I Am Him, And He Is Me

This year I have endeavored to read through the Bible chronologically, and so far so good! This week I’ve been in 1 Kings, and today I came to the story of the great prophet Elijah. Chapter 17 opens with Elijah predicting three years of no rain, and the Lord telling Elijah to go out and hide himself from King Ahab. From there we read incredible accounts of God’s provision and faithfulness not only to Elijah (being fed by ravens) but also to others such as the widow who had enough oil and flour to make one last cake before she and her son were going to die (God continued to provide oil and flour for them until the drought ended).

The climax comes in chapter 18, when Elijah challenges King Ahab to see whose God the people will follow, YHWH or Baal. Preparations are made to build stone altars, with firewood laid on top, and then a bull on top of that. The Baal prophets go first, and work themselves in a frenzy to see if Baal will bring down fire to burn their offering. Nothing. Silence. Elijah mocks them, telling them they should cry louder as maybe Baal is going to the bathroom or is asleep and can’t hear them.  So they cry even louder and “cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them.” (18:28) And still nothing.

Then it’s Elijah’s turn. Not only does he prepare his altar with the same stones, wood, and bull, he also digs a trench around it and douses the whole thing with water.  And not just one with time with water, but three times! 1 Kings 18:36-38 records what happens next.

‘And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word.  Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.’

Not only was everything consumed, Elijah then takes the prophets of Baal down to a brook and slaughters them all that day. Immediately after that, God sends rain, after having withheld it for the past three years.

Victory! Elation! Fear! What? After seeing the incredible display of God’s power, King Ahab’s wife Jezebel threatens to do to him what he just did to their false prophets. Elijah flees to the wilderness, and basically tells God he’s done. He wants to die. But even there in the wilderness God continues to provide food and water for him.

God then asks him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah goes into this spiel about how he has been very jealous for God. The people of Israel have forsaken God’s covenant, killed God’s prophets, and thrown down His altars, and he Elijah, is the only one left, and now his life is being sought to be killed.

God then sends a strong wind storm, and then an earthquake, and then a fire. But the Lord was not in any of those things. Next came a whisper, in which God tells him that there are still 7000 men who have not bowed the knee to Baal, and that he is to go back to Damascus, and take care of some business, which Elijah does.

I can relate to Elijah. Yes, this incredible prophet of the Holy God of Israel, the one who was with JESUS on the Mount of Transfiguration, is just like me. Or, I’m like him. Either way, we’re the same.

I’ve not been happy to wait to go to the mission field. In my heart, I’ve even said to God, “Don’t you see what we’ve given up? We’ve given up owning a home, having nice cars, and a steady income!” I have basically said to God much like Elijah did, “you owe me!”

But now, just like then, God doesn’t answer my pride with force (ie. fire, wind, earthquake). No, he answers us in the stillness. He says to Elijah, to me, and to you, “Obey Me.” Whatever dreams and aspirations we may have for our future, He continually reminds us to obey Him in that moment. Not to worry about what the future may bring.

Jesus gives the same message to the Apostle Peter in John 22:21. After having had an intimate conversation with Jesus in verses 15-19, Peter notices the Apostle John following them. Peter immediately asks, ‘”Lord, what about this man?”  Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”‘

OUCH! If friends are buying houses to put down roots here, I’m to follow Him still. If fellow missionaries raise 100% of their support within six months, I’m to wait and follow Him. If friends and family can afford nice vacations but we can’t, I need to be content with His provisions for us, and follow Him.

So, I will set my heart to obey Him, and leave the timing of things to Him. I know, so much easier said than done. But I can guarantee we will never regret obeying Him. No matter what comes next.

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Second-Class Missionary?

My family and I are preparing for service in Paraguay, South America with New Tribes Mission. The biblical goal is to “make disciples of all the nations” – literally to every people group.(Matthew 28:19). As found in the book of Acts, we see that Paul and many others in the early church put this into practice by establishing mature churches among previously unreached people. Paul did this because of his desire to take the gospel to where it has not gone, (Romans 15:20)

The world has changed a lot since then BUT God’s Word has not. In brief, the ministry’s goal is to reach the unreached with the gospel of Jesus Christ, to see God’s Word translated in the heart language of a people group and see God build His church in another group.

Preparation for us to serve required specialized training to equip us to be part of a team to accomplish the above-stated goal. The task before us is complex, difficult and requires a long-term commitment to trust in the work of our sovereign God. Presently, we are in the stage of ministry which requires time seeking those whom God has prepared to join with us in ministry. Contacting, sharing, and following up is the “formula” of team building. Let’s not forget while praying for wisdom every step of the way. Once in Paraguay, it appears that my role will be in the realm of field administration. It has been a long road for my family and I, but we continue to press forward on the road God has for us to walk.

Let me share with you a real challenge which I face. Not in every case but many times in sharing with people, I have observed a worldly way of thinking. A way in which I think has subtly slid into churches and into the way missionaries are viewed. A thinking which claims that our identity comes from what we do instead of what God has done. Amy Medina, missionary to Tanzania spells out this distorted view within our churches today. She has written perfectly what I have been seeing and experiencing as we prepare for service in Paraguay. My prayer as you read the following is that you are challenged.

