Do you wish you could join an intentional group of young people, led by an experienced, caring couple? Why not check out the opportunities that the Voluntary Missions Board offers?
One day, the Pharisees came to Jesus and asked, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (Matthew 22:17, NKJV) This was a loaded question. If He would answer, “No you don’t have to,” He could be accused of usurping the Roman government. If He answered, “Yes, you really should,” He would be viewed as supporting the Roman government, which would come across as betraying the Jewish nation. They wanted to trap Him.
“But Jesus perceived their wickedness and said, ‘Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the tax money’” (vs. 18-19a). He asks whose image is on the coin and they reply that it has Caesar’s inscription. He goes on to instruct them to give to Caesar that which belongs to him, and to God that which belongs to God.
He skillfully sidestepped a political question and cut to the heart. He avoided the stated question while answering the more important question: What do I owe to whom? His answer: Give taxes to whom it is due, but more importantly, give God that which belongs to Him.
Seeing that the Pharisees were unsuccessful at trapping Jesus, the Sadducees decided to take a stab. Matthew precedes the question with a brief commentary. These are the religious leaders “who say there is no resurrection” (vs. 23).
They ask the question with a short, yet tragic, story. A woman had a husband. He died and his brother took the widow as his wife to raise up offspring for the deceased brother. This happened seven times. Now the question, “Whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her” (vs. 28).
Jesus starts out by answering their stated question: She won’t be married to any of the men, because in heaven there is no marriage.
But Jesus doesn’t stop with that. He goes on to address their heart question: Does the resurrection really exist? Quoting the Torah, He points out that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob died a long time ago. Although their physical bodies have deteriorated, Jehovah is their God, so they must have a spirit that continues living. “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (vs. 32).
The multitudes were astonished at His teaching. His authority and skill were unmatched.
That wasn’t the end of His interrogation. The Pharisees put forward a lawyer to ask a question: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” (vs. 36) Again, the question is not as simple as it appears. Out of the many commandments that God had given through Moses--along with the many other laws to ensure no one broke the God-given laws--there were many to choose from. No matter which commandment He would choose, they were sure to come back with, “But what about this law? Or what about that? Aren't these just as important?”
As we already know, Jesus quotes, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (vs. 37-40).
In very few words, Jesus answers their question while cutting to the heart. It’s not about simply obeying the letter of each law. It’s about why you obey to begin with! Obedience flows out of love for God, which will ultimately result in love for one’s neighbor. Every law hangs on these two concepts.
Jesus ends the interrogation by asking them a question. “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” (vs. 42) He already knew what they believed, but He asked the question anyway to challenge their preconceived ideas.
“The Son of David,” they replied.
He came right back with a well-known quote from the Psalms.
"How then does David in the Spirit call Him 'Lord,' saying:
'The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand,
till I make Your enemies Your footstool" ' ?
"If David then calls Him 'Lord,' how is He His Son?" (vs. 43-45)
He pushed them to wrestle with the most important question: Who is Jesus? Their arguments were silenced and their consciences were pricked. As I meditate on this passage, I long to have more spiritual wisdom to look past the questions people ask and to see the real questions their hearts are wrestling with. This leads me to look more closely at how Jesus responded in each of the situations above.
He looked for the intent behind the questions. Jesus saw politics in the question about taxes. Right away, He knew it was a trap, but He still didn’t turn them away.
He looked beyond the intent and addressed the heart issue. Jesus answered their question about marriage in heaven, but He went even further. He saw their real question was about the resurrection and He focused on that issue instead.
He turned their religious questions towards relationship. The Pharisees’ question about the most important law was a religious one. Jesus answered their question but pointed out that the law is really all about relationships. It’s about loving God above all and loving others out of love for Him.
He pushed people to wrestle with the question: Who is Jesus? And so must we. May God give us skill to become more like Jesus in our daily interactions. May we have discerning hearts and bold lips to answer and ask the important questions, just as Jesus did.
--Written by I.M.
