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Jesus’ Economy

  • Just One Sheep: Risking It All to Save the Lost

    By Kriselle Dawson

    Jesus once told the story of the good shepherd who discovers the loss of one sheep and leaves the remaining 99 in the safety of the fold to seek the one who is lost (Luke 15:4–7). He searches intently high and low until the lost sheep is found. He tenderly carries it home on his shoulders and then calls his friends and neighbors to join him in celebrating that which is found. 

    Have you ever wondered about the relationship of this man to his sheep? I l have lost pet birds, which made me feel sad and wish they would come back, but I certainly never went to any great lengths to find them again. I believed it was hopeless, and I hoped they would fend for themselves okay in the wild. In juxtaposition, the shepherd loved each of his sheep. He spent each day with them, weathered the storms with them, and fought wild animals off to protect them. He endured great risk and hardship to return them home.

    A Heart for the Lost

    Jesus is the good shepherd. He voluntarily left his throne in heaven and took human form to seek and save the lost. Paul writes of this experience in Philippians 2:5–8 (ESV):

    "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

    The oft-quoted John 3:16 reminds us that Jesus' motivator for this self-sacrificial act was love. He loves each and every lost soul so much that he sacrificed it all.

    We, too, need a heart for the lost. We, too, need to love others so much that no sacrifice is too great to see sinners saved. Just as the shepherd left the sheepfold, and Jesus left heaven, so must we leave—leave our comfort zones, perhaps even our homes, our countries, and families. We must be prepared to lay it all on the line for the call of Jesus. Jesus himself commissioned us in Matthew 28:19–20, saying, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

    Leaving Ourselves Behind for the Sake of Gospel

    The whole world hasn't yet been given the gospel: the opportunity to either accept or reject the call of Jesus. So what will you and I do about it? Whatever it is, it won't be easy.

    I remember when Brad and I decided to go to Papua New Guinea for four years (which became five), and we started to hear all kinds of horror stories of others' experiences there. Our families were totally against the idea and seemed to think we were crazy. Once we got there it didn't get any easier. The language was hard to learn. The culture was uncomfortable. We caught malaria. We were faced with guns. The devil pulled out all the stops to try to send us home. But we persevered, doing what we felt called by God to do. And he has blessed us abundantly in it.

    Jesus gives us a promise, “There is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel's, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29–30). Will you answer Jesus' call today? Will you take up your cross for the sake of lost sheep?

    Kriselle Dawson is a volunteer writer for Jesus' Economy. Kriselle lives in Lae, Papua New Guinea, where she is a full-time mom and homeschool teacher; she also serves with Papua New Guinea Union Mission and Lae City Mission.

  • Cardboard Boxes and God's Kingdom

    By Kriselle Dawson

    It was shortly after I moved to Papua New Guinea. I had almost finished unpacking my boxes and boxes of goods; books, ornaments, picture frames, crafts, and kitchenware—you name it and I probably had it. As I emptied each box, I would break it down and stack it outside the house in readiness for our twice-weekly garbage collection. It seemed like a perfectly normal moving activity to me.

    Then one day my haus meri (maid) came to me and asked if she could take some of the boxes home. I had no further use for them, so naturally I consented. Day by day she would bundle up half a dozen boxes and take them home with her. I didn't think much more about it until a year or two later when I went to visit her house in the settlement (a “village” of squatters living in shabbily built dwellings on private or government land).

    We climbed the mountain with a small entourage leading us to my haus meri's home. The path was steep, the ground slippery, and the streams muddy. Little children raced along the path, as agile and sure-footed as we were slow and clumsy. Eventually, tired and with sweaty brows, we reached my haus meri's home. 

    I was shocked however to see how my waste, the cardboard boxes I considered garbage, had been used. The floor of the little house was dirt (presumably mud when it rained). The roof, its best feature, was of rusty tin. The walls were a timber frame holding cardboard—my cardboard boxes—in place to keep the rain and mosquitoes and wild animals out.

    I felt an overwhelming sorrow. 

