Monthly Archives: September 2011

 

Sep

30

2011

Trevin Wax|10:48 am CT

Youcef Nadarkhani's Letter to His Church

UPDATE – 10/5/2011: The International Business Times reports that Youcef is safe from execution, for now:

It appears that Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani will avoid the hangman in Iran for the time being. Nadarkhani, once the leader of a 400-person congregation in Rasht, was previously convicted of apostasy — the crime of abandoning Islam and converting to Christianity — but Iran now claims that the death penalty reports that circulated around the world last week were unsubstantiated.

“Youssef Nadar-Khani [sic] has been charged with a crime and is in a prison based on an arrest warrant issued against him,” Gilan Province Judiciary Chief Mohammad-Javad Heshmati said on Wednesday, according to Iran state news agency Press TV. ”There has been no execution order. No conviction at all has been issued yet and it is up to the court to finally decide the verdict after studying his case,” he added. Read more…

Here’s a letter from Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani who currently faces the death sentence for apostasy. Please continue to pray.

(This message has been translated from Farsi to English.)

Dear brothers and sisters, Salam

In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I am continuously seeking grace and mercy to you, that you remember me and those who are bearing efforts for his name in your prayers. Your loyalty to God is the cause of my strength and encouragement.

For I know well that you will be rewarded; as it’s stated: blessed is the one who has faith, for what has been said to him by God, will be carried out. As we believe, heaven and earth will fade but his word will still remain.

Dear beloved ones, I would like to take this opportunity to remind you of a few verses, although you might know them, So that in everything, you give more effort than the past, both to prove your election, and for the sake of Gospel that is to be preached to the entire world as well.

I know that not all of us are granted to keep this word, but to those who are granted this power and this revelation, I announce the same as Jude, earnestly contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints.

We are passing by special and sensitive days.They are days that for an alert and awake believer can be days of spiritual growth and progress. Because for him, more than any other time there is the possibility to compare his faith with the word of God, have God’s promises in mind, and survey his faith.

Therefore he (the true believer) does not need to wonder for the fiery trial that has been set on for him as though it were something unusual, but it pleases him to participate in Christ’s suffering. Because the believer knows he will rejoice in his glory.

Dears, the ” judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?”

Therefore those who are enduring burdens by the will of God, commit their souls to the faithful Creator. Promises that he has given us, are unique and precious. As we’ve heard he has said: “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you”

How can it be possible for a believer to understand these words?

Not only when he is focusing on Jesus Christ with adapting his life according to the life Jesus lived when he was on earth? As it is said ” O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.”

Have we not read and heard: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Many attempt to flee from their spiritual tests, and they have to face those same tests in a more difficult manner, because no one will be victorious by escaping from them, but with patience and humility he will be able to overcome all the tests, and gain victory.

Therefore in the place of Christ’s followers, we must not feel desperate, but we have to pray to God in supplication with more passion to help us with any assistance we may need.

According to what Paul has said: In every temptation, God himself will make a way for us to tolerate it.

O beloved ones, difficulties do not weaken mankind, but they reveal the true human nature.

It will be good for us to occasionally face persecutions and abnormalities, since these abnormalities will persuade us to search our hearts, and to survey ourselves. So as a result, we conclude that troubles are difficult, but usually good and useful to build us.

Dear brothers and sisters, we must be more careful than any other time. Because in these days, the hearts and thoughts of many are revealed, so that the faith is tested. May your treasure be where there is no moth and rust.

I would like to remind you of some verses that we nearly discuss everyday, (Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.) but as long as our human will has priority over God’s will, his will will not be done.

As we have learned from him in Gethsemane, he surrendered his will to the father, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

What we are bearing today, is a difficult but not unbearable situation, because neither he has tested us more than our faith and our endurance, nor does he do as such. And as we have known from before, we must beware not to fail, but to advance in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, And consider these bumps and prisons as opportunities to testify to his name. He said: If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

As a small servant, necessarily in prison to carry out what I must do, I say with faith in the word of God that he will come soon.”However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Discipline yourself with faith in the word of God. Retain your souls with patience. For there is no man that doeth anything in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly.

