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2bobcraft2We have our fingers on the pulse of modern missions. Mission work is changing rapidly as the world's cultures and global conditions are changing. Ease of travel and communication impact how the Gospel is spread. But at the heart of missions, there is the work of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and the obedience of the Church to carry out Jesus' command to go into all the earth.

We want to present challenging biblical truths, insights into today's missions environment, and progress reports on reaching the entire world with the Gospel. Please keep checking our blog regularly for updates, stories and challenging thoughts from Scripture! 

The Spirit of Christmas

“The angel replied to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called the Son of God.’” Luke 1:35

This time of year, we hear many people talking about the “spirit of Christmas.” For some, it simply means being more generous, giving presents or money to a “good cause” or a friend. For others it means a season of endless parties where eating and drinking characterize the “spirit” of the season.

What was the first Christmas like? What was the spirit of the first Christmas?

The world’s conditions were harsh. Mary and Joseph’s homeland was occupied by invading forces. People were displaced, taxes were high, and every person had to go register in the place of their birth. The difficult journey had to be made by animal or on foot along rugged paths and dirt roads. The accommodations were lacking. There was no good medical care, or even electricity.

When John the Baptist was born, his father Zechariah declared, “‘... because of our God's tender mercy the dawn will break upon us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.’” Luke 1:78, 79

The difficulty and darkness I described here is not unlike the conditions in many countries in our world today. This literally describes hundreds of thousands of villages where people have never heard the message of Jesus Christ. For those who have no Christ, there is no Christmas. The true “Spirit of Christmas” has not yet arrived in their village through the message of an angel, or even the presence of a Christian.

Just as the Holy Spirit brought Christ to Mary’s womb, He wants to take Christ into the unreached villages that still lie in darkness two millennia after the birth of Jesus. The true Spirit of Christmas is far more than generosity and good cheer. It is what the Holy Spirit revealed to the old man Simeon when he saw the baby Jesus at the temple and said: “For my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples: a light, for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel." Luke 2:30-32

Father, as we thank you for the Spirit that brought Christ into our world and our hearts, we pray for those who have yet to hear of His birth, death and resurrection. We thank you for the Light of our life, Jesus, and pray that the Good News of His coming will arrive in every village on earth as quickly as possible. Help us to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, the true Spirit of Christmas.

Persecution: Who Killed Jesus?

I like to start any discussion about persecution by asking the question, “Who killed Jesus?” Was it the Jews? Or was it the Romans? The longer you ponder the questions, the more complex the answer becomes.

We are approaching the time of year when many churches are having special times of prayer for the persecuted churches and Christians around the world. Why are they persecuted? Why are there so many of us who are not being persecuted? These are challenging questions. “Because they are Christians” is a possible answer to both questions.

The deciding factor as to the degree of persecution often lies in the prevailing religious and political climate of the times. Jesus told His disciples, “ ‘... they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name.’ ” Luke 21:12 (NIV) This was a hint that persecution can involve a mix of religious and political motives. Jesus Himself was victim to this. The Romans tortured and ridiculed Him, executing Him by brutally nailing Him to a cross. The Jewish religious leaders were the ones who set it in motion, making use of Roman political connections to kill Jesus.

Having spent time in ministry in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Indonesia, I hear stories from those who have suffered prison, house arrest and banishment. They have been beaten, tortured, threatened, humiliated, and have endured every imaginable kind of injustice, primarily because they were Christians living in the midst of religious or political opposition. They had done no wrong, but were misunderstood, despised and targeted because their faith was viewed as a threat to religious or political power.

The false perception that Christianity is a “Western religion” continues to be one of the main factors motivating persecution. Believers are even accused of working for the CIA because they are Christians. After all, it was Western missionaries who most often introduced the Gospel to much of Asia. The colonists often brought their missionaries and their military to subdue nations during colonial times.

Yet there are many cases where persecution results when believers break from ingrained religious traditions, social norms or political systems because of their faith in Christ and the truth of His Word. They are good citizens, attempting to live peaceable, godly lives. They face the spiritual darkness of their environment with love and faithfulness and find themselves persecuted by “evil men.” “And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith.” 2 Thessalonians 3:2 (NIV)

In the end, we find that no one “killed” Jesus. Jesus said, “ ‘... I lay down my life – only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.’ ” John 10:18 (NIV)

The persecuted believers I have met show this same sacrificial spirit, this same understanding of their purpose in life. They embrace persecution as part of the life of a Christian, just as it was part of the life of Christ. Their Christlikeness in the midst of the refining fires of persecution reflects His image and His love to those who are persecuting them. Enduring persecution, even to the point of death, is the ultimate testimony to a living, loving Savior.

By Bob Craft

Should I Not Have Concern?

You think you know Jonah? Think again.

Jonah’s story is perhaps one of the most famous in the Old Testament, and with good cause. Since it is very dramatic and has great teachings, it is an excellent story to share with children and adults alike.

To recap, in Jonah 1:2 God calls Jonah to preach in the great city of Nineveh because of the wickedness taking place. Instead of obeying God, Jonah fled by boat. God saw this and sent a great storm. After determining he was the cause of the storm, the sailors threw Jonah overboard, where he then gets swallowed by a whale (or large fish). He remains there for three days and nights, repents, and then is released from the whale to start ministry in Nineveh.

For most of us, that is where the story ends.

Yet, there are key teachings in the book of Jonah that can be overshadowed by the first chapter (and a giant fish). This is an Old Testament book written hundreds of years before Jesus walked on the earth. The key question of the book is: Why has God called Jonah to Nineveh, a non-Jewish city?

Although Nineveh was known for its wickedness, God explains in 4:11, “Should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”

Simply put, the people in Nineveh are lost! God’s vision is greater than simply the obedience of one person. The 120,000 people are so lost that they cannot even tell their right from their left. Even the animals are lost! They are not following His ways, and He wants them to turn away from the wickedness.

The book of Jonah is not just about God’s pursuit of Jonah to fulfill His call; rather, it is about God’s pursuit of Jonah so that Jonah can reach the people of Nineveh. Why didn’t God give up on Jonah? Jonah was God’s chosen instrument as the means to reach Nineveh. This is powerful on a personal level for Jonah, but on a much greater scale for a city of 120,000 people.

What was the result? Chapter 3:4-5 says, “Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, ‘Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.’ The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.” The news even reached the king, and he issued a decree for the people to repent! As a result, the people were spared and God did not bring about their destruction.

When we consider modern missions, we can learn three things from this book:

1) God uses people as His main way to reach the lost with the Gospel. This theme is echoed throughout the New Testament as well – the disciples, Paul and Jesus Himself were the messengers of the Gospel.

2) God already wanted the world to follow Him during Old Testament times. He had chosen Jonah to be the messenger and relentlessly pursued him so that the message would be brought to Nineveh, a non-Jewish city.

3) God has tremendous love for the lost. Even hundreds of years before the Great Commission, we see God already showing His divine love for the world, wanting all to come to faith. God, in His righteous justice, was deeply offended by what was taking place in Nineveh, but He offered redemption for them.

At Reach A Village, our heart’s desire is the same as God displays in this book. Just as God wanted to reach the people of Nineveh, He wants all to know Him today. He is still sending out people to the unreached places of the world with the Gospel. Pray for willing workers to reach these areas around the globe!

I encourage you to read the book of Jonah again with fresh eyes. May God show you more of Himself in this fascinating account of reaching the city of Nineveh. God bless you!

 

By Erin Menke-Assam

Image courtesy of tiverylucky at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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