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Experiencing Darkness

It had all started as a normal day during City Project. We had arrived in New York City the Saturday before to stay in a shelter, share the gospel with unbelievers, and be trained by strategic missionaries. Most of the training and planning was useless at this point…

A friend and I were assigned a specific Muslim group in Queens. Conversations had to be started, but we had to be authentic. Both of us agreed to go to one of the mosques for the evening salat (prayer) in order to start conversations. We entered the dark building confused and unsure of what would take place.
“Why are you here?” one of the men asked. “We are curious about other religions and want to learn more about Islam,” we responded with deep sincerity. We proceeded through wudu (washings) in order to enter the ceremony. Face, ears, arms, hands, feet, then hands again. With bare feet proceeding to the prayer hall, I prayed with a heavy heart to the only God who has ears to hear our cries. My friend and I sat in the corner to observe (not partake) in the ceremony. With every tick of the clock, my heart grew heavier; my heart literally felt like it was going to burst. Tears began to roll down my face only for me to wipe them away in light of my surroundings. I felt the need to share just a few of my thoughts and burdens.

  • How many Christians see these men, young and old, and never share of the redemptive work they have experienced?
  • How many Believers, like myself, are more concerned with politics, Soteriology, or personal agenda than the eternity of God’s beloved?
  • Do professing Christians truly “[look] to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross”? If so, why do they walk away and not long to endure the same struggle for unsaved?

Paul said “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers.” Do we bear the same burden as this sinner saved by grace? 

A recognizable pattern in my life and through Scripture is looking to God and leaving with a new sense of purpose. Take Saul who transformed into Paul; Moses and the burning bush; Israel looking to the bronze serpent; or Jacob (Israel) wrestling with God. All of these accounts point to series of darkness/trouble, encountering God, and leaving remarkably changed. I share about this dark experience because in these moments, I was tested to love my neighbor, put their needs before my own, and allow God to bring about salvation. It may not be easy, but it certainly is worth it. James also shows us why we endure trials.

“Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
James 1:2-5

Not everyone is called to live as a vocational missionary to the Unreached People Groups of the world. Some are, but not everyone. Instead, we are called to make disciples of all [tribes, tongues, and] nations. If we don’t go, how will they hear? More importantly, if we do not petition on their behalf nor expect God to move, how can we ever expect God to work through us? Challenge: be willing to experience trials and darkness for someone else’s soul. This example is found in Jesus; is it found in you?

Book Review of Rediscovering the Church Fathers by Michael A. G. Haykin

landonpauley:

Pretty accurate book review in my opinion. This book is worth reading to get a basic taste of the Church Fathers.

Originally posted on Living To Make Jesus Famous:

Haykin, Michael A. G. Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011. Kindle edition. 176 pp. $11.99.

 

Introduction

For the most part, the evangelical community in twenty-first century America accepts a rootless Christianity.  Evangelicals mostly sing worship songs which were written in the past twenty years.  They typically consider a book somewhat dated by its tenth birthday.  Michael A. G. Haykin’s book helps correct that idea of rootless Christianity.  Having a Th.D. in Church History from the University of Toronto, over two decades experience as a professor, and authored or edited more than twenty-five books; Haykin uses his expertise to write an introduction to his favorite theological discipline.

Summary

To begin, Haykin provides brief argumentation as to why Christians should engage in the oft-neglected study of the church fathers.  The Fathers deliver Christians from the captivity of present-day blind…

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Prayer for CP Taiwan Team

My team is in the air right now on our way to Taiwan! Please pray for us:

Pray that God would use this process to teach us to love Him above all else. (Matthew 22:37-40)
Pray that the nations would come to know Him as Lord. (Acts 17:24-27)
Pray for the field partners, that God would continue use them and give them favor with the people.
Pray God would use us to serve the field partners well.
Pray that the Holy Spirit would go before us and prepare the hearts of the people we will interact with.

