Thursday, April 11, 2013
1) Pray. Adopt a missionary or two and pray for them regularly. Encourage others to pray for them. Stay in contact with the missionaries so that you will know how to specifically pray for their needs.
2) Be an advocate. Use every opportunity to share with others about the missionary and his work. Email, letters, phone calls and social media are ways that you can assist in getting the vision out and helping them to get support.
3) Host a dinner. Invite the missionary to meet your friends, family and people from you church. Let the missionary share about his work and then you encourage your guests to support him.
4) Give. I know, you don't have the money, right? But let's be honest. You probably do have the ability to give some support. Sell items that are not essential to your survival (collections, hobbies, etc.). Cut out some of your amusements, entertainments, family vacation spending, eating out, expensive coffee, etc.
Missionaries risk everything. Surely you can sacrifice some comforts.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
My son and I bought luggage today. We will carry 4 checked bags and 2 carry-on bags to the Philippines. I spread the bags out on the living room floor and began to think about what is essential for the next year or 2 of our lives. Two of the bags will carry ministry essentials and things we will give away. That will leave each of us one checked bag and one carry on- roughly 80 pounds each. If I could reduce the fruit of all my labors in life down to 80 pounds, what would I keep? What do we need?
On Saturday I will take everything I own and put it in my front yard with a "for sale" on it. I realized even if I sold everything we own it will not be enough to support us or pay for our relocation. We currently have only about 20% of what we need to relocate and to live on. This is really shocking to me as we are asking for one-third to one-half of what most missionaries live on and a great deal less than the average American lives on. And almost half the money is not even for us but for the support of the ministry.
At least once or twice a week someone will ask me "What if you don't get enough support money? What will you do?" I used to answer "I don't know. We are still praying." But now I know. Now I answer "We will suffer even more." I do not say this with piety or nobility. It is not said with a "stiff upper lip" nor with my chest poked out. Rather, I hang my head and whisper "We will suffer. The ministry will be hindered and the message of the Gospel will be restrained and we will suffer." The reality is sinking in.
People also ask me "Is it safe where you going?" This is hard for me to answer. On the island on which we will live and minister it is not safe. To the west are the Muslim separatists. They have closed four house churches last year by killing the pastors and lay leaders. To north are Maoist rebels who recently raided the Del Monte plantation and killed people. Hundreds of people die on the island every year from typhoons, hurricanes and mudslides. Robbery, murder, tribal warfare, disease…No it is not a "safe" place to be.
I have been awake since 2:30 am this morning thinking on these things. Is it wise to take my son there? What will I do when we come back and we will have nothing? How will we survive on such a small amount? What if we are killed? What if I lose my son? Should I even go if I cannot fulfill all the plans we had for ministry? You see I am not a brave man nor a man of great faith. I am just a little, foolish and fearful man. God what should we do?
I thought of the words of Peter and Christ's response from Matthew 19. "Then Peter said to Him, Behold we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us? And Jesus said to them, Truly I say to you. that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne. you shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life."
I have never seen this passage so clearly before. Who would trade the paltry trinkets of this world for the throne of glory and eternal life? Oh, how foolish! Christ tells us to count the cost of the cross. Those who seek to save their lives will lose it and those who lose their lives for His sake will have life eternal. Oh the joy to say with Paul "I count it all dung for the sake of the cross of Christ."
Please do not pity me and my son. We are not worthy of your pity. Pity the poor church in America and those who fill her air conditioned walls and sit on padded pews under the illusion of safety. I feel sorry for those who have CDs, escrow accounts, and tens of thousands of dollars in the bank - so fearful to let go of it that they may never get it back. Have they not read the story of the man who hide his talent in the ground? I pity them. I am so sorry for those who will never know one instant in their lives in which they were fully satisfied in Christ alone. Oh, rapturous joy to know Him and be satisfied in Him! Oh how humbling to be offered the chance to risk all- knowing that all is really nothing! Great piles of earthly dung! HA!
"Let goods and kindred go- this mortal life also"- for it is NOTHING in the joyous light of the One who hung upon the cross for me! Hallelujah!
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Those of us in the Reformed camp are so fortunate that God has smiled upon us to give the grace to understand His Word and His nature. Truly, reformed theology unites the whole of scripture to give us a greater and more accurate picture of God. But despite our greater knowledge and understanding of God I can’t help but wonder if many of the reformed are also very blind and very ignorant in other areas.
