Friday, August 31, 2012

Building Bridges to the Gospel

This week I read a book on the common threads between Christianity & world religions, A Tapestry of Faiths, written by Winfried Corduan. Towards the end of the book, Corduan has a chapter on finding fords and building bridges as a Christian when dealing with other religions in the world. I found this idea rightly appropriate considering that the US now consists of every major religion out there and in order to propose the truth of Christianity we do need to build bridges.

Corduan points out that bridges serve a number of important purposes:

1. They facilitate evangelism. Regardless of all of the other discussion, this is considered to be the most important reason. They make it possible for the Christian to relate to the non-Christian so as to make a more plausible presentation of the gospel.

2. They help us live together in a civil society. The plurality of religious cultures in the contemporary industrialized societies has become a given. Reaching out across our individual boundaries (where legal and ethical) will contribute to the life of a properly functioning democracy.

3. They identify where we can make a common cause with others on social and ethical issues-and where we cannot!

4. They contribute to the ongoing work of a theologian in exploring the universe that God has put together, including the world of the human heart.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Recommended Fall Reading

As your summer plans start winding down and you look at getting back into a regular routine, I wanted to share some recommended fall reading. All of these books deal with apologetics and how Christianity relates to other world religions, but I truly believe that all believers can benefit from reading these as the US is made up of all the major world religions now. By reading these books you will be better prepared when entering conversations with those of a differing worldview and faith.

Recommended Fall Reading:

Christian Apologetics in a World Community by William Dryness (Buy on Amazon)

God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God by John C. Lennox (Buy on Amazon)

Christianity at the Religious Roundtable: Evangelicalism in Conversation with Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam by Timothy C. Tennet (Buy on Amazon) 

A Tapestry of Faiths: The Common Threads Between Christianity & World Religions by Winfried Corduan (Buy on Amazon)

Who Can Be Saved: Reassessing Salvation In Christ and World Religions by Terrance L. Tiessan (Buy on Amazon)

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Reward of His Suffering

My friend, Matt Papa, has released a new song this week titled "The Reward of His Suffering," and is giving every dime that comes from the song to overseas missions for the life of the song. Aside from this being a true story and an awesome song to worship Jesus to, it is going to help spread the gospel in places that have never heard.

I want you all to do two things for me. First, go to itunes right now and purchase this song. Second, continue to spread the word about this song, not so that these guys can become more popular, but so that the message of the gospel will spread to new places.

To purchase on itunes: here.



Also see TheReward.org

The Reward of His Suffering
Lyrics:

You carried our cross and You took the shame
You buried our death when You rose again

So let every tribe and tongue
Come and worship You alone
Let all heaven and earth and the
Universe bring praise

May the Lamb of God receive
The reward of His suffering
He is worthy
He is worthy
Worthy to receive
The Reward of His suffering

You promised the day of Your praise would come
A chorus of nations around Your throne

So let our ambitions die
As we lift our savior High
As we carry the cross and the
Gospel to the world

Bridge:

All glory honor and praise
All glory honor and praise
All glory honor and praise
To the Lamb that was slain

Now send us and usher the bride You love
We know though we suffer, You have won

So we're running to this world
Fearing nothing but Your Word
Our victorious King He shall have
His reward!

===================================

In view of God's mercy....

In light of global lostness....

what will YOUR response be?

Jesus is alive

Hell is real

The harvest is vast

The workers are few

The mission is clear

The call is "go"

The cost will be great

The reward will be greater

Do something bold

Don't look back

Risk it all 

He is worthy

Friday, August 24, 2012

Practical Guidelines on Fasting

This is the last in a three-part series about the guidelines for prayer and fasting. These are modified from Rick Shepherd's, Seeking God. To read part one go here and part two here.

HOW IS A FAST TO BE DONE?

First of all, the heart attitude and motive must be right. Fasting is directed to the Lord, not to the people (Matthew 6:16-18).

Secondly, let the Lord lead you as to the timing and length of a fast. Remember, it is the heart attitude. We can't go on a "holy hunger strike" and expect the Lord to "give in" to our desires.

