church

Pray for Canada

Gracious God and Father,

Thank you for your great grace extended to all men through faith in Jesus Christ. Thank you that you gave to Christ all authority over your Kingdom, and that we, his disciples, are sent as sons and daughters of the Kingdom to bring people everywhere to the obedience of faith through the gospel of Christ. Thank you that the Church in Canada was once one of the greatest senders of missionaries into the world.

But now, gracious Lord, this is no longer true. It makes us sad that under the pernicious influence of modernity and now post modernity, many churches have watered down the gospel till it is no gospel at all. Our nation is now totally secular, and it grieves us that godless ideas and philosophies are now indoctrinated in schools and social media to the point that these are unconsciously accepted by some believers. Canada has become a mission field.

Canada has always been a country of immigrants, and recently has welcomed thousands of refugees from Syria to add to the matrix of people from all over the world—from Russia and Eastern Europe; from the Far East and the Middle East; and from Asia and Africa. Now, more than 150 languages are spoken here. Truly this is a mission field, Lord, and we remind ourselves that you sent your disciple to keep making disciples of all ethné.

But Lord, the churches are so weak; Christians don’t study their Bibles any more, some even doubt it is the authoritative Word of God. These weak Christians don’t know how to witness; they are fearful of their Muslim, Hindu and Sikh neighbours; and even when they befriend their neighbours, they have been taught not to offend them by sharing their beliefs.

Our aching hearts cry out to you, O Lord. We pray for this mission field. Stir up the local church through faithful teachers and prophets who will be able to equip the church for the Christ-given task. Help the lively African, Chinese, Korean, Filipino and other churches, who for years have focused on their own people. Now stir up these ethnic churches to lift up their eyes and look on the Canadian fields. And Lord, bless the young Christians, both Canadian and International, at universities and colleges to be powerful bearers of the gospel to the next generation.

Above all, Lord, may all Canadians who truly love you: enlighten hearts and strengthened them by the Spirit. Help them grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ that by knowing him experientially, they may reject the ways of the world in which they live, that in faith and obedience they will live in Christ and for Christ.

To Jesus be ongoing praise and glory. Amen.

Pray for Nepal

This week's prayer comes to us from Ms Shanti Lama, a citizen and resident of the Asia country of Nepal. Nepal, best known as the home of Mt. Everest, has a long-standing Hindu identity. Over the past several decades, the church has grown to be a significant minority within this small nation. In the following prayer, you can feel Ms Lama's love for both God and her country, and the church within her country.

If you would like to know more about this beautiful country, we recommend you follow this link to Operation World's overview of Nepal.

Most who read this will not be Nepali. Nevertheless, please take time to join Shanti in prayer through this coming week by reading the prayer aloud as your own. 

Dear God,

I thank you that I get to be a citizen of Nepal. You have blessed this country with so many good things.  Thank you for all the natural beauties: all the mountains, rivers, animals, and of course! the beautiful people. You are wonderful and creative. Thank you for creating us in your own image and you love all your sons and daughters. As John 3:16 says, You sent your one and only son Jesus Christ so everyone who believes in Him have eternal life. I know that you want all your children to have eternal life in you. Thank you Lord that you love the people of Nepal and you want us all to receive the gift of life.

God, I pray against the power of darkness that prevails in this place because of the presence of false gods and idol worshiping. Lord, you have the power to break every chain and set your people free. I pray against the chain of poverty, pride, greed, corruption in this nation. Lord, I pray that you would soften up people’s hearts and open their eyes so they see and come to an understanding of your Love. I pray for the political leaders of this nation. I know that they are appointed by you and only you can change their hearts and minds. I pray that you would put love and care in their hearts for the citizens so they work for the interest of the citizens rather than their own selfish desires.

I want to lift up your church, your bride of this country. Lord, I pray that we would rise up and take stand for truth. I pray that our hearts would be full of passion for you and your work. Please give us hunger and thirst for you. Help us to be good citizens and work for the best interest of our nation and expand your Kingdom in the process. Thank you for being so kind and gracious. As your word says in Mark 16:17, signs and wonders would follow us as we believe in you so that the people around us can see your power and your greatness through our works.

May you be lifted up in this place; May your will be done in this place as it is in heaven, and May you be glorified through everything. I believe and expect great things for this nation through your power. I pray in Jesus name

Amen!

Have you heard of the Great Commission?

Have you heard of the Great Commission?

In the last paragraph of his gospel, Matthew wrote:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

If you pay attention to grammar, you might notice there are four verb forms in that passage: go, make disciples, baptize, and teach. Only one of those is what my high school English teachers would have called the main action verb. It is the word which gives direction to this commission. And, no, it isn’t go.

The main thrust is make disciples.

In this sense, a disciple is basically a student who commits to following a teacher, learning from that teacher, then carrying on the work of that teacher. In modern society, we might see this in the trade unions, where a worker begins as an apprentice, advances up the ladder to master craftsman and then takes on his or her own apprentices.

Isn’t that a great picture of what it means to be a Jesus-follower? We see it biblically in the lives of those very disciples who first heard that commission. They met Jesus through a variety of circumstances. They committed themselves to following, helping, and working together with Him. They learned by doing as He began sending them out to do it on their own. At the point of this passage in Matthew, the disciples were ready to carry on the work of proclaiming salvation as Jesus returned to heaven.

