TEL International

Author: Reginald Harris

Let Us Press On

Let Us Press On

There are some who scoff at calling Christ’s entry into Jerusalem just days before He was crucified “triumphant.” Certainly His enemies were plotting. Certainly the king like entry alarmed the religious leaders and, humanly speaking, seemed to seal His fate. God foresaw the crucifixion, however. It was all part of His plan of salvation; therefore, without any misgivings, Jesus entered the city triumphantly, for He knew that the prophecy regarding the Messiah had to be fulfilled (Zech. 9:9).

The world alternately scorns Christians and then expresses amazement at Christian behavior. We should not be surprised, for “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Cor. 2:14). We reign by serving (Mark 10:42-44). We are exalted by being humble (Matt. 23:12). We become wise by being fools for Christ’s sake (I Cor. 1:20-21). We are made free by becoming His servants (Rom. 6:10). We become stronger by becoming weak (II Cor. 12:10). We find victory by glorifying in our infirmities (vss. 7-9). We live by dying (John 12:24-25).

Let us press on to find our place and assignment in that wonderful kingdom! Let us thank God that He has graciously extended to us an opportunity to join the crowd of witnesses on earth and in heaven whose supreme joy it is to accompany the king. Is there a greater privilege? Sacrifice, lowly service, and death may amaze those who are watching. “What a waste!” they may exclaim as Judas did when he saw the precious ointment poured out on Jesus. The witness of that crowd in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday has been swelled by thousands in every century since. The cries of Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:10) have become a mighty chorus. Let us not delay an hour more! In spirit, let us join it!

The Self-Willed Servant

The Self-Willed Servant

A fairly common belief among some is that those in Christian service do not suffer the same temptations that others do. For some inexplicable reason, being in full-time service is thought to exempt one from the devil’s wiles. Some may even have gone into Christian ministry thinking that once they were in the pulpit or on the mission field, they would be able to withstand the temptings that currently plagued them. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Samson’s life serves to illustrate the point that Satan does not take a holiday when God sends someone into His service. Of the lessons to be learned in a study of Samson’s life, here are a few. Temptations come to those who are called to serve. As any person in ministry will attest, temptations not only are still there but also seem to increase. Not only do they increase; there is also nowhere to escape from them. Missionaries on foreign fields concur that changing one’s location does not change the sinfulness of one’s heart. The temptations may be different in other places, but they do not cease. Another fact is that the enemy loves to see God’s children fall. He thus increases temptation in an effort to make God’s servant commit sin and thereby lose his effectiveness in ministry. God’s servants may well come under direct attack in the area of their weakness because Satan knows he can hinder the work of God when he can get God’s ministers to fall. Like Samson, too many of god’s chosen have given in and become weakened. The headlines in recent years revealing the sins of prominent Christians are only the tip of the iceberg. Sadly, the actual casualty count is far greater than it would seem.

The answer to how to stop the epidemic of ministry failures due to sin is elusive and many-sided. There are perhaps many different reasons for such incidents, but a common thread through many of them has to do with the condition of one’s relationship with the Lord. To the degree the servant leans upon the Lord, the Lord imparts grace to withstand the onslaughts of the evil one. The one in close fellowship with the Lord will not allow himself to be placed in certain situations or to become physically, emotionally, or spiritually tired. The one who serves in all humility will not become spiritually arrogant and feel himself invulnerable to satanic attack.

A final thought stemming from what happened to Samson is this. Although some sins are not life and ministry destroying, some are. Not only have far too many of god’s servants fallen in sin; some also have fallen to the point of not being useful to the Lord as before. Perhaps this is due to loss of reputation or respect among those they serve, or maybe it is simply that the temporal effects of one’s sins prohibit further ministry opportunities. God’s mercy is both deep and wide, and His forgiveness comes to those who confess and repent; yet that glad truth may not change the fact that the soiled servant has lost his saltiness. He can no longer be used to cause people to thirst for the God who has living water for all who hunger and thirst after righteousness.

Called to Missions

Called to Missions

God chose a spectacular setting to call Moses to his mission of leading the Hebrew nation out of Egypt into the Promised Land. The burning bush that was not consumed symbolized God’s powerful presence. Instead of experiencing a great thrill at receiving the call, Moses looked for excuses to refuse it. We can understand some of the thinking. He was eighty years old, not an ideal time for a career change. The last forty years of tending the sheep did not seem the right preparation for such a major responsibility.

