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”

Advertisements

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!

Aly & Tim Neufeld: Marriage, School, and Life

This post has been a long time coming. I originally planned to have these two as quests on my blog in December, but life has been busy/exhausting these last couple of months. Anyways here is my post about Aly & Tim.

A little background on my relationship with these two. Alyson is my only sister, and we have been through a lot. There were years where we were very close and there were years that we were very far apart. Although our relationship was rocky at times, I believe that we have come out the better for it. I think God used those rough years to teach us both valuable lessons. Tim and I don’t go as far back, but I think we have become good friends in the shorter amount of time. We worked together at McDonald’s for a number of years, and had similar hobbies throughout high school which allowed us to build a strong friendship. I asked Aly & Tim to answer a few questions and here are their responses.

Q: What is one hard thing about being newlyweds
A: I wouldn’t say that there is a hard thing about being newlyweds, it’s a learning experience and it is a lot of fun. I remember lots of people being shocked that we were newlyweds and going to school because they thought it was going to be extremely difficult to do, but it hasn’t been difficult and I am glad that we can help each other out and work together. One thing that isn’t fun about this semester at school is how little we see each other on Tuesdays and Thursdays so that is definitely something we are going to have to work with.
T: Learning to use the word ‘we’ instead of the word ‘I’ is a new change for my vocabulary. As long as we keep our minds open and respect each other, the learning experience Aly mentioned really is a lot of fun. We share a whole life together and we learn to take on the world as a team.

Q: What are some things you guys are currently learning about at Briercrest?
A: A lot. We are learning about all sorts. I am completing a certificate in Biblical studies so I have been taking a lot of bible courses. This semester I am taking Gospels, Intro to Psych II, History of Christianity II, Intro to Christian Theology and General Epistles.
T: Well, I learn Greek, South Asian history, Foundations in youth ministry, Geography (To fill my science requirements), and Exodus. I have taken mostly Bible, History, Theology, and TESOL classes so far.

Q: What have you learned about married life after being married for 9 months?
A: It is a lot of fun, I love being married to my amazing and cute husband. It feels so good to come home to someone you know loves and care for you. I can’t imagine my life without my wonderful husband. Married life is not a piece of cake though, we both have to work through things together and sometimes we have to make difficult decisions.
T: I have learnt that we have created a new family by stepping out of our birth families and uniting into one of our own. I think this is important because it helps us put each other first. I have learnt that married life is great. It is all around a good time. You get to do everything together! Ad she listens to my rambling… which is very important for a rambler like me.

Q: How do you incorporate God in your marriage?
A: We always make sure to pray together and out loud. Often when I am getting frustrated or annoyed I get told to pray or read the Bible. We both find it very important to have God in our marriage and we both try to read the Bible and pray often. In our marriage counseling they talked a lot about communication with the Lord and asking for his guidance on our marriage.
T: Probably one of my favourite times of the day is right before we sleep. For us, this is a time to debrief the day with each other and with God. We encourage and exhort each other to live strong biblical lives, as we are an example to many other couples here who are dating, engaged, or married. We continue to give thanks for the provisions God has granted us, we pray over decisions, and continually ask for guidance in future things.

Q: What are some funny/amusing differences or habits that you learned about each other since being married?
A: I know what Tim is going to say when he answers this question. You will often see us speed walking around Caronport because Tim always like to be on time whenever we go somewhere and I am always okay with being a little late so we often struggle with that difference. For the most part I would say we work with our differences, Tim used to never put away his jacket, now he does, that sort of thing. We are both pretty honest when it comes to things that annoy each other so we work to fix them.
T: First, I don’t think Aly knows how to close a closet door. To her, they must just be holes in the wall. Second, light switches. What are they for? She will never know. Lastly, Aly does not think the action of sitting can be done without another action. This second action can be anything from destroying cup lids to playing with a pencil. We joke about these things, and we have a good time. A wise man told me not to worry about the little things, and he was right. Things go a lot smoother when you just don’t worry about the small stuff.

