Friday, November 12, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
"One way to describe this problem is to say that when these people 'receive Christ,' they do not receive him as supremely valuable. They receive him simply as sin-forgiver (because they love being guilt-free), and as rescuer-from-hell (because they love being pain-free), and as healer (because they love being disease-free), and as protector (because they love being safe), and as prosperity-giver (because they love being wealthy), and as creator (because they want a personal universe), and as Lord of history (because they want order and purpose). But they don't receive him as supremely and personally valuable for who he is. They don't receive him the way Paul did when he spoke of 'the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.' They don't receive him as he really is - more glorious, more beautiful, more wonderful, more satisfying, than everything else in the universe. They don't prize him or treasure him or cherish him or delight in him." - John Piper, Think, pp. 71-72
Will we love such 'Christian' friends enough to challenge them with the demands of the grace of the Cross?
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
"Some people call [such things as Bible reading, prayer, community, worship and service] spiritual disciplines. But I believe this is unhelpful terminology. It can make Christian growth seem like an achievement on our part. In reality, it's God who changes us through his grace. The only true spiritual disciplines in the Christian life are faith and repentance, actions that direct our attention to God's gracious activity. So I prefer the traditional term the means of grace. These are ways in which God is gracious to us and by which he strengthens his work of grace in our hearts. They are the means God uses to feed our faith in him. This is what sowing to the Spirit looks like in practice." - Tim Chester, You Can Change, p. 140
Friday, October 15, 2010
One of the less enjoyable but sometimes necessary duties of spiritual leaders is to alert the people of God to wolves in sheep's clothing. Sadly, that is necessary today due to the recent arrival in Minot of a group called The World Mission Society. They are a non-orthodox movement from Korea claiming to be a Christian church who most often target women, college students and youth. Their founder, Ahn Sahng-hong, claimed to be an incarnation of the second coming of Christ. His wife claims to be 'Mother God'. They bear the classic marks of a cult.
In light of this, I encourage you to do the following:
1. Educate yourself. You can learn more here.
2. Pray. Ask God to protect people in Minot from the unbiblical lies touted by this group and for
the Holy Spirit to awaken them to the bibilcal truth about Christ.
3. Engage. If you know of any Koreans in Minot - particularly at MSU - alert them and educate them about The World Mission Society. If you encounter folks from this cult, go out of your way to show them the love of Christ and lovingly challenge them with the truth of the gospel from Scripture. God may open their eyes to the truth. Let's pray He does.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Second, remember the basic difference between the law and the gospel. It is not that the law requires perfect obedience, and the gospel just requires sincere obedience. Rather, the difference is this: the law requires doing, and the gospel requires not doing. The gospel requires believing for life and salvation. The 'terms of the deal' are totally different. They are not just different in degree: 'The law requires 100% obedience for your salvation whereas the gospel requires only 51% obedience for your salvation.' No! The terms are different in their very nature! The law requires 100% doing. The gospel requires 100% not doing. The gospel requires believing!"
- Walter Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, p. 82
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
- Tim Chester, You Can Change, pp. 105-106
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
I told my friend that I believed Terry Jones would not receive the same response from global Christians for a number of reasons. First, unfortunately, many professing believers agree with him that such displays are the means to stamp out Islam. Second, unfortunately, the Christian world has become so large and so fragmented that any semblance of unity in response to someone like Terry Jones is very unlikely. At the same time, I expressed my sorrow to my friend that Christians - if Terry Jones truly is one - would stage such a display of thoughtless militance.
Professor Carl Trueman gives a level-headed response when he writes:
"Has book burning ever done anything other than make the object of the fire more interesting and sought after, and make the perpetrators look like mindless reactionary vandals? The Reformation is a great example of this: the Catholics burned Luther's books and, hey presto!, they became bestsellers, and the Reformers had, at least for a while, the public sympathy that comes with being victims. That's censorship for you. The same kind of thing happened in the sixties with the Rolling Stones: ban them from the airwaves and suddenly they are top of the charts. Book burning is entirely counterproductive because it only ever achieves the opposite of that which it intends. Luther understood this -- when Prierias published his criticisms of Luther in 1518, Luther did not burn the book; he republished it with a new, witty preface and a refutation. He understood the subtleties of polemic in a way that left his opponents playing catch-up.
