The Centrality of Missions

One of the Biblical passages which is commonly talked about in missionary minded churches is Matthew 28:18-20, commonly referred to as The Great Commission.

Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 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 everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

In this passage Jesus is instructing the disciples, immediately prior to the ascension, to make a concerted effort to reach all nations with the gospel message. Notice also that the instruction is specifically extended to the end of the age, verifying we are to keep at it until He returns. This process of trying to spread the message, church and life practices of Christianity to all the world is commonly called missions.

I have a very high view of missions.

I believe that a church which ceases to work toward missionary actions and purposes has ceased to be a church. Yes, I know that is a very strong statement. Just as we would say a person who does not believe the Bible and will not submit themselves to Jesus is not a Christian, a congregation that is not interested in reaching their neighborhood nor their world, is not a church. Of course there are other things a church needs too, but for this discussion on missions I will confine my evaluation of the church to this one qualification.

In the same, ‘by their fruit you shall know them’ way that we evaluate believers, we can evaluate groups of believers. A group which is not interested in missions is fundamentally defining itself as having different purposes, or at least different priorities, than those assigned the church by its founder.

For my readers, here is what I want you to take away. When your church is meeting, teaching, planning, budgeting, worshipping, and whatever else they happen to do, be a strong advocate for missions. You will do a great deal to protect your congregation by keeping it busy on the task assigned to it by our Savior. As a rule of thumb, it is when a congregation loses this missionary focus that they begin to fail.

Advertisement

Doing What You Want

For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. Romans 7:15

CoverThe above verse explains a constant battle Christians engage in with themselves. Sin is so much a part of the human condition that even though we have come to hate sin, we often find ourselves in the thick of it. We can improve, and should always endeavor to gain ground in the war with sin, but we will never celebrate an all out victory.

Fighting a battle we can never win is frustrating. But many believers live a reality that is even worse. They never even make progress.

The book, The Storeroom of the Heart, is for these individuals. It takes the storeroom principle, taught by Jesus in Matthew 12:34-35, and allows the contemporary Christian to explain why they get stranded in this manner. Understanding the storeroom principle can help the believer to begin gaining ground in the battle, shape their lives in such a way as to be useful to the kingdom, and allow them to see principles for successful living that are often overlooked in today’s culture.

The Storeroom of the Heart is available in electronic format, hardcover or softcover. You can order it anywhere books are sold or from the publisher, CrossBooks. If you are interested in obtaining a copy signed by the author contact me on one of the social media links to the right and I will be happy to work that out for you.

Female Yellow-headed Blackbird

Yellow Head Female

This is a female, yellow-headed blackbird. They are seen considerably less often than male birds because their habits are almost opposite. The male will sit on top of the cattails and call out. They puff themselves up to show off their colors. And will vigorously defend their territory against intruders.

But the female will stay hidden down lower in the vegetation. They are pretty much only seen when dashing out to grab some slime or floating plant from the surface of the water. This is taken back inside the reeds where she will build it into a nest, built around several strong shafts, and suspended above the water.

The male makes sure everyone sees him while doing basically nothing, but the female prefers seclusion and carries on the tasks of nest building. Given the two different personalities, which are you and which should you be. For the blackbirds both are necessary. The male creates the nesting territory, the female builds the nest, raising and hiding the young. Within humanity the role of defending a territory from others is not needed, but the quiet, industrious, and humble work of the female fits what both men and women need to be in the kingdom of God.

When I use the word humble, I am referring to the way the female blackbird makes its entire life about others. She does not puff herself up. She does not seek to be the center of attention. Instead of spending her energy on herself, everything she does is for others.

This behavior is not only beneficial to humanity, it is Christ-like. Perhaps it is the greatest development of character a Christian should strive for as they mature. In Philippians 2:3 (HCSB) “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.

Black-necked Stilt

Black-necked Stilt

The black-necked stilt is a sharp dressed bird, wearing black and white with a red color accent like a businessman’s power tie. The flock will use that power when they respond to predators. While most water birds will flee from threats, these birds, these birds will work together both to spot and drive away dangers. These displays can be remarkably aggressive, including surrounding the predator with birds that are jumping up and down and flapping their wings at it.

A behavior like this would be unwise when the bird is alone, but it is effective in groups. If a solitary bird ran up to a coyote jumping up and down like this the message received would likely be more “pick me!” than “go away!” But when it is done in the group it is a successful deterrent and means of dealing with danger.