May you are granted grace and blessings increasingly in the name of Lord Jesus Christ.

Yusef Nadarkhani
Lakan Prison in Rasht
2/June/2010

(HT)

 
 

Sep

30

2011

 
 

Sep

30

2011

Trevin Wax|2:29 am CT

Trevin's Seven

Seven links for your weekend reading:

1. Why John Piper thinks you should see Courageous this weekend

“I watched Courageous with my wife and was thoroughly engaged. I like action, and I like reflection, and I like affection—explosive moments, wrack-your-brain moments, and break-your-heart moments. Rarely do movies combine them all. For me this one captured me. Does the movie preach? Well, it sure has a point. But about the time you think you might get preached at, a bullet may cut through your car door. I would willingly take anyone to see this film, assuming they can handle suspense. And I think the conversations afterward would not be superficial.”

2. Praying for Your Kids

3. Worship is Love On Its Knees

4. Why is it popular to be a heretic?

5. Amazon Fires Barrage at Apple: Cheap Kindle, Touch Kindle, Tablet Kindle

6. Texas school punishes boy for opposing homosexuality

7. Video and Audio from the 2011 Desiring God National Conference: “Finish the Mission”

 
 

Sep

29

2011

Trevin Wax|3:13 am CT

Gospel Definitions: Mike Mercer (Chaplain Mike)

For three years now, I have been steadily gathering a number of definitions of “the gospel” in an ongoing series entitled “Gospel Definitions.” As far as I know, this is the largest grouping of gospel definitions on the internet today. Here is a recent definition put together by Mike Mercer (Chaplain Mike) at InternetMonk.com.

  • The Gospel (Good News) is the divinely-authorized proclamation that the appointed time has arrived and God has come to restore his blessing to his broken creation.
  • The Gospel announces that the climactic act of God’s story has been accomplished through the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, his promised King who fulfilled the story of Israel and inaugurated the Messianic Age. Christ’s finished work atoned for sin, defeated the powers of sin, evil, and death forever, and reconciled this lost and dying world to God.
  • The Gospel invites all people to turn from their own wisdom and ways that separate them from God and his blessing, and to trust Jesus for forgiveness and new life in the Holy Spirit as members of his new community of faith, hope, and love.
  • The Gospel promises that God’s Kingdom inaugurated in Jesus will be consummated when he returns to raise the dead, pronounce final judgment on all evil, and transform this fallen creation into a new creation in which heaven (God’s realm) and earth (the human realm) are one.

Or more simply, “Let us proclaim the mystery of faith: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”

- Mike Mercer 

 
 

Sep

29

2011

Trevin Wax|2:38 am CT

Worth a Look 9.29.11

All you ever wanted to know (and probably more!) about Joan, the cross-dressing female pope:

Of all the scandals with which the Christian faith has been plagued, one of the most peculiar has nearly been forgotten. After all, how many people have ever heard a female pope who posed as a man? To add to the strangeness, most stories about her argue that her secret was only revealed when she went into premature labor and gave birth to a child during a public processional from St. Peter’s to the Palace of the Popes in Rome.

Matthew Anderson’s open letter to college freshmen – “The World is Built on Discipline” contains six suggestions that all of us should heed:

The environment, for all its problems, presents an opportunity to broaden your horizons and enrich your soul through the cultivation of virtue and the pursuit of the permanent pleasures.  There will be many distractions, many lesser goods and easier pleasures offered to you along the way, but if you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, then college will provide to you a season of journeying into the deep things of God that you will savor and delight in for the rest of your life.

Randy Alcorn says the time is ripe for the new movie Courageous:

I believe the time is ripe for men (and women) to receive the message of Courageous. The recent church history in America includes a lot of good men doing nothing. Passivity is a curse—men are to be men of action. I think there are a lot of men in this culture who are just waiting to be challenged.

