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God’s vision is the world

God’s vision is the world

God’s Vision is the World!

By Peter Youngren

Many have not in their wildest imagination seen what God sees.

God is interested in the world – the whole world! Jesus said: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel!” God loves every person. His view is not narrow, or merely a local vision – God thinks of all people. Jesus shed his blood, died and rose again, not for one religion, or for one people, but for all. His word is the seed, and the world is the field. 

God’s interest in nations is because of the people who live there. That’s why God is interested in Canada because 36 million people live here. If God cares about Canada, he also cares about France with 67 million, Nigeria with 191 million, Brazil, Pakistan and Indonesia, each one of those countries with between 200 and 300 million people. God is interested and thinks about the United States with 330 million, India with 1,370,000,000 precious individuals, and China with 1,434,000,000 people. One person is worth more than the wealth of the world. There’s nothing small or limited about God’s vision, it includes every one of the 7.8 billion people alive now.

 Some Christians have only a limited, introspective vision. When they pray they pray for themselves, “God bless my family, my work, my ministry.” Many have not in their wildest imagination seen what God sees. Others see a little further, and they may pray; “God bless my neighbour, my church and my city.” Some may see their nation or their culture, and when they pray they say; “God bless my country, bless my people.” Still they do not see as God sees.

Sadly, many pastors do not see God’s vision; they see their pulpit, their ministry and their congregation. To see with God’s eyes is to see the world. When I started in ministry, almost every church, even the small ones, had a foreign missions program. Today, many large churches of 10 and 20,000 members have no foreign missions programs; their concern is limited to the people who live in their own geographical area. They may sponsor a pancake breakfast in a low income neighbourhood, or the launch of a new church campus in another part of town, as their “missions program”. The fact that billions of people live in areas of the earth where there is virtually no chance that they will hear the gospel is of little concern.

Why have we put world evangelism outside the local church budget, as something extra?

The Money Issue

Some church leaders suggest that 10%, a tithe, of the member’s income belongs to the local church, but that this does not include world evangelism; world missions should only depend on extra offerings. This concept does not have a shred of evidence from Scripture. Maybe salaries for pastors and staff should only be paid by extra offerings? Or, building costs, since the church is not the building, should only be paid from extra offerings? Why have we put world evangelism outside the local church budget, as something extra? It is a devilish misconception! The reality is that the cause of missions is the supreme task of the local church.

Without Vision

Why it is important to see God’s vision? Because without a vision people perish and may never discover God’s unconditional love for them. Without a vision among believers, billions of non-believers are relegated to climb a religious ladder of good works in order to please a supposed angry deity, only to fall back, and then try to climb back up again. Without a vision, billions will continue to live in fear, rejection and condemnation, not having their eyes opened to the reality that their sin, shame and guilt have been put away by Christ.

False Predictions

Knowing the human tendency to procrastinate, Jesus said: Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest?’

In the late 1980’s many said that by the year 2000 we would really have done something great for world missions. Then in 2000, I heard church leaders say that by 2020 we will have finished the Great Commission. Now 2020 is here, and some are talking about 2030 or 2040. Jesus’ words are more applicable than ever:

Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!, John 4:35. God’s time is now!

God lays claim to the world, because the Earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof, and all the people that dwell in it.

The “Next Town”

Jesus had great success in Capernaum, everyone gathered to hear him, and many were healed. This was a great opportunity and Jesus could’ve stayed in Capernaum for a long time. However, early the next morning Jesus left the town, and the disciples searched for him, and when they found him, they said; Everyone is looking for You. Jesus responded, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth”, Mark 1:37- 38.
That’s Jesus, always thinking about the next person, the next town and the next people group. And Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever.

We Demand Justice

Twice we read about Jesus feeding the multitudes. The disciples distributed the bread, and on each occasion all the people were fed, every single one. Imagine if the disciples had only given the bread and the fish to those seated in the first row. After they had finished serving one row, they would come back to the first person to give a second portion, again and again. There would’ve been a cry for justice from the 2nd row, the 3rd, the 10th and the 50th row; “this is unrighteous, we do not have crumb of bread.”

Sunday after Sunday, tens of thousands of pastors and preachers prepare beautiful sermons, delivered with great oratorical skills. We give the bread of life to the front row church crowd, again and again, often never considering those who have nothing.

