GO Teams: Witnesses

How To Be A Witness For Christ With Holy Spirit Empowered Boldness

Hunter Gray
Jan 28, 2024    47m
Have you ever felt unequipped or afraid to share your faith with others? Many followers of Jesus struggle to fulfill the Great Commission to be witnesses for Christ. In this sermon, Pastor Hunter Gray explores what it means to be empowered by the Holy Spirit to courageously share the Gospel starting in our local community and expanding to the ends of the earth. Learn how relying on the Spirit's power enables effective evangelism as we follow the biblical model of Spirit-led witness. Be encouraged to boldly proclaim Christ through Spirit-empowered words and actions. Video recorded at Upland, California.

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Intro: [00:00:00] Hey there. Thanks so much for checking out one of our messages here at Life Bible Fellowship Church. And we know there are two great ways you can connect with us. You can visit our website at LBF.church to learn more about all of our ministries and what we believe. And also, you can subscribe to us on YouTube to make sure that you don't miss one of our future videos.

Steve: [00:00:19] Well, thank you for keeping standing. And Bobby, thank you and the worship team for helping us to tune our hearts. That's awesome. I'm Steve, and I'm very blessed to be a member of our Life Care ministries. And I also have the blessed opportunity to teach our men on Thursday nights. And I also have this opportunity to read the scripture to you this morning. And we're reading Acts, chapter 1, verse 8, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” This is God's word.

Video: [00:01:17] the Gospel, God sends His son into the world, the God-Man. Really man, really God, really human, really divine, lives a perfect life, fulfills the whole law, dies in the place of sinners, intentionally absorbs all the wrath of God against those who believe in him, takes away all their guilt, forgives all their sins, rises from the dead, triumphant over death and hell and Satan sins, rules with power from on high, will come again, give eternal life, raise from the dead all those who trusted in him. There is no better news!

Hunter Gray: [00:02:22] All right. Well, Amen. There is no better news, is there? Well, good morning, beloved church. This is the Gospel that we just heard so eloquently summarized by John Piper. What is it? It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. And so as we begin this morning, I want to share with you a story that I think illustrates that point very well.

Hunter Gray: [00:02:46] You see, in the late 1950s, there was a group of five missionary families. They felt compelled by the Spirit to go deep into the jungles of Ecuador to begin sharing the Good News of Jesus with the Huaorani tribe. Now, this was a tribe of indigenous Americans, and they were known to be fierce warriors, they were known to be violent, and they would refuse contact with the outside world. They would be described in Christian missionary circles as a group that was unreached and unengaged, and that means there was no one sharing the Gospel with them at that time. Well, these missionaries, they sought to change that narrative, and they wanted to give the Gospel to these people. And their story would unfold in such a way that I think dramatically displays the power of the Gospel to change lives and overcome incredible challenges. And so after they were delivering gifts to this tribe for months, using a creative situation with a bush plane, Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, and their fellow missionaries, they believed they had communicated their goodwill sufficiently, that they had communicated to the tribe that they were friends, and then it was time for them to attempt a face-to-face meeting. And so the five men, they would land their bush plane deep into the jungle, and they proceeded to make camp near the Hourani village. Their first contact was a friendly one, three villagers approached them, and they remained with them for a few hours, but then abruptly left. And unfortunately for them, their second visit would not be so friendly. This time they were met by the warrior Minh Khai and his fellow men, and these men attacked on sight, killing the five missionaries. But this tragedy, see this tragedy would not diminish the mission to the Huaorani, instead, it would actually become a catalyst for the redemption of many.

Hunter Gray: [00:04:41] You see, the larger missionary team, while they mourned the loss of their loved ones, they did not abandon their goal to reach the Huaorani tribe. And so they resumed their work trying to make contact, giving them gifts, determined to communicate that we are friends. And within less than three years of the killings, Nate Saint's sister Rachel, and Jim Elliot's wife Elizabeth, well, they would become permanent residents in the Hourani village, honorary members of their tribe. See, they and others would eventually gain access to begin teaching the tribe the scriptures or what they called the carvings, and in large part to this incredible act of forgiveness that they showed many of the tribes, men and women, would be eager to accept the Gospel message, even those that were part of the war party that killed the first missionaries. I want you to listen to this brief excerpt of an interview of Minh Khai as he shares about his conversion, and I want you to see the power of the Gospel that can so radically transform the heart of Minh Khai, that his motives and his purpose in life just completely change.

Minh Khai: [00:05:53] (Speaking foreign language.)

