Fun is rolling down grassy hills with your siblings! One of the joys of being a missionary is seeing kids smile. Whether it's in a mountain village or near the seashore, it never gets old seeing smiles and hope.
Christ brings smiles and joy into the lives of so many! Here is a picture of students who came by our house to sing at Christmas time!
These precious children are enjoying a sweet read aloud about Jesus and His love by Gina on a balmy Sunday afternoon. It's such a privilege to bring the love and hope of Jesus into the lives of youth and families!
It's a privilege to spend time building friendships and enjoying game time together! That's something to smile about! Thank you for being with us on this journey of bringing the hope and joy of Jesus to Mindoro!
2000 years ago, the Kingdom of God burst onto the planet! Planet Earth had travailed in darkness and moral chaos for 4 millennia, since Adam and Eve planted their flag of rebellion in the Garden of Eden. Millions had come and gone, living out their lives in futility and uncertainty. A few had believed in the Provision of Creator-God and had lived under His protection and in His purpose!
When Jesus Christ entered time to be the Savior of the World, He ushered in God's plan to bring good back, and turn millions of rebels into righteous citizens of the Kingdom of Light. Life leading to the cross was spent bringing healing to many, many people who were oppressed by Satan. As Jesus was modeling how to be a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven, He perfectly obeyed every aspect of God's expectations for humanity. On the cross, Jesus Christ took away the penalty of rebellion and absorbed the justice of God for every act of rebellion committed by every citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven, past, present and future. In doing so, Jesus Christ removed all power from Satan, the king of darkness. Jesus Christ bought the right take citizens from the kingdom of Satan and change their citizenship. When Jesus Christ rose from the dead, He rose with the power to give life and freedom to anyone whom He pleases! And, He pleases to give it to anyone who comes to Him in faith and trust.
The Kingdom of Christ invades the dark neighborhoods, ruled by territorial spirits and rebellious citizens of the kingdom of darkness. Ambassadors of the King of the Kingdom of Heaven are strategically placed by the Holy Spirit across the planet. Each is commissioned to bring the good news of a new life and allegiance! Each soldier for Christ has been given special gifts and talents, which perfect equip him/her to reach future citizens of the Kingdom of Righteousness. Each is placed in a specific team of Heavenly citizens who are fitted together to bring peace, love, justice, and righteousness into the hearts and lives of new believers through the work of the Holy Spirit. All are motivated and reminded by a memo from the King of kings announcing the termination of the war. The reset button will be pushed by the Creator, and this planet and the universe will burn and all who own a Heavenly passport will be transported to a huge, victory celebration, attended by a number of righteous veterans that can't be counted. Eternity will be spent on a fresh, sinless planet where the King of Light is the only Light needed! There will be no darkness there, only worship and what is good and right.
The Enlisted Mentality
Do you view your time here on Earth as a tour duty in the service of the King of Righteousness? Do you know that a battle rages against you, seeking to steal your commission and leave you wounded and worthless on the battlefield? Our battle is not against governments or people. No, we fight against an organized force of evil spirits that are bent on retaining their citizens.
Physical poverty is a living example of spiritual poverty. The care and compassion that the above picture of the little girl creates in your heart for her is just a small measure compared to the care and compassion that Jesus feels for His spiritually impoverished children!
God's Powerful Grace
There are two kinds of graces that the believer brings to children in darkness. Both empowered by the Holy Spirit, and carried out in perfect submission to the sovereign will of the Father. Special grace was purchased by Christ on the cross and achieved by His resurrection. The entire Trinity is involved: One God in Three Persons.
God is constantly restraining evil and doing good for rebellious sinners. He uses social restraints, education, and His power to restrain evil and give temporal blessings. Without the restraining undeserved-goodness of God, the world would spiral into wide-scale rape, murder, gossip, witchcraft, infanticide. Along with His sovereign, restraining power, God uses Christians to bring common grace, as they obey God's laws in government, education, neighborhoods, and friendships.
Along with restraining evil and providing for his creatures, God uses believers to bring His common goodness through ministry. Many, many people are physically healed, set free from addictions, or freed from evil spirits by the Holy Spirit through the ministry of soldiers of Christ.
