Have you ever planned for or prepared for something? It may have been for years or for a shorter period of time, but we all go through times of preparation in our lives. When we prepare for something, we are intentional. Lots of effort goes into it and in the end, it’s a great feeling of accomplishment.
As we prepare for the Advent season, let us be encouraged to intentionally prepare for the wonderful celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus. It is truly a wonderful time of year.
Advent is a time of reflection, hope, anticipation, faith, joy, and peace. Today, we have many resources that can help us be more intentional as we prepare for Christmas. There are things like: advent calendars, daily Bible readings and devotionals, crafts, candles, wreaths, and more.
Today, we will look at 2 resources that can help us during this time of preparation. Here we go!
In our family we have a book that we really enjoy where we read a short devotional each day and share. We have gone through this book for the last few years, but each time seems to feel like we are reading it for the first time.
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
God’s Word is always relevant, year after year. That is one of the things I most appreciate about the Bible. No matter the season we are in, God has something to say to us and it is relevant.
Similar to devotionals, these are also a wonderful way to count down to Christmas. They even have chocolate advent calendars where you get to eat a chocolate each day- yummy! It’s also important to remember that we need to appreciate each day and a calendar is a great way to do that. You can make it a memorable way to spend time with family and take a few minutes each day to share about what you are thankful for, that particular day.
"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23
Like that beautiful hymn says:
Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning, new mercies I see
All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.
Let’s remember to be intentional day by day. God is faithful to not only provide all that we need, but to extend His mercy to us each day.
As we prepare for Advent and Christmas, let us also remember to think about eternity. Jesus came so that we could have the opportunity to be with Him in heaven forever. Let’s be encouraged to intentionally prepare for eternity each day.
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:3
As we prepare for eternity, Jesus prepares a place for us. This is so beautiful. Be encouraged today.
Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas this season! May you continue to live for the Lord and serve Him each day with gladness. Please remember to keep all of our missionaries and their families in prayer this Christmas and for the upcoming year. Please also pray for more workers, so that those who have not yet heard, will hear and respond. There is hope in Jesus.
Hello, and welcome back to our series on Spiritual Warfare and Missions (SWAM). If you missed the first couple of posts you really should click here to read them first. And be reminded that this series is based on the book by Jerry Rankin and Ed Stetzer called Spiritual Warfare and Missions.
Last time we learned that part of Satan’s Strategy is to distort the call of God. He has convinced many of us in North America that it takes some sort of a mystical experience with God, like a burning bush, to call someone to serve as a missionary. Instead, we are all responsible to be on God’s team, to glorify God among the nations for the rest of our lives.
This week we will see Satan’s strategy to erode the faith of God’s people.
The nation of Israel is an example of how the people of God can so easily be led astray from the mission of God. His calling and purpose for His chosen people were clear. In His providence, He had brought them to Egypt where, for four hundred years, they were protected and prospered and grew to be a mighty nation. He led them out of Egypt, delivered them from bondage, and set before them a mission to possess the promised land and become a witness to all the peoples of the world.
As Moses reviews their history in Deuteronomy, he reminds them of God’s commissioning, “See, I have set the land before you. Enter and take possession of the land the Lord swore to give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their descendants after them” (Deuteronomy 1:8).
When they finally reached the borders of the land of Canaan, twelve spies were sent in for reconnaissance. They came back affirming that it was a land flowing with milk and honey and even brought back fruit and produce as evidence of its prosperity. But they went on to report, “However, the people living in the land are strong, and the cities are large and fortified. We also saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amelekites are living in the land of the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the hill country, and the Canaanites live by the sea and along the Jordan” (Numbers 13:28-29).
They concluded the report with a dismal assessment, “We can’t go up against the people because they are stronger than we are. . .The land we passed through to explore is one that devours its inhabitants, and all the people we saw in it are men of great size” (Numbers 13:31-32). In spite of the contrary opinion of Caleb and Joshua, in faithlessness, the people succumbed to fear and turned their back on the mission of God.
It takes faith to engage the nations.
Many churches today are like the children of Israel in that they clearly understand the Great Commission task, but they don’t have the faith to move out and give priority to personal involvement in fulfilling God’s mission. In fact, they cower in the security of their church building, enjoying the nurturing fellowship of believers, insulated from even impacting the cross-cultural secularism in their own community. Like Israel seeing the pagan tribes to be confronted in the land, we are made aware of the number of unreached people groups around the world. Media and our own travels may expose us to the massive cities of Istanbul, Cairo, Shanghai, and Sao Paulo, fortified by religious history and traditions that appear to make them impregnable to a Christian witness. We are overwhelmed, feeling we are like grasshoppers among giants. We figuratively throw up our hands in dismay, concluding that we can do nothing. We are too small; we don’t have the resources or know what to do. We will just try to be good witnesses where we live.
