Love God, Love Others, Make Disciples

Love God, Love Others, Make Disciples

Reed Hoppe

Reed Hoppe

By Reed Hoppe-

In her twenty years as a missionary in Central Asia and India, Rachel* has experienced God work in miraculous ways. Her stories always captivate me – so different than my life in the southeastern United States. Both the Old Testament and the Book of Acts come alive as Rachel recounts God moving among her Indian colleagues.

Rachel’s pastor, Arnav*, is an Indian Christian from the northeastern region of the country. Curiously, Christianity has spread in this remote area, while much of the middle of India has remained least reached. Arnav explained how this came to be, telling the unlikely story of how one man impacted an entire region of India.

“Our great-great grandfathers were headhunters,” Arnav began rather matter-of-factly.

His logic wasn’t immediately clear to Rachel, or to me as I listened to her retell the story.

He went on, “In a headhunting culture, when a boy came of age, he had to kill a warrior from another tribe to prove his manhood. All of the villages were in remote areas of the jungle. A boy would have to survive his trek through the jungle, kill a warrior, and bring his head and other specific body parts back to the village. If he survived the journey, he stood on a rock in the center of the village and was inducted into the tribe as a man.”

“One day, a missionary came to the village. It was no use to kill him since he wasn’t a warrior, so the people of the tribe let him live. They harassed him to try and make him leave, but he wouldn’t go. One time, the elders locked him in a cage. When he was released, instead of leaving the village – which would have been expected – he brought his wife back to live with him there.

“Throughout the years that this missionary lived in the village, he only led one person from our tribe to Christ. That man ended up being one of the greatest evangelists in India. Entire villages came to the Lord through the ministry of this one man, a former headhunter.”

That lone missionary was ignored, harassed, and put into a cage but he never gave up. What must have felt like a failed ministry to him was actually the catalyst that brought millions of Indians to know Christ.

It’s easy to give up when we don’t see results as quickly as we would like. How many of us have given up on a diet after a few weeks? By summer, most people’s New Year’s resolutions have been long forgotten. So what is it that drives some people to persevere in the face of hardship?

I think it is because this man knew what he wanted to do with his life. The love of God within him drove him to what may seem like somewhat extreme measures to share that love with others. He sought to love God, love others, and make disciples.

In the local church, ministry often seems to consist of mere conflict management, budget issues, and endless meetings, rather than intentionally making disciples. Yet what drove nearly all of us into ministry was the desire to love God, love others, and make disciples.

As Rachel closed her story she said, “I was reminded that we don’t have to understand what God is doing to follow Him. We don’t have to see the future. God has a plan that He rarely reveals to us, but He is always working to bring people to know Him as Lord.”

Whether you serve in a local church in the U.S. or in the northeast of India, God is faithful. Let’s continue to encourage each other to persevere in the face of what sometimes feels like insignificance, and trust the Lord to work all things for good. One person, propelled by the love of God and enabled by the Holy Spirit, can impact an entire region for Christ. And sometimes, they may not even realize it.

*Pseudonyms used for security reasons.

Reed Hoppe serves as the associate director of communications for The Mission Society, is a deacon in the United Methodist Church, and serves with her husband in a church in Alabama.

Love God, Love Others, Make Disciples

Invited to the King’s Table

B.J. Funk

B.J. Funk

By B.J. Funk-

I found a beautiful little nugget of gold resting in a spot I wouldn’t think gold would be. It’s an encouraging Scripture from 2 Kings 25 from which the title in my Bible reads The Fall of Jerusalem. Surely, we cannot find gold there, for this chapter tells of Nebuchadnezzar’s attack on Jerusalem and the subsequent removal of the Hebrews to Babylon. It is a dark period in Judah’s history, the beginning of 70 years of captivity. A golden nugget? Ah, yes.

It is painful to read of those who were executed and of Judah’s inhabitants becoming prisoners to Babylon. But the end of this chapter takes on a golden glow when we read of the decision of Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Evil-Merodach, to release Jehoiachin, king of Judah, who had worn prison clothes for 37 years.  We are not privy to the reasons for this sudden compassion by Nebuchadnezzar’s son who followed as king of Babylon after his father’s death.  Rumors by the Jews say that Nebuchadnezzar was mentally ill and even had his own son Evil-Merodach imprisoned for a while, during which time he became friends with Jehoiachin, also in prison. However this came about, it was due to the good providence of our good God.

The last verses of 2 Kings end with Evil-Merodach not only releasing Jehoiachin from prison, but speaking kindly to him and giving him a seat of honor higher than those of other kings who were with him in Babylon.

“So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes and for the rest of his life ate regularly at the king’s table. Day by day the king gave Jehoiachin a regular allowance.” This is the verse that jumped off the page of my Bible.

Most of us know what it feels like to be in a prison. Maybe not an actual prison, but a personal one, kept there by our poor choices or by the poor choices of others. We’ve lived there so long that we cannot imagine ever taking off our prison clothes. They have become stuck to us, glued to the conditions placed there by ourselves, hammered there by repeated failures, taped there by a continual stream of negatives in our lives. We have conditioned ourselves to expect the worse, and so if a leader suddenly looked at us and invited us to eat at his/her table, we would decide we weren’t worthy to be there. Right? We might continue our same unfortunate habits, our jump down into the pits around us, our never-ending determination that all life has for us is what we know now.

Jehoiachin tells us that does not have to be the case. You can take off your prison clothes and dine with the king. It is too beautiful to savor in just one reading. I have read it over and over, wishing that Christians caught inside of a prison could receive this good gospel news from an Old Testament story. You can give up your prison clothes! For the rest of your life, you are invited to eat regularly at the table of King Jesus, wearing clean robes of forgiveness!

In order to truly live our life in the fullest, it is important for us to die to our old self and to be renewed by putting on our new self, created after the likeness of God.

God can turn your prison into a palace. The day will come, at the end of time, when you and I will play the part of Jehoiachin. Jesus will open the dungeon doors of death, loose our prison clothes, and clothe us in immortality. He will say to us, “Come, sit at my Table for all eternity. You will reign with me.”

However, freedom can be yours now. You don’t have to wait. If your attitude of prison, with self-doubt, unforgiveness, and feelings of inferiority, has held you back, then Jehoiachin has a word for you: Take off your prison clothes, and dine at the King’s table.

Johoiachin had only two reasons that caused him to put his prison clothes aside. He had an invitation, and he accepted that invitation.

You have the same invitation. Will you accept?