Billions of people are saved through discipleship and/or the preaching of the gospel. (In fact, the amount of people from start to finish in this war against darkness will be innumerable.) They are instantly justified (forgiven and acquitted). Over their life-time as expatriates on the battlefields, the Holy Spirit does a process called sanctification, whereby He cuts out evil and replaces it with Christ-like attributes. Part of this process is healing of broken places from the past and realizing freedom from the oppression of evil spirits and internal sin. Throughout this process, the Holy Spirit heals physically and also uses physical and spiritual pain to train the believer. The Holy Spirit uses the Body of Christ to facilitate much of this healing and bondage-breaking.
We fight because we're all part of Christ's body. It's our birthright and privilege! Also, it's our responsibility. If the arm refuses to fight, the entire soldier suffers injury. If the stomach refuses to digest, the body loses health. You and I are uniquely gifted to fight for the King of Glory and bring the light of His glorious gospel into the light-less crevices of the dark kingdom. Every citizen has a fight to engage daily, the location depending on his/her orders from the Top.
So, how do we carry out this mission?
1. With Faith!
2. With Joy!
3. With Tenacity!
4. With Boldness!
5. With Awareness!
6. Until Death Ushers us Home!
O Lord, from the depths of despair I cry for your help: “Hear me! Answer! Help me!” Psalm 130:1-2. When we pray those kinds of prayers, the spiritual war around us is visible and real. The problem that most of us face is that unless we're under serious trial, it is easy to disbelieve that the battle is raging around us.
If you are a believer in Christ Jesus, you are right in the middle of a world-wide war between two kings. One king has already gotten the memo that he's lost, and he fights as dirty as possible. One of the major strategies of Satan is to neutralize saints without them even realizing that they have been rendered ineffective.
A Few Methods of Neutralization
1. Separate spiritual life from daily life. Biblically, our jobs, interests, and secular pursuits are ALL part of our spiritual life. Everything a Christian does is in obedience to Jesus and to bring His light and kingdom into all areas of daily life.
2. Busy, busy, busy! Too busy to read the Bible. Too busy to pray. "Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain." Psalm 127:1a. Jesus was here to do the works of His Father, which is our pattern. We need to spend time in prayer and reading the Bible to discover how we can follow in Jesus' footsteps. We are here to do the works of our Father (Ephesians 2:10).
3. Distractions in your head. Do you have a hard time reading the Bible for more than about 5 minutes? This is a common problem. Tell the spirit that is distracting you from reading the Bible to leave in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Then, deliberately spend time reading the Word. You'll probably see an immediate difference.
4. Brokenness... There is a good brokenness and a bad brokenness. Good brokenness has you trusting in Jesus and reading His word often. Bad brokenness is a misunderstanding of your identity in Christ, sometimes compounded by a failure to deal with past experiences. Bad brokenness has you feeling depressed, discouraged, angry, or empty. Do you have unexplained feelings of anger, neglect, discouragement, sadness? Are you overcome by exhaustion for no reason? Do you have fear and anxiety? Do you have multiple narratives running in your mind? The answer for brokenness is a little more complicated. It takes a combination of spiritual warfare tactics. Contact me if you want to find healing from brokenness.
5. Division. My way or the highway. If you don't play well with the other Christians, you won't be effective in the battle. This one is simple: Repent of your pride and practice being humble.
6. Deliberate ignorance. This one is tough to overcome because it is fueled by a rebellious heart. For this one, pray through the Psalms!
7. Misunderstanding of who God is as your adoptive Father. Can you say "Abba Father" and do you know that you're accepted, and welcomed at the family table? It's also possible to fall into the opposite trap of irreverence. Our experiences growing up can deeply impact this understanding.
8. Picking up hitchhikers. Sometimes, when you are in rebellion against God, it's like you slow down the car and pick up a hitchhiker. For some, it's controversial about whether these hitchhikers are in the cab with you or in the back of the pickup. It's best to get rid of these hitchhikers as soon as possible. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you identify them and then send them away in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Fill up on the truth of the Word that is the opposite of the hitchhikers that the Holy Spirit just sent packing! If you continue to be bothered, you'll need to get help. Contact me or another pastor who can assist you.
Every Christian has been commissioned to extend the Kingdom of Christ, mirror the attributes of God in daily life, and enjoy a healthy, familial relationship with God. To do this, you must do spiritual battle daily. This is a daily process of deflecting attacks, while full-scale assaulting the enemies strongholds.
This conquest is real and a believer cannot be neutral. The Kingdom of Christ is bringing life, hope, and healing to the darkest corners of the kingdom of Satan. It's time for battle because the war is in full-swing.
