Friday, June 29, 2012

Embrace The Stranger Amongst You

When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
~Leviticus 19:33-34

Let's be honest, most of us are only comfortable around those that are familiar to us and for those in the church this is often just other believers. There is nothing wrong with being comfortable in that way, but it often causes us to shun or neglect the strangers amongst us. This can be seen in a variety of ways, but the common way for a Christian is by creating our Christian sub-culture where we build our fences to keep the world out.

In this passage the Israelites had been strangers in Egypt therefore they knew what it was like and ought to treat strangers amongst them as themselves. We too must be reminded that we are to treat the "strangers" amongst us with love as we would our brother for we too were once strangers. 

Jesus Christ came to be a stranger amongst us and was mistreated and ultimately killed in our place, but now for those who are in Christ we are no longer strangers to the Kingdom of God. In remembering that we too were once strangers to the things of God should cause us to embrace the strangers around us and to treat them and love them as one of our own. In a very real sense we should love and usher strangers into the presence of Christ.

In other words, treat those that are different from you as if they were one of you until it actually happens. This points back to a post I wrote in March on the idea of pre-discipleship, treat the stranger as a follower/disciple of Christ until they become one.

So think of how you have been avoiding the strangers in your life and take the opportunity this week to embrace that individual into a new and loving relationship; where they are treated as you yourself would want to be treated.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

How Does "Of The Lord" Parenting Look?

"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."
-Ephesians 6:4

This week I have been reading, Give Them Grace, by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and she pointed out how in light of all the parenting books that have been written, that there are only two passages in the New Testament that give directive commands concerning it. The first is the one quoted up top, Eph. 6:4 and the second is similar in Colossians 3:21. She goes on to say that perhaps in our discipline and instruction as parents that we have failed to fully understand this phrase, "of the Lord."

In the book, Fitzpatrick gives a few clarifying questions to help one get a better handle on what "of the Lord" parenting looks like:

  • How does the incarnation change the way you speak to your children? God became a child. That one act of condescension and identification should forever stop us from denigrating children. The incarnation would have astonished them. To them, children were chattel, property to be disposed of at a father's whim.
  • What about the resurrection? Does the truth of Christ's victory over sin and death make any difference when our kids struggle with ongoing sin? How? In the resurrection Jesus brought justification to those who believe, including our believing children (Rom. 4:24-24). If they are justified, God looks at them not only as those who have not sinned but as those who have always obeyed. How would this truth change your parenting?
  • Have you helped them understand what his ascension and ongoing reign means when their best friend moves out of town? What does this eternal priesthood of the God-Man mean when they suffer loss? That he "always lives to make intercession for the," (Heb. 7:25) and suffered in every way can bring deep comfort to a child who feels that he is alone and friendless.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Everything Speaks

Since moving to S. Asia six months ago I have dealt with my share of culture frustrations and grasping the idea that I did not come here to change the culture, but to deliver the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ. But today's post will deal with one of my personal biggest frustrations in my host culture, customer service. As the title of this post, stolen from Danny Franks says, "Everything Speaks." 

My most recent customer service experience was at a new, nice restaurant that just opened up right by our house. I was very excited about this place because the majority of their menu consists of "Continental," items, aka American food and being from America this got me excited! So my wife and I tried it this weekend. It was decorated nice, clean, great wait staff, and the food was delicious as we had hoped.

There was really only one major problem with our experience at this place...time. We arrived at 12:15, ordered by 12:30, and at 1:15 we were still waiting on our food. Finally about 1:30, an hour after ordering, the food was delivered. As I already said it was good food and it gave me a taste of home, but an hour wait is a little ridiculous. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that we were the only people in the place. So to sum up the end of the experience, I gave the manager honest constructive criticism and assured him that we would be back soon.

I always think about the church when dealing with customer service issues and as Danny Franks says, "We no longer live in a world where people expect (and even embrace!) mediocrity in the local church." We are living in an age when details, and I mean every detail matters, especially the way in which we treat outsiders when coming into the church. As churches, we have to grasp the fact that to our guest, everything matters.

