Friday, February 25, 2011

Strategies to Reach the World

After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith … (Acts 14:21-22 NAS)

Paul as MissionaryAccording to information from the Mission to Unreached Peoples (MUP.org) ministry, almost 2 billion people or 27.9 percent of the world are still essentially cut off from access to the Gospel today. Although many of these people live in major urban cities, there are still some living remotely and in rural areas. These are the ones that are largely ‘ignored’ by the Great Commission Christian world. Researchers are saying that if all the mission organizations from every continent continue to grow at current rates and increase as well as decrease in the number of missionaries, the least evangelized people of the world will still be 23 to 25 percent in 2025.

As believers of the Lord, we are all called to be God’s witness and to play our role in fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Not all of us however are specifically called or set aside to be missionaries to preach to the world as the apostle Paul did (Acts 13:2-3). But to those who are called to mission work, whether as a missionary or supporter serving in the ministry, here are some lessons we can learn from Paul in planning strategies to reach the world for Christ.

When on his missionary journeys, Paul frequently evangelized in places of prominence such as the chief cities, cities of provinces, centers of government, main trade routes and other strategic places (Acts 17:16-21). This, of course, does not mean we neglect the unpopular or non-strategic places, but it does mean it helps in reaching a greater crowd through global missions to witness to all the nations (Matthew 24:14).

Reaching out to the crowd, Paul sought to understand the mentality of the people he witnessed to. In Acts 17:16-34, Paul used a different approach in handling the Athenians as compared with the way he handled the Jews in Acts 23:1-11.

Follow-up is important and an essential area for preserving the brethren in the faith. Without follow-up and discipleship, the brethren may backslide and be in a worse state than before (2 Peter 2:21). Paul understood this and returned to the cities of which he had witnessed (Acts 14:21-22; 15:36).

Keeping in contact with the home church or sending organization to report on progress of ministry is also important. Paul reported his progress to the church which sent him (Acts 14:27), and in so doing encouraged new and old missionaries as well as future missionaries.

In short, the strategies of approach to missions are:

  1. Preach in strategic places, yet do not neglect the non-strategic
  2. Seek to understand the people we are witnessing to, and then decide on the right approach
  3. Follow-up on the work that had already begun
  4. Report to the home church or the sending organization on progress regularly
Touch our hearts dear Lord that we may do our part in fulfilling the Great Commission, regardless of our role as a missionary, a helper ministering to the missionaries or as a witness. Teach and guide us Lord on the best way to reach out to the people who are yet unsaved. Help us to be sensitive to the people we witness to Lord that we may by Your Spirit choose the right approach in reaching them. Remind us Lord that we may not neglect the follow up of those who have already been saved to train and make disciples out of them.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Now is the Time

Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. (John 4:35 NAS)

USS Enterprise @ Star TrekSome years ago, I attended a seminar organized by IBM to introduce its operating system. A video clip was played at the start of the seminar once the audience was seated. Appearing onscreen was actor Leonard Nimoy making a commentary before it moved on to the next scenes.

"Time waits for no man," said Nimoy with a voice echoing in similar style as the first scene of almost every Star Trek movie showing the galaxies and outer space. "But man waits all the time. People were told to wait another six months for a solution ... The wait is over, the time is now ... for [the operating system]."

The whole presentation was impressive with stage settings similar to the inside of starship USS Enterprise and special effects emulating scenes from the Star Trek movies. What caught on in my mind however are the words, "Time waits for no man, but man waits all the time ... The wait is over, the time is now." This statement reminds me of what Jesus said about the harvest, "Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest" (John 4:35 NAS).

Many of us probably know or have heard it being preached about the fields being white for harvest. We are aware the time is now, not later, when it comes to salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2), especially if we have loved ones who have yet to receive Christ as Lord and Savior. What we tend to forget however is while the time for salvation is now, there is also the time of waiting for the day of salvation of individuals.

It pains my heart therefore that until now many of my loved ones are still unsaved and resistance to the gospel of the Christian faith. Many a time, I have wanted to give up trying, but doing so would mean eternal death for them which certainly is not what I want because I love them. Yet, to see little or no progress despite years of prayer and effort to reach them, it hurts badly. I have earnestly sought the Lord many times in my sorrow and grieve and out of desperation, yet I cannot seem to be assured. Frequently, I asked the Lord, "How much longer Lord am I to wait? How O Lord can I break down the barriers that make it so hard to reach them?"

