Friday, March 30, 2012

A Call to Unreached ≠ A Call to Lessor Joy

From my experience of talking to people about going to reach the unreached, I often find that some are unwilling to go and spend sometime in these many times hard places is because they feel as if it is a call to lessor joy. John Piper here gives an encouraging word on minimizing our own comforts for maximizing joy.
       
               
Minimizing Comforts for Maximizing Joy from Desiring God on Vimeo.

My challenge then for you is would you take one year of your life and spend it in an area with the unreached? It may be one of the most difficult years of your life, but also one of the most rewarding and joyful years.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Jesus in My Place

One of the things that I have greatly missed since moving to S. Asia is corporate worship with my local church, the Summit. As soon as I heard about their upcoming release of, Jesus in My Place, I wanted to share it with you all so that those of you living in the RDU area can attend the launch of the album and have a chance to purchase one before they are released to the public. I have no doubt in my mind that this album will in no way disappoint, but I just want to know when it will be on iTunes or who from the Summit is going to send me a copy!
              
         
Jesus in My Place - Summit Worship Album from The Summit Church on Vimeo.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Is It Necessary To Tell People About Jesus?

*This is the fourth and final installment of a mini-series, where I am answering questions that are commonly asked in the discussion of injustices taken place across the globe.*

"If God worked in peoples lives daily, then do you think it would be necessary for God's people to go door to door telling everyone about him?"

First, I must recognize that this question ignores the doctrine of the church, which is of utmost importance.  Why? Because as Mark Dever says, "The church is the gospel made visible." In other words one aspect of the mission and the purpose of the Church given by God is the evangelization of the world. Looking back at the question itself, one of the ways in which God is working in peoples lives daily is through the ministry of the local church.

Second, this question ignores the Great Commission as the followers of Christ are commanded to Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything commanded by Jesus. As we further see in Acts 1:8, we are to be the witnesses of Jesus in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Mark Driscoll rightly points out that "The church is to be an evangelistic people on mission in the world, passionate to see lost people meet Jesus Christ as Savior, God, and Lord." 

Our example is Jesus himself who came as a missionary from heaven to minister and save a lost and dying  world. In John 17:18  Jesus said, "As you send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world." We are the "them" in this verse, meaning that just as Jesus was sent into the world to minister, now we too have been sent by Jesus into the world. 

So, while it may not be necessary to use the door to door method of telling everyone about Jesus as Savior, God, and Lord; it is still necessary that followers of Christ spread the gospel to all people. Why? Because this is the way that God set up his plan of salvation for those that are chosen in him and this is often the way that God so chooses to work in ones life, through his followers. And to do anything else as a follower of Christ would be outright disobedience to the mission given by God.

Friday, March 23, 2012

How Could God Allow So Much Injustice?

*This is the third part to a mini-series, where I am answering questions that are commonly asked in the discussion of injustices taken place across the globe.*

"If God is real, how could He allow so much injustice?

Many people use the injustices in the world as an example to disprove the existence of God, but when you look closer at their claims, their argument falls apart. This type of argument commonly sounds like that of Philosopher J.L. Mackie who said, "If a good and powerful God exists, he would not allow pointless evil, but because there is so much unjustifiable, pointless evil in the world, the traditional good and powerful God could not exist."

I agree with Tim Keller, who responds to critics such as these in this way: Just because you can't see or imagine a good reason why God might allow something to happen doesn't mean there can't be one. Keller goes on to say, "If you have a God great and transcendent enough to be mad at because he hasn't stopped evil and suffering in the world, then you have (at the same moment) a God great and transcendent enough to have good reasons for allowing it to continue that you can't know. Indeed, you can't have it both ways." 

Former atheist C.S. Lewis said this of suffering: My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of "just" and "unjust?"... What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?... Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too-for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies... Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple.

As you are hopefully seeing by now, the injustice in the world may actually be more evidence for God than against God. That doesn't mean that we just accept them and move on because I believe that we are called to fight against the injustice that is taking place in the world, but for those that follow Christ we have a hope in the  midst of suffering injustice because we know that one day it will all fade away. 

