Monday, December 25, 2006

The First Missionaries

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest,and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. (Luke 2:8-18)

The first missionaries about the Messiah were not the apostles, and missions didn't start at Pentecost. Instead, God chose a simple group of people to carry His message that was heralded by angels.

God could have had the angels proclaim the birth of Christ throughout the world. He could have let everyone see the glorious light and the shining star. Yet He chose to reveal truth to a few, who would spread the word to so many more.

The shepherds were no different than you and I, really. Simply people who were recipients of revelation - and they passed that revelation on to others.

"And all who heard it wondered".

Continue to pass along to others what has been revealed to you!!!!

A Filthy Christmas

Think about the filthiest, dirtiest home you've ever visited (or can imagine). Rotten floors, bugs, waste on the floor...completely unhealthy, unclean, and disgusting. You probably couldn't wait to get out the door and take a shower - a completely understandable response.

And yet Jesus came into a sinful world, where our best efforts at righteousness were like menstrual rags...unclean in the eyes of a holy God. Compared to the glory He had with the Father in heaven, sinful humanity can only be described as "disgusting".

Yet He came ... not just to live among the squalor but to transform it!

Missions is the task of telling others about this transformation. Yet some will not see the beauty in being clean ... they are used to the dirt, or perhaps have never thought "clean" would work for them. Some even like their dirt.

The real miracle of Christmas is that not only did Christ come into our messy world, and not only did He come to transform us and our corner of the world ... but He gives us the desire to be different, to be clean.

A miracle indeed!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:1-5

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Clean Stables ... or Fruitful Fields?

Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean,
but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.
Proverbs 14:4 (ESV)

God has used this verse to challenge me this week. When oxen are working a field, the farmer comes in to the manger or stable and refreshes the hay, cleans out the biggest mess ... but both the farmer and the oxen are too worn out to care about the aesthetics of the manger area. The goal is fruitfulness! On the other hand, if crops fail to make and a farmer sells his oxen, he finds himself with ample time to scrub the manger walls!

The question I sense God asking me this week through this verse is this: What is a "clean stable" in my life, that I am prioritizing rather than the effort that leads to fruitfulness? What am I doing just to cross off my list, when God would prefer I focus on kingdom-building tasks? Am I willing to sacrifice the "clean stable" for fruitful fields?

What about you? In your kingdom work, it is easy to get frustrated by the things you don't get done ... you feel disorganized and out of sorts much of the time. Certainly sometimes God calls us to prioritize planning and organization - but is it possible that part of your frustration comes from wanting a "clean stable" ... while God is asking you to focus on the fruitful field that is coming?

May God bless you with His perspective today.