In Defense of Second-Class Missionaries

Imagine what it would look like if western churches hired their staff with the same priorities that they choose overseas missionaries to financially support.

First of all, a Children’s Pastor would definitely be out. Not strategic enough; he’s only supporting the children of believers. Youth Pastor? Also out, unless he targets neighborhood kids. How about a Music Pastor? Or Pastoral Counselor? Nope. Those are just supporting roles. Not enough front-line ministry. Administrative PastorReceptionist? Good heavens. We could never dream of paying someone for those kind of inconsequential jobs.

How about a Preaching Pastor? Well…..that’s if-y, but he probably doesn’t make the cut either. After all, he’s only feeding the Body. Most of the time, he’s not actually reaching the lost. So that pretty much leaves only the positions of Community Outreach Pastor or Evangelist. Yet how many churches even have those paid positions?

I’m not suggesting that churches go about firing two-thirds of their staff. I just want to talk about a double-standard I often see.

Let me introduce you to the class system among missionaries. 

Who is on the A-List? Well, that would be the Church Planters. Among unreached people groups gives you A+ status. Pastoral Trainers and Bible Translators might be able to squeak by with an A. The B-List? Doctors and other health workers, community development and poverty alleviation workers, ESL teachers. The C-List?  Administrators, missionary member care, MK teachers, or anyone else considered “support.”

Whatever tends to be the current trend in “justice ministry” also often ends up on the A-List. These days, that’s fighting human trafficking. It used to be orphan ministry, but that’s pretty much been relegated to B-status now. It’s cool, but not that cool.

Granted, this class system doesn’t usually originate with the missionaries themselves, but it’s come out of the culture of missions in their home countries. How many missionaries have sat before missions committees back home who examined if they fit into their “grid” of priorities? And often that grid looks exactly like the hierarchy I just outlined.

My husband and I worked for eight years in TCK ministry at a missionary school. When trying to raise support, we called and sent information packets to over 200 churches in California. We heard back from two. Churches told us, over and over again, ‘Sorry, but that ministry doesn’t fit into our strategy.’

That all changed when we transitioned to theological training of East African pastors. Finally, we had churches calling us. It was nice. But frankly, kind of frustrating. We didn’t change ministries so that we would become more popular with churches. We switched because that’s where God was leading us. But the truth is, we don’t consider theological training to be any more strategic, or any more exciting, than what we were doing at that MK school. 

Unfortunately, the missionaries themselves are often acutely aware of this hierarchy, and it makes many feel like they are second-class. Over and over again, I hear things like this from missionaries:

Yes, I love my job as an MK teacher and I know it’s really important, but I fill my newsletters with pictures of the slum I visit once a week. After all, that’s what my supporters are interested in.

Yeah, I’m a missionary, but not a ‘real’ missionary. I live in a city and spend a lot of my time at a computer.

My visiting short-term team was supposed to help me out with my ministry to TCK’s, but they only want to spend their time with orphans.  

Why do these missionaries feel this way? Maybe because when Christians stand up and say, I’m called to missionary care! I’m called to teach MK’s! I’m called to missions administration, the churches say, Well, sorry, you don’t fit in our strategy. We’d rather get behind the exciting church planters and the pastoral trainers and the child-trafficking rescuers. Except, we expect them to do it without all the other people they need to be successful.

And so what happens? The talented church planter gets bogged down by administrative tasks. The mom who is gifted and called to women’s ministry has no choice but to homeschool. The child-trafficking rescuer has a nervous breakdown because he has no one to help him work through the trauma of what he is facing. Missionaries are particularly prone to burn-out. Could this be partially because they are trying to do too many jobs themselves? 

I’m all about strategy in missions, and it’s important for churches to be careful in their vetting process of potential missionaries. But can we expand our idea of what strategy means? Missionaries, as an extension of the Church, must function as the Body of Christ. Could the Western Church function by only hiring evangelists? I realize that mission work can have different goals than churches back at home: Missionaries are working ourselves out of a job; they are doing everything they can to replace themselves with national believers. But to get there, they need the Body of Christ. 

We, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them. (Romans 12)

The legs can’t do anything without the arms and fingers and neck. So go out today and find your nearest missionary accountant or counselor or MK teacher. Join their support team. Encourage them in their pursuit of their calling. Affirm their value to your church or your team. And remind them they are never second-class.

Beyond the Gates of Splendor

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:1–2)

Five families in the early 1950’s moved to Ecuador to reach the isolated Waodani tribe with the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the first time in history.  Although at first they found acceptance they would soon meet hostility and eventually death.

60 years ago today – January 8, 1956 – Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Flemming, and Roger Youderian were speared to death on a sandbar called “Palm Beach” in the Curaray River of Ecuador.  The courage of these men was deep, but too few recall the courage of the wives and children they left behind.  After their death, members of the slain missionaries’ families returned to the same tribe to live among them with the same aim of reaching them with the Gospel.

They did…

…and nothing has been the same since.

