There is nothing quite like the exuberant, uninhibited joy of young children. Watching children laugh, sing, dance or twirl before they learn to be embarrassed or wonder what others are thinking is truly precious. I often think we could make a lot of money if we could capture that same joy, bottle it and sell it...after all the pursuit of happiness is major human pastime!
And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. Go…………
Late last year both the Board and the pastoral team felt stirred to set aside a month each year to focus our attention on Missions. It has been a foundational commitment, backed with action, as a church to financially support Missionaries in the field and to send people out, both short and long term. And yet, as with many long held commitments that keep ticking along, we can get complacent. It’s in place, we are ticking that box, and so we become less aware on a day to day basis of the needs of our Missionaries and indeed of the mandate on us as believers to both pray and go.
And so March is Missions month in 2017.
We have a number of “our Missionaries” coming to share with us in March, orchestrated by God to coincide with our set missions month rather than our exceptional planning, I might add. Take time this month to become familiar with who we support as a church, the people groups they are called to serve, their needs and situations. We have a notice board dedicated to missions giving updates in our foyer. Seek God as to how you might support them from your means, be that financial, in prayer, or in practise.
But can I encourage you not to stop there. We cannot tick the box of going into the world proclaiming the gospel and making disciples with a church program or even by making a missions donations. (Not that these things are bad) We, as His people are the sent ones, each one of us.
In John 20:21 He says, “as the Father sent me, I send you.” We are sent ones because our Father is the sender and the heart of mission involves living out who we are as God’s people. It is not the role of the church as an organisation to be missional, it is the call of God’s people to be missional.
You may or may not be appointed and sent to Thailand, or Mozambique or India or South Africa or Papua New Guinea but as sent ones you do carry the Kingdom into workplaces, places of education, your children’s school, your family, and the places in your community that God leads you.
One of my favourite songs at the moment, “For the one” a new release by Jenn Johnson says
Let all my life, tell of who You are
And the wonder of, Your never-ending love
Let all my life, tell of who You are
You're wonderful, and such a good Father
Pray and Go
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 great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of 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.”
Have you ever wondered why a bunch of Shepherds were the audience of the very first declaration of the Good news of the redemptive Gospel of Jesus Christ?
The fields outside of Bethlehem, the scene of the shepherd’s angelic encounter, have been linked to a unique biblical location called Migdal Eder, meaning tower of the flock. According to ancient Jewish writing this area was deemed holy and consecrated with the lambs raised there only being used for sacrifices at the Temple in Jerusalem. Everyone in Israel recognised Bethlehem as being synonymous with sacrificial lambs.
The shepherds who worked in these fields were not ordinary shepherds but Rabbinical shepherds who were trained and served in raising the sacrificial lambs. The requirement for lambs without spot of blemish brought with it specific treatment of the lambs as they were born. During the lambing season the sheep were brought from the fields to the tower of the flock. The lower level served as a birthing room for the lambs. As soon as they were born the lambs were laid in a hewn depression in limestone rock known as a manger and wrapped to prevent them thrashing about and harming themselves while they were inspected for signs of defect.
“And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
Scholars believe that the shepherds may have known where to find Jesus because to them all these signs could only point to the tower of the flock and the very process they were so familiar with.
There are many aspects of the Christmas narrative that we can skim over as a result of familiarity and even embrace popular tradition rather than the biblical account.
Our God is incredible in His detail, even this glorious interaction with seemingly simple shepherds is a powerful prophetic picture to all mankind of the birth and mission of the Messiah. The picture of a Lamb without spot or blemish indicating the perfection and sinless nature of Jesus, the purpose of these lambs birthed for sacrificial offering and atonement, His very mission. From the moment of His birth the ultimate reason for Jesus’ coming is alluded to. He would be wrapped and laid in a place cut in stone once more as the lamb without spot or blemish who died for our sins. (See Luke 23:53)
As we anticipate the celebration of His coming during the season of Advent, let us embrace the good news of great joy and remember Our God was wrapped in human flesh for us.
Here in the Southern hemisphere January often offers us an opportunity to slow down a little. Even for those with lives not driven by the school calendar there is an option for a slightly slower pace. Perhaps you have had the opportunity over January to consider the coming year, taken the opportunity to get away, or to spend more time with family and friends. At Vision we intentionally cultivate a quieter January for the purpose of rest.
And now February….. back to school, resuming activities and groups, the ramping up of work commitments. I feel anticipation and excitement and I feel a little tentative.
Towards the end of last year the Lord allowed me to feel the weight of my fatigue. In His loving kindness He drew my attention to the connection between my physical and emotional exhaustion and some of the habits and patterns that had crept into my life management.
You know the ones…self reliance, self sufficiency, drawing on my own resources, too busy to rest… I’m sure you can add to your own list.
January has indeed been a time of reflection, and with it has come a recognition that there are things that need to change in me, a re-calibration and the calling out loud my need and utter dependence upon the Lord. My tentativeness comes from the knowledge that change is needed and if I rush into February I might fail to listen and respond.
Can you relate?
So how are you approaching February?
Are you ready to hit the ground running? Are you filled with excitement and anticipation for the restarting of a fuller life, and the getting on with things? Or maybe you are a little tentative like me?
So how to manage this tension? A tightrope walker maintains their balance and poise not by stopping and looking at their feet but instead placing one foot in front of the other and keeping their eyes steady on their destination. As believers, our starting place, our here and now and our destination is all found in Jesus. Scripture makes it clear our sufficiency is found in Him.
I read this phrase in my devotional…..“You “do” from life in ME, and you strive in life without Me”
So as we head into the fullness of the year with anticipation for what the Lord has for us let us fix our gaze on the all sufficient one, the founder and perfecter of our faith, Jesus.