Missions: Local

As a child, my idea of a missionary was someone who traveled the world and spread the love of God wherever their travels took them! It was such an exciting concept, living in a strange land surrounded by people you couldn’t understand, and living in conditions that were very different than home. I aspired to do this, to travel the world and see what I could do for God. However, as I got older, it became clear that God had different plans, He started directing my heart towards various local children to teen aged programs. In a very short order my passion changed from travels to staying in Winkler and serving God in through local missions!

Local missions often don’t sound exciting to young people, they are too busy chasing after adventure to notice the adventure God might be calling them to right in their own backyard. Local missions can actually be just as exciting, and perhaps even more challenging than missions in some far off land.

What does local missions look like? It can be anything from helping a homeless person by giving them a couple of bucks, to large operations like Siloam Mission in Winnipeg, it can be as simple as saying a prayer for a strange or as complex as supporting a new family in your city, it can be seen or unseen.

This blog post is not to argue that people shouldn’t do missions far away, but that those that are called to local missions heed their calling, commit to their calling, and plant seeds in their local communities. So what I would like to look at is what does the Bible say about mission, what I see the local church doing correctly in regards to local missions, what I think our local church’s could perhaps improve/include in their local mission work.

I want to start with what the Bible says about missions, as I think the Bible is our ultimate guidance when it comes to living a life committed to God. Mark 16:15, Romans 10:13-15, 1 Chronicles 16:24, and Luke 24:47 are just a few verses where we are called to spread the Gospel and God’s love. They talk about the necessity of Christians spreading the word of God, to bring God’s love to all peoples in all locations across the globe, this means your neighbor and even those who would choose to harm you for your belief. We need to remember that in order to live a life devoted to God, we have to listen to his calling, and not our own selfish desires.

One thing I have always commended our local church’s (in Winkler) for is their ability to put aside their differences, and put on a joint worship service every year for the Harvest Festival. I absolutely love the fact that we are so community minded that we are willing to work together to further our brothers and sisters in their walks with Christ! Some things I admire my own church (Grace Mennonite Church) for is their devotion to our local youth, we put a lot of focus on our youth programs and I think it pays off, we have youth heading into all sorts of different mission fields, whether far away or close to home. I think that our church’s have a great awareness of the hurts in our local community and do a great job encouraging others to support local charities/organizations. I think our church’s as an organization is doing great work.

Where I see faults in the system, is with volunteers, I have found that over the last several years there has been a large decrease in volunteers, our church’s members, don’t seem to understand the value that their time adds, it is not all about money; money can keep a program funded, but without volunteers it won’t run. An example of this is my local church’s Sunday school program, every year we start late or just barely make it in time, because we do not have people volunteering as teachers/activity leaders. The tasks of being a Sunday school teacher are not complex, in fact they are very straight forward, everything is laid out for you and you basically have to show up and talk with the kids about Jesus! How hard is that? and guess what leading an activity station is even easier! This same rule applies to most organizations, the jobs of 90% of volunteers are easy and the only thing they require is time.

Basically, if you feel called to local ministry, don’t shy away from it because you think it won’t be an adventure or because you don’t think you will make a difference. Jump at the chance to serve your local community! God calls us to be a shining light on a hill, we live in a dark world that needs to see the light, and that applies to everyone. Live life as a servant because Matthew 20:26 says: “Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant”

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Homelessness, Refugees, and Homosexuality

Sometimes I feel that as a church we have this mentality that because someone comes from a different background than you or has different world views than you, we must put them in a different class of humanity and treat them differently than we would another human. I think this is wrong, God created all of us, and our job is to be God’s ambassadors! This means that we love those around us with God’s eternal love, whether or not they are making mistakes in their life, or going through a difficult time.We can show them God’s love and hopefully lead them to Christ who will then take over and start correcting their actions/or life experience.

My personal experience with Homeless people has varied, In grade 10 I took a trip with my senior youth group to Winnipeg, MB. One of the things we had to do was an urban plunge, and during this urban plunge one of our goals was to eat lunch with a homeless person whom we had packed a lunch for. My group wandered around the north end and eventually found someone to share a lunch with, I don’t remember everything that happened, but I remember that we got the chance to talk with this man and to learn about his life. The reason I like this memory is because I made it a point to treat this man as I would treat any other adult, with respect. This has not always been my experience, over the next 2 years of High School I became more shallow and started to judge the homeless people I would see, and if I thought they were too unclean, or not worthy of my time I would walk past them and treat them like garbage. Then we went on another trip, this time to Los Angeles, here I saw a whole new level of homelessness, there were people everywhere that were struggling, whether it was someone truly homeless or someone who struggled to make ends meet. It became clear to me after that trip that I could not continue to treat people like garbage, and that when someone needs my help it is my obligation as a Christian to help to the best of my ability. I try to treat every homeless person I see as an opportunity to show God’s love, and to bless someone, who deserves a blessing as much as the next person!

