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God has shown us the greatest love ever known by sending His son Jesus Christ to take the punishment for our sins. As if the substitutional death of Christ wasn’t enough, our Father in Heaven invites us as His children to take part in The Great Commission. Matthew 28:18-20 says, “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

There are four important reasons why we go and make disciples of all nations. First, we make disciples cross-culturally because Jesus tells us to. Remember that He has all authority in Heaven and on earth. We pray for and give to assist in the sending of those who go. Or, if we are called, we go to the nations leaving the physical and emotional comforts of our culture behind. Both are acts of obedience to make His name famous to the nations. Second, we go or send because He is worthy. In response to what He has done for us while we were still sinners, we respond obediently and with glad hearts to His command. Third, we follow this command because there is so much need around the world. The word tells us that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. According to the Joshua Project, over forty percent of the global population has yet to hear the Gospel. Finally, we go because many parts of the world have been infiltrated by western and indigenous cults, as well as the heresy of the prosperity gospel. With millions of people being deceived by false religions, gods, and teachers, who will go and be the light of Christ in all this darkness? Who will assist those who are called to physically go? Sadly, far too many Christians today are not obeying God in this calling when eternity is at stake for so many people around the world. Let Christ’s people never forget that following Jesus is about more than hanging out in a building on Sunday mornings for ninety minutes to hear some songs and someone speak. Of course going to church and corporately worshiping are important, but He calls us to so much more than passive spectating! We must tell others the good news on a global scale.

How do we fulfill the difficult task to which Christ has called us? In our own strength, it’s impossible!  Part of the commission says that “Christ is with us to the end of the age.” It is only in keeping our eyes on Christ and what He has done that we can live missional lives. He imparts His strength upon us to fulfill what we could never fulfill in our own strength. It is by His strength that we either physically go, or assist in sending others.

There have to be both goers and senders for obedience to the global commission to be lived out. We cannot have goers without the senders offering the crucial prayer and finances needed for the body of Christ to live out The Great Commission. As Christ’s servants, we can’t fulfill this beautiful commitment without the involvement of both parties. The goers would be significantly handicapped without the prayer and financial support of their brethren; and the senders can’t “send” without those who will answer the call to physically go. What a harmonious and complimentary calling we have as the body of Christ! Pastor and author John Piper says, “There are only three kinds of Christians when it comes to world missions: zealous goers, zealous senders, and disobedient. May God deliver us from disobedience!” I wonder how many Christians are telling God, “No,” and giving the reason that global missions “isn’t their calling,” when this command is for everyone who knows Christ.

Spend some time in prayer in the coming days, weeks, and months to discover how you can apply this commandment from our Savior. Ask Him to give you perfect peace and clear understanding; whether you are called to go or to help send another. After prayer, if you feel the calling to leave your culture for a new one to teach others to obey the commands of Christ, earnestly seek Him on where He’d have you go. If, after prayer, if you feel called to help send a missionary (or missionaries) into the field, earnestly seek Him about whom He would have you send, whether through prayer and/or financial gifts. Either way, let us as Christians hear the words of Matthew, “Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matt 9:38), and be quick to obey them. There is nothing sweeter in this momentary life than obedience to Jesus. He has all authority to tell us to go or to send. Any sacrifice we make, or any affliction we face for the sake of His name will be neither wasted nor regretted. He is worthy, He is our treasure – now and forever.

Quote from the article titled “Driving Convictions Behind Foreign Missions” By John Piper, Desiring God 1996

Click here to read more about how God is with us. Here we have daily devotionals for all of the Advent Season.

Immanuel – God with us.

God came to be with us.

Jesus, the Son of God – came – lived – died – rose again – ascended to the Father.

God came to be with us.

 

But – Does He still come now?

 

Does God’s presence still come and invade our world, our lives and our souls?

Does holy God intervene in our world today?

Does holy God still step into our broken society and our war torn world?

 

Does holy God intervene in our lives today?

Does holy God still heal broken bodies and restore broken relationships?

 

Does holy God intervene in our souls today?

Does holy God still draw souls to him and restore the depths of our broken souls?

 

The Holy Spirit of God is God’s promise – that His presence is still with us moving in our world, our lives, and our souls.

And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago.

The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him. Ephesians 1:13-14 (NLT)

 

Jesus Christ rescued us – TO BE WITH GOD.

We were rescued by the work of Christ so that we can be with God. We were not just forgiven – we have been reconciled, united, and adopted into the family of God as sons and daughters. We are one with God, and the promise of our eternal union is God’s own Spirit.

