Friday, March 15, 2013

Give Me Justice!

Jesus was telling the people why they should always pray and not lose heart. A woman, in his story, cried out to the impatient, unrighteous judge for justice from her opponent. She kept praying until he relented and acted in her favor to provide that justice. He tired of listening to her incessant pleas. "Now," Jesus said, "will not God bring about justice for his elect who cry to Him day and night, and yet He is very patient with them" [an alternate reading in the NASB]. 

In other words, if vindication for the one appealing is what happens in a secular law court where the judge has no compassion, how kindly will God act in our favor, who are the ones he has actually chosen and the ones toward whom He has loving patience?

Jesus ends with this: "I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:1-8) 

All of this has to do with appeals for justice. We see this kind of appeal going on in heaven when martyrs cry out to God asking for the right thing to be done on earth against those who persecuted them. "O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" (Rev 6:10) They did not want to do the judging themselves, but they expected God to do it. "Vengeance is mine" says the Lord, not the believers.

Should we cry out for justice? Do we need to be vindicated? Paul is fond of repeating the words of Isaiah, "He who believes in Him will not be disappointed"(Rom 10:11; Isa 28:16). The word "disappointed" may well be translated "ashamed" or "put to shame." Paul seems to use this sentence to describe our relation to God. In other words, as a man trusts in what Christ has done for him, he is going to be declared to be right in the heavenly court.

But in this parable, it is said that those who cry out to Him will not only be justified before God, but justified before men. God will vindicate them before their enemies. We cry out when we are treated unjustly because we know that it matters that the name of God's children and the cause of Christ will be proven to be right before men. "Wisdom WILL be known by her children." 

If He does not vindicate us before men immediately, then He nonetheless will do it quickly when He comes. He will prove Himself right, and all His children--His peculiar people--will be vindicated in one decisive moment. 

But, will he find faith on earth? Will there be people who trust Him after long years of persecution and injustice? That's the question we must consider.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Something Like Hell

I saw a horrible site yesterday at the coffee shop while discussing the Bible with a friend. A man, obviously in an advanced stage of dementia, gnashed his teeth, shook violently in anger, cringed with fear. I'm often moved by the plight of mental anguish. My mother died of Alzheimers. We cannot always tell which direction dementia will take. Will it turn a person angry or will he be docile?

So, with respect, and with no knowledge at all of this man's eternal state, I want to share with you the alarming thought that I had when seeing him. I thought of the awfulness of hell where, according to Jesus, men writhe in agony, tossed back and forth between their own insidious fear and unstoppable rage. I longed for people to be converted to Christ, to escape a world where "their worm [likely their conscience] does not die." Only in Christ will you escape hell's horrors. And, if you think I am too dramatic, consider that Christ himself warned us with vivid depictions of hell's agonies. If you are casually walking along the lip of hell, please think again about what's ahead.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Pih, the Splendid Servant of China's Moody

by Steve Burchett

Ting Li Mei was a preacher in China who was considered "China's Moody." He was interested in the missionary work of James Fraser to the Lisu in Western China, so he traveled with Fraser for several months. Fraser found a very dear brother in Ting, but he also greatly appreciated his assistant named Pih. Here's what Fraser wrote about Pih:
Pih is simply splendid . . . not much of a preacher, but a quiet, unassuming man of moderate education, willing to do just anything. Always there, when there is any drudgery or hard work to be tackled, he seems to find a way out of every difficulty, making things easier for everybody. You don't notice him much, but, like the boy's definition of salt as 'the thing that makes the porridge taste nasty when there isn't any, he is the kind of man who makes things difficult for you, when you haven't got him! (Mountain Rain: A New Biography of James O Fraser [Robesonia, PA: OMF Books, 1985], 153-154).
"As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies--in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." (1 Peter 4:10-11)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Counting on Rising from the Grave

by Jim Elliff

I've been reflecting some on the future, the new world, and the resurrection of the body. What will happen tonight when you sleep? Will you die? Can you say you know for sure what will happen? Thomas Watson said, "We are more sure of rising from the grave than we are of our beds."

The resurrection of Christ is the guarantee of your bodily resurrection. That experience, witnessed by the apostles, was so incredible that they made it the centerpiece of their story the rest of their days. But he is only the first fruits of the harvest, according to Paul. We are the rest of that harvest. We obtained a future resurrected body in the gift of salvation through Christ, and we can be sure it will happen.

Be encouraged by that truth as you rest tonight. Think, "If I do not rise tomorrow from my bed, I will certainly rise from the grave when Christ returns." "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord," Paul also taught us. Our souls will be in heaven when we die. But the resurrection of the body completes the gift of life to us. One day you "will be preserved, body, soul, and spirit" in the future world. Count on it if you are His child. Like the apostles before us, find courage in the fact of the resurrection.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Beautiful Boy With Down Syndrome

by Steve Burchett

A beautiful boy with Down Syndrome showed up this morning with his loving mom and grandma at the Panera Bread where I led a men's Bible study. His presence reminds me of this tragic statistic: About 90% of those who find out their child has Down Syndrome abort. That percentage is astonishing and saddening.

Even as I type this post, he's laughing and playing. He sometimes looks over and smiles at me. God, who is wise, good, and powerful, made him (Psalm 139:13-16). So he is valuable. He has worth. He is made in God's image. His life matters. He is a gift from God (Psalm 127:3). He deserves love, care, and respect, and he always did--even in the womb.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Raven Express

I've gotten encouragement this morning from a phrase showing up in the life of Elijah: "I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there" (1 Kings 17:4).

