Sermon: “The Lord’s Prayer With A Mission

Delivered October 2, 2002 by a resident of Thailand working with a singular people group in Burma.

Note: Some names have been changed to protect those in sensitive positions.

…so in the beginning, I just want to look at God’s heart for the nations. God is a pursuer. He pursues men. We all pursue something. We all have desires. We all have pursuits because we are all creatures that have been made in Gods image. So we are made to have the nature of the same kinds of feelings that God has and so we are all pursuers. And God has a strategy, he has a pursuit to have a person, a people, a church, a body, a family from every person, from every group, from every language and every tongue across the face of this earth. If you could imagine God as a gardener and he is sowing, he is planting, he is harvesting and the world is his garden. That’s kind of like what he is doing with all the peoples, throughout all the ages that we have seen across this earth.

We have a heavenly vision that we believe God has given us. This is our desire to see a sweeping diffusion of God’s glory. We would like to see a diffusion of Gods glory across the face of the earth from sea to shining sea. We want to see people living under Gods smile. Whole hearted, vivid pursuit of Jesus. We know that everything that God does is about beauty. If you go and look at a view off of a mountain, you just walk out the doors and observe the trees and everything that he has done, it’s all about beauty. God has created with beauty. And the most important part of this creation is this church. For some of us that might be a little amazing that God’s church that has people in it that have problems and struggle. God’s earth, tainted as it is, could be God’s greatest creation of all. Yet it is and when the day comes when every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess, or when everybody stands before God and they see his church, they will look at this church and they will say, “You know Jesus, everything you have done was full of goodness, full of truth, was full of beauty. It was right and it was good. Your whole plan, everything you did.” Even though we may not see it now or understand it now, when we stand before the father in heaven we will say yes and Amen. Everything you did was good.

The Ah people group, we target these people. There are about two million Ah in total and there are about 55 dialects, which makes it very exciting and very confusing to interact with all of these people. Most of them are in Burma. Those are the people we target. In today’s situation there is an opium-based economy. For 200 years plus the Ah have been growing opium and it’s the economic main stay of their people. It’s an amphetamine driven government. They produce amphetamines like speed and ectasy. By doing this they keep their army going. They are sandwiched between two different countries, Burma and China. They have an area called the Ah State that they live in.

So the Ah are animists. That means they have been worshipping evil spirits for years. They have developed customs to appease the spirits. They have been headhunters for years. This practice has died out, but there is lots of fighting still and it has left many orphans. The Ah have been forced to maintain their drug policy where they traffic in drug trade because of being sandwiched between the Burmese and the Chinese government, both of which would like to end Ah freedom. Because they are in a mountainous region, there has been no other way for the Ah to interact and take any kind of goods out of the country because they are landlocked.

These Ah have been demon worshipers or animists now for many centuries and because of this they are very spiritually aware people. They are hungry. They realize that they are in bondage and that they need to get free and so there is a great white harvest field that is a wonderful place to be working. The poppy is flower is where they get the opium. It has been very hard on the soil and they have been doing slash and burn farming tactics for many years, which has practically taken all the forest out. In addition the Chinese have come in and dug some roads through and have harvested the rest of the trees so there aren’t any trees left in the Ah State at all. The mountains are all bare.

Rice is the main stay crop that the Ah people use. Rice in many of the languages of our area means to eat. It means a meal and the Ah people actually consider rice a form of money. If they don’t have rice, they feel like they don’t have a full meal. If you gave them a potato, they would say that would not cut it. They have to have rice. And so rice is in short supply in the mountain areas and 6 to 7 months out of the year, they have to try to ship a rice crop in. The food supply is very short and there is a lot of hunger. Many kids are malnourished.

We live in northern Thailand. We work in to the Ah State region. Just north of us is a resettlement area in southern Burma, where the Ah have resettled about a quarter of a million of their people in the past couple years. It was a forced deployment and these people have been displaced. It has been a very difficult thing for them and now in recent years, there has been much difficulty, much conflict. The borders have been shut down many times and there has been a lot of fighting all along this border area.

Now, if we could shift to slide 16. This is our prayer card. We also have this in back and also feel free to pick one up. This is our family and you can find us all here. (name-deleted) is the name of our mission. That’s the group of us that work together to touch the Ah. Slide 17, we have church planting as one of the things that we do. It’s probably one of our strongest focuses, because we believe that without the church, it’s hard to be a community of believers. On your left here is a picture of an Ah woman who just recently received Jesus this year. There have been many many this year that have become Christians. Slide 18, we are doing Bible translation and literacy work. We believe that the scriptures are essential to a healthy church and we have done portions of the Old Testament, printed them. We have printed a hymnal this year and we are very close to having the Old Testament completed, simply because I am back in the states it is not getting printed right now. Slide 19, we are discipleship and training. We train orphans. We train students. Orphans we consider short term or long term discipleship and then we do a short term for three years. We train orphanage workers. We train farmers. We train church planners. We see this training is so essential in that we can have trained nationals who can help shoulder the work. It’s really all about them taking ownership of the church long term.

