The Sufficiency of Christ in the Middle of a Global Pandemic

Since the middle of March, we have been doing online schooling with the goal of still providing quality, Gospel-saturated education in the middle of COVID-19.  If you are reading this, you probably know much about our school and the purpose of it. For the past four years, my wife and I have been serving at the Manantial School in different capacities and have seen the incredible impact that the school ministry has had on this community. God has been at work and is still working in our community and the communities of the other schools around the world (3 in Mexico and 1 in Uganda).

When COVID-19 hit in March, we went online. We thought that we would only be doing this for a couple of months. Seven months later and here we are. I have had many feelings of inadequacy and thinking that I am wasting my time posting assignments online. I have had thoughts wondering how God can work with our students without us actually being around them. And then I remembered John 6:63 which says, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.”  For a while, I had forgotten that the work and impact of this ministry was God’s work.  This scripture has reminded me that my flesh does not count for anything at all. There is nothing that I can do that gives life, but the Spirit alone that gives life. In all of my inadequacies, His grace is sufficient to work in and through me.

Even though I know this truth in my head, it is difficult to believe it constantly. I still try to work my way of seeing lives changed. I still try to make my online classes more effective and think that if I don’t do it well enough, my students won’t be impacted. However, over the past month, I have seen the sufficiency of Christ become a reality in one of my students. In the middle of my feeling of inadequacy, one of my students talked to me and shared how God has been giving him a desire for His word. He told me that he has been waking up early every morning to read the scriptures and spend time writing down what God has been teaching him. He also told me that he has been sharing what God has been teaching him to others and encouraging others with the Gospel. What an incredible reminder that God is in control. He is still working and is sufficient to do all things regardless of my involvement.  The student’s desire for God and His word had nothing to do with me, but had everything to do with the work of the Spirit in his life. In the middle of our inadequacy, God is sufficient to continue His work in and around us.

-Daniel McDonald, GEM Missionary


F I E S T A .

If you were to ask me to describe Mexico in one word, it would be “fiesta”. Mexicans love to have an excuse to throw a party, and everyone is always invited.

I remember the first time we moved into our house in Puerto, our neighbors had a “fiesta” for their dad, who turned 93 at the time. This party had a full band, tons of food (good authentic Mexican food), drinks, and dancing. This party must have started around 7 and lasted until about midnight. Parties like this happened over and over as our neighbors celebrated their families lives.

On the other end of the spectrum, our other neighbor celebrated the birthday of their two-year-old daughter. This party started around 6 pm and lasted well past midnight. Again, there was music, food, and plenty of dancing to celebrate the birthday of their two-year-old (who most definitely didn’t stay up for the whole thing).

I mention both of these things because I think it is amazing. I believe that this shows the heart of God. As Christians, we should be the most celebratory people in the world celebrating all that God has done. We should take the time to slow down and celebrate those around us.

In his book called “A Meal with Jesus”, Tim Chester said, “Jesus spent his time eating and drinking—a lot of his time. He was a party animal. His mission strategy was a long meal, stretching into the evening. He did evangelism and discipleship around a table with some grilled fish, a loaf of bread, and a pitcher of wine.”

Jesus spent much of his ministry around a meal. He spent so much of his time eating and drinking that he was called a glutton and a drunk.  He used the meal as to build relationships with others (sinners and tax collectors). How much more should we, the body of Christ, get to know others around a meal at a party?

May we learn from our Mexican brothers and sisters and learn to throw good parties celebrating all that God is doing in those around us. Let us use this as an example for us while looking to Jesus who is our greatest example.

-Daniel McDonald, GEM Missionary 
If you’d like to support Daniel and his wife, Kristen as they serve with GEM in Mexico, you can do so HERE. You can also contact them directly to talk further about what it means to be on their support team and find out how you can be praying for them!

A Life That Demands A Gospel Explanation

About two years ago, God used a simple question to revolutionize how I desired to live: “Do you live in such a way that demands a Gospel explanation?” – Jeff Vanderstelt.

This question led me to reflect on my life up until that point. Did my words or actions demand a Jesus explanation? In other words, when people looked at my life, did it look like the rest of the world, or did my life reflect the radical love and joy that is found in Jesus?

