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The Power of the Gospel | by Caleb Stewart

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The gospel of Jesus Christ is the great equalizer of humanity.  In it we understand that the differences between one man and another are painfully minuscule when compared to the differences between any man and God.  As Paul flatly states, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23 – NIV)

It may be easy to think of myself as high on the ladder of life because I’m a few rungs above my neighbor.  However, the gospel shows us that a few rungs is nothing.  The ladder of God’s holiness stretches through eternity.  I may perceive a gap between me and someone else.  But from God’s perspective, we’re practically sitting on each other’s lap.  Thus, Jesus himself encourages us to take stock of our vision toward the misgivings of others: “first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5 -NIV)

It is called the gospel, or good news, because God (in His mercy) spans that infinite distance between us and Him through his Son, Jesus Christ.  We all, simply put, are in desperate need of a savior – rich and poor alike are united by their need for Him.

James, the brother of Jesus, applies this truth to personal economics in his letter to Jewish believers in exile.  In James 1:10, he notes: “Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position.  But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower.  For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.” (NIV)

You don’t have enough money?  No big deal! God chose you to be lifted up above your circumstances through the salvation that Jesus brings!
You have more than enough money? No big deal!  Naked you came into this world and naked shall you leave.  The only thing you really have is the salvation that Jesus brings!

The astounding power of the gospel lies not only in its ability to lift up the poor, but also its ability to flatten the well-to-do.  For the poor, the gospel corrects their self-perception.  In its estimation, they are not the forgotten of this world.  They are the remembered of God whom He loved so passionately that he sent His own Son in order that He could redeem them and subsequently share His riches with them.

For the well-to-do, the gospel also corrects their self-perception.  In its estimation, they will be forgotten by this world.  But, if they will consider what they have in light of God’s desire to share His riches with them, they too can be the remembered of God.

And since, in the end, our only treasure is His anyway, we are free to take the financial advice that Christ himself offers, “Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.” (Luke 16:9 – NLT)

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Caleb Stewart is an award winning filmmaker, writer and public speaker.  He is the owner of Nomenclature Media and blogs weekly at JCalebStewart.com.

 

ReThink Short Term Missions | By Jamie Saint

Short term missions are three words that, when mentioned in church, make people starry-eyed as they contemplate going to another country to serve the Lord.

What is the purpose of mis550size 1sions?  Is it to go to another country or to make disciples?  Is it to build a building or to build a Kingdom? These are questions we must consider to become more effective with missions work.

As a church we spend so much time, energy, and resources on the one to two weeks each year when we go on a mission trip that we can lose sight of the other fifty weeks that we have at home.  What would it look like if we were to take the same energy, passion and focus that we invest into a short term mission trip and applied it to every week of the year when we are at home?

Each year at I-TEC, we lead teams on mission trips to various areas in the world where we train Christ followers to meet the physical needs of their own people as a door opener for the Gospel.  By teaching pastors and church leaders how to meet the medical, dental, sight, and other needs of their people, they are able to share the love of Christ with them.

The need to alleviate poverty in rural areas of third world countries is very evident.  However, each time after returning from one of these trips, we see that there is just as much need in the USA, it just looks different.  People here are hurting in areas like finances, family, and career; as well as in the physical, social, and intellectual areas of life.  The greatest need however, is a universal need…that is spiritual need.  The trouble is that people don’t care about what we have to say until they know that we care, and do not want to be preached to about what the Bible says.  What would it look like if we were to live intentionally to be examples of Christ’s love and compassion to the people we come into contact with every day?  What if we become so focused on the mission that we lost sight of all the frivolous trappings that the world falsely tells us are so important?

Not long ago, we went to a grocery store to pick up some lunch supplies for the office.  While checking out I asked the cashier how her day was going.  After replying with the standard “good” answer, I asked if it was actually good or if she was just saying that.  Before long she began telling us about her boyfriend who was out of work and really wasn’t on track with his education or a career.  I told her that we were with a mission organization that helps people who are hurting in various areas of life and gave her the location of our mission organization, just a few miles away.  One week later, there was a knock on our office door, and the cashier was there with her boyfriend.  She asked if we could help him.  My coworker, Jim, began meeting with him at a coffee shop to mentor him in each area of his life by presenting Biblical principles in a secular format that he could relate to.  During this mentoring process Jim had was able to share the love of Christ with this man.

What would our lives look like if we applied Biblical principles to our daily lives and were willing to share them in a non-preachy way?  What would happen if we looked at our lives as though we were full time in the mission field like missionaries who serve in other countries?  What if the “Go” in Matthew 28 included going to our neighbor, coworker, or someone we just met to intentionally be the light we are called to be?

How are we each using the one LIFE we have been given, and how can we do better?

 

The author, Jaime Saint, works with his father’s organization, I-TEC, and began a new division called LIFE University. LIFE University is the division of I-TEC that focuses on equipping the church in North America with tools to evaluate their mission’s strategy and to empower them to help people in their communities in practical ways.

Things I’ve Learned from the Poor | By Doug Seebeck

When I was 22 years old, I went off to Bangladesh as an Agri-missionary. On fire in my call to Christ, I was going to teach the farmers how to farm. They would be the grateful recipients of the God-given wisdom I had acquired at that ripe age and in short order they would feed their nation.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I ZambiaFarmer.DS.PovertyCureBlog(body2)understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 

1 Corinthians 13:10

I quickly learned that the Bengali farmers were excellent farmers. They were able to survive even though they had no access to things we take for granted: the systems, resources, and models that bring about markets and flourishing economies.

I then did something I never expected to do: I asked those Bengali farmers what they needed to move from subsistence farming to the business of farming. And then I listened. My “know how” from a more developed farm environment partnered with their deep knowledge of their own land and culture fostered a deep and multi-generational transformation in their communities.

That was 37 years ago and Partners Worldwide now asks and listens to small-scale farmers and emerging businesspeople in 25 countries.  Here are a few things they’ve taught me along the way:

  1. They know how to fish! The oft-quoted Chinese proverb tells us that if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day but if you teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. People at the margins know how to fish … but they don’t have access to the pond. They aren’t able to engage and participate in the economic systems, markets, relationships, networks of support and collaboration and cooperation, tools, and models many of us take for granted.
  2. They are more resourceful money managers than most people I know. You try living on $2 a day! Yet they pay multiples more for food, water, shelter, electricity, energy and transportation.
  3. They are smart business people. When we take time to understand the decisions they make, they are always the best, given their circumstances, and our partnership with them only magnifies a talent they had to begin with.
  4. They are innovators. Their capacity to “work-around” the obstacles they face reminds me that God created us in Genesis 1 as trusted stewards of the Garden, imbuing in us the knowledge and creative power to tend to Earth and bring forth its bounty.
  5. They are entrepreneurs, intuitively demonstrating the traits associated with successful start-ups: keen observers of behavior, slow to speak and long on listening.
  6. They are servant leaders, they humble themselves to serve, they truly served me, and I realize there is still so much for me to learn about how to best serve them.

 

Doug Seebeck serves as the President of Partners Worldwide