Friday, February 27, 2015

33 The Series: A Man and His Marriage Leader Kit Giveaway

Authentic Manhood is all about setting men up to live lives of truth, passion and purpose. The resources offer clear and practical Biblical insights on God’s design for manhood that are both refreshing and inspiring. They point men to a gospel-centered vision of life that sets them up to enjoy God’s grace as they pursue the promises of His Word.

Their newest resource is “33 The Series.” It is a multi-volume, gospel-centered video series that presents the timeless truths of Authentic Manhood in a powerfully new and engaging way. It includes new insightful teaching, inspiring testimonies, expert interviews and multiple creative features. As a man experiences the different volumes of 33, he will find himself building a vision for Authentic Manhood in his own life that is built on the gospel of Jesus Christ and was modeled by Him in His 33 years on earth.

The volume on a man and his marriage equips men with the insights and skills they need to relate to women. Men will learn how to better understand and meet a woman’s deepest needs, how to resolve conflicts, and how to be a servant leader in a way that will re-energize and bring life into his marriage. 

Take a look at the video below and find out how you can win a copy of the leader kit ($75 value) of this volume here on the blog.

How To Enter and Win

I am giving away two copies of this volume and there are two ways to enter. You can choose one or both of the below options.
1. Twitter. Send out the following Tweet: Enter to win a copy of A Man and His Marriage Leader Kit ($75 value) from 33 the Series - #Marriage33MB
2. FacebookShare this post on your Facebook wall inviting people to enter the giveaway. You must include the hashtag #Marriage33MB. That will allow me to keep track of all the entries.
I will select 2 winners randomly Monday evening and announce the winners on Tuesday.

Update: Winners
Thank you to everyone for entering the giveaway. The two winners are:
Jonathan Murray and Norman Johnson

Monday, February 23, 2015

Leaders that Mobilize vs. Stifle Movements

I have read a lot about church planting movements that changed the world and have found some ideas very interesting. For example in 1850 the Methodists had 4,000 itinerant preachers, 8,000 local preachers, and more than one million members, which made them the largest religious body in the nation and second largest national institution behind the government.

Steve Addison on this movement said, "This achievement would have been impossible without the mobilization of ordinary people-white and black, young and old, men and women-and the removal of artificial barriers to their engagement in significant leadership as class leaders, local workers, and itinerant preachers."

Addison is getting at something here that many of our churches miss. In many churches and denominations it has become all about the "professional" Christian doing the work of ministry. Even in many of our local churches we will hear the pastors say, "You guys need to be involved with this, do ministry, etc." But then what is communicated through their actions is the attitude of, "I am the seminary trained one here, so allow me to be the face of everything in regards to ministry." It is also communicated  through who serves the family meal (communion) and who baptizes, which neither has to be "professional ministers."

This kind of attitude communicated to the church is what has stifled its growth at many times and in many ways. During the surge of growth in the Methodist denomination they had no college-educated people in ministry, sounds slightly similar to Jesus day to me. And the decline of the Methodists church came during the time when the amateur people in ministry were replaced with the seminary educated professionals.

Let me clarify that I am not against seminary if you take that route as part of your equipping, I have two seminary degrees. But, I do believe that there has been too much emphasis put on seminary education and not enough on the local church equipping and training their members to go out to be ministers in their everyday lives. And until we as a church get back to the place where the Methodist were in 1850, we in many ways we are the cause of stifling a movement that could change the world by not equipping every follower of Christ to be on mission.

I leave you with this, if you are a pastor or professionally trained in ministry, what are you doing in order to equip and mobilize your people to go out and do ministry? 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Theology of Suffering from Job Part 2

The theology of the book of Job is not far off from the theme in questioning faith and trust in a sovereign God. It is in the theology of Job’s suffering that he does question God, accusing Him of doing wrong to Job (Job 19:6-7). Job is seen to be struggling as he is questioning God, but he also comes across knowing that it is actually his enemy who is causing him suffering, which he knows is not God. Job’s struggle come apparent as at times he expresses that he feels God is so close to him that he feels he cannot even swallow his spit and then at other times he feels as if God is so far away that he is nowhere to be found (Job 7:19; 9:11).

From the beginning of the book of Job it is evident that the reason behind human suffering often times remains hidden. Through the examination of the life of Job, his sufferings were due to Satan's accusations on him, but from the reading of Job it is never made evident that Job learned or knew of this. This is the reason it is not always accurate for one to assume that their suffering necessarily comes directly from sin in their life, as Job’s friends thought was the case in his situation (Job 21:34) Although God is a good God and concerned for His people, He does not always provide answers to all of the questions that man asks. Even in Job’s understandable questioning of God, God proves to be good, as He did not hold Job’s questioning against him, but instead chose to call them “right” (Job 42:7). As a whole the book of Job shows that complete understanding of God allowing events to take place in ones life, whether blessing or suffering, is not necessary to have faith in God and trust in His providential love.