This Koran burning is childish; it will at best only draw attention to the book and fuel curiosity; at worst, it could jeopardise young people serving their country. Christians would be better served spending the time praying for the conversion of their Muslim neighbours and reaching out to them with love and with God's true word, rather than with a box of matches and acts of counterproductive immaturity."
It is hard to square Koran burning with the way of the Cross. It reminds one more of Nazi tactics to suppress German minorities than Christian mission to win the world for Christ. Fighting for the truth this side of the Cross must take constructive, not destructive, paths.
Monday, August 30, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
"Just imagine crossing the street with a little three-year old. Although those sweet, little fingers are grasping your hand, you aren't relying on them to hang on to you. No, you hold his whole hand (and part of his arm) in your grip, and nothing will pry your fingers loose. That's a picture of what your heavenly Father is doing with you. He's holding onto you. And He's stronger than you could ever imagine. To put it in Jesus' words, "no one is able to snatch you [his sheep] out of the Father's hand" (John 10:29) - no, not even you. He's going to get his children across the street without any accidents."
- Elyse Fitzpatrick, Love to Eat, Hate to Eat, pp. 192-193
Monday, August 23, 2010
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Saturday, August 7, 2010
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Friday, July 30, 2010
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
In the opening verses of Colossians, Paul gives us a powerful weapon in our fight against the sin of selfishness. Consider his logic in 1:3-5, "We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints -"
Stop right there. Paul is testifying to the supernatural and self-denying love the Colossian Christians had for each other. That's what you want. It's what I want. How do we get it? What was the Colossian's secret? Let's keep reading: "...because of the hope laid up for you in heaven." There it is. The key to the Colossian's selfless love for each other was a regular remembrance that soon they would be in heaven where all joy would be theirs for eternity. In heaven they knew they would have Christ in His fullness, THEREFORE they could afford to serve others rather than themselves, they could afford to spend their money on others rather than themselves, they could afford to help others pursue their dreams rather than use others to pursue their own dreams here and now because of the certain and eternal joy which waited for them in heaven. Their future impacted their present and robust relational sanctification was the result.
Do you want the power to say 'no' to yourself to the glory of God today? Remember the future.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
For more information, contact Melody Baker, Sherry Ritchie or Renee Olson.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
"I saw two [Protestants] burned [in Paris]. Their death inspired me in differing sentiments. If you had been there, you would have hoped for a less severe punishment for these poor unfortunates....The first was a very young man, not yet with a beard...he was the son of a cobbler. He was brought in front of the judges and condemned to have his tongue cut out and burned straight afterward. Without changing the expression of his face, the young man presented his tongue to the executioner's knife, sticking it out as far as he could. The executioner pulled it out even further with pincers, cut it off and hit the sufferer several times on the tongue and threw it in the young man's face. Then he was put into a tipcart, which was driven to the place of execution, but, to see him, one would think he was going to a feast....When the chain had been placed around his body, I could not describe to you with what equanamity of soul and with what expression in his features he endured the cries...and insults of the crowd that were directed toward him. He did not make a sound, but from time to time he spat out blood that was filling his mouth, and he lifted his eyes to heaven, as if he was waiting for some miraculous rescue. When his head was covered in sulphur, the executioner showed him the fire with a menacing air; but the young man, without being scared, let it be known, by a movement of his body, that he was giving himself up willingly to be burned."
- Calvin, Bruce Gordon, p. 192
Thankfully, we're not being led off by an executioner for our Christianity today. Still, following Jesus will cost if we're taking His commission to make war against our sin and bring in His Kingdom. What price are you paying for His glory today?