Open-minded gospel

“The gospel does not say, ‘the good are in and the bad are out,’ nor ‘the open-minded are in and the judgemental are out.’ The gospel says the humble are in and the proud are out. The gospel says the people who know they’re not better, not more open-minded, not more moral than anyone else, are in, and the people who think they’re on the right side of the divide are most in danger.”
-Tim Keller, Jesus The King

New York City: Learning and Growing

Last week, Summit College traveled to New York City to expand efforts to reach the nations. As you may know, New York is a large and diverse city with thousands of languages and representation from every continent. Our mission? Three simple steps.

The gospel changing students.
Our team had a week of orientation; gospel training, evangelism techniques, and studying people groups. But none of that would prepare us for the daily battle for our souls. Nothing can replace the importance of the gospel in our lives first. Without it, we are just another group of people in the big city. No direction, no sense of purpose, and no power to accomplish the work ahead. With the gospel, we’ve been given an identity (child of God), mission (to make disciples of all nations), and the Spirit of God which “[equips] you with everything good for doing his will.” (Hebrews 13:21) This week had a literal transformation on my life.

Part of our daily agenda was to go to individual neighborhoods, love on people, and share our faith. I was with a group in Astoria, Queens, NY. This community is predominantly Bangladeshi Muslim. One day while I was sharing with a friend, I was completely overwhelmed. My pride had gotten the better of me before a conversation filled with rejection and bitterness. I walked away speechless. It took a solid five minutes of prayer and tears for God to teach me something: All my efforts to save people are in vain if the Spirit is not working in my life as well. God may use us, but he changes our hearts in the process.

20140530_194806Orientation week in Durham– Mitch reminding us of the gospel story. 


Students serving cities.
Our team of over fifty college students traveled to New York City with three primary objectives in mind: encouraging missionaries, equipping local believers, and evangelizing the lost. We stayed at the New York School of Urban Ministry (pictured below) while partnering with Global Gates Ministry. This incredible ministry has a large hand in the gospel being proclaimed in NYC.

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Christ sending laborers.
Christ has sent us to make disciples for our lifetime. This means locally and internationally. Matthew 9:38 reads “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Already the Lord is preparing the hearts for the gospel to be shared. He simply asks that you obey and be teachable; when we learn and obey, this will produce disciples.

20140606_134605Arab mosque in Astoria, NY–overpacked during one of the five daily prayer times.

Oswald Chambers put it this way:
“If you believe in Jesus, you are not to spend all your time in the calm waters just inside the harbor, full of joy, but always tied to the dock. You have to get out past the harbor into the great depths of God, and begin to know things for yourself—begin to have spiritual discernment… It is a dangerous thing to refuse to continue learning and knowing more.”

Preparing for New York

I can’t believe the time has come. One day. Tomorrow, the Summit College teams make their way to the heart of New York City, NY. After months of prayer, planning, and preparation, it’s time for this group to take flight. After a full day of orientation and detailed discussion about the big city, I came away with a few points I wanted to share.

  • Gospel foundation is vital.
    We literally have nothing to share or preach without the Gospel. The Good News we graciously share is about the life-changing work which has happened within us. To have an unclear vision of Christ brings about death. We were created to shine brightly and adore in our Creator God (Matthew 5:14-16).
  • Strategy is key.
    Going into a mission field completely blind is not God’s plan. Think about the strategic location and cultures within New York City. Largest city in the United States; Thousands of people groups (many of which are unengaged) with their personal sphere of influence; Diversity in cultures, languages, and social statuses while maintaining the “New York pride.” With all this in mind, God desires that our preparation and labor not be in vain (Philippians 2:14-16). But bear in mind that strategy, when idolized, produces vain actions. All the planning in the world will not bring souls to Christ without the Holy Spirit working.
  • Projects are not the end goal… people are!
    This one has taken a while to get through my head. I constantly struggle with the desire to please God and run the race set before me… but if I run a race with blinders on, I miss the point of the entire journey which is to see Christ more clearly through His working. People are the objective of the gospel movement. Jesus cleansed the lepers (Matthew 8:1-4; Mark 1:40-45), healed blind men (John 9; Mark 8:22-25), and rose the dead from the grave (John 11). He did all of these miracles with people as the primary goal – in reaching people through physical needs, he glorified the Father through spiritual means.
    In the same way, we are called to reach the nations as people, NOT as a project.

