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TEL International

Author: Reginald Harris

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.

Hope for the Future

Hope for the Future

Most professional basketball players get paid a great deal of money each year whether they play or not. One player’s knees were injured recently, and he sat on the bench for most of the season. Still, the team owners valued him so much that he collected full salary anyway. When he does play, he has incentive clauses in his contract that allow him to earn bonuses: more if he scores over a certain number of points, more if he makes the all-star team, more if his team makes the play-offs.

If this strikes you as outrageous, consider your own situation as a believer. Simply because you trusted Jesus Christ as your savior, you have been given a no-cut contract guaranteeing your eternal life in heaven. There are “bonuses” of joy, peace, and satisfaction in service if you live an active Christian life now. A professional basketball player gets paid full salary while sitting on the bench because of an injury. Christians may get sick, suffer disabilities, even lose their power of speech, or be confined to wheelchairs: but their salvation is never in jeopardy. In fact, the One in charge works all these disabilities together for good so that the blessings never stop coming. In short, our God takes far better care of His children than the world takes care of people. The best the world can do is give money rewards to individuals with exceptional talent. In contrast, the gospel rewards ordinary believers with blessings both outward and inward. “I will put may law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer. 31:33).

What kind of God rewards those who obey Him by changing them on the inside so that they can serve Him wholeheartedly and even enter into the very purposes of the One they love? It should surprise no one that Christians are eager to spread the good news about such a generous Benefactor. Would it not be surprising if such a gospel did not impel a worldwide missionary movement?

A man by the name of John Paton lost his wife and child during his first tour of duty as a missionary in the South Sea islands; yet he returned and established an orphanage, schools, and a thriving church. Describing his first communion service, he wrote, “At the moment I put the bread and wine into those dark hands once stained with the blood of cannibalism, now stretched out to receive and partake of the emblems and seals of the Redeemer’s love, I had a foretaste of the joy of glory that well nigh broke my heart to pieces. I shall never taste a deeper bliss till I gaze on the glorified face of Jesus Himself” (Auto-biography, quoted from http://www.sermoncentral.com).

The worldwide missionary movement, with the thousands of missionaries who serve Christ as Paton did, is powerful evidence that Christ is indeed risen and sustains His church today by His own presence and supernatural power. He is blessing those who obey His Great Commission by answering their prayers and making them fit for heaven.

Encouraged to Persevere

Encouraged to Persevere

In II Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Thessalonica who were enduring a cauldron of persecution and affliction. Instead of yielding to the intense suffering and retreating into a hardened, loveless protectionism, the Thessalonians gave up their hearts and souls to the Lord and were a fragrant, redemptive blessing to all the churches around them.

The Apostle Paul provided the Thessalonians with encouragement to persevere in the midst of their suffering. Several practical lessons can be learned from his encouraging words. First, believers who suffer possess the ability to offer others thankful compassion (II Thess. 2:13). Second, suffering believers can reassure others of God’s promises (vss. 13-14). Last, suffering believers can exhort others to “stand fast” (vs. 15) in Christ. The purpose of this blog entry is to apply these lessons to people who are called by the Lord to the ministry of missions. First, the missions of those who are called by the Lord to the ministry of missions should be driven by strong compassion for a suffering world. The heart of the missionary must be the heart of Jesus Christ, who personified compassion. Missionary compassion must be the fundamental and urgent spiritual response to people who are suffering and in need. It is no coincidence that many missionary agencies have the term “compassion” in their titles. This is absolutely appropriate, for these agencies see the suffering world through the eyes of Jesus Christ. It is this focus that motivates these agencies to maintain their commitment to reach the suffering world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Second, missionaries experience spiritual suffering so they can reassure others of God’s promises. Missionaries often accomplish this task through teaching the Word of God.

Finally, missionaries experience suffering for the purpose of exhorting others to stand firm in their commitment to Jesus Christ. The fulfillment often comes when a missionary is on furlough. During this time at home promoting their ministry in supporting churches, missionaries serve as models to many believers of people who persevere in the midst of suffering. Their authentic, powerful testimonies exhort believers to “stand fast” (II Thess. 2:15). Although sharing God’s Word is always a priority, God often uses missionaries who experience suffering to help others find a light in their times of darkness. They remind us not only of where our suffering leads but also of the tender hand of the God who leads us.

Betraying Jesus

Betraying Jesus

Judas Iscariot’s betrayal alerts us to the fact that no one is exempt from the possibility of betraying Jesus. As the disciples sat together with Jesus at the last supper, Jesus made an announcement: “Behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table” (Luke 22:21).

