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The Promise of the Seed

Is the Gospel a story or a promise? It is a promise that is unfolding in a story. It is the story of the manifesting promise.

I begin with the question and answer above because I believe that we need clarity as to what is the hope that we can cling to. A hope that can be touched through faith (Hebrews 11:1); a hope that is not just a blurry idea, but a clear promise. The Bible has a forward focus in its content and messaging, constantly looking to the fulfillment of God’s promises. Many of the authors of the books in the Bible were looking forward to the fulfillment of the promises that are clearly laid out in Scripture. Still today we are looking forward to the fulfillment of promises that God has made and that He will fulfill in His second coming. We are still awaiting the fulfillment of the Good News. We have had a wonderful deposit of good things to come (Ephesians 1:14, Hebrews 9:11) and yet we can know through the Scriptures that even greater realities of the Kingdom are in store to be manifested on the earth.

In this 3-part post we will take a step back and enjoy some of the unfolding story of the good news and how our King, Jesus, is bringing it to pass! We will take a look at: The first proclamation of the essence of the Gospel message, Salvation as Christ died and rose, and A look into the future through the Scriptures to the fulfillment of this wonderful promise.

The Promise of the Seed

The first recorded proclamation of the Gospel was pronounced as a curse against Satan in the hearing of Adam and Eve. As He did back then, Jesus continues to make known the manifold wisdom of God to principalities and powers in the heavenly places through His church (Ephesians 3:10). As the chains of slavery to fear, sin, and despair were falling onto the hands and feet of Adam and Eve (Romans 6:16; 8:15), our Redeemer walked into the scene and what to the serpent was a curse was a blessing to Adam and Eve.

“So the Lord God said to the serpent: ‘Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” Genesis 3:14-15

God promised that the Seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent! Adam’s failure would be undone not by his seed but by the Seed of the woman, here we find the first indication that Messiah would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). Adam’s failure would impact not just the human race but all of the creation that God had subjected to Man’s authority (Romans 8:19-21). For God gave Man dominion over the works of His hands (Psalm 8:6). The devastating results of man’s fall would be seen in the unfolding of time as the fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in man, the fruit of man’s acquaintance with evil through rebellion, would mature.

Somehow through Adam’s agreement with the serpent to rebel against God, the dominion and authority entrusted to Adam was temporarily delivered to Satan. Death from then on would become the norm of the human experience; death of those things that are good and beautiful. Sickness, disease, corruption, etc. would dominate the experience of the created order. Satan in a moment went from being cast down to once again having power and influence. Paul described him as “the prince of the power of the air” as he wrote to the church in Ephesus (Ephesians 2:2). The beauty and harmony that once existed in creation was disturbed by a filthy frequency in the air. “But God who is rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4) intervened in that moment with a sound of hope. The voice of God walked into the Garden of Eden.

And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:8

Can you imagine a voice that walks? How can a voice walk? I believe that this is the same Voice that created the heavens and the earth. “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 nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1-5, 14).

When all seemed lost, in man’s darkest hour a light shone with a promise that mankind could cling to. The pre-incarnate Son of God walked into the Garden as a voice of hope to fallen and guilty humanity when He promised that there would be a victory against the wicked power that had arisen on the earth. The power and authority that Satan had taken he would not be able to keep from the One who would crush his head. Jesus is the Light that was manifest to destroy the works of the evil one (1 John 3:8).

With sin in the mix humanity was separated from its loving creator and source of light. Lost in darkness, mankind was helpless but for God’s continual mercy that reached out to man, reminding man of the promise. Sinful man could not draw near to a Holy God, but God was at work among man to fulfill His promise! We can see His hand at work in Abel, Seth, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Melchizedek, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Caleb and Joshua, the judges of Israel, Samuel, David, etc. God used each of these and many more in His redemptive plan to declare and bring about that promised Seed.

The promised Seed, promised to mankind, would bless the nations through the nation of Israel (Genesis 22:18). God chose Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his descendants to be the vehicle through which He would bless the nations; those who were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise” who had no hope and were without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12). In His sovereignty God chose Israel as the people through which He would manifest His great promise, Jesus the Messiah!  God intends to bless the nations through Israel and even after much of the nation of Israel missed their promised Messiah in His first coming they will still be a blessing in the earth. “For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:15).

God continued to expound upon the initial promise He made against Satan and for humanity throughout the Tanak, that is, throughout the Old Testament Scriptures. Covenants and promises were made with the people of Israel starting with Abraham and passed along to Isaac and then to his son Jacob; promises through which Israel had a hope. These covenant promises included a blessing for all of mankind as God told Abraham that through his offspring all the nations would be blessed (Genesis 12:3; 22:18). All the covenant promises find their ultimate fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ. Through the Mosaic (Old) Covenant, sacrifices were established that could cleanse man from sin outwardly allowing for a level of nearness to God not given to any other people. These sacrifices however were powerless to take away sins and to cleanse their consciences (Hebrews 10:1-4).