    We Have So Much To Give

    I felt sorrow because I could not fix the poverty of the world. Sorrow that I was spoiled and selfish. Sorrow that I complained when we had a blackout, when we were without water for a few hours, when I couldn't have a hot shower, when my Internet was slow. God put me in my place that day. He said to me sternly, “Kriselle, I have given you so much, but with many blessings comes great responsibility... what are you going to do with your many blessings?”

    Luke 12:48 says, “to whomever much is given, of him will much be required; and to whom much was entrusted, of him more will be asked.”

    You and I are rich. Maybe not filthy rich (I certainly don't own a penthouse, or have a new pair of shoes every week, or drive a convertible sports car), but we are rich nevertheless. I have a job, I own a car, I have running water to my house (I even flush my toilet with drinking quality water), I have a roof over my head, I have clothes to spare, my child is in school, and I can afford healthcare. The list goes on and on, but I think you get the picture. We are so much richer than much of the world, where simple day-to-day survival is a struggle. You and I both are so very blessed!

    Using Our Riches For God’s Glory

    So, what is God calling you to do with your riches? I am sure he is not asking you to hoard it all up for yourself. Jesus once told the parable in Luke 12 of a rich man who accumulated so much wealth that he ran out of room to store it all, so decided to build bigger storage units. God then described the man as foolish and noted that the man would die that very night, illustrating the point that it is futile to accumulate material wealth, rather than investing in God's kingdom. 

    Matthew 6:19–21 says, “Don't lay up treasure for yourselves on the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consume, and where thieves do not break through and steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

    Every day we see in the news examples of why it is futile to store up treasures on earth—volcanoes erupt, earthquakes and tremendous storms occur, stock markets crash, homes are invaded, and so many other tragedies strike. It is far better that we invest in something lasting, something of eternal value.

    Is God calling you to purchase Bibles for mission work? Is God calling you to support a missionary family? Is God calling you to provide a cow or a garden to a struggling family? Is God calling you to raise funds to build a dormitory or extra classrooms in a mission school? 

    Whatever God's call is for you, it is my prayer that you decide today to use your blessings for his purposes. Let us each resolve to give up some of our riches to bless others more needy than ourselves, and above all, to further the kingdom of heaven.

    Kriselle Dawson is a volunteer writer for Jesus' Economy. Kriselle lives in Lae, Papua New Guinea, where she is a full-time mom and homeschool teacher; she also serves with Papua New Guinea Union Mission and Lae City Mission.

  • Jesus' Approach to Life Changes Everything

    By Kriselle Dawson

    In John 13, Jesus and his closest friends gather together to celebrate the Passover.  It is a scene of beautiful companionship. They are relaxed and uplifted by their engagement in the ceremony of the Passover supper. In their culture, it was an act of hospitality for a slave to perform the distasteful task of washing the guest's feet. But here in the upper room we get to witness something very special. 

    All of a sudden we notice Jesus rise from the table and break tradition by taking the role of a servant, of the lowest of the low. He takes off his outer garment, wraps a towel around his waist, and fills a bowl with water. He stoops to wash the first of his disciples' feet, and then proceeds to do so for each and every one of them. Their feet are not clean as ours are. They are dirty, muddy, and probably smelly.

    My Experience Washing Feet

    One Sabbath morning in Lae, Papua New Guinea, I encountered a foot washing experience that will forever stick with me. The church was decked out with tropical flowers in readiness for the communion service, and the worshippers were in their best clothes, wearing their big white smiles, and carrying their precious Bibles. Just as Jesus did for his disciples, each of the church attendees was to wash one another's feet. This was like no foot washing experience I had ever participated in. There was mud. There were flies. We were kneeling on leaves to try to keep our best clothes out of the mud. Many of them had no shoes, and those who did wore flip-flops. They trekked for kilometers over mountains, through streams, through red betel-spit stained puddles. Some had fungal infections. Many had sores. It was a uniquely humbling experience to wash the feet of, and have my feet washed by these beautiful Christian people.

    Following Jesus’ Example

    Back in the upper room the disciples must have looked at each other somewhat sheepishly. Their master, their teacher, their savior was washing their feet. “I should have done that!” perhaps they inwardly rebuked themselves; Peter even said so (John 13:8). Just like the disciples, we too need to be humbled. Jesus took the first and biggest step of humility when he left heaven to come as the newborn babe of a poor girl, born in a manager, with a label of illegitimate hanging over his head. 

