“How do we know God is at work in us?” Part A [Sermon Notes on 1 Thessalonians, Week 2]

Paul was in a terrible fix: he had been forced to leave his new disciples in Macedonia, and he was particularly uneasy about the new Christians in the second church, planted in Thessalonica. After all, hadn’t Jesus taught that sometimes the gospel mission ends in disaster? (Matthew 13:20-21)

The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.

The underground shopping mall of ancient Thessalonica

The underground shopping mall of ancient Thessalonica

And what had happened in Macedonia looked ominously like that parable: the Thessalonians had received the word with joy; then trouble and persecution had come, and come precisely because of the word. Had they, then, just as quickly fallen away?

No wonder Paul was anxious, as we saw last week in 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2:

So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith…

Paul said that Satan had kept him and Silas from returning from Athens to Thessalonica (2:18). We have no idea what that might have looked like, we only know that it was effective. But what happened? (more…)

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14 things your missionaries might like to tell you, but feel inhibited

NOTE: Many thousands have read this little article, thanks so much! May I invite you to share it with your mission board; your friends; sign up for my blog, at right; to read an article about missionary letters;  a recent article on Acts 1:8; and our missionary website where we describe our works as theological educators in Costa Rica.

Let me put on my missionary hat!

When Paul and Barnabas returned home from their journey, they “gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27). Your church’s missionaries periodically pay you a brief visit. They will tell you about their successes and failures, and thank you for your support.

 There are things your visiting missionaries might wish to tell you but feel they cannot:

 When we’re visiting you, we haven’t actually “come home.” We live elsewhere, and are temporarily visiting the place where we used to live. Especially for missionary kids, “home” is far from here. We are usually keen to get back to where we belong.

Don’t assume that we are up to date on all the latest U.S. culture.

“So, where was I? Anyway, that was so sad when Billie Dee got hurt. And, AND!…I think that Meryl and Maks might have a little romance going…Well of course, I wouldn’t be caught dead voting for Chelsea…”

We are aware that we look older-heavier-greyer-balder than the last time we passed through town. Everyone at your church does, too, but it’s basic courtesy not to mention it! (more…)

Gary and Karen Shogren – Who we are, what we do

Karen and Gary

As missionaries in Costa Rica for the last 16 years, Gary and Karen Shogren have been following the Great Commission in strategic ways. In San José they train energetic Latin American leaders who will lead the church and spread the Gospel into nations where Americans cannot easily go. Second, they provide ongoing theological education online for those far-flung Spanish-speaking missionaries. Third, in many places they strengthen the next generation of missionaries (missionary kids) emotionally and spiritually. As a couple they are strategically placed & uniquely qualified to equip tomorrow’s leaders.

Gary’s PhD in New Testament Exegesis plus 27 years of experience as New Testament professor on 3 continents prepare him to continue teaching at the Evangelical Seminary for Pastoral Studies (ESEPA) in San José, Costa Rica. Now there is another exciting new opportunity for him on the horizon [we cannot post the details publically]. Gary’s training, experience, skills and location allow him to meet this need in a way others cannot.

Now that Karen also teaches at ESEPA, the Shogrens are even more of a bargain: 2 professors for the price of one! Her specialty is teaching correct Bible study methods to women without much formal education. In that context 2 Timothy 2:2b provides the greatest challenge: “Teach these great truths to trustworthy people who are able to pass them on to others.” Karen’s other ministry track has involved serving in member care and orientation for missionary families since 2000. Many missionary kids’ (MKs) go to the field with little cross-cultural training; they are at risk spiritually and their families might have to return to the US. We have found that an ounce of prevention in this area can prevent the waste of lives, time, and money. Karen’s background in biblical counseling uniquely qualifies her to provide Scriptural solutions to this new challenge in the missions community.