Friday, August 31, 2007

Experience < Word

If you aren't familiar with Justin Taylor's site you should acquaint yourself with it. There is always good stuff there. Today he posted a link to Rick Phillips who writes about the recent revelation of Mother Teresa's spiritual despair and emptiness as she ministered to the poor in Calcutta, India. The recent release Come Be My Light will only further solidify Teresa's saintly status among Roman Catholics, but raise many more questions about her in the minds of evangelicals.

Here is an excerpt of a lesson learned from the revelations of Mother Teresa's spiritual darkness: "...I would suggest that Mother Teresa's testimony should turn us away from the path of subjective spiritual experiences and urge us back to the life of faith in God's Word. Like her, we should long for the presence of Christ in our lives. But unlike the soon-to-be-sainted yet truly tragic Mother Teresa, let us seek Christ where He is found. Paul explained: "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Christ down) or "Who will descend into the abyss?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? "The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim)" (Rom. 10:6-8). Paul tells us to seek Christ in the Word of God. For as our faith rests on God's Word and trusts in the promises of his gospel, we gain Christ and His light shines in our hearts."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

"Worship must become...more life than event"

Several years ago Sally Morgenthaler wrote a wildly popular book called Worship Evangelism. Many people within Western church culture grabbed hold of Morgenthaler's ideas and paradigm and ventured into the world of worship-driven ministry, all in the hopes of reaching the unreached through our worship. But years later, after seeing 15 years of rapid decline in church attendance in America, Morgenthaler is rethinking it all. This is an excellent article - especially if you've read Worship Evangelism, but even if you haven't, you should read it. It definately gives you something to think about.

Is Interracial Marriage Wrong?

John Piper writes a very insightful and challenging article about interracial marriage and the necessity of the local church to take a biblical stand on this issue. Of course, the problem in many cases is that many churches believe they are taking a biblical stand in their belief that interracial marriage is prohibited in Scripture, and their ignorance and bigotry is an offense to the gospel.

I remember as a seventeen year-old that I had my first significant disagreement with a pastor I respected when he stated from the pulpit that interracial marriage is sinful. It broke my heart to hear him use God's Word to erect the very barriers that the gospel of Jesus tears down. I encourage you to read the article. I think you'll find it encouraging, and maybe it will help you see more clearly the transforming impact that gospel is intended to have on our views of race and marriage.

Baptism and Worship

Bob Kauflin posts a helpful article about baptism and worship.

Taliban Releases Some South Korean Missionaries

The Taliban has released 8 of the 19 South Korean missionaries it has held hostage while demanding the withdrawal of 200 South Korean troops from Afghanistan. They continue to hold 11 missionaries but has agreed to release them all. The Taliban previously killed 2 of the 5 men captured.

I am perplexed at the lack of media coverage this international incident has received in the United States. I guess we are too preoccupied with Michael Vick's horrific abuse of dog's or Lindsay Lohan's second stint in rehab in a matter of weeks to notice.

When a suspected terrorist goes on a hunger strike in Guantanamo Bay, it makes the headlines and the US military is castigated in the town hall known as sensational mass media. But when 23 Christian medical missionaries from one our allies are taken by force by the Taliban, it barely gets mentioned on the back page of our local papers. When Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and later sadly executed by Muslim extremists, we couldn't escape coverage of his plight. And yet, when the same thing happens to 23 Christians, hardly anyone notices (except for South Koreans).

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

And You Thought Pennies Were Worthless...

Last week when I read an article about what it costs the US Mint to make a penny I was flabbergasted. Did you know that because of the rising cost of zinc in the world that it costs 2 cents to make every penny? That's right, 2 cents. And last time I checked a penny is only worth, you got it, 1 cent. Considering the US government mints about 8 billion pennies every year, taxpayers are paying about $160 million dollars annually to mint only $80 million dollars worth of pennies. This is yet more evidence that the inmates must be running the asylum on Capital Hill. Seriously, what other institution would allow such gross financial mismanagement without a serious restructuring in leadership. And to think, this is one of the mildest examples of poor leadership by our "saviors" on Capital Hill.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Being the Church in our Culture

This is a long article (which I have only skimmed) but when I get a chance to read something by Tim Keller I do.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Harris Gets "Uncomfortable"

Josh Harris (Pastor of Covenant Life Church and author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Stop Dating the Church shares his views about the importance of the local church as the truest picture and means of the gospel shaping the lives of Jesus' disciples, the damage done to the gospel when younger evangelicals grumble about the blemishes of the local church, and his personal struggles with personal evangelism.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Updates from South Peru

One of the local missionaries through REAP is posting status reports on the relief efforts here

More From Peru

"One man I came across was in mourning outside his home. He lives across the street from a cemetery and owns a flower stall. He typically sells flowers to those going into the cemetery to place at gravestones. But not on this day."

"The man wept on a coffin. His house had collapsed during the quake, and his mother was killed. There in the street, in front of what was left of his house, he held a wake for his mother. Two little candles were lit. He didn't have flowers, even for his own mother. He was devastated."

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Mike Huckabee: The Next President?

The more I read about Mike Huckabee (former Arkansas Governor) the more I like what I read. In a party desperately seeking a candidate that can connect with the general American public, particularly the conservative voting block, Huckabee might be exactly what the GOP is looking for, and he might be, in my estimation, the only guy with enough credibility and lack of baggage to effectively challenge Hillary Clinton (who seems poised to take the Democratic nomination). Check out what Michael Medved has to say about Huckabee.

Spiritual Conversations

Today I came across a few posts by Gary Rohrmayer. You can check out his three posts about engaging in spiritual conversations here, here and here. But if you only have a few minutes here is a summary.