Fascinating interview with Gerald Bray about the new Reformation Commentary on Scripture being released by IVP:

What reformers have you chosen to represent the Reformation (and post-Reformation) and out of these which ones do you think readers will be less familiar with?

The great Reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin chose themselves. Beyond that, I tried to find writers who represented the main teachings of the Reformation and who had a practical application for them. It is hard to know which of them will be more or less familiar to modern readers, but even if some names may mean something (like Martin Bucer, for example) hardly anybody today will have read their commentaries on Galatians or Ephesians. Most of them are available only in Latin and have not been reprinted in modern editions. I think it is safe to say that almost everything in my commentary, apart from extracts from Luther and Calvin, will be unknown to almost everybody today.

 
 

Sep

28

2011

Trevin Wax|3:44 am CT

Recovering the Gospel's Power: A Conversation with J.D. Greear

Today, I’m happy to welcome a pastor-friend of mine, J.D. Greear, to the blog to discuss his new book, Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary. J.D. is pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh, NC. Gospel also includes a small-group companion piece called Gospel Revolution. 

Trevin Wax:  J.D., few people would be so bold as to call their book Gospel. (I can think of four other books with this title, but they’re all in the Bible!) But that’s what you’ve done. You’ve expressed in laypeople’s terms the type of confidence and security that comes from believing in the gospel of Jesus Christ. In a nutshell, what is the insight into the biblical gospel that has revolutionized your spiritual life in the past few years?

J.D. Greear: Ha, yes. I figured with a title like “Gospel,” no one could really critique it. I hope readers will forgive the hubris.

The burden behind the book is that many of us who grew up in conservative, evangelical churches have failed to avail ourselves of the power of the gospel. We know it as the forgiveness of sins but not as the power of transformation.

The Great Commandment leaves us in a dilemma: it tells us that God’s expectation of us is that we love Him with all our hearts, souls, and minds. But how can true love be commanded? Obedience without desire is drudgery, both to us and to God.

What the law cannot do, however, the gospel does. It is only as we learn of the richness and beauty of God’s love for us that we grow in love for Him. The Spirit of God uses the message of God’s acceptance of us in Christ to produce in us what religion is entirely unable to produce: a desire for God.

Nothing we are commanded to do for God will change us as much as dwelling on the news of what He has done for us.This is where so many of our church traditions have gone wrong—not in emphasizing bad things but in emphasizing good things at the expense of the gospel.

Trevin Wax: You and I come from similar backgrounds – strict observance of the letter of the law, lots of focus on rules, church standards, check-list Christianity, etc. You’ve mentioned that, in the past, even some of your mission work and pastoring was done from this kind of mindset. What was the turning point for you?

J.D. Greear: Honestly, it was listening to Tim Keller preach at the Resurgence conference about 5 years ago. I don’t want to say it was all brand new, but in that moment it felt like so many things clicked—like Luther when he described how all in a moment a flash of light burst through all these truths sown into his mind over the years and he saw how every verse, every story, had always been about justification by faith. I saw how justification by faith had always been the point—not just for salvation but sanctification as well. All the verses I had learned as a child in AWANA, the mission trips I had gone on, and the John Piper books I had read in college had been pointing at standing in hushed awe of the God of the gospel, an awe that leads to worship and then to life change.

God wasn’t just trying to correct my behavior; He was recapturing my heart—and He wouldn’t do that through a list of what I was to do for Him but through the message of what He had done for me. Tim Keller certainly was not the first one to preach the gospel to me, but in that moment, by the grace of Jesus and the power of the Spirit, it all made sense. It was my “John Wesley listening to Luther’s commentary on Romans” moment. I get emotional just thinking about it. It’s one reason I was so honored to have Tim Keller write the foreword for this book.

Trevin Wax: As I read through your book (a second time!), I paid closer attention to the “gospel prayer” you use as a tool for spiritual formation in your own life. How has this prayer helped you, and why do you recommend it to others?

J.D. Greear: I didn’t write it all at once; it developed over the course of about a year and a half as I tried to grasp what it really means to align my thinking with the gospel. I taught it in several “versions” to our church before settling on the form it is in now.