In truth I may really be speaking more to the church in the west, which is okay because the majority of my readers are part of the church in the west. But the point is the same that we need to take the time to see what is it that outsiders would notice that insiders would not because is is these things that will often keep the outsiders from coming back as to them this represents the entire church.

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Practical Example of Living Out the Gospel

The video below is a practical example of what it looks like to live out the gospel in your community. It is the video for this year's ServeRDU that is part of the Summit Church, which I have been a part of the past few years. Obviously not living and serving in the RDU this year means I am not physically serving that community, but wanted to share a brief picture of what it looks like to start living the gospel in your everyday life. As the video will point out, this does not start with just a few days of serving or by painting a few walls, but it must start somewhere.


ServeRDU2012 from The Summit Church on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Theological Famine Relief

For those serving in an international role such as myself there is some exciting new resources that will soon be available because of the TGC International Outreach. TGC International Outreach will help make theological resources available through different language translations, publications, and circulation. Their goal is clear as written by Don Carson, "Our goal is that God will use our partnership and your ministry relationships to bring relief to the global theological famine."



For more on their own introduction check out The Gospel Coalition

Monday, June 18, 2012

Surrender

This week I have been listening to and singing as a prayer a song by my friend Hank Murphy, called Surrender. It really encompasses what our life as followers of Jesus should be in one of surrender to Jesus. 

Surrender

Jesus I adore you, Lord of love and grace. 
Please have all my worship, bring your glory to your name.

It's all yours, everything I am, I understand surrender and I've come to hand it in.
It's all yours, your Spirit in me, means I belong to you my King and it's not about me.

It's all yours...oh oh oh, It's all yours... oh oh oh.

Jesus I will follow, for you my life will sing. 
I love you, God I need you, my comfort and my King.

It's all yours, everything I am, I understand surrender and I've come to hand it in.
It's all yours, your Spirit in me, means I belong to you my King and it's not about me.

Let me live my life like I know you died, like I know that I am free. 
Let your love compel and your Spirit indwell, living hope for all to see.

That its all yours, everything I am, I understand surrender and I've come to hand it in.
Its all yours, your Spirit in me, means I belong to you my King and it's not about me.

Click here to learn more about Hank Murphy or how you can download this song.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Being Pastor Dad



Happy Fathers day to all of the dad's out there! This is my second fathers day and I am enjoying being a father more than ever, but I am also realizing more and more that it is my role to be "Pastor Dad," to my son. In case you have not read it in the past, I want to encourage you all to get your free copy of Pastor Dad by Mark Driscoll. It is a helpful book with Scriptural insights on fatherhood that is helpful to read at least once a year as a fathers tend to forget things.

It is great to obey the Great Commission and go to make disciples of the unreached peoples in the world, but not if we neglect the number one unreached people in our lives, our children. Yes, my son is only 15 months old, but it is never too early to start pastoring him by cultivating him to worship and love Jesus! This free e-book will help you do just that and I know that many men do not like to read, which makes this book great as it is all of 48 pages, enjoy!

Here is  a couple of recent pictures of me with my son:




Friday, June 15, 2012

Serving God's Purpose in Your Generation

"For David served the purpose of God in his own generation."
Acts 13:36a

In my devotional reading this week I came across this verse in Acts 13 describing the life of David. We know that David was a man after God's own heart, but we also know that David was not a sinless man. But throughout his life he was mostly faithful to God, which allowed it to be said of  him that he fulfilled the purpose of God for his own generation.

In relation to a couple of my most recent posts this caused me to think that if every believer fully embraced their role as full-time missionaries to whatever culture they are in then how different would our own generations look. I really don't think that it would be quite as difficult as we often make it, of course all being done in God's sovereignty.

