Pray for Tanzania

Dear Heavenly Father,

Today, I pray for the country of Tanzania through a prayer of thanks.

First, thank You for the Tanzanian people. All are fearfully and wonderfully made, all with a purpose. I pray that those who do not yet know You will see Your presence in a magnificent sunrise or through a helpful hand of a neighbor. I lift up those who do not understand their purpose and pray that they will find You soon on their spiritual journey.  I have hundreds of thousands of prayers for the amazing people in this beautiful country to be touched by the Holy Spirit, especially when they live without clean water, secure shelter, enough food or education.

Today, I pray to You, my Father, my Heavenly protector, to shield the Tanzanian people from the evils of this world. Guard them from false idols and sorcery.  Lord, hear my prayer as I lift up these welcoming and warm people of Tanzania so they may know You and understand that You are way, the truth, and the life. Through You, they will find a home and be secure. Lord, hear my prayer.

Today is Your day, the day You created for all people to rest and take time to remember their blessings and Your grace. I am thankful for You and Your perfect creation; You have made the country of Tanzania filled with many blessings and gifts. Today I saw You when I was walking through Your beautifully created landscape; birds singing, monkeys playing, perfectly made granite hills with acacia trees nearby. As I look out at the vastness of Lake Victoria, I am reminded that Your love is even more vast. Thank You for giving Your only son so we can see Your love on earth, then eternally with You in heaven.

Heavenly Father, today I am filled with joy, because I can hear songs being sung in Your name, and I know that one day, these Tanzanian people who praise Your name will come home to You. I am thankful for the church and the missionaries who have come to this land to teach Your truth. I pray that one day, all people in Tanzania will know You through Your son Jesus Christ our Lord and savior. Lord, thank You for not forsaking us and forgiving us of our sins.

In Your gracious name I pray. Amen

An Egg

“I found it!” called my wife from the kitchen. She was excited. “Our can of pumpkin pie filling!”

We were still fairly new missionaries in the rain forest of the Indonesian province of Papua. The initial excitement of being there had about worn off. We were feeling the responsibilities of communicating the gospel to an animistic tribe. We were also feeling the loneliness and isolation of being the only western family in our area.

Although not on the Indonesian calendar, Thanksgiving was still on ours and we wanted it to be as familiar and comfortable as it could be half the world away from home. We didn’t have a turkey, but we could get chicken. We could get some familiar vegies flown in from other mission stations. Now, with the pumpkin pie filling, so lovingly carried from home and stored away for just such an occasion, we were ready for a family feast.

Then my wife read the label. “Oh, no! We need two eggs. Do we have any eggs left?”

We were so isolated, we had to have some foods, like eggs, flown in from the capital city on a missionary plane. We usually ordered eggs in trays of 30, which had to last the couple of weeks between flights. Our tray was empty. No eggs, no pie.

For the sake of our 3-year-old (as much as for our own), we tried to be upbeat. But our little one had a better idea.

“If we need eggs, and we don’t have any, let’s ask Jesus to give us an egg.”

Looking back, I’m not sure how much faith I had, but we followed her childish confidence. Together we bowed and let her pray a very simple, “Jesus, we need an egg. We don’t have one. Please send us an egg for our pie.”

In the busyness of starting our day the next morning, we noticed an older woman from the nearby village standing just outside our kitchen.

As I approached her, she held out her hand, showing what looked like a mound of grass and leaves. As I watched, she stuck a finger into the grass and wiggled it around, revealing – yes, you guessed it -- one small, dirty chicken egg.

The next day, Thanksgiving, we had our feast, complete with a pumpkin pie which, even with only one egg, tasted heavenly to us.

We were thankful, very specifically, for the egg. We were even more thankful that we could come to God with such a childish request, and He cared enough about us to honor that request.

Since that day over 40 years ago, I’ve not forgotten that we should be thankful, not only for the specific visible blessings God gives us, but even more thankful to know that we are His children, He loves us, He hears us, and He has already given us everything we need in Him.

Pray for Earth

Father,

We pray for the tragedies going on on a global scale. We lift up all those who have experienced tragedy this year. We pray that you mold our hearts to be more like yours. May we have hearts that seek peace and love genuinely. May that peace and love overcome hate and violence. Open our eyes and ears to the needs around us, and help us be the hands and feet able to meet those needs.

So much has come against us this year- in the US alone there has been multiple shootings, hurricanes, fires, and much more. We pray for healing where there is hurt and fresh beginnings and hope where there is ashes. We pray against any lines of division in our global society. We pray to be able to unite with Your love that covers a multitude of sins. Above all we ask that Your will be done in us and through us and that we can be nations of good and faithful servants.

