Now the birth of Jesus Christ happened this way. While his mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph, her husband to be, was a righteous man, and because he did not want to disgrace her, he intended to send her away privately. When he had contemplated this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
~The Apostle Matthew 1:18-25
The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, a descendant of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. The angel came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled by his words and began to wonder about the meaning of this greeting. So the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God! Listen: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will never end.” Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I have not had relations with a man?” The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called the Son of God.
~Gabriel and Mary, Luke 1:26-35
Then Rahab let the spies down by a rope through the window. (Her house was built as part of the city wall; she lived in the wall.) She told them, “Head to the hill country, so the ones chasing you don’t find you. Hide from them there for three days, long enough for those chasing you to return. Then you can be on your way.” The men said to her, “We are not bound by this oath you made us swear unless the following conditions are met: When we invade the land, tie this red rope in the window through which you let us down, and gather together in your house your father, mother, brothers, and all who live in your father’s house. Anyone who leaves your house will be responsible for his own death – we are innocent in that case! But if anyone with you in the house is harmed, we will be responsible. If you should report what we’ve been up to, we are not bound by this oath you made us swear.” She said, “I agree to these conditions.” She sent them on their way and then tied the red rope in the window.
~Rahab and two spies, Joshua 2:15-21
After Moses the LORD’s servant died, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant: “Moses my servant is dead. Get ready! Cross the Jordan River! Lead these people into the land which I am ready to hand over to them.
~God, Joshua 1:1-4
The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all the wild beasts and all the living creatures of the field! On your belly you will crawl and dust you will eat all the days of your life. And I will put hostility between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring; her offspring will crush your head, and you will attack her offspring’s heel.”
~God, Genesis 3:14-15
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God. The Word was with God in the beginning. All things were created by him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. And the light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it.”
~The Apostle John, John 1:1-5
The lesson is obvious. True missionaries concentrate on doing the work of Mark 16:15 rather than operating social-welfare programs. True missionaries serve the message of Christ, not the institutions of the church.
-K.P. Yohannan, Come, Let’s Reach the World
There are two ways that I see the church’s influence fade in modern times. Both ways have shifted focus from our Savior and his mission of to lesser pursuits. Politicising and institutionalising the body of Christ are two dangers that always transform us from world changers to a collection of insignificante voices. People from all along the political spectrum try to usurp the mission of Christ as a weapon to be used in their own power struggles. Before we blindly condemn them let us remember the words of the Disciples as they were given the great commission in Acts 1:6. “Lord is it at this time you are going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” The best of us can fall into this trap.
Perhaps the more insidious trap is the institutionalising of the movement of God. We tend to forget that we are a people, a body with a Divine head. When we institutionalize what God has made we challenge the very nature of the church, we challenge the lordship of our creator. Is this not just a reenactment of the original sin? Does it come from a place of mistrust or of outright rebellion?
May we focus on the mission that Christ has given us, may we follow Him as our Lord!
I cared not where or how I lived, or what hardships I went through, so that I could but gain souls to Christ.
The Apostle Paul wrote words to the Philippian church that echo throughout time and eventually each follower of Christ are challenged by them. “I know what it is to be in need, and i know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in
any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Paul then goes on to give the reason for his contentment; “I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me. Nevertheless, you did well to share with me in my trouble.” The reason for Paul’s contentment and his ability to continue in the difficult mission of Christ was indeed his reliance on Christ. Christian thought tends to end there, but there is more. Paul brings his readers first to Christ then to the expression of His body, the church. Paul’s needs were met by the people of God, his contentment
was given by God.
May neither geography nor difficulties ever chart our course, may we be on mission,
focused on the mission giver, and may we always be found in partnership with fellow
citizens of God’s Kingdom.
Do not think me mad. It is not to make money that I believe a Christian should live. The noblest thing a man can do is, just carry the humbly to receive, and then go amongst others and give.
There is an old saying that “witnessing is simply one beggar telling another where to get free bread.” We are benefactors of the bread of life, a bread we could not purchase but that has instead been freely given to us, a bread without which we would die. We have been given so much should we not give freely what we have been given? The Apostle Paul describes us as “jars of clay.” We are jars, but jars are not meant to store treasure indefinitely. We must pour into others what we have been given.
May we enthusiastically be about the noblest thing, may we humbly receive then go and give.
Baptisms are amazing. Not only are they a significant event and act of obedience for the believers involved but they are also a significant testimony for all who witness the public event.
We were honored to be invited to the Mount of Olives’ recent baptism service. They held it at a National Park named Bosque Protector Jerusalem. We met under the shade of some trees near a public swimming pool.
The atmosphere of this service struck us as very appropriate. We sang and heard the Word of God proclaimed to the background noises of families enjoying themselves at the park. From time to time a curious onlooker would stop what they were doing and hear a song, or listen to the preaching. After we worshiped together we turned our attention to the pool which was already quite busy with aquatic activity.
As we entered the refreshing water, families ceased their diversions and watched intently as we baptized six new believers.
Timothy was overjoyed when he was asked to help with the baptisms. Pastor Luis baptized the new believers and Timothy gave each a private word of encouragement.
After the baptisms we lingered in the pool a little longer for prayer.
When we said “Amen” the pool filled up with activity once again!
Those who simply came to the park intending nothing more than a fun day in the sun received something greater. They received the testimony of the new believers who were baptized. They received the Gospel in action. It makes us want to abandon our buildings and hold public worship every week!
With much love, The Downings
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