It is important to remember that God came as the man Jesus and faced the greatest injustice ever known. Why did he do it? So that he could take the penalty for our sin, one day ending the injustice and suffering that is taking place in the world.

I recognize that I did not fully answer the original question because I do not fully understand why God does allow so much injustice to take place. But I do know that it does not give me a reason to discredit God or question his love for me because he has already proven that in taking my suffering on himself at the cross.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Are We to Worship God In The Midst of Injustice?

This is the 2nd part of a mini-series where I am answering some questions that are commonly asked when people view different injustice taking place in the world.

"How are we to worship God when he has left us in a life full of death and decay?"

This question is deep down in the heart of all people because deep down inside we know that we are to be the image bearers of God and that what our heart desires is to see Eden, the way life was meant to be. But a common and quite normal follow up question that is asked to this one is simply, Why? Why has life become this way?

The question posed to me ignores our (man's) role in death and decay, which also ignores the "why," in their questions. The reason that life is full of death and decay and the reason life has become this way is because of what is commonly referred to as the fall. As it is worded in Ecclesiastes 7:29, God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.

In Genesis 3 we see the man and the woman, knowingly rebel against God, which broke the perfect harmony and fellowship that had been as sinned entered the world. As a result of the fall, original sin has affected all mankind in that we are all sinners from birth and the way that life was meant to be was no more. Of this, D.A. Carson says, "Consumed by our own self-focus, we desire to dominate or manipulate others: here is the beginning of fences, of rape, of malice, or nurtured bitterness, of war." 

As a result of this rebellion by Adam and Eve, sin, sufferig, and pain have been passed down from generation to generation as all of creation has become distorted from its original design. In other words all of this death and decay that we are experiencing around us is essentially a result of us, a result of sin

If that were the end of the story then I too would continue to ask this same question of how are we to worship God in the midst of all that is going on around us. But truth be told that is not the end of the story as God made a promise of a Savior. A Savior that "came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). 

The promised Savior, simply, was God and came as the man Jesus Christ. He came, fulfilling all predictions in the Old Testament, never sinning, living a perfect life, and ultimately dying a sacrificial death in order to rescue us from sin. Jesus became the perfect sacrifice in his death on the cross, but then conquered death and the grave as he emerged from the tomb three days later as was promised.

So while it is true that all men are totally depraved, as a result we experience the death and decay, God has not just left us in this state; but ultimately provided a way of salvation from our sin and the death and decay. God is sovereign, powerful, and good, but the evil that exists in the world is on our backs not his. 

It is also important to remember that we only see in part that which is in front of us, but God sees the whole picture. And yes, while there are many injustices taken place all over the world, we must trust in God's providential control that he is as work for the good of his purposes even in the midst of evil.

So we are to worship God because of who God is and because of what God has provided in the Savior Jesus. Yes, there is a lot going on in the world that seems like hell to us, but to those that follow Jesus this will be the closest to hell that they will get. Do the injustices going on in the world sometimes make us question God and struggle in glorifying him? For most we all have these moments, but it is important to remember that without Jesus things would only get worse for us for all of eternity, but in Jesus this too shall pass.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Does God Speak to People When They Pray?

As mentioned on the blog yesterday, the next few posts will be a mini series as a way to respond to some questions and issues that arose out of my endorsement for Matt Papa's response to Kony 2012.

Here is the first of many questions posed to me and what follows is my response:
"Wouldn't people be more willing to glorify God if he spoke to them when they prayed?"

The person asking this question really did not unpack it very much so much of my response is off of assumptions as a result of their other questions. To answer that question truthfully I will say that it really depends because if by God speaking to them one means hearing everything that they want and receiving everything that they want than absolutely not. 

And truth be told, God has spoken to all of creation whether praying to him or not through what most theologians call "general revelation" or "natural revelation." As Russell D. Moore puts it, "General revelation is the self-disclosure of God to all rational beings, a revelation that comes through the natural creation and through the makeup of the human creature." Another way to put it is that general revelation comes to all people everywhere.

Both Old and New Testament speak to this reality of general revelation starting from the Creation account where God shows himself as the universal Creator (Gen. 1-2). In the creation account it is also revealed to us how the order of creation was to work in perfect harmony. Later as we get into Genesis 3 and beyond we see where death and decay come into the story, which we will pick up in another post.