The Unreached on Our Doorstep

This temptation to not see as God sees is very real in the Western world – with large churches. Week after week the congregation enjoys praise and worship, and well prepared teachings. Yet in those same cities, there are large people groups, who have migrated during the last few decades, and they go about their own lives, and never hear the gospel.

There is spiritual impotence. It is as if we only have strength to look at our own needs. The thought of the world, and the Great Commission seems far from the minds of many. Even church planting has been reduced to a pursuit of market share of those already born again. What better way to start a church then to attract people, who are already trained to give offerings and attend Sunday services. Like the rich man, we often do not notice the spiritual beggar at our doorstep.

The Unreached We Never Meet

The temptation to ignore those who have never heard the gospel is even stronger when it comes to those who live beyond our geographical areas.
Jesus was moved with compassion, because the people were like sheep without a shepherd, wounded and bruised. He said to his disciples: The harvest is great, but the labourers are few. Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest that he will send labourers into his harvest, Matthew 9:35 – 38.

Here is the crux of the problem; the labourers are few.
Paul, the apostle, echoed the same sentiments: How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! Romans 10:14 – 15.

Dynamite

The baptism of the Holy Spirit empowers believers for God’s vision. Jesus said: You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me.
Every time Jesus spoke about the evangelization of the world, he also promised that the Holy Spirit would empower believers. The Greek word for “power” is dunamis, where we get the word dynamite.

Dynamite is dangerous, and the spiritual dynamite of the Holy Spirit is dangerous for religious institutionalism, for lethargy and indifference. This dynamite will blast you out of a boring, humdrum religious existence into fruitfulness. On the day of Pentecost, they spoke in tongues and magnified the Lord, but this was only the first sign that the Holy Spirit had come. The great sign was that their hearts had been filled with love, compelling them to take the gospel to the world.

Dead Sea vs Sea of Galilee

Unless we become involved with the gospel our experience of the Holy Spirit will soon stagnate.
In Israel, the Sea of Galilee is full of life while the Dead Sea is reduced year by year. What’s the difference? The Sea of Galilee has both the inflow and outflow, while the Dead Sea only has inflow. It loses its water through condensation, and becomes bitter and salty. That’s a picture of the Christian life when we only have inflow of God’s life, but no outflow of giving what we have to others; we become sidetracked, bitter and unhappy.

Take a moment to meditate on these statements:

• The baptism of the Holy Spirit, without the Great Commission, is at best self-focused, and at worst a ticket to membership in a bless me club.

• The Great Commission, without the baptism in the Spirit, is a cruel assignment, where believers are destined for failure.

• The baptism of the Holy Spirit with a vision to fulfill the Great Commission is the key to impacting the world.

A Call to Every Believer

In 2020 I call on believers to say “yes” to God’s vision.

Isaiah said; Lord, here am I, send me. Paul said; I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.
If you’re retired or in the middle of life raising children, a young person, if you are single or married –everyone is needed in the Great Commission. I’m not suggesting that everyone should travel into a different culture. I am saying that every believer can make a difference. There are four key words: Look! Pray! Go! Send!

We can all lift our eyes and see the harvest. We can all pray. Many can go, and those who cannot go can send someone.

We have the greatest assignment, and it starts with seeing the world like God sees it.

We give the bread of life to the front row church crowd, again and again, often never considering those who have nothing.

Peter Youngren

Peter Youngren

Where is Christianity Headed?

Where is Christianity Headed?

Where is Christianity Headed?

By Peter Youngren

There is a battle for the hearts, minds and souls of people everywhere!

Thought police in Canada? Who saw it coming?

A myriad of voices are vying for our attention, so where will Christianity be 5, 10 or 20 years from now?

There is a battle across the world, and it is a struggle for the hearts, minds and souls of people everywhere! Who are the influencers? At the very top, there is Social Media. Teenagers spend 9 hours per day, while baby boomers [those born between 1946 and 1964] spend 27 hours per week on social media, mostly on Facebook. Some say, ‘people are busy, they don’t have time for God’, but maybe the opposite is true, maybe people have never had more discretionary time. On the streets, in parks, in church foyers, and even while driving, people check their phones. Social Media sets the trends in fashion, thought and political correctness. It identifies celebrities, what they wear, and by implication what you should wear, think and believe. Traditional media, the entertainment industry, religion, family and friends continue to influence, just less. One study suggested that parents spend 130 seconds per day of meaningful conversation with their teenage child. Bottom line, the world is in flux, up for grabs. Who will win the battle for people’s hearts and minds? 

