Thursday, September 27, 2012

Gospel Wellness: An Interview with Joshua M. - Part 2

Yesterday, I began an interview with Joshua M., about the launch of his new website Gospel WellnessYou can read part one here.

Many of you may not be familiar with who Joshua is, so here is a little more info about him:

Joshua is a self-employed digital analyst in the heart of Chicago. Although growing up in the country, he was given a love for the city and desires to see their transformation through the gospel. This has led Joshua to live in many different cities, helping out numerous church plants, as he has sought to see the gospel go forward in both small and large cities. Most recently Joshua was challenged by his weight, an issue far ignored in the church and one that never comes up in accountability conversations. This led Joshua down his own journey of what complete Gospel Wellness would look like in his life and the launching of his new website, Gospel Wellness. For more about Joshuavisit here.

As was available yesterday, Joshua will be checking in to interact on the blog and answer any questions below.

Let the conversation continue...


4. In what ways does Gospel Wellness challenge and equip the church to grow in body stewardship?

My hope is that Gospel Wellness challenges people by providing a framework for living out the biblical truth that God cares about our bodies and that we are to steward them well, to His Glory.  That may sound obvious and many of us would intellectually agree, but the lives of most in our churches don't reflect that. Ultimately the Holy Spirit will challenge and guide people to gospel wellness, but Lord willing, the website will help people make that connection and see how our mission, lives and those around us are impacted by our obedient stewardship.

At first I struggled a bit over my equipping approach. There are lots of programs claiming the one-true biblical diet or mashing-up fitness & cultural Christianity in really ridiculous and often harmful ways. There is no such thing as THE biblical diet or workout, so it's very important that we not position anything as such.  However, I don't want to challenge people towards believing and then not offer practical information about doing. Since the website is also about my own journey, I share the nutrition and fitness approaches that I'm personally taking and finding success with.  As an analyst (both my personality and profession) I take a very critical view towards wellness and only share techniques that fit within a rather strict criteria.


5. What are the criteria you use to decide which wellness techniques you'll personally use and also share on the site?

It's too much to fully cover here, but I'm happy to give your readers a preview.  Later this year I'll be doing a full series on this.  For any nutrition, fitness or even relaxation technique I consider, there is a series of questions that I ask... Is it natural? Is it sustainable? Does it make sense? and several others.

Is it natural? - God created...and it was good, so I look to God's natural design and provision as first choice, not just a fallback after man-made options fail.  This means nutrition that is based on real (not processed) foods and fitness that promotes whole-body wellness.

Is it sustainble? - Despite what the fitness industry would have us believe, wellness does't depend on costly supplements, pre-packaged meals, monthly gym fees, or a deprivation lifestyle (such as ongoing calorie restriction).  I look for approaches that are sustainable for a lifetime, by virtually anyone, anywhere.

Does it make sense? - What if we were coming at the idea of wellness fresh, without preconceived notions -- would an approach make sense, in light of the alternatives?  Would paying for and commuting to a gym to exercise our bodies one part at-a-time make sense?  Would taking vitamins & supplements, because we are rejecting natural sources make sense?  "Does it make sense?" is always 
complex and requires context, but it's an important question that is too rarely asked.

6. You're currently doing a series on Evolutionary Fitness. What is it and why devote so much time talking about it?

Evolutionary Fitness is a wellness philosophy based on the belief that humans evolved over millions of years, have spent most of our existence as hunter-gatherers and that modern humans would be healthier, fitter, less disease-ridden and overall happier if our nutrition & exercise were a bit more "primal".

This might get me in trouble with your readers, but I'm writing about it because it's a message I'd rather be hearing from the church. Let me explain -- I'm not talking about the evolutionary aspect, that has amazingly little to do with it. I'm focused in on the wellness and stewardship components. EF advocates have a strong appreciation for "natural" food, "natural" movement, and "natural" living in a way that trains the body holistically. As I consider and test these things, I find them pushing me 
towards a deeper appreciation for creation, stewardship and the wonder of the human body, made in the image of God. Even for those who reject the evolutionary language, there are redeemable takeaways, that when viewed through the lens of scripture, can and should point us to a deeper worship and stewardship. 