After each of the disciples had dipped his hand into the bowl with Jesus, Jesus announced that someone close to Him, one of His followers, one of His companions, was about to betray Him. Although the individual was not specifically identified by Jesus, he was a comrade of Jesus. Judas perhaps afraid of exposure because the other disciples had asked, if they were the guilty party, also asked, “Master, is it I?” (Matt 26:25). Judas asked whether he was the one who would betray Jesus. Betrayal occurs in various forms. It appears that Judas’s betrayal may have been rooted in monetary gain. He exchanged loyalty for lucre, friendship for finances. Evangelists, missionaries, and missionary agencies are not beyond betraying their loyalty to Jesus for lucre, their call for coins. We need to make our dollars count for missions and outreach. We should not make our money scarce. Churches and individuals are, however, to hold evangelists, missionaries, and mission agencies accountable for their support. If you financially support a missionary you have not heard from in six months to a year, how do you know he is still in the field? Perhaps he has returned home and taken a job.

Are you supplementing someone’s income or supporting missions? Regrettably, betrayals occur. Judas willingly betrayed Jesus for money. Keep in touch with those you support financially. Pray for those you support. Do not, however, allow your support to be misused by someone who has betrayed Jesus.

Discouraging Times

Discouraging Times

Missionaries, like other servants of God, face the temptation of discouragement. Some things that contribute to discouragement include working among an unresponsive or hostile people group; frequent ministry trips away from spouses and family; trying to solve problems and counsel with people in a language that one is still trying to learn; limited fellowship with others of like mind; and frequent harassment by local government officials.

In the midst of these discouragements, the Christian missionary must remain committed to the wonderful promise rooted in Matthew 16:18: “I say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Ministering in the strength and power of this promise, the Christian missionary can share the message of the gospel and be pleasing to God. Even after having experienced intense suffering and shameful treatment in Phillipi (Acts 16:12-24), Paul and his coworkers boldly proclaimed God’s Word in Thessalonica (I Thess 2:2). Maybe more impressive is how Paul and his coworkers treated the Thessalonians. They did not allow their former suffering to color their relational dynamics in Thessalonica.

In his missionary efforts, Paul exhibited gracious Christianity. Instead of being harsh and demanding, he was gentle and tolerant. Instead of giving strong and demanding commands, he exhibited a fond affection. In addition to imparting truth, he was willing to impart his very own life as well. Instead of living selfishly, he behaved blamelessly, like a father with his family.

Instead of becoming discouraged, missionaries should accept the challenge to share God’s Word by living out its principles. A compassionate and loving lifestyle attracts nonbelievers and impacts their hearts and souls to the glory of God.

Serve Willingly

Serve Willingly

Luke 1:26-42 is a very interesting account of a women who willingly rendered herself to God’s service, to God’s plan, to God’s program, and to God’s proposal. It challenges me when I read Mary’s humble response to the Angel Gabriel; “Behold the handmaid (bondslave) of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”

These are the words of a servant, They reflect the attitude of a person bound to God. The words reveal the disposition of someone who is willing and ready to make personal sacrifices for God, for His plan and His program, regardless of the outcome. Like Mary, most people in God’s service at one time or another have made a similar response to God. This certainly is true of missionaries. Like Mary missionaries are self-denying, self-giving, and self sacrificing. It is not unusual for missionaries to deny themselves the rights and privileges of their native country in order to spread the gospel in another country. Since many countries prohibit foreigners to possess land, it is not unusual for missionaries to give up the luxury of owning their own homes; nor is it unusual for missionaries to sacrifice the celebration of holidays with extended families. In fact, some people who serve in tropical climates or in Africa  even in many third-world countries sacrifice their own personal health and perhaps their lives to spread the gospel. Missionaries who rightly serve our Lord and Saviour have the same humble response as Mary did: “Behold the [bondslave] of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). In fact, we are to serve the Lord in our mission fields with a like attitude.

Jim Elliot wrote, “As your life is in His hands, so are the days of your life. But don’t let the sands of time get into the eye of your vision to reach those who sit in darkness. They simply must hear” (Elliott). “I know that my hopes and plans for myself could not be any better than He has arranged and fulfilled them. Thus may we all find it, and know the truth of the word which says, ‘He will be our Guide even until death.”

Lord, as You lead us from day to day, help us have the same attitude as Mary. Help us be able to say, “Behold the [bondslave] of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). Amen.

Godly Discipline

Godly Discipline

When we see parents permitting their child to stage a temper tantrum, we are witnessing a failure of love. True love restrains the child because he has not learned to restrain himself. When, on the other hand, parents employ godly discipline, they are teaching their children to please God.

In a self-indulgent society, godly discipline is sometimes labeled “child abuse.” It is no wonder, that there is so little understanding of a heavenly Father who also disciplines His children. If God is both loving and just, how could He act otherwise? Justice requires that punishment be meted out when sin is committed, while love uses every stratagem possible to dissuade us from sinning. It is an awful thing to think that people in other countries are bound for hell unless they hear and respond to the gospel; but how sad it will be for those who know the gospel and do nothing about it. Jesus said, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Like 12:48). This verse has a powerful application to the work of missions. How can we enjoy freedom and comfort at home, while showing no regard for millions who are perishing in other regions of the world?

The missionary must go out in response to such needs in obedience to the command of the Saviour. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). When missionaries stop going and when believers at home stop supporting the men and women who are laboring in those distant fields, the church itself will be in a state of disobedience. It is a fearful thing to contemplate the church itself ripe for God’s judgment.