Translator: [00:05:58] Then, little by little, we began to understand what she was telling us.

Minh Khai: [00:06:03] (Speaking foreign language.)

Translator: [00:06:05] And we saw that God truly did live in heaven and that he really had sent us his markings.

Minh Khai: [00:06:13] (Speaking foreign language.)

Translator: [00:06:20] He said, God, his Son's blood dripping and dripping, washed my heart clean. Then he said, I went into the water, I was baptized, I went into the water to show that I was clean. And now he says waubeka, waubeka, other places, other places, countries, countries, now we need to go and speak God's carvings to all the people.

Minh Khai: [00:06:45] (Speaking foreign language.)

Translator: [00:06:53] He said, I can't go every place, but there are still people in my own tribe who don't know God's carvings. I'm going to go speak to them of God's carvings. I have to go a long way, I have to sleep on the trail, and then I have to go a long way by trail, but I'm going to go speak God's carvings to them.

Hunter Gray: [00:07:14] That's incredible. So here's Minh Khai, radically changed by the Gospel, baptizing the blood of Jesus, and his now mission, as he proclaims, is to go to his tribe and tell them this Good News. But there's something else that's very remarkable about this video. Have you taken notice of the man who is interpreting Minh Khai's words? Do you guys know who that is? See, that is Steve Saint, that is the son of Nate Saint, and his father was speared to death by this very man that he's sitting beside. See, Nate Saint's son, Steve, he would grow up as a regular visitor to the tribe. He would often live with them for long periods of time, and later he would be baptized into faith by none other than Minh Khai, the man that had killed his father. See, through the efforts of Rachel and Elizabeth and their faithful Gospel proclamation, Minh Khai would find his hope in Jesus, and he would become a bold witness for the Lord, and this is the power of the Gospel. You see, Christ can change a murderer into a missionary, and the life-changing power of Christ can take a boy who would lose his father at the age of five, and he would come to see the man who had killed him as a forgiven and beloved family member, and Steve will often call Minh Khai his grandfather.

Hunter Gray: [00:08:38] See, this is the power of the Gospel to transform lives, and this is what happens when we can take the Gospel call seriously to be Spirit-empowered witnesses. This is the Good News of Christ, this is our everlasting hope, this is the reason that we can rejoice. In short, the Gospel is the greatest story that we're ever going to hear because it speaks to the greatest need that we all have. And so what better news is there than God's Great News to the world that, hey, we're not left in our sin, we're not left in judgment over the mistakes that we have made, but rather we have been given this God-orchestrated path to redemption that only he could provide? The Gospel is the motive and driving force behind what we're going to speak about this morning. And just as Minh Khai and Steve illustrate, it's the Gospel that's going to compel us forward to be Spirit-empowered witnesses of Christ, both here and around the world.

Hunter Gray: [00:08:38] Now, our text this morning, it may be short, but it contains one of the most important implications of our Christian lives. And therefore we should take heed of it carefully, we should treat it seriously because in Acts chapter 1, we're going to see Jesus is preparing to ascend to the Father after his death and resurrection. And in his final remarks to his disciples, he's issuing this command, this commission. And it's often sort of a reiteration of the Great Commission, if you remember that, that's found in Matthew 28. And let's remember the Great Commission for a moment, let's compare the two together. Because in the Great Commission, Jesus will say this, he'll say, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." And then he says, "Behold, I will be with you to the ends of the age." And so the command is clear here, isn't it? One of our primary purposes in our lives as Christians is to go and tell others of Christ and His deeds, to go and make disciples anywhere and everywhere. That's what Jesus tells us. And this command actually comes with a very important promise, a promise that we should not overlook, Jesus says, I will be with you as you go. And this tells us that we are not alone in our God-sized task. And now, likewise, in Acts 1:8, we're going to see Jesus say something similar. He's going to tell his disciples, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”. And so the task is the same both in Acts and in the Great Commission, we are to proclaim Christ to the nations.

Hunter Gray: [00:11:26] And furthermore, in Acts, we're going to see another important promise and direction to this task, the Spirit of God will come to us, and it will be in his power that we will become effective witnesses of Jesus. So we're learning something very important about our commission, that we are meant to make disciples, we are meant to be his witnesses, but we're to do so in the power of the Spirit. And as we put these two together, we're going to see that in the Great Commission. Jesus will issue this command with the promise that he will always be with us to carry out that task. And now in Acts 1:8, we see this commission given with the promise and the directive that likewise the Spirit of God is going to empower us as we go. And I don't want us to miss this, because for many of us, if we're being honest, the task of sharing our faith, it feels daunting, it feels frightening, perhaps even unachievable in our own individual lives. See some of you right now. You may feel the urge to crawl under your chair and hide at the very thought of what I'm asking you to do. It doesn't come without risk, after all, as we can clearly see in the story of the missionaries to the Huaorani tribe.