This is an excellent question for all of us to ponder: Does the way I live demand a Gospel explanation? When people look at our life, do they see a life that conformed to the world’s ways or a life transformed through faith and obedience to Jesus?

I often ask myself – “What is the primary motivation for my life? Am I motivated by happiness, comfort, safety, material possessions or am I compelled by the command of my Lord?”

Think about this: Jesus lived a life that demanded an explanation. He claimed to be God! That’s a statement that demands some kind of explanation. His life did not make sense to this world and neither should ours. His life, death, and resurrection demands an explanation. Either he was who he said he was, or it was all a lie.

So what does all of this mean for us? In order to know how to live, we must learn from Jesus.

Jesus, Our Perfect Example.

“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. Philippians 2:6-8.

If we endeavor to live our lives in such a way as to demand a gospel explanation, the first place to start is to look to Jesus. He sets the pace for us.

From the very beginning, he came to earth understanding that His mission was all about obedience to His father. He knew that he was going to be arrested, tortured, and persecuted (Matthew 26:56) to fulfill the scriptures. Because sin had entered the world, God sent His son so that we could live in the freedom of His grace. He came caring the burden of humanity’s sin to the cross so that all people have the ability to know the freedom found in Christ. He came with no purpose of His own; rather, He came to serve us that we could have life (Mark 10:45).

His entire life was lived to bring glory to his father and to provide freedom for all of humanity. Jesus, fully human and fully God, lived a perfect life not on His on will, but on the will of His Father (John 6:38) He is the perfect example for us. Not only did Jesus claim to have all authority (Matthew 28:18), his life revealed this to be true. His life and ministry was spent in submission to the Father ultimately so that all humanity could have life through his death and resurrection.

Just as Jesus did, we are called to reorient our lives around God our Father. We are to act and live in the same way as His example for us.

Servants of Jesus: A Gospel-Sent People
“Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” – John 20:21-22

Jesus did not only send his disciples. Jesus did not only send pastors, church leaders, deacons, the more spiritual people, or missionaries. Jesus sent every person regardless of race, color, gender, or economic status. Not only has He sent us, but He has sent us with the Holy Spirit to guide us into all of life. We are a people sent with the good news of the Gospel to proclaim Him all over the world.

Because Jesus is our perfect example of a servant, we serve in the same way. We don’t serve others to get recognition, but we serve to make much of Jesus in our lives. We don’t need the approval of man, because God has already approved us as his righteous children. Therefore, we serve as people who are free.
1 Peter 2:16 tells us, “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.”

Our motivation comes from what we have received in Jesus. We can love unconditionally because we have been loved much. So how do we apply this to our lives?

Prayerful Application
How do we live such a way that demands a Gospel explanation? In other words, how can we live that would lead people to wonder what is different about our lives?
I want to give 3 practical ways that will lead us to live out our identity as dearly loved children who live in the joy and freedom of Christ.

1. Head: Remind yourself of the incredible gift of God’s grace that you have received every day. Preach it to yourself, and meditate on the truth of the Gospel early in the morning and before you go to sleep. Let it be in your mind all day.

2. Heart: Pray and ask God to let these truths you are meditating on sink into your heart. Jesus said to ask Him what we need in His name and He will give it. Give thanks to Jesus daily for the cross and the freedom we have in His grace. Think about your time before Christ and how He has radically changed your desires and have given you a hope that will never fail.

3. Hands: The scripture teaches that out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. As we begin to meditate the truths of the Gospel, the truths will sink into our heart and overflow into action. Peter and John said, “For we cannot stop speaking about all we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20), referring to the power of the Gospel to transform lives. They were so passionate about Jesus that they couldn’t stop talking about it.

It is impossible to live a life the demands a Gospel explanation without the Spirit at work in our lives. As we strive to live in obedience to Jesus, may we never stop meditating on the truth of the Gospel and praying for these truths to continually transform our hearts to action.

danielDaniel Mcdonald graduated from Liberty University with a B.S. in Communication (2011) and a Master’s of Divinity in Evangelism and Church Planting (2014). He is serving as the Director of Communication for GEM, while his wife, Kristen, serves as the 4th-grade teacher.  Above all, they desire to make disciples by making Jesus known in Puerto and around the world.