Reblog: Savoring Gifts

Occasionally here at Valiant for Truth, we will reblog posts from other great blogs and websites from around the web. We hope that these links encourage you.

This post is by a missionary couple who have recently moved to Taiwan to share the Gospel with the working class people there. They have some interesting insight into what the missionary life is like from their perspective as Christians living far away from what they have known all their lives, while depending on the Lord for the increase and not taking anything for granted. I hope this piece about transition and trust in God’s Word blesses you.

Savoring Gifts

Jesus Speaks to His Church: Ephesus

We’re going to take a little break from our “Blogging Through Acts” series to study the letters to the seven churches in Revelation. We will look at the circumstances those churches faced, what Jesus had to say about them – good and bad – and see if there’s any way we can apply His remedies to our circumstances today.

In Acts, Jesus directed His Apostles “through the Holy Ghost” (Acts 1:2). Now, let’s hear what the Lord Jesus, through the same Spirit, is saying to the churches (Revelation 2:6).

Revelation 2:1-7

In Revelation 2:1, Jesus introduces Himself to the Ephesians as “he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks.” As with many of Jesus’ self-descriptions in these letters, this one hearkens back to the vision of the Glorified Christ John writes about in chapter 1. “And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man…” John continues his description, “And he had in his right hand seven stars” (Rev. 1:12-13, 16). We don’t have to guess or wonder what these mean; Jesus tell us. “The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.” (Rev. 1:20)

So Jesus is the One Who holds the “angel” of this church, and by extension all churches, in His hand. Many commentators see the term “angel” not as a heavenly being, but as referring to the church’s leader, i.e. its pastor or elder, since “angel” literally means messenger. Jesus walks among the churches examining them with his all-knowing, penetrating gaze, testing their works.

First, He commends them for their tireless work for Him and their perseverance in that work. What was that work? Primarily, it was the testing of those who claimed to be Apostles and exposing those who weren’t. They heeded Paul’s admonition:

“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.” (Acts 20:28-31)

But they had forgotten about “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15); they had forgotten Paul’s tears. Once known for their love (Eph. 1:15-16), they had left it.

Sound doctrine is important (later, we will see a church that was the opposite; it had love but tolerated false doctrine), but so is love. We must contend for the faith (Jude 3) while speaking the truth, and we must do so “in love.” Out of love for the Lord Jesus, to preserve the purity of His Word and to feed His sheep (John 21:15-17). Out of love for the saints, so they will not be caught up in false teaching (Acts 20:29-31). And out of love for those who are caught up in false teaching, so they will hopefully escape the snare of the devil (2 Tim. 2:26).

To the overcomer, Jesus promises that He will “give [him] to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7). Later in his apocalyptic vision, John writes of the Tree of Life:

“And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 22:1-5)

This is in the New Jerusalem in the new heavens and new earth (Rev. 21:1-2).  Chapter 22 continues: “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city” (verse 14). So the promise to overcomers is citizenship in the heavenly city, dwelling with God eternally.

Who are the overcomers? John tells us in his first epistle: “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5) We who believe in Jesus are the overcomers and we will be with God, as citizens of His heavenly kingdom, forever.

Part 3 – Blogging Through Acts: Who’s It All About?

Who is the Book of Acts about? Who is/are its main character(s)? Dubbed “Acts of the Apostles” in the second century, it is easy to assume the Apostles are front and center in this book as it chronicles many of  their actions from cover to cover. Some, like author A.T. Pierson who wrote Acts of the Holy Spirit, believe the Holy Spirit is the focus of Acts. Were the disciples the main role players in Acts, or is the Holy Spirit the main Character? Who is it really about? Let’s examine the candidates.

All throughout Scripture, the focus is never on the human players themselves. “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). The treasure is in us rather than of us. Instead of exalting any power they may have thought they possessed, the Apostles were to be witnesses. A witness testifies to what he has seen or what he knows; he is not the subject of his own testimony. The Apostle Paul said, “…we preach not ourselves…” (2 Corinthians 4:5). So while the book of Acts does record the Apostles’ actions, it could not have these men as its primary focus.

What about the Holy Spirit? Could He be the main Character in Acts? As a Person of the Godhead, He certainly could be. But is He? I don’t believe so. Listen to what Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do after His ascension into heaven: “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27). Jesus continues His upper room discourse: “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John 16:13-14).

That leads me to who I believe the main Character in Acts is: the same Person the entire Bible is about – the Lord Jesus. The Apostles and the Spirit were both to be witnesses for Christ (Acts 1:8, John 15:26-27)! Going back to 2 Corinthians 4:5, the verse in its entirety says, “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.” Peter, in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, filled with the Holy Spirit, wastes no time testifying to Jesus and His resurrection. After quoting Joel’s prophecy of the outpouring of the Spirit in the last days, Peter’s next sentence emphasizes Jesus and the Resurrection, and he then proves it from Scripture (Acts 2:24-36).