Read the word... 30-60 minutes a day. Pray for specific prayer requests. Pray for healing and repentance from specific sins. Pray through portions of the scripture. Spend less time thinking about politics and more time thinking about missions. Carefully examine yourself. What are the thoughts that live in your head? What are the attitudes that color your thinking towards yourself, God, and others? Ask God, "Where do these things come from? Show me why I think like this."
Engage the battle! This is real.
Picture Credit: https://activechristianity.org/whole-armor-of-god
“The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves... heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you'... I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you... rejoice because your names are written in heaven." Jesus Christ in Luke 10
The Kingdom of Jesus has come and with it came freedom. Believers have freedom through justification, and freedom through sanctification. One major objective in sanctification is to become more like Christ, doing the works of the Father in our daily lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. Applying the books of Romans and Galatians to our daily lives by walking in the Spirit, obeying the will of our Father.
We've been given some very powerful weapons and tools, as well as have been given a one-on-one Coach who leads us into all truth. Using these tools, we can take the next step in our own sanctification, realizing more freedom from sin, self, and Satan. Simultaneously, we attack the empires of Satan and bring freedom to others.
The Harvest is Great
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Revelation 7:9-10
Many of these people have been harvested! Someone told each one of them the good news of Jesus Christ. The mission for us is to find the rest of this multitude without number and bring them to Christ. To do this, we must sail through bloody seas and battle leviathans to rescue the captives from the devilish tentacles. Through the Spirit, we must speak the gospel and wake the dead. Humbly and valiantly, we storm the fortresses of the kingdom of darkness and set the captives free! This is called the great shared-mission... or great co-mission! We get cuts, infections, and lose limbs in some of the battles, yet we triumphantly march through the streets with the parade of joyous Christians who've just changed their citizenship from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of Light!
The Laborers are Few
No one knows why, but there are always few who receive the joy of harvesting. We all have our own reasons for going or not going out to work in the fields. One mistake we make is to separate spiritual and secular ministry, which makes the labor force seem smaller. In fact, the kingdom of God is as present in a cubical as it is in a counseling room. The evangelist has the same commission as the electrician. However, each Christian makes a choice as to how involved s/he is in the harvesting. There are also some harvest fields that have thousands of harvesters wandering around, while other fields are ripe for harvest with only one or two harvesters methodically moving down the rows, sacks bulging with ripe fruit, musing to themselves, "I wish others would join us!"
Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves.
You are going out among wolves that hate you and want to kill you, ruin your marriage, and maim your children. It sounds fatal until you look up and see the Shepherd. The Shepherd is with you at all times. He has given you a Personal Trainer who trains you to defend yourself from wolfish fangs and to bravely inflict vicious wounds into wolf-flesh. The problems happen when we run away from the Shepherd or decide to nap during a battle. Sometimes, we just forget that we're highly-trained professional soldiers and submit to the abuse of the enemy. Then, our Captain rescues us and puts us up on his horse for a while.
Heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you'...
Healing happens wherever Christ's ambassadors are stationed. In the last 24 years of being an ambassador for Christ, I've prayed for a large amount of people to receive healing. Think about how many prayer chains, prayer meetings, prayer times have been spent on healing! And you know what? Many have been healed by the Holy Spirit. One thing that I've noticed is that God enjoys healing people. I think it is because it is a visual aid of the fact that "the kingdom of God has come near to" them. Physical healing is a calling card for the spiritual healing that is to be found in Christ, as well as it brings God glory and shuts down the oppression of Satan. (Acts 10:38) The goodness of God leads people to repentance and soon many find that the kingdom of God is not near anymore. It is in them and they are in it! New passport! New identity! New KING! New mission!
I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy,
Authority. Without it, we are powerless and vulnerable. Christ gives all believers His authority to trample on demonic spirits. In our own authority, the demons mock. In the authority of Christ, they are crushed beneath our feet. A practical way of looking at this is to think about an off-duty soldier and an on-duty soldier. The off-duty soldier is wearing civilian clothes and receives a different response in battle. However, a soldier in full fatigues, body armor, and carrying a variety of weapons is taken very seriously in battle. We've been given authority "over all the power of the enemy." We need to armor up and act in Jesus' authority. What I mean is that we can have the authority and seldom use it. It is also possible to act in our own authority. That is why James says to "submit to God" first. Jesus probably used this figurative wording on purpose, since He was about ready to crush the head of Satan. We step on the heads of demonic spirits in the authority purchased by Christ on the cross.