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
With the Israelites weeping in response to God's judgment for their egregious sin, a Simeonite named Zimri brought a Moabite woman named Cozbi into the Israelite camp in broad daylight and into his tent. Zimri's sin could not have been more high-handed.
Still, Zimri's not the man in the story I find singularly disturbing. The truly disturbing one is Phineas, the son of Eleazer the high priest, who - out of zeal for the Lord and the holiness of His people - pursues the unequally yoked couple and runs them through with his spear. God adds to our disturbance by commending Phineas' zeal by saying in v. 11, "Phineas...has turned back my wrath from the people of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them, so that I did not consume the people of Israel in my jealousy."
Too often our temptation is to read a story like Numbers 25, commend Phineas' spiritual zeal and apply it rather lamely to ourselves in terms of more zeal for reading our Bibles or taking a stand for Jesus in the marketplace. But the context demands that we apply Phineas' zeal in terms of our relationships with one another in the church - taking bold risks for the sake of holiness as we make war against idolatry in one another's lives.
This is where Phineas becomes truly disturbing. We like him as a model of zeal, but we want the right to pick and choose in which realms we express our holy zeal. Zeal for God which boldly challenges sin in one another's lives? We're rarely willing to go there. Challenging our Christian friends for whom church attendance is an optional extra in the summer? Challenging that person in your small group who cracks disrespectful jokes about her husband? Challenging that teen who dresses immodestly or that church member who has sat on the margins of church life for years without deeply investing in the lives of other believers toward mutual sanctification? When it comes to zeal in our relationships in the church toward greater holiness, we find the example of Phineas deeply disturbing.
And, yet, Numbers 25 commends Phineas as 'jealous for his God.' Could you or I be so labeled? Are we willing to take bold risks to make it so? If not, perhaps that is the fact, more than any other, we should find most disturbing.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Thursday, June 3, 2010
"Your Lord is not away somewhere and He never sleeps. He never greets your calls with a busy signal. He is never too tired or too busy to respond. He will never mock your ignorance or weakness, and He does not cruelly throw your failure in your face. He will never threaten that He is at the end of His rope with you. He will not grow weary of your inconsistencies, bored with your ambivalence or irritated when once again you fall short.
His loving face will always be toward you and, because of the cross, you will never see the back of His head. He will meet your moment by moment needs - providing strength from His Spirit, wisdom from His Word, resources from the body of Christ, forgiveness that is your daily need and deliverance from constant temptation. Even the trials He sends your way will supply what you need: the character to live for Him more effectively. These are all the evidences of His commitment to you, that you might be who you are supposed to be and do what He has created you to do."
- Paul Tripp, Broken-Down House, p. 223
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
At the same time, lest we think that vacation time equals ministry time only for fathers and husbands, think again as you consider the following words from Paul Tripp:
"Imagine going on a family vacation without realizing that life and ministry are one. Instead, you see vacation as an opportunity to separate yourself from the normal routine and duties of daily life. The flaw in that logic is pretty simple. If you brought sinners in the car with you, then you've brought ministry, too. So, when you're down the road all of about three miles, and already your children are arguing about who is intruding into whose personal space, you can't believe it. You tell them, not too politely, that you feel like turning around and going home. You tell them you're not paying all this money just so they can do in a different and much more expensive location all the same despicable things they do at home. Your voice gets louder as you become more irritated. It doesn't seem like a vacation anymore.
What's gone wrong? You have forgotten to live with a ministry mentality....God loves your children and has put them in a family of faith: your family. In his restorative zeal, he will expose their sin to you so that you can be his tool of rescue and redemption for them. Ever intent on his mission, he will again and again expose their need (for redemption) to you. And he won't wait for a convenient opening in your schedule." (Broken-Down House, pp. 194-195)
Tripp's words, along with Mahaney's, may be particularly apropos for us fathers. Yet, for any Christian vacationers - moms and kids included - God wants to use us to help point the sinners around us toward the Cross in hope of redemption and sanctified restoration. Therefore, vacation for Christians will never mean complete relaxation. It will involve sin, tension and demand Christ-hoping resolution (loving rebuke and forgiveness). Too often our problem on vacation is we demand what we cannot yet have: a moment in time without sin. We'll have to wait till heaven for that. Meanwhile, let's go on vacation armed for ministry.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
I don't think I ever
had to learn.
