The Purpose of This Blog

In response to the challenge by the Southern Baptist Convention that churches take on the task to share the gospel with unengaged unreached people groups, the missions team of Harmony Pittsburg Baptist Association felt the need for a way to focus prayer on the task. This blog is intended to facilitate prayer for those contemplating their role in fulfilling the Great Commission. This on-line prayer guide may prove useful to those exploring a call to missions involvement as well as to those who have sensed a call to pray for those who will go to the front lines.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Gospel Debt

The Apostle Paul explained his desire to preach the gospel in Rome in these words:  I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise (Romans 1:14).  In what sense did he owe a debt?  The kinds of people named -- the civilized and the uncivilized, the educated and the uneducated -- had not done anything for Paul that required him to return a favor.  It would make sense for Paul to speak of his debt to the Jews for the instruction in the Scriptures they gave him.  Even more logical would be for Paul to say that he was indebted to God (a sense taken by many modern translations who put the verse in terms of being under an obligation).  How could Paul owe both those who were part of the Roman empire and those of the tribes beyond its borders who spoke unintelligible languages?

We owe a debt when we possess something that belongs to another.  If someone loans me money, I owe him money or its equivalent in return.  When I receive electricity from the power company, I owe them payment for having possessed and used what was theirs.  Whenever we possess something that belongs to another, we are their debtor.  In this sense, when we are given something to pass on to someone else, we become debtors.  We owe them what is theirs.

As Americans, we usually see the gospel in terms of personal salvation.  The individualism of our culture causes us to miss the global or universal aspects of the gospel.  As someone recently put it, the gospel is not what Jesus has done for me but what He has done for all.  My story is just a small part of His story.  My testimony confirms the truth of the gospel which is for all peoples everywhere.  After all, Jesus is not just the propitiation for my sins but for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).  Anyone who believes in Him has eternal life (John 3:16).

The gospel is more than a personal possession.  It is a treasure meant to be shared.  It belongs to others also.  I am not to hoard it to myself.  Since it is meant for others, I owe it to them.  I am in their debt until I have shared it with them.  I am debtor to them because I hold what is theirs.  They may be near or far, like me or unlike me, but I owe them what is theirs.

In the U. S., one's credit score has become very important.  The higher one's score in his or her credit report, the lower his interest rate and the easier it is to receive further credit.  The way to a higher score is by faithfully paying off one's debts.  Recently I asked myself the question, "I wonder what my credit score is with God?"  Let's pray that we will be faithful in paying our gospel debt by seeing that the nations get the gift God has given us not only for our benefit but also to give to them.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Blessed to Be a Blessing

Years ago, a well-known televangelist was sentenced to 44 years in prison for taking the money sent to his organization for use in ministry and using it to support his own lavish lifestyle.  (I have not used his name because he has served his prison time and also publicly confessed and repented.)  To use for oneself what was given for others is stealing.  It is illegal, unethical, and immoral.  It is reprehensible.  But how often do we do this with God's blessings to us?

When God promised to bless Abraham, He made it clear that the blessing was not just for his own benefit.  "I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. ... And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:2, 3).  The Psalmist makes it clear that this pattern applies to all of us, not just Abraham:  "God be merciful to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us that Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations. ... God shall bless us and all the ends of the earth shall fear Him" (Psalm 67:1-2, 7).

Both the words to Abraham and the lyrics of the psalm make it clear that the blessings we receive from God are meant to reach all the peoples of the world.  We are stewards of whatever He places in our possession, managers of His estate for the purpose of making His glory known throughout the earth.  To use His gifts for our own comfort and pleasure without thought of how to help others know Him and reverence Him is as surely a crime as that of any embezzler.

The first impulse of the child of God is to share generously.  "Freely you have received; freely give," Jesus told the disciples as He sent them out to preach and heal (Matthew 10:8).  When Jesus fed the five thousand, He gave the pieces of the five loaves and two fishes to the disciples who in turn gave to the crowd with the result that all were fed with plenty left over.  And God was glorified in Jesus!

We are blessed to be a blessing.  Let us pray today that God would make us as generous as He is.  May we use what He has given us to make Him known among the nations.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Another Look at Acts 1:8

Various attempts have been made to apply the geography of Acts 1:8 to the personal situation of Jesus' disciples.   A common view is to see "Jerusalem" as the city/town/village where one lives, "Judea" as the state/province/district, "Samaria" as the nation, and the "uttermost parts" as the world.  The writing of missiologist David Mays has given me another way of understanding these levels.

Mays points out that we can classify the peoples who need our witness as either "like us" or "not like us."  "Like us" may include similar factors such as language, ethnicity, culture, socio-economic status, or even age-group.  When we don't share one or more of those factors, we tend to see others as "not like us."  Usually, that means that there will be some barrier to get over in order to share the gospel.

Mays further points out that peoples are either "near us" or "not near us."  This distinction is based solely on geographical location.  Some, regardless of the other factors already mentioned, are right around us, readily available for contact and conversation.  Others will require us to make a journey or relocate in order to develop a relationship with them.  Again, there is a barrier to cross--simple geographical distance.

Combining these two types of distinction yields four classifications:  (1) like us and near us; (2) like us and not near us; (3) not like us and near us; and (4) not like us and not near us.  Applying these four categories to Acts 1:8, we see Jerusalem as those both like and near us; Judea, like us but not near us (that is, not so close); Samaria, not like us but near us (that is, not so far); and the uttermost, not like us and not near us.

As pointed out in a previous post ("Both ... And"), we are not to think in terms of progressing through these levels sequentially.  We are to address them all simultaneously.  It is not logical to ignore the lost around us to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.  It is heartless to neglect those in lands with little access to the gospel while repeatedly evangelizing those around us.  And while it may be more comfortable and pragmatic to share with those of our own kind (think "homogenous unit" principle of church growth), it would be utterly selfish to save our own at the expense of Jesus' "other fold" (John 10:16).

Let's pray that we will be complete in our obedience to Jesus' instruction.