Category Archives: Christian Mission

One Way to Respond to the Jehovah’s Witness Who Comes to Your Door

I just had a Jehovah’s Witness come to the door.  She seemed like a nice lady.  She had a Jamaican accent (or at least that is as sophisticated as I am at judging Caribbean accents).  I could have listened a long time.  She was inviting me to a convention downtown that would take no offering and was free.  I said I wouldn’t be going and she asked if I was acquainted with Witnesses.  “Yes,” I said, “I had not too long ago met with some of your people and gone through the little book.”  She knew exactly what book I was talking about and said, “Yes, it is a very nice book.”  I immediately answered, “No, it is not a nice book.  It does not give Jesus the honor he deserves.”  “Oh, we believe in Jesus,” she said.  “But you don’t believe he is God,” I said.  Her instant reply was, “But Jesus never called himself God.”

I didn’t go further with her but I wish I had responded this way:

“Ma’am, if you have the slightest openness to hearing contradictory evidence to your claim, I would be happy to share it with you.  Are you open to receiving an opposite viewpoint?”  If she said yes I would have directed her to Revelation 22:12,13, which reads,

Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

The speaker is identified in verse 16 as Jesus.  And he calls himself the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.  So I would direct her attention then to Revelation 1:8,

I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.

Do you see the dilemma for the Jehovah’s Witnesses here?  Jesus takes the same titles as the “Lord God.”  That is blasphemy unless Jesus is actually God.

I remember sitting across the table from the Witnesses with whom I went through the little book and I remember laying out this passage to them.  It was at this point that the woman (it was a couple I was meeting with) took a book out of her purse and began looking up the answer to this passage.  I never heard what that answer was, though I am sure they have one.  It must not have sounded convincing to her.

Now let me be clear about something.  Even if Jesus never did directly say, “I am God,” (though he has indeed by claiming these titles), the rest of the New Testament very clearly proclaims it (John 1:1, for example, which, by the way, cannot be translated the way Jehovah’s Witnesses translate it in their New World Translation, see John 1:1 translation).  And if the apostles and prophets of the New Testament teach it, it is true.

Reflections on India

A Report on Some of the Pastors Supported by

Light of Hope Mission

In my recent trip to India I once again worked with the Light of Hope mission in Madurai, Tamilnadu. S.J.P. Vijayakumar (Vijay), the director of the ministry there, has been training men in groups of 12 for the past eight years. These men are apprenticed to minister in the Hindu villages which some estimate make up to 80% of India’s population. The following four men are his veterans who have been successful in establishing churches and are at the vanguard of this outreach ministry.

Pastor Duraichamy

I first met Duraichamy four years ago on my first trip to India. I took an immediate liking to him despite being unable to communicate with him in English. Vijay took us to his village, which consisted of several mud brick huts with thatched roofs. Without a doubt his is one of the poorest of villages. The church building he served from was attached to his house, another mud hut with a thatched roof that Vijay had taken responsibility for replacing every couple of years because of insect damage.

Vijay took us across the road from Duraichamy’s village to an undeveloped plot of land that Duraichamy had donated from his family to further the gospel. Because of Duraichamy’s position in society no one outside his caste would come to his church. But this property, being outside the village, would permit many to overcome their social hesitations about attending.

To date there has not been enough money to build the proposed concrete structure, but Duraichamy has moved to this property nevertheless to attract more attendees.

When I saw Duraichamy this time he was in obvious emotional pain. June,06, 2012 was the one year anniversary of his youngest daughter’s death. She was 17 years old and had been of great help in leading outreach events for children. But a recurring brain condition that had previously only temporarily incapacitated her took her life. When Duraichamy and I set eyes on each other at the Bible conference we were attending his tears welled up and he couldn’t speak. But he was still praising the Lord and is still serving faithfully.

Pastor Gnanaselvam

Pictured here are Gnanaselvam with his son Johnson and wife Indira. In a picture next to them is their daughter Jansi who is living and working in Chennai. Gnanaselvam lives in a town called Kovilpatti a few hours south of Vijay’s home, Madurai. Across from Gnanaselvam’s rented house is the church building where he ministers every week.

This family hosted us and our Bible conference, attending to our every need and were responsible for inviting all those who attended. Their hospitality was amazing! Gnanaselvam tirelessly works with his own congregation, giving generously of his time and talents to encourage them in their walk with the Lord. He has been working in close association with Vijay for many years in furthering the gospel to some of the southern states of Tamilnadu, India.