In Jesus’s name, Amen.

Can God be Thankful?

Here we are, less than two weeks from Thanksgiving. I’ve been watching some Facebook friends counting down the days through this month with specific things for which they are thankful. Many people, no matter what their faith, are probably thinking the same way.

Then, earlier this week, this thought hit me. What is God thankful for?

My mind quickly began sorting through the many Bible passages stored away there over my 50+ years of following Christ. I could think of many people who were thankful in scripture. Jesus told his followers to be thankful. The apostolic writers reminded us to be thankful. Jesus, himself, offered thanks to the Father several times.

I couldn’t find any reference in the entire Bible to God the Father being thankful!

Since that initial thought, I’ve searched through various internet posts on the subject. Almost all agree God can be thankful, but they infer that through philosophic or theological arguments rather than the Bible. I can follow their trains of thought, and almost agree with their conclusions.

Here’s one of my own. By our human definition of thankful, we cannot prove that the sovereign, all powerful God has anyone to whom he can offer thanks. He is the ultimate giver, not receiver.

However, He can be pleased and acknowledge when something good is done in His name. Creation is an example, where He consciously and verbally expressed approval over His own work by saying, “. . . it was good.”

He can be pleased and acknowledge when His people do the right thing, as when He declared to Moses, “I am pleased with you.”

I tend to think His ultimate pleasure comes as described by Jesus in Luke 15:8-10. “. . . suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

Going along with this, in another of Jesus’ parables, we see a picture of a young man who takes his share of the family wealth, leaves home, and loses everything to bad choices. Then this prodigal son repents, and returns home. His father welcomes him back without harsh words or actions, and shows his pleasure at the son’s return by celebrating. Given as a picture of a sinner returning to his God, it is also a picture of his heavenly Father’s pleasure that he has returned.

As we celebrate our own Thanksgiving holiday in two weeks, we will thank God for some of the specific blessings He has given us over this year. We’ll say, “thank you!”

I sincerely hope that He, in turn, will be pleased with us: for coming to, or back to, Him, and for helping others to do the same.

Pray for Canada

Gracious God and Father,

Thank you for your great grace extended to all men through faith in Jesus Christ. Thank you that you gave to Christ all authority over your Kingdom, and that we, his disciples, are sent as sons and daughters of the Kingdom to bring people everywhere to the obedience of faith through the gospel of Christ. Thank you that the Church in Canada was once one of the greatest senders of missionaries into the world.

But now, gracious Lord, this is no longer true. It makes us sad that under the pernicious influence of modernity and now post modernity, many churches have watered down the gospel till it is no gospel at all. Our nation is now totally secular, and it grieves us that godless ideas and philosophies are now indoctrinated in schools and social media to the point that these are unconsciously accepted by some believers. Canada has become a mission field.

Canada has always been a country of immigrants, and recently has welcomed thousands of refugees from Syria to add to the matrix of people from all over the world—from Russia and Eastern Europe; from the Far East and the Middle East; and from Asia and Africa. Now, more than 150 languages are spoken here. Truly this is a mission field, Lord, and we remind ourselves that you sent your disciple to keep making disciples of all ethné.

But Lord, the churches are so weak; Christians don’t study their Bibles any more, some even doubt it is the authoritative Word of God. These weak Christians don’t know how to witness; they are fearful of their Muslim, Hindu and Sikh neighbours; and even when they befriend their neighbours, they have been taught not to offend them by sharing their beliefs.

Our aching hearts cry out to you, O Lord. We pray for this mission field. Stir up the local church through faithful teachers and prophets who will be able to equip the church for the Christ-given task. Help the lively African, Chinese, Korean, Filipino and other churches, who for years have focused on their own people. Now stir up these ethnic churches to lift up their eyes and look on the Canadian fields. And Lord, bless the young Christians, both Canadian and International, at universities and colleges to be powerful bearers of the gospel to the next generation.

Above all, Lord, may all Canadians who truly love you: enlighten hearts and strengthened them by the Spirit. Help them grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ that by knowing him experientially, they may reject the ways of the world in which they live, that in faith and obedience they will live in Christ and for Christ.

To Jesus be ongoing praise and glory. Amen.

EXpire

            To die, to come to an end, to no longer be valid. All of these things come to mind with the word expire. Rarely do we think of exhaling, the alternate definition. Even further from our minds is creation and life. Our response to the great commission begins with being INspired. The living Word of God is taken into our hearts like a deep breath, fanning the sparks in our hearts to where we are stirred to action.

