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

Spring Cleaning God Style!

Recently my sister Alyson got married and moved out of my parents house (where I currently live) I got the chance to take her old room, which I jumped on because it is bigger :). So when we started moving my stuff from the basement to the upstairs room, it was my opportunity to do some spring cleaning, I threw out a lot of old things. This experience got me thinking, God probably wants us to do spring cleaning (more like spring, summer, fall and winter cleaning) of our minds/hearts as well. So I want to search in the Bible with all my readers and discover what the Bible has to say about our job as Christians to make sure our thoughts are pure and remain pure.

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.Colossians 3:1-2. This is our goal for our minds. It is clear from these verses that we need to make our goal eternal, not the here and now. God doesn’t leave us hanging there, the Bible is filled with instructions on how to get there. Let’s take a look at a couple of those instructions.

Let’s start with the Bible itself. God gave his children (us) an instruction manual that is more useful than any instruction manual that you have ever come across and it is called the Bible. If you want to keep your thoughts pure and on the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ, the best thing to do is read the Word. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1: 1-5. As I have been learning at SNG (the church service I attend Saturday Night Grace) the writer of this book is extremely intentional in his words and wants to make a point. The point that is being made here is that Jesus is the Word, The Word has always been with God, and is God. Confusing right? it involves the Trinity, which I am do not know everything about, and no one knows everything about God so that is just that. Anyways back to the point I am trying to make. The Word is Jesus, the Word is God, the Word is the Bible. So God has given us Him in the Bible. If that is true which I believe it is, then we must read the Bible in order to “keep our thoughts on things above”.

“This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”” Matthew 6:9-13. This is a perfect example of a prayer that would help us to “keep our thoughts on things above”, and as noted above it comes from The Bible. God wants to help us in everyday life and when we pray things like the prayer above, He will.

Finally the last thing I want to just touch on is, we need to take a good look at our playlists, movie choices, and book choices to make sure that we are not stuffing garbage into our mind. Now the thing I want to say about this is that it is not bad to read about fantasy or sci-fi, God gave us our imagination. Just like everything God gave us, Satan likes to use it to twist our mind, but we have to remember that God gave it to us and if we believe in him we can use it for good.

I hope all this made sense. Have a good day and God bless all of you reading.