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The online magazine of the Christian Military Fellowship.


Lord of the Harvest

Lord of the Harvest

In the two previous articles in this series, Behind Enemy Lines: Situational Awareness and Understanding the Mission, we said that, as believers in Christ, we are living “behind enemy lines” and that as followers of Christ, it is our mission to share the Gospel and make disciples for the Kingdom of our Lord.  Now we'll see how God provides all we need to accomplish our mission by:

· Equipping the messenger,

· Preparing hearts for the message, and

· Connecting the heart to the message.

Equipping the Messenger.

“When he (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).

Jesus was moved with a deep compassion for people, comparing the multitudes without a savior to helpless sheep without a shepherd (infantry squad without a squad leader).  The Holy Spirit of God, living inside the believer, will give us the same gut-wrenching compassion for our loved ones, friends, co-workers, comrades in battle, and even those who mistreat us.   

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

“When they (Jewish religious leaders and the Roman ‘feds’) saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

The Holy Spirit, who lives inside the believer, providing assurance, comfort and guidance, also provides power to be an effective witness to the gospel. Peter and John were common fishermen who hung out with Jesus for a few years, listening to His teaching. When the Holy Spirit came in power on Pentecost, the head knowledge became heart knowledge. They couldn't help but talk about what they had seen and heard!

Preparing hearts for the message.

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44).

At the same time God is preparing messengers, He is busy preparing hearts to receive the most important message they will ever receive! It might be a family member,  friend or co-worker, or the soldier by your side in a firefight. Sometimes opportunities to share God's message come knocking loudly at your door, but more often they just  “happen.”
 I remember a lot of those ─ the medic on the SF “A” team who “happened” to be dating a Christian girl, who “happened” to be talking to him about spiritual stuff, resulting in his “happening” to ask me about the things she was saying!

Connecting the heart to the message.

There's a great story in the New Testament where we see the process at work. Acts 8:26-40 tells of Phillip, whom God had prepared as the messenger, an Ethiopian man who “happened” to be reading one of the prophets, and, a “divine” appointment. Phillip ended up sharing the good news about Jesus, and the Ethiopian received the message in his heart, was baptized in a convenient pool of water and went on his way rejoicing.

So What?

Although the story of Philip and the Ethiopian was a bit more spectacular than we see in our normal everyday life as Christians, the process is the same. There is an equipped messenger, a prepared heart, and a connecting that impacts eternity.  The architect of the process is the Holy Spirit of God.

Jesus Christ is the Lord of the harvest!   He told his disciples:

“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:37, 38).

God has a plan and doesn’t need “Super-Christians” to make it work.  All God wants is workers.  Look in the mirror and see one of God’s harvest workers.  Now that you are available, the Lord of the Harvest will do the rest.  Remember, harvest workers are always behind enemy lines.

Understanding the Mission

Understanding the Mission

In the first part of this series, Behind Enemy Lines: Situational Awareness, we presented the premise that we, as Christians, are living ‘behind enemy lines.’  We are no longer citizens of this world, but we are members of God’s household, new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5:17).  We discussed the clear teaching of Scripture that the world in which we live is hostile territory.  We then concluded with the question, “Why are we Still Here?”  Where do we go to find the answer?

Well, we can walk into just about any Christian bookstore, listen to any number of teachers, preachers, televangelists, television or radio ministries and get all sorts of answers!  We can  come away easily with the impression that the Christian life is mostly about things on an individual/personal level, such as relationships, abundant/victorious living, success in this world, receiving all of God's blessings, etc.

While the above might be ‘benefits’ of being part of the household of God and citizens of His Kingdom, are they to be the primary focus of the Christian life?  If they aren't, what is?

I submit to you that God didn’t send His own Son to die so we could have an abundant life here on earth.  Rather, He came because we are lawbreakers, born on death row, in order to save us from the certain judgment that MUST come if God is true to His word—“The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

When we become believers and citizens of the Kingdom of God, we must still live here (behind enemy lines) in a world corrupted by sin, among people trapped in their sin.  We remain here by God’s design, for His purpose, as part of His strategic plan to save others from the certain judgment that is to come.

Chapter 17  of he Gospel of John records our Lord’s prayer to His Father shortly before he went to the cross to fulfill God’ plan for our salvation.  Concerning his disciples and, by extension, all believers to come, Jesus prayed:

“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.  For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.  My prayer is not for them alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” (vv 16-21a)

Jesus asked for their protection, NOT their removal, because as he had been sent into the world for the salvation of the lost, He (Jesus) was now sending his followers into the world as part of a divine plan!