For example, take the very simple doctrine of the Church. Academically, most of the reformed could articulate an accurate definition of the Church, many could explain the function and marks of the church and most could even give scriptural support for their words but so many seem to have no concept of the practical life of the Christian in the church. Whereas those who embrace reformed theology would look down their nose at the “program ran, ‘purpose driven,’ entertainment focused, pragmatic” false church and would be critical of those who attend them for seeking self-pleasure, many of the reformed are not much different. They are simply consumers with a different shopping list and so many, they think that the church exists to serve them. They are like a selfish person who when the relationship no longer satisfies their needs or when it begins to cost them something they are apt to leave.
There is no commitment to the church. Even in situations where pastors are laboring to make real and needed changes many of the “reformed” will flee rather than fight. They are really no different than those who have a lower view of God – both groups think the church exists to serve them, both think that there is a crown without a cross and both are unwilling to suffer for the cause of Christ. If things don’t go their way, if there is difficulty in the reforming process and if their “needs” are not met then it is easy just to go down the road to the next church that appears to have what they want.
So many are like the young man who dates a girl that he is not in love with or necessarily attracted to until ”someone better” comes along. They are unwilling to marry and commit themselves to the church for better or worse. They are unwilling to stand and fight and pay the cost to reform the body of Christ. They have shallow, selfish commitments. They use the church to meet their needs and if their perceived needs are not met they can always leave.
Jesus lays down His life for the church but they are far too “reformed” to sacrifice for reformation. No, they deserve better than that!
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Hyper-Calvinism (of course) was used to describe that school of thought which denied human responsibility to follow the commands of God in disciple-making. I have noticed a growing number of “new hyper-Calvinists.” I admit I am being inaccurate in my use of the term, but please stick with me and I will explain. A lot of the things we say are “hyper-Calvinistic” and many of our actions are also. I hear it more and more it seems. You may not realize it but you have probably heard such statements also. In fact unknowingly, you may have even said some of these things. Let me give you some real, life examples to illustrate what I mean by the “new Hyper-Calvinists.”
“Well, if it’s God’s will you’ll have the money you need to do missions.”
“If God did not want me to be fat He would have given me more grace to be thin.”
“I know that God has an elect people and if my grandchildren are one of the elect they will be saved.”
“If it is God’s will then He can revive our nation.”
My first response to such statements is "Well, duh!" Please notice in each of the above listed occurrences that the speaker has the ability to have an affect upon the situation but abdicates ability and responsibility. There are scriptures that gives clear commands and principles for each of the above statements.
Missions: “Go…make disciples”; principles of giving and tithing, "Where your treasure is..."etc.
Gluttony (or any sin): “Mortify your members…” etc.
Lost: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the Word…”; “Preach the Word…” etc.
Revival: Principles taken from verses like “if my people…will turn to Me…”; “Come, let us return to the Lord…” etc.
Since when does the hidden decrees of God supplant His clear commands? The “secret things belong to the Lord” and the commands are given for our life. The sovereignty of God is not an excuse for sin, laziness and disobedience. Martin Luther expressed it this way:
"We must keep in view His Word and leave alone His inscrutable will; for it is by His Word and not by His inscrutable will that we must be guided." -- Martin Luther
The great advantage of being a new “hyper-Calvinist” is that it allows a person to be lazy, irresponsible and selfish while cloaking their sins in spirituality. They can do nothing and declare “I am just submitting to the sovereignty of God.” The reality is that they are denying the clear commands of Scripture.
If more people would follow the clear commands of God more of His “will” would be accomplished on the earth.
Saturday, November 17, 2012
- Palestine bombs Israel
- The stock market is down
- Gay marriage bill passes
- Marijuana legalized
- Abortion laws upheld
- Unemployment on the rise
- States seek to succeed from the Union
- UN troops on the border
Oh, the doom and the gloom that is brought to us every day. Oh, how scary all this is. The country is “going to hell in a hand-basket.” But why are those who professing to be God’s children acting like “chicken little?” All the social media sites are abuzz with fear-doom-hopelessness and this is the response of the “Christians!” When blessing are coming we rest in the providence of God but when the difficult times come why do so many act like God has abdicated the throne and His sovereignty?
Please do not misunderstanding. I am not saying these things are not serious. Nor am I advocating that we just “keep on smiling and think happy-happy thoughts.” The situation is this country is very serious. Yes, this is a time for prayer and fasting but this is not a time for fear or discouragement for the Christian. God has not given us a spirit of fear or timidity but of power, love and discipline. This is a time for faith and trust in the God we claim to believe in. God is working, oh you of little faith.
