Monday, December 30, 2013

Lots of Things Are Expensive But Not This Camp

Recently I visited a small Grow International Ministries "New Beginnings" campsite just outside Manila. Camps are held for up to 40 children as often as funds are available. As we were leaving, 33 needy children arrived all in one jeepney!  Were the children ever excited!

The cost for this ministry to street and other needy children is only $15 each child for a two-day, one-night camp; a camp in which each child receives kindness, compassion, lots of food, sports, and especially the gospel.

There is an estimated 200,000 street children in the 17 cities that make up Metro Manila. It will take many years to reach them at only 33 at a time, but this little camp (and other ministries) is making a start to the glory of God.

I think one of the goals my wife and I will make for 2014 for our ministry is to trust the Lord for funds to sponsor a camp for 40 children each month ($600). May not seem like much, but in twelve months that is 480 children receiving the gospel and compassionate care. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Do I Read Driscoll?

As I travel and speak, I need to be careful in how I answer questions concerning authors, pastors, and leaders, people have come to almost idolize. One pastor and writer, who I am asked about from my area, is Mark Driscoll. Trying not to offend, I ask them if they are tolerant of others opinions? If they answer yes, then I simply answer that I have never read anything Driscoll has written, or listened to a sermon by him. The reason is that I have met him, had a meal with him, and learned of several controversies he has been involved in (rudeness, crude speech in the pulpit, obsessed with speaking on sex an inappropriate matter, and from my team whom I sent to hear him and would not go back). So why waste time with reading and listening to someone who you would not learn from to be more like Christ? By the way, I hear of controversies often of Driscoll, but never see him quoted!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Obedience, Comfort, Heat and Traffic

One often hears from Christians, "Oh, I could never serve in that city or in that country" and then they list the reasons why. There are too many or too few people, it's too cold or too hot, do not like large cities or small towns, too close or too far from malls. In other words, it seems as if one would only serve the Lord in a certain place if it is comfortable!

For example, the city of Manila: it is hot (today in December, it is about 90 degrees with 100 % humidity), the traffic is the worst in the world (seems like there are 139 cars per inch), and it is the most densely populated world class city with a population of 20-25 million!

To reach this city with its teeming millions in slum areas, the millions of middle class, as well as the thousands and thousands of rich, may be difficult, expensive, and not very comfortable, but obedience to our Lord's Great Commission to take the gospel to all is necessary whether being comfortable or not!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Do You Teach Your Children Manners?

In our church in Seattle (mainly Asian) and here in the Philippines, children are taught manners, to answer when spoken to, to be polite especially to elders, to have a conversation, etc.

This is not so with many other nationalities, even missionary children. We talk about the difficulties missionary children have; well, much of this is simply brought on by not being properly taught by their parents! In learning simple manners (Christ's kindness in action) and immediate obedience, children will have a better opportunity for success in life and growth in holiness. As one learns obedience from his/her parents, it is much easier to obey God in the future.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

$50 Life Application Study Bibles (LASB) for God's Servants in the Philippines for only $12

One of our ministries in the Philippines is encouraging and assisting needy pastors and Christian workers, many of whom lost their bibles and books in the recent typhoon. We have purchased and are shipping 168 LASBs to Manila at a total cost of $1988. This is only $12 per Study Bible. LASBs are given freely at completion of 3- to 4-hour seminar on how to use the Study Bible. Please pray with us for the Lord's provision. We will continue to purchase and ship as the Lord provides. - Doug and Margaret Nichols (Commission To Every Nation)

Friday, December 6, 2013

How Does New Tribes Mission Do It? By Doug Nichols

Over the last 44 years I have networked with New Tribes Mission (NTM) and know many of their missionaries and leaders mainly in the Philippines, Canada, and the US. The following are a few observations:

a. The goal of the 3200 NTM missionaries is to plant churches among the unreached tribal groups worldwide.

b. All the missionaries go through the same training which puts all on the same page with goals, principles and practices. They all speak with the same voice.

c. The training majors on purpose, biblical cohesiveness, and godly character with missionaries being held accountable in these areas.

d. The NTM home offices worldwide take NO administration fees except for less than 1% for a contingency emergency fund. Each home office is responsible to raise its own local funding needs, but not from the funds of the missionaries it serves.

e. Leaders are appointed and voted on by each field and changed as needed. There is no possibility of dictatorship in the mission. According to policy, a county leader can be replaced by the international leadership team.

Results: NTM seems to be growing with the same intensity and passion as in it's early days. If your mission or ministry seems to be stuck and just existing, than perhaps you should seriously and prayerfully emulate some of these NTM policies and procedures, replace most of your leadership and some of your non-functioning missionaries and rebuild for the glory of God!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Trustworthy Saying for Christmas

By Todd Braye

The best of men are men at best, and included amongst all sinners. The category is not reserved for terrorists, drunks, homosexuals, liars, rapists, child abusers, or even big city mayors. Christ, the sinless one, came to save all kinds of sinners, not just the obvious rebels.