Statistics in the United States tell us that tens of millions who, in 2000 attended a so-called born-again Evangelical church, are gone and they’re not coming back – maybe 60 million or more. Christianity has its own myriad of voices. While some pursue more liturgical forms of worship, to others, the ideal is a pastor with a Coke in one hand and an iPad Bible in the other, a tight T-shirt that accentuates an often too large belly and skinny jeans. Frankly, when it comes to style, I want it all.

Destiny is a popular word. To some it means self-realization, while to others it is about making your life count for something greater. Some propagate an introspective type of Christianity, even as far as a monastic lifestyle, while others focus on making an impact for the gospel. It’s ‘I want to realize my dreams, I want personal fulfillment’ versus ‘I want to be a world changer.’ Celebrity Christianity is huge and many are influenced by their favourite music artist or preacher, rather than thinking for themselves.

Today, like 2000 years ago, some trust in the gospel of God’s grace while others want performance oriented religion with a list of don’ts and do’s. Fear sells, especially when it comes to end time prophecy. After decades of wrong predictions about blood-moons, Y2K and the Lord’s return, people still get caught up in fictitious interpretations, often with a self-serving, America-centric, slant. If you have been a Christian for a while,you may remember that King Carlos of Spain, Henry Kissinger and Gorbachev were but a few of yesteryear’s candidates for the role of the Anti-Christ. Years ago, a guest lecturer at World Impact Bible Institute had convinced many of the students that the 1990 Bush – Gorbachev Summit was the beginning of the great tribulation. Someone may ask, “Peter, why even mention this?” Because when believers become sidetracked, their spiritual energy is drained. Often the very believers who potentially could make an impact for the gospel also have a penchant for sensationalism that pulls them off course.

Inside and outside the church we face a barrage of ideas about marriage, gender and religion. Earlier this year the government of Canada required that applicants for certain government grants must answer questions about abortion, gender theory and same-sex rights in order to apply. Amazingly the government gets away with this. Thought police in Canada? Who saw it coming? Who or what is next?

My purpose is not to analyze or address these topics but merely to show that there is an unprecedented battle for people’s minds and hearts. Where is the gospel? Where are the gospel believers? I make two observations:

The world is in flux, up for grabs. Who will win?

When believers become side-tracked, their spiritual energy is drained.

Observation #1: In order to engage in a cause, one must believe that what we have to offer is of great value, something that others don’t have.

We don’t “push” our faith, but like Simon Peter, we say, ‘what I have I give you’.

Is Christianity a club or a cause?

Annual Pride Parades, held in large and small cities, are organized by people who believe that they have something to contribute. When Muslims stand on street corners giving out pamphlets, a common sight in many European cities, it’s because they believe they have something of value. The same goes for the gospel believers. If we think that the gospel is highly valuable, we will share it. If not, we won’t.

To make it personal, why do I do what I do? Why Gospel campaigns? Why Gospel TV? Why do we engage with Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists? Why do I try to inspire Christians to share the gospel and give finances? ANSWER: Because my deep conviction is that once people discover God’s love in Jesus Christ, they will lead more wholesome, peaceful and productive lives, that Christ’s gospel, not only improves lives, but transforms and ultimately leads to a better society.

Communism may be the most deplorable philosophy of all time, but still at its height, around 1975, it dominated more than 50% of the world. Hundreds of millions believed in communism, and tens of millions died for it. Karl Marx finished the Communist Manifesto, which was a guide for the Communist movement, with the words: ‘You have a world to win.’ Think what we may –they did have a clear cut goal. Bible readers will quickly remember the final words of Jesus Christ, as recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which could also be summarized: ‘You have a world to win.’

Why is it that many Christians don’t see themselves having something of great value to contribute to the others? I note two reasons.

