Monday, October 31, 2011

Troubled Waters

I wanted to take the time today to introduce you all to one of the worst cases of mass poisoning in the world and the documentary that is filming the process of clean water coming to this town in "Troubled Waters." 

Here is the synopsis taken from their own websiteJim Hill, a seasoned missionary, stumbles on a small town 12,000 feet above sea level in the Puna region of Argentina. He hears San Antonio de los Cobres is being poisoned by the very thing it needs to survive, water.

After extensive research Jim and the team surrounding him discover alarmingly high levels of Arsenic in the town’s drinking water. He wants to install a filter system for San Antonio de los Cobres but when the reality of raising the money, politics, and power stand in his way he is forced to fight for his vision.

Through a mountainous terrain of inner struggle and setbacks Jim and the devoted team of people around him overcome the obstacles thrown in their way and inspire an entire town to stand up for its well being. A series of extraordinary events allow them to install a brand new filtration system; providing clean drinking water for the entire town of San Antonio de Los Cobres.

I have been following this story and the making of this documentary for years now and I am behind it fully as I long to see the vision of this missionary be fulfilled and the story of this town told. The crew is currently raising funds for their post production trip through a kickstarter project with seven more days to raise about $2,000, so if you can help in anyway to make this story come to fruition then please do so  as it deserves to be told while helping bring clean drinking water to other towns just like this one.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sharing the Metanarrative of the Gospel

Yesterday's post dealt with how to share your faith, which I have come to realize that many people do not know how to do. One of the best tools that I have ever come across in helping people share their faith is a booklet (not a tract) called the Story. It allows people to share their faith by connecting their story with the larger story of the gospel.
           
                
"The Story" Promotional Video from The Story (ViewTheStory.com) on Vimeo.

I really like that the "The Story," doesn't just cover one aspect of the gospel, but it covers the entire metanarrative: creation, fall, redemption, restoration. This allows people to see the fullness of the gospel for themselves through this tool, which then helps them when in conversation with others. It may seem simple to some, but that is what the church needs in a gospel tool. A tool that is rich with the gospel truth, but simple enough that anyone anywhere can understand it, grasp it, and in turn multiply the amount of people hearing the Gospel.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Share Your Faith

During the last few years I have come to realize that many Christians do not ever share their faith with others. This means that either people are uncertain of how to share their faith or that they are being disobedient to Scripture in not sharing their faith. I believe that many people are really just not sure where to even start the conversation.

In the video below, Jeff Vanderstelt takes seven minutes to explain how he shares his faith and how he trains others in sharing their faith.

How to Share Your Faith from Acts 29 Network on Vimeo.

I honestly do not struggle that much in sharing my faith as it comes natural for me to have a conversation with someone and in most of those conversations we inevitably get to matters of faith, which gives me an opportunity to share the gospel with them. Just this week I have been placed on a team that is going to set up trainings to help others be able to share their faith at one of the largest colleges in the state of Virginia and then in Washington DC in about a month.

If you find yourself struggling to share your faith then I encourage you to take some of these ideas or concepts that Jeff mentions here and implement them into your own conversations with people. Everyone has a salvation story, we just have to be willing to open our mouths to share it with others.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Good Christians Celebrate Halloween


[Editor's Note: The following is a re-post of George Robinson's Sep. 28, 2010 blog.

October 31st.  For most Americans this date means one thing: **Halloween.**  Costumes, candy and trick-or-treaters spending to the tune of $2.5 billion making this holiday second only to Christmas in marketing revenue.  But good Christians don’t celebrate Halloween.  Or do they?  Some Protestants may prefer to call it Reformation Day, for after all, that is the date that Martin Luther nailed his Theses to the door at Castle Church in Wittenberg back in 1517.  That does pre-date the first usage of the phrase “All Hallows Eve” (commonly known now as Halloween) which didn’t emerge until some 40 years later in 1556.[1]

Ironically, most good Christians that I know won’t be celebrating either Reformation Day or Halloween.  Instead, they will be showing support for their local church by attending a “safe and sanitary” alternative called a Fall Festival.  This alternative allows good Christians to invite their neighbors and friends to come to the church and get candy, play games and have some good, clean Christian fun.  No pagan witches and goblins allowed.  But they can dress up as David or Moses or some other biblical character.  All the fun without the pagan revelry, right?

