He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" - Romans 8:32

Saturday, January 29, 2011 

What Dost Thou Know of Gale Force Winds?

We not only struggle against sin itself, but we also struggle to understand sin rightly. One of the mistakes we make about it is that we think that time spent in sin is somehow enlightening, such that, after we repent, we can teach and inform others by means of our testimony. Now God does use testimonies of His grace in fruitful ways. Paul gives his testimony, to good effect, and the psalmist does the same. After he is forgiven and cleansed, he can talk about it—“then I will teach transgressors” God’s ways (Ps. 51:13).

But there is a common mistake we make about this. We think that the illumination comes from the fact that we were in the sin. Rather, the illumination comes from the grace of God after the fact. If time in sin were some kind of qualification, then this means that someone like Jesus, who never sinned, wouldn’t know anything about it. But this is obviously absurd.

Who knows the most about gale force winds? The man who blows over immediately, or the man who walks a couple of miles in it? Jesus was the one who never blew over—and this means that He is the one who knows the most about wind.

We think that we are qualified to talk about sin and righteousness by how much time we spent on the ground. But that was the time of our confusion, and qualifies for nothing. We learned whatever we learned when God in His grace enabled us to stand up again.

Sin obscures and grace enlightens. And when God is kind to us, we are enabled to turn from the former to the latter.



- Filed under: Reason 4,820 that I love Doug Wilson

Thursday, January 27, 2011 

The Local Church and the Great Commission: The Sending Out of Disciple-Makers

One of the most effective ways for the local church to fulfill the Great Commission is to be actively involved in sending people out to make disciples in all nations. One may respond to that statement by arguing for the need to reach the lost people in our own neighborhoods and local communities. I believe it is a both/and and not an either/or when it comes to disciple making. A healthy church is concerned with proclaiming the gospel in the local community and around the world. With that said, a Pashtun man in Southern Afghanistan is not going to accidentally make his way to the Southeastern part of the United States, find a church, and hear the gospel. We have the only message that can bring salvation to him, and the urgency of eternity ought to propel us to be intentional about going and sending people to share Christ with people like the Pashtuns.

One way to determine how passionate a church is about the Great Commission is to observe how many and how often they are sending people out. When a church of 400 people, sends out 15 people a year on one or two mission trips, that church, whether they realize or not, may be neglecting the command of Christ to make disciples in all nations. A good indicator of a Great Commission church is not only how many people they are bringing in, but also how many people they are sending out.

In Acts 13, we see the church not as merely the place of ministry, but as the base of ministry as they send out Paul and Barnabas. Now, one must be careful and not imply from that text that everyone is called to career missions. At the same time, churches are most effective at making disciples in all nations when they are regularly sending people out. This picture in Acts reminds us that the church is not intended to be a social club, but a missions sending strategy center.

For simplicity in thinking through ways the church can be involved in sending people out, we will use the categories of Short, Mid, and Long-term. I think every person in a local church who is physically able ought to prayerfully consider going on short-term (1-2 weeks) mission trip. Short-term trips assist in broadening our global perspective, allows us to encourage our brothers and sisters around the world, and exposes us to the realities of the lost world around us. I would urge every church to encourage the doctors, businessmen, homemakers, and high school students in their congregation to consider giving up one week a year to minister in a cross-cultural context.

Another avenue that is gaining interest is the idea of mid-term missions (2 months to 2 years). Often, after being on 2-3 short-term trips people are eager to spend more time ministering cross-culturally. Mid-term allows a college student, a schoolteacher, or a retired couple to take a summer, a semester, a year, or two and devote their lives to global disciple-making. Some have described mid-term as the “mormonization of the evangelical church.” Many think mid-term is only for young people, but I would argue that mid-term is also ideal for retired folks in their late 50’s and 60’s who want to use their wisdom and resources to serve Christ around the world.

Lastly, we need to continue to pray, call out, and send long-term disciple-makers. In many unreached places, it takes many years to be able to adapt to the culture, grasp the language, and to be able to communicate the gospel effectively. Global disciple-making is not an overnight, one week, or two year activity. It takes decades, centuries, and in some cases thousands of years to see the gospel firmly rooted among a people, disciples formed, and churches planted. This is a long and enduring work and the need for people to commit their lives long-term is great. It is my prayer that more churches will carefully think through how they can most effectively send people out for the sake of Christ among the nations.

- Nathan Akin for B21

Wednesday, January 26, 2011 

Japanese Clothes Dryer

Can your dryer do this? Brief cameo appearance at the end by Mt. Fuji, somewhat clouded.

video

Monday, January 24, 2011 

Music Lyric Monday

The Indigo Girls wrote the lyrics below. They are openly gay & this is not intended to bash them, but I believe that this song is a reference to Leviticus 10 & written to say that Christians who denounce homosexuality are arrogant, wrong, unloving, suppressive, & how can we claim our interpretation of Scripture is best & right.

Leviticus 10:1 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. 2 And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. 3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said, ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace.

