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TEL International

Author: Reginald Harris

Move In His Time

Move In His Time

As the children of Israel journeyed to the Promised Land, God wanted them to know that He was always near. The cloud over the tabernacle revealed the Lord’s presence during the day. At night, a fire in the cloud showed the people that God never slept. In the Scriptures, clouds often signal the presence of God. A cloud appeared at the time of Jesus’ transfiguration (Matt. 17:5). When Christ comes again, He will appear in the clouds with great power and glory (mark 13:26).

When the cloud over the tabernacle moved, the people traveled. When the cloud remained, they waited. The delay in their journey could be a day or a year. It was important that they move when God gave the signal. As long as they traveled at the pace God set, they were safe. Christ demonstrated that He was moving through His ministry on God’s timetable. Jesus told His mother at the marriage in Cana of Galilee, “Mine hour is not yet come” (John 2:4). As Jesus drew near the time of His death, He told His disciples, “The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified” (12:23). Waiting for God’s time is the key to completing our work for the Lord. One temptation is to run ahead.

Proceeding too quickly, however, will lead to frustration and discouragement that may cause us to abandon a project. On the other hand, we may hesitate when God signals us to move ahead. We are too comfortable in our present situation to risk something new. Or we may feel timid about facing the dangers that we think are ahead.

If we want to live according to God’s timetable, He will reveal it to us. That revelation may come as God’s Spirit places a concern on our hearts. God may open opportunities that we realize are just right for us. God’s timing may appear through contacts with Christian friends. We have the assurance that God works in our minds to help us see what is important.

A Christian who prays and who knows God’s teaching in the Bible will understand when God is providing a new opportunity. He will step out in faith and find that God provides the needs for his ministry. As he takes the first steps of faith, he discovers that God provides guidance and fresh insights. God meets us at every corner.

A wonderful satisfaction comes as we work on God’s schedule. We have the sense that we have been in the right places at the right times. Although there may have been hardships, we would not have wanted to be in any other situation. Different types of people are needed to serve in the development of a new church. A pioneer missionary may make the first contacts and plant a church. Other missionaries come to establish a school to train national leaders. God uses each person in His time.

Light to the Nations

Light to the Nations

God’s commandments were a beautiful gift to His people. They showed them how to maintain a personal relationship with God and how to live in peace with their neighbors. God’s laws turned the people from polytheism and idolatry of their neighbors. The Lord did not want the Israelites to make images of Him, for that would lead them to worship a created thing rather than the Lord Himself.

The commands to keep the Sabbath and honor the name of the Lord helped the Israelites worship and reverence the Lord. The Lord’s commands to honor parents and to refrain from stealing, murder, adultery, and lying would protect the family and bring peace to the community. The command not to covet dealt with the heart attitude of the people. It was a command that Jesus would expand when He warned against committing adultery and murder in the heart. The commandments were given not to burden people but to make their lives easier. Instead of living in fear, the people who followed these commandments could anticipate peace and stability in their communities and the blessing of God on their lives. God’s commandments do not limit us but rather give us the greatest possible freedom. A young man in Ghana realized this when he attended a leadership conference. He said, “now I see that a godly way of life is not one that holds me back but one that adds to my freedom.” God made a wonderful promise to the people who received the commandments. He reminded them that He had carried them on eagles’ wings in the past. Now He was going to continue that blessing. God said that all of the world was His but that Israel would be a special treasure. The Hebrew nation would be a kingdom of priests. Israel had a mission to show the true God to the peoples of the world (Exodus. 19:5-6).

This was a continuation of the promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 that all the world would be blessed through his descendents. It was a promise that is repeated in Isaiah 49:6, where the Lord said, “I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.” That is a privilege for everyone who has entered God’s family. We are to bless the world by sharing the gospel. The early church took the Great Commission seriously, but in later centuries it was largely ignored. Every Christian who witnesses to the saving power of Christ is completing God’s purposes in the world. Every Christian who is in mission is one of the treasured people of God who bring light to the nations.