Peter, again filled with the Holy Spirit, boldly preaches Christ’s resurrection to the Pharisees and Sadducees (Acts 4:8-12), the very ones who crucified Jesus barely two months prior. In fact, every sermon in the Book of Acts centers around Jesus’ Messiahship; every sermon explains how Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecy and presents proofs of His resurrection.

Luke himself also gives us a clue about his intention to keep Jesus as the central subject of his second volume. He introduces Acts in this way: “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up…” (Acts 1:1, italics added for emphasis). If Luke’s “former treatise” – his Gospel – covered “all that Jesus began to do and teach,” then I think we can safely assume, based on this statement, that this, his second treatise, covers what Jesus continues to do. Although no longer with His disciples in the flesh, Jesus continues to be with them by His Spirit and acts through them as members of His Body. Considering all of this, I believe the Book can be titled, The Acts of the Lord Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit through the Apostles, though “Acts” is certainly a lot shorter!

The MISSION in Missionaries: An Opportunity You May Not Have Considered, Part 3

This is the third and final part to this series, The MISSION in Missionaries. It is also available in a condensed form at Mission Network News, who published it on their website. Don’t miss out on reading the footnotes at the bottom of this post, some of which provided some great thoughts, insights, and ideas that I could not squeeze into this article.

Volunteering with missionaries is another great way to support them and boost their morale. God may provide you with the opportunity to intern for a missions board overseas. But even if you have never gone on an international missions trip, opportunities to share the Gospel abound here in the States. The need for domestic missions is just as urgent as the need for foreign missions, because no matter their income or cultural differences, all people everywhere are in need of the saving Gospel. Domestic missionaries, just like their foreign counterparts, are in need of our prayer and support. There are missionaries and missions boards based right here in the US who are dedicated to preaching the Gospel in this increasingly diverse country of ours. One such organization is Open Air Campaigners, a street preaching group which makes it its mission to preach the Gospel in the public square, wherever people gather. Another is Child Evangelism Fellowship, which ministers to children via summer camps, neighborhood clubs, and afterschool clubs. See the need in your own backyard and try volunteering for organizations like these on the home front so you can bless missionaries by helping them to reach the lost.

There are also other organizations, like Siloam Missionary Homes, that build temporary housing for missionaries and provide an outlet to bless them by allowing folks to donate food, clothing, and other items to furloughed workers on site. Siloam welcomes individuals and church groups to come and volunteer by giving them opportunities to build homes and assist with projects around the property. You may also have a chance to get to know and fellowship with the missionaries on hiatus while you are working. Organizations like this may exist near you.

In our haste to get to the “mission field,” we must not bypass the clear and present opportunities God gives us to serve locally. Serving missionaries right where we are is in and of itself a mission field. The Bible records the faithful who ministered to prophets and apostles-sometimes at great risk to themselves- so God’s Word could continue to go forth.3 One of many examples is Onesiphorus, who, after Paul was arrested, encouraged him and refused to shy away from him because of his prison bonds. When Paul was transferred to Rome, Onesiphorus did not stop searching until he found him (2 Tim. 1:16-18). This is an example of ministry towards those who do the work of an evangelist…as well as a display of the “greater love” Christ spoke of to His disciples before He was taken away to ultimately be crucified (see John 15:13).

Every Paul needs an Onesiphorus, a Luke, an Epaphroditus. Every Moses needs an Aaron and Hur to hold up his arms (Ex. 17:8-13). Every Jeremiah needs a Baruch (Jer. 36). Why can’t you be the one to stand in the gap, right here, right now?

Endnotes

1. What missionaries don’t tell you. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.themissionsociety.org/mag-templ/what-missionaries-dont-tell-you
2. Chambers, Oswald. (1993) So Send I You/Workmen of God. Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House.
3. Some references of this nature include Obadiah in 1 Kings 18:1-16; Priscilla and Aquila in Romans 15:3-4; Timothy and Epaphroditus in Ephesians 2:19-30; Luke and Mark in 2 Timothy 4:11.

Additional Resources

Brauer, Janice. (2014, November 7). What is Member Care? [Web log post] Retrieved from http://team.org/blog/member-care/

Charity. (2014, February 27). The Naked Truth about Deputation: Can You See Through My Eyes? [Web log post] Retrieved from http://baptistmissionarywomen.blogspot.com/2014/02/the-naked-truth-about-deputation-can.html#.VO_WGvnF_jK

McVay, John (Ed.) (2010) Ask a Missionary: Time-Tested Answers from Those Who’ve Been There. Colorado Springs, CO: Biblica.

Rogers, Mark. (2010, January 6). 10 Ways to Encourage a Missionary. [Web log post] Retrieved from http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/10-ways-to-encourage-a-missionary/

S., Heather. (2014, July 24). Thank you, supporters. [Web log post] Retrieved from http://missionalcall.com/thank-you-supporters/

Links to Organizations

Child Evangelism Fellowship www.cefonline.com

Open Air Campaigners www.oacusa.org

Siloam Missionary Homes www.siloamhomes.org

Credits

Much thanks to Jimmy Coates for helping me edit and to Tom Fox and Chris Reick of OAC for providing additional photos.