I would like to propose another alternative – that good Christians should indeed celebrate Halloween.  I think that they should stay home from their church’s alternative Fall Festival and celebrate with their pagan neighbors.  Most of them wouldn’t have come to your Fall Festival anyway.  And those who did would’ve stopped by briefly on their way to “real” trick-or-treating.  I’m sure that some of you reading this blog might be more than a little unhappy with my proposal at this point, but stick with me for a moment.: The reason I propose that good Christians celebrate Halloween and stay home from the “Christian alternatives” is that Halloween is the only night of the year in our culture where lost people actually go door-to-door to saved people’s homes . . . and you’re down at the church hanging out with all your other good Christian friends having clean fellowship with the non-pagans.

Living with missional intentionality means that you approach life as a missionary in your context.  I lived with my family in South Asia and we had to be creative and intentional in engaging our Muslim neighbors.  We now live in the USA and we still need to be creative and intentional.  That’s why for the past 2 years we have chosen to stay at home and celebrate the fact that Halloween gives us a unique opportunity to engage our neighbors.  In fact, last year we had over 300 children and 200 adults come to our doorstep on that one night.  And we were ready for them!

We had a tent set up in the driveway and gave away free coffee and water to the adults who were walking with their children.  Our small group members manned the tent and engaged them in conversation and gave each one of them a gospel booklet (“The Story” gospel booklets are available with a Halloween distribution rate here:  http://story4.us/offer).  The children ran up to our door while the parents were waiting and got their candy, along with gospel booklets (even if they were dressed as witches or goblins!).  In all we gave away more than 500 pieces of literature that night, each with our name, e-mail address, and a website where they could get more info.

I sure wish more good Christians would celebrate Halloween this year by staying home and meeting their pagan neighbors – an option which I believe surely beats the “good Christian” alternative.
__________________
[1] John Simpson and Edmund Weiner, Oxford English Dictionary 2d. ed. (London: Oxford University Press, 1989).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Journey Ahead

Today starts a new journey for my family as we start eight weeks of training in VA with the organization that we will be planting churches with in South Asia. This promises to be a time where we can focus and prepare spiritually to be on the frontline of darkness. We will also have the opportunity to build some life long friendships with like minded people who are also going out to reach the nations.

The eight week schedule is rigorous as there is something planned everyday with no real time for extra curricular activities. This part will admittedly be a struggle for me as I enjoy my free time or the freedom to make my own schedule (I've already outline every area of free time in our schedule). In some ways, we are already anticipating the other side of training as it means we are one step closer to actually living in South Asia, but at the same time we are trying to go in with open hearts and minds to be humble and learn from many who have gone before us.   

My family would appreciate the prayers of all of you as we enter this time and get ready to leave in January. We also have a family blog so that people can follow our journey of church planting in South Asia and keep up with ways to prayer for us. 

In regards to this blog, I have had many people ask if I plan on continuing to write on here. I have wrestled through this question myself as I have a feeling that most of our family post will be done by me, but I have decided to at least initially attempt to do both. The nature of the blog may change some, perhaps mature and get deeper in many ways, but definitely will continue.  

As far as the next eight weeks I am uncertain on the amount of time and internet access to keep up with posts, but I plan on doing what I can and maybe even taking the month of November to repost some of the most popular post. So please stay in contact, keep reading, and I look forward to some future conversations. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Help Plant a Church in Australia

It is not everyday that you get an opportunity to help plant a church in Australia, but my friend Seth Snider has made that opportunity available. Seth, along with another family are uprooting their lives in December to move to Australia to plant a church where they hope to bring coffee, community, and love to the people.

Seth is also a long time musician so he recorded a seven song album as a way to donate towards the journey to Australia. Of his album release, Seth had this to say, It is an honor to me that you have my CD. I hope it portrays love and a genuine heart. What brought this passion to record"The Presence Of Freedom", outside of my love for music, is to support my move to Australia to bring coffee, community, and love together while using it to reveal the true and authentic gospel to the country of Australia and whoever else hears this CD!

I was able to both attend the release show for the album and purchase a copy myself. It is one of those albums that you want to put on repeat as every song is that good. It doesn't fit into a neat little category of "worship" music like many other artist out there as Seth is just being himself and allowing God to use his gifts and abilities. Although it definitely leads you into worship with songs like "Father God" and "Savior King." The music itself has an indie-rock, folkish sound to it, which I personally like, but believe there is a song or sound for everyone on this album. 

Here is the deal, you can purchase the album either as a digital copy or a hard copy for $7. It is hard to find a album of this quality for that cheap anywhere and the fact that every dollar is going to missions in Australia makes it that much more of a reason to purchase it. So head on over to http://sethsnider.bandcamp.com/ to download or order your copy now and start listening to some good tunes and financially helping plant a church in Australia. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Are Our Churches Entertaining or Discipling?