STRANGE FIRE:

i come to you with strange fire, i make an offering of love, the incense of my soil is burned by the fire in my blood. i come with a softer answer to the questions that lie in your path. i want to harbor you from the anger, find a refuge from the wrath.

this is a message of love. love that moves from the inside out, love that never grows tired. i come to you with strange fire.

mercenaries of the shrine, who are you to speak for god? with haughty eyes and lying tongues and hands that shed innocent blood. who delivered you the power to interpret calvary? you gamble away our freedom to gain your own authority.

find another state of mind. grab hold. strange fire burns with the motion of love.

when you learn to love yourself, you will dissolve all the stones that are cast, you will learn to burn the icing sky and to melt the waxen mask. yes, to have the gift of true release, this is a peace that will take you higher. i come to you with my offering., i bring you strange fire.

this is a message of love. love that moves from the inside out, love that never grows tired. i come to you with strange fire.

Saturday, January 22, 2011 

New Year's resolutions, the Great Commission, and Solemn Assemblies

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--George Barna, the researcher and writer, has reviewed America's New Year's resolutions for 2011. Not surprisingly, our resolutions focus on issues related to ourselves: weight, diet and health; money, debt and finances; personal improvement; addiction; job and career; spiritual or church-related; and educational. Less than one percent of Americans claim that one of their goals for this year is to get closer to God. Further, Barna found that very few Americans say they want to improve relationships with others in 2011.

So, we Americans want to change -- but without God and without others. That, of course, is a recipe for failure. More importantly, though, it is a call to proclaim the Gospel loudly throughout North America. It is a summons to heartfelt, broken prayer on behalf of the church and the people that we are called to reach. In that sense, the call for Southern Baptists to engage in solemn assemblies in January is right on time.

Think about it. Americans are concerned enough about our health, finances, careers and education that we have made resolutions for change. Though some Americans are concerned about spiritual matters, our relationship with God is not included in our list of resolutions. Apparently, few Americans see enough need to strengthen their relationship with God that they have resolved to seek improvement in 2011. Either they believe their relationship with God is so unimportant that it does not deserve consideration, or they think that relationship needs no improvement.

In response, the North American church must announce again an uncompromising Great Commission theology of lostness. At a time when more than 80 percent of Americans claim to be Christian, we must vociferously declare that Jesus alone is the way to the Father and that one must turn from sin and trust Christ to be a believer. Nothing less than a personal relationship with Jesus is required; no superficial, cultural, non-transforming "Christianity" will suffice.

We know these truths, but surveys still show that many self-professed Christians believe that good works can earn salvation. Our studies through Southern Seminary's Billy Graham School have shown that many Baptists in our own pews are not convinced that their non-believing neighbor is really lost. I suspect that we have proclaimed lostness, but not nearly as clearly, thoroughly, and systematically as we should. Consequently, our church members have created their own theologies regarding the spiritual condition of those who do not know Christ.

Moreover, the church must proclaim a Great Commission Gospel that is local-church based and relationship driven. Our relationship with God is primary, but relationships with other believers are non-negotiable as well. Charles Spurgeon put it this way: "God's people are not dogs, else they might go about one by one; but they are sheep, and therefore they should be in flocks." From the flock of God we find comfort when hurting, strength when struggling, and guidance when questioning. The people of God are still a marvelous people, as imperfect as we are.

The North American church has largely failed, though, to teach a principal purpose of New Testament relationships: lifestyle accountability. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that we are to provoke one another to good works (Hebrews 10:24), and the New Testament is replete with teachings about accountability and responsibility. Somehow we have missed those passages, choosing to dodge them in deference to protecting church harmony and avoiding interpersonal conflict. We have allowed American individualism to trump biblical fellowship, and the result has been believers who struggle on their own to live holy lives.

In terms of the Great Commission, we have produced converts and then released these new believers to become disciples on their own. Such independent living -- never approved in the New Testament -- will lead only to spiritual failure. Our witness is then compromised by our failures, the church is painted with negative publicity, and the Gospel is perceived to be less than transforming. We need not think long to know why the world listens little as we proclaim our commitment to a Great Commission resurgence.

Finally, the North American church must confess our powerlessness to make any real Great Commission difference. We know how to generate attendance numbers, but we cannot change lives. Nobody produces better programs than we do, but our programs themselves cannot solve the problem of the soul. We educate well through our universities and seminaries, but we risk educating a generation of leaders out of their dependence on God. Unless we repent, we will be no different than most Americans: wanting change, but without God and without each other.

May God help us, particularly as Southern Baptists called to prayer and solemn assembly, to return to Him and to His church. Only then will the world take note.
------
Chuck Lawless is dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

Friday, January 21, 2011 

The Local Church and The Great Commission: One Mission, Two Contexts

The Church is the primary agent ordained by God to accomplish the Great Commission. Yet, after 2000 years, many churches neglect this fundamental truth. For many churches today, global mission is something that happens once a year, sometime between VBS and the youth summer camp. It seems that the local church hasn’t always lived up to the example that we see in the book of Acts. Obviously, there is no perfect church that has it all figured out. What I want to do is begin a conversation that helps us think through how the church can most effectively proclaim the gospel, make disciples, and plant churches for the glory of God in all nations.