Furthermore, this ‘sending’ into the world was no secret to the disciples!  Earlier, the Lord himself told them:

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit — fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (John 15:16)

Also, it was no secret to the disciples what they would face from the world during their ‘fruit bearing’ mission.  Read the entire chapter of John 15 for the rest of the story.  They knew they would be operating in hostile territory, but they went anyway!

The remaining piece to the puzzle is to define the ‘fruit.’  We know from the above verse that it is to be ‘fruit that will last’—eternal fruit.  So what is this eternal fruit?  There is a two-part answer here.  The first thing that should come to mind is that we are to show others the only way to escape coming judgment—the path to eternal life.  The second part of the answer is not quite so obvious. We are to help other believers grow in their faith walk so that they, in turn, will show still others the path to eternal life and help them grow!  If you aren’t convinced, listen to Jesus’ command to his disciples.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

The ‘Great Commission’ Christ gave to the disciples then and to us now is NOT about all the ‘benefits of belonging to the corporation’ mentioned at the beginning of this article, but ALL about growing the Kingdom of God on earth!  ALL about the Kingdom.

What drives this old soldier to his knees is the fact that God could save anyone he chooses, anytime he chooses, in any circumstance he chooses—and yet he has chosen mortal human beings, with all their ‘sin’ baggage to be his ambassadors!  Knowing we would mess up repeatedly, knowing that often we would  be poor examples of Christ, God has chosen us—you and me!  That, my friends is God’s master vision—His ‘strategic’ plan!

You might ask, “Isn’t this ambassador thing—preaching the Gospel and helping others grow in Christ the job of people with a special calling to full-time ministry and who have gone to Bible college or seminary?

What sort of training do you need for the task at hand?  Let’s look at a couple of guys who did some street preaching a couple thousand years ago.

When they (Jewish religious leaders and the Roman ‘feds’) saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)

Our Lord chose unschooled, ordinary men, not religious leaders, for the enormous task of spreading the Good News to the rest of their world.  Job qualification—just one— they had been with Jesus.  He chooses us for the same task in our world—in our homes and workplaces, in our barracks and squad rooms, on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq.

You and I have been ‘sent where we are,’ right now in our lives, on a mission from God!  If we ‘have been with Jesus’ we have a responsibility.  Have you accepted the challenge?

 

Living Behind Enemy Lines

Living Behind Enemy Lines

In simple terms, ‘situational awareness’ means nothing more than recognizing your circumstances; knowing what’s going on around you. For instance, a military commander must be aware of the total situation around him and his unit on the battlefield, as well as the bigger 'strategic' picture.  Total situation awareness is essential for successful military operations against any enemy, on any battlefield, for any warrior.  As Christians, and warriors in the Kingdom of God, we need to maintain complete situational awareness as inhabitants of planet earth (the battlefield environment), as well as our Commander's intent (God's strategic picture).

Sadly, we often lose focus of both our battlefield environment and our Commander's intent, for a variety of reasons.  They range  from our tendency to focus almost exclusively on 'personal' growth and fulfillment, to applying human wisdom and worldly principles to the operation of the 'postmodern' church as a whole.  At both levels, the result is that the Lord of the harvest, the Holy Spirit, sits in the back of the bus as we arrogantly occupy the driver's seat!

Dear readers and friends, it is past time to regain our 'situational awareness' and overcome our spiritual 'nearsightedness.’  For that task, we need to 'begin at the beginning' of our lives as Christians and go from there.  In a familiar and often quoted verse of Scripture, the Apostle Paul tells us:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

What a promise – the greatest makeover of all time!  When we place saving faith in Christ, we step out of darkness and into the light, passing from death to life!  We are given a new nature in Christ as the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our being, giving us a desire to serve God and the power to live a life of obedience to Him. This is common knowledge, not rocket science.

Our 'makeover' is so complete that in another of his letters to the early church, Paul presents what is a mystery to limited human logic.

"And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus," Ephesians 2:6 

This is a bit more difficult for human logic to grasp, but notice the past tense verbs in this verse. Paul is saying that as Christians, although we physically remain here on planet Earth, we have already been 'raised up' and ‘seated with Christ in the heavenly realms.’  Paul partially explains this mystery in more easily understood terms a bit later in the same chapter:

"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household. . ." Ephesians 2:19

A citizen is a legal resident of a nation, country or state.  Paul is saying that, at the moment of salvation, our 'legal citizenship' status changed!  One could say that if before we received Christ, we could have visited the 'heavenly realm,’ we would have been 'illegal aliens.’  We are not like the child born to an American military family overseas, who has dual-citizenship status until he or she is 18 years old and needs to make a decision.  We are NOT dual citizens.  Now listen to the Apostle Peter in one of his letters to the early church:

"Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul." 1 Peter 2:11 

Do you see the contrast here? Paul tells us that at one time we were 'aliens and foreigners' to God's household, while Peter tells us that as Christians we are now 'aliens and strangers' in the world in which we live!