Let me say this also: We trample on the skulls of spirits when we bring people to Christ! And, when we disciple those people to find freedom from spiritual and sinful bondage. There's nothing more demoralizing than having someone take your property while you're guarding it. It's like walking up to a trafficker who is beating his slave and taking the little boy away from him permanently.
And nothing shall by any means hurt you...
I don't think that Jesus is talking about flesh wounds here. Our Heavenly Father uses the battle to refine our fighting skills and condition us. We know from the book of Job and from 1 Peter 5 that spiritual battles have specific parameters. And, my experience is that, as we engage the battle using the authority and weaponry of Christ, we can exit a battle with significantly less flesh wounds.
Rejoice because your names are written in heaven.
The context here is that the 70 people returned and were excited because even the evil spirits obeyed them and were cast out. Jesus knows that this is exciting! When a person receives freedom from a harassing or controlling spirit, there is hope, relief, healing for him/her. Even as this is a time for thankfulness and joy, Jesus reminds us to keep our eyes on Him. Ministry has its highs and lows! Anchor your daily joy in the Person and Work of Christ! Rejoice because your name is written in Heaven! You're His forever! You're a child of God forever. Eternal life is to know God and be in a relationship with Him forever... which is why we are harvesting! Some day, an innumerable multitude of people from every family group will live together eternally in relationship with the Triune God!
Thy kingdom come, on Earth and it is in Heaven!
Helpful Verses About Spiritual Warfare and Discipleship
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. Jesus in John 14:12
How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. Acts 10:38
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. 1 Peter 5:8-10
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. James 4:7
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:1-5
I will love You, O Lord, my strength. 2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. 3 I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies. Psalm 18:1-3
Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20
'Come, Thou long expected Jesus, Born to set Thy people free" is how the Christmas hymn begins! The world steeped in sin and darkness had reached a bitter broth. Suddenly, a light erupted and dispersed the darkness.
Christ came into the realm of the king of darkness. He beat Satan and took away his power at the cross. At the cross, Christ bought the right to take citizens from Satan's kingdom and bring them into His kingdom of Light.
Satan delights in sickness, lust, envy, pride, bitterness and rebellion. He loves the chaos and brokenness that humanity reaps, as we rebel against our Creator and hurt each other in the process. Sin has consequences, and those consequences directly affect our families and communities. ENTER JESUS CHRIST! King Jesus enters a family and changes that family from the inside out. King Jesus enters a community and turns darkness into light! Satan and his hoards of evil spirits are desperately trying to prevent the King of Light from taking what belongs to HIM. But, they can't.
The King of Light brings His salvation and healing power into the lives of His people. His kingdom has come on Earth, as it is in Heaven. Jesus Christ delights in healing, love, kindness, humility, bravery, self-control, forgiveness, and obedience. And, His citizens do, too. Every time we bring the gospel, healing, peace, and freedom from evil spirits to individuals, families, and communities, we do these things as ambassadors of King Jesus Christ. In His authority, we fight Satan and cut through the darkness with the sword of the Holy Spirit. It isn't easy, but the success is already written in Heaven. Our work is to do the will of the Father and do the good works that He's already planned out for us to do, which are all part of His plan to bring His kingdom across every community on planet Earth.
"Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." God
As ambassadors of Christ, we aspire to the sorrow and joy that He felt. The hard rebelliousness of humanity cut Him to the core, while the Father's sovereign work of salvation brought Him joy! (Luke 19:41, Luke 10:21). To survive... to thrive as Kingdom ambassadors, we must follow Jesus' example.
Joy! I see it in the eyes of new believers and in the eyes of vibrant believers, those who are walking in daily relationship with Jesus Christ. Joy is deep within, while happiness is a state of mind. Joy transcends circumstances because it trusts in the Joy-Giver. Joy doesn't lose hope because it is anchored in the infinite God.
The Pit of Despondency
Sorrow. It surrounds me like a sea of darkness, licking at my temples and biting at my soul, threatening to swallow me into it's despondent depths. This kind of sorrow is worldly sorrow because it sees no hope and fatalistically condemns future generations to repeat the cycle of rebellion. Rebellion against God's law produces grotesque, hard brokenness. Watching it daily causes me deep pain, and threatens to callous my heart.