Slide 20, we do agriculture and community farms. Our mentorship is not just in a classroom or we are teaching people through the scriptures, but we are actually giving them hands-on skills. They have to transfer from their economic base of opium to having some other kind of economic base where they can support their people, where they can support their pastors and where the church can be multiplied to the glory of God. We do all of these things.

Micro-enterprise, sustainability. We do this so that the church could be going for the glory of God and so that there would be no dependency on the western church, but an inner dependence, mutual blessing back and forth from them to us and from us to them. Now orphans and children at risk, slide 22. We believe that the orphans are one of God’s special religious causes. Orphans are one of the things that are really in God’s heart and we desire to see the poor as a status symbol of the church. We see this as DNA that we want to build right in to the church for the orphans and we see that the poor are people that need to be embraced because they are essential to the life and the growth of the church, if it’s going to be a thriving community.

How did we get to this area for ministry? We have four generations of missionary history behind us, starting with my great grandfather. He came out to Burma in 1887 and then was followed by my granddad and also my father. They were all born in Burma. And then later on my father was a medical missionary in the Philippines and this is where I spent my early childhood years.

After many years of my great granddad praying, the Ah Hill tribe came in contact with him and there were numerous convergences that began and they were quite overwhelmed. A few more years later, there were 12 Ah elders that followed a white donkey up and down through the mountains and jungles for about 200 miles. They followed this on the word of an Ah wise man, who knew about the true God. He had said, “If you follow this donkey and it will lead you to the true God.” The 12 elders ended up at a well and down in this well my great grandfather was digging. They said, “Can you tell us about the true God?” And so this is how the first Ah became Christians. However, the Ah were never a focus point of my family, simply because they were so overwhelmed with a lot of the other hill tribe people that were more accessible and many coming in to the kingdom.

So today we’ve tried to give you just a brief overview of the Ah, who they are and what we do. Now we are going to look at the Lord’s prayer. And we are going to use this as a model, like I said for us to be able to pray for the Ah. You can use it as a personal prayer as well, it works very well this way, but it also works very easy as a five minute prayer every day for the Ah. And so we are just going to reflect a little bit.

Starting out with, “Our Father who is in Heaven.” You know father is the core issue of every heart cry. We all want to belong to something greater than ourselves and you can see in Jesus’ childhood, even as he was at the temple and his parents had left Jerusalem and had to come back and look for him and they found him and they said, “Why did you do this to us, son?” And he said, “You know, I thought you would understand. I had to be about my father’s business.” And from early on Jesus understood partnership with his heavenly dad. Jesus’ teaching was full of words about his father. “Our Father who is in Heaven”, these words reflect an adoption. They speak of our father’s nature. He is God. Actually the word, “Our Father in Heaven”, in the Book of Matthew many times there is a surrogate term which refers to God, so we could say Father God, somebody who is far away as God, but very near to us is the Father. And you know it’s a beautiful word in any language. Samuel, our main national partner, is how they say father and many of the students that are with us call him _____. They call him father or the spiritual father. We have a pastor over in ________ who has adopted some kids. At home we have an adoption program that we do as foster homes or my son Adrian here with me, we have fatherhood by blood. There are many types of fathers that we have and they are all very important. They speak of our heavenly father. Jesus says, “No man comes under the father but by me.” He also said to his disciples in John, Chapter 14 he said, “You know have you been with me this long and you still don’t know the father?” It was his whole intention, the thrust of everything he did to bring us back to the father. And we have a wonderful dad and we have a wonderful father. And because of that, this father is not just for us, because he has a spirit of adoption, he wants to bring all the peoples of the earth in to be near him and to be close to him and to be part of the family, to help us all be participants in the family and take up the family business. And so we just pray today God, we pray for the Ah. We just know father that you are holy, you are beautiful, you are matchless, you are without equal and that you have a heart for the Ah people. Not only do you love each one of us here as a father, but you have children across on the other side of the world, which are a part of our family too. You love them, and father we just ask that they would feel your smile upon their hearts today. We pray this in your name Father.