Past, present and future--for those of us who are striving to learn Spanish, these words make us think of verb tenses. In the Spanish language the verb, or action word, changes with the tense that is used. The question I ask myself is...do my actions change when I consider the past, present or future?
When I was younger and before we moved to Mexico, the future looked clean, like spring--full of hope and excitement. My actions tended to be filled with energy and idealism. As the years passed, my days filled with ministry, the family matured, spring turned into summer and the anticipation of spring planting turned into the dog days of summer. The "plants" must be fertilized and the "weeds" must be pulled. The idealism turned into realism and the excitement turned into perseverance.
There were times of dryness as we waited for God to bring the "rain" and other times we sat back amazed when the "rain" did come and growth came in large chunks. Sometimes I felt sad for those who gave financially so that we could be involved in church planting, because they didn't get to see first-hand the changes that God did in the lives of the people.
Then the season changed again as "autumn" arrived, with contemplation about the past. There are things we would adjust if we could, and there are joys that still bring contentment as we ponder the past. As we reflect, we learn. We become more aware of the need for prayer in our own lives, as we are reminded time and again that we just plant and water but God gives the increase. We teach and encourage, but God must do the work in the hearts if there is to be real change.
When we came to Mexico our oldest was ten. Now, two are married and starting their own families. As our family matures and the church becomes more self-sustaining, I look back. What have I learned? What was good or what didn't work? Have I grown? Do I see circumstances and events through God's eyes or does my selfishness still rise to the top as cream rises to the top of fresh milk?
As I reflect, I rummage around to find a list I penned in the past, and which is still in the reworking stage. The list has around fifty points of what I have learned. Here are a few that I hope will be a help for those of you who are in the spring or summer of your ministries or families.
* I need flexibility.
* I need to hold my "rights" loosely.
* My weaknesses follow me to the "mission field."
* I will probably never completely understand the new culture I am living in.
* It is easier to start a ministry than to complete it.
* It is still more enjoyable to preach in my mother tongue.
* Being too "connected" to the world and extended family can be a major thief of time and can cause excessive worries.
* I need the "mind of Christ."
A few about the family:
* Children adapt easily.
*Children learn the language easier.
* On the mission field, children have the privilege to see Christianity from the ground up and new believers maturing and being able to preach.
* Children on the mission field have the opportunity to participate in ministry at a young age.
I am thankful for what I have experienced these past years. Some have been a lot more enjoyable than others. May God bless those who are just starting with perseverance, the ability to laugh at oneself, and the blessing of being refined into what God wants you to become.
--Written by L.Y.
1. Fear of being rejected.
OVERCOME: Every time we share our faith it is a winning situation. (Mat. 5:11,12) If we are rejected and insulted, our reward in heaven grows some more!
2. Don’t know how to.
OVERCOME: Both Jesus and Paul began with natural topics and transitioned to spiritual ones. (Jn. 4; Acts 17)
Example: crash of an airplane or fall of the Twin Towers; “What do you think happened to those people when they walked off the planet?” Or ask: “If you died tonight, are you 100-percent assured you would go to Heaven?”
3. Fear of Losing a Friend.
OVERCOME: What kind of friendship do you really have if you would go to heaven when you die, but your friend would go to hell? “I want to know tons of people in Heaven! That means I had better be inviting a whole lot of people to heaven while I’m here.”
4. They Have Already Heard.
OVERCOME: It takes an average of 7.6 times for people to hear the Gospel before they commit their life to Christ...this might be the perfect time for an individual to hear the Gospel..
5. I Am Just Lazy.
OVERCOME: According to Zondervan Church Source, 97 percent of church members have no involvement in any sort of evangelism...only 1 percent of their readership (Christianity Today) had witnessed to someone “recently”.
Probably the reason most people don’t share their faith is that they really don’t have any faith to share. Charles Spurgeon said, “Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you are not saved yourself. Be sure of that.”
“If God gave you a thousand dollars every time you shared your faith in Jesus Christ, would you share your faith?...Would you be more zealous for money than for God? Would you deal with your laziness problem for the love of money when you won’t deal with it for the love of God?”