God’s Work Takes Time

God’s Work Takes Time

Noting the length of time it took Solomon to build a house for God, one is reminded that the work of missions is time-consuming. It takes time to build relationships; it takes time to build trust and acceptance; and it takes time to build the spiritual temple of God, the church. A study of missionary endeavors, both past and present, often reveals the fact that the work of the Lord requires endurance. Not every endeavor is the same, but the servant of the Lord, as well as his supporters back home, needs to realize that building for the Lord takes effort and time.

The missionary’s effort must also be dedicated to the Lord. Apart from His blessing, all labor is vain. It was said of the early missionaries of the church that they went out “for his name’s sake” (III John 1:7). What is done must be done for the Lord; therefore, it is only right and proper to dedicate one’s labor to Him. God was gracious to dwell in a material building and be with His people then; so it is now when believers gather to worship. As the church meets, whether in a cathedral, in a storefront mission, or under jungle foliage, the Lord is pleased to meet His people in worship.

The material Solomon used for the temple came from various places. The same holds true for God’s church. Missionaries are sent into all the world to collect material for the spiritual temple of God. As people come to faith, God fits them into the temple as living stones to offer worship acceptable to Him. We also would do well to remember that the body of a believer also becomes the temple of God. He puts His name upon the temple, hallows it with His presence, and is pleased to dwell with all who have faith.

Character Matters

Character Matters

We live in an age when candidates are chosen to lead a nation according to how they look on television rather than on their ideas. This shows that what God said to Samuel still holds true. Man tends to look on the outward appearance more than he should. Character is not given the prominence it should receive; and, sadly, people often get the kind of leader they deserve.

Not only leaders should be chosen on their character; there are other callings where the heart should rank higher than the physique. This is especially true in the Lord’s work. Whether it is the selection of a pastor by a congregation or the commissioning of missionaries by a sending body, those making the decisions should determine as best they can the spiritual qualities the person or couple brings to the position. Typically a pulpit committee or a missions board will ask each prospect to send a recent photo of himself along with his resume and call to ministry. There is nothing necessarily wrong with such a request, as long as the photo is not  the deciding factor one way or the other. A photo, even one’s appearance during a personal interview, should be at best secondary to what is determined about the heart of the individual.

Sometimes a pulpit committee never gets beyond a resume in evaluating a prospect. They meet him, but their impression of him is formed by the resume instead of the actual person. The one who will serve best in missions, at home or oversees, will be the one whose heart beats for God. By that is meant a heart that sincerely loves God and seeks to be obedient to the Lord’s commands. The best choice will be a person who is humble before God and man and sees himself as a servant rather than as a boss will all the answers. It will be a person who mourns the fate of those who die without Christ and seeks to be used by God to get the gospel to as many as possible regardless of personal sacrifice or danger.

The one chosen should have a heart that can get along with other missionaries and not contribute friction to relationships between God’s servants. It will be a true servant’s heart. It will be Christ’s heart. When missionaries come home and report to their supporting churches, it is sometimes noted that they are not polished preachers or necessarily good communicators with charisma. Most often, however, when one gets past their obvious inabilities and listens to what God is doing through them, one becomes greatly impressed that so many wonderful things are happening in their ministry.

The point to this is that God often chooses those whom man would never choose to bear His name before the nations. He does not often choose the polished speaker or the physically attractive or the individual who has a way with people. Instead, God looks inside a person to see what qualities are residing in the heart and whether or not that heart will live for Him and do His will in the place and among the people to which he will go. May these insights lead us to pray for pulpit committees and mission boards that they might be led by God and select more with their ears than with their eyes.

The Next Generation

The Next Generation

In the death of King David and the transferring of power to his son Solomon, one sees a principle that comes true with regularity. Each new generation must take up the work of missions for itself. There comes a time when those who were heavily involved in serving Christ die. If the work is to go on, it must be done by new people.

Another item worth noting for its significance for missions is the need for one generation to prepare and encourage the next to follow in its train. In today’s parlance, it is called discipleship. David charged his son regarding his responsibility before the Lord and his relationship to God. This is a fair reminder that that is precisely what the older generation needs to be doing to those who are younger. There are several pertinent observations from Solomon’s life that all believers – especially those who go out to serve on mission fields – need to apply. The first is the need for diligence when it comes to keeping one’s self free from sin. It is difficult to maintain consistently godly walk, but the difficulty is overshadowed by its importance. A second observation is the fact that Solomon thought of himself as a servant of the Lord.  He used that terminology several times in communicating with God. Such a mind-set is essential when it comes to the Lord’s work. It is found in those who recognize that the Lord is over all things and that they need His guidance and direction as well as power and ability to do what is required. Servant-hood and missions go hand in hand. A third observation from Solomon’s life that lends itself to evangelizing and discipleship is the need for godly wisdom. No one is more famous for his wisdom than Solomon, and his wonderful prayer is a gem of humility in seeking God’s help.