Jesus, hundreds of years later, tells us to consider the ravens: "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet YOUR heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?" (Mt. 6:26)

The ravens, who haven't worried one day about provision, were employed in Elijah's case as transports for His provision for the prophet. Elijah got his meals through Raven Express, delivered right to the door.

We have all the reason in the world to be confident that God is well aware of our needs and will meet them as we fully devote ourselves to Him. It sometimes amazes me that God is so personally tuned to our needs. He actually KNOWS them before we ask. And if He does not supply them at some point, it is only because He believes not supplying that moment is a higher need in our lives or need for the community of Christ.

It is YOUR heavenly Father that feeds the birds and can send the birds to supply your needs if He wishes.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

When Pastors Aren't Able to Pastor

The church is medium-sized in attendance, yet, on paper the membership roll is even larger. Its solo pastor is a frustrated man. There are some good days, and certainly some fine people who encourage him, but he’s frustrated because the job God called him to do just cannot be done. He has many people to tend to, numbers of which are missing, and even those who are present are more than any average man could possibly care for—that is, really care for.

So, this good-hearted, spiritually-minded pastor lapses into frustration over his inability to do much more than put out fires. And there are plenty of those.
He tries to project the view that he is a true shepherd of all the people. He speaks in warm terms to those attending on Sundays, and to all of the people through the church’s regular publications. The website shows him as if he were the best friend and confidant of all the members, constantly attending to their spiritual growth, mentoring, guiding, and comforting. But the blurb under his photo is only a wish and not a reality. He actually is only able to pastor an inner core on that level—perhaps twenty to thirty, at most. He sometimes thinks that his loving words are no different than those of the TV preacher who looks into the camera and acts as if he is directly speaking to the listener as his dearest friend. He has become a pastor who is not able to pastor.
Across town is the fastest growing church. They are driven by entertainment, appealing music, and a large staff. Sometimes his members visit there, just out of curiosity or perhaps out of the need to have a little relief from the sedate experience they are used to. When a special event comes to the mega-church, perhaps several of his members attend, including his own children. It often adds to his frustration, though he would not say much about it.
The pastor of the mega-church expresses his love for the people also. In fact, he may be better at saying it than the pastor of the smaller church. His website portrays him in several photos and videos as a caring, magnanimous friend of the people, who all smile and love him.
Yet, if the truth were known, the fast-growing church has more of a pastor/people gap than the smaller church. And in that church even a higher percentage of the people do not attend. It is not necessarily because the large church pastor is any more or less interested in shepherding people. He can hardly be blamed for the fact that people love to hear him speak and that his staff is able to carry out programs that attract. Yet, behind the scenes, the larger church pastor is often frustrated as well. As he reads the Bible, he sees that there is much he is not doing that God requires of him. He gets accolades from the people, more than the first pastor, but before God he often feels he’s a failure—and that the size of his church only amplifies his failings.
What can be done?
Perhaps the problem here is not in the pastors themselves, but in the structure of the churches. They are designed for pastoral separation from the people, and all the more so as they grow. The solutions would have much to do with multiplying pastors, decentralizing, and dividing the church into pastoral units, not in a corporate business way, but into true manageable cells led by qualified men. The early church did this naturally, by multiplying house churches. But that solution may never come, if it is even envisioned by these men and their churches. Suppose the macro-solution then is not possible. What else could be done? Especially, what could be done by you, the person who needs a pastor for your own spiritual well-being and growth?
Here are some ways you can help overcome the pastor/member gap:
1.       Work harder at knowing your pastor. If he is not able, due to time, to pour his life into you in a personal way, don’t just give up and remain distant. Men, invite him to your home, take him out to lunch, become his encourager. He will, in turn, carry on a certain level of mentorship just because it is in his spiritual genes to do so. Women, this first point will not work as well for you for obvious reasons if you are single or your husband does not attend, yet remaining as appropriately friendly as possible is always an improvement.
2.       Build relationships with others who have potential to increase your faith and improve your walk with God. Perhaps there is a man and his wife in the church who would be on the pastoral team if such a team existed. Seek to draw out spiritual help and understanding of Scripture from them, and reciprocate by encouraging them and serving them in practical ways.
3.       Take on a discipleship role yourself. Look around to see who could be helped by your ministry to them. Approach them on a friendship level. Then after getting together, depending on how well you work with each other, figure out a way to be together regularly for Bible study and prayer, even if all you can do is read the Bible, comment and pray.
4.       Take on some of the difficult people of the church and seek to meet their needs. In churches, it is often the case that just one person demands almost all the pastor’s time that is available. And when he is not around, the pastor’s wife may have the privilege. Share that load with your pastor. Talk with him to see if he has suggestions as to how you can free him by helping out.
5.       Finally, offer your services to your pastor personally. Both men and women may be helpful in appropriate ways. Ask him how you may serve him in extending his care for others. It might mean making hospital visits, checking on widows, phoning members, or making contact with guests who’ve come to visit the church.
If only a few church members live out some or all of the above suggestions—perhaps if even one does it—significant improvement will be made in the church you love.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Qualifications and Duties of an Elder

The following is a list of the biblical qualifications that an elder must possess. No elder will be a perfect man, but if he is clearly and persistently lacking in any of these qualities, he cannot serve in the church as an elder. An elder must be:

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Seven Ways to Get Smart About Kids' Toys this Christmas

If you have plastic up to your gills, or if you want to be more frugal about gifts, or even if you enjoy using what God has given you in a redeeming way, you may appreciate these ideas this Christmas: 

1. Gather up as many bags of used toys as possible to put into circulation. Relatives or a church friend might need some of your toys for their younger children. Local organizations like foster care associations, rescue missions, or pregnancy resource centers are often receiving slightly used toys to give away to needy children. Perhaps you can do this: Let each child select and keep one box of toys