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Recently I have attended midweek worship and Bible studies at a nearby organization in Afton, Virginia dedicated to supporting Christian outreach missions worldwide. Named Advancing Native Missions (ANM), I have learned their work, although not indigenous to any specific mainline Christian denomination, supports evangelistic efforts of countless groups around the globe whose principal motive is to make Christ known.  In a monograph which he entitled Thine Is the Kingdom, Dr. James S. Stewart, outlined what he termed the Basic Motive for Christian missions.  He begins with our Lord’s Commission: ‘Go ye and teach all nations’ as our missionary charter.  Then he asks, ‘suppose mutilation of the papyrus roll containing Matthew 28:19-20 had deprived us of the great commission, would the missionary challenge have been in doubt?  “Surely not!”, he writes, “For it is no single injunction that has given the Church its marching-orders.  The imperative is there, staring at us on every page of the Gospels, implicit in every word Jesus ever spoke, sealed forever by His death and resurrection:  ‘the expiation’ cries John, ‘for our sins, and not for ours only but for the whole world!....In the last resort, the one reason for missions is Christ.  He only is the motive, God’s presence in Him the one sufficient cause.... The fact is, belief in missions and belief in Christ stand and fall together....Thus it can never be the province of a few enthusiasts, a sideline or specialty of those who happen to have a bent that way.  It is the distinctive mark of being a Christian.  To accept Christ is to enlist under a missionary banner.  It is quite impossible to be (in the Pauline phrase) ‘in Christ’ and not participate in Christ’s mission in the world.”

My worship times with the ANM fellowship have been reminders of the koinonia of the early Church proclaiming the joyous Good News and victory of knowing Christ. 

       I have been reading the closing chapters of Acts and Paul’s final farewell to the saints in Ephesus.  He closes his valediction with them by commending them to God’s grace.   Once more, I call upon Dr. James S. Stewart’s exposition:

“Here is a gospel that shatters all human pretensions, and shames us for feeling better than other people—a gospel that says ‘You can’t earn a citizenship in Zion, not ever!  You can’t ever merit salvation.  Take it for nothing, or not at all!  That is grace – God’s initiative in Christ, offered freely to the undeserving....When David Livingstone was found dead on his knees in Central Africa, his diary was open before him, and the last entry was, ‘My Jesus, my Savior, my life, my all, anew I dedicate myself to Thee.’ New discoveries and dedications right on to the end!   There is no room in Christianity for arrested development of the soul which thinks it has found everything and settles down content in spiritual rigidity and petrification.  He is able to keep on building you up, from strength to strength, from character to character, from glory to glory – until at last his new creation is complete.”  From King Forever, James S. Stewart

Traveling the world as a Peace Corps diplomat, I often mailed postcards from these far away places with strange sounding names.  When I could think of nothing of interest to the recipient, I simply quoted Tennyson's lines that I had memorized while in school.  I came to realize that Tennyson's poem had defined a large segment of my life.  Here is an excerpt:

“All times I have enjoyed Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those That loved me, and alone; on shore, and ... I am become a name; For always roaming with a hungry heart Much have I seen and known—cities of men And manners, climates, councils, governments, Myself not least, but honored of them all,— I am a part of all that I have met; Yet all experience is an arch where through Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades For ever and for ever when I move. How dull it is to pause, to make an end, To rust unburnished, not to shine in use! As though to breathe were life! Life piled on life Were all too little, and of one to me Little remains; but every hour is saved From that eternal silence, Something more, A bringer of new things; And this gray spirit yearning in desire To follow knowledge like a sinking star, Beyond the utmost bound of human thought. This is my son, mine own Telemachus, To whom I leave the scepter...  There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail; There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners, Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought with me,

That ever with a frolic welcome took The thunder and the sunshine... Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old; Old age hath yet his honor and his toil. Death closes all; but something ere the end, Some work of noble note, may yet be done,  Not unbecoming men that strove with gods. The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks; The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep Moans round with many voices We are not now that strength which in old days Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are, One equal temper of heroic hearts, Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”   Adapted  from Ulysses, Alfred Lord Tennyson