Why is the world in which we live 'foreign territory,’ why are we 'aliens and strangers in it,’ and how do we apply these truths?

First we need to understand that the world in which we live is not, in the strictest sense, the world that God created for the crown of his creation, human beings molded in His image.  In fact, Scripture tells us that the problem of sin in the world that was brought about by willful disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (the why), is much bigger than just our little piece of turf.  There is a clear description of the present condition of God's creation in Romans 8:17-24, in which we find the following:

"We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time." Romans 8:22

All of God's creation is somehow tainted, polluted by sin, and in need of redemption.

Furthermore, our present world is not governed by God (although He is in complete control), but by a 'temporary landlord' ruling over the hearts of fallen man.

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient." Ephesians 2:1-2

"The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." 2 Corinthians 4:4

As believers, we are citizens of the household of God, with a new 'landlord,’ servants of the Most High God, no longer bound by the god of this world.  And as members of God's household, we are now foreigners and strangers to the world we live in and enemies of the 'god of this world.’

I have come to the inescapable conclusion that we are living behind enemy lines!  Perhaps this has caused your thought process to pause for a moment of speculation.  Maybe  it came to a screeching halt because your first reaction was "No way!"  Then hear what the Apostle James had to say to believers in his day who were becoming a bit too 'friendly' with the fallen culture around them.

"You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God." James 4:4

If you still aren’t convinced that we are living in enemy territory, I encourage you to read the entire chapter in James, followed by Jesus' words to his followers in John, chapters 15 and 16, concerning what to expect from the world.

 My friend, your opinion in this matter is between you and the Holy Spirit.  I merely encourage you to prayerfully consider the premise presented in the ramblings of an old soldier.  If you agree with the basic premise, you cannot escape the question: “Why are we still down here?”  Think about it.

Christlikeness

Christlikeness

“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 1 Peter 2:21-22 (NIV)

A few days ago I was engaged in what a co-worker and friend of mine likes to call one of our “theological discussions.” He had been wrestling with the issue of “Christlikeness” and his thought process had reached a certain conclusion. A paraphrase of his reasoning could sound like this:

“Christ lived a perfect life and never sinned.”

“The Bible tells us to be like Christ, therefore God demands perfection from us.”

“Since we can’t get there from here, it’s the mother of all guilt trips.”

If we were to believe that sinless perfection in the life of a Christian is a commandment from God, then my friend is absolutely correct! If, on the other hand, we accept the premise that Christians, even after having received redemption and salvation, have a tremendous capacity to sin (and we do), God’s command for us to be imitators of His Son and to live holy lives before Him (Isaiah 53:9; 1 Pet 1:16) might have a slightly different meaning and purpose.

John Wesley's thoughts on the matter follow: “I think it was in the latter end of the year 1740 that I had a conversation with Dr. Gibson, then Bishop of London, at Whitehall. He asked me what I meant by Perfection. I told him, ‘ without any disguise or reserve.’ When I ceased speaking he said, ‘Mr. Wesley, if this be all you mean, publish it to all the world.’ I answered, ‘My Lord, I will’; and accordingly wrote and published the sermon on Perfection.

A pastor from Pennsylvania explains it this way: “That is, in all His perfections, Jesus is the standard by which we are to measure our own lives. He is the model after which we are to pattern our lives. He is the example which we are to imitate.  He is the measure of men.” (This author’s emphasis.) In the words of Saint Augustine, Patron of the Order of Canons, ‘O God, Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.’ The Apostle Paul, writing to the early Christian church and by extension to us, also emphasizes the importance of Christ as our Example: “Pattern yourselves after me [follow my example], as I imitate and follow Christ (the Messiah).”  (1Cor. 11:1, AMP). Paul’s admonishment was that others would imitate him only to the extent to which he was an imitator of Christ. The imitator without disguise or reserve who rests in Christ.

Thomas A. Kempis, in Imitators of Christ said: “With vivid clarity he shows man's complete dependence on, and need of, God, and the empty futility of life lived apart from its only source of true Life and Light.”

Arvid Gradin, a Swede who was a member of the Moravians said: “Repose in the blood of Christ; a firm confidence in God, and persuasion of His favor; the highest tranquility, serenity, and peace of mind; with a deliverance from every fleshly desire, and a cessation of all, even inward sins.”

