Jesus’ Burden is ours

*image from Mosaic church

I recently read an article through Voice of the Martyrs about the burdens we carry. Some we put on ourselves. Most we were never meant to carry. Many of us feel weighed down and find ourselves without the strength to do what really matters in life…to love others well and share the message of Jesus with them. Check out the following excerpt from VoM and see if you’re convicted as I was.

Neither drugs nor civil war can stop the spread of the gospel in Colombia. Juan and his wife, Maria, are missionaries among the indigenous people north of Cali, Colombia. Cali is controlled by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a leftist guerilla group. Many Colombian pastors and missionaries have faced opposition from FARC and have fled the area. When Juan met with a group of fifty FARC guerrillas three years ago, however, twenty of them received Christ. As he says, “We exchange pistols for epistles.” Now, the National Liberation Army has been attacking Christian churches in the region. Recently, more than twenty churches were shut down, and many pastors fled for their lives. Guerrillas often come and demand all the tithes and offerings or take the pastor’s life. Now Juan is the only pastor left in the area, and he receives no outside aid. Still, Juan and his wife made a decision to stay and continue ministering to the people. They say, “If we are to die because we preach the Word of God, we would rather die than leave the church.” Juan does not condemn those who have left, nor does he talk about the difficulties they have faced. He prefers to share what God is doing and his burden for ministry. His mind is preoccupied, not with danger, but with reaching Colombia’s people for Christ.

Being burdened with the gospel is not the same as being weighed down with earthly concerns. Most of what we carry are earthly concerns. My wife and I joke about all the “first world problems” that we or others allow to get to them. But it’s no joke. Jesus called us to pursue what really mattered and allow Him to care for the rest.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew‬ ‭6:33‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The burden of the gospel simply means an awareness of others’ spiritual needs. I think that comes from a very real understanding of our own spiritual need. Juan has a “burden,” but his burden is light. In following Christ’s example, and Juan’s example, we must be burdened for lost people. It’s a light load because we are always giving it away. We are not supposed to keep the good news to ourselves. Let’s allow Jesus’ burden for the lost motivate us to hang in there one more day and to share with one more person. Let’s release what was never ours to carry and pick up the message of hope to take to the nations.

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:30

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The Message Can’t be Stopped

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“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:10-11 ESV

ISIS swept through the Near East like a wildfire leaving havoc in their wake. But just like a fire, they burnt out. The ideology still persists among the radical Islamic populous, but movements are not sustainable. Even though that is the case, one cannot ignore the impact they had. But persecution and hate don’t have the final say. In a recent article, I read, the hot spot of death during the peak of ISIS has seen a rapid rise in followers of Jesus. Kobani was once in the spotlight for horrific reasons. Now, its making headlines because lives are being transformed and God is sweeping through the region with a revival and message of hope.

Kobani is just one example of how the word of God pervades all generations and all obstacles. As the western world becomes more hostile towards Christians, it is only skimming the surface of persecution that Jesus followers have faced around the world. But no amount of threats or violence have been able to extinguish the message of the Gospel. Check out these statistics below:

Africa: Home to many Islamic terrorist cells, Christians have long been the target of hate crimes. But the numbers of Christians are exploding. In 1900 there were around 9 million Christians. Today, there are over 600 million. Polls suggest that Africa will be home to the largest number of Christians by 2050. Nigeria, for example, just surpassed Russia, is way higher than former Christendom (European nations), and are estimated to catch the United States (highest Christian population) in the next couple of decades. Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania are seeing similar rises in believers.

Asia: This continent has a long history of religious struggles. It’s a broad mix of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and more. The rising faith, however, is Christianity. In Nepal, the world’s only Hindu kingdom, there are more than 500,000 Christians. This is amazing considering that the first modern church was planted in 1959. In Mongolia, the four Christians of 1989 have exploded to over 20,000 today. Cambodia is equally fascinating. In the late ’70s, there were around 2,000 believers. Today it’s approaching 250,000. What makes that even more incredible is that the communist wave swept through the country between 1975-1977 killing around 2 million people, many of whom were Christians. The most inspiring, in my opinion, is China. The introduction of communist persecution in 1949 caused a tidal wave in conversions and a burgeoning underground church. The Christian population went from just over 1 million in 1949 to over 100 million today.

Looking back through history, it was persecution that drove the spread of the faith. As psychotic Roman Emperors cracked down on followers of Jesus, the faith ignited into a world-shattering movement that eventually overtook the Empire itself. No ruler, ideology, or armed hate group can ever put down the Gospel. The message of Jesus transcends time. Its power is far greater than anything this earth has ever seen. Hope is rising in this world of darkness. The Gospel has prevailed and always will!

Don’t forget to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world who are choosing Jesus ahead of comfort and conformity. Their bravery is a beacon of hope and courage for the world to pursue.

