Some of you read the title and began to weep. You remember when your son was seven, or when your daughter was ten and you had such high hopes for them. You love the Lord and want to serve Him–and that’s what you wanted for him/her too.
But somewhere it all went south. Maybe it was in his late teens, maybe in her early to mid-twenties, but despite all that you’d done right as a parent, promises you’d heard from teachers saying X + Y always = Z, were broken.
The son of pastor and prolific author John Piper was on the run from Christ and his family for four years. I can only imagine the groan of grief that must have coursed through John’s heart when he joined his elders in excommunicating Abraham.
You collide with the gospel everywhere: your church, maybe your parents/family, your friends–even internet podcasts. Is it even possible in this age of hi-tech communications that there are still billions who have never bumped into the gospel. Ever. Nor will they. They don’t know any Christians, none live near them and no Christian knows their language. Who will love the Jat people, the Hui, the Pashtun, the Ansaris, or the Kap people enough that they will sell all, sell out, and set out to live among them so that these frontier peoples can learn that Jesus died for their sins too?
May 19, 2019 will be Keystone’s mission conference, “To Congo, with Love”. And on May 12 I will speak on being “On Mission for the Whole World”. Every day the number of people who don’t live near any churches or have any Christian friends–who have never heard the gospel, grows. A few years ago, it was 2.8 billion. Now it’s 3.15 billion. Praise be to God for indigenous missionaries evangelizing their own, but the need and God’s call for the West to serve the unreached, has not been cancelled. What if God called you?
Maybe you so idealize missionaries that you think sainthood-or near sainthood, is required. Mission biographers can contribute to this nonsense by portraying their subjects with an angelic glow. The stories of some past missionaries have been so polished that no one can measure up. That’s why Kathryn Long may have done the world a service by publishing “God in the Rainforest: A Tale of Martyrdom and Redemption in Amazonian Ecuador”. I think very highly of Elizabeth Elliot but as reviewer Madeline Arthington shows, she was just a regular woman that–thanks to God’s grace, was greatly used in spite of her very human flaws. https://www.imb.org/2019/04/22/after-jim-elliot-good-bad-ugly/
Not only is the teaching of the Prosperity Gospel widespread (it has conquered so much of Africa and Latin America that in some places it is the only version of Christianity known), it traffics in half-truths and outright lies. Sufferers endure the worst. Initially some see hope in PG claims but in short order, are devastated by unfulfilled promises that heap unfounded blame and guilt onto the shoulders of those already at the end of their ropes.
Tragically, elements of the immensely marketable but sometimes sinister teachings of people like Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen and Fred Price, have slipped unnoticed into the thinking of many Christians. While nearly all Christians believe God can and still does do miracles, PG advocates say He’s promised to. Always. If only you have enough faith. Or do quality praying. Or have a large number of people praying. Or obey perfectly. Or…
At the age of 38, Duke Divinity School professor Kate Bowler has stage 4 colon cancer, a battle she’s waged for several years. The author of Blessed, a well-researched 2013 book on the Prosperity Gospel, she made this observation in 2016. The “Prosperity gospel is a reflection of American avoidance of our finitude. Their denial of the inevitability of death taught me something about American confidence. Americans want to be in control. Self-determination is a theological good. It’s really hard when it comes to the fragility of the end.”
Looking back now I wonder what I was thinking when I quit my job and began a journey through higher education that would take 7 years. Especially since we were young parents of not one, but two–soon to be three children. When we struggled to pay the bills on my part time salary, we kept eating because Betty did childcare in our home and held down other part time jobs. It’s not what either of us preferred but we made it work; she’d go to her job and I’d take care of the children. Then she would watch them if I was at my job or in class.
Back then there was tension between working moms and stay-at-home moms, with some of the SAH moms accusing the rest of neglecting their children. With some indignation the rest fired back that since they could (thanks to ability and/or education) they were going to do more than simply be a mother.
