October 17, 2017

Spiritual Warfare and Missionary Praxis

(This is a paper that I wrote for my Missionary Methods and Problems class this past semester. My topic on spiritual warfare as well as conversations with friends caused me to wrestle with how I look at spiritual warfare. I hope this paper will help you to wrestle with the topic yourself. If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you! Just leave a comment below.)

As Christians we are taught that we are participants in a spiritual battle. It is a cosmic battle that is not fought with physical weapons, and we fight an enemy we cannot see. Ephesians 6:12 tell us, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Growing up in the West predisposed me to a perspective that, until recently, I hadn’t thought much about. As I have been learning, disagreements exist between Christians around the world regarding what spiritual warfare is and what fighting the powers of darkness looks like.  Eugene Peterson has said well that, “There is a spiritual war in progress, and an all-out moral battle. There is evil and cruelty, unhappiness and illness. There is superstition and ignorance, brutality and pain. God is in continuous and energetic battle against all of it. God is for life and against death. God is for love and against hate. God is for hope and against despair. God is for heaven and against hell. There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square foot of space is contested.”

What I am going to address are the different beliefs regarding how spiritual warfare manifests itself  in the physical world and how Christians, especially missionaries, should engage in spiritual warfare.
I have learned that my North American Reformed Christianity has tended towards a perspective that separates the physical and spiritual realms. Paul Hiebert in his own writings calls this separation the “excluded middle.” He explains how those who fall into this trap do not see any interaction between the physical and spiritual worlds. Things such as logic and science are distinct from the supernatural and miraculous which are  often experienced in other cultures. Nam Shin Park in his article Hermeneutics and Spiritual Warfare summarizes Paul Hiebert’s viewpoint on what contributed to the change in perspective of the Church. He writes, “ …the viewpoint of the Church regarding spiritual warfare was dramatically changed by the influences of the Enlightenment and modern dualism, which brought separation between the supernatural or spiritual world and the natural world… These two realms are quite distinct and are not involved with each other.”

Philip Jenkins discusses how North American Christians often view Eph. 6:12 as “superstition and irrelevant” but he says, “However superstitious and irrelevant it appears to mainstream Northern Christians, the passage makes wonderful sense in most of Africa as it does for believers in Latin America or East Asia.” My own perspective has tended toward viewing spiritual warfare as an internal struggle and fight and has excluded how demonic warfare against God is manifested in the physical world.
Problems arise when missionaries from a Western context with a perspective like mine travel to other cultural contexts and are confronted with the reality of supernatural powers at work through systems, false religions, and demonization. Because of their perspective they have no way of understanding or explaining what is happening. More often than not, these missionaries will explain these instances away as being imagined or happenstance. Michael Pocock summarizes this well, “The orientation of Western missionaries was less supernatural than the worldview of those they were trying to reach… They believed that all difficulties stemming from what they regarded as either wrong belief and practice or possibly demons, would disappear when new converts realized they were fearful of forces that did not exist or played a minor role in life.”

Critiques from the non-western world can help teach and broaden the Western understanding of spiritual warfare. Here I will look at and analyze two contrasting views which critique the Western and majority world perspective on spiritual warfare. This will demonstrate ways other Christians believe spiritual warfare is manifested and engaged. The first perspective that I want to examine is that of Nabeel T. Jabbour, an Egyptian Christian. In his work entitled, An Unseen Reality, Jabbour discusses five instances in which Satan has influence in the world. These include demonization, cultures, laws and basic beliefs, structures of power, and thought life. Before discussing these, Jabbour emphasises the fact that the devil has already been defeated by Christ Jesus and will be completely destroyed at Christ’s second coming. This is important to keep in mind as we look at what I think are three of the most important instances which Jabbour brings out. These are Satan’s work through demonization, cultures, and laws and basic beliefs.

A summary of Jabbour’s thoughts regarding demonization is that he believes in the casting out of demons, but he emphasizes “power with truth encounters” in which the glory of God is demonstrated through the event and the purpose is not the amazement of the people around. An overview of his position regarding Satan’s work in cultures is that, “This is what the Devil is set on doing—slowly polluting every culture until humanity is destroyed without its realization or resistance.” His suggestions for Christians is that we be circumspect and watchful, but not to the point that we become incapacitated by fear and ineffective to reach our culture. Finally, Satan’s third influence in the world is that laws, which should be good boundaries to protect us, can be inadequate as well as formed because of evil intentions.

Jabbour concludes all of this by encouraging Christians to take seriously the schemes and plots of the devil, but as we do, to keep our eyes focused on Jesus, because he has given us the power to overcome the evil one. At the end of the article, he charges Christians to “be careful to put on the whole armor of God and close firmly every door and window against our enemy.” He also encourages Christians saying, “As you read your Bible, underline the passages that help you to gaze at God and only glance at the Devil.”