As can be clearly seen in the book of Job, there is a clear purpose of suffering, theme of suffering, and theology of suffering. The clear purpose is that all people universally suffer and what is examined is why God allows his followers to suffer and to what extent is God the one implementing the suffering. According to Daniel Akins “A Theology for the Church”, there are six themes in regards to suffering. God created a particular world (Gen. 2:17), there was creaturely rebellion (Rom. 8:20), there is divine justice and discipline (Gen.6-8), there is spiritual maturity (2 Cor. 12:7), there is redemption and eschatology (Gen. 37,39), and mystery.

Through the life of Job it is evident that he is living in a world created by God, nothing that happens surprises God because this world is His creation. Creaturely rebellion is something that no man can deny, Job included. There is divine justice and discipline that one experiences, but is not necessarily always revealed as such. There was spiritual maturity on the part of Job as he moved from asking “why” to “who” was causing the suffering. There is redemption as Job had experienced and then there is the mystery of why God continues to allow His people to suffer. Job, if anyone, had the right to question why God was allowing such terrible things to happen to him, but he serves as an example to spiritual warfare that people can and will suffer even when they are righteous in the sight of God. The important aspect to remember is that ones suffering will be temporary, as eternity will be spent with God, where there will be no pain or suffering.

Job did not fully understand his suffering. He knew he was suffering at the hands of his “enemy”, which he knew was not God, but he did question why God would allow such suffering to continue. Job, although questioning for a time, stayed faithful to God as his hope and redemption for eternity.

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Theology of Suffering from the Life of Job

Everyone at some point in their life has endured what they would consider some form of suffering. Followers of Jesus often wonder why God continues to allow suffering to happen if they are considered righteous in the eyes of God because of Jesus sacrifice on their part. The life of Job is arguably one of the best places to search for answers to these questions to develop a biblical theology of suffering. In the book of Job we see three aspects of suffering develop, which are the purpose, theme, and theology. Today I will take a look at the purpose and theme and then Wednesday at the theology and conclusion of the book of Job. 

In the life of Job it is seen that it is God who allows Satan to test Job, but God also places restrictions on how Satan can test him (Job 1:12). The book of Job addresses the problem of suffering for all people of faith universally. It shows God and man’s relationship and is written to help those struggling understand how the justice of a sovereign God applies in a world filled with pain and suffering.

Job investigates two ways God’s righteousness is implied when it comes to justice. First, Satan implies that because of God blessing one as Job is the reason he is righteous and follows him, but if God would allow suffering to enter his life then he would curse God (Job 1:9-11). Second, Job questions how God can allow a follower of Him to suffer. Here what is seen in the life of Job is observed in the life of every individual who has ever followed God. It is important to note here that God is never under any obligation to make sure His followers only receive blessing because that will come when Christians are spending eternity with Him, not during their life now. Even though Job questions God at one point, he keeps his integrity and shows a triumph of faith during a time of suffering (Job 19:25).

The overarching theme in the book of Job is faith in a sovereign God, but the question remains can He be trusted? The misconception of man, especially today, is often that if righteous in the eyes of God then one will prosper and continually receive blessing upon blessing. The book of Job represents this attitude in regards to Job’s friends and their response to his suffering (Job 2:11; 21:34). This represents a misunderstanding of suffering in regards to what the Bible has to say about it. As seen in the book of Job, often one will not know what is the cause of suffering or the purpose behind it, but everyone who follows Christ can continually take comfort that God is omniscient and omnipresent being wise and sovereign as His providence is over everything.

Three key ideas are seen in the book of Job that not only the wicked suffer, God’s justice cannot be reduced to a simple formula, and God’s infinite wisdom is the key to acknowledging his justice. Although God provided a way for man to be restored to Him and be viewed as righteous, there is no promise in the life on this earth that man will not endure suffering. Man often fails to remember that even upon following Christ, the world one lives in is still corrupt and full of evil that is the reason bad things happen, even to “good” people.

It must be remembered as seen in the book of Job that God is not the one who causes the suffering, but God is sovereign and providential in allowing the suffering to occur. Job along with all of mankind need be reminded here that there is an enemy out in the world, Satan, who has not been removed yet (Job 1:6). This should not discourage one as it did not discourage Job because he remembered that he had a firm foundation of hope in a redeemer (Job 19:25-27).

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Lord is Your Keeper

Life is a journey with many trials and triumphs, ups and downs, and none of us can guarantee how our journey here on this earth will finish. But for those in Christ we can rest in the tireless care that comes from the Lord. Psalm 121 caused me to reflect on this idea earlier this week and I now encourage you to read it, meditate on it, and thank God for his tireless care over you.