Such lack of faith to trust God and His promised empowerment (Acts 1:8) to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth is an obvious and devious tactic of Satan. It keeps the majority of God’s churches from unleashing the resources to storm his strongholds around the world and claim them for our Lord. The contrast was the minority report from Joshua and Caleb who believed God and said, “We must go up and take possession of the land because we can certainly conquer it” (Numbers 13:30).
We know that God was angry with the people for their faithlessness. The consequence was their meaningless wandering in the wilderness for forty years as He replaced a faithless generation. Many churches are wandering in the wilderness, trying to find their way, in futility searching for relevance and direction, because they have rejected the priority of their mission. God commended Caleb, saying, “But since My servant Caleb has a different spirit and has followed Me completely, I will bring him into the land” (Numbers 14:24).
All a church has to do is to pray for the peoples and nations of the world, and God has promised to claim them as His possession. “Ask of Me and I will make the nations Your inheritance and the ends of the earth Your possession” (Psalm 2:8). God is sovereign over the nations and will deliver them to the lordship of Jesus Christ, for either judgement or salvation; should we not intercede and pray for them that God would open their culture to a channel of witness and their hearts to His saving grace?
Such prayer is born out of compassionate hearts that are burdened for a lost world, stirred in response to the Great Commandment of our Lord.
Satan is clever. He knows if we prayed for the Baluchi of Pakistan, the Pamir in Tajikistan, the Kurds in Turkey and Iraq that enemy strongholds would crumble and these people would be penetrated with the gospel. Satan is a fallen angel, a messenger, who has access to our minds to distort our perceptions and values. So, if we are going to be a people of prayer, he influences us to concentrate our praying on our own interests, focusing on personal concerns - our needs, our family, our church, our community. How much time do we spend lifting up to the Father our pleas for the salvation of the Hazara in Afghanistan or the Bejas in Sudan? Not only does God work in response to our intercessory prayers; those prayers move us to be involved and do something about reaching a lost world.
It is not how big your church is or how many resources it has at its disposal but whether or not a congregation has the heart to follow God and His heart for the nations. Paul expressed concern for the believers in Corinth, “But I fear that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your minds may be corrupted from a complete and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). Where is evidence of faith and devotion to Christ when we excuse ourselves as being too small and fail to trust Christ to guide, empower, and use us in whatever one’s place may be in fulfilling God’s mission?
So let me challenge you to consider adopting an unreached people group. Go to www.joshuaproject.net and find one to adopt. Learn about your people group. Find out all you can about them. And pray. Pray that strongholds would be broken, that workers would be sent into that harvest field and that the gospel would do its transformative work.
Let us know if you do adopt a people group. We would love to pray with you. Drop us a comment below.
GOING AFTER THE ONE LOST SHEEP
What does a good shepherd do when a sheep wanders off? The greater the distance between the one missing sheep and the watchful eye and protective care of the shepherd, the more the danger. Understanding this, the good shepherd springs into action, taking risks to find the one lost sheep. In the parabolic picture that Jesus paints in Matthew 18:12-13, the shepherd leaves the ninety-nine and launches an urgent rescue mission to find the one at great risk. The use of the definite article by Jesus, the good shepherd, was an indication of his focused love, deep concern, and willingness to give all for the one.
As the Good Shepherd has rescued you, would you consider engaging in a similar mission to help rescue others?
Jesus’ mission was to seek and to save what was lost. He gave himself fully, even submitting to a horrific and unjust crucifixion, to bear our guilt, failure, and shame. Hours after the most powerful and hope-filled event in all of history, his resurrection, he showed his followers his hands and side declaring, “As the Father sent me, so send I you.”
As the Father sent Jesus to seek and to save what was lost, are you willing to make yourself available for him to send you to help carry out this mission, even if it costs you greatly?
As he wept over the death of Lazarus and in seeing Jerusalem filled with people who were like sheep without a shepherd, he knew his followers would weep many tears in carrying out this mission. He understood they would face mocking, rejection, insult, heartbreak, betrayal, persecution, injustice, torture, and even death just as he had faced all of these and more in carrying out that mission.