City Project: Taking the Risk

Risk. What do you think of when I say that word? Do you think of a crazy men fighting off deadly animals, secret spy operatives on a high speed chase, or a man taking a bullet for his lover? We typically think of words like hazard, injury, or exposure.

But Risk, if properly applied, goes way beyond these words to bring about exponential benefits. If you invest very little stock in a company, you will see very little profit. Little exposure in a relationship brings about little connection with the other individual. No time or effort put into school means very poor grades. So why risk? What is there to gain?

Risk is the vehicle which is used to bring God glory. Without risk, there would be no salvation (Hebrews 12:2). Without risk, there would be no concept of love (John 5:13; Romans 5:6-8). Risk, or sacrifice, is at the very heart of love – “we love because he first loved us.”

Paul shared his vision of risk with Philippi.

It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

 

(Phil. 1:20–21)

The call is to go. The command in itself is worthy of Risk. In the words of John Piper… “If our single, all-embracing passion is to make much of Christ in life and death, and if the life that magnifies him most is the life of costly love, then life is risk, and risk is right. To run from it is to waste your life.”

For more on the subject, read Risk is Right by John Piper. Free pdf found here.

Living to the Fullest

“I’m writing this at 3 am; I can’t stop my mind from racing; any person in my situation should be asleep… so why is my heart unsteady? I can’t help but wonder about the frailty of life. I can’t help but think about the fact that my life could have ended.

I was in a car wreck yesterday afternoon. I was driving the speed limit when the SUV in front of me swerved to the other lane revealing a stopped truck. Panic. All I could think of was my life ending, not seeing my family again, not being able to laugh with my college friends, missing out on the milestones of life, and not being able to proclaim the name of Christ to the nations. 

By God’s grace, I walked out of my vehicle unharmed without even the smallest scratch. No airbags deployed, no debris flying through the car, and no major aches or pain. It was because the hand of God was over me. The statement “material is replaceable, but a life isn’t” is now seen is a completely different light.”

Fast forward to May 2014, two months after my wreck. Life is still just as frail, but has it been lived to the fullest? Read my upcoming post about what it means to risk your life.

Pastors Kids Gone Wrong

There seems to be a stereotype out there about Pastor’s kids. I’m not denying that there isn’t some truth to it, but is it really as bad as people make it out to be? This article on Katy Perry is a good example of what happens to a majority of pastor’s kids. But let’s look at some of the things that cause this initial reaction from PKs.

Unrealistic Expectations
We’ve all been here… But it’s difficult to live up to multiple expectations at once. Family, friends, church members, classmates… the list goes on. From the church-goers perspective, these expectations have to be met in order for the church to not be full of hypocrites. But isn’t the original expectation the root of hypocrisy, holding someone to a standard when you yourself may not meet the standard?

Negative Experiences
This can range from a rub with one of the deacons/elders to physically threatening your dad to a fist fight in the church parking lot (which has happened, sadly). Negative experiences can also be emotional. When your family goes through traumatic events like losing jobs, moving, finding a new community, and not being certain of the future, who do you turn to? That’s when negative events become your living nightmare.

Hypocrisy
(Whether it’s in the church or at home)
This is a big one because we are always so quick to say “the H word” in the Church subculture. Hypocrisy originally means ‘to play a part’ and ‘pretend’. So in a sense, there is a lot of hypocrisy going on; can we control if we’re being hypocrites? Absolutely. Can we be honest about our hypocrisy, repent, and pursue holiness? Absolutely!

Living in a Glass House
Everyone sees everything that you do. That’s true for a lot of people, but especially for pastor’s kids. I know for a fact that there are some people who are more concerned with juicy gossip in the Pauley than my family’s progress in our spiritual walk.

Unstable Lifestyle
The life of a PK is anything but stable. Speaking from personal experience, I have lived in 6 cities 3 different states over 16 years. Oh, I forgot to mention… I’ve lived in at least 10 houses in those 6 cities. Talk about unstable. To some degree, it feels like a military family.

