Where Are All the Nations?

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“Go and make disciples of all nations” – Jesus in Matthew 28:19

Shortly before Jesus ascended back to heaven, He gave His apostles a clear commission. He said, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Then on the day that He actually departed, He made the commission very specific to His first followers, when He said, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth!” (Acts 1:8)

It wasn’t long before the apostles did what Jesus commanded. With some persecutors pushing them, they went from Jerusalem through Judea and Samaria, and then on to the ends of the earth as they knew it. Paul went west to Italy, while tradition says that Thomas went east as far as India. To make disciples of all nations, they went to all the nations. Many centuries later, missionaries from Europe went to a new nation that they discovered, now known as the United States of America!

By God’s grace, many of our ancestors received the gospel message. Then they received the same commission that the apostles received, to go and make disciples of all nations. So the churches of America, including the Federated Church, began sending missionaries out to the ends of the earth. For over 75 years, we have been making disciples in many nations.

But in the 21st Century, something amazing is happening in America: the nations are coming to us! People from all over the world are coming to the United States to study (international students), or to escape from persecution (refugees), or to live and work in our country (immigrants). So where are “all the nations”? They’re all over the world and they are here!

Building Bridges in Our Relationships

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God is relational and due to the fact that we were made in His image we are also “relational beings”. Our calling in life is to pursue a deepening relationship with God and a deepening relationship with others. I believe that when Jesus gave us the two greatest commandments, (Love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength – and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37)), He was encouraging us to make the pursuit of a deepening relationship with God and a deepening relationship with others a top priority. In order for us to “deepen” relationships though, effort and energy are required. Much like the construction world, you can work hard at building a bridge but you must also take steps to maintain that bridge or it will eventually deteriorate and collapse!

So it is in our most important relationships. We can begin a relationship with God by faith in Jesus, but we must work at deepening that relationship through spending time with God in prayer, solitude, and in the daily intake of His Word! And in our human relationships, we can have many casual friends (or acquaintances might be a better word), but in order to deepen our relationship with at least a few to the point where “iron sharpens iroonn” (Proverbs 27:17), we must invest time and effort.

This month in our worship services we will take a closer look at the importance of various relationships and how we can deepen them. But since this is Valentine’s month, allow me to share just three tips for maintaining one of the most important human relationships in life – that of “marriage”.

  1. Speak Up – in a healthy relationshship, if something is bothering you, it is best to respectfully talk about it instead of holding it in. In our marriage we must “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) and if you are on the receiving end of something you may not like to hear, remember that “wounds of a friend can be trusted.” Proverbs 27:6)
  2. Compromise and Sacrifice – usually when we end up compromising with our spouse, that’s what it feels like – like we are sacrificing what we want in order to give them what they think they need or want! But “giving of ourselves” is what Christ did for each one of us and we are called to exhibit this kind of self-denial and sacrificial love toward the one whom we said “I do”! (Ephheesians 5:24-25)
  3. Love your husband or wife deeply but love God supremely! Our relationship with the “love of our life” can never deliver to us all that we need – and it wasn’t meant to do that! Only God can be “all things” to us – no human being has the capacity to fill the deep needs and longings that can only be satisfied by a deepening relationshipp with God. I think that’s why Jesus suggested this particular order in Matthew 22:37: Love God first and supremely and then, out of the overflow of that love, love others deeply as well. You will never “squeeze” out of your spouse all the deep needs and longings that are in your heart – only as you love God first and supremely will those needs be met. The amazing thing is however, that out of the abundance of both loving God and receiving His love, you will be empowered to love your spouse more deeply than ever before!