Within a week, I met two young women on different islands with babies that the respective daddies rejected. One was about sixteen and the other in her early twenties. Seeing the rejection of these girls and their babies created sorrow in me. God's family is precious and our reflection of His family here on Earth is our joyful purpose. It breaks me to see a generation of children giving birth to a succeeding generation of broken identities.
The Secret to Sorrow
How does a Christ-follower see constant darkness and have sorrow without shipwrecking on the shoals of despondency? What did Jesus do? Jesus was the perfectly balanced God-Man. He anchored His sorrow and joy in the infinite attributes of God. That is what we must do. We must focus our minds' eyes on the character of God. God is infinite holiness, limitless love, perfect justice, rightfully sovereign, delightfully joyful, infinitely good and quick to help those who cry out to Him.
Why do we care so much? It's partly because we care about God. Seeing the broken images of God smash themselves on the rocks of rebellion causes me intense pain. I know how it could be for them... how it should be. Every person was made to be a God's glory in their daily lives, especially in their families. It's partly because we are made to love: Love God and love others. Seeing people act in hate, slices into the love that we have for them.
We have to process what we see within intimate contemplation of our God's character. When we trust His sovereignty, depend on His goodness, and anticipate His mercy, we will have weep godly tears and embrace His joy!
The Complete Story of Sorrow and Joy in 3 Verses
The life of every Christ-follower is described briefly in Isaiah 60:1-3. In these verses, you'll see our sorrow and our joy.
“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
Get up! Shine because Jesus has come and His glory shines like the sun on and through you! This is the daily life of a Christ-follower. Get up! Spend time with Christ. Reflect the glory of His character in your day's activities and reactions! The Holy Spirit has everything you need to be empowered in your day!
See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
We are citizens of the kingdom of Light! Yet, we live in the kingdom of darkness. We are surrounded by a evil and the darkness that rebellion against our Creator and created purpose generates. We walk among people who live in darkness so thick it has a presence of its own.
But the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
Our King has risen from the grave and conquered sin, death, disease and the Satanic forces. He has turned on the light! His kingdom advances, as He takes back what He bought with His life: His family. As long as we keep our eyes unwavering upon Jesus Christ and walk in daily relationship with the Holy Spirit, we will not be cast down by sorrow. We will experience godly sorrow and godly joy!
Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn."
Christ is the LIGHT! We first find our joy in Christ. Then, we find joy in seeing each new believer drawn to Christ's light and converted by His Holy Spirit empowered gospel. Christ's light lives inside of every believer... overflowing out through every crack and cascading over the brim! As we go to the palaces and provinces, kings and nations are drawn to the Jesus Christ, who is eternal Light and eternal God.
Jesus said that he came to proclaim liberty to the captives. What did Jesus mean by that? Who are the captives and who has shackled them?
Since Adam's rebellion, all humans (except Jesus) have been born into generational captivity to Satan. First, all humans are born spiritually dead and disconnected from God. Their dead spiritual nature totally permeates their bodies, thinking, and emotions. This alone is enough to hold humans captive. However, Satan is 100% evil and hates God's creation. So, he further captivates humans using their cultural beliefs, religious beliefs, and horrific experiences at the hands of others. Generational sins and addictions are passed along. Depending on the brand of religion and culture, evil spirits manipulate and control in a variety of ways.
Jesus Christ triumphed over Satan and his evil forces when he died on the cross. In victory, Jesus Christ rose with authority over everything, spiritual and physical. He commands His followers to be His ambassadors and live truth-defined lives in His authority.
In the Philippines, we encounter rampant bondage to the spirits of fear, debt, and desertion. These spirits have burrowed deep into the cultural fabric, impacting the daily lives of millions.
For countless generations, fear has ruled daily lives. Fear of spirits, curses, and sickness are common. Spirits are feared and appeased through rituals, purchasing charms or by visiting a witch doctor. Fear of being cursed, either intentionally or by accident also is real.
Another aspect of fear is the fear of breaking the trust of a spiritual or physical patron. This ties into the spirit of debt. In the Philippines, it's possible to own someone if you become their patron. This is one of the pitfalls that can affect missionaries. A patron can use social or financial debt to manipulate, even cause people to desert their families.
Desertion is celebrated as a heroic value if it is done for financial reasons. However, the results reveal a wake of broken families and individuals.
