Monday, April 29, 2013

Sincerely Freedom - A Spoken Word by Nick Vitellaro

The below video is a powerful spoken word called 'Sincerely Freedom,' by Nick Vitellaro, which was put out this week in partnership with Nick wrote this piece because he wanted to address the topic of pornography and addiction in a real way that would speak to people and hopefully help others find the freedom they need from this addiction in Christ.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Dealing with the Judas in Our Midst

I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.
-Job 42:2

I reread through Nik Ripken’s article, Dealing with Judas, this week as some situations that have come up in recent days within our context made me think about the possibility of a Judas within our midst. In reading through this article it became clear that the question is not whether or not there will be a Judas, but expect there to be a Judas when planting house churches in hard to reach areas, especially amongst Muslims. 

Ripken's article gives three examples that are common around the world, especially with Muslim background believers, of dealing with Judas type situations. Ripken not only makes the church aware of the Judas that is always in the room, but he clearly and sufficiently explains how to respond to the Judas in light of the biblical record and modeling Jesus as he responded to his Judas. Ripken proceeds by modeling out six ways to respond to Judas that will facilitate the growth and the health of the gospel amongst churches.
First, expect to find Judas within the inner circle. Ripken’s point is if Jesus did not avoid Judas from his inner group, then why should we think our group would be different? Ripken pointed out the commonality when a Judas will show up often as a church is being planted or significant growth appears. The presence of a Judas is many times a clear sign that the Holy Spirit is at work. This being said, a Judas almost serves as a signal to a church plant or movement that God is at work.
Second, expect Judas to grow up within the movement-taking place. Although Ripken points out through interviews with Chinese house church leaders that often times their Judas’ were coming from the outside and were let in, but that is not the picture Jesus represent for the church. Jesus chose Judas as one of the closest followers. That is the reason it has to be assumed that there will be a Judas amongst our midst, even if it is those we choose to walk next to us.
Third, we can model Jesus by dealing with Judas; there is no need to push him onto others. This might be one of the hardest things to do, because it maybe the person that walked closest with us who we considered our disciple who betrays us. Ripken shows here that the heart of biblical disciple making is made possible here as one confronts and deals appropriately with the betrayer.
Fourth, learn to recognize Judas early. This can be a very difficult task to do, but by recognizing the betrayer early gives an advantage to discern the heart, intent, and methods of the betrayer. By recognizing these three things it makes it so we can assist with the process of dealing with Judas and not allowing him to betray the group.
Fifth, Judas often has money issues. Ripken labels this as “Jesus plus syndrome.” More often then not the Judas is an individual who wants to come to Jesus because of all the other things that Jesus brings in this persons mind, such as a spouse, job, and a education. This is a clear indication that there is not desire to take up their cross and follow Jesus.
Sixth, revealing Christ in the way that you deal with Judas. Ripken reminds believers that it is not an enjoyable experience to find a Judas in your midst, but as you do and how you deal with the Judas can be a crucial tipping point. Unfortunately a Judas can determine if the church continues on into Pentecost or destroy the work of a decade.  By following the biblical model of Jesus and implementing Ripken’s advice, will help assist churches through the future to recognize those as Judas and how to deal with them appropriately.          

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My Grandfather's Faith and Example

My grandfather, who is a retired pastor, turned 90 last week. The family had a big celebration for him, along with one of his former churches, and he was invited to be the guest preacher for the day. This very well may have been one of the last times that he preaches publicly like this so I would have made it a priority to be there were my family not living in S. Asia right now.

The below video clip is about ten minutes worth of his sermon that my Aunt posted on Youtube. I am unaware of any other video/audio recording at this time since it was in a country church in a small town, but hope that there is some out there somewhere.