A second perspective I am going to look at is that of false religions as a form of spiritual warfare that Satan uses to keep humanity captive. One example of this is folk Islam. Rick Love states that, “More than three-fourths of the Muslim world, of approximately 800 million people, are folk Muslims, who are doctrinally Muslim but in practice are animists. Folk Muslims confess Allah, but worship spirits. They are more concerned with magic then they are about Muhammad.” Millions of people are ensnared in fear to pagan ritualist practices. Love observes that, “Because they live in a world of magic and miracles, they are not always awestruck by demonstrations of God’s power. On the other hand, if we demonstrate no power they are even less impressed!” In this instance of Folk Islam, Richard Love suggests that power encounters are necessary in evangelism, not solely truth encounters. Rick Love defines a power encounter as, “the demonstration of God’s power, through God’s servants, over the work of Satan and demons, based on the work of Christ, the Great Commission and the ministry of the Holy Spirit, resulting in the salvation of the lost, the upbuilding of the Body and the glory of God.” Love deliberately mentions that he does not believe that power encounters are the key to winning the Folk Muslims to Christ, but he most certainly believes that these demonstrations of power, especially through healing and exorcism, should be practiced in evangelization. Rick Love concludes his discussion by saying, “Power encounter is not the only key to reaching the hearts of Folk Muslims, but it needs to be an essential factor to effectively evangelize Folk Muslims and plant the Church of Jesus Christ in their midst.”

Both of these positions challenge me to expand my Reformed perspective that miracles are not performed today and that the devil and his demons are inactive in our world today. I do not agree with everything both authors have to offer, but I can glean and grow from their understanding. I agree with much of Jabbour’s perspective because of his emphasis on Christ’s victory over the devil and the ultimate goal of the glory of God. I am reminded of Colossians 2:15, “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” Although Jesus has conquered Satan, we experience the “now and not yet” of this truth. Satan knows he will ultimately be conquered, but the effects of mankind’s fall have not yet been completely eradicated and will not be until Jesus returns again. Until then, the devil, “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” As Christians we are called to wage war against the devil and push back the kingdom of darkness. Paul urges the church at Ephesus to, Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” These positions have helped me see the deficiencies of my own tradition: that God is not able to work powerfully through his people, my tendency toward self-reliance rather than dependence on God to work in and through me, and that Satan is at work both in overt and subtle ways.


I have learned that the despite the Western tendency to think of the spiritual world as superstitious, non-existent, or irrelevant, the Bible says a lot about this realm and how we are to engage in this spiritual battle. It started in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. The serpent tempted Eve and after she and Adam fell, God cursed all of them. In Genesis 3:15 God curses the serpent saying, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring, he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Adam and Eve had disobeyed God and then tried to shift the blame off of themselves. They were not deserving of any favor from God and yet, even in his curse of the serpent, he gave a promise to Adam and Eve. God said there would be antagonism and animosity between the offspring of Even and the serpent, but despite being struck by the serpent, the seed of Eve would ultimately crush and destroy the serpent, the devil. Hebrews 2 deals with Jesus being the founder of salvation by bearing our death for us. Hebrews 2:14 continues by saying, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,” This verse shows us how Jesus became a human and experienced the same things we experience. He did all of this so that, in His death, He could destroy and conquer the devil. When Jesus came and died on the cross, it appeared as though Satan has won. But when Jesus was raised from the dead, he conquered sin, death, and the devil. This gives us hope in resisting the devil because we know that he is already defeated and that with Christ we are victorious. Also, because we are in Christ, he has given us the Holy Spirit who enables us  to resist sin and overcome Satan.


One thing we know for sure is that “though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” Paul gives us insight into what our armor and weapons are in Ephesians 6 when he charges us to, “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.” We engage in spiritual warfare with truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the word of God, and prayer. As Paul concludes the book and chapter 6 of Ephesians by exhorting the church the stand firm, but to do so not in their own strength, but the Lord’s. All of these weapons that Paul lists in the passage are God-centered and therefore require constant dependence upon God. The views held by Nabeel T. Jabbour and Rick Love demonstrate this dependence. Christians have applied these truths in different ways throughout church history, but what we all can learn is that the discussion and engagement in spiritual warfare is something that can only be engaged and overcome by the power of God.

The lack of knowledge and understanding Western missionaries have of the spiritual battles they are stepping into must be addressed. If it is not, they will not be able to adequately provide the answers the gospel gives to the questions of evil, pain, and suffering local people are asking. There are a variety of approaches that missionaries can and will use upon encountering these problems. The first is that they will write these encounters off as non-existent spirits and therefore not declare Jesus Christ as the one who is victorious and more powerful than the forces of darkness. As a result people will return to their former way of life to solve their problems. Another possible response is “Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare” which Scott Moreau defines as, “praying against territorial spirits, seeking to ‘map’ their strategies over given locations by discerning their names and what they use to keep people in bondage, and then binding them so that evangelism may go unhindered.” This response does not have much biblical support. It focuses on actively finding, mapping, and naming demons and engaging them through prayer and power encounter when there are no biblical examples of these activities for Christians to follow. Rather we are called to “stand firm” under the attacks of the evil one not seek out and engage. To do so is presumptuous of the power that demons possess. Craig Keener offers another response for a way to engage saying, “If by spiritual warfare we mean particular prayer practices such as “casting down” heavenly powers, we have little biblical warrant. If, however, we mean by spiritual warfare what the image means in the New Testament, missions and the Christian life are spiritual warfare. This spiritual battle includes but is not limited to prayer.” Keener is saying that power encounters are not the only form of spiritual warfare. Rather, he is saying spiritual warfare takes place in the everyday life of the believer as well as the extraordinary.