When Jesus Christ entered the Philippines, He came to set the captives free. He commands His followers to study His ways and live Christ-like lives. He firmly instructs them to fear only God and be in debt to no person. Jesus Christ gives us His word, His Holy Spirit, and His authority. Christian parents are charged with the privilege of discipling their children and modeling Christ for them daily. As ambassadors for Christ, they are required to live free from the spirits of fear, debt and desertion.
How do Christ-followers attain this freedom in Christ? Most find it through discipleship, as they learn Christ's truth, reprogram their thinking and apply Christ's kingdom culture to their daily lives.
It takes patient, mature, loving, truthful Christians to teach Christ-followers to live out their victorious callings as ambassadors for Christ! The harvest is ripe! Bring the bondage-breaking liberty of Jesus Christ to those who are held captive.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus Christ
"I tell you. Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest." (John 4) Notice three things that Jesus says.
Jesus says, "I tell you." Have you ever had someone take you aside and tell you something important? "I tell you." is a pretty serious segue into something really important. Considering who Jesus is, let's take note of what He says next.
"Open your eyes and look at the fields!" When a farmer looks at his fields that are ready for harvest, he sees something that demands his attention. Jesus is saying, "LOOK and feel the urgency! My fields need your attention!" Why does Jesus say, "Open your eyes and look?"
Look for what? Look for people. When Jesus said this to His disciples, He was in the middle of a harvest field, speaking to a specific woman who He was calling to Himself. He had left the Jewish comfort zone, to go find this precious sinner who would soon become a saint. When you walk through the harvest field, do you see specific people?
"Even now, the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life." Jesus is again speaking very specific truth that we need to pay attention to. He uses a term of urgency, 'Even now." Can you hear the immediacy in His word choice?
Notice that the laborer is reaping. Are you bringing in rice by the basketful? Where are the fields that are white with harvest? Will you consider moving to find those fields? One more thing to note, if you harvest, you get a wage. What is that wage? And, you get a harvest: "a crop for eternal life." There isn't anything better in your eternal life than that! Having your silo filled to the brim with eternal lives! When you think about what you've been storing up in your silos, do you think about specific people who have received eternal life because of your work in the fields?
Who is the farmer in this scenario? It's the Father! In the verse just previous to these, Jesus says, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work." Make this connection! When we work in our Dad's fields, we actually find food to eat! Harvesting satisfies us! And, it leaves us hungry for more.
We tend to get protective of our particular row of beans. We don't want to share our rice paddy with other harvesters. Sometimes, we run a fence around the perimeter of our pumpkin patch. It is important to notice that Jesus went out of bounds to find the Samaritan woman. He went into a neighbor's field. Jesus leaves us with the reminder that it's not our work or our produce that we're harvesting. All of the harvest belongs to the Father. Also, notice that the planter and the reaper may be different people. God knows that we love to take ownership. That's why He spreads out the harvesters and sometimes rotates the workers. It's important that we be willing to share the harvesting field with other workers. And, at times, we need to share the harvest! The harvest belongs to the King of the Harvest! Have you ever gotten too much zucchini? (Not that there can ever be too many zucchini!) Too much ripe produce creates a slow rot, unless you can spread the love around to your church and workmates! It's the same with making disciples. Fresh fruit is better than canned fruit. Share the produce and enjoy the unity of harvesting together.
Jesus says, "The sower and the reaper will be glad together." He doesn't mention denomination in this or views of baptism. He focuses instead on three things: Different seasons call for different skills. When the harvest comes, all of the team players are glad together. It takes work to plant, water, compost, fertilize, evangelize, till, weed, kill pests and varmints, disciple and harvest. Are you glad by yourself? Or, are you glad together with the other team players? Can you share in the evangelism? Can you share in the discipleship? Are you happy to work with God's fellow laborers?
Meanwhile! Beg the Lord of the Harvest to send more workers because the trees are heavy with fruit... (There is so much fruit in the Philippines, that the existing labor force can't even get to it all.) If you've worked in an orchard, you know that after the fruit drops to the ground it rots. There is only a short window of time for harvesting ripe fruit. Ask the Father to put you into a field that is heavy with harvest! Open your eyes! Look and fill your silo with eternally-living saints!
Healing of the Nations
When John saw the New Jerusalem, he saw God's desire for healing. "Through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations."
Have you ever had an out-of-control skin condition or wasting disease? When you get really sick, you understand how fragile your health is. When you recover, you try to forget about it and embrace life!
This month, read the Bible and look for references to healing. We read the Bible looking for salvation, wisdom, or freedom. For the next few weeks, latch onto and think about the verses about healing.