6. Friendship Evangelism.
OVERCOME: At the well, Jesus made the first move to talk to the woman. “So to walk like He did, we must be available to the Spirit of God to initiate conversations with people as we’re out witnessing.” If we depend on people to get saved by looking at our lives, whose life are we really sharing—ours’ or God’s?
7. I Don’t Know Enough.
OVERCOME: “Witnessing is one of the ways that you will learn more about your faith.” (Philemon 6 NIV)
“You are saved and the people you witness to are lost; who knows more in every spiritual conversation? You always know more than a lost person does in any conversation.”
8. They Won’t Want To Talk About It.
OVERCOME: “Always assume that people do want to talk about eternity, and not that they don’t want to talk about it. Therefore, before you leave your house, it’s important to pray that the Lord will lead you to lost people during the day, and that He will soften the individuals’ hearts before you ever begin the conversations. That way, you know they’ll be ready for you when you get there!”
9. I Can’t Answer Their Questions.
OVERCOME: The fools says in his heart there is no God. “You are not a fool just because you do not know an answer to a question.”
If you are asked a question you cannot answer, just say: “That is a good question, and I don’t know the answer. Would you like to know the answer? What is your e-mail, phone number or address so when I find the answer, I can get it to you?”
Adapted from "One Thing You Can't Do In Heaven" by Mark Cahill
“Oh my friends, we are loaded down with countless church activities, while the real work of the church, that of evangelizing the world and winning the lost, is almost entirely neglected!” --Oswald J. Smith.
It’s summertime in South Asia. Even with the ceiling fans on high blast, the heat saps my energy. As I look out the window, I see the rickshaw driver coming down the street. He’s skinny – barely weighing 130 pounds. Drenched in sweat, he has a bandana wrapped around his head to shade him from the noon sun. It's half way through the day, but he’s totally exhausted. He heaves all of his weight on the left pedal to get half a rotation of the pedals and then leans right and heaves his weight on the right side for another half rotation. He needs a break – a long drink of water, a spot of shade where he can rest, some breeze to cool him off….
I could invite him in – give him a large glass of lemonade, a plate full of rice and curry, and a spot to stretch out under the ceiling fan. He’d be refreshed, but he really needs more. Hard work is destroying him. It’s not just the work itself; it’s the fact that he never gets a break and that he’s trying to do too much work with too little food. He ate a meager meal before he left home. He may buy some cheap food when he’s out working.
Tonight when he gets home, he’ll eat cooked rice, but he can’t afford vegetables and meat. He won’t sleep well tonight – noise and heat in the slums leave little room for rest. Tomorrow morning he’ll be tired, starting another day of intense manual labor with too little food and limited energy. If he becomes sick, he has nothing in reserve so that he can bounce back. There is no margin, just bare survival one day at a time.
Many of you are facing similar situations. You’re in a setting that’s exhausting. Your work is demanding. There’s no margin. You roll out of bed and you feel the pressure of life bearing down on you. You’re facing another day and wonder how you’ll make it through. You mechanically make your way out to your rickshaw, feeling hungry and worn out. You throw all of your weight on one side for half a rotation. You groan. You throw your weight on the other side. Inching down the street, there’s no hope of real progress. People in your life need you to be there, to listen to them, to care. You try, but their words are drowned out by the exhaustion and hunger in your own heart. It’s hard to hear the cries around us when we’ve had to block out the cries within.
It’s not that work is a problem. Kingdom work is often hard. Hard work can be a good thing. However, if you want hard work to strengthen you, rather than destroy you, there are at least two things that you’ll need – you need rest and you need food.
God has built rest into the rhythm of the universe. He worked six days and then He rested. He calls us to rest. We work hard and then we disengage. We receive His weekly Sabbath and are refreshed. We receive His daily rest – learning to lay aside responsibilities in the evening, spending time with loved ones, receiving His gift of sleep. We’ve also found that it includes longer times of rest where we step away from work for a week or two at a time and spend time with each other, with God, in nature, and are refreshed. We need rest.