Hunter Gray: [00:12:43] See questions and doubts are going to rise up in our hearts, and we're going to ask these things like, hey, what if I mess up? What if I don't share it correctly? I'm not even qualified for this if I'm being honest. See this person, they might reject me. What if I am actually persecuted for what I'm sharing with them? See the questions are there, they're understandable. The fear is there, and it's understandable. See, it's a strange notion, this idea that we are meant to insert ourselves into the lives of others who are often strangers, at least at first. And we're supposed to tell them about Jesus, tell them about our beliefs in him. That's intimidating, it's a fair assessment that we cannot hope to be successful in this task alone. But that's where the Great News is, we're not alone, are we? Those are what those promises that Christ tells us are for.

Hunter Gray: [00:13:34] See, salvation is a God-sized task, and make no mistake, we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone. And yet the Lord, he has decided to give us the privilege of participating in the salvation of others. We have this glorious role to play in the going and the sharing. See, we do the sharing, God does the saving, and in this, we are co-laborers with Christ until he returns. And so for us to have a courageous gospel witness, to kind of crawl back out from underneath our seat and begin to heed this call, what we need to do is grab on to these comforting promises of God that he's going to be with us as we go, empowering our words and our witness. So I want us to take heart beloved church, the message that we are meant to proclaim is Good News. See, the Good News of Christ changes everything. We're testimony of that. And here's the best part, the outcome of our efforts, it's in the Lord's hands, it's not in ours. And so I want us to kind of change our perspective here a little bit because to give the message of Christ to another is the most loving act we can do for someone else. We have the greatest gift to give, and we should see this as gift-giving, not as a duty we must perform. See, heaven rejoices when a sinner repents, and so I want to challenge you to turn your heart to what is most precious to the sight of God. And when we do this, know that our work is never in vain, and that we can lean on Jesus for our strength. Know that the Lord is going to be with us every step of the way.

Hunter Gray: [00:15:19] And now in Acts 1:8, we're actually given this kind of path to follow, this model to follow. God has given us the instruction, and here it is, this is what we're meant to do in our great Commission efforts. We are first meant to be empowered by the Spirit, and then we are meant to go and be a witness of Jesus, and we're supposed to take that witness to the world, to our local, regional, and global neighbors. This is the model that we follow.

Hunter Gray: [00:15:48] And here's what we learn in Scripture, is that God's Word, it never returns void, never returns void. And what that means is, as we do this, our work is never in vain, and the Spirit is going to accomplish his purpose. And so, first and primary, let us remember that we are to receive power from the Holy Spirit, and that's what properly equips us to be effective witnesses to be able to take the Gospel to others. You see, at this time Jesus had his followers, but he tells them that their witness is going to require more than just their words to be effective. It's going to require the power of the Spirit. And as we mentioned earlier, salvation of souls, well, that's a God-sized task, that is an actual miracle taking place in the life of another. Because what is God doing when he saves us? He's actually taking what he describes as a heart of stone characterized by wickedness, and then he's breathing new life into it, making it a heart of flesh that is now characterized by righteousness, that's a miracle.

Hunter Gray: [00:16:49] And if you don't feel like God does many miracles anymore, then I want to change your perspective. Because look around this room, every believer in this room is a testimony that God is actively working miracles in our lives. Because we are dead in our sin without the Spirit of God breathing new life into us. And the Spirit does this, when the Gospel is proclaimed, the Spirit will convince us of its truth. He will convict us, and he will lead us to repent and believe. The Spirit is necessary for an effective gospel witness. And so if we want to be effective, to reach our Jerusalem, you could say this is our Upland, to reach our Samaria or our Judea, we could call that the Inland Empire, and to meet the entire world, and we need to learn to rely on and operate within the power of the Spirit because it's the Spirit who has the power to convict us of sin and convince us of truth.