The condensed promise of the Seed was unpacked through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the prophets throughout the Old Testament. Even the wicked sorcerer Balaam had a share in prophesying about the magnificent Messiah who would deliver Israel from her enemies (Numbers chapters 23 & 24). These promises were literal for blessing and deliverance for the people of Israel. A King would rule over God’s people and over the nations of the earth with righteousness and justice (Isaiah 9:6-7)! Is this not the desire of the oppressed in the nations (Haggai 2:7)? The desire of the nations is to have a just and benevolent ruler, One who cares for the orphan and the widow, One who overturns injustice and gives recompense.

The promised Seed would crush the head of the serpent and take dominion over the earth, and we know that it is God’s desire that mankind would also rule with Christ. Therefore the task of world domination that Christ will fulfill, He will accomplish with the participation and engagement of men and women (Psalm 110:1-3). However with the defilement of sin mankind would not be fit to partner with a Holy God. In order to have His desired partner, God had to cleanse humanity from sin.

 

Sebastian Angulo, MAPS Leader

 

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Antioch Series: When Worship, Prayer, and Missions Collide // The Divine Slingshot

#1- The divine slingshot

In Matthew chapter 9, it says that Jesus was moved with compassion as he saw the demonic harassment and oppression over the masses. The greek word literally means a gut wrenching sorrow or sick to his stomach as he looked out over the nations who were “like sheep without a shepherd”. His divine heart of love for the world could not stomach the oppression, affliction, injustice, disease, over the very ones he created in his own image for his own pleasure to display his own glory. He calls his disciples together and says,

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out [ekballo] laborers into his harvest.” – Matthew 9:37-38

The solution to the ache in the heart of Jesus was laborers. The problem was that there were no laborers that had yet been swept up into that torrent of compassion that was in the heart of Jesus and had gained the kind of authority in the place of prayer to be effective. So he calls his disciples together and gives them a divine prescription. He tells them to contend earnestly in prayer together until, like a slingshot, laborers start getting hurled out [ekballo] into the nations to carry his divine heart with apostolic power.

Jesus knew that 3 things would happen when they gather together.

1. They would see his worth. (worship)

2.The would feel his heart. (prayer)

3.They would be baptized with power for the assignment. (prophetic)

Jesus gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction (Matthew 10:1). You can be sure Jesus wanted the disciples to connect this kind of authority to the command to earnest corporate prayer.

Communities of corporate prayer and worship become the slingshot for laborers. The kind of laborers needed for the harvest in the nations are born, nurtured and sent from worship and prayer communities. Jesus has zeal that these laborers would reproduce this culture in every city and nation to which they are sent. (Mark 14:9, Malachi 1:11)

The majority of your New Testament can be traced to a House of Prayer in an city called Antioch. Many have never even heard of this prophetic community that could arguably compete with Jerusalem in terms of its implications for New Testament Christianity and lasting impact on the Church in the earth.

A little history…

In Acts chapter 1, Jesus stands on the Mount of Olives just before he ascends into heaven and gives the command to tarry in Jerusalem in prayer and worship until something happened. He points them back to the divine prescription of Mathew 9 that would, he promised, unleash an outpouring of the Spirit which would clothe them with power and thrust them out to declare his name and commandments in every nation.

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”… But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”-  Acts 1:4-8

The outpouring at Pentecost was an empowerment for an impossible task that Jesus had mandated the apostles with. One small community led by a group of fishermen, tax collectors, rebels and prostitutes would touch the entire earth with power.

…..when the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. – Acts 2:1-2

Overnight, the church in Jerusalem explodes from a few hundred to a few thousand. Luke records this season of revival in Acts 3-5. Numbers began to be added daily them and unprecedented signs and wonders were being done at the hands of the Apostles. It is clear by Acts chapter 6 that they are just trying to manage and administrate this revival. All the while the to the ends of the earth mandate, which was the purpose of this outpouring of the Spirit, had come to rest on the back shelf of the prophetic words of the Apostles.

Then something transitions in Acts 7-8.

About a decade into the movement in Jerusalem, the “second tier” leaders are moving in such power and authority that it stirs up resistance resulting in the arrest and murder of Stephen. This event marks the beginning of what the Bible calls a season of great persecution for the church under the leadership of an up and coming young Jewish leader named Saul. The church is scattered throughout the region, on the run, and Acts chapter 8 picks up with one of the apostles, Phillip, who escapes to Samaria and others who were scattered “traveled as far as Phonecia and Cyprus and Antioch” (Acts 11:19-20)

When these “no names” arrive in Antioch they decide to preach the gospel to whoever will listen. They figured that if they are going to be persecuted and scattered from their homes because of Jesus and the gospel, they might as well earn it!

But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. — Acts 11:20-21

All of a sudden something amazing happens, the hand of the Lord backs their simple obedience with signs, wonders, and miraculous power so that overnight they have a great number who believed. Up to this point they had only heard stories from decades earlier when Peter first preached on the day of Pentecost. Now they too were experiencing a Pentecost of their own! They were so taken off guard by this move of the Spirit that they sent word to Jerusalem asking for help.