“Christmas is for kids.” I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that in my forty-seven years. Whether school plays, church Christmas concerts, or family gatherings, many December festivities focus on our children. And, of course, who doesn’t spend much energy and hard-earned money on their children (and grandchildren) during ‘The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?’ Marketing strategy banks on the growing expectations of our wee ones. Television specials often target children; as I write I soon expect a deluge of old favourites such as ‘Rudolph’ and ‘Frosty.’ Even the modern day Santa with his flying reindeer and incredible – if not impossible – capacity to deliver to every household in every part of the world every toy ever requested by every boy and girl serves to cater to the fascination, imagination and delight of every child.

Biblically, there are several issues which could be addressed in response to these things. But I limit myself to just one. The statement made by so many – even inside the ranks of the professing church  – that ‘Christmas is for kids’ is terribly misguided. As defined and celebrated by the church, Christmas is not for children per se, but for sinners. After all, though not a biblically instituted observance, it historically has been the annual holiday marking the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And it must be said: the intense focus on kids ironically, if not tragically, eclipses the glory of the incarnation with a shroud of child worship. Nevertheless, the spotlight shines on one particular, special Child! The Apostle Paul writes:

“It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (1Timothy 1:15).

This ‘trustworthy statement’ demands that we note two things.

First, it beckons that we consider the person of Jesus Christ. Space limits what I can say here. However, consider at least this much: Christ Jesus came into the world. He who is the sovereign ruler of the universe became a humble servant. He who is eternal and transcends time entered into and became subject to time. The One through whom and by whom all things were made took the form of that which was made. Vacating the incomprehensible glory of His heavenly and holy throne, exchanging it for an earthly and common feeding trough, Christ, God of very God, took on humanity. By leaving His home, he left majesty for misery, and the dwelling place of righteousness for a world of wickedness. This is how God loved the world: He sent His Son into the world.

Second, this “trustworthy statement” commands that we reflect on the mission of Jesus Christ. He came into the world “to save sinners.” In understanding just who these sinners are, it is intensely instructive for us to consider that Paul, the human writer of these words, considered himself to be “foremost of all.” How could this be? Is it not true that Paul was the human author of thirteen New Testament books, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the will of God (1 Cor. 1:1) and blameless according to that righteousness which is in the Law of Moses (Phil. 3:6)? Is it not true therefore that the Apostle Paul was “a good person?” How could it be that he numbered himself among sinners, even as the “foremost of all?”

When the great apostle penned these words, he was near death.

Doubtlessly, he was a very godly man.  His unflinching devotion to Christ at great, personal cost oozes from the pages of the New Testament. However – let the reader get this – as a blameless, extremely moral and devout Jew, zealous for the Law of Moses and his ancestral traditions, Paul, as the best of the very best of men, formerly blasphemed the name of Christ and persecuted those who loved Christ. Before God lavished His grace upon Paul in conversion, Paul (Saul) “was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison” (Acts 8:3).  Paul knew the depths of his sinfulness. His former opposition to Christ and His church, which he once considered a zealous service for God, was now exceedingly sinful to him.

What is the upshot of this?

Simple. The religious and morally upright are not exempt from sin. The best of men are men at best, and included amongst all sinners. The category is not reserved for terrorists, drunks, homosexuals, liars, rapists, child abusers, or even big city mayors. Christ, the sinless one, came to save all kinds of sinners, not just the obvious rebels. As the Apostle wrote, “All have fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), even the perfect righteousness of Christ (italics added). Needless to say, therefore, is that Christmas is for all without distinction. Christ Jesus came into the world for all kinds of men, and women, and teens. And yes, He came for kids. As any honest parent knows, and admits, kids are sinners, too. At a very early age, we express our selfishness and depravity in a thousand ways; no one teaches us to throw temper tantrums, disobey our parents, or cry until we get what we crave. These are but manifestations of our inherited sin nature, the heart of the matter.

From what does Christ save sinners? He saves them from what He Himself endured. Crucifixion is not the main thing here. The excruciating pain of the nails was no doubt unbearable beyond description. But the mode of death is not the thing. What Christ endured for sinners is divine wrath. He became a curse for us, smitten of God (Isaiah 53:4). Thus, Christ saved a countless multitude not simply from sin and its punishment, but ultimately from God Himself (Romans 3:25; 2 Thessalonians 1:9). But He saved them from Him, however, that they be brought to Him (1 Peter 3:18). What an incredible, joyous salvation! Amazing gift is this, even God Himself! Why?

Out of the ivory palaces,
Into a world of woe,
Only His great eternal love
Made my Savior go.

Christmas can be a wonderful time of year. Our children love it. And with warm hearts, we vicariously enjoy it with them. But the holiday is not just for them. We understand that Christmas is for us. 