Moses suggested five problems. The first was “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh?” (Exod. 3:11). The Lord’s answer, “I will be with thee” (vs. 12), should have been enough. The next hurdle for Moses was that the people might ask God’s name. The Lord told Moses that he should say, “I AM hath sent me” (Exod 3:14). That name showed that God was eternal, steadfast, and faithful. He was the God who had guided Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Moses worried that people would not believe that the Lord had spoken to him (Exod. 4:1). The Lord assured him to do signs and wonders that would impress Pharaoh and the children of Israel. To prove this, He turned Moses’ staff into a serpent and then back into a staff. Next, God allowed Moses’ hand to become leprous; then He healed Him (vss. 4-7).

Moses continued his protest by insisting that he was not a good speaker. The Lord assured him that He had made his mouth and that He would open it all at the right times (Exod. 4:10-12).Finally, Moses said what he really felt. He did not want to go – he wanted the Lord to send someone else (Exod. 4:13).

The last words angered the Lord who insisted that Moses go. God said that Moses could take his brother, Aaron, along to do some of the talking (Exod. 4:14). Why did God not call someone else – someone younger, someone with experience in leading people, someone more articulate, someone with more positive attitude than Moses? That answer is in the mind of God. It is clear that God wanted Moses and that He would help him lead the children of Israel.

The call of Moses teaches us that God does not always choose talented people who can do everything well. He calls people with flaws. When God calls a man or woman, He enables that person to accomplish God’s mission. If someone else is needed to help, God will take care of that. Whether God calls us to go to Africa or to accept an assignment in a local church, His promise is the same as it was to Moses: “I will be with thee” (Exod. 3:12).

World Evangelism

World Evangelism

This weeks blog lends itself to the topic of world missions. There are five truths regarding world evangelization that are readily apparent. First, there is the fact that the enemy is a formidable one. The god of this world strongly resents and resists any incursion on his turf by the gospel and those who proclaim it. The gospel is a message of the One who has won the victory on the cross as evidenced by an empty tomb. The enemy will place his forces in the way and seek to intimidate those who are in God’s army. Let no one who goes into the fray go without the full armor of God. There have been too many people who have done so to their own hurt.

A second great truth is the fact that although the enemy is strong and threatening. God has sovereignly commanded His people go forth into the battle. The enemy must be engaged on the field, for that is the manner in which the loving and almighty God has determined to reach those presently enslaved by Satan. Let every soldier in God’s army remember that his Commanding Officer has already given the word to go. To do less is to disregard orders and be disobedient to the Lord. A third great missions truth is that some believers need more encouragement than others in the great battle for souls of men. By nature some are timid. They see the need and know what is expected of them; yet they still are hesitant to launch out into the work. This is where and encourager is needed – someone like a Deborah or a Barnabas who can see the potential in others and go along with them to lend moral support. This principle is exemplified by adherents of some of the large cults that send their missionaries out two by two. Although not every missionary needs another to actually go with him, every missionary does need encouragement. Pray for those who serve, and let them know you stand with them in prayer and in other ways as well. Send letters, E-mail, or birthday and anniversary cards. Do not limit your creativity when it comes to standing with missionaries.

A fourth truth regarding world missions from this weeks blog is that God goes before His servants to prepare the way. God has not called anyone to go where He has not gone before. The call of God has both a method and a rationale. His ministers can boldly go forth in His name and for His sake. They can step out in full knowledge that they are following Him, going where God has already been.

A fifth and final point from the text that is applicable to missions is the fact, in the end, the enemy will be defeated. The man and woman of God who obediently follow the call may well face opposition and hard-ship along the way, but will in the end have the privilege of being on victory’s side.

There may be casualties. Success may seem elusive. Rest may be hard to find. In the end, however, the servant of the living God will be victorious. The enemy, who often seemed to have the upper hand, will lie defeated, never again to plague the saints of god. May we all be inspired to go forth and encourage others to do the same for the cause of Christ.

The Atoning Work of Christ

The Atoning Work of Christ

Many in our world have the sentiments of a man buried in a Roman cemetery who had ordered that these words be engraved on his tombstone: “I was not, I was, I am, I am not, I do not care.”