Meanwhile…

…something strange and marvelous had happened to that zealous young Jewish man leading the persecution against the church. He had a life-altering encounter with the man Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus and a word spoken over his life about his purpose and destiny (Acts 9:1-19). Over the next decade Paul is searching for how in the world he is going to fulfill this newfound calling and assignment to “carry [the name of Jesus] before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). He retreats to the wilderness of Arabia to unlearn everything that he had been taught sitting at the feet of Gamaliel and by spending 3 years sitting at the feet of another teacher, who would “guide him into all truth” and “search the deep things of God…and revealing the things freely given to us”. Paul later writes of this season, “For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ”. (Gal 1:11-12) Eager to launch his new ministry and declare everything he had received by revelation in the wilderness, he goes up to Jerusalem from Arabia hoping to receive the endorsement of the Apostles and get a seat at the table with leaders of this new movement. Maybe they would be able to vouch for him? Maybe they could send out a letter endorsing his ministry? Maybe they would even let him join their inner circle (Acts 9:26). Paul imagined this could be his big break and couldn’t stop dreaming of all the possibilities that were ahead of him.

His visit, however, does not go as planned. He spends a few weeks with Peter but no one else wants to associate with him because they are afraid. No doubt some of them had suffered personally at the hand of Paul himself, if not under the orders Paul had given a few year earlier. James, the brother of Jesus, finally agrees to grab a quick coffee with him. We don’t know what was discussed in the Jerusalem Starbucks that afternoon but after that meeting all of Paul’s hopes for strategic networking with the major leaders of his day were replaced with the stark reality that no one cares about his big ministry or his prophetic word that the Gentiles will be included in the kingdom. To make matters worse, he gets into a spat with the Hellenists and stirs up a trouble for the church in the city to which it says the brothers kindly, “brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.” He leaves his first visit to Jerusalem without receiving the “right hand of fellowship” from the Apostles, with death threats on his life, no big break, no endorsement, and asked by the brothers to just “go home.” He says of this moment, “I was still unknown” to the churches of Judea and later he writes with a sting of pain but also great confidence that he is  “an apostle–not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead(Gal 1:1)

Unbeknownst to Paul, this visit proved to be more strategic and fruitful than he could have ever realized in the moment. Although the apostles had all but snubbed him and all the believers in the city were afraid of him, one man in Jerusalem saw something in this young anointed leader that was intriguing and pulled him aside. He wanted to hear the whole story from beginning to end, listening intently to every word Paul had to say. His eyes glistened with excitement when he heard the vision on the road to Damascus. His face showed empathy and concern when Paul described being chased out of Damascus by Jewish zealots. His tone gave no hint of skepticism or cynicism when Paul spoke about the things he encountered by the Spirit over 3 years in the desert of Arabia.

This man was generous and much loved, he was known for his gentle manner and encouraging words. Years earlier Luke, the writer of the Book of Acts, introduces him as a wealthy man who was so happy to be a part of what God was doing and so sincere in his desire to serve, that he sold a field that belonged to him and laid all the proceeds at the Apostle’s feet. This man was name was Barnabas.

Paul sails home to Tarsus. His hopes for an apostolic ministry are shattered. He has no endorsement from major Christian leaders. He has no network to pull from. He has no idea how this word he heard from Jesus himself would become an assignment he could actually walk out. Paul arrives in Tarsus to try to pick up the pieces of his shattered life.

In Tarsus, Paul’s family was of a strict Jewish order. They were wealthy, prominent, landowners and strictly conservative. No doubt they had already heard about their son’s “psychotic episode” and his subsequent abandonment of the Jewish faith, his future, his career and his family. It is safe to say that by this time they had already publicly renounced him as an unbelieving gentile who was unworthy to even sit and dine at their table. He had shamed the family name. To make matters worse, some scholars believe that Paul was married prior to his encounter on the road to Damascus and that his wife, upon hearing of his conversion, left him and returned to Tarsus where she would be taken care of by his family.

Everyone in his hometown knew what had happened. As he lands in Tarsus, he made his way up to the house that was so familiar to him from his childhood, to beg his Father for permission to stay on the property. His family can’t hide their embarrassment that he is back home. His estranged wife didn’t want to hear the story of how he met Jesus, she just wants Paul to stop this crazy talk. She just wants her old husband back. He has to eat with the other servants of the house. The world seems to be crashing down on Paul. Deep questions arise in his heart about whether he had heard Jesus rightly. If he had obeyed, why is everything seemingly going wrong? Why, at every turn, is he getting farther and farther away from his calling to be an apostle to the Gentiles? Should he just quit and settle in to being a tent-maker in Tarsus? At least he knows he is good at that. Here in Tarsus the pain of promises delayed turn into questions of whether the promises were even real in the first place. Here in Tarsus, Paul is sitting on a history shaping, earth shattering, apostolic calling while he stretches the next goat skin over another tent frame to sell just to make enough money to live on. Hope deferred has made his heart sick and he is ready to throw in the towel on his calling. He remembers his excitement on his way up to Jerusalem to meet with the Apostles and scoffs at his once “big dreams”. Now it was time to get on with real life.

There was only problem with this plan. He had seen Jesus.