7. You mention five principles for gospel wellness that you started implementing in your own life when you considered what body stewardship should look like, will you share those with us and expound on them briefly?

  • Seek God - Everything is from and for God. If we're not seeking Him, it's impossible to steward well.
  • Grow in stewardship - A lifestyle of stewardship requires intentionally, it's not an accident. We should seek growth in this area.
  • Eat Real Food - God has provided us with plenty of tasty, nutritious plants & animals. Eat them.
  • Train for Real Life - God gave us wondrous, dynamic bodies. Our training fully engage them and equip us for overall fitness.
  • Rest & Recharge - An active, mission-filled life is strenuous. We need to rest frequently in ways that actually recharge us.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Gospel Wellness - An Interview with Joshua M.

Joshua, creator of Gospel Wellness, has been a friend of mine for many years now as we met serving at a church plant in Wilmington, NC. Since then we have gone on to become good friends and both moved to different places. In fact we left Wilmington, NC together in 2009 but with different destinations in mind.

Joshua is a guy full of ideas with a lot of experience helping new church starts around the country. Most recently he has started a new journey as he became convicted with his body of over 340 lbs. This has led him to launch his new website called Gospel Wellness where he challenges and equips the church to grow in body stewardship, while sharing his own gospel wellness journey. Today I will share part one of a two part interview I did with Joshua since the launch of his website. He will be by to interact with any comments, so if you have any questions or comments, please share them below.

1. You say on your website in the first post that in the hundreds of accountability conversations you have had over the years that nobody really approached you about your weight or over-eating, why do you think that is?

There actually was one pastor that tried to talk to me about it a few years ago. However he was also fat and used to frequently joke about our size. Understandably, it was tough for me to take seriously anything he was trying to say -- not because he was fat, but because I didn't see any real earnestness about body stewardship in the way he lived and spoke. So that was one person in a decade. I've found that the failure to address this issue, whether in our own lives, those who we love, or the church in general usually falls into one of three areas.

First, we don't recognize body stewardship as a spiritual issue, requiring our attention and obedience.  Second, so many of us are poor stewards of our bodies, there's often shame around the topic, so we don't address it. Third, Christians are increasingly unwilling to let others speak into their lives or to speak into others.  Honestly, and this is a hard truth to accept, it all boils down to disbelief and disobedience.  We're not believing that all things are from God, for God and we are to be obedient stewards. We're not believing there's no condemnation in Christ and that culture isn't our standard. We're also not believing God's word about the nature of Christian community and that we are to obediently love, serve and sharpen one another; which sometimes means loving admonishment and addressing sensitive, personal issues. Clearly our silence and inactivity aren't working, thankfully God shows us a much better way.

2. Why is it that more people in the church aren't talking about the elephant in the sanctuary as you refer to it?

In the post I share four ways (so check that out) because I want to focus in on just two of them.  A few years ago I started thinking about discipleship more in the context of stewardship -- they are two sides to the same coin. As disciples we are not only to be stewards of the Word, but also stewards over creation, including our bodies.  The church doesn't use the word "stewardship" much except in a financial context. That's a pretty big failure I think, because stewardship language is biblical and for many it would help bridge the gap between hearing and doing the word.  Our bodies belong to God, that makes their care a spiritual issue. If we aren't taking care of our bodies rightly, to God's glory, we're rejecting His authority over them and essentially saying "This is mine, I'll do with it as I please."

Secondly, poor body stewardship negatively impacts our evangelical mission.  When we eat, move and train well, we are more energetic, less fatigued, less stressed, often more patient, better able to fight off temptation, and able to endure greater hardship. That improves not only our ability to witness, but often the quality of our witness as well. In my own life I'm amazed at the difference just a few months have made in opportunities to connect and talk about the things of God.  It's also obvious that since I've started my gospel wellness journey, my mood and patience have improved dramatically, which my friends are no doubt thankful for.

3. You point out in your first post that some may object to this issue by claiming nowhere in Scripture does it say, "Thou shalt not be overweight." So, in what ways would you point out to them that this is actually a spiritual issue?