And we are convinced that the person and mission of Christ is not based upon any myth or cleverly devised tale, but upon historical reality [unlike the notion of some hefty guy in a red suit with a delivery service U.P.S. can only dream of]. This year, do not let any myth cloud your vision of the person and mission of Jesus Christ. “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance,  that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners …” (1Timothy 1:15). Trust Him!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Leaders, Wise Up!

"Do not be wise in your own eyes...Wisdom is with those who receive counsel" (Proverbs 3:7; 13:10).

Over the years I have fellowshiped and worked with many pastors, ministry and mission leaders worldwide. Some were wonderful, humble, servant leaders whose ministries were maturing and advancing for the glory of God, but sadly many were not. They were proud "know it alls" taking advice and counsel from no one. They were the boss, in charge, dictators, who made all the decisions.

Our son is a missionary teacher and basketball coach in the Philippines. The team is doing well and at present winning most of their games by a wide margin. His coaching style could well be emulated by Christian leaders. Even though he is the head coach, he requests and receives advice and suggestions, even during a game, from his assistant coaches as well as the players.

Even though he is the "boss," he seeks not to be "wise in his own eyes" to all aspects of the game and, therefore, asks for help in those areas of the game he may not see.

This is a good example for Christian leaders. We need to be humble, willing to listen to others on your staff and team, to be open to other points of view, and even for rebuke for what may seem to others of your ungodly lifestyle, pride and selfishness in ministry.

If the ministry is not maturing and advancing and you are not willing to change, it might be a good time for the board and others on your team to recommend that you step aside for the good of the organization to the glory of God!

Let us seek to be servant leaders; wise in God's ways and wisdom, not in our own!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What Does a Poor Man Do?

Here in Manila a friend asked us to help with medicine for his elderly mother living in a little but comfortable house, or what some would call a poor shack. We gave the funds to him or he would go into heavy debt.

I was at the doctor recently regarding an infection. He charged me nothing but the cheapest antibiotic was $22. How would an extremely poor person be able to afford this? For example, this is the monthly income of many poor pastors here in the Philippines.

This morning I read the following, "One who is gracious to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will repay him" (Proverbs 19:17). So don't worry about being helpful to the poor, because the Lord will care for you as "God is our refuge and strength, abundantly available for help" (Psalm 46:1).

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How My Primary Values Were Enhanced By Cancer

by David P. Craig

In September of 2012 a huge lump developed in my neck and was merely a symptom of the reality that I had cancer that had developed on the back of my tongue: Squamous Cell Carcinoma.

When I was diagnosed with cancer and heard all the side effects of the treatment I would be receiving my first reaction was to ask the doctor, “What if I don’t get any treatment?” The quick reply was, “You will die.” I knew it was very serious at that point. I was at stage 3 (only stage 4 is more serious) and had a tumor in my neck the size of an avocado. My prayer in all of this was that I would bring glory to God whether I survived the cancer or not. I have boldly proclaimed the gospel in my living, and wanted to also boldly proclaim the gospel in my dying. A helpful passage to me when looking death in the face were some of the Apostle Paul’s last words in 2 Timothy 4:17-18, “But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

I’ve had a lot of time to think and pray over the last several months and it’s really impossible to describe the feelings I’ve felt, the gratitude I feel, and the hope that I have in Christ and his promises to me in the gospel. However, I’d like to express my gratitude by describing how what I value most in life has been enhanced because of by battle with and present victory over cancer. It was just last week that I received the results of my PET scan of the good news that there isno sign of cancer in my body. Here are just a few of the values I have that have been greatly enhanced because of my experience with cancer:

I am grateful for family and friends. I’ve been blessed to have Christian parents and a wonderful wife and children for many years. However, It’s hard to fathom getting through the past six months without my dear wife in particular. She fed me via a feeding tube in my stomach sometimes 6-10 times per day, and was literally at my beck and call twenty four hours a day. She never complained and remained optimistic that God was going to heal me and renew me emotionally, physically, and spiritually in His perfect time. I was sent cards, gift cards, money, and had hundreds of people praying for me –many people I didn’t even know. I even had some phone calls from people as far away as India (that I didn’t know) telling me they were praying for my healing. I have never felt so loved and cherished by my family and my closest friends. I desperately needed unconditional love during these difficult months and sensed the reality of Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all times.” I experienced the deep love of Christ through my family and friends.

I am grateful for the suffering of Christ on my behalf. There were many times along the way that I didn’t think I was going to make it another day – the pain and discomfort seemed unbearable. It was during these times of great suffering that I would picture scenes of Christ leading to his ultimate sacrifice on the cross for my sins. Verses on the atonement, great Hymns of the faith, and deep theological truths would comfort me in the midst of my sufferings. It is unfathomable that Jesus voluntarily suffered on my behalf and took the wrath I deserved upon himself to make me right with the Father. Perhaps no passage of Scripture summarizes it better than 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

I am grateful that my cancer was for my good and for God’s glory. In Romans 8 the Apostle Paul makes it very clear that Christians will suffer immensely in this life, that their suffering doesn’t compare with the glory that will be revealed in us in Heaven, and that all things work out for our good and God’s glory in the end. There wasn’t a single passage that went through my mind (especially during radiation treatments) more than Romans 8.