We also need food. We weren’t meant to starve ourselves. There is food that will nourish our souls and water that will quench our thirst.
And yet so often we struggle through life hungry, never sitting down to the feast that God has prepared for us. The harder the work that we face, the more desperately we need to eat regularly and eat well. Let the Father feed you. Sit at His table and receive the Word that gives you life.
One of the biggest lies is “I have to keep going.” When you feel the most trapped, don’t push through on your own strength. Stop and rest. Stop and eat. He is our food, He is our rest, He is our life.
Verses for Reflection
Rest: Ps 4:8, Ps 62, 127:1-2, Is 40:28-31, Matt 11:28-30, Mk 6:31
Nourishment: Jn 4:13-14, 6:55-59, 7:37-39, 15:1-11, Rev 22:1-2, 22:17
Written by: E.M.
1) The Gospel is the “power of God to salvation to everyone who believes” whether Jew or Greek, Muslim or Hindu. We must be careful not to put obstacles in the way of the Gospel by attaching cultural practices and man-made traditions to the message. (Acts 15:1-29)
2) In establishing an indigenous community of Christ followers the primary goal is not to express the uniqueness of any given culture but rather to manifest clearly the uniqueness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13)
3) When a person is born again he/she receives a new identity that is neither Jewish nor Greek, Muslim nor Hindu, but rather becomes a member of the culture of Christ Followers. Therefore we should avoid an overemphasis on either retaining or rejecting of one’s native culture. 1 Corinthians 7:19 makes it clear that what should guide our conduct as Christians is not what our own culture is or isn’t doing but rather obedience to Christ.
4) Believers should clearly identify themselves as Followers of Christ. For the sake of their Christian testimony believers should leave no confusion in people’s minds as to whom and what they are committed to. (Matthew 10:32-33)
5) The Word of God is the final authority in all matters, therefore all cultural practices and religious rituals must be evaluated in light of the principles of Scripture.
EVALUATION OF THE CULTURE
a) 1 Cor 7:18-20. The principle: A believer is not required to abandon his/her culture to follow Christ. Believers should willingly accept the situation into which God has placed them and be content to serve Him there.
i. Every culture has components to it that are good and bad. What is good (that which is a reflection of the image of God) may and should be retained
ii. That which is an expression of man’s falleness and is in contradiction to the principles of Scripture must be rejected.
b) 1Thess. 5:21-22. The principle: Believers must test everything and be careful to make a clear separation between what is good and what is evil.
EVALUATION OF RELIGIOUS PRACTICES
a) 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. The principle: Believers and unbelievers are part of two different kingdoms that have no agreement with each other. Therefore, believers must not be yoked together (harnessed together) with unbelievers in any religious event or activity.
b) 1 Corinthians 8:4-12 & 1 Corinthians 10:23-33. The principle: Believers must never exercise their liberty in Christ in such a way that it could be a hindrance to a weaker brother. Therefore, believers must be careful not to participate in any ritual or activity of a false religion that leaves the impression of agreement with that false religion.
6) By virtue of obedience to Christ, a believer will of necessity be different from his/her native culture. As God’s people are not called to fit into our culture but rather we are the “called out ones.” (2 Corinthians 6:17)
Written by: A.R.
Recently I was talking with an experienced and wise friend. We were sharing about our struggles and successes in sports ministry in Asia. At one point, I regressed into complaining about my current employee who came back to the Lord after working with me for two years. He does well most of the time, but returns to the bottle every now and then. I have poured into him, given him the benefit of the doubt, treated him with grace, rebuked him for sin, prayed with him, cried for him, and the list goes on.
He is exactly the same person he was five years ago. He has not grown in his faith and has not gotten past his own hang ups. Every time he falls I feel bad for him and want so badly to help him, maybe more than he wants to help himself. I sometimes feel like it was my fault that he fell, because I did not encourage him enough or I did not keep him busy enough. I am now realizing I have somewhat become the victim of an alcoholic.
