not alone

Have you ever been picked last during the gym class lineup? In elementary school, I used to be skinnier than a twig, but as fast as a gazelle. You’d think I would be an ideal candidate for dodge ball, but all the strong guns and smack mouths got picked above me.

Or have you ever been ignored from participating in an important project at work when you thought you’d be the one for the job? Or have you been left out of a discussion at church when you thought you had the gifts to help? It might be that in a similar situation it is common for you to become angry, fearful, or lonely.

When Jesus died. He left the disciples all alone, but not really. Though He promised a Helper would come, He was nowhere to be found, at least to their eyes. So they did what anyone would do. They went back to work, mending the nets. They did not know they were supposed to carry on the work of Christ ASAP. Like little kids, who had just been asked to do their jobs might have thought, “You mean when you said, “Go therefore and make disciples,” You meant, right now? Oh!”

So after Jesus rose from the grave He came to His followers and gave them some last words. His last words were a charge to the troops, an assignment to His students, and order from the throne,

“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.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV)

Like the disciples, you are not alone. You have the power. The power and the presence of the Holy Spirit. He goes with you always until the end of your life.

from wonder to witness

I’ve had a few Turning Points in my life, as I’m sure you’ve had too. My first turning point came when I was 12. I grew up in a normal American dysfunctional home. My parents divorced before I could understand and we were nominal churchgoers. I was a troubled and angry kid. I rode the short bus and was labeled a special kid. I was so embarrassed. After my mom remarried, our family moved for work reasons to a small town in the middle of Wisconsin. We began attending a Bible Church. They used Bibles. So the next week mom went to Sam’s Club and bought Bibles. We grew like weeds. Within months, both my mom and I came to Christ. A few years later we got baptized together.

My second turning point came when I was 18. Since my salvation leaders in my church took me under their wing and helped me to grow in God’s Word and the gifts of the Spirit. I was encouraged to consider fulltime Christian service. That led me to Bible College, then a yearlong church planting apprenticeship in South Africa, then ministry for the past 8-years as an assistant pastor in Indiana, and then marriage to [Congolese] Sarah who I had met years before in Bible College.

My third turning point came on a vision trip Sarah, Justus, and I took to Chad last year this time. I clearly remember walking the dry dusty roads of northeast Chad, the hot sun beating on my face, and a sense of thirst on my tongue. While walking through the abstract streets I could hear the calls from the local mosque, donkeys laughing, and the Spirit of God convicting me. I though to myself, “You got Someone these people do not. 100% of the people in this town do not know your Jesus. Who will help bring the church to unreached Chad?”

The book of Acts is full of turning points.  Today I want to draw your attention to a turning point in Acts 1. Here the disciples are getting some last words from the resurrected Jesus. He had spent many hours, days, and years teaching these men who they were. He called them God’s servants, friends, beloved children, and brothers. Sometimes they seemed to understand who they were, but at other times they seemed clueless. And just before Jesus is about to leave them and ascend to heaven, He says, “You are my witnesses.” [Acts 1:8]

What is a witness? A good Christianese word. When the word witness appears in the book of Acts it most often refers to the role the 11-apostles had as legal eye-witnesses of Jesus’ death and resurrection.[1] At the end of the book, Paul uses the word of himself because he also had heard and seen the resurrected Jesus. But in Acts 1:8, when Jesus uses the word witness, He alludes to Isaiah 43. There the word witness applies broadly to all of God’s people:

Isaiah 43:10You are my witnesses,” says the LORD, “and My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. Before Me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after Me. 11 I, I am the LORD, and besides Me there is no savior. 12 I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are My witnesses,” says the LORD.

How does Isaiah give meaning to witness in the book of Acts? First, being a witness is not something any of these people chose. It is something God chose for them. Israel was God’s chosen people; likewise, Jesus chose His disciples. We often talk about witnessing as if it is something you choose or don’t choose, but it is not. You are witnesses by God’s choice. And you cannot help but be witnesses when you are identified with Jesus. Either you’re a witness or you’re not. It’s like my wife saying she’s kind of pregnant. Either she is or she is not.

Second, what made them witnesses was not something they did, practiced or earned; it was something they were. It was a relationship with God that made the apostles witnesses. You are a mom/dad because you have children; you are a son/daughter because you have parents; you are a man/women because that’s how you were born; or you are a student because you are in school. You are a witness because you are a follower of Christ.

A witness is not a passive role you fulfill. Rather the biblical idea of witness is quite active. Jesus says you can bear witness or you can even bear false witness. There were specific things Israel did and did not do which affected their testimony as witnesses. So it is with a witness of Christ. What does your witness say about Jesus?

As a witness of Christ, I openly and publicly demonstrate what I have learned and seen while with Jesus. But my witness is much more than words; it is a whole way of life. The Greek word for witness is μαρτος, where you get the word martyr. As the early Christian gave up their lives for what they had seen, the word martyr began to mean “one who choose to suffer or die for his or her beliefs.” [i.e. Stephen, cf. Acts 7:58] To be a witness, means giving my whole life, even giving up my life for what I have seen and heard from Christ. To be a witness is not a fatalist. But as a witness I am unwilling to bow to the god of comfort and safety or muzzle my mouth because the gospel will offend someone. Jesus says the cross is foolishness to unbelievers. Recently, I’ve been challenged by the story of Mark, a brother serving in North Africa,

Mark was part of a team of two families serving Muslim. Late in August, the team received death threats. The families were evacuated, but Mark stayed for one last meeting with believers before joining them. The night after the meeting while at home preparing his dinner, Mark was shot. He was discovered the next morning in his home, but he had lost too much blood to survive. At his passing, Mark left a young wife and two infant twin daughters. Mark’s agency feared the possibility of legal action from Mark’s father, who was not a believer and who vocally opposed his son’s service among Muslims. But at Mark’s funeral, Mark’s father was among fifteen people who gave their lives to Christ. His wife plans to minister in the same region where her husband was killed.

Third, being a witness is first “so that” you may know God and then “so that” others may know your God. Being a witness is about knowing God, seeing His steadfast love, observing His work in creation, hearing His voice. Being a witness is not something directed only toward others—though it has implications for those around you. Being a witness begins by being grounded in your relationship with God.

“Witness-ship” is a mark borne by getting near God. There is something so powerful about God’s character that it is impossible to get near what He is doing without being marked. The closer you get the more profound the mark.

Not only can you see God at work in historic acts, but also if you keep your eyes open you keep seeing him at work today. You see God at work in your life, in your friend’s lives and in the world around you. You still see God doing things that you long for but can’t make happen on your own. You see God’s forgiveness and love. You see how God transforms messed up lives and redeems them through His Son.

You—His witnesses—play a huge role in God’s plan.[2] You are the evidence of God’s work. The Bible tells the story of ordinary people so you can learn about an extraordinary God. How do you know God’s love is steadfast? By looking at the story of God’s people. How do you know God keeps His promises? By looking at His people. How does the world hear about God’s salvation? By hearing and seeing the witness of God’s people, like you and me. God has made His people messengers of His love, ambassadors of His kingdom, lights on a hill, salt in society. God has called you to be His witnesses.

The disciples stood on the mount starring with wonder into the sky, like a crowd at Cape Canaveral watching the shuttle launch or Superman making his classic exit, only this was no space shuttle or superhero it was the coronation of Jesus Christ. And with the rest of our time today, I want to uncover what Jesus expects from you, His witnesses.

1. You are commanded to live in the power of the Holy Spirit [Acts 1:4–5, 8a]

The book of Acts is often referred to as the Gospel (or autobiography) of the Holy Spirit. If you want to learn about the person and work of the Holy Spirit read Acts. In Acts 1:2-8 Jesus gives a concise theology of the Holy Spirits work. And amazingly Jesus receives the instruction from the Holy Spirit on the Holy Spirit.

First, His followers are guaranteed baptism by the Holy Spirit, which fulfills the promise Christ gave of the Helper who would come after He ascended [vs.4-5, cf. Luke 24:44-49].[3] For the first time, God would not dwell in a temple, but His temple would now continually dwell in His people. Jesus cautioned the disciples not to leave Jerusalem without the Holy Spirit. Why? If they did not waited they would be powerless.

Second, His followers are guaranteed power from the Holy Spirit to do miraculous works among the people [v.8a].[4] Jesus has completed His earthly ministry and now inaugurates the apostle’s earthly ministry.[5] These men witnessed Jesus’ teachings and miracles, and now they would continue on His ministry after Him. Although you might not exercise signs and wonders quite like the apostles, His ministry through you is still powerful and miraculously changing lives.

In Martin Lloyd-Jones’ book Joy Unspeakable he uses an illustration to describe the difference between common Christian living and what happens when the Holy Spirit comes upon a person with this unusual and unmatched power.

It is like a child walking along holding his father’s hand. All is well. The child is happy. He feels secure. His father loves him. He believes that his father loves him but there is no unusual urge to talk about this or sing about it. It is true and it is pleasant.

Then suddenly the father startles the child by reaching down and sweeping him up into his arms and hugging him tightly and kissing him on the neck and whispering, “I love you so much!” And then holding the stunned child back so that he can look into his face and saying with all his heart, “I am so glad you are mine.” Then hugging him once more with unspeakable warmth and affection. Then he puts the child down and they continue their walk.

This is what happens when a person is baptized with the Holy Spirit. A pleasant and happy walk with God is swept up into an unspeakable new level of joy and love and assurance and reality that leaves the Christian so utterly certain of the immediate reality of Jesus that he is overflowing in praise and more free and bold in witness than he ever imagined he could be.

The child is simply stunned. He doesn’t know whether to cry or shout or fall down or run, he is so happy. The fuses of love are so overloaded they almost blow out. The subconscious doubts—that he wasn’t thinking about at the time, but that pop up every now and then—are gone! And in their place is utter and indestructible assurance, so that you know that you know that you know that God is real and that Jesus lives and that you are loved, and that to be saved is the greatest thing in the world. And as you walk on down the street you can scarcely contain yourself, and you want to cry out, “My father loves me! My father loves me! O, what a great father I have! What a father! What a father!” [cf. Acts 2:11]”

The Holy Spirit’s all-consuming passion is to exalt Christ to the end of the earth. And the reason He has a white-hot passion is to empower you to witness to the ends of the earth:

  • “All the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord.” [Numbers 14:21; Habakkuk 2:14]
  • God brought His people into Canaan “so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty” [Joshua 4:24, cf. 1 Samuel 17:46].
  • David commands, “Sing to the Lord all the earth…Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples!” [Psalm 96:1–3]
  • “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” [Isaiah 49:6]
  • Jesus himself said, “Go make disciples of all nations” [Matthew 28:19].
  • “This gospel must be proclaimed to all the nations” [Mark 13:10].
  • “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain and by Your blood did ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” [Revelation 5:9–10]

The Holy Spirit wants the world for Christ. So He equips you as His witness with power to do it. He gives you absolute confidence that as you go out making disciples in His authority  nothing will thwart His name from reaching the nations.

2. You are called to share the gospel with people near and far, and similar or different than you [Acts 1:6–8]

Imagine you had the opportunity to ask Jesus any question. What would you ask? The disciples have an honest question for Jesus. Since Jesus and the OT prophecies talked a lot about this coming kingdom, and many anticipated a Messiah who would reign and release His people from the oppressive Roman Empire they ask, “Will you now restore your kingdom?” Jesus does not belittle their question, but reminds them that the timing is not for them to know. Instead, He refocuses them on being ready for the great task of sharing the good news with the known world.

