Posted on October 29th, 2014 by Jonathan
We don’t normally think of persecution occurring in countries like Uganda, but it does. Susan’s story should remind us that each day, Christians all over the world face intense opposition–in the obviously brutal North Koreas and the deceptively “Christian” Ugandas. Whatever the context, unlike Susan, most of their stories go untold. This should compel us to pray.
For this reason, let me encourage you to participate in the International Day of Prayer for the persecuted church through a free and interactive webcast hosted by Open Doors on November 1st and 2nd. The first night allows for interaction with believers from all over the world, and the second night is designed as a time of worship together. Special guests include David Platt, Nik Ripken, and Selah.
This is a great opportunity for your small group or church to get together and pray. For suffering believers we know of, like Susan. For believers whose suffering is unknown to us. And for those under whose hand they suffer. May this webcast faithfully serve the persecuted church as it encourages you to give Christ’s name the honor it is due, wherever you find yourself . . . North Korea, Uganda, or the United States.
To participate in Open Doors’ free, interactive webcast, RSVP here.
Posted on October 28th, 2014 by Jonathan
Biblically, there are many reasons that compel us to go to the nations: obedience to the Great Commission, love for God and his glory, love for our neighbors (the nations). There are many more, and, at some level, they’re all intertwined. However, one of the reasons we should engage in missions is easy to gloss over: we are the body of Christ.
Undoubtedly, this striking statement—found in 1 Corinthians 12:27, among other places—has implications for us as members of Christ’s body. We’re led to ask, what does Christ’s body do?
It seems obvious enough that what his body does now must be in line with the reason Christ came in the first place: “that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17).
Enter missions. If Jesus came to seek and save the lost (and he did), then his body ought to be about that same purpose. Notice I did not say his body ought to be seeking and saving, directly. We cannot seek, and we cannot save. Jesus can, and that work is finished. But our purpose ought be in line with his. Since he came to bring salvation, we, his body on this earth, exist to proclaim it. There could be no higher calling.
So as you think through the task of being Jesus’ witnesses to the ends of the earth, be motivated (and encouraged) by the fact that you are a member of the body of Christ. You can be sure that Christ’s body is not idle.
Posted on October 27th, 2014 by David Burnette
On any given day, there are countless things we could be praying for when it comes to Christ’s church scattered across the world: various levels of persecution, the advance of the gospel among unreached and reached people groups, the needs of missionaries on the field, the raising up of churches and church leaders, etc. The list is so long, in fact, that it can feel a little overwhelming. That’s when we need to be reminded that God’s sovereign purposes will prevail, and that our role is simply to be faithful with the gifts and opportunities God has given us–to pray, to give, and potentially to go.
On the other hand, the greater danger for many of us in this culture is that we will be so preoccupied with our own concerns and interests that we will essentially ignore what God is doing worldwide. If it doesn’t make the evening headlines or directly affect our own schedule, we don’t notice; God’s kingdom takes a backseat to our own. This is where Don Carson’s concept of a “world Christian” can be helpful, which he describes as follows:
- Their allegiance to Jesus Christ and his kingdom is self-consciously set above all national, cultural, linguistic, and racial allegiances.
- Their commitment to the church, Jesus’ messianic community, is to the church everywhere, whenever the church is truly manifest, and not only to its manifestation on home turf.
- They see themselves first and foremost as citizens of the heavenly kingdom and therefore consider all other citizenship a secondary matter.
- As a result, they are single-minded and sacrificial when it comes to the paramount mandate to evangelize and make disciples.
Although Carson is responding (in part) to Christians who have an unhealthy allegiance to their national and ethnic identity, his description of a world Christian is a helpful reminder for every believer. Our relationship to Christ means that we are united in a profound and eternal sense to all those who belong to him, both near and far.
Surely all of us have room to grow in this area. But, as Carson notes, this is the only perspective that makes sense for followers of Christ: “The church, of course, is the only institution with eternal significance. If anyone ought to transcend the limitations of merely temporal allegiances, then those who constitute the church should” (117).
— D.A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons From 1 Corinthians, 116-117.
Posted on October 25th, 2014 by Jonathan
Each weekday, Desiring God posts a feature on their website called Ask Pastor John. In it, John Piper addresses a wide variety of issues based on questions that people send in. The segments are short, interesting, and practical; we highly recommend taking advantage of this resource.
In last Thursday’s edition, Piper talked about his reaction to David Platt recently becoming the president of the International Mission Board. It was a good reminder of the weight of the task before us, to say the least. We wanted to point it out to you as a motivator to pray for David and the missionaries of the IMB. Not only is the IMB an important organization with worldwide and eternal impact, but David’s appointment comes at an important time in the course of Christian missions.
Join John Piper in praying that this transition “will have a global, God-glorifying, mission-completeing impact of historic scope, all out of proportion to [Platt's] limitations. May it be, indeed, an end-time move of the Spirit to hasten the Day of God.”