But even in the midst of suffering we see God speaking to people, not always as they wish, such as the case with Job; who cried out to God, but still suffered. Throughout Scripture we see God revealing or speaking to people through his creation and his chosen servant.

In the New Testament we see God speaking to people and revealing himself further as God himself comes in flesh as Jesus (John 1:1-4). And in Jesus we often see him pointing to the created order and patterns set up by God in the Old Testament. 

We further see God speaking to people by "providing rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying the peoples hearts with food and gladness" (Acts 14:17). Events like these alone are what the apostle Paul proclaimed should lead the people to recognize the reality of God. It is important to not here that Christ Jesus is the purpose of all revelation.

Now there is also what is called special revelation. In the words of David Nelson, "In contrast to God's general revelation, which is available to all people, God's special revelation is available to specific people at specific times in specific places.' The content of special revelation being primarily God, who reveals himself to whom he chooses, when he chooses. 

I agree with Nelson who goes on to further say, "The proper setting of special revelation is Christian faith. God makes himself known to those who receive his revelation in faith" (Heb. 11:1-6). Revelation being both knowledge about God and knowledge of God.

So I would say based on the brief overview of Scripture that God does speak to people, but often outside of one praying. Does God answer prayer? I fully believe so, which calls for a response of worship, but in the answer it does not guarantee it is always what we want because God being sovereign knows what is best for us; but either way it still requires a response of worship from us.

As human beings we were designed to worship whether God speaks to us when we pray or not. In some ways it really doesn't matter if God speaks to us when we pray, but God graciously has provided the Scriptures to us and general and special revelation; where he does reveal himself to us, but often so outside of us praying. You see, prayer is not a special wand that you wave to get a response out of God because the reality is that God is often already at work.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Where Is God In The Midst of Injustice?

The below video is my friend Matt Papa's response to the recent Kony 2012 videos. I think he does a great job showing his appreciation for invisible children and the work they are doing towards the social injustice that is taking place; but then points out what he considers, and I agree, is a greater and the greatest injustice in the world. Namely that in the words of Matt, "There are human beings that do not worship Jesus Christ." 

By originally posting this on Facebook, it immediately showed my endorsement for the video, which I have since received a lot of feedback and questions. Too many questions to address on Facebook so I have decided to take a few of the questions and issues and address them here on a short series of blog posts.

            

Here are some of the questions that I received and any feedback on which ones I address is appreciated.

  1. "Wouldn't people be more willing to glorify God if he spoke to them when they prayed?"
  2. "How are we to worship God when he has left us in a life full of death and decay?"
  3. "There are millions of children starving to death in Africa, where is God?"
  4. "If God worked in peoples lives daily, then his people wouldn't have to go door to door telling everyone about him."
  5. "How are we to glorify God when everyday is a huge battle of the heart and soul?"

Friday, March 16, 2012

What If You Had the Means to Save Others?

The other night I went and saw the newly released movie, "John Carter," and there was a quote in that movie that stuck with me in regards to followers of Christ being on mission. There was a scene in the movie where one of the characters was unwilling to go and help another character, which would potentially result in this character losing everything as she had always known it. In that moment she looked at John Carter saying, "If you knew you had the means to save others, would you not do everything possible to make it so?"

I immediately thought of the Great Commission and how we as followers of Christ have the means to save others in Jesus. But I question how many of us do everything possible to make it so? Sure, we hear a lot about the Great Commission, but how many of us are structuring our lives around fulfilling the Great Commission? 

And please do not hear me wrong here, I do not think that everyone has to be a church planter or pastor, or even in vocational ministry. But I do believe that many of us need to restructure our lives with the talents that God has given us in order to use them as a platform to make disciples amongst all peoples, everywhere. 

What I am saying is if you knew you had the means to save others, would you not do everything possible to make it so? I think in order to be an obedient Christ follower then you have to undoubtedly answer with a YES! 

