Singing From The Ends Of The Earth

Read
Isaiah 24:14-16 (NIV)
They raise their voices; they shout for joy; from the west they acclaim the Lord’s majesty. Therefore, in the east give glory to the Lord; exalt the name of the Lord, the God of Israel, in the islands of the sea. From the ends of the earth we hear singing: “Glory to the Righteous One.”

Reflect
Some of the most beautiful music comes from the most unlikely places. Our youngest foster son, who has no language, loves music. To hear him sing out with little sounds the song, “Our God Reigns” is one of those beautiful sounds. I recall my first trip to Tanzania to hear a choir that had walked two days to greet us at a small church. They had only percussion instruments (home made) and their voices. I did not understand the words at that time. Once again one of those beautiful sounds I will always remember.

The scene in Isaiah, sadly, is a picture of a devastated earth defiled and consumed by the sins of humanity. If Isaiah were writing today, he might include media images of the devastation left by natural disasters, wars, pollution, power mongers, and suicide bombers. But in the midst of all the sadness and horror, Isaiah hears singing from the ends of the earth. The singing doesn’t fit the scene, but it’s a happy song, a song of praise to the Righteous One.

The joyful hope we can bring to the world is the message that God reigns and will set all things right one day. In the midst of devastation and surrounded by the waste of our own lives, we can sing because we see a vision of the Lord Almighty reigning in glory. And perhaps one of the best ways to get the world to listen is not to turn up our volume but to let others overhear the sweet sounds of God’s love through our lives.

Pray
Lord, no matter how things may seem, you are still in charge. You rule the nations of this world, and you rule our lives. Set all things right and help us to sing. Amen!

For The Glory Of God

Read
2 Corinthians 4:13 – 15 (NIV)
It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak,  because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself.  All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

Reflect
What motivates people to become missionaries? I have heard some say that it was adventure. Others spoke of passion to serve from a young age. Some even want to return to where they were raised (on the mission field) because that was the life they understood. But any discussion with missionaries that served the Lord in missions ultimately end up where Paul did in our text today: Missions are for the Glory of God.

Glory is sometimes a difficult word to grasp. It speaks of God’s splendor, the qualities of his greatness, relating to who God is and how he deals with us.

God’s glory is seen first in creation. The world God made bears his stamp of power, order, and beauty. As I had opportunity to travel to many different places in the world, his creation was always on display. Sunrises and sunsets loudly proclaim that God is creator, and his beauty is so great it cannot be contained.

But we see God’s glory most clearly in the person and work of his Son, Jesus Christ, who is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3). In Jesus’ life we clearly see a part of God’s glory that was mostly hidden before – God’s grace, love, and forgiveness. This glory shines forth each time a sinner turns and experiences anew God’s grace in Christ. And as it did for Paul, this glory can motivate us into missions wherever we are – both globally and locally.

Pray
Dear Father, help us to see your glory. Help us to point others to your Son, Jesus, so that they too will shine with your glory. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Serving Through Prayer

Read
Philippians 1:1-11
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.  Verse 4 (NIV)

Reflect
The work of prayer is often understated. When we lived in Tanzania a good friend, the Mission Aviation Fellowship pilot, asked me to pray for him. His next couple of weeks were very busy and he was concerned about fatigue. I agreed to pray, which I did that night and then forgot all about it. A few days later his plane went down and he and all on board were killed. Forever after that day I was careful that if I promised to pray for someone – I held myself to that promise.

When people know that you are praying for them, nearly everyone will respond positively to your acts of concern in prayer for them. Here are a few ideas to help you be faithful in prayer.

Ask God to help you see and understand the people and the missionaries you have contact with. Pray for them and the people group they work with.

As God lays certain names or groups of people on your heart, commit to praying for them regularly.

Be sensitive to seeing them with Jesus’ eyes, taking note of what you see and experience. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you discernment.

Humbly, simply let people, especially missionaries, know they are among the people you pray for and for the people they work with. Invite them to name more specific prayer requests.

Make sure that you find opportunities to follow up with those you pray for.

Pray
Lord, people are hungry for prayer. Open our eyes to see people, people groups and missionaries as Jesus sees them. Help us to touch others with your compassion and love. Amen.

Why Missions?

Read
Luke 15:1-24
“While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion …”
Verse 20 (NIV)

Reflect
I have heard it said more than once that when a person is converted to Christianity, the last part of the person to be converted is his or her wallet. Meaning of course that our present culture is very much concerned about money and material things.