Posted on October 24th, 2014 by Jonathan
Ten Lessons I learned Pastoring the Same Church for Ten Years: For ten “particularly difficult and yet very special” years, Brian Croft has pastored the same church. Pastors and pastors-to-be will find the lessons he’s learned both encouraging and instructive.
Eight Ways to Redeem That Mission Trip: “Being a good steward of the blessings God gives us includes that we reflect on and treasure them.” David Sills gives us eight ways to do just that on the heels of any mission trip.
The Most Important Reality in Overcoming Sexual Sin: Heath Lambert says that “when we are counseling people who struggle sexually the most important thing we will help them do is to know God.”
The University as a Cross-Cultural Mission: When it comes to sharing your faith, Scott James offers some practical help to those who live and work in a highly-academic, university setting . . . all stemming from a cross-cultural missions mindset.
Posted on October 23rd, 2014 by Jonathan
Can we know God? The reality is, God is incomprehensible. Psalm 145:3 says, “His greatness no one can fathom.”… We can never fully understand any single thing about God. We can know something about God’s love, power, wisdom and the other attributes… But we can never know His love, power, wisdom or other attributes exhaustively. This is key for us to understand. We can know something about Him, but we can’t know Him exhaustively.
Now some of you are thinking, “What about 1 Corinthians 13:12?” It says, “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully.” Well what Paul is saying is, there’s coming a day where our knowledge is going to be more complete, but he’s not saying there’s going to be a day when we are going to be omniscient. Paul doesn’t say in 1 Corinthians 13:12 that one day we’ll know all things. We have this idea sometimes. We think, and we even say, when we get to heaven we’ll know everything. I hate to break it to you, but when you go to heaven you’re not going to be God. It’s not going to happen. It’s not the purpose. You’re not going to know all things. His omniscience is an attribute unique to Him alone. So we can’t know God exhaustively.
The reason is twofold. Number one, our sinfulness, and number two, His greatness. We can’t know God fully because of both our sinfulness and His greatness. We’ll unpack both of those. Because of our sin we are hindered from glimpsing the fullness of God. We know that. Every single one of us has sin in our lives that keeps us from knowing God as completely as we could. But even when all sin will be removed from us, we will still be finite and God will still be infinite. Even when we get to heaven we won’t be infinite like God. We won’t be God. That means that for all of eternity we will increase in our knowledge of Him.
I want you to think about this with me. God is infinite in His love and His power and His wisdom… But if that’s true, and we are always going to be finite – not infinite – then the reality is, we will be learning more, and more, and more about His love, and His power, and His wisdom, and all that He is for all of eternity.
We can respond to this in two ways. If, in pride, we want to be equal to God in knowledge, this will depress us. Some people think, “I’m never going to get there? Never going to understand it all? I mean you think after a cool 400 billion years I might be closer.” But the reality is, no, we will not be any closer.
However, if in humility we want to live to adore and worship God, this will delight us. I want you to let this picture soak in, that for all of eternity, day after day after day, we will never tire of learning more and more and more and more about the love, the grace, the mercy, and the power of God. And this is huge. Sometimes when people think about heaven, they say, “If heaven is going to be perfect won’t it be perfectly boring?” And some of you have thought that. We think, “That’s a long time – eternity. I mean, don’t you get tired of that?” The reality is, because of who we are going to see in God tonight, we’re going to realize that you cannot get enough of this God, and for all of eternity, we will learn more and more and more. We can know God.
Posted on October 22nd, 2014 by David Burnette
David Platt encourages you to consider how you might be involved in reaching those who have never heard the gospel, whether that’s by going or giving. Reaching the unreached is at the heart of the mission of the IMB.
Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks and months as we highlight a number of practical and creative ways you can participate in giving. Your giving will go directly to help support IMB workers who are taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. You can give by going here.
Posted on October 21st, 2014 by Jonathan
If you’ve ever taken a vegan friend to lunch, chances are your first suggestion was not Whataburger. You probably stayed away from all restaurants the fell under the “fast food hamburger joints” category. But not only did knowing your restaurant categories prove to be helpful; so did knowing the category your friend fell into – “vegan.” When used correctly, categories are good and helpful tools.
One category that Jesus makes use of is ethne, translated “nations” in the Great Commission – “make disciples of all ethne.” This command drives us to go and steers us toward our many destinations: the ethne of the world. But ethne doesn’t refer to nation-states such as Uganda, India, or China. Rather, it refers to categories of people (people groups) such as the Seminole Nation, the Yazidis, or the Kurds. Our desire to fully obey this command has led us to identify who these people groups are, and then to prioritize the ones that have little to no believers among them – unreached people groups (UPGs). We have a clear aim.
