this country sick and tired of their sinful condition. They are fed up with the mess their sinfulness has made of their lives. But they also feel helpless because they know there is nothing they can do to change their situation. And they feel hopeless because they know there is nothing anyone else can do to make a difference. They have tried all the self-help books, all the court mandated meetings, counseling and even behavioral modification all to no avail. But as Christians we have the good news that can change their lives and we have the keys that can unchain them from the slavery of sin that has held them captive.

But there's one problem.
We still don't have enough workers in harvest fields.

So what are we suppose to do? Are we to allow the fruit to remain on the vine to rot? Are we to guilt people who claim to be Christians but never share their faith to come join us? What are we to do? And just as we are asking this question the words of Jesus comes echoing out of the pages.

PRAY!

Pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send more workers. There is a very important point that needs to be made! It is not our job to call other Christians to work in the harvest field! We are not to beg them, guilt them or bribe them. IT'S NOT OUR JOB! It is not our job to go out and pick who we want to join us on this mission of gathering in the souls that God has prepared. Again I will say it,

"IT'S NOT OUR JOB."

Listen carefully as I say this! It is the responsibility of the LORD OF THE HARVEST to recruit and gather his team of harvesters. IT'S GOD'S JOB NOT OURS! Our part to play is to pray and to plead with the God to send more workers. We are to pray as we go out into the fields to reap the harvest. We are to pray while we are harvesting.

So often as we read this verse from a 21st century perspective. We feel that God is going to raise up these new workers from those Christians who are pew sitters. Somehow we feel that God is going to spiritually arouse them where they will have this unquenchable motivation to go out and share. But if we were the disciples hearing Jesus say this words while living in the 1st century we would quickly realize that there were no other Christians sitting and warming the pews. All of the followers of Jesus, at that time, were actively involved in reaping the harvest. So Jesus could not have been asking his disciple to pray to God to motivate those bench warming dead Christians to come out and help. There were no bench warming dead Christians to arouse.

So who were those workers that Jesus asked us to pray for to come and help us? They were men and women who were not even believers in Christ yet but whom God has prepared to follow Jesus. The answer to the prayers would not come from within the church but from within the harvest. The new laborers would be those men and women who have recently decided to follow Christ.

THE LORD OF THE HARVEST WOULD SEND NEW LABORERS INTO THE HARVEST WHO RECENTLY CAME OUT OF THE HARVEST.

So let me ask you a few questions and let's begin to evaluate ourselves in light of Jesus' missionary strategy:

  1. How diligently are you praying to God to send more people into the harvest who recently came out of the harvest?
  2. Are you actively praying while you are actively harvesting? Or are you just waiting to begin the harvesting once God brings more people to join the work?
  3. Are you actively looking for those people that God is raising up out of the harvest to be those co-laborers in the harvest fields?
  4. Whom have you reach recently for Christ that you can team up with and show how they can reap the harvest also?
  5. What fruit (person) are you going to investigate today to see if they are ripe for harvest?
Let's remember to team up, know where we are going,
and pray for God to send more laborers.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

JESUS' MISSIONARY STRATEGY: Part 2 Have A Plan



"After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go." Luke 10:1 (NIV)

In this verse Jesus hints to why he had appointed and sent out the seventy-two. His purpose was for them to prepare for his arrival to those particular towns and villages he was about to go. They were to go ahead of Jesus and get things ready for his arrival in order so that when Jesus did arrive he would be wholeheartedly received by the people. You see Jesus had a plan. He knew exactly where he was going. He wasn't flying this mission by the seat of his paints or trying to figure it out as went along. He knew exactly what he was doing and how he would get it done.

Even in the book of Acts we see the Apostle Paul had a plan for where he was wanting to go on his missionary journey. In Acts 16:6-10 we see two very important principles that Paul used in determining where he was to go on this Divine mission,

"Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phryia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, 'Come over to Macedonia and help us.' After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them."

From this passage we first see that Paul had intended and was actively trying to preach in the province of Asia and was trying to enter the boarder of Mysia. Why? Because that was the plan! They had planned to go there and had every intention to go and preach the good news. They had a plan and they were trying to follow that plan. I believe that Paul felt it was important to have a plan to execute and that he had thought through exactly where he felt God wanted him to go on this mission. He wasn't leaving the fulfillment of God's mission, to make disciples of all nations, to chance. He planned on where to go and what to do and he was going to execute that plan.

