Wednesday, August 26, 2015

As Intentional As Skateboarders

Skateboarders With A Mission

I’ve always had a very addictive personality; I suppose this is due to my family background and genetic wiring, and of course God’s sovereignty. But, long before I was ever introduced to drugs or alcohol, I found myself becoming obsessed with the things that interested me. For the bulk of my childhood on into my adult life, my primary addiction/obsession was skateboarding. I thought about skateboarding day and night. When I wasn’t skateboarding I was reading skateboarding magazines and watching skateboarding videos.

As weird as that may sound to you, it turns out I wasn’t the only one like this. I had a whole group of friends that were just as obsessed as me. Most people looked at my buddies and me and thought we were just a bunch of punk kids obsessed with a toy on four wheels, but for us skateboarding was life. We got up each morning with a list of places we wanted to skateboard and a list of tricks we wanted to do at each place. While the world looked at us as though we were a bunch of kids with no purpose in life, we thought of ourselves as skateboarders on a mission.

Most people don’t realize that in most cities skateboarding is illegal; especially in the places that have the things that skateboarders like to skate on. Things like ledges, benches, stairs and especially the handrails on the stairs; these are a skateboarder’s paradise. However, the majority of the world uses these things for there intended purpose on an everyday basis, so when some punk kid on a skateboard comes flying down a flight of stairs while a businessman is trying to walk up them it creates a problem; and thus the city outlaws skateboarding. But illegal or not, we were going to skateboard wherever we wanted. 

Again, looking back now I can see why the world was upset with us. But, their view of us, as punk kids with no purpose was completely wrong. We were motivated. We knew what we were there to do and we knew that we had a limited amount of time to get the tricks done that we wanted to get done at each place before the police showed up. We went to each spot with great intentionality, on a mission to accomplish the things that we had set out to do. We knew our time was short, but for us the mission was worth it. So with great urgency we went about achieving the things that we felt we had been put on this earth to do.

A Church With A Mission

Many years have gone by since my skateboard-obsessed days. Though I still skateboard as often as I can, due to injury, the business of life, and God’s call on my life that’s pretty rare. But, by God’s grace I have been given a new obsession. God in His kindness took my addictive personality and redeemed it for His glory. These days I spend my time obsessing about Jesus, His Word, His church, and the mission He has given His church. And as I sat this morning thinking about my days that were filled with skateboarding and the intentionality with which my buddies and I went about our days, I thought to myself, what if the church was like this?

What if God’s people went about their days knowing their time is short, their mission worth it, and then with great urgency they go about achieving the things that they have been put on this earth to do? What if we thought about Jesus and His mission for us day and night? What if we treated every day as an opportunity, perhaps our last opportunity to accomplish our mission?

The church has been given the mission to glorify God by making disciples. We are to make disciples every day of our lives, not just on Sunday morning. But I’m willing to bet that if we became more intentional about Sunday by itself we’d see a huge difference in the impact the church is having on the culture around it. What if we were intentional about inviting the lost, the hurting, the bruised and the broken to church? What if we were intentional to invite our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends and family to church? What if when we got to church we were intentional to be hospitable, be loving, share the gospel, rebuke, encourage, and do each other and each visitor spiritual good—seeking to help them know Christ and grow in Christ?

In my skateboarding days I broke numerous bones, tore numerous mussels and tendons, and was basically on a first name basis at the local Emergency Room. My friends and I were so motivated to learn the next trick, to go bigger and faster, that we were willing to put ourselves in traction trying to accomplish our goals. Along with that we gave great time and effort to learn and grow in the sport, and we all sacrificed our money in order to pay to get us where we felt we needed to go. 

I fear in the church we aren’t willing to be obedient to the commands of Christ, especially the command to make disciples, because we fear rejection. We don’t go to the ghetto or to the Muslim world, or to any dangerous area to share the gospel for fear of getting hurt or losing our lives. And we certainly don't sacrifice our time or give financially because we have other things to spend our time and money on rather than investing it in the kingdom of God. Why is that? Why is it that a group of punk skateboarders are more willing to give of themselves and hurt themselves to accomplish their mission than the church is willing to give of itself and put itself in harm’s way or rejection’s way or whatever, for the mission of Christ? Do we not have a greater mission? Do we not have a greater cause? Do we not have a great Savior who is worthy of the glory of every tribe, tongue, and nation—including your neighbor?