This is a thought provoking video put out by the Foursquare Church that I came across this week on what discipling really looks like in most of our churches. Many churches today are more interested in entertaining people than discipling them. I do not believe that the makers of the video are saying that any of the things listed are inherently bad, but that we should from time to time take a step back and see if our churches are truly focused on making disciples or more on entertaining.



Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. 

Matthew 28:19-20

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ways to Honor Your Wife

During my man's weekend we discussed men as husbands and ways to practically honor your wife. As men it is important to remember that first God is your example. Second that men must love their wives with agape (unconditional) and efficacious (transforming) love (1 Cor. 13:4-8; Eph. 5:25-33).

Men, it is important to remember that, your spouse is a living, breathing, endless book to be read. Dreams and hopes have yet to be realized. Talents and abilities may be discovered like hidden treasure. But the choice to explore them starts with a decision by you.

Here are ways to practical honor your wife: 

  • Honor her maritally. Take a wife honorably. Establish right priorities, and be a one woman man-absolutely faithful to your wife.
  • Honor her physically. Be strong for your wife, not against her. Be protective of her and present with her. 
  • Honor her emotionally. Be emotionally present and intimate Take her on dates.
  • Honor her verbally. Speak honorably to her. Speak honorably of her, when she is present and absent.
  • Honor her financially. Provide for the financial needs of your family, organize your budget, and be generous towards your wife.
  • Honor her practically. Consider her needs and how you can serve her. 
  • Honor her parentally. Be "Pastor Dad" by shepherding your children (praying with them, teaching them about Jesus, reading the Bible with them, etc.). 
  • Honor her spiritually. You initiate and lead prayer, Bible, chats, church attendance, etc. Take responsibility for your church. 
I will be the first to admit or Andrea will be that I am not the best at implementing these ways to honor your wife, but that it is something I am striving towards. Men, God created your wife and gave her to you as a gift, now start honoring that gift!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Feminized Men, "Man Up"

This past weekend I went on a man's weekend where we did things that typically speak to a man's heart such as sleep in cabins in the mountains, raft on the river, and play paintball. But entertainment was not our purpose, rather our purpose was to get away from the normal mundane day to day life and search the Scripture to discover how the Bible describes men and masculinity, which I believe that the church has stripped in many ways by creating a culture of feminized men.  We see this displayed in churches all over that are painted with pastel colors, have pictures of Jesus painted like a woman on the wall, and are full of nice feminine guys. No wonder so many men do not even want to walk inside many of our church buildings. 

To be clear, this is not how men and masculinity are portrayed in the Bible. Rather we see that there are key biblical truths about men and their calling that describe men as warriors who put on the full armor of God (Eph. 6:10-17, Rev. 19):  

Men must be forward thinkers, defining their life forward and living according to the plan God has prepared for them. Men must have priorities in life that include (in order) 1 - A personal relationship with Christ, 2 - Loving one Wife, 3 - Raising Children, 4 - Providing for your family, 5 - Volunteer Ministry. Men can fail by neglecting one of these priorities OR getting them out of order. Men must continue to refine their lives by working "on" their life, not just working "in" their life. 

Here are some questions that we as men wrestled through during the weekend that I encourage you to wrestle through as our society has started to define what men are including what we are seeing defined as men in the church. Now is time for men in the church to "Man Up."
  • At this stage of your life, what is your great battle? Is it on the surface (making more money, getting the kids to behave, reducing the hassles of life?) or is it deeper?
  • Where is your great adventure? What real risk have you been swept up into? (Is anything in your life more compelling than watching sports, following stocks, or viewing the adventures of others on TV?)
  • Is your church full of masculine men? Where are we missing the mark? Do you see an area of your church that is in desperate need of Biblical men?
  • Look at the men around you. How has Satan perverted society's view of a masculine man? Think about businesses in town, advertisements, tv shows, government. What do guys live for today? 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Humility Trumps Arrogance

My wife and I were having lunch recently with a Jewish couple that we have gotten to know over the last seven years. Typically our meetings are the husband drilling me on what I have learned in seminary, discussing differences of faith, and him attempting to make sure that I am not insane for wanting to move my family to South Asia to plant churches.

This man, in his late sixties, is usually open minded in our conversations, but this particular lunch  went different. He immediately started telling me the history of the country I am moving to and their historic interaction with Christianity. He then said a statement that I believe captures the attitude of many people, he was just bold enough to say it, "You are going to a country where they are all born and raised Hindu, therefore they will all die Hindu; you were born and raised a Christian, therefore you will die a Christian."