Seldom do we see any expression from God that points to opulence. The exception may be the building of the temple by Solomon. Simply put, God goes all out to seek people in order to have a deep, loving relationship with them. God wants followers who care about the same things he cares about.

Jesus’ parables in Luke 15 tell us about the deeply loving and caring heart of God. In this section of Scripture, we find three powerful stories with the same theme: something precious and valuable is lost, and it simply must be found and restored! We sense the pain of deep loss; we are caught up in the search and desire for restoration; we feel the thrill of rediscovery; and we experience the great joy of celebrating with a big party.

You can always tell what you value by what you do. Does your heart beat in tune with God’s heart? Will you go out of your way to join God’s mission of love to those who aren’t home with the Father yet? Missions is about searching for what is lost, finding and restoring them, then celebrating the victory of ultimate restoration and life. Is there any wonder why missionaries are so passionate about what they do!

Pray
Lord, thank you for coming to look for us long before we started searching for you. Use us to be your restoring presence today among people who’ve lost their way. Amen.

Community

Read
Matthew 12:46-50
Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.
Verse 50 (NIV)

Reflect
The word community is for me a warm and friendly word. For sure there are different levels of community: my church community, my immediate neighbourhood community, the larger community of our town. There are cultural communities, ethnic communities and many more.

When I think about church community I think about our relationships. I love the concept of people gathering together for the purposes of accountability, learning, fellowship, and mission. Besides, it’s in the Bible, so it’s got to be good!

Jesus was teaching a group of people about faith, the kingdom, and discipleship. While he was talking to the crowd, his own family came to speak to him. But instead of dropping everything and talking to them, Jesus continued teaching, and he even used his family as an example. “Who is my family?” he asked. In effect, it is “Those who do the will of my Father in heaven – they are my family.”

Was Jesus denying his biological family here? No, but he was not going to put them ahead of doing the will of God.

Jesus redefined family and community here in a radical way. Instead of simply being a gathering of relatives or like-minded neighbors, the community became people we gather with for the purpose of faith, mission, and challenge in living for God.

Who is your family? Who holds you accountable to God’s purposes in life, and who walks alongside you in both good and bad times? With whom do you gather for the purposes of faith-building, mission, and challenge? Wherever you find those people, there is your family – the community of God.

Who is the community that needs to know that you love Jesus and care about them? How do we show the love of Jesus in practical, everyday ways? Are we ready to respond in those critical moments that happen in the lives of our friends? Expand your community. Embrace those who live near you. Be salt and light in your community.

Pray
Father thank you for the community of faith that supports me. Open my heart to expand the community around me. In Jesus Name. Amen

A Serving Heart

Read
Mark 10:46-52
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.  Verse 51(NIV)

Reflect
We read in the Gospels that Jesus ministered to people who were just part of the crowd and seemingly not the focus of what was going on in the text. Blind Bartimaeus, as we know him, was one of those. He called out to Jesus, “Son of David,” a title that described the Messiah. This declaration was a prelude to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as the Lord’s anointed, the true King.

Walking into the town of Jericho, Jesus was surrounded by a roaring crowd, but that did not keep him from hearing the cries of a person who truly needed him. Other people ignored or rebuked this “nobody” named Bartimaeus, but Jesus saw his faith and called him.

With God’s help, we must learn, despite life’s distractions, to keep our eyes open to see and our ears attuned to hear the needs of people around us. When Bartimaeus came over to him, Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” This question shows Jesus’ focus on serving the needs of others. Never did he say, “Now you owe me.” Instead, highlighting the man’s trust in him, Jesus said, “Go . . . your faith has healed you.”

We learn from Jesus the importance of being selfless and not losing sight of our mission. We recognize that our mission as followers of Jesus is to be attentive to our community and to include the people we meet, each and every day. We need to remember that our help must go out to others, not just to those who can help us or are part of our church community.

Pray
Lord sharpen our senses to see and hear the people around us day in and day out. Give us hearts that long to serve and embrace our community. In Jesus name, Amen.

Shelter’s Mission Verse

Read
Zechariah 7:8 – 14
This is what the Lord Almighty said: “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.”                                                                                            Verse 9 (NIV)

Reflect
The Evangelical Missionary Church began a work in El Salvador to replace homes destroyed by an earthquake. That led to more homes being provided for those living in unsafe shelters. In time a group of people who had been doing this work took over the task and all the related work. They call themselves Shelter. Jim, who heads up the group always references this verse as his motivation for doing the work.