My friends and I risked a lot for something that ultimately doesn’t matter. What are we willing to risk for Someone that matters eternally? What are we willing to do in order to accomplish our mission? Where are we willing to go in order to accomplish our mission? What are we willing to risk in order that people from every tribe, tongue, and nation might come to know, love, worship, and enjoy King Jesus?

While I have you thinking, let me close with a few more questions. Are you being intentional with your life for the mission of the church and the glory of Christ? If so, awesome! Keep up the good work and help others do the same. If not, why not? Is not Christ worth everything?
Be intentional church, Christ is worth it!

“To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:5-6)

“[I]t is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:20-21).


Monday, March 9, 2015

Care too much about missions?...

The Problem

Anybody who knows me very well knows I care deeply about church membership, church polity, the centrality of the gospel, doctrine, and community. I have devoted my life to serving the local church, and I strive to do that in a well-rounded way. However, though I love the bride of Christ, I also love the lost, and even more so I love Jesus and desire to see His glory displayed, proclaimed, worshipped, and enjoyed among all peoples.

That being said, throughout my time in ministry I have been told again and again that I care too much about evangelism, discipleship, and especially missions. I am currently the associate pastor of my church and the main focus of my job is evangelism, discipleship, and missions. So, I suppose it’s somewhat understandable that I’m perceived as someone who emphasizes these things too much because, in part, that’s my job. But, I don’t think it’s simply because people misunderstand my job that people think I care too much about these things; I believe it’s because they misunderstand the mission of the church that they feel this way.

The Mission

The Old Testament tells us, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6). “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples” (Psalm 96:3)! “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). “For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations” (Malachi 1:11a).

The New Testament tells us, “You (Christians) are the light of the world [therefore] let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14, 16).  “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:9). “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my (Jesus’) witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb’” (Revelation 7:9-10)!

While there are so many more I could quote, looking at these verses it’s easy to see that God cares about His glory among the nations (people groups). And the way in which He has chosen to display His glory among the nations is through people; people who proclaim, worship, and enjoy the glory of God in Christ among all peoples. This is what Paul was getting at when He said, “that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10). In other words, God is making His glorious gospel of grace known to the world, even angels and demons, though the church.

That being the case, how does the church go about displaying God’s glory and making the gospel visible? Mark Dever says, “The proper ends for a local congregation’s life and actions are the worship of God, the edification of the church, and the evangelization of the world. These three purposes in turn serve the glory of God.”[1] Pastors Greg Gilbert and Kevin DeYoung say it like this, “[T]he mission of the church is to go into the world and make disciples by declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit and gathering these disciples into churches, that they might worship and obey Jesus Christ now and in eternity to the glory of God the Father.”[2]

So, though I only quoted a few verses and a few pastors (for times sake), I am arguing that biblically the mission of the church is to glorify God by spreading the gospel and making disciples of Christ among all the peoples of the world. The church does this by preaching the gospel, gathering disciples into the local church and helping them grow in the gospel, planting churches centered on the gospel, and equipping them to do the same. If I’m even close to being right—and the church doesn’t put a heavy emphasis on evangelism, discipleship, and missions then it has lost sight of the very purpose of its existence. Professor and author Andreas K√∂stenberger says, “The church ought to be focused in the understanding of its mission. Its activities should be constrained by what helps others come to believe that the Messiah, the Son of God, is Jesus.”[3] If we aren’t doing this can we really say we are a church? No doubt, there are other things we have to do, but shouldn’t we emphasize the very mission of the church?

The Promise

On the one hand I get the arguments for a church focusing inward. “If we keep giving towards missions we won’t be able to pay our bills… If we send our brightest and best to go plant churches we won’t have any leaders here…” But we must remember that God loves a cheerful giver, and that God blesses obedience. Now, I don’t mean that a church shouldn’t worry about their own health; that’s where discipleship comes in. And I’m not saying that if a church participates in missions by giving, going, and praying that God won’t allow that church to close the doors to its building and disband. But what I am saying is that the mission of the church will be accomplished.