Thirdly, here are some PRACTICAL Guidelines:

  • Keep your focus on the Lord, trusting him in the situation and need.
  • Stay in the attitude of prayer throughout the day. Set aside specific times for prayer and pray often.
  • Read Scripture much during your time of prayer and fasting. Remember that prayer is as much listening as talking.
  • Write down specific requests in a journal, also record any insight given.
  • Concerning meals, skipping one, two, or three meals is a normal fast. Some may choose to do two or three days. Drink plenty of liquids.
  • For those on medication, be cautious and get medical approval before fasting.
  • Some are not able to fast due to physical condition. Remember the Lord may lead you to fast from certain foods for a time.
  • Sometimes there may be a little dizziness, headache, or nausea from not eating. Do not be alarmed. Remember to drink plenty of liquids and it helps to eat fruit when the fast is finished.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

How Do You Go About Fasting?

This is the second in a three-part series about the guidelines for prayer and fasting. These are modified from Rick Shepherd's, Seeking God. You can find the first post here.

THE PRACTICE OF FASTING

There are several types of "fasts" that we can practice. Often times the intensity of the need will determine exactly what type of fasts. Here are some answers to basic questions about the practice of fasting:

What kind of fast? 

There is 1) a limited fast - a person limits their diet for a time as a part of seeking to do the will of God. We see this in Daniel 1:8-13 where Daniel and his three friends asked for a limited diet in order to follow God's law and will.

There is 2) a standard fast - a person eats no food but does drink liquids. This is the most common fast found in Scripture and probably today.

There is 3) an absolute fast - a person does not eat or drink for a period of time. Usually this is for one to three days but there are examples of this type of fast lasting as long as 40 days as with Moses.

Who should fast?

A fast can be by one person - a personal fast. It can be a partner fast in which two or more enter together. For example, my wife and I are fasting together once a week on the behalf of our work in S. Asia. There is also such a thing as a community fast, where an entire small-group or congregation would fast together on behalf of a city or people group.

When should a person or a group fast?

The Scriptures command one regular fast for those in the Old Covenant. In the New Testament there are no regular fasts commanded. If you have been told otherwise, it is due to man-made regulations that developed out of man-centered pride. So all other fasts are considered occasional fasts according to the need of the moment. Personally, I encourage a regular fast as it is a good way of continually recognizing ones need for God.

Monday, August 20, 2012

What Is The Purpose of Fasting?

The following is the first in a three part series about the guidelines for prayer and fasting. These are modified from Rick Shepherd's, Seeking God.

THE PURPOSE OF FASTING

Why Fast? The Scriptures clearly revel the purpose of fasting through several examples in the life of the nation of Israel and in the life of Jesus and the early church. In a survey of the Scriptures, there are at least three summary reasons given for fasting.

1) A HUMBLE ADMISSION OF NEED. 

The need may be forgiveness of sin, comfort over grief/sorrow, concern over a situation, a city or a nation, or the need for clear guidance and direction from the Lord. For biblical examples, see Nehemiah 1:4-11; Daniel 9:3; 1 Samuel 7:6; 1 Kings 21:27-29; Nehemiah 9:1; Isaiah 58:5-6; Psalms 35:13; 69:10; 109:24.

2) A HUMBLE REQUEST FOR HELP.

Closely linked to the first reason, we need to admit there is a need before we ask for help. God alone is the one who can give the needed help. This may include seeking the Lord's guidance for a decision, for healing, for safety or protection. For biblical examples, see Judges 20:26; 2 Samuel 12:16-23; Ezra 8:21-23; Jonah 3:3-10. Also see, Matthew 4:2; Luke 2:37; Acts 13:1-3; 14:23.

3) A HAUGHTY ATTEMPT TO GET ONE'S OWN WAY.

This kind of fast is of no benefit as we see from the example of rebuke of a proud heart in Isaiah 58:1-4.  Also in Luke 18:12, we see the ritualistic Pharisee receiving no benefit or response from God due to his fast being done for self-righteous reasons.

