During my first mission trip to Fiji I encountered Nani, a village elder and a Hindu in her 80s who suffered migraines every day. I prayed for her daily and the Lord would heal it. The trouble is, she would have another the next morning.
I asked her if she would like to receive Jesus as her Lord after one healing. “No,” she said, “I have been following the Hindu goddesses for too long to give them up now.” I did not challenge her, but another day – moved by the Holy Spirit – I dared say, “Nani, I think those Hindu goddesses are trying to scare you from Jesus; I think if you accept Jesus before I pray the headaches will not come back.” She laughed and prayed with me to make Jesus her new Lord. I prayed and headache went away; she never had another.
The Great Commission is for every person who claims Christ. We are commissioned to acknowledge the Lord’s authority to send each of us into every nook and cranny of the His world, baptizing those who hunger for authentic life, sharing with one another all we have been taught, and praising Him as One who presently serves and cares for us and all.
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The good news – for those who cannot imagine life without shopping malls and hot water – is that includes wherever we live. Everyone is called, some into the wild areas of New Guinea, but most to their neighborhood grocery stores, parks, back fence neighbors, and even the coffee hour of their own churches. Study after study demonstrates most people meet the Lord in the company of close friends and relations; I have had the personal pleasure of leading a half-dozen or so former high school classmates to meet my King, and a good many more relatives, friends and professional colleagues. It is not – by the way – about knowing your Bible well enough to instruct or even explain. It is about sharing and living your personal story; you may be the only Bible your friends will ever meet until they meet – by His grace and your faithfulness – the One who caused all Scripture to be written.
The catch is this: God says in the Old Testament – especially in Isaiah 59, Jeremiah 31, and Joel 2 – that His Word will be written on our hearts in the latter days. That means we have no excuse for bailing by feigning ignorance of Who He is and what He intends. Our Abba calls us responsible for being a walking advertisement for His love and mercy in Isaiah 58, Micah 6:8 and multiple other Old Testament places. The New Testament is shot through and through with the consistent message we are expected to be the image of God and not be content to be aware of it. That makes Great Commission continuing education as important as it is good for all of us.
One such program, Perspectives, comes to Northern California later this summer; classes begin in Chico on Aug. 8 and in Redding on Aug. 9. The course runs 15 weeks, one night weekly and a different teacher each week. (My class is No. 11, the one on cross cultural ministry.) The best bet for info on costs and locations is the website Perspectives.org. I know from experience in our fractured and compartmentalized world every opportunity to share the Gospel becomes a kind of cross cultural ministry, whether across the sea or across the street. And there is no feeling on earth like the thrill of knowing a new heavenly life has begun because I stepped up to the plate in all my fear and trembling. This course engages us where we live for that purpose.
My favorite evangelism story is about my own cousin-by-marriage, Bruce. He brought his family to visit mine one weekend – not an unusual thing – and asked to take a walk with me – an unusual thing. He revealed he had cancer, and that he had never until that moment needed anything his own gifts and talents could not provide; certainly not God. “But you are different,” he said. “I have seen you go through a lot; sometimes you are visibly strong and sometimes not so much, but you always seem to find peace. I’m here because I need what you have got.” I led him to the Lord that evening.
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Bruce did not put me on a pedestal, nor do I deserve to be there. He saw my warts, but he also saw something more than me – the visible light of Christ. That light is what we bring to the Great Commission table; Perspectives shows us how to more easily let it shine.
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