I am grateful that suffering results in my sanctification. In other words, suffering results in bringing about the purposes of God for me that “good times” would never produce. These verses from 1 Peter 4:12-13, 19 were a source of comfort and joy to me even on gthe darkest days: “Beloved, do not me surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share in Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”

I am grateful that my cancer brought me to a deeper understanding of confession and repentance which have led to emotional as well as physical healing. Isaiah 38:16-17 declares, “O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these is the life of my spirit. Oh restore me to health and make me live! Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back.”

I am grateful that because I’ve gone through cancer I have more mercy and compassion for those who are suffering. I believe that God has already and will continue to open doors for me to minister to people with cancer, and those who care for loved ones with cancer. I especially have a heart for those who don’t know Jesus and have to face their fears, pain, and mortality without the hope and promises of the Gospel. I am encouraged to use my experience with cancer as Paul describes here in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.”

Ultimately all the values I am grateful for above are wrapped around the great realities of the Gospel. The fact that God is sovereign and in His goodness and mercy chose to save me. He didn’t deal with me as my sins deserved, but chose His own Son to atone for my many sins. Because of Jesus I have purpose in life, and hope in life after death. Because of Jesus I have meaning and purpose. Because of Jesus I have something to offer those who are suffering with cancer. I am grateful that having gone through the ravages of cancer, I can help others as God has helped me in Christ. It is a privilege to point others to the purpose for which we were made – to know Christ and to make Him known. Cancer has merely been a tool to make the urgency of the gospel all the more at the forefront of my life and the lives of others.

Monday, November 25, 2013

What is wrong with working through the night?

I have often prayed about the Middle East and terrorist activities in various parts of the world.  I have also been mediating on 1 Corinthians 15:58, especially the phrase “. . .always abounding in the work of the Lord . . .”

Even though soldiers need their rest to do an adequate job, many times they are in very dangerous battle situations where they are unable to sleep, but work many hours through the day and night to accomplish their strategic battle goals.

As a Christian, I am also in a battle, not only in dealing with the worldly effects on my own flesh, but especially battling for the souls of men; the crisis we are facing with the AIDS pandemic, prostitution of millions of children, 160 million children on the streets, 145 million orphans worldwide, 13 million AIDS orphans in Africa, the plight of the tsunami victims, and the oppression of the extremely poor throughout the world.  Is it wrong for us, while in a spiritual battle, to not get the rest we want or even need? 

It is not always easy to go to bed when you know a brother is dealing with an extremely difficult situation in the Philippines, or a pastor in Zambia does not have enough food for his family, or a Christian worker in Cuba does not have theological study books to preach and teach his people.  It is not easy to spend money when you know a camp for a thousand children is cancelled in Malawi for lack of only $3 per child to cover expenses. 

Is it right to give our health as a gift to the Lord in sacrificial service?  We are not to be foolish, but is there a place to be “a fool for Christ”?  Someone said, “If Christ be God, and died for me than no sacrifice is too great for me to make for Him.”

Because of my cancer several years ago, my doctors told me I possibly only had a few months to live; yet I have lived ten years since then.  I am thankful to God for these ten additional years of service to and for Him!  But I am wondering, “Have I really given my life as much as I should have in sacrificial service to Him these ten years for His glory?”

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Should Missionaries Have Manners?

I have been embarrassed in how some missionaries have no more manners than the non-churched.  Manners are simply “kindness in action” and since we have the fruit of the spirit (one being kindness), should we not have manners?  I have noticed how some of us men do not care for our wives.  From time to time, our wives handle everything, order in restaurants, pay the bills, and make flight arrangements.  Some men walk in front of their wives, do not seem to help them at all and never hold the door or chair for them.  I thought of this when reading the article at this link “Mom always shovels the drive.”  I trust each of us will continue to grow in appreciation of others and understand that manners are God’s kindness in action, especially to our families, co-workers, fellow believers in the church, and the general public.

"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16, nasb).

