Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out …
(Mark 3:13-14 NIV).
In Jesus’ final words that we call “The Great Commission” (Matthew 28:18-20), the Lord gave one command: make disciples! Three important processes are essential parts for us to faithfully fulfill this plan:
- teach to obey
We can sit around debate all we want whether that is what most of our efforts in the Western church do these essential things as our priorities, but then the focus gets into a blame game or theological debate. So rather than getting sucked into that religious black hole, let’s simply begin to focus on what we personally — rather than what “They” corporately — ought to do. Or in this case, the heart and soul purpose of this trip to Thailand.
Much of my week has centered on following up on people precious to me who are in all sorts of places in their longing to follow Jesus.
- Some are new Christians and I have tried to encourage, strengthen, and love them. One of them, Karen, is my new daughter in the faith and is precious to me in very special ways!
- Others are trying to decide whether they are seekers or are simply wanting to be nice people and have international friends — some of tese are so dear to me my heart cannot even bear the thought that they might not ever become a true follower of Jesus and I know that they love me, too.
- Others are committed to not only grow in Christ, but to also grow as leaders and to lead others to Christ — interestingly, one from each of the two previous categories also fit here.
For the last 36 hours, I have devoted my time exclusively to this last group. For the following five weeks, Robert will continue to pour himself into this group so that “they might be with him and that he might send them out.” He is seeking to fulfill “The Great Commission”: teaching them to obey all that the Lord has called them to do. He calls them interns, but he is not interning them to the business of church like so many internships focus on in the states. He is interning them to Jesus — to knowing how to reach and to grow others to Jesus, while keeping themselves spiritually healthy in the process.
Robert tries to use as many locations and situations as possible to expose them to new culture, spiritual disciplines, serving, leading, evangelizing, encouraging, and taking those skills with them wherever they go. Not all can be part of the group the whole time, but each is being exposed and connected to people, resources, and practices that can help them continue their growth and live out Jesus’ mission. In this group are a Chinese seeker, a new Chinese believer, an Indonesia woman in her sixties, a young man from Malaysia, and a young woman from Singapore. We are all in Thailand!
We spent the last 36 hours on a beautiful lake near Chiang Mai. We read scripture, talked informally, prayed, worked on several chapters of material on spiritual discipline, and shared some sweet time in personal worship as the day dawned in wondrous splendor over the mountains and through the clouds and mist.
This was “be with him” time using Jesus example in Mark 3 mentioned above. Humor, relationship, and breaking down cultural barriers happens easily in moments like these. As the sun rose and greeted the new day, one precious young Chinese seeker said, “how beautiful” as she saw God painting the new day. I was able to show her Psalm 19:1-4 and we talked about how no matter our language or culture God reminds us of his love and care by writing us without words with his beautiful gift of a new day.
One of the English phrases that many Chinese pick up from Western media, especially movies and TV shows, is “O my G_d!” A new Chinese believer named Karen had told this young woman — along with her own sister — that this was disrespecting God to “use his name so lightly and without thought.” So when this young woman said, “O my goodness this is so beautiful” (talking about the idea of Psalm 19), I was able to say, “This is the right time to say, ‘O my God, thank you for your beautiful creation and your love for us!” Together we lifted our hands in praise to the only living God of all people. Such moments of teaching and relationship can happen only in “be with him” time.
There will be many opportunities for “send them out” time. They will work with theThai church. They will be with nonbelievers in many situations. So in equipping time yesterday, Robert emphasized how the interns were to be both a magnet to attack people to Jesus and the church and also a bridge to try o connect unbelievers to theThai Christians so there was a connection to God’s people when the inters left. We have focused on the importance of affirming each other and our gifts and strengths just as God affirmed his relationship, love, and pleasure in his Son at Jesus’ baptism (Luke 3:21-22).
Tomorrow we will talk about Paul’s call to go into Macedonia and share the goodness of Jesus there — yet the first three years brought mostly hardship and rejection and only after the passage of significant time did Paul see the results of his obedience (Acts 16:6-10 — Paul and Silas were jailed and asked to leave Philippi; they were run out of Thessalonica at significant expense to new believers; Paul was laughed out of Athens; and in “weakness and in fear” they planted the mess of a church in Corinth.).
Well enough for now, I go for a series of heart to heart talks with someone who I call Precious, and the outcome of these talks mean the world to me … and ultimately and eternally, they mean the world for her.
May God bless it all to his glory!