Back in Antioch…

The report comes to Jerusalem from the revival in Antioch. Gentiles are receiving the gospel, numbers are being added daily, power, signs and wonders and who was leading it? Just a group of ones that were scattered from the persecution. Peter reads the letter out loud to the leadership team and as he finishes, he looks up and surveys the room. Finally with a twinge of hesitancy he asks, “Anyone want to go Antioch?” Everyone has a perplexed look on their faces as the silence grows thick. Peter, looking for any hint of willingness in the eyes of his leaders, sees one man in the corner with a with a smile from ear to ear.

“I’d be happy to go if it I could serve in anyway”, the unmistakable voice comes from the corner.

So they sent Barnabas to Antioch. (Acts 11:22)

When Barnabas arrived he saw what was happening in this amazing church. This group of refugees were praying and worshipping day and night, fasting, preaching the gospel with power signs and wonders, embracing people from all different ethnicities and had an unusual prophetic spirit operating in their midst. He was so excited to see this move of God. It reminded him of the revival he got saved in over a decade earlier. He encouraged these inexperienced leaders to keep going, keep pressing in, keep hosting the presence! He wasn’t there to take over, he was there to be a father to this budding new movement. Soon Barnabas began to wonder what the Lord may be up to in this new outpouring. Why here in Antioch? Why with these scattered, unseasoned leaders? All of a sudden it dawned on him. It was so obvious that at first he couldn’t believe he didn’t see it earlier. All the elements were there.

God was building a slingshot.

What Barnabas did next changed the course of human history.

So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. – Acts 11:25-26

He had believed in Paul ever since he met him years earlier in Jerusalem. It pained his heart when the brothers sent him off to Tarsus. He knew this young man had a history-shaping calling on his but he needed to be put into the slingshot of Mathew 9 until he got an assignment.

Antioch was the place.

Barnabas went and retrieved the broken man from Tarsus and brought him to the family in Antioch that embraced him with open arms. It says for a year Paul, Barnabas and the church of Antioch met together contending in prayer, fasting, worship, saturating themselves in the word and warring with the prophetic promises.

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” – Acts 13:2

One day in the prayer meeting, while they were worshiping the Lord, the Holy spirit broke in and took over the meeting. It was time for an ekballo. It was time to hurl forth laborers into the harvest field. Jesus had formed the kind of laborers he desired to send in Antioch and was ready to clothe them with power from on high.

Paul and Barnabas.

Then, after fasting and praying, they laid their hands on them and commissioned them with that divine commission that Jesus first uttered to those in the upper room years earlier, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that he has commanded you. And behold, he is with you always, to the end of the age”. Then they sent them off…being sent out by the Holy Spirit. (Acts 13:4)

This commissioning wasn’t given in the strategy meeting about how to reach the nations, it was born in earnest corporate prayer. It was nurtured in a community that hosted the presence of God in worship. They did not despise the prophetic spirit but eagerly awaited the in-breaking of a “now” word that they could pray through into completion. (1 Tim 1:18) They were the slingshot that God used to launch Paul into his apostolic ministry that is still bearing fruit in the nations to this day. The expansion of Christianity across the Roman world, majority of your New Testament and the understanding that the Gentile nations are being grafted in to the promises of God can all be traced back to the moment when Barnabas went to Tarsus, picked Saul up out of his despair, believed for him when he could barely believe for himself, and placed him in the divine slingshot….Antioch.  

 

R.A. Martinez

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One Trip That Marked Me Forever

As I sat there fumbling to play the piano and sing the song that was before me I entered into a place of worship and intimacy in one of the most unreached and unengaged nations. I looked down to see the millions of people living in this city wandering about and I had something come over me. There are millions of people that live in this city praying to a god that will never hear, see or respond to them, yet here I am playing a weak song and asking my God to move and I can have full confidence that He hears every word that comes from my mouth and that He WILL respond. In that moment I gained a greater understanding of the need for Worship and Prayer in the Nations.

This encounter happened during my 90 day placement in the Middle East with the Missions and Prayer School. Before that moment I didn’t have much vision for the next 5-10 years of my life, I was just ready to go back home and figure it out from there. I didn’t expect that moment to happen and for the Lord to mark me in that way. If it weren’t for the opportunity to spend 3 months of my life in that nation I’m not sure I would’ve had that sort of encounter that didn’t need years and years of asking for confirmation. It was a real and tangible experience where I was able to see the need for the Gospel and for the lost to be saved.

During the 90 day placement you have the opportunity to engage with the local community in a different way than you would get to on a two week trip. You get to see the way the indigenous people worship and pray and how they have a resolve inside of them to follow Jesus no matter what the cost. When I encountered local believers I was amazed by the yes in their heart for Jesus. It’s not like how it is in America that when you meet someone in public and ask them if they are a christian and they say “yeah I go to church” or “yeah I grew up a christian” but don’t truly have a relationship with the Lord but just grew up that way. Most, if not all, of these believers are ones who grew up Muslim in a very conservative and devote family and when they chose to follow Jesus were disowned by their families, begged to not convert or even persecuted by the ones they love. When you meet indigenous believers in the Middle East, you meet ones that “count it all lost for the sake of knowing Him”.

You have the chance to experience life as a worker in that nation by living the day to day even when the honeymoon phase is over and you miss home. It’s such an amazing opportunity to press into the Lord and experience life outside your culture and comforts. I encountered many struggles and trials in learning a new language, experiencing a new culture and interacting with ones who have given their lives to this but every time I felt that way I was met with the God of the breakthrough who carried me through and taught me to lean and trust Him. I grew more in that 90 days than I had before in my life.