Even if our churches aren’t successful the church will be. Jesus promised that, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). And as we saw earlier, the mission will be accomplished. John tells us, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb’” (Revelation 7:9-10)! People from every tribe, tongue, and nation will be saved. After disciples have been made of all nations then the end will come (Matthew 24:14). And when the end comes then Jesus will make all things new and we will live forever with Him in the New Heavens New Earth (see Revelation 20-21). And then, “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14).

This will happen. The Lamb will receive the reward for His suffering. God’s glory will be made known among the nations. It’s a promise from God so it is as good as done. There is no question about it, the Great Commission will be fulfilled. The question is, will we take part in it? Will we be focused on the Kingdom of King Jesus or our own?

Get to Work

Jesus said, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16). In other words, Jesus has elect that have yet to repent and believe. They must first hear His voice; meaning they must hear the gospel. “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent” (Romans 10:13-15)?

How will Jesus’ sheep hear his voice? We must give, we must send, we must pray, we must go, we must preach. We must emphasize evangelism, discipleship, and missions. We must preach the gospel.  If we truly are a church, our only other option is to be disobedient. May we not grumble and disobey, but may we get to work. “As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news’” (Romans 10:15b)!

Yes, we must be about the ordinary work of the church. Elders must lead and equip, deacons must serve, and the congregation must submit, learn, grow, and faithfully go about the work of ministry that God has called them to, namely being ever-growing disciples who make disciples who do the same. But we must realize that this all plays a role in our mission to glorify God by spreading the gospel and making disciples of Christ among all the peoples of the world. Everything the church does in someway should work towards evangelism, discipleship, and missions; if not, we are missing the point… 


Christ will receive the reward for His suffering. God’s glory in Christ will be displayed, proclaimed, worshipped, and enjoyed among all peoples. One day there will no longer be people unreached by the gospel. God’s Word promises, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand” (Romans 15:21). So, while there is no guarantee that our church buildings will stay open, or that our churches won’t disband; one thing we no for sure is that God’s Kingdom will prevail. The Kingdom of Christ is far more important than our buildings and resources, even our very lives. So may we be willing to count all things as loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus and sacrificially living for His glory among all peoples. Regardless of what happens, we’ll never regret doing that…

As for me, I will continue, Lord willing, to emphasize evangelism, discipleship, and missions. Lord willing, I will continue to preach gospel-centered expository sermons. Lord willing, I will continue to do my part in the everyday work of the local church. And Lord willing, God will pour out the lives of me, my family, and the church God has called me to—for the fame of Jesus among all peoples.

What about you?

[1] Mark Dever, The Church: The Gospel Made Visible (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2012), 69.
[2] Kevin DeYoung & Greg Gilbert, What Is the Mission of the Church? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), 241.
[3] Andreas J. K√∂stenberger, The Missions of Jesus and the Disciples according to the Fourth Gospel: With Implications for the Fourth Gospel’s Purpose and the Mission of the Contemporary Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 219.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The 21 and John and Betty Stam

I don’t know about you, but I have a bad habit of keeping my prayers and my focus on myself and the issues and the problems that immediately arise in my life. Lately there has been much that I have allowed to bring anxiety into my life instead of resting in God’s sovereign goodness. However, yesterday’s news of 21 of my brother’s in Christ killed for their faith in Christ opened my eyes to my own self-centered shallowness. With that I mind I want to draw our attention away from ourselves for a bit and look out at the wider world of Christianity and church history.

Unfortunately the tragic events of the 21 Christians who were martyred yesterday is nothing new. This type of thing has been happening on a fairly regular basis for the last 2000 years of church history. As I read about that horrific event I found myself thinking about a couple that was martyred for their commitment to the gospel as well. I’m sure their story is much different from the 21 yesterday, but in many ways it’s the same. The most important way it’s the same is, as Dr. Moore put it on twitter, “When the Book of Revelation speaks of those beheaded by evildoers, it speaks of the martyrs not a victims but as overcomers.” Allow their story to open your eyes to things and problems outside of your immediate context. No doubt, we all have somewhat major issues and problems in our lives currently—but at the same time we have to realize that we are incredibly blessed—if for no other reason than the fact that we are not under the threat of death for being a Christian.