Knowing involvement in the Good Shepherd’s mission means tears and all kinds of hardship, will you remain fully engaged, not running away from difficulties but running toward them for the sake of rescuing lost sheep?
At One Mission Society, we’re passionately committed to a very strategic principle. When God uses us to help rescue the one who is redeemed by the power of the resurrected Christ, we seek to prepare that one to reach the many. As the one engages with Christ, forgiveness and restoration come. The result is a new creation in Christ; the old has passed, the new has come! In equipping the one to become a disciple maker, this remarkable principle is lived out. God uses that one to help rescue many, who in turn are prepared to rescue many more . . . and over time with God’s help, multiplication continues, spreading widely and growing deeply!
One God-glorifying, Christ-adoring, Spirit-empowered disciple-maker can be sent on mission by the resurrected Lord to carry out his rescue mission among many. This is why we engage the one to reach the many!
DO THIS IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME
We look ahead to November 11, Remembrance Day.
The Remembrance Day Ceremony has played a major role in Canadian Remembrance since 1931. Every year, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we gather in memorial parks, community halls, workplaces, schools and homes to stand in honour of all who have fallen.
Pandemic restrictions have meant smaller ceremonies, or their outright cancellation. Other gatherings are being replaced with virtual ceremonies.
Nevertheless, the tradition of Remembrance will continue, and Canada’s Fallen will not be forgotten. The Royal Canadian Legion encourages all Canadians to observe a moment of silence on November 11, to mark the sacrifice of the many who have fallen in the service of their country, and to acknowledge the courage of those who still serve.
The most sacrosanct and central element in Remembrance is the Two Minutes of Silence. During this time of reflection, Canadians pause to honour, thank and remember our Fallen.
Jesus also gave us instructions to commemorate and remember something as well.
Right before his death, Jesus instituted a special meal for his church to observe. Historically, this meal was called the Eucharist, which means “thanksgiving.” Often today we call it communion or the Lord’s Supper. Although churches differ on how frequently we should take communion, the universal consensus among Christians is that this meal is an important part of our faith.
When Jesus was reclining with his disciples, after breaking some bread and distributing it to them he said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) Many Christians have taken this to mean that during communion, we are to do our best to recollect the story of Christ’s death. We remember the gospel, and as we’re reminded, the gospel stirs our hearts in worship. This is, without a doubt, a good thing, but is it what Jesus was really getting at when he said, “Do this in remembrance of me”. (Luke 22:19) Many Christians have taken this to mean that during communion, we are to do our best to recollect the story of Christ’s death. We remember the gospel, and as we’re reminded, the gospel stirs our hearts in worship. This is, without a doubt, a good thing, but is it what Jesus was really getting at when he said, “Do this in remembrance of me”?
Memorial language was not uncommon in Palestinian Judaism. In the Old Testament, especially in contexts relating to the service of the temple, there were “memorial” offerings (Leviticus 2:2, 9, 16). In these passages, where the context is the people of God at worship, typically it was not the Israelite worshiper who was remembering; it was God remembering.
For example, God says to the Israelites, “On the day of your gladness also, and at your appointed feast and at the beginning of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings. They shall be a reminder of you before your God: I am the LORD your God” (Numbers 10:10). In the context of God’s covenant faithfulness to his people, He would often give them signs that didn’t just serve as reminders for them but for Him!
This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and he earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and ever living creature… (Genesis 9:12-16)
The rainbow served as a covenant sign that displayed front and center God’s promise to never flood the earth. It reminded God of his promise. Communion is a covenant sign, too. Jesus called the cup of the Lord’s Supper the cup of the “new covenant” in his blood (Luke 22:20).
When he told his disciples to observe the meal for his memorial, it wasn’t simply so that they’d be reminded of the gospel but that they would re-present, or convey it through the tangible sign before God. In fact, the phrase “in remembrance” is used elsewhere in the New Testament to refer to God’s remembrance, when Peter told Cornelius, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.” (Acts 10:4)
When the church takes communion, it’s not primarily a time for our individual, subjective recollection of Jesus’ life and death. It is the objective transmission of the gospel through ordinary signs like bread and wine. The sacrifice of Jesus two thousand years ago is being set forth now, before God, as a memorial. This, to be sure, is not a “re-sacrificing” of Christ (Hebrews 10:12 makes clear that Christ could only be sacrificed once), but by faith it is the application of the benefits of Christ’s once-for-all death.