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Lay Aside the Weight of Prideful Comparison

by Jon Bloom 

By the grace of God I am what I am. (1 Corinthians 15:10)
God made you to be you.
You have the body God gave you — with all its genetic capacities and limitations (Psalm 139:13). You were born at the time and place he determined (Acts 17:26).
And if you’re a Christian, he has called you out of darkness into light (Ephesians 5:8). God considers you a necessary part of Christ’s body, the Church (1 Corinthians 12:27), and he has given you particular gifts to use for the sake of this body — along with a measured amount of grace for using them (Romans 12:6).
Battling Comparison
That means the life that you have is a sacred calling (1 Corinthians 7:17). By the grace of God, you are what you are (1 Corinthians 15:10).
It also means that the lives others have are sacred callings by the grace of God. And some of those saints have received sacred callings resulting in greater levels of gifting and prominence than yours.
And this means that you and I frequently must battle against comparing ourselves with others.
Hijacked by Pride
Comparison is not inherently sinful. In fact, the Bible wants us to be “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12). Imitation requires comparison.
But if we are not vigilant and ruthlessly pursuing humility, pride will hijack comparison. Pride wants glory for the self and sees others not as necessary parts of Christ’s body carrying out sacred callings, but as threats to self-glory. When pride rules comparison, jealousy and selfish ambition result (James 3:16).
A Weight to Lay Aside
We can tell this is happening in us when we look at others and don’t see the grace of God, but reflections of our own inferiority. We don’t see them as windows into God’s glory, but as mirrors into which we are asking, “Who’s the fairest one of all?” — and we know it’s not us.
The resulting discouragement becomes like an iron ball on our spiritual leg making it very hard to run. Which means prideful comparison is a weight we must lay aside (Hebrews 12:1).
How do we do that?
Name the Craving
When you feel that familiar discouragement — that faith-depleting, courage-sapping self-pity that tells you that you’re a loser — don’t be passive. Pride and Satan are conspiring to abort your race. It’s war.
It might feel like a general discouragement, but there’s something specific you’re believing that’s giving life to this discouragement. Develop the habit of asking your soul questions. “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” (Psalm 42:5). Make yourself put it into words. Be specific (don’t just accept “I don’t do anything well”). Name what it is that you crave.
As soon as you recognize a desire for self-glory, repent. Lay it aside. It’s an idolatrous, God-belittling, joy-destroying sin. Call it what it is, and God will forgive you (1 John 1:9) and give you grace (James 4:6).
Feed Your Weary Soul Nourishing Promises
Pride-fueled jealousy and selfish ambition leave the soul empty and tired. But the promises of God believed immediately produce the energy of hope. Eat promises like these:
Jesus chose you and appointed you: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you” (John 15:16).
God will equip you — “with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ” (Hebrews 13:21).
God will always provide sufficient grace for you: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (1 Corinthians 12:9).
God sees and rewards faithful, obscure labors for him: “Your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).
God assesses the heart, not outward impressiveness: “The Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
God will complete the work he began in you: “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
Jesus will always be with you: “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
Serve in the Strength God Supplies
Get back in the faith race! Carry on with your serving! Don’t be immobilized by less than pure motives. Nothing you do this side of glory will be perfectly pure. Everything is sanctified by the work of Jesus. Serve in the strength that God supplies (1 Peter 4:11), according to the grace he’s given to you (Romans 12:6), in the sacred calling he has on your life (1 Corinthians 7:17).

Let’s resolve again today to lay aside the weight of prideful comparison, doing “nothing from selfish ambition or conceit” (Philippians 2:3), but in humble faith, remaining “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord [our] labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

12 Rules for Bringing Out the Best in People You Lead

by Alan Loy McGinnis

1.    Expect the best from people you lead.

2.    Make a thorough study of the other person’s needs.

3.    Establish high standards for excellence.

4.    Create an environment where failure is not fatal.

5.    If they are going anywhere near where you want to go,          climb on other people’s bandwagons.

6.    Employ models to encourage success. 

7.    Recognize and applaud achievement.

8.    Employ a mixture of positive and negative reinforcement.

9.    Appeal sparingly to the competitive urge.

10.  Place a premium on collaboration.

11.  Build into the group an allowance for storms.

12.  Take steps to keep your own motivation high.

from Bringing out the best in people, Augsburg Publishing House

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Did Jesus Really Say?

By Todd Pruitt

I keep hoping that the fascination with Sarah Young's bestseller Jesus Calling will fade away. If you are not familiar with Jesus Calling, it is a book of 365 daily devotions that the author claims are messages from Jesus spoken directly to her. In fact the book is written in the first person from Jesus. If this troubles you at all then you are not alone. If you have spoken up about it you have very likely encountered the wrath of well-meaning brothers and sisters who no doubt wonder how in the world you could speak against such a sincere offering.

For the sake of clarity allow me to make a few things clear. First, I do not know Sara Young and therefore gladly assume that her motives are good. I do not believe that she wrote Jesus Calling to confuse anyone or cause division in the church. I believe that she believes Jesus speaks directly to her outside of the Bible.

Second, I have not spoken to Sara Young and do not plan on contacting her personally. She has not sinned against me. I point this out so that no one will misapply Matthew 18. Miss Young has written an enormous bestseller. Her books are read by millions of men and women around the world. Therefore it is appropriate for critiques to be offered publicly. And since I believe Jesus Calling to be unhelpful, misleading, and even dangerous, it is my responsibility as a pastor to say so.

