Tag Archives: church

The First Mission Field

2017-03-slum-school-children-prayerOur children are our first mission field.

We live in a turbulent world inhabited by troubled youth and children, alienated from their families and society. Apart from a dramatic intervention by God, we face a troubled future whenever such troubled youth grow up, become parents themselves and take their places in seats of government, business, education, the arts, media and communication. How we raise our children today, influences our society for generations to come.

These things do not “just happen.” Two thousand years ago, the apostle Paul identified a major cause for an alienated generation when he wrote, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

Too many parents stimulate rebellious spirits in their children when they resort to harsh discipline or fail to discipline them at all. Such extremes never work. What is needed is right discipline.

The key to right discipline is for parents to first discipline themselves, to submit themselves to their heavenly Father. Parents submitted to God know their children are not their personal possessions to treat as they please, but gifts of God. Parents are not to use children for their own purposes and ambitions, but to patiently help them to develop the unique personalities God gave each of them.

Like us, our children are born in sin. We depend upon God’s mercy and grace in our own lives, and we must treat our own children’s shortcomings with mercy and grace. Discipline is necessary, but to humiliate a child or inflict physical, verbal or emotional abuse have no place in a Christian home.

Paul tells us to raise our children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” This means parents must learn to sacrifice their own interests to bring their children into emotional and spiritual maturity by instruction and example. Fathers and mothers must spend less time at the office or other activities to accomplish this God-given mission. Their own children are always their first priority.

Trying to force religion down their children’s throats or coerce a “decision for Christ” is never right. Going to church, Sunday school and youth group are good, but even better, children should see in their parents consistent character, integrity, and kindness that win their respect and motivate them to become like their parents.

They should see in their parents a worldview and lifestyle that sets them apart from parents of neighbors and friends. They should understand from their parents that this difference comes because of God’s gospel of grace in their lives.

Children should hear regularly from their parents how God has changed their lives, answered their prayers, and been faithful. Children should see in their parents the joy of the Lord, and know their parents pray for them every day.

Children should see and hear their parents read their Bibles and pray for those in need. They should hear their parents apply the scriptures to their lives, work and family. They should see their parents take a vital interest in those who still live in darkness without the gospel.

Yes, our children and grandchildren are our first mission field. If we have done our job right, our children will more likely become God’s ambassadors to their own children and a needy world around them.

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Mature Believers

As believers in the Great Commission, we must never become content just with winning people to Jesus Christ. Jesus told us to “make disciples,” not just make converts. Discipleship training must follow conversion or chaos will take place.

The church in Corinth is a good case study in how a new church should not run.

The new believers lived in a pagan city with a bad reputation. Throughout the Roman Empire, the stereotype of the typical Corinthian was a drunkard or a harlot. Many new Corinthian Christians came out of this mold. They were not use to self-discipline. They had multiple bad habits to overcome. Like young children, Corinthian Christians were divisive, loud, self-indulgent, disorderly, rude, selfish, manipulative and argumentative. They revealed a “me-first” attitude. They exhibited many impressive spiritual gifts, but they didn’t know how to use them wisely—like a ten-year-old boy behind the wheel of a car.

Paul indicates the Corinthian believers were truly Christ-followers, but they lacked maturity. Like a good father, Paul wrote to remind them that God is a God of order, not confusion. To remind them of their childish ways, Paul said, “Shall I come to you with a rod?”

The problem-filled Corinthian church was like many of our own churches today, and the new churches we plant in places where the gospel has never gone before. Whatever age or culture, many churches are often filled with disorder, threatening their ministries. In his letters to the Corinthians, Paul presents three metaphors to serve as models for a dynamic and orderly church:

  1. Mature-BelieversThe runner. Believers must train themselves like runners-in-training. Runners organize their diets, sleep, exercise and habits to prepare their bodies and minds for the coming race. The race becomes their chief priority, and all other things become secondary. Good pastors and elders serve as coaches to prepare their congregations for the coming race of life. Earthly races reward winners with perishable rewards. The final goal of the Christian’s race is resurrection and eternal life with an eternal God. This requires putting aside old habits of thought and action that distract us from effective preparation.
  2. The body of Christ. Just as the body has many parts that work together in unity, so the church is made up of many people with many gifts who must learn to work together in unity. Each person has a different but critical role to play. The Head of the Church is Jesus Christ. As we listen to our Head and respect each other’s role, we will accomplish much together for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom in the world around us.
  3. The virgin bride. In 2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul likens the church to a virgin bride awaiting her husband (Jesus Christ), untainted by impure doctrines by false teachers. Pure doctrine is essential for a truly dynamic church that bears much fruit.

Whether we live in the West or India, we all face the challenge of immaturity and disorder in our churches. We have much to learn from the Corinthians. Thank God for His patience with us! Let us reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to Him, and learn to run the race together in unity and purity of doctrine, and the whole world will look on in wonder at His grace.