The world called the death of these 5 missionaries a ‘tragic nightmare’ but Elisabeth Elliot, wife of deceased Jim Elliot, was not convinced and wrote a book about the events that took place called Shadow of the Almighty (title coming from Psalm 91 seen above).  She was convinced that the death of her husband was a glorious reminder that God is a refuge for His people, not from suffering and death but a refuge from eternal death.  The world learned a lesson that day.  That the Gospel, the precious Gospel of Christ, is worth dying for, and those who love Jesus always walk (even in dark times) in the shadow of the Almighty.

A documentary of these events was made called Beyond the Gates of Splendor (which prompted the making of the motion picture The End of the Spear), Nate Saint’s young son Steve grew up and founded his own missionary organization (ITEC) taking his father’s place as a missionary himself, and last but not least Jim Elliot’s journals were gathered and published for all read.

We now know the story, and are grateful for it.

John Piper has written a wonderful piece describing the significance of these events, I encourage you to read it today (click here).

Also the entire documentary (that is worth your time) is on YouTube (click here).

Here are a few quotes from Jim Elliot to take to heart today:

“Father, make of me a ‘crisis man’. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road. Make of me a fork, so that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.”

“What is written in these pages I suppose will someday be read by others than myself. For this reason I cannot hope to be absolutely honest in what is herein recorded, for the hypocrisy of this shammering heart will ever be putting on a front and dares not to have written what is actually found in its abysmal depths. Yet, I pray Lord, that You will make these notations to be as nearly true to fact as is possible so that I will know my own heart and be able to definitely pray regarding my gross, though often unviewed, inconsistencies. I do this at the suggestion of Stephen Olford whose chapel message of yesterday morning convicted me that my quiet time with God is not what it should be. These remarks are to be written from fresh, daily thoughts given from God in meditation on His Word.”

“The world cannot hate you”, so Jesus said to those who were of the world spirit. O’ that it could! The Lord is not enough ‘with me’ that the world can recognize and hate me for what I am – “not of the world.” The world loves its own, and for me it shelters not hatred. Lord, have I wandered so far?”

“There is now no longer any inheritance for me down here. I’ve been bought by the labors of that great Shepherd who came from afar to gain me as His bride. Lead on, Lord, whatever God’s command is or wherever He may lead, I am now ready to go.”

“God, I pray, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn up for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one like Yours, Lord Jesus.”

“Lord, I know Thou art with me, but I fear that because my life is barren for Thee so much of the time, that You gain little glory from being with me. I pray Thee, make my way prosperous, not that I achieve high station, but that my life might be an exhibit to the value of knowing God.”

“Lord, here at Wheaton we need some affliction to unite us in our purpose, to make us prosper, to scatter us abroad. I pray, then, Lord, for should I ask for a Pharaoh who knows not our Joseph and is antagonistic? (Gen. 37- Ex. 1) Yes, send persecution to me, Lord, that my life might bring forth much fruit.”

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

The Great Commission as Dominion Mandate and ‘Plan A’

Lastly, we come back to missions.

The first Adam failed to use his helpmate Eve to accomplish the tasks assigned to him in the mandate. But Jesus didn’t fail as Adam did. Jesus, the last Adam has a helpmate as well. I hope by now you can see that Adam was a type of Christ, what is rarely mentioned along side of this is that Eve as Adam’s helpmate is a type (or foreshadow) of the Church. As Eve was Adam’s helpmate, the Church is Jesus’ helpmate. Jesus is now using His helpmate, the Church, to accomplish this work on earth. It is through the Church that Jesus saves people and forms them more and more into His image. So when missions happens, people are saved, when people are saved, they begin to grow into the image of Christ more and more. Jesus is the image of the invisible God, so those growing Christians, are growing in the image of God, and when those Christians go on missions they are spreading the image of God by sharing the gospel in word and deed!

Thus we have missions, fully developed in the Dominion Mandate of Gen. 1:28. Jesus, as the last Adam, is using His helpmate, the Church, to spread His image around the world, by bringing men and women from every tribe, nation, tongue, and language to treasure Himself above all things among all the peoples of the world. Adam points to Jesus, Eve points to the Church, and God is the main actor in all of it!

Notice that this mandate was given before the fall of man? What does that tell us? Jesus fulfilling the Dominion Mandate, by sending His helpmate, the Church, around the world with the gospel, was plan A, not plan B. Too many people think that Jesus was merely God’s answer to the problem of sin (as if God didn’t know what to do and asked Jesus to solve this problem for Him). Wrong. Jesus is not only an answer to a problem, Jesus was always in view, He was present and planned Gen. 1:28 to be written so we would get a preview of missions. Don’t get me wrong here. Matthew 28 is a great place to preach and think on missions. “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” I’m just saying that Matthew 28 exists, because of Genesis 1:28! So, if you’re doing missions to any degree, you are Jesus’ helpmate, spreading the image of God throughout the world, through the gospel. You are part of a plan that is not NT only, but a plan that goes back from the foundation of world! When you do missions, you’re part of plan A.

In conclusion: as a type of Christ and the image of God Adam was the first prophet, priest, and king, but by rebelling against God we look to another Adam, the Second and Last Adam Jesus Christ to make us right with God. The difference between Adam and Christ is the reason Genesis 1-3 exists, and to see this closer, we must take a look at the setting Adam was placed – the garden.

To that we’ll look next week.