Practically -- working out. I hate it and put it off for over three months until I finally hit a plateau in my fat loss and had no choice. I'm starting to realize that the way we approach fitness (in a gym, linear movements that isolate muscle groups or endless hours of cardio) is really disconnected from the way God designed our bodies to move -- it's no wonder we so often view fitness as a burden. Currently on the blog I'm sharing some other approaches that are more natural, more effective and honestly, a lot more fun.

Spiritually -- not turning gospel wellness into idolatry.  The more I progress the more excited I get.  It's easy to see or feel physical improvement and get carried away about how awesome I'll eventually feel and look or about all the enjoyable stuff I'll be able to do.  Feeling good and enjoying a fit, active body are wonderful blessings worth seeking. But if I start striving after them for my own enjoyment, disconnected from the context of biblical stewardship or physical readiness for God's mission, then I've slipped into idolatry. Fortunately I have solid Christian brothers in my life to help keep me humble and focused.

--Part 2 coming tomorrow--

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The (Fattest) Elephant In The Sanctuary

Let's face it and be honest with ourselves, when most of us look in the mirror we do not usually see the full image back that we would like to see, especially if we have a full body mirror. This is culture wide in the US and much awareness has been raised in recent years due to childhood obesity. My Argentine wife was amazed at the largeness of everything when moving to the US, people included. None of us were complaining all of those years we paid an extra .50 to value size our meal, but years later we are wondering what happened.

I hate to admit this but overweight issues are just as much a problem in the church as anywhere else. I would even argue that I come from the fattest protestant denomination, Southern Baptist. We justify our weekly gorging of ourselves by labeling it "fellowship."

This is one area of stewardship as Christ followers that we have easily ignored. Sure, the church likes to focus on what type of beverages you are consuming and whether or not you are puffing on a cigarette, but somehow what you eat and how much you eat has become a matter of privacy. 

Finally someone is saying something! My friend Joshua, fattest friend I have (340 lb.), is calling out the elephant in the sanctuary. Hear from Joshua himself:

THE ELEPHANT IN THE SANCTUARY
Over the years I’ve had hundreds of accountability conversations with dozens of men, asking and answering questions about spiritual disciplines, sexual purity, evangelism, etc. Yet one topic has remained noticeably absent. “Can we talk about your weight?” “Do you struggle with gluttony?” These are questions I can’t recall ever being challenged with. Generally, no one inquires and I rarely share, except during occasional attempts at getting-in-shape. Each which has failed, always leaving me larger than before and silence resumes.
Statistically, church attendees are fatter than the general population, and pastors even fatter still. The church will talk about stewardship (if it’s financial), about disease (if it’s cultural), even occasionally about alcohol and sex. We’ll pray for Tim’s diabetes and Anne’s back pain, while politely ignoring that Tim & Anne each weigh more than Refrigerator Perry. Every week in churches across America, we have fat pastors preaching to fat congregants and no one is willing to talk about the elephant in the sanctuary.
Joshua and I became friends through a church plant we were part of six years ago and have remained good friends since that time; but I have to admit that I am one guy that always ignored his weight when it came to issues of accountability. Thankfully God convicted Joshua in this area of life, which has caused him to begin embracing gospel (centered) wellness. He is now below 300 lbs. and has launched a new website called Gospel Wellness where he challenges and equips the church to grow in body stewardship, while sharing his own gospel wellness journey.
Tomorrow on the blog I will do a bit of Q&A with Joshua on his background, how he got to be so fat, and his journey to losing weight and the motivation behind it. Until then, check out gospelwellness.com  and make sure you do not skip his first post: A Plea From The Fattest Guy In Church

Friday, September 21, 2012

Vacation as Worship

My family and I are very excited because we are about to take our first real vacation in over a year. Sure, we have had some mini breaks and travelled, but often those are work related, which doesn't usually equate to complete rest. It is quite interesting some of the conversations that I have had and information that I have received leading up to this vacation.

Some people were unsure how we could take such a break, two weeks, away from our work because it is so pertinent to the Kingdom advancing in this part of the world. These type of people are often addicted to work and in regards to ministry they have an imbalance that is obvious. They believe that the work ultimately depends on them instead of Christ. My advice to these people, repent of your sin and take a break as you recognize your dependence on Jesus.