As much as Christians would like there to be a one-size-fits-all answer regarding what to believe about spiritual warfare, there is none. Despite this, we can see that spiritual warfare is real, and it’s important to consider all that the Bible says on the subject and to be prepared for the battle. Missionaries need to be aware of the culture they are entering and what that culture believes in regards to the spiritual realm. They should prayerfully evaluate their own positions regarding the topic and be teachable. The scripture plays a huge role as missionaries approach this topic of spiritual warfare. The Bible teaches us who God is and how we are to to live, as well as how how to engage the world in a gospel-driven way. This issue is one in which it’s easy to gain a lot of head knowledge, but that is more difficult to internalize. It requires the grace of God to teach and grow us as does all of our Christian life. May we be ever teachable in this area and in every area. 

Resources:

  1. Hiebert, Paul. Spiritual Warfare and Worldview. Web. Nov 13, 2015.
  2. Hiebert, Paul G. “The Flaw Of the Excluded Middle.” Missiology 10.1 (1982): 43.ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 4. 2015.
  3. Shin Park. 2011. “Hermeneutics and Spiritual Warfare” Didaskalia (Otlerburne, Man.(2011): 85-103. ATLA Religion Database with ATLA Serials. Web. 4 Nov 2015.
  4. Jenkins, Philip. The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity. 2002.New York: Oxford University Press.
  5. Pocock, Michael. The Changing Face of World Missions Chapter 7. (197) (Grand Rapids:Baker Academic, 2005)
  6. Jabbour, Nabeel T. The Unseen Reality: A panoramic View of Spiritual Warfare (20-59) (Singapore: Navpres, 1995)
  7. Jabbour, Nabeel T. The Unseen Reality: A panoramic View of Spiritual Warfare (33) (Singapore: Navpres, 1995)
  8. Jabbour, Nabeel T. The Unseen Reality: A panoramic View of Spiritual Warfare (40-41) (Singapore: Navpres, 1995)
  9. Jabbour, Nabeel T. The Unseen Reality: A panoramic View of Spiritual Warfare (67) (Singapore: Navpres, 1995)
  10. Love, Rick “Power Encounter Among Folk Muslims: An Essential Key of the Kingdom,” International Journal of Frontier Missions (193) (1996).
  11. Love, Rick “Power Encounter Among Folk Muslims: An Essential Key of the Kingdom,” International Journal of Frontier Missions (194) (1996).
  12. Love, Rick. Muslims, Magic and the Kingdom of God: Church Planting Among Folk Muslims. (113). (Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2000) Web. Dec. 03, 2015.
  13. Love, Rick “Power Encounter Among Folk Muslims: An Essential Key of the Kingdom,” International Journal of Frontier Missions (195) (1996).
  14. 1 Peter 5:8, ESV
  15. Ephesians 6:11, ESV
  16. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4, ESV
  17. Lawless, Chuck. Spiritual Warfare and Missions. (37) Web. Nov. 13, 2015.
  18. Keener, Craig. Paul’s Missionary Method. (107) Web. Dec. 06, 2015. Site: http://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/justintaylor/files/2013/02/Keener-chapter-from-Pauls-Missionary-Methods-2.pdf

 

“Remember the Sabbath day, to Keep it Holy.”

tc-fourA few weeks ago I was killing some time with my brothers before heading over to a friends church we often attend Sunday evenings when I got a text from my boss. He asked me if I was willing and able to come in and work for a couple of hours that day. I knew I didn’t have to and he certainly wouldn’t be upset if I didn’t; to be honest I love my job and wouldn’t have mind actually doing the work. We were already ready for church and out of the house, but I would still have been able to go to work if I was willing to. In that instance in just a small way I was tested and reaffirmed of my conviction that I cannot and should not work on the Lord’s Day.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor, and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the  Lord  your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.  For in six days the  Lord  made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the  Lord  blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” -Exodus 20:8-11

I think that the shorter catechism has defined and captured what my thoughts are on the Lord’s Day very well. Here are questions from the catechism that are relevant to this topic.

Shorter Catechism Questions 58, 60-62

Q. 58. What is required in the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment requireth the keeping holy to God such set times as he hath appointed in his word; expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy sabbath to himself.

Q. 60. How is the sabbath to be sanctified?
A. The sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy.

Q. 61. What is forbidden in the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment forbiddeth the omission or careless performance of the duties required, and the profaning the day by idleness, or doing that which is in itself sinful, or by unnecessary thoughts, words or works, about our worldly employments or recreations.