    Paul writes in Philippians 2:5–8,

    “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

    The Steps Jesus Took to Display Humility

    Let's look at the steps Jesus took when he washed his disciples’ feet. First, he took off his outer robe. What might this represent for you and I? Overcoming our pride? Casting aside selfish ambition? Stepping beyond our comfort zone? Allowing Jesus to remove our fear? Sometimes, the first step is the hardest to take, but if we don't take that first step, we may never learn the joy of service.

    Second, Jesus wrapped a towel around his waist and poured water into a basin. He prepared for the task at hand. This will differ for each of us according to what the Lord is calling us to, and our calling now might not be our calling next month, next year, or next decade. Perhaps we need to gain a certain skill or qualification (e.g., learn a new language or take a first aid course). Perhaps we need to purchase resources, do some planning, get together a team, or maybe just spend more time in prayer and Bible study. Whatever it is, we cannot just rush headlong into service. Just like Jesus, we need to take the necessary steps of preparation to be effective in our respective ministries.

    The next step is what I like to call “see a need, fill a need.” Dirty feet need to be washed. Hungry bellies need to be fed. The illiterate need lessons. Those with illness and disease need medicine. Wayward teens need guidance. Abused women need a refuge. Corrupt governments need to be opposed. The list goes on and on. What needs do you see in your home, community, country, and world? 

    Called to Messy Service

    Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 12 how each body part serves a unique purpose and yet is valuable and integral to the function of the body. Similarly, each one of us has different gifts, skills, and passions, and God designed us that way because he has a unique role he wants each of us to enact. Yet we all serve the ultimate purpose of bringing him glory. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

    Jesus is our example when it comes to dirty, muddy service. The disciples followed his example taking the gospel to the ends of the earth, being stoned, imprisoned, and even martyred for the sake of the gospel. So, what dirty, muddy service is the Lord calling you to today? Is it to help out in the local soup kitchen? Volunteer to wash the dishes after a church potluck? Serve in a far-off land whose president's name you cannot pronounce?

    Whatever your call might be, just remember that Jesus too made sacrifices, Jesus too got his hands dirty, and Jesus too calls us to this dirty, muddy service.

    Kriselle Dawson is a volunteer writer for Jesus' Economy. Kriselle lives in Lae, Papua New Guinea, where she is a full-time mom and homeschool teacher; she also serves with Papua New Guinea Union Mission and Lae City Mission.

  • The Camel Hair Cloak I’m Learning to Wear

    by John D. Barry

    If my life was a movie, it would open with a narration by the lead actor—who would be Matt Damon, of course. Matt would say something like this:

    I am named after a man who ate locusts and honey. And this man, named John the Baptist—because he baptized people to make way for Jesus’ ministry—continues to perplex me. Who wears a camel’s hair cloak with a leather belt?

    I have spent countless hours studying the few enigmatic passages about the Baptist, and each time I am left asking, “Why would God name me after this odd character? What does being like the Baptist look like?” I think I may finally have an answer. And here’s the quizzical thing: It turns out it’s not just an answer for me, but also the answer to a question you may not even know you’re asking.

    (Cue the dramatic music—me, I mean Matt Damon, riding on a bicycle at sunrise. It’s a coming of age film, so Matt may be a little old on second thought.)

    How John the Baptist is Like All of Us

    When I was in the womb, my mother was very close to losing me. Her, my father, and several people in our church began praying. One day when my father was praying, he heard from God. God told him, my name isn’t going to be Kenneth, but John. And I was to be named after the Baptist, because I would make a way for Jesus as John did.

    But as great as all this is, it’s really not special. After all, aren’t we all supposed to be like John the Baptist?

    “The word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:2–3 ESV).

    I hope that all of us who believe in Jesus are running towards him—to receive his word. I pray that we journey to the wilderness to hear the very voice of God. And I hope that we seek him even more in this age than ever before, because like John the Baptist's generation, our generation is full of political turmoil and warfare. It is in these times—especially these times—that we should show what it means to love Jesus.