The worst thing God could do is simply leave this country alone. He could simply just turn it over to its worldly desires and let its material prosperity continue. By bringing these “light afflictions” on this country He is calling us to repentance. He has not forsaken this people but is working to bring them back to Him. Even His remnant (the Church) is being aroused from her slumber. We may be discouraged that so few are being awoken but does not the scripture say “narrow is the way and few will find it?” Have you not read…?
We can see throughout the Old Testament that God has always preserved His people. Regardless of one’s view on eschatology/Israel etc., we can see that even when the nation of Israel went into captivity God preserved a remnant that was His. And He not only preserved that remnant but used the remnant to glorify Himself, call the nation to repentance and even bring knowledge of Himself to the pagans. He does work all things to the good and to His purpose.
Seriously, for the Christian, what is there to fear? Persecution? Can you think of any time in history when the New Testament church was not being persecuted some place in the world? Why are Christians in the US supposed to be immune from suffering? Are we so special? And if (God forbid) persecution comes what will be the result? Historically, persecution has had a purifying affect on the church to make it stronger. Persecution has been used by God to spread the Gospel (consider the first century church, etc.)
What about financial collapse? What if we “lose everything?” Listen to those words. Everything? Really? This is a fear of the unconverted. This fear only applies to those who have treasure in this world. “Take not thought for tomorrow; what you shall eat or what you shall wear…the worldly think of these things” (my paraphrase). Paul says “Having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” If there is a financial collapse then the church and her members will realize what idolatry they had in things and will turn her eyes back to the One who provides every good and perfect gift. Faith in the church will increase and idolatry will be destroyed.
What if this is the birth pains of the end of the world? Then we labor as we always have awaiting the trump to call us home. The New Testament Church has always existed with the understanding that at any time Christ could return. Is this a bad thing? What does the true believe have to fear in this?
What if “they” kill us? HA! I wonder what Lazarus would say if they came to him after his resurrection and threatened to kill him? I can’t help but believe he would fall over and roll on the ground with laughter. Do you not believe in heaven? Have you not read that to be absent from the body is to be in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ? Christ said “I am the resurrection…do believe this?”
To profess Christianity but to live in fear, discouragement and with a “chicken little” response to every little piece of bad news is complete hypocrisy. This is Christian atheism. Fear is not faith and what is not of faith in sin. Perfect love casts out fear.
The Church has much to do in light of the present circumstances: prayer, fasting, evaluating our own spirituality, making our own calling and election sure, being a faithful witness to a world looking for answers, etc. But we are not swayed by the circumstances because our God holds steadfast. If our faith is in Him and not in ourselves or this world, we can rest in His sovereignty. And even find joy in Him despite the situation.
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Before I delve into this topic, let me preface this by saying I do not believe that it is necessary for a man to attend seminary in order to be qualified for ministry/preaching. Those who are called to preach must be qualified to preach and the qualification process will include some form of training. Please consider the Apostle Paul. Even though he had received training from a prominent Rabbi, he still was in need of instruction before beginning his preaching ministry. This training may be formal or informal. Those called to preach may have the blessing of receiving training from their church, by a mentor or they may have to study alone. Others will have the ability to receive formal training through Bible colleges or seminaries. All will require some instruction or training in order to be more effective in ministry.
Certainly there is room for criticism in everything we attempt in Christ. And no individual organization is above correction. However, the intent of this article is to come to the defense of the concept of seminaries, not to defend any one or group of institutions. I will limit my response to criticisms that I personally have heard (either as a direct quote or a paraphrase).
1) “The supremacy of the Church negates any secondary organization. Men should be trained by their church.” Who could deny that Christ died for the church and that it is the church that is the supreme institution of God upon the earth? But does this mean that any other organization is forbidden? If so then the Church will need to rethink its support of many institutions outside of the church (such as Christmas & benevolence organizations, mission societies, etc.).
What about the “regulative principle of worship” because we do not find seminaries in the Bible? My fist response might be to point out that the “regulative” principle applies to “worship” in the church. Secondly, those who use this argument (universal application that the Church has no freedom to do anything that is not listed in the New Testament) must also immediately cease and desist from Sunday school classes, mid-week meetings, discipleship training, dismiss the treasurer, etc. because these are not in the NT either. My point is that this is a misapplication of the principle.
But is there an example in the Bible of training for ministers? We should consider the “school of prophets” in the Old Testament (1 Samuel 10:5-6, 10-13, 19:19-24, etc.).Of course, this was not a “seminary” but the principle of establishing a form of training is present in verses like these.
