Missions in a Covid Era

The city of Cincinnati

July 27, 2020

As I write this email, I am hurriedly preparing for our mission trip to Cincinnati. The day is filled with doing laundry, checking packing lists, finding air mattresses, picking up a rental van and making sure all the vehicles are gassed up. With all the scurrying around, it seems like a normal summer mission trip, but every now and then, I realize that this summer is anything but normal. We have the cloud of a pandemic over us all and we have had to take that into consideration in the midst of planning our trip.

For those who are new to Grace Point, this is the 4th year we are taking a team to Cincinnati with the express purpose of supporting Brandon and Brooke Long with their church plant in Cincinnati. Each year has looked a bit different, but the main thrust of the mission is to meet people, pray with them, share the Gospel and introduce them to the new church plant. The primary method of meeting people is door to door evangelism and walking along busy streets and starting up conversations.

With that in mind, we are still going to be following the same methodology, while at the same time, wearing masks and following safety guidelines.

Some would say that we are being foolish for going on a mission trip while we are advised to stay in place and not leave our homes. Why don’t we wait until this is all over, and then go out to the mission field?

Let me assure you, this has not been an easy decision, along with just about every decision I have had to make in the past four months as a pastor. There is no seminary course on guiding a church through a pandemic, and if there was, it would probably not be very helpful.

“But God!” I love those two words that we find scattered throughout the Bible. When we don’t know what to do, we turn to the reality and the authority of the Word of God. He has the plan to lead His church, using pastors and leaders who would simply walk in faith and listen to the Holy Spirit.

The Bible has hundreds of promises of God’s protection over His people:

Psalm 91:4-6, “He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.”

Psalm 121:7, “The Lord will keep you from all harm- he will watch over your life;”

Nahum 1:7, “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him,”

Isaiah 43:2, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

Psalm 34:7, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”

2 Thessalonians 3:3, “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.”

Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

There are many more, and it is so encouraging to meditate on the truths of God’s Word as we pray for wisdom and direction.

One of the key factors in hearing from the Lord and discerning His purposes, is to see where the Holy Spirit is leading. We should always be looking to see what the Spirit is doing and run in that direction.

For example, we have extraordinary things happening at Grace Point over the last few months. We have prayerfully opened the doors as often as we can and faithfully proclaimed the Word and worshipped together. We have seen numbers grow exponentially as more and more people from the community come for the first time to the church in search of a community that believes and acts on the Word of God.

Two weeks ago, we held our first Kids Camp in many years and impacted over 150 people from the community. It was overwhelming to see the joy and sense of relief as families gathered in the parking lot, to share a meal and be challenged by the team of performers from GX International. The fruit of the Kids Camp was immediate, and we celebrated the baptism of 12 people the following Sunday!

Getting back to the mission trip, we have a large group of twenty people all hungry to share the Gospel message on the streets of Cincinnati. I have been reading through the Gospel of Luke in my devotions this week and came to Luke 11:33, “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.”

Being the reflection of Jesus in our community is what sharing the Gospel is all about. Sadly, churches and ministries who have decided to close their doors and “hibernate”, until it all goes away (whatever that means), are missing one of the greatest opportunities for us to be the light for our communities.

This is a season of tremendous opportunity for the church to boldly declare our trust and hope in Jesus as the only way of salvation for the world. Are we being reckless? Not if we are following the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Please join me in prayer for our mission team, for our church family and for wisdom for our leadership team. I believe we have an unprecedented opportunity to reach people with the Gospel in this season of unprecedented fear and uncertainty.

In 2 Timothy 4:2 Paul exhorts young Timothy to, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

This is definitely an “out of season” moment in history, and we need to continue to do what God has called us to do as the Body of Christ.

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 4:14-20 – Sermon April 28, 2019

Philippians 4:14-20

 Are you content?

Contentment could be financial security, family security or relational security. The marketing agencies dislike content people, because they cannot sell you anything. They prey on discontentment and strive to create discontent.