So as Christians if we have the means to save others there are really only two options:

1. We are obedient to the mission and do everything possible to see the Great Commission fulfilled.

2. We are disobedient to the mission.

You see the Great Commission is not given for a select few who decide to plant a church or go live in some remote part of the world; but the Great Commission is given to all followers of Christ because we have been given the means to save others and the command to make disciples.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Open Your Eyes to the Missional Opportunities Around You

This weekend we are celebrating my son's 1st birthday with a big party. I used to think that it was a waste of time and money to throw a big party for a 1 year old who will not remember the party, but now I am singing a different tune. Although my son is still a sinner in need of the Savior, his parents are both followers of Christ and when we throw parties we realize that our parties should be the best as we truly have something to celebrate in our Savior Jesus.

And the fact that almost all of our neighbors are not believers give us even more of a reason to throw this celebration with them invited to partake. So yes, the party is for my son, but it is not only about my son. Even though he is not a follower of Christ himself, we are already leveraging his opportunities to build relationships and share the gospel. 

It is common in my current context for the fathers to share some word of wisdom for their children at a celebration such as this one. So knowing my audience this is a perfect opportunity to open my eyes to the missional opportunity in front of me and share the ultimate message with these people. I am still not sure what I will fully share, but it is possible that I will share a condensed version of the grand narrative (Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration). 

This would allow me to be truthful in saying that it is a true story that I want my son to know, this being the first time that I share the whole story with him; and it gives me a platform to share the entire story with all of my neighbors.

People often talk about being missional, but many wonder how to practical be missional. My simple advice is open your eyes to the missional opportunities around you. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Disciplines of Cross-Cultural Communication

The past week I spent with other guys that are serving internationally discussing cross-cultural communication. For our purposes in communicating cross-culturally, we decided that in order to successfully communicate it has to involve a gospel message that is contextualized and communicates to the host culture. In our week we discussed seven disciplines of Cross-Cultural Communication that I thought were worth sharing because they are applicable no matter what context you are serving in:

     1. Know God
  • Communication is Involvement
  • Communication is a Process
  • Spiritual perceptions and response is the work of God's Spirit.
     2. Know the Message
  • Before culture considerations, gospel expertise must be the aim.
  • Mastery of the content is the necessary foundation for effective communication.
  • Live according to your primary purpose
     3. Know Yourself and Your Own Culture
  • The communicator's personality and experience modify the form of the message.
  • Biblical Culture - Our home culture - Our host culture
     4. Know the Audience
  • The communicator's image of the audience and understanding of the context are primary factors in shaping the form of the message.
  • Communication increases commitment 
     5. Know the Tools
  • All human communication occurs through the use of twelve signal systems.
  • Mass media is going to change the range, it all depends on how far you are trying to extend it.
  • The effectiveness of medium is largely due to factors outside itself.
     6. Know the Context
  • Cultural patterns and beliefs of society.
  • Perception precedes comprehension, interpretation, and the impact of a message.
     7. Know the Change
  • Transformation is on God
  • Change is a Process
  • Decisions are rarely individual so consider social networks
  • A decision to change primarily results from a work of God, secondarily from the divine impacts from social networks and media.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Pre-Discipleship


Recently I have had many conversations and been thinking about the idea of pre-discipleship, which basically means discipling someone before they ever become a follower of Christ. Most of my conversations have focused on how this practically looks like within a relationship in day to day life. Perhaps the best way would be through an already formed friendship or within the setting of a small group or missional community.

Some I have discussed this with prefer a model of pre-discipleship without ever focusing on sharing the gospel until a month or more into the relationship. I personally prefer a model of sharing the gospel as soon as possible, while pre-discipling at the same time.

This is one reason that I see the importance of small groups and missional communities within the life of a church as more of your friends and neighbors are much more likely to enter into a relationship with people in a home than they ever are on a Sunday morning at your church service. Naturally in a small group setting friendships are formed around commonalities that turn into gospel-centered conversations that lead to people following Christ.

This time of year is a perfect opportunity to pre-disciple a friend or family member that you hope to see soon come to Christ as Easter is approaching. I encourage you to take the time to invite just one individual into a deeper relationship with you, which is a pre-discipleship relationship that will more than likely lead to them being a follower of Christ.

