One afternoon, we were sitting in a park with people of our focus group all around us, but not with us. My wife remorsefully shared that it had been awhile since she had a good discussion with them. Days and weeks are one thing. But to go months without a good discussion is just hard! This field can be difficult. How can we reach these people for the LORD?!!
Later that afternoon I read John 4:35-38,
“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
At times I lament to the Lord, "Where are the white fields here?" However, the white fields and the concept of sowing and reaping are directly intertwined.
A couple weeks ago it was Holocaust Remembrance Day. A few days later, a friend and I set up a Bible stand on the sidewalk, which may have been naive. An older Jewish man approached us and when he found out we were Christians, he became very angry. With tears of anger in his eyes, he erupted, “You don’t know your history!" He went on to explain, "I am from Lithuania. Do you know what happened there? Before the Germans invaded, the Catholics, good Catholics, just started killing the Jews.” Then came the part that cut into my heart, and into the heart of anyone who longs for another’s salvation, “All Christians are Nazis!”
Is this what it means to “sow in tears?”
Another time a middle aged lady came to our stand and wanted a Tanach (Old Testament) for her nephew and a New Testament for herself. When we made sure she knew that the materials were about the Messiah Jesus, she said with a serious sort of smile, “I want to read it for myself.” Then she slipped off without giving us a chance to exchange contact information.
While I was doing a job for a Jewish couple, the Lord opened up the door to share the Gospel with the wife. After listening to the presentation she said, “Do you hear bad things about Jewish people? (Implying from our church) Not everyone likes Jewish people.”
We met a dear family about three years ago in Illinois. We had many good interactions with them, involving questions like, “Could Jesus really be God?” Friends of ours who currently live in Illinois were also able to meet them. Good questions and an invitation to a Shabbat meal followed.
I often reap seeds sown by the enemy of our souls. At times it takes discipline to not dwell on the negative and to REJOICE IN WHAT GOD IS DOING! Too quickly I get discouraged when I try to throw in the sickle for a good harvest, only to have the sickle bounce off with accusations like, “You’re a Nazi!”, or to pick one of the many lies that have been planted through false brethren. I so easily forget that the fields have been in the enemy’s hands for way too long without the King’s workers laboring in them.
Is your field hard? Keep pressing on! It’s high time we get about our Lord’s work of planting good seed!
--Written by a DNI worker.
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?
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.