Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pray for the Horn!

This is the first of several Virtual Prayer Walks for the Horn.  I will try to post one per week, although I may not be able to do so while in Gambela...

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Pray for the Horn!

As you all know by now, Louise and I are exploring the possibility of serving together with Bishop Grant and Dr Wendy LeMarquand in the Horn of Africa.  Our task will be to assist in the establishment of a Theological Training Center and Medical Health Centers.  Please pray for us as we enter into this time of discernment.

But above all, pray!  PRAY FOR THE HORN!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Book Review: When Bad Christians Happen to Good People

When Bad Christians Happen to Good People by Dave Burchett

Ok, so we all know the famous quote from Bara Dada, "Jesus is ideal and wonderful, but you Christians -- you are not like him."  But while voices from those on the outside looking in can easily be dismissed, when the cry comes from the inside, we need to stop and listen.

Reading Burchett’s book can be compared to riding a roller coaster.  While for the most part the ride is enjoyable – and Burchett is a master entertainer and comedian – there are also many nail biting, terror-filled (scream: “oh no, that’s me!”), “ouch” moments.  Yes, the book is filled with horror stories of emotional and spiritual in-house butchery (one in particular is a very personal story about the author’s daughter, Katie), but it also has golden-glow-sunrise, life-changing, joy-filled stories of Christians whose reflection of the amazing grace and love they received served as the healing balm of Gilead.  The title seems to indicate that the book is filled with finger pointing, soap-opera, “it’s all your fault!” stories, but it is actually more like a reality check (his analogy of going to the dentist fits well).  Of all the communities of the world, evangelical Christians are often the most dishonest people, simply because being real may result in their being hurt by other equally dishonest people.  (Pastors especially are privileged to provide their flock with so much to talk about…“bless his heart”.)  Burchett shines the spotlight on us all and reveals that we are all broken, hurting people desperately needing other broken, hurting people to understand our pain and help us deal with the ups and downs of life in a fallen, dysfunctional world…ahem…and Church.

To me, parts II and III are the most important sections of the book.  While Christians may be licking their wounds received from other Christians (some of whom, sadly, never recover enough to risk returning for a possible second dose), non-Christians turn their heads away in disgust and walk away justifying their refusal to follow Christ.  Bara Dada is a case in point.  So, true: Jesus weeps…and still does…but Burchett then moves on to deal with non-sugar-coated Gospel living in a badly scripted, role playing world.  There are some amazingly jaw-dropping steep drops in this section as well, but far from being a list of rules slapped on thickly like rancid butter on too little bread, Burchett points us in the right direction.  In my humble opinion, he hits a home-run on page 176 where he says this:

“It is easier to be critical than truly helpful.  In the gospel of John, Jesus talked about how we must be in relationship with Him before we can be fruitful in our endeavors.  Simply stated, when you are in a vital relationship with Christ, your thoughts and actions will reflect that connection.” 

Jesus lived a very real and thus very counter-(religious)-cultural life.  Burchett invites us to walk with Him. 

And yes, there is a bonus.  An eight-session study guide to change knowledge gained to attitude changed to conduct altered.
"I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review."
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Monday, February 18, 2013

How does one know...?

How does one know that you are called to be a cross-cultural missionary?  This can be as confusing as plotting a course through a storm.  Bill Taylor in a work book entitled "Send Me! Your Journey to the Nations", co-authored with Steve Hoke (World Evangelical Fellowship, William Carey Library, Pasadena, CA, 1999, 36-37), lists four main paths that lead to the missionary call.

Path 1:  Some kind of personalized call, vision, powerful encounter, or voice from the Lord.  "They feel a deep sense of having received a mandate from God.  It's incontrovertible."  However, Taylor adds a wise word of caution: "..a 'personal call' is not a built-in guarantee that one will be a successful missionary."

Path 2:  A matter of obedience to God's will made clear through a combination of circumstances and relationships.  To me, this is little too subjective...circumstances are open to all sorts of interpretations and sincere, well-meaning people can often be as misled as we are.  Taylor says:  "This route isn't easy."  It leaves one susceptible to doubt and questioning.

Path 3:  A "serious evaluation of prime factors: deep commitment and obedience to Christ, plus a personal assessment of interests, gifts, experience, and dreams, combined with a heart of compassion for the lost and the poor, and an opportunity to serve to make a difference in the world...more a case of the best job fit, with conclusions made after much prayer and evaluation."

Path 4:  A "radical obedience to Christ that meant a willingness to do anything, go anywhere, pay any price, plus an identification of their gifts and other's needs.  Discovering this great need provided the final indicator of where and what would constitute a strategic investment of their life and gifts."