Christ, the Image of God and Goal of Redemption

Let’s back up from yesterday’s theological discussion and ask a broader question: Why did God give a command to Adam and Noah, and give a promise to Abraham? Why the change? I think God still had Gen. 1:28 in mind. I think that God was planning to display the fulfillment of Gen. 1:28 through the obedience of His Son. Follow me, I just said that Jesus is now fulfilling Gen. 1:28, we need to ask how did He is doing this? Remember, Adam was commanded to do 4 things:

1) Fill the earth with the image of God through procreation

2) Subdue the earth

3) Exercise authority over the creation

4) Accomplish these tasks with the assistance of his helpmate, Eve.

Adam failed to do these things, and so did Noah. But where these two failed, the Last Adam, Jesus Christ, succeeded. Here’s how:

1) The first Adam failed to fill the earth with the image of God by procreation with his wife Eve. But the last Adam, Jesus, is now filling the earth with the image of God, not by procreation, but by making new creations out of us. When someone is made a new creation in Christ, they begin to be conformed more and more to His image, the image of Christ, and Christ is Himself the image of God. Therefore Jesus is filling the earth with the image of God by making new creations out of people through the gospel. Because the first Adam was created in the image of God and the second Adam, Jesus Christ, is the image of God, then the overall message of Scripture is that though man was made in the image of God and lost it through the fall, the image of God will be restored to fallen man through the work of the second Adam. Thus, when we talk of man being created in the image of God we cannot stop in Genesis we must move forward into the rest of Scripture to see the One who is the very image of God Himself.

Anyone have Hebrews 1:1-3 in mind? “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the Heir of all things, through whom also He created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…” Lesson? The triune God created man, male and female, in His image. That God did this and placed mankind in His world to rule over creation was a declaration that the triune God ruled over creation. That man is made in the image of God shows that both male and female possess many of the qualities of God, reflecting God’s own character. Because the fall took place, this image of God in man was marred, and in made complete when we become new creations in Christ, who is Himself the very image of God.

Christ as the image of God means that the image of Christ defines what man is truly supposed to be, He is indeed the Perfect Man. Yes, both Adam was and Jesus is the image of God but one was created while the other always has been the uncreated image of God. To look at Christ, the image of God, is to see what man is truly supposed to be like.

Christ as the image of God also means the image of Christ is the goal of mans redemption. Think Romans 8:29 here, “Those whom God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” The goal of a Christians sanctification therefore is Christ-likeness. Anthony Hoekema once said, “Since Christ is God’s perfect image, likeness to Christ will also mean likeness to God. This perfect likeness to Christ and to God is the ultimate goal of our sanctification. John Calvin said in two ways: one quote says, “All that we lost in Adam we regain in Christ.” Another quote says this, “The beginning of our recovery of salvation is in that restoration which we obtain through Christ who also is called the Second Adam for the reason that He restores us to the true and complete integrity.”

2) The first Adam failed to subdue and exercise authority over the earth, but who is it that the NT says has all authority in heaven and on earth to do whatever He pleases? The Last Adam, Jesus. Jesus is obedient where Adam was disobedient. The first Adam failed when he tried to grasp equality with God by grasping the fruit. But the Last Adam, the true Son of Man, Jesus, was equal with the Father and yet He didn’t use His equality with God to save Him from the cross, but He willingly went to it, as Phil 2:6-8 gloriously states, “although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped (like Adam did), but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

In the disobedience and failure of the 1st Adam, we see how glorious the obedience and humble submission of Jesus is.

more tomorrow…

The Image of God and the Dominion Mandate

It is my opinion that missionary work received it’s call into existence not in Matthew 28:19-20 but in Genesis 1:26-28. Missions is more than a New Testament idea. I believe that we’re given the full picture of missions in Genesis 1.

Some people call Genesis 1:28 the ‘Cultural Mandate’ while others call it the ‘Dominion Mandate.’ The name doesn’t matter here, what does matter is what Adam was told to do in this mandate.

1:26-28 says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”

In this mandate Adam was commanded to do 4 things:

1) Fill the earth with the image of God through procreation

2) Subdue the earth

3) Exercise authority and dominion over the creation

4) Accomplish these tasks with the assistance of his helpmate, Eve.

Now we know how Adam did don’t we? In all these things the he failed. Remember what the serpent said? “You will be like God if you eat this fruit.” He wanted it, and grabbed it, and proved to be disobedient. Through this sin Adam tried to grasp equality with God by grasping for the fruit of the tree of knowledge.

Now, you may think that the Mandate may have disappeared after Adam, but it didn’t. Listen to what Noah was told by God in Genesis 9:1-2, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given.” Did you hear that? All the same elements from Adam’s mandate are back in Noah’s mandate. Now the question turns to: Did Noah fulfill all these things? Not fully, because of the actions of his son Ham (who was the father of Canaan). Because of what Ham did, Noah cursed Ham’s son Canaan for his actions; and blessed his other sons Shem and Japheth.

