Friday, August 30, 2013

Sore Back, But Glory to God!

We are in the midst of moving little by little as we continue our daily responsibilities in ministry.  Last night relatives and friends helped us with our first heavy loads.  What we thought would take three hours, took six.  Today, while Margaret and friends are packing dishes, I began packing the last shipment of Life Application Study Bibles for needy pastors and Christian workers in the Philippines.  Our goal was 2000 copies ($120,000 value – our cost only $28,000) which these last 165 copies will meet!  Praise the Lord!  Pray that God will raise up one, two or several in ACTION to continue this ministry and BookShare for the Philippines.

Let me encourage you with the following, “…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”  (Hebrews 12:2, nasb).

Friday, August 23, 2013

Racist, Unethical, Deceitful Book – “Reformation in Foreign Missions” by Bob Finley

Over the years I have been asked to comment on Bob Finley’s book, “Reformation in Foreign Missions.”  The late Bob Finley was the founder of  Christian Aid Mission.

The book begins with the false premise:
“Contemporary foreign mission operations as carried on by churches and para-church organizations of the USA, Canada, Korea, and other        industrialized countries are in dire need of reformation.  Generally, with a few notable exceptions, those who go from one country to another as missionaries end up hindering rather than helping the cause of Christ.” (page 5)

This statement alone shows the falsehoods of the book.  The book is filled with extreme, negative examples, some which might have happened in some situations some place, but certainly I have never read, heard or experienced in 45 years of ministry in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America.  I have a hard time believing the above and especially believing the following ever happened:

“In 1954 I was visited in Washington by one of my "disciples" from Inter-Varsity days who had just come home "on furlough" af­ter four years in Africa. Inspired by my rhetoric he had gone "to the mission field" determined to "identify with the people." But upon arrival the old-time heads of his affiliated mission sat him down and laid out the code of conduct which he was to follow. He was there to become identified with the foreign community that made up the spiritual family of his mission, not with the "nationals" who were to be kept "in their place."
"And don't you come out here with any of those nonsensi­cal ideas about Africans being equal to us," the director told him. "These people ARE inferior, and the sooner you recognize it the bet­ter." (page 61)

Why would anyone write such falsehood? No director would ever think or say such a thing! Can anyone believe this really happened?  Even if it did, it was an extreme illustration and certainly not true of 99.9% of the missionaries in history worldwide with effective loving ministries for Christ and His glory.

" . . . for a wide door for effective service has opened to [us], and there are many adversaries . . . Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men [be mature], be strong.  Let all that you do be done in love"  (1 Corinthians 16:9, 13-14, nasb).

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dear Pastor, Bring Your Bible to Church

Posted By Matthew Barrett 

I enjoy using an iPad. It is, in my opinion, one of the most impressive devices yet invented. In one light-weight, travel-sized tablet the user has everything at his fingertips. That includes not only the typical social media apps that every user has on his smartphone, but also countless tools that have characterized the laptop or even the home television.
And yet I am finding that cutting-edge, 21st-century technology is subtly but quickly changing important, even indispensable aspects of Christianity. Consider just one example: the ever-growing tendency to substitute a physical, visible Bible (remember . . . the ones where you lick your finger and turn the pages) with a tablet in the pulpit.

To clarify, I am not against pastors using a tablet in the pulpit for, say, sermon notes. Rather, I'm concerned about replacing the physical Bible with a tablet in the pulpit. As the pastor enters the pulpit to bring the Word of God to the people of God, no hard copy of the Bible is to be found in his hand, gracing the top of the podium, visible to the entire congregation as the book at the center of attention. Instead, the congregation sees a tablet. While this may seem harmless enough, I believe there are several potential dangers this subtle shift generates.

Different Message

First, the tablet as a replacement for a hardcopy of the Bible sends an entirely different message to the congregation. Yes, this tablet contains the digital text of the Bible, but visually that tablet represents so much more. It is an icon of social media and a buffet of endless entertainment. Ask my children. The sight of an iPad screams instant access to Sesame Street on Netflix. For the adult, the tablet is an immediate window into his or her social life. As advertised [2], the iPad is ESPN Magazine, a Visa card statement, decorating ideas on Pinterest, hotel reservations in Hawaii, the latest college football scores, Adele on iTunes, directions to the nearest Starbucks, instant tracking of the stock market, and, oh yes, the Bible, alongside thousands of your favorite e-books.