But there is a big difference between worldly contentment and Christian contentment. Worldly contentment is fleeting and short lived. But Christian contentment is different, Charles Kelley said, “Christian contentment is the God-given ability to be satisfied with the loving provision of God in any and every situation.”

To be content in every situation is what Paul is referring to in these verses. He has known comfort, and has known poverty, but he could honestly say that he was content (see 2 Corinthians 3:5).

At the time of writing this letter, Paul was in prison and he was reflecting on his life and journey as a Christian and in spite of all he had gone through, he was rejoicing.

The Philippian church had sent Paul a financial gift for his ministry and Paul was expressing his gratitude. God had stirred in the hearts of the people in Philippi, Paul realizing that the Lord had used this early church to provide for his need was thanking the Lord.

Philippians 4:14, “yet it was kind of you to share in my trouble.” The word Paul uses for share means to have fellowship in, or to participate alongside. The Philippian church really were suffering with Paul, they cared deeply for him and considered his suffering to be their suffering.

This is how it should be in the body of Christ (See1 Corinthians 12:26).

Philippians 4:15-16: “And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again.”

Paul had no other church supporting him in ministry. Even in Thessalonica, a wealthy sea-port, had not yet experienced the blessing of supporting world evangelism. They were inward focused and missed out on the blessings that the church in Philippi was experiencing.

We can easily fall into the thinking that supporting missions is simply a horizontal transaction, the donor giving to the missionary and the missionary going out. But when we truly understand that everything we have comes from God, and that we are merely stewards of all that Has entrusted to us, it becomes a vertical transaction. The missionary asks God the Father for provision, the giver asks God the father how much he/she should give, and then in obedience, both are blessed to be a part of the Gospel ministry.

In verse 15, Paul says that they were entering into, “giving and receiving”. There is no giving without receiving. The church gave materially but received a spiritual blessing. Paul looked on their missionary gift as an investment that would pay them rich spiritual dividends. No gift we make to the Lord’s work will ever leave us poorer (see Luke 6:38). The Bible is clear, that if we give, we will receive, but we must also be clear that we do not give in order to receive, it doesn’t work that way.

Paul continues in verse 17 “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.” Paul’s real joy was not in the gift that he received, rather his joy was in what the gift did for the Philippians.

We are in danger of seeing people as goers and suppliers, but the reality is that in the kingdom of God, we are all a part of the Great Commission, and no Christian is excused.

Philippians 4:18, “I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.”

Paul could say this because his heart was pure, he was not relying on man, he knew exactly who provided his needs. Paul had the abundance mentality of the kingdom of God, knowing that God never runs out.

Paul said that this gift was a fragrant offering to God an acceptable sacrifice. Paul is not referring to tithing, the regular giving to the Lord’s work, this is giving over and above, as an offering to the Lord.

In the Old Testament, the temple tithe was 10%, but in the New Covenant we don’t have this as a law. Rather if we have submitted ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, we are called to give our all to the Lord. In our giving to the work of the ministry of the church 10% is a guideline, but this is simply the beginning. Over and above that we prayerfully give to the Great Commission ministry of missions. Not only does this build us up in our walk with the Lord, it also is an invitation into a blessing.

Paul looked on their gift as a spiritual sacrifice, laid on the altar as a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord, this is true worship. Seeing this in relation to Hebrews 11:6, we must understand that faith and giving must go hand in hand.  A sacrifice that is pleasing to God, is a sacrifice that is given by faith, faith in the existence of God, faith in the provision of God and faith in the promises of God.

We have to realize that God doesn’t need our money, He is inviting us into a lifestyle of blessing.

In verse 19, we have one of the most quoted promises in the Bible, but unfortunately it is almost always taken out of context and misused. Philippians 4:19: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Many people quote this verse without meeting the condition of verse 18. Paul is saying, “You met my need, and God is going to meet your need.” But more than that, “You met one need that I have, but my God will meet all of your needs.”

The primary purpose of giving and receiving is in verse 20, “To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Missions and the church exist for one purpose, to declare the glory and the praises of God.