During this time of the year you can invite them to study through the four gospels with you as you take a deeper look at the life of Jesus and his redeeming sacrifice. This may be different for you, but you may just be surprised at the results come Easter.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Times Are Changing


Change, it is all around us and we hear about it all of the time, especially with this being an election year. I have been observing many of the changes within my new context in S. Asia as well. The least reached generation in the world (ages 10-30) look vastly different than those of the generations before them. The taste and preference of food is also changing as a different variety of restaurants are coming to town. The landscape and the architecture are also amongst the many changes here as life is becoming more modern.

I started to reflect on this the other day when I was walking through town and looked up at a sign in front of the entrance to my neighborhood, which read, "City Name (For security purposes) is Changing." My immediate thought was yes this place is changing, but then I started to reflect on the religious climate here and as to whether or not it is also changing.

People in this area are primarily Hindu and have many gods. Daily you can hear the bells and whistles, smell candles and incense burning all to many false gods. But I have also noticed a change in the way that at least the younger generation perceives this religion. 

I had a conversation with a 23 year old male the other day who is a Hindu in the midst of reflecting on all of these changes taking place here. I told him of all of my observations about the changes taking place, especially amongst young people, so I asked him if he thought it had carried over to the religious side of the culture. He looked around to make sure that nobody was listening and then looked at me with a slight grin on his face as he said, "We are all starting to realize that most of it is CRAP." 

Now as I am observing all of the changes around me, this is perhaps the most important one to pay attention to as this means that followers of Christ have an open window of opportunity here, especially with this younger generation. If we do not do something within the midst of this change now then S. Asians will likely become like the Japanese and replace this crap with materialism. 

Most of these changes that are taking place are good change, especially this perception into Hinduism. But what we as Christ followers do with this change could be detrimental if we do not act now and act quickly in our spread of the gospel and partnering with nationals to plant reproducing churches here. The change taking place here is only of value and good if it results in lives that are changed by Jesus for his name and glory to be spread throughout.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Glimpse of the Future


During my recent visit to Kathmandu I had the opportunity to worship and fellowship with brothers and sisters at Kathmandu International Christian Congregation (KICC). This was a tiny taste of a future worship service as there were at least eight different countries represented in one service; and there were believers from all types of Christian backgrounds from what most would consider the most liberal to the most conservative. It was a beautiful picture as at that moment politics were not important, our particular tribe was not important, dress and worship preference were not important, and whether we were elected to be there that morning was not important; but coming together to worship King Jesus was the only thing of importance.

Now, is there a time that all of those issues can be important and is there a time to address them? YES, absolutely, but I also am realizing more and more that we live in a lost and dying world and that why we can spend most of our time arguing over all of these things, there are millions dying without a Savior everyday. 

In my setting alone there is a team of twelve with a current focus of 135 million people, most without the Savior Jesus. In our focus area there are 14,000 births a day and 5,000 deaths a day. This means two things; first, we get an additional 9,000 people added to our focus a day that will likely never hear the gospel if we do not do something about it now! Second, approximately 5,000 people in our focus area die everyday to go spend eternity in hell without the Savior.

Let me repeat, 5,000 people in part of three states in the country where I live die everyday with no Savior. Those numbers alone should make you STOP and pray for the salvation of this part of the world right now.

So, why am I telling you all of this? Because I believe we often get caught up in things, often that are good, but to a degree that is unhealthy. I am just as guilty as anyone else, but I believe that the enemy loves it when we continually fight each other and that becomes our focus, mean while there is a lost and dying world around us that we tend to forget about and ignore. 

God has opened the doors wide open where I am currently serving as three out of ten people that you share the gospel with will typically respond. My prayer is that we will take this open door of opportunity and that this area of deep darkness will be dark no more as we start focusing more on the lostness in this world than our particular agenda. 

The tiny taste of a future experience that I experienced at KICC in many ways was flawed, because it was still run by fallen man and full of fallen men. But one day a service that is represented with people from all nations, tribes, and tongues will take place that will not be flawed because of King Jesus and I want to see the people that I encounter everyday there with me worshipping around the throne of Jesus!