Q. 62. What are the reasons annexed to the fourth commandment?
A. The reasons annexed to the fourth commandment are, God’s allowing us six days of the week for our own employments, his challenging a special propriety in the seventh, his own example, and his blessing the sabbath day.

The strongest reasons why I don’t believe I should work on the Lord’s Day is because God has made the sabbath holy (set apart) and a day to worship him both publicly and privately.  I don’t believe I should be involved in my regular weekly duties -unless it is absolutely necessary and out of mercy- but be focused on the Lord.

When I told my Dad about my thoughts on this he said if I am going to believe something I need to always stand by my convictions. He shared a verse from Psalm 15 that he had read: “in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord; who swears to his own hurt and does not change;” That means if a person says that are going to do something (or has a conviction about something) they will stand by it, even if it means they suffer misfortune for their decision. This is one things that I had thought about and was convicted of in the past, but has become something that I have been really thinking about the last few weeks. I am convicted that I should not work on the Lord’s Day and that is something I will stand by (by God’s grace), as the verse says, to my own hurt. I hope this is an encouragement to you and gives you something to think about! Please share your thoughts on working on the Sundays or any questions you may have.

Bearing Christ’s Image

Romans 12:1-2

Romans 12:1-2

Hi everyone! I hope you had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! For my first post of this year I wanted to write about how we as Christians are to be image bearers of Christ. When people look at us and our lives they should in us a reflection of Christ and his characteristics in us. I’ll give you a very practical example of this.

A couple weeks ago two of my brothers and I went into a convenient store by ourselves. When we were paying the clerk asked us who our parents were. I told her and she said she knew them and that she asked because Andrew looked like my dad. Because of Andrew’s resemblance to my dad she knew whose family we were a part of. It should be the same way with Christ. People should see us and know we are a Christian because we bear the characteristic of our Savior.

I pray that this year we might be more conformed to the image of Christ so that those in this world might look at us and say, “They are a Christian. They bear the characteristics of Jesus Christ.”  I hope this is your desire for this year! I believe Romans 12:1-2 would be good for every Christian to meditate on daily.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” -Romans 12:1-2

Disappointment and The Presence of God

     I’ll admit, I was disappointed. I mean, my Christian life wasn’t supposed to be this way, was it? Here I was, sixteen years old and I had been a Christian for almost a year. I didn’t feel that I had much to show for it. Yeah, I had a (mostly) regular Bible study time, and I prayed whenever I thought about it. But there was little vitality to my personal relationship with Christ. What was I missing? If this was all there was, I was utterly disappointed.

Christian bookstores today are full of books with depressing titles such as “Where is God?” “When God feels distant,” and “Deserted by God?” Modern writers and evangelists spend an inordinate amount of time helping young Christians to cope with the disappointment, disillusionment, and depression that seem to go hand in hand with following Christ these days. Songs such as “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” are sung more often in churches today because people just can’t relate to the joyful choruses of the old hymns.

I thought I might have found the solution to my problems. God spoke to my heart through several scripture passages. It seems God is interested in an intimate relationship with us as well.

“But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.”(Deuteronomy 4:29)
“I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.” (Proverbs 8:17)
“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 19:13)
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

The answers lie in these passages. If we as His children desire His presence, His manifest mercies, His blessings on our lives, and true and lasting joy, this is how we receive them; if we search after Him with all our heart and soul, if we seek Him diligently, if we ask, seek, and knock. These passages are not just talking about salvation–they are promises for believers. If you desire more of God (and you should), this is how you get it.

“Alright,” I reasoned, “Now I know the solution to what has been plaguing me for months. I just have to seek Him.” So I tried to seek Him, without really knowing what “seeking” meant. I thought if I increased my prayer time and tried to behave more godly, that would do the trick. I knew I wanted more of God. My resolve would quickly fade within a week, and I would find myself frustrated and trying to live life on my own terms again. A few weeks later I would be sick of myself and my sin, and I would try and make new resolutions and promises. “THIS time,” I said, “I will search until I find Him.”

I had good intentions, but I was like an arrow fire in no particular direction. I would not hit the target because I wasn’t sure exactly what I was aiming for. God brought a particular message into my life about that time. I loved Paul Washer. I listened to him more than any other preacher or evangelist (and still do). I found his testimony on sermonaudio.com, A Liar and A Coward. I would encourage anyone to listen to it. The first half was very inspiring. It was about his own personal life in sin and then his conversion to Christ as a young man. But the second half of the message was about His journey in seeking the Lord, and it turned my life upside-down. Let me quote at length from his own words;

 

