Compelled

13 08 2013

compelled

 

The author of Hebrews tells us that when running a race, we should, “…lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us.” (Hebrews 12:1) Most people lump both of these items that we are supposed to lay aside in the sin category, but I do not see it this way.  I believe we are talking about two very distinct things that we are to lay aside. One is easy to understand, and that is sin. We know that we cannot run the race with our legs tied together with sin. I believe that most people get this. Where we run into trouble is when we start talking about every weight that we should lay aside. These weights are not sin. I believe these weights may even be good things, but we are told to cast them aside. What is the author talking about here? Because of our lack of understanding on this subject, I believe Satan has used this to deceive us into doing a lot of good things, but not doing the main thing.

Americans, and especially the younger generations, love service, ministry, philanthropy, social justice, etc. There is no lack of ways that you can volunteer your time and donate your money. What I am afraid of is that many Christians are giving their lives to good ministry, but that ministry is not the race that God has called us to run. The best way for me to explain this is to give you an example. A hot topic right now, and rightly so, is the issue of slavery. It is hard for us to believe that slavery still exists in our world, but it is thriving, the most despicable slavery being those young children, both boys and girls, being kidnapped and sold as sex slaves all over the world. Because of the atrocities committed and publicized, the public, and especially Christians, are taking up the mantle to fight for the freedom of these oppressed images of God. Even non-believers are fighting this fight. There is a huge movement to end slavery. As Christians, though, we need to go a step further. We need to understand that a person freed from slavery will still eventually die and face an eternity without God unless they accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior on this side of life. Therefore we are compelled to share the gospel with these people who are freed. The non-believer can feel satisfied when the person has been freed from slavery. The Christians can not simply stop there. The Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40) compels us to share the gospel. You may even say that you understand that, and I think most Christians do whether they act upon it or not. But we, also, cannot stop there.

If the Great Commandment compels us to share the gospel, then the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) compels us to plant churches. Matthew 28:19-20 tells us to go and make disciples of all nations. Notice that it says “disciples” not “converts.” This is crucial for us to understand. The race that God has lined out for us is not just to tell people about Jesus, but to go further than that and disciple those who convert. When we look at the whole of the New Testament, we clearly see that God’s plan for making disciples is to plant these new converts into new churches and teach them the commandments of Jesus. Therefore, the ideal situation would be for a person freed from slavery to become a follower of Jesus and become apart of a church made up of other people who have been freed from slavery, so that they can be discipled in order to repeat the whole process. This is not my plan. This is God’s plan.

The weight that we need to lay aside are these good works, like ending slavery. That certainly doesn’t mean that we stop working toward that end, but that we go further with it because we are compelled to do so by the Word of God. The end goal is not to free people from slavery, but to plant reproducing churches that transform this earth through their kingdom-building work. This goal takes more work, more strategy, more thinking, more prayer, and more guts to accomplish, but it is the race that God has called us to run.

My prayer is that you don’t get caught up in all of these “good” weights, but that you would lay them aside in order to plant churches for the glory of God.





Orphanage Emmanuel

21 02 2013

emmanuel

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
James 1:27

I just got back from a mission trip to Guiamaca, Honduras, to visit and work at Orphanage Emmanuel. This orphanage was started in 1989 by David & Lydia Martinez with five kids and three small buildings on an old cattle ranch. Since that time, it is absolutely amazing to see what God has done! They now have over 600 children, a working farm, dental and medical clinics, staff from all over the world, and a God-given vision to continue. This is my second time to have been to Orphanage Emmanuel, and I am continually astonished at this place. The thought that kept running through my head and heart this last week was that this is a small piece of heaven on earth. In Matthew 6:10, Jesus teaches us to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This place is a living embodiment of that verse.

I am certainly not saying that Orphanage Emmanuel is perfect. As much as the staff and volunteer teams love these kids, they simply do not get the extent of the love and hugs that a small family would provide. They are continually struggling with what to do with children who have aged out. There is still sickness, disease, disabilities, and death. But in the middle of this imperfection, there is a nugget of pure religion. Looking after orphans is Biblical. When describing this trip to others, the one adjective that keeps coming to my mind is “good.” What is happening there is good. Spending a week of my time to tile a new girls’ dorm when I do not know the first thing about tiling is just a good thing to do. Hanging out and wrestling at the power toddler house with snot and other unmentionable bodily fluids is just good. Sponsoring a child for $35 per month at this place is a good thing, and you can rest assured that your money is being stewarded well.

