Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Power Words and Wonder of God

We returned yesterday from a jam packed weekend of learning about the power of words and the wonder of God. I was exhausted before we even arrived from the week of school, but I was amazed to experience God sustaining me and giving me attentive ears despite my weak body and need for sleep. Steven and I were so blessed to spend the weekend with the Parnell's and I really enjoyed getting to know them! I was humbled to see how God has provided for them in their short time as a family.
Here are a couple pictures from our time in Minneapolis...

The conference was challenging, refreshing, and full of rejoicing. The sessions are online and free to listen to. Desiring God ministries is where you can find all of them. If you only have time for one let me suggest Paul Tripp. I have read some of his books and listen to his pod cast. He gets right to the heart and our need to look within us to see our biggest problem.
However, you should listen to them all! It will challenge the way you say words, think about words, and the actual words that you say. Those things considered... I am really struggling to get this blog post complete because I am considering each word. I pray my words are glorifying God!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Reflections on the Emergent Church: Is Propositional Truth Outdated?

I have yet to post anything in regards to the Emergent Church and so I'll humbly admit that any assessments or feedback that are given in regards to this post and those in the future are welcome. I will begin this post by saying that I am in no way claiming to hold all of the answers in regards to the Emergent Church or even it's relation to what Scripture says. But, I believe I know that logically and propositionally the Bible speaks very well that all things of which it says are true should therefore be held in higher esteem than which the Emergent Church deems. The main problems I have with the Emergent Church after reading a few books by some of its leading figures such as, Rob Bell, Doug Pagitt, Tony Jones, Brian McLaren, and Dave Tomlinson is that there seems to be a major shift from objective propositional truth built on the Scriptures to subjective experience built on the existential feelings of man. You might be asking what propositional biblical truth actually is. Propositional biblical truth is that which is specific and true about Jesus Christ's life and work throughout the Bible. From the beginning of the Old Testament all the way to through the end of the New Testament; Christ's life, works, death, and resurrection are the centerpiece of which salvation is built and sustained. So what is the problem here? Would not everyone in the Emergent Church confess to these truths? You would think, but the problem does not rest with their admittance to the biblical truth of Christ. Relevance of the truth in today's culture is what makes it difficult for those in this movement to accept biblical truth as propositional rather than what they believe as subjective diversity. Propositional truth to the Emergent communities divides, raises walls, closes conversation, and leaves people out of the discussion. When I think about their reasoning for wanting to re-translate all of the biblical language used in Scripture so that others will not be offended in order to be thought of more highly, it just appears cowardly. The emphasis is not on the foundational facts of the Gospel, but in being in relationship with Jesus. Making a propositional statement and not having propositional truth to back it up does not make logical sense. How can you believe in something and deny objective facts upholding the statement by which you claim to be true. The Emergent Church I believe is now more than ever about orthopraxy rather than orthodoxy. Instead of filtering the methods the local church would use to reach people with the Gospel through the Word of God first, God's Word is filtered through pragmatic exercises. I believe the thinking of the "modern" Emergent church can be summarized this way: The preference for ethics over doctrine, the reservations about God's wrath and judgment, the perceived need to re-translate the Christian faith for a new time, the devaluing of propositional truths, the chastisement of firm doctrinal boundaries, the understanding of missions as social compassion and not conversion (I will reflect on all of these six issues over the next few weeks) - these happen to all be impulses of the modern world. Any spokesman or leading figure in the Emergent movement has the capability to grab anyone's attention in regards to opening up conversation about the propositional truths of God and His Word. They are believed to be outdated and outweighed by the current culture and the times that are ever-changing. Propositional truth to the Emergent Church is just that, subjective according to the subjected felt needs of the conversation. Why does this matter for our life in Christ? If the Bible's meaning is open for discussion, then how I treat my wife and those around me all depends on how I selfishly feel in that moment rather than what the objective truth of Scripture says. Propositional truth is not outdated nor will it ever change as it reflects the character of God in that He is immutable and does not change either in His promises that He has made. If Scripture's truth is not definite, there are more issues at stake than just how we translate the message of Jesus Christ to those around us.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Reflections on Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia & Our New Status