I don’t observe the same crossed arms today but I do think it’s impossible to overstate or too often repeat the high calling of being your children’s mom. I hope you’ll find this encouraging: https://jdgreear.com/blog/everyday-faith-3/
Or are you stunned, terrified, anxious, worried, ticked off…?
You think as a Christian you’ll have an advocate in the WH…?
Or wonder how you’ll be able to make clear that the faith you have isn’t the sort that he claims to have?
(I wrote much of this post immediately after Donald Trump was declared the winner in 2016, but never published it. Now that we’re halfway through his term maybe it can be of benefit since I still hear a lot of conflicting voices about the election–and the Trump presidency, from followers of Jesus.)
The 2016 election was the first one in which I saw evangelical Christians (ones who believe the Bible’s true because it’s God’s voice, and that people are forgiven of sin only through trusting Christ) so divided over who to vote for. Although the faith vote usually leans one way, that wasn’t the case in 2016. Believers’ fervor went both directions with multiple reasons why Trump or Hillary was the only choice for a Christian. Initially, evangelical lion Wayne Grudem publicly vouched for Trump with a detailed justification, then withdrew his support in the wake of the Access Hollywood video. Early on several Gospel Coalition stalwarts urged evangelicals to vote Hillary, but supporters of each candidate admitted the race pitted “two flawed candidates” against each other.
Here we are 2 years later with a national sentiment still very divided about the original vote–and the current administration. Especially with Trump having appointed 2 originalists to the high court, some Trump supporters feel vindicated and remain convinced being a man who doesn’t care what people think is the best kind of person to be president. Meanwhile, while his political opponents despise him they look back on 2 years of bizarre tweets and White House dysfunction and salivate at the easy win they think lies ahead in 2020. They dismiss Trump’s 60 million voters as uneducated buffoons who will likely be unable to tilt the table his way in 2 years. If they can just hold out for that time they’re confident they can then consign his throwback immigration, anti-choice, and transgender policies to the trashheap of history where they belong.
When I originally penned this post we could have had the discussion around what all of this means for Christians who will be voting, but now it’s time to have it around what it means for Christians to be thinking, feeling, and living. Trump may be president for 2 more years–or 6, but whether you see that as good or bad, Yahweh of Israel is going to be God forever. Bible people know that in his management of the world’s kingdoms, God “…gives them to anyone he chooses.” (Daniel 4:17, 25, 32) He chose Donald Trump. And Barack Obama. And George Bush. And Bill Clinton. “Why?” is not our concern. He did. And if you believe the same One who is the Election-Decider is your Savior, it should bring comfort. Your emotions should not depend on how things go, but on Who controls how things go. What He’s doing with Mr. Trump may turn out to be a blessing to our nation, or a judgment upon it. We do not find hope in the arms of our elected officials, but in the arms of the One who rescued us from judgment through Jesus.
These are days to read the Word more than the world’s newspapers-or newsfeeds; to pray for our nation’s leaders more than to expect them to do what we want; to pray more for the moral fiber of the church than the moral fiber of the land (for, what good can we be to the land if we are broken ourselves?).
The signing date wasn’t accidental. Governor Cuomo made it law on the very day that the Supreme Court decided 46 years ago that abortion was an American right. Something owed every citizen like free speech, the right to vote, to be regarded innocent until proven guilty. In the Empire State if a pregnant woman’s life is in danger from her pregnancy, she can now legally end her baby’s life at any time during pregnancy–including right up to full term rather than the previous limit of 24 weeks.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Steward-Cousins crowed, “We’re saying here in New York, women’s lives matter. We’re saying here in New York, women’s decisions matter.” Attorney Sarah Weddington who successfully argued Roe V. Wade before the Supreme Court was on hand to gush to gathered assembly, “Thank you for what you’ve done for women.”
But what have you done TO children?! Women’s lives and decisions matter but helpless children’s don’t? Let’s not pretend that the only mom who will abort is the one who’s at death’s door. On Tuesday the chances of making it out alive for each child growing in a New York womb became less likely. Little one, although you did not request your beginning I must warn you that there’s a chance you’ll be exterminated if your mother–or father finds you’re a threat to their relationship, or an interruption to education or job or travel, an inconvenience, an unaffordable expense, or some other less-than-mortal reason. Don’t count on making it out alive.