The geography boundaries mentioned becomes an outline for the remainder of Acts as the apostles take the gospel from Jerusalem [1-7], to Judea and Samaria [8-12], and to the edges of the globe [13-28]. Jesus calls them to share the gospel with people like them in Jerusalem, the hub of the Jews. But He also calls them to share the gospel with people on the other side of the tracks in Judea and Samaria. These were people the Jews did not like. But God loved. For centuries the Jews had a sour spot for the “half-breed” Samaritans. But God intended Israel to be a light to the Gentiles. Since, Israel failed in this mission, Jesus is calling the apostles to carry His torch to their lost neighbors and be a bright light to the world. This is also the reason for your church and you: be a light locally and globally.

As witness we are team players. We are no longer just bystanders on the bleachers. We’ve been trained by the Master to carry the ball (gospel) up and down the field. I think of the five men who lost their lives in Ecuador to reach the Auca Indians. One wife and sister returned to the village and the wife raised their daughter among the tribe that killed their husband. Many in the tribe converted. Months ago, I met a man from North Africa whose church had been bombed a dozen times by Muslims. These are people on the front lines of Jesus’ mission shining the light in darkness. Near, far, similar, or different there are not boundaries to the gospel.

Who are your Samaritans? Is it your annoying co-worker or boss? Is it a relative? Is it a sassy celebrity like Lady GaGa or Katy Perry? Is it the Hispanic or black down the street? Is it the poor person you see on the corner always seeking a hand out? Is it your fellow Democrat? If you’re from Ohio, could it be people from Michigan? You know your Samaritan. It’s the one who makes your skin crawl and you avoid them like the plague. Jesus died for them too and He is calling you to be a witness to them.

3. You are urged to be diligent, even as you long for Christ’s return [Acts 1:9–11]

The purpose of God and the passion of the Spirit are not yet completed. We might question why, but Jesus’ answer will always be, “It is not for you to know the times and seasons which the Father has fixed by His own authority.” The great danger we face in the American church is the illusion that the purpose of God is complete, that the world has been evangelized. But there are over 2.7 billion (that’s billion!) people in the world who have not heard the gospel; they have no missionary, no church, and not enough Christians in their own people group to reach themselves.

That boggles me, as I am sure the apostles were boggled that day they starred into the sky wondering when Jesus would return. I love what happens next. Two messengers dressed in white came to the apostles. What message did say to the apostles? Why do you wonder? Witness! Jesus will come back. Not yet. So get to it”

Proof of the disciples diligence is in the remaining 28 chapters of Acts. They confidently expected Jesus’ return, but didn’t twiddle their thumbs in the meantime. With their own ears they heard their calling from the lips of Jesus: you are witnesses not stargazers. Owning the Spirits passion they spread the name of Jesus to the ends of the known world.

Turn to Acts chapter 29. Ah, this chapter does not exist! This is your chapter or appendix. The apostles are gone, but the work is unfinished. There are still billions of lost people lined up to hell all around you. 99% of Yemen, Libya, and Pakistan are unbelieving, unchurched, and lining up to the gates of hell. The picture of the young boy looking to the sky is a reminder of a need for a Savior. Who will tell him? As you wait in line for Heaven or Jesus’ return, people next to you need a turning point. Be a witness. Speak up for Jesus. Remember how He was the greatest turning point in your life?

Jesus died on the cross for the people of your church. He is returning for you soon. Jesus is worthy of your absolute surrender. God opened your eyes so you could believe in Him. When God saved you He gave you His Spirit. He has clothed each of your with His power. You live among a world of sin, darkness, and great need. God has charged you to take the gospel to these people and ends of the earth. The stakes are high. But Jesus says, “You are my witnesses.” To whom will you share?


[1] Cf. 1:21-22; 2:21-33; 3:14-16; 5:31-32; 6:13-14; 7:58; 10:37-41; 13:30; 22:13-15, 20-21; 26:15-16

[2] You and I are an indispensable link in the chain of redemption. See how the Spirit deploys people in Acts 8:29, 39; 9:17, 31; 10:19–20; 11:12; 13:4; 16:6–9; 19:21.

[3] Cf. Luke 3:16; cf. Mark 1:8; Matt 3:11; John 1:33; Acts 2:3

[4] Power, δυναμις, is used almost exclusively in Acts to describe the supernatural, miraculous power of God through them to confirm they are from God, representing Christ, and their work is from the Holy Spirit. Note: Acts 2:22; 3:12; 4:7-9, 33; 6:8; 8:10, 13; 10:38; 19:11; cf. Hebrew 2:4.

[5] During Jesus’ ministry, there is no reference to the Holy Spirit being upon anyone except Jesus. The Spirit descended upon him at his baptism (Luke 3:22), filled him as he returned from the Jordan (Luke 4:1), led him both in and out of the wilderness (Luke 4:1, 14), and rested upon him in his sermon at Nazareth (Luke 4:18).

from beggar to worshiper

While visiting the market in North Africa, especially in bigger towns, it does not take long before children come to you begging for money. It is hard to withhold helping them when they are so dirty, skinny and needy. However, to give them money is to give the mosque money. These boy and girl beggars are employees of the Imam. Therefore, we give them bananas or a drink of clean water. And what they really need money cannot buy; they need the riches of Jesus Christ.

As we arrive in Acts 3, we arrive to a church that is newborn. Peter has just preached his heart out, the Holy Spirit is at work, and thousands were added to the church. The infant church was booming with excitement. The day after Pentecost, Peter and John head to the temple for mid-afternoon prayer. On their way they pass by the local beggar. He’s in need of a turning point.

1. Everyday expect there to be unexpected opportunities to freely give out the gospel by introducing beggars to Jesus [Acts 3:1-10]

Doctor Luke gives careful details that this beggars been crippled since birth. He’s never walked. He probably slept near the gate and carried him up lots of stairs to his post at the gate each day where he hoped for a handout. He’s been doing this for 40 years. Isn’t it ironic that the beggar is by the beautiful gate? Can you see the contrast? The gate was a modern marvel and a symbol of wealth. It was an ordinary dirty bronze gate, but it was overlaid with silver and gold. In the light it glistened. And beggar sitting next to it as a stinky, dirty, and pitiful eyesore.

The two apostles make eye contact with the beggar. Have you ever made eye contact with a beggar? There is an unspoken vagabond code that says: ignore the beggar and he won’t bother you, but if you make eye contact expect to dish out. I have been around beggars. I am guilty of taking the long way around or looking the other way pretending to be fixed on something important. It is like being in class and your teacher asks a question that you do not know the answer therefore you dare not make eye contact lest you be chosen. Strangely Peter and John call the beggar to look at them.

Peter and John have literally sold everything they owned to serve Christ [2:44-47]. They do not have what the beggar wants, but they do have what he needs, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” [3:6] I am sure the man was disappointed or felt shortchanged at first, but Peter took his hand and helped him to his feet. The man not only began walking but also began jumping [Isaiah 35:6]. It’s something he’s never done before, even as a child. And like a child he’s not shy to show his joy in what God has done. He has just become a living, breathing, walking, and talking commercial of Jesus’ power and provision. I am sure he was an undignified spectacle within the temple.

I love the excitement of the beggar. He worships God and cares less what the crowd thinks. All the while the religious around him are thinking, “Settle down rookie. Your zeal will fade in time.” The religious are usually the most cantankerous. God detests the religious and their man-made rules and regulations. Long gone are the days their passion for God and joy in the transforming power of the gospel.

A similar event occurs in Luke 5:17-26. A crowd had gathered to see Jesus. A paralyzed man was lower through the roof of the packed house. Jesus healed the man. He got up from his mat, and walked home glorifying God. Imagine the reaction from his mother when he walked through the door that day! Not only was he healed, but also he forgiven by the Son of Man. The religious grumbled, but the crowd was amazed at what they saw and said; “We have seen extraordinary things today.”[1]

This story gives illustration to some biblical truths common to all. First, we are all beggars before we become Jesus worshipers. We are born beggars. We beg God to accept our good, which really is dirt and dung. “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” [Isaiah 64:6] There is no good bone or blood in us. But those who humble themselves to Christ whose bones were crushed and blood was spilt for their sin will be healed. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” [Matthew 5:3]

Second, the way to Jesus is through a narrow gate, but the most beautiful gate. I used to have a poster that depicted this scene. “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” [Matthew 7:13-14; cf. Luke 13:24; John 14:6]

Third, the riches of Christ are infinitely greater than the wealth of this world.[2] Salvation in Christ is the greatest rags to riches story of the universe. How amazing it is that God can rescue a soul signed to an unending lease within hell and pay his sin debt and freely offer him an opulent room and inheritance within His kingdom.[3]

When theologian Thomas Aquinas visited Rome he met with Pope Innocent II. Aquinas was amazed by the opulence of the Vatican in that day. And this was prior to the building of St. Peter’s, but even then it was a glorious headquarters for the Catholic church, filled with riches, and the pope was somewhat proud of the riches, and he said to Aquinas, “No longer do we say, ‘Silver and gold have we none.’” Thomas looked at the pope and said, “Maybe that is why we can no longer say, ‘Rise up and walk.’” Now the church’s riches were not why the church lost its power to heal people. The reason is that the power evidenced in the early days of the church was given by Christ to His Apostles to establish the church. Aquinas knew that, but I guess he did not want to miss the opportunity to jab the pope.[4]

Today the church has great wealth. Little of that wealth goes to global gospel ministry. In fact, 95% of the churches money, people, and resources go to Christians. All the while unreached worldwide remain heavily unreached.

Fourth, everyday you are surrounded by beggars who are unaware of their real need of Christ. As a Christ follower you have all they really need. Stop taking the long way around and quit looking the other way pretending to do something more important. Invite them to look into your eyes and say, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” [3:6]

I was confronted by this truth just this week. I attended a pastor’s conference with nearly 2000 pastors and missionaries. At the conference I met, Tyrone, an employee at the conference center. I watched as he opened doors for servants of God, but not one person acknowledged he existed. He was a beggar in our midst. You have beggars in your midst too.

2. Don’t neglect to share the transforming power of the gospel is faith in the name of Jesus and no other [Acts 3:11-16; 4:1-12]

Miracles make news travel fast. Soon a crowd gathers to see the healed man. He’s clinging to the apostles like a shadow. And the people are staring at Peter and John awaiting their next trick as if they were Penn and Teller. Since Peter’s got a crowd, why not preach? Peter is quick to deflect the attention, “Don’t look at me, look at Jesus!”

“The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, The God of our Fathers who has glorified His servant Jesus” [3:13]. Just in case there was any doubt that Jesus is the focus of Peter’s message, the name of Jesus is named 9 times in chapters 3-4.[5] Peter lists five absolute exaltations of Jesus—that’s the essence of this sermon—to magnify Jesus. He is:

  1. the long-awaited servant of the Lord; [cf. Isaiah 52:13, suffering servant]
  2. glorified by God; [as He sits at the right hand of His Father]
  3. the Holy and Righteous One; [He’s not a criminal or blasphemer]
  4. the Author of Life; and [co-creator and Savior]
  5. raised by God from the dead. [the apostles saw Him with their own eyes]

The sermon was also a scorching indictment of all who gathered. It’s as if Peter points a finger in their faces saying (with three pointed back at him), “You are the very people who betrayed Christ, who delivered Him, screamed for His blood, and are guilty of His murder. By the power of that same Jesus, this man was made whole. It wasn’t me, but Jesus.”  Peter also a former denier acknowledges their ignorance [3:17], but they are no longer, so the only solution is to repent and turn to Jesus. Jesus on the cross, cried out, “Forgive them, for they do not know what they do” [Luke 23:34].

