Great Books on Christian Mission

Mission booksAfter recently browsing our church library’s collection, I stared thinking about great books on Christian mission.

The Joshua Project has a very good list of recommended books on mission at: http://joshuaproject.net/resources/articles. I was pleased to see several of my personal favorites listed under each listed for each of these topics

Biblical Basis of Missions
Children’s Resources
Classic Missionary Works
Involvement Ideas
Mission Committees
Missionary Biographies
Missionary Care
Prayer
Preparation
Reference
Short-Term Missions
Strategy and Trends

This is a great “pool” to draw from for various purposes: personal study, preparing short term teams, materials for church mission committees or leadership teams to read and prayerfully discuss or for church librarians to choose future additions for the church library.

I was pleased to find a rich selection of missionary biographies. I consider missionary biographies to be one of the best vision casting and missionary educational tools.

Youth With A Mission (YWAM) offers several very good series of missionary biographies. The “Christian Heroes” series is geared for young people. They also offer the International Adventure series that focuses on great contemporary missionary stories. Of course they also offer a good selection of mission books. Check out their online store at https://www.ywampublishing.com/

The William Carey Library is the go to source for more technical mission works.  Founded by Ralph Winter, the William Carey Library was one of the first companies to exclusively publish mission resources. The on line store is found at https://missionbooks.org/.

Of course the best missionary book is the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation, the major theme of the Bible is the outworking of God’s eternal purpose to re-establish his Kingdom on earth and provide salvation for all humanity. So the Bible is at the very top of my recommended mission book list. Read it with eyes seeking out God’s heart for all  the nation and your perspective on life will not remain the same.

Next to the Bible, I would place Operation World. This is a country- by-country survey of the world with pertinent prayer points.  Later this year an abridged version of Operation World is to be published: Pray for the World. A friend who is on the editorial team says, “This is the book that should have been written first.” I am looking forward to using it.  For more about Operation World and the available resources visit http://www.operationworld.org/.

From these recommendations,  you can certainly find a good read.

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What’s so good about Good Friday?

crucifixionWhen we look at the events of the day Jesus died, it is hard to find anything good. After all, Jesus was betrayed, arrested, denied, tried and crucified – even though three times Pontius Pilate pronounced him innocent of any crime worthy of death (John 18:38;19:4,6).

On the surface, nothing that happened on this Friday can be considered good – unless you share the perspective of Caiaphas the high priest (John 11:50).

But digging deeper, looking behind the scenes, we do find something good. Scripture testifies that Jesus’ death was not a great tragedy, but rather a great victory. For example:

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. (1 Peter 2:24)

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18)

We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation (atoning sacrifice) for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. (1 John 2:1b-2)

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (atoning sacrifice) for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3)

This last verse not only highlights the significance of Christ’s death, but also mentions that is was “according to the Scriptures”. What might this refer to?

Approximately 700 years prior, the prophet Isaiah foretold the sufferings of God’s servant (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). Several verses here indicate the significance of his suffering.

But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.
He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.
By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.
As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities.
Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:5-12)

So seven hundred years prior to the event, we might say that God published the “screen play” for Good Friday. The unjustified suffering of God’s servant would result in the justification of many.  This is what Paul has in mind when he says, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3).

So what is so good about Good Friday? Christ died for our sins. Jesus is therefore the Savior of the whole world (John 4:42; 1 John 2:2) and especially of those who believe (1 Timothy 4:10). Although from a human perspective we see nothing good about the day Jesus died, from God’s perspective, Christ’s death achieved the greatest good!

Allow me to suggest three responses to these wonderful truths.

1. Believe in him

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

When we understand what is good about Good Friday, our first response is to place our trust in Jesus. Although Jesus died for the sins of all humanity, God’s forgiveness is bestowed only on those who trust in him and receive him as Savior and Lord. Are you trusting in Christ alone for the forgiveness of your sins and the gift of eternal life?

And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

2. Worship him

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” (Revelation 5:9)

Understanding what is good about Good Friday leads us to worship Jesus. Pause a moment and worship him – for he is worthy.  Thank him for all that he has accomplished.

3. Share the Good News

On the Resurrection Sunday, Jesus appeared to his disciples and told them.

Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (Luke 24:46,47)

Jesus charged his followers to tell the good news of Good Friday to everyone in the whole world. This mission remains for our generation. Billions have yet to hear the Good News and embrace the Savior.

With whom will you share this good news today?

Jesus says: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments”

While reading the account of Jesus’ passion in John’s Gospel, I paused where Jesus says “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (14:15). This simple statement seems to summarize what it means to love Jesus.  We simply need to do what he says.

Jesus gave plenty of commands. In Matthew’s Gospel, for example, there are 197 commands of Jesus that have an enduring significant for modern day disciples. That is quite a few! And honestly I have a hard time wrapping my mind around all those commands, even though I wrote my master’s thesis on the subject.  I prefer George Patterson summary of Jesus’ seven basic commands. Here I’ve put them in chronological order.

  1. Repent and believe the good news (Mark 1:15)
  2. Pray (Matthew 6:9-13; 7:7,8)
  3. Give (Luke 6:38; Acts 20:35)
  4. Love God, your neighbor, fellow disciples, the needy, your enemies (Matthew 22:36-40; John 13:34-35; Luke 10:25-37; Matthew 5:43-48)
  5. Break bread and drink the cup in remembrance of Him  (Matthew 26:26-28)
  6. Make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20)
  7. Baptize (Matthew 28:19)

Now that is a list that I can get a hold of! Patterson has shown that all the rest of Jesus’ commands can be grouped under these. I was surprised to see how many of these major commands were given during Passion Week.