Hunter Gray: [00:17:48] In Jesus's discourse on the coming of the Holy Spirit in John 16:8, he's going to tell us that when the Spirit comes, he will convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. And so the Spirit's role is to illuminate for us the truth about God, his perfect standards, and the nature of our sin. And as we are confronted with these moral standards that are contained within Scripture, through the work of the Spirit, we're going to gain an understanding of what is right and what is wrong according to the Lord. See, it's the Spirit that will convict us of the sin that we commit in order to lead us to repentance. Now, if we look in verse 13 of John 16, the Spirit is going to be described as the Spirit of truth, and it says this, "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth." And so we learn that the Spirit acts as our inner witness, convincing us of the trustworthiness and the truthfulness of God's Word. He is the giver of wisdom. He helps us understand the difference between what is true and what is false. And I want us to kind of change our perspective here because we have far more than this kind of Jiminy Cricket style conscience that's kind of pointing us towards the good and leading us away from what might harm us. See, what we actually have is the Spirit of the living God, writing the law of the Lord on our hearts, guiding us, and leading us towards truth, and that is powerful.

Hunter Gray: [00:19:17] So the Spirit convicts us of our sin, he convinces us of our truth, but he also has the power to convert and give life. And so in John chapter 3, we're going to see a story that acknowledges the Spirit's role in salvation. There's a rabbi whose name is Nicodemus, and he comes to Jesus, and he expresses his belief in Jesus, that your power, your authority, it must come from God. And so in response, Jesus would challenge Nicodemus to understand and recognize that salvation from God requires new life. Jesus says this, he says, "You must be born again in the Spirit." that's how he calls it. And so in the response, Jesus is confirming something, he's saying the Spirit of God is essential to breathe Spiritual life onto what is otherwise a dead heart. And so what we learn in this passage is that we must be born again to experience the salvation we all desperately need, and we are not born again without the life-giving Spirit of God breathing that life onto us.

Hunter Gray: [00:20:18] Now, this has major implications for our witness. What this means for us is that we cannot persuade or argue other people into the kingdom of God, not in our own strength, no matter how eloquent we may be, it's always going to require the Spirit of God to move. Now, this doesn't mean we should just throw our hands up in the air and say, I quit. What this means is we need to rely on the Spirit for that power to work. See, in First Timothy 3 it reminds us that we should be at any and all times ready to give an account for our faith, right? That's the command, but it's the Spirit working in us that's going to be convincing hearts of that truth.

Hunter Gray: [00:20:56] I took my first mission trip, my first international trip to Brazil when I was still in high school. And as I began the story, I don't want to, like, call out my church for doing this. But, you know, there might have been a little bit of flawed logic here because this is what they did, they said for some reason they're like, we're going to give the most important role to this 16-year-old boy, and we're going to say, Hunter, you're going to go share the Gospel. The Gospel is your role. I'm like, huh? What? Yes, you're going to be the witness, that's your job on this trip. And I'm like, well, okay, then I'll be the witness. I mean, look at this squinty-eyed, beardless kid. I mean, what were they thinking? We had created this assembly line for the types of help that we were going to provide. So many would come to us to receive some kind of physical help, maybe it was with medicine or with clothing or with food. And after they'd go to each station, well, then they would come to me, and this was my job. Let's tell the why. Why are we here? Why do we care? Well, we care because of Christ, and we're here because he first loved us. And so I'm kind of armed with all the confidence of a teenager without a fully formed prefrontal cortex, right? Here I go, I'm like, I'm going to boldly share my faith. And to my surprise, many began to profess their own faith in Jesus Christ. I mean, oh, the joy of that, to see the Lord work and move through me, it's hard to describe. You know, that is actually what's kind of changed my life and set me on the course to be the pastor and missionary that I am today. You know, I would share the Gospel in groups of about 4 to 6 people, and in each and every group someone would come and tell us, hey, I believe I want to follow this Jesus. I mean, to me, it was like Pentecost 2.0, I mean salvation has come. What a spectacular thing to experience. But unfortunately for me, I still had a lesson to learn in all of this. See, by the end of this week, I was going to be humbled and I would learn something that has kind of remained very close to my heart ever since because my confidence would grow each time we had a positive result, each time I saw the Lord move. And what began to happen in my heart, was I began to subtly regulate the one who's actually doing the saving to the background and my eloquence to the foreground. You see, I had honed my craft, and I was becoming more and more skilled at my presentation. And so a little pride began to enter my heart, and I began to believe that the better I performed, the more people who would respond in faith.