What follows is a brief account of the final days of the lives of John and Betty Stam as recorded in Daniel Akin’s book 10 Who Changed the World. They were missionaries in China who were martyred at the tender ages of 28 (Betty) and 27 (John). Allow their story to open your eyes to your blessings, and also to test and encourage your faith. 
Betty was bathing three-month-old Helen when Tsingteh’s city magistrate appeared. Communist forces were near, he warned, and urged the Stams to flee. But before the Stams could make their break, the Communists were inside the city. Communist bandits quickly came pounding at their door. John opened it and spoke courteously to the four leaders who entered, asking them if they were hungry. Betty brought them tea and cakes. The courtesy, however, meant nothing. They demanded all the money the Stams had, and John willingly handed it over. John was then bound and led away. Before long, the bandits reappeared, taking Betty and Helen.

That night John was allowed to write a letter to mission authorities, “My wife, baby and myself are today in the hands of the Communists in the city of Tsingteh. Their demand is twenty thousand dollars for our release. The Lord bless and guide you. As for us, may God be glorified, whether by life or by death.” The letter was not received until after their murder. Prisoners in the local jail were released to make room for the Stams.

At one point frightened by rifle fire, little Helen began to cry. One of the Communist rebels said, “Let’s kill the baby. It is in our way.” A bystander asked, “Why kill her? What harm has she done?” “Are you a Christian?” shouted one of the guards. The man said he was not but that he was one of the prisoners just released. “Will you die for this foreign baby?” they asked. As Betty hugged Helen to her chest, the man was hacked to pieces before all of their eyes. The next morning their captors led the Stams toward Miaosheo on a twelve mile march. Under guard, the entire Stam’s family was taken into a postmaster’s shop. “Where are you going?” asked the postmaster, who recognized them from their previous visits to his town. “We do not know where they are going, but we are going to heaven,” answered John.

That night the three were held in the house of a wealthy man who had fled. They were carefully guarded by soldiers. John was tied to a post all that cold night, but Betty was allowed enough freedom to tend to the baby. As it turned out, she did more than that.
The next morning the young couple was led through town without the baby. Their hands were tightly bound, and they were stripped of their outer garments as if they were common criminals. John walked barefoot. He had given his socks to Betty. The soldiers jeered and called the town’s folk to come see the execution. The terrified people obeyed.

On the way to the execution, a medicine-seller, considered a lukewarm Christian at best, stepped from the crowd and pleaded for the lives of the two foreigners. The Communist bandits angrily ordered him back. The man, however, would not be quiet. His house was searched, a Bible and hymnbook found, and he also was dragged away to be executed as a hated and despised Christian. John pleaded for the man’s life. The bandit’s leader sharply ordered him to kneel.

As John was speaking softly, the Communist leader swung his sword through the missionary’s throat so that his head was severed from his body. Betty did not scream. She quivered and fell bound beside her husband’s body. As she knelt there, the same sword ended her life with a single blow.

For two days, local Christians huddled in hiding in the hills around Miaosheo. Among them was a Chinese evangelist named Mr. Lo. Through informants, he learned that the Communists had captured two foreigners. At first he did not realize that it was John and Betty Stam. As soon as government troops entered the valley and it was safe to venture forth, Mr. Lo hurried to town. An old woman told Pastor Lo that a small baby had been left behind. She pointed in the direction of the house where John and Betty had been chained their last night on earth. Pastor Lo hurried to the site and found room after room trashed by the bandits. Then he heard a muffled cry.

Tucked by her mother in a little sleeping bag, Helen was warm and alive, although hungry after her two day fast. The kindly pastor took the child in his arms and carried her to his wife. With the help of a local Christian family, he wrapped the bodies that still lay upon the hillside and placed them into coffins. To the crowd that gathered he explained that the missionaries had only come to tell them how they might find forgiveness of sin in Jesus Christ. Leaving others to bury the dead, he hurried home. Somehow Helen had to be carried to safety.