To put things into perspective a little for you, I had one guy within my own organization say to me, "Most of us don't even use all of our vacation." He told me this in a boastful way and once again pointed out the attitude of "we work so hard for Jesus that we don't have time to take a break." In my mind once again this is communicating, "Jesus needs me so I don't take a vacation." My advice to these type of attitudes, Jesus does not need you to accomplish or finish his mission. We see Jesus himself getting away to be alone with the Father as he himself needed rest.

To take things even further within my own realm of life, my organization recently had to "implement" a policy (which they love by the way) to take a weekly sabbath. This was not too surprising because I firmly believe that one of the most broken commandments is remembering the Sabbath. It was stated that people were feeling bad for taking a sabbath day when they did. Seriously, this is a large Christian organization full of Sabbath breakers. Maybe they should focus more on this in their long application process instead of focusing so much on speaking in tongues and alcohol consumption, which by the way can be enjoyable, so I have heard from Pastor Mark Driscoll.

So, how can I take a vacation? Because I realize that I need one and that I am commanded to take rest. I've heard it said that you eventually will take a break whether it is voluntary or involuntary. I am trying to take one voluntary so that my health will not take one involuntary and ultimately as a way to worship God in trusting that it is He who rules and reigns in my work that I am resting from.

Here are 5 Practical Thoughts on Rest from Tim Keller:

1. Take some time for sheer inactivity

2. Take some time for avocational activity:

  • You need contemplative rest.
  • You need some recreational rest.
  • You need to include aesthetic rest.
3. Consider whether you are an introvert or extrovert.
4. Don't necessarily count family time as sabbath time.
5. Honor both micro-and macro-rhythms in your seasons of rest.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Unleash! Breaking Free From Normalcy

Unleash! Breaking Free From Normalcy by Perry Noble combats what many of us in the Christian life most often settle for, normalcy. Noble hits a nerve of those in the church that most don't touch. He speaks to the mundane Christian that goes through the motions of life and treats their relationship with Jesus the same. Noble says, "As human beings created in the image of God, we are overflowing with unlimited potential, fueled by His limitless power, yet we choose to cruise through life tinkering with the radio and the mirrors, never discovering who God has called us to be. In other words, we never live a life that is truly unleashed."

Every page and chapter in this book is packed full of examples of how to truly embrace Jesus and unleash your life for him. Noble writes, We focus on what's normal when God has promised He is 'able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine' (Ephesians 3:20). Noble asserts that most of us have a small view of God, which results in a small view of what He wants to do in and through us. 

Throughout the book Noble looks at the life of David who he points out God was seeking to unleash to do greater things than he could have ever imagined. Noble shows how the same is true for us if we allow God to truly unleash our lives. The problem, as Noble points to, is that often times we are wasting our lives by celebrating the crap in them instead of God's goodness in them.

Noble shows how one of the main reasons that people get stuck in normalcy is that they will not let their past die, which then will not let them live. People get stuck in allowing their past mistakes and failures to define them but through Christ we are completely forgiven and can be unleashed to re-define our future.

Most of us if we are completely honest have bought into what Noble calls "the Great American Lie." The idea that you can do anything or be anything if you just believe in yourself. The truth is that God wants to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. Another problem is that "we stand around 'waiting on God'-wanting great things to happen, yet refusing to take the initiative to actually do what the Lord wants us to do."

I believe that most people in the church will find this book to be a wake up call out of normalcy, a very necessary one. It is time for all believers to be unleashed just as David was unleashed in order to allow God to do greater things in us as individuals and as the church than we could have ever imagined. 

Noble has given us that wake up call that the church needs. After reading this book, I highly recommend it as Noble leaves me with a hope that more people sitting in the pews can be awaken (unleashed) to the greater things that God has for them than they have for themselves. It is hard to imagine what our world would look like if all followers of Jesus everywhere were unleashed!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Deep Water Worship

Tomorrow, September 18th, River Church in Charlotte, NC is releasing a live worship album, One Hope. The album hails out of Deep Water Worship, which is a movement of worship out of River Church. My family received an early copy thanks to Grayson Berkowitz and we have had this worship filling our house and our spirits ever since.

