Mission 5

Ephesians 3:16-19

Part of the structure of our church involves an annual conference – nearly a week-long gathering of representatives from all the churches in the western half of Ohio. Being a pastor of a small church and a former member of a medium-sized church, the annual conference can frequently bring a much needed awakening. I am reminded that the work of the Lord and the love of God extend far beyond the familiar walls of where I am.

Serving God by taking part in an outreach or mission project further emphasizes the depth and width of God’s kingdom.

In today’s passage, what does Paul pray that God will do? Why does he want that? What does he want them to understand, to grasp? What benefit does that bring?

It is easy to think about Christians as being only those people with whom you have dealings. We may begin to think that only those we know are Christians and we begin to lose sight that there are people all around the world who worship Christ as Savior.

We are called into a broader way of thinking, however. We are called to be aware that the love of God is for all the world and not just our small portion of it. John 3:16 states that “God so loved the world.” And we must never forget the breadth of this love.

In his letter to the Ephesians Paul is urging the people of Ephesus to broaden the scope of their love. If they could truly accept Jesus into their hearts, then with this foundation of faith they could comprehend how great God’s love is. They would know that God’s love is not meant for a small group of faithful believers, but His love is for everyone.

That same message is for us as well. We need to become aware that the love of God through Christ is beyond our measure. And, being aware of the vast scope of God’s love, we will then be more willing and more able to share that love with so many others.

With the strength and power of the love of Jesus residing in our hearts we will be able to reach out into other communities, other countries, other cultures with a spirit of service and inclusion. We will be able to share God’s love and bring His mercy to millions of people we have never met – millions of people in need of this mercy and grace.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do to keep yourself mindful of the scope of God’s love?

Mission 4

James 4:7-10

One activity in our confirmation class involves magnets. The young people are asked to work with the magnets to see how identical poles (for example, North and North) resist each other, while opposite poles (North-South) attract. The resisting poles can really move one magnet away from the other very easily and quickly, and if done right, can make the magnets move very far.

James gives advice on making the devil, and all evil for that matter, resist you. What are we to do? What are we to do with God? What should we do before coming near to God? What do you think he means by verse 9? What will God do if we are humble?

A fear that many people have is that evil, perhaps in the form of the devil himself, can invade their lives and trouble them, making things miserable. But James has a solution. If we can be humble before God and draw ourselves closer to Him through service and Bible study, then we have nothing to fear. Satan and all of his evil will not only be unable to affect us, but he will flee from us.

The first steps of drawing nearer to God are to purify ourselves – to consciously and deliberately choose not to do evil, not to sin, and to repent of our failings. As we become intentional Christians we will adopt, naturally, an attitude of humility. And through our purified and humble attitude God will lift us up, making our lives more joyful and more complete.

Verse 9 can seem a bit confusing, but we are not to take the words literally, or at least not to take them in the sense and meaning that we are most familiar. What James is urging is a humble attitude, an attitude of seriousness and earnestness. We are to be devoted followers of Christ and not shallow or silly people. Commentaries explain that the words James uses in the original tongue – “laughter” and “joy” – imply an insincere and silly attitude.

If we submit ourselves to the work of the Lord we will need to be humble and sincere in our efforts. But the reward is great. As we draw nearer to God in his service, God draws nearer to us, becoming more and more prominent in our hearts and minds.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you draw nearer to God today?

Mission 3

Romans 12:9-13

Job descriptions are a nice and simple way of making it clear what a person is supposed to do in their work. But almost anyone in almost any career field will know that not every job has a single skill required. Most jobs require that the person wear many hats.

Teachers, at times, need to also be counselors and referees and doctors. Consultants need to be typists, artists, poets and politicians. Pastors need to be scholars, speakers, and psychologists. And so on.

Today’s passage seems to be a laundry list of the qualities of a Christian. What is said of love? How should we act toward each other? What three qualities are emphasized in verse 12? What are the last commands presented in verse 13?

The job description of a Christian is a multi-layered, multi-faceted thing. To be a Christian we can’t be good in just a few things, but we must be good at many things.

Paul is talking to the people of the church in Rome about offering themselves in sacrifice for the kingdom of God. In this portion of his letter Paul addresses the need to exhibit almost every aspect of the fruit of the Spirit. We are called on to love and exhibit goodness. In spite of the challenges we face – fear and affliction – we should express joy, patience and faithfulness.

