A Definition

September 26, 2007

I recently listened to a sermon by Matt Chandler, the pastor of The Village church in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. It was part of a series he was preaching on Ecclesiastes. It was a really good message, and one of the better presentations of the gospel that I’ve heard in quite a while. During part of the message he spoke on what “repentance” meant. Until then I had not really given it much thought. It’s been one of those words that I’ve heard all my life, growing up in church. But after I finished the message I really started to spend some time thinking through the word “repentance” and how I would explain it to a not-yet believer.

So, I’m wondering…how would you define “repentance”, especially to a not-yet believer?

If you’re interested in listening to the message, you can subscribe through iTunes here, or from the Village’s website here. It’s message number 5 in the Ecclesiastes series. Oh, and by the way, here’s Matt’s definition of repentance:

Let me try to explain repentance to you, because I think it’s been done really badly. Like, how many of you have heard this, “Repentance is a military term that means to change from walking one way to walking the other way.” Anybody ever hear it spelled out like this? Well, if that’s the definition of salvation, I’m in a lot of trouble. Because Christ kind of enacted in my heart and woke up my heart, and man, for the last thirteen years, I’ve been turning the other way, taking three or four steps and with my long gangly arms, reaching back there and grabbing stuff. Is it just me? No, liars, you too. So, if the definition of what is required for salvation is to go 180° and walk this way and never touch anything back there again, I’m out. So, what is repentance then? Here’s what I think repentance is: repentance is a sorrow over our sin that creates an earnestness and a ferocity to know Jesus deeply. And when that’s the pursuit, you’re running towards Jesus, this stuff starts fading away.

-shorty

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On Strategy

July 10, 2007

I read with great interest blogs and sites that deal with issues of strategy and methodology in missions. I appreciate and respect individuals like Guy Muse and David Rogers. They talk about things like MAWL (Model, Assist, Watch, and Leave), or common elements found in CPM’s (Church Planting Movements), or strategies from Wolfgang Simpson’s book Houses That Change the World.

In and of themselves these are all good things to discuss. I’m of the belief that while strategies are good to study, the implementation of them is quite dependent on the geographical location and group of people you are working with. There are things that Guy writes about on his blog that simply wouldn’t work where I’m at. It doesn’t mean that they are bad, they’re just not right in this context. Much of what is written about mission strategy starts with a wrong assumption. The assumption is made that there are those that have either come to faith, or about to come to faith. So the strategy focuses on what to do at the point of conversion so that it can be duplicated such that it leads to a movement. This is why much of what I read about mission strategy doesn’t work for me.

I live in a European context. But I’m not working with Europeans. I’m working with Muslim ethnic minorities. The community is completely closed. They have little to no use in outsiders. If you don’t have a good or service to offer them they want nothing to do with you. To “do life” with them is very difficult…next to impossible in my opinion. Theological discussions will not persuade them. And these people are not coming to faith and are not near coming to faith.

So you can see that I have a hard time taking what others are doing (or not doing) and try to implement it here. I have to find something that works for where I’m at and who I’m trying to reach. And this has led me to a passage I read recently in John 4. The son of a royal official is very ill. The father comes to Jesus asking him to heal his boy. Jesus responds by saying, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe”. In other words, Jesus is saying “look, you won’t believe in me based on what I’m saying, so I’m going to have to show you something miraculous and blow you out of the water in order for you to believe.” And he does just that. He heals the boy and as a result the father and his whole household come to faith (v. 53). This is where I’m at with strategy. I’m not giving up on building relationships with those in my community. In fact, I’m doing just the opposite. But I truly feel that these people will have to see sign and wonders, and will have to have dreams and visions in order to come to faith. I know that God can move anyway he chooses, but it just seems that something is going to have to shake these people to their very foundation before they will look and behold the glory and grace of Jesus Christ.

So now my strategy contains a lot of praying for signs, wonders, dreams, and visions. It may be the only way this community is saved.

-shorty

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Unhappy

June 29, 2007

So, here’s a question. Can you be in the will of God, doing what you’re called to do, and be unhappy at the same time? I’m not talking about joy. Happiness and joy are two totally different things. I’m talking about being unhappy with life. And if you’re unhappy how do you fix it?

I was speaking with a colleague today and his opinion was that unhappiness was due to one of two things: either working outside your giftedness, or selfishness. In other words, if you have peace about where you are and what you’re doing, you know that you are in God’s will for your life, and you are unhappy it could be that the work you are doing doesn’t match up with what you’re gifted in. Or, you are unhappy because of selfishness, wanting things that you can’t have or don’t need. For example, when you move to a new culture you inevitably miss things from back home like certain aspects of the city you’re from, friends, familiarity of things, etc. If you begin to want those things in the new culture you find yourself in, knowing full well that you won’t get them, you can become unhappy with your current situation.

So how long should this unhappiness be allowed to last? And how do you take care of it?