Unfortunately, many churches today have decided to pass off their role in the Great Commission to mission organizations and campus ministries. Engaging unreached people groups, training missionaries, and sending them out is something many churches allow the IMB, Campus Crusade, and the North American mission board to do. And as helpful as those organizations can be in serving the church toward her mission, my fear is that we have decided that the responsibility is not ours and have passed it off to these Para church organizations. I am convinced that this strategy is not good enough for the church of Jesus Christ.

All churches have been given one mission, “Make disciples of all nations…” (Matt. 28). The word “nations” is best understood as ethno-linguistic peoples, not geo-political nations, but people groups with their own language and culture. The church has one central mission and that is to make disciples among all people groups. We are not commanded to build buildings, start choirs, or have the most dynamic children’s ministry. We are called, commissioned, and commanded to make disciples and that command is global in scope (“all nations”).

We have one mission, but we strive to accomplish that one mission in two contexts. First, we strive to make disciples in “reached” contexts. Reached contexts are areas around the world where the church already exists. Our primary role in reached contexts is to help strengthen the existing church. In the book of Acts, Paul and Barnabas are described as returning to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch and “strengthening” the souls of the disciples (Acts 14:22). Based on that text and others in Acts (15:32, 41; 18:23) the role of the church in reached contexts is primarily to help strengthen the existing churches.

Second, we also strive to make disciples in “unreached” contexts. Unreached contexts are areas around the world where the church does not yet exist. Our primary role in unreached contexts is to help establish and plant the church. In the book of Acts and Romans, the apostle Paul is regularly taking the gospel into unchartered territory and laboring to help establish the church (Acts 13-22 and Romans 15:20-24). Currently, in our world, there are many areas where the church does not yet exist. There is much work to be done in the unreached contexts.

The majority of local churches are involved in global mission in the reached contexts. That is good. We need to continue to go to those areas and help strengthen the existing churches and assist them in making disciples, caring for the poor, widows, and orphans. At the same time, more churches need to place a higher emphasis on the unreached areas and people groups around the globe. The church does not exist or is very weak among the Tajik’s (Tajikistan/Afghanistan), Yemini Arabs (Yemen), Somali (Kenya/Ethiopia/Somalia), and Malay (Malaysia). It is not enough to shuttle a group of people to Central America once a year, build some houses, and say that we are doing global missions. Fulfilling the Great Commission involves evangelism, disciple making, and church planting. This is a mandate that involves every Christian, and every Church, for 365 days a year. There is one mission, but we strive to accomplish this mission in two different contexts. Let’s get active in strengthening and establishing the church for the glory of God among all nations!

- Paul, B21

Saturday, January 15, 2011 

Hedge of Protection?

Friday, January 14, 2011 

The Medium is the Message: The Subtle Danger of Too Much Time Online



Many of the stats mentioned point to a hidden danger of increased Internet use: how online media impacts how we use our time.

  • Young people spend seven and a half hours per day with some kind of media, and over 10 hours if you include multitasking.
  • Total media exposure in the average household is nearly 10 hours, but that jumps to over 12 hours in households without rules.
  • Today 99% of children ages 8-17 access the Internet.
  • Nearly one-third of teens say being unplugged from technology makes them feel more “stressed.”
  • About four out of 10 tweens and teens visit a social networking site (like Facebook or MySpace) at least once a day.

More and more psychologists and sociologists are asking the question: With so many young people feeding their brains on a regular diet of online videos, Facebook, massive multiplayer games, instant messages, and Web browsing, how is this impacting the way they relate to others and see the world around them?

Being a parent of kids in the Internet generation is as much about examining online culture as it is about filtering online content. Of course, the Internet is loaded with bad content, but if this is our only concern, we miss the subtle dangers of too much time with technology.

- read the rest at Breaking Free Blog

Tuesday, January 11, 2011 

Tears of the Saints

via Asia Link:

Tears of the Saints from HistoryMaker on Vimeo.

 

Why B21 Is Worth Checking Out if You're a Young Southern Baptist

..."The IMB, which many consider the “bell cow” of the SBC, is still without a president. This is certainly a big story, and perhaps the most disheartening story of 2010. Not much information is known about why this is the case, and it has not been discussed whether the IMB trustees are taking steps to re-assemble a new selection committee or sticking with the one that has been doing the work so far. Whatever the case is, it is our hope that the IMB will make a bold move with this vacancy. It is our hope that this bold move might see the IMB focus on the primacy of the local church in sending missionaries, new business initiatives overseas, and team planting. Let’s all commit to pray for the search committee and the next president."

- Nathan Akin, Baptist 21

--------------

As an IMB missionary on the field, let me echo a resounding, "Amen!"

Monday, January 10, 2011 

Music Lyric Monday

Humbly forsaking his heavenly seat
Beaten and bloodied and washing my feet
Opened our eyes to what love really means
The blood on my hands is what washes me clean

- Scott Phillips

Sunday, January 09, 2011 

Lost

via Desiring God via Asia Link:


Lost from HistoryMaker on Vimeo.

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