But we are also to be giving of ourselves. We should be helping others in their own lives and spiritual walk (verse 10), and we should have strong spiritual desires to serve God (verse 11). And we are called to share. We are called to share of our possessions and blessings, but we are also called to share of ourselves.

A true Christian can not live out the job description and job requirements of being a Christian without being active in the faith. You may be able to feel love and joy and peace, or you may be able to know what is kind and what is good, but until you share all of this with others you are not performing the whole job.

Paul concludes this section with two action words – share and practice. These are not noble concepts we need to embrace. These are Christian attitudes, attitudes of holy love, which require effort. Share with those in need. Practice hospitality.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you share with those in need? How can you practice hospitality?

Mission 2

1 Corinthians 4:1-2

Out of town with my wife’s work the other week, we went to a restaurant for dinner. After waiting too long for our food to be brought to the table, I was ready to ask about it when the waitress apologized and explained that our order had been forgotten. The manager assured us that it would be taken care of immediately. Nearly half an hour later, and after going to see where our food was, our dinners finally came.

I was not happy. I felt that neither the waitress nor the manager was doing a good job.

In today’s reading Paul is talking about the job we are supposed to do. How should people see us? What is required of us?

As a pastor most people expect me to be nothing but compassionate with other people. I try very hard to be patient and understanding, but I have high standards and high expectations of others. One of my biggest complaints is when a person does not do the job they are supposed to do.

Whatever employment you have you should do it to the best of your ability. I expect a mechanic to know how to fix a car. I expect a waitress to know how to bring me food. I expect a pastor to be able to preach.

In this letter to the church at Corinth Paul is pointing out what is expected of those who are believers in Christ. People should see us as servants of Christ. We are the ones entrusted with the secret things of God.

Now, this expression can cause debate. What is a secret thing of God? Is it a mysterious rite or code that only Christians know?

I don’t think so. I see “the secret things of God” to be the understanding that what appears illogical or unreal is actually true. We know that Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the dead. That defies logic, yet we know it to be true. The “secret” is that Christ died for our sins and saved us from death and hell. That is not something the average person would know.

I think a secret of God is that we love those who are hard to be loved. That defies logic. That is hard to comprehend.

As believers in Christ we are to exhibit these secrets in what we do. We are to know about the death and resurrection of Jesus, the saving power of his blood, and the apparent illogic of agape love. Becoming a child of God, which one might assume would make us superior people who should be treated as kings, really makes us servants to others.

And it is required of us that we are faithful in this trust. In other words, we are to do the job of a Christian.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What do you see as the job of a Christian?

Mission 1

1 Corinthians 15:58

The next two Sundays we will have a guest speaker as our mission team goes to Haiti. This week’s focus will be on mission and outreach, and there will be no 10/2 Grow next week. - Roger

Talking to other people who have been on mission trips, they all comment that the experience really has an impact on them. Most feel they have been changed. Even those of us who have only performed small endeavors of service – like assisting at a soup kitchen for a day – know the strange, new outlook we all have on our spiritual lives.

What advice and encouragement does Paul offer? What are we to do? Why?

It is so easy to become stagnant, to remain where we are, and to avoid doing extra work. Many face fears of what might be in store for them should they volunteer to help others. There may be real labor involved – hard work that will cause a sweat and aching joints.

Still others choose not to be bothered in helping others. They value so much their own time, their own pastimes and leisure, that they will not do anything to help others.

But we are called by God to spend time and effort in helping those less fortunate than ourselves. We are not expected to abandon our own lives to give ourselves wholly to others. But we should have sufficient love for others that we can take some part of our own lives and dedicate time and labor to helping.

As Paul says, our labor in the Lord is not in vain. The work we do in the name and for the sake of our God and for Jesus Christ is not pointless. It has value.

But more than having value in a spiritual sense, our missional and outreach efforts bring us something valuable. We are rewarded with the tremendous blessing in our souls of knowing we have done the Lord’s work.

The feeling a person gets when mission work is done is difficult to describe to others. But everyone I have ever met who has indeed done any type of mission or outreach work has experienced this indescribable feeling that is such a blessing to the one who serves.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Is there an outreach or mission project in which you may be involved?