For people outside of Christ, life is meaningless. The good news that Christ rose from the dead changes that. All that we do or say in this life has eternal significance. The resurrection of Jesus Christ changes the way we think about life and death. Christ’s resurrection assures us that we have a hope beyond the grave. Now we think of death as the doorway to the fuller life. Since the resurrection changes the way we think about the next life, we can think about our present life in a new way too. When we study the sermons in the book of Acts, we see that the truth of Christ’s death and resurrection was at the heart of those messages. Christ’s triumph over death validated everything He had taught. Jesus claimed to be God. He claimed that He was the Truth and that no one could come to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). The resurrection shows that He had the right to make such statements. If the apostles ever had doubts about their mission to proclaim Christ, they could always think back to those days following resurrection Sunday. They had seen the risen Christ. This was the message that everyone needed to hear.

The resurrection reversed the sentence of death caused by Adam’s sin. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (I Cor. 15:22). Christ’s is Lord of the universe, “for he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet” (I Cor. 15:25). Jesus is the Truth. The life that He demonstrated is the life that Good intends for all of us. The ultimate victory of Christ began with the resurrection. The resurrection is linked to Christ’s atoning work. It indicated God’s acceptance of the sacrifice of His Son, “who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:25).

Paul has given us some glimpses of the resurrection body. “It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body” (I Cor. 15:42-44). We shall maintain the identity we have in this life, but we shall have transformed and glorified bodies. We can only wonder at what God has prepared for His redeemed children.

In areas where missionaries take the gospel, many people not only have a fear of death but also are afraid of their recently deceased relatives and friends. Often they pour the blood of an animal over their graves. They seek ways to assuage their supposed anger. They are afraid to act in any way they think might offend the dead. Their homage to their deceased relatives approaches the worship that should be reserved for the Lord. To these people comes the good news of the gospel. Christ is risen. He is the Lord of the spirit world.

As Romans 14:9 says, “To this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.” Our faith in a risen Christ dissolves our fears. We have a hope for this life and forever.

Called to Stand Firm

Called to Stand Firm

One of the keys to success on any battlefield is to know one’s enemy; his strategies and devices. As Christians, we can know a lot about our dreaded foe from the Scriptures, including the fact that we are no match for him. The Bible, however, also tells us that we are not left to fight this battle alone. Our great God stands alongside us, assuring us of the final victory.

Spiritual warfare requires much preparation and discipline. Every Christian should be prepared for battle. This is especially true for those entertaining thoughts of servicing on foreign fields, which are often enemy strong-holds. It is hard enough to share the gospel firsthand with those who have never heard it. Even more difficult, though, is advancing the gospel while at the same time facing a fierce and relentless enemy. While we know that the final victory is ours, it would be foolish to assume that our battles are already over and that the pew offers a safe haven. Quite the contrary! As long as we remain on this earth, we must be prepared to defend ourselves against the forces of evil.

Those who follow Jesus now face a task similar to the children of Israel after crossing the Jordan into the promised land. They entered into the land by faith. Then they faced the task of defeating the Canaanites. The Canaanites can be an imposing force. Many missionaries have faced a similar foe while working in the mission field. Battles such as this cannot be won through our efforts alone. God requires only that we remain steadfast in our service to Him. There are many battles on many fronts yet to be fought and many territories yet to be claimed for God. There are many souls who need to hear the truth. There is much to do. While frontline warfare may be for a selected few, it is vital that we all stand firm in the place God has called us. When we do, He will provide the soldiers with flaming swords.

Exercise Compassion

Exercise Compassion

To reflect Christ is to do more for people than preach to them. The Lord Jesus did not just talk about helping those who came to Him. He actually helped them. James put it bluntly: “Faith without works is dead” (Jas. 2:20). Missionaries do more than send letters and gifts overseas. They go themselves! I am sure the mere presence of a missionary from the West living in some corner of the world witnesses as powerfully as anything he says; and, of course, missionaries do much more. They feed the starving, care for the sick, and operate schools.

When John was in prison, he had to be absolutely sure that Jesus was the Christ. He had a message sent: “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” (Matt. 11:3). Jesus told the messengers to look and tell John what they saw: “The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Matt. 11:5). Jesus knew that John was familiar with the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah. The Master was sure that telling John that these prophecies were being fulfilled would assure John of His identity as Messiah and bring comfort to His imprisoned friend.

