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Friday, November 29, 2019
A lot of words are thrown around these days describing various kinds of compassion, acts of mercy, justice, and peace. Our society has redefined some of these biblical terms but muddled the meaning in the process. Lumping words together or using them interchangeably can cause quite confusing definitions.
The Bible never mentions the word “humanitarian aid” but it does speak of compassion. Humanitarian work is the practice of improving human life. So, let’s use the word compassion instead, which depicts more a stance of love and care, rather than supplying the outward physical needs one may have.
Using the words found in scripture helps us avoid any confusing definitions attached to modern terms or slang. Zechariah 7:9-10 says, “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.”
I believe helping others not only shines our light as Christians in a dark world, but can sometimes open doors to a gospel presentation.
Mercy ministry—much like Jesus did when showing love to the sick, weak, and oppressed—can be a powerful tool to open hearts to hear the message of Christ. I’ve seen the power of mercy ministry in:
· feeding/clothing those in need
· helping widows/orphans
· freeing slaves
· rescuing human traffic victims
· disaster relief
· medical care units
· and more
A few years ago I went on a medical mission trip to provide health/dental/vision care in Cambodia. It was clear to me how meeting the physical needs of individuals more readily prepared hearts to receive the message of the cross we presented.
But we must be careful not to take James 1:27 (like some Christians do) as a verse that explains what the gospel message is. This passage says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, ….” This verse addresses pure and undefiled practices or good works (compassion). If we keep the verse in context, it’s clear James is talking about how we should live as a believer, not how we are to share the gospel.
We deceive ourselves when we begin to apply this verse or others like it, as a formula for the Great Commission. If we dig a well in Africa, play soccer with some kids, and hug a few villagers, yet never share the actual gospel—it would be wrong to say we evangelized. That’s actually a compassion trip, and even non-Christians are nice to the weak and oppressed. These trips are wonderful acts of love Christians should participate in. But without a gospel presentation, I fear we reduce our time, money, and effort to mere secular kindness. We might feel great about ourselves; while hundreds might now have a full belly, a cleft pallet repaired or freed from a brothel, no eternal difference was made—their souls are not secured.
Compassion is merely a tool to open heart doors. I too, love a good evangelism tool. But if I rely on tools alone as the gospel, I miss the mark. A clear, simple, gospel explanation must follow our love and generosity.
THE GOOD NEWS DEFINED
The gospel or Good News is clearly summarized in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, where Paul gives the most basic ingredients of the message—namely Jesus’s substitutionary death on the cross for us, his burial, and resurrection. It’s easy. If we share our faith in the power of the Holy Spirit and leave the results to God, there’s no limit to what he can do, with or without our good deeds.
While kindness is an effective tool, John 3:16 or Acts 10 or 13 doesn’t seem to mention anything about meeting people’s needs in order to present the Good News.
I’m concerned we’ve allowed the world to adopt and twist our terminology to water-down the definition of Christian outreach. How often have you heard secular organizations calling their medical practices in the jungle a “mission trip?”
As we get involved with outreaches, here or overseas, let the worldwide Church be diligent not to embrace a watered-down gospel, but to communicate the true message of the cross. May we remind ourselves daily, that the Good News is the person and work of Jesus Christ—especially his virgin birth, righteous life, atoning death, and resurrection—with the promise that he will save anyone who turns from sin by trusting him as Lord.
Let us continue to love sinners, using valuable tools like compassion to help the Holy Spirit prepare hearts. But may we never neglect to preach the gospel of grace to all nations, making disciples and teaching them to observe all Christ commanded.
Friday, November 15, 2019
Saturday, November 9, 2019
|Tez and some of the kids he taught.|
Hosting famous celebrities like Olivia Newton-John, Owen Wilson, Jennifer Lopez and John Voight is normal for Brazilian businesswoman Gloria Reynolds. Her company (Amazon Eco Sight) offers Amazon experience tours that attract hundreds of guests.
But in 2003, the Lord directed Gloria to start a ministry to villages along the Amazon River. She called it Raio de Esperanca na Amazonia (Ray of Hope, Amazon).
The first visit was to one family who had financial needs. But the next weekend they returned to find 120 villagers looking for help and hope.
Since then, Ray of Hope (ROH) has impacted at least 950 communities by offering humanitarian aid and the JESUS film. Together, based in Manaus, Gloria and her husband Patrick lead mission trips to the jungle’s interior.
They reach approximately 60 communities and villages in the Amazon Basin annually. In 2018, ROH began using the JESUS film in multiple locations as part of its strategy. When people see the film, they ultimately decide to follow Christ.
For the past few years, Mountain Springs Church in Colorado has partnered with ROH. Last summer Pastor Chris Steenmeyer and several church members, [along with Tez] traveled to Brazil.