God calls us, as a matter of worship, to act justly in our day-to-day lives, not being swayed by who has power and who does not. We honour God by showing not only impartial justice but also mercy and compassion. God himself clarifies that we are to seek justice for those who are not socially powerful – the single mother, foster children, immigrants, the poor. God declares, in effect, through Zechariah: “I don’t even want your worship if you are taking advantage of and not defending the weakest among you. You’re worshipping only to make yourselves feel better, not to honour me.”

Those are strong words. The suffering of people in another neighbourhood – much less others around the globe – can be invisible. Enacting justice and showing mercy require us to care for our brothers and sisters, to our neighbours and those far away. Ask God to show you ways to care for the marginalised. What acts of mercy are you doing for your family and community?

Pray
Lord, help us to show mercy, and make us lovers of justice, so that we can make an impact in this world for you. Amen.

A Life Lived Well: Generosity

Read
Acts 9: 36 – 42
In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor.                                                                        Verse 36 (NIV)

Reflect
I have several friends in my life who have very big hearts for those less fortunate. It has been my privilege to have a couple of these friends with me on a mission’s excursion so they can see firsthand some of the things I have spoken to them concerning the poor. Their response is always so thrilling for me. They are filled with God’s love and grace, and then a seemingly natural response causes them to share generously with those in need.

Dorcas was known for her compassion for the poor in her community. She was known for doing good and investing in those who had needs. Her relationship with God was not just for herself but also for the benefit of others.

The death of Dorcas left her community in distress. Friends searched for Peter to see if there was something he could do. Widows showed him all the clothing Dorcas had made for them – gifts that reminded them of her love. Gifts placed in the hand of someone in need, point to the hand of the heavenly Father, who loves us completely and generously supplies all that we need.

Our culture tends to focus on accumulating wealth instead of giving to people in need. Dorcas, described as a disciple, was one who imitated the generosity of God.

How can you show God’s generous heart to someone in need?

Pray
Lord, help me to care for others with the love that you show me. Help me to give willingly with a cheerful heart as you have ­given to me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Encourage And Build Up

Read
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. Verse 11 (NIV)

Reflect
My first church was in London, ON. I was a bit nervous and unsure of myself as lead pastor, youth pastor, secretary, and occasional custodian. That feeling increased significantly when I realized that the former president of our denomination was a parishioner in the congregation.

After my first message he came to the door and encouraged me in the content and delivery in the message that day. Suddenly, I had a new perspective on my role and position at this young church.

Paul’s missionary partner, Barnabas, was a person who was a strong encourager. Acts 4:36 tells us that the name Barnabas means “son of encouragement.” No wonder Barnabas was a leader in the ch

Paul, like Barnabas, encourages the Thessalonians to be wise, sober, and unafraid of the dark times they lived in. They could wear faith, love, and hope as armor, encouraged and strengthened in Christ for any challenges that might come. Those words can also be an encouragement for us in these days of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sometimes we take people for granted and don’t see the ways they are gifted. We forget to thank others for the ways they bless our lives. Does your family know how much you value them? How can you be a source of encouragement in your community? Who in your church could use an encouraging word to grow in their gifts?

Pray
Lord, make us a people who encourage one another and bring out the best in those around us and in our community. In Jesus name, Amen.

Humbly Serving

Read
Galatians 5:13-14 (NIV)
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.

Reflect
From the outside or from a place of not knowing – people would think that no one would ever want to sign up for a life of servitude. And yet, that is what God has in mind for his people. God knows how service to others will bless us as, well as the community around us.

Service is a great way to put aside our self-centeredness and notice how we are connected, even indebted, to others. When we start seeing the genuine needs of others, it removes our own sense of entitlement. None of us became the people we are alone, but by the sacrifice and investment of many others from our earliest years: parents, siblings, relatives, teachers, coaches, etc.  And that doesn’t take into account what Christ has done for us

Serving others not only reveals the bonds between us; it reflects the love of God. When we notice service to us, and when we serve others, we experience God’s grace. Serving points people to Christ. Jesus modeled grace that goes way beyond our understanding. He emptied himself for us, though we deserved nothing. His example calls us to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). In our “me-first” culture, God calls us to put others first. What a challenge!

Are we looking out for others the way we look out for ourselves? Can we put their needs ahead of our own? How are you serving in your community?

Pray
Lord, teach us how to serve one another. Help us to put the needs of others ahead of ourselves. Show us ways to use our gifts to bless others. In Jesus name, Amen.