He then proceeded by saying, "Tell me, do you think that you have something that they don't... that you are better than them?" The next few moments were me and my wife explaining that we do not believe that you are born into a religion and die in that religion, but that it is by God's grace alone that either one of us is a follower of Christ and that we simply want to go to South Asia to allow the people there to have the same opportunity to hear the message of the gospel.

My wife responded with the analogy of a doctor discovering the cure for a disease such as cancer and then keeping it to himself. She said, "Anyone in their right mind would want this doctor to announce to the world the cure for this awful disease and not keep it to themselves." She proceeded to tell this man that in the same way we do not believe we are better than anybody because of following Christ, but that we do believe it is the truth and the only cure for sin, therefore we want to tell everyone that we can this message of salvation. (This is definitely one of those proud moments as a husband)

He thought this over for a moment and although it was obvious that he did not necessarily like what he just heard or agree with the statement, there was at least something that he appreciated in our conversation. He looked up as if finished with the questions and said, "You guys are going to do alright, you know why, because you guys are humble in your message."

Although I pray for the salvation of Jews just as I do for Hindus, but what this man hit on during our lunch was that arrogance will automatically close people off to hearing whatever it is you have to say, especially the gospel. This got me thinking about the numerous conversations that I have had with people that the number one reason they wouldn't even consider Christianity is the intolerance or arrogance that they witness.

It dawned on me at that moment that humility trumps arrogance in the life of a Christian. And perhaps the reason some people won't give a listening ear to the gospel has more to do with you than them because of your arrogance. So if you find yourself being arrogant as a Christian, STOP, repent, and go to the people you have been sharing the gospel with in love and humility. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Minimum - Successful Church Plant

About a week ago I wrote on "Defining a Successful Church Plant," pointing out the assumption that in many cases people would define a successful church plant the same way that one would define a new Starbucks. Mainly based on the amount of people attending, often from other churches (church shoppers), the amount of services, etc.  But I believe if that is the criteria that we place on a successful church plant then I believe that we have missed the mark somewhere.

Rather than a church plant being celebrated as successful based on x amount of consumer Christians or church shoppers attending, there are some things that need to be in place as a minimum that would define a successful church plant. Minimum based on whose criteria, based on the criteria read in the New Testament.

Before I discuss the minimums, I want to mention briefly the things that need to be in place for a healthy church plant to take place. First there needs to be leadership. Second there needs to be discipleship. Third there needs to be a group of people on mission. 

Once those three things are in place, here are the minimums when it comes to defining a successful church plant: 

First a church must be built on Jesus Christ and have the gospel as the focus (1 Cor. 3:11). In the words of Josh Kouri, "The gospel is not entry level Christianity. It is our primary and most important message." The church should have Jesus as the first and last focus, everything should point to him, and be all about his glory. 

Second a church that is built on Jesus must then be filled with the Holy Spirit so that their leading and guiding come from him (1 Cor. 3:16). A key to knowing if a church is truly filled with the Spirit is that everything done in and through the power of the Holy Spirit will ultimately point to Jesus. 

Third a church must have qualified elders to lead the church (1 Cor. 3:10). This is why assessments of church planters is essential because if not then any yahoo out there can pose under the guise of "church planter," which then often will lead people astray and sets up an unhealthy church on the road to disaster. 

Fourth a church will then have a group of people that are on mission (1 Cor. 3:9). This is why teams are key to planting churches, not individuals. I have known many struggling church plants and church planters, and I have no doubt in my mind that one of the number one reasons that they struggled is in part due to them being the "lone ranger" church planter. It is not healthy and has unfortunately proven so to their detriment.

These are what would need to be in place as the bare minimum for a successful church plant, at least one that is going to be healthy, gospel-centered, Spirit-filled, and on mission.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Treasure Principles

This week I was given a copy of Randy Alcorn's The Treasure Principle, a book that is deep and rich in regards to giving and generosity in the life of a believer. I highly recommend the book and thought that it was worth sharing the Treasure Principle Keys that Alcorn presents in the book. Here are the principles:

Treasure Principle Keys
God owns everything. I'm His money manager.
We are the managers of the assets God has entrusted-not given-to us.

My heart always goes where I put God's money.
Watch what happens when you reallocate your money from temporal things to eternal things.

Heaven, not earth, is my home.
We are citizens of "a better country-a heavenly one"
(Hebrews 11:16)

I should live not for the dot but for the line.
From the dot-our present life on earth-extends a line that goes on forever, which is eternity in heaven.

Giving is the only antidote to materalism.
Giving is a joyful surrender to a greater person and a greater agenda. It dethrones me and exalts Him.