Governor Cuomo sees himself an innovator, a visionary blazing a path for other states to follow. After signing the legislation he ordered state landmarks like One World Trade Center to be lit up in pink to–and I quote, “Shine a bright light forward for the rest of the nation to follow.” Satire specialists at the Babylon Bee issued an article on this travesty with the title, “Demon Lord Clearly Visible In New York Senate Chamber Applauding Legalization Of Abortion Until Moment Of Birth.” In the article was a photoshopped pic of a spirit being in the balcony. Or was it photoshopped? Maybe it’s impossible to photograph demons but make no mistake about it: ONE WAS IN THE ASSEMBLY CHAMBERS. Or hundreds.
In your conversations, show others the grace you’ve been shown in Christ. Chances are that of the four women you meet, one will have had an abortion so shaming and blaming is not the way to persuade minds. And the only thing that screaming at others does is drown out–for the moment–the sins we’re guilty of. They’re sinners, we’re sinners. We should get along well.
On Sunday I made a comment about paper Bibles vs. digital ones. This morning I received a tongue-in-cheek ribbing about that which stirred me to articulate some reasons I want to encourage paper Bible use on Sunday and other times, that goes way beyond a longing for the good old days. This blog by S.D. is far better than anything I could write so I am reblogging it for your benefit.
I have been alternating between a paper Bible and a digital one for several years. There have been things that I appreciated about digital copies and things that I appreciated about paper copies. However, recently I began to really think through this issue of whether I wanted to use a digital copy or a paper copy. It started as just a small mental exercise that soon developed into a philosophy that I have adopted in my own daily Bible use. It seemed to me that the arguments were strong enough to merit deep consideration. Thus I decided to post it in order to encourage such cogitation and reflection.
1. Easy access/relationship with God
There is something to be said for the ease of access that we have to the Word of God in a digital format. It is wonderful to be able to have the glorious riches of the Word of God…
Despite the Supreme Court recently deciding in favor of the Colorado baker, religious freedom in the US seems to be increasingly fragile. Glance to the north; Canada is often a bellwether of what could come .
Sprawling across 157 acres of British Columbia, is a liberal arts university connected with the Evangelical Free Church of Canada. By secular officials’ own estimation, Trinity Western University stands as one of Canada’s premier educational institutions, home to 4000 students. Despite being the largest privately funded liberal arts school in all of Canada, it is now officially forbidden to train lawyers. Canada’s Supreme Court just decided 7-2 that because the school covenant prohibits students from engaging in sexual relations outside of a 1-man, 1-woman marriage, TWU is not allowed to start a law school.
Yesterday as we discussed a growing exit by some evangelical leaders from the historic Christian conviction about homosexual behavior, I suggested “It’s a Bible problem, not a homosexual problem.” In other words, the problem behind the problem is that some have a diminishing confidence that all of the Bible is God’s revelation–or that such ancient words are meant for these times. We’re also watching the effect of such uncertainty in declining beliefs about other biblical teaching such as an eternal judgment and the faith in Christ alone as the unique way God has designed for people to be reconciled to Him.
Parents, start them young if you want your children to grow up as Jesus followers who understand the gospel, and believe the Bible. Here’s a great advice piece on bringing the whole Bible to life for your children–including the Old Testament!
She said, “Maybe someone could come and do a pastor’s conference”. On the annual evaluation a year ago I asked a missionary who works with tiny churches in Nevada and California, how we might be able to help her. A conference was her answer. I twisted Pastor Charlie’s arm and next thing we landed in Las Vegas. Nevada is an arguably foreign land made up of desert, mining claims, rugged individuals (most of whom are armed says Sheriff Duane), tiny churches, and endless opportunities for ministry in communities plagued by broken homes, drug abuse, and teen pregnancies.
