A DAILY DEVOTIONAL FOR ADVENT 2017
the world is
MORE THAN TWO BILLION PEOPLE FROM 6,500 UNIQUE ETHNIC GROUPS ARE STILL WAITING TO HEAR THE MESSAGE OF THE GOSPEL FOR THE FIRST TIME. FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP EXISTS TO INVITE BELIEVING COMMUNITIES TO ENGAGE PEOPLE GROUPS WHERE THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS AND HIS KINGDOM IS NOT YET KNOWN. WE’RE CONNECTORS AND BRIDGE BUILDERS, EQUIPPING FOLLOWERS OF JESUS TO TAKE NEW STEPS OF MISSION ENGAGEMENT THROUGH INTERCULTURAL PARTNERSHIPS. TO LEARN MORE, VISIT FRONTIERFELLOWSHIP.COM
THIS DEVOTIONAL IS A COMPILATION OF REFLECTIONS FROM VARIOUS FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP STAFF, BOARD MEMBERS AND MINISTRY FRIENDS. All scripture is NRSV unless otherwise noted.
© 2017 FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP
TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction ....................................................................................................... page 5 Day 1: SALVATION .................................................................................................. page 6 Day 2: ACCESS ........................................................................................................ page 7 Day 3: RESTORATION ............................................................................................. page 8 Day 4: HOPE ........................................................................................................... page 9 Day 5: REDEMPTION ........................................................................................... page 10 Day 6: GODâ€™S WORD ............................................................................................ page 11 Day 7: HOME ....................................................................................................... page 12 Day 8: PEACE ...................................................................................................... page 14 Day 9: JUSTICE ................................................................................................... page 15 Day 10: SAFETY .................................................................................................... page 16 Day 11: MERCY ..................................................................................................... page 17 Day 12: RENEWAL ................................................................................................ page 18 Day 13: FOOD ....................................................................................................... page 19 Day 14: HEALING ................................................................................................. page 20 Day 15: JOY .......................................................................................................... page 21 Day 16: GRACE ..................................................................................................... page 23 Day 17: TRUTH ..................................................................................................... page 24 Day 18: FREEDOM ................................................................................................. page 25 Day 19: SHELTER .................................................................................................. page 26 Day 20: RECONCILIATION ..................................................................................... page 27 Day 21: HONOR .................................................................................................... page 28 Day 22: COMMUNITY ............................................................................................ page 29 Day 23: JESUS ..................................................................................................... page 30
INTRODUCTION RICHARD HANEY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
The world is waiting. Waiting for what? What does the world need most of all? For one, our world needs more love. It’s plagued by seemingly endless conflicts, natural disasters and societal distress. We all need peace, hope and joy. Millions living below the poverty line long for even the basic necessities of clean water, food, shelter, healthcare and education. And the list goes on. During the season of Advent, we celebrate the coming of Christ into our world, and we wait for the coming of His Kingdom in all its fullness. As Christians, we live in the tension of the already/not yet, recognizing the Good News Jesus brought to us while still longing for the day when our broken world is finally made whole again. Shalom, the Hebrew word for peace, describes the kind of compassionate care and love required for human flourishing. Peace is experienced communally when people have food to eat and their children are safe, when pain is met with compassion, when divisions and conflict come to an end and abundance is the occasion for sharing. So what is a flourishing human life? It’s more than basic sustenance alone. It extends beyond the borders of space and time into eternity. The flourishing life is inextricably linked to the Good News that Jesus is making all things new. This message of hope is ours to proclaim. As we celebrate Jesus’ coming this Advent season, we remember the more than two billion people who have yet to hear of Him. We believe the Gospel is Good News for all people and every part of life. Together we long for the coming Kingdom where we have a place of belonging, every wrong is made right and we enjoy God’s presence forever. The world is waiting.
THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 3
CODY WATSON, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR HOW BEAUTIFUL ON THE MOUNTAINS ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS, WHO PROCLAIM PEACE, WHO BRING GOOD TIDINGS, WHO PROCLAIM SALVATION, WHO SAY TO ZION, “YOUR GOD REIGNS!” —ISAIAH 52:7 (NIV)
Silence. For 400 years, there was no word from heaven until the angels broke forth in song to announce the birth of a Savior, Christ the Lord. But for many in the world, that silence has continued. To those of us reading the words of this devotional, that absolute silence is hard to imagine experiencing. As this booklet was being written, we were all aware of the plight of those seeking rescue in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria; monsoon floods in South Asia, earthquakes in Mexico and wildfires in Northern California. Many are crying out for earthly help and hoping against hope for missing loved ones. Many are responding with hearts of compassion. How beautiful must be the sight of those coming in boats to rescue people surrounded by high water! How beautiful must be the hands of those freeing people buried in rubble! How beautiful must be the boots of firefighters rushing in to evacuate people trapped by the raging blaze! They experience a miraculous, though still temporal, salvation. But what happens after the headlines fade? Will the current crises obscure the greater tragedy of over two billion people who still have had no chance to hear of eternal salvation? Good News entered the world 2,000 years ago. Yet millions still walk in darkness. You and I have been rescued from the power of darkness into the Kingdom of Light. What will we do to empower the beautiful feet of bearers of Good News as they proclaim the glad tidings of eternal life?
THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR
MONDAY, DECEMBER 4
ROBERTA UPDEGRAFF, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP VISION TRIP PARTICIPANT THEN I HEARD THE VOICE OF THE LORD SAYING, “WHOM SHALL I SEND, AND WHO WILL GO FOR US?” AND I SAID, “HERE AM I; SEND ME!” ––ISAIAH 6:8
In the land of 330 million deities, seekers stand on street corners and in the shade of the rudraksha tree. They wait for the “sent ones” promised in their visions. In Himalayan villages, shepherds and farmers— identified by prayerful church planters as men and women of peace— look to the hills for pastors and encouragers to strengthen their witness in their communities. I’ve traveled with these “sent ones” in the foothills of southeast Nepal as they retraced the steps of their initial prayer walk when they sought God’s leading for future ministry. Since then, they’ve launched over 100 house churches in just a few years. They, like the apostles Paul and Barnabas, delighted in their reunions with disciples to recount miracles and the growth in numbers of new believers. In our land of 330 million subtly seductive deities in the West, preoccupations, money and self-sufficiency often trump reliance on the Lord. Trusting God to lead them, my Nepali brothers and sisters shared Christ with others and provided them with access to the one true God. Could my witness do the same? Could I provide access to Jesus for a seeker through my faith? Would I one day be able to re-walk the path of my faith and celebrate with God? Maybe you, like me, long to feel your integral part in God’s plan for the unreached. Let’s walk together, you and I—first through our own neighborhoods and then on to the dark spiritual alleyways where the effects of sin yield consequences of brokenness. Let’s meet desperate souls standing beneath streetlights awaiting messengers of Good News and come alongside weary loved ones praying for spiritual reinforcements. Let’s hold in our hearts our counterparts doing the same throughout the world. Lord, make us Your sent ones—those who create avenues of access for people to hear the Good News. Empower us to strengthen beleaguered believers throughout the world. Equip us to embody the reality that You are Emmanuel—God with us. Amen. page 7
THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 5
TARA CHASE, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR RESTORE OUR FORTUNES, O LORD, LIKE THE WATERCOURSES IN THE NEGEV. MAY THOSE WHO SOW IN TEARS REAP WITH SHOUTS OF JOY. THOSE WHO GO OUT WEEPING, BEARING THE SEED FOR SOWING, SHALL COME HOME WITH SHOUTS OF JOY, CARRYING THEIR SHEAVES. —PSALM 126:4–6
Earlier this year I traveled to the Negev—a vast, sparsely populated desert in southern Israel. In any direction, as far as the eye can see, the landscape is dominated by dirt, dust and rocks of every shape and size. Nomads roam this expanse in search of an occasional patch of shrubbery on which their sheep can feed. It’s an utterly desolate place, a parched land. It was in this same wilderness that the people of Israel wandered. It was here David ran for his life when Saul was out to kill him. Many of Israel’s ancient enemies lived in and around this desert. It was, and is, an inhospitable place. The human heart often experiences seasons that can feel like a desert wasteland. Disappointments, tragedies and setbacks enter our lives uninvited and threaten the future we’ve imagined for ourselves. A lost job, a serious illness, the death of a loved one, a dream shattered, a relationship strained or broken, even a general sense of discontent— none of us are immune to these disruptions. What do you do when you find yourself in a desert place? Where does your heart go, and where does your mind wander, when everything in your life looks and feels like a barren land? As the psalmist notes, we cry out for restoration. As followers of Jesus, our faith moves us toward hope in the midst of loss, fear, grief and malaise. Even in the Negev, rain eventually comes and flowers bloom. Through Christ, we know that God can restore the broken and barren places of our lives in radical, seemingly impossible ways. In this season of Advent, we remember that Christ has come to restore, to make all things new, to give all peoples a hopeful future ripe with promise. Would you take time to pray Psalm 126 today for the many people in the world who are longing for restoration, but without hope? May Christ come to all who yearn for restoration, bringing a harvest of joy to those who’ve long awaited it. page 8
THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 6
ROB WEINGARTNER, THE OUTREACH FOUNDATION EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR HE WILL WIPE EVERY TEAR FROM THEIR EYES. DEATH WILL BE NO MORE; MOURNING AND CRYING AND PAIN WILL BE NO MORE, FOR THE FIRST THINGS HAVE PASSED AWAY. AND THE ONE WHO WAS SEATED ON THE THRONE SAID, “SEE, I AM MAKING ALL THINGS NEW.” —REVELATION 21:4–5A
In February I visited Christians in Syria, a country where fighting has raged since 2011. Four hundred thousand Syrians have been killed. More than half of Syria’s people have been driven from their homes. Millions now live as refugees. With signs of destruction all around and continuing warfare, I was struck by the hope I saw in Syrian followers of Jesus. It didn’t come from an ability to control their circumstances. It wasn’t hope that came because they were sure of what would happen to them. They weren’t certain they’d escape the violence. What I saw in them wasn’t hope in the government, though they had hope for the future of their country. And it wasn’t just hope for a better life, though they longed for better lives. Rather, it was a confidence that came from trusting that nothing could separate them from the love of God, not even death. The Book of Revelation has been of special importance to the Church during times of trial and tribulation. It speaks honestly about evil, pain and loss. But it also reminds us that God’s plan will not be spoiled by evil forces or life’s adversity and struggles. God’s love wins. And we can bring hope to others as we share the Good News of God’s love made clear in Jesus’ death and resurrection. 1 Peter 3:15 reminds us to be prepared to give an accounting for the hope that is within us. What a privilege! Are you struggling with circumstances in your life? Do you feel as though you’re without hope? Let me invite you to remember the promises of God’s Word—that Jesus will never leave you or forsake you, that nothing can separate you from God’s love, that He is preparing a place for you. Because of this our hope can be renewed.
THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 7
VIRGINIA TEITT, NEW WILMINGTON MISSION CONFERENCE DIRECTOR “FOR SURELY I KNOW THE PLANS I HAVE FOR YOU,” SAYS THE LORD, “PLANS FOR YOUR WELFARE AND NOT FOR HARM, TO GIVE YOU A FUTURE WITH HOPE.” ––JEREMIAH 29:11
As we approach the celebration of the Christ child’s birth, we anticipate in fresh ways the full impact of God in human flesh, the One who offered His life for the sake of saving ours. Jesus broke down barriers, shattered boundaries, included outcasts, restored exiles and offered hope and new life in often the most unexpected places. The church I serve participates in an outreach of welcome and witness to refugees, immigrants and students from Muslim-majority countries. Our outreach partners, a Pakistani couple, once had a thriving ministry as church planters in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but due to escalating persecution and death threats made the difficult decision to seek asylum in the United States. They eventually arrived in Ohio—safe but disoriented—with their three young children in tow and all their remaining possessions jammed into three suitcases. Grieving the loss of their homeland, Christian community, family, friends and vocational identity, they wondered what their purpose could possibly be in a Western nation that seemed to have so little in common with their former country. It didn’t take long for them to discover they weren’t alone. Thousands of other refugees and immigrants from around the world had been resettled in the same area. These foreigners, like them, were overwhelmed and confused. Many of them had come from nations and people groups where they’d never had the chance to hear about Jesus. Recognizing the incredible—but not unfamiliar—opportunity God placed before them, this couple began to do exactly what He’d prepared and equipped them to do as church planters in Pakistan, extending hospitality and friendship to strangers and sharing the Gospel with any who would listen. During the season of Advent, we remember that Christ was born into a broken and hurting world to bring redemption—to seek out and save all that’s lost and create a future full of new possibilities for all peoples. Please pray with me and my Pakistani friends for unreached people, especially those who are refugees and immigrants, to encounter Christ on a journey of redemption. page 10
THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR
God’s Word FRIDAY, DECEMBER 8
DONALD MARSDEN, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR LONG AGO GOD SPOKE TO OUR ANCESTORS IN MANY AND VARIOUS WAYS BY THE PROPHETS, BUT IN THESE LAST DAYS HE HAS SPOKEN TO US BY A SON…. —HEBREWS 1:1–2A
The world is waiting to hear God speak. The biblical writers who lived before the reality of jet planes and instantaneous internet communication understood there were vast areas of the world that had not heard the voice of God. Isaiah wrote, “The coastlands wait for His teaching” (Isaiah 42:4). And the psalmist who wrote, “O God of our salvation; You are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas” (Psalm 65:5), perceived that although many peoples have never heard the Word of God, they wait for it with anticipation. Modern technology and transportation truncate our sense of time and space. In a world connected by the internet, everyone and everything can feel close by. We connect with others online by video or messaging, and if we want to be there in person, we can get on a plane today and arrive at a destination halfway across the world tomorrow. While the distances between remote peoples of the world can be bridged by technology and air travel, we cannot span the infinite distance between God and fallen humanity. It’s not geography alone that keeps people from hearing the Word of God. Spiritual strongholds, cultural deceptions, repressive governments and crippling addictions hold people in bondage and contribute to blocking their access to God. During Advent, we thank God that Jesus has come to us and promises to come again. In Jesus, God has spoken His final, definitive Word to the world. He has reached across the infinite divide and come very close to us. Let’s praise Him and pray for His coming to all peoples.
THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 9
L.R., WORLD HORIZONS REFUGEE CARE COORDINATOR AND THE KING WILL ANSWER THEM, “TRULY I TELL YOU, JUST AS YOU DID IT TO ONE OF THE LEAST OF THESE WHO ARE MEMBERS OF MY FAMILY, YOU DID IT TO ME.” —MATTHEW 25:40
Some 2,000 years ago, a refugee family quietly made the long journey from Bethlehem to Egypt, fearing their son would be murdered by a tyrant. Few people knew then that this homeless refugee boy would become the Savior of the world. Watching the refugee crisis unfold over recent years, I wonder at how easily we forget that our Savior King was once as vulnerable as millions in our world today. We place our nativity Jesus into his little manger, and I wonder how many other children are simultaneously placed into makeshift beds in UNHCR tents, never to see home again. After the stable owner on that first Christmas night, I wonder who else welcomed this traveling family into what rooms they had. Where did Jesus sleep each night? What kind of temporary home did they make for themselves in Egypt? I can’t help but hope that along the way they were welcomed into warm homes and introduced to new kinds of food at foreign tables. Today there are people who do the same. They open their cities and churches, houses and couches to the foreigners among them. They welcome the unwelcomed; they give food to the hungry. And in so doing, they break the yoke of fear and the chains of hostility (Isaiah 58:6–7). “As you welcomed the least of these, you welcomed Me,” Jesus said. It takes courage to embrace the refugee. It will take great, costly love to welcome the wandering families of the world into our homes. It may even cause us pain as we expand the borders of our capacity to receive. But imagine this. It’s Christmas morning, and a Syrian family has joined yours around the Christmas tree. You’re reading that passage in Luke about His birth like you do every year. And in that moment, the familiar words become new as you hear them with the ears of your Muslim friends. And together as one family in one home, you wonder at the extravagance of God’s greatest Gift. The Gift that promises an everlasting home. Whether we are Syrian, Afghan, Rohingya or American, I pray we can await that final homecoming together. page 12
THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 10
JEN HADDOX, ECO DIRECTOR OF GLOBAL ENGAGEMENT HOW BEAUTIFUL UPON THE MOUNTAINS ARE THE FEET OF THE MESSENGER WHO ANNOUNCES PEACE, WHO BRINGS GOOD NEWS, WHO ANNOUNCES SALVATION, WHO SAYS TO ZION, “YOUR GOD REIGNS.” —ISAIAH 52:7
After being invited to share my testimony at a women’s conference in Southeast Asia, I sat and listened as various women from the nearby hill tribes shared their stories of how they came to faith in Christ. One by one, they told how a Christian evangelist came to their village for the first time, proclaiming God’s love and power with the message of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Each testimony had unique contours, but all of them had similar themes. Each woman heard the Good News of Jesus through a person who had quite literally traveled over the mountains to bring a message of salvation. Each woman shared about how the Gospel’s power was made real to them through signs of healing or reconciliation in their families. Lives were saved. Marriages were transformed. Families were healed. Peace and salvation came with the Gospel. Then each woman shared the pain of persecution that followed. Husbands jailed and fired from their jobs. Children forced to beg. Families excluded from the communal work in the fields and the shared harvest that follows. Threats, homelessness and even beatings. As I listened to one testimony after another, I was overwhelmed by the expression of peace and even joy on the women’s faces while they spoke. Finally, I interrupted and asked one of them, “How can you smile as you share the story of your suffering?” I watched and listened intently for the translation and will never forget her response: “Because Jesus is so much better than all we had before. For Jesus, it’s worth losing everything.” In this season of Advent, may we receive the gift of peace that comes in the person of Jesus Christ. Despite conflict or turmoil in our communities, our relationships or our hearts, we can receive this peace that “surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). Receive this gift of Jesus, and be at peace.
THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR
MONDAY, DECEMBER 11
DENISE SCIUTO, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR HE HAS SHOWN YOU, O MORTAL, WHAT IS GOOD. AND WHAT DOES THE LORD REQUIRE OF YOU? TO ACT JUSTLY AND TO LOVE MERCY AND TO WALK HUMBLY WITH YOUR GOD. —MICAH 6:8 (NIV)
Justice is a popular topic these days. Do athletes have a right to kneel during the National Anthem? How do we ensure equality in education, employment and so on? Working in frontier mission exposes us to many injustices in other countries, too. There are governments and people in power who seem eager to exploit or abuse particular ethnic groups or religions. My friends in northern Africa have had their Christian books taken away and even their church buildings demolished. In other areas, ethnic groups are attacked and killed without remorse. Children in this region are often taken away from their families and forced into slave labor. Here and around the world, we’re overwhelmed by the steady barrage of injustices we hear about, witness or experience on a regular basis. I was talking with a group of high school students recently about justice. They identified all the stories in the media discussing various situations of injustice, but they wondered what it meant for them personally to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly. They decided that in order to have any authenticity in the bigger discussion of justice, they first had to think about acting justly in their day-to-day contexts. We discussed how showing mercy by forgiving others easily and walking in humility with God will ultimately help us respond to the injustices we see in our world right now. I challenge you to take a look at your situation. Are you walking humbly with your God? Do you love mercy and forgive easily— recognizing how Jesus extravagantly offered you mercy and forgiveness? Does that move you to act justly toward those around you? I also encourage you to pray for those who’ve never heard the Good News—that they’d experience justice and mercy. That God would walk with them as they face hardship. May God show us even greater ways to work for justice in our communities and beyond. page 15
THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 12
HAEMIN LEE, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR THE LORD IS MY LIGHT AND MY SALVATION; WHOM SHALL I FEAR? THE LORD IS THE STRONGHOLD OF MY LIFE; OF WHOM SHALL I BE AFRAID? —PSALM 27:1
Can you imagine living in a place where the government persecutes you only because of your faith in Jesus? In our American context, it’s hard to envision what this would be like. Unfortunately, many Christians around the world experience this type of oppression on a daily basis. This summer, I made a trip to Pakistan, a country often associated with negative images. My dear brother in Christ, “CJ,” is a Pakistani Christian who founded Christian primary schools in a poverty-stricken desert area. These schools provide education to children who otherwise have to work in cotton fields all day. The government police frequently calls, visits and even harasses CJ because he has led many families to Christ through this ministry. His circumstances are certainly difficult. But he is fearless saying, “Our God is my light, salvation and strength. Why should I fear others? I’m willing to suffer if it’s for the sake of Jesus Christ!” CJ’s bold confession reminds us that Jesus is a strong refuge. In Him we find peace in the midst of life’s storms. The world is a broken and often dangerous place. Every human has at one time or another faced a threat, a fear, a lack of security. And for many millions, oppression and persecution can be severe and ongoing. Governments and societies violate basic human rights. Adherents of all brands of religion are persecuted for their beliefs. Natural disasters rob people of their homes, livelihoods and, at times, even their loved ones. The world cries out for a place of safety and stability. In this season of Advent, let’s pray for our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters around the world as well as all who long for safety. With the boldness of CJ, let’s join the psalmist in declaring, “I believe all peoples shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13). And let’s encourage one another to “wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14).
THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 13
GINY ROUNDY, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP BOARD MEMBER FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TOWARD THEIR INIQUITIES, AND I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE. —HEBREWS 8:12
Have you noticed that American culture seems to be growing more and more condemning and hateful? People think those who do wrong (or simply something they disagree with) should be shamed and punished. Showing mercy is so rare it makes headlines. Another word we could use instead of mercy is forgiveness. It’s true God shows mercy to us—Hebrews 8:12 tells us He’ll be merciful toward us and won’t remember our sins. That’s what we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer—Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Yet there are many people who don’t even realize they need mercy because they haven’t encountered Jesus. My church adopted one of those people groups, the Suri of Ethiopia, in 2002. Considered a “revenge culture,” they haven’t been a people to show mercy. Missionaries John and Gwen Haspels have lived among them for many years and worked to gradually build up the Suri church. Three years ago, God showed His mercy to the Suri in a surprising way. While driving along a road, John and Gwen were shot by a thief. The bullet went through Gwen’s mouth and sent pieces of her teeth and jaw into John’s right eye. Miraculously, they were able to drive to safety and were later flown to South Africa for treatment. The Suri went into mourning. They assumed the Haspels would never come back. As soon as he could, John returned to tell them he and Gwen were alive and, more importantly, they forgave the shooter and felt no resentment toward the Suri people. This began a wave of forgiveness in the community and many, many more Suri—as well as their neighbors, the Baale people—came to know and trust in Jesus. We’re not unlike the Suri. None of us always shows mercy. We judge. We condemn. But we have enough resemblance to our Father in heaven that we can extend mercy because we’ve experienced it for ourselves. Daily we need to repeat that prayer about forgiving our debtors and then we need to do it. The world is waiting for people who can live this out. Will you? page 17
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THURSDAY, DECEMBER 14
BOB VON SCHIMMELMANN, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP MISSION ADVOCATE ...WITH EAGER HOPE, THE CREATION LOOKS FORWARD TO THE DAY WHEN IT WILL JOIN GOD’S CHILDREN IN GLORIOUS FREEDOM FROM DEATH AND DECAY. —ROMANS 8:20B–21 (NLT)
We’re constantly reminded of the state of creation and its effects around the world. Earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, fire, famine and drought are at the forefront of the news these days. People everywhere are impacted and beat down by these natural calamities. Melting polar ice caps threaten low-lying islands and coastal regions. Volcanic eruptions threaten populated areas on the island of Bali. Air pollution is seriously impacting the breathable air in some of China’s major cities. Pollution of our oceans and lakes is devastating our potable water supplies and fisheries. We’ve seen firsthand the devastation from hurricanes hitting Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and several other Caribbean islands. Fires charring vast tracts of land in the western US. Famines ravaging Ethiopia, South Sudan and Somalia. Flooding in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Earthquakes in Mexico. And all of this has occurred over just the last few months. People are crying out. Blame is widespread. When you look at what’s happening around the world, it’s not difficult to recognize our need for renewal on a global scale. Genesis 3:17 tells us the very ground was cursed because of Adam’s sin. As the apostle Paul goes on to say in Romans 8:22, “creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” We are waiting for— hoping for—deliverance from sin and suffering. Creation is waiting for deliverance as well. In Revelation 21:1, we’re told of the coming of a new heaven and a new earth. Revelation 21:3–4 says God will live there with His children, and there will be no more death or sorrow or pain or brokenness. During this time of Advent, remember that Jesus came to bear the burden of sin and begin His redemptive work of making all things new. Take some time today to pray for those suffering around the world— those reeling from the “birth pangs” of our times. May the God of love and hope allow us to look forward to a time when we, as well as all of creation, will experience the redemption and renewal of all things. page 18
THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 15
CAROLINE KURTZ, FORMER FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR COME, EVERYONE WHO IS THIRSTY—HERE IS WATER! COME, YOU THAT HAVE NO MONEY—BUY GRAIN AND EAT! COME! BUY WINE AND MILK—IT WILL COST YOU NOTHING! —ISAIAH 55:1 (GNT)
The Bible talks a lot about food. Sometimes it refers to what we feed the physical body. Sometimes, as when Jesus explained to His disciples that His food was to do what His Father sent Him to do (John 4:34), “food” means spiritual nourishment. What if we resist the temptation to dichotomize a wisdom paradox and let God’s promises about food reverberate in our hearts, applying to food for both body and soul? Here are some promises: Psalm 107:9—“He satisfies those who are thirsty and fills the hungry with good things;” Isaiah 55:1—free water, food, wine and milk are available; Joel 2:25—God will restore the crops that locusts have destroyed. In a world of unimaginable wealth as well as deep, grinding poverty, how are we to understand promises that God’s beloved humans will be freely fed? Jesus made it clear that God expects us to make sure our neighbors are taken care of. The writer of James challenges, “What good is there in your saying [to people without food or clothes], ‘God bless you! Keep warm and eat well!’ if you don’t give them the necessities of life?” (James 2:16, GNT). But let’s not stop there. What else are humans starving for today? We’re starving for peace—in our hearts, in our communities, among our nations. We’re starving for beauty and love and freedom from fear. God says to us in Isaiah 55:2, “Why spend money on what does not satisfy? Why spend your wages and still be hungry? Listen to Me and do what I say, and you will enjoy the best food of all” (GNT). In this season of celebrating Emmanuel, God with us, let’s recommit to feeding our neighbors food, peace, safety, respect—all that the body and soul long for.
THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 16
ANDREW SMOTHERS, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP BOARD MEMBER THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD GOD IS UPON ME...TO BRING GOOD NEWS TO THE OPPRESSED, TO BIND UP THE BROKENHEARTED, TO PROCLAIM LIBERTY TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RELEASE TO THE PRISONERS... TO COMFORT ALL WHO MOURN...TO GIVE THEM A GARLAND INSTEAD OF ASHES.... —ISAIAH 61:1–3B
Jesus tells us the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). But life can weigh us down, causing us to struggle showing our love with our entire heart, soul, mind and strength. We can be overcome with emotion that distracts us. Perhaps it’s a person who’s challenging us at work or school, a loved one we’ve lost, or even a happy pursuit that takes us away from God. Maybe it’s a feeling we can’t quite explain. Sometimes, we can feel captive to the will of others or a desire within ourselves. Our minds can fail us. The information that feels like it should be readily available is missing—names, facts or memories seem lost. Our bodies can fail us. Perhaps our strength is absent due to exhaustion, disease, abuse or fatigue. We know from experience, scripture and science that the heart, soul, mind and strength are connected. A challenge in one often affects all areas of our being. What’s troubling you today? Your heart? Your soul? Your mind? Your strength? All or some of these? Jesus quotes the above passage from Isaiah in Luke 4:18–19 before saying, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” He offers Good News to the oppressed, the brokenhearted, the captive, the prisoner, the mourners, the faint in spirit—to everyone like you and me. This Good News carries true freedom that binds up, proclaims, comforts, makes beautiful and gives joy. Jesus invites us, “Come to Me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). What is Jesus offering you today for what ails you? His call to love Him with our entire being is not a call we need to accomplish ourselves; it’s one He enables through His Spirit. As we experience the healing He offers, we can extend the hope of that healing to others, proclaiming the liberty and restoration only He can give. page 20
THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 17
KRISTIN HUFFMAN, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR YOU MAKE KNOWN TO ME THE PATH OF LIFE; YOU WILL FILL ME WITH JOY IN YOUR PRESENCE, WITH ETERNAL PLEASURES AT YOUR RIGHT HAND. —PSALM 16:11 (NIV)
My watch has a reminder that pops up during the day, telling me to breathe. For one minute I am to pay attention to my breathing, to intentionally take long, slow breaths…in and out. One minute. Then it tells me “good job” and shows my heartbeats per minute. Some people dislike this watch function and turn it off, but I like it because it stops me in my tracks, helps me be still and listen for God’s voice in the middle of life. When I stop, even for a minute, I often sense God’s presence and love and grace and joy. Advent is like that. It has the potential to stop and turn us toward Jesus. Some years I ignore the invitation of Advent and rush around making 33 batches of peanut brittle, or finding the perfect gifts or being nice to family or—you get the idea. But I miss the blessing God might have for me in the quiet and stillness. I miss the joy that can only come from Him. Joy is funny. It’s not happiness exactly but something deeper, tougher, richer and more lasting. As a society, we spend tons of time, money and energy chasing happiness to no real success. Although it can be a wonderful feeling, it’s usually situational, fleeting and elusive. But we continue to wait for it. Joy, on the other hand, is that abiding sense of God’s presence, gratitude, peace, happiness, trust and grace all wrapped up together. We can feel joy even in the worst of circumstances when we stop long enough to KNOW that God is God. This fall, my community lived through Hurricane Harvey and the ensuing flood. The aftermath was serious, exhausting, scary and sad. In the midst of it, I was given the gift of a morning silent retreat. I wrote all my angst into my journal, offered it to God and then simply sat in His presence. I sensed Him rearranging things inside of me and there it was—a new sense of joy and peace and a deep rightness came seeping back into my soul. The world is waiting for joy, but in reality, the Giver of joy is simply waiting for us to come to Him. May you breathe, listen, wait and let God fill you with joy this Advent season. page 21
THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR
MONDAY, DECEMBER 18
NANCY VON SCHIMMELMANN, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP MISSION ADVOCATE AND THE WORD BECAME FLESH AND LIVED AMONG US, AND WE HAVE SEEN HIS GLORY, THE GLORY AS OF A FATHER’S ONLY SON, FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH....FROM HIS FULLNESS WE HAVE ALL RECEIVED, GRACE UPON GRACE. —JOHN 1:14, 16
Last year, my husband and I traveled to Egypt with a group of American Christians to visit and learn from Egyptian ministry partners. We met with a number of Egyptian church leaders—determined, wise, creative, well-educated men and women who are devoted to helping others meet Jesus and grow in Him. They live in a difficult place, so they must be cautious, and they are, but fear hasn’t stopped them. They’re taking the grace and truth they’ve received from Jesus and extending it to others. We heard stories of Muslims who’d encountered Jesus without a human intermediary, instead through dreams and visions. Like Saul of Tarsus in the Book of Acts, some were former persecutors of the Church. Indeed, God is pouring out His grace in Egypt and beyond. The story of Jesus is the story of grace: pure, undiluted, unmerited favor. Whether through dreams and visions or through the guidance of a friend, we’ve each met Jesus and experienced His grace poured upon us. We in no way earned or deserved it. Favor after favor has been given to us, and all because Jesus willingly left His throne in heaven to be born in a backwater of the Roman Empire and placed in a feed trough over 2,000 years ago. What better time than Advent to reflect on what Jesus sacrificed to live among us, giving thanks for the amazing grace upon grace we’ve received from Him. By His kindness we’re recipients and messengers of this Good News, praying for and laboring on behalf of those still waiting to hear.
THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 19
RICHARD HANEY, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR THEN JESUS SAID TO THE JEWS WHO HAD BELIEVED IN HIM, “IF YOU CONTINUE IN MY WORD, YOU ARE TRULY MY DISCIPLES; AND YOU WILL KNOW THE TRUTH, AND THE TRUTH WILL MAKE YOU FREE.” —JOHN 8:31–32
In its opening prologue, the Gospel of John describes the Messiah as the Word and as One “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). I like the translation that reads, “full of lovingkindness and faithfulness.” Jesus comes to us with overflowing love and grace and mercy. But this love is not mere affection or attraction. This love is angular. God is the faithful One who keeps His promises. Truth has to do with faithfulness. Like a deeply rooted, mighty oak tree, God’s truth is strong and dependable. Knowing the truth has to do with knowing God who is faithful—knowing the One who keeps His word and His promises. Our world waits for news we can trust. For news that tells us what is reliable. For promises that are kept. For a Savior who truly saves. The world’s unreached peoples have yet to meet Jesus. They don’t know that He brings God’s grace and truth, offering them freedom from the never-ending struggle of trying to earn merit and transcend the weakness of human nature. Imagine learning that God accepts you just as you are because of His Son’s atonement and intercession. For those who do know Jesus, Advent is a season to celebrate the freedom we’ve received through His incarnation. May our experiential knowledge of His grace and truth spur us to tell the Good News of God’s lovingkindness and faithfulness.
THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 20
BILL YOUNG, FORMER FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR YOU WILL KNOW THE TRUTH, AND THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE…. IF THE SON SETS YOU FREE, YOU WILL BE FREE INDEED. —JOHN 8:32, 36 (NIV)
So many of the unreached people groups in the world today live in bondage. For some, it’s bondage to false gods or religions, which often result in poverty and oppression. When my wife and I lived in Ghana, we read in the newspaper about parents who sold their daughters to priests who abused them physically and emotionally—a heartbreaking example of the devastating effects false beliefs can have on communities. For others, their bondage is to cultural practices. These traditions and structures bring poverty and oppression, such as when poor people spend all they have and borrow much more to put on a large funeral for a relative to appease the spirits of their ancestors. In John 8, Jesus tells His disciples that if they follow His teaching, they’ll know the truth and the truth will set them free. But it’s more than that. Jesus goes on to say that true freedom comes when the Son sets them free. True freedom isn’t just in Jesus’ ways; it’s found in Jesus Himself. But notice that Jesus is addressing the religious leaders of the Jews in these words from John 8. We need to be careful that we’re living out of that true freedom, not caught up in the bondage of our own culture— dependence on money and material goods, ways that bring hatred and divisions between people, concern only for what pleases us. Ultimately, freedom comes as we encounter Jesus, grow in our understanding of the truth and trust Him as He leads us from bondage to liberation. So how can we invite more people into their own experience of this freedom? May we be people who embrace the freedom Jesus offers, generously welcoming others—especially those who haven’t yet heard—to walk with Him into the wide open spaces of God’s Kingdom.
THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 21
GREG ROTH, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP BOARD MEMBER IS NOT THIS THE KIND OF FASTING I HAVE CHOSEN: TO LOOSE THE CHAINS OF INJUSTICE AND UNTIE THE CORDS OF THE YOKE, TO SET THE OPPRESSED FREE...? IS IT NOT TO SHARE YOUR FOOD WITH THE HUNGRY AND TO PROVIDE THE POOR WANDERER WITH SHELTER...AND NOT TO TURN AWAY FROM YOUR OWN FLESH AND BLOOD? —ISAIAH 58:6–7 (NIV)
For 20 years, I’ve been a part of the “Housing First” movement assisting the homeless of California. We discovered through this approach that if we provide rapid re-housing for the homeless, they can work on the issues that initiated their homelessness in the first place. Across the globe, we’ve learned the foundational building block for growth and community is stable housing or shelter. On the other side of the world, the Rohingya people are experiencing the destruction of their homes and communities. This ethnic minority group has been culturally and politically isolated by Myanmar’s Buddhist majority which has persecuted them for decades. Amidst heightened oppression this year, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled for their lives and become refugees across the border in Bangladesh. Isaiah 58 paints a picture of what devotion, sacrifice and faithfulness look like for God’s people. We’re not only called to pray for refugees like the Rohingya or the homeless of our own cities; we’re called to respond in practical ways to those who are impacted by injustice. Feed people who are hungry. Provide clothes, basic household items and toiletries to those who lack them. Support programs that provide the homeless with a place to stay. A homeless friend recently offered a prayer: “Jesus, You were homeless. What was it like for You—sleeping on the hard ground of a Galilean hillside…a ‘bed’ just like mine? What did that ceiling of stars mean to You? Did it remind You of the care of Your heavenly Father, or was it another sleepless, empty, solitary night to endure?” Can you imagine what Good News might look like to a refugee in Southeast Asia or to the homeless in your community? As you pray for the shelterless, how is God asking you to respond in a practical way to those longing for a home?
THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR
Reconciliation FRIDAY, DECEMBER 22
DAN MCNERNEY, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR SO IF ANYONE IS IN CHRIST, THERE IS A NEW CREATION: EVERYTHING OLD HAS PASSED AWAY; SEE, EVERYTHING HAS BECOME NEW! ALL THIS IS FROM GOD, WHO RECONCILED US TO HIMSELF THROUGH CHRIST, AND HAS GIVEN US THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION.... SO WE ARE AMBASSADORS FOR CHRIST.... —2 CORINTHIANS 5:17–20
It’s emotionally and physically draining to be at odds with someone. You can’t get that person off your mind. You toss and turn at night, wondering what went wrong. A dark hue seems to follow you wherever you go. But sometimes by God’s grace, a path is opened miraculously, and words of contriteness, forgiveness and love begin to flow again with the person who was once so distant. Reconciliation has given you new life. Few emotions are more exhilarating. For the past nine years, I’ve participated in an interfaith group comprised of Christians from my church and Muslims from a local mosque in the Chicago area. We do a number of activities together, serving our community through joint humanitarian projects. We celebrate Ramadan with them. They celebrate Christmas with us. Deep friendships have been forged through our time together. At the heart of our exchange is a small group studying our holy books together. We call this group a “Community of Reconciliation.” Our premise is that great healing needs to take place between Christians and Muslims today. Fear, misunderstanding and stereotyping often dominate feelings between these two faiths. But through honest and open exchange, we’re now experiencing great love and respect for our Muslim friends, and they feel the same towards us. We feel the presence of Christ with us, and so do they! What part of your life is crying out for reconciliation? With whom are you estranged and unreconciled? Are there fears that distance you from certain people groups or cultures? Start with God. Being reconciled to Him through Christ gives you the ability to be reconciled to others. The world today is in desperate need of reconciliation and love. It’s waiting for a good word. It’s waiting for you, an ambassador of Christ, to extend the hope of reconciliation.
THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 23
HANNAH TEAGUE, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP CREATIVE DIRECTOR WHEN I LOOK AT YOUR HEAVENS, THE WORK OF YOUR FINGERS... WHAT ARE HUMAN BEINGS THAT YOU ARE MINDFUL OF THEM...? YET YOU HAVE MADE THEM A LITTLE LOWER THAN GOD, AND CROWNED THEM WITH GLORY AND HONOR. —PSALM 8:3–5
The world is an unkind place for many women. Around the globe, girls and women lack access to healthcare, education, legal protections, fair wages and freedom of autonomy. They experience sexual violence and domestic abuse and are forced into harmful practices like FGM, child marriage and early pregnancy, resulting in a lifetime of physical suffering. And the list of injustices continues. Traveling in North India this year, I was struck by the bleak reality facing many women at the lowest level of the caste system. Being born female is the first disadvantage in a long line of inequities they face over the course of their lives. There’s little, if any, hope for different circumstances than those of their mothers, grandmothers or greatgrandmothers. When you consider the similar situation for millions of other women globally, you can’t help but long for a better world, a world in which every life is valued, protected and able to flourish. The Old Testament includes many accounts of the exploitation of women for others’ gain. Yet we find over and over that God never wavered from His harsh condemnation of sins committed against the vulnerable. Jesus’ earthly ministry upended cultural paradigms by the way He treated women with dignity, honor and grace (Mark 5:21–43; Luke 7:36–50; John 4:5–26, 8:1–11, 20:11–18). And through His work on the cross, He removed the separation between ethnic groups, social status and gender that causes unequal standing (Galatians 3:28). Jesus’ coming ushered in the inception of a new Kingdom, but it’s not yet here in all its wholeness. While we await His future redemption of all things, we’re called to extend the Gospel into the broken places where sin and its effects rob God’s creation of beauty. Where there’s inequity and exploitation, opportunity and compassion. Where there’s marginalization and repression, inclusion and embrace. Where freedom and dignity are absent, a crown of glory and honor. God has already bestowed the greatest value imaginable by making humankind in His image. May we, as equal image bearers, be men and women who incarnate that reality while we care for and champion the rights of the most vulnerable in His creation. page 28
THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 24
KRISTOPHER KEATING, HILLSIDE MISSIONS + WORLD HORIZONS DIRECTOR AND LET US CONSIDER HOW TO STIR UP ONE ANOTHER TO LOVE AND GOOD WORKS, NOT NEGLECTING TO MEET TOGETHER, AS IS THE HABIT OF SOME, BUT ENCOURAGING ONE ANOTHER, AND ALL THE MORE AS YOU SEE THE DAY DRAWING NEAR. —HEBREWS 10:24–25 (ESV)
Once a week, my family’s little downtown apartment fills up with people who make me better. I need them. For nearly 20 years, we’ve hosted and made dinner for our friends and ministry coworkers every Monday night. As the ministry has grown, so has the Monday night dinner crowd. I love them. There aren’t enough chairs for everyone, so people sit on the floor. We eat and talk and it’s happy chaos. My kids are usually entertaining a few people while everyone waits for me to finish cooking. Someone inevitably spills something. There are loud-talkers, shy corner-seekers, vegetarians, young people, old people, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, Baptists, wine drinkers, teetotallers, students, teachers and artists. We love each other and we’re always getting better at it because we’re following Jesus together. Monday night dinner isn’t only a time to relax together. It’s a chance to spill things and be known together. It’s also an opportunity to extend invitations. There are often new visitors joining us for dinner. And so the group and the ministry grow. Meeting and eating together stirs us to love. When I read about Jesus at a table with His friends, I think about Monday night dinner. Our group gathers because there are people in the world who haven’t had the opportunity to hear the Good News about Him. I want people in those places to be as happy as we are at those dinners. Our ministry aims to invite people to our tables from the world’s least-reached nations because we love. We train, send and care for missionaries because we love. Dinner together stirs us toward that love. If our prayers and hopes are only personal, maybe they could be stirred up to bigger and better things. Invite others into your life and prayers. Spend time together, and be stirred up by them. Invite them to dinner. We need community, and the world is waiting for community that loves.
THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR
MONDAY, DECEMBER 25
RICHARD HANEY, FRONTIER FELLOWSHIP EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR BUT THE ANGEL SAID TO THEM, “DO NOT BE AFRAID; FOR SEE— I AM BRINGING YOU GOOD NEWS OF GREAT JOY FOR ALL THE PEOPLE: TO YOU IS BORN THIS DAY IN THE CITY OF DAVID A SAVIOR, WHO IS THE MESSIAH, THE LORD.” —LUKE 2:10–11
Luke’s nativity story tells us Jesus was born in humble circumstances, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a feeding trough. Yet this child was destined to become a king. Handel’s oratorio, Messiah, echoes scripture in declaring that He is more than an ordinary king: “King of kings and Lord of lords; and He shall reign forever and ever.” Jesus has other names and titles—Savior, Prince of Peace, Good Shepherd. His first disciples met Him as Rabbi and gradually realized He was the Son of God and long-awaited Messiah, come to deliver humanity from sin and lead the way to eternal life. Such gifts of grace are hallmarks of the Kingdom and bestowed by the King. What kind of Kingdom is this? An upside-down Kingdom where the King is a humble servant. A Kingdom of shalom where love, joy and peace mend the human condition. Jesus the King reigns and His rule brings life abundant. Jesus told His followers that He not only brings life to the full, but is Himself the Resurrection and the Life. Life abundant is eternal life begun. Life eternal is abundant life complete. The world is waiting for us to tell this joyful news of Jesus and His Kingdom, bringing shalom to every nation, tribe, people and language. Joy to the world. The Lord is come. Let earth receive her King.
FOR EVERY PEOPLE, AN INDIGENOUS CHURCH FOR EVERY CHURCH, A MISSION VISION
A daily devotional for the 2017 Advent season