Upon return you realize that your world view has dramatically grown and changed. You realize that from that point on you will never be the same. The things your experienced and encountered have forever morphed your mindset from the natural american bubble we live in to a greater perspective and reality outside of where we grew up. It’s almost natural from that point on to think of yourself less and begin to see the possibilities that have always been there.

Your heart automatically gets tied to the great commission. Whether you feel compelled to return and spend the rest of your life or even a season of time dedicating yourself to the task of the great commission, you without a doubt begin to live with the great commission plumb lined in your heart so that every decision you make after that is in someway affecting the completion of it. It’s an experience that marks you for what’s on the Lord’s heart. That the gospel would be preached in every nation.

 

Bethany Tombley, MAPS Global Leader

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The Singing God

All of our exploits of global evangelization are fixed immovably between the bookends of history: Beginning and End- Creation and Recreation. This intermediate dispensation is one of utmost peculiarity. In this flicker of a few thousand years of time there actually exists a sub-reality that stands in contrast with the rest of eternity itself. That sub-reality is that the eternal triune God, revealed in the Person of Jesus Christ, is not worshipped and extolled by all of what has been made by Him. One can hardly appreciate the gravity of this deficiency of praise because it has become the normal experience of Creation such that all the nations have forgotten the God who formed them (Ps. 9:17) and who upholds them (Heb. 1:3). Yet this is our reality- for now. Surrounding this age on all sides are choruses of endless songs that surge towards God in celestial bliss. The present darkness that stands in defiance to the command, “Let there be light!” will soon be engulfed in the praise of our singing God, never to rise again. The world missions movement is the expression of the Church’s role in administering the advancement of that light, of ending the darkness and replacing the silence with a song for all time.

Everywhere that God goes, song follows. It surrounds Him! It is what He enjoys. He delights in the worship of all that He has made. It’s what He chooses to live within; the very atmosphere around Him is electric with worship and always has been! God told Job that the hosts of angels, the “morning stars”, sang and shouted for joy during the creation of the earth. (Job 38:7). A multitude of angels burst forth in praise the night Jesus was born (Luke. 2:13,14). They live in perpetual worship before Him. (Ps. 148:2; 103:20) All around God’s throne are myriads of angels, living creatures and the company of the redeemed that sing His praises forever (Rev. 5:8-11;13). King David touched into the eternal reality of incessant worship and established it in his tabernacle around the Ark of the Presence of God 3000 years ago (1 Chron. 23: 30;31). God dwells within the canopy of His people’s praises (Ps. 22:3).

Even Jesus Himself sings songs of praise to our Father. On the night of His betrayal we see Him singing hymns to God surrounded by His friends (Matt. 26:30). In eternity past we see snapshots of the Son daily rejoicing before the Father (Prov. 8:30), praising Him among the assembly of the redeemed (Heb. 2:12) and giving glory to God (John 17:5). He even sings over His people (Zeph. 3:17). In this we see that Jesus is not a despot who stands aloof and demands songs arbitrarily from all creation but rather, He is the singing God who invites all of creation to enter into His eternal hymn of praise to His Father and our Father. He is the heavenly choirmaster- the worship leader of all ages. We are surrounded, not simply by praise, but by the praise of the eternal Son. In fact, His praise eclipses all other praise and we as redeemed creation are simply invited to join into His eternal song and hymn to God the Father. It is this eternal, unending song that He invites all of creation to join in and His invitation to every nation is the gospel!

Jesus’ commission to reach the nations is an invitation to the world to join a song that will never end. Missions exist because worship doesn’t. It is His plan to restore the tabernacle of David (Acts. 15:16-18) and for songs to erupt across the cosmos (Is. 24:14-16)- on earth as it is in heaven! (Matt. 6:10) It is incredible that He has given such a task to His people, the Church! We have no higher joy or calling than to sing our praises to God and to invite the world to abandon their sin, lay down their arms and worship the eternal triune God of grace- the singing God.

 

Travis Owens, MAPS Global Leader

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The Importance of Community

If you would have asked me even several years ago what makes a great missionary, I probably would have given you a very loaded response that included these main points.   

  1. Loving God with all their heart-including a deep life with Jesus, that is characterized by  of prayer, worship, Scripture reading and  fasting
  2. Commitment to learn and love people well.  This includes being a learner of culture, of history and of course serving.
  3. Clear focus on the task and the unwillingness to give up despite obstacles.
  4. The ability to communicate the vision and task with others-if you do this well your funding will not be an issue.

Today I still believe that all four of those components are essential to producing great missionaries. However, today I believe I would add a fifth component.  This fifth element I believe is the secret weapon, the “secret sauce” in not only in producing a good missionary -but in producing effective, long term missionaries.  The fifth component is “commitment to community and relationships”.  

