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Crossing the Line

Psalm 96:1-13


"Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. [2] Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. [3] Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. [4] For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. [5] For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. [6] Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary. [7] Ascribe to the Lord, O families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. [8] Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts. [9] Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth. [10] Say among the nations, 'The Lord reigns.' The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity. [11] Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; [12] let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; [13] they will sing before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth." (NIV)

A few years ago our family rode the tram at Monarch, Colorado to stand on the Continental Divide. As the winds swirled around us, I put one leg on the Eastern slope and one leg on the Western slope of the great Rocky Mountains. It was by no means a life-changing experience; at the time, it was little more than a pleasant distraction from driving. But now as I reflect back on it, it underscores the importance of some of the lines we cross.

In May of 2000, Jenny Rogers crossed the line from loving missions to becoming a missionary. It is a significant line to cross. 

Loving missions isn't always easy. It requires time, prayers and sacrificial giving. It is more than most Christians do. Most Christians are content to live provincial lives that revolve around their own needs and those of their family. If they are cut from an exceptional cloth, they will learn to care deeply about the health of their church and the welfare of its people. Let's face it, most Christians are not "Great Commission Christians"-they aren't on mission to change the world. At best, their goal is to enrich their own life through what God can do for them.

But people who love missions go beyond tending to their own needs and supporting their church, they look beyond the horizon of their lives and see other needs. So at Christmas time, they include a gift to missions on their shopping list. They pray daily for those who have left their friends and families behind to enter into new cultures, learn new languages and live sacrificial lives in pursuit of their passion to spread the gospel.

Before I continue with Jenny's story, I want to pause to give each of us time to reflect on our personal commitment to the Lord. Picture a set of concentric circles with you in the middle. First, do you care about the condition of the person's soul in the middle of that circle? Are you taking care of yourself by practicing the disciplines of the Christian faith? Do you pray regularly? Do you worship with intensity? Do you read/study your Bible? In other words, are you practicing good spiritual hygiene?

Now look outside of that circle and consider your family & friends. Are you, by your words and actions encouraging your family & friends in their faith and helping them with their spiritual health?

And what about the third circle-your church? Are you the kind of person we can count on around here? Can we count on your attendance? Can we count on you when the offering plate passes by you? Can we count on you to serve? Can we count on you to undergird your church and its Pastor in daily prayer?

Now, look beyond those core circles and consider your commitment to your community. Are you the kind of person that loves missions? Or another way to put it, are you an "on mission Christian?" Do you see your school campus as a mission field? What about the homes that surround where you live, is it a mission field? What about the people from different cultures that surround our church building, are they a mission field? 

Do you love missions enough that you are reaching out to others who need to hear about Christ? Let's go one more circle out, what about those that live beyond our community-what about the world? Do you love missions enough that you will give sacrificially and pray faithfully for those who answer the call to go? 

People like Jenny Rogers. Jenny had a good job and was doing her part for missions as a staff writer for the International Mission Board. Then at an appointment service for new missionaries in Norfolk, Virginia, God spoke to her about crossing that line from loving missions to being a missionary. Today she is on the field in Japan as a missionary teaching English as a second language as a strategy to present the gospel. 

Perhaps you are expecting for me to tell you about the thousands of people she's lead to Christ over the past few years and how a great spiritual awakening is spreading throughout Japan because of her efforts. Maybe one day I'll be able to do that, but not now. Instead, I want to read an email she wrote on October 9, 2001. 

"As for my faith and life in Japan, there are bad things and there are good things...

Here's the bad (and the very ugly)...I'm still plugging along, dealing with culture shock and uncomfortable new things daily, but it's really starting to take its toll. I feel totally inept and altogether infantile. I have lost all confidence in being able to do anything or at least do anything right. Everything I touch seems to fall apart.

None of the kids showed up for my English class. I missed my first (and thus far only) prayer advocacy deadline...I've gotten lost, missed important events and held up long lines of impatient people while the bus driver tries frantically to tell me (in Japanese) something I've done wrong. I'm 'big' compared to tiny Japanese women. I told my language teacher I eat 'children' rather than 'fruit.'

But when these things build up, it can be overwhelming...I feel like nothing I'm doing is making a difference."

Now those are feelings I can relate to. How about you? Do you ever get discouraged in the Lord's work? Do you ever feel like you aren't really making a difference? Aren't you glad that you have family, friends and a church to stand behind you when you are feeling that way? I know I am.

And I also know that Jenny doesn't have those things, at least now with her-she's left them all behind to penetrate another culture to shine the gospel light in the darkness. That's why I've got to love missions-because people like Jenny are counting on me to pray for them so they have strength to go on, and sacrificially give so they can afford to do what they do.

In Isaiah 6:7-8, Isaiah tells us about a life changing vision-it was the day he crossed a line from loving missions to being a missionary, it says: "Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?' Then I said, 'Here am I. Send me!'"

That's what Jenny did. She heard God's call and she responded. She went. So we who love missions pray for her and we sacrificially give to help support her and other missionaries.

And God is honoring her commitment. Later she wrote, "There's a quickness in my step not just because the spring thaw is on the way...for the first time in many months I feel THERE IS HOPE-there is a way-maybe, by the Lord's grace, I'm going to make it after all."

On June 10, 2002, in another email, she wrote, "I just COMMUNICATED with someone. I just carried on an entire CONVERSATION with someone. Not an, 'Excuse me, where's the bathroom?' No, this was a giving and taking of information, a blending of lives at tiny, interconnecting points.

Do you know what this means?! It mean's I'm NOT alone!"

Today Jenny is functioning in the language well enough to lead in bible studies and to tell people she meets about the God that loves her and them. She's been there just a little over a year now, who knows what kind of impact her faithfulness will have on the kingdom. 

Jenny was faithful to go. She crossed the line from loving missions to being a missionary. Is it a line you're willing to cross? Some of you don't have to choose to go overseas, Uncle Sam will make the choice for you. But you will have to decide what you will do while you're there. Will you be a missionary? Will you penetrate the darkness with the light? Will you spread hope?

Today I want to call on the church to love missions. Pray and give. But I also want to call on you to cross the line that Jenny crossed a couple years ago-the one that Isaiah crossed thousands of years ago-go from loving missions to being a missionary.

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