I found it fitting that the passage God put on his heart to preach was 1 Thessalonians 1, which talks about the faith and example of the Thessalonians. My grandfather, Charles Jones, is a man of great faith and example for his family and for the hundreds to thousands of people that he has pastored over the years. As I sit back and reflect on the example and faith that he has passed on to generations I turn to the words of Paul to the Thessalonians and I want to echo those words to my grandfather:

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 (ESV)
We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly1ementioning you in our prayers, remembering before four God and Father gyour work of faith and labor of hlove and isteadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, jbrothers2 loved by God,kthat he has chosen you, because lour gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and min the Holy Spirit and with fullnconviction. You know owhat kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And pyou became imitators of us qand of the Lord, forryou received the word in much affliction, swith the tjoy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lordusounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth veverywhere, so that we need not say anything.For they themselves report concerning us the kind of wreception we had among you, and how xyou turned to God yfrom idols to serve the living and ztrue God, 10 and ato wait for his Son bfrom heaven, cwhom he raised from the dead, Jesus dwho delivers us from ethe wrath to come.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Some Views on Glossolalia & Prayer Language

The following post was originally written in 2009 for an assignment in a Theology class for seminary, it has been slighted altered for its posting on here.

Recently I have had some discussions that revolved around the gift of tongues and their proper use within the present day. I have close friends and family who are all over the place in regards to their proper view of tongues, if they are still relevant today, how private they should be, interpretation or no interpretation, etc. The purpose of this brief look at the gift of tongues is in regards to how some groups, specifically mission sending agencies have gotten their view of the gift of tongues out of balance. There is a clear example of this by simply looking at the two largest missions sending denominations, the Assemblies of God and the Southern Baptist (Great Commission Baptist). In order to do international missions with the one you have to speak in tongues, to do international missions with the other you are forbidden from speaking in tongues. In my opinion, neither view is biblical. 

The particular policy that I want to look at has recognizable strengths and weaknesses throughout the guideline. But without revealing too much, this particular policy put in place by a large sending agency disqualifies individuals who practice the gift of tongues in any form. 

The immediate strength of this particular policy is recognition that the New Testament does refer to the gift of glossolalia, which is considered a legitimate language (Acts 2:8-11; 1 Cor. 12:10; 1 Cor. 14). Out of this initial strength this policy moves into a weakness because upon recognition of glossolalia as a gift, it is listed that it “had” specific uses and conditions for its exercise in public worship. I have a general agreement with the statement initially, but by adding the word “had” in the statement, this policy immediately disqualifies the possibility of glossolalia being used to fit the previous definition in the future. The third part of the policy is also a weakness, because the definitions are vague and if a candidate for this mission agency lines up on every other policy and guideline, but falls slightly outside on this one than they have been disqualified immediately.