Surely as difficult as running a nation is Solomon also took on the spiritual struggle for the souls of men. It is a work that requires the pre-evangelization of the Holy Spirit. Man’s best efforts will be for naught unless the Lord has been working in the hearts of men; therefore, prayer is vital. It is indispensable. The need for the wisdom of an omniscient God is mandatory, for He alone knows who He has been working on and where the servant with the gospel message should go. May those of the current, older generation make every effort to encourage and prepare the younger set for service in Christ’s name. May the younger generation be willing to listen to and learn from those who have been there and have much godly wisdom to hand down. The Lord’s work is too important for us to think we can do it in our own wisdom and strength.

Message for the Nations

Message for the Nations

The very reason missionaries and others are needed to share the gospel of Christ is, in essence, the same reason God gave Israel a king, That reason is people’s rejection of God. That attitude is seen repeatedly throughout history as recorded in the Bible. There was the generation that preceded the Flood and then the generation at Babel. The rise of idolatry and various false religions give evidence of a wholesale rejection of God. Even after God had chosen a people for Him-self, we find they too rejected Him on numerous occasions.

The casual reader of the Bible will quickly encounter more incidents of God being spurned than he would want to keep track of. No more than a casual look at the world today is needed to see that the vast majority of mankind is lost and has no use for the living God. Sadly, attendance at many Christian churches and the number of closed churches reveal less than enthusiastic desire for worship and to know God’s Word. The major reason for this situation is of course, sin and all its disastrous effects on the human soul. One of the resultant effects is that people have either forgotten or are ignorant of what God has done. In their turning away from God, they have become intellectually oblivious to the wonder and love and grace and majesty of almighty God.

People conveniently overlook the fact that it is God who provides the seed, sends the rain, and causes the sun to shine. They need to be taught the truth about God and His deeds, as well as the truth about themselves. They need someone who cares for them even though they do not care for their own soul. People in general also are ignorant of what God wanted to do. His plan for the ages as laid out in the Bible will come to pass, and all mankind will play a part in it. The part they play will depend on their faith and their relationship with Jesus Christ.

This is where the missionary, the pastor, the Sunday school teacher, and every believer come in. There is a message to be told to the nations, beginning with the person next door, across the street, in the same office, or sitting at the next desk in school. The message, of course, is the good news of Jesus Christ: who He is and what He has done. The message needs to be conveyed about His intercession with the Father, His future return in glory, the need for repentance and faith, and all the other wonderful truths in the Bible.

Although God graciously exhibits great patience with those who have rejected Him, the need is urgent in terms of getting the message out to as many as possible. The home, the neighborhood, the world needs Samuel’s – those who are doing the will of God by boldly proclaiming to the people where they have gone wrong and what needs to be done – as never before. Samuel also displayed the kind of attitude today’s servant needs. That is the attitude of concern that causes the messenger to uphold people in prayer (I Sam. 12:23) even though they have rejected the Lord. May God call and raise up a vast army of willing servants for a great missionary advance in these last days. May there be many souls who once rejected the Lord who find salvation before the end.

Keep Thine Heart

Keep Thine Heart

The tragic sin of King David, as heartbreaking and disgusting as it may be to many readers, presents lessons God’s servants need to learn if they want to take the Great Commission seriously. These are some of those lessons.

Sin is not confined to the slums. While it is true that the gospel message often finds greater reception among the poor, those who live in kings’ palaces are not immune to temptation and sin. Some sinners are easy to spot because of their habits and manner. Others, however, because they seem outwardly moral, talk in a civil way, and do good deeds, are just as much in need of Christ as the criminals and the prostitutes. The affluent segments of society need to be targeted with the gospel and prayed for just as much as the typical mission field. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). In other words, our sin separates us from God, who is perfect holiness and God must therefore judge sinful man. Power, prestige, and position do not lessen the temptation to sin.