My Help Comes from the Lord

A Song of mAscents.

121 vlift up my eyes to wthe hills.
From where does my help come?
xMy help comes from the Lord,
who ymade heaven and earth.

He will not zlet your foot be moved;
he who akeeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your bshade on your cright hand.
dThe sun shall not estrike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will akeep you from all evil;
he will akeep your life.
The Lord will keep
your fgoing out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Centrality of Love - Jesus' Ethics

43 f“You have heard that it was said, g‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, iLove your enemies and jpray for those who persecute you, 45 kso that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and lsends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 mFor if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?47 And if you greet only your brothers,9 what more are you doing than others? Do not even nthe Gentiles do the same? 48 oYou therefore must be pperfect, qas your heavenly Father is perfect. -Matthew 5:43-48

Recently I've been reading through Scot McKnight's Sermon on the Mount: The Story of God Bible Commentary. This is a book that I received for Christmas and have slowly been working my way through it passage by passage. It is one of the best books that I have read in the last year and one that I highly recommend.

This excerpt from the book shows the centrality of love as the ethic of Jesus.
Jesus forms an antithesis: first, he gives his prescribed behavior (5:44 - love your enemies, pray for your persecutors); second, he grounds the love-your-enemy command in the universal love of God for all humans (5:45). Third, Jesus interrogates his followers by pushing back against an ethnic-family-only kind of love. That sort of biased makes them no different than the tax collectors and Gentiles (5:46-47). Finally, he offers a summary statement: "Be perfect." But this summary makes sense only by perceiving the logic of 5:44-45: as God cares for all, so they are to love all; as God is perfect, so they are to be perfect (5:48).
Jesus' fundamental strategy for enemies was to make them our neighbors, and the concrete form of Jesus' enemy love was to invite them to his table - so that at the table of Jesus we find typical "enemies" like tax collectors and sinners.
(Scot McKnight, Sermon on the Mount: The Story of God Bible Commentary)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

5 Additional Ways to Help Returning Missionaries - 2/2

On Monday I wrote the first post in this two part series as an introduction and the initial five ways that I suggest one can help a returning missionary. Today I would like to offer an additional five ways. This list in no way is exhaustive, but based on interviews, research, and first hand experience.

6. Provide temporary housing.

Sure, many people will have the option to stay with some of their extended family members when they return like my family did, but lets be real here, who wants to stay with their family for more than a few weeks? There are Christians out there with huge homes with empty rooms that could easily host a family for a few weeks. There are Christians that have been very successful that own vacation homes that sit empty a good part of the year too, why not take something God has blessed you with and use it as a way to serve others in the family of God.

7. Provide a temporary vehicle.

Getting from point A to point B is a real need in most American contexts unless you are in a handful of the largest cities. Loaning out an extra car to a returning missionary family is a huge blessing and takes a large burden off of them. This allows them to get around town, make appointments, catch up with family and friends, and to make all of their interviews.

8. Provide a job.

Overseas missionaries leave everything behind, including jobs and the opportunity to advance further in their careers. This can leave them behind in their field upon return to the U.S. Finding a job was one of the most difficult things I experienced once returning. My resume was outdated, I had moved overseas and foregone the opportunity to advance in marketing and public relations, which left me at a entry level job at best. And people were skeptical because of the length of time since I had graduated.

I have a few thoughts on how jobs could be provided for returning missionaries. First, if the church that sent out the missionary is hiring for any position that they are qualified to fill then they should be amongst first considered. I am not saying that you have to hire them, but I do think that you should give them serious consideration. Second, if the church is large enough with a large enough budget then they could create a role even if temporary for them to fill. Third, the church should gather a list of business owners and managers from local businesses that will at least offer to interview the returning individuals and once again hire them if they qualify. Fourth, your local church can have a list of temporary employee opportunities such as handyman work, childcare, etc. Fifth, the church could save up and give a lump sum of money to help the returning family in the transition period and as they look for work.

Included in this is section is helping them pick out appropriate interview attire, resume help, mock interviews, etc.

9. Learn from them.

This may seem like a funny way to help them, but in my experience people that have served overseas have a very different and often times more biblical perspective on life and ministry. The world is seen in a different light and many of the returning missionaries from my tribe have been serving in the least reached areas of the world and seeing disciples made in a way most American Christians will never experience. Be willing to take a dose of humility and listen and learn from them.

10. Pray for them.

Come on now, did you really think that as a pastor and former missionary that I was going to leave out prayer? But when I say, "pray for them," I really mean pray for them. Now, don't just use this as a cop out of all of the other nine suggested ways to help and only "pray" that God will meet their needs when God has put you into their life to help meet them! Lay hands on them at a Sunday gathering and really pray for them. Ask them how you can pray for them as individuals and a family. And follow up with how God may be using you in their life to also help meet those prayer needs.