We read in Mark 1:41 that Jesus was moved with compassion as He healed the leper. In one act, we catch a glimpse of the great love God has for all men and the reason the Son was sent from heaven to show His love in action (John 3:16). Missionary work can be described as one long exercise in compassion. In fact, it is impossible to be a Christian and have no interest in other people or desire to help them.

It is written that God is “not willing that any should perish” (II Pet. 3:9). When the Spirit of God enters us at our rebirth, one sure sign of His presence within is the compassion we feel towards others.

Personal Evangelism

Personal Evangelism

In this modern, technological age, some dismiss the value of personal evangelism on the premise that more of the lost can be won through television, radio, the internet, and print media. Modern media have proved to be of value in reaching the unsaved, but they are very expensive and must vie for an audience with entertainment and sports opportunities. Furthermore, evangelism has always had a personal element and our obligation to personal involvement cannot be deeded to methods.

Home-to-home visitation personalizes the gospel and confronts the unbeliever with critical choices. The local church that is mobilized to reach its corner of the vineyard will see souls saved. In addition, the fellowship will discover that every aspect of their ministry pulsates with a new vibrancy. The book of Jude points out that lost people in three categories must be reached in personal evangelism. Jude 1:22, says, “Of some have compassion, making a difference.” This statement is interpreted to mean that there are many people, some in your community, who are not bitter enemies of God. To some extent, they are open to the gospel and should be reached.

Verse 23 describes a second category when it speaks of “pulling them out of the fire”. These could be hardcore adherents of cults and false religions who are steeped in unscriptural systems. Most believers shy away from reaching out to these people, but Jude emphasizes that we must try. Finally, there are those in “garment(s) spotted by the flesh.” Some scholars believes  these may be those whose lifestyles have the “aura of glamour, gaiety, and seductive appearance.” The warning is for the soul-winner to avoid falling into the very same compromising sin.

Perhaps the most neglected tool in evangelism is simply inviting the lost to a church service or activity. In churches that have regular exposition of the Word of God, it should be the believer’s habit to invite unsaved loved ones, friends, and neighbors to experience the clear teaching of biblical truth. Churches who do well typically hold home-to-home campaigns on a regular or occasional basis. Believers with an infectious personality can perform an invaluable service by taking up the high points of your church. Is the music a high point? Do you have special activities for children or teens?

Those who are comfortable in witnessing should be regularly assigned to contact neighbors around the church. New believers often have the most zeal for soul-winning and the freshest kind of appeal.

Integrity of Missions

Integrity of Missions

The concept of change is a strategic element in the definition and implementation of missions. Missions agencies have historically struggled with the question of whether the goals of change should be personal and spiritual or societal as well. This blog entry seeks to argue that the priority change of missions must be personal and spiritual.

The Apostle Paul placed an emphasis on God’s plan of salvation in the context of prophecy. The prophetic event that Paul concentrated on was “the day of the Lord” (I Thess. 5:2), with its implications for both believers and nonbelievers. The main point for both groups as that a future judgment is inevitable. In light of this coming judgment, believers should not be spiritually indifferent and lethargic. They should maintain a commitment to spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to nonbelievers. Meanwhile, nonbelievers should not be fooled into a sense of calm just because the coming judgment has not yet occurred. Nonbelievers must deal with the truth that they will not escape judgment unless they trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Throughout the history of missions, certain organizations believed that change was to be primarily social and temporal in nature. In the period of Enlightenment, the missionary emphasis was placed on the moral improvement of humanity. This emphasis resulted in the social gospel and its evolutionary optimism.

In the twentieth century the social gospel evolved into liberation theology, which believed that the missionary effort should aim to achieve personal liberation by overthrowing the existing order and oppressive structures. In both periods, evangelical Christians reacted strongly against these humanistic missionary derivatives. Bible-believing Christians strongly embrace the concept that the missionary endeavor must result in change that is personal and eternal in nature. Liberation from sin can be achieved only through the preaching of the good news of the gospel.

Today’s missionary must be convinced that a nonbelieving young couple who are contemplating marriage need to first believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Today’s missionary must be convinced that a dying nonbeliever needs the gospel first and foremost. Any individual who comes to the missionary for counseling because he is struggling with severe guilt needs to hear the good news of the gospel. There is absolutely nothing more important for the missionary than to offer the eternal hope of the gospel.