Friday, December 21, 2012

Part I: The Cape Town Commitment: For the Lord we love...# 6

Our engagement in pointless and fruitless without the presence, guidance, and power of the Holy Spirit.  This is true of mission in all its dimensions:  evangelism, bearing witness to the truth, discipling, peace-making, social engagement, ethical transformation, caring for creation, overcoming  evil powers, casting out demonic spirits, healing the sick, suffering, and enduring persecution.  The Cape Town Commitment, 16.

I became a Christian on October 14, 1980, during a charismatic revival in Windhoek, Namibia (then South West Africa).  Not only did the Holy Spirit break through satanic bondage and demonic blindness, but He also released me from several addictions instantaneously.  I remember realizing a week after my conversion that I had not done drugs all week.  It was a very exciting time.

But then, as time went by, and as I began to move in more conservative Christian circles, the Holy Spirit became less of a Person and more of a rather difficult theological was as if a personal relationship had been turned into a impersonal study.  The sad thing is, I don't think I really missed His presence until much later in my Christian walk.  But oh, when all the walls of cognitive theories and abstract theologies came down, He was there, waiting for me.  Of course, He had been there all along, but somehow I had managed to tune Him out.

My ministry was successful...God is always gracious, merciful, kind, and compassionate...He does not want a sinner to even though I often ministered to others in my own strength, He still worked through me to bless them.  But the past year, in particular, has been very different.  Having done the Alpha Course and once again experiencing the very Real Presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst, my ministry has come back to life.  Once more I am aware of His voice speaking to me and others around me through visions and words of wisdom and prophecies...and I am even more aware of His power at work in me and through me.

How did I ever think I could do God's work without Him?

The Cape Town Commitment says it so well.  There is no true or whole gospel, and no authentic biblical mission, without the Person, work and power of the Holy Spirit.

So, may we pray for a great awakening to this biblical truth, and for its experience to be reality in all parts of the worldwide Body of Christ.

Part I: The Cape Town Commitment: For the Lord we love...#5

We love the Holy Spirit within the unity of the Trinity, along with God the Father and God the Son.  He is the missionary Spirit sent by the missionary Father and the missionary Son, breathing life and power into God's missionary Church.  We love and pray for the presence of the Holy Spirit because without the witness of the Spirit to Christ, our own witness is futile.  Without the convicting work of the Spirit, our preaching is in vain.  Without the gifts, guidance and power of the Spirit, our mission is mere human effort.  And without the fruit of the Spirit, our unattractive lives cannot reflect the beauty of the Gospel.  The Cape Town Commitment, 15

At the GAT training I met a man that I was concerned about.  While I was praying for him, I sensed that there was something darker at work in his life...something that I felt the Holy Spirit was telling me was part of this man's family and village.  I alerted our hosts and asked for someone to be sent to his (remote) village to follow-up on our prayers for him.  Here is a report from the man who visited him and his family.  

This is a perfect example of the missionary Spirit of God at work!

Please keep them all in your prayers. 

Dear Brother,
Greetings from ________, India.
I am Rev. ________ from ________. I am an adviser cum-master trainer of Alpha India in ________. I was informed by Mr. ________, Alpha State Coordinator about Mr. ______ a participant of Alpha GAT at _______ whom you had ministered and needed follow up and further prayer. I met him personally and also visited his family who are staying in a village called ________ about __ kilometers away from ________ town. I ministered to them the whole day, counselled and prayed. In fact the whole family was affected by evil spirit. Their youngest son was possessed and controlled by some dead spirits. All in the family somehow or other were affected by those spirits and suffering physically and mentally. However, I prayed for them. God, through His Grace did wonder and the young son was delivered from the dead evil spirits. The whole family is fine and happy now. I have assured them of my prayer and ministry. I am enclosing some pictures for your knowledge and prayer.
In this privilege I also request you to pray for me and our ministry here in _______. Because beside Alpha ministry I am engaged in few other ministries such as Evangelism and Church Planting, Prayer (Power) ministry, Orphanage (Compassion) ministry, Discipleship, and education to the poor and needy in _____. ______ is a backward area in India in every aspect such as spiritual, social, economical, educational etc. It is a rural and tribal area. Illiteracy, poverty, natural calamities, child death, and child selling are major issues to address. This area is also ignored by mission organizations for lack of communication and transportation. God in His will has chosen and appointed me to work in such place for His Glory and Kingdom. By God’s grace, power and help our ministry is running successfully and growing day by day. We have already planted 15 churches in different villages, and have established one orphanage center with 10 orphan children, one disciple training center, three village literacy centers  and one school for free education to the unprivileged and underprivileged children. As ministry grows, so also the needs for it. God has been providing our needs through His kind hearted people. Please pray for our ministry, for all ministers involved in different levels, for us and for the financial need. Do pray that God would raise His people to support the ministry of _______ to reach the unreached millions and to help the poor and needy showing the love and compassion of God. We are also praying for you and assure our prayer for your ministry and family. May the Lord bless you! 