    Jesus has called all of us to proclaim a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” He has called each of us to lead others to Jesus, to experience his overwhelming grace and love—and to make a life change as a result of encountering the living God.

    Feeling Nostalgic about John the Baptist

    Today, I had an opportunity to get nostalgic for a moment, as my wife Kalene stumbled upon one of my first campaigns to help the impoverished—written in the simple form of a paper church newsletter. In that moment of nostalgia, I was reminded of who I used to be and also who I am. I was reminded that even that young man back then was redeemed by the Jesus who has a marvelous and boundless love—a wonderful and sacrificial love, as the band Rend Collective Experiment says.

    I am grateful for that young man's deep-rooted passion, but I also hope he has grown since then—that he has learned what it means to be even more like Jesus. I hope his coming of age film, that is his faith journey, has at least reached its midpoint by now. I ask God, "Have the difficulties taught young John what it means to love you more?" And then suddenly my mood changes: I hope my life film hasn't reached its midpoint, because I want to know God much more than this and need more time to do so.

    In the same song, Rend Collective Experiment goes on to say, “True love is not afraid to bleed.... Yes, Jesus loves me. This is love [that] you gave yourself.” When I think upon that younger me, I realize that he may have been afraid to bleed—that he would not have been ready to give himself. And I pray that I am ready to do so now.

    Am I actually ready to live like John the Baptist—for I know John’s message is not easy?

    John’s message was difficult to accept. John proclaimed that salvation is coming, inheritance cannot save you, and repentance means actually living your faith (Luke 3:4–9). These words were so hard for people to hear that they were left asking John: “What then shall we do?” In reply, John says:

    “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise” (John 3:11 ESV).

    If you have more than you need, assist someone else—simple yet profound. Are you willing to do that? Are you willing to live sacrificially for Jesus?

    John the Baptist is about to Answer Your Question

    I think we’re all asking, “What then shall we do?” It’s sitting at the core of all of us. It's somewhere deep in the pit of our already full stomachs. And we know the answer is that we need less of nearly everything than we're consuming. We’re struggling with the reality that we know we can be more, do more, and renew more lives.

    You may not know it yet, but if you really look inward, I think you will find that you are asking the same question as the crowd that was dialoguing with John. I believe this to be the case because both tax collectors and soldiers asked the same question, “What then shall we do?” To tax collectors, John says:

    “Collect no more than you are authorized to do” (Luke 3:13 ESV).

    To the soldiers, he says:

    “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages" (Luke 3:14 ESV).

    We can minimize our negative affect on others, while emphasizing the positive affect we can have. We can fully serve others, in Jesus’ name—empowering the impoverished and fully loving each person Jesus places in front of us. We can show them in word and deed how much Jesus cares for them.

    Be Content—Don’t Take More than You Need

    We all struggle with contentment. Being satisfied with what we have—and above that, being content with the sufficiency of Jesus and the salvation he offers—can be painful; it can require us to bleed for him. It takes time, discipline, and diligence.

    But there is hope for all of us in John's message:

    “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I [being Jesus] is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire" (Luke 3:16–17 ESV).

    Jesus wants us to act now—to serve him now. That is his calling upon our lives. And there is hope in this, for he offers us salvation freely. But is not just salvation he offers; he calls us to live like we are actually saved. The Holy Spirit is here to help us do so. The Spirit will guide us as we act on Jesus' behalf, as we act as John the Baptist. It is in our power to call people to repentance, love, contentment in Christ, and self-sacrifice.

    When it comes time for your life to be narrated—for your movie script to be written—how will your opening scene go?

    John D. Barry is the CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economy, dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Because of John’s belief that business can also transform lives, Jesus’ Economy also provides an online fair trade shop. He is currently leading Jesus’ Economy efforts to Renew Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus.

  • About Jesus’ Economy

    Articles provided by Jesus' Economy, dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. In each community Jesus' Economy serves, they offer church grants, microloans, and meet basic needs. To fund life transformation, Jesus' Economy provides an online fair trade shop.