As we approach Easter, it is fitting to ponder our response to Jesus’ sacrificial love. By obeying Jesus’ commands, we show him our love.  David Watson says, “Obedience is Jesus’ love language.”

How, then,  does your love for Jesus show itself?

Does God Need our Worship?

nations worship

“What sort of creator needs his creations to worship him?” Sick. Very sick.”

Recently I received the previous thought provoking comment from a reader. I commend this person who is looking for a creator-god that exhibits moral excellence. However, it seems that in this person’s opinion, the God revealed in the Bible falls short.

I would agree with this person that if the creator needs his creations to worship him, this would raise questions about the moral excellence of the creator. It would be like a person basing his or her self-esteem on one’s popularity rating or a person’s emotional well-being based on how many “likes” s/he has on Facebook. This shows an unhealthy dependence upon the opinion of others.

From my point of view, however, I would consider the premise, that the creator needs his creatures to worship him, to be incorrect; thus the conclusion drawn from the premise is also incorrect, for nowhere does the Bible state that the Creator-God needs our worship.

The Bible, which I consider a reliable source of information about the nature of God, states that God does not need our worship – or anything else from us, for that matter. This passage would be the clearest example:

The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things. Acts 17:24-25 NASB

In addition there are a series of passages from the Old Testament, such as 1 Samuel 15:22; Psalm 40:6; Psalm 50:7-12; Psalm 51:16; Jeremiah 6:20; Hosea 6:6; 8:11-13 Malachi 1:10-14 that, when read in context, also affirm the proposition that the creator-god does not need his creatures to worship him.

Why, then, are there commands to worship God?

If God does not need our worship, why are there commands to worship?

While I’ve been pondering this matter, I have also been reading The Reason for God by Timothy Keller. I was surprised to find that he addresses this very point.

“But wait,” you say. “On nearly every page of the Bible God calls us to glorify, praise and serve him. How can you say he doesn’t seek his own glory?” (218)

Keller points out that God does this because “he wants our joy” (218). Keller discovered this point in the writings of Jonathan Edwards on the Trinity. Because the three persons in the Trinity share eternally share perfect love and fullness of joy, there is no internal “need” for creatures to love God in return. So why then did God create? Edwards thought that the ultimate reason God created is not to remediate some personal lack or need, but to share his infinite love and delight (218-219). Keller concludes:

God made us to ever increasingly share in his own joy and delight in the same way he has joy and delight within himself. We share his joy first as we give him glory (worshipping and serving him rather than ourselves)…. (224)

Commands to worship God, then, rather than a burdensome duty, are intended to guide humanity on the path toward their greatest good and delight.

God is worth of our worship

Whenever people observe something beautiful, good or excellent, their reaction is often to praise it. So it is with God. When people recognize who God truly is, his character, his deeds, it is quite natural for them to praise him. Rather than God needing people to worship him, people naturally worship God when they discover his true nature. Nothing forced. Nothing sick here.

The English word worship comes from the Old English word weoroscipe or worth+ship. The worshiper, then, recognizes the worth of the object of adoration and hence willingly offers praise. So when humans do understand God’s nature and his works, they freely choose to worship him, because he is worthy. This point comes out in two places in the book of Revelation:

Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.” (Rev. 4:11 NASB)

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” (Rev. 5:9 NASB)

These two examples highlight that God is considered worthy of worship because he is both the creator of all things and the redeemer of all humanity. The last of the Psalms also points out how God is worthy of our worship. “Praise Him for His mighty deeds; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness” (Psalm 150:2 NASB).

Worship and discipling all nations

So what does worship have to do with “discipling all nations”? Quite a bit. I’d like to draw four observations.

The Bible describes an ideal future when all nations will worship the true God. For example, we read in Malachi 1:11:

“For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name {will be} great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering {that is} pure; for My name {will be} great among the nations,” says the LORD of hosts.

Second, this will come about when knowledge of God is universally communicated.

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD,
As the waters cover the sea. (Habakkuk 2:14)

Third, the nations can worship only when they discover the true nature of God and his marvelous deeds. So it is necessary for those who know God must share this knowledge with the nations. This comes out in Psalm 96.

Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples. (Psalm 96:3)

Finally, those who know God will be motivated to share the glad tidings of God’s wonderful deeds with all peoples only when they are convinced of God’s excellent greatness. This calls to mind John Piper’s observations in Let the Nations be Glad:

Worship is the fuel for missions. Passion for God in worship precedes the offer of God in preaching. You can’t commend what you don’t cherish. Missionaries will never call out, “Let the nations be glad!”, who cannot say from the heart, “I rejoice in Lord…. I will be glad and exult in thee… (Psalm 104:34). Missions begins and ends in worship. (11)

So worship is both the goal and the motive for mission. When the people s of the earth come to know God, they will freely and joyfully choose to worship the Lord and also commend him to others.

Where would you place yourself on the worship spectrum?

We’ve looked at a wide spectrum of where people fall on the question of worshiping God. Some think that worshiping God is sick, repulsive. Some consider it a burdensome duty; others sheer delight. A few of those who delight in God also consider it a privilege to share what they have discovered about God with all the nations, so that they too can share in God’s love and joy. Where would you place yourself on this worship spectrum? Where would you like to be?