Tag Archives: missions

More Lessons from Jonah — Going to the Hard Places

Sunday I taught an overview of the small book of Jonah.  We looked at the role and shape of Jonah among the minor prophets.  In the antihero of Jonah, I tried to demonstrate the love of God for the nations.

To the very end of the story Jonah never embraced God’s call.  In the words of VeggieTales:  “Jonah was a prophet and he never really got it.”  Jonah, the seemingly good news prophet ends up being the bad guy.

His selfishness, nationalism, and pride prevented him initially from obeying God and ultimately from enjoying the love and mercy that God extended to the Ninevites.  Jonah didn’t want God to show mercy on his enemies.

Jonah was not willing to sacrifice his reputation, comfort, or life for the story and glory of God.  The call to go is bigger than my reputation, my comfort, and even my life.

In conversation with one of the pastors at my church I was reminded of the importance of seeing God for who he really is and myself for what I really am.  It is so easy (like Jonah) to think that God must act the way I want him to.  He must love who I love and punish who I hate.  Just like Jonah fostered an us versus them mentality between the Israelites and Ninevites, I often foster an us versus them mentality.  With the recent anniversary of 9/11 I am reminded how many Christians still view Islam as the enemy.

I am reminded that our power and hope is in the gospel.  It can break any chain of Islam.  As a Christian I am called to demonstrate the scandalous love of Christ.

In 2004, five Southern Baptist Missionaries were serving in Mosul, Iraq (geographically analogous to ancient Ninevah).  They had moved to Iraq to share the glory of the gospel with the Iraqi people and serve them by researching opportunities to provide clean water.  The five missionaries (Larry and Jean Elliott, David and Carrie McDonnall, and Karen Watson) were ambushed by gunmen.  Carrie McDonnall was the only survivor.  Prior to leaving for Iraq, Karen Watson had written a letter to be read upon her death.  She knew the risk of going to such a difficult place.

I wasn’t called to a place. I was called to Him,” she wrote. “To obey was my objective, to suffer was expected, His glory was my reward, His glory is my reward.”

Anticipating her death may cause others to question the need for the humanitarian work in Iraq to continue, Watson clearly said one of the most important things is to “preserve the work.  Keep sending missionaries out. Keep raising up fine young pastors.”

In making a few requests for a funeral service, Watson said to keep it simple and preach the Gospel.  “Be bold and preach the life saving, life changing, forever eternal GOSPEL. Give glory and honor to our Father,” she wrote.

Watson quoted The Missionary Heart, which says in part, “Risk more than some think is safe,” a line that resonates with the endeavor she undertook in a war-torn country.  She listed some of her favorite passages of Scripture, including 2 Corinthians 15:5, which says, “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” Another was Romans 15:20, which says, “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known.”  In closing, Watson wrote, “There is no Joy outside of knowing Jesus and serving Him.”

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Disciples that make disciples…

Recently my friend Bryan Barley came to our church here in Suffolk, VA.  He was sharing with our elders on Tuesday night and with the larger congregation on Wednesday.  Bryan and I have been friends for a few years now and I have always enjoyed the way he can challenge me in a Biblical and gentle way.  I genuinely feel that he is a friend that sharpens me and nudges me toward faithfulness.

It was fun to hang out with Bryan as we talked about the gospel, theology, ministry, and life.  We mixed in a some sports, comedy, and ridiculous religious broadcasting to top it off.

If you are unaware of the journey that Bryan and his family are undertaking you should check out their church.  They are moving to Denver, CO in January of 2011 to plant a gospel-centered community right in the middle of the city.  Rarely have I found a church planter as gifted, thoughtful, teachable, and faithful as Bryan.

It was refreshing to be around Bryan because he thinks the way all Christians should be thinking — like a missionary.  Nothing is off limits.  Every strategy, relationship, and plan is tested against the Scriptures for the purpose of sharing the gospel with the nations.

Bryan shared many insightful things about missions, urban ministry, church planting, community, and mission.  One thing he mentioned has continued to haunt me: as Christians we do a lot of different things when are really called to do only one thing and do it well — we are to be disciples that make disciples.

As Christians it is easy to get distracted by buildings, staff, programs, strategies, fads, events, budgets, and more.  The will of God, however, is simple — go and make disciples.  Go to the nations.  Go to the neighborhoods.  Go to the cities.  Go to the companies.  Go to the schools.  GO!

Among all the things (some of them good and some of them bad) that I am doing, am I doing the one thing I am called by God to do?

Lessons from Jonah

This summer I am teaching the young adults at Nansemond River Baptist Church about the “Mission of God” (Missio Dei for those of you who enjoy dead languages).  After a brief introduction discussing a Biblical Theology of mission (don’t worry, if “teenagers” can learn trigonometry they can learn Biblical Theology) we are spending the next few weeks in the beautiful book of Jonah.  The other night I taught through the first chapter of Jonah.

I don’t want to reproduce the entire discussion but God has really been working in my heart as I study this book.  Here are a few takeaways from Jonah 1.

1.  Jonah was a faithful prophet as long as God acted like he expected.  Jonah, in this story, is not just running away from serving God, he’s running away from serving God where it is hard.  This is a hard lesson for me to learn.  Jonah hated the Ninevites; they are the sworn enemies of his people.  For Jonah, the Ninevites did not deserve a chance to repent.  He was nervous that God might actually save them.  The questions I ask myself are sometimes hard to answer:  Where is it hard for me to serve God?  Who are the people that I feel don’t deserve the love and forgiveness of God?  Do I value my national loyalties more than the souls of the lost persons around the world?  Are their groups of people who I don’t want to hear the gospel?  Would I go to a hard place like Iran, Iraq or Indonesia to share the gospel or am I content to see these people die and spend eternity in hell?

2.  God sent, pursued, and saved His messenger but the messenger was never the point, it was always about the message.

3.  The point of Jonah is not about a whale, it’s about the God of the whale.  It’s about a God who rescued a messenger so He could rescue an entire people.  The story of Jonah is not about how much God loved Jonah, though He surely did; it’s about how much He loved the Ninevites.  The book of Jonah is about an upside-down God showing love and compassion to the last people on earth anyone ever expected.

4.  God does not just want to save you, He wants to use you.  When God confronts you with the needs of the world around you, it’s not just about Him pursuing you; He is pursuing the lost world through you.  When God calls you it is because He loves the world.  When He rescues you it is so that you might bring rescue to the world!

Whose are You? A Friday Quote

If you are a Christian, you are not your own.  Christ has bought you at a price of his own death.  You now belong doubly to God:  He made you, and he bought you.  That means your life is not your own.  It is God’s.  Therefore, the Bible says, “Glorify God in your body.”  God made you for this.  He bought you for this.  This is the meaning of your life

John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life

Seems simple enough.

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed?  How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?  And how will they hear without a preacher? (Romans 10:14).

I am an expert at rationalizing and justifying my own behavior.  I could take this simple statement from Scripture and find a way assuage my guilt because I don’t go and tell.  Why is it so hard to obey?