One of the highlights for this trip was for me to get to spend some time with Olvin. My family has been sponsoring Olvin for two years now. It is our understanding that he came to the orphanage when he was two years old out of a very abusive situation. He is now four years old with a smile that would light up any room. My greatest wish while I was there was that somehow I could sneak this little guy home with me. We got to hang out and play ball together, and he started calling me Tio, which is the Spanish word for Uncle.

Most of our trips that we provide through our church are to places where there are unreached people groups with a strategy of starting indigenous churches among them, but there is definitely room for a trip each year to Orphanage Emmanuel. I would certainly encourage you to consider this trip next year. If you don’t go, I would ask that you consider sponsoring a child. Believe me, it is a good thing, and one that God will bless you. And, at least, be in prayer for David & Lydia, the staff, and the children at Orphanage Emmanuel.





Adoption

7 05 2012

I have to brag. I am so proud of my church. We are launching this Sunday, Mother’s Day, the Grand Family Adoption Fund. We have decided that adoption is not only Biblical, but a valid and practical way of reaching the world for Christ. I am excited to be apart of a church that is actually doing something about the issue of adoption and orphan care. This fund that we are starting will provide qualified members of our church the opportunity to obtain a no-interest loan to finance their national or international adoption.

My wife and I have talked about adoption since we first got married, and we are getting close to actually starting the process. It is an extremely daunting process with lots of paperwork and lots of waiting. The thing that holds a lot of people up is the finances. We looked at adopting from the country of Russia. It is one of the more expensive countries to adopt from, being over $30,000. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that kind of money sitting around. The other day, my wife and I began looking at minivans, and they are priced at over $30,000 for a new one. That is a lot of money, but the websites do a great sales job of breaking it down into manageable monthly payments. If we can do this for prospective adoptive parents, it would be a huge step in getting people to proceed with something maybe they have only been thinking about for years.

It is time for our churches to step up to the plate on all kinds of social issues. I think it is sinful for us to bury our heads in the sand and do nothing. Thank you Grand Avenue Baptist Church for stepping up. May we be an example to many other churches out there!





The Future of the Global Church

15 03 2012


I just received a book in the mail that I would HIGHLY recommend. It is called The Future of the Global Church by Patrick Johnstone. You might know the author as the one who worked many long years on the first three versions of the fantastic book, Operation World. This new book, published last year, is large with a lot of maps, graphs, and pictures. It contains information that I believe every Christian should know and understand. The first part of the book highlights Nine Global Challenges…

  • Population – The population is literally exploding in some of the most unreached areas of the world. As Christians, how are we going to respond: going or staying?
  • Migration – God is literally bringing the world to our doorstep. Refugees are pouring into the US, but the rest of the world is experiencing this as well. The amazing part is that some people groups that were in completely closed countries are now our next door neighbors.
  • Urbanization – The trend of people moving into cities is accelerating. As Christians, we must be prepared to reach cities and to find the unreached people groups living among them.
  • Health & Disease – As populations in the poorest of countries explode, disease increases. AIDS in Africa, where it is as high as 1/4 the population, is decimating entire villages. Johnstone says, “The Church is the only network with the human resources, moral imperative and spiritual motivation to deal with the root causes of the spread of HIV and help its victims by providing local, self-sustaining mechanisms for survival, a loving community for the present and real hope for the future.”
  • Climate Change – Whether you are on the side that thinks climate change is due to human abuses or it is simply a cyclical effect, most will agree that something is going on. The weather seems to be strange. There has been a dramatic increase in catastrophic earthquakes. For Christians, this could signal the end times. The Bible talks about an increase in these types of things during the last days.
  • Economy – As we have already experienced, the economy is a fragile thing. There is a growing disparity between the rich and the poor.  Corruption is on the rise globally.
  • Energy Resources – The price of oil and gasoline at the pumps continue to rise, not to mention that oil is a limited resource and not renewable. At the same time, renewable alternative energy resources are too expensive.
  • Politics & Freedom – We live in a day and age of increased hostility. At any given time, the US seems to be on the brink of war with any number of countries. The problem of slavery and human trafficking is not a past problem but a present reality.
  • Water Resources – Fresh water resources are dwindling. The US is, by statistics, considered under stress in this area. Countries in North Africa and the Middle East are at critical deficiencies.

As believers, we must be prepared to face these realities and not just look at them through our stained-glass windows. This cannot be about us just building our own little church. It must be much bigger than that.  It is imperative that we start thinking in terms of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom is like yeast. It does not work right if it is just clumped up together. It must be spread through the entire dough (Luke 13:20-21). I take this to mean that we need believers in every people group actively sharing their faith in order to see an indigenous church-planting movement started, but also to see believers in every area of life making real Godly change within healthcare systems, government structures, corporations, etc.








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