It resides in my
It is an anti-social
but it shapes my
I am able to look at people
and not see
reduces them to
vehicles that deliver or
obstacles in the way
of what I want.
for me is that
You are not like me.
and You are
- "You are not like me" a poem by Paul Tripp, BDH, p. 162
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Today I discovered that this modern reprint of Owen's works on sin and temptation is available on-line for free. You can find it here.
HT: Wade Talley
Friday, May 21, 2010
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
"The task of the congregation, as Calvin portrays it, is a continuous life-long battle against their own rebelliousness, apathy and arrogance in favor of God's teaching and call. The members of the congregation, no less than the preacher, need continually to pray, 'Come, Holy Spirit!'" (p. 53).
What a blessing to get to preach weekly to a congregation which delights in that task!
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Nevertheless, this video reveals a new, very influential trend in missions:
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Friday, May 14, 2010
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Unlike many of our Christian forebears, we are virtually surrounded by resources to build ourselves up in our faith today. Some of the best are available for free on the internet through Reformed Theological Seminary, the school through which I'm currently furthering my own education. You can access a theological treasure trove to take you deeper in Christ and the Scriptures through RTS here.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Sinful legalism = striving to obey the law of God in order to find rest of soul rather than resting in Christ's accomplishment of the law on our behalf, and/or imposing extra-biblical lifestyle requirements on oneself and/or others in order to sense acceptance from God.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
"The only weapon the devil can use [against us] is our sin. Nobody goes to hell because they are oppressed by the devil or even possessed by the devil. Nobody goes to hell because they are harassed by the devil or get shot at by the devil or given halluncinations by the devil. These are all smoke-screens to hide the one deadly power in Satan's artillery, namely, unforgiven sin. The only reason anybody goes to hell is because of their own sin. And all Satan can do is fight like hell to keep you sinning and to keep you away from the One Who forgives sin."
- John Piper, "Jesus Is Able To Help Those Who Are Tempted," on-line sermon at desiringgod.org
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Yes, we need missionaries, but I can't help but wonder if what we need even more are young people commited to showing up for church each Sunday, eager to serve those around them in quiet, gospel-driven ways with no fanfare. That's the stuff the Kingdom of God is made of.
Kevin DeYoung explores this theme further in this article.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Modern Americans practically, if not self-consciously, deny much biblical truth. Perhaps the chief doctrine most quickly denied is the natural depravity of our children. I recently came across a telling example of that in Dave Cullen's journalisitc re-telling of the worst school shooting in American history in his book Columbine. As we all remember, the question on everyone's lips following the massacre was 'Why? What influenced Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold to commit such a crime?' Cullen writes:
"National polls taken shortly after the attack would identify all sorts of culprits contributing to the tragedy: violent movies, video games, Goth culture, lax gun laws, bullies and Satan. Eric did not make the list. Dylan didn't either. They were just kids. Something or someone must have led them astray."
- Dave Kullen, Columbine, p. 107
Without minimizing the very real influence of wicked, outside forces, most people - especially parents - insist on seeing people as morally neutral, blank slates whose direction in life for good or bad is largely or entirely influenced by external agents. Not only does the Bible tell a different story entirely, it does so for a crucial reason. Unless we help our children understand their inherent wickedness (due to the Fall), they will never utter Paul's cry in Romans 7:24, "Wretched man that I am, who will rescue me from this body of death?" And without such a painful realization, they will never feel the joyful liberation of v. 25, "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" As painful as it is for us to face, the best gift we can give our children is a compassionately communicated but straight-forward assessment of their dark hearts. Only then will our gospel proclamation to them be meaningful, life-changing and God-glorifying.