But then we see a second important principle that Paul used in fulfilling the mission. That principle was that all his plans and strategies were subject to change based upon the leading of the Holy Spirit. It was the Holy Spirit that prevented him from going into Asia and into Mysia! Why? Because God had a different plan for Paul to obey. He wanted him to go into Macedonia to preach to those people there. And Paul was obedient. As a result a church in Thessalonica was established, a jailer along with his entire household were saved and a woman, Lydia, opened her home for the church to meet. Paul followed the leading of the Holy Spirit because he had a clear understanding that he was not a slave to his plans but he was a servant of God.

From this I see three important things that those of us who are serious about being on mission with Christ need to implement:

  1. We must have a plan on how we intend to penetrate and reach our mission field. We need to know where the people are at. We need to have a plan on what neighborhood we are going to reach into first and then second and then third.
  2. Having a plan is not enough. We also need to have a resolve to implement and execute that plan. There has to be action applied to our plans.
  3. We must remember that all our plans are up for change based upon the leadership of the Holy Spirit. We must remember that we don't serve our plans. Our plans are just a tool for us to serve God. If the Holy Spirit comes and closes the doors for us to implement a part of our strategy we then need to be ready to listen and follow the Holy Spirits leading. The only reason why God would close the door to implementing our plan is because he wants to redirect our attention and move in a different way.

Do you have a plan to penetrate your mission field? Do you know who you are going to go after first, second and then third? Are you staying in close communion with God so that if the Holy Spirit wanted to redirect your plans you would be able to follow?

Folks it is time for us to get serious about putting together a comprehensive strategic plan to reach the Harvest Mission Fields that Christ has placed us in and we need to maintain a strong and intimate connection with Christ so that we can follow when the Holy Spirit wants to redirect us.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

JESUS' MISSIONARY STRATEGY: Part 1 Go In Teams


"After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go." Luke 10:1 (NIV)

I don't know how many times in my life I got excited about doing something and then charged forward with the attitude that I was going to accomplish this goal regardless if anybody came with me or not. To many to count. I was going to make it happen, no, I was going to force it to happen. But then, just as I got into the thick of things, when things got really tough and even dicey, I'd loose heart, get discouraged and soon drop out and quit. I'm sure I am not alone in this. I am sure that most of us can recall a time or two where that was a description of you. But isn't comforting to know that Jesus has made preparations to encourage us who are on mission with him when we go through difficult times? Isn't nice to know that Jesus' strategy included an encouragement component to keep his missionaries (us) on track?

Did you notice in that verse above that Jesus appointed 72 other people and teamed them up two be two. Why? What would be the reason for sending them out two by two? If you sent them out individually you could cover twice as much territory. The only possible reason for this pairing is to provide support for one another. Listen to what the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12:

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."

From this verse we can see Jesus' wisdom in sending the 72 out in teams. He knew that there would be far more success with teams than if they went out on their own. Teams would provide assistance, encouragement, protection and strength. None of this would be available if a person was pursuing Christ's mission alone. Knowing these benefits Jesus made teams part of his strategy. All throughout the book of Acts we see the same pattern of teams being used with the apostles. Whether it was Paul and Barnabas or Peter and John we see them doing the work together and pursuing Christ's mission in teams.

For those of us in the 21 Century we can learn a very important lesson! As we go out to fulfill and pursue this God given mission we need to make sure that we don't try to do it alone but we have surrounded ourselves with other like-mind believers who have the same passion for Christ's mission as our own. That when we go out to seek the lost we don't do it alone but we do it with others who will watch our backs.

Who are you teaming up with? Are you trying to do the mission Christ has laid on your heart all alone and find yourself getting discouraged? Who are those believers in your life that would form a good team?


Let's learn from Christs example. Let's follow Christ's instructions! Let's find others that we can team up with.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

UNDERSTANDING THIS MISSION JESUS GAVE US


"Jesus said to him, 'Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." Luke 19:9,10 (NIV)

So what exactly is this mission that Jesus was sent on by the Father? What exactly was Jesus suppose to do? In the story of Zacchaeus we get the clearest and most concise job description of Jesus' mission straight from Jesus himself. It has two parts. First is to "SEEK" and second is to "SAVE" that which was lost. Seeking and saving the lost. That was it in a nut shell. It's not a long and complicated mission statement and it's pretty easy to understand and follow.