Will you ask the Lord for His invitation into the blessing of giving towards the Great Commission?

MAY 27, 2018 – Saul Part 3 – The First Missionaries are Sent

Acts 13:1-4

In Acts 13, we find Saul in Antioch in Syria, the church in Antioch is the first place that the followers of Jesus were called Christians. We must remember that this was not considered a compliment in the first century. The church was growing rapidly in Antioch, and the Apostles in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to them in order to help them. Acts 11:24 reveals a great deal about this man called Barnabas, “for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.”

We tend to think of Barnabas as the guy that was also on stage but never had a real part to play. But the truth is that Barnabas had a significant influence in the explosion of the early church. He was happy to be behind the scenes, but always made things happen. Why? Because he was full of the Holy Spirit and Faith. We need more people like Barnabas. Everyone wants to be the Paul, on stage being bold and declaring the Gospel, but if it wasn’t for the people like Barnabas, very little would actually get done.

In chapter 11:25, we read that Barnabas sees a need in the church in Antioch and he remembers Saul, he is led by the Holy Spirit to go to Tarsus and looks for Saul and when he finds him he takes him back with him to Antioch in Syria.

This is the beginning of Paul’s first missionary journey. As you can see on the map, he and Barnabas go from Antioch to Cyprus in the Mediterranean and then up to Perga and then up to Antioch in the province of Pisidia. This is not the same Antioch as you can see.

This young church in Antioch, a growing, vibrant and healthy church, was meeting together, and the Holy Spirit told them to commission these missionaries as we read in verse 2: “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

A few significant things to note here; firstly, they were worshipping and fasting. There are many reasons to fast, one of the most important reasons to fast is when we are facing a big decision. We fast, depleting our bodies of strength, relying on the Holy Spirit to give us strength and to speak to us.

Secondly, these were the first missionaries sent out. We tend to think that this was a common thing at that time, but actually it wasn’t. The church spread as people went about their daily lives, as they travelled for business as slaves were traded and moved around, that is how the Gospel message was spread. No-one really thought of being sent out as missionaries. We all know the great commission that Jesus left his disciples in Matthew 28, but for the most part, up until now, the disciples were still in Jerusalem.

The Holy Spirit began the mission’s movement by sending Barnabas and Paul west and north into modern day western Turkey.

The Holy Spirit must be the driving force of missions, we can have all the good intentions, but unless we are led by the spirit and empowered by the spirit, we are just going on a tour of the land.  

 The mission team we are sending to Cincinnati needs your prayers, that is why we prayed for them today. To go under the power of the Holy Spirit, to hear the Word of the Lord for the people of Cincinnati.

Paul finally arrives in Antioch in Pisidia and on the Sabbath day, they went into the Synagogue and sat down, the early church was worshipping on the first day of the week, Sunday, because of the resurrection. But this was a Jewish Synagogue, Paul and Barnabas went on Saturday as the Jewish tradition, they respected the culture they were visiting, which is another very important piece of missions.

In the Synagogue, traditionally they read the law and the Prophets, the Old Testament, as we know today. And then the leaders of the synagogue turned to these men from the other Antioch and asked them a loaded question, “After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.” Acts 13:15

I doubt that the leaders in the Synagogue had any idea what Paul was about to say. Paul preached a sermon that day, taking them through the Law of Moses, the ancient history, and then introduced them to Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the risen Son of God.

This sermon is recorded for us in Acts 13 and this is still the message we declare today. This is the Good News, the Gospel message. This Is all we have, this message is still the only message that transforms lives, the only message that brings light into dark places. And as we go to Cincinnati next week, this is the message that we will be carrying in our hearts for the people of that city. There is power in the message, in verse 44 we read, “The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord”

Antioch was turned upside-down by the power of the Word of God. Pray with us that this same message turns Kansas City and Cincinnati upside-down for the glory of God.

The Great Commission Sunday July 30, 2017

We as believers have two ordinances in the church. We have Baptism and the Lords supper or communion.