Sin is deceitful. Left unconfessed, it often leads the sinner to commit it again and even to do what is necessary to cover it up. Sin has a way of blinding people to the fact that it is wrong and can quickly become like a cancer on the soul. It can spread ever so subtly and lead us into all kinds of things that only compound the problem.

Sin displeases the Lord. For some inexplicable reason, sin has a way of convincing the sinner that everything is all right, that God approves of what he has done. Sin, however, is the breaking of God’s law. God is never pleased by sin, nor does He condone any sinful act. Sin committed by a king is no different in God’s eyes from that committed by a pauper.

Sin is a burden. One often does not recognize the increasing weight sin places on the heart and soul of the sinner. It can happen so gradually that the person never knows how burdensome sin is until confession is made.

Sin is forgivable. When confession is made to God, He forgives. The Lord stands ready to hear the sinner’s confession and remove the burden the sinner has carried. This is the wonderful news a sinful world needs to hear, and it is what world missions is all about.

Sin may be forgiven, but its temporal consequences may still have to be dealt with. When Christ died on the cross, He paid the eternal penalty for sin. At the moment of saving faith and confession, the sinner stands before the Lord redeemed from his former condition.

There may, however, be some unpleasant, even long-lasting, consequences of a life of sin. The person who abused his body with sinful habits may still have to suffer physical illnesses because of his sin. Sin’s result may affect the emotions or other areas of a person’s being as well.

These lessons are applicable to the missionary both personally and in terms of ministry. The missionary must never forget his own sinfulness and how alluring temptation is. The fact that he is now a missionary will in no way reduce the temptations he will face. He must be on constant watch over his own soul. The servant of the Lord must look to himself first and then be about his ministry. The gospel must be poured from clean vessels.

Get the Word Out

Get the Word Out

The very reason missionaries and others are needed to share the gospel of Christ is, in essence, the same reason God gave Israel a king. That reason is people’s rejection of God. That attitude is seen repeatedly throughout history as recorded in the Bible. There was the generation that preceded the Flood and then the generation at Babel. The rise of idolatry and various false religions give evidence of a wholesale rejection of God. Even after God had chosen a people for Himself, we find they too rejected Him on numerous occasions.

The casual reader of the Bible will quickly encounter more incidents of God being spurned than he would want to keep track of. No more than a casual look at the world today is needed to see that a vast majority of mankind is lost and has no use for the living God. Sadly, attendance at many Christian churches and the number of closed churches reveal less than an enthusiastic desire for worship and to know God’s word. The reason for this situation is, of course, sin and all its disastrous effects on the human soul. One of the resultant effects is that people have either forgotten or are ignorant of what God has done. In their turning away from God, they have become intellectually oblivious to the wonder and love and grace and majesty of almighty God.

People conveniently overlook the fact that it is God who provides the seed, sends the rain, and causes the sun to shine. They need to be taught the truth about God and his deeds, as well as the truth about themselves. They need someone who cares for them even though they do not care for their own soul.

People in general also are ignorant of what God wanted to do. His plan for the ages as laid out in the Bible will come to pass, and all mankind will play a part in it. The part they play will depend on their faith and their relationship with Jesus Christ.

This is where the missionary, the pastor, the Sunday school teacher, and every believer come in. There is a message to be told to the nations, beginning with the person next door, across the street, in the same office, or sitting at the next desk in school. The message, of course, is the good news of Jesus Christ: who He is and what He has done. The message needs to be conveyed about His intercession with the Father, His future return in glory, the need for repentance and faith, and all the other wonderful truths In the Bible.

Although God graciously exhibits great patience with those who have rejected Him, the need is urgent in terms of getting the message out to as many as possible. The home, the neighborhood, the world needs Samuels – those who are doing the will of God by boldly proclaiming to the people where they have gone wrong and what needs to be done as never before.

Samuel also displayed the kind of attitude today’s servant needs. That is the attitude of concern that causes the messenger to uphold people in prayer even though they have rejected the Lord. May God call and raise up a vast army of willing servants for a great missionary advance in these last days.

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!