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A Little Confused

June 13, 2007

I’m relatively new to the life of being a “missionary”. I’m not new, however, to what it means to “share the gospel”. My hope and prayer is that through building relationships with others they might come to know about the sovereign grace of Christ, that the Holy Spirit will awaken their soul, and that God will call them to Himself.

But how far do you take things in a given conversation when things turn spiritual? In fact, just today a colleague told me that she felt the Holy Spirit was preventing her from taking things deeper in a conversation she was having with a friend.

When is just being a friend and living life with someone not enough? When do you push things deeper, and how do you know that it’s the right time?

Just very simple, basic things I’m working through right now.

UPDATE: After reading through my post I feel that a little clarification is needed. I live in a Western European culture. But I work with Muslims. It’s highly unlikely that someone in this context is going to come to faith through good old fashioned theological debate. The sticking points will always be issues such as the trinity, the incarnate nature of Christ, the crucifixion and resurrection. The point of my post was me asking the question, how often and how deep do I push these things, knowing full well that their witness of my life is more likely to lead them towards Christ than a spiritually deep conversation. And I don’t know that this question has an answer, but it needed to be asked anyway.

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The Social Gospel

May 21, 2007

Is there more than one Gospel? Does a “social gospel” exist, and if so, what is it’s message? At it’s base, a social gospel would take Christian principles and apply them to social problems. Many would view Jesse Jackson as a social gospel advocate. At the same time, Jerry Falwell could be viewed as a social gospel advocate. He was simply advocating different things than that of Jackson. Falwell took issues (social issues) such as abortion and homosexuality and made them political. Jackson has done the same thing for poverty and equal rights.

Timmy Brister recently wrote a post on his site, Provocations & Pantings, asking for opinions about socio-political priorities for evangelicals. As one can imagine, abortion (or the sanctity of life in general) topped the list. Here are a couple of quotes from the comments:

There is no greater evil in our country than the slaughter of millions of pre-born children.Most serious in America – abortion. Globally – terrorism and nukes.

And my favorite:

I think the issues of life (abortion, euthanasia, genocide, etc.) are the most vital issues of the day, and will remian to be. I find it strangely ironic that we have people consumed with saving the lives of people thousands of miles away, and stopping genocides across the world, when we neglect the fact that millions of children are being brutally murdered right under our noses.
Any sort of outcry for mercy and justice that denies the fact that abortion is both unmerciful and unjust, and that ignoring it is neither merciful or just, just rings hollow to me. (Do you hear that Jim Wallis?)
It’s hard for me to take people seriously who call us to save children in Africa when those same people ignore the millions killed hear…or rather endorse it.

First of all, there are greater evils in America today than abortion. You could make abortion illegal tomorrow, and you’ll still have untold millions that live this life, and die, without a relationship with a Savior. They will undoubtedly spend and eternity separated from Christ. That’s a greater evil. Secondly, I’m not ignoring or endorsing abortion. It exists. It’s a problem. But the solution is not to make it illegal.

A government, any government, will never be able to successfully legislate morality. More than 30 years ago Jerry Falwell established the Moral Majority. And for 30 years the Moral Majority attempted to legislate morality, especially regarding homosexuality and abortion. What are the fruits – abortion is still legal and some states have started to accept civil unions for homosexuals.

Through the Edict of Milan in AD 313 Constantine announced toleration of Christianity. This removed penalties and persecution for professing Christianity. From Wikipedia:

The reign of Constantine established a precedent for the position of the Christian Emperor in the Church; Constantine considered himself responsible to God for the spiritual health of his subjects, and thus he had a duty to maintain orthodoxy. For Constantine, the emperor did not decide doctrine – that was the responsibility of the bishops – rather his role was to enforce doctrine, root out heresy, and uphold ecclesiastical unity. The emperor ensured that God was properly worshipped in his empire; what proper worship consisted of was for the Church to determine.

By AD 476 the Roman Empire had fallen. Government can not effectively legislate morality. So why do we continue to waste our time? The same individuals that made comments on Brister’s post that abortion was the number one socio-political issue of our day also admitted that, by and large, they were doing nothing to help the poor, overcome oppression, and fight injustice. Why is this? Why do we insist on legislating morality while ignoring the orphans and widows. Helping the poor, overcoming oppression, and fighting injustice are tangible things that we can do today to impact a lost world for Jesus Christ.

Dr. Mohler has just written a post about several articles appearing in major newspapers regarding selective reduction (i.e. abortion). Toward the end of the post Dr. Mohler makes the following point:

The cold, clinical, calculating nature of the decisions reported by Liza Mundy takes us to the heart of the human problem. The essence of sin is the ambition to be as God.

I agree with Dr. Mohler that the nature of the decisions made by these women is the heart of the human problem…sin. But I disagree that the sin is the ambition to be as God. I believe that it’s ultimately the lack of knowledge (ignorance) of a saving God. To impact the morality of a society we must impact the individuals that make up that society. The only life changing impact that can change the course of a culture is that of Jesus. There is no social gospel. There is THE gospel. That Christ came as a sacrifice for the sin of mankind, that He desires to have a relationship with His creation. Only through this relationship will society be changed.

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