Dr. _________

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Part I: The Cape Town Commitment: For the Lord we love...#4

We love God the Son
"We proclaim Christ.  In Christ alone God has fully and finally revealed himself, and through Christ alone God has achieved salvation for the world.  We therefore kneel as disciples at the feet of Jesus of Nazareth and say to him with Peter, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,' and with Thomas, 'My Lord and my God.'"  The Cape Town Commitment, 15.

While in India, one cannot help but notice the many places where people slavishly worship things that are not God.  On this last visit, I visited the place where the Buddha allegedly achieved enlightenment.  While many of the non Asians were curious tourists like myself, there were others who had moved way beyond mere curiosity.  They had given themselves over (to steal a word from the Apostle Paul) to idolatry.

While Buddhism claims to be a philosophical denial of all forms of dependency rather than a religion with gods to be worshiped, devotees at Bodh Gaya clearly were performing acts of worship...with a price tag for these acts of devotion to boot!  It cost a pretty rupee to drape a silk cloth around the neck of the idols.  Gold covered statues and ancient stone stupas (a mound-like structure containing Buddhist relics) littered the and food were what if not a false god?

Then there are the Hindu temples, great and small  that fill the land with their brightly colored gods adorning their walls and roofs.  But one cannot cover up darkness with paint regardless of how bright.

Only the Light of the world that came into our world to reveal to us the one true God can remove the spiritual darkness as he alone defeated him who blinds the minds of those who do not believe.  Ah, but here's the rub.  We say to know him, but do we proclaim him?  Do we really shine out our lights in the world?

Think on this.  If every person who declares that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and their Lord...if everyone of them had to proclaim to the world that there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved, how long will this darkness continue to rule in the hearts and minds of the lost?

May we all "commit ourselves afresh to bear witness to Jesus Christ and all his teaching, in all the world, knowing that we can bear such witness only if we are living in obedience to his teaching ourselves."

Monday, December 17, 2012

Part I: The Cape Town Commitment: For the Lord we love...#3

"We love God as the Father who so loved the world that he gave his only Son for our salvation."

As the nation mourns the death of so many sweet little children, I cannot help but compare the grief of their parents with that of the ultimate parent, God the Father.  Any emotion we experience as creatures created by God reflects the emotion of our Creator.  We know that he is able to experience grief as he says so in his word.  Knowing then, that as he sent his only Son into our broken, sin-sick world, he knew full well that the Baby born in Bethlehem was born to die at the hands of wicked men to pay a price that wasn't his to pay, we gain a glimpse of the heart of our Father.  It was the will of the Trinity for the second Person to take on flesh and die for render null and void the power of sin through the payment of the penalty for disobedience...death.

Was the Father unmoved as he watched his Son die on the cross?  Surely not.  I do believe that he was as grieved as those who have had to do the say goodbye to their sons and daughters.  I have heard it said so many times.  No parent ought ever to bury their child.  But our heavenly Father had to do just that.

