Friday, March 29, 2013

It is Finished

The below video by Matt Papa captures what Christ did for us on the Cross. I encourage you to spend some time in reflection as you watch this on Good Friday and prepare yourself for the celebration that is coming on Sunday.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cross - Jesus Dies

This post originally appeared last year on my blog as a summary of content that I was developing for a study to be used in teaching Hindus through the metanarrative of Scripture. This lesson focuses on the death of Christ and with Good Friday being two days away, I thought it was worth sharing with you here. 

"God shows his love for us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

First, in essence, Jesus came into the world to die and cover sin.
How did Jesus die?
  • On a cross through crucifixion.
  • Crucifixion is the most excruciating form of death.
  • It was designed for the worst of criminals in society.
  • Jesus was crucified in order to bear our griefs and carry our sorrows (Isa. 53:3-4).
Second, Jesus death on the cross finished his purpose for coming.
  • Jesus himself declared "It is Finished," referring to taking on the sin of the world (John 19:30).
  • Jesus came as our atonement (Rom. 4:25).
  • Jesus came and died in our place:
    • Living the life we were meant to live.
    • Dying the death we deserved to die.
    • Ultimately rising from the dead as a way to prove he conquered sin, death, and the grave.
How does the cross satisfy the wrath of God?
  • The result of sin is death so in order for the wrath of God to be appeased someone has to die.
  • In the Old Testament the wrath of God was appeased through an animal blood sacrifice.
  • In the New Testament we see the ultimate and final blood sacrificed required in Jesus.
  • Jesus, dying in our place, died the death that God revealed we deserved.
    • Hebrews 9:22
    • 1 Peter 1:18-19
  • Jesus ended the need for a blood sacrifice.
    How does the death of Christ justify us before God?
    • God deserves justice and will get justice.
    • Because we are not righteous we cannot justify God.
    • Jesus alone, being the perfect man, could justify us before God (Rom. 1:37; 5:16-17).
    How does God redeem us through the cross?
    • Before the cross we were enslaved in our sin with no hope.
    • Through Jesus alone we have been offered a way out to be redeemed.
      • Justified by his grace (Romans 3:24).
      • Jesus gave himself for us (Titus 2:13-14).
      • Christ became cursed for us (Galatians 3:13-14).
      • Redemption through the blood (Ephesians 1:7).
    So whom did Jesus come to die for?
    • Sinners, which includes all of us (1 Tim. 2:6).
    • He came to be the Savior of all people, but only in a saving way for those that believe/are elect in him (1 Tim. 4:10).
    How is God triumphant through the cross of Christ?
    • Forgives us of all sin.
    • Expiation
      • Our sin is taken away from us and we are made clean through Jesus.
    • Our sin is taken away and put on Jesus.
    At the cross of Christ we see the ultimate love sacrifice of God for us, which makes a way for reconciliation with God.

    Good Friday is two days away, the day that we remember the reason that Jesus came to earth to die a bloody gruesome death on the cross in our place. At first look it appears that Christ death was nothing more than death in itself, appearing to some skeptics as proof against the claims of Jesus. But it is only friday, as we will see on Sunday, the resurrection comes and Jesus is Alive!

    Monday, March 25, 2013

    30 Ways to Awaken Your Congregation for the Cause of Global Engagement



    *This post was put together by John Piper / Mark Struck. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org and was posted this week by Joshua Project.