I am well aware that when I say “community” some people may cringe because of bad or disappointing experiences.  However, we must throw that aside these setbacks and ask what does God want us to aim for when we are striving for community, and how does this type of community equip a person for long term missions? It is easy to define the word community as  a group of people that center the lives around one core reality.  But I believe the definition falls short of conveying the fullness of Biblical Community.  I believe in order to understand  how a community can train someone to endure the hardship and sacrifice of long term missions-we must speak of the characteristics of this community not just its definition.  

True community is the making of family by the intentional weaving together of resources, time, energy, goals of that community around the truth of the gospel.  The individuals in this community adhere to the Great Commandment to love God with all of their hearts, soul, mind and strength and to love their neighbor as themselves.  The individuals are committed to living out the Sermon on the Mount in such a way that their hearts continually are cultivated for the fruit of the spirit to be manifested.  Finally the individuals know they can not obtain these characteristics individually but they are only able to live these components out in fullness -in the context of relationships with others that are equally committed to do so.  

When you have a group, or team of people that adhere to these standards -community is birth.  It is the intentional walking out of this lifestyle that not only births community but sustains the life of that community. This type of community equips one to be ready to endure hardship, to embrace sacrifice and to become missional.  

 

Ronnette Cooper, MAP Leadership

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Who Will Go?

In Matthew 24:14 Jesus said that “the gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed through the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” It states that every People Group should  hear the gospel before the end will come. So I ask the question, Who will go?

Studies show that there are still nearly 6,800 unreached people groups, unreached means that there is less than 5% professing christians, that number represents around 3.1 billion people. Most of the unreached people groups are located geographically in what some scholars call The 10/40 Window from West Africa across Asia between 10 degrees latitude north of the equator to 40 degrees north. Global Missions is only sending 3.3% of our Missionaries to the unreached peoples, that breaks down to 13,000 workers which means 1 missionary for almost 237,000 people! Furthermore, less than 1% of every dollar that is given to missions in America is dedicated to the work among the unreached and unengaged.

I sit here in tears just thinking of the number of people who have never even had the option to hear the good news, to know of the great love of the Father or know that they do have a savior. It’s heartbreaking and it is a complete injustice.

But we have a great Hope! Jesus is writing the story, not us. I believe Jesus’ words in Matthew 24 that the Gospel WILL be proclaimed! In the midst of these outrageous numbers and statistics, we are hearing and experiencing amazing testimonies coming from the 10/40 window. Testimony of the Man in white showing up to muslims in dreams, healing and signs and wonders in refugee camps, and worship and prayer being established AND led by local believers!

We are in an hour in time where the Church needs to plumb-line itself to the great commission. Jesus gave the call to preach the gospel “in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” to His Church. “Just as every believer’s first calling is the Great Commandment; every believer’s first ASSIGNMENT is the Great Commission because it is the preeminent mandate of the Church.”(R.A Martinez)  I believe, as the Church, if we put the Great Commission as the plumb-line of every kingdom assignment and orient ourselves with those that have yet to hear or have a witness that we would begin to think differently on how we spend our money and where we send our young people. May we be a church that when we hear the Lord say “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” that our first response would be “Here I am Lord, Send me.”

 

Bethany Tombley, MAPS Global leader

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Create and Demonstrate Love

“Art translates. Music translates. Songs go to places where preaching will never go. Art goes into spheres of society where you could never stand up and preach a message.” – Sean Feucht

Isn’t this a true statement? I remember years ago watching a documentary about the power of music called ‘The Music Instinct’ featuring musical genius and multi grammy award winner, Bobby McFerrin. It demonstrates how music/sound effects the body, mind, soul and spirit and why. This was mostly a scientific documentary but ultimately it resonates the reality of how we as human beings are affected by the attributes of creative sound. This is fascinating to me in the way of God being the Uncreated One who first created with sound. He made everything in heaven and in the earth with sound. Our very bodies are held together by frequency of sound spoken by God our Father! God started the whole creative process. God is the creator and Satan is the imitator. He (Satan) has actually no creative ability. He can only imitate and prevent what has already been created.

Music in fact does have multi-effects on humanity. As David played the harp heaviness was lifted off of the king. David wasn’t just playing a top 10 iTunes worship song. He was just releasing a sound. God moves through us as we release the creativity that is in our hearts through artistic expression.

I don’t want to lead you into thinking that music is the ultimate area of creative renaissance. Any artistic medium which a person uses to express oneself is an avenue of creative renaissance.

As believers in Jesus Christ, we are those who want to give all the glory and honor to Him who alone is worthy. One way we can best accomplish this is by knowing and operating in our gifts and talents through true Sonship. Living out our identity in Christ not only allows for us to live in freedom but it actually gives permission to others around us (or across the world) to live in this freedom of self expression as well. Romans 8:19 states For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God” As we walk in sonship, we create and release art that carries the power of the revelation of Jesus. When we create we are walking in true likeness of Christ. Because He creates, we then create. It’s giving the world an expression of true beauty that it has never seen or been moved by…yet! This is what the world is longing for whether they are in New York, Tokyo, Bali or Bagdad. The world is longing for the creative revealing of love that is drawing people into the beauty of Jesus.

“You can never have authority over what you don’t love.”

Do you have a heart to impact culture with faith through Jesus Christ? Then you must love the culture you are desiring to impact. You must pray for the culture you are wanting to see set free in the love of Jesus!