Recently, Canadians and others around the world have been given an amazing opportunity to bless men, women, and children from Syria with a new place to call home! I have heard many positive things about this, but I have also heard the negative. I would encourage those in the church that feel negatively about this opportunity to read Matthew 25:31-46. It is made very clear that when we help people in need that God is pleased with us! He has entrusted us with sharing his generosity that He has given us with the world.

Finally, our church has been in talks a lot recently about whether or not we will leave our church conference, and the reason we have been doing this is because the conference has been taking a very passive (aka not making a decision) on the subject of homosexuality. This confuses me because there are a number of verses that make it very clear that this is not something that God approves of. First it talks about it in the Old Testament with Leviticus 18:22 and then again in multiple places in the New Testament: 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 1 Timothy 1:8-11, etc. The New Testament also confirms that marriage is between a man and a woman with Mark 10:6-9. So my stance on this is clear that homosexuality is wrong, but God does not tell us to treat these people different. Yes, what they are doing is wrong, but as a Christian to a non-believer our objective is clear, to love them and lead them to Christ, once that is done Jesus will show himself to these men and women through the Bible and the way other Christians live their life, and hopefully they turn from their sin and repent and ask forgiveness, just like when we sin, we need to repent and allow God to take us back and commit ourselves to God. They are human and need to be treated like any other human being. God looks inside us at what we can be if we choose to follow Him.

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. – Anne Frank

I know there will be people that disagree with me and I would love to go out for coffee with anyone to discuss these topics!

Jesus Can Conquer Your Spirit of Fearfulness

Next week my little brother Sam leaves for a trip to Jamaica to do missions with Grace Senior Youth and YWAM. This brings back a lot of memories of my grade 12 year and my trip to L.A. to do the same thing. My biggest memory of my trip (not my best memory) is that I carried a huge spirit of fearfulness. I was scared to open my mouth and speak life into people I met on the street, subway, or fellow team members.

The focus of our trip to L.A. was to talk to the locals, to bring joy to peoples lives, and to spread the love of Jesus! Yet my spirit of fearfulness got in my way when I decided to not rely on the power and strength that God promises us (Isaiah 41:10). To give you an example we were told to sit next to strangers on the subway so we could get an opportunity to talk to them, I purposely was one of the last ones on the subway so that the other team members could sit next to strangers and I would get to sit alone or next to someone I knew. At the end of the trip I had only talked to 1 or 2 people, I did not get the experience that I was so excited for before we went.

The reason I share this is because I want to give this group of grad 11 & 12’s a chance to have an amazing trip where they rely completely on God, because that will give them the most meaningful trip!

You will feel tired during your mission work, but God promises to renew your strength in Isaiah 40:31. Rely on Gods strength and not your own, He has an abundance and wants to support you on this trip. The devil will try to interfere with your work (1 Peter 5:8), so spend time every day praying against the works of the devil in your life, because God has power of him and when you call on the name Jesus, Satan has no power over you.

Finally, I want to make a suggestion for everyone going on this missions trip or any other missions trip. Take a day or two to fast before your missions trip. God will reveal a lot to you during this time (Acts 13:2-3). He will reveal truths to you through the time you spend in prayer and study of the Bible.

If you are like me and only get the chance to build into one soul I have a quote from C.S. Lewis for you:

The salvation of a single soul is more important than the production or preservation of all the epics and tragedies in the world.
– C. S. Lewis

Our Sins, Gods Forgiveness

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. I have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, you have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Paul fell short of the glory of God.

What do we do with this knowledge that we are all falling short of the glory of God? We can seek forgiveness from the only one who can give it! We have been saved, because “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. ” John 3:16. God gave us a way out of what we deserved as a fallen race. We deserved death, we deserved an eternity in Hell, and we deserve all the consequences in our physical lives, because of the mistakes we have made. 

God is the ultimate judge of our souls, no matter what you have done in your physical life, you are eligible for Gods grace and mercy! You can be a murderer, liar, a thief, a homosexual, an adulterer, or even someone who is constantly jealous and envies their neighbors. What ever you have done in your life if you turn from it you can be brought into right relationship with God, but how do you do this? Well Psalms 51 is the prayer that David prayed after he was confronted about his dealings with Bathsheba (see 2 Samuel 11 if you do not know the story). And I think it shows us exactly how we should approach God with our mistakes.