The Book of Ecclesiastes gives the answer. There is a time for every activity under the heavens (Ecclesiastes 3:1). While the time for harvest may be now, there is also a time for sowing, nurturing, and waiting. The day of salvation can only take place at the acceptable time (2 Corinthians 6:2). We may plant the seed, another may water it, but God is the One who makes it grow (1 Corinthians 3:6).

Like me, some of us may be deeply concerned for the salvation of our loved ones. If this is so, we must never give up, because if we do, we are sentencing them to eternal death. We should instead seek God desperately to open the way to lead them to salvation. We may face many obstacles along the way, but we must continue to pray and stand firm in the Lord, knowing there is a time for everything under the heavens. God is the One who grows the individuals’ faith. We should therefore find comfort and be assured, while at the same time not cease to pray for the unsaved, especially our loved ones.

Let us therefore reflect on God's goodness and receive encouragement when in desperation, knowing that He is always present to hear our deepest emotions. Let us also learn from the lyrics of a song that touched my heart:


There were times in my life
When I wanted to give up
But You were there
You were there
You were there to hold my hands
When I needed Your assurance
You helped me make my plans
Only You can understand
Every good thing bestowed
And every perfect gift is from above
Coming down from the Father of lights
With whom is no shadow of turning

Dear Lord, You know our hearts and the emotions within us that easily break when in desperation. You O Lord understand how we feel. Assure us therefore Lord and help us not to doubt. Grab hold of our hands Lord when we want to give up, and lead us in our plans to know how best we can break barriers to reach our loved ones. Remind us dear Lord that the time of salvation is now, not later, and there is a time for everything. Help us understand Lord that while we may sow, another may water, and it is You who cause the growth. Calm our hearts Lord that we may be patient to wait for Your perfect timing in all we do as we continue to pray earnestly for the ones who desperately need You.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Without Regrets

Near is the great day of the LORD, Near and coming very quickly; Listen, the day of the LORD! In it the warrior cries out bitterly. (Zephaniah 1:14 NAS)

24 HoursWhen a group of online forum participants were asked what they would do if they know they have 24 hours left to live, many of them responded with similar answers. They would want to meet up or at least write letters to bid their loved ones and friends farewell, expressing to them their love and regrets.

“I’d spend it with my son, and drive around and see all my friends, say goodbye, and family members,” said one forum participant. Another said, “[I would] surround myself with everyone I love. Eat a delicious meal with my family and hold my daughter close to me every second.” Yet another said, “If I could, I would attend Mass, then visit all my close family … and tell them how much I loved them. I would … go out into the countryside, sit down by a campfire with my family all around and pray for a while, and then we could all discuss our lives, our love for one another and bond for one final time. Then wrapping up warm and lying down looking at the heavens, the beauty of them, enjoy the love and peace that surrounds me and prepare myself to meet my maker for judgment.”

“I would spend the first few hours of my day writing notes and letters of gratitude to all the people that I love and have been hurt by me, no matter where they live,” said Grace Boyle, blogger of SmallHandsBigIdeas.com. “I [would] look at these letters as a hello, good-bye, thank you, I love you, you’re special to me, always will be. I would then choose to be home with my family and friends. We would open our best bottles of wine, cook together, reminisce, tell stories and enjoy delicious food … [I would] relive my life by going through my photo albums ... I imagine I want to say ‘until next time …’ because there are no real good-byes. I want to soak in the happiness instead of the despair. I would spend a few moments alone forgiving myself of any mistake I felt I made, reflecting on the beauty of my life, the risks I took and finally, feeling at peace.”

King Hezekiah, when he was told by Isaiah the prophet he would die and not live, sought the LORD, and God granted him another 15 years (2 Kings 20:1-6). Not everyone however may get a second chance or has his or her life extended like Hezekiah. If we are to return home to be with the Lord and we have 24 hours left to put a closure to our lives on earth, what would we do? Would we be ready, or would we leave with regrets? Do we have anything unsettled today that we need to make up with people we know? Would we, like King Hezekiah and one of the forum participants mentioned above, first seek God before doing anything else?