Doing ministry in name of Jesus is what got the apostles into trouble. Jesus and His growing group of followers were a sore subject for the Jews [4:2, 17; cf. Luke 20:27-40]. They thought Jesus was a joke, a fake, a blasphemer, and the same went for His followers. Earlier crowds convicted Jesus of a crime, which led to His death. Now the religious leaders threw the apostles in jail hoping they might think a bit. But the next day, they were brought out before the religious big wigs they did not back down from making Jesus known.

Jesus is the focus of the apostle’s ministry. So should yours. It’s not about the numbers in the crowd [cf. 4:4], coolness of the program, effectiveness of the event, or pat on the back for your faithful years of service. It’s about lifting high the majestic name of Jesus. This might not make you the most popular person, but it gives credit where credit is due. Peters words cut to the core of the issue: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” [4:12] These are not politically correct, tolerant, or sensitive words, but true words nonetheless. Christianity is exclusive: Jesus is the only way to God. But it is also inclusive: for all who would believe on Him.

There is even more here that you need to see. Sometimes people will say, “Yes, Jesus is the only source of salvation, but you don’t have to know Him in order to benefit from the salvation He offers.” In other words, “If you are a faithful Muslim or Hindu or Jew or animist, Jesus will save you. There is salvation in no one else, but you don’t have to believe on Him in order to be saved by Him.” That is modern day universalism. It’s heresy!

Is that what Peter said or meant? Peter focused on the name of Jesus, “There is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” He did not say there are some other names by which you can be saved and Jesus is one of them. “There is no other name,” and Jesus’ name is your only entrance into fellowship with God. Peter says in Acts 10:43, “Every one who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” The name of Jesus is the focus of faith and repentance. In order to believe on Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, you must believe on His name. That is, you must have heard of Him, know of His saving work on the cross, and understand He rose from the dead.

Paul echoes in Romans 10:13–15: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed and how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” There is salvation in no one else—and that means there must be missionaries, who make Him known by name so that people can believe and call on His name for salvation. “Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, apart from Him no one comes to the Father” [John 14:6].

Jesus is absolutely unique. He is absolutely supreme among all the gods and lords of the world religions. Knowing Him and believing on His name is absolutely necessary for salvation. Peter’s sermon is calling us to Christ.

It calls you to clarity.  It calls you to understand your faith. If all sincere roads lead to an afterlife, then understanding the road you are on to make sure it is the right one is not very important. If there are not many ways to God, but only one way, then the highest priority in life is to understand Jesus and follow Him. The supremacy of Christ as the only way to God calls for clarity. This is important in a world of universalism. Make the message of Jesus clear!

It calls for courage. There is no point in dying for your faith if another way will lead you to God. What gets you killed is to believe Jesus is the only way. Around the world Christians are being martyred, I met some former Muslims who became Christian in North Africa. In the early days they were beaten, threatened, kick out of their families, fired from their jobs, and ostracized from their communities. Living for the name of Christ is difficult. It takes courage. It takes courage to speak to the beggars. Are you courageous?

It calls for humility. Humble yourself to the name of Christ. What is the use of making your name great when in a few generations it will be forgotten? The name that will last forever is the name of Jesus. Fan the flame of His fame. Humble yourself and give the credit for the good in your ministry to Jesus. You cannot pack your credentials in your coffin when you die. Work hard to deflect attention off you onto Christ.

It calls for joy. Let us stand to our feet and leap for joy at the transforming work of Jesus Christ. Peter could have said to the people, “Why aren’t you in the temple jumping, leaping, and praising God like the healed beggar? It is your God, the God of your fathers, the God of your heritage, who is glorifying His Son.”

This is the response of a beggar turned worshiper. Today can be your turning point!


[1] Cf. Luke 4:36; 5:9, 26; 7:16

[2] 2 Corinthians 8:9; Ephesians 2:7; 3:8; Philippians 4:19; Colossians 1:27; Titus 3:6;  2 Peter 1:11

[3] Romans 8:17; Galatians 4:7; Ephesians 1:18; 3:6; Titus 3:7; James 2:5; 1 Peter 1:4;

[4] Sproul, R. C. (2010-11-03). Acts: St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary (pp. 76-78). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.

[5] Cf. 3:6, 16, 4:7, 8, 12, 17, 18, 30

thumb licks [thanksgiving edition]

Building relationships before sharing Christ? Impossible!

Making most of turkey day: thanksgiving on missions.

Family Tensions and the holidays.

World population grows to 7-billion. Our world has changed since the pilgrims landed on the rock.

Samaritan’s Purse Gift Catalog. This Thanksgiving commit to give outside your family.

A PLAN for giving generously.

Big News: God reconciling the world to Himself.

Are you moderately or extravagantly grateful?

37 ways to love one another.

Tears of the Saints.

the gospel is for grandma’s, too!

From a missionary to central Asia:

For the past few months, God has been burdening my heart heavily with the fact that so many of the old people around us are dying without knowing Christ. Usually it is more difficult to bring old people into the Kingdom as they are so set in their ways of Islam to even want to listen. Nevertheless, I started to pray for my aged neighbors. One of them is Diana’s mother-in-law, I will call “Grandma Margaret.” (Diana is our neighbor who had come to faith a few months ago. I am discipling her.) Margaret has heard my testimonies and sharing of His Word with open heart before but since she started going to the old ladies’ Koran reading group, she seemed to have become more distant.

I was so burdened for her soul that I asked God for one more opportunity to share the Truth with her. Several weeks ago, God gave me that opportunity to share but as soon as I mentioned Jesus, she started quoting the usual defensive lines about Islam. It seemed like what I was sharing was falling on deaf ears. With my heart aching for her soul, I shared with her that it is because God loves her so much that He has put her on my heart to pray for and to share with her like this. I shared with her that we don’t know how much longer we will live on this earth but that I would like to and that God would like to see her by His side in Heaven. Somehow, the reality of God loving her seemed to melt that closed heart some to enable her to finally listen. Though she said that she cannot accept Him right now, I am praying that God will be merciful to Grandma Margaret and open wide her heart to receive God’s precious gift of Jesus. Pray that she and her whole household with get to know Jesus as their Savior and Lord.

A few days later, God gave another opportunity for my husband and I to share God’s love with a 75-year-old woman we will call “Grandma Sherry.” A few months before, she didn’t agree with the Good News and even was teaching us about Mohammed. We left her the movie about Jesus called Magdalena. Even though she didn’t seem interested, she decided to watch the movie. Then when we visited a few weeks ago, with childlike faith and tears rolling down her cheeks, she said that she believed in Jesus being the Savior and the way to God! During the visit, she also mentioned that her back really hurt. So we laid hands on her and claimed Jesus’ healing over Grandma Sherry’s back, and moments later she said it was feeling better that she stood up with no pain to see us off. Praise God!

Please join us in asking God for Grandma Sherry to understand and experience the abundant life that she has received in Christ. And may her whole household and the generations come to put their trust in Jesus and surrender their lives to Him.

Thank you for your continued prayers for this city!


The 65/95 Window? Because the Gospel is for seniors too. Much is said about the 4/14 Window (religious decisions are mostly made by youth). But in a world that is aging, how do we reach out to seniors?” Read missions commentator Justin Long’s thoughts on the 65/95 Window.

Other recommended resources: Joe Thorn writes about how “the gospel is for Senior’s.”  John Piper’s talk “Getting Old for the Glory of God” and Dr. John Dunlop’s Finishing Well to the Glory of God: Strategies from a Christian Physician (Crossway, 2011). Read an excerpt of Finishing Well. Read Tabletalk’s interviewwith Joni Eareckson Tada, on the secret of her joy and contentment in the midst of relentless pain. The entire Tabletalk issue [October 2011] is devoted to death and disease from a biblical perspective.

from unknown to renown

Today 2.6 billion people are completely unreached with the gospel. They do not have a church or gospel message in their midst. Nearly 4 billion people are unengaged by the gospel. Meanwhile the world’s major religions—Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam—are making inroads along with a variety of cults and New Age philosophies. People are not shy to hide their beliefs like this bumper sticker I saw Friday, “Born-again pagan.”

The religious culture and climate of North Africa has been unreached for nearly 1200 years. Islam has long taken root and is blossoming even to this day, which can be heard from the daily prayers echoing from the tall spires of the local mosque. Islam mixed African animism is woven into almost every fabric of their lives from mealtime, to family makeup, to laws, and to greetings. To call them to Christ is to call them to live counter-culture.

I am sure you are around people every day that are unengaged with the gospel. You could say these people are ignorantly worshiping an unknown god. If you are like me you might wonder, how am I going to reach all these different kinds of people? How do I reach out to hardnosed sibling or parent, question asking co-worker, or philosophically intelligent neighbor? There is no cookie-cutter method. However, observing the apostles in Acts 17 you can learn some valuable principles for making known the gospel of Jesus Christ Here are three truths to keep in mind:

1. GO WHERE THE GOOD NEWS IS NOT [Acts 17:16-23]

It might seem obvious, but in order to reach the unreached or unengaged, you got to go where they are. In Acts 17, God directs Paul and Silas to crowds of unreached in Thessalonica, Berea, and Athens. Wherever they went they met a mixed bag of people. Some were unruly and hostile, some studious and skeptics, and some eager to examine the Scripture. Where do you begin with the wide variety of crowds God has placed around you?

First, ask God for a burden for the unreached [16]. Evangelism is something that doesn’t come natural to many Christ followers. In fact some dread it. Ask God for Christlike compassion for those you would normally ignore. I have been able to remedy this by paying closer attention to the forgotten people around me [waitress, postman, store clerk, etc.]. I will pray for a desire to reach them. Then ask them how they are doing or how I can pray for them. It is amazing to see the opportunities God opens up along the way.

Second, learn about the unreached around you [17-18a]. Paul was in Athens, a pagan and philosophical capital. Athens is city similar to university towns like Madison or West Lafayette. It’s a town where the average person has plethora of PhD’s. Home to philosophical legends like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, and Zeno. As a secular city center, Athens was a melting pot of culture, philosophy, the arts, and a smorgasbord of gods. Towering above the city on Mars Mill sat the Areopagus. It was sort of a temple to the human brain that served as the chief courtroom and a place to hold philosophical discussions.

Two schools of thought dominated Athens. First, Epicureanism emphasized a world governed by blind chance, with the absence of an afterlife, gods were distant and uncaring, and the pursuit of pleasure was the only thing worth seeking. Second, Stoicism emphasized a world determined by fate, where human beings must pursue their duty. As John Stott said, Athens “resigned themselves to live in harmony with nature and reason, however painful this might be, and develop their own self-sufficiency.” It was a culture with a lot of similarities to ours today that challenged truth.

Third, expect opposition to absolute truth [18b-21]. The thinkers of Athens call Paul a “seed-picker,” which is a slang term [i.e. bird eating mixed grain] for a peddler of second-hand philosophy—an intellectual scavenger that picks and chooses what he wants to believe. However, Paul was no intellectual slouch. He was a straight-A student under Gamaliel in Jerusalem. He was an expert in the law. And when he came to Christ, Christ, Scripture, and the Holy Spirit shaped his worldview. Viewing life through a biblically based, Christ-centered worldview is foolish to those who do not know God [1 Corinthians 1:17-21].