After Noah, we read of Noah’s descendants, the incident at Babel, and then Abraham. And with Abraham we see a dynamic turn of events. Remember Adam and Noah were given commands in Genesis 1:28 and 9:1-2 while Abraham receives something else. God didn’t tell Abraham to do certain things like He told Adam and Noah. Rather, Abraham (who was known as Abram at the time) was given a promise, not a command. God told him that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand of the seashore, and that in him all the families of the earth would be blessed.

To confirm this covenant promise, in Genesis 15 God has Abraham cut an animal in two pieces, so that the two could walk through to confirm the covenant. In that day, this is how you formed a treaty/covenant. You would cut an animal in two and walk through the pieces together. This would symbolize the binding oath between two parties by stating, “If either one of us breaks this covenant, what has been done to this animal will be done to me.” After Abraham prepared the animals, God did something unexpected. He caused a deep sleep to come over Abraham, and then God alone walked through the animal parts. Why did God do this? He wanted to show Abraham that this covenant did not depend on his own actions, but on His own. And more so, if either party, God or Abraham breaks the covenant, the curse of the covenant would fall upon God alone. This is called a self-malecdictory oath.

Can you see how rich the OT is with the gospel? We know that Israel broke this covenant with God, and God kept His Word by causing the curses of the covenant to land on His Son in full measure. God killed His Son because His people did not keep the covenant.

more tomorrow…

“What Do I Say of Muhammad?”

On this day, April 7, 1321 brother Thomas of Tolentino and three other Franciscans monks witnessed for Christ. On either the 8th or 9th of April, after torture, they were beheaded. Traveling toward China the party had been detained near Bombay. A local Cadi summoned them to discuss religion. Thomas and his associates upheld the divinity of Christ. The Cadi then demanded to know what they thought of Mohammed. Thomas replied that since Mohammed’s claims did not square with Christ’s, the Cadi, if he were wise, should be able to determine what to think of him. The Cadi and his attendants would not accept this evasive reply but demanded a direct response. The answer below, when it came, caused the Muslims to shout that Thomas had blasphemed the prophet and to call for his death.

Quote: “Since ye can only repeat What do I say of him, I should blush to refuse the reply ye seek. I reply then, and tell you that Muhammad is the son of perdition and has his place in hell with the devil his father, and not he only but all such as follow and keep his law, false as it is, and pestilent and accursed, hostile to God and the salvation of souls.” (Source: The quote is from Cathay and the Way Thither: Being a Collection of Medieval Notices of China. The date is from Internet encyclopedias and saints’ sites.)

Lesson?

In a time where political correctness rules the day, may we be found to be as faithful as these men for the glory of Christ.

The Deepest Desire in Adoniram Judson’s Wife

Anne Hasseltine and Adoniram Judson were married on February 5, 1812.  The next day, when Judson was ordained to do foreign mission work, Anne (whom he called “Nancy”) was beside him.  Within a few days they boarded the sailing ship Caravan to sail to India.  Judson’s eventual success in Burma (now known as Myanmar), where they ended up, would have been impossible without her language skills and devotion to his life.

On March 14, 1812, while they were still at sea, Anne expressed her deepest desires in a letter that she wrote home.  Quote:

“I desire no higher enjoyment in this life, than to be instrumental of leading some poor, ignorant heathen females, to the knowledge of the Saviour. To have a female praying society, consisting of those who were once in heathen darkness, is what my heart earnestly pants after, and makes a constant subject of prayer. Resolved to keep this in view, as one principal object of my life.”

(From the Christian History Institute)

CROSS: A 1 Night Missions Conference – FREE (2/27)

Here is a wonderful opportunity for individuals, families, small groups, co-workers, youth groups, college groups and dorms to gather together for four hours to hear from gifted teachers on the need and means of taking the gospel to the nations.

You can watch the Cross conference live, for free, here.

Just REGISTER TO WATCH. And if you’re hosting a viewing of the simulcast and want to invite others to, sign up here. (That link will also let you see other viewing locations in your area.)

Here are the speakers, their message titles, and the times (all times Eastern).

Friday, February 27, 2015

7 pm — Main Session 1

  • John Piper, “Undaunted by the Darkness: Invincible Joy for the Sake of the Nations”
  • Panel, “Who On Earth Are We Talking About? Naming the Unreached and Unengaged and Why”

9:30 pm  — Main Session 2

Note: The following three talks will only be 15 minutes each.

  • Kevin DeYoung, “Putting the Spread of the Gospel at Risk One Click at a Time”
  • Mack Stiles, “Clever Missionaries Need Not Apply”
  • Thabiti Anyabwile, “Don’t Mortgage the Mission”

10:15 pm — Main Session 3

  • David Platt, “Undaunted by Resistance: Sustaining Missionary Zeal for the Sake of the Nations”

Missions & Masturbation – How John Piper Almost Got Fired

In September of 1984 John Piper almost got fired from his church for writing an article in the churches magazine entitled, “Missions & Masturbation.”  He did not get fired, but he did almost get fired.  You can see why when you read the article below.  So read carefully what follows – it can be graphic.   But nonetheless it is necessary to teach on these things because issues of sexuality affect every single person who has ever existed.

John Piper:

Masturbation is the experience of sexual orgasm produced by self-stimulation. Virtually every man and almost as many women have tried it. It is a regular practice of most single men.