Categorizing people into groups doesn’t just give us an aim, though; it assists us in attaining it. Knowing a person’s specific people group can help you prepare to share the gospel with him or her by indicating language, cultural customs, religious beliefs, social norms, assumptions, values, and more. The good news cannot spread where there is no understanding, and people group categories help us find some common ground so we can meet them where they are.
For example, let’s suppose you meet an Afghan woman. Knowing that her Afghan people group is unreached, you decide to go out of your way to share the gospel with her. Based on her people group, you infer that she speaks Dari, practices Islam, is offended by women in shorts, and doesn’t talk directly to men. So you learn a few Dari words, study the basics of Islam, make sure you’re modestly dressed, and make sure there’s no one-on-one situation with a male.
People Groups and the People that Comprise Them
But what if the Afghan woman’s parents immigrated to America shortly after she was born and she grew up in the California public school system? Will she feel that you cared more about her than her Afghan-ness? Does your preparation allow you enough flexibility to still be an effective witness?
What if people don’t always fit their people group mold?
We must remember that individuals are not people groups. Though people from within the same group will necessarily share some characteristics, they won’t necessarily share all characteristics. In fact, chances are, you’ll find a whole gamut of differences within each group. Our mission is still clear: to make disciples of all of the people groups. And these people groups give us a huge jump start in knowing about a person so as to communicate with them well. But as we seek to share the gospel with individuals, we must learn to use people group categories as guiding tools rather than hard line rules.
I have an Iranian friend named Ali. He came to the United States as a student in engineering. One night, a close friend and I were talking with him, and we began to steer the conversation toward spiritual things. I thought I knew how it would go: What do you believe? Islam? Great, let’s talk about the difference between Islam and Christianity. To my surprise, not only was Ali not Muslim… he was more interested in finding out where American guys go to meet American girls. In fact, according to him, the Iranian government was far more Muslim than the people they governed. He shared a heart language and cultural identity with the Persian people of Iran, but not the majority religious belief.
Again, categories – including people groups – are good and helpful tools to utilize… when they are used correctly.
There are more than 11,000 people groups, and well over half of them are unreached. Though the Great Commission demands we make disciples among each of them, we ought to be careful not to approach individuals mechanically with regard only to who their people group says they are supposed to be. In the end, all ethne will be represented around God’s throne in heaven. And the representatives will all be unique individuals. May our ministry reflect both these truths.
BOOK: Let The Nations Be Glad (and related resources), John Piper
Posted on October 20th, 2014 by Jonathan
Nearly a quarter of a billion people live in the 29 countries that comprise Southeast Asia. The region hosts 426 people groups, 343 of which are unreached. If you’re one of the 215 million people in these unreached people groups (UPGs), chances are, you live your entire life without ever hearing the good news of Jesus. That’s a sort of despair with which most of us are unacquainted.
However, one North Carolina church is at work in the region, hoping to change the situation for the “T people,” as they affectionately call them. There are only a handful of known believers among the T, a largely Buddhist UPG. Why are they unreached? IMB writer Paige Turner – who lives in Southeast Asia – explains:
The problem lies in getting to these people. It isn’t easy. Few outsiders make it to the remote villages nestled in the steep, wet mountains of Southeast Asia.
Just to tell this one Bible story about creation, Harrison [a pastor from the North Carolina church that is engaging the T] and several local believers ride 45 minutes in a three-wheeled motorcycle taxi, with little protection from the rain and wind. Along one road, the group walks while the taxi slowly maneuvers through the mud. Then, they ride motorcycles another 30 minutes straight up a mountain to the fishing village.
The journey is even difficult for local residents to reach the remote villages. Khin and Thet [believers from a neighboring ethnic group] often walk three hours one-way during rainy season, when their motorcycle can’t make it up the mountain through the mud, to share the Gospel.
Again, this is just one of 343 UPGs in Southeast Asia. Worldwide, it’s one of 6,565 . . all of them without access to gospel. Though the reasons for these groups’ lack of gospel knowledge are varied, the fact they don’t have it should lead us to ask the same questions as Paul in Romans 10: “How will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to peach unless they are sent?” (vv. 14,15).
Posted on October 17th, 2014 by Jonathan
Ten Reasons Why You Can’t be a Missionary: David Sills explores some of our most common excuses and concludes, “It is possible that you have a really good reason that is sufficient for not obeying a missionary call; but I doubt it.”
Why Keep Sexual Boundaries?: Can our motivations for sexual purity be less than Christian? According to Ed Welch, yes.
Seduction and the Cost of Saying ‘No‘: American teenagers who resolve to guard their sexual purity must count the cost, and it is high. Mark Howard says we shouldn’t minimize their suffering by comparing it to more extreme persecution.
The Epidemic of Male Body Hatred: Some gospel encouragement from Paul Maxwell: “God has something to offer each aspect of a man’s hatred of his body, and he offers it through the five relational spheres of his self-hatred.”
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