(b) “Men should be trained by the church.” – Again, who could argue with the logic of this statement? Certainly, this is the ideal situation but is it realistic? This assumes that the pastor has the ability to teach/train and has the knowledge himself to impart. It further assumes that the pastor or some other staff/elder is able to train. How much time does the average pastor have to prepare lessons and teach men? Do most pastors have time to spend with men? I think not. I would say that any time a pastor would spend with men recently called to ministry could be very valuable but is this training going to be on the level of training that the same man would receive at seminary? I doubt it. Direct mentorship is certainly needed and can augment formal training but cannot replace it.
I have no doubt that men called into the ministry have spiritual gifts that empower them to minister and God can use those gifts to teach other men. I also have no doubt that there is no replacement for experience in ministry and the sharing of wisdom gained from experience would be highly beneficial for men called into mnistry. But realistically, there is no way that one pastor can be as knowledgeable as a faculty of men. What pastor is qualified to teach OT/NT surveys, church history, missions, apologetics, NT Greek, etc.? I further doubt that any church would have sufficient staff to teach in all the areas that seminary can.
(2) “Seminary will mess your head up. Men go off to seminary and they get all messed about the Bible.”
This phrase makes the assumption that the man who went to seminary had correct theology before attending. The second assumption is that the person making the accusation has correct theology. Granted, there are “bad” seminaries- even heretical ones, but that is no reason to disdain the concept of formal training. There are also very good, solid, Biblical seminaries.
(3) “The Bible says knowledge ‘puffs up.’” Yes the Bible does say that. But the Bible also says “study to show yourself approved…” Perhaps if the person who would snatch a single phrase out of context and try to build a doctrine around that phrase had taken a hermeneutics class and they would have known better. Maybe they would have known that “text without context is a pretext.” Maybe they would have learnt that the context of that phrase was referring to Christian liberty and weakness of conscience of other brothers in relationship to idols.
But, context aside, we can see that there could be application to the principle that one who receives knowledge could have a tendency to be prideful. What is the answer to this potential problem of pride? The implication of the accusation that “knowledge puffs up” in relationship to the discussion of seminaries, seems to be: “ignorance is to be preferred to education.” I doubt that any would admit that this was the intention of what they are saying but that is the implication. Consider the logic:
a) Seminary provides knowledge.
b) Knowledge “puffs up.”
c) A person being “puffed up” is bad.
Conclusion: Don’t go to seminary.
This is really flawed logic. If we take this premise (that knowledge should be avoided because it makes us proud) to the logical conclusion, then all study- even reading the Bible should be avoided because such actions might impart “knowledge.” I really don’t think ignorance is the answer to avoid pride. In fact, Paul says that it is love that tempers the one with knowledge to humility and consideration of others.
(4) “Seminary will kill your spirit. People who go to ‘cemetery’ have a fat head and a thin soul/heart.”
“If you can do but one, let your studies alone. I would throw by all the Libraries
of the World rather than be guilty of the Loss of one Soul.”~ Bishop Francis Asbury (Quoted in Nathan Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity, p. 89)
Here again we have an assumed premise. The premise is that seminary will “kill” the soul/spirit. This premise is without proof. Certainly we could find men who have been to seminary who are not active or passionate about ministry and we could also find men who are active and very passionate about ministry and Christ. Further, we could find men who have no formal training who are also cold and dead. And we could find men who are very active and very passionate who are ignorant and/or heretical. So the idea of formal training cooling zeal is not provable. This is a false antagonism. I would say that “if” a person is truly converted then the more that they know of God the more motivated they will be in their service and worship. The issue then is not knowledge or seminary but a converted heart and a right view of God. And I would further say that historically this has not been true.
We can look at men like John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, John Owen and Martin Luther to see that God has used men who were very well educated and very “academic” to bring about reformation and even revival. I would not deny that God has also used men who were not formally educated but the point is that the claim that education will kill zeal and harm usefulness is simply not true. Knowledge of God drives passion. True theology will fuel not quench zeal. God redeems the heart and the head.
(5)”The disciples did not go to seminary.”
This is true. The disciples were trained by the Master Himself, but we do not have that opportunity today. It should also be noted that while the Canon is closed God has continued to reveal Himself in the history of the church. We know far more about the church than the disciples did. There have been controversies that arose after the disciples’ lives that have forced the church to hone her theology and practice. We can learn very much from those who have walked in the faith before us.