We are hearing all the time these days about people who are in the eye of the media that work in the arts and entertainment industry coming forth and expressing new life in Jesus Christ. This is amazing! There are many born again believers in very strategic places who have access to non-believing influential people that I would never get the chance to meet. They get the opportunity to be in relationships that have impact in the lives of these people who are just one encounter away from the love of Jesus. I, along with many others, am praying for these ones who are shifting atmospheres in an industry that is influencing our generation on multiple levels. The hope is not to just have another salvation check mark by a name of a person or people group we are for praying for but most of all that they have a genuine real encounter with the love of their Creator and that encounter would overflow in their lives and the lives around them. This is the heart of Jesus. This is the desire of a good Father.

My good friend Kyle Barr wrote this not long ago and it’s brilliant:

“God is endless and He is the creator and therefore we are creative beings(since we’re made in His likeness). Being “creative” is an expression of God and so to me a creative renaissance is an outpouring of Himself that’s being expressed through the Arts. You can’t express something or someone that you don’t personally know which is why this must come from a place of intimacy through worship and prayer. The Artisans in Exodus were given His Spirit to create and make the tabernacle which was the place where God dwelled with His people and where God encountered them. Therefore, I want to see artists today create music, dance, word, sculptures, etc with that same anointing that pull people into a direct tangible encounter with God. Just as Jesus came to give us an exact representation and picture of who God is, may we give exact images through creative art to show the Father!”

If you have a dream in your heart for an expression of creativity to grow in your life then I encourage you to find someone that is doing what you want to do or is going where you want to go and pursue relationship with them. I don’t mean call up Kari Jobe, Lenny Kravitz,  Kirk Cameron, Steven Baldwin, or Russel Willson and ask if you can be best friends. I mean find someone in your community who is doing something you want to do and ask them out for coffee and discuss these topics. The best place to grow creatively is in the context of community. If you don’t have a community then you need to find one and quick! It’s in these relationships that you can receive and give truth in love that inspires healthy growth. Without these types of relationships we will always be found wanting because we were made for them.

Create and demonstrate love in tangible ways with the humans around you and see life happen.

 

Katie Temple, MAPS Leader

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Antioch: Where God Rewrites Stories

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Global Cities: The Frontier of Our Day

“You shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth”.

These words of Jesus have driven forward the advancement of the Great Commission with unceasing momentum over the course of the Church Age and  are just as relevant today as they were that day at the dawn of the Church. We are approaching a crescendo in world missions. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit and subsequent mass church planting movements across the Global South in the last 100 years have dramatically shifted the geographic center of the life of the Church. It has also clearly quantified the remainder of our mission to which we now lift our eyes: the world that stretches across the deserts of North Africa, the historic Middle East and bustling world of Asia- the 10/40 window. Therein lie the the remnant multitudes of the earth’s over 3 billion unreached peoples. Their reconciliation is all that stands between us and the restoration of all things. We are approaching a crescendo.

As I look to the 10/40 window, I have thought much about the best way to tackle this enormous task that stands in front of us. Where in the world do you start and what strategy do you employ when you are talking about a task that includes reaching billions of people in need of the gospel?

Billions.

Traditionally, the strategy of world evangelism has been church planting efforts in predominantly rural locations that move from village to village within a framework of cultural homogeneity. Historically, this has been the premier church planting strategy- often times at the expense of urban centers. While this has been wildly successful in past times, I want to stress that we are in a unique hour in history and that our old strategies of cross cultural missions have to be adjusted in order to keep up with the sociological phenomenon of world urbanization.

Without realizing it, you and I are living in the midst of the greatest population movement in the history of the world. A vast majority of the earth’s population is leaving rural villages and moving to urban centers and global cities. This is very unique since in most of history, a majority of the world lived in rural areas. In 1800, about 3% of the world’s population lived in urban centers. By 1900, 13% lived in cities and by 1950 a startling 30% of the world were located within urban centers.

Today, over 50% of the world lives in urban cities. It is expected that by 2050 that 70% of the world’s population will live in global cities. It’s difficult to fully appreciate the gravity of these population migrations. To put into perspective, in the just last 200 years, over half the world has moved to cities and these patterns are showing no sign of changing. In the last 2 decades, over a billion people have moved to the cities. Of the 10 largest cities in the world, 7 are found within the 10/40 Window. The masses of unreached people groups are clearly migrating to global cities across the 10/40 Window. *

There a number of reasons for this movement of peoples, but what is of importance is the need to recognize the strategic significance of urban centers as it pertains to the Great Commission and the need to focus our efforts on city missions. Cities have always directed the culture of the the nation they reside in.  As the city goes so goes the nation in terms of arts, politics, philosophy and even religion. Many have rightly noted that cities are transmitters of culture and creativity to the surrounding rural locales. The same cannot be said about the opposite. Even in America today, the demographic trends across a millennial generation suggest that without question, the cultural values of the youth of America- rural and urban- are coming in line with those of existing major metropolitan and cosmopolitan city centers. This case study can be repeated countless times in almost any nation. Without question: what happens in cities directly affects the nation of that city in terms of culture, art, politics and religion.

