Right in the middle of my teaching session, something caught my eye.
Glancing through the shutters from a window in our compound, I saw a caravan of nomads, a dozen or more with camels, making their way across the valley.
Situated on the fringe of the Sahara Desert, Wadi Natrun had become a training base for a few dozen young men and women from all over North Africa and the Middle East, as far north as Iraq. I had been given the choice opportunity to speak to these passionate young missionaries about the task ahead of them.
“Each one of you,” I said, looking into their faces, “will go places I could never go. As with Joshua, God will give you every place the sole of your feet touch. When Joshua led Israel into the Promised Land, 31 powerful kings tried to bar their way. ‘No way!’ they had said with crossed arms. But God said otherwise.”
“Placing your feet in the will of God,” I went on, “is a very big deal. You can’t do it remotely. Even if you were to remove your shoes and ship them off to where God sends you, it wouldn’t work. Your feet must be in those shoes, stepping out and forward to be successful in your mission.”
Just one year ago, most of the world did not work remotely. But now many do.
A Gartner survey found that 88 percent of business organizations all over the world mandated employees to work from home because of COVID-19. And 97 percent of the organizations immediately canceled all work-related travel.
My sons who live in Austria work remotely. My sons-in-law in North Idaho and Texas work remotely. And because of travel restrictions, I have largely been compelled to work remotely.
No, it’s not all bad.
I’m grateful to God for technology and the video communication now accessible to us. But let’s not forget the folks who must have boots on the ground, walking into heat and cold and unpleasantness and danger for all of us.Firefighters can’t accomplish their tasks, their jobs remotely. Neither can police officers. Doctors, nurses, ambulance personnel, and paramedics can’t do their job of saving your life remotely.
Neither can the church of Jesus Christ. That’s not God’s way. That’s not the Jesus Way of doing things.
Paul so beautifully laid it out in Romans 8: God went for the jugular when he sent his own son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. (vv. 3-4, MSG)
Those young men and women in the Sahara Desert training center didn’t merely listen to what I was saying, they listened to God’s word, the Bible. And then they walked out the door and scattered into the places of his appointment.
Many walked into danger.
Some of them died in Sudan, while others continue to press forward in planting churches and spreading the Good News everywhere they can. Some of them started an Arabic Language Bible college. Others have launched training centers, prayer movements, and micro-business opportunities for missions.
There is more—so much more—but I don’t have the space to tell you how they have moved out, stepping into places I will probably never see, from Morocco to Syria and beyond.
They went out and never looked back.
And neither did the Father, when he sent his son, Jesus, to us. He couldn’t do it remotely. For our sake, he had to come. He had to be here. God with us.
And that’s what Christmas is all about.
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