Hunter Gray: [00:23:32] Well, the Lord disciplines those he loves, and so I was in for a little bit of a humbling. And so when I felt like I had reached peak performance, then when I believed I had just shared the Gospel better than I'd ever done before, that I was so eloquent that the likes of Billy Graham and Charles Spurgeon would have to take notice, right? Well, guess what happened? Blank stares, the entire group looked at me like I had made no sense, I connected with zero people. Not one person shared their interest in Jesus, and this was the first time that had happened out of dozens of groups. I was a bit devastated, I cried out to the Lord, I was like, Lord, no one? This was the best I've ever done. Well, that shook me up a little bit, it killed my confidence. But the next group was ready to hear and so fearfully this time, I began to share my faith again, and I did so very awkwardly. I was jumbling my words, I was fighting these awkward pauses, and I was being very timid, but I pressed on with what was ultimately a very poorly delivered but still faithful proclamation of the Gospel. You see, it was definitely the worst performance I had given. But you know what happened this time? Every single person in that group responded in faith. Every person shared, hey, I believe I want to follow this Jesus. And so what did I do? I cried, I cried because of the joy of what was happening, but because of the lesson the Lord was teaching me as well. See, this is what he taught me, he said, I do the saving, Hunter, you do the telling. See, my job was to be faithful to the message, it wasn't about me, it was about the Gospel. It is the Gospel that is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, and it requires the Spirit to move in the lives of another for that salvation to occur. And we get to be a part of this when we faithfully proclaim the Good News of Jesus. And so conversions, they are a work of God. We get to participate, we get to be a witness, but for that to be effective, we must recognize where the power to save comes from.

Hunter Gray: [00:25:40] And here's why I share this story, because I hope this gives you a little peace this morning. See, Jesus doesn't expect you to save souls. Let's breathe a sigh of relief for a second, that work is the Lord's, that's not ours. What Jesus expects for you and I is that we would be faithful with our witness in the knowledge that we are not alone when we go and share, that we will be empowered by the Spirit as we go. So let us rely on the Spirit in our efforts to be a witness for Christ as we take the Gospel to our Jerusalem, our Judea, and to the ends of the earth.

Hunter Gray: [00:26:17] Now we will primarily keep in step with the Spirit through prayer faithful obedience and righteous living, but that's for another sermon. I want us to just draw our attention to the idea that we are meant to be empowered by the Spirit, to become the effective witness of what? Of Jesus, right? Of course, it's Jesus, this is that time where Jesus is the answer, he's always the answer. What we are trying to be a witness of is who Jesus is and what he has done because that's the Gospel, and that's what we're meant to proclaim. And you and I, we are all witnesses of his life-changing power in our own lives, and we are commissioned by Christ to share that personal experience, the knowledge that we have of who Jesus is, we're supposed to share that with others.

Hunter Gray: [00:27:05] And so, beloved church, we can start with what we know, and I don't want you to fear the feeling of inadequacy. See, you don't need a Master of Divinity specializing in Christ theology before you can be a faithful witness, start with what you know and with who you know. So you might be as simple as this, you say, hey, I was once lost, but now I am found; I was once held captive to my sin, but now I have been set free; I was once alone, but now I belong to the family of God, and that is all because of Jesus. You see, we can start with what we know, with who we know. And here at LBF, our goal is to help you grow in your knowledge and understanding of Jesus. But make no mistake, you do not need to know every single answer to every possible question before you can make a difference. See the heart behind being a faithful witness is simply to answer this question, "Who is Jesus?" and then go share that answer with the world.

Hunter Gray: [00:28:08] And so if we were to ask that question, who is Jesus? Let's help each other out a little bit. What could we say? Well, let's start here, and there are lots of ways we could answer this, but let's start here. We could say he is the Immanuel; he is the God who came to dwell among us. We could say that he is the way, the truth, and the life, and as a result, no one comes to the Father except through him. We could say that he is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by his power. And we could say that Jesus is the one who rescues us from the dominion of darkness. He brings us into the kingdom of his beloved son, and it's in Jesus that we have redemption and the forgiveness of sins. And in Romans, we will learn that if we will confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God has raised him from the dead, we get this glorious promise that we will be saved. See, this is Jesus, he's this, and he's so much more, is he not?

Hunter Gray: [00:29:09] Like we have many names for him for many reasons. We could say he is our Messiah, our Savior, our Friend, he's the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He is the propitiation or substitute; he is the Great High p7riest. He's the Logos or the Word. He's the Son of Man, he's the Son of God, he is the great I am, and he loves us more than we deserve, and he sets us free from our sin. This is the Jesus that we are meant to proclaim. And Jesus is clear, he does not want us to keep this hope bottled up in our hearts, he wants us to share that with the world. And so we are meant to be these empowered witnesses, empowered by the Spirit to be witnesses of Jesus to our local, regional, and global neighbors. And as we do this, what the Spirit does, is he will work through the Gospel message to convict of sin, to convince of truth, and then to bring new life. And so, in essence, in Acts 1:8, he functions as our commissioning verse. Where Jesus is going to instruct us as his disciples to go empowered by the Spirit, to share this message of salvation, starting right here where we are, and then expanding that to the farthest reaches of the world.