We are to be imitators of Christ. We cannot be Him, but we can be imitators of Him (provided ‘be’ means to submit to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to empower us as credible imitators). And let me tell you, the enemy absolutely hates it when the saints become Christlike! He knows that he is a defeated enemy of God, and he knows that the same Christ that wrought his complete and utter defeat lives inside of each and every believer! Dear friends, as believers we need to know and believe the same things the enemy already knows! Arthur W. Pink, in his book entitled The Holy Spirit, said: “...ignorance of the Third Person of the Godhead is most dishonoring to Him, and highly injurious to ourselves. The late George Smeaton of Scotland said, “Wherever Christianity has been a living power…the distinctive feature of Christianity as it addresses itself to man’s experience, is the work of the Spirit, which not only elevates it far above all philosophical speculation, but also above every other form of religion.”

The Christ within us is the perfect Son of the living God, who “. . . committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” He is the One in whom Satan has no foothold, no ground, and against whom he has no hope of victory! Hear Christ Himself, speaking to His disciples after His last meal with his followers and before the Gethsemane experience:

“I will not talk with you much more, for the prince (evil genius, ruler) of the world is coming. And he has no claim on Me. [He has nothing in common with Me; there is nothing in Me that belongs to him, and he has no power over Me.] (John 14:30 AMP)

This same Jesus who has defeated every enemy and made impotent every foe, this is the same Jesus who lives inside each and every believer! What an unfathomable gift! “What is the supreme benefaction, the gift and treasure above all others which even God can give? He gives Christ to be in our nature forever. This is God’s supreme and final gift. . . . He makes us the repository of the nature and person of the Lord Jesus. ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory.’” (Col 1:19-29), A.W. Tozer, God’s Greatest Gift to Man.

It is this same Jesus, the very hope of all glory who desires to express Himself to a world enslaved by sin through those whom He redeemed! The measure of Christ expressing Himself through us in the exact measure of our Christlikeness, and truly the weapon most feared by the enemy of our soul!

In His Tool Box

In His Tool Box

Sound corny? I thought so too when the phrase popped into my head seemingly from out of nowhere. I have heard of “In His Steps,” and “In His Service” but “In His Toolbox?” I did a search of my mental directory for slogans, mottos and phrases to see if it might be stored somewhere between "An Army Of One", "Be All You Can Be", "Just Do It", or W.W.J.D..  After all, what is a toolbox anyway? It is a collection of tools stored in a common container that allows the user to perform a variety of tasks. Who uses toolboxes?  Mechanics, electricians, carpenters, plumbers, maintenance men and God—all use toolboxes. But perhaps we think of ourselves as highly trained, highly motivated and successful individuals. Who among us thinks of himself as a hammer, a pair of pliers, or a pipe wrench that can be used of God?

I have to admit that in our current American culture the idea of being a useful tool in someone else's toolbox (even God’s) certainly violates the philosophies touted by motivational speakers, success gurus and all the get rich quick promoters. Then again, I am not talking about worldly success. I'm talking about being a tool in God's toolbox.

Think about it. God, our creator and author of our salvation, is the master mechanic. His desire is that no one would perish and although He could deliver the salvation message Himself, He has chosen common folk like us to be the “tools” of His service. The mechanic at the local automobile repair shop would not be able to fix your car without tools. God has made it so His Church cannot serve without you, His tools.

As Christians serving in the military, no matter where you are stationed, no matter what your occupation, there are those around you in need of The Savior. By God's design, you represent the Savior and Lord of the universe. The Master's desire is that we allow Him to mold us into useful tools: tools are well maintained and cared for by His love; tools that are resting in the toolbox (His Sabbath Rest), ready and available for His use on every occasion. What an honor to be gently lifted out of God's toolbox and to be used to heal, nurture, and encourage the Saints or even better yet, share the Good News with those around us!

Why am I excited about being 'just a tool'? It is because of my gratitude to our Lord, knowing that He paid so dear a price for my sin. I was once separated from fellowship with Him and doomed to an eternity without Him. But now I am restored into fellowship with Him (He lives in me), and I look forward to spending eternity in His glorious presence! When I remember that My Savior and Lord one day long ago shed a drop of blood with my name on it, a crimson coin He used to purchase me out of the marketplace of sin—how could I not serve Him? One of my favorite gospel songs puts it this way:

“Well... He chose me when I could not choose Him,
Well... He loved me long before I knew Him,
And He died for me on Calvary long before my life began -
The least I can do is live for Him!”

I am deliriously happy to be 'just a tool' in the Masters toolbox! I endeavor to keep myself well oiled and ready for the His use. Oh, to be so valued by God! Are you a deliriously happy tool of the Master?


Christian Military Fellowship

An Indigenous Ministry • Discipleship • Prayer • Community • Support
Encouraging Men and Women in the United States Armed Forces, and their families, to love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ.

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