First, some have bought the lie; ‘I don’t want to push my faith on others’. Note the negatively loaded word “push”, as in drug pusher? We don’t refer to real estate agents as ‘real estate pushers’, or insurance salesmen as ‘insurance pushers.’ Here is the deal, we have the most beautiful news ever, that God in Christ has reconciled the world to himself. Our message brings peace to troubled hearts, that God does not have an axe to grind with anyone, that God is committed to love, and that he has proven this through Jesus Christ. We don’t “push” our faith, but like Simon Peter, we say, ‘what I have I give you’.

In contrast, there is an unattractive, all too common teaching, which perpetuates the myth that Christianity is for losers, suckers – people looking for a crutch. In this misrepresentation we are inundated with the idea of how “needy” we are, and  we hear phrases like, ‘God wants to meet all of our needs’, and ‘we are a needy people.’ While this sounds spiritual it is not the Gospel, which says that God already has met our needs through Jesus Christ. The gospel is not about pining and begging for God’s presence, hoping for a handout. On the contrary, we are joint heirs with Christ, we have the answer; Christ is in us. This beggarly type of Christianity reduces our motivation to evangelize. Who wants to share a miserable, beggarly religion? If we see the gospel as it truly is, a victorious message for all, then we have something very precious to impart. Imagine believers 2000 years ago in Jerusalem telling everybody how needy they were. No, they were persuaded that they had something valuable to offer, and they were right.

Is Christianity a club or a cause? A club exists to cater to its membership; golf clubs cater to golfers and curling clubs to curlers. If the church is a club then church workers must focus on keeping the members happy. While I realize that the church is much more than a cause, it is a cause! We have an assignment from God to enlighten darkened minds about who God is, and who we humans are, because God loves us. We have a world to win.

We have a world to win.

We have an assignment from God to enlighten darkened minds about who God is, and who we humans are, because God loves us.

Observation #2: Every believer has a decisive role to play in the struggles for the hearts and minds and souls of people.

Do nothing and die slowly!

In Acts chapter 13 the Holy Spirit commissioned the entire church to send Paul and Barnabas into missionary ministry. Gospel ministry must never be outsourced – it is for every believer. If we see ourselves as powerless bystanders we are deceived. Gideon saw himself insignificant and unworthy, but God had a different view and told him, ‘Go in your might’. I think God is similarly tired today to hear Christians describe themselves as inconsequential, powerless, needing more, instead of seeing what they already have in Christ.

A well-known Bible story speaks to today’s situation. There was a desperate famine in Samaria, some ate ‘donkey heads’ and ‘dove droppings’, while others resorted to cannibalism. The situation turned around when four hopeless lepers, who were facing death, marched against the enemy army, because they said; ‘Why are we sitting here until we die? , [2nd Kings 7:3].

Do nothing and die slowly. If Abraham had stayed in his birth city of Ur he would have missed God’s purposes. If David had stayed on the farm, or hid in the cave, he would’ve forfeited his destiny. If Simon Peter had not stepped out of the boat, or had not stepped up on the day of Pentecost, if the believers in the Book of Acts had refused to leave Jerusalem, and if Paul had ignored the vision of the man from Macedonia, these may have become a footnote of history. Christianity is a way forward! We are the people of ‘the way!’

This beggarly type of Christianity reduces our motivation to evangelise

The only way to escape criticism is to do nothing, say nothing and be nothing.

STEP OUT OR MISS OUT

The four staggering lepers were unlikely history makers. They had no idea that God would multiply the sounds of their feet, causing the enemy to think that there was an attack from an overwhelming force. Had the lepers not stepped out they would have missed out on God’s miracle provision, and the same goes for us.

STEP OUT IN SPITE OF FAILURES

Everyone will fail, some learn from their failures and others don’t. Ponder this: The fact that you’ve been knocked down is of limited interest, the length of time before you get up again is what’s important. Learn from failure! Ask yourself: What have I learned? Were my goals disconnected from God’s purpose? Were my plans out of sync with the peace of God in my heart? The four lepers and the whole city of Samaria had failed. The Bible is full of stories about failures; Samson failed terribly, before he saw his greatest victory. Simon Peter sank, but he didn’t drown; he walked on the water.

