By Jair Castillo
For the past 25 years, my wife and I have faithfully attended ICOM (International Conference on Missions, formerly the National Missionary Convention). The convention’s new name provides a fitting description of this great gathering: a global meeting of global-minded individuals. These missionaries and missions-minded people have one purpose—to carry out the universal task we have received from our Lord to “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15, NIV, 1984).
ICOM provides a broad perspective on mission work around the world. The term globalism is often used in the context of international commerce. The border city of Piedras Negras Coahuila, where we have served for the past 37 years, has benefitted greatly from the positive economic impact of international free trade and commerce. Globalization has created significant wealth and higher standards of living for millions around the world. This economic prosperity came about because nations discovered the concept of tearing down the walls of protectionism and working together globally.
The truth of the matter is that countries, borders, cultures, and commerce are mostly man-made. God is not so concerned about such divisions. Interestingly, people around the world have adopted God’s borderless concept in their business models and achieved remarkable success. This reminds me of Luke 16:8: “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light”
This year’s theme for ICOM, “Glorifying God Globally,” has been drawn from Psalm 67, known by many as the missionary psalm. The heart of this beautiful song is, “May all the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you.”
We live in a flat universe. Globalism is at our fingertips—at the computer keyboard, in local eateries and stores, at the park, the school yard, across the street, and even next door. From the beginning God’s intention has been that his ways would be known on earth, his salvation among all nations. Our vision for this conference is for us to capture God’s global heart and thus see people all over the world as one huge family designed to glorify God. After all, this is our main task while on earth and what we will spend eternity doing.
Psalm 67 is composed of seven verses—six distinct verses if we combine verses 3 and 5. Around the world people have their own unique ideas about God. Growing up in Mexico where the traditional religion was a special brand of Catholicism, I was exposed to a distorted concept of God. By “special brand of Catholicism” I mean a religion filled with a mixture of idolatry, Indian traditions, and rituals. I grew up with the idea of a distant God who needed to be appeased—an indifferent God who had to be worshipped using candles, dances, solemn rituals, and even penitent acts such as punishing our own bodies to gain his favor.
I remember how some older ladies would strap a thorny cactus to their back or chest and travel on their knees for long distances while praying for acceptance and forgiveness from this impersonal God. At an early age (and through a former Catholic priest) I learned that God is a gracious God full of mercy and truth: “And you will know the truth and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32, New American Standard Bible). I discovered that he wants to bless us and that he has been merciful to us: “The Lord make His face shine on you” (Numbers 6:25). And I came to know his salvation through Christ. The vicious cycle of poverty, abandonment, and ignorance was broken. Now I can praise God because he is just and his rule brings freedom from evil and hope of eternal life.
I don’t subscribe to the prosperity gospel, but I am convinced that the ways of God make a profound impact on the people of the earth. I have seen this happen over and over through years of ministry here in poverty-stricken Ejido Piedras Negras in Mexico. The words of Jesus, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things [material needs] will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33), take on new meaning when his salvation comes to individuals and a holistic impact takes place in their lives. Where there was vice there is food on the table. Where there was violence there is love. Where there was quarreling there is peace. Where there was hopelessness, there is hope. This automatically brings praise and glory to God.
Mexican people (Hispanic may be the politically correct term, but being called Mexican makes my day, for that is exactly who I am) are happy people. Our American brothers marvel at the level of joy our people project even in the midst of poverty and material need.
Psalm 67 describes how God pursues and receives worship from all people groups and how those who glorify him receive overflowing joy. The word praise in the original language is yadah, which describes worship from a thankful heart.
We praise and glorify God because we have been rescued. The word peoples appears five times and the word nations appears three times in this psalm. This shows that there will be people of every ethnicity and every people group in Heaven worshipping God throughout all eternity. We are here reminded “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10,11, NIV 1984).
The gospel was preached to Abraham in the Old Testament through the promise that all nations would be blessed through him (see Psalm 72:17), for we would receive the righteousness of God through Jesus Christ. This great news was announced to Abraham in the first book of the Bible, declaring that all nations on earth will have people of faith.
The last book of the Bible celebrates this. In Revelation 5:9, 10 the angels gather around the victorious Christ and declare, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on earth”
Don’t miss ICOM 2013 in Kansas City. There we will be reminded of God’s love for all people groups and of the transforming power salvation brings to those who believe and are saved. We will acknowledge God’s blessings, his grace upon us, his face shining on our lives, and we will leave with renewed energy to share this message globally.
Our Latino culture is a joyous and happy one, more so when we glorify God for his goodness. Special events will include a mariachi band on opening night, a special event to honor the life and work of Harland Cary (a Kansas missionary who dedicated his life to train workers for the Latino world through Colegio Biblico), and the launching of a Hispanic Christian Church for the Kansas City metropolitan area—home to 230,000 Hispanics. This will be the first Spanish-speaking Christian church in the city. “May all the peoples praise you, O God, may all the peoples praise you.”
Jair Castillo is the 2013 president of ICOM. He and his wife, Norma, have served in Piedras Negras Coahuila, Mexico since 1976. Together they founded Vida Nueva (New Life) Ministries in 1989, a comprehensive mission organization to reach the lost in Mexico.
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