Q: If you look back on you time that you dated, what are some things you would do differently? the same?
A: Something I really liked about dating is that we spent a lot of time together, I felt like I really got know Tim during this time. While we were dating we also prayed together and read couple’s devotionals together and talked about God and the future a lot. Something I would do differently is do things. We often would watch TV and talk and not do much else. We both did work full time jobs and were pretty tired after a long day’s work and didn’t really want to do much.
T: Aly nailed it with her answer., We were both quite tired after work during that time, but I too wish we would have wasted less time on TV. I think intenionality was a big deal for me, and I made that known. Getting to know someone takes time, so if you want to know someone better, spend more time with them. That part was not rocket science. Sharing dreams and aspirations was something I think is also important. Devotionals, prayer, and spiritual encouragement are great things that worked well for us, and I’d encourage anyone in a strong relationship to do the same.

Q: How have you been reaching out to those around to you to inspire, encourage and love them?
T: Aly & I try to be good examples in how we conduct ourselves in class and among our friends here at Briercrest. We are trying to get more out of our shell this semester and both do some volunteering. Last semester I worked at a local church on Friday nights teaching English and running short bible studies with the immigrants.

Q:Did you have to make any lifestyle changes since moving to Caronport? If so, what and why?
A: Well since we are going to school that is very different from the work lifestyle. I actually have to schedule what my week/dy is going to look like and be disciplined with myu time which I didn’t do at all when I was working because it was the same thing every day. We have a dog so we have learned how to her in our day. We really learned and enhoyed our time here so far and hope to continue doing that.

Q: Are there any verses or words of encouragement that have gotten you through tough times at any point in life or during married life?
A:I have always enjoyed Paul and his letters, especially his letter to the Philippians. His words are encouraging and direct.
Philippians 4:4-9 “rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

T:I have five verses right above my computer. They focus me. This smattering of Scripture is to remind me why I am at school, what good my degree will do, how I am going to get it done, and who it is all for.

  1. Micah 6:8 -He has told you, O man, what is good;
    And what does the Lord require of you
    But to do justice, to love kindness,
    And to walk humbly with your God?
  2. Proverbs 1:7 – The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
    Fools despise wisdom and instruction.
  3. James 1:5-8 -But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
  4. Philippians 2:13 – For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.
  5. Luke 10:2 – And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore ask the Lord of the harvest that he send out workers into his harvest.

The rules to marriage are simple 1. love God 2. Love each other 3. love others. Marriage is not always simple, but God has provided guidelines in the Bible as to what it should look like. I think Tim and Aly understand these rules and if they follow them they will have a marriage filled with Joy, it won’t always be easy, but it will be joyful!

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

Worship

Image

Worship is an integral part of the Christian faith. There are a large number of verses in the Bible that in some way tell us to worship/praise God. My favourite verse is actually one of these. “Praise the LORD, O my soul: And all that is within me, bless his holy name” Psalm 103:1 (KJV). For the longest time I had a very shallow vision of what worship was, I had always assumed that worship was when we sang praise and worship songs at youth, Sunday school, church, etc. It wasn’t until probably grade 10 or 11 that I realized that there was so much more to it than that.

Our Father wants us to worship Him because he provides, is watching over us, created us, and an endless amount of other reasons. Just like there is an endless amount of things to praise God for, there are almost as many ways to worship him. To name just a few prayer (1 Chronicles 29:10), Singing (James 5:13), and reading the Bible. I have always “struggled” with prayer, I struggle to say what I need to, but what I have come to realize these last 2 years is that the times I struggled to come up with the right words were the times that I was farthest away from Jesus. God knows exactly what is going on in our lives, and he has no need to hear our prayers, but he chooses to listen to our pleas and praise, because he wants to comfort us and wants us to know that he is always there.

God knows that we as humans will not always want to worship Him, because we don’t see the bigger picture and when trials and tribulations come our way we get angry, sad, depressed, etc. So what has He told us to do? He says Lament. Lament is defined in the dictionary as “to express sorrow, mourning, or regret”. God wants to here our sorrows, our pain, our anger, our frustration, etc. As I said above, He knows what is going on, He wants us to cry out to Him so that we can become closer to Him.

I want to encourage you to try a new form of worship or one that maybe you haven’t done in a while. For example if you haven’t served someone in a while try that, or if you don’t take time out of your day to read the Bible read a chapter a day for the next week. Jesus wants a relationship with us and relationships are not one sided, we can not expect Jesus to do everything for us if we are not willing to get into the thick of it and make a commitment to spend time with Him. Hopefully by serving you will learn something new about yourself, about Jesus and about your relationship with Him.