Taylor then lists certain crucial components that are common to all four.  "In all there is a passion to serve Christ in a risky venture larger than one's own life.  All call for radical obedience to God.  All involve an overall process of wise evaluation and of confirmation and guidance from trusted colleagues and spiritual leaders.  And in all there is a final, profound, unshaking (sic) conviction from the Spirit of God that 'this is what God truly has for me'...'this is what I've got to do with my life'."

I think this list is very helpful in answering the questions Christians may have with regard to knowing whether they are, indeed, called to cross-cultural mission work.

For Louise and me...I wish I could say path 1...a clear-cut word from the Lord, "Go forth and serve in..." would be great...but this path is dangerous for me.  The call to Global Missions has always been very strong and I know I am far too willing "to do anything, go anywhere, pay any price", and so I can quite easily mistake God's voice for my own.  Which sort of answers my own personal question of how God has led and is leading us.  For us, I think it is a combination of paths 3 and 4 and, perhaps most importantly for us, "confirmation and guidance from trusted colleagues and spiritual leaders" as well as the growing conviction that the Spirit of the Lord is leading us in this direction.  For us, the pillar of fire and cloud is clearly on the move!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Greatest Mystery...

Louise and I are going through the Perspectives Course at present (see here:  It is a very challenging course, but also one that inspires greater love for our Missionary see what He has done to bring lost souls to Himself is simply awesome.  But it is also heartbreaking to hear from the speakers that are still so many people groups that have never...get that...never heard of Jesus.  They do not have one single Christian resource at their disposal.  Not a quarter page of the Bible we all too often take for granted.

Surely there is something wrong with this picture.  If God Himself could traverse space and time and humble Himself by taking on the form of one of His creations to save the lost from eternal damnation, surely we could cross boundaries, whether geographical or otherwise to join Him in His quest to reconcile all to Himself through Jesus?  Why then are there so few laborers and even fewer supporters?

I think Robertson McQuilkin in his book, The Great Omission, Authentic Publishing, Colorado Springs, CO, 1984, says it so well.

"...the greatest remaining mystery is not the character of God nor the destiny of lost people.  The greatest mystery is why those who are charged with rescuing the lost have spent 2000 years doing other things, good things, perhaps, but have failed to send and be sent until all have heard the liberating word of life in Christ Jesus.  The lost condition of human beings breaks the Father's heart.  What does it do to ours?"

What indeed...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ordinary people - BIG GOD...

"God is always looking for ordinary people to play significant roles in His unfolding Story.  And, given that He is God and supremely confident in Himself, He is free to choose the least among us - the slowest, the lesser known, the last, the smallest, the poorest - to accomplish amazing, God-sized stuff.  While as humans we try to partner with the brightest and most powerful, God is simply looking for people who are willing to take Him at His Word - those confident that with Him in the equation, everything is possible." 

Louie Giglio, I AM NOT BUT I KNOW I AM, Multnomah Books, Colorado Springs, CO, 2012, 25.

Life is not about you....

"If you are willing to let go of the idea that life is all about you, you will find yourself breathing in fresh rest and living out more meaning than you've ever dreamed.  And if you grasp the hand of the Almighty, and embrace the reality that His hand is holding you, I believe you will sense a tectonic shift of the soul that will reward you with a massive payoff of joy that will surprise and stabilize your heart."  Louie Giglio, I AM NOT BUT I KNOW I AM, Multnomah Books, Colorado Springs, CO, 2012, 6.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Real, but not real Religious...

"Loss of authority results when there is no congruence between words and actions, between presentation and practices.  Authority is lost when something only looks like the real thing.  If we attend church but don't find God, where are we?  Missional churches are seeking to reclaim a place of authority by proving the reality of their message through their lives.  They are seeking to be real, but not real religious." Milfred Minatrea, Shaped by God's Heart: The Passion and Practices of Missional Churches, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA, 2004, 44.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Quote for the day

"...the only place true stillness of the soul can be found on planet earth is in superclose proximity to the God of all creation.  Sabbath rest is in His lap.  Our inner calm waits within His embrace.  Our peace of mind is found in the assurance that God is present wherever we are."  Louie Giglio, I AM NOT BUT I KNOW I AM, Multnomah Books, Colorado Springs, CO, 2012, 113.

Book Review: I AM NOT BUT I KNOW I AM by Louie Giglio

I will be posting book reviews from time to time.  This one is well worth of those, oh wow!  God is great! I'm really glad I'm His child kind of books.  

I Am Not But I Know I AM by Louie Giglio
In a day when even throat lozenges include miniature pep talks, Giglio’s book is a breath of fresh air.  Wake up humanity – this is really not about you!  Most self-help, self-image boosting books center in on our abilities, our gifts, our talents, our resources, and so on.  No wonder many of those who read such stuff feel like they are endlessly chasing their own tails…because...well, basically, they are. 