STEP OUT IN SPITE OF NEGATIVE VOICES

The story about the famine in Samaria begins by recounting a negative voice, a military officer, who claimed that if God would pour bread from heaven, the famine could not be averted. Naysayers and impossibility thinkers will always be with us. The only way to escape criticism is to do nothing, say nothing and be nothing. The apostle Paul saw the glass half full, not half empty, when he wrote; ‘a great and effective door has opened to me and there are many adversaries’. Notice that ‘many adversaries’ did not stop Paul from pursuing the great and effective door.

STEP OUT - YOUR DESTINY IS WAITING

The four lepers come to the deserted military camp, only to find abundance of food and clothing. They ate, until they couldn’t eat anymore, and then it hit them that they must tell the city about what they had discovered: “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, and we remain silent.” That’s a message for us; we must not remain silent, we have fabulous good news about a love that never fails and about Jesus Christ who has revealed that love. We are blessed to be a blessing.

Learn from failure! Ask yourself: What have I learned?

Where is Christianity headed? It depends on every believer; all of us have a decisive role to play.

Many voices seek to dullen our motivation to share the gospel. Just one very small example. From time to time you hear a quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi – father of the Franciscan Order: “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary”. The idea is that it is more virtuous to proclaim the gospel by a exemplary life than with voice. Just one problem; St. Francis of Assisi never said that. In fact historians record that Francis was quite a preacher, giving sermons in up to five villages in one day. Someone added the famous quote a couple hundred years after Francis‘ death. Ultimately, Francis of Assisi or not we take the words of Jesus to go into all the world and preach the gospel. My thought is; preach with words and demonstrate with your life that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Where is Christianity headed? It depends on every believer; all of us have a decisive role to play. We have a stark warning from history. For 1200 years, the country known as Turkey was a bastion for the gospel, but today Christianity is almost extinct. One recent report stated that within a generation Christianity may be wiped out in Nigeria, a country that many have viewed as a hotbed for Christian revival. Countries are up for grabs. What will happen to your nation?  Take courage because: time and opportunity happen to all, (Ecclesiastes 9:11). This is our time! The battle for the hearts and souls and minds of people is happening now. Step up for the Gospel and take your place! Become involved by sharing, sending and going with the Good News!

Are you excited about righteousness?

Are you excited about righteousness?

Are you excited about righteousness?

By Taina Youngren

There is absolutely nothing that we can present to God as a merit in order to receive His grace.

We reign in life through Him when we receive “abundance of grace”.

We are not beggars, seeking for God’s grace.

One of the basic truths of the Christian life was blurred to me when I started my journey with Jesus decades ago. And yet, that basic truth is one of the fundamentals, and we need to discover it personally in order to experience it fully. I am talking about righteousness.

If we miss the reality of Christ’s righteousness in us we don’t really enjoy the new life benefits, but instead we struggle with issues that have already been dealt with by the death and resurrection of Christ. I am talking about negative feelings of shame, condemnation, low self-esteem, rejection, to mention a few – and we don’t need to struggle with these.

Look at Romans 5:15 – 21 … But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.

“The free gift” means “the grace of God.” There is absolutely nothing that we can present to God as a merit in order to receive His grace. A gift must be free – if it costs even a cent, it’s no longer a gift.

And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came after many offenses resulted in justification.

Adam, as a paragon of humankind, brought condemnation through his trespass, but the free gift of God (His grace) brought justification through Christ for all who believe. Believe in what? In Jesus Christ!

For if by the one man’s offense death reigned…much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

Instead of inheriting death through Adam we inherited “the gift of righteousness” through Christ. We reign in life through Him when we receive “abundance of grace”. And we received abundance of grace when we received Jesus Christ. It is as simple as that!

Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Law of Moses came to increase the awareness of the trespass by defining sin. And where sin increased, God’s grace surpassed it and increased all the more! Yes, sin did reign, bringing us to death, but grace reigns through righteousness of Christ, causing us to enjoy the God kind of life.

My friend, we are not beggars, seeking for God’s grace. The depth of that revelation opens up a whole new world to us. We are free to live, to love, and to reach higher goals in life because we understand that God is not holding back anything, due to any unworthiness in us but everything that we receive from God is by grace. Righteousness is by grace. That’s something to be excited about!

A gift must be free – if it costs even a cent, it’s no longer a gift.

Where sin increased, God’s grace surpassed it and increased all the more! 

Righteousness is by grace. That’s something to be excited about!