    In their 2010 year-end report, the Barna Group identified six major patterns emerging among Christians in America:
    1. The Christian Church is becoming less theologically literate.
    2. Christians are becoming more ingrown and less outreach-oriented.
    3. Growing numbers of people are less interested in spiritual principles and more desirous of
      learning pragmatic solutions for life.
    4. Among Christians, interest in participating in community action is escalating.
    5. The postmodern insistence on tolerance is winning over the Christian Church.
    6. The influence of Christianity on culture and individual lives is largely invisible.
    Much could be said (and done!) about each of these. In response to the drift away from outreach and missions, as mentioned in the second point, we put together this list of 30 practical steps church leaders can take to see that their congregations stay alive and true to the global mission of God.
    *****
    1) Place a large laminated map in your church's lobby and ask every person to sign their name or initials on the nation for which they are burdened to pray regularly.
    2) Host a visiting national pastor for a week or two of ministry and interaction with your church. 3) Budget for your pastors to make at least one cross-cultural ministry trip each year.
    4) Identify a good book & study guide on global missions and lead your small groups through a church-wide study.
    5) When your church sends out a short-term or long-term cross-cultural team, hang a national flag representing that country in your church lobby or sanctuary as a reminder to pray each week for the team or missionary.
    6) Publish a list of recommended missions books and bios, and have the books available at the church. 7) Incorporate world-aware prayers into your worship services, and encourage the formation of an
    accessible, missions-focused prayer group in the church (perhaps based on the book Operation World).
    8) Visit your missionaries. Have people help them move, and regularly send teams to minister to your missionaries and potentially aid in the work. Missionaries are usually more inclined to share needs with a visiting church member than their field supervisor.
    9) Commission individuals and teams when they go, and set up an avenue for them to report on their work to the rest of the church.
    10) Reach out to internationals in your own city. Invite them to dinner, ask them to come and fix a dinner for the congregation to share the foods of their nation, help them improve their English, teach them how to use public transportation in your area, etc.
    11) Dedicate a week of the year to missions at your church, incorporating things such as special messages from guest speakers, ethnic dinners, documentaries on particular nations and people groups, missionary testimonies, and prayer meetings.
    12) Send groups to local and national missions-focused conferences.
    13) Take advantage of global events. When a crisis happens, address it in your services, pray, raise money, send a team. As a pastor, before church services always check websites like CNN, BBC, etc. to see if there is world news that the congregation should know and for which they should pray that very day.
    14) Clearly distinguish between missions and evangelism, and continually preach the need for both. (The difference is also well-defined in the book, Let the Nations Be Glad.)
    15) Develop a succinct and memorable statement of your church's vision for missions, and post it in a visible place in your church. Have it printed weekly on the church bulletin until everyone can say it from memory.
    16) Adopt a particular people group as a church, and direct specific prayer, giving, and service towards them. Set an annual goal of sponsoring at least one theological book in the heart-language of that people every year. (Contact Desiring God International Outreach for advice and plans for books.)
    17) Set goals with your church on how to be involved in missions (this many people sent this year, this much money given, etc.).
    18) Preserve (or establish!) the position of Missions Pastor at your church.
    19) Hire an intern for your church from another country. While they may only be able to come on a student visa, your church could still offer an honorarium or stipend for expenses.
    20) Attend or host the Perspectives course; or, as an alternative, direct your people towards the Let the Nations Be Glad DVD. It presents most of topics in the Perspectives course in six sessions.
    21) Incorporate books and activities into your youth program that foster a cross-cultural missions mindset.
    22) Buy in bulk and sell at cost large world maps that members of your church can post on their walls at home.
    23) Distribute guides for the “30 Days of Prayer” programs for people from other major world religions, such as this one for Muslims.
    24) Observe the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church which happens every November and is sponsored by Voice of the Martyrs and Open Doors.
    25) Offer foreign language courses to your congregation that correspond to the people you desire to reach, whether locally or abroad.
    26) Have a weekly missions focus in your church bulletin with famous missions quotes (like the ones in this PDF), statistics about nations and people groups, updates from your church's missionaries, etc.
    27) Deliver a biographical message on the life of a great missionary (or lead your people in some other way of hearing their story). See, for example, John Piper's biographies of Adoniram Judson and John Paton.
    28) Feature links on your church's website to other missions-related websites.
    29) Encourage your congregation to subscribe to a world news source (such as a magazine, newspaper, or podcast) or to make it their Internet browser homepage. Some recommended sources are BBC, World, and, for this year, the White Horse Inn podcast which is focusing their 2011 broadcasts on the Great Commission.
    30) Attend, or perhaps even host, events and dinners put on by missions organizations in your area (Wycliffe, International Justice Mission, World Visionetc.).
    By John Piper / Mark Struck. © Desiring God. Website: DesiringGod.org. 

    Friday, March 22, 2013

    Advance 13 Day Three Quote Recap

    This is third and final installment of recaps from Advance13. As much as I was able to participate through the live web stream I did and I want to thank all of the people with Advance the Church and LifeWay for offering the free webcast. If you were unable to attend or watch online, Advance is making all of the talks available for free in the next three weeks. To access these you can go to their website Advance13.com or download the app onto your iphone.

    Rupert Leary

    "Information never leads to transformation, the application of information leads to transformation."

    "Evangelism cannot be taught. It explodes, spills over out of the heart that is in love. Good news is refined as it is shared."

    "As goes your heart, so goes your evangelism."

    "We all freely talk about what matters most to us. We have no trouble sharing good news. We have a problem seeing Jesus as good."

    "I am only as gospel-centered as I am involved in evangelism."

    Larry Osborne

    "Legalism is never extra biblical, it's always based on the Bible, it's just never found in the Bible."

    "Becoming a Pharisee is like eating at Denny's. nobody plans on it, you just end up there."

    "Don't confuse discipleship with leadership. Projecting your gifts on others isn't making disciples."

    "The spiritually most dangerous place in the following Jesus line is at the front."

    David Platt

    "Biblical discipleship occurs at the intersection of community and mission."

    "Imbalance occurs in the church when we turn 'both/and' in the Bible into 'either/or'."

    "Saturate your preaching with the gospel in the church, so that your people speak the gospel in the world."

    “Biblical discipleship occurs at the intersection of community and mission."

    "Effective preaching is not based on an innovative personality, but a faithful preacher."

    *I missed the talk by Blake Wilson due to my own travelling schedule in Northeast India.

    Thursday, March 21, 2013

    Advance13 Day Two Quote Recap

    Brian Flikkert:

    "When the church works among the poor there is a theological statement being made."

    "Good intentions are not enough in poverty alleviation."

    "Alleviating poverty isn't about giving material resources. It's about walking hand in hand."

    "The goal of poverty alleviation is restoration. Not throwing resources at them, but walking with them."

    Andre Mann:

    "Too often missionaries are tent fakers and not tent makers."

    "Real transformation occurs in the marketplace not in the church."

    J.D. Greear:

    "Making disciples includes growing in both width and depth."

    "Churches that grow wide without growing deep aren't as wide as they think."

    "Converts who do not become disciples are still dead in sin."

    "Converts that do not persevere as disciples do not make it into heaven."

    "Churches that are faithful to the Great Commission must be both missional and attraction."

    Matt Chandler:

    "Let us be transformed by the power of the gospel rather than conform to the power of religion."

    "We are to mature in faith, there is something seriously wrong when we act like an infant if we’re not an infant."

    "Regardless of our gifting - we are all first and foremost servants of Christ."

    "We can not change hearts, we are only tools in the hands of God."

    "You can't give Jesus such a makeover that everyone says 'man I really like that dude'."

    Brian Bloye:

    "Kingdom work involves open hearts and open hands. It involves giving up control."

    "An estimated 4,000 churches close their doors every year and only 1300 are started."

    "Jesus' CP philosophy was catch & release, not catch & keep!"

    D.A. Horton:

    "You're going to offend people, just don't be a jerk while doing it."

    "We have been called to represent God, not replicate God."

    "The gospel transcends cultures and subcultures."

    Wednesday, March 20, 2013

    Advance13 Day One Quote Recap


    Although I am unable to attend the Advance the Church 2013 Conference, I am grateful that they have made a free live web-stream available. This year the theme is Building a Faithful and Effective Church, which is a timely topic as most churches are good at one or the other, but not at doing both. The following is a list of all of the main speakers from day one with a few noteworthy quotes. I am excited to see what day two holds and will most likely post another recap with some quotes and possibly a reflection post sometime next week.

    ADVANCE13 DAY ONE QUOTES:

    Tyler Jones:

    "We have regained the fluency of speaking the gospel, but have no capacity to apply it."

    "Five minutes of silence and one ounce of honesty reveals our heart."

    "If God can use you to teach, He can use anyone to teach...you are just a funnel of God's Spirit"

    Steve Timmis

    "The Church is not only created by grace, but is called to be a beacon of grace to the world."

    "We need to repent of our individualism, and go out and live as the church on mission!"

    "God's purpose has always been to have a people - to reveal his glory to, and reveal his glory through."


    Bryan Loritts

    "What blows people away is not always the gospel preached from front but the gospel seen in the seats."

    "If you want a multiethnic church preach the gospel."

    "Diversity is not a church growth technique, it is a part of the gospel."

    John Piper

    "You cannot minister to others if you are not overflowing with joy in Christ."

    "The only way we can authentically love people is to impart to them ultimate delight in Jesus."

    "Fight for people's joy in Christ so that when they lose everything on earth they are joyfully satisfied in Christ."

    "I work with my people for their joy -- every sermon, every wedding, every funeral, every devotional."

    Monday, March 18, 2013

    ADVANCE13: Building A Faithful and Effective Church

    Advance the Church has announced that they will be offering a live stream of the conference that is being held in Raleigh-Durham this week (March 19-21). If you live in the area or within driving distance than I highly encourage you to attend this conference in person as there is so much you miss out on by just watching the live stream. But if you are like me and live overseas than this is a great opportunity to gather a group of people to participate through a live web stream, where during the breakout sessions you can have a time of reflection and discussion on what God is doing in you through this conference. To get more details on the conference go here and for information on how to watch the conference live go here.

    Friday, March 15, 2013

    The Beards of Ministry

    The field guide for pastoral facial hair put out by Leadership Journal has been going around the internet for a couple of weeks now and it is quite humorous and generally spot on. It probably will not take you very long to guess, which beard and description fits me the most. Enjoy!

    Wednesday, March 13, 2013

    In the World, but Not of the World

    If you have been a Christian for any amount of time you have likely come across the phrase, "In the world, but not of the world." Growing up in a fundamentalist Christian school that meant that we literally were not to look like the world. To show an example of this I can remember a chapel speaker bringing up students that in his mind exemplified this. If you were a female this meant you were wearing a skirt that at minimum went to the bottom of your knee cap and wore some type of blouse that revealed a minimum amount of your arm. If you were a guy this meant that you wore some slacks with a button down shirt tucked in with a belt, and of course you had a neat hair cut and no facial hair. As you can guess, I was always looked down and judged at this school as I do not fit that description easily. 

    This popular slogan comes from John 17:14-19:
    I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

    What does "In the World, but Not of the World," not mean?
    I will go ahead and flat out tell you with full conviction that my fundamentalist Christian school had this dead wrong. For them it was all about external rules and regulations that would physically make you look different, but this is not what Jesus is calling us to. Yes, we can all agree that Jesus does not want us to be "of the world," as he himself is not of the world; but Jesus does want us to be "in the world," as that is where he himself is sending us. 

    What does "In the World, but Not of the World," mean?
    I agree with David Mathis here who says, "Maybe it would serve us better — at least in light of John 17 — to revise the popular phrase “in, but not of” in this way: “not of, but sent into.” The beginning place is being “not of the world,” and the movement is toward being “sent into” the world. The accent falls on being sent, with a mission, to the world — not being mainly on a mission to disassociate from this world."

    This means that as we are "in, but not of" the world we should spend time with sinners. We should have them over for dinner. We should redeem secular holidays such as Halloween. We should attend their parties, and throw the best parties as we have something to truly celebrate. So, as Christians we are not of the world, but we are sent into the world to make disciples of all people.

    Monday, March 11, 2013

    10 Characteristics of a Missional Church

    We hear a lot about the missional church these days, which I think is great, but I also fear it is becoming just another slogan that is void of any meaning. Occasional when I think about what it means to be a missional Christian, I stop and think, "is there really any other kind?" Sure, there are plenty of people with would label themselves Christian, but if they are not being missional are they really encompassing what it means to be a Christian. The same goes for the church. If a church is not really missional then isn't it more like a country club than a church?

    Scott Thomas wrote an article recently where he gave us 10 Characteristics of a Church Fired Up and on Mission that gives us some inclinations on whether or not a church is truly missional and might I add, being the church. To see his full article check it out here.

    TEN CHARACTERISTICS OF A MISSIONAL CHURCH by Scott Thomas

    1. The missional church is committed to the authoritative, infallible, inerrant, inspired, Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:14-17; Acts 2:42).

    2. Understands the centrality of the Gospel expressed in all aspects of a person's life (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; 2:2; Galatians 6:14).

    3. Gatherings are characterized by God-centered worship, preaching of the Gospel, prayer, Lord's Supper by penitent souls, and baptism as a response  to the Gospel (John 4:23-24).

    4. A missional church understands it has been sent by God as missionaries in their own culture (Matthew 4:19; John 20:21; Acts 16:20; 17:6) to make disciples of all peoples (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).

    5. Boldly and intentionally promotes the Gospel through making disciples and church planting globally through collaborative expressions of mercy and generosity.

    6. A missional church is dependent upon the Holy Spirit to empower and lead believers as agents for evangelizing and making disciples (Acts 1:8; Luke 4:1; 14; 18).

    7. Missional churches utilize relationships and sacrificial love as the expressions of love to others in their journey toward faith (Matthew 5:13-16; John 15:12-17; 1 John 4:19-21).

    8. The goal of a missional church is to walk in community with others as Jesus pursues them in His own way and timing (1 Corinthians 9:20-23).

    9. A missional church is a hands-on training ground for missionary training (Acts 4:13; 31-35).

    10. Godly, biblically qualified elders lead a missional church (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1; Ephesians 4). 

    Wednesday, March 6, 2013

    What Does It Mean "To Lose Your Witness?"

    If you have ever had the opportunity to play with or against me in sports you know that I do not like to lose so regardless of the level of my skill at a sport, I will give it my all to win. This basically means that I am a competitor and a quite aggressive one. I never once won MVP on any of my soccer or basketball teams, but I did win most aggressive and defensive player of the year on a few occasions. My middle school basketball coach always said, "Defense is what wins a ball game," so I took that to mean that my part on the team was vital to our success. And I have always said, "What I lack in skill, I make up in aggression."

    So recently I was playing basketball with some guys and it got pretty heated, okay it got really heated! I knew that I was getting to the other guy and I thought I had everything under control, right up until I lost it. I am not going to rehash the details here, but let's just say we both acted in ways that we shouldn't have for two grown men playing pick up basketball, but we are both competitors and have a drive to win at all cost.

    Our heated moment took place on a public court and after a few minutes of time to cool down we talked it out as brothers in Christ. In case you are wondering, we left it all there on the court, forgave each other, and moved on to play again a few days later. But there was one thought that was posed that night, "The last thing I would want us to do is lose our witness out here."

    Because I grew up in church, I knew what was meant by this expression, generally that you do not want your actions to show you acting in a way that does not honor Christ as others are watching. My problem with this statement and idea is that this easily turns into behavior modification, where there is no genuine gospel change. So, let's briefly replay the situation. If in our brief heated moment I did not act out on any emotions, but instead thought to myself how much I hate this person and called them some stupid names. Now, on the surface I kept my cool and "my witness," but on the inside I am corrupt and really lost my witness just as much.

    The truth is that at some point we are all going to "lose our witness," because we are sinners but what truly makes us lose our witness is what happens as a result and our reaction after we sin. Take my example on the basketball court for instance. If we had our heated moment, said some things, etc. and left it at that then maybe we would lose our witness because we do not forgive by forgetting. But no, we had a public display of sin against each other and a public display of recognition of our wrong to one another, where we were reconciled (Matt. 18:22). Now, if you ask me that is a beautiful picture of the gospel in our lives, not the potential of losing your witness.

    Monday, March 4, 2013

    We Are Fools if There Is No Resurrection

    If in this life we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most pitied.
    -1 Corinthians 15:19

    Growing up I have always been around the impression that even if in the end there were no God and Jesus never resurrected that to be a Christian was still living a "good" life. For many years this was my own viewpoint when considering the alternatives, but as soon as you travel to persecuted areas of the world that is no longer the case. If you are living in many parts of the world, being a Christian is not the better option if there is no God or resurrection, you would be an utter fool to choose the hardship that comes with daily taking up your cross and following after a myth.

    It is hard for us in the West to really grasp this viewpoint because although the worldview of a Christian in the West is getting more difficult, it still does not cost you much to follow Jesus on a daily basis. And if for some reason the resurrection was proven false then we could just join the Mormons and be a bunch of good moralists that are out for the better of society. But we see Paul, the greatest missionary to ever live, tell us that if this all proves false then we are a bunch of idiots!

    I even think about my own Christian life, which is mostly comfortable and some of the decisions that the gospel has led me to make. Although my family has greatly enjoyed the reward of serving in S. Asia to see churches planted, but if in the end we found out that the gospel were not true then we would consider ourselves fools. Yes, there is a lot to love about where we live, but my wife and I both agree that apart from the gospel we would have never moved here. Sure, we would have loved to have visited, but as a tourist you usually spend maximum two weeks in a place, but moving a wife and small child to live is vastly different.

    So apart from the resurrection we are fools, but do not fret because I have full confidence in the resurrection. It is not uncommon to share with someone in my city about Jesus and often times when I get to his death and resurrection, the reaction is, "No, way, that can't be possible!" It is at that moment that I tell them the truth of actual recorded history and that if it were not for the resurrection I would not be a Christian and I wouldn't be wasting my time sharing it with them.

    Friday, March 1, 2013

    50 Countries Where Christians Are Most Persecuted

    The below video is the world watch list of how ranking countries in the world where Christians are persecuted for their faith is compiled. Below the video you will see this years list of the 50 countries where Christians are most persecuted. I encourage you to spend some time praying for each country as you read through the list as this is the daily reality for many of our brothers and sisters around the world. If you give each country just one minute of your day, you will spend less than an hour, which is probably less time than most of you waste on the internet daily.



    WORLD WATCH LIST 2013