Proverbs says, a fool is one who does not consider all sides of a situation. Paul teaches that Gentiles “walk in the vanity of their mind, being darkened in their understanding” because of their “ignorance and hardened hearts,” [Ephesians 4:17–24] and their thought are “vain babblings” [1 Timothy 6:20]. In fact, all around you is undeniable and inescapable proof of God—for He has made Himself known through Creation and Christ—and all men are “without excuse” [Romans 1:19–20]. The knowledge of God is “suppressed in unrighteousness”, which places men under His wrath because they “know God, yet they glorify Him not as God.” Expect opposition when speaking up for Christ.

Fourth, uncover common ground [22-23]. Paul did not have much in common with the people of Athens. Certainly he had no common ground of agreement with their erroneous philosophies. He did not try to make the gospel more palatable or tolerable. But he did see one thing they had in common—worship. Everyone worships. They worshiped their knowledge and an unknown God, while Paul worshiped a knowable God.

I find it interesting that the Omega people we are reaching out to claim their roots to be with Solomon and the Ethiopians eunuch, but for centuries they have followed Muhammad the Prophet. Most Muslims have a fascination with the Bible and Jesus Christ. Pray for hearts open to hear the gospel. The Quran commands to read the Christian Scriptures including the gospel [Injil], which will introduce them to the Prophet, Priest and King.

2. QUICKLY POINT PEOPLE TO CHRIST & THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL [Acts 17:24-31]

I am sure Paul had a certain level of frustration with his audience. He probably wondered, “How am I going to reach this puffed up knuckleheaded people?” Notice he doesn’t scream at the audience, he does sweep them off their feet with irresistible oratory or amazing argumentation, he doesn’t sell himself to the audience, he simply shows them a soul surrendered to Christ. He deflects the attention off himself onto his Savior. This is key to any apologetics or heated spiritual discussions: point people to Jesus.

First, the power of persuasion is always in the Spirit of God [24-29]. Paul points to the character of Christ. And this is how Paul preaches Christ: He gives them a brief history lesson on God 101.

  • Christ is the omnipotent Creator [24a]. He owns the deed to His creation, since He has created all things.[1]
  • Christ is omnipresent in His children [24b]. He does not dwell in temples made with hands,[2] but hearts.
  • Christ is completely self-sufficient [25]. He needs nothing from man; man depends on God for everything.[3]
  • Christ is sovereign sustainer [26]. He’s not distant or indifferent, but as ruler of all He’s intimately involved.[4]
  • Christ is a gracious pursuer [27; Romans 1:19-20]. He creates man and pursues their affection. He has placed within each man a GPS [Godward Pursuing System]. Your homing beacon searches and finds rest in Christ.
  • Christ is the center of Worship [28]. Even Greek poets acknowledge we are from God.
  • Christ is eternally priceless [29; Romans 1:22-23]. People make idols of God from precious things because they have a high view of God, but He is incomparable to any object or form.

Paul’s theology revolves around his Christology. Jesus is the blazing center of his universe. Athens could no longer claim ignorance, but were now cognizant of Christ and His character. The Son of God goes from unknown to renown. They could ignore the facts [as many do], but the unknown God is made known. Like a set of keys you’ve been looking for, but all the while they are in your pocket. He has not only made Him known; he’s revealed His renown!

Second, the character of Christ calls people to repent [30-31]. Paul challenges the foundations of pagan philosophy and calls the philosophers to full repentance. Paul is like Jeremiah walking into idolatrous hot bed preaching one message, “repent!” with little response. They are a people who have long thought they were god. They equated themselves with god. But God is not your co-pilot; He doesn’t even want you in the cockpit. Paul describes an incomparable Christ. He is like no one and no one is like Him.

However, God is knowable through His Son Jesus Christ. And the mystery of all ages has been revealed in Christ. The age of ignorance is over. Gentiles can know Christ too [cf. Ephesians 3:4–6]![5] In Romans 10:13–15 Paul says,  “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent?” And “For there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” [Acts 4:12]

Paul is not arrogant or a pompous jerk, but is gentle and humble in his approach. He is bold when confronting them with Christ for He knows Jesus is judge.[6] After His resurrection Jesus charged the apostles “to preach unto the people and to testify that this is He who is ordained of God to be the Judge of the living and the dead” [Acts 10:42]. This truth Paul shared in the Areopagus. The power in Paul’s preaching was provided by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.[7] The same power is available to you [Matthew 28:19-20]. The power is in the gospel—God is holy, man has fallen short of God’s glory, but Jesus pays man sins debt, and man’s hope is to respond with faith and repentance. That is the gospel.

3. PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL BOLDLY, BUT LEAVE THE RESULTS TO GOD [Acts 17:32-34]

Paul was simply a vehicle—a voice box of the truth. It takes the Holy Spirit to convince people of that truth. He does God’s work in God’s way with God’s power. Not everybody responds with immediate repentance. Some doubt, some wait to hear more [sometimes the hardest to reach because they are no longer ignorant yet choose to reject the truth], but some are ready to commit to Christ. The mission to Athens was no failure. The gospel was preached and at least two people got saved that day, including one member of the Areopagus council. Two people had a radical turning point.

What are the implications today for you and me? First, today is the day of salvation. Preach the gospel boldly to all men, not hold back, but bringing them face-to-face with Jesus Christ. Second, today is the time to mobilize the church to send out locally and globally. If your church is completely inward focused you are missing your mission. Third, today is the day to live out the gospel with your life. The gospel is not just the ABC’s of your salvation; it is the A-Z’s of working out your salvation with fear and trembling. This is the desire of our family’s heart—we long to live out the gospel as parents, as husband and wife, as people living in North Africa spreading the fame of Christ name among the unreached.

Are you ignorantly worshiping an unknown god? If your faith is not rooted in a gospel-centered relationship with Jesus Christ, you are ignorantly worshipping an unknown God. If your daily life would go on as normal if God were no part of it, you are ignorantly worshipping an unknown God. When your devotion lies in the practices of your church rather than the person of Jesus Christ, you are ignorantly worshipping an unknown God. If your knowledge of how to worship exceeds your knowledge of who you are worshipping, you are ignorantly worshipping an unknown God. If the gospel ceases to be your sufficiency, dependency and satisfaction the day after you trusted Christ as Savior, you are ignorantly worshipping and unknown God.

Jesus has made Himself known. His renown will last the test of time. Only His name prevails beyond the grave. Do you know Him? Make Him known! “Your name, O LORD, endures forever, your renown, O LORD, throughout all ages.For the LORD will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants.” [Psalm 135:13-18]


[1]  cf. 14:15; Exodus 20:11; Psalm 24:1, 146:6; Isaiah 37:16; 42:5

[2] cf. 7:48-50; 1 Kings 8:27; Isaiah 66:1–2

[3] cf. 14:17; Psalm 50:9–12; Isaiah 42:5

[4] cf. Genesis 1:28; Deuteronomy 32:8; Daniel 2:21

[5] There are two parts to the mystery of Christ: 1) Gentiles are not second-class citizens in the body of Christ: “there is neither Jew nor Gentile” (Galatians 3:28, Ephesians 2:14). Both are fellow heirs of the same inheritance. 2) This Gentile privilege comes only through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Where Christ is preached and believed, Gentiles are grafted into the tree of God’s people. In Colossians 1:26 Paul says that this mystery was “hidden for ages and generations but now is made manifest to his saints.” And in Romans 16:25 he says that the mystery “was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed.”

[6] cf. Psalm 9:8; 96:13; 98:9; Daniel 7:13; John 5:27; Romans 2:16

[7] cf. Acts 17:18; 4:2; Romans 4:25; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10

from sofa to service

I love being a spectator. Some might consider me a professional spectator. In the fall there is nothing better than being a spectator in a football stadium cheering on your favorite team. Do you spectate? Maybe you’re a spectator of a good movie or concert, playing video games or surfing the Internet. Whether it is a bleacher or sofa, spectators are good sitters. Spectators feed off others doing the work and paying good money to have a seat with the best view.

Sad, but true, the Christian life can be a spectator sport. Instead of sofas or stadiums, the church pew can be your seat of choice. It is far too easy to sit comfortably cheering or booing on the 11-people serving on Sunday. All the while never engaging yourselves in the ministry or doing your part to serve the church. Where are you at today? Are you sitting in the grandstands cheering from a distance? Are you standing on the sideline benched and bored? Are you retired from the game because you are no longer motivated to workout your salvation with fear and trembling? Or are you on the field running the race, fighting the good fight, eager for encouragement to keep pressing on?

In Acts 9, Paul miraculous comes to Christ on the road to Damascus. After he gets his sight back he immediately enrolls to serve for the sake of Christ [cf. Acts 9:18-20]. According to Paul, serving Christ was the greatest thing since sliced kosher beef. He worked his entire life to gain merit badges from God, but Christ gave him an entirely different motivation to work. As a recipient of God’s grace, he made it his mission to be a conduit of God’s grace. You might call him a missionary—a man on a mission. I think Paul always kept his car packed ready to go to the next place eager to share the good news that radically broke into his life.  In fact, if you are believer you are an immediate missionary for Jesus Christ. Here are 3 truths that will move you from the sofa into His service or from the mundane to your mission:

1. NEVER DO MINISTRY ALONE [Acts 15:36-16:5]

On Paul’s first journey, he and Barnabus were sent out from Antioch [Acts 13]. Many Gentiles bowed their knee to Christ through their ministry. On the brink of the second missionary journey, Paul had a good plan, “Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” [Acts 15:36ff] Barnabus was cool with the plan, but he wanted to bring along John Mark too. Paul did not like the idea, since Mark bailed on them midway through their first journey [13:13]. Barnabus—the encourager—wanted to give his friend a second shot. It started a conflict so sharp the friends to parted ways.

So who was right? Most side with Paul since he’s the apostle, however, the Bible is silent not taking sides. It is interesting that you never hear about Barnabus again. On the other hand, later Paul would ask that Mark be brought to him because he was “useful to him for ministry” [2 Timothy 4:11]. And this Mark is the same Mark that eventually wrote the gospel of Mark. Bottom line is—we don’t know—who was right, but God did use their conflict for His purposes. They are both right and both wrong. I find it encouraging that even though Paul and Barnabus had their issues they were still willing to serve. They didn’t hang up their shoes—giving up. This shows you the attractiveness of message over the messengers. The church might be messy, but it is still the beautiful Bride of Christ.

If you serve in the church you are wise to remind yourself, first, work hard to fight for unity whenever possible. Paul says in a letter to a church, “I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” [Ephesians 4:1-3, cf. Colossians 3:12-17] Do you think your pastors, deacons, sound techs, worship leader, nursery workers, AWANA helpers, and Sunday School teachers are aware of this need for unity? People problems can come up frequently when serving the Lord together, but whenever possible strive for unity.

The number one reason why people leave a church or the mission field is because of conflict with a person or personality. As Sarah and I go to North Africa, pray for our team. Pray for an ethos of grace that seeks to resolve conflict biblically and quickly. I could not imagine doing ministry alone. That was my favorite part of ministry at BGBC, serving along side deacons, youth leaders, and teams of people who sought unity in community.

