Friday, July 10, 2009

Missions is About God!

God be gracious to us and bless us,
And cause His face to shine upon us-
That Your way may be known on the earth,
Your salvation among all nations.
Let the peoples praise You, O God;
Let all the peoples praise You.
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy;
For You will judge the peoples with uprightness
And guide the nations on the earth.
Let the peoples praise You, O God;
Let all the peoples praise You.
The earth has yielded its produce;
God, our God, blesses us.
God blesses us.
That all the ends of the earth may fear Him.

~Psalm 67

Many Christians have the wrong attitude towards evangelism and missions. Though many mean well, their approach becomes very man-centered. Some view new converts as notches in their belt instead of celebrating the work of redemption that God has done in the sinner's life in giving him eyes to see and the desire to embrace the truth of the gospel. In fact, evangelism and missions is not about people but about God. The impetus for missions should be to make God's name great throughout the earth. Mission activity should spawn out of a intense desire to share God's great name with others and the wonderful and marvelous work He has done, part of that work being His sending of His Son in the place of sinners to appease God's great wrath and the providing of eternal life through faith in Him. Psalm 67 does well in communicating such a desire which all Christians should have in approaching mission work.

The psalmist opens up the poem with an appeal to God to be gracious and to bestow His blessing. The wording is almost identical to the Aaronic blessing of Numbers 6:24-26: The LORD bless you, and keep you; / The LORD make His face shine on you, / And be gracious to you; / The LORD lift up His countenance on you, / And give you peace. This was a blessing which God instructed Aaron and his sons to say to pronounce blessing upon the people of Israel. So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them (Numbers 6:27). In using some of the familiar language of this blessing, the psalmist is requesting God to show His favor upon His people. But note the reason the psalmist desires God to show His favor. It is not so that they can live a live of health, wealth, and prosperity. It is not so that they can be comfortable. He is not making the request on their behalf at all but God's! His desire is that God would get the glory and make His name known to the other nations. The hope is that other people will view God's work and realize that God is good and is the One who brings ultimate satisfaction. He states the reason as That Your way may be known on the earth, / Your salvation among all nations. In fact, this is God's very reason for the things which He does, to glorify Himself and to make His name known. One of the reasons that God chose to reveal His power through the ten plagues upon the nation of Egypt and Pharaoh instead of striking them dead right away was to glorify Himself through proclaiming His great name. For if by now I had put forth My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, you would then have been cut off from the earth. But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth (Exodus 9:15-16). In missions we play a part of God's desire of glorifying His great name in proclaiming the gospel which He uses to bring people to saving faith in Him (Romans 1:16-17; 10:17; 1 Peter 23). In spreading the gospel, we proclaim God's way and salvation among the nations just as the psalmist invites God to use His blessings and favor upon His people to do so.

The psalmist next moves to call all to praise God. He not only calls peoples, but specifically all the peoples. God is so good and due to our own delight in Him, we should desire that all would have that same fulfillment of delight. Because He is worthy of all of our praise, we should desire that others would give Him the glory He rightfully deserves. The peace that we experience with God through Jesus Christ should prompt us to share Christ so that God may work in others to encounter the same peace. Our goal in missions should be to call people to rejoice in everything Christ is and all that He has done as part of God's perfect, divine plan. The psalmist calls the nations to be glad and sing for joy. The reason the nations should be ecstatic is due to God's reign. Judgment and guidance are aspects of the role of a ruler. The psalmist may well have in mind the millennial kingdom where the Messiah will rule over Israel and the nations. This is the culmination of the kingdom He has promised.

The poem closes in much the same way it starts. The psalmist shares a specific material blessing of the produce of crops and then once again reiterates that the reason for the blessing is so that the ends of the earth may be in awe of God for who He is and what He has done for His people.

May God send us out to proclaim His great name among the nations and bring Him glory. If we are serious about God's glory, we will be serious about missions!

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Monday, July 6, 2009

Obedience Today

Now the LORD said to Abram,
"Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father's house,
To the land which I will show you;
And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed."
So Abram went forth as the LORD had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan. Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. Now the Canaanite was then in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your descendants I will give this land."