In contrast, how simple, and yet profound, is a hardcopy of the Bible, perhaps leather-bound and worn from constant use. Carried by Pastor Steve into the pulpit, this large, even cumbersome book, reveals he is ready to bring to the people a message from God himself. In short, a print copy of the Scriptures in the pulpit represents something far more focused and narrow: a visible symbol of God speaking to his people, the master Shepherd feeding his flock.

Biblical Illiteracy in the Pew

Second, the tablet may, oddly enough, unintentionally and indirectly encourage biblical illiteracy in the pew. This no doubt sounds shocking. After all, how could a tablet that provides us with gobs of biblical research tools, a digital manuscript of the Scriptures, and countless other resources create a culture of biblical illiteracy? One of the severe limitations of a digital text, as you sit there with your iPhone or smartphone, is the unnecessary task of passing by books of the Bible as you find the sermon text. When the preacher says, "Turn in your Bibles to . . . ," the layperson simply clicks on a link or enters the text into a search box. As a result, I am increasingly discovering as a professor at a Christian university that students do not know where books in the Bible are located, let alone how the storyline of redemptive history develops. Many laypeople do not possess the ability to see the text in its context. Consequently, these old-fashioned, basic, Bible-learning skills are being lost.

Even secular scholars, such as Nicholas Carr (The Shallows [3]) and Mark Bauerlein (The Dumbest Generation [4]), get this when it comes to reading a book digitally. As John Bombaro [5] explains, these authors, and many others, conclude that we have adopted a "truncated approach to texts, with no peripheral vision of what the next page holds or orientation to the linear progression of the entire text," which only "trains the mind's learning plasticity to think in pragmatic, detached, fragmented ways." Therefore, when it comes to Scripture, we have lost by abandoning the printed text a "linear progression to the total story," since "digital texts militate against a big-picture perspective and comprehension of the whole story of the Bible."

Flesh and Blood

Third, the tablet may undermine the spatio-temporal nature of church. When a member stands before the congregation, reading the sermon text from a tablet, there is something missing, something lifeless at play. Again, John Bombaro [5] observes, "Digital texts are ephemeral; they are ontologically diminished." There's no "there" there, Bombaro laments.

Surely this should rub us wrong, as physical beings who gather together as an assembly in a tangible place. We see with our own eyes a standing, breathing minister preach about a God who is, yes, invisible, but is really with us as Lord of space and time. This God has made himself known by sending his own Son in flesh and blood.

Visual Reminder

Fourth, when the spatio-temporal nature of Scripture is replaced with a digital, even ephemeral, cyberspace text, there is an awkward inconsistency at play given the physicality of baptism and the Lord's Supper. In the lineage of the Reformation, evangelicals have long affirmed at least three marks of the church and means of grace: the proclamation of God's Word, baptism, and the Lord's Supper. Why not perform a baptism in private or take the Lord's Supper alone? There is an essential corporate dimension to these somatic means of grace, as the church witnesses the gospel in the waters of baptism and together partakes of the flesh and blood of Christ represented in the elements. The materiality of these means visually remind us that we are accountable to this gospel and to one another.

Likewise with God's Word. The Scriptures, preached and read, teach us, reprove us, and train us in righteousness so that we are equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). If baptism and the Lord's table become lifeless when we disintegrate their materiality, do we not risk a similar danger when we remove the spatio-temporal presence of the Word of God for the people of God? And should an unbeliever walk in for the first time, would he know that we are a people of the book?

Nonverbal Communication

Fifth, when the smartphone or iPad (or name your mobile device) replaces a hardcopy of Scripture, something is missing in our nonverbal communication to unbelieving onlookers. When you walk to church, sit down on a bus, or discipline one another at a coffee shop, a hard copy of the Bible sends a loud and bold message to the nearest passersby about your identity as a Christ follower. It says, "Yes, I am a Christian and I believe this book is the Word of God telling us who we are and how we should live."

If you don't believe me, take a physical copy of the Bible with you on your next plane flight, and when you sit down next to your neighbors place the Bible on your lap for all to see. Notice the reactions; you might as well have shared your social security number with the whole plane. Typically, for the person on your left just the sight of the text makes them uncomfortable, defensive, and reclusive. But for the person on your right, it may instantaneously create a conversation that leads to the gospel. My point is simple: if we, as Christians, abandon the physical text in our own assembly, what is lost when this text does not warm our hands in front of a lost and dying world?