There is likely to be a lesson there for the church. How good is your church at pointing out and dealing with the dangers of sin? Sometimes the church will shy away from this activity because in today’s world people can think we look silly. A little bit like the group of birds gathered around a threat and raising a ruckus. This type of warning people against sin is perceived as old fashioned, and described as the church acting like chicken little claiming the sky is falling.

But when the church doesn’t point out the dangers of sin, they are instead leaving it up to the individual Christian to handle sin on their own. This is likely to turn out a bit more like the lone stilt displaying for a coyote. We need the support of the group in order to strive toward righteousness. We need the help of the congregation to defeat sin and the intentional enemy behind all sin.

1 Peter 5:8 (HCSB) “Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Yellow-headed Blackbird

This is a yellow-headed blackbird. There doesn’t seem to be any need to discuss how it came up with its name. This is the biggest blackbird. It appears most sporadically, meaning there are few places they don’t show up in at some point, but there is also only a few places where you can be sure they will return year after year. The marsh where I took these pictures was full of at least twenty males dividing up the area into nesting territories.

One of the behaviors of these birds is they will drive red-winged blackbirds in order to claim a nest area. The squabbles when they first arrive are a comical affair made up of more posing and bravado than of crossing talons and beaks. The winner in these battles is generally the one who stands their ground with the most courage.

I believe courage is a spiritual value. We should carefully store courage up in our hearts. We should encourage it and nurture it in our children and those we mentor. Courage is important because it is a necessary ingredient in everything we do. From a child’s first steps to a young soldier’s command to join the battle to an old man facing a cancer diagnosis; courage is necessary.

It is a spiritual value because courage is necessary to do things for God’s sake. It takes courage to walk away from sin. It takes courage to learn and grow in the Christian life. It takes courage to become whatever it is God wants us to become. In addition to believing courage is a spiritual value, I believe most people are not reaching their full potential in Christ because they have not practiced the high level of courage it takes to achieve God’s best.

This is a pattern of Scripture. Remember the children of Israel refused courage and wandered in the wilderness for forty unnecessary years. Then when they did take the promised land they used some courage, but stopped short when they grew weary of the battle. Then they had to live with the consequences of compromise for the remainder of the time they were carried off into captivity. That captivity was one of the consequences suffered for their lack of courage.

In Joshua 1:7 (HCSB) we see the principle of courage being taught to Joshua as he prepared to become a leader. “Above all, be strong and very courageous to carefully observe the whole instruction My servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go.”

Eternality

God is eternal. As created beings, we have a tendency to misunderstand the full scope of what it means to be eternal. We are prone to define what it means to be eternal in regards to a time line. One of the wrong ways of stating it is, something is eternal if it is always going to exist. Or if there will never come a day when it ceases to exist.

We might differentiate the eternality of man, which is eternal into the future, from the eternality of God, which is eternal both into the past and into the future. But this is a false construct, a misunderstanding of both eternality and God.

God cannot be measured in time, He created it just like He created space. Space He filled up with matter, and time He filled up with events. He is omnipresent within space, and in the same way He is omnipresent in time. God is not eternal because He exists eternally in both directions, past and future, but rather because He is Lord over time.

Time is not even eternal in both directions, past and future. Time has a beginning. Time only goes backward to the point where God created it. But God existed outside of the realm of time He created. He is eternal because He exists outside of time. So just like God is omnipresent in space, meaning that He is equally present in all places, He is also omnipresent in time, meaning He is simultaneously in all times. He sees your birth and your death at the same time. He is currently in the now, but He is also currently in every other time. We move through time. He is Lord over time.

Because of this I think it would be better if we never described anything created as eternal. God is eternal, meaning He is Creator of and Lord over time. Everything else is either temporary or everlasting. Something which is everlasting, has a starting point but does not have an ending point. Human beings are everlasting, but only God is eternal.

Theology of Imperfection

I believe humans are imperfect, because of sin, and incapable of perfection on earth. More importantly we should continue to strive for perfection as a due diligence of our repentance. Confession is necessary because we have not fully overcome our bent toward sinning. However, Christ on our behalf, has fully overcome our sin, but we must never use this as an excuse for taking our sin lightly.

Human beings sin. I have met people who deny the fact, but this claim can only be made in a very egocentric view of life. A look at how our actions affects others will demonstrate we have all done things we know harm others, therefore we have sinned.