This album has blessed us in so many ways and we are looking forward to sharing it with other friends in both our home and with our church. I highly encourage you to get a copy of this album and I promise that you will find yourself worshipping along with it wherever you go as you will want to leave it on constant replay.

Enjoy!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Unleash Your Life

Below is the book trailer for Pastor Perry Noble's  upcoming release of Unleash! I have received a pre-release copy and want to encourage you to pre-order your own today. It can be found in stores starting September 18th and through online distributors on September 20th. For more information check out unleashbook.com and you will find a full review of the book posted here on Wednesday, September 19th.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Decision Making in the Midst of Uncertainty

Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared...
1 John 3:2

My last post dealt with the Graciousness of Uncertainty in ones life. Basically as followers of Jesus, we need to be certain in God, which means we will be uncertain in all our ways, not knowing for sure what tomorrow will bring. That does not mean that we do not plan or never make decisions but it means that we ultimately place our certainty in God in the midst of the uncertainty of what He may decide to do with us next in life.

I mentioned in my last post that there have been times in my life that I felt unnecessary pressure from others to make a hasty decision or one that they desired but that maybe God did not desire. In our technology filled world you will find that often times everyone wants to give you their advice even when not asking for it. When it comes to big decisions, I agree with Mark Driscoll who says, "Life, ministry, and major decisions have to be bathed and birthed in prayer."

In my limited wisdom I have also learned that it is not wise to make a major decision during a time of highs or lows. Many times when it is what others want they will encourage you to make a major decision during a high time because it is when everything appears to be going right. A high time is like a newly married couple on their honeymoon when they think that life will be like that forever. It is unwise to make a major decision during this time because if it was based off of that high time it will likely result in some form of failure when the high time leaves.

At the same time it is not wise to make a major decision during a low time. During a low time you will likely make the opposite decision that you would make during the high time based off of circumstances alone. A low time is a hard time and not a wise time to make a major decision.

In our decision making as leaders we want to make wise decisions. In James 1:5 it tells us: "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him."

We need to humble ourselves before God, cry out to him in prayer for wisdom, and then we can proceed forth boldly. A major decision is already difficult to make and if we make it on our own without seeking God and we feel like we are going to disappoint those around us, we will make the decision with lingering uncertainty. That is why it is better to bathe the decision in prayer, being certain that it is what God is calling you to. Then you can make the decision boldly even to those who may disagree or be disappointed at the outcome because you are trusting God and obeying his call on your life and not man's.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Graciousness of Uncertainty


Over the last eighteen months I have gone through more changes than ever before in my life. These changes deal with every aspect of my life: personal, spiritual, ministry, etc. And yet, I know I am currently right where I need to be but in many ways uncertain about the future. For sometime I thought this to be a bad thing and felt unnecessary pressure from others to commit to something that perhaps God was not leading me to or to make a hasty decision based off  what they wanted instead of what God wanted to do through me. 

Most of us deal with uncertainty at some point in our lives, but most of us are unaware that "certainty is the mark of a commonsense life, whereas gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life." I came across a breathe of fresh air this week in reading from Oswald Chambers in 'My Utmost for His Highest:

. . . it has not yet been revealed what we shall be . . . —1 John 3:2

Our natural inclination is to be so precise—trying always to forecast accurately what will happen next—that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing. We think that we must reach some predetermined goal, but that is not the nature of the spiritual life. The nature of the spiritual life is that we are certain in our uncertainty. Consequently, we do not put down roots. Our common sense says, “Well, what if I were in that circumstance?” We cannot presume to see ourselves in any circumstance in which we have never been.