This should serve as a reminder that God looks at the heart not the outer man. His desire as that we would seek Him first, which at times will include fasting.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Why Is The Cross Offensive?

In a USA Today article this week an image of a steel cross in front of a September 11th memorial is causing controversy. The purpose of the cross is that it is part of the wreckage that is being displayed as a historical piece amongst many other artifacts. As one can guess, it is an American Atheists group, big surprise there, that is attempting to sue the memorial & museum. Their claim is that the displaying of a cross would be "unconstitutional." Click here for the full article.

Their claim of the displaying of the cross as being unconstitutional will not hold up in the court battle in my opinion, but that result is not my purpose here. The real truth if you ask me is that the atheist are against the displaying of a cross because of what it represents. The cross is offensive. The Apostle Paul referred to "the offense of the cross," which he did not want removed, in Galatians 5:11.

WHY IS THE CROSS OFFENSIVE?    

First, the cross is offensive because of the type of people that were crucified on a cross. The worst of the worst of criminals in Roman society. The fact that the God of the universe would have anything to do with such a type of penalty was an offense. The image of a crucified man represented weakness, shame, and disgrace. Christ being crucified was both a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles (1 Cor. 1:23).

Second, the cross is offensive because it exposes our own spiritual condition. The cross is humiliating to us as man because it shows that there is absolutely nothing that we can do in order to earn Gods' favor. It says that even our good works are like filthy rags (Isa. 64:6); which also reveals that the human nature is not good but rather sinful. This make the cross, the gospel, offensive because in our best efforts we will always fail and are lost. It took the death of Jesus on the cross in order to have any means of justification before God. So we are helpless and lost in our own sin without the cross.

Third, the cross is offensive because it is exclusive in its message. The cross claims that the only way of justification before God is through the death of Jesus on the cross. There is no other form of forgiveness given so stop trying to display your own righteousness (filthy rags). It is offensive to mankind and especially this Atheists group to claim that Jesus is the only way of salvation and the only way to have a restored relationship with God.

The cross is offensive for many more reasons than the three brief reasons we examined above. Without the cross we lose a significant part of the salvation message we proclaim. The offense as Paul stated in Galatians 5:11 is one that is meant to last forever; because the message of the cross is offensive to all men everywhere throughout history. And until Christ himself returns and all eyes are fully opened, it will only continue to be offensive to those that are perishing.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What Is Conversion All About?

Even though I am not currently in the Raleigh, NC area, I still like to promote conferences that are worthy of attending, especially those put on by my seminary. I attended the first two 9Marks conferences at Southeastern and they are definitely worth the time and investment for a conference about the church, for the church.

This year is the fourth 9Marks at Southeastern conference and it will explore how a healthy church will understand this idea of conversion that we hear so much about in church. The four key questions that the conference will explore in regards to conversion is: What is God's role? What is my role? How does it happen? What does it look like? 

The speaker line up alone is worth it to attend this conference with names like Daniel Akin, Alistair Begg, Matt Chandler, Mark Dever, and David Platt.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Are You Listening To The Voice of God?

Recently I heard a sermon on the Lord's calling of Samuel, who at the time was probably around the age of twelve. The preacher pointed out many things from the life of Samuel and the old priest Eli. His main point that I took away was that often times we get in such a routine where we are reading are Bible, we are praying,  and we are busy in ministry; but we are failing to listen to the voice of God. And by failing to listen to the voice of God we many times are doing things are way and wondering why things are not going the way we expected them to go.

In conclusion the pastor pointed out five things that should challenge us all in regards to listening to God:

1. Your past does not determine your future.

2. Your circumstances do not determine your actions.

3. You choose your focus.

4. You are made to hear God's voice.

5. Be careful not to become a priest (Eli) who cannot see not only physically but also spiritually.

Friday, August 10, 2012

What Does the Filtering Process Look Like?

In my last post, we looked at what it looks like to constantly form smaller groups of people to invest in for six months to a year as Jesus did with his faithful followers. Today we will take a brief look at what the filtering process looks like based off of Wilson Geisler's RAD booklet.

