News and Views

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! 

Who Really Wins?

Look up the word “love” in your Bible’s concordance, and you may be surprised to see just how many times throughout the New Testament we are told by Jesus and His disciples to: “love one another,” “love your enemies,” “love your neighbor as yourself,” and so on.

In fact, Jesus not only told us to love one another, He commanded it: “‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.’” John 13:34 (NIV)

In the days leading up to the U.S. presidential inauguration, we have been bombarded on all sides by television newscasts and social media newsfeeds overrun with people representing different political sides tearing one another apart. What is the most heart-breaking, though, is the way the rhetoric of this election has even caused division within the Body of Christ.

Anytime that Satan can divide us as brothers and sisters in Christ and pit us against one another, he wins. If we are fighting and tearing each other down, we are doing his work for him.

A quote written by John Wesley in a 1774 journal entry serves as excellent advice for us over two centuries later. He urged Methodist Society members: “(1) To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy (2) To speak no evil of the person they voted against, and (3) To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”

Christian brothers and sisters voted on both sides. We may have differing viewpoints, but we are still called to love one another as Christ loved us.

John 13:35 goes on to say, “‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’” As Christians, we always have those who are not yet believers watching us to see if our actions line up with what we say we believe – if we “walk the talk.” If we are attacking or speaking ill of others, our witness may be irreparably damaged.

Additionally, division within the Body of Christ can hinder us from completing the Great Commission. In countries where Reach A Village and other international ministries serve, Christians and non-believers alike are observing how we, as Christians, respond to changing political situations. We need to ask ourselves if we are reflecting the image of Christ or if we are stumbling blocks to others.

The apostle Paul said, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification.” Romans 14:19 (NIV) We, as Christians, need to lead the way in loving one another. May Jesus be the one who really gets the victory in the way we live our lives.

By Holly Lawton

Reach A Village writer

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

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