Certainty is the mark of the commonsense life—gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow may bring. This is generally expressed with a sigh of sadness, but it should be an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. As soon as we abandon ourselves to God and do the task He has placed closest to us, He begins to fill our lives with surprises. When we become simply a promoter or a defender of a particular belief, something within us dies. That is not believing God—it is only believing our belief about Him. Jesus said, “. . . unless you . . . become as little children . . .” (Matthew 18:3 ). The spiritual life is the life of a child. We are not uncertain of God, just uncertain of what He is going to do next. If our certainty is only in our beliefs, we develop a sense of self-righteousness, become overly critical, and are limited by the view that our beliefs are complete and settled. But when we have the right relationship with God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy. Jesus said, “. . . believe also in Me” (John 14:1 ), not, “Believe certain things about Me”. Leave everything to Him and it will be gloriously and graciously uncertain how He will come in—but you can be certain that He will come. Remain faithful to Him.

It is encouraging to be reminded that I am currently where God wants me to be, but that I need to become certain of my uncertainty. We often times put God in a box, especially those from my SBC background. We like to create our programs that are neat and tidy in attempts to make everything certain. This often times leads to neglecting the role of God through the Holy Spirit in our lives. So be certain in the place that God has called you but be open to the uncertainty of where God may be moving you.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Evangelism in the 21st Century

The below video is of Tim Keller discussing evangelism in the 21st century. He points out that many lay people need to simply start by making it known that you attend church and that you are a Christian. From there you can and should build and your life should be a living testimony of those things.



One key thing here that Keller points out is that if you live in a large city that there is no one step evangelism because often the larger cities or international cities are very diverse. Take for example my current setting where there are numerous people groups from primarily five different countries, there is a minimum of four spoken languages, and you do not have to go far to find four of the worlds major religions and many different branches off of those. I would be silly and not very contextual to think that I could package a neat way of evangelism and reach all of the groups represented. Instead to be truly contextual and relevant, I have to take each person and scenario as it is and adjust not the message of the gospel, but the way in which it is presented.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

USA - Fastest Emerging Mission Field in the World

I read an interesting blog post by Timothy Tennet, president of Asbury Theological Seminary, this week on some eye opening statistics that he believes will take the majority of the church another twenty years to realize. For example, "if China has 90 million believers, but the vast majority of those believers are under 30 years old and the United States has 90 million evangelicals and the majority of those are over 50, then there is a demographic story that is not “heard” when one is looking at the raw statistics of Christian affiliation."

The biggest take away from this post by Tennet is that the USA is one of the fastest emerging mission fields in the world. So, if you are the type who was never been willing to go to the mission field, well congratulations the mission field is coming to you. The Millennials in the US, roughly those ages 18-29, are continually growing more skeptical of anything being "truth." And considering that I am in the Millennial age range, I can vouch for this growing skepticism across the board amongst my own peers, especially those that have a church background. This is one reason that so many of the church kids are no longer found near a church upon entering their freshman year of college.

Tennet believes that if you are under 25 years old you will almost surely live to see the day when the most Christian countries in the world will be China and India, whereas it will be quite difficult to find Anglo Christians in the pacific northwest. This is another eye opening thought for me being that I am working amongst those in India, currently some of the most unreached people in the world. 

This is both encouraging for me and discouraging for me. Encouraging as I am excited to see countries like China and India to be full of the knowledge of the glory of God (Habakkuk 2:14)  and the majority of people worshipping King Jesus. Discouraging as I can see a glimpse into the future of my own culture and see the truth of what Tennet points out. I am not sure his views on prophecy and as much as  I hate to say it, but I believe his prediction is prophetic in nature.

This is one reason that I believe we need to see more churches planted in every city of every state of every country. The church, a community of believers, is what God has left to reach all people everywhere. But I sense in the US we will ignore this reality in our own backyard until it is almost too late. It is just as a city grows and they neglect to develop the needed infrastructure in that place until later when it causes many more headaches. I sense the church in the USA will do the same when looking at these demographics and stats.

Most of us probably fall into this category: "These demographic facts are not easy to accept.  It is much easier to turn up the volume on our latest Christian CD, point to the hundreds of cars in mega-church parking lots, or pick up the latest Christian romance novel, rather than soberly face the fact that we are not passing the faith down to the next generation."   So, What should we do?  