Peace, joy, radical generosity, audacious faith, and unwavering trust are all the fruits of dwelling on the gospel. I have certainly seen that in the last 5 years. That is the “secret,” if you will, of the gospel: these fruits are not produced, at the heart level, by focusing on them; they come by focusing on Jesus. That is what makes the gospel truly a “revolutionary” message.

Trevin Wax: One of the statements from that prayer is “Your presence and approval are all I need for everlasting joy.” There are some who might interpret this line as sounding a little like a prosperity-gospel teaching. I can imagine a TV preacher twisting it to mean something like Be happy in Jesus because He loves you and is with you. How does the biblical gospel keep our need for God’s approval and presence from turning into a self-centered, sentimentalized view of status-quo living?

J.D. Greear: The prosperity gospel presents God as a means to an end. Cloaked in the language of faith, it teaches us to use God as a means to the things we really love. The true gospel makes God Himself the end. Faith’s desire is not a bunch of things from God; faith is seeking more of God Himself. After all, that’s what the forgiveness of the gospel is all about: not the rewards of heaven or escape from the punishments of hell but reunion with the God in whose presence is fullness of joy. So, in saying, “You are all I need for everlasting joy,” the point is not “You are all I need to gain access to other things that will give me joy” but “You Yourself are all I need for joy.” I hope I make all this clear in the book, but you’ll just have to buy it to see (smile). 

Trevin Wax: One last question… just out of curiosity. How in the world did you manage to get Tim Keller to write the foreword?

J.D. Greear: Ha! He told me that he doesn’t do that a lot anymore, but then I told him that my book was “simultaneously better than he ever imagined but more in need of his endorsement than he’d ever dared hope,” and that seemed to win him over.

 
 

Sep

28

2011

Trevin Wax|2:15 am CT

Worth a Look 9.28.11

What would you do with a $1000 gift card to LifeWay? This Friday at noon (CST) there will be a live webcast with Ed Stetzer and Selma Wilson about taking a “Fresh Look at the HCSB Bible.” Visit here for details. During the webcast, winners will be announced for $1,000 LifeWay gift cards, three $500 LifeWay gift cards and access to the Holman Old & New Testament Commentary set at MyStudyBible.com. You can register for the giveaways here.

Jared Wilson has the best take on the Perry Noble discussion about using opportunities to make “religious people” mad:

“Pharisee,” “legalist,” “religious person” is the church version of racist or Nazi. It is the rhetorical nuclear option specifically designed to shut up anyone with questions and paint them among their brothers and sisters as graceless jerks. But I think it actually works the other way around:

Employing the “religious people” boogeyman ironically indulges in what it professes to decry. It is a great way to pray along with the self-justified pharisee, “I thank you God that I’m not like those religious people.”

If you’ve got real legalists in your church — and you do — the only way to intentionally offend them is by preaching the gospel of grace in Jesus Christ. Everything else is just vain posturing and prideful provocation.

News from Narnia. It looks like we might we waiting awhile for the next film:

The ball is entirely in the C.S. Lewis Estate’s court at this point, and they have to wait this mandatory period of time until they can sell the film option again. We here at NarniaWeb don’t know exactly how long this moratorium is, though it is likely several years. What we do know, however, is that Doug Gresham has mentioned many times that it’s his dream to make all seven Narnia books into movies so he probably won’t rest until he’s done that. This is not the end of the Narnia movies! We’re only going to have to wait a while before we see another one.

Jon Acuff recommends AWANA just go ahead and add the S to the end of the name:

Pretend it stands for “Social” as in “Social Media” and this is about being relevant. Or pretends it stands for “Stuff” and you guys are down with Stuff Christians Like. Or even pretend it stands for Sufjan and you’re indie now. It’s really up to you. But let’s make this S happen.

Bob Glenn on “Unpragmatic Pragmatism”:

Put simply, the pragmatists are unpragmatic. Their practice is philosophically self-defeating. The moment they try to be cool to attract cool people is the moment every cool person leaves their church.