Dr. Carla Goddard, another forum participant, in answer to the question on living one’s last 24 hours said, “[I will do] the same things I have done today. When you live your life as though every moment is a priceless gift, there is not a single thing more important than what you are doing at any given moment.”

Like what Dr. Goddard said, and as believers in the Lord, we should also be ready to answer God’s call home or for His sudden return (1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10). The day of the LORD is near and is coming very quickly (Zephaniah 1:14). We may wish to bid farewell to our loved ones if we know we have 24 hours left to live and hope to move on to the next life in peace. This, however, is only possible if we have Christ as our Lord and Savior and if we live our lives now without regrets, free from unsettled relations or entanglements (Luke 9:57-62; Hebrews 12:1).

Help us therefore dear Lord to be always on watch to do what is right without regrets or unsettled relations or entanglements. Do not let us be caught unexpected Lord when it is time for us to meet You face to face. Keep us abiding in You every moment of our lives Lord that even when facing death, we need not fear, for we have victory in You.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Growing Faith

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; (Hebrews 11:17 NAS)

Abraham and IsaacAs I reflect upon my past—the years I have been walking in the Lord till now—I begin to see more and more of God’s plan gradually revealed to me. During times of difficulty, such as when I was without a job, I learned to depend on God completely. When I was hospitalized, I learned what it means to depend on others to care for me. Now, I am discovering why the Lord has put me through three different career shifts before I become who I am today—a writer.

After I completed high school and military service more than 20 years ago, I started my career as a legal and marketing assistant in a financial institution. Several years later, I was led to a different career path to take up a technical support position in the information technology (IT) industry. Today, besides providing freelance writing services, I am also hired as a marketing communication and technical writer for an IT corporation.

All these years of learning and molding serve as a training ground to prepare me for God’s purpose—to write for God and men. Learning to depend on God during difficult times and on others when in need teaches me not to rely on my own strength, but to trust God and develop a team spirit working with others. Getting to know legal documentation and marketing related stuff, along with competency in IT, provides me with the right knowledge necessary to be a marketing communication and technical writer. Writing for men provides the means to keep me and my family alive, while writing for God gives me the opportunity to reach out to the ones God wants me to minister.

Looking back, the guidance of God seems so clear, yet there were times I faltered in trusting God completely for my family’s livelihood. Through the years, however, as my family and I continue to trust God more and more, there are visible signs of growth in our faith in God.

Some of us, like me, may have gone through years of training to be prepared for a work the Lord has planned for us. We may not realize it at that point of time when we were being molded by God to go through difficulties times, but when we reflect, we may realize God’s hand in our lives. We may see how God has led us every step of the way to become who we are today. Even if we are going through times of difficulty now, we need not stumble, for we can rest assured that God is in control working through His plan for our lives (Romans 8:28; Jeremiah 29:11).

Let us therefore learn a few lessons from Abraham, the patriarch of the Old Testament. By faith when he was called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going (Hebrews 11:8). As believers and children of God, we ought also to walk by faith and trust God completely in all areas of our lives, even if we are unclear the full plan of God. Abraham may have faltered occasionally in failing to acknowledge Sarah as his wife while under threat (Genesis 12:10-20; 20:1-18), but he grew in faith to eventually trust God completely even to sacrifice his son (Genesis 22:12; Hebrews 11:17). When we falter at times, therefore, we should also not give up, but continue to trust God and grow in faith. When we face difficult times, we need not fight our battles alone (Genesis 14:14-16; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 3:13), for God is our strength and our help (Psalm 46:1-3; Nahum 1:7).

Dear Lord, thank You for always looking out for us through all the years we walk in You. We know Lord that in all circumstances we can completely trust You, even when we do not clearly see Your plan for our lives. Forgive us Lord for the times we falter. Help us to continue to trust You more and more, that we may grow in faith. Remind us Lord that we are not alone in our struggles going through difficult times. Strengthen us Lord that we may stay strong and firm, knowing that You are in control of all things.

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