The Filtering Process

It is important to remember that before you can filter, you must start be having some well-defined filtering criteria. Here are some suggested ones:

1. Faithful in sharing the gospel.

2. Demonstrates good character.

3. Doesn't love money or isn't in it for the money. They should be faithful regardless where their paycheck is coming from.

4. Sweep broad and do not put all your eggs in one basket. Often times the ones we initially think have the most potential will turn out to be the first ones to drop out or be unfaithful.

5. Only people that you can meet with on a regular basis as individuals and a group.

6. Only those living within your target area or city, preferably from within your own local body. Part of the goal here is for you to be able to equip these individuals to equip others by your modeling for them in ministry.

Upon filtering and finding the faithful to Jesus, pray about and invite a group to spend this time with you. Be very intentional in your time with the group by being relational in order to multiply yourself into them. Here are some further suggestions:

1. Identify 10-14 people for your group. Jesus invested in 12, but in the end, primarily 3, who he more faithfully invested. A larger group will allow for self-correction on their part, as well as, help to alleviate only investing in a "Judas."

2. Meet initially with this group and layout the plan and goals for the group. It is suggested to make a covenant with them.

3. Meet with each person individually and get to know them.

4. Meet with the entire group a minimum of once a month. This allows each person to sharpen one another as the apostles did. Do not worry about repeating and reviewing in these meetings as it is important to do so until it sticks. These meetings are designed to move them from simply obedient follow of Christ to owner of Christ's Kingdom vision.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Are You Wasting Time With the Masses?

Often times as ministry leaders we tend to only focus on the masses; while this is not always a bad practice, if this is all that we ever do then it is likely that we are not reproducing ourselves by truly making disciples or the disciples we are making are likely shallow in their spiritual depth. If we look at the life of Jesus we see that he did spend time with the masses such as in Mark 6:33-44, but he was never content only being with the large crowds. Jesus knew that often times people would come only to see what they could get such as a free lunch. Rather what we see Jesus doing is using the large crowds as a teaching opportunity where he would filter to find the faithful ones.

By using the large crowds as a way to filter, Jesus was able to find a smaller group of disciples that were obedient to follow Him. This small group was eventually the group that would go on to change the entire world in whose footsteps we still follow.

In the same way as leaders in ministry we should not ignore the large crowds, but we should also not spend all of our time with them, but rather constantly have a smaller group of individuals that we are discipling and equipping to go on and hopefully do better things than we ourselves have. A typical group would be 6-12 people that you spend six months to a year with before forming a new group. In this way you are following more of a Timothy 2:2 model and equipping the faithful ones to train and equip others to train and equip others. You may even call these Timothy groups as a way to keep in mind the purpose and goal.

Once again, do not ignore the large crowds, as Jesus himself spent time with the large crowds, but he did eventually filter down to a group of 12 faithful men. In the words of Wilson Geisler, "There is no other way to leave a lasting impact other than to multiply yourself into those around you, and the only way that happens is to spend relational time equipping and then leaving a small group of the faithful ones to continue to work and multiply themselves further."

Monday, August 6, 2012

Who Should I Tell The Gospel To?

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved, you and your oikos.
Acts 16:31

We all hear a lot about the need for sharing the gospel with others; whether that is in our own city or across the globe. The problem that I have often come across is that most people know the "why" of sharing the gospel and recognize the need, but often fail when it comes to knowing where to start sharing. Even in S. Asia, the most unreached area of the world, the believers face this dilemma. My often sarcastic remark to these believers is just walk outside and share with the first person you see because they likely do not know Jesus and likely have never heard the gospel.

In the US, especially in the South, where I am from, it is often assumed that people have heard the gospel and there are better chances that they do follow Jesus; but it is still a high probability that they do not. So this leaves us with no excuses in regards to sharing the gospel with others.

In our trainings of nationals in S. Asia we typically do not focus much on the Greek New Testament, but we do teach them one Greek word, oikos. Oikos is the Greek equivalent of house, household, or family. So we teach them that the simplest means to start sharing the gospel is with your own oikos because we each have one. If you do a thorough study of the New Testament you will see that this is one of the ways that the early church spread so rapidly.

