Sunday, June 16th
"Our Heavenly Father,
10/19/2011 12:06 PM
A smoke screen by definition is a mass of dense artificial smoke used to conceal military areas or operations from an enemy. However, a figurative sense has come from that usage to indicate an action or a statement used to conceal actual plans or intentions. I’m sure we have all had dealings with people who used smoke screens to conceal their real feelings and it is not at all impossible that we have thrown up a few smoke screens ourselves from time to time.
A smoke screen by definition is a mass of dense artificial smoke used to conceal military areas or operations from an enemy. However, a figurative sense has come from that usage to indicate an action or a statement used to conceal actual plans or intentions. I’m sure we have all had dealings with people who used smoke screens to conceal their real feelings and it is not at all impossible that we have thrown up a few smoke screens ourselves from time to time. In France I often ran up against smoke screens when trying to talk to people about God. Reasons would be given as to why God could not exist, but when responding to the objections I very quickly realized the individuals weren’t really interested in my answers. They simply had put up questions as smoke screens to hide their real indifference and the “don’t bother me” attitude that they had to the whole question.
On Sunday, October 2, we had the very special privilege of hearing from Bounoeuy Kess the fine Cambodian missionary who shared with us about his work among the hill tribe people in the north west of Cambodia. These people are indigenous to Cambodia but are not Cambodian. They are a tribal people who speak a language that is not Cambodian and they have a somewhat different ethnic origin from the Cambodian people. We were challenged by the spiritual need of these people who have in many ways become a displaced people without a country. We were challenged as followers of Jesus Christ to respond to what is generally called the “Great Commission.” The Great Commission is the “marching orders” found in Matthew 28 where Jesus commanded all believers to take the gospel to the very ends of the earth.
Our response to this challenge is where the question of “smoke screens” comes in. One response I’ve heard is “That’s great, what you say about working in Cambodia or elsewhere, but my ‘mission field’ is Bridgton.” What makes this a great smoke screen is that the statement contains much truth. Our mission field is Bridgton! Acts 1:8 makes it clear that missionary work should begin in Jerusalem, move on to Judea and Samaria and to the very ends of the earth. Translated into our context, our Jerusalem is Bridgton, our Judea and Samaria is New England and the rest of the USA and the ‘ends of the earth’ remains as always the ‘ends of the earth’. The message is clear, we have no right to keep our faith to ourselves. We have been told by the one who gave is life for us to share it with others. Bridgton (and Harrison) is our mission field, there is no question about it, but does that excuse us from the rest of the command: i.e., take the gospel to the ends of the earth. We need to take note of the fact that the first church while still evangelizing Jerusalem was taking the gospel to Judea and Samaria and while still evangelizing Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, it was taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. Fulfilling the great commission is not like a three-stage rocket where when one stage burns out you move onto the next and so forth. The missionary task wherever it might be has always been carried on simultaneously in many places. Therefore when we say that Bridgton is our mission field we need to be sure that the statement is not just a smoke screen designed to remove from us the responsibility of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth.
Does that mean that we should all pack up and go to Cambodia? Obviously this is neither practical nor possible although God may be calling some to leave home and go overseas just as he has done in the past with others from this church and just as he seems to be working in the hearts of some of our young people now. However, even if we can’t leave this area, there are tasks the Lord does give us. One is to seriously pray for those who are working around the world as missionaries. Praying for Bounoeuy, his wife Chanthan and their children would be a good start. The Alliance presently has about 800 missionaries actively working and each year at least one of those missionaries visits our church to speak about their life and work. We need to be praying for them also. We have another responsibility too. Besides going and praying we also need to be giving. Romans 10:14 says: “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent?” That’s a good question. How will someone tell them unless they are sent? Being sent implies support: spiritual and material. The system the Alliance has for financially supporting its missionaries is a fund called The Great Commission Fund. Members from our churches contribute directly to this fund and it is proportionately distributed to each missionary. These funds will cover everything from his basic necessities, to transportation, to ministry expenses. It is an unfortunate fact of life that each year there are people ready to go and share the gospel even at the risk of their own lives, who must wait to leave because there are not sufficient funds available. Each year at the time of our missionary convention we ask people to prayerfully consider what they can give to this fund and to make a pledge. The pledge is not a contract it is simply a statement that ‘God willing I will try to give a certain amount to the Great Commission fund so that our (my) missionaries can continue to take the gospel to the very ends of the earth.’ I think most of us are capable, even with limited faith and resources to say “Lord, as you provide, I will give $1 (or five or ten or more) a week to help take the gospel to the ends of the earth. With an idea of what funds will be available it enables mission leaders to plan for the upcoming year. If financial support does not come in, or if it is in any way reduced, the work of the spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ has to be curtailed. IS THAT WHAT WE WANT? May the Lord help us to see through our own smoke screens of indifference! May he lay the burden of lost souls on our hearts in such a way that we respond to his command by giving, praying and going–even to the very ends of the earth. Let us be in prayer that the Lord will speak to us all about our commitment to his command to pray, give and go.