Heart break
This type of heart break could be with friends from the unstable lifestyle, family going through any number of these issues, or your own see-through love life. Since you’re in the spotlight, heart break is the gossip of the church… So either way, you’re done for.

I do have one disclaimer: These reasons alone are not excuses to walk out of the Church. Not by a long shot. I don’t believe any pastor’s kid should make the conscious decision to walk out. Learn. Study. Be Seriously Discipled. Grow. And Make your Faith Your Own! God’s plan and purpose for anyone in ministry WILL include difficulty. That’s part of life.

Where the Rubber meets the Road

1 Timothy 3 has a lot to say about the relationship between pastors and their children. In its context, the passage is talking about the qualifications and expectations for pastors active in vocational ministry. Most of these are on the individual man in the role; some of them are inadvertently placed on the shoulders of the man’s family.

“[A qualified pastor] must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” 1 Timothy 3:4, 5

As I said, this command is two fold. But the point I want to make is that it’s the PK’s job to obey habitually. Isn’t that what all children should do anyway? Obey their parents? If you look at the entire chapter of 1 Timothy 3, you may notice that this command is given to overseers, deacons, and others. It’s a repeated command (which means it’s important). God highly values the family. So that leads me to ask: Do you value your own family no matter how messed up they are? Do you want to love and respect them even when you’re wrong about something?

Facing Opposition

Have you ever known that you screwed up? Had that gut feeling that you were wrong about something? We’ve all been there. If you haven’t, don’t worry because you will.

I’m not talking about the petty opposition from acquaintances or people for whom you have a mutual disliking. I’m talking about the hardest kind of opposition… Opposition from someone that you highly respect and look up to. This is known as rebuking.

Recently, God has given me some epic opportunities to grow as well as majorly screw up. My screw-ups have been in areas such as pride, communication, and lack of respect...

  1. Pride — “Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.” -C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
    Time and time again, I recognize a wicked and prideful spirit in my heart. I put what I want above another person… and it always seems to come up to the surface one way or another. 
    I recently received advice about pride: “Confidence can be easily mistaken for pride. Whenever you see pride in your life, Stop. Pray. And Seek Humility.“I want a daily reminder to die to myself; a tattoo of Galatians 2:20 in the original Greek.
    “συσταυρόω Χριστός” (systauroō Christos) which means “I have been crucified with Christ.”
    While there is significance in every tattoo, I prefer that these be words that I live by and live by with reckless abandon (more on that later).
  2. Communication — or lack thereof.
    This is a tough one to explain. It boils down to honestly and carefully sharing what I mean in a loving and compassionate way. This includes my tongue. It also includes unintentional and nonverbal methods (subconscious; body language). But that’s why God gave us the ability to control our own bodies. (See James and Psalm 32)
  3. Lack of Respect — An unhealthy combination of both characteristics.
    If you think about it, disrespecting someone really comes back to pride and miscommunication. If you’re prideful in the face of authority, that’s disrespectful. If you do not know how to properly communicate with people around you, you are not showing initiative to contribute to that relationship. Ergo, you are being disrespectful.

Let’s be honest… this stuff sucks. Bad. These lessons are terrible to go through when you feel like you’re constantly beaten up.
You would not believe some of the difficult conversations I’ve had over the past month. Even with all the lessons I’ve learned and the growth that I’ve seen, there are still times I am confronted with the fact that I need to just grow up. It’s the never-ending road of sanctification.

The Beauty in it all

Hopefully, if you see these things in yourself, someone else brought them to your attention. This is beautiful because that’s how God designed for the Church to work. God’s people are commanded to love and correct one another. Without correction, there is no love. With passages like John 15 in mind, we are told to abide with Christ and love one anotherBecause we, the Bride of Christ, abide in him, we are physically responsible to love.

On the topic of opposition; just look at the book of James (especially sections like 1:12). “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life”  Steadfast means “resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering.” I guess that brings me to ask a few questions:
Are you unwavering when tested with trials? Are you numb to the fact that God wants us to endure until the end? What are some areas you can see that need growth? And who can you go to for an honest opinion about your character/maturity?