Hunter Gray: [00:30:35] Now we have some direct application for this truth this morning because as you've seen, today is Go Team Sunday. Today is a day that we celebrate and encourage you to participate in LBF's Great Commission goals. And my prayer for you is that each one of you will be compelled by the Spirit to join our efforts in sharing the Gospel to our local, regional, and worldwide context. You see, we can get involved in many different ways. Now, first and foremost, what we can do is we can pray. See, we can pray for opportunities to share our faith ourselves. We can pray for our go teams and our long-time missionary partners. We can pray for the Gospel to be proclaimed to the ends of the earth and for the Spirit to move in the hearts of those who would hear.

Hunter Gray: [00:31:26] Now, secondly, we can go. We can go see, all of us are commissioned by Christ to share the Gospel within our sphere of influence. We all have that responsibility, but additionally, we should be prayerfully considering if part of our individual commissions is to go on a go team trip this year.

Hunter Gray: [00:31:47] And thirdly, we can give see, we can make it financially possible for others to pursue the proclamation of the Gospel around the world. You see, I firmly believe the Bible is very clear on this, that we are meant to be goers, senders, or both. See, we don't have the option to say no thanks, this isn't for me. I want us as a community of Christ to rally around our short-term and long-term missionaries, to rally around our local ministry partners to make sure they have everything they need to carry out their God-given tasks. You see, when we give towards missions, we are storing up treasures in heaven. We are investing in eternal goals.

Hunter Gray: [00:32:30] And so I briefly want to highlight a few of our go teams this morning. And as I do, I want you to be prayerfully considering how can I be a goer, a sender, or both. And our first opportunity this year is going to be during Memorial Day weekend in partnership with Baja Christian Ministries. We are going to Baja, Mexico, and our aim is to share the love of Christ by meeting some major needs within this impoverished community. See, this year, our short-term team is seeking to build between 2 and 3 entire homes in one weekend. Now that's a lot of work, but there's a whole lot of purpose behind it. We are also going to do other things throughout this weekend, we're going to be sharing the Gospel through a local VBS, we're going to be distributing Bibles, there's lots of wonderful work that we can be a part of. And so in addition to considering going on this trip, considering making it financially possible to meet these goals. See, these homes will cost about $10,000 each to build. Now that's a lot of money, but hey, we're in Southern California, so that's a steal, is it not? So let's think of it that way. Like, wow, this is awesome. We're looking to raise about $20,000 to cover the cost of that work. Now you'll be able to directly give to our go team's missions projects on our giving web page on LBF's website. Giving to this designated fund will be used completely to serve our go team and long-time missionary partners for all the work that we're going to be doing this year. You see, in all of our mission efforts, we can be goers and senders. And so I want to encourage you to be partners in the work of the Lord that we're trying to do.

Hunter Gray: [00:34:11] Now, there are many other trips that we're going to be able to go on, I want to highlight a few. One of those is Alaska, we're going to go send a team to Alaska this year to the Tanalian Bible Camp. See this camp, it's actually in a very remote part of Alaska. And just like Nate was saying, we actually have to take a Bush plane to get to it, but despite it being so far afield, it is making an outsized impact into that local community. So our first trip is going to be focused on a basketball-oriented sports camp, and we're going to use the love of the sport to be a bridge to the Gospel. So if you've got a heart to serve young children and adults that are in need, and perhaps you have the ability to whoop it up as well, I want to encourage you to apply. We're also going to be going back to this camp later on in the summer, and we're going to help them expand. They are growing, they are meeting more needs, and they've requested teams of tradesmen and people with skill sets that can build and construct things, to help them grow their facility. We don't know the timing of that trip yet, but if you have an interest in that, please let us know.

Hunter Gray: [00:35:19] We're going to also go back to Honduras this year and continue our ongoing partnership with Orphanage Emmanuel. This orphanage, it houses and cares for hundreds of unwanted, abandoned, and abused children of all ages. And this is our student-focused trip, and so our EXIT83 program here, our youth group, actually leads this trip. It's a wonderful opportunity for them to learn how to be ambassadors for Christ in the lives of these children who desperately need love and being pointed toward Christ. And so if you fit the bill on that, it's an excellent opportunity for you to join and serve.