Larisa picked us up at the airport and headed north to Beatty. We skated across more than a hundred miles of desolate landscape–barely inhabited, but more stunning than bleak. As night fell, I wondered what happens when your car breaks down out here? That night and the next morning, we met with local church leaders to listen to them, pray for, and encourage them. One pastor’s wife
said, “You came from Pennsylvania just to pray for us!” Over the next few days, that would be our itinerary: travel one or two hundred miles, meet with a pastor or other church leader–or maybe help with a kids’ club, then move on.
The scenery was breathtaking. Combine the desert vistas and the mountains that bracketed them, with drifting tumbleweeds, burros braying in the streets, wild mustangs silhouetted against the horizon, and honest-to-goodness mining claims, it checked off almost every one of my wild west stereotypes. Then there was the day we lunched in Death Valley, when coyotes walked within 8′ looking for handouts at about the same time an F-18 streaked overhead. Not a typical lunch.
Barren desert separates towns by a hundred miles or more. Not only is the nearest Wal-Mart a couple of hours’ drive, but medical care may be a flight away with transport costing tens of thousands of dollars. The town of Tonopah recently lost its paid ambulance service–after the only local doctor fleeced the town and fled with the clinic’s money. This town of 2500 now has no doctor, no clinic, and although there is still an ambulance, it depends on volunteers who have other full-time jobs.
In Larisa’s field most pastors also have fulltime jobs outside of the church because churches are too small to pay their salaries. So Larisa helps local churches impact their communities–essentially as an unpaid staff person, by reaching out to area children and teens. She travels hundreds of miles across two states every week to lead kids’ Bible clubs or youth groups. Over Christmas she organizes countless Birthday parties for Jesus. In the summer, she does 7 weeks of VBS, running 5 different sites each day. Then, there’s a week of youth camp.
The pastors we resourced on Friday drove 100-300 miles from their tiny churches where 10-35 people may gather to worship on a Sunday–the largest, 75. They seemed a bit wary, unsure if they could trust these two dudes from the east. We taught on preparing sermons, leading a church with an elder team, and finding your identity in Christ, and gave each man 3 books.
Saturday was the men’s conference where Charlie taught more on identity (surprise, surprise :)), and I taught on meeting alone with God. The pastors from the day before had also returned, and it seemed by now that they did trust us. It was confirmed later when we learned they asked Larisa if we could return next year.
Can you guess what “The Shady Lady” or “Angel’s Ladies” are? Brothels are legal in Nevada but the ones we saw were eyesores. I thought where such an enterprise was endorsed and regulated, that the premises would look elegant and inviting. Not so. And maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that Satan’s lame attempts to in some way imitate God’s good gift, not only falls short–but looks bad doing so. Larisa told us a tragic story of what life is like for girls at these places.
On Sunday we traveled 120 miles from Larisa’s home in Big Pine, CA to a silver mining town in Nevada where Keith to preached. After lunch with Pastor Jim and several others from the church, we headed south for Las Vegas. Tomorrow we’d go home.
On Monday morning before our flight Larisa drove us down the Vegas strip where we saw the Mandalay Bay hotel where sniper Stephen Paddock holed up to gun down over 600 people at a concert in October. Interestingly enough, in the aftermath Las Vegas leaders quietly decided that for now they’re going to shelve the 14 year-old Vegas marketing catch phrase (What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas). Such libertine sentiments don’t seem compatible with a chilling event that either ended or dra
stically altered the lives of so many.
Nevada is a magnet to people looking for wide-open spaces, and for play that’s forbidden elsewhere (gambling and prostitution). But it’s also just “home” to a lot of ordinary people who are sinners like us and need Jesus like we do. And where someone like Larisa Craig and her collection of little churches are ministering in hard places. I was humbled by her and people like Pastor Jim (no, another Jim!) who is probably going to sell his home in Tahoe so he and his wife can keep ministering in their remote community despite maybe only seeing $20 in the offering next Sunday.
Small towns, small churches, but big people taking on big challenges. I love them, their faithfulness, their faith. I did not come back quite the same. Thank you Larisa.