     “For some reason, a few years after my conversion, God began to work in me a prayer life that I have never been able to duplicate since. It started out an hour a day, then two, sometimes three hours a day…And I know this sounds almost crazy to you, but I decided I would either know God or die. Now I was a Christian. I knew God. I was born again. But there was this thing that I could know Him, and that His power could be a reality in my life. And I would go into my closet and say, “I’m not going to come out until God meets with me”–and I didn’t even know what that meant–“until God meets with me, or I die.” I feel asleep fifteen minutes later and my roommates came in about three hours later and found me asleep in the closet. They thought I had totally lost my mind. So I began to set an alarm clock. Every fifteen minutes…And so the alarm would go off, it would wake me up, and I would set it and start praying again. For months all I prayed was this; “Lord, it’s been 47 days now, and you still have not come. You said if I sought you, I would find you.” And then, “Lord, it’s been 93 days”. And all I would do is sit there and go, “I’m waiting. I am not leaving.” And I would just sit there.
     “Everybody went on…some kind of college retreat that spring. I’ll never forget that. And the Lord wanted me to go into the hill country, away in West Texas. I went out there for three, three and a half days, and if someone had seen me they would have called the authorities. I’m up on top of a hill. I had gotten to the point where I was throwing rocks as high as I can into the sky saying, “Did that hit the door? Did that hit the gate? Did you hear me? I’m still here! Where are you? Where is the Lord God of Elijah?”
     “I went back to school. And one night, I was crying out to God. I didn’t know anything about prayer. I had still been a christian for only about a year or so. Crying out to God, “I’m still here.” I waited there three hours just saying, “Still here. Here I am. Still here.” And all of the sudden I just cried out, “Father, please.”
     “Now, some of you are going to disagree with me. I don’t care. But at that moment, God came into that place in such a way that I was thrown down to the ground. And I don’t know how many hours I laid there in a fetal position, covering my head with my arms, thinking that I had somehow either blasphemed or He was sick and tired of what I was doing. I was so afraid, I laid there and I couldn’t control my body. I was convinced that there were firetrucks and police and everything outside of my apartment complex because there was probably some fire coming down from heaven. And after I don’t know how many hours, I was filled with such joy. And my mouth shot open, and it was like a book of psalms shot out of my mouth…And everything changed from that day…I can tell you honestly that the presence of God is more real to me right now than the presence of all of you put together…God is a supernatural God.”

Another woman I knew of had also experienced the presence of God. She had been a young believer as well, fed up with the compromise in her Christian life. She began to seek God earnestly, giving up anything and everything that distracted her from that goal. God was merciful to her as well, and she found Him. In her own words, “We serve a God who, when His people seek Him, He lets them find Him.”

Neither of these believers are charismatic or miracle-seekers. They are both solid, Reformed Christians, well grounded in the Word. What they experienced was in no way a “second work of grace” or “baptism of the holy spirit” or anything like that. I want what they have. We were made for God. We will never be happy anywhere else but in His presence. When Christ died, the curtain in the temple separating the throne of God from the people was torn in two. We will never be more joyful than when we are doing exactly what we were designed to do–glorifying Him. And, as John Piper’s most famous quote goes, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

I challenge you to begin seeking the Lord today. Seek Him with the desire to know Him even more fully than you do now. When you lose yourself in Him, everything else will fall into place. Don’t just read books, don’t just listen to sermons, don’t just talk to people who knew somebody who knew somebody who knew somebody who knew God. Really experience Him for yourself. Read the words God has written about Himself. Commune with the God who created you. And in everything, desire to know more of Him. It’s what you will spend all of eternity doing, my dear brother or sister in the Lord.

In Christ,
Elizabeth

No Matter Who is President, Jesus is King

I just heard the announcement this evening that President Obama was re-elected for a second term as President of the United States. When I first heard the news, like many others I was disappointed – an understatement, I know. Then my thoughts were turned back to God and how He works everything according to His will, the good of His people, and how He is in absolute control of what is going on. I am afraid that many Christians will be of the mindset that because our chosen presidential candidate did not win, all hope is lost. But what is that really saying? It is saying that a man, who happens to have won a presidential race, is bigger and more powerful than God, and therefore we will place our hope in an office and not in God.

Does anyone see what is wrong here? Our hope should be in nothing but in God alone! Apart from God we have no hope of anything! We cannot expect change to come to this nation through the election of a man, no matter which candidate. The only way our nation can truly change is through Christ. Only Christ can change men’s hearts and lives.

A post I saw on Facebook sums up what I am saying quite well:

“While I obviously don’t agree with the presidential outcome, Christians need to remember this: voting a moral man in as President will do nothing for this country. Only Christ can change the hearts of wicked men; and don’t be mistaken our country is defiantly wicked. How much more should we evangelize the lost around us. Is Christ not more capable of changing this country than a man behind a desk? I know I’m guilty of this, but how many people could we have reached with the gospel if we shared it as much as our political posts…the only “hope for change” this country has is Christ and Christ alone.”

In the following days remember that Christ is our only hope, and God holds the hearts of kings in his hands and turns them as He wills. (Prov. 21:1) Also consider Psalm 118:8-9, “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.” I hope this is an encouragement to you.