What are some additional ways in which you would suggest helping returning missionaries?

Monday, February 2, 2015

5 Ways to Help Returning Missionaries - 1/2

This is a post that I have wanted to write for about a year now, but wanted to wait until my family had returned from life overseas and been back for at least a year. Call it my own pride, but this was mostly so that people wouldn't feel sorry for us or think that we expected these things from them. As much as possible my family wanted relationships to normalize. Last month marked one year exactly since we returned from catalyzing church plants in S. Asia and it was a year full of transitions, disappointment, unmet expectations, blessings, and the favor of God.

Leaving the country in some ways I put life in the U.S. on pause and expected it to be vaguely similar upon return, but I was ever so wrong. Our church had experienced exponential growth, which resulted in us being unsure of our place that we once had owned in leadership roles. I like to use the analogy of a large ship that went out to sea and we were sent on a special mission from that ship to go and reach an unreached people group. A couple of years later that shipped is scheduled to pass by us and it is time for us to get back on, only when the ship arrives it has five more levels and doesn't resemble the ship we left at all. We get on and don't know the people, the culture, or even how we are supposed to act anymore.

It felt like many of our friends had either replaced us with new friends or just moved on from the friendship altogether. This is always difficult to experience, but this past year God has provided us with so many new friendships, many of these with people who do not follow Jesus, which is actually how I prefer it. I love seeing a tight knit small group experience community, but so many of these groups become so inwardly focus that they lose sight of mission. I want people who want to be on mission 24/7 with each other and are strategic in their relationships with those around them.

One of the many benefits of being a sent out one with an apostolic gifting is that you get to meet and form relationships with many others that are wired in similar ways. The only people who will truly ever understand you are those that have also been sent out and experienced what you have gone through. This has led me to list 5 ways to help returning missionaries.

1. Just Listen.

I know that I annoyed people to death with stories from India, but true friends just listened and seemed interested even if they weren't. I honestly tried not to make my identity the guy that used to live in India, but it was difficult for me not to express what we had experienced. Many of my analogies in sermons were from India, many of my stories were from India, and when I saw an Indian person I had to go and talk to them as a way to experience a glimpse of my life there, which never lives up to what I hope it will.

2. Help meet their physical needs.

Most missionaries that move overseas leave everything behind, including selling most of their material possessions. My family returned with no jobs, very little money, no furniture, house to live in, and one car (we kept one) to drive. Meeting physical needs is a huge way to help returning missionaries. To offset some of this initially we stayed with my parents as we waited for things to fall into place. Truthfully many people asked how they could help us, but very few actually did anything to help meet these needs. I started studying Acts 2 and asking myself, "why are we so different than the early church?"

The strange thing that we experienced is that once our needs started being met it was by people in the family of God that we had never even met. Helping meet these physical needs is a way that you can participate in loving and serving others from within the body of Christ and also a way to show that you appreciate sent out ones putting their "yes" on the table and being obedient to go!

3. Be a genuine friend.

I already mentioned in the top part of this posts that many friendships had moved on or felt like they were replaced with others. This was probably one of the more unexpected parts that we dealt with and it can be tough emotionally. Now, if you are reading this and you are a friend please do not read this and think that we are not friends and this is about you because many of our longtime friendships picked right back up where we left off and are stronger than ever, which is a true sign of friendship.

But the need for genuine friendships still existed. One of my newest friendships that formed since I returned to Raleigh is with one of the elders from my church that I only knew in name when leaving the country. He had also been a sent out one and knew what I needed to hear, how to listen, and how to be a friend. We still meet regularly and have formed a friendship that I appreciate.

4. Have them speak at your church and/or special events.

Returning missionaries are some of the best missions mobilizers as they have just returned from living the life that most of us study in books. They return and are ready to implement here what they were doing over there and the thing that slows them down is most likely the "Western model" of doing church. Thankfully my family had the opportunity to speak at numerous churches and missions events this last year, which helped us not lose our passion and also helped to connect others further to what God is doing in the nations. Just last month we spoke at an all Spanish speaking church and three people responded to commit to taking the next steps of overseas missions.

5. Give them opportunities and ways to serve.

Churches sometimes do a great job of sending people out, but not as good of a job receiving them back. It is easy for the returning missionary to fall by the wayside in the life of the local church, not because they do not desire to serve and be part of the mission but because they were used to doing it without the help of a large congregation. Sent out ones are apostolic in nature for a reason and they will just as easily return and go start something new, not as a way to separate themselves from the local church, but because they may not see the opportunities for them at the local church. It is hard to send one out to start new gospel movements and then expect them to return to life in the local church with its many level of existing systems and programs.

Check back Wednesday for part 2, but in the meantime, if you are or have been a sent out one, what are some ways to help returning missionaries that you would add to the list?