A policy such as this one could/should fall into areas of secondary and tertiary issues depending on the degree of use, but many groups and denominations are making it a primary issue. By making an issue such as tongues and prayer language a primary issue, one is immediately cut off from associating with many groups of Christians. If groups instead chose to make it a secondary issue then there would still be some resistance and caution, understandably so, but with an open heart and mind to take each individual case and person on a biblical basis. And if it were to be a tertiary issue then there would probably still be a policy on the use of the gift, but it would not disqualify every potential candidate immediately on the basis of some form of the gift.
This section is broken into four parts. The first part is strength because it is correct that Scripture must test any spiritual experience. The second part is a weakness because Scripture clearly teaches in 1 Corinthians 14:2, which says, “For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit” (ESV). Now, this passage does go on to refer to the need of an interpretation for the purpose of understanding and edification in public group settings, but many groups only refer to the latter half of this Corinthians passage. The third part of this section is strength, primarily because there is a large amount of agreement of not being convinced that ecstatic utterance as a prayer language is valid, although I, like some, am open to that idea upon the basis of it being a person alone by themselves in prayer to God, whereas many would disagree with me. Based on my own definition, there is reason that a person should not be disqualified from being a representative of a denomination based on this, many see it a different way, which is a weakness because they have taken this idea of a prayer language and put it into a box with a tightly closed lid on it. I agree with Dr. Daniel Akin of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary here when he says, "A private prayer language is private, therefore, we should not ask others about it, but leave it as private."
The third section of this policy is the application section that is broken down into two parts. The first part is weak because it basically asserts that this is where this group stands and their stance is not retroactive. This reveals their satisfaction with what they have developed regardless if they were rebuked in love on any of the particulars within the policy. The second part is a strength because although listed as retroactive, this part allows for exceptions, which must be reviewed by the staff and Mission Personnel Committee. Although curiosity exist as to how many exceptions there have been since this policy came out and a to the result decided by the staff and Mission Personnel. In my opinion, none or there are closest-tongue speakers within this group.
It is understandable that large organizations, including mission organizations, have a need to incorporate policies and guidelines, as they grow larger. This is why there is not a problem with having a guideline on tongues and a prayer language within itself. There is a specific purpose for guidelines such as this one as they are necessary.
There is however a problem with this specific guideline in how it is defined and implemented. The strengths and weaknesses of this guideline have been recognized throughout and overall there is dissatisfaction in this one and it is viewed as very weak. The gift of tongues and prayer language is something that has been of personal study in the last five years of my life. Initially I would like to read a policy like this one and be fully supportive, but I cannot when I really start to assess the strengths and weaknesses. I view a policy like this lazy because it is an easy way not to have to deal with a difficult issue. In some ways I cannot blame this organization, but I believe that there could be such a stronger, biblical approach to an issue like this one. This group even says, “Any spiritual experience must be tested by Scripture”, but I do not view this policy as testing things with Scripture. This is more of lets take the parts of Scripture that agree with what we want it to say on tongues and prayer language and leave it at that.
Unfortunately there are many policies and guidelines such as this one being implemented by entire denominations and mission sending agencies that are turning into legalism. As a result many pastors, churches, and individuals are deciding to send their funds elsewhere to do things on their own in a biblical way and it is hard to blame them. My prayer is that these agencies and denominations would continue to be used by God for years to come and that there would be a focus on changing policies such as this one to fit a more biblical model, as to not cut off so many willing candidates who are called to reach the nations.     

Friday, April 19, 2013

What I Am Currently Reading

If you have been a reader of this blog for any amount of time than you know four to five times a year I like to give some insight into what I am reading and if the book is worth your time than I suggest it to you. Here is a list that I am working through and recommend to all of you:

1. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission by David Bosch Buy on Amazon

2. Who Do You Think You Are: Finding Your True Identity in Christ by Mark Driscoll Buy on Amazon

3. Manhood Restored: How the Gospel Makes Men Whole (pre-release) by Eric Mason Buy on Amazon

4. The Jesus Story-Book Bible (with my two year old) by Sally Loyd-Jones Buy on Amazon

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Simple Evangelism Tool - The Bridge

I am encouraged to see my sending church along with many others equipping the body of Christ with some simple gospel sharing tools such as the bridge. I am not sure who originally used the bridge as a way to share the gospel, but it has been around forever and it has proven to be an effective tool in both the US and around the world. The bridge or a modified form of the bridge is what we teach many of our church planters in S. Asia as one tool in their tool belt for sharing the gospel. I encourage you to watch the below illustration of how the bridge method for sharing the gospel can work in your context, whether that be in a village in India or a coffee shop in Raleigh-Durham, NC.                                      

Monday, April 15, 2013

Making A Disciple that Makes Another Disciple Every 6 Months Could Change the World

I recently posted a video from the Story about how the whole world could hear and be changed by the Gospel in 20 years time. Yes, you read that right it is possible that within twenty years time the entire world could be reached, but it has been that way for sometime and it hasn't happened yet. Similarly I started looking at some numbers for the language group that I have been working amongst the last year, which currently has >.06% Christians, and discovered that if every current follower of Jesus would make just one new disciple every six months and that process continued with all of those new disciples that in less than five years this language group could be reached.