We are going to look at kingdom and the revelation. “You are all in all, let our kingdom come on this earth. May your will be done. Will your kingdom come here and your will be done as it is in heaven.” This is the missionary mandate. That we would take God’s will in heaven and we would walk it out here on this earth. That’s what we are all a part of doing. Not just us, way over on the other side of the world, but each one of us is bringing the kingdom to other people. We have such a father that reveals his kingdom to us and as we begin to understand who God is, the more we see who he is, the clearer we understand who God is. It stirs our hearts and it makes us want to be people who are whole hearted and people who give everything away. The more we understand about God, the more we want to give away. The more we want to pursue him, and pursue the kingdom and embrace his life and embrace his will. Having a family, a spiritual family, we have a real dad. We have a family life and we pick up our dad’s trade skills. We work in the family business together with him. Whatever we are doing we are partners with our father, just like Jesus was a partner with his father. You know when we die, there are only two things we can take with us. We can take anything in us that is part of Jesus’ character, any part of Jesus’ character that we have, and we can take our spiritual family with us. Those are the only two things that we get to take with us. Not much, but it is an awful lot and it really speaks of where our investment should be and so today God we just pray. We pray for the Ah people, they are our great spiritual investment. They are people that you have purchased by your blood and you love them. And we pray for your kingdom to come God and your will to be done in the midst of these people, because you love them. Amen.

Provision and care. “Give us this day our daily bread.” Jesus spoke many,many times throughout the New Testament about provision, about finances and about money. He tells us don’t worry about tomorrow, but he does advise us to pray for our next day’s bread. This is what some commentators say that this phrase, “Give us today our daily bread” should actually be translated as “Provide for us today for tomorrow’s bread.” But whether it is today’s bread or tomorrow’s bread the whole point is that we just trust you father. You are going to be a good provider. We are not going to worry about tomorrow as Jesus talks about in Chapter 7. Don’t worry about tomorrow. But we are just trusting you and we are leaning in to you. And we can use this as a prayer. We can pray for provisions on the field. We can pray for those who are reaching out to groups such as the Ah. For our broader family, we can pray for the Ah churches. And we can pray most of all for the provisions of labors, because Jesus said the harvest fields are white and they truly are. You know provision to me means more than just going out and looking for money or asking for money or working, but it means that we hear the shepherds voice and we follow his commands. And if we do these two things, then the provision is there. As long as we are doing what God has asked us to do, he is our dad and he is going to take good care of us.

Harden and friendship. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Forgive us as we forgive. This speaks of a principle of freedom. Our forgiveness comes before we are forgivers. Our forgiveness is unconditional. It happened one time at the cross. But our experience of that forgiveness is conditional on how much we can forgive other people and this is why Jesus puts this very important phrase in to this prayer. He wants us to be people who can forgive, so that we can experience the father’s love. He understands that this is essential. This is a principle that works through many parts of scripture, like Jesus said, we lay down our lives so that we can receive them back again. We accept the lordship of Jesus at salvation, so that we can be people who are free from our sin. It’s Jesus message to the heart. Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. It’s all about us forgiving people. So we just embrace the world like Jesus did and we seek out the lost sheep. We go in to the highways and byways and we go to the ends of the earth. The Ah have a word in their language, it’s _______. It means, I have hated you for so long that my heart has turned in to ash. There is nothing left. They actually think this is very popular thing. It’s a very popular thing for them to do to think about other people. They have had so many rivalries and wars and the headhunting that this is just part of their culture. Even here God we just bring these Ah people before you with all the bitterness of their hearts burnt to ashes. God, we know that by the watering of your word and Father, by your kindness, your goodness you will lead us to repentance. Father just draw these hearts to you and renew them or breathe new life by your spirit upon these Ah hearts today we pray in your name.

“Lead us not in to temptation, but deliver us from evil.” God is not somebody who tempts us, but yet we are people who are weak. We fall in to temptation easy and Jesus said to his disciples, “Pray that you do not enter in to temptation.” When they were in the Garden of Gethsemane, he said, “Pray that you don’t enter in to temptation.” We can’t trust our own hearts. Jesus understood. But we can trust the only righteous God who gives new hearts, so we cast ourselves on him today and we pray. We pray for ourselves father, but we also pray for the Ah people. We pray for the pastors and the leaders, the deacons and the elders, the evangelists God. We pray that you would strengthen this small Ah flock or that you would grow them up to be strong and that there would be no stumbling blocks that would make them fall. Help them to see the Father who loves them and made them. Amen.

And in protection, where it says “Deliver us from evil.” As we work, as we live out this day, God can deliver us from evil. We could go to Psalms 91, Psalms 23. Many, many scriptures, like Psalms 23, “Yeah though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” We could think of Jesus’ words in his great commission statement where he said, “Low, I am with you always.” That Jesus is always with you. We know that Satan prowls like a roaring lion, so we just turn to you God this day. We give you our hearts and we trust in you and we want to walk in synchronization with you Father. And we just remember the Ah, Lord, that you would deliver them, Lord that you would strengthen them, and that by your goodness you would protect them and you would do this all for your glory in Jesus’ name.

And finally we have a proclamation of trust, of joy. Many of the early church fathers have stated this, though some of the early manuscripts do not have it in it. “Yours is the kingdom, the glory and power.” It’s all yours Father, it all belongs to you. These Ah people are yours. They are a unique people that you sought out with the donkey. You have called them for your glory and for your name and we belong to you too Father. In your name. Amen.