Pastor Lo had to find a way to move the children a hundred miles through mountains infested by bandits and Communists. Brave men were found who were willing to help bear the children to safety, but there was no money to pay them for their efforts. Lo had been robbed of everything he had. But from beyond the grave, Betty had provided. Tucked in Helen’s sleeping bag were a change of clothes and some diapers. Pinned between these articles of clothing were two five-dollar bills. It made the difference. Placing the children in rice baskets slung from the two ends of a bamboo pole, the group departed quietly, taking turns carrying the precious cargo over their shoulders. Mrs. Lo was able to find Chinese mothers along the way to nurse Helen.

Eight days after the Stams died in Communist hands, another missionary in a nearby city heard a knock at his door. He opened it and a Chinese woman, stained with travel, entered the house, bearing a bundle in her arms. “This is all we have left,” she said brokenly.
Helen Pricilla Stam was three months old when her parents were killed in China, but by God’s grace she had survived. She was brought to the United States and was cared for by her maternal grandparents, who had also been missionaries in China, until she was five years old. She then was adopted by her mother’s sister and her husband who were missionaries in the Philippines. She grew up in the Philippines and returned to the United States for college, after which she was involved in student work for her denomination. A small group of Christians took the bodies of John and Betty Stam and buried them on a hillside.

 Their gravestones read:
John Cornelius Stam, January 18, 1907, “That Christ may be glorified whether by life or death.” Philippians 1:20.
Elizabeth Scott Stam, February 22, 1906, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21.
A short time before his and his wife’s death, John Stam wrote his father informing him of the growing dangers they faced. In the letter he copied these verses that, though written by another, well expressed his and his wife's heart…
Afraid? Of What?
To feel the spirit's glad release?
To pass from pain to perfect peace,
The strife and strain of life to cease?
Afraid—of that?

Afraid? Of what?
Afraid to see the Savior’s face,
To hear His welcome, and to trace
The glory gleam from wounds of grace?
Afraid—of that?

Afraid? Of What?
A flash—a crash—a pierced heart;
Darkness—Light—O Heaven’s art?
A wound of His a counterpart!
Afraid—of that?

Afraid? Of What?
To do by death what life could not—
Baptize with blood a stony plot,
Till souls shall blossom from the spot?
Afraid—of that?

~ This was written by Presbyterian missionary E.H. Hamilton following the recent martyrdom of one of his colleagues, J.W. Vinson, at the hands of rebel soldiers in northern China. A small Chinese girl who escaped from the bandits related the incident that provided the inspiration for Hamilton’s poem. “Are you afraid?” the bandits asked Vinson as they menacingly waved a gun in front of him.
“No,” he replied with complete assurance. “If you shoot, I go straight to heaven.”
His decapitated body was found later.

“Oh precious Lord Jesus, be gracious to us and bless us and make your face shine upon us, that your way may be known on the earth, your saving power among all nations! Help us to love you more than we fear man and what he might do to us. Bless us as you blessed John and Betty Stam, if it be your will.”
~ Danny Akin

Matthew 10:28
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Philippians 1:20-21
20 is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Philippians 3:7-11
7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith- 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

May we get our eyes off of ourselves and put them onto the purposes of the gospel. May we pray, give, send, and go—for the salvation of the lost, even the lost who are behind such horrific scenes—for they are sinners in need of grace just as we were and still are. And may we do all this for the fame of Jesus among all peoples. May the Lamb of God receive the reward for His suffering. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Giving Up On Nationalism And Embracing A Missionary Identity


Republic: a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them.
Democracy: government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system. (Definitions from

Lincoln described this idea of government well when He said, “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish…” Whether or not it perishes remains to be seen, but for our purposes today I want to elaborate a little bit on the main thrust of a democratic republic. It is by the people. This means that the country (in a corporate sense) will always be a representation of the people. With that said, we should not be surprised as Christians that the USA is not as Christian as it once was; though one could argue that it was never that Christian to begin with (I just recently learned that when the U. S. was founded only 10% of Americans attended church—not to mention issues such as slavery and the like that were thriving in the early days of the USA).  