As I see it Sarah Young commits at least three errors in Jesus Calling:

1. She distorts the biblical doctrines of revelation and inspiration.

Miss Young claims a kind of direct revelation that even the apostles did not claim. While Paul gives evidence that he knew at times that what he was writing was by way of revelation he does not write with the claim of direct dictation from Jesus as Young does. That is why I am confused by what she writes in the introduction that her book is not inerrant as is the Bible. Follow me here. She claims that Jesus has given her the words she has written. She is, in her mind, quite literally quoting Jesus. Why in the world is her book, then, not inerrant or authoritative? Has she not claimed divine inspiration, indeed dictation? When does Jesus speak in a way that is errant and un-authoritative? This is a troubling and confused view of revelation and inspiration.

At a church where I previously served, an elder expressed concern to me that an adult Sunday School class was using Jesus Calling as "a supplement to the Bible." But if we believe Miss Young's claims we should not only use Jesus Calling as a supplement to our Bibles but as the next testament.

2. She undermines the sufficiency of Scripture.

In the introduction of Jesus Calling Miss Young states that while she had the Bible, she desired more. She desired a voice from God that was more direct, more immediate, more tailor made for her. Sadly, what she does not understand is that God does not promise us unmediated access. Indeed we have no unmediated access to God. God has given us his divinely appointed means of grace by which we hear him speak and experience his presence. The means of grace are the preaching of the Word and the Sacraments. It seems that Miss Young desires an experience of God (and encourages her readers to seek an experience of God) that is outside his promised means.

God is a speaking God to be sure. He has spoken and continues to speak to his people. In past days of redemptive history God spoke in various ways through the prophets and apostles (Heb 1:1-2). But the canon is now closed. We live in that privileged age of redemptive history where we possess God's completed and inscripturated Word. It is a living and active Word. It is an unerring and authoritative Word. It is also a sufficient Word not needing to be supplemented by extra-biblical voices, messages, revelations, or vague murmurings.

How about we try this: Once we fully exhaust the vast revelation of God given to us in the Scriptures we can then worry about finding additional messages from Jesus.

3. She misrepresents Jesus.

The Jesus of Jesus Calling does not sound like the Jesus of the Bible. His messages to Miss Young are largely therapeutic. The Jesus of Jesus Calling never commands. He never preaches God's holy law. It should be no surprise that Miss Young's Jesus sounds much like a 21st century American woman with 21st century western concerns. This is not meant as a slight against Young. Indeed, if I began writing messages from Jesus I imagine he would sound a lot like a balding middle-aged American man.

In this way Jesus Calling comes dangerously close to blasphemy. That is, admittedly, a serious charge. I thought about it and decided the charge was appropriate. After all, if Sarah Young is not receiving direct revelation from Jesus; if she is not quoting Jesus then she is putting words in his mouth. She is attributing to Jesus 365-days-worth of messages that he never spoke. And that is a serious error. It is bad enough to put words in the mouths of a friend or stranger. It is bad enough to say, "My neighbor said so-and-so" when they said nothing of the kind. That is bearing false witness. It is, in a word, lying. It seems to me the offense is infinitely magnified if we put words in the mouth of our Lord. Is it not a serious matter to say, "Jesus said," when he most certainly did not?

No doubt Miss Young did not intend her book to be divisive. But it has become quite divisive. I know of many pastors and elders who have spoken about their concerns only to be met with sharp criticism as a result. These faithful men have been excoriated and accused of being unloving because they take seriously their calling to watch over the flock of God. Miss Young bears a level of responsibility in this. She has written a book that claims direct revelation from Jesus. The true believers therefore are understandably upset, angry, etc. when a pastor or elder criticizes these supposed words from our Lord. Paul makes it clear in Romans 16 that those who cause division within the church are not those who cling to sound doctrine but those who depart from it.

As I wrote above, I keep hoping the Jesus Calling phenomena will fade. But that does not seem to be happening. Indeed there are a variety of spin-off publications. Miss Young's messages from Jesus have become a big business. At the risk of sounding cynical, the good folks at Thomas Nelson have made a lot of money on Jesus Calling and its various spin-offs. They no doubt want the messages to keep coming. It is simple supply and demand. There is a demand among evangelicals for direct encounters with God, extra-biblical messages, and a Jesus who sounds like us. I will not try to discern the motives of Sarah Young. To do so would be a sin. But is there any doubt that the publishing company has a wonderful plan for Young's life? It is a rare thing for a book to sell as well as Jesus Calling. Every publishing house, particularly a Christian publishing house dreams of such success. It only makes sense for Thomas Nelson to want lightening to strike twice.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Danger of Forgiving Yourself

by Rick Thomas

One of the more interesting teachings which has crept into the Christian world view is the idea of self-forgiveness. “You just need to forgive yourself” is one of the standard ways this secular doctrine is put forth.