 

            Just as an exhale follows an inhale, after we are inspired, we EXpire. While we don't die or come to an end, our old self does. “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” Romans 6:11. Sin is that which turns us away from or separates us from running after God and His callings for us with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strengths. It's letting that fear get in the way of doing more. It's lack of belief in how much God truly loves you or just how BIG His plans for you may be. It's all of the weaknesses and shortcomings we know about ourselves that we let disqualify us. When we let these things die, or expire, we become truly alive. We breathe life out on the world around us.

 

            “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host” Psalm 33:6. This creative breath speaks things into existence that were not there before. That gift of breath is a gift He shared with us, that we may to continue “breathing” on His creation and stewarding the earth. In Ezekiel 37, God asks man to speak His word to dry bones so that they would live again. Dry bones represent something completely devoid of life and hope. As Ezekiel speaks in faith, exhaling the creative words of God, the impossible happens and LIFE comes. We have this same calling. We are charged to bring His word to the driest places so that it would restore life beyond our wildest hopes of restoration. Think right now of a place in your own life or in the world that is a dry valley that seems beyond restoration. Commit to pray about how God is calling you to expire. See what happens when you come alive in Christ Jesus and begin to breathe that same hope you were inspired by on the world around you.

Pray for Greece

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for your mercy in my life and for the grace to be able to co-labor with you in Athens, Greece. Father, I pray that you open the hearts and minds of the Greek people to see that Jesus is who they need and may they find satisfaction for their hunger and thirst in you. May your holy spirit stir their hearts to repentance and obedience to Christ. Father, as you have instructed us, I pray for the leaders of Greece, that you give them your wisdom so that they might rule with justice. I’m grateful that Greece is a stable, peaceful nation and we can worship you freely; help us to redeem the time for your glory.

Father I pray for the plight of the refugees coming through Greece. Their living situation is nightmarish and their hopes of starting a new life for many is ebbing away. Father, have mercy on them. Many have never heard the truth about Jesus, having come from Muslim countries, but now that they are away from family and the pressure of culture, I ask that you reveal yourself to them and that they will seek you.

Father I pray for your church in Greece. The economic crises have crushed many families financially. Have mercy on our nation Father and revive the economy so that Greek fathers can provide for their families. I pray that through this crisis our trust in you will grow. I pray for the young kids of our church that not one will be lost to the world. Help us adults to live pure lives so that we can be a good example to them.  Help us as a church to grow in love for one another, to carry each other’s burdens and together to help our neighbors so that your name will be glorified.

Father we eagerly wait for you to return to usher in your kingdom, but until then help us to keep the gospel in the center of all that we do.

 Amen

Mandate presents this prayer with thanks to Themis Sirinides, an elder at the 2nd Greek Evangelical Church of Athens.

INSPIRE

        Inspire is defined as “filling someone with the URGE or ABILITY to do something creative” or “to breathe in”. When we take up the great commission, we embody the verb inspire. To breathe in carries the scientific picture of intaking something that then will be absorbed and carried throughout the body. When we breathe in God's spirit, it brings spiritual LIFE to all parts of us and to those who we are connected with. “The Spirit of God hath made me, And the breath of the Almighty hath given me life” (Job 33:4). The effects of breathing in His indwelling Spirit do not end there. “But there is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty giveth them understanding” (Job 32:8). John describes this indwelling Holy Spirit as our “Helper” who will both teach us as well as bring to remembrance that which has already been taught (John 14:26). Just as having any parts of the body be low on or deprived of oxygen risks their health and the strength of the body, having people or nations that go untouched by a life-giving message of the gospel risks their spiritual health and reduces the strength of the global body of Christ.

            You are a carrier of this spiritual oxygen in your connection to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The great commission that sent his disciples (including us as modern-day disciples) to the ends of the earth is a call to help these untouched people and nations breathe in. Just as an inhale is followed by an exhale, an inspiration is followed by creation. Looking at the first part of the definition of “inspire”, we see the effects of sharing the life-giving message of the gospel. When you truly realize the power, freedom, and reality of your identity in Christ, your calling, and your preciousness and importance to the Father and His plans, it stirs a burning urge within the heart. When the two disciples were on the road to Emmaus and the Spirit of the risen Lord came and walked along with them, He appeared as an unfamiliar person. Yet when He left their presence because of the words He imparted, their reaction was to say to one another “Did not our hearts burn within us, while He talked to us by the way, and while He opened to us the scriptures” (Luke 24:32).

            As we open the scriptures to those we touch, the Spirit of God within us causes them to feel that same burning within their own hearts. And anyone who has experienced a burning desire knows that it does not take long for action to follow. Stirring hearts begets the urge. God gives the ability then to do something creative. Creating new disciples, creating new ministries, creating new ways to spread this inspiration even farther. Now, precious carrier of spiritual oxygen to a panting world, how will you inspire the world today?