When the church gathers together to “do this in remembrance of me [Jesus]” she is proclaiming Christ’s death (1 Corinthians11:26) as a memorial before God, who sees the sign and blesses us, nourishing us with Christ’s body and blood by the Holy Spirit. In communion, God remembers, and we receive! He remembers his promises to us, his people, and he sets these promises before us on the table. Christ’s body was given for you; his blood poured out for you. Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me”!
PRAYER AND PRAISE
Welcome back to this series on prayer. If you have missed any previous posts you can click here to catch up. But in this post, we are focusing on fasting and prayer.
When I first outlined this series on prayer, I thought that I would be using the OT experiences of Israel and the times that the singers led the army into battle. As it happens, that only happened once in 2 Chronicles 20 and there wasn’t going to be a battle because God had said He would fight for them and they were going to observe the victory. So Jehoshaphat sent out his army, not to fight, but to watch what God would do. And who did he place at the front line?
His best singers!
He placed the singers ahead of the soldiers and commanded them to shout out praises to God. They lifted their voices and sang, “Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever” (v. 21).
And God did rout the enemies, the three armies that had come against Judah, causing them to turn on each other and every one of them was killed.
God will fight for you
God will fight for you, when you place your full trust in him. When you stop worrying and trying to fix it all on your own, you allow the space for God to step in. Give the glory to God and praise his power and faithfulness. Trust that God is working for your good in all things.
“And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed,” (2 Chron. 20:22).
And don’t forget that the ultimate good for which God is working in you is to conform you to the image of His Son (Romans 8:28-29).
God will protect you
God is your shelter from the storm, your refuge in times of trouble. He will protect you from the battles in this life. So, rejoice in the God who loves you so much and give him your praise.
When your heart turns to God, trusting him and praising his great name, you’ll find his peace which passes all understanding.
“But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may exult in you,” (Psalm 5:11).
“Let the righteous one rejoice in the Lord
and take refuge in him!
Let all the upright in heart exult!” (Psalm 64:10).
God will renew your spirit
When the trials of this life leave you worn out and weary, singing God’s praises will fill your heart with joy. Lift up your heart to God and allow him to refresh and renew your spirit.
Praise can turn around even the worst day and make your heart feel light. It can boost your spirits and put a smile on your face.
So, turn up a worship song and sing along.
Pray along with your favourite Psalm of praise.
Look around you and praise God for all the blessings you see.
“The Lord is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults,
and with my song I give thanks to him,” (Psalm 28:7).
Praise is a gift and an offering to God
Praise is not only a command but a gift we give to God. It’s a sacrifice of our heart – giving him our best, even when we don’t feel up to it. The more we praise God and give him this gift, the more we’ll be filled with God’s love to share with others.
Praising God through the storms not only blesses God but will bless those around you who witness such faithfulness.
“Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God,” (Hebrews 13:15-16).
Praise gives trouble a proper perspective
When life is hard, it’s easy to focus on all the problems you’re facing. Those challenges begin to loom larger and all you can see are the difficulties you’re facing.
When you turn your heart to praising God, though, those problems begin to shrink. As your eyes focus on God, you’ll find a new perspective on your trials. As the song says, “the things of this earth will grow strangely dim”.
“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth,” (Colossians 3:2).
Praise opens your eyes to blessing
When you’re embattled and under fire, it can be hard to notice the blessings. Your focus is on the issues in your life, not on the blessings.
Praising God will open your eyes to see all the ways God is at work in your life. You’ll see the blessings he’s given you outside of these trials and you’ll see how he’s at work in your battles. Set your eyes upon him, and you’ll see him more clearly.
“So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, 9 a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper,” (Deuteronomy 8:6-9).
Praise paves the way for miracles
Do you need a miracle? Do your problems seem bigger than any earthly solution? How are you praising God and praying for that miracle?
When troubles begin to surround you, look for ways to focus your thoughts and actions on praise and thanksgiving. Allow God to work his wonders through your testimony of praise through the storm.
“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bonds were unfastened,” (Acts 16:25-26).
What has been your experience with prayer and praise? Have you experienced a victory through your praising of God? What will you do to incorporate praising God into your habits of grace? We would love to talk with you about this.
Leave us a comment and let us know about your experience of praise and prayer. Is there something we can pray about with you? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to pray with us? We host two online prayer gatherings each week. Tuesday morning at 10:00 am Eastern time and on Thursday evening at 9:00 pm Eastern time. We are happy to have you join us and we will send you the Zoom link if you ask for it. Send an email to email@example.com or give us a call at 800-784-7077.