Pastor Jothiraj

You see pastor Jothiraj pictured here on the roof of his home, which also doubles as the church building where his congregation meets. In the background is a Hindu temple. This plot of land was actually all owned by those who built the temple here and when the portion of plot his house is standing on was purchased by him, someone threatened that the Hindu god, who was said to roam this property, would kill him. Sometime later that person died, but the work of God has continued.

Besides pastoring this church pastor Jothiraj ministers in 18 Hindu villages in the area. Despite receiving a mere 8-10 rupees in congregational tithes (mere pennies a week) he also manages to house a woman and her two children whose husband/father is a drunkard and does not provide for the family. The son, Barnabas, has been through Vijay’s training and is called to the ministry, but his father is demanding that he go to work and support the family, something Indian culture says is his responsibility to do. Whether Barnabas is able to do both is still up in the air. In the meantime, pastor Jothiraj is supporting this impoverished family.

Pastor Jothiraj helped lead worship music at our conference in Kovilpatti and his son Paul helped, pictured here with his mother. Their other son David is a bright boy as well who also helps minister in their church meetings with music.

Pastor R. P. John

Pastor R.P. John prayed for a place to build a church building that would have public exposure and God answered by placing them in this property right on a main road outside Kovilpatti. One of his sons is pictured here. This young man had begun attending Vijay’s one-year training but due to epileptic seizures had to return home. This man faithfully preaches the Word of God from this pulpit. Though you can’t see it too well, the pulpit behind him is a c-shaped structure you enter from the back, and it puts the teaching of the Word of God front and center in the life of this congregation.

It has been my great privilege to meet these men of God who courageously stand for the gospel and serve our Lord Jesus Christ in a very difficult setting where they are by far the minority. May God continue to use men and women like them to spread His Word throughout the world.

Ephesians 4:12-16 – Conversations with God

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.  From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Some people can be very protective of their place and position, making it difficult, if not impossible, for someone else to gain their knowledge or experience.  But not You, Lord Jesus.  You have purposely given Your church gifted individuals for the express goal of equipping us to be replicas of You.  Whereas some might see this as just another form of pride, we, Your followers, know it is the expression of Your deepest love for us.

Your heart is to build us up, to help us attain to the full stature of Your character because you know this is what makes us the most happy and fulfilled.  When we are loving like You love, when we we are making a powerful contribution to the welfare of another like You do, we are operating at our “factory” best.

I want to be everything You are, Lord.  You want me to be everything You are.  There is nothing better to be.  So equip me, equip me, equip me.  Let me never tire of gaining more knowledge and skill to minister to my brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.  Help me maintain absolute unity in the faith with them.  Make me worthy of Your gifts.

Ephesians 3:1-6 — Conversations with God

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

I’ve done things for someone else’s sake, Lord.  Sometimes I’m quite content with that, especially if it is a family member.  But other times I see it as an imposition and I’m frustrated, or want to reward myself for being so unselfish (boy, that sounds selfish, God), or I end up thinking I’m quite the guy.

Did Paul feel any of that?  He was in jail for the sake of us Gentiles so that we might hear the gospel.  He was doing this at Your command.  He said his received stewardship was a gracious gift from You.  That sounds pretty positive from his perspective.

The stewardship came with a revelation of Your plans for the church, and Gentiles in particular, and though this was probably pretty exciting for him, it must have also caused him a lot of grief from those not ready to receive it.

He taught us Your desire, Lord, and Your activity to make us fellow heirs with Israel, fellow members with them in the body of Messiah and fellow partakers in their promise in Messiah Yeshua.

Thank You for calling Paul to this ministry on our behalf.  Maybe his motives weren’t always the best about it, but the level of suffering he was willing to endure for us is an example and motivation to me to be less selfish and more ready to do whatever You want me to do for the sake of others, so that they might experience the good news in Jesus.

Unity and the Glory of God (Theology for Living from Philippians)

To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.  Greet all God’s people in Christ Jesus. The brothers and sisters who are with me send greetings.  All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. (Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 4, verses 20-23)

For Paul, everything revolved around the gospel of Jesus Christ, and so he was most excited to greet those who had embraced this gospel and send greetings from those whom Christ had found through the gospel.  Such were those who had received his witness while in prison in Rome (we believe).  Once again Paul has a chance to emphasize that nothing can thwart the gospel, not even the great apostle’s imprisonment.

It is this unity of believers in the gospel that then becomes his most powerful message.  For even though nothing can thwart the gospel, disunity among believers can hinder it.  Disunity is the single most dangerous enemy of the gospel.  Unity is the most powerful base of our witness to the truth of the gospel.  When we stand together as one our enemies get truly scared.  When we fight, they laugh us to scorn.