On a riverboat, sleeping in hammocks covered with mosquito nets, Tez and the church traveled with Patrick, Gloria, and their team to show the films JESUS, Magdalena, and The Story of Jesus for Children in Portuguese. They shared the gospel, provided medical treatment, brought clothes, and built a large community chicken coop.
"Their mission is to bring Jesus to the forgotten,” says Tez. “I love seeing how partners use our tools in creative and strategic ways—going to places we can’t.”
ROH’s volunteers include medical professionals, social workers, psychologists and lay ministers. Together they assist remote indigenous communities needing care.
Gloria explains, “We offer prayer, Bibles, discipling, medicine, food, school supplies, and more. We even have a project for special-needs kids.”
During the trip, ROH celebrated 16 years of ministry. To celebrate, Mountain Springs Church presented them with solar-powered film equipment so they can continue sharing JESUS everywhere. To learn more about partnering with ROH, go to https://rayofhopeamazon.org/.
PRAYER POINT: Pray for the people of Brazil and for Ray of Hope as they partner with us to reach the Amazon.
Friday, September 27, 2019
Similarly, understanding the potential for radio and television strategies can be challenging, but God is moving in awe-inspiring ways. Broadcast is a reach strategy—like casting nets. And like Peter, Jesus Film Project® has been casting the nets wide.
One partner that makes this possible is Trans World Radio (TWR). “Even with a program broadcast every day, it takes time to engage an audience to the point that they will interact with you,” TWR representative, Brandon Neal shared. “However, with the JESUS film audio drama, we found that a one-time broadcast engaged thousands around the world.”
One person said, “I’m a blind person. Your programs are irreplaceable to me. The audio JESUS is the most precious gift.” Another said, “I listened to the broadcast with my relatives and it gave me the opportunity to share [my faith]. Thank you.”
The significant reach doesn’t stop at radio. As of November 2019, over 70,116,000 people watched the JESUS film on television in 47 countries.
Jesus Film Project’s staff Tom Terry said, “Many people groups in risky areas need to hear the gospel multiple times before making a decision to follow Christ. It entails great risk to their family, livelihood, or life. Without broadcast, we’d see fewer people come to Christ.”
PRAYER POINT: Ask the Lord for more open doors to broadcast JESUS in other countries so all can hear the gospel.
Sunday, June 9, 2019
|Tez shares the gospel with a hiker.|
|One of the pilgrims who stayed the night.|
Many pilgrims have hiked for days before arriving at La Fuente del Peregrino—a 400-year-old building offering fresh coffee, clean bathrooms, and an overnight stay. Those who lodge get two hot meals, great hospitality, and a chance to watch the JESUS film.
The house is run by Natan, a staff member of Agape Spain, the name for Campus Crusade for Christ® in this country. He recruits volunteers from around the world. They rotate in for a week, maintaining the hostel and sharing Christ to the 400-800 pilgrims who pass each day.
Travelers on this pilgrimage often find themselves unexpectedly open to God conversations. “We use those moments as an open door for the gospel.” Natan says.
In the afternoon, an optional reflection time is offered to those staying overnight, followed by a showing of JESUS. For the pilgrims, a movie with popcorn is a welcome treat!
Natan explains to the guests, “Unlike most lodging that only provides for your physical needs, we focus also on heavenly needs—helping you take the next step in your spiritual journey.”
Filipe* is a guest this night. Filipe is a guru of Eastern mysticism and almost derails the discussion with his talk of chakra energy and an alien abduction that gave him power to heal.
The Jesus Film Mission Trip® volunteers pray as they communicate truth to Filipe. He is unreceptive. They don’t filter who stays at the hostel, trusting God to bring the right pilgrims who need to hear about Christ.
Some receive it, some reject it, but all are sent on their way contemplating Jesus and the extraordinary love poured out by the staff.
The next morning, one of the guests receives a copy of the film, “The Story of Jesus for Children.”
She responds, “You’ve blessed me. There’s something peaceful about this place—about you.”
This year marks the 20th anniversary since La Fuente del Peregrino opened its doors. Almost 19,000 pilgrims have found rest, shelter and the love of Christ. There’s no doubt God has placed this hostel in a strategic location. The Pilgrim’s Fountain continues to be a beacon of hope in a lost and broken world. To learn more, go to lafuentedelperegrino.com.
*Name changed for privacy
STATS FOR THIS TRIP:
- 4 Film Festivals at the Fuente with 17 people engaging with the short films.
- 4 Training's with 84 locals attending
- Roughly 130 initiated conversations (90 spiritual conversations and 24 gospel presentations)
- 2 indicated a decision to follow Christ.
- The most used short film was "Delight."
PRAYER POINT: Ask God to use the JESUS film to reach pilgrims hiking El Camino.