Be gracious to me, God,
according to Your faithful love;
according to Your abundant compassion,
blot out my rebellion.
Wash away my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I am conscious of my rebellion,
and my sin is always before me.
Against You—You alone—I have sinned
and done this evil in Your sight.
So You are right when You pass sentence;
You are blameless when You judge.
Indeed, I was guilty when I was born;
I was sinful when my mother conceived me.

Surely You desire integrity in the inner self,
and You teach me wisdom deep within.
Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones You have crushed rejoice.
Turn Your face away[a] from my sins
and blot out all my guilt.

10 God, create a clean heart for me
and renew a steadfast[b] spirit within me.
11 Do not banish me from Your presence
or take Your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore the joy of Your salvation to me,
and give me a willing spirit.[c]
13 Then I will teach the rebellious Your ways,
and sinners will return to You.

14 Save me from the guilt of bloodshed, God,
the God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing of Your righteousness.
15 Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare Your praise.
16 You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it;
You are not pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifice pleasing to God is[d] a broken spirit.
God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart.

18 In Your good pleasure, cause Zion to prosper;
build[e] the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then You will delight in righteous sacrifices,
whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on Your altar.

This is the Old Testament, so we do not have to make sacrifices, because Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us! One thing that I really love about this passage is that it shows us that we should not be ashamed to bring our troubles and temptations to the Lord. God knows what we have done and just seeks us to ask for His forgiveness and seek to repent from our sins, because God loves us and is willing to take the suffering onto his own shoulders!

God is great! His love moves past our sins and affects the very deepest part of our soul. May God use this passage to attach to the deepest roots inside your heart so that you to will seek Gods grace and His love!

Warning to the Young, Reminder to the Old

Since Adam and Eve disobeyed God the first time, we have had an abundance of sin in our world. Satan uses everything from a simple song, to the leaders of our countries to influence the nations and try to overtake our world. Satan’s goals are to kill and destroy, to make sure as little people follow Jesus as possible, and to condemn us to his home (Hell) for eternity.

Now as a warning this post was brought on by the recent decision of the USA Supreme Court to legalize same sex marriage in the United States, but it is so much bigger than that issue. Satan is creeping into our lives little by little because of the influence he has over the media, social media, the world’s leadership and so much more.

My warning to the younger generation is this. That we do not confuse making our faith our own, with changing the rules. God gave us the Bible which is filled with instructions on how to live a godly life. Making our faith our own is learning how to use this knowledge in everyday life, building a relationship with Jesus, and showing others that love no matter who they are or what they believe. Now I have recently seen this phrase “make your faith your own” be used in a different sense. Someone recently posted on Facebook that “What happened to making my faith my own” which implied “why can’t I be OK with gay marriage?”. Well let me tell you why gay marriage is not ok. The easiest place to look is 1 Corinthians 6:9 “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men”. There you have it plain as day that Jesus does not approve of a homosexual lifestyle (don’t worry if you read the rest of the chapter I am using it in the right context). So back to my original point, making your faith your own does not mean changing what the Bible says, so if the Bible says homosexuality is wrong, then that means that a Christian should not in any way support this lifestyle.

Just because we don’t support something does not mean that we should not love the person. God loved everyone from tax collectors who cheated their fellow Jews out of money, to the woman at the well who had, had many husbands, to children who were innocent. So therefore we to need to show love to everyone from every background.

Finally I want to remind people of the older generation, do not doubt what you have believed for so long! God has taught you so much and is still teaching you, but He does not change what He has taught you. I have seen so many of the older generations change what they believe as soon as they are hit with a new task. Remember God has strength enough for you, you just need to ask.

Saving A Christian Can Be Painful, But Rewarding!

God saved us from our sin, and to do so he had to give his one and only Son! (John 3:16) How painful it must have been for Jesus here on Earth, but He endured through the paid to bring us closer to Him! Sometimes, we must also endure pain and hardship in this world to bring someone back to salvation and eternal life. Not only can it be physically painful, but it can be spiritually and emotionally painful to walk with someone when they are so clearly walking away from you and God.

God is love, therefore love is what we need to do when we want to save someone from their sin. (1 Peter 4:8) This sounds easy enough, but how do you tell a fellow Christian that what they are doing is wrong in a loving way, well believe it or not the Bible has instructions on that too! Matthew 18:15-20 tells us that there is a way to tell a fellow Christian that what they are doing is wrong, and it is in love. I would always suggest approaching God first, for strength, endurance, wisdom, and courage. Often this process of helping someone back to God can be a long process, so make sure that you rely on God’s strength and not your own. After you have talked to God, take the person aside and point out their sin. This sounds rude, but as Christians we are called to sharpen each other (Proverbs 27:17), this does not mean point out their every fault, but it means that we need to build each other up, if this includes fixing the foundation of their faith, then yes point out the sin.