America is a nation made up of people from all walks of life from all around the world. That is part of the beauty of being the land of the free, we have freedom of religion and certain rights that are given to our citizens, and even resident aliens for that matter; and so people have immigrated here for years in hopes of a better-freer life. I heard a missionary recently note that though we must have a heart for getting the gospel to the nations in order to be faithful to the Great Commission, one can’t help but notice that in a very real sense the nations are coming to us, so we must also engage them on our own turf. And we know this to be true, that’s why immigration is such a hot button issue in America right now.

Now, if people from all walks of life from all around the world have been immigrating here over the years, including the founding fathers of this country, then it really should be no surprise that America has become such a hotbed for so many religions, atheism, secularism, and many other things and beliefs. Our founding documents promise freedom to practice such things (and this is a really good thing because it gives us the freedom to make disciples among other things). And because we are a democracy the government will always be a representation of the people. So if we are a people made up of numerous religions, atheism, secularism, and so much more, why should we be surprised that the USA is not as Christian as it once was?

Regardless of what you think the USA was, it certainly cannot be labeled a Christian nation now (I would note however that Jesus died to save people from every tribe, tongue, and nation, not for a nation. Part of the beauty of the church is that it is made up of all nations.). A Christian nation can really only be accomplished by force (I’m thinking of Christian nation here in the sense of Constantine or the later Crusades); though any Christian worth his salt knows that no one can be forced to become a Christian by man. One must be born again to truly become a Christian. So, having a Christian nation should not be our concern; however, what we should be after is having a nation full of Christians (as well as a world full of Christians).

These days in Christian circles I often here people bemoaning the secularization of the USA, but if we’re honest I think we’d have to say that what we are experiencing is more of a pluralization than a secularization. And while I never want to celebrate sin, I do think we have much to celebrate. Though I strongly advocate world missions, one can’t help but see that our own neighborhoods have truly become mission fields, with peoples from all around the world, who believe all sorts of things living within walking distance from our homes. So instead of longing for a Christian nation why not walk in glad submission to Christ’s commands and be about the work of making disciples? For that is our only hope of having a nation full of Christians, and that is far better than a Christian nation.

Strangers and Exiles

No doubt, it is becoming increasingly unpopular to be Christian in the USA, but that has by and large been the state of affairs for Christians throughout church history. This is why Peter says that we-the church are elect exiles and sojourners in this world (1 Peter 1:1, 2:11). The author of Hebrews says we are strangers and exiles, for here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come (Hebrews 11:13, 13:14). Jesus Himself said that though we are in the world we are not of the world just as He is not of the world (John 17:16). So, there will always be a sense in which we are strange because we are strangers in this world, until Christ returns and fixes this broken world. And as strangers we should not be surprised that we are not always welcomed in this world.

And along with that, though we should always seek to make as many disciples out of the world around us as we can, we should expect to be the minority in this world. Jesus said, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:14). In Matthew 13 Jesus tells a parable about four different soils that seed was sowed on. The soils represent people and the seed represents the gospel. Of all the seed that was sowed only one soil received the seed and produced grain. In other words only one out of the four people who heard the gospel received it rightly. This illustrates the truth of the narrow gate. In this in-between time, while we are waiting on the return of Christ, Christians will be the minority, and as such we should not be surprised when the majority does not think like we do, act like we do, or the like.

Missionary Identity

Recently I had the pleasure of attending a conference at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas. The main idea of the conference was that, though there is certainly an aspect of the church that is established in this world—because we are in this world, by and large the identity of the church is that of a missionary. The theme throughout the conference was that we have to re-embrace our missionary identity as a church. Think about that for a moment; a missionary is someone who willingly lays down their comforts, their rights, their conveniences and goes out into the land of the lost, into exile with the gospel to see the lost saved and disciples made. A missionary willingly pours out their life for the fame of Christ among people who might never have heard of Christ if not for their willingness to suffer for the cause of the gospel. This is what the men in this conference were calling the church back to; to embrace that identity.

Please, don’t misunderstand me, politics and public policy are important, but we should not expect too much out of a system of this broken world, and we can not lose sight of what’s most important. If we truly desire this nation to become more Christian then there has to be more Christians in it. And that will only happen when we embrace our missionary identity and begin making disciples of all peoples. But even then, we should expect to be the minority. That being the case our focus should be on the Great Commission not establishing (or reclaiming) a great nation.