Here are three suggestions by Tennet that I think we would all do well to pay attention to, especially if you want to continue to be missional going forward:

1.  Your church should plant at least two ethnic, non-Anglo churches in the next decade.  If you are in a major urban center, you will need to plant four.  This does not necessarily imply purchasing land and building buildings.  It may be as simple as starting a new service at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday focused on a nearby Korean or Hispanic populations.
2.  You must introduce rigorous catechesis for all members, young and old, enquiring and established.  We must re-teach the historic faith to this generation with a special eye to interacting with key objections and misunderstandings which are prevalent in our society.   Every pastor should insist on a course no less than six weeks long which introduces the candidate to the faith (historically, doctrinally and experientially).  After baptism, even more instruction, discipleship, and mentoring should follow, which brings people more fully into what it means to be a member of the church.  Incorporating members into small group discipleship settings must be the norm, not the exception.
3.  Evangelism must be at the heart of the church’s life.  The church must regain confidence in the gospel and the clarity of the good news.  I will let others speak for their own denomination, but one of the most striking observations I have made of my own denomination (United Methodism) is how confused and inconsistent and muddled the whole thing is.  Enormous energy is spent just trying to remember or recapture the gospel and fighting heresies at every turn. In the process, tens of thousands go unevangelized. Don’t get me wrong, this is a noble and important struggle and every soldier in this struggle deserves our support and prayers.  But, I do long for the day when United Methodism gets refocused on our historic message and witness.  I see signs this is happening, but we’ve got at least twelve years before we see the tide turned. Like the famous frog in the pot of water slowing coming to a boil, the church has slowly taken on the skepticism and doubts of the world regarding the power of Scripture, the centrality of Jesus Christ and the message of salvation. But, the gospel remains the power of God unto salvation.   Let me say it as clear as I can:  There are not multiple paths to salvation.  Salvation is found only in Jesus Christ.   Jesus Christ really and truly and bodily and historically rose from the dead.  This good news is for the world. Jesus Christ is building the community of the redeemed, which is His body, the church.  We are called to live out all the realities of the coming New Creation in the present age.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Car Wrecks - An Opportunity to Glorify God

God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him."
1 Thessalonians 5:9-10

As most of you know this past Saturday morning I was in a bad car accident that easily could have been life threatening. By the grace of God, I walked away with only some cuts and minor bruises. My attitude immediately after the wreck and still in this moment is to God be the glory! 

I have been mediating on the above passage since the wreck in recognizing that I am not ultimately destined for wrath or car accidents or death, but to ultimately live with Christ. I have come to a place to realize that what God allows to happen, he allows it for a reason. God knew that the wreck was going to take place when I left the house that morning and he could have stopped it from happening. He didn't, so I know that he had a purpose in it. Yes, Satan is real and I believe that my family has been under some spiritual attacks as of recent, but even in the case of Job, he ultimately attributed everything he went through to God (Job 2:10).

Moments after the accident took place, there was much confusion as I was the only English speaker in the accident. We fumbled through what took place and I found one guy who spoke some English, who actually helped very little. And although everyone in my part of S. Asia has a cell phone, we were literally at a dead zone. Nobody had cell service, which meant for the moment I was left on my own. I have never felt so helpless in my life. But in this moment God used his purpose for his good. I recognized that I had nothing else and no one else in that moment but God himself. 

Although I am thankful to be alive and my attitude remains to God be the glory, the same would be true if I were in either a worse condition or if I had lost my life in this accident. Yes, if either of those had taken place it would be more difficult for my family, but ultimately to God still be the glory! If death had been the result, it is not as if Satan would have won, but rather Phil. 3:8 would have rang true in counting everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ.

At this point I am excited to use this accident as a testimony to Christ being in all things. As Christians we are never anywhere by accident, but it has been orchestrated by God. There were many spectators at the accident who made comments such as, "The driver of this vehicle must be in bad shape or even dead." Those same people were amazed when learning that they were standing right next to the driver. Even with the language barrier this gave me a great opportunity to bear witness to Jesus alone as the one receiving the glory and showing that it was not some form or luck or anything else that I was in the shape that I was in; but rather it was to God be the glory!

Below are a few pictures from the accident:
 My Vehicle
 Side View
 The truck I collided with.