There are (at least) 4 ways to increase spiritual conversations in your life:
(1) Make it a priority. Essentially this means you need to plan for spiritual conversations. This may not mean that you need to write down an appointment in your Blackberry (or in some cases it may mean precisely that), but the intent is that you strategically plan your day with the intent of having spiritual conversations with people in your world. Rohrmayer suggests the 3X5 rule for church planters. If you are going to be serious about connecting with people you need to strive to make 5 new contacts a day (35 week) which will lead to 3 sit-down conversations weekly.

(2) Pray for opportunities. When is the last time you asked God to open new doors of opportunity to speak about Jesus?

(3) Get out into your community. A good thought (directed at church planters in the post but applicable to us all) is making an effort to tithe your time to community service and interaction. Coach a soccer team at the YMCA or Camp Jordan (not in a local church Upward league). Join the Rotary Club. Get involved at a local park. Do something that gives you opportunity to rub shoulders with people in your community.

(4) Establish routines and cultivate relationships. I know of one lady in our church who does this already. Grace Owens visits the same stores weekly. The employees know her name and she knows theirs. Get to know people in your community by visiting them routinely at places of business. Reggie McNeal loves to ask his servers when eating out, "I'm going to pray and thank God for my meal and I always pray for my server. Is there anything specific I can pray for you about?" I thought this was an excellent, tangible way to strike up spiritual dialogue.

I'm encouraged to be more deliberate in my conversations in the community, aren't you?

Death Toll Rising In Peru

My heart for Peru is growing and I am praying and grieving about the earthquake that crippled this struggling nation yesterday.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Our Children Are Bored? Why?

Jerram Barrs has written an interesting article explaining why he believes children, particularly adolescents, are so bored, and how to curtail the boredom.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Did I Really Say This?

"As a dead pereson we achieve nothing. We are not alive until we are made alive in Jesus. Our identity is in Christ and any achievement we make is Christ's. If our achievemenets don't set us apart in Jesus' eyes, then neither do our failures."

The Consequences of Sexualization

The American Psychological Association has posted a report stating that consequences to teenage girls brought about by the sexualization of girls is having potentially disastrous mental health effects, not to mention the potentially devastating physical and sexual consequences that follow.

Studies reveal that sexual exploitation and encouraging sexual expression in the media have been factors in teenage girls posting nude photos of themselves on the internet, allowing their boyfriends to take nude photos, and filming amatuer pornograhic videos. But the long-term effects of this sexualization are even more startling. The study reveals that sexualization (which happens all the time in the media) can lead to cognitive and emotional consequences (such as poor body image, feelings of shame and anxiety), mental and physical health issues (eating disorders and depression), and impaired sexual development (a healthy view of sex and sexuality).

“As a society, we need to replace all of these sexualized images with ones showing girls in positive settings—ones that show the uniqueness and competence of girls,” said Zurbriggen. “The goal should be to deliver messages to all adolescents—boys and girls—that lead to healthy sexual development.”

But this needed message can only come through a biblical, God-centered view of sex and sexuality. Culture needs to see strong Christian men and women with a healthy, biblical view of sex and sexuality, as well as a proper understanding of gender and gender roles within culture and the family.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Want To Have Sex? Find A Christian.

Provocative title? Got your attention, didn't it?

Michael Gershon discusses the startling find that evangelical Protestant teens begin having sex (on the average) halfway through their 16th year, and this this is actually sooner than mainline Protestants (non-evangelical) and secular humanists.

Gene Veith suspects that one reason for a higher percentage of sexual activity among evangelical teens is that the Law alone (meaning apart from grace) promotes rebellion (this is a Scriptural assumption and Veith is probably correct to some degree). He even suggests that Christian teens should marry at a younger age if their sexual desires are out of control since this is what Scripture prescribes (1Cor 7:9).

I'm not sure that marrying younger is the solution, and I also don't think that the Law promoting rebellion is the only reason that evangelical teens are having sex sooner than other teenage segments of the population. Other factors would include: (1) relationship with their fathers; (2) spiritual leadership in the home; (3) body image; and (4) influence of media.

What do you think?

Said Better

Several weeks ago I posted about an awful tragedy in upstate New York involving seven teenagers killed in a fiery crash. This past week while in Canada the bridge stretching across the Mississippi River in Minneapolis collapsed, swallowing and snuffing out the lives of many crossing into the city that day. What I posted about weeks ago was poignant and similar to what Piper posted in response to the tragedy in his city. He says it better and often shows himself to be wiser. We would all do well to listen, contemplate and consider that our lives are but a vapor and that we need not fear death if we are held in the hands of God through His Son Jesus.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

It's Thursday in Canada

We've had an amazing week of ministry so far in Canada. I'm looking forward to sharing more about what we've experienced. Thus far I can't say that the trip has been exactly what we expected. There are more "church" kids in our camp than we expected and so I found myself "evaluating" what could be done differently or better. I'm more and more convinced that the purpose of the established American church in Canada (Quebec) should be to: (a) plant churches; or (b) strengthen and assist existing churches through focused discipleship. We know so little about the church was are partnering with (Renaissance Church) that I'm not sure how we are serving to strengthen Renaissance in this particular capacity, and our campers represent a variety of area churches, not just one church. Most them are well-versed in the basics of the Gospel, and had we known this our approach may have been different.

But the team is doing an outstanding job. The camp has been winsome, excellent and effective in almost every way. It is a joy to watch God use each individual's giftedness - even though some of the team members are being stretched to trust God in areas where they are uncomfortable or feel weak. But we've seen God sustain us and grant us so many things we've asked for (such as unity, rest, etc).

Keep praying for us. We'll return on Sunday August 5.