However, Hebrews 12 tells us that our Lord Jesus - the Baby whose birth we celebrate this Christmastide - endured the cross and despised the shame of being executed as a criminal for a crime he did not commit, because he could see the joy that was set before him...the joy of the resurrection and his ascension to the very throne he had chosen to leave behind to take on the form of one of his creatures so that as a man - a sinless man - he could die as a man for man.

Joy.  Such a bittersweet word to be heard during a time of great grief.  And yet, what a comforting word to hear from the lips of the Father.  In the midst of immeasurable pain, we have one who understands out grief as no one else, because he has been there.  But beyond the grief there is joy.  The knowledge that there is a resurrection for those who are in Christ Jesus..that there is a life beyond the grave where grief is no longer a reality.

I pray that I may never be able to identify with the pain of the parents in Connecticut.  But I know that the one who loved the world so much that he gave his only Son for our salvation understands and that he grieves with those who grieve and mourns with those who mourns.   

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Part 1. For the Lord we love - #2

"It should be our greatest grief that in our world the living God is not glorified.  The living God is denied in aggressive atheism.  The one true God is replaced or distorted in the practice of world religions.  Our Lord Jesus Christ is abused and misrepresented in some popular cultures.  And the face of the God of biblical revelation is obscured by Christian nomilnalism, syncretism, and hypocrisy."

Imagine for a moment that you are in a room filled with various people from all walks of life.  Different nationalities, different religions, different cultures, different socio-economic backgrounds, and so on.  See yourself walking from group to group and eavesdropping on their conversations.  As you listen, you hear the groups talking about someone you know well...someone you love and care for deeply..someone who is not present to defend themselves.  To your dismay, you hear the name of your beloved spouse being slandered by strangers.  Men and women who have never met your spouse, never seen your spouse, never heard your spouse speak.  Would you not be grieved?  Would you not be disturbed?  Would you not want to interrupt their slander and reveal to them how wrong they are in their estimation of your beloved?  Would you not wish to correct their ignorant assumptions?  What would you do?

In the statement quoted above, we hear the authors of this document, the Cape Town Commitment, ask us the same question.  The biblical God is the one and only true God.  There is no other.  He is the supreme Monarch of all that exists, visible and invisible.  Does He not deserve the adoration of His creatures?  How then can we be indifferent to the lies made manifest in so many different ways...through false faiths, through denials of the divine, through mockery and slander?  Should not the absence of true worship in the various groups around the globe not disturb us enough to break into the circle and to declare how wrong they are in their thinking?  Their ignorance is not solely their fault.  In part it is ours, for we know the One they slander and yet we choose to remain silent for whatever reason...nomilalism, syncretism, or hypocrisy and, indeed one more...materialism.  Is it not strange that what we would not do in the case of our spouse, we do in the case of our Lord?  We remain silent and we allow our Lord to be denied, replaced by what is false, distorted, abused, and misrepresented.

Pray with me for a holy discomfort to descend upon all the Lord's children...all of us...from the most pious to the most sincere to the most indifferent.  And may our Lord not lift that sense of discomfort until He has driven us out from under our proverbial baskets to make His name known to every people group throughout the world so that He may receive what is His due - the worship of all His creatures.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

As followers of my blog know all too well now, I recently visited a leprosy hospital in Northern Tamil Nadu, India.  However, I have not addressed the needs of Karigiri and how we may be able to help them in the future.  While their needs are many, I am hoping to focus on one specific need.  The need to treat new leprosy cases.  Here is my dream.

The Leprosy Mission in India (TLM-I) is going to cut their contribution to Karigiri's budget to 0 in 2013.  This would leave them with a funding gap of about $26,000 per year.  In terms of per person impact on Karigiri's treatment of those with new cases of leprosy, this would mean a possible inability to treat new leprosy patients.  

The amount needed to fund the outpatient care for new leprosy cases is IR 15, 00,000 (that's the way the Indians write it) per year for 250 patients, which would be roughly $27,000 per year.  This seems like an astronomical figure, way out of reach of most of our parishes, however, if we break that figure down to per person it is about $108 per person per year.  Break that down to per month we have $9 per person or $2.50 per week.  As the saying goes, an elephant can be eaten if we take one bite at a time.