After explaining to the church that they are strangers and exiles in this world Peter says, “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). So, let’s not be a people who grumble and reminisce about the good old days when stores were closed on Sunday and little league teams didn’t practice on Wednesday night. Let’s be a people who joyfully pour out our lives for the fame of Jesus among all peoples; for that is the only hope of this nation and the rest of the world. God’s people armed with God’s gospel are what will bring lasting change in this world. May we count the cost and walk in glad submission to Christ’s commands, proclaiming His excellencies among all peoples.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


The other night I had a dream that I was being forced to sit under the ramblings of a prosperity “preacher”. As I sat and listened to this so-called preacher explain how and why God blessed him with his millions I began to get infuriated. I got so mad that I woke my self up. I literally sat upright from a dead sleep, filled with anger because of what I was hearing.

It was about that time that I realized the things I was hearing in my dream were actually being said on the television in my room. My wife had stayed up later than me to finish watching some show and she must have fell asleep with the television on. Apparently 4am is primetime TV for all those who are looking to God like a lottery ticket, because at 4am some huffing and puffing preacher comes on the TV to tell you how to open the window of heaven in order to fill your wallet.

This guy (who is preaching in front of many people who are literally in tears over what he’s saying) begins to explain that God wants all Christians rich and that he is going to pray for God to bring somebody into the life of all of his hearers who would be in their life just to give them money. He explains that the only reason this person will want to be around you is to bless you financially. He then asked everybody to get out their wallets and open them up so he can pray for their wallets to be filled. He goes on to say, “Even you at home; get out your wallet. If you don’t have a wallet draw a picture of a wallet and I’ll pray for it.”

There are so many things wrong with this picture that I don’t have room enough to address them all in one blog post but for now let me simply address this heretic’s view on prayer. First off, think about yourself. How do you understand prayer? What type of things do you pray for? Though many of us despise the so-called prosperity gospel, far too many in the church pray very similar prayers.

Jesus said, “Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:9-13). Jesus certainly tells us to pray for needs such as daily bread, but the idea behind our asking for daily bread is that we will be so about the business of the Kingdom that we won’t have time to focus on our daily bread. Prayer is directly linked to the fulfillment of the coming of the Kingdom.

John Piper says it like this, “Prayer is meant by God to be a wartime walkie-talkie, not a domestic intercom...not for the enhancement of our comforts but for the advancement of Christ's kingdom.” It seems to me Piper is saying something very similar to Christ here. One of the main implications of what Jesus says and Piper says is that Christians are to use prayer as a means to get the gospel of the Kingdom out into the world in order that people from every tribe, tongue, and nation would repent and believe and bow the knee to King Jesus.

Matthew 24:14 says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” This implies that when the gospel reaches all those the Lord wishes it to Jesus will return and the Kingdom will come in its fullness. In their book Faithmapping, Daniel Montgomery and Mike Cosper say, “The gospel of the kingdom is the announcement that life with God, under the rule of God, is made immediately available to us through Jesus, our King.” Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life, had the wrath of God that all sinners deserve poured out upon himself while He hung on a cross, died the death that all sinners deserve, and rose from the dead on the third day conquering sin, Satan, and death for all those who will repent and believe in this message. That being the case, the prayers of the church should be focused on getting this message out in order to push back the darkness and fulfill the Great Commission. The last thing Christians should be doing is holding an open wallet in front of some guy who is promising them the world if they will merely send a check to his “ministry.”

Remember what the Word says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:10). “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul” (Mark 8:36)?

So please, don’t fall for the nonsense these prosperity preachers are dishing out. They are lies that deceive, distract, and disappoint. When you pray, pray with great intention for the cause of the Kingdom. Get your eyes off of yourselves and turn them to Christ. Jesus is better than a full wallet any day. And the thing this world needs more than anything is something that money cannot buy anyway. The greatest need in the world today is for people to be born again, and this only happens through the preaching and hearing of the gospel (Romans 1:16-17, 1 Peter 1:22-25).

We should be praying for God's Kingdom to come, yes for our good, but most importantly so that “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). Or as Jesus put it, so that Our Father in heaven would be hallowed or glorified. 

So, what are you praying for?