Praise God for what he accomplished through our lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We left July 27 for Kuala Lumpur and arrived July 28 late that evening. The following morning we hit the ground running doing a lot of prayer-walking and meeting a lot of people in the neighborhood where we stayed at and especially at the University of Nilai nearby. Our role was to support Chris and Rebecca over in the city of Nilai (outside of Kuala Lumpur) and to provide resources, make contacts, and build relationships for the purposes of sharing the Gospel. We were able as well in the process to lead a few Bible Studies and a discussion group for unbelievers. Most of the University students we worked with were either International or Chinese. We did not engage the Malay people as much as we would have liked to because our main objective was to help reach the International University of Nilai as much as possible through Sports, Outreach Events, Conversations, and Small group discussions. The traditional Malay people are what the IMB believe to be an unreached people group who need more people to work with them. They currently are enslaved under Sharia Law, which makes it difficult for them to follow Christ and for those on the outside to reach in with the truth. There were so many Malays at this University who looked as if they wanted to participate in the things we offered, but just could not due to their religion and cultural values. Along the way we were able to encourage a large cluster of believing students who needed to be encouraged in their walk with Christ as they sought to witness and share the Gospel with their peers at school and in their communities. The end result of our mission was that enough work was done for another “Fellowship” (Church) to be started on another campus in the future by some of the nationals and the Unit we supported.

It is hard to say whether or not a mission trip was successful when it is God’s work and he is the one who truly makes things happen on his timetable. So with that in mind, I believe our trip was successful in that the Unit that was there who we worked with was encouraged by our work and also by the large amount of contacts we were able to make over the course of the trip. God really showed me how much he will use a friendly conversation with someone or even just the small amount of time we took to spend with a believer who lives under stricter laws than we do. It was a special thing for me to see when we began to lead some students from the University in some familiar hymns we sing in the U.S. and to hear them singing them with all of their hearts, but more importantly to hear songs they had written about God’s character and how he was showing himself to them. God has redeemed all cultures through his Gospel and desires for all nations to come and repent. I believe we were able to truly see many who had never heard of the Gospel before hear that message of hope.

Specifically, Christ showed me how powerfully he is working through the earthly powers in Malaysia. Despite Sharia Law and all that is going on politically and culturally in that nation, God is working mightily and is building his church upon his enduring Word. The character of God was on display through his eternality. God will outlast all earthly powers and he will accomplish his purposes because no hand will be able to thwart his sovereignty. Christ just taught me patience while I was there in being a faithful seed planter and allowing Christ Jesus to move in his timing to save peoples at the campuses we worked at.

There are so many stories to tell of what God did around us the whole time and so I will just tell two for the sake of space and time. First, Kristin and Emily were able to befriend a young lady from Mongolia, share a traditional Mongolian meal with her, and then to finally share the complete story of the Gospel. Being able to stand back and watch that relationship develop on both sides was exciting. Seeing Kristin branch out and totally go beyond her own comfort zone in getting to know Jackie was awesome along with seeing Jackie understand the Gospel through the two ladies’ testimony. Second, our objective in reaching out to the Nilai campus was to host an outdoor event in making contacts. We had a recording artist named Beau Bristow from the United States come and play his music in helping us make contacts. Apparently our event had such success that the University asked Chris and Rebecca to handle new student outreaches in the future, which would enable more contacts to be made and a greater window for ministry in the future.

God is working mightily in Nilai and is enabling his workers to make an impact for the Kingdom at the Universities there. We pray there will be a multi-generational church planted within walking distance soon that will include not just the students at Nilai, but the Malay people and that God would raise-up more young men to be committed to full-time ministry.

As you may have already heard from our previous newsletter last month, we have moved to Wake Forest, NC in order to better prepare for the mission field. We are excited about what the Lord will enfold for us and what we need to do now in order to prepare well for our season on the mission field. Emily is taking classes more intensively now that we are 2 minutes from the campus of Southeastern where she is trying to finish her M.A. in Biblical Counseling. While she is taking classes I am working and auditing a few Biblical Language classes in order to keep my Greek and Hebrew consistently right. At our local church we are actively involved still with the collegiate ministry in mentoring some students from Duke and UNC and we are also leading a Home Fellowship small group. We are excited about the opportunities God has put in our way so that we might prepare well for His great work overseas. Please continue to pray for discernment in our walk with Christ and as we seek the face of God in regards to the possibilities in Brazil.