It would require every believer to embrace the Great Commission fully and it would require faithfulness to God throughout our lives. By doing this we too could serve the purpose of God in our own generation. I think about the context of living in S. Asia and the amounts of lostness that surround me; but if it could be said of every believer here that they served God's purpose in their own generation how different this place would look in not so many years.

So what should one of our goals be as followers of Christ? That we would always be faithful to God and let it one day be said of us that we too served the purpose of God in our own generation.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Are You Seeking the Welfare of the City?

"Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare."
Jeremiah 29:7

In recent posts I have discussed how that as followers of Jesus we are all called into the missionary life as "full-time," ministers of the gospel. This is a call that is given to all of us whether we are receiving are salary from a church or mission organization; or whether we receive our salary from Starbucks. 

Once one realizes this and fully embraces the missional lifestyle, it should be fairly easy to recognize where God has currently called you and to what people group. In most cases, but not always, God has providentially called you to the people and place you are already living and working. That is why he has placed you there. 

You do not live in your city only to build houses and live in them, plant gardens and eat their produce, to take a spouse and have children; but to seek the welfare of the city, by praying to the Lord on their behalf. Yes, just as the Israelites in Jeremiah 29:4-7 worked to meet personal and family needs, you too will do the same, but at the same time you are to seek the good of the city. 

You do this by becoming a positive influence on the city, by recognizing that you are there to carry the burdens of the world and to spread redemption wherever you go. It is often easy to find ourselves in a Christian-subculture where we are only with other Christians all of the time. This is one reason in seminary I chose intentionally to live thirty minutes from the campus as a way to avoid this subculture and to seek the welfare of my city. 

I must warn you that embracing this type of lifestyle will not be easy as it will require you to often enter relationships that you are not comfortable in. But this is the lifestyle that Jesus lived and that he has called us to. So are you seeking the welfare of the city? If not I want to encourage you to stop, repent, and start seeking the welfare of the city today.

For more information on how to be proclaim and live out the gospel in your city check out For The City by Darrin Patrick & Matt Carter.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Going Into Full-Time vs. Part-Time Ministry

"In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world."
John 17:18

My last post dealt with who is called and qualified to go into missions, whereas this post will deal with who should go into full-time ministry vs. that of part-time ministry. The truth is that Jesus gave us all as followers of him the mission of going into the world to advance his kingdom. Lance Ford points out that when one says, "I'm in full-time ministry," it is really misguided because it implies that those who do not receive a paycheck from a church or organization are only in part-time ministry. It is basically the same as saying, "I'm a pro; you're just an amateur."

This is one huge factor that has hindered our churches and people on fully embracing a missional lifestyle in order to see the surrounding culture reached. There is nothing wrong with being paid in ministry, but when that attitude of professional vs. amateur carries over into the body it creates unnecessary borders that stifles the advance of the kingdom.

I have witnessed this in recent days within the organization I am serving with overseas as there is a heavy attitude of "career vs. short-term." Nothing wrong with the categories within themselves, but the problem has come in once again as this attitude of "career = professional and short-term = amateur." There is really nothing further from the truth and these manmade categories are really only hurting the advancement of the kindgom overseas.

We must remember that as believers we are all considered priest so as disciples of Christ we are sent on mission just as he was sent on mission. And team Jesus is just that a team made up of full-time ambassadors of Christ, regardless of the particular vocation you are in or the way you earn a paycheck. Jesus has "called" us all into full-time ministry so there really is no distinction. Sure as the body of Christ we have different roles to play in being a full-time player for Team Jesus, but each role is designed by God for the advancement of His Kingdom.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Who Is Qualified and Called to Missions?

For many in the church the mindset of missions has been that it is something for people that are almost being punished by God in a sense, by getting sent to a foreign land where they no longer get to eat their favorite foods, have AC, or be with their close friends. Okay, to be completely honest on a really bad day I sometimes have that thought myself, but the reality is that this is far from the truth on many levels. At the most basic level this kind of thought pattern assumes wrongly that one must move to a foreign land in order to be a missionary.