No doubt, my warning touches an uncomfortable and irritable nerve. To insult our use of technology is one of the seven deadly sins in the 21st century. Technology infiltrates and saturates everything we do, and therefore defines everything we are, for better or worse. But is this subtle shift changing the way we read the Scriptures? Is it ever-so-quietly removing the visual centerpiece of the local assembly? I think so. And while I never imagined I would have to say this, I close with the following admonition: Dear pastor, bring your Bible to church.

Article printed from The Gospel Coalition Blog:
URL to article:
URLs in this post:
[1] Image:
[2] advertised:
[3] The Shallows:
[4] The Dumbest Generation:
[5] John Bombaro:

Sweating at Customs

Thirty missionaries and leaders were on an Open Doors team to China in the 1970s, smuggling in as many Bibles as possible to the underground church. We divided up into teams of three as we went through customs. For some reason, I ended up being the last person in customs. While most of the other missionaries had small bags of 10-20 Bibles, Open Doors had given me a huge footlocker on wheels weighing over 200 pounds with several hundred Bibles. The customs official was a young lady. She took my passport and asked me to open the footlocker. Knowing that if I opened it the Bibles would be confiscated, I simply asked her a question, “How are you today?” “Oh, I’m fine, thank you. Would you open that large footlocker, please?” I responded, “My, it’s hot here in China today. How do you do all of your work with that heavy uniform? You must be hot.” She said she was doing just fine and asked me again to open my bag. Now I was the one sweating! I’m not a very good smuggler as I couldn’t smuggle a ballpoint pen if I had to without getting caught. She could see that I was frightened, anxious, and sweating! So I responded again, “You’re the only woman working here in this section. What kind of training did you go through to do this? You must have been at the head of your class.” Again, she responded with a smile, thanked me, and again asked me to open my bag. This time I simply reached over and took my passport out of her hand and said, “Thank you, it’s been very nice talking to you, but I really need to go now.” I turned and tried to pick up the footlocker, but when I grabbed the handle I forgot to roll it, and because of the weight the handle snapped off. Then I tried pushing it on its wheels, but the floor was uneven and the wheels all collapsed. By this time, I was surrounded by several customs officials. I then simply took hold of a small piece of the handle which had not broken, picked up the 200-pound footlocker with one hand, and walked casually and safely out the door to my friends. God graciously allowed me to get through customs in my own inexperienced and inadequate way, so that Bibles might be filtered throughout China to His people for His glory.

Friday, August 16, 2013

God’s Provision for the Healthy

As Dad Jespersen has now departed to glory, the family needs to sell his houses to cover expenses and settle his small estate.  Therefore, Margaret and I have to move soon.  Through the generosity of family and friends (short-term loans), we are in final negotiations for a small, inexpensive condo/apartment in the city of  Issaquah (which is part of greater Seattle, located 15 miles east).  Our strength is limited so it is difficult for us to pack and move, so we would appreciate your prayer as we continue our daily ministry, as well as sorting and packing to prepare to move September 4 to 11.  The final real estate closing is August 23.  We would appreciate your prayer about this whole matter as this is a new experience for us.  Praise God that even in our old age we need to continue to move forward in faith.

“For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God” (2 Corinthians 9:12, nasb).

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Urgent Need for Ministry Items for the Philippines

 by Doug Nichols

September is our last month in the ACTION office with my team and volunteers who have been shipping items to the Philippines.  We would like to send as many boxes of ministry items to the Philippines as possible through the end of September.

The following items are needed:

Men’s tennis shoes size 8 & 9
A small rice cooker
Canned food goods
Hygiene kits for poor students ( Each kit to include the following: bar soap, wash cloth, safety pins, bandaids, Small hair comb, small pack of tissue, Travel toothbrush, Travel size toothpaste , Travel size shampoo (3oz),  
Antibiotic ointments,
Assorted candies and chocolates,
Children t-shirts (good used and new),
Flipflops, shoes,
Crayons and pencils
Working or defective small electric appliances and electronics like radios, tape, vcd, dvd players
Peanut butter, Powdered milk
Any tools for electrical, electronics and automotive training
Back Packs for children

Items can be brought to the ACTION office, 5501 232nd St SW, Mountlake Terrace, WA 98043 from 9 AM to 4 PM.  If you have any questions, contact Candi Arveson in the office 425-775-4800.

Funds are also needed to pay for shipping -- $55 for large 18” x 18” x 24” boxes.

Let me encourage you with the following, “Through Him (Jesus) then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.  And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:15-16, nasb).