This is what we want to see in missions.

But we can’t stop there. We can’t be content to just present the gospel and bring people to the point of following Jesus. Neither can we be content with just seeing these new believers grow as individuals. If we stop there, we have created a situation where we have to re-evangelize every succeeding generation.

That’s why I consider the last two verbs of the Commission to be so important to the entire passage. Going gets us where we need to be; making disciples starts the process which leads into the next verbs.

Jesus told His that first generation of disciples to baptize and teach.

Throughout the book of Acts, which is the history of the first generation of churches, we note that baptism goes hand-in-hand with believing. Time after time, the word goes out “repent and be baptized.” Baptism, in that first century, as now, is a public identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In a very real sense, baptism was also incorporation into the body of Christ, which is the church. No, not necessarily a specific local church or denomination as it might be now, but identification with and incorporation into the body that includes all believers, of all time, everywhere.

Through the book of Acts and the epistles, we also see local bodies of believers, with specifically-gifted people raised up to watch over, guide, and teach those people who identified with them. These bodies became associated with specific towns and cities, such as Philippi and Ephesus. In time, the size of these city-wide churches grew so large that smaller bodies (local churches) formed themselves, sometimes identified by the private homes in which they met for prayer and worship.

The final verb Jesus gave was teach. As He had taught His disciples, they were to teach the next generation, and so on and so on . . . right up until our generation today. That first generation of disciples, directed by the Holy Spirit, collected and recorded the words of our Lord, then often explained them in culturally relevant and understandable ways to the many people who came into the church. As these writings (i.e. Paul’s letters) were compiled and shared, the local churches became the centers of this teaching.

It would be so easy now for me to rabbit trail into a church history lecture or discuss the function of the local church. But that’s not what I’m presenting today.

Think. instead to the Great Commission as a process, rather than a series of commands. The process begins when those who know Christ go to those who don’t, wherever they might be. Having gone, we find ways to communicate the gospel, help people to make real, conscious decisions to believe in Christ for salvation and then to commit themselves to follow him throughout their lives. As people come to Christ, we bring them together into local churches which guide and teach, helping believers live and mature according to the teaching Jesus gave directly and then the Holy Spirit gave through the writings we know as the New Testament.

If we do this right and well, these same churches will send the next general of missionaries, who will make disciples, organize local churches, train leaders, etc., etc.

Does this work? You’re here, aren’t you? You, dear reader, are a product of your church, which was born from another church, which was born from another . . . No matter where we start, no matter our church or denominational affiliation, no matter our race or nationality, if we trace our spiritual family trees, we will all find ourselves together 2000 years ago on a Palestinian hillside with Jesus, hearing Him say, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

Let’s keep this process moving ahead and actually get it done.

Breaking through the gates

 

At a certain point in His ministry, Jesus began preparing his followers for His approaching death.  They had to understand that His death would be neither beginning nor end to God's plan, but rather a transfer of responsibility to His followers so they could complete what had be begun.  Let me read from Matthew 16:13-18.

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?

They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."

"But what about you?" he asked, "Who do you say I am?"

Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.  And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matthew 16:13-18).

Let's focus on just one sentence here: "I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." I do like the way it's expressed in the King James Version, "I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

We can’t understand this statement in the same way Jesus’ listeners did. The history of Israel was one of kingdoms and empires, controlling or being controlled.  In Old Testament times the foundation of an empire was generally the strongest of several cities, and an empire often took its name from the main city.  This was the case with Samaria, Babylon, Rome.  Jesus' disciples could probably think of several empires which ruled until another kingdom grew up right under their noses and eventually conquered them.  While Assyria ruled, Babylon grew to challenge and then overcome it; Babylon became an empire, then fell to Persia; and so on. 

If one empire wanted to conquer another, this could only be accomplished by capturing and either occupying or destroying the central city of that empire.  In a time when arrows, spears and rocks were the strongest offensive weapons, the best protection was a solid wall, so these cities were surrounded by great walls.  The only intentional gaps in the walls were gates so that people could come and go in good times.

Can you picture the gates? That image was familiar enough to the disciples.  The word gate actually describes the entire area of entry into a city, not just the part that opened and closed.  A gate area could have several barriers, often constructed of thick wood with iron reinforcement.  Some gates were actually twisting passage ways through which an enemy would have to sustain weapon fire from the high passage walls. 

Gates were strong and imposing.  But gates are also passive.  They do not move to attack.  They just stand there.  When Jesus said, "the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it,” the picture was not one of hell attacking His church but of the church attacking - and conquering - the stronghold(s) of Satan. 

Just as ancient armies would attack one city after another until breaching the final stronghold, the church should be consciously and visibly breaking into some of hell’s strongholds, anticipating and foreshadowing the final victory.

If this is so; if the Lord is still building His church; if His church is to be attacking the strongholds of Satan; if the church should be breaking through the gates of those strongholds; then we should see this taking place now, even as the church looks to the final confrontation between Satan's evil empire and the kingdom of God.

Over the next few weeks, I’d like to share some of the stories of church growth and kingdom expansion that illustrate this picture. I hope you’ll be as encouraged as I am when we look realistically at what God is doing through His church in our time.