Chinese New Year

This year, Chinese New Year (CNY) falls on February 5th, marking the arrival of the new year (on the traditional Chinese calendar) for nearly one-sixth of the world’s population. The whole celebration lasts 16 days, from New Year’s Eve through the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the new year. For a portion of those days nearly 1.4 billion people return to their family homes making it the largest annual migration of people on earth.

Once home, families usher in the New Year by eating a family meal together, honoring their ancestors with offerings, exchanging gifts of money and generally welcoming good fortune into their lives for the next year.

The reunion meal, eaten on the Eve of Chinese New Year, is considered to be the most important meal of the year. Before the meal begins, the family honor their ancestors by offering food and lighting incense.  Then the family can enjoy the many symbolic foods, which, when consumed, are believed to ensure a happy, healthy and prosperous year. On the stroke of midnight, fireworks are set off to scare away evil spirits and bad luck. Many cities have huge public displays, but some individual families and businesses will have their own private displays.

Good fortune in the new year can also be courted by liberal use of the auspicious color red. Red lanterns, banners, couplets and symbols decorate businesses and homes. Red clothing is a must and is thought to protect people and bring good luck and fortune.

Giving money in bright red packets is a way to pass on good luck to others. Children delightedly receive the envelopes from family members and close friends. Married people pass these money packets to their single friends and businesses often give them to their employees and loyal customers.

During this time there are many rituals and taboos that are adhered to. There is to be no cleaning of the home, laundry or even oneself on New Year’s Day. To do so would be to sweep or wash good fortune away, ensuring a difficult year. One should not use sharp objects such as knives, get a haircut, break anything, say unlucky words (“death” or “sickness”) or do any of the other taboos which could cause good fortune leave the family.

Please pray that celebrants of CNY would realize that wealth alone can blind one to their true state of being. (Rev. 3:17 – You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.)

WAYS TO PRAY

  • Pray that Beyond missionaries would be ready to engage people who are celebrating CNY with the truth of the Gospel.
  • Pray that the seeds sown during this time will find good ground and will take root and those who hear will come to know that life in Christ is the best choice they could ever make.

Lessons from a Movement

A Disciple Making Movement, or DMM, is an unusual concept for many westerners. Growing up in predominantly Christianized cultures, we can find it difficult to grasp how quickly the Church can spread in areas it hasn’t previously permeated. What, even, is a movement? David Garrison defined a movement as “a rapid multiplication of indigenous churches planting churches that sweeps through a people group or population segment.”  Perhaps it is best understood through the following example from India.

Reshma* was invited by her neighbor to participate in a Discovery Bible Study. The woman was aware of the poor situation in Reshma’s marriage, but, as a follower of Jesus, she knew God could meet all of Reshma’s needs. Through the story of creation, Reshma understood for the first time that there was a God above all gods, a true God who loves her, and she received the Good News as dry soil receives the rains. When Reshma began sharing her newfound belief, she encountered persecution from her husband. She stood firm, however, and God’s grace sustained her and brought about an improvement in Reshma’s marriage. (Read Reshma’s story here.)

Madhu*, a relative, noticed the positive change in Reshma’s husband and said, “(He) seems changed. Are you doing something different with him?” Excitedly, Reshma told her of all that God had done. Madhu was so impressed by His ability to soften and change the heart of Reshma’s husband that she gave her allegiance to God and joined Reshma as a co-laborer in the Kingdom.

Three months later, Madhu shared a Bible story with her neighbor, Maravan, and his whole family. Maravan was an aggressive and rough man who owned a nearby shop which wasn’t doing well. He told Madhu, “If you will pray for me and God brings financial change to my shop, then I will believe this God is true.” Madhu prayed, God blessed Maravan’s shop, and he and his whole family gave their allegiance to God. Soon people began to see that Maravan was a changed man!

Maravan began sharing with many others about the changes that had occurred in his family since they became Christ followers. A friend named Krish and his entire family accepted Christ because of Maravan’s testimony of God’s power. Soon another man and his family became Christians when Krish shared Christ with them!

In only 9 months, 5 generations of believers were birthed in a difficult area in India. From these 5 generations, 42 people have been baptized into the Kingdom! This is essentially what a movement looks like: the Kingdom of God flowing quickly, effectively and naturally along relational lines making an immediate and eternal difference in the lives of those who hear, receive and obey. What could be better than that?

Reshma’s* Story

A few years ago, a woman invited her neighbor, Reshma*, to participate in a Discovery Bible study in her home. The woman was a follower of Jesus. She knew that things were not good in Reshma’s family. She wanted Reshma to hear a True Story about the True God and she wanted Reshma to receive prayer. If only the group could pray for Reshma, the friend just knew that God would help her with her every need.

Reshma attended the Bible study. The story of creation amazed her. What wonderful news! There is a God above all gods. When He made the world, He made it beautiful and good. The world with its violence and aggression, its oppression of women, its sadness and loss was not how it had always been! It was water to the dry soil of Reshma’s heart.

Reshma attended three more Bible studies in her neighbor’s home. Thrilled about the Good News she was learning, she began to share the True Stories with relatives in the village. Her husband became furious when he heard about her activities. How dare she leave the house! How dare she promote Christian stories! It was time to put a stop to the nonsense. Reshma’s husband took her to the roof of their home, held her over the edge and promised he would throw her off if she didn’t stop telling people about this Jesus. The next time Reshma met with the other disciples, she informed them through tears about her husband’s threat. They told her she should stop reaching out. Reshma replied, “What I am learning [about Jesus and His commands] encourages me to do this. I cannot stop!”