I also believe we are not currently capable of eliminating all sin. We do not understand the full implications of our actions, nor do we fully suppress the effects of temptation on our lives. These two facts together will lead us to return to sin, even with severe efforts on our side to avoid doing wrong.

Believers can deal with these crisis of behavior by confessing their faults to God and allowing Him to forgive their sins and cleanse them from it. This reality of sin in the believer and the relief from it is described in 1 John 1:8-9.

How the church and believers react to these realities seems to be changing in recent years. Some Christian music, a few books and quite a bit of preaching have adopted the idea even our sin glorifies God. It is all a part of God’s plan so, go with it. Enjoy and embrace life, including living out the sin nature God has for you. I hope you reject this concept. Paul dealt with it in Romans 6:1 and threw out the possibility.

If we are seeking God’s best in our lives we should continue on the path of repentance. We should fight and resist sin every step of the way. Not because we will reach perfection, but because sin is an affront to God. It robs us of potential and robs Him of glory.

Green-Winged Teal

Green-Winged Teal

The green-winged teal is an attractive duck when you see it in full light. That green ear patch is beautifully set off by the reddish brown color of the rest of the head. But that same duck in less light will have the green patch begin to appear, perhaps dark blue, but more likely black. If the setting is a little darker the entire head can appear to be dark.

Of course if you let it get a little bit darker yet, you can’t see the bird at all.

But if you can get a view in direct light such as the one above the green and red will light up with an iridescent sheen. In every situation the duck is still the same duck, but without the external light the beauty of the duck is hidden.

People are like this. They can be wonderful, beautiful people, but it won’t show in the wrong light. They might be walking in the dark. They might be doing something which makes them seem less safe, friendly, or attractive. If the first time you meet someone they are leaning in an alley smoking . . . something, you will see them quite differently than if they were helping a little old lady cross the street.

Christians should be especially aware of this. We must know that we are not perfect people, but flaunting your imperfections is always ugly. If we do our best to stay in the light, walk in the light and reflect the light we will be a better witness. I believe you will also be a better Christian and a better person too. If we take no care at all to live as a Christian, of course, our faith will become completely invisible for others to see.

1 Peter 2:9 (HCSB)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people for His possession,
so that you may proclaim the praises
of the One who called you out of darkness
into His marvelous light.

American Coot

American Coot - Head

This is not a prop from a horror flick, nor is it a prehistoric creature. But you have to admit when you look at it this closely, it is a bit scary.

It is the face of a bird, and probably a bird you have often seen hanging around in city park ponds, or some other body of water. People seem to respond to it by calling it a funny looking, little black duck. They might even say it’s cute, but they are not down face to face with the creature.

In reality this is not even a duck. It is this is the same bird I highlighted last week, the very common, American coot. Last week I showed you just the foot, but today I give you the head, and that rather impressive white beak. The red eye makes him look even more menacing.

One of the tough lessons is to see things for what they really are. We see a situation and we think it’s cute, attractive or fun. We may not look close enough to recognize what we are seeing is a whole bunch of ugly dressed up in the devil’s best disguise.

But seeing through a deception requires something that is in short supply today. It takes time and attention. We are in a society that has reduced its social interactions to tweets and its entertainment to three minute YouTube clips.  We don’t look closely at anything anymore, neither do we take the time to evaluate the good and bad of situations with any degree of depth.

But if we want to live and walk as Christians, we must learn to see through the deceptions of the world and carefully evaluate what is right in every situation. Ephesians 5:15-16 (HCSB) Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise—making the most of the time, because the days are evil.

Forgiveness

What do you believe about forgiveness?

Do you believe humanity needs forgiveness? I do. We do things we know are wrong. When we do wrong it is offensive. God is offended. People around us are offended. We even offend ourselves. All this offensiveness needs reconciliation, or to put that in the word of the day, we all need forgiveness.

Do you believe God offers forgiveness to humanity? I do. God, being omniscient, knew what humanity would be like.  If He did not want to extend forgiveness to humanity He would not have created us, or at least not in our current form. He knew we would sin, and also knew what the solution was going to be.

Why do you think God used the cross as a means of forgiveness? The cross was a demonstration put on for humanity. It was a means God designed to show both His love for us and the nature of eternal life. He was not forced to the cross by some cosmic law, He is the highest law. He chose the cross. It was a way of putting a choice in front of humanity—the choice of what will we do with Jesus.

How have you responded to the offer? I hope that you have asked Jesus to be forgive your sins and committed the rest of your life to live for Him. This is not the only choice, but it is the best choice.