My friend’s response went something like this:
I too once had an assistant that I poured into and poured into, wanting to help him mature into a Christian leader, but he was like a bucket with holes in the bottom. The bucket never filled up. He only had in him what I had poured into him at that moment. I now have a different assistant and when I pour into him he runs over and spills all over those around him.
I have been teaching through the book of I Timothy. We see Paul pouring into Timothy, teaching him, and encouraging him to serve Christ without hesitation. He calls Timothy to teach and impact other people around him and to spill over onto his community.
Paul says in I Timothy 4:15 & 16, “Be diligent . . . so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do so you will save both yourself and your hearers.” Paul was not investing in Timothy only to save one young man, but to prepare a leader to impact many and to save his hearers.
So as church planters or mentors how do we find these young lives who are buckets without holes? The Lord brought my employee to me and he served me well as an employee. However, he never became the man of God who would impact the people around him; he has more leaks than I have spiritual energy. At times I have not shared enough in the community because I was busy trying to fill a leaky bucket.
Today, I am trying to process cutting myself loose from this man, giving up on him, giving him over to Satan (I Timothy 1:20), turning the responsibility of healing this broken man over to God.
Today, I am also trying to process a phone call I got last week. Over the last year I have been wishing for a national man to work beside me, not an employee working for a salary. I can find an employee easily by putting out a job description and processing the applications.
However, I am looking for someone to work beside me as we both serve the Lord. This is not someone you can find with an ad. It is someone I need to wait for with patience.
Last week I received a call. A young man quit a very good job in international relations at a big electronics company in the city and is feeling led to serve the Lord. He wanted to know if we need someone. Yes, we need a water-tight bucket that will spill over with the love of Christ onto our community. So we seek and pray. Is this young man a Timothy sent to us?
--Written by L.E.
If you have ever wondered how your church could take the next step towards planting a new church, you should consider attending the 2018 Church Planters Institute.
As an extension of DNI, this annual event provides ongoing training for anyone interested in church planting. Glean insights from experienced church planters and leaders, ask questions in a safe environment and join together with other visionaries in prayer.
If you're not convinced, listen to recordings from previous Church Planters Institutes here.
This weekend is open to anyone wanting to find motivation, training and resources related to church planting. It is planned by the Church Planting Committee of DestiNations International).
Pursuing the Great Commission:
Regaining the Culture of the Church
“We have obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, in all that he commanded us, to drink no wine all our days, ourselves, our wives, our sons, or our daughters, and not to build houses to dwell in. We have no vineyard or field or seed, but we have lived in tents and have obeyed and done all that Jonadab our father commanded us.
“But when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against the land, we said, ‘Come, and let us go to Jerusalem for fear of the army of the Chaldeans and the army of the Syrians.’ So we are living in Jerusalem” (Jeremiah 35:8-11).
Last fall, a concerned friend came to me, telling me to be careful. Apparently, the leader of a local place of prayer said that people are leaving their religion and it's “D’s fault.” How I wish there were more frequent reasons for their accusations!
My friend was afraid for us. I understand God’s protection and was not affected by my friend’s fear. However, sometimes I experience fear so strong that it drives me trembling to my knees.
The Rechabites had been faithful to the commands of their ancestor Rechab. However, this snippet of their story shows them hiding behind walls, even though they had been commanded to be nomads.
God instructed Jeremiah to go to the Rechabites and offer them wine to drink. Even though the prophet was a man of God, the men appealed to him because the offer required them to do something they had committed never to do. The Recabites had retreated behind the security of city walls because of their fear. Now living in fear behind walls, were they more susceptible to sin? Had they already fallen into sin? I’m not looking for a theological debate; rather, I’m examining how my own fears make me vulnerable to the same temptations that a life of obedience protects me from.
When Jesus sends out His twelve disciples as sheep among wolves, He tells them in Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Jesus goes on to say that He numbers the hairs on our heads and cares for the sparrows (Matthew 10:29-31). Yes, we need to avoid those who will destroy our faith. But if Jesus cares about sparrows, I wonder how many wolves He cares about as well.