God’s rescue does not end at a reunion. He is also restoring us to what we were supposed to be – the very image of God. Once again, the Spirit of God is the One at work in us restoring the very “depths of our broken souls.”

 

Today – by faith in Jesus and His work alone – you can be reconciled to, united with, and adopted into God’s family.

Trust your soul to Jesus. Call out to Jesus. Confess that your soul is broken and rebellious and Jesus will rescue you and begin to restore you – today. God’s presence will be with you and in you today.

 

But to all who did receive Jesus, who believed in his name,

he gave the right to become children of God. John 1:12 (ESV)

 

Today, as God’s son or daughter, you can know His presence through His Spirit.

Often God feels far away, or not even here, but this is a lie. Because of Jesus’ work – not ours – God is always with us, united with us, working in us. We may forget. We may not recognize His work at times. But He is with us.

Today, call out to Jesus and ask Him to intervene in your life. The Spirit of God will move. He will be with you, because God is still with us.

 

 

 

What are you thinking about?

That can be such a shaming question at times.  We often will immediately think about all the things we shouldn’t be thinking about.

Although there are many things at this time of year I think about that cause stress and worry, there are many other things that I find myself thinking about which are good.  I’m thinking about Jesus and his birth; I’m thinking about serving others; I’m thinking about spending time with my family… all good things.

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, in chapter 4, he concluded his letter by saying:

8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

Let me encourage you to engage your mind in the excellent and praiseworthy things that are already stirring in our minds this time of year.

And if you need a little help spurring your mind in the right direction, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Listen to Christmas Music while in the car. Both 102.5 & 99.1 are playing lots of Christmas music.
  2. Read the daily Advent Devotional Blog on the Summit website: thesummitstl.com/adventdevotionals
  3. Memorize Luke 2:10-11

10 “And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’”

Archeologists discovered an ancient Roman letter from around 1BC recording the wishes of a husband to his wife regarding the upcoming birth of their child:

If–good luck to you! –You bear offspring, if it is a male, let it live; if it is a female, expose it.

Exposure was an ancient practice where unwanted, imperfect, or untimely children were literally left to die.  These helpless children were abandoned near sewers or trash heaps and left to die by exposure to the elements.  Despite all their societal achievements, Rome was a very brutal place.

Around this same time in history, the early church was starting to take hold and something strange began to occur. These early followers of Jesus began going to these hard places to rescue children from a horrific end and raise them as their own.  Society was puzzled and the early Church became known for their radical hospitality towards the unwanted and unloved.

Why did these early Christians do this?  Let me suggest one theological concept that has guided the church throughout the centuries to take hard stands, make real sacrifices, and live out the gospel in costly deeds.  That concept is Imago Dei.  Imago Dei simply means that humanity was created in the image of God (Gen 1:27) and that we mirror God in many ways.  It means that humanity is different from the animal world and that all life is sacred.  This truth, written deep in our hearts, at best gets lost and, at worst, comes under direct assault in a modern and secular age.  Regardless of the historical moment in which we live, the Imago Dei is true.

So what?  The Imago Dei will lead us to love, respect, and care for all people, but especially the vulnerable and marginalized.  As we see injustice, God’s spirit in us will lead and compel us to act in simple ways.  God hasn’t called us to bear the weight of saving the world…that His job.  He has called us to follow him to the hurting and unwanted to be His hands and feet.  What does the Lord require of you and me?  To act justly and to love mercy and walk humbly with our God. (Micah 6:6-8)  Our prayer is that we would pray and then go to these hurting people both near and far.  November is National Adoption and Foster Care month. Our society is not so different from Rome; the methods may be more sophisticated, but no less brutal. Maybe God is calling you to explore becoming a foster or adoptive parent.  Maybe He’s leading you to support a family experiencing the real ups and downs of parenting children from difficult places.  Let His love and the reality of His image in the heart of every person lead you.

Rom 12:15:  “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”

My office is a place in which many tears have been shed. It is probably a place filled more with tears than with celebration. Life is hard, no doubt about it. And so many people who have cried, have apologized for their show of emotion. It has made me wonder why we are so uncomfortable with tears of disappointment, loss and grief. There isn’t much we can do when someone sits in front of us in tears because of a shattered marriage, an abusive spouse, a lost job, a prodigal child, a cancer diagnosis, a foreclosure, or any of a multitude of other things that happen in this broken world. Could it be that we are uncomfortable with the tears because we can’t DO much about it? Because we can’t “fix” it? There is no magic wand that we can use to make the hurt go away.