“All Things Work Together for Good…”

Romans 8:28

Christian, does it ever seem that things going on in your life aren’t going on for your good? The Bible says in Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” But how can that be? How can things like the death of a close family member, losing one’s job, or developing a serious illness be for the good of the Christian? Many Christians today have the wrong definition of good. When Paul in Romans 8 talked about “good,” he was not talking about our comfort, health, or wealth. For the believer good means to be made like Christ and in the process accomplish the plans God has for us as well as for others. So when the Christian loses a close family member God often uses that situation to teach the believer certain truths, to refine him, or to draw him closer to Himself. The apostle Paul was no stranger to hardship and endured stoning, imprisonment, and rejection which would not seem to be for his good, but they were. Paul was imprisoned in Philipi and that is where the Philippian jailer was converted. In prison Paul was also able to write to the churches that he was not able to visit as well as spend more time in prayer for them. God used Paul while he was in prison and Paul knew God had a purpose for him there. From prison Paul was instrumental in the Gospel going throughout the world. So when you are in a trial wondering how it could possibly be for your good, remember God uses it to accomplish his will and to make you more like Christ.

The Power of Communication – A Call for Bold Christians

image

Speak Out!

Hey everyone! Well, as expected after returning home from Summit there are so many topics that I could and want to write about. Things that I learned at Summit or things I have become aware of since coming home. I hope to write them all eventually but will deal with just one today! In this post, I want to talk about the power of communication.

Have you ever wondered why it is that those who are the minorities in the United States such as atheists or supporters of homosexuality are able to get their agendas passed and completed? Have you ever wondered why the Christian values that you believe in that used to be promoted in our culture are disappearing and are often looked down on? I believe the reason for this is that Christians are not standing up and speaking out for what they believe in and are not proclaiming the truth of the scripture. While at the same time these other groups who represent a small portion of Americans loudly proclaim what they stand for -whether it be for pro-choice, for the legalization of marriage of a couple of the same sex or whatever it be- and cause change toward their goals because they are the only ones heard and they are heard loud and clear. What we need to do as Christians is to be bold and have courage to stand up for what we believe in. Our boldness as Christians to proclaim what is right and true does not come from the facts that we have a right to say what we think in this country or we are passionate about what we are sharing. Our boldness comes from the fact that when we speak up with the truth claims of God we know we have a God who is sovereign and who uses His truth to change the hearts on men. Those who would make claims apart from what God has said in His word do not have the power of God behind them.

Some might say, “It won’t matter if I speak out anyway. It won’t make any difference!” If standing up for and speaking out for what you believe in does not have any affect then why is it that speech has ever been restricted in any nation? Why was free speech censored under the Nazi Germany? I saw one website that answered the question like this, “The aim of censorship under the Nazi regime was simple: to reinforce Nazi power and to suppress opposing  viewpoints and information.” If the people have no power to speak out against something they have no power to prevent or change it.  If we do not speak out against evil when we are permitted to we are not better than those who did not speak because they were forbidden to.

I want to encourage you, that as we where we have the right to free speech to exercise that right. I am getting tired of hearing Christians today bemoaning the state of our country but do nothing to change it! They sit at home and watch the news and just hope Jesus comes back soon. Stand up against the evils in our nation and tell people the truth of the gospel. Our desire in confronting evil is not for political or that through speaking the gospel people would come to know Jesus Christ as their savior for “the gospel is the power of God unto Salvation.” (Romans 1:16) As we proclaim the truth of God’s Word we do so in love desiring to see souls saved. Christian, realize that being a child of God He will strengthen you and be with you. Speak boldly, speak the truth, and speak it in love.

A few related verses are:

  • “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” -Deuteronomy 31:6
  • “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,” -Psalm 46:1-2
  • “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” -Psalm 27:1
  • “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish. You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all. For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.'” -Isaiah 41:10-13
  • “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” -Ephesians 6:10

My Experience at Summit’s Worldview Camp

Summit Graduation 2012

Hey everyone! I wanted to take some time today to share with you about Summit Ministries Worldview camp that I attended for two weeks. My time at Summit was probably the most important two weeks of my life. It was a great blessing to me and I hope as I share some of the things I learned It is a blessing to you as well!

I got home a week from Saturday (July 28th) from spending two weeks with 280 other students at Summit at Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee. At Summit I spent a total of 55 hours in lectures and open forums (Q&A with the speakers.) That is not even counting the hour of small group time I had every night.

For those of you who are not familiar with Summit according to their website Summit is “a Student Worldview Conference that is an intensive two week retreat designed to teach students how to analyze the various ideas that are currently competing for their hearts and minds.” Summit has been around for 50 years and today is viewed as one of the largest leaders in training and and equipping Christians in the areas of apologetics, worldview analysis, and social engagement. Summit has ten two-week conferences every year at various locations around the country. Their  locations include: Bryan College in Dayton Tennessee, Cedarville University in Cedarville Ohio, Liberty University in Lynchburg Virginia as well as at their headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Over 2,000 students graduate from Summit every year.    ___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Me Sharing about Summit with my Church