Second, serving together is far better than serving solo. Do you notice that Paul usually serves on a team? Rarely do you see him going solo, even in prison. I have heard many of reasons why people do not like to minister with others, like, “Our personalities just don’t jive,” “I’ve had too many bail and leave me with the bag,” or “I really work better by myself.” It is exceedingly selfish to serve God alone. What might be more selfish is not even engaging in ministry. Doing ministry with others might cause friction or factions, but that is no reason not to do ministry with one another. You might think you are more effective by yourself, but the Christians faith was not meant for Lone Rangers it is to be lived in community. My church has a core value that states, “We are devoted to making every member a minister.”  It takes a church to raise a Christian.

Third, serving with others closely mimics Jesus’ model of discipleship. Jesus’ idea of discipleship trains people on the job. Most people learn best by doing, which runs contrary to our culture that says you learn best by hearing. Serving with others makes ministry transitions easier. Who will take over after Sunday School or small group when you leave? Are you grooming your replacement in the food pantry or youth group? Have you asked God to give you a Timothy [or Tabitha, 9:36-43] to train [2 Timothy 2:2]? Doing ministry alone can be dangerous. It can leave a vacuum after you’re gone. It is also dangerous because it is easy to cheat and lie about your service because no eyes are watching you. Serving with others keeps you honest. Follow the model of Jesus and His disciples: never serve alone.

Need an example? Look at how Paul picks out young Timothy [vs.1-5]. Paul needs help so he grabs Tim and gets him ready to serve.[1] Paul grows to love Timothy so much that he often refers to him as his, “true child in the faith.” [1 Timothy 1:2] and, “I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father. Therefore I hope to send him immediately, as soon as I see how things go with me.” [Philippians 2:19-23] These are the kinds of relationships that make doing ministry together worth it.

2. NEVER ARE YOU CALLED BY GOD TO DO WHAT YOU ARE NOT ALREADY DOING [Acts 16:6-10]

The time has now arrived for Paul’s second ministry road trip. With the car packed and ready to go Paul and Timothy ventured out towards Asia [Turkey], but the Holy Spirit did not permit them to go. In fact, God says “NO!” to four cities in Asia, but He does say, “YES!” giving them permission to go to Troas [Troy], which ultimately leads them to Philippi [Macedonia; Europe]. Paul’s plan was to go where he had already preached before [15:36], but God had plans to send him to preach to the unreached people West of Jerusalem.

While in Troas, God gives Paul a vision. In the vision, a man urges him to come to Macedonia to preach the good news of Jesus Christ. This is the passage of Scripture we dub, ‘The Macedonian Call.’ It is a well-known passage that missionaries often use to validate the country they believe God has called them to evangelize. You must be very careful to label a calling to a place or a project. You will hear people say, “I’m called to the poor. I’m call to Pakistan. I’m not called to kids! I am certainly not called to be an evangelist.” Nobody would dare to argue with the calling of God on your life. But there are two problems with this. First, it ignores the fact that missions is the primary purpose of the church; and if you’re called to be a part of the church, then you’re also called to missions. You can’t be an employee of Taco Bell without selling tacos, and you can’t be a part of the church without doing missions. It’s that simple.

Second, it often misunderstands the idea of God’s calling upon one’s life. The Bible describes vocational calling to ministry as a function of the local church, not as the autonomous decision of the individual. If you are serving a place or project before you are serving a Person you got to ask yourself, who’s mission are you on? Paul is sent out from his local church to preach the gospel of Christ as an ambassador of His church. Paul’s call is fairly general. Paul’s calling to go to Macedonia never interferes with his original and overarching calling, which was Paul was to serve Christ and suffer for His namesake [cf. Acts 9:15-16]. Paul is not so much called to a place as he is called to preach the gospel in that place. Macedonia is a really big place. So the first place they decide to go is the strategic port city, Philippi.

Paul isn’t called to something new, He is called to do what he’s been doing all along—preach the gospel. Now God is simply directing his servant to do just that in a new place. Like Paul, your primary calling is to serve Christ, which will also be followed by suffering. Suffering always precedes glory. And suffering paves the way for Christ and His church.[2]

There are thousands of unreached people groups around the world and there are thousands of spiritually profitable projects needing willing servants. If you are unsure what to do or where to go: Research an unreached people group [JoshuaProject.net]. Adopt one [globalroar.org]. Give or go. Pray for people of peace around you [Matthew 10; Luke 10]. If there are none, continue on to the next place. Some soils are not ready to receive the Word of God. The point is: the kingdom of God is near, so get off your sofa callused rear!

3. NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE RADICAL REWARDS OF SACRIFICIAL SERVICE [Acts 16:11-15]

Again, Paul and Timothy [and Luke] hop into the station wagon and head over to Philippi. It must have been a long trip—too much pork rinds and licorice. Once they reached their destination they decide to rest a few days. I imagine they scoped the place out before going gangbusters on the good news. They could not find a local synagogue [usually the first place to meet God-fearers], which means there were less than 10 Jewish men [minimum needed to start a synagogue].  In non-Jewish places Jews would gather in obscure places because Macedonians saw them as a cult. So they went outside the gate to find worshipers. They found a women’s prayer gathering on the Sabbath Day down by the river. There they met Lydia.

Lydia, owned an upper-class clothing shop in an upper-class kind of town. Like Martha Stewart or Oprah, Lydia’s an ancient independent and businesswoman women. She sold of purple fabric, which is the color most royals would wear. Lydia reminds me of a woman I met while in South Africa. Gerda, a middle-aged single woman, sold tie-dyed fabric. I met her while buying a gift for my mother. She knew I was from out of town and asked, “Where are you from?” I said, “The United States.” With curiosity she asked, “What are you doing here?” “I am hear to share Christ with your community, see His church grow and find people interested in knowing more about Him and His Word.” To my surprise she opened her home and the next week I started a small group Bible study that later became the seed to a new church.

Lydia becomes the first European convert and opens her home the church for the first church in Philippi. She is an immediate missionary. And she is a single gal with a clothing shop. God uses single females [i.e. Mary Slessor, Amy Carmichael, Lottie Moon, Elizabeth Elliott, Rachel Saint]. Today 20-25% of the missionaries are single women, and this does not count the 40% that are mom’s or wives. Women married to Jesus and His mission are so needed. You never know when you might meet the next Lydia. You might be the next Lydia!

In the church, we value male spiritual leadership because the Bible empowers men to this position. This does not mean women do not have a purpose in the church and global ministry. The church and Bible have a favorable view of women.[3] In fact, true Christianity has the most favorable view of women among all the religions of the world [cf. Proverbs 31]. God clearly gives distinct roles to men and women, but they are equal in value because both men and women are created in His image [Genesis 1:27; Galatians 3:28]. Both sexes are marked by their Makers image.

What God is interested in most is what kind of woman you are—a woman of Christlike character. Young or old, God is looking for godly gals. Some of the greatest servants I know are older women who barely venture from their home, but pray earnestly and encourage rigorously the church.

Let’s look for a moment at her turning point. First, she comes to Christ because someone told her the gospel. Faith comes by hearing. Someone must speak the gospel. The point of speaking the gospel is to give something to see. Paul was not some irresistible orator, but his God is a relentless heart pursuer. Second, the Lord is the key actor in the story, not us. You have a significant role in speaking the gospel, but it is the Lord who does the decisive work. He “opens the heart” of Lydia. This is a beautiful picture of God’s salvation. This means He takes out the hard heart of stone, and puts in the heart of flesh [Ezekiel 36:26]; He says with sovereign authority, “Let there be light,” and “shines in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” [2 Corinthians 4:6]. Third, she pays attention to the truth. The effect of the Lord’s opening her heart is a true hearing of the gospel. She was “granted repentance” [2 Timothy 2:25] and faith [Philippians 1:29].

Without question or complaint Paul and Timothy follow Christ’s course direction to Philippi. God leads them to a businesswoman praying to God and He opens her heart. They continue to minister and meet another girl, but she’s quiet messed up. She’s a demonized slave girl who was being exploited for her fortune-telling skills [16:16-24]. Jesus shines light into her darkness. And now there was no hiding the fact that God is at work in Philippi. Her owners get ticked because their hope of making money left with her evil spirit. So they had Paul and Timothy beaten and thrown in jail. They took a dull or dreary situation chained up in the damp dark cell and had a worship service [25-33]. What follows next is as Jerry Lee Lewis sang, there was a “whole lotta shaking going on!” God orchestrates an earthquake and all the prisoners are set free. The jailor, now out of a job, comes to Christ amidst the rubble. Ironically, the jailor is freed from the bondage of his sin.

All this, in Acts 16, is here to show you that God rewards those who sacrificially serve for His namesake. The reward is the salvation of lost souls and the planting of the first church in Europe. In its inaugural membership: a businesswoman and her household; a messed up slave-girl; and a suicidal city employee—a jailer and his household. That’s the church in Philippi that God built. And He is still building churches today and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. In Christ, you are the beautiful Bride of Christ!

With that I encourage you to never do ministry alone, know you are never called by God to do what you are not already doing, and never underestimate the rewards of sacrificial service. Know that your ministry matters in eternity. Those kids in AWANA or Sunday School, the men and women in your Bible Study or small group, those neighbors in your neighborhood, those students in your class or bus, and those you work with at the office are looking to you to show them through your words and deeds the Son of God, Jesus Christ. He is the reward of sacrificial service. The motivation of Paul’s service was not guilt, but the grace of God he was given on the Damascus road [cf. 1 Timothy 1:12ff]. The only lasting motivation you will have to get off the sofa and into the service of Christ is meditating on the glorious grace in Jesus Christ.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 3:12-14]


[1] He encourages Timothy to get circumcised, not because he would be a more fit to serve. The Jerusalem Council settles this debate [cf. Acts 15:1-35].Timothy’s mother was Jewish and he would be ministering to Jews. He was giving up his rights to reach the Jews [1 Corinthians 9:19-23].

[2] Cf. Romans 12:1-13; 2 Corinthians 4; Philippians 3:7-11; Hebrews 12:1-13

[3] Luke shares the stories of many women in the Book of Acts. Women like Lydia were particularly prominent in Paul’s missionary efforts in this portion of Acts—the women of Thessalonica (17:4) and of Berea (17:12), Damaris in Athens (17:34), and Priscilla in Corinth (18:2). Priscilla and Lydia took an active role in the ministry of their churches. For an excellent treatment of Lydia, see R. Ryan, “Lydia, a Dealer in Purple Goods,” TBT 22 (1984): 285–89.

from fanatic to follower

Fanatics aren’t hard to find. Each weekend around the country fanatics pack stadiums proudly displaying the colors and logos of their favorite team and passionately cheer and shout for hits, sacks and complete annihilations. Football fanatics have been known to wear pirate eye patches, pig snouts, and large wedges of cheese. Honestly, I do not see anything wrong with the cheesehead!

Political systems have also produced more than one fanatic. Have you heard of Usama Bin Laden, Idi Amin, Gaddafi, Mugabe, and Kim Jong Il? These are household names. Historically you have certainly learned about Adolf Hilter, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, Leopold II, and Nero who burned Christians as lighting for his courtyards.