We become vulnerable and helpless when we can’t “fix” the brokenness around us.  Too often, we think we can “fix” it by making a meal, writing a check, mowing a lawn, or some other act of service; and those things do help sometimes. Those are the ways we feel most comfortable showing love and concern. But what if the best thing we could do in most situations is to be a good listener? What if actually hearing the hurt and pain, the confusion and questions was what made someone who is vulnerable feel valued and loved?  When we are vulnerable and hurting, advice often seems artificial and/or uncaring.  Feeling heard and knowing someone else understands our pain, our situation, or our struggle can bring hope and healing that only the Gospel can bring. This is not to say that we agree with lies, or go with people to “crazy” places, but because Jesus listened to people well, he was able to perceive where they were and what they needed. Yes, he knew because he was God, but he listened anyway. He listened because he loved and cared. He listened because he knew that when people saw that he understood, they became hopeful. Look at the woman at the well. Look at Mary and Martha as they grieved the death of their brother Lazarus.  Jesus blew up the social mores of the day by listening to women and children. Jesus went to the cross to bring life and hope to the lost and vulnerable. Because of the cross, we can listen and bring hope and comfort.  2 Corinthians 2:3-5 reminds us that God is a God of comfort and he comforts us in ALL our troubles so we can comfort others in ANY of their troubles with the same comfort we have received from Him. God hears, listens, and loves. Let us do the same by listening with Gospel ears and hearts. It is only as we listen that we can begin to understand what we can “do” to bring hope and healing into the brokenness.

If you want to become a better listener, check out the Gospel-Centered Counseling class coming up in January.

It is much easier to show kindness to someone in need when we are looking at them at eye level rather than looking down on them, as though we might be better or more deserving than they. Each of us deserves God’s wrath, but Jesus paid our debt.  Now, out of gratitude, we can serve the world around us in hopes that they will receive a blessing. Our hope is that they might experience the love of Christ.

The Sharing Shed is a great opportunity for us to serve those in need. The Sharing Shed has been serving our community for many years. Today several churches and agencies team up to provide furniture, beds, kitchen items, linens and more to those in our community who are in need. Many people we serve are coming out of very difficult seasons, some have even been homeless, and we are privileged to provide necessary items to help them get back into a home. We have seen parents reunited with children by providing beds and dressers for children to use. The Shed is following the call that Jesus gave to believers.  When they are cold, give them a coat.

Get involved. Love well. Serve well. See if you are not blessed in doing so.

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

Matthew 25:35-40 ESV

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. I John 4:18 (ESV)

The gospel says – Jesus took my complete punishment so I could be completely acceptable to God.

From this acceptance, I can obey, and I want to obey. However…

When I believe the lie that I am not acceptable – I obey out of fear to avoid punishment, or to get acceptance.

We have been called and invited into God’s grand redemption mission. God is continuously about eternal work in this temporary world – and He allows us to be a part. How cool! God asks us to “speak of Jesus” as we go – as we live – so He can make disciples in this world. God invites us into this – he doesn’t say – do this or else! Fear of rejection or punishment for His sons and daughters is not a part of how God relates to us

Maybe you had a coach, a boss, or a parent – who used fear to get you to do things. Fear is a powerful motivator for a moment – but it is a horrible motivator when it comes to the long haul. Fear of rejection and punishment causes bitterness and resentment toward the source of our fear. Fear can at times move us to obey – but it can never move us to love. God longs for us to live in His life giving love and joy. He created us – so He could share His joy and love with us. He does not desire just obedience. He wants you and I to see Him as the Greatest Treasure above all things. And, He wants you to realize the Greatest Treasure of All will never reject or punish you. Why? Because Jesus completely took your rejection and punishment.

 

God is not daring you to join Him in this disciple making endeavor to prove you are worthy.

God is not threatening you to join Him in this disciple making endeavor or else.

God, because of His great love, is inviting and calling you to be a part of something and SOMEONE Great!

 

As we continue in this endeavor to reshape our culture – may we be moved by the great love of God.

May fear – be something we continue to acknowledge and confess – so we can be freed from its grip.

May we accept His invitation – from our great acceptance.

May we move toward others – in joyful obedience that is full of His love.

 

It’s a trick question, isn’t it?  Both prayer and Bible study are equally important and valuable for different reasons.  But I found myself not believing that.

