Actual examples of student-written weekly Bible reading assignments in Introduction to Missions
In these three passages, we see the promise of God. He promises Abraham descendants and He will make a name for those descendants. He promises Jacob that these same descendants will never be separated from the love of God. And finally He promises Joshua that these descendants will always be God's people. These passages are important specifically to the Old Testament because it shows how God does not abandon His people. Even when things seem to go astray, He still keeps His people within His plan. He promised initially with Abraham that He would make a name for the Israelites. We see in these passages how God carries His promise to completion. I think these Scripture readings are very important to Christian missions. We can see the nature of God in these three passages and therefore His character and relationship to His children. When taking the Gospel to another country, we often focus just on the New Testament message of Jesus. However, the Old Testament also shows how we serve a God that has always loved and cared for His people.
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations," Jesus told his disciples. The words in all three assigned passages this week words are central to the importance of world missions. All three Scripture verses show the commands that Jesus gave his disciples. He gave them power in the Holy Spirit and with that power they were to minister to the lost. However, this call was not to Jesus' disciples while he was on earth. This is a call to even Christians today, as Jesus' contemporary disciples. To ignore this call to ministry is to ignore the full meaning and understanding central to being a Christian. I think this selected Bible passage was among the required reading because it forces us to look at what we are currently doing as a Christian. Are we doing something with the Holy Spirit's witness and being Christ's witness? Or are we simply attending church, paying our tithe and being a "good person"? This call that Jesus gave us forces us to reconsider the commitment to Him we have made and how we can worship him better.
The first two Bible reading assignments this week seemed like typical, everyday "Christian missions" passages. However, these two passages in this assignment caused me to think more. Even though I have read through the Bible numerous times, I cannot recall Solomon's Temple dedication in quite that way. He was preparing a shelter for the oppressed. He was doing God's work through this sacred haven. It causes me to question my place of worship. Are we opening it up to the stranger? Do they feel at home and at peace in our "temple" or do they feel even more of a stranger within our walls? Then in Acts we read Isaiah message of the Israelites to be a light to the Gentiles. We are, as God's people, to be a light to the world. I think it is important to remember, especially within other cultures, to be a light to these "strangers" and make them feel welcome.
I think this reading shows the importance of separating ourselves from the world. God called Israel to be a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. This was something that set the Israelites apart from all other nations; they were to be different. In Isaiah, we see how God is a jealous God. He wants His children to worship Him alone. This is important to recognize that no other gods compare to the majesty of the one true God. Finally in Acts, we see that God loves all nations, tribes and tongues. All are welcome to the kingdom. It is only within the kingdom that we must learn to separate ourselves from the things that tear us from this love of God. He has given us boundaries for our protection and we must learn to live within those limitations.
God wants His name to be proclaimed; He wants His people to proclaim His name to all the earth. Ezekiel 36:22-23 is a perfect example of what God wants of His people. He wants the nations to see Himself through His people. However, often the people of God become selfish and think that it is their own doings. God refocuses their thoughts and reminds them, "It is not for your sake." Once again we see the jealousy of God in the text. In Micah we see that if God's people behave in the manner as they should, then other nations will want to imitate them. God wants all nations to turn to Him and worship His name alone. If all worshiped the true God, then we would see peace on earth. In the end I think that is what we all peace on earth. Unfortunately, there are so many people who are wandering aimlessly, looking for so many solutions only to find they cannot find peace. I think that is why are message to the nations is so important. We, as Christians, have found this peace and we must share it with others because they are lost and hurting.
These passages focus on the end of time. John the Baptist preached that all must draw near to God because the end was coming. This sometimes presents a significant problem within the church because there are still those preaching that the end of time is coming and it has not in the last 2000 years. However, if we fully believe the promises of God then we continue to await the coming of the kingdom. And these passages reflect that promise that we must believe. There is a sense of urgency in these passages because only those who have produced good fruit will be able to stand before God. Jesus called his followers to "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near." In the Luke passage, Jesus reveals what will happen in the end times: the lame will walk, the blind will see, the captives will be set free. I like it is hope for this time of freedom that keeps us waiting for the end of time.
Exodus 9:14-16 God makes his name known to the Egyptians through Moses and his people. I think this passage is significant because it shows how through one person-Moses--a great nation can rise up in the name of the Lord. Moses was not a strong or powerful man, in fact he had a stutter, but God used him. God worked through Moses. I think this is a testimony to what God can even do through me. I know that if Moses was able to lead thousands of people out of captivity and through the desert then I can lead a few people to Christ. In the Isaiah passage, we learn of the greatness that Jesus will bring to the earth. He also was not a strong and powerful man (in the sense of the world) but he was able to reclaim the Law and lead people into a new way of living. God does not need powerful people to accomplish His work, simply people who are willing.
"May the peoples praise you." God will bless His people if they praise him. Psalm 67: 1-5 stresses the importance of God's people worshiping and praising Him alone. This comes in the form of a psalm of adoration to God. The nations may be glad and sing for joy. The lands will yield harvest if only the earth will fear Him. I question how many people praise God daily, even those confessing to be Christians. We live in a world with so many inventions and convenient technology that cause us to live such a plush life we forget who blessed us with it. We need to refocus and remember that as Luke 24 says, "we are witnesses." We need to start doing our job as Christians to go to all the ends of the earth and preach the Gospel. Jesus commands us in Mark 16:15 to do this and we should not forget the commands of Jesus.
The first verse in this set of passages brings up the question, "Why has God forsaken me?" This is a common concern for many Christians even today. Sometimes when we do not feel God present or working in our lives we begin to think he has abandoned us, but this could not be further from the truth. The end of this psalm reveals that all people in the ends of the earth will know God. God is always present. He is always working, but it may be hard to see it when we have struggles. As Daniel reveals to us, God's dominion is everlasting. There is nothing we can do to remove ourselves from the love of the Father. He will love us through the end of time. He has sent His Spirit to be with us in these times of trouble. We will see His work and eventually we will see Him return for us.
The unity I see between these three passages is communication with God. It is important to express our thanks and adoration to Him, especially through prayer. In Isaiah, we learn that God listens to those who express their sorrows to Him. He wants to answer our prayers; He wants to be exalted through our praise; He wants to bless us through our thanksgivings. He is a God from everlasting to everlasting and we must reveal our hearts to Him. He is seated on a Holy throne and rules from the end of ages. We serve such a powerful and awesome God. Why do we not want to express our gratitude more often? I think this is important for missionaries especially. How can we get someone excited about being in a relationship with God when we ourselves are not excited about it? The new cultures we enter will be receptive to our God only when they see us live out his love through our lives.
"On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name." Zechariah 14 shows us what we have to expect when the end of time comes. And what a glorious day that will be! The whole life of a Christian is leading up to the glorious return of the Father. We want to see His face and be a part of His glory. I think the true call of missions is having a desire for other to be a part of that glory. In Psalms we read that the renown of the Lord will reign forever. I think it is amazing to be a part of such a great promise. God will not abandon His people and He will return for them. I love being a part of this promise and I feel it my duty to include others into this promise.
Howard Culbertson, 5901 NW 81st, Oklahoma City, OK 73132
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