I have often made the mistake of sending a Facebook message or text message, and this has always back fired on me, I believe that the process mentioned in Matthew 18 needs to be done in person, I believe that this allows God to be present to the both of you, and when is that ever a bad thing.

One thing I have learned over the years, is that God does not work on our schedule. Sometimes, there is a lesson that you or the person you are trying to help needs to learn before this sin can be resolved. God is not here to relieve us of the consequences of our sin, but to save us from the sin itself. Remember, God does not work on your schedule so do not expect.

“Never, in peace or war, commit your virtue or your happiness to the future. Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment ‘as to the Lord.’ It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.” —from The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis

Matthew: Build your foundation

Have you ever run into a situation where you feel called to talk to someone about Jesus and salvation, but you back off because you are worried they will have questions you can’t answer? I sure have; we as humans will never fully understand everything, but God gave us the Bible as a guide and the rest is faith.

The Bible is our guide, it helps us build a foundation that supports our continued faith. Last week I was reading through Matthew 13 “the Parable of the Sower” and it clicked how important a foundation is. Our faith is a living thing, and like all living things if it does not have a proper source of sustenance (foundation or the Word) our faith will die. To use another example, if you built a fire and the fire represented your faith and oxygen/wood represented your foundation what would happen if you took the wood or oxygen away? You would no longer have a fire, the same is true with our faith.

This Bible passage also brought another thought to mind. I have often thought about people that get baptized right after hearing about Jesus for the first time, and Matthew 13:5-6 made me think about this. I don’t think that baptizing someone right after they hear about Jesus is wrong, but it always worried me. Now I know why it did, these people are like the seeds that fell on the rocky soil, they have a large “rush” of Jesus, but quickly fall back to their old ways. Like I said before it is not wrong to baptize people right after they learn about Jesus, but my warning to the people that are baptizing others is that you should make sure that the person has someone who can give them support and teach them the foundation after. I like to think of it as transplanting the plant to the good soil.

It is always important to have a proper foundation, so please if you are new to having a relationship with Jesus, ask someone to guide you through some of your questions, and build up your foundation.

Our responsibilities as Christians is to build our foundation so we can step out in faith, and start a new foundation for somebody else. By talking to that person on the street or at work you are doing this!

“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” Genesis 1:31a

Matthew: Pray For Our Enemies?

I am going to be starting a new series of posts, my goal with this series is partially selfish, but also not. A couple of Saturday’s ago my church’s two awesome youth pastors Corey and Autumn put on a seminar type thing for youth leaders. It was focused a lot on where we are at and how that affects our youth (or at least that is what it was like for me). One of the questions was “Are you excited about the Gospel? Why or why not?” Wow, what a question, I had not been thinking about that at all, and after praying and taking time to think about it, I came to the disappointing conclusion that no at this point in my life I was not excited or anything about it. So my goal with this new series is to keep me focused on reading through the Gospel and to push me deeper. The other side of it is I want to hopefully help people to understand things in the Bible better, and also to challenge them to go deeper with their time in the Bible. Now onto the actual post!

With everything that has been happening with ISIS and the attacks on Parliament and numerous other things, I have been thinking a lot about the action we take on ISIS, as well as terrorists inside Canada. It has been a hard subject for me to think about, because my initial thoughts are that we need to fight back, that we need to boost security and take action! On the other hand I don’t condone murder. This has been extremely hard to think about as I have been reading through Matthew the last couple of weeks. Matthew 5:43-44 says that we should love and pray for our enemies. When was the last time you prayed for ISIS or the KKK or any other terrorist or extremist group that threatens the safety of both Canada and countries around the world? I can tell you that in my memory I can not remember a single time that I have ever prayed for either of those groups.

When Jesus says that we should pray for our enemies what does He mean? Well, He is not saying that we should pray them out of existence, instead we should pray that they would be changed by the Holy Spirit, and find trust in the Lord. Now obviously this does not mean we stop defending our nation as well as helping nations that are not as developed as Canada, but it does mean that we have to pray for these people. We also need to pray for the leaders of our country as well as the leaders of other nations. We need them to make the right decisions, to not endanger innocents, and to free those being persecuted.

Please join me this coming month and pray for people that are a part of these organizations. That they would have a change of heart, that the Holy Spirit would do a work in their lives like non-before. Is their any better Christmas present for these men and women than to be prayed for and find salvation in Jesus Christ? “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” Romans 3:23-24