One of the major forces preventing young people from obeying the call of God into vocational Christian service is defeat in the area of lust. A teenager hears a challenging call to throw himself into the cause of world evangelization. He feels the promptings of the Holy Spirit. He tastes the thrill of following the King of kings into battle. But he does not obey because he is masturbating regularly. He feels guilty. He can hardly imagine witnessing to a pretty girl about the eternal plight of her soul, because he has so habitually looked at girls naked in his imagination. So he feels unworthy and unable to obey the call of God. Masturbation becomes the enemy of missions.

Is masturbation wrong? Let me address the issue mainly for men. I cannot imagine sexual orgasm in the loins without sexual image in the mind. I know there are nocturnal emissions, which I regard as innocent and helpful, but I doubt that they are ever orgasmic apart from a sexual dream that supplies the necessary image in the mind. Evidently God has constituted the connection between sexual orgasm and sexual thought in such a way that the force and pleasure of orgasm is dependent on the thought or images in our minds.

Therefore in order to masturbate, it is necessary to get vivid and exciting thoughts or images into the mind. This can be done by pure imagination or by pictures or movies or stories or real persons. These images always involve women as sexual objects. I use the word “object” because in order for a woman to be a true sexual “subject” in our imagination she must in reality be one with whom we are experiencing what we are imagining. This is not the case with masturbation.

So I vote no on masturbation. There may be other reasons why it is wrong. For now I rest my vote on the inevitable sexual images which accompany masturbation and which turn women into sexual objects. The sexual thoughts that enable masturbation do not help any man to treat women with greater respect. Therefore masturbation produces real and legitimate guilt and stands in the way of obedience.

Three encouragements to single men:

  1. You are not alone in the battle.
  2. Periodic failure in this area no more disqualifies you from ministry than periodic failures of impatience (which is also a sin).
  3. Pursue the expulsive power of a new affection. I walked by a whole section of “photography” books at the Walker Art Center last Thursday empowered by the better pleasure of feeling Christ conquer the temptation to look.

For the sake of your power,

Pastor John

The Danger of Seeking the “Extraordinary” Work of God

As a pastor I read over all the reports/updates from all of the missionaries and missions organizations our church supports and after reading through many of these I’ve found a trend.

“______ has been healed!”

“______ has had a dramatic spiritual encounter and no longer has convulsions.”

“______ was completely healed of all ailments.”

“In ______ the Holy Spirit is moving miraculously.”

“Demons came out of ______ last week.”

“______ prophesied over the city and felt God’s plan to heal the nation.”

Get the gist?  It seems the trend in most of the missions reports these days are seeking to let us back home know that God is up to miraculous things in the world.  People getting healed, speaking in tongues, prophesying, getting exorcised, all while we hear vague spiritual language about God doing extraordinary works among them.

This is just the trend I am concerned with, the desire to seek and experience the “extraordinary” works of God.

Now, while God does do things we don’t expect and does work miracles in this world – notice the one thing missing in all of these mission reports?  The gospel.  Where is Jesus?  Where is salvation?  Where is the Word of God being preached?  Where are people growing in faith?  Where are people spreading the gospel and how are they doing it?  How is the gospel moving forward into this nation, or this people group?

It seems that we have a desire in these days for God to do the “extraordinary” thing among us.  I have issue with this because I think when we seek the “extraordinary” we miss the “ordinary.”  We miss God working through His Word preached.  We miss God working through His gospel.  When did we come to believe that salvation, people growing in faith, the Word being preached, or people spreading the gospel to a new city is not extraordinary?  We have been duped.

Phillip said a similar thing in John 14:8, “Just show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”  Phillip wanted Jesus to do an extraordinary thing and seal his faith for good.  He wanted to see God.  How did Jesus respond?  “Have I not been among you for so long and still you don’t recognize that when you see Me you see My Father?” (John 14:9-10) Apparently Phillip thought Jesus was too ordinary.  He needed something more.  Jesus rebuked him.  Do we need the same rebuke?

The extraordinary work of God is God’s ordinary work – saving sinners.  This is extraordinary.  Perhaps when we visit our missionaries we should be seeking to encourage them in God’s “ordinary” works.

Edwards Resolution-athon: Day 7

Before I comment on Edwards, I want to note that today is the day Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Roger Youderian, Ed McCully and Pete Fleming were speared to death by the tribe they were trying to reach with the gospel in Ecuador (January 8, 1956).  I thank God for these men.  Their example is one following in the footsteps of Jesus.  They loved the people they were trying to reach, and gave their lives to work with them for their joy in Jesus (2 Cor. 1:24), and just like Jesus who “came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him”, these people killed Jim and his friends.  Their wives and children were left in a nearby village.  But God was working for the good, and now because of the spearing and the faithful witness of their wives and children, the tribe knows Jesus.  Although these men are now among the group crying out to the Father in Rev. 6:9-11, they wouldn’t have it any other way.  Jim Elliot’s journals have long been a guide for me in my life.  Watch this short video on my previous blog reflecting on them, I hope you see Jesus in it.