This week all of our Community Groups are gathering to pray.  They are gathering to pray for what God is doing in the world, in our church, and in our lives.  As I was getting prepared for our group I was a little bummed because the turn out was going to be low.  Then I said out loud to my wife, “Well, it’s just prayer, so it’s no big deal to have a small crowd.”

I’m still thankful to God that He didn’t strike me with lightning in that moment.  He did, however, convict me in a deep way.  ‘Just prayer’?  What’s inherent in my statement is I think it I more important and valuable for people to show up for Bible study than prayer.  I confessed my short-sighted belief in prayer to our group that night and discovered that our time praying was just as significant and impactful as a great Bible study.

So, what’s more important, prayer or Bible study?  My prayer for us as a church is that we will value both equally and make an effort to be faithful to our community when we gather to study scripture and when we gather to pray.

My first mission trip was to Bolivia in 1995. When I signed up for the trip I had no idea what I had to offer, what I would do while I was there, or why God would send me. All that I knew was that I had been praying for the Lord to use me and show me how to love others. At the time, I had been studying Isaiah in the Bible. In chapter six, Isaiah shares how he is completely overwhelmed and in awe when he sees the Lord sitting on his throne. Isaiah says that he heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” As experiencing the Lord truly resonates with him, he responds to the Lord, “Here I am. Send me!” What if the Lord had been asking questions to see who was qualified to go? Can you just imagine that for a minute? What if He was asking, “Does anyone here speak Spanish? Can anyone here drive a stick-shift up and down a curvy gravel road in the mountains? Can anyone here pray for a sick baby who is hospitalized and near-death due to lack of food and nutrition?” Had the Lord asked all of those questions, I wonder how Isaiah would have responded. I’m imagining a response something like, “Um, well, no Spanish… I can sort of drive a stick-shift truck but I totally don’t pray aloud for anyone so I don’t think I’m your guy!” Isn’t that exactly how we respond at times? We are our own worst critics. I for one am SO THANKFUL that the Lord isn’t asking those specific questions to Isaiah about the what, when and how but focuses on the who and the heart.

alex and kids

My husband Alex and I plan Summit mission trips to Guatemala every year. For those who aren’t familiar with our story, I met Alex in Guatemala when I lived there as a long-term missionary. When we talk to people about the mission trips, the first question is usually, “what will I do there?” The people always seem to feel ill-equipped for whatever reason (they don’t speak Spanish, they aren’t great working with kids, or something else). We always encourage them to not to focus on the logistics of what and how and focus on our heart’s commitment to being the who. With all honesty, I can tell you that I STILL struggle with what I have to offer on the mission field. Even though I now do speak Spanish and I’m married to a native, I feel ill-equipped to go and serve and love. What I’m learning is that if we decide to wait until we are (in our opinion) well-equipped, we will never go.

Fast forward to 2016 and I still can’t answer the question, “What did you DO in Bolivia?”. I don’t know what I DID, but I know that I cared. I went to love people and the response from the natives was overwhelming. They couldn’t believe anyone in the great United States of American would care about them…that someone from so far away would go and pray for them…in their eyes it’s unfathomable. It’s not any different in Guatemala. When the natives see us Gringos, they are overwhelmed because we care. They will listen to us as we pray and as we share Jesus because we travel such a great distance and they feel our love for them. They appreciate us. It’s not so much about the WHAT that we do, but that we care. It’s about our hearts—our hearts on mission.giving

Pray to see how you can love on the precious people in Guatemala. Maybe God is indeed asking you to go. Maybe He’s asking you to pray for others at the Summit going. Perhaps He’s asking you to financially support someone going. Pray for our response as a body when the Lord is asking us who will go. Let us respond as a body like Isaiah did—completely in awe and overwhelmed as the Lord is working in us and through us. May His great presence resonate in us as it did in Isaiah and encourage us to simply go and be the who.

“Back to School” – words that cause a flurry of action.  For many, getting ready for the new school year means picking up schedules, meeting new teachers, and filling the annual school supply list.  Did you know that it costs an average of $75 to fill a school supply list for just one student?  For many families, this cost is multiplied because they have multiple children.  As  you can imagine, this can be a significant financial burden for many families in our church and in our community.

Our CG became aware of a household that has five elementary age children.  We obtained their school supply lists, and we provided back packs and filled them with the necessary supplies.  What a blessing this was for us!  We loved shopping for supplies for the little ones, picking out items we thought they would enjoy.  We were reminded of the challenges for families as they send their kids off to school.  And we were able to pray for the students and their parents.  God allowed the body of Christ to work together to give dignity to a family and put smiles on the faces of kids who were looking forward to their first day of school.

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