Religious fanatics aren’t hard to find either. Thousands of Muslims pilgrimage yearly to Mecca, Hindu’s worship a pantheon of more than 300 million deities, Buddhist bow to an icon of bald man with a big belly, some religious radicals commit suicide in car bombings to gain merit in the afterlife, and on TV you seen “Christian” evangelists sporting big hair and big bank accounts.

Another religious fanatic that you may be aware of lived shortly after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He was a member of an elite religious group that wielded considerable political power in his region. His name was Saul of Tarsus.[1] His studied in Jerusalem under the Jewish scholar Gamaliel. He slavishly devoted himself to the Old Testament laws along with hundreds of other laws the Pharisees concocted [Galatians 1:13-14]. He assumed he was pleasing God as a religious fanatic.

STORY OF AN ENEMY OF CHRIST [Acts 9:1-2]

The one thing that Saul saw as a threat to his rigorous religious system of Judaism was this newfound faith called followers of the Way. Jews were converting in droves becoming followers of the Way of Christ. These followers realized “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which men must be saved” [Acts 4:12], but the name of Jesus. In zealous response Saul attacked Jesus-followers seeking to be a one-man roadblock to the Way.

After he just stood by and watch the stoning of Stephen[2] it is said that Saul “was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.” [Acts 8:3] Then in Acts 9:1–2, Paul was not just bullying Christians, he was “breathing threats.” It is as though persecution was the air he breathed. Paul was breathing threats and murder against Christians, and took his persecution 150 miles north of Jerusalem to Damascus and planned to bring Christians back for punishment.

While Saul travel down the road to Damascus, God is taking Saul down the road towards transformation. The conversion of Saul is the conversion of a stanch opponent of Christianity. Today I will look at the story of Paul’s conversion to Christ. I want you to see God’s purpose in converting Paul was to give you hope for yourself and for the people you want to see converted.

SUDDEN AND UNEXPECTED CONVERSION [Acts 9:3-9]

Saul is the last person on earth you would expect to convert to Christ. He was not open to considerations or interested in learning about the Way. He was closed and convinced Christ’s claims were blasphemous. His heart was hard and dead in his trespasses and sins. He is the kind of guy you wish would go away or that God would somehow smite. Do you know some Saul’s? How often do you pray for their salvation rather than their destruction?

“Now as he journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him.” [Acts 9:3] The whole event came out of the blue, like a surprise party or hidden camera show. Paul’s first encounter with Christ was unexpected. Paul never links his conversion to any long process of God convicting him of sin or of frustrating him or of stories scaring him with death and hell. All those things may have happened in an instant as he fell to the ground. But there was no long process preparing the soil of his heart. The conversion was sudden and utterly unexpected.

When I consider Saul’s conversion it gives me courage that my prayers and efforts to see my friends and family saved might not happen immediately, but it might happen suddenly. It reminds me of my gramps conversion. I had been sharing my faith openly with him since I came to Christ as a teenager. I had many talks with him about my faith in Christ. He would listen, but normally respond by saying, “No thanks Justin, that is good for you, but I am happy being Catholic.”

I never gave up praying or sharing. Sometimes I would be frustrated when I would not see any progress or signs God was preparing his soul. Until about 3-years ago, just after he found out that he had a malignant form of cancer. I received a call at the church and he said, “Justin. Counselor. I have two questions for you: First, what do you think about my girlfriend and I living together? Second, how do I know Christ is Savior?” His questions caught me by surprise. I answer his first question, letting him know I would rather see them marry but encouraged him of my love. Then we spent the majority of time talking about his second question. He did not make a decision that day.

A week later I received another call at the church from gramps. He started off by say, “Justin. Pastor. I have two things to share with you. First, I have asked my girlfriend to marry me. Second, I have given my life to Jesus Christ.” A few months later on his deathbed he looked me in the eyes—with tears in his—and said confidently, “I look forward to seeing my Savior.” Gramps conversion was sudden and unexpected, like Saul’s. Keep praying and sharing the love of Christ because He is Truth and the Truth will set free.

SOVEREIGN GRACE ON DISPLAY [Acts 9:10-20]

Saul’s conversion was a miraculous display of God’s sovereign grace. Jesus as commander-in-chief of the universe took over that day on the Damascus road. There is no doubt that only Christ could change a soul like Saul’s. How is grace of God on display in Saul’s salvation?

First, God causes a light to flash from heaven with blinding brightness. Saul is left blind for three days—until Ananias prayed and laid hands on him [v.17]. God blinded him and God gave him sight again. This was a powerful sign to Saul of his actual spiritual darkness. Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world. Whoever followers Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” [John 8:12] The Pharisees doubted and questioned His bold statement of authority, but just a few moments later He gave them a divine object lesson healing a man born blind [cf. John 9:1-41].

Second, Jesus is seen as totally authoritative when He speaks to Saul and gives him an unquestionable command. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting; but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” [vs.5b–6] Jesus does not bargain, debate or give Saul a choice in the matter. Jesus means to have Saul in His service and there is no question that He will succeed.

Third, Jesus chose Paul long before Paul chose Jesus. “Before I was born God set me apart and called me by His grace to preach the gospel to the Gentiles” [cf. Galatians 1:15]. Jesus speaks to Ananias as if He knows Saul will go along with what he says. Naturally Ananias is afraid to go pray for Paul, but Jesus says to him in a vision, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel;[3] I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” [vs.15-16] Ironically, Saul the persecutor will face persecution in his future ministry. Christ is calling Saul to salvation and a ministry filled with suffering.

Fourth, He uses reluctant Ananias as His ambassador. God gives him a vision to share the gospel with someone he really is not comfortable. He’s heard of Saul’s bad reputation, and knows he could be walking into a prison sentence. I can hear Ananias asking, “What about that sweat old lady across the street who always makes my favorite cookies? Or the kid next-door who is really lost but faithfully comes to our weekly AWANA outreach?” Jesus used Ananias, but the glory for his salvation goes to Jesus.

I can relate to Ananias. I can be timid at times, I’ve been known to ignore God’s tug to tell others about Him. One of the simplest, but effective ways I’ve been able to remedy this in my life to pray for/with the often ignored people around me [i.e. sales clerk, bank teller, mailman, waiter]. Surprisingly they all respond favorably and God’s grace is on display.

SAUL’S CONVERSION IS FOR YOUR SAKE [1 Timothy 1:12-17]

God had you in view when He chose Saul and saved him by His sovereign grace. Later Paul reflects with his young pastoral student Timothy, “I thank Him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He judged me faithful, appointing me to His service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost [chief, first place]. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” [1 Timothy 1:12-17]

If you believed on Jesus for eternal life—or if you may yet believe on Him for eternal life—Paul’s conversion is for your sake. How does his conversion attest to this?

First, even a religious fanatic can be an enemy of God. Before Christ you were an enemy of God [Romans 5:10]. Paul’s life as a fanatical Pharisee was a long, long trial to Jesus. Jesus asked, “Why do you persecute me?” In other words, “Your life of unbelief and rebellion is a persecution of Me!” Paul had been set apart for God since before he was born. Therefore all his life was one long abuse of God, and one long rejection and mockery of Jesus who loved him. That is why Paul says his conversion is a grand demonstration of Jesus’ longsuffering.

Second, no one is too severe a sinner to be withheld forgiveness of his or her sin. You might have lied, cheated, murdered someone with your words, or blasphemed God to His face. You can be forgiven! Saul’s salvation was for your sake to show you the patience of Christ. Lest you lose heart and think He could not really save you. Lest you think He is quick to anger. Lest you think you have gone too far away. Lest you think your dearest one cannot be converted—suddenly, unexpectedly, by the sovereign grace of Jesus.

Third, God uses the blood of his believers to build his church. The stoning of Stephen was no mistake. It led Saul down the Damascus road, down the road towards transformation, paved the way through severe suffering so the seed of the church and the saving message of Christ could reach you and me. A few months ago, I met a gathering of MBB believers in North Africa who suffered immense persecution, public humiliation, loss of jobs, and separation from family all for the sake of coming to Christ. Their perseverance has led to the birth of a vibrant church among an unreached people group.

It is okay to be a fanatic as long as you are a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. By definition a fanatic is a person filled with obsessive enthusiasm and single-minded zeal. This kind of passion is necessary as a follower of Christ since the Way is not easy. Jesus does promise forgiveness, but He also promises a rocky road filled with temptation and suffering. Are you ready to walk down the road of Golgotha bearing your cross, dying to self and living for Christ?


[1] Saul is the Hebrew name for Paul.

[2] Stephen was the first recorded martyr of Christianity [Acts 7:54-8:3].

[3] Paul did get to carry Christ’s name to King Aggripa [Acts 25:13ff] and Caesar [25:1-12]

what does Jesus say about your mission?

Now that we’ve discussed some of the common myths about missions, let’s hear from the Word of Truth Himself. Jesus has some words for us about your mission.

Missions is about JESUS and His POWER to save

“all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Me.” Do you remember your mother saying, “Hon, can you clean your room.” And you’d ask, “Why mom?” With a strong tone she’d respond, “Because I am your mom and I said so.” Jesus pulls the authority card, but He doesn’t lord it over He loves it over. He is the card club carrier to all the cosmic power of the universe. He has been delegated authority from the Father. Now that Jesus has your full attention, He takes no questions because He has the right and power to do as He pleases.[1] Today He rules over the earth. He has authority over politics and government, armies and military might, the stock market and your retirement, science and education, TV and Internet, natural disasters and natural phenomenon’s, He even has authority over your life.

Missions is about YOU

“Go and make disciples.” What is the command in Jesus’ word? Many often say it is “go”, but go is the action of the command. In other words it is as if Jesus says, “as you go” or “wherever you go” The command is to “make disciples.” A disciple is a follower or worshiper of Christ.  The instinct of a Jesus follower is reproducing followers of Jesus through the power and message of Jesus. To make Jesus followers is just a thing you do![2] As Jesus says, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel” [Mark 16:15] And as Paul echoes, “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace” [Romans 10:15]. Missions is not missions without you making disciples as you go, as you live. Coming to Christ makes you a Christian. Obeying Christ makes you a missionary. As my missions professor in college use to say, “Every believer is an immediate missionary for Christ.”

Missions is about PEOPLE EVERYWHERE

“all the nations.” The mission is to make disciples of “all nations.” The word nation here is where you get the word ethnicity [ethnos, cf. Revelation 5:9]. You see, God loves all the people of the world.[3] He loves all ethnicities, nations, and races of people in the world. He does not see color, status or class. Since we are not God it is hard for me to love as broadly as God. I love the Green Bay Packers and mountain biking. I also love bratwursts and cheese. I really love my wife and family. As an “ambassador” of Jesus Christ [2 Corinthians 5:20] I am representative of a foreign land, a home I long for but have not arrived and whose ruler is my Savior. There is no culture or religion beyond the scope of the Great Commission, and Jesus wants to be exalted above every people, nation, and religion.

Missions is about CHANGED LIVES through the power of the gospel

“baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.” Often these words of Jesus are known as the great omission of the great commission. The forgotten and forsaken part of the mission is to help people live in the power of the gospel. First, a changed life is willing to publically identify with Christ [and His death and resurrection] by walking through the waters of baptism. Second, a changed life loves to teach other about the words of Christ [Romans 1:16]. A changed life is one who is dying to self, bears his own cross [Luke 14:27], and is becoming alive to Christ. The road to Golgotha is tough, but people of the gospel count the cost and are willing to pay the price. But it is not a road we have to walk alone.