Resolution 7:

Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

This resolution follows nicely with today being the anniversary of the spearing mentioned above.  Why would Edwards be afraid to do something if it were the last hour of his life?  Simple, in the last hour of your life there will be a fear of what is to come.  Even if you’re a Christian, your flesh and the devil will lie, telling you that you’re not holy enough to go to heaven.  In that last hour you want to spend your time on what matters most, not on what you would be ashamed of doing if God were to bring you back during that action.  This bears a massive weight on the present moment.

I think Edwards means to say that he wants his hours now, to be filled with what he would most love to do in the last hour of his life, because he does not know when that hour will come.  Thus every hour matters, because after all, any hour could be the last.

Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Roger Youderian, Ed McCully and Pete Fleming knew this.  Jonathan Edwards knew it.   Do you?

Cross Conference Videos and Summaries

Justin Taylor:

Only time will tell, but it seems that the first annual Cross student missions conference was a historic event, perhaps a key moment in mobilizing God’s people to help the nations be glad in him.

Here are all of the main sessions—summarized with video. (I assume audio will be forthcoming here.)

Trip Lee Kick-Off

Summary: Before speaking of how and why to share the gospel with the nations, CROSS wanted to make clear what that gospel was. Trip Lee began CROSS 2013 by doing just that by teaching throughout his rapping on the truths of the gospel.

John Piper: “The Chief End of Missions: The Supremacy of God in the Joy of All Peoples”

Summary: “The chief end of missions is the supremacy of God in the joy of all peoples.” These two ends are of an identical essence, totally and completely inseparable, for the only gladness that lasts is a gladness in the glory of God. This reality frees us from choosing either the glory of God or compassion for the lost as the primary desire for missions.

Manuscript here.

Panel: Mark Dever & John Piper

Summary: Mark Dever interviews John Piper about why he’s not a missionary, the relationship between marriage and missions, and what tricky terms like “missionary,” “unreached,” and “calling” actually mean. This discussion helps clarify the distinction in role between the individual Christian and the local church, while also giving Piper the opportunity to squelch the notion that Calvinism kills missions and evangelism.

Thabiti Anyabwile: “Beauty from Ashes: The Plight of Man and the Purposes of God”

Summary: In Romans 1:13-18, the apostle Paul describes a life unashamed of the gospel, eager to proclaim Christ in places where He has yet to be named. Paul is eager because the gospel is the best news in the universe, containing divine power and providing in Christ the singular salvation from God’s holy, righteous, and personal wrath. The only thing that turns away the wrath of God is Jesus.

Kevin DeYoung: “Five Surprising Motivations for Missions”

Summary: Far from being obstacles for mission, Kevin DeYoung shares why the five points of Calvinism are surprising motivators for missions. In fact, belief in an electing, sovereign, all-powerful God is the only thing that keeps one humble in the midst of results and hopeful when there are none. Many may ask why anyone would go if God has only called some. But the Bible asks, “Why would anyone go unless God has certainly called some?”

Conrad Mbewe: “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ: The Good News of a Bloody Cross”

Summary: To speak of God’s wrath evokes all different sorts of emotions and reaction in people. Yet the horrific death of Christ and his glorious resurrection is the greatest news that mankind could ever hear given that with each day, humans store up God’s righteous judgment and wrath. Believing this news necessitates announcing it.

Richard Chin: “Seeing Jesus Properly: The Lord to Gladly Obey Forever”

Summary: Richard Chin preaches from Mark 8 in order to show that a proper view of Jesus demands a proper response to Jesus. Because He is the Son of Man whose kingdom will never end, His followers confidently and joyfully take up their cross and obediently take the gospel to those who do not know Him.

Mack Stiles: “The Call of Christ: Inspired, Informed, Confirmed”

Summary: In this session, Mack Stiles upholds biblical criteria one should use when discerning a “call” to missions. Mere inward and emotional certainty is not enough. The missionary’s call should be inspired by the Word of God, informed by the content of the gospel, and externally confirmed by the church.

Panel: Mack & Leann Stiles, Zane & Catherine Pratt, and Mark Dever

Summary: What are some realities of missionary life? Why should or why shouldn’t a person become a missionary? Who determines this? Mark Dever interviews missionaries who have spent decades on the field to answer fundamental questions like these.

Matt Chandler: “The Life Worth Living for Christ Is a Life Worth Losing”

Summary: Matt Chandler unpacks the life of the apostle Paul as proof positive that there’s no such thing as a person beyond God’s saving mercy. In fact, his post-conversion commitment to evangelism and, even more, his Christ-exalting fearlessness in the midst suffering depicts the truth of his words in Philippians 1:21: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” May the same be said of all God’s people, that a better day is coming where we will receive our reward and see — finally — our treasured King face to face.

David Sitton: Testimony

Summary: David Sitton of To Every Tribe Ministries shares his testimony of how the Lord saved him over 30 years ago and then called him to serve among the unreached peoples in Papua New Guinea. This same Lord saves and calls today, and it is a privilege—not a burden—to join Him in this work.

Michael Oh: “What Do Cross-Cultural Missionaries Cross Cultures For?”

