The objectives of missions have not changed, although the methods have seen many variations over the years. With travel expediency and technology, Christian missionaries reaching out to churches and those in need has opened an entire new way of interacting. And, missions has become a ministry that most anyone at any age can take part in. The opportunities to meet and support Christian people groups in other countries are endless. And, there are still people groups that need to hear the salvation message of Jesus Christ. There are languages that have not yet been written, meaning that there are still cultures that do not have the Word of God available in their native tongues. There are established churches that need additional resources for training up disciples, and there is wide spread persecution of Christianity. Those who suffer daily persecution are always in need of encouragement from their brothers and sisters from around the world. The need is great, and God has opened the doors of blessings, meeting needs at a greater rate than ever before. "Sing unto the Lord, all the earth; shew forth from day to day his salvation. Declare his glory among the heathen; his marvellous works among all nations" (1 Chronicles 16:23-24). These are truly amazing times in which to live and to take part in a missionary journey.
As servants of Christ seek to serve Him and love all of His children through mission trips, there has truly been a global impact for Christ. Churches have been built, children have been fed, homes have been repaired, and lives have been changed for the better. Christian missionaries may go into an under-developed country and live among the people, dedicating their lives to building a foundation of the Faith. Short-term trips are often directed at providing aid or taking a gift, giving both the givers and the receivers the opportunity to learn more about each other and experience the Spirit of God in new and exciting ways. Not only are there physical results, but there are spiritual and emotional outcomes, as well. When we are challenged to love and share with people who are from completely different cultures, we have our eyes opened to what God is doing in and through people who are different from us. Minds will be opened to see that God and his infinite ways are more vast, yet more understandable, evoking an incredible spiritual enlightenment. All of this can be accomplished in a simple missionary journey, by taking a step out of comfort and into the exciting adventures of God.
My search for the word "sent" in the New Testament produced more than 198 references. Most referred to our God as one who sends: John the Baptist, Jesus, the disciples, the Holy Spirit, the church.
Father, search our hearts and ways. Realign our thinking, lifestyles and service to be about what You are already actively doing in our world. May we be missionaries of Your gospel, whether You send us across the street or across the ocean. Jesus, in our going may we truly be with people as You were, embodying and proclaiming the good news of grace and love for all.
How You Can Pray
The decade had brought brokenness and blessing, but as I approached the threshold of the 1980s the Holy Spirit began to address deeper issues related to my perception of abundant Christian living. I found myself faced with a deep inner struggle over a call to public ministry.
During a day of prayer and fasting I sought God's will. I was happy in the shadows and shunned the limelight. Tenaciously I clung to the security and comfort of the background, but God wanted to take me to a new place in Him.
I could identify with Moses and his burning bush experience (see Ex. 3:1-4) as God worked to expand my understanding of relationship and obedience.
Moses pleaded: "But I'm not the person for a job like that. O Lord, I'm just not a good speaker. I never have been, and I'm not now!" (See Ex. 3:11; 4:10.)
Even with God's encouragement and promise of faithful help, he still cried, "Lord, please! Send someone else!" (See Ex. 4:11-13.) I understood.
Then Exodus 4:14 arrested my attention: "Then the Lord became angry" (The Living Bible). The New King James Version reads, "So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses."
In the fear of the Lord I wept bitterly and repented. I did not want His anger, only His mercies! The challenge was to arise from the back side of the desert that had become the place of intimacy.
God was changing the format. From the joy of private relationship, a call was sounding out for public duty, and God was looking for only one answer: yes, Lord.
Before the day was over, the Holy Spirit had given me a new assignment--to begin teaching interdenominational Bible studies in our area, something I had never done. Throughout the next six years of committed obedience, my life was forever changed. And it was particularly the study of the book of James that activated this transformation.
A Book of Blessing My perception of this short book was simply that it was a hard teaching, nothing to entice me to embrace the message--a book that spoke mostly of what needed to be taken away. But because this had been selected for our course of study, I had to confront the truth James held. I was the appointed teacher!