Let's take a look at the first part of seeking the lost. As a person begins to strategically contemplate this action the first question one might ask is: Who are the lost? The answer: The lost is everyone! Everyone who has ever been born, lived and died other than Jesus have been spiritually lost. All that Jesus had to do was close his eyes and then open them quickly and the first person he saw would be a lost person. The second person he would see would also be a lost person including the third, fourth and on down to everyone else he saw. There's not much seeking involved when everyone is lost. So was Jesus' mission intended to seek and to save every lost person or only specific lost people? To answer that question one must understand the purpose of the seeking. What is purpose behind the seeking? It is found in the second part of the Christ's mission statement and that was to save the lost. Now, is Jesus going to save every single lost person who has ever lived or are there going to be some who are saved and some who will remain in their sinful plight? Well scripture is real clear on this subject. God has made it abundantly clear that a few lost people will be saved while the majority are going to receive eternal damnation. Jesus uses such visual word pictures as, "Wide is the road that leads to destruction and many go that way, while narrow is the road that leads to life and few find it." So Jesus is not going to save everyone but only a few. So this is not a seeking of all lost people and saving them but a seeking of those particular lost people who have been prepared (by the Holy Spirit) and are ready for salvation.

Now this is going to require some effort, some understanding and some observation in order to do this task. In order to seek after particular lost people who are prepared to be saved one must know what he is looking for. One must be able to understand and recognize the signs that indicate if a person is prepared and ready for salvation or not. So are there signs that one can observe that would indicate if a lost person is prepared and ready for salvation? If so what would Jesus look for in a person who is ready? With the story of Zacchaeus we can see three particular signs that indicated to Jesus that he was ready and prepared.

First, Zacchaus showed an extraordinary amount of desire in Godly things. When the word got out that Jesus was going to pass through Jericho the crowd quickly responded and came out to see him. This was not unusual. Jesus seemed to attract a crowd in many of the places where he went. Zacchaeus also wanted to see Jesus but his desire far outweighed those that were part of the crowd. Zacchaeus was a short man and because the large crowd he was unable to see Jesus. Now Zacchaeus demonstrated his greater desire to see Jesus from the rest of the crowd when he decided that he was not going to remain as part of the crowd and only get a glimpse of Jesus but instead he took the initiative and ran on ahead of the crowd and climb up into a tree in order to get a much better view of Jesus as he passed by. Nobody else is recorded to have taken that initiative. The rest of the people were content to stay in the crowd. Others may have gotten discouraged by the large crowds and gone home. But not Zacchaeus! He had an uncontrollable compulsion to see Jesus and he demonstrated a level of faith that others did not have by running ahead of the crowd and climbing up into that tree.

I think that this caught Jesus' attention. Here Jesus is walking down the street and seeing a grown man, the Chief Tax Collector, up in a tree waiting to see him. Now we need to remind ourselves why Jesus is here? Jesus has come to seek the lost who are prepared to be saved! As Jesus sees this grown man up in the tree he may have thought to himself, "Look at what this man is willing to do in order to see me. Maybe, he is one of the lost who is prepared to be saved. Let me find out by asking him to take me to his house." I think that when Jesus asked Zacchaeus to come down and take him to his house he was testing Zacchaeus to see if he possibly was one of the lost people whom the Spirit had prepare.

This leads to the next sign that Zacchaeus demonstrated. Zacchaeus was willing to accept Jesus' invitation to come to his house. He could have declined the invitation. He could have made excuses why he would be unable to accommodate him. He could have climbed down out of that tree and ran off and hide from Jesus. But he didn't. Instead, he hurried down that tree and welcomed Jesus gladly. Zacchaeus was more than willing to have Jesus come over to his house. He was thrilled that Jesus would want to spend time with him. There was no hesitation on Zacchaeus' part whatsoever. He jumped at the opportunity. What Jesus was doing was offering Zacchaeus an opportunity to explore his spiritual life more closely and watch and see how he would respond. When Zacchaeus responded with great enthusiasm Jesus had another piece of evidence that he needed that showed Zacchaeus might be one of those lost people whom the Holy Spirit had prepared.

Then finally we see the crowd beginning to criticize Jesus for going over to his Zacchaeus house. They said, "He gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner." What the crowd failed to understand was that from God's perspective they all were sinners. But how would Zacchaeus react to all these negative comments? Would he get angry? Would he retaliate? But what we see is that how Zacchaeus responded gave the finally proof, to Jesus, that he truly was one of those prepared lost sinners that he came to save. Even as all the negative and critical statements came from the crowd Zacchaeus didn't try to justify his past behavior nor did he try to condone it. He just started confessing and repenting. He admitted that he had stolen and was willing to pay back everything plus four times more. In addition he said that he was willing to give half of his possessions to the poor. Jesus never asked him to do any of those things. Those were Zacchaeus' ideas! Why? Because he was experiencing a changed heart. He was repenting from his lifestyle of sin. As Jesus saw this happening he became convinced that Zacchaeus was indeed one of those whom Jesus came to save. Listen to what Jesus says, "For salvation has come to this house ..."