Soon enough, Reshma’s husband heard that she was still sharing about Jesus with their relatives and neighbors. Thankfully, he didn’t follow through on his threat about the roof, but he did imprison her in a room in their home. Before locking the door, he declared, “No one will meet together. You are separate from our family and will not see your children.”

Reshma prayed. Six weeks went by. One day, her husband was badly injured in a fall from the tractor while out in their field. With her husband now confined to his bed, Reshma was allowed out of the room in order to serve him. She kept praying. And for 22 days she cared for her husband. She brought his meals to the bed. She fed him. Over time, he began to treat her politely. Finally, his arrogance melted into humility. Once he was up and walking around the house again, Reshma dared to ask, “Are you still angry with me? If not, can I do Jesus’ work?” He made no reply. Reshma took his silence as permission. Thrilled, she began once more to share about Jesus with others.

In nine months time, this line of believers would grow to five generations of disciples with 42 people baptized into new life with Christ!

*pseudonym

Seedlings

He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself, the soil produces grain – first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” ~ Mark 4:26-19

The Himalayan village of Sky Cliff is both physically and spiritually remote. The nearest Christ follower or church is a two day hike away. And those believers speak a different language from that of Sky Cliff! These precious people, however, are on God’s heart.

In the spring of 2018, Beyond missionaries made the trek into Sky Cliff in order to share the good news of Christ. While there, Beyonders gave two young men a Bible and taught them the principles of Discovery Bible Study (DBS). When they returned in the fall they were pleased, but not surprised, to meet two others from that village who wanted to know more about Jesus.

That’s part of the beauty of DBS – reproducibility. Right from the start seekers are taught to obey and to share what they have learned from scripture.

For remote villages like Sky Cliff there is further good news. DBS acknowledges that the Holy Spirit is the teacher. This is key when there is no regular contact with a Christian. Further discipling, coaching or leadership will likely be needed, but the spiritually hungry need not wait to be fed by “qualified” teachers. The Holy Spirit teaches them as they immerse themselves in scripture.

Praise God with us for the way God is moving in remote villages. Pray that a movement of disciple making would sweep through these mountainous regions calling all hearts home to God.

Having Conversations that Matter

When *Jia was invited to join a group learning how to share God’s stories with others so they might become Jesus’ disciples, her eyes lit up and she asked, “Do you really think I could do that?”

“I most certainly do!” her friend, Amy, responded. “After all, God’s Spirit is alive in you and it’s His desire to see more people not only knowing the Gospel but following Jesus in trusting obedience.”

Thinking for a moment Jia replied, “I am excited about joining together to practice and share God’s stories. Learning how to better engage with those who don’t know Jesus is something I need help with because I’m not very good with social skills.”

“Jia, I’m not very good with social skills either,” Amy said. “But I’ve found that there are many low pressure, yet effective ways to come alongside others with God’s Word. Most importantly, the Holy Spirit lives in us and delights to do this work as long as we are willing to be used by Him.

“Then I will be praying for new understanding and a breakthrough of boldness!” Jia declared. A month after this conversation took place, Amy shares that it has been a joy for her to watch the Holy Spirit open her friends’ eyes to ways they can interact in authentic and intentional ways with people who don’t yet know God’s truth and love. In one “ah-ha” moment the women felt that as they shared with others the specific ways God had answered their prayers, they should also ask what the other person (mostly likely Daoist or Buddhist) has experienced in prayer.

By listening to the other person’s spiritual journey the women might hear of a need and be able to share a story from the Bible for that need. Praise God that these young women are seeking ways to have conversations of eternal significance.

Pray that they would find many who are open to hearing the living, active word of God and that many would come to trusting obedience of Christ Jesus and begin to share within their own relationships.

*pseudonym

The Ancient Path of the Spirit Walk

You, an ordinary person, were designed to walk in the extraordinary power of God we see in the Bible. But do you know how to do that?

In our sincere desire to see God move in our personal lives, our churches, and our ministries, our first recourse is often to examine the methods of what is going on. The methods are important . . .. But that should not be where we look first. Rather, the Hidden Mover behind every movement is the Holy Spirit. He is the assumed but often not discussed force in our work.

Though we know that the Bible says to walk in the Spirit, the majority of Christians are illiterate (and even nervous) about how to practically live in His power. The result is lives marred by continued brokenness and ministries plagued by fruitlessness. In contrast, believers from Acts understood the ancient path of the Spirit Walk. That extraordinary power was not just for them, but for us also.

Gleaning insights from implementation in dozens of Acts-like movements around the world, Spirit Walk “lifts the hood and shows us the real secret behind apostolic, disciple-multiplying movements” (Neil Cole, author of Organic Church). Whether you need a movement of God in your personal life or in your ministry, Spirit Walk takes you through the timeless principles of the Bible.

This is the vital message God has given Steve Smith, Beyond’s Global Movement Catalyst, to share with the body of Christ as a whole. Steve’s passion for the Church to grasp this critical concept is such that, despite an arduous battle with cancer, he is pressing on, circulating this transformative message through genuinely taxing days.

His family says it best: We think that it was no coincidence that Steve finished this book one week before being diagnosed with cancer. From all over the world we are receiving word of how Spirit Walk has changed lives to enable believers to experience the intimacy with God they desire along with the power of God to fulfill His call on their lives. One woman said this has been the most transforming book in her life apart from the Bible.

If you desire renewal in your spiritual walk by learning how to walk with and stay full of the Spirit,  please join our Nugget training on January 15. Hit the button below to learn more and register.