I’m not exactly sure how it became such a supported teaching in the mainstream Christian consciousness, though I do have a pretty good idea of some of its secular counterparts. The self-esteem movement would be one of its companions. Self-forgiveness and self-esteem are similar in that they have a high view of self in common.

Whose blood is sufficient?

Typically a person who believes he needs to forgive himself has sinned in some way–hence the need for forgiveness. All sin requires forgiveness in order to be free from it. This is straight-forward Christian doctrine: I sin; I must be forgiven.

The problem arises when the self-forgiver is not seeking forgiveness from God alone. He is looking for something more–something in addition to God’s forgiveness. Though he may realize God will forgive him of his sins, he also believes his personal forgiveness of himself is required too.

“Yes, God has forgiven me, but I can’t forgive myself for what I did,” is a typical response.

This should be a self-evident heresy because it adds to the forgiveness we receive from God alone, through Christ alone, based on the Bible alone. It’s adding to the Gospel. It’s like placing the blood of the lamb above the doorpost, plus my blood too (Exodus 12:7). This is dangerous teaching.

Christ’s forgiveness of myself + my forgiveness of myself = heresy
Christ’s forgiveness of myself + my acceptance of His forgiveness = Gospel

The reason the perfect Lamb of God came to earth was to save us from our sins (John 1:29). This is a major plank in the Gospel platform. Man was lost in his sin and if he was going to be redeemed, then God had to come to do it (Ephesians 2:1-9).

He did come by becoming a man, living perfectly, dying on the cross, and rising from the grave in order to not only conquer sin, but to provide a means for sinner-man to be freed from sin.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace. – Ephesians 1:7 (ESV)

If sinner-man could forgive himself, then he would not need a perfect sacrifice.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Missions Is Not for Wimpy Women — And Nine Other Lessons from Ethiopia

by John Piper

I’m writing this on my last night of seven in Addis Ababa, the sprawling, higher-than-Denver, capitol of Ethiopia — which just became the second most populous country of Africa.
The international, inter-agency cooperation of missions today is illustrated by the fact that we are staying in a Mission to the World (PCA) guesthouse and speaking at a college sponsored by SIM, whose international leadership just passed from a Scot to a Nigerian based in America. Jason Meyer and I spoke at five different churches, including International Evangelical, Pentecostal, Anglican, and Reformed charismatic.
Our conclusion: Bible-tethered, expository exultation, Christian Hedonism, and Big-God theology resonates across oceans, cultures, languages, and denominations. It bears fruit in every soil. What an amazing thing to do tag-team exposition in Ethiopia with my pastoral successor!
Ten Glimpses of God’s Global Mission
So here are some standout glimpses of missions as I saw it.
1. I was ashamed of President Obama’s policies on so-called gay marriage and abortion. I apologized to one Ethiopian pastor who is often consulted by the national leaders of Ethiopia. He said how difficult it is to persuade his leaders to stand for truth and righteousness when America threatens to tie international aid to the endorsement of these sins. He stood before his church of several thousand after I preached and called them to prayer about this crisis. I told him I thought these policies were wicked. He knelt down beside me and asked me to pray for him.
2. In her emergency medical training here, one of the missionaries from our church in Minneapolis was invited to cut herself and then sew it up so she could actually be sure she knew how to do stitches. She did it. But not to worry, she practiced on cow tongue first. Missions is not for wimpy women.
3. I stood behind a plastic surgeon from Minneapolis and watched him give a new life to an eighteen-month-old boy with a cleft lip who in his poverty would have been an utter outcast. For 45 minutes, he carved and sewed with the skill of a medical artist. The before and after was a stunning picture of rebirth.
4. I heard an illustration of the wisdom of God’s providence in sending missionaries from everywhere to everywhere — not just from the West to the developing world. An Ethiopian Christian missionary was sent to Muslim-dominated Pakistan. When the mayor of the city in Pakistan heard that he was there, he told him that he may do anything he wants in this city. Why? Because 1,400 years ago, Ethiopia gave asylum to the fleeing Mohammed, and we owe Ethiopia this favor. I asked, Did he know he was a Christian missionary? Yes, was the answer, and this is the kind of thing God is doing all over the world.
5. One of our missionaries spoke of the remoteness of her life far from any city: The “toilet” is outside and during the rainy season not only is there the downpour to be endured at night, but snakes and hyenas. Not exactly your average American walk from bedroom to bathroom on dry carpet.
6. One medical missionary corrected a common missionary counsel. He said that we are often told, if you are not an evangelist in America, getting on a plane won’t make you one elsewhere. He said that in his case this was not true. For him, the commitment to leave a lucrative, American medical practice and serve in Ethiopia has given him both opportunities and boldness in witness that he never had in his medical practice in the U.S. This is true, he said, both stateside and on the plane, and in Ethiopia. So let’s be careful about being too absolute in the kind of pronouncements we make.
7. We saw one of the challenges of Muslim contextualization. One of the missionaries teaches a Muslim convert Bible stories, which she travels seven hours to repeat to a nomadic unreached people group. But when she comes back to her hometown, she does not want to associate with the missionaries in public. She does not want to be known as a follower of Jesus. It is too disruptive in her family. The missionary asked me what she should do.
I suggested that she give her helper the benefit of the doubt that perhaps she does not know what Jesus said about this. I suggested she teach her some new stories that include texts like,
Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. . . . For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. (Mark 8:35–38)
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37)
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11–12)
8. On our last day, we drove two hours outside of Addis to a magnificent, lush valley, and hiked along the cliffs until we came to what is known as the Portuguese Bridge. This remote, triple-arch bridge was built 400 years ago by the Portuguese out of limestone and ostrich eggs. It is still in use for the farmers with their donkeys, even though in the rainy season the water beneath has rushed against its foundations with four centuries of force. The marvel of this construction, and the beauty of the far-stretching valley, portrayed the craft of God’s image-bearers and the wonder of his own handiwork.
9. I heard the plea again, and I give it here, that young people seriously seek a deep and unshakeable God-given call to giving their lives to an unreached people group. Short-term missions has value. But trying to accomplish long-term goals with short-term commitments is difficult. Most of the peoples left to reach are hard to reach. What is needed is the commitment of a life, not just a year. A language to learn, a culture to know, a people to love, a gospel to speak, a church to plant, leaders to train — this is the pouring out of a life. May God give many of you this high and holy and hard calling.