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

At Summit we had a total of 21 speakers, all of whom were fantastic! Some of the speakers that you may recognize include: John Stonestreet, Sean McDowell, Dr. Del Tackett, Scott Klusendorf, Dr. Jeff Myers, Dr. Ken Turner and Alex McFarland to name a few. At Summit it is hard to pick a favorite speaker because they are all so good! Most people at camp could choose their top three or top five but not a single person. My top five would probably be:

  • John Stonestreet- Is a speaker, writer, cultural commentator and collaborator on worldview initiatives. Mr. Stonestreet is also the host of The Point, a daily national radio program.  He has also worked with Summit ministries a the Chuck Colson Center for years.
  • Scott Klusendorf- Is the president of Life Training Institute and travels the United States and Canada training pro-life advocates to defend their views. He has also author of Pro-Life 101 and The Case for Life.
  • Dr. Ken Turner- Is the Professor of Bible at Bryan College
  • Dr. Del Tackett- Is the teacher of the Truth Project, he has recently wrote and co-hosted the television series Cross Examine which presents biblical worldview teaching through the use of real-life stories and is the executive Vice President of Focus on the Family.
  • Dr. Jeff Myers-Is the President of Summit Ministries. He has appeared on Fox News and other media programs. Dr. Myers has been described as being a fresh voice offering humor and insight from a Christian worldview.

There were numerous things that I learned at Summit that I could share with you but there were three main things that I thought I would share with you.

John Stonestreet and Me

One of the things that I learned at Summit that really stuck out to me was in our very first session with John Stonestreet. In his first session Mr. Stonestreet made the statement that, “No information is neutral; information has ideas” and also, “Every cultural expression communicates worldview ideas.” This was a big things because as he pointed out, everyone has a worldview, whether they know it or not, and we need to be careful to evaluate the worldviews (information and ideas) we are taking in because if we don”t we will accept whatever worldviews are communicated to us through things like movies, tv shows, books, music, etc.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Scott Klusendorf

The second thing that really stood out to me were in Scott Klusendorf’s sessions on pro-life. He did not present the defence of the life of the unborn child by trying to prove abortion is wrong from the Bible because a non-christian would have no reason to listen anyway. Instead he rests his case on two points: What is the unborn? and What makes humans valuable? Is or is not the unborn human? He argues that if the unborn are not human than we can abort it and it is no different than pulling a tooth, but if it is the unborn is human we can not. He went on later to give us three questions to help in a discussion with someone about abortion. They are: 1. What did you mean by that? 2. How did you come to that conclusion? 3. Have you considered the implications of your view? Mr. Klusendorf told us that there were three purposes with these questions: 1. To gather information so you can accurately understand your critic’s view. 2.To reverse the burden of prof to the other person. 3. To show your critic must pay to high a price to hold his view. Mr. Klusendorf’s sessions were extremely helpful and practical in understanding and defending the pro-life position.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Me and Dr. Ken Turner

The final thing I want to share with you was a big theme throughout many of our sessions and it was the idea of the metanarrative, the big picture of the Bible. Also, along those lines was knowing how we should read the Bible. Dr. Ken Turner dealt with these topics in multiple sessions. Dr. Turner dealt with understanding the metanarratice of the Bible being the: Creation, Fall, and Redemption and how we are to see this big picture throughout the Bible. He also dealt with how to read the Bible. Dr. Turner’s points on how to read the Bible were:

  • That the Bible was meant to be read in large portions at a time.
  • To be committed to the authorial intent (authors  original intent)
  • To understand the historical contest of a passage (details, occasion/purpose)
  • The literary context (structure, genre)
  • The theological context
  • Read the parts in light of the whole.

My time at Summit was probably the most important two weeks of my life. It helped me to better understand the beliefs and worldviews I will be and am being faced with. It helped me to understand how to engage with someone who has different beliefs than I do on multiple topics as well as having met some awesome people who I hope to know for the rest of my life. There have already been a few times where I have heard something after getting home and been like, yep we talked about that at Summit and discussed what the ideas and worldview behind that are. If you are able to go to Summit let me encourage you to do it. I think It would amazing if every young adult could go to Summit because I think it is so important that they understand what they will face in the world and are prepared to engage the world for Christ.

If you have any questions about Summit or anything I have mentioned above comment below or send me a message from my contact page! I hope this was an encouragement to you!

 

Five Missionaries Speared To Death In Jungle

Many people thought it was a tragic waste of a life when Jim Elliot and the other four missionaries died trying to contact the unreached Aucas.

Yet, how many Christians would risk their life for an opportunity to share the gospel? Jim Elliot, a young modern martyr, gave what he could not keep and gained what he could not lose.  A ‘missions’ statistic that profoundly challenged Jim was, “There is one Christian worker for every 50,000 people in foreign lands, while there is one to every 500 in the United States.” Early in 1952, Jim Elliot sailed for Ecuador. The plan was to locate in an old oil station that was abandoned because it was considered too dangerous for oil personnel. It was close to the Auca tribe and had a small airstrip. In February 1953, Jim and Elisabeth met in Quito and then on October 8, 1953 they were married. Their daughter, Valerie, was born two years later. Jim and Elisabeth worked together in translating the New Testament into the Quechua Indian language at the new mission station. The Aucas were a violent and murderous tribe and had never had any contact with the outside world. Jim wanted to bring the gospel there so he started a plan which was called Operation Auca. Besides him and his wife, his team consisted of five more missionary couples.