At times, my physical/earthly fears drive me away from the wolves. Sometimes, my fears paralyze my ability to serve. But if I am honest, my greatest fear is me. I find myself hiding behind the walls of my dreams, my desires, my own wisdom, etc. Do I stand in the way of the Spirit drawing someone to Himself? Do I hinder what God wants to do through me? Will those who seek walk away without hearing the Good News because I am hiding behind my walls?
Rather than being willing to live in a vulnerable place that is susceptible to attack, I hide behind walls where I become even more susceptible to destruction through temptation.
In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
The Rechabites looked for safety in Jerusalem; soon afterwards, the city was destroyed. Likewise, I often take my fears to some destructible form of manmade fortification.
In the end of their story, the Rechabites remained faithful, despite their fear. God received glory, and they received God’s blessing.
Amid my fears, Jesus’ promise of rest remains. Behind this promise is the One who understands the danger He has called me to and yet beckons me to find refuge and rest for my soul.
Written by: D.T.
I had figured out approximately how much support we needed to meet next month’s expenses and wrote it down in my prayer journal. “God,” I prayed almost every morning, “would you please provide the following amount for us?” The 18th of the month came and I eagerly opened my emails to see if God had answered my prayers. I slowly opened the paycheck records email. “God,” I breathed, “I trust you no matter what our support is this month.”
My heart sank. It wasn’t the amount I had prayed for. In fact, it wasn’t even close. “Father, how are you going to provide for us this month? How are we going to pay the bills?” This was literally seconds after I had told God I would trust Him.
Perhaps my favorite part of the annual DNI’s workers retreat is the faith stories evening. Workers share how God has answered their prayers in many small and big ways. The annual booklet “Stories to Encourage Your Faith” documents many of those stories. Surely DNI workers would never doubt His ability to provide after reading through one of those booklets. Not so for me.
When I look back, I wonder why I doubted God’s ability to provide. Perhaps I wasn’t doubting God’s ability as much as I was questioning how He would provide for our situation. I mean, where would the money come from? Our support check had already come and it was far less than our budgeted expenses.
That month, God didn’t provide enough finances to meet our budget. He didn’t even provide enough support to meet our recorded expenses. But somehow, He stretched what He provided to meet our every need. It was truly a miracle!
My wife pointed out the similarities between our situation and the widow that Elijah stayed with during the three-year drought. As the story goes, Elijah came upon a widow and her son in Zarephath, a Sidonian town where Baal was worshipped. When Elijah asked her for some bread and water, she told the prophet that they only had enough for one more meal before they would starve to death. Elijah assured her that God would provide for her and her son throughout the drought, and that she should use the last bit of flour to make him a cake. She willingly made him the last cake and God started a three-year miracle. Every day, there was enough in her flour bin and oil jar for another meal. “The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah” (1 Kings 17:16, NKJV).
That miracle is quite different from the miracle that Elisha performed nine chapters later. Another widow lady—a widow of one of the prophets—had a huge debt to pay. The creditor was going to take her sons as slaves if she couldn’t pay off the debt. She cried out to Elisha for help.
“So Elisha said to her, ‘What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?’ And she said, ‘Your maidservant has nothing in the house but a jar of oil’” (2 Kings 4:2, NKJV). Elisha told her to gather as many jars and pots as she could find and to pour her oil into those vessels. And she did. God miraculously multiplied the oil in that very moment and she found herself with more oil than she could ever use. Elisha told her to sell the oil, pay off her debt, and live on the rest.
Both of these widows stepped out in faith. Both trusted God to provide, and He did. The Sidonian widow saw God provide just enough food for each day. The prophet’s widow saw God provide once in great abundance for many years to come.
Next time I face a faith-stretching experience, I want to count it all joy. I want to stand strong and trust that God will provide. And I want to encourage you to do the same. Reading about miracles is always encouraging. Telling faith stories is exciting. Living out those faith stories is rarely glamorous. Perhaps that is why James started his epistle with a timely reminder, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:2-3, NKJV).
--Written by I.M.