This means that for those who desire to make a dramatic impact on unreached nations should strongly consider planting in a global city initially and then rural areas secondarily. Even Jesus’ command quoted earlier emphasized Jerusalem- an urban center- first, then a dissemination across rural lines even to the “remotest parts of the earth”. This is a helpful model to use in our present day. It makes sense to church plant in global cities where the nations are literally gathering to be able to hear the gospel. If we can reach the cities with the gospel in a dramatic way, it will dynamically affect the rest of the nation. In short: if we take the cities, we take the nations- in terms of pure population numbers and unmistakable sociological trends.

It’s interesting to note that the apostle Paul’s missional strategy was almost entirely urban. He focused his mission’s efforts on major cities and centers of trade like Ephesus, Athens, Rome and many others. In fact, it wasn’t until the early second century that we begin to see church expansion into the more rural parts of the Roman Empire like Bithynia and Armenia. It’s without question that the apostolic church’s missional strategy was first urban and secondarily (even residually) rural.

I don’t want to suggest that missions efforts to rural areas are wrong. I honor any efforts to close the 10/40 window and rejoice in sincerity of heart. Every person matters to Jesus- whether they live in village or metropolitan center. Yet with limited resources, manpower and time, I want to suggest that we who desire to do the work of pioneer missions across the 10/40 window step back and rethink our church planting strategies. What is the most effective way to tackle the task at hand in our day?

Does it actually make sense to focus our efforts and resources on remote rural areas or rather on major cosmopolitan cities?

Does it make sense to plant long term efforts in places where the population of the world is leaving in droves or rather in the centers of their destination?

Is it really a better long term strategy to be salt and light in villages that are on the tail end of societal influence or rather in global cities that serve as the source of transmission of culture to the rest of the nation?

What is the biblical example that we can learn from and emulate? When I look at the text it seems obvious that the witness of the early church was urban oriented. These are some of the many questions I am asking myself. I don’t want to condemn any expression of missions. I simply want to get this conversation started. Some may think that city oriented mission’s efforts aren’t “real missions”. I would like to suggest that global city centered missions is the only real way moving forward as we approach the day of His appearing. Without a doubt, the next great outpouring of the Holy Spirit across the unreached world- the crescendo of harvest I spoke of earlier- will take place primarily in global cities. I suggest we prepare in advance for that outpouring- For every tribe, tongue, people and nation.

 

Travis Owens, MAPS Global leadership

 

* ”The Challenge of Cities”, Roger S. Greenway, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Pg. 559

 

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The Harvest is Plentiful but the Laborers are Few

“The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few, therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest field.”

Matthew 9:38

Jesus spoke these words 2,000 years ago, and they still ring true today- the harvest is plentiful! It is true! Our report from the mission field must be joy-filled and life-giving, because we simply are laborers in HIS harvest field. He is the one who upholds the universe by the word of his power, He is the one who received all authority on heaven and earth. He said those words, and then told us to go. We go under His authority, His dominion, to extend His kingdom.

Do we face challenges? Yes. Is it difficult to move into a new culture? Absolutely. But we don’t go alone, we go under our King’s authority, with the anointing of the Holy Spirit. And we should expect to find the world as He told us- as a field ready for harvest.

Testimonies from the mission field support this. In every country I’ve been to, the harvest is plentiful. Souls are saved into the kingdom. Lives are transformed. The sick are healed. New churches are planted.

In Jerusalem, we met a college student who was raised in a conservative Jewish family. She told us that growing up, she despised “Messianic Jews” and had ended friendships with friends who came to Christ. Her heart was cold to the Gospel. In college, she set out to prove through the Old Testament that Jesus was not the Messiah. Through this journey, she actually became convinced that Jesus must be the Messiah, and she put her faith in Christ. Now she says that so many Jews around her have come to faith in Jesus, and God is moving supernaturally by His Spirit across her nation.

In the midst of the Syrian Refugee crisis, a young Muslim man attends a worship meeting at the invitation of our team. With open eyes, he sees a vision of Jesus walk into the room, and place his hand on this man’s chest. For three years he had asked Allah to reveal himself to him, and in a moment of opening his heart to Jesus, Jesus met him supernaturally. This man now is working to reach others in his community with the gospel.

In another Muslim nation, college students enjoy life in a mega-city as they experience western culture and new-found freedom. Approached by girls on our team, they swap stories of life and cultural differences between the east and the west. These girls are the first Christians that the students have ever met, and they excitedly talk about spiritual things and the differences between Islam and Christianity. They love the idea of praying together, and as our team members pray, they say with amazement “Wow, it is like you are speaking to your best friend when you pray to Isa (Jesus)”. The seed of the gospel is planted through this conversation.

Stories like this are not rare. In these nations that have yet to be reached, you are always the first Christian that someone meets. Though we are conditioned to think these nations hate Americans and the gospel, we find that most are surprisingly open and it is easy to share Christ with them. Nations that once seemed hard to reach, now have a growing number of 1st generation believers and churches. Jesus said that the harvest is plentiful, and that is what we have found. But the need is still for more laborers, so the question is will you go?

 

Jonathan Shinkle, MAPS Global leadership