Pray for Ireland

Dear God,

We thank you for our beautiful emerald Ireland and for its people.  We pray that you will touch and soften their hearts towards the gospel. Holy Spirit, lead them to Christians who can share the gospel and share your love with them. Open their eyes and hearts to experience your love, mercy and grace; that the gospel is good news and is for everyone.  They don’t need to work their way into heaven. Jesus, your son, has done a total and complete work on the cross. Jesus is the one who redeems, sets man free and closes the gap between you and them.  Heal their broken hard hearts.  Heal them from abuse and may they come to know you as a kind and caring God.  I thank you that as they rely on you they would come to understand their future and would not look back. Teach them to forgive others as you have forgiven them.

We pray for unity amongst Christians on this island, that they would respect each other’s view points and would love one another as you have loved us.  Guard their mouths and protect them from evil.  We pray that the world would see us as one, as you are one. We pray that your church will have a strong witness in these difficult times and that you will raise up wise and mature leaders.

May your name be glorified here in Ireland.

Amen

The Goal of World Evangelization

Two weeks ago, we started examining Ed Dayton’s expanded definition of world evangelization.

Because world evangelization is a task, it is essential to have a clear understanding of the goal of that particular task.

The nature of world evangelization is communication of the good news.

The purpose of world evangelization is to give individuals and groups a valid opportunity to accept Jesus Christ.

And the goal of world evangelization is the persuading of men and women to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and serve him in the fellowship of his church.

As I finished up last week on the topic of what constitutes a valid opportunity to accept Christ, I suggested:

. . . missionaries (and all evangelizing Christians) must take the time to understand their target audience as they present the good news. We must present the gospel in a language people understand; we must present the gospel with words whose meaning people understand (or, at least, don’t misunderstand); we must present the gospel in thought patterns people can follow; we must present the gospel in such a way that people understand they have a choice; we must be ready to present the gospel over and over again; we must be prepared to have people consciously reject the gospel, though we sincerely hope they choose the better way.

Having prepared ourselves and our message so that the receiving people and groups could fully understand what it means to accept or reject Christ, we can move on to the final point of Ed Dayton’s definition of world evangelization.

And the goal of world evangelization is the persuading of men and women to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and serve him in the fellowship of his church.

When Jesus gave what we call the great commission, he directed that, as a priority, we make disciples. They he spoke of baptizing and teaching the new disciples. As we learn later in Paul’s New Testament writings, baptism is something we do in tandem with salvation, an act of identification with Christ in his death and resurrection. In doing this, we proclaim our unity in the body of Christ, which is the church.

As I read the great commission, we are to help people make a valid decision to follow Christ, then baptize them as a sign of incorporation into the greater body of believers. Once people are identified with Christ and other Christians, they can be more easily taught as a body and we can all use our spiritual gifts to build up one another in Christ. As Paul taught the church at Ephesus:

. . . Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13)

My major hobby right now is working with bonsai trees. I am a member of several internet groups which share information about this hobby. Every so often someone new to the hobby gets into our groups asking, “how can I learn about bonsai?” Almost every time one of the long-standing group members will advise the newbie, “find a bonsai club near you and start attending their meetings. Working with them is the best way to learn.”

If you want to learn about bonsai, hook up with people who already know the hobby. If you want to run, join a local running club. If you want to grow in Christ, where else would you look than a local church, where you can find people directly gifted by God who will help you grow and find your own place within that local body?

Isn’t this what we see happening throughout the book of Acts? Paul, especially, goes somewhere, makes disciples, organizes a church, and then moves on to the next challenge.

Too often in the history of missions and evangelism, the goal has stopped with individuals making a profession of faith. Through our experience with mass evangelism, I dare say that most people in the United States think in terms of people raising their hands in a meeting, or signing a decision card, or just repeating the words of a prayer. People do this (and none of these is bad), and are usually urged to find and join a local church. But there is rarely any practical help or follow-up to match a new believer with a church.

Because of that, I’ve heard it reported that up to 90% of those people who make a decision outside the local church never settle into a church for themselves.

If we do not establish churches as needed and direct people into those churches, we end up having to repeat the evangelization process for every new generation.

On the other hand, if we “[persuade] . . . men and women to . . . serve him in the fellowship of his church,” we are doing our best to ensure they will learn and grow while serving in and through the church. The local church, then will be the best means of evangelizing their own society, allowing the cross-cultural workers to repeat the process in more spiritually needy places.

That’s a worthy goal. And that’s how we’ll get the job done.