Friday, April 30, 2010
1. The gospel teaches Christian parents to fear God.
2. The gospel motivates parents to lead by example.
3. The gospel centers families in their male servant leaders.
4. The gospel teaches and motivates parents to discipline their children.
5. The gospel motivates parents to teach their children.
6. The gospel motivates parents to lavish their children with love and affection.
7. The gospel is the solution for inaequate parents.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
1. What are you most loving and devoting your affections and attention to these days? What gets you most excited? If you asked the people who know you at work, school, your neighborhood, Facebook, etc. to tell you what they think your greatest loves are, what would they say? How would their answers compare with Matthew 22:37? (look it up)
2. The Bible draws a direct connection between our practical, visceral grasp of the depth of our sin and unworthiness and how much we prize its antidote - the gospel of God's grace to us in Christ (see I Timothy 1:12-17). To what extent are you investing time and building relationships in order to further expose the depth of your mutual sin and exalt the glory of the Cross and Who Jesus is for you?
3. Are you (and your spouse and/or children if you're married) pursuing the most godly, Bible-saturated, gospel-loving people you know as your best friends and closest confidants? See Proverbs 13:20.
4. Are God's non-negotiable priorities the 'sun' of your life, marriage and family around which everything else revolves? Do you quickly sacrifice your earthly pursuits when they're in competition with or threaten to marginalize eternal ones? See Matthew 6:33 & Hebrews 10:23-25.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
- Paul Tripp, Broken-Down House, pp. 69-70
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Do you agree that most young, Christian men today are little more than grown up kids committed more to X-Box and their hunting buddies than the gospel and Christ's church? Or, have twenty and thirty-something Christian guys always been this self-absorbed and willing to let the ladies take the lead for the Kingdom's advancement? How would the Scriptures direct us to address this crisis? What role might God be calling you to play?
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
How so? What's the big deal about a person's passing smile? Quite a lot in light of what Romans 3:10-12 says about who I naturally am:
None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good, not even one.
In light of that text, that lady had more reason to hit me with her cane than smile at me. In spite of my sin (and yours), God has flooded our world with marks of His grace - including the passing smile of a stranger in WalMart.
Our flesh is wired to complain about what's going wrong in our world today. Instead, let's silence its God-dishonoring lips with the awestruck wonder of seeing and delighting in the many, many evidences of God's kindness to us. The sun didn't have to shine in Minot today, but by God's grace it is. What a display of His love! Did your car start this morning? Amazing! Did your children wake up this morning, instead of dying in the night like your sins deserve? Yet another display of God's grace. It surrounds us like an ocean of love. Unfortunately, because we swim in it every day, we so rarely see it. Let's make this day different. Before today is done, let's take time to notice the little gifts from God (like how our hands coordinate perfectly with our brains) as well as the big ones (like how our convinction of sin drives us back to the Cross) and let our Godward, awestruck praise flow!
Friday, April 16, 2010
- The US State Department estimates that close to 800,000 women and children are trafficked against their will across national borders every year for sale/exploitation.
- UNICEF states that from two to four million women and children are currently in the sex trade system
- Every year $32 billion is spent by commercial sex trade 'consumers
- 16,000 'sex slaves' are imported by the US every year
- Sudan - where our African sister church is located - is one of the most prolific nations for sex trafficking
What can we do?
1. Pray. God alone has the power to overthrow the international sex trade to His glory. Pray that God would raise up courageous national churches in the developing world to stand against the sex trade and do their part to rescue and give a new life to women, girls and boys who are enslaved to this system of destruction. In particular, pray for the development of a new sex trade rescue center called Mukti in Calcutta, India which is being led by EFCA Indian partner churches.