~Genesis 12:1-7

Genesis 12 contains the wonderful promise given to Abram (later to be known as Abraham, "Father of the many," which continues throughout the entire Bible. In fact, three of the covenants fulfill this promise: The Abrahamic (Gen. 15; 17), Davidic (2 Samuel 7:8-17), and the New Covenant (Jer 31:27-37). In the Abrahamic Covenant both the descendants which will become the great nation (Gen 15:5; 17:2-5,16) and the promise of the land (Gen 15:7; 17:8) are fulfilled. The Davidic Covenant and the New Covenant both can be seen as a continuation of the Abrahamic as the promise of a king in the line of David corresponds with the kiings promised to descend from the patriarch and through the New Covenant salvation is granted to the house of Israel and the house of Judah as well as the Gentiles who have been granted to become partakers of it (2 Cor. 3:6; Heb 8:7-13; 10:11-18). Through faith in Christ, Abraham becomes our spiritual father (Rom 4:16-17; Gal 3:70), thus including us as part of the promise. Volumes could be written on the meaning and significance of this promise and God's outworking and unfolding of it through His work revealed throughout the recorded Scriptures but I want to focus on its initial meaning to Abram and his reaction.

This is the first recorded appearance of God to Abram while he was in Haran with his father, wife, and nephew. The promise consists of two imperatives or commands: Go forth from your country (Gen 12:1) and And so be a blessing (Gen 12:2). God first tells him to leave his country, his relatives, and his father's house in order to go to an unspecified land which God would reveal at a later time. God does not name the land here but only tells him that He will show it to him. So Abram had no clue exactly where God was instructing him to go. He was basically told to leave and go someone which will be specified later.

God also tells Abram that He will make him a great nation and his name great. He also promises blessings reciprocial to those who so approach him and curses as well. Through the ultimate seed, Jesus Christ, all the families of the earth become blessed.

Notice Abram's response to these two commands and promise. He goes just as the LORD had spoken to him. He packs up his stuff and leaves Haran and headed to where the LORD had commanded him to go. He does not wait for God to give further instructions or takes time to plan out his course. He obediently follows what the LORD had said to him with only the details (or lack thereof) He gave. The author of Hebrews puts it this way: By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going (Hebrews 11:8). Abram had no clue where the LORD was taking him but trusted God enough to follow.

God usually does not give us the details we would like to have to follow through with what He calls. All that Abram knew was that God would show him the land later, after he would leave his current home and head there. I think that the reason God did not provide the details for Abram was to keep him dependent on Him. If God would reveal the entire plan He has for each of us, we would no longer need to trust Him and would rely on our plan and not the giver and outworker of that plan. History (both biblical and modern) reveals to us man's tendency to trust in anything except God. Remember the erecting of the golden bull calf while Moses was away on the mountain? The people grew weary trusting in God due to the absence of Moses and created an object to trust instead (Exodus 32:1-6). They even wound up worshiping the bronze serpent which was to save them from the disease they brought on themselves due to their disobedience (Numbers 21:8-9; 2 Kings 18:4)! By giving us enough information just to take a few steps, God makes sure we rely on Him for the rest of the steps.

The problem that many of us have is in taking the steps that God tells us we need to. I know I personally am one who likes to have everything planned out. I like to have my schedule and calendar all together. I am an organization freak. However, that can't be done all of the time when the Lord does not provide me enough information to plan ahead. I have to stop myself from the questions of where the Lord would have me to be after graduation in a year. Several times we sit down waiting for God to give more instructions for where we ought to go when we should be obedient to those He has given. He may intend to grant us those extra instructions after we take the first steps of His command. While God did not tell Abram right away where his land was, after the "man of faith" was obedient to His command to leave and head out in the direction God had called, He specified the land his descendants were to possess. Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. Now the Canaanite was then in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your descendants I will give this land." Had Abram decided to wait on God for more information concerning this mysterious land He was commanded to move to, he may not have gotten this information. The key is to be faithful today so that we will be faithful tomorrow.

This statement is one which was shared with me by an admissions counselor at Philadelphia Biblical University when I was considering attending there. So many times we worry about where God has us in the future that we miss out on the more important question about where God has us today. If we are obedient to the commands we are given today, as Abram was with leaving, God will bring us to where He has for us to be in the future. If we are not faithful to God's leading today, we may hinder where we are going in our future. God uses those commands He gives us today to lead us to where He desires to have us in the future.

You may not fully understand where the Lord may be currently leading you. You may be called to leave America to go to a mission field overseas without any idea how long you are to stay or when you are to return. You may have been called to a type of ministry not yet realizing what specifically you are to do there. You might desire more direction. But if God has clearly commanded or is leading you to do something, you need to be like Abram and follow through, trusting that God knows what He is doing and will provide you with more information when it is His time. May God teach us to be obedient today so that we may be where He wants us tomorrow.

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!!!