As I prayed for God's help, something happened. The Holy Spirit brought this illumination: "You are looking at the book of James all wrong, seeing only what is to be taken away or overcome. Look again, for this book is about what I, as your heavenly Father, am waiting to give to you and any who will receive."
This comment changed my attitude toward the study, my personal ability to learn, my desire for change and my aptitude for blessing. Also, it changed my prayers, and one seemed to rise above all the others: "Lord, increase my capacity to receive good things from You!"
Each chapter in the book of James defines specific blessings God has for us. Each chapter also identifies the ploys of Satan and self that can separate us from the blessings.
But it also offers us encouragement to "Count it all joy when [we] fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of [our] faith produces patience" (James 1:2-3, NKJV). We may look at the trials that arise through everyday circumstances and feel overwhelmed.
But God sees His gift of joy, which is released as we endure and prevail. While we are often thinking about how hard some of the conditions and circumstances of life are, God, in His wisdom, is seeing the value of these situations.
God knows we need His wisdom to see the value, too. And He is willing to fill this need "liberally and without reproach" (James 1:5). In other words, He doesn't remind us of our own unworthiness or ineptness concerning victorious living just so we can feel bad about ourselves. Instead, He lovingly calls us to come up higher.
He waits to lift us out of the mire of our own devastation to the grandeur of His excellence. He waits for us to move past our lack of wisdom into the provision of His wisdom, simply by asking for it. He wants us to refuse to be hampered by the feebleness of intellectualism or human speculation. God's wisdom opens the eyes of our understanding, securing our faith and thrusting us into the safety of His holy purposes.
Through this process of exchange--asking for godly wisdom so that we can lay hold of understanding-- we will find ourselves needing to move past a dependence on understanding itself. There is a place in God where even the desire for answers to our questions does not rule.
As we confront trials and tests, calling on God for His wisdom, the enemy will inevitably tempt us. James challenges us to persistently resist not only Satan, but also the roots of evil that lie within our own hearts; for "the heart is deceitful...and desperately wicked" (Jer. 17:9). He speaks of a reward for those who overcome:
"Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him" (James 1:12).
Doers of the Word The approval of God and a crown of life are given to those who persevere. This is the gift of God, and it includes the privilege of abundant living now. Yet, to receive the reward, the motives of our hearts must be confronted by the truth of God's Word.
The temptation is to believe that God's Word steals away our liberties, when actually just the opposite is true. What God offers is the wonder of divine blessing to anyone "who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work" (James 1:25).
God is waiting to bless us. However, we must answer a question: "Are we willing to receive according to the conditions He has chosen?" We cannot simply read or listen to God's Word and think that is enough; we must be doers, also.
Our salvation is the gift of God in all its majestic facets of grace for daily Christian living. It will propel us toward high-level obedience while steadily increasing our capacity to receive more from God. It is not necessarily a life of ease, but it is a life of glory.
I encourage all believers who want the abundant Christian life to read the book of James to discover what God is offering to give. Pray that your heart will be increased in its capacity to receive good things from the Father, for every good and perfect gift comes from Him (James 1:17). Become a blessed recipient continually. It is His delight for every child of His.
Barbara James is co-director, along with her husband, Bane, of the Joysprings Foundation and World Intercession Network in Franklin Springs, GA
I had refrained from preaching/teaching the last few posts because of several reasons. One of them, we were in places that preaching/teaching was spiritually difficult and though that is not a good reason it is the only one that works right now.
God can take us to the fire of affliction to see how tough we really are and sometimes we think we are really tough, but when we go into the furnace, we get refined and stronger. It's been a tough few weeks but we are stronger because of it and committed to see what God's love does and who we can reach for HIM. We are ministry minded, focused and ready for whatever gets thrown at us. We are not sure where the road leads but we know the Leader. We will go wherever He instructs us as "we in the way we should go".
Our hope is you see Jesus face to face, you know what your call and purpose are, you let go of the past to reach the future and you see yourself as God's creation- beautiful, strong, courageous, tough, loving and prepared through the Word of God so you can do what you have been called to do.