2. Learn more. In order to pray more specifically and, perhaps, for you to get involved in a tangible way at some point in order to help eleviate this God-dishonoring system in the developing world, educate yourself more fully through the following websites:http://www.ijm.org/
To receive the newsletter from our TouchGlobal missionaries working with sex trade victims in Asia, send your request to Asia.Women@efca.org
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
HT: Dawn Talley
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
"The 'Great Commission' is not just a call to 'make disciples' but to 'baptize'. In Acts and elsewhere, it is clear that baptism means incorporation into a worshipping community with accountability and boundaries (cf. Acts 2:41ff.). Much traditional evangelism aims to get a 'decision' for Christ. Experience, however, shows us that many of these 'decisions' disappear and never result in changed lives. Why? Many, many decisions are not really conversions, but often only the beginning of a journey of seeking God. (Other decisions are very definitely the moment of a 'new birth,' but this differs from person to person.) Only a person who is being evangelized in the context of an on-going worshipping and shepherding community can be sure of finally coming home into vital, saving faith." (source unknown)
Only one on-going, worshipping and shepherding community is presented in the Bible: the local church. Therefore, even if a person comes to faith in Christ outside of the local church, they should be quickly and deeply integrated for their dicipleship and maturation. The Bible simply offers no category for a believer (new or old) who is disconnected from the local church.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Friday, April 9, 2010
- Rod Takata, Ruling elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
"Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."
We only need to keep reading to discover the primary, theological key to winning this war against selfishness as Paul, in vv. 5-11, holds up the ultimate 'exhibit A' of other-centered sacrificial service: Christ's incarnation and death on the Cross in our place.
This morning as I was studying my Bible I came across a second key to unlock selflessness toward others in Job 31. Verse 15 reads, "Did not he who made me in the womb make him? And did not one fashion us in the womb?" In the process of defending his fair treatment toward others, Job bases his pattern of selfless, other-centered service on the fact that the people in his life were made by God every bit as much as he was. They have hopes, dreams and a mission in life from God as much as he does. They were made in the image of God as much as he was. Therefore, it would be wrong to put his agenda ahead of theirs or act like they exist to serve his desires. No, their lives were every bit as valuable as his. Consequently, he devoted his life not only to serving God (see Job 1:1) but to serving others.
Who in your world are you tempted to marginalize or manipulate to serve your agenda today? All of us have someone we generally take for granted or treat more like a possession than a person. Let's not only use Paul's picture of Christ the Servant in Philippians 2 to fight our naturally selfish instincts today, let's use Job's example of remembering that the people in our lives are every bit as important as we are. They, too, were made by God.
Saturday, April 3, 2010
While there may be room for differences of opinion regarding some of these interpretive elements, we must be careful to hold with an indefatigable grip to the historicity of the account and the reality of Adam, Eve and the serpent. Considering the fact that Paul grounds our justification in Romans 5 and our glorification in I Corinthians 15 by assuming a literal Adam (our federal head in death) failing God's test in a literal garden, setting the stage for our salvation in a literal Jesus (our federal head in life), the historicity of the persons and events of Genesis 1 & 2 must be maintained.
In light of that, I am saddened and concerned by recent comments made on this subject by one of my scholar-heros. Watch and consider carefully if he is not giving away too much in his pursuit of scholarship:
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
"I took the month of March to read and study through the book of Galatians in my personal reading. I don't have a schedule to get through a certain amount of reading but I try to read through the entire letter in one sitting. I've done that now for 31 days. It has been extremely helpful in my understanding of the argument of the letter. I think I will start in on the Minor Prophets in April in much the same way."
Intricate study of the book of the Bible using outside sources is helpful in many ways, but it's hard to beat simply reading and re-reading and then reading again a book all the way through to get a clear sense of how its entire message hangs together. May Vince's example inspire us to take up the Book and read, re-read and then read again.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
True saving faith also means that you love every part of Christ's salvation - holiness as well as forgiveness of sins. It means that you earnestly desire God to 'create in you a clean heart and a right spirit' as well as 'hide his face from your sins' (Psalm 51:9-10). Do not be like those who care nothing about Christ at all, except to be delivered from hell. 'Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.' (Matthew 5:6)
- Walter Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, p. 51
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Where does that leave us regarding the one or two remaining 2010 trips we had planned to return to Sudan to continue our Community Health Evangelism training? We're not sure. Lord willing, the elections will be peacable and Southern Sudan will remaina peaceful place to send our missionaries. So please pray that our God might give us wisdom to assess the unfolding situation well and make decisions which are both biblically wise and most helpful to our brothers and sisters in Labone Payam.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Many things could be wrong, including many natural, physical realities (like too little sleep, on-coming illness, lack of exercise leading to general lethargy, etc.). Or the problem may be spiritual. Why don't we have more fruitful experiences of rich communion with God? Possibly because our orientation since we last sought God's face has been decidedly earthly-minded.