Make a short mental list to answer this question: What kinds of healing do people in my sphere of relationships need? Healing is a holistic term that we use for a spectrum of illnesses from spiritual to relational to physical. When you start to evaluate a sickness, there can be connections between the spiritual and physical. Jesus spoke to this connection when He healed a paralyzed man and then told him, “See, you have been made well. Stop sinning, or something worse may happen to you.”
Broadening Your Definition of Healing
One size does not fit all with healing. Some people are desperately sick in their spirit, but vibrant in their physique. Some are sick in their souls, while many are sick in their heads. Some have physical sicknesses for obvious reasons. And, others are sick for only reasons God knows, like the man born blind that Jesus healed. When asked if this blindness was connected to sin, Jesus said, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him."
Obstacles to Healing
Your Culture Impacts Your View of Healing
In the States, we separate spiritual from physical healing. This impacts how we read Bible verses on healing. Does an average American Christian really believe that God enjoys healing people physically? If you are a European or Australian Christian, do you believe that God loves to heal spiritually? How about emotionally? How does God feel about healing physically? Begin to read the Bible and meditate on what types of healing God enjoys doing. Don't limit God's definition of healing with what you're comfortable with culturally.
Fear Creates Limits
Many of us read the Bible, pray, and assign to God limitations based on our definition of healing. Some of us approach the subject of healing with fear... fear that God won't heal. Fear that our understanding of God's healing power might be too Charismatic. Or, just fear that we'll have to defend God when He doesn't heal in the way we expect.
If you don't believe that God will heal, it's probable that He won't. Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit given through your reading the Bible. God is not limited by your faith and will heal if He wants to. But, your lack of faith will probably get you little healing. Instead, confess your lack of faith and meditate on God's truth.
Green Lights to Healing
When you read the Bible, you find that God responds to faith with healing. Faith is a trusting hope that God will do what He's done before, what He's said He will do. Faith doesn't restrict God's answer to a time or place. Faith assumes God wants to heal and expects that He will. For example, if you have a broken spirit and you read Bible verses about your identity in Christ. When you pray for God to heal your broken spirit, you expect that He will. Why? Because God heals the brokenhearted: "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." Sometimes, this happens instantly. Other times, it happens at a different time than the prayer.
Ambassadors For Christ
Ambassadors carry the authority of the President, yet the power resides with the president. Spend time studying your role as an ambassador for the King of Kings and the authority that He gives you to extend His kingdom and bring healing to the nations. We pray. We lay hands. We disciple. We counsel. We encourage forgiveness and humility. We anoint. We wash. We command. Our Sovereign responds in power, in His time, in His way. We don't have a spirit of fear. We have a spirit of confidence and expectant faith in our King's desire to and power to heal: spiritually, physically, and emotionally.
The Father Plans to Heal
Jesus was busy doing His Father's plans here on Earth. In John 14, Jesus mentions that it was actually the Father working through Him. Then, Jesus says that we will do greater works than He did because He is going back to Heaven. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to help us do the Father's works. When you pray for healing, you're asking the Father to work His plans through you, just like He worked through Jesus. "Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."
God's Definition of Healing
Jesus came to absorb the curse. Through Jesus' horrific death, He purchased the right to free us from the curse and its effects. What does that mean for healing? Some Christians only define healing as spiritual. Others, define it as spiritual and physical. In this life, you will be healed spiritually and physically. And, in this life, there will be times when you won't be healed spiritually and physically. It isn't all or nothing because all spiritual healing and all physical healing is within the sovereign plan of God. It's His good pleasure to save, to heal, to give freedom. "He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed." Isaiah 53:5
Learn Your Identity in Christ
I see God gift limited freedom to Christians until they learn and exercise their identity in Christ. I've also seen God give powerful freedom and healing to Christians who know their identity in Christ and apply that authority daily. Are you walking in a limited knowledge of your identity as a child of God? Are you limiting God's work in your life by putting unBiblical limitations on Him? Of course, God isn't limited by your beliefs. But, He does seem to choose to act within your requests and beliefs. (Again, don't fall into an all or nothing trap.)
Suffering, Discipline, and Healing
We're here to do the works of the Father. Healing will happen many times in your life. And, suffering and discipline will happen many times in your life. Don't fall into the all or nothing trap. It's both. Some will find spiritual healing through suffering. Some unbelievers will find spiritual healing by seeing you suffer. Our lives revolve around living out the works of God that He's prepared in advance for us to do. Live out those works in full expectation that He's good and enjoys bringing healing to the nations.