So what does this mean to us who are Ordinary Christians of Christ pursuing the same mission that
Christ initiated? What can we learn from this example that will help us to fulfill the mission that Jesus handed over to us? First, our job, like that of Jesus, is to sort through people. As Ordinary Christians we are looking not just for lost people. They are everywhere. We are looking specifically for those lost people that God has prepared and are ready to be saved. We accomplish this by looking for signs that will indicate a person is ready. Like Jesus, we are looking for individuals who are demonstrating a higher than normal amount of interest in spiritual things. Who are the ones we see climbing the trees to see Jesus? Then we are to offer them an opportunity to learn more about God and Christ just like Jesus offered Zacchaeus an opportunity for him to come to his house. How do they respond? Do they show genuine excitement about this opportunity or do they find excuses why they can't participate. And finally, we talk about their sinful condition and their willingness to allow Christ to forgive them of their sin and watch to see how they respond. Do they repent from their sinful condition or do they try to rationalize them? When we find those with a truly repentant heart then we have found those whom God has prepared. So offer them salvation and lead them to Jesus.

Like Jesus we are here to seek and to save those that are lost. We are here to find those lost people who are prepared, by God and introduce them to Christ.

Are you an Ordinary Christian needing some encouragement, some empowerment or equipping to better pursue the mission that God has given to us?  Are you wanting to live a missional life but just not sure how to go about it?  Then I want to invite you to join me at THE ORDINARY CHRISTIAN!  The Ordinary Christian exists to empower, encourage and equip ordinary christians to live a missional life that shine the Light of Christ back into this dark world.  You can join us at:


Take Care & God Bless

Monday, July 6, 2009

Insights On Christ's Mission

In the Gospel of John chapter twenty verses twenty-one through twenty-two it says,

"Then Jesus said to them again, 'Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.' And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said
to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they
are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any,
they are retained."

This is really an amazing thing. Here we see the entire God-Head: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, all completely involved in this Divine Mission. It is God the Father who is the originator of this mission. It is a mission that flows from the very heart of God. It is not some human idea or concept but one that came from God himself from the very foundations of the earth.

But then we also see Jesus, the Son of God, as the implementor of this mission. The Father entrusted this mission into no other hands but that of his own Son. He did not entrust it to angels or anyone else but he gave it to the only perfectly qualified to get it started in the right direction. He gives it to none other than His very own Son. For there was a part that Jesus needed to play in the fulfillment of the mission that no one else could do. He alone could become the perfect sacrifice, the redemption, that buys back the souls of those whom God loves from the chains of sin. He was to offer up his own life and shed his own blood so that atonement for sin could be made and the perfect law of God would be satisfied. Jesus began the movement. He gathered a few disciples taught them what they needed to know and exemplified how this mission was to be carried out.

And then we see the Holy Spirit being given. Without the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the ordinary christian this mission would be an impossible task to fulfill but in Acts chapter one starting with verse four we read,

"And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, 'which,' He said,'you have heard from Me; for John baptized with water, but you shallbe baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now ... But you
shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and
you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea
and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

It is through the working of the Holy Spirit that the power that is needed to fulfill the mission is provided. Yes, the entire Godhead had a vested interest in the success and completion of this mission.

As amazing as it is to see the entire Godhead at play in this mission it is also equally humbling to think that God has allowed us, those of us who are his followers, to also play a vital role in this mission. Jesus said,


"As the Father has sent me, so send I you." 

 That's what Jesus said. Jesus received his instruction for carrying out his part of the mission straight from the Father but now he hands the fulfillment of this mission off to us who are his disciples. He gives this mission to ordinary christians.  He didn't have to do that! He didn't have to make us part of this redemption story but He did. It was from his good pleasure and for his glory that he has done so. As Ordinary Christians the fulfillment of this mission should be our purpose, focus and priority in life! Our only reason for existence in this life is to see this mission fulfilled. If we live for money, for personal success, for fame or for any other reason we have missed our reason and purpose for living. The only reason why God has left us here on earth after our salvation is for us to carry out this mission for His praise and His glory. All the rest of life should be viewed through this lens. It should color all the rest of our activities in life. It should not be one of the things that we do in life but everything we do in life, in some way, should help us fulfill this God given mission and that we bring praise and glory to God our Father and our Lord Jesus through accomplishing of it.

What will you do? What will be your mission in life? Are you ready as an ordinary christian to surrender your dreams, priorities and and vision to that of God and to his mission that He has already given us?

As you begin to live a missional life that brings glory to God I would like to encourage you.  I invite you to join me on a Facebook Page that I created called THE ORDINARY CHRISTIAN. The Ordinary Christians is designed to empower, encourage and equip ordinary christians to live a missional life that shines the Light of Christ back into this dark world.  Come and join us.  You can find it at:

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