Jerremiah Burroughs points to this when he writes, "You complain many times of your vain thoughts in the performance of holy duties. You cry out of dead spirits then, but here lies the cause: you have given yourself up so much to the things of the world at other times that, when you come to converse with God, your hearts are so dead and dull....Oh, how many prayers have been spoiled by an earthly heart!" (A Treatise on Earthly-Mindedness, p. 46)
We cannot expect fruitful and fully-engaged quiet times unless we make a concerted effort to spend the rest of our time in a generally God/gospel-oriented frame of mind/spirit. That does not mean we should live like monks, read only Christian books, listen to only Christian music or seclude ourselves from unbelievers. It means that whatever we do (I Cor. 10:31), we should do with an eye toward pleasing God out of a delight in His grace. Such a Godward orientation in the ebb and flow of life sets us up for rich seasons of biblical study and prayer in our private devotional lives and with our families during daily, family worship. By contrast, even the most disciplined daily devotional habits cannot make up for a general orientation of earthly-mindedness.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
1. Leadership Training. Last year we began the long-term training of Sudanese church leaders. This trip we've been able to build on that, teaching on such subjects as Christian leadership character development, prayer, how the Bible fits together from Genesis to Revelation, etc. As usual, we were prepared to teach on much more than we actually had time for. One of the best aspects of our instruction this trip was growth in the number of pastors we were able to train. By God's grace, we taught men from five different communities.
2. Community Health Evangelism. Most of our time in Labone, Sudan was spent presenting a vision seminar for CHE to the church and village leaders (including two chiefs), helping them understand what CHE is so they can make an informed decision about inviting us back or not to continue training them in it. Most of our CHE training focused on understanding worldview, the difference between relief and development and the importance of those in need taking ownership for solutions to the problems they face. In the next month we'll be waiting to hear from our African friends to see if they want us to continue training them in CHE. If so, we'll likely have at least one more trip to train them intensively in CHE principles later this year.
3. California Partnership. This trip was unique in that three leaders from a church in California joined us during our time in Africa, exploring the possibility of forming a partnership with us in training our friends in Labone in the future. Please be in prayer with us for them as they spend the coming weeks talking and praying about that possibility.
4. Kibera. After our time in Sudan, we had the chance to spend two days in Nirobi, Kenya and visit some Christian ministries reaching out to children in the largest slum in the world: Kibera. Through a school, food program and orphanage, we witnessed amazing ministry to some of the poorest people in the urbanized world. The sacrificial efforts of these saints on a daily basis was a great encouragement and challenge to us all.
5. Germany. When I was in college, I'll never forget a missionary telling our church that the greatest encouragement to those on the field is to have Christian friends from their sending church travel to visit them and witness their ministry first hand. That's what Howard, Nathan and I have been doing for the last three days here in Kandern. Friday we spent time with David McCormack at Black Forest Academy's High School campus, watching him teach, getting a tour of the facility and meeting faculty, staff and students. Today we worshiped with Black Forest Christian Fellowship, the church connected to BFA, and spent extra time with its elders and deacons. Tomorrow we will join Helen at BFA's elementary campus and get to see her in action as she helps teach special-needs students. The McCormacks are a true blessing to this school and a help to the ministries of their students' parents who are serving on the mission field all over the world.
Tuesday morning we'll board a plane in Basel, Switzerland for the three final flights which will bring us home. It's been a very fruitful trip, but we can't wait to get home and share much more with you about what we've seen God doing in other parts of the world.