 
 

Sep

27

2011

Trevin Wax|3:56 am CT

Honor Your Missionaries

Many American churches take time once or twice a year to recognize and honor veterans for their service to the country. Most of these churches also recognize law enforcement officers at the local level. We lift up the heroes among us, men and women who have put themselves in harm’s way for the good of their neighbor.

This kind of practice can be fruitful for a local congregation. It is good to point out clear examples of self-sacrifice. After all, the Scriptures tell us to give honor to whom honor is due.

But what puzzles me about some of these churches is the lack of public honor given to people who have served as missionaries. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a church service where the pastor asked all those who have served at some point as a missionary to stand and be recognized. Why recognize warriors for the country and not for the kingdom?

Why We Overlook Missionaries

There are several reasons why we might overlook our missionaries:

1. In one sense, every Christian is called to be on mission. The Great Commission is given to all believers, not just to an elite few. In recent years, evangelicals have come to realize that we should all be missionaries. All Christians should be consciously on mission, witnesses for Christ wherever God puts us. Some church leaders may fear that if we were to honor our foreign missionaries or full-time missionaries publicly, we might send the signal that missions is something that happens somewhere else and not here at home.

2. Another reason might be a flawed understanding of foreign missions. Decades ago, people who answered the call to missions typically left their homes and moved to a foreign country for the rest of their lives. Missionaries who returned home early (especially before retirement age) were sometimes viewed as being unable to handle the pressures of missionary service. Having all those with previous missions experience stand and be recognized might, for some people, lead to the question “If they are called to be missionaries, what are they doing back here? Why aren’t they still on the field?” The first question a furloughing missionary is usually asked “When are you going back?” This mentality is fading (mercifully!), but it still exists among some Christians.

3. A third reason is – to put it bluntly – we just don’t value missionaries as much as our military and law enforcement officers. I hope this isn’t the case, but I fear it might be. In some denominations, mission service is celebrated. In others, it is seen as a detriment. I’ve met church leaders who see foreign mission work as a crutch for people who weren’t gifted enough to handle ministry at home. They weren’t good enough to do ministry here, so they had to go to the mission field. In other words, mission work is actually taken less seriously than ministry in one’s native country. When the missionary returns home and seeks a ministry position, some churches are likely to skip over the person’s extensive missions experience and think, That’s nice and everything, but it doesn’t really count when it comes to climbing the ladder of ministry success. They don’t have enough experience at home. It’s no wonder that we overlook our missionaries when some of our churches actually think that mission work is a hindrance to home ministry rather than a help.

Because of these reasons, we don’t publicly honor our missionaries. We’re more likely to salute our veterans and thank our public safety officers than we are to show appreciation for the missionaries who have left houses, brothers or sisters, father or mother, children, or fields because of Christ’s name.

A Better Way

We should fix this. Here are several suggestions for how we can honor our missionaries.

1. Set aside at least one Sunday a year for missionary appreciation.

The music can be oriented around missions and the Great Commission. The service can feature an inspirational missions video or a testimony from a missionary in the congregation. The pastor’s message can focus on the Christian’s calling to be witnesses to Christ’s resurrection. Churches can plan major events where missionaries are celebrated and ministered to by the whole body. Small groups can “adopt” a missionary and spoil them all weekend long with meals, interaction, and gifts.

2. Publicly recognize the missionaries in the congregation.

“But we don’t have any former missionaries in our congregation!” you might think. Don’t bemoan your lack of missionaries. Rather, celebrate whatever missionaries you do have! Even if you have to invite them from other churches, do so. Start somewhere. What you celebrate shows what you value. Missionaries are often undervalued and under-appreciated. Rectify this by recognizing them publicly.