Missions is about living confidently within GOD’S MISSION

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Jesus begins His short sentence with a great claim and a great command, but He finishes with a great comfort. Who promises to be with you? Jesus—the One with all authority. He promises His presence [cf. Jeremiah 31:33; 32:40]. There is power in God’s presence. There is confidence and courage in His presence. How long does He promise His presence with you? Always, which can literally be rendered, “all the days,” or “until the end of time.” He will be with you without breaks [Hebrews 13:5]. God will not take a vacation from you or His redeeming purposes. God is on a mission. And Christianity is a missionary faith.

I want to hold out to you four ways that you can respond today:

First, make prayer commitment for the rest of this year for an unreached people group [go to Joshua Project] or a missionary—for your own soul and vocational change.

Second, get a loose change can or jar and let it remind you to pray as you give.

Third, buy a good missions biography or other book on missions. Be warned. It is one of the most wonderfully dangerous things you can do to undermine your addiction to the American dream.

Fourth, make a bold commitment and acknowledge that God has been awakening you in both a willingness to go and a desire to take practical steps to be prepared to go. And tell your pastor.

DON’T BE A MYTH. MAXIMIZE YOUR ROLE IN HIS MISSION.


[1] cf. Philippians 2:5-11; Daniel 7:13-14; Revelation 1:9-20

[2] John 14:15, 23-24, 15:10; 1 John 5:1-3, 2:3-6

[3] John 3:16; Psalm 46:10; Isaiah 52:10, 61:11

common myths about missions

Have you seen the TV show on Discovery Channel Mythbusters? It is an interesting show about two quirky—but quite intelligent—guys who make it their goal to see if common myths are truth or busts like: Can chatting on a cell phone while pumping gas cause the pump to blow up? Just how hard is it to find a needle in a haystack? Many of the myths we think are facts are actually false, but many are absolutely true. Likewise, in the church today there are long held beliefs we think are truth, but when tested and tried they appear to be a man-made myths. When it comes to missions or the mission of the church there a lot of common myths.

Missions is about foreign countries.

It is true that a lot missions takes place in foreign countries, but not all. In fact, most of missions happen where you are. Missions really happens near your home. The Bible is clear that followers of Christ are to think globally, but act locally. Missions is about where you are.

A sincere man asked me, “Why do we need to go way over there where it costs so much to go and the fruit is sometimes so little and we have people here who need to hear?” That is a good question. I fear it is a question that is easy to hide behind. Many people say they aren’t called to foreign missions because God has given them a burden for America. Yet for some reason, the vast majority of the people who say this do nothing for the people around them. They aren’t engaged in fervent evangelism in their neighborhoods. But if the concern is a sincere one, then we will be well served to turn to William Carey for a response:

That there are thousands in our own land as far from God as possible, I readily grant, and that this ought to excite us to ten-fold diligence in our work, and in attempts to spread divine knowledge amongst them is a certain fact; but that it ought to supersede all attempts to spread the gospel in foreign parts seems to want proof. Our own countrymen have the means of grace, and may attend on the word preached if they choose it. They have the means of knowing the truth, and faithful ministers are placed in almost every part of the land, whose spheres of action might be much extended if their congregations were but more healthy and active in the cause; but with them the case is widely different, who have no Bible, no written language (which many of them have not), no ministers, no good civil government, nor any of those advantages which we have. Pity therefore, humanity, and much more Christianity call loudly for every profitable exertion to introduce the gospel amongst them.[1]

Surely your home country can spare a few to go spread the fame of Christ’s name to the other 95% of the world.

Missions is about orphans, feeding the poor, and starting Bible Seminaries.

Many think of missions as relief ministry, advocating justice, feeding the hungry, stopping human trafficking, providing education, or digging water wells. I have heard someone say, “Healthy in hell doesn’t count for much in eternity.” Humanitarian efforts aid the gospel, but they are not an end in themselves.

Certainly you ought to be doing ministries of mercy, as Jesus taught and demonstrated compassion, care for widows and orphans, ministry to the poor, healing the sick, and visiting the prisoners. He even applauded the Pharisees for their diligent giving, but admonished their neglect of more important things. Missions is the activity of God’s people to fulfill God’s mission. And God’s mission from before the foundation of the world has been to redeem a lost world.

Missions is measured by the commitment of money I give.

Missions is not about cutting a check so someone else can go in your place. It is not about a certain percentage of a church budget. With that said, it is a bit starting that the average American church goer gives less than .50 cents a week to the mission. You can be the richest Christian monetarily, but weakest one spiritually. Missions is less about money, and more about your time and life. Jesus doesn’t need your money He wants you!

Missions is for anyone who wants to go.

In order to be called on the mission you need to be involved within the mission. Before you go there are you doing it here? Paul was given the Macedonian call to preach the gospel to the unreached Macedonians because he was faithfully preaching the gospel to the regions around Macedonia. Simply put, “God calls people elsewhere to what they are doing here”

Missionaries are a special class of people.

I use to think missionaries were like MacGyver. Some think of missionaries as dare devils, danger seekers, or linguistic nerds. Others think of missionaries as men and women who could not find a better job. That’s just silly. Missionaries have special skills, but skills can be learned. I can barely change my oil, I struggled as a student in school listening to lectures, and I sometimes tell corny jokes or stick my foot in my mouth. Missionaries are not super spiritual or invisible to struggles, sins, doubts, or spiritual warfare. I have known many missionaries who have stepped off the field because of depression, conflict with teammates, and serious heartache within their families.

Missionaries need special training.

Some of the best missionaries I know have little training in a Bible College or Seminary. They love God and His Word, but they were engineers, carpenters, farmers, schoolteachers, moms, grandparents, and retirees who were passionate about the mission of Christ. Just read about Jesus’ followers in the New Testament. They were ordinary men and women that held ordinary jobs [fishermen, doctor, taxman, Lydia’s clothing shop], but they tenaciously told everybody about their extraordinary God.[2]

Missions is not about me.

This is a favored myth. No matter how strong you are encouraged to consider the possibility of mission work, you can always rest upon this myth, “I’m not called to that!” The beauty of this myth is that nobody would dare to argue with the calling of God on your life. But there are two problems with this. First, it ignores the fact that missions is the primary purpose of the church; and if you’re called to be a part of the church, then you’re also called to missions. You can’t be an employee of Taco Bell without selling tacos, and you can’t be a part of the church without doing missions. It’s that simple.

Second, it often misunderstands the idea of God’s calling upon one’s life. Contrary to popular belief, God does not implant within each of us a nugget of information that we can autonomously refer to as our “calling.” The Scriptures portray vocational calling to ministry as a function of the local church, not as the autonomous decision of the individual.

Now that we’ve discussed some of the common myths about missions, next you will hear from the Word of Truth Himself. Jesus has some words for you about your mission.

[Come back for Part 2 soon]


[2] COMMON EXCUSES THE BIBLE DEBUNKS: I am not smart enough (1 Corinthians 1:20-21, 26-27). I am not strong enough (2 Corinthians 4:7; 12:9-10). I am not a good speaker (1 Corinthians 1:17; Exodus 4:10-12). I am afraid (1 Peter 5:8-10). I wont have an impact (Mark 4:26-29). There is plenty to do here (Romans 15:19-24). I am not married (Proverbs 31:10). I might be taking a risk (Ecclesiastes 11:4)

thumb licks [9.6.11]

5 Early Warning Signs Your Shields Should Be Up

From a Beggar to the Nations: The Name of Jesus Spoken With Boldness

Grow Up. Settle Down. Keep Reforming. Advice for the Young, Restless, Reformed from John MacArthur..

How to Talk to God When You are Suffering

The Danger of Defining Yourself by What You Are Against. Are you an angry prophet?

Freshman 15. Great tips for those heading to college.

myths regarding Christians and work

Myths regarding Christians and work:

1. Going to work in a standard job makes you a “missionary.”

2. Being a vocational Christian means you’re in “the center of God’s will” (which also means nothing bad will ever happen to you.)

3. Engaging the culture means opening a fair-trade coffee shop in your city (usually called “Ekklesia”), doing something in the inner city, painting pictures, making short films, or starting a band.

4. Christians always like their jobs and always feel “called to their careers.

Lessons from Christians who do something:

1. God wants you to do something [1 Thessalonians 4:11-12].

2. God sometimes uses your vocations to humble you [Genesis 3:17-18].

3. God wants you to use the talents He gave you [Proverbs 12:14].

4. God wants you to be excellent at what you do [Proverbs 22:29].

Outline taken from chapter 11: “It’s Sometimes a Wonderful Life, Evangelicals and Vocation” by Ted Kluck in Don’t Call It A Comeback. Crossway, Wheaton, IL. 2011. 143-154

thumb lick thursday [5.19.11]

hospitality and small children

I’ve been thinking about the joys and challenges of being hospitable with small children at home. Having toddlers afoot amid home and meal preparations, while expecting a large or small gathering of people, can be a challenge. So much so that many people just don’t do it much at all. But it can also be a great joy and delight.

Transforming Neighborhoods by Transforming Public Schools

Despite our history of antagonism toward public schools, especially as a cultural darkness seems to have settled on them, it’s intriguing to wonder: what if Christians flooded public schools with practical help? What if Christians became more willing to enroll their children in public schools? And what if the lines between public and private educations began to blur?

Where the Twelve Apostles Died

Geographic Travels has put together a map of locations identifying where, according to tradition, the 12 Apostles of Christ died. Blue markers represent commonly accepted death locations while yellow markers represent disputed locations.

On Being Better Bereans

So how can we be better Bereans? Most Christians are eager to receive the word, especially when we get new insights and background information, but how many go the extra step and examine the Scripture to see if the new nugget is actually true (Acts 17:11)? Here are a few things to keep in mind when we hear an exciting new teaching or connection…

Warfare Causes Suffering

“Warfare causes suffering, spiritual warfare being no exception. Those who take up the mission of God’s people by simply living, working and witnessing in the public square so dominated by the gods of this world, who choose to live by the distrinctive ethical standards that flow from their biblical worldview, who confess Jesus as Lord, and not Caesar or Mammon – such people will suffer in one way or another” – Christopher Wright in The Mission of God’s People

Spring Rains

“This song that I wrote is a reflection of what happened in the Garden of Eden. It is an expression of longing and aching for what was lost and looking for what is to come. In his book, Dr. Kapic talks about the moment that Adam and Eve “first began to doubt God’s generosity.” I was overwhelmed with this idea that Dr. Kapic presents in his book, that God, in response to our sin, gives more to us and pours out himself for us. God delights in giving to me and that is just one way in which he shows his love.”  – Esther Ellis

the role of the sent one

BRIEF HISTORY OF THE HUTTS: Before coming to BGBC, I spent a year in South Africa doing a church planting apprenticeship. There I gained a vision for the church, church planting, global mission, and a heart for Africa. Coming to BGBC I sought a church that loved church planting and global missions. It has been a joy the last 8 years to watch this church with a long history of missions-mindedness send out missionaries to the foreign field. Sarah and I will be the next ones sent out from this church.

BRIEF HISTORY OF SENT ONES IN THE NT: We see 4 examples of churches in the New Testament that sent people out for Christ’s mission. First, Jerusalem was hub of the first church where gospel preaching, fellowship, and suffering together led to remarkable growth and expansion of the church. Second, Antioch a hub of missions to the north and west because the church was well-mixed ethnically and well-led spiritually. Third, Philippi was a church that financially supported and encouraged Paul. His letter to them is more of a thank you letter for their support. Paul brings up an important principle in the mission of the church: the mission is a partnership in the gospel. Finally, we see a community [near Ephesus] tucked away at the end of the Bible in 3 John.