Summary: Michael Oh of the Lausanne Movement calls Christians to care about all types of global suffering, especially eternal suffering. In this, the church functions as both prophet and servant — boldly heralding the truth of God’s Word while simultaneously seeking to serve others’ needs in showing the compassion of Christ. Individual Christians, too, will suffer and should use these moments — as often as the Lord brings them—to endure in faith and to hold out the gospel as the only true and lasting alleviation from suffering.

D. A. Carson: “The Church as the Means and the Goal of Missions”

Summary: D.A. Carson preaches on the social dimensions of both sin and the gospel. Sin doesn’t just send you to Hell, and the gospel doesn’t just save your soul. Each has necessary social, personal, and horizontal ramifications, culminating in the existence of and a commitment to the church, the bride of Christ, for it is in the church where the love of God is made known and reflected to the nations.

David Platt: “Mobilizing God’s Army for the Great Commission”

Summary: To close CROSS 2013, David Platt delivers a clarion call to all Christians, imploring them to consider what their obedience to the Great Commission looks like. For many, it will be as stateside senders; for some, it will be as lifelong goers; for others, it will be as offerings poured out en route to give the gospel to yet-to-be-reached peoples. In every scenario — in going and sending and even in dying—God is achieving His incontrovertible purpose: the supremacy of the glory of God in the Christ-exalting joy of all peoples.

Jim Elliot’s Brother, Bert: The Hero You Don’t Know

10734383-largeA helpful piece from Trevin Wax on the brother of the missionary we all know.

Last month, I had a conversation with Michael Kelley about his book, Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life. Michael tells the story of Bert Elliot, brother to missionary Jim, as an example of what faithfulness over a lifetime looks like. For those of us who are not “meteors streaking across the sky,” it serves as a reminder of how we can be a steady light for the gospel no matter where God has placed us.

Jim Elliot, the Missionary

The story of Jim Elliot has been told and retold with good reason: It’s an amazing account of unswerving courage and faithfulness to the gospel. He was a standout both academically and athletically during his days as a student and was presented with opportunity after opportunity to go and do most anything he wanted to be.

But as his education continued, Jim became convinced of God’s will and purpose for His life—to push back the darkness in the world by preaching the gospel where it had never been preached before. So he began his preparations to spend the rest of his life sharing the gospel with the previously unreached people of Ecuador known as the Auca.

Elliot, along with four other missionaries, began making contact with the indigenous people through a loud- speaker and a basket to lower gifts from their airplane. After several friendly encounters, they made plans to visit the people they thought they had befriended.

But on January 8, 1956, the missionaries were attacked and killed by a group of ten warriors from the people they were trying to share the gospel with. Elliot’s body was found downstream in the river, along with those of the other men. His life purpose and vision was immortalized by his journal entry for October 28, 1949, which expressed his belief that missions work was more important than his life. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

It’s an amazing story that sent ripples through the Christian and non-Christian world. Life magazine published a ten-page article about the missionaries. Jim’s wife, Elizabeth, not only published two books about her husband but continued the work among the very people who had killed her husband. Thousands upon thousands of people were not deterred by the danger but instead committed themselves to the work of the gospel overseas. Few events in modern history have been used more powerfully by God to send people out into the world for the sake of the gospel.

Perhaps you have heard the story; you may have even read the books or seen the movie. I have; in fact, the quote above is written on my wall.

Have You Heard of Jim’s Brother, Bert?

Jim Elliot’s story is a familiar one, but have you heard of Bert? I had not. But by God’s grace, I have now, thanks to a message given by Randy Alcorn fifty years after the men died on the beach in Ecuador. Bert is Jim Elliot’s older brother. He’s the one who isn’t famous.

He was a student at Multnomah Bible College in 1949, and he and his young wife were invited by a missionary to come to Peru and join the work there. Other than an occasional furlough, there they have stayed. Now in their eighties, they are still there.

According to Alcorn, if you Google Bert, you find less than seventy entries. But over the years, Bert and Colleen have planted more than 170 churches. And when asked to reflect on his brother, Jim, Bert’s response is stirring: “My brother Jim and I took different paths. He was a great meteor, streaking through the sky.”

Bert was not. He did not go streaking through the sky. Nobody lined up with their telescopes to watch his life. Instead, as Alcorn puts it, he was the faint star in the distance that faithfully rises night after night, always there. Always faithful. Always doing the same, boring thing.

Streaking Meteors and Faithful Stars

In the kingdom of God, there is a great need for streaking meteors, but most of us won’t be that. We will instead be faint stars—husbands and fathers, wives and mothers. We will be accountants and teachers, business people, and students. We will go through life, day after day, doing very much the same thing tomorrow that we did today.

The important thing for us to remember is that we are needed. There is a great need for people willing to chase the little donkeys of life, not because it’s exciting but because they believe in the constant presence and purpose of God. There is a great need for people willing to stand in the midst of the boring, convinced that there is no such thing as ordinary when you follow an extraordinary God.

Rise and stand. Then tomorrow, do it again.

God is Calling, Will You Answer?

Often times I feel Christians forget that missionaries are missionaries because they are being supported by a group of people committed to the cause they're spreading.  If those people are not present to give their money to fund these missionaries (not to mention prayer to uphold them) the missionaries cannot go.  Below is a video of such a couple, called by God, seeking to embark on mission, waiting to go.  God is calling, will you answer?