(6) “Seminaries cost a lot of money.” Amen! This is true. And I believe this is a valid criticism. However, I don’t know of many pastors who have volunteered to skip their pay. I have never heard a pastor tell his congregation that they should labor at their job for free. Why then do they expect those who labor at teaching others to work for free? This seems like a double-standard.
We should be critical of learning institutions that charge hundreds of dollars per semester hour to support unnecessary buildings, unnecessary administration costs and fat pay checks. Much can be done (and should be) to reduce the costs of seminary and even provide free or discounted training for those who cannot afford to pay. But to demand that all education is free and all educators labor without compensation is unrealistic, duplicitous and over-simplistic. There are no “free lunches”- somebody will have to pay.
We (Christians) should critically examine everything we do. We should question the way we do things, why we do them and look for the best means to accomplish the desired results. At the same time, it might appear super-spiritual to criticize seminaries but the reality is that the more training a man of God has the more potential he has to be effective in ministry. The church cannot supply the same level of training that an institution can and probably will not be able to any time soon.
Thursday, September 27, 2012
Friday, September 14, 2012
I mentioned earlier that these pastors are "outcasts." Just prior to our discussion time at the conference, Pastor Val (director for "Christ Disciple Missions Philippines") made the comment to me that these pastors "are not popular." They all roared with laughter when he said this. As we talked and they shared their burdens I began to understand why they had been shunned and some even put out of their local associations and fellowships. First, these pastors are poor. Now, poverty is relative to culture. So to us in the West, almost everyone in Asia is poor. But these are men who come from hard working families. Many farm in Bukidnon. Others began church plants with support and were forgotten and abandoned by their supporting churches. Many of the churches in this area are attended by poor people who tithe but the tithes simply are not enough to meet the most basic needs of the pastors. This means that many of the pastors' wives work to support the family (creating pressure and strain in the home) and some of the pastors must take other work.
Let me give you two examples. One brother began a church plant work a few years ago. He was promised support by churches but after a few months the support stopped. No reason was given and he was never contact so he simply continued in the work. His wife took a job in pizza place at local mall. They would spend money each month to buy 1 chair for the congregation they had gather. Then last year they had a baby. The place they were meeting at was taken from them. They had made an arrangement with the city to use an out-door recreation center. The city said they could use the place for free as long as they would clean and "beautify" the area. After several months of work, the city told them they would have to leave. Now they rent a place for Sunday morning. So now the pastor arises at 3am to drive 1 hour to a farm where he will spend the day milking, feeding and cleaning up after cows. He will work 5 and half days a week to earn 4000 Peso (about $96). Another pastor had to leave his church because he did not receive enough support to feed his wife and children. He now works as a security guard and desires to return to the church. The church refuses to accept him because he is working another job.
The second issue is Calvinism. God is awaking many of the pastors to reformed theology. "TULIP" (as they call it) is causing great debates here. There are rumors being circulated about many of the pastors that they are "faith alone" pastors. This sounds ok until we understand what it means here. The pastors are accused of denying the necessity to "accept Jesus" to be saved. The majority here have been heavily influenced by decision-ism. I had a long conversation with one person who asked me to explain "TULIP." Afterward they told me that they had been trained into seminary that after sharing the Gospel they should ask the person "do you want to accept Jesus?" One of the pastors told me that salvation is not "declaring Jesus to come into your heart." They have been awaken (at least to some degree) to reformed doctrine and they are paying a price for it.
The third issue is mere poverty. Consider one of the churches I visited. There are about 20 people. The people tithe but unfortunately they do not make much money. The average tithe is 300 peso. So the average monthly income for the church from tithes is 1200P. There are 2 pastors and they split the tithes. This means they make about 600P each per month. That is only about $14. Story after story is the same. One pastor and his church have the desire to plant another church but they do not have the resources (in fact there is pressure in his household because he is not able to pay tuition for his children to continue in school). Another pastor has started a work with the indigenous people (Bukidnon tribe). They are animists. He is unable to continue because he does not have the funds to travel to the remote region.
Then there is Indahag. In 2011 a typhoon struck the area of Mindanao ( the region of Cagayan De Oro) killing over 600 people and displacing many more. The government is currently building houses for the displaced people in Indahag. Indahag is approximately 8 kilometers from the city of Cagayan, located in the mountains. The government has currently built 400 subsidized housing units there and people are already occupying some of them. In addition to this, the city is expanding into the Indahag region and there are already some people living there. There is no protestant church for miles. There is an incredible opportunity for ministry there but no resources to minister.