This is sometimes referred to as "Oikos Evangelism." In the words of Dr. Tom Wolf, "Oikos Evangelism is the God-given and God-ordained means for naturally sharing our supernatural message." Wolf goes on to point out that we see this happening in the New Testament by means of life-transformation as an old sinner becomes a new saint in front of ones family and friends, which naturally resulted in penetration and persuasion of others.

Based on the New Testament as our model then the best place to start sharing the gospel is with your own oikos, meaning with your family and those closest to you. Once again in our trainings here we will often give them and piece of paper and tell them to title it "oikos" and then place ten names that are in their oikos for them to being to pray over and to share with in the next two weeks. Here is a copy for you to go and do likewise with your own oikos.      

                                                             OIKOS
                        
                         1.                                              6.                                                           
                         2.                                              7.                                
                         3.                                              8.                                
                         4.                                              9.                                
                         5.                                             10.                               

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Reality of Spiritual Warfare

In preparation to move overseas we heard a lot about spiritual warfare and the realities of it in an international context. It is not that we do not deal with it in the US, but it often comes in different forms such as buying into the lie that missions is optional, focusing on building bigger buildings, creating more programs, etc. All of this at the expense of being naval gazing local churches that have forgotten about the global mission. Yes, Satan probably loves most of our US churches because they pose no real threat to him or the global mission of God. But living and working overseas you open a whole new and different aspect of spiritual warfare, where in many cases you are on the front lines of darkness. 

This more heightened spiritual warfare is because there is a real battle going on in the world for God's glory to be spread amongst the nations. In spiritual warfare, Satan has a purpose to oppose the spread of the Kingdom and therefore deprive God of the glory that is due him. Satan desires to keep nations closed to the gospel, keep people groups hidden from the gospel, and to erode the faith of those serving amongst these peoples and nations.

Recently my family has been dealing with this reality and we are learning that often a spiritual attack will come where you are most vulnerable, your children. We are parents to a 17 month old little boy and the last two weeks he has been hit with one thing after another, which has resulted in a lot of stress and heartache. Although I am not one to credit everything bad that happens to spiritual warfare, I do believe that much of what my family has been dealing with of late is in direct relation to it. 

We are at a place where we are on the verge of a breakthrough in our work and seeing things moving forward in regards to the advance of the kingdom. We naively expected this to go on without any harm coming our way. The truth is that Satan greatly opposes our efforts to see the gospel advance in a culture through the church. 

Although I am known for advocating and mobilizing all people to embrace their roles as everyday missionaries, I will say that many if not most overseas contexts are not for the light weights. It is hard work and if you cannot strive forward with unhesitating devotion on the front lines than perhaps it is best for you to stay back home.

Spiritual Warfare is a daily reality in the life of a believer. It is not something that we seek after, but it is something that we know and should expect to come our way.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Expect Great Things From God; Attempt Great Things For God

"Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God." -William Carey

As followers of Christ we should take this quote to heart in all that we do and are called to do by sincerely expecting great things from God in the midst of our attempting great things for God. I'll admit that a quote like this is a lot easier to read than it is to see come to fruition. Currently I have been dealing with a lot of major setbacks in my ministry, not only me, but my entire team.

Although in the midst of trying times, a quote like this encourages me because it reminds me to stop relying on myself to produce the results. Six months into the ministry here and I can honestly say that I have failed at accomplishing great things myself. Rather I have had to realize that I need to be more expectant of God to do great things as I attempt great things for him.

If we are all honest, we give a lot of lip service to things that God can do, when in reality we often times rely on our own efforts to make those great things happen. Maybe, you too are in the midst of a trying time and need to realize that you should continue to do those great things for God, but even more so you need to expect great things to come from God.

Attempting great things for God is not enough, it can't be enough. This does not mean that you should not attempt greatness for God because you should. It is still good to attempt greatness for God, but your efforts alone will not produce results. Rather only God himself can cause greatness to happen. Our attempts our right when we first go to God and are expectant on him. No, our attempts do not produce greatness, but it does help when we are expectant on God to produce the greatness.