We believe that you are not saved by taking communion or by being baptized. However, you must be saved in order to take communion or to be baptized.

So why do we have these ordinances? Matthew 28:16-20, known as the Great Commission is where Jesus gave his disciples the marching orders for the church.

The disciples obeyed Jesus’ instructions from Matthew 28:10, and go up this mountain in Galilee. Suddenly Jesus presents himself to them and in verse 17 we have a very interesting phrase, “When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.”

Some doubted! The term for doubt here is not complete unbelief but rather it is a hesitation to accept something that seemed so impossible, it was hard to grasp. Some of the disciples struggled to believe that Jesus was alive and that he was exactly who he said he was. These same disciples who witnessed the feeding of the 5000, the feeding of the 4000, Jesus walking on the water, Jesus calming the storm, they witnessed the powerful natural disasters that took place when Jesus was crucified and many other miracles, these same men, who walked with God for 3 years, now doubted.

Now before we are too critical of these disciples, we too are prone to doubt and Jesus knew that. Jesus knew that the enormity of what took place when he was crucified and raised from the dead, is too much for us to fully comprehend and that is why we have these reminders, the reminder of Baptism and the Lords supper.

These ordinances are more than simply things we do. They remind us of who we are, they remind us that without the body and the blood of Jesus, we have no hope. Baptism is such a beautiful picture, when the person being baptized, goes under the water, they are showing that they have died to their old life, and have been buried with Christ. And then the beautiful picture of coming up out of the water, being raised to new life in Christ.

Jesus begins the Great Commission by saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

The authority Jesus has supersedes all earthly authority and all heavenly authority, he truly is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Jesus didn’t assume this authority, it was given to Him by God the Father, the creator and sustainer of all things, Jesus had this universal authority given to him. The authority that Jesus had is secure because it has been given to him by the all-powerful, unchanging, uncreated God of the universe.

When Jesus says that all universal authority has been given to him, he sets the stage for what he is about to say next. Verse 19 begins with the word, “Therefore”, therefore, because he has the supreme authority, Jesus uses that authority to commission the disciples, and all who would follow him. With all the authority in the universe, Jesus says Go!

Notice that Jesus doesn’t, try to go, or if you have time go, or if it is convenient go, no he simply says; “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,”

This commission still applies to the church today, it still applies to all followers of Jesus today.

The phrase, “make disciples”, means win converts, win them for Christ by sharing the good news. Go out by the power of the Holy Spirit and win people for Christ.

The natural follow on from salvation is baptism, Jesus follows the winning of souls immediately with baptism.

If you have given your life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, but you have not been baptized, I strongly encourage you to be baptized. It doesn’t make you a Christian, but in obedience to Christ, you are making a public testimony of your new life in Christ, and I believe that God places a special blessing and seal on your life as you obey Him in baptism.

Verse 20 continues, “and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…”

This is the discipleship piece, we are not called to simply win souls for Christ, we are commissioned by Jesus to do that hard work of teaching, correcting, training and encouraging. This is sometimes where we struggle, we seem to think that once a person is baptized they automatically are transformed in every way. But that is simply not the case, they need grace to make mistakes just like we do. None of us are perfect, but we are all on the journey of growing more and more in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord.

So, we have the Great Commission, to go, win souls, baptize them and disciples them. After Jesus gave the commission, did he just wave a goodbye, and disappear?

Have you ever been given an impossible task? A task that you know you could not do yourself, but you were told by your parent or your boss to go out and do it! Imagine these eleven disciples, Jesus just told them to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. Can you imagine how overwhelming that must have been?

But then Jesus gives them the promise that makes the Great commission doable, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus promised to be with us, he also gave the Holy Spirit to live inside of us as believers, we are not alone. This is not a task that we have to try and figure out on our own.

In fact, the Great Commission is only possible because of the promise and the gift of the third person of the trinity, the Holy Spirit.

What a comfort that is, God not only commissioned us to go, he also provided the power to complete that Great Commission. Let us be a church that always answers the call to go.