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Men & Women Alike

MenWomenAlikeOrganized religion has tended to devalue women and deny them power and influence. This includes organized Christendom throughout much of its history.

Christendom is never as radical as the Bible. When we read the Bible, it becomes clear that God has always had different ideas about women from most religious leaders.

In the beginning, when God created woman to become the “helpmate” to man, He did not create an apprentice or an assistant for the man. The Hebrew word for “helpmate” implies that the woman is equal to the man, even if God created the man first.

The Fall separated man and woman from God and from one another. It brought a curse upon woman in which she became subordinate to the man.

The world into which Jesus came was the world of the curse. That world put little value upon a woman. They held little social importance. Their testimony counted for little if anything. Yet throughout the gospel accounts, Jesus shows an unprecedented respect for women.

The first persons to whom the risen Christ appeared were women. Their testimony to men of the empty tomb and His personal appearance brought Peter and John to the empty tomb and confirmed the truth of everything the women told them. This verification of a woman’s testimony is the first sign that Jesus’ resurrection broke the curse upon women that reigned from the Fall.

Because of Jesus Christ, His sacrifice upon the cross and His resurrection, we who put our trust in Him live in the Kingdom of the Second Adam that restores God’s original intent for women.

In the Upper Room, the Holy Spirit came upon men and women alike, with no distinction. From the earliest days, before the 1st century church degenerated into “Christendom” and “religion,” women played important roles as leaders, teachers and prophets. The leaders of the early church included women such as Lydia, Priscilla, Phoebe, Euodia, Syntyche, Chloe, Nympha, all of whom Paul commends for their good and faithful work.

In Galatians 3:28, Paul says “there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” That is, male and female share one purpose, one calling. The gifts and fruit of the Spirit belong to all.

In some circles, much is made of Paul’s command in 1 Corinthians 14:34 for women to keep silence in the church. We do not have the space to discuss this in detail, but in the light of everything else said by Jesus and Paul, it is clear that this passage deals with a special circumstance that does not negate the overall message of the New Testament—God has ended the curse of women’s subordination and chosen women to places of ministry and influence.

In other words, God’s special call upon women is part of the gospel message.

In India, where women and girls still play subservient roles, and suffer from inferiority and degradation, we make a powerful witness for the gospel when we treat our wives, girl children, female relatives and sisters in Christ with the respect that Jesus gave to all women.

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Purpose in Persecution

Purpose-in-PersecutionBenjamin Franklin once said, “In this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.”

For the Christian, we can add one more item: persecution.

In recent days, we have read and heard much about persecuted Christians around the world. In the Middle East, we hear about attacks by ISIS and Christians driven from their homes because of their faith. Even young children experience beatings, beheading and crucifixion because they refuse to give up their faith in Jesus.

This is not new in the history of Christ’s church. Persecution is inevitable for all who truly follow Christ and reflect His life and character. As Jesus faced His own crucifixion and death, He told His disciples, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:21).

A truly godly person may even find himself rejected by religious people who call themselves “Christian.” They may be moral and upstanding citizens who have compromised with the standards of the world in some way. These are people who rely upon their own goodness to gain entry into heaven. Such people do not understand those who trust only the grace of God to save them.

When Jesus walked this earth, the religious people of the day were the Pharisees. John tells us that “even among the rulers, many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees, they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42-44).

Persecution for Christians means to have a share in Jesus’ suffering and resurrection. Jesus suffered, died and rose again, bringing life to all who trust in Him. Our suffering echoes His. Christian suffering is not in vain. God uses persecution to bear much fruit for His kingdom. The gates of hell come against the believer, but in the end, cannot prevail.

Persecution often results in divided families. Some will follow Christ, others will not. Those who do not follow Christ will hate those who do. Families will disown, betray and even kill members who trust in Jesus.

Persecution does not mean shame and humiliation. Jesus tells us that those who experience persecution will receive words and wisdom from the Holy Spirit which will baffle their enemies (Luke 21:15).

How should the Christian respond to persecution? Jesus tells us we must love our persecutors, bless those who curse us, do good to those who hate us and pray for those who treat us with spite (Matthew 5:44). This makes us like God who shows His love to all, even those who hate Him. To follow the path of love and forgiveness has brought many others to Christ.

A good example of this is Elizabeth Elliot whose husband, Jim, died at the hands of savage Auca Indians to whom he tried to present the gospel. Instead of going home in defeat, Elizabeth Elliot and her young daughter went to the savages themselves, and today, most of these people have committed their lives to Jesus Christ.

We must choose now to suffer momentary affliction for the sake of eternal reward, trusting God who judges all people justly (1 Peter 2:24). We must keep in mind that God has later turned persecutors into messengers of the gospel. Paul, the greatest missionary of all, is witness to what God will do.

Not even persecution can stop the gospel from reaching all the peoples of the world, but God will use it to accomplish His holy purposes.

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