Hunter Gray: [00:35:56] We're going to partner with the Samaritan's Purse once more again this year, and our beloved Tim Longo can answer any questions you may have for trips like this. We're going to be the hands and feet of Jesus to people who have experienced devastating loss, who've been in crisis, and we're going to come in and say, Jesus loves you, and this is how we're going to show it. And so this is a wonderful opportunity. Now, we can't control when disaster strikes, so we don't know when or where this trip will be. But if you have an interest in serving, please let us know and we will get you going on that trip.

Hunter Gray: [00:36:30] And lastly, we're going to be returning to Thailand this year to continue our partnership with Baan Emmanuel. See, under the leadership of our long-time missionary partner, Ron, Baan Emmanuel has done some incredible things. They have grown to have five orphanages under their care. They have founded a school, and they are currently engaged in church planning efforts within unreached people groups throughout their surrounding area. They are in very difficult places doing pioneer evangelism work, and it's a wonderful opportunity for us to go to what would be our ends of the earth. In the past, we've done medical missions here to support the work they've done, if you've got those gifts and skill sets, we'd love to have you on this trip. But we will be flexible as the team forms, we will engage how our team is gifted. So this is a wonderful opportunity for you to be a witness for the world.

Hunter Gray: [00:37:23] So we are empowered to be Spirit-led, Spirit-focused witnesses of Jesus to our local, regional, and global neighbors. And so while this is all of our commission, all of our responsibility, all of our calling, we actually have a special opportunity this morning as a church to celebrate. Because one of our members has felt the call to be a witness to Christ, to the ends of the earth, and he's been uniquely led by the Spirit to become a full-time missionary to the unreached people of Thailand. And so we rejoice with him in that unique calling that he has, and today, as part of our worship together, we're going to commission Travis Manning. And so at this time, I'd love for Travis to come meet me on stage for Noel and any other elders or pastors who are here with us this morning. Come meet me on stage as we have a time to recognize who Travis is and commission him to this great service.

Hunter Gray: [00:38:24] Now, as they come, I want to share with you a couple of stories about Travis to let you know why we affirm his call. You see if you've met Travis or you've talked with him for any length of time, he's probably shifted your conversation immediately to the Gospel. He is someone who intentionally prays for and initiates opportunities to be a witness for Christ. You know, when our Thailand team left last year and it was headed out to Thailand, Travis joined us to go to the airport at LAX. And I was excited about this because as we were saying our goodbyes, I really wanted Travis to be the one who prayed for us and sent them off. But as I looked around, Travis was nowhere to be found. It's like, where did he go? Like there's not so many places you can go. Where did you go? Why would he leave? I really want you to pray for us, but unfortunately, the plane doesn't wait for anyone, right? And so the team had to leave, and so we prayed, and we sent them on their way. And I was like, well, I just hope Travis is still in the building. Well, unbeknownst to me at the time, Travis had felt the nudge from the Holy Spirit to enter one of the airport shops. And lo and behold, what does he find? He finds a Thai woman working the register. And so here's Travis at 1 a.m. in LAX, probably being led to the only Thai person in the airport. And here he is, striking up a conversation with her and sharing about Jesus with her. It's just a beautiful example of who he is. It's a beautiful example of someone who has Acts 1:8 written on their heart. And it's a great testimony for why we are privileged to be commissioning Travis for the work that he has been called to do. So what I'd like to do is give Travis a moment to share with you, and then we're going to pray over him together as our sign of affirming and commissioning him to the missionary work that he's a part of.

Travis Manning: [00:40:08] Thanks, Hunter. Good morning, everybody. You know, answering the call to this long-term cross-cultural mission work in Thailand started for me over five years ago, after I took some short tum trips to the country. This journey has involved leaving a career of 15 years, going back to school to get my degree in theology, and working multiple odd jobs so I could stay flexible I was doing fundraising for support for the field. And more recently, the daunting task of all the administrative work of actually getting there, the Visa, and I don't want to start talking about it, the list goes on. As I've been reflecting the last few weeks, though, one thing stands out to me, and that's God's continued faithfulness through all of the little challenges and through this major transition time. And oftentimes, I found that God was showing himself faithful through a lot of the people in this room.