And though we say that, for Paul, everything revolved around the gospel of Jesus Christ, we might also say that an even higher level of importance for him was to give glory to God.  But it is this same devotion to the gospel that brings God such glory.  It is His gospel, it is His message to a lost and dying world, it is His means of restoring His creation to its original beauty.

Would you bring Him glory?  Devote yourself to His gospel.  Would you be devoted to the gospel?  Devote yourself to the unity you must have with your bothers and sisters in Christ.  “The grace of the Lord Jesus,” the love that moved him to sacrifice his rights and agendas, “be with your spirit.”

Joy and Peace in the Gospel (Theology for Living from Philippians)

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 4, verses 4-7)

It seems a little odd that right after Paul mentions the names of the prime combatants in the church conflict (with whom, of course, most everyone has taken sides) and asks other leaders to help them resolve it, that Paul would not stay more immediately with this topic.  But in point of fact, he is on topic.

The enjoinder to rejoice in the Lord is tantamount to saying, “Rejoice in what God rejoices about,” which is the saving of souls who are in darkness by holding out the word of life in unity with one another.  The gentleness that is to be evident to all is that gentleness of interaction with one another in the Body of Christ that views one another as more important than oneself, that is concerned not only for one’s own interests only but also for the interests of others.

And that kind of selflessness extends itself to unbelievers, also.  They sense that the most important thing to you is not your personal agenda, your pet doctrines or behavioral distinctives, but the person in front of you — them.  When that is the case, it is not the individual who is offensive but only the gospel itself.  And that is what we want.

The flip side of this is freedom from anxiety.  The Philippians had been anxious about Paul’s imprisonment because they felt the gospel was limited by his personal limitations.  It was not, of course, as we have seen.  Confidence in the gospel and in the Lord’s ability to have it make progress, frees us to make good decisions in love, not desperation.  And that helps us stay in unity, as well.

When we hand over all our concerns to God in prayer and experience His incomparable peace guarding our hearts and minds, we are ready to be a part of the progress of the gospel.  We are able to see each other not as enemies to our selfish ambitions but sisters and brothers who can stand firm in one spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.

NOTHING is more important than the progress of the gospel.  NOTHING!

The Jesus Factor in Unity (Theology for Living from Philippians)

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

(Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 2, verses 5-8)

You’ve no doubt noticed that the verses above are set in a form that lets you know they are poetry.  Most scholars believe that Paul is here quoting a hymn or poem of early creation by Christians, whether by Paul or someone else.  But Paul is using this hymn to teach the Philippians something powerful about the building blocks of unity.  Instead of selfish ambition or empty conceit, Jesus displayed humility of mind when he considered us more important than himself and gave thought not only to his own needs but to our needs.  He is the perfect illustration of employing the building blocks of unity.

Jesus had a right, so to speak, to be selfish and self-centered in his agenda.  He exists in the very nature of God.  No one is more important to our universe than God.  But rather than greedily or selfishly grasping on to his right to display His royal glory, he “did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage.”  He had the right to stay in heaven and receive the praise and honor due him, but he exchanged that for something that would meet our needs.

He made himself nothing, a servant, a human.  His humanity shielded us from seeing his other nature.  He bore two natures now, divine and human (he could not give up his deity), but the only characteristics he displayed were those of his human nature.   He committed himself to living just as we have to live, with all our limitations but also with the availability of the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  But this meant that no one would give him any special recognition as God.  His body would be subject to pain.  He would be subject to death.

Here is where his second humbling took place.  He not only humbled himself by taking on human nature and living out of that nature only, but he submitted himself to the most humiliating form of death in his day, the torturous death of a criminal at the hands of the Romans — crucifixion.

Why did he do it?  Because we needed him to do it.  Though we are not more important than he is, he considered us more important than himself.  Though his needs were real, our needs mattered to him.  Fixing his eyes on the goal of rescuing us by his sacrifice, he made the good news, the gospel, possible.  He preached it with his own atoning death so we could preach it as those whose sins were atoned for.  Now the gospel and its progress should be at the forefront of our endeavors.  Nothing is more important than reaching those who do not know Him and encouraging those who do to stay in the fight.

Can we be like Jesus?  We must be!

Related articles:

Who is Jesus?

The Eternal Son Becomes a Human

Jesus, Full of the Holy Spirit

Jesus, Filled with the Holy Spirit

Jesus, the Alpha and Omega

Was Jesus Incapable of Healing Because of Lack of Faith?

Our Offensibility:  Lessons from a Facebook App