BRIEF HISTORY OF JOHN AND THE SENT ONES: The church to which the apostle John wrote seems to have problems and divisions [what church doesn’t?]. John sent messengers of the gospel to the church and they were met with a mixed reception. Gaius welcomed and supported them [vs.1-5], while Diotrephes [a self-appointed leader; false teacher] thwarted and evicted them [vs.9-11]. 3 John could be a case between two types of missionaries. I will place most of my emphasis on Gaius. What John says to Gaius is informative and is a biblical model for what [TO ME] is the mission of sending out.

1) SENT ONES ARE SENT OUT THROUGH THE CHURCH [3 John 6]

The church is the hub of Jesus’ missions. Missions and sent ones must be doing ministry through the church, for the church, by the church, in the church, because of the church, for the sake of Christ’s glory who is the Head of the church. If sent ones are doing anything other than planting the church, they are parachurch [i.e. alongside the church; orphanage, bookstores, seminaries, etc]. Sent ones are faithful to the mission of the church.

3 WAYS FAITHFUL FOLLOWERS ARE SENT OUT:

By the Holy Spirit. According to Acts 13:1-3, the Holy Spirit of God sends out qualified servant-leaders from local churches to plant new churches in new lands. God’s Spirit gives witness of this calling both to the sent one and the sending church. In recognizing how God wants to use the sent one, the church then “releases” them.

Through the call of Christ. In John 20:21, Jesus says to all his disciples, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Jesus was sent into the world to become the Savior. You are sent into the world to proclaim what Christ has done and call people to faith in Him. Therefore, every Christian should evangelize locally and, if possible, support the work of bringing the gospel globally.

Through local churches. The local church, again, is the vehicle God uses to send out people to preach the gospel with the goal of establishing new local churches wherever they go [Acts 13:4-5; Acts 14:21-23]. This means that local churches are responsible to raise up, send out, and support missionaries whose goal is not merely to see individuals come to Christ, but to see local churches established in regions where there are none.

The church “does well to sends them on their journey in a manner worthy of God.” What does that mean? It could mean cutting them checks, it could mean having a beautiful commissioning service, or waving good-bye at the airport. However, I would hold that it means more than that! To send one in a manner worthy of God is to support them in such a way that God would approve: Arrange all hospitality with lodging and meals while home [Romans 15:24; 1 Corinthians 16:6-11; 2 Corinthians 1:16], offer transportation and accompaniment [Acts 20:38; 21:5], and freely give resources and encouragement [Titus 3:13; Acts 15:3]. Servants of Christ should be treated like we were sending Jesus on His journey. When a missionary calls your church asking for support do you hear their story, encourage them, and pray with them even if you know you cannot support them financially? You do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God.

2) SENT ONES GO OUT FOR THE SAKE OF THE NAME [3 John 7]

Most missionaries tend to be Type-A kind of people. When sending out people from your church aim to cultivate character over mere skills. The person you are considering might be gung-ho, super-skilled, have a sweet resume, look like leadership-material, wears Christian T-shirts and is quite evangelistic, but he or she could be corrupt in their core. Spend time with them in the testing fields, before you unleash them to the mission field. Sent ones spent a long time with their sending church serving [Acts 18:22-28].

ESSENTIAL EXPECTATIONS [AS ONE BEING SENT] CONCERNING HOW MY CHURCH PREPARES ME:

Surrendered.  Look for one overwhelmed by their own salvation, committed to Christ, consumed by the message of His gospel, and championing the One Name [Philippians 2:9; Romans 1:5; Acts 5:40-41]. Period. [Galatians 2:20; 6:14; Colossians 1:24-27]. The power, authority, and glory for the mission is in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Servanthood. Do they choose the towel over the robe? Giving one a robe is a special honor [Luke 15:22]. When one was given an important task or office they received a robe. The disciples often aspired for the robe, but Jesus sought the towel [Matthew 20:20-28]. The greatest missionary is a one who takes the position of the least [Luke 22:24; Matthew 20:26]. Sent ones are servants of Christ first and foremost.

Humility. This is the posture of a servant. They “accept nothing from the Gentiles.” This was not arrogant humility or false humility; rather they only accepted support from Christians and churches that understand the mission. Humble servants understand the results in ministry come from God, not from the human instrument. “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” [1 Corinthians 3:6-7].

Full of Integrity. God expresses far more interest in what we are than in what we do or where we go. Here are some good questions to pry into the life of new or old missionary: Are they financially responsible? Are they pure of heart and mind? Do they have a pattern of good relationships? Do they deal with conflict biblically? Are they faithful to their family? Ministry should not destroy the family and the family should not destroy ministry. Integrity is important at home, work and the ministry. Since, distance makes it easier to hide, as one sent, I am responsible to be proactively communicating with my sending church with openness and honesty.

Faithfully Bearing Fruit. [vs. 3-4, faithful to the church & others] If someone wants to evangelize in China, are they already evangelizing Chinese people? If someone wants to be a Bible translator, are they already studying the biblical languages? Sending someone out to minister on behalf of a church is a serious matter. “So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” [1 Corinthians 4:1-2]. In Acts 13:1-3, the church sends out only those who have proven themselves in godly character and ministry effectiveness, who are sound doctrinally and equipped for ministry, who show the fruit of the Spirit, and who have remained steadfast under trial. Consequently true success in missions is measured by faithfulness to the task, not by immediate, visible results.

Biblically Minded. A missionary will face all kinds of new challenges and unorthodox beliefs/worldviews. He or she will need to be able to confront these unexpected challenges biblically. Sometimes they return from the field tired, discouraged and depressed, and a biblical framework would be helpful. Also, on the field, exegetical skills are important for training church leaders, counseling, planning, team working, evangelizing, discipling, spiritual warfare, and so much more.

Love for the church. According to the Scripture there is no such this as a rogue missionary, Lone Ranger Servants, Christians Tourists or Commercial Travelers/Charlatan. The missionary represents the church and its mission. A sent one should willingly submit to the elders of the local church that sends him [1 Peter 5:1-5; Hebrews 13:17], and more importantly they submit to Christ who is over the church [Ephesians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 11:3]. Remember, missionaries are sinners too. They need accountability and counsel. It is important the missionary be a member of the church. Not just a member, but also an active member, a fruitful member, and a theologically and methodologically minded member. Your sent one is part of the mission of your church, planting like-minded churches through your church.

3) SENT ONES HAVE THE SUPPORT OF THEIR SENDING CHURCH [3 John 8]

“We ought” is rather weak. It would be better translated, “we are obligated to support people like this.” The church and the ones they send are partners [i.e. fellow workers] in the gospel of Jesus Christ [i.e. truth]. Therefore, together we must do all we can to support one another in the growth of the church and the continuance of the gospel message. It is not about what the church does for the missionary, but what it does through the missionary. Likewise, It is not about what the missionary does for the church, but what he does through the church.

In conclusion, as one who is being sent from the church I recognize first of all that it is the church that sends me out. Second, I must go out for the sake of the name and no other. My character as an ambassador of Christ and representative of His church seriously matters. Third, I must encourage the support [receive] and be willing to support [give] the church sending me out. Together, the sent one and the senders lift high Christ and His church.

This is how we do missions as a church. John helped start all these churches, and then, he sends people and money to go to those churches to get more people and more money to go start yet more churches. When they are up at that church, who greets them? Gaius, Gaius is the guy that John will send a letter ahead and say, “I’ve got Missionary Mike and I’ve got Servant Sally and I’m sending them down, and they’re going out from Fellowship Bible Church, and they’re going go plant New Bible Church, and here they come, and Gaius, you know they’re coming.”

So then, Gaius waits, and here comes Mike and his wife, and they show up, and Gaius says, “Hey, good to have you. Come stay at my house. Have some soup. You guys need money? Let me get my checkbook. How can we be praying for you? My Bible study gets together every week, and if you could let us know what to pray for, we’ll pray for it.” That’s Gaius. Gaius gets behind their work, and is really happy to be involved, and John says why, “So that we may work together for the truth.”

Don’t be a Diotrephes.

Let’s go Gaius!

thumb lick thursday [4.28.11]

Shifting Religious Identities

A new study shows American’s shifting spiritual choices, including rising numbers of people with no religion, within a generation.

The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself

Preaching to ourselves is the personal act of applying the law and the gospel to our own lives with the aim of experiencing the transforming grace of God leading to ongoing faith, repentance, and greater godliness. A good teacher or evangelist is first a good preacher to himself. [24] – Joe Thorn, Note to Self, Crossway, Wheaton, IL. 2011.

Preaching to yourself demands asking a lot of questions, both of God’s Word and especially of yourself. To preach to yourself is to challenge yourself, push yourself, and point yourself to the truth. It is not so much uncovering new truth as much as it is reminding yourself of the truth you tend to forget. [32] – Joe Thorn, Note to Self, Crossway, Wheaton, IL. 2011.

Simply Herald Christ

Paul, in his own estimation, was not a philosopher, not a moralist, not one of the world’s wise men, but simply Christ’s herald. His royal Master had given him message to proclaim; his whole business, therefore was to deliver that message with exact and studious faithfulness, adding nothing, altering nothing, and omitting nothing. And he was to deliver it, not as another of man’s bright ideas, needing to be beautified with the cosmetics and high heels of fashionable learning in order to make people look at it, but as a word from God, spoken in Christ’s name, carrying Christ’s authority, and to be authenticated in the hearers by the convicting power of Christ’s Spirit. – J.I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. IVP, Wheaton, IL. 2008. 52.

Preach Christ [and conviction of sin]

It is not conviction of sin just to feel miserable about yourself and your failures and your inadequacy to meet life’s demands. Nor would it be saving faith it a man in that condition called on the Lord Jesus Christ just to soothe him, cheer him up and make him feel confident again. Nor should we be preaching the gospel (though we might imagine we were) if all that we did was to present Christ in terms of human’s felt wants. (“Are you happy? Are you satisfied? Do you want peace of mind? Do you feel that you have failed? Are you fed up with yourself? Do you want a friend? Then come to Christ; he will meet your every need”–as if the Lord Jesus Christ were to be thought of as a fairy godmother, or super-psychiatrist.) No; we have to go deeper than this. To preach sin means not to make capital out of people’s felt frailties (the brainwasher’s trick), but to measure their lives by the holy law of God. To be convicted of sin means not just to feel that one in an all-around flop, but to realize that one has offended God, flouted his authority, defied him, gone against him and put oneself in the wrong with him. To preach Christ means to set him forth as the One who, through the cross, sets men right with God again. to put faith in Christ means relying on him, and him alone, to restore us to God’s fellowship and favor. – J.I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. IVP, Wheaton, IL. 2008. 69-70.

The Story of Jesus is True

Dr. Keller began his talk with listing three statements that he was going to prove. 1) Why it’s important that the story of Jesus is true. 2) Why it’s important the story of Jesus is about Jesus. 3) Why it’s important that the Gospel is not a set of bullet points, but rather a story. He spent the remainder of his message giving eight arguments that answered the above questions. After the talk, Keller stayed for a book signing. The event was sponsored by Lemuria Books, Reformed University Fellowship and Belhaven University.