I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

Job 42:2 ESV

Peace brothers and sisters. The victory is His!

Fear vs. Love

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Fear is one of the most basic human motivations. It drives stock markets and fuels wars. Its unruly energies can be used for great harm or channeled for great good. Professional boxers are often told fear is their friend. Fear can make them better fighters. It keeps them alert. It sensitizes their determination. In the same way, God can use our fears and make us better fighters for his cause. Whenever we are afraid, we have the potential to do the impossible. Why? That which is impossible in our own strength is made possible with God’s help. Fear makes us more likely to forsake our own resources and rely on God instead. In this way, extreme fear can lead to extreme faith.

The following is a story shared from Voice of the Martyrs.

The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear?

Psalm 27:1

LAOS: The unwritten code of the police was clear: If you catch the Khmu or other tribesmen converting to Christianity, arrest them. If you catch anyone evangelizing the tribesmen, kill him.

After “Lu” had been shackled at the hands and feet and shamefully marched through the village, the Communist police threw him in a pit. “We will let you go,” they said, “when one hundred Christians in your village renounce their conversion to Christianity.” But they were unable to find believers willing to turn their backs on Christ. Then tragedy struck the police. One officer’s son broke both legs in an accident. His other son became critically ill. The officer who had beaten and harassed new Christians suddenly died of a heart attack. Other officials fearfully pulled “Lu” from the pit and allowed him to return home. Government authorities were too frightened to take action against the Christians in the village after seeing what happened to their leader. Seeing God’s show of power, more Khmu became believers. Where there had been one hundred Christians, now there were seven hundred. They even sent Christians out to tell other villages about Jesus. While the Laotian authorities were controlled by their fear, the Christians in Southeast Asia overcame theirs.

For some people living in post-modern nations, sharing the gospel may result in losing friends, not being invited places, being written up at work, being overlooked, and perhaps being ridiculed and given a nasty label. But it won’t result in death and imprisonment. Yet, fear still grips the believer. Fear of rejection. Fear of being different. Fear of what people will say. When we compare this with Lu’s story in Laos, it’s embarrassing that anyone would allow these minor inconveniences to prevent them from spreading the greatest news the world has ever heard. Fear is strong. But not as strong as love.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

1 John 4:18 ESV

Believer, we no longer need to fear anything. Not sickness, not persecution, not ridicule, not rejection, and not even death. Because we are perfectly loved and that love is our view of those who need to know Jesus. No matter how they respond, they need to know Jesus just as much as we did. We can’t keep this great love to ourselves, not even from those who reject it. Never forget that your courage and love could change someone’s life forever.

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

2 Timothy 1:7 ESV

Be brave brothers and sisters, and go change the world!

 

 

When was the Gospel first proclaimed?

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If you were to read the following statement, what would come to mind?

“Man was appointed to be mortal and experienced sorrow. But God came down and taught them. He gave His life for them and His death brought the despairing of the world comfort and rest.”

It sounds a lot like the gospel message doesn’t it? Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, stepped out of heaven, showed and taught us how to live, and then gave His life on the cross for the sins of the world.  That sacrifice gave humanity a way to escape the despairing end of sin. His death sets us free. Our mortality is not the last word. His victory over death is. And that victory is enjoyed by everyone who calls on the name of Jesus as their savior. The reward: eternal life. Jesus said:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

That message wasn’t newly proclaimed 2000 years ago though. It was as foundational as the world itself. God, in His foreknowledge, set a plan in motion to save His creation, which wandered into desperation. Tucked away in the fifth chapter of the Bible, is the gospel message. In studying the meaning of the Hebrew names from the lineage of Adam in Genesis chapter five, we can see how God planned to rescue mankind from our own undoing. Check this out:

Hebrew English
Adam Man
Seth Appointed
Enosh Mortal
Kenan Sorrow
Mahalalel The Blessed God
Jared Shall come down
Enoch Teaching
Methuselah His death shall bring
Lamech The Despairing
Noah Rest and comfort

When you put it all together, it looks like this: Man appointed mortal sorrow; the Blessed God shall come down teaching; His death shall bring the despairing rest and comfort.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christas a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 1:3-14 ESV

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters. Our God is so good!

The Gospel in the OT

The first four books of the New Testament are often referred to as the gospels because they contain the life of Jesus (the earthly one anyways). But a close read of the Old Testament will reveal the same gospel message. That’s because God has been writing it since the beginning, because humanity has needed it since the beginning. Just check out this text from Psalm 73:

“I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭73:22-25‬ ‭ESV‬‬

There it is. The depravity of humanity, his/her separation from God, God’s faithful pursuit of humanity, and the resulting heart change of someone who has found salvation in the Lord!

God is so good!