While the goal is obviously $27,000 per year, allowing each parish or individuals in our parishes to meet the need on a per person level ($2.50 per week/$9 per month/$108 per year) seems, to me, to be a realistic proposal and a doable project for parishes and missions like ours.

With the leave of each Vicar and Vestry, I could also address your parishioners, especially members of the medical profession in each parish...they might be interested in visiting Karigiri, or, in the case of training hospitals, sending their students there on a short term trip.

As Karigiri is a training hospital, they also are in need of medical books, regardless of the date of publication.

I am planning another visit to Karigiri late November 2013, God willing, of course, and am open to any suitable team members.

Thanks for your prayers.
Advent Blessings.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Vision for Christian Living...

I have just finished watching this amazing talk on Vision delivered by Nicky Gumbel on Sunday, January 29, 2012.  I can't add anything - he says it all.  May we live up to this challenge...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A sobering thought...

I just read an article by Pastor Michael Cheshire (The Journey Church in Conifer, Colorado.  He is the author of How to Knock Over a 7-11 and Other Ministry Training (2012) and Why We Eat Our Own (2013)).  The article is entitled, Going to hell with Ted Haggard, see here:

Cheshire speaks movingly about the ongoing evangelical Christian rejection of Mr. Haggard in spite of his public confession and the forgiveness of his wife and family.  However, what caught my eye was a reference he made to those suffering from leprosy.  After meeting with Haggard and befriending him and his wife, Cheshire was surprised to find that Christians began to reject him because of this association!  Here is the relevant passage.

But then the funniest thing started happening to me. Some Christians I hung out with told me they would distance themselves from me if I continued reaching out to Ted. Several people in my church said they would leave. Really? Does he have leprosy? Will he infect me? We are friends. We aren't dating! But in the end, I was told that my voice as a pastor and author would be tarnished if I continued to spend time with him. I found this sickening. Not just because people can be so small, but because I have a firsthand account from Ted and Gayle of how they lost many friends they had known for years. Much of it is pretty coldblooded. Now the "Christian machine" was trying to take away their new friends.

Having visited Shantigramam (Village of Peace), one of the campuses of Karigiri Hospital in Northern Tamil Nadu State, India, and meeting people who had been shunned by their family and friends because of the simple fact that they had contracted the disease of leprosy, and because they had suffered awful disfigurements due to complications of the disease, Cheshire's point hit home.  The family and friends of these dear, beautiful people, believed that they had been struck down by some god or evil spirit because of an evil deed done, either in this life or another past life.  Acceptance would jeopardize their next life simply by their association with one thus cursed.  One may then understand and, in a sense, excuse their is part of their world-view...however wrong that world-view may be.

But, what excuse do we evangelical Christians have?  We believe that we are all sinners saved by grace through faith by the benevolent, undeserved love of a forgiving, gracious, and merciful Father God.  Together with the Apostle John, we declare boldly that if we confess our sins (and also with the Apostle John we agree that we all do sin even after conversion!), God is faithful to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  When we read the Gospels we see the ecclesiastical elite of His day rejecting Him because of the kinds of people He hung out with...prostitutes, tax-collectors, sinners (an all encompassing label slapped on those whose lifestyle appeared to be contrary to the Law, whether through ignorance or a deliberate choice), and, yes, those afflicted with leprosy. If we are truly followers of Jesus, are we not to forgive our brothers 70 X 7 when they sin against us?  Are we not to love one another even as Jesus has loved us (which includes dying for our sins so that we may be forgiven and accepted by an altogether holy God!)?  Are we not to imitate Him?  Are we not to "walk just as He walked"?