God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving.
God gives us more money than we need so we can give-generously.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Spiritual Gifts vs. Cessationism

The following is a conversation that I came across this week between Doug Wilson and Mark Driscoll regarding the spiritual gifts and cessationism that is worth the time to watch. This is a conversation that I have had more times than I would like to count as I was raised Baptist, married a Pentecostal, and now would fall into the category of a Reformed Charismatic.

In my opinion my background either often ignored the role of the Holy Spirt or they just weren't quite sure what exactly to do with the idea and role of the Holy Spirit. In my searching though, I experienced a group that was on the other end of the spectrum where the Holy Spirit was the center of everything, often to the neglect of Christ himself. Even at a secular university one of my favorite classes in my undergraduate program was "The Rhetoric of Twentieth-Century American Faith Healers" that I had with a cessasionist professor who titled his textbook, "Foul Demons, Come Out!".

What I appreciate both about my background and my searching for some answers is that both ultimately led me to search the Scripture. This is how I have come to my own conclusions on the spiritual gifts and also feel like it has allowed me to have a more well rounded perspective when dealing with people on both sides of the debate; where yes, I can answer some questions now, but ultimately I am able to point them to Scripture.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Book Review: GOSPEL by J.D. Greear

I cannot imagine writing a book and then being so bold to title with something such as Gospel, but that is exactly what J.D. Greear has done in his newest release along with a subtitle of Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary. Greear is very clear from his introduction that his reason for writing the book is because he like many in the church have gotten to a place where they are finding Christianity to be wearisome with all of the "do's and don'ts" that categorize someone as a "good" Christian. Thoughts that are categorized in statements like once you become a Christian, "don't drink, don't dance, don't chew, and don't go with girls that do."

Greear admits however, that recently he has discovered something that has changed everything, the gospel. And in this rediscovering of the gospel it has given him a joy in God that he never experienced in all his years of fervent religion. I believe that this is what many, I may even be as bold to say what most Christians need to rediscover because when I look at the church, specifically in America, what I see is a bunch of wearisome Christians who have forgotten the power that made Christianity Revolutionary, the gospel.

I feel like it is necessary to give Greear's definition of the gospel from the book because I know many who are questioning what that even means in today's context. "The gospel is the announcement that God has reconciled us to Himself by sending His Son Jesus to die as a substitute for our sins, and that all who repent and believe have eternal life in Him. The gospel is that Christ has suffered the full wrath of God for my sin." And in this rediscovering of the gospel, Greear wants to through this book help people simply abide in Jesus because abiding in Jesus will change everything by creating a re-defined life.

A re-defined life is where the turning point comes for Greear and will come for you. He goes on to say, "The Gospel has done in my heart what religion never could." This statement hits at the core of what most all of us have experienced in trying to "do good" in order to be accepted only to learn the reality of the gospel that we are only accepted because of what Jesus has already done. Greear points to this in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that says that He (Christ) actually became our sin so that we could literally become His righteousness.

This should be liberating to us, especially those of us that grew up in a tradition where it in essence was all about us and our performance that made us acceptable to Christ. This verse takes that whole idea and concept and flips it upside down, which may sound strange, but in reality it is freeing when you understand and realize that it is all about Christ and what he has done.

I believe what Greear has done in this book is to break down into three parts what many Christians have been longing to understand deeper for years. Part one answering how the gospel does what religion cannot. Part two is broken down by what Greear refers to as the gospel prayer. Part three helps point people toward a gospel-centered understanding of life.

In part two Greear has opened up his personal life by providing a tool for the church that he has been using for years, which allows one to saturate themselves in the gospel daily. This is referred to throughout the book as "The Gospel Prayer." 

Here are the four parts of "The Gospel Prayer":
1. "In Christ, there is nothing I can do that would make You love me more, and nothing I have done that makes You love me less."
2. "Your presence and approval are all I need for everlasting joy."
3. "As You have been to me so I will be to others."
4. "As I pray, I'll measure Your compassion by the cross and Your power by the resurrection."

I believe that most people in the church will find this book to be a refreshing and encouraging one, but also one that may convict and challenge people in many ways. Greear is clear and faithful in his presentation, but also humble as you sense that he really desires to see all people fall back in love with this power of Christianity in the gospel. 

After reading this book, I highly endorse and recommend it as Greear leaves me with a hope for evangelicalism and the church as a whole that there will be a recovery of the gospel as the center of Christianity. Gospel is a game changer and a book that you will want to spend some time in no matter where you are in your faith as it will help you in achieving a daily gospel-saturated life that will produce a consuming passion for God and love for others.