10. Nevertheless, if you have any life left, dream like you never have. For example, I met a missionary who was a math major in college, spent part of his life in the military, most of it as an aviation engineer, then got a seminary degree, moved to Ethiopia to teach theology, and now, at age 67, is beginning a PhD program in church history while he teaches. Does this inspire any 60-somethings out there?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Painfully Walking to Church or Is it a Sin to Miss Church?

Recently my wife and I were staying at a missionary guest house.  As we prepared to leave for church on Sunday morning, we were surprised and saddened to see several missionary families who were not going to church.  There were several reasons given – tired from parties for their children, not having proper clothing for church in a big city, wanting to rest, wanted to be together as a family, and so forth.  Illness and needing to miss church is one thing, but to rest from a party?

Later that morning, an excellent Bible expositor spoke about examining ourselves in the faith; do we love the church? He mentioned that fellowship with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ is as a mark of our walk with God.

The next day I happened to mention this to a missionary leader and Bible teacher. He said, “The Scriptures clearly teach that we should not forsake the assembling ourselves together.” (Hebrews 10:23-25)

It is interesting how often those of us in ministry do not seem to love the church, to fellowship with the Lord’s people, to worship the Lord in prayer and studying the Word of God “together as God’s family.”

Some of God’s people in parts of the world suffer to attend church.  This is quite a contrast to other believers, even missionaries, who do not attend church simply wanting to rest a little!

Last night I read a story of a little lady in England who walked to church aided by two canes because of her painful rheumatism.  When asked why she did this, she responded, “Oh, I love to be in fellowship with God’s people on Sunday, worshiping, studying and praying.  Even though it is very painful and I am slow, my heart arrives to the church long before I do.”

Friday, November 8, 2013

Worship or a Rock Concert?

Speaking in several services in a large church I witnessed what I experience in many churches, the worship team performed a rock concert, rather than leading all in worship.  We stood for 30 minutes while the band did their thing.  No one knew the songs (not even the youth), nor were they biblical or sing-able.

Worship Leaders, in spite of what others may say or think, you are to lead ALL the congregation in worship, praise of God.  All ages!  To choose spiritual songs that are biblical, sing-able, non-repetitive.  Don’t succumb to cheap songs that only the band can sing and play.

By the way, why stand for 30 minutes? This is not thoughtful of the weak, handicapped, or elderly.  It is good to stand from time to time, but often it takes away from the emphasis and focus of worship.

Make sure you have a few older, godly, spiritually mature on your worship committee to give guidance in choosing each song and hymn to make sure it is biblical and sing-able by young and old alike.

“O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting” (1 Chronicles 16:34,nasb).

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Finish the Job

In a football game, I saw one player run many yards for a touchdown.  He "show-boated" and taunted the other team as he ran to the end zone with no one near him. Many times when a player makes a touchdown, they will celebrate by spinning the ball or throwing it to the ground.  This particular player misjudged the goal line and dropped the ball too soon with the other team recovering the ball and scoring!

Often we in leadership do something similar; we near the finish line in life and ministry and drop out of the task the Lord has given us to do. Instead of completing we slow down, consolidate, sit back to a comfortable and safe lifestyle. All of which causes the ministries we lead to falter and slow down, and sometimes even dropping the ball and not completing the task of ministry we have been commissioned to do!

I Corinthians 15:58 is a good verse to remember as we get older and comfortable; we are to "always abound" in living for Christ and ministry!