‘NOT A LONG LIFE, BUT A FULL ONE’

The men discovered the first Auca huts with the help of a missionary jungle pilot, Nate Saint. The first attempt to contact them was by airplane. They would fly around the camp shouting friendship words in the Auca language through a loud speaker and dropping down gifts in a basket. Encouraged by this progress, after three to four months of gift dropping, they decided to make a base on the Curray River, ‘Palm Beach’. After they had set up shelter they eventually made contact with the Aucas. After a little persuasion, they were able to convince some to come into their camp. Encouraged by this visit, the men felt that it was time to go in and try to minister to them.

One morning, after numerous songs of praise and considerable prayer, the men radioed their wives saying that they were going to go into the village and would radio them again later. ‘Operation Auca’ was under way. The next day, a group of twenty or thirty Aucas went to Palm Beach. “Guys, the Aucas are coming!” As soon as the others heard that, they flew into action straightening up their camp. Little did these five men know that this would be their last few hours of life. The last radio contact they made was Jim calling his wife saying, “We’ll call you back in three hours.” Jim Elliot’s body was found down stream with three others. Their bodies had been brutally pierced with spears and hacked by machetes.

After Jim’s death, Elisabeth, her daughter and another of the missionaries sister, Rachel, moved to work with the Auca Indians. The love of Christ shown through their forgiveness allowed them to have amazing success with the once murderous Indians. Jim’s life was not a waste, in fact, God used his death to bring life through salvation to many Aucas and encouragement and inspiration to thousands of believers worldwide.

(This article came from this website: http://www.historymakers.info/inspirational-christians/jim-elliot.html but I can not vouch for anything else on the website.)

The Missionary Call Book Review

The Missionary Call by M. David Sills

M. David Sills in his book The Missionary Call does an excellent job of helping Christians to, as he says, “discern their place in God’s plan for the world.” Dr. Sills’s book brings insight to many of the questions and struggles Christians today have about world missions. The things that made this book so enjoyable to read were its readability, its logical flow and its practicality.The author’s mission in writing The Missionary Call is to help the reader better understand the place God has called him to in regards to missions.

The first thing that stands out about Dr. Sills’s book is its readability. While he has his Ph.D and is a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Sills’s book is not highly technical or academic. Joe Martin said of The Missionary Call, “Can a book be brief and thorough? Clear and Scholarly? Simple and profound? Practical and heartwarming? This one is. It will be a great help to many.” When Dr. Sills deals with topics such as understanding God’s will or defining the missionary call, he does so without adding unnecessary commentary or information that would otherwise clutter his thoughts. This is an important aspect that I appreciated about The Missionary Call.

The second thing that I noticed about The Missionary Call was the flow of the book. Dr. Sills has done a terrific job of ordering the book in a logical fashion. He separates the book into three sections: (1) What is the Missionary Call, (2) Understanding Your Missionary Call and (3) Fulfilling the Missionary Call. In the first section Dr. Sills deals with defining the missionary call and how to know God’s will. The second section builds on the first by helping a person understand his specific missionary call. Finally, in the third section he deals with the mission field, hindrances and challenges of the field and answering the missionary call. Dr. Sills wrote the book in such a way that each section builds on the section before it giving it a clear, logical flow.

The final thing that stood out to me in the book was its practicality. Dr. Sills’s book provides the reader practical help and information in regards to missions. This includes things such as: how to prepare for missions, hindrances to getting to the field, challenges on the mission field and many others examples.  And he does not make these topics difficult but highly accessible for the readers of all ages. The Missionary Call will help readers discern God’s will for their lives regarding serving the Lord in full time missions.

The Missionary Call is one of the best books I’ve read on the topic of world missions. I would recommend Dr. Sills book to anyone who has a heart for missions, desires to be a missionary or just wants to learn more about “God’s plan for the world.” Dr. Sills’s book is a great help in understanding what part you play and where God has called you in His plan for this world.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Book Description:
Christians of all ages recognize the heartbeat of God to take the Gospel to the nations and wrestle with the implications of the Great Commission in their own lives. The Missionary Call explores the biblical, historical, and practical aspects of discerning and fulfilling God’s call to serve as a missionary. Pointing the reader to Scripture, lessons from missionary heroes, and his own practical and academic experience, Dr. Sills guides the reader to discern the personal applications of the missionary call.

About the Author:
 M. David Sills (D.Miss. and Ph.D., Reformed Theological Seminary) is associate professor of Christian Missions and Cultural Anthropology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He joined Southern Seminary after serving as a missionary in Ecuador. While with the International Mission Board, he served as church planter and general evangelist among the Highland Quichua people in the Andes and as a seminary professor at the Ecuadorian Baptist Theological Seminary. David and his wife, Mary, have two grown children.