Playing our Part “Why we share the Gospel” May 29, 2016

Evangelism 2 Title.2 Luke 24:36-53

Why do we share the Gospel message?

In society there are two kinds of people, those who cannot stay in the same place for any length of time and those who dread uprooting and moving to another house, or city. Most people cannot imagine what it would be like to move to another country. This is the way God has wired us, neither is good or bad. Which of the two describes you? And what is your part to play in the mission of the church?

Last week one of our church members left for Cameroon and in a few weeks a team will be following her. Why do we go to foreign lands? For most people this is illogical, crazy even wasteful. Some would say that if you are going to travel to a foreign land, at least go to an exotic location, but not an African village with no running water? There must be a compelling reason for us to go?

In Luke 24 we read Luke’s account of Jesus revealing his resurrection to his disciples. He is alive! As the disciples are talking, Jesus appears in the room. It must have been frightening, Jesus simply appears out of thin air! Jesus begins to calm their fears and shows them his hands and feet, the scars, the real skin and bones. The fact that Jesus rose from the dead changed everything for them, and it means everything to us.  If he didn’t rise from the dead, the early church would never had started, and there would be no church and no hope.

Jesus proved that he was alive, by showing the disciples his hands and his feet, and allowing them to touch him.  But what proof does the world around us have that Jesus is alive? The reality is that according to the word of God, the world needs to look no further than you and me to see evidence of the risen Lord. Our testimony should be one of a changed life, a different way of living. Let your story be known, so that people will believe in the risen Lord (see Colossians 1:27).

Jesus begins to teach them, he explains the scriptures to them, in that day the Old Testament was established and recognized. This is what Jesus had just done for the two disciples on the road to Emmaus as we read in verse 27.

As Jesus teaches them, he opens their minds so they could understand the scriptures, they were able to fully grasp Jesus in the Old Testament, what an amazing revelation that must have been.

Jesus goes on to tells them the wonderful Gospel message, verse 46; “He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.” Jesus shows them that the Gospel is prophesied in the Old Testament, this is it!

Jesus continues by declaring that repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name (Jesus’ name) to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem. Matthew records this in what we call the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). This Gospel message, this message of salvation, is for all nations, every ethnic group and tribe.

Great Commission

The Great commission is not just for the disciples who were in the room that day, it is for all believers throughout all of history. It is not just for those who are trained as pastors and evangelists, or missionaries, it is for all who believe that Jesus Christ is Lord.

In verse 49, Jesus tells his disciples to wait, they were not yet ready, they needed one more thing. They needed to power of the Holy Spirit in order to go.  Jesus knew that if they had gone out in their own strength they would have failed, they needed the Holy Spirit to lead in the mission.

We also cannot expect any fruit from the Gospel message without the Holy Spirit. We rely on his leadership and equipping as we share the Gospel message to the world around us. Note Jesus says, “be clothed”, be covered up with the Holy Spirit. Not just take a drink of the Holy Spirit, but be completely covered by the Holy Spirit, so that when you go, you will go in power. Just like being unclothed leaves one naked and vulnerable, without being clothed in the Holy Spirit, we are naked and vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy.

So we have the message, the Gospel of Jesus Christ – we have the empowering Holy Spirit – and we have the commission, the Great Commission. We have to go!

 boarding pass

Where is God calling you to go? Your home? Your neighbor? Your workplace? The streets of the city? Maybe God is calling you to the ends of the earth. We highlight and celebrate the international missionaries, and that is good, but we need to remember that the missionary who is led by the Holy Spirit to reach his neighbor or co-worker is just as important and valuable in the Kingdom of God.

You may say, I don’t have the ability? Have you clothed yourself with power from heaven? Of course you don’t have the ability, but be clothed with the Holy Spirit, it is a promise of God that we need to pray for.

You may say, I don’t have the means? Who is it who is inviting you to go? The maker of heaven and earth, the creator and sustainer of all things? Where He leads you to go, He will provide.

If you know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and savior, you are called to go.