But, oh, dear Lord I see my own blind heart as I write these words!  How often have I not done the same?  I don't even know a prostitute in Greenville - which, in one sense, is a good thing, but in another it is a terrible thing.  It means I do not seek to bring sinners to the cross of Jesus where the ground on which everyone in this world stands is level...we are all sinners...all...even those of us who have been "saved" or delivered from sin.  Forgive me, sweet Jesus, and help me through the power of Your Holy Spirit to walk with you into the lives of those who are rejected by society - and especially those rejected by us Christians - and to love them as you did.  To see their spiritual deformities as you see mine, so that my love for them may lead them ever so gently into the Father's waiting arms.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Part I: The Cape Town Commitment: For the Lord we love...#1

Part I of the Cape Town Commitment is entitled:  For the Lord we love:  The Cape Town Confession of Faith.  Indeed, the whole document is framed in the language of love, because as the Preamble says so clearly:

"Love is the language of covenant.  The biblical covenants, old and new, are the expression of God's redeeming love and grace reaching out to lost humanity and spoiled creation.  They call for our love in return.  Our love shows itself in trust, obedience and passionate commitment to our covenant Lord.  The Lausanne Covenant defined evangelization as 'the whole Church taking the whole Gospel to the whole world.'  That is still our passion."

The question facing us as the 21st century Church is simply this:  What is our passion?

Missions is not a optional extra side dish for curious Christians.  Missions flows from the very heart of God.  From the first heart wrenching cry, "Adam, where are you?", through to the incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, the one focal point of the Lord we love has been to seek and to save the lost.  And, as Jesus said so clearly, as He was sent by the Father, so we are sent by Him in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Love for God and neighbor are the two greatest commandments.  However, the very reason we love Him is because He first loved us.  Without His seeking and saving love, we would not be able to love Him because we would still be lost without Him.  Our ability to love Him is the assurance that we are known by God.  Love for God is the evidence that we have been adopted to be His sons and daughters.  It follows then, that as the expression of the love of the One Who now lives within each believer is a desire to see all of mankind saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, the expression of our love ought to mirror His.  Jesus tells us that it is love that makes our witness to Him visible to the world.  Love for God and love for neighbor is the way others will see a world-view that is different from their own.  Love - sacrificial love - identifies us with our Lord and our Deliverer.

Paul tells us that love is the greatest virtue of the Christian life, and he defines that love as a love that constrains us to partner with the God who loves the world so much that He endeavored to reconcile it to Himself through the willing sacrifice of His Son.  God's love extends to all of His creation.

"We are commanded to love in ways that reflect the love of God in all those same dimensions.  That is what it means to walk in the way of the Lord."

God desires every knee to bow to Jesus - every tongue to confess that Jesus is Lord - we ought to desire the same.

The Cape Town Commitment

"The Third Lausanne Congress of World Evangelization (Cape Town, 16-25 October, 2010) brought together 4,200 evangelical believers from 198 countries  and extended to hundreds of thousands more, participating in meetings around the world, and online.  Its goal?  To bring a fresh challenge to the global Church to bear witness to Jesus Christ and all his teaching - in every nation, in every sphere of society, and in the realm of ideas."  Foreward to The Cape Town Commitment: A Confession of Faith and a Call to Action, The Lausanne Movement, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Massachusetts, 2010.

The goal of the Cape Town Commitment was to "distinguish what is at the heart of the Christian Gospel" and to link belief in that Gospel with the practice of that Gospel, with the hope that the Commitment would "be talked about, discussed, and afforded weight as a united statement from evangelicals globally; that it (would) shape agendas in Christian ministry; that it (would) strengthen thought-leaders in the public arena; and that bold initiatives and partnership (would) issue from it."

The purpose of this blog was originally to keep supporters of mine informed as to my mission trips to India as a missionary of Resurrection Fellowship.  However, as these trips will be sporadic with large amounts of time in between them, I thought it would be better for the blog to become a place where my thoughts on missions could be shared with the public...or, at least, those who sign on to the blog.

To start with, I want to look at a document drawn up after the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization.  The first congress began with Billy Graham and John Stott, was held in Lausanne, Switzerland (hence the name), in 1974.  The Second was held in Manila, Philippines, in 1989.  To learn more about this conference and what it was all about see here:

The goal of the Third Congress held in Cape Town, South Africa, was to re-stimulate the spirit behind the Lausanne hopefully, my reflections on this Congress will do the your commitment to "the task of bearing worldwide witness to Jesus Christ and all his teaching."