Giglio reminds his readers that it is only as we embrace our finiteness and focus our gaze on His infiniteness that we break free from the never ending circles of self-delusion.  The book puts things in the right perspective.  Life continuously throws curve-balls in our direction and, if we constantly try to deal with them in our own limited strength we are going to come to a point when our strength just simply is not enough.  (Using the class IV rapid Zambezi as an example is simply brilliant to make this point!)  But, as Giglio reminds us throughout this short book, God is immeasurable, and so he comes to the conclusion : “I have no idea how small I really am. Or how big God truly is.”  And that, for me, was the central message of the book.  I find my identity, my place in this universe, my self-worth, the meaning and purpose of my life, only once I see myself in the light of His greatness and in the light of His bigger-picture story.  It is then, and only then, that I can truly find rest, have faith, and really exercise trust.  And that is why Giglio’s attempt to redirect our gaze from our smallness to His greatness is so important…it as we recapture an awe for God that we are set free from trying to wade through the cesspools of life on our own.  Again, in Giglio’s own words, “When you cry out all the things that you are not, you’ll know His answer is ‘I AM’”. 

A bonus point:  while this book packs a well aimed, good old punch, it is a fun and easy read.

"I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review."

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Definition for Mission in the New Testament

"...mission in the New Testament is more than a matter of obeying a command.  It is, rather, the result of an encounter with Christ.  To meet Christ, means to be caught up in a mission to the world.  Mission is a privilege in which to participate...Mission, for Paul, is the logical consequence of his encounter with the risen Christ on the Damascus Road...If the Church is 'in Christ', she is involved in mission."
David Bosch, Witness to the World, John Knox Press, Atlanta, GA, 1980, 81-82.

Part 1: The Cape Town Commitment. For the Lord we love...# 8

We love God's World

We commit ourselves afresh not to flirt with the fallen world and its transient passions, but to love the whole world as God loves it.  So we love the world in holy longing for the redemption and renewal of all creation and all cultures in Christ, the ingathering of God's people from all nations to the ends of the earth, and the ending of all destruction, poverty, and enmity. (CTC, 22)

In Psalm 24 we are told that "The earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein."  It belongs to God and, as such, has intrinsic value - He made it and He owns it and He has given us the responsibility, as tenants, to care for what is rightfully His.  Thus we are to be actively involved in environmental issues, and to "repent of our part in the destruction, waste, and pollution of the earth's resources and our collusion in the toxic idolatry of consumerism" (CTC, 19).  Christopher Wright, in his article, Mission and God's Earth, (Perspectives: A Reader, 4th Ed., William Carey Library, 2009, 32), writes:

There is no doubt that a major contributor to contemporary environmental damage is global capitalism's insatiable demand for "more".  The biblical truth relevant here is that covetousness is idolatry and the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.  There is greed for the following:

  • Minerals and oil, at any cost,
  • Land to graze cattle for meat,
  • Exotic animals and birds, to meet obscene human fashions in clothes, toys, ornaments and aphrodisiacs,
  • Commercial or tourist exploitation of fragile and irreplaceable habitats, and
  • Market domination through practices that produce the goods at least cost to the exploiter and maximum cost to the country and people exploited.

For the Church to get involved in environmental protection, it must be prepared to tackle the forces of greed and economic power, to confront vested interests and political machination, and to recognize that more is at stake than being kind to animals and nice to people.

We are also to love and care for all who dwell on earth as they too belong to God.  No people group is beyond the scope of God's concern and therefore ought not to be beyond the scope of our concern.  The love of the one who sent His only begotten Son into the world to reconcile it to Himself ought to compel us to make the gospel known to all those who do not yet acknowledge Him the Sovereign Lord.  "We confess with shame that there are still very many peoples in the world who have never yet heard the message of God's love in Jesus Christ." (CTC, 21)

God's love for the suffering, the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized is clearly revealed throughout the Scriptures, but never so clearly as in the life of Jesus who had compassion on the powerless and defenseless.  As His ambassadors we ought not to be afraid to stand up for the same and to denounce all forms of wickedness and injustice.  We must be ready to tackle greed and exploitation.  William Wilberforce spoke up for those who had no voice and fought for the liberation of the African slaves.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke up for those who were being exterminated simply because they were Jews.  We need to speak up for those who, in our day, cannot speak for themselves.   I think, in particular, of the unborn who are slaughtered by the millions for the sake of expediency.

Yet there is a part of the world we ought not to love, and that is all that is in rebellion against God.  "We are commanded not to love that world of sinful desire, greed, and human pride." (CTC, 22)  It is to our shame that these "marks of worldliness" often obscure or even obliterate the marks of godliness in the Church.

We are to care for the earth and for all who dwell therein.  It belongs to Him and He has placed it in our care.  He is reconciling it to Himself through Jesus and has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation. We have work to do...let us do it as unto the Lord!