This idea of a missionary is the norm in many church circles, as most people consider it something that happens outside of the US and that it is something not for them, but those other people. In the words of Alan Hirsch, "We have tended to see mission as something we do in 'heathen nations' and not on the home base. We evangelize here and do mission there. This has rightly been called the 'geographic myth.'"

So, who is qualified and called to do missions? The reality is that as Christians we are all qualified and called to be missionaries and in many cases already been sent to the people we are called to reach. I have written on this in the past in calling people to embrace their roles as everyday missionaries, because wherever you are in your current situation, God has placed you there as a missionary. In some places this maybe only for a season, but embrace that season.

Part of the problem is that the average follower of Christ needs to actively embrace the role of a missionary just as one who is sent to a foreign land. Figure out who it is that you are called to reach and embrace the lingo, learn the culture, and present the gospel in a contextualized manner.

As a follower of Christ you are called to be a missionary in your city, in your neighborhood, at your place of work, etc. And until churches our full of people embracing their roles as missionaries it will be impossible to truly have a missional church as one key thing will be lacking. Alan Hirsch says it this way, "It is impossible to be a missional church if we fail to be missional people."

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Summer Reading Plan

Spring has gone and past so it is time to put out a new suggested reading plan for those summer months ahead. As always they are in no particular order, but books that I have either started reading or plan on reading this summer in order to help me grow spiritually, missionally, and in order to better communicate the gospel in a contextual way in S. Asia.

Here is my summer reading plan:

Truth with Love: The Apologetics of Francis Schaeffer by Bryan A. Follis: Amazon

Gospel Coach: Shepherding Leaders to Glorify God by Scott Thomas and Tom Wood: Amazon

Faith of Leap: Embracing a Theology of Risk, Adventure & Courage by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch: Amazon

God's Rivals: Why Has God Allowed Different Religions? Insights from the Bible and the Early Church by Gerald R. McDermott: Amazon

The Universe Next Door by James W. Sire: Amazon


Monday, June 4, 2012

The Graveyard of Missions


"Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith."
-1 Thessalonians 3:7


In the last three months I have started traveling to my focus area here in S. Asia, to an area that has historical been called, "The Graveyard of Missions." I have been told two reasons for this name. First, it is an area that for years missionaries would go and minister, but nothing would happen, so they would get discouraged and leave. Second, because missionaries would go to this area and be killed for their faith in Jesus.

To my knowledge it has been many many years since anyone has been outright killed for their faith in Jesus, but the idea of the graveyard of missions became a reality recently when in my focus district I was taken to a literal graveyard of which half of it is made up of missionaries who came to proclaim the gospel and were killed in doing so. Walking through this graveyard put some reality to all the stories that I have heard as I walked around looking at the names of different people killed for their faith. 

These graves also served as a reminder that although these people were killed for their faith that they did not die in vain. They died for the only cause worthy of death in spreading the gospel to those that had never heard. It is really on the shoulders of people like these that I come to an area like this and am able to minister. It is because of their hard work, labor, and death that have helped pave the way for people like me to come in and see a movement started.

I was also starkly reminded that all of the people around me, myself included, we are all headed to the grave. But most of those in my context have no hope in entering the grave because they have never even heard of Jesus, much less about his life, death, and resurrection. This is the sad reality in which I currently live in and daily face; but I have hope that this atmosphere is changing as I sense the Holy Spirit is on the move in this place and soon this will be a place known for sending out church planters all over S. Asia and the globe in order to see the Kingdom advanced.

Friday, June 1, 2012

You Too Can Be Used For God's Global Mission

Great little piece of an interview between two highly respected pastors, David Platt and Matt Carter, who although pastor churches in the US see the need for releasing their people for God's Global Mission. People often mistaken domestic and international church planting/missions as an either or for individuals, but God's heart is for both and. Here is a great example of how that briefly looks in the life of Austin Stone Church pastored by Matt Carter.