Travis Manning: [00:40:08] You know, so shortly after committing to go to Thailand long term, that's when I started attending LBF, and really, I just immediately felt embraced by all of you. After meeting with the staff and the elders here, I realized why God had led me to the church. This group really does share the same passion I have for seeing the unreached reach with the Gospel and for seeing God's kingdom grow around the world. So I just want to say thank you to the staff here, I couldn't ask for a better group supporting me. And thank you to the people of the church as well, you guys have just been so encouraging, whether it's here at the church, or when I run into you guys around town. A few of you, I see it like Vons and Stater Brothers and the bank. It's always like at the perfect time with an encouraging word, whether you guys realize it or not, so I appreciate those moments. And for all of you who help support me financially, it makes a huge difference, I literally wouldn't be going without you. And the small group leaders who have let me share with small groups over the last few years. To John, for letting me share with the men's ministry on Wednesday. For the Operation Christmas Child ladies that let me come to the house and share with them and load boxes. And for those of you guys who participate in that ministry, some of those boxes actually ended up with pastors that my mission organization works with in Thailand this year, which is kind of a neat connection. And I also need to take a minute to give a special thanks to Noel and Steve, they faithfully met with me, every Monday night, almost every Monday night for two years, to help pray with me and encourage me in this process, and it means a lot. The truth is many of you may never step foot in Thailand. Many of you may not go on these trips Hunter is talking about. And that's okay because me going wouldn't be possible without all of you here on the home side coming together as a team. I know here at LBF we talk about it in terms of GO teams, but not everyone goes right. A small group of people go, but there's a huge team behind that person. So I just want to thank you guys for being that team, being that support system. I'm really grateful for everything you guys have done for me, and I just want to encourage you to keep doing more, right, keep encouraging, keep praying for, and keep sending the missionaries at this church, not just me. Grab one of the prayer cards for one of the missionaries that we support already, keep growing, and encouraging the next generation of people to go do God's work across the globe. Come see me at the table in the back, say hi, and make sure I have your email address so we can keep in touch.

Hunter Gray: [00:43:57] All right. Well, thank you. Travis. The pastors and elders of this church wholeheartedly affirm Travis's calling to missions. We see it in his life. We see the evangelistic heart that he has. He's ready for this as he leans on the Holy Spirit's power to do so. And so what we're going to do together, if you guys will stand, we're going to pray together for Travis and his mission. Noel is going to lead us, and then I will close, and this will act as a body-wide commissioning for Travis and his great work.

Noel: [00:44:34] If you'll bow your heads with me in prayer. Father God, I thank you so much for my good brother, Travis Manning. I thank you for calling him to the mission field to be your witness in this world. Thank you for the years that he's prepared to finally come to this point of being sent out to make disciples. I thank you for his faithfulness to you and your word, your word that never returns void. I pray that you will continue to fill Travis daily with your Holy Spirit, and that he would be empowered to share your gospel passionately and effectively in Thailand. Lord, you have definitely given Travis the Spiritual gift of evangelism, Father God, give Travis the gift of perseverance to learn the language and adapt to his new reality in Thailand. Lord, help Travis to fight the good fight of faith and to take hold of the eternal life to which you have called him. And I pray that we, as senders, would faithfully support Travis and always remember him in our prayers for your glory, Lord.

Hunter Gray: [00:45:38] Heavenly Father, I second all that Noah said over Travis's life, and we ask for you to just be so incredibly close to him as he transitions into Thailand, Lord, that you would empower him by your Spirit always, and that he could be this faithful witness that we speak of to the unreached in Thailand. Lord, we pray that there are people who will know and love you because of his witness to the Thai people. Lord, we pray that there will be an abundant outflow of just salvations and gospel witness because of the great work that he is going to do. Lord, equip him for everything that's coming, give him all of his needs, and Lord, encourage us as well to be faithful partners with him. Lord, we pray for your Spirit's anointing on his life. In Jesus name, Amen. Amen.

Hunter Gray: [00:46:29] Alright, well, you guys can take us, or these guys can take a seat. I'd actually like you to stay standing because we're going to close our service this morning in worship. We're going to worship with a song that it really should turn our hearts towards God's global mission around the world. And as we worship together, I want you to use this as a time of reflection, a time of response. Perhaps you need to pray for the nations. Perhaps you need to pray for Travis. Perhaps you say, hey, I've heard this story about Jesus, and I don't know him, and I want to know him, but we're here for you. And so myself and our prayer team will be up front during this song. And we want to encourage you to come for prayer, come to speak about the Gospel for any and all things you can come during the song. I want you to be encouraged to do that. Otherwise, worship your heart to its fullest about this Great News that we have, that we have been saved by grace by this wonderful Lord named Jesus Christ.

Recorded in Upland, California.
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Life Bible Fellowship Church
2426 N Euclid Ave
Upland, California 91786
(909) 981-4848