3. Recognize different types of missionary service.

Veterans are often recognized based on the branch of military service they were in: air force, navy, marines, army, etc. With missionaries, you can do the same thing and thus educate your congregation as to the types of mission work that are there. Consider saying this:

  • All who have served in a full-time capacity as a missionary to a foreign country, please stand.
  • All who have served on a short-term mission trip in the previous 12 months to a foreign country, please stand.
  • All who have served in a full-time capacity as a missionary or church planter here in the United States, please stand.
  • All who have served on a short-term mission trip in the previous 12 months here in the United States, please stand.
  • All who have served in a disaster relief capacity, please stand.

Break down the different ways that mission work takes place. It’s true that all Christians are called to be missionaries, but this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give honor to those who set aside special times (whether weeks or years) to fulfilling this calling.

Conclusion

Missionaries should be recognized, welcomed, and appreciated by our churches. Most of our churches could do a better job at this. Ed Stetzer has said, “What you celebrate, you become.” If we only celebrate our victories at home, we will be a local church for the local community, with little to no impact worldwide. But if we celebrate missionary service in all its forms, we will become a missionary force that pushes back the gates of hell as the Lord uses us to draw more people to Himself.

 
 

Sep

27

2011

Trevin Wax|2:57 am CT

Worth a Look 9.27.11

Here’s your chance to get the eBook version of Counterfeit Gospels for free. Head over to Moody Publishers’ Facebook page, sign up, and claim your copy. (The maximum number of giveaways is 100.) UPDATE: The 100 copies have already been claimed.

Scot McKnight is spot-on in this article about “lifestyle” versus “verbal” evangelism:

Is a life that embodies what Christ calls us to a gospeling event? I’d like to say we are treading here onto turf that gets farther and farther away from what “gospeling” means in the New Testament. The NT terms about gospeling are verbal terms and not behavior terms.

What I fear is that so many contend that behavior alone or community alone are evangelism. I doubt it, because, as Paul puts it in Romans 10, if they don’t hear how will they know? The ineradicable form of evangelism is to declare the Story of Jesus. All other dimensions gain their only clarity once that declaration is clear. Without that proclamation, there is no gospeling or gospel.

Wycliffe Bible Translators agree to new standards in the debate over contextualization in Muslim countries:

In the basement of a hotel in Istanbul, 30 people from around the world met in August to talk about how to translate the phrase “Son of God” and “God the Father” in Muslim contexts.

Wycliffe Bible Translators and a close partner, Dallas-based SIL International, called the private gathering, which included its own translation staff as well as outside scholars. The issue on the table—translation of the familial titles for God and Jesus Christ—was one that has divided Wycliffe members and alarmed supporting churches and missions agencies—leading a few Wycliffe members to leave the organization and some churches to consider withdrawing their support.

Russell Moore: “Gospel or Justice – Which?”

Some evangelicals talk as though personal evangelism and public justice are contradictory concerns, or, at least, that one is part of the mission of the church and the other isn’t. I think otherwise, and I think the issue is one of the most important facing the church these days.

 
 

Sep

26

2011

Trevin Wax|3:10 am CT

The Church Is Like the Flurry Before the Great Snow

Let’s say that you live in a town that is in a desert. One day, someone shows up and says:

“Get ready for snowfall! A north wind will come and bring snow that will cover this land. The world will be like new, but you must be prepared for the day it snows!”

Even though you live in a town that has never seen snow, people believe the strange message – that snow will fall and blanket the town.

The people who believe in the coming snow begin to prepare the town for Christmas.

  • Some put up Christmas lights.
  • Others design snow plows.
  • Still others cover their plants.

Even if most people scoff at the snow-watchers, the group maintains their belief that everything will be made new. And mysteriously, whenever the snow people come together, a cool breeze begins to blow and it flurries just a bit, giving them just a taste of the glory that’s coming.

The church of Jesus Christ is like a flurry before the great snow. Christians live in light of the coming reality. When we gather together, we sense the Spirit of God blowing through our midst, changing us and renewing the world around us.

We also warn people of the judgment that will accompany the presence of God on that day. We are a colony of heaven, and our life together makes the announcement: Repent, trust in the Messiah-King who has died for your sins, and be ready for the coming kingdom!

- from  Counterfeit Gospels (166-167)