Read these Great Commission passages thinking about power, authority and healing. How serious is Jesus about healing people spiritually, emotionally, and physically?
"Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” King Jesus
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” King Jesus
“This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” King Jesus
Being a follower of Christ is 24/7 and trumps everything in your life, including your culture. Your old nature and its culture was taken by Jesus Christ, and replaced with a new nature and His culture. As you live out this new identity, you must actively evaluate and change your values, thought-patterns, and actions.
Why Did Jesus Say That?
Jesus told all believers to go into the whole world and make disciples, teaching them to obey all of His commands. Why did Jesus go straight for the moral jugular? Why not just make disciples and then let those disciples adapt and adjust to make it work in their respective cultures? The golden rule is a moral command in most cultures. Why did Jesus command believers to go out make disciples, teaching them to change their thinking and behavior? While there are many answers, one little word steps to the forefront: culture.
Everyone is Cultured!
Your culture is your values lived out. Many of the values are so ingrained that you don't even realize that you have them. To be honest, most of us have to force ourselves to evaluate our own culture. We think, feel, and make decisions based on values that we've learned from our parents, our peers, media, and even our linguistics. Some of our cultural values actually are just raw humanism emanating from our sinful nature, while others have Biblically-moral origins.
We Inherit a Bankrupt Culture
Naturally, the foundation for all of our prejudices, preferences, and culturally-appropriate actions is riddled with the rot of rebellion against God. Of course, all cultures have some semblance of morality, depending on how far they've slipped from the truth of the Bible. But, even the most moral cultures have the Achilles heal of humanism, which conveniently allows for ungodly solutions like abortion, idolatry, and manipulation.
Example: Fear is Cultural Value with Negative Results
In the Philippines, fear is cultural, based on moral beliefs. Fear of doctors and fear of evil spirits are cultural values for many. Parents threaten their children with injections from the doctor. Instead of going to the doctor, some people take their children to spirit-healers who infuse demonic spirits into the children, causing some sicknesses to become medically untreatable. Children are terrorized by demonic apparitions. Fear of offending spirits creates a daily prayer life for many. When they cross a river, dig in the soil, and interact with nature, they talk to the spirits and apologize because they are fearful of being attacked with sickness and death. This culture of fear produces a cycle of appeasement to the demonic spirits, which is a no-win situation.
Each culture in the world has glaring anti-Christ values, as well as truthful values. The challenge for the Christ-follower is to look at his actions and beliefs, in order to discover the truth about his natural culture.
Discovering Your True Culture
There was a day when your culture started to shift. It was the day that you received a born-again spirit and you became the house of the Holy Spirit. On that day, you became a disciple of Jesus Christ, and you began the process of learning God's family culture. It is a life-long task of evaluating your natural-born culture and adjusting to think and act within Jesus' culture. This is the culture that you were created to live out: Consciously and subconsciously obeying Christ in your thoughts, emotions, and activities. We call this process sanctification: the process of sanctifying your culture to be morally pure like God.
Missions and Culture
Here's where the cultural rubber meets the Biblical road. Jesus said, "I am the way (road), the truth, and the life." Missions is not about changing culture, it's about changing lives and changing thinking. But, authentic, Holy-Spirit missions result in changed cultures. The missionary is the not change agent. It's the Holy Spirit training Christ's disciples how to obey Jesus' commands in all life activities. The missionary consistently, lovingly brings the truth and helps the disciple to reflect on and evaluate his current culture. Through this process of learning and reflection, the disciple changes his moral beliefs, resulting in a change in lifestyle. Resulting in Christ-culture.
Change Your Worldview, Change Your Culture
Discipleship is teaching Christians use the Bible to change the system of values and beliefs by which they view their world. People wear corrective lenses in their glasses to view the world clearly. Discipleship is helping the disciple craft correct lenses for viewing his world. Let me ask you a question: Who crafted the lenses that you view your world through?
Evaluate Your Culture
Look at your life choices from a fresh perspective. Ask yourself these questions: Whose moral values define my culture? Where do I need to repent? What cultural assumptions do I have to root out? How can I obey Christ in my thoughts, job, family, church, and neighborhood? As a citizen of Christ's kingdom, how can I conform to Christ's culture?
We're a family on mission to bring the good news of Jesus to the Philippines.