The numbers are astonishing when you break it down to the amount of the population that is currently in Christ and how fast the rest of the population could be reached. This exact scenario is what I challenged these leaders and believers with last week. That by the year 2018 they could say that all people amongst their language have heard the gospel as Paul said that all of Asia had heard in Acts 19:10.

But for that to happen what is it going to take? In the case of the language group that I am working with it will take all 20,000 believers on mission that are committed to making at least one new disciple every six months that will also go on to make new disciples. For your context it is likely that within just a few years the entire population could be reached, but it is going to take all people in Christ on mission together. Therein lies the problem, equipping all people and releasing all people as ministers of the gospel.

In a context like the US this math equation could reach most areas within one to two years if it worked out the way that it is supposed to, but it most likely will not because A. Not all people will be properly equipped and B. Not all leaders are willing to release authority.

Here is a list of some Common Barriers to this happening:
  • Lack of Prayer for the People or Place
  • Lack of Gospel Sharing
  • Delaying Baptism
  • Lack of Long-term discipleship
  • Lack of Accountability
  • Jealousy amongst leaders
  • Lack of cooperation between churches and denominations
So what is it going to take in your area to see your people or place reached? Take some time over the next few days and do the math and I promise you will be astounded at how little it would take to say as Paul did that there was no place left!

Friday, April 12, 2013

3801 Lancaster - A Documentary Revealing The Kermit Gosnell Story

Considered to be one of the most gruesome murder trials in US history has been strangely silenced by the media. Trevin Wax has given us 8 Reasons for the Media Blackout on Kermit Gosnell. The video below is a documentary film about Gosnell, the Philadelphia Women's Medical Society disaster and the cover-up by state and local oversight agencies. This story is absolutely sickening and despite media's neglect of the story needs to be revealed. I must warn you that this is a graphic film and should not be watched by children.

3801 Lancaster from 3801Lancaster on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What We Can Learn from A Hippie Commune

My wife and I recently watched the move Wanderlust, which is about a couple that finds themselves unemployed and experimenting with living on a rural/hippie commune. Initially the couple is not so sure about the commune, but for a time end up embracing this new free-loving lifestyle. The movie is a comedy so it captures the funny side of a hippie commune, and the couple end up not continuing to live in the way that the commune does.

But what really caught my attention in the movie as I watched is what really appealed to this couple about this commune, the community aspect. The unwritten rules were based around the idea that nobody really owned anything, but that they all shared everything. In the case of a hippie commune this can go to extreme lengths such as sharing spouses as partners.

Although I am not suggesting that we as Christians should live as if we are a hippie commune, I am suggesting that what appealed to this couple is exactly how the church should appeal to the world around us, our community. The church should be a community such that those around us want what we have as those in Christ as we model the aspects of the early church that we see in Acts 2:42-47.

The Christian Community Is Central To Christian Identity 

Tim Chester and Steve Timmis in their book Total Church point out that "We are the community of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14) in community with the Son (1 Corinthians 1:9) - sharing our lives (1 Thessalonians 2:8), sharing our property (Acts 4:32), sharing in the gospel (Philippians 1:5; Philemon 6), and sharing in Christ's suffering and glory (2 Corinthians 1:6-7; 1 Peter 4:13). Somewhere along the way we have lost this sense of community as people started practicing a "private" faith. The truth is that as followers of Christ the private aspect of our lives is over and we are now called to be a people in community.

The Christian Community Is Central To Christian Mission

Chester and Timmis also point out that "God made us as persons-in-community to be the vehicle through which he would reveal his glory. Jesus left the church with the task of the Great Commission in Matthew 28, which is to be completed by the community of the church as we make new disciple through the planting of churches. As followers of Christ we are all called to be on mission and God designed it such that we would be sent on mission together.

So if you are in Christ, but not connected to the body of the church then you are living an unbalanced life. If you are not in Christ and have not observed a church that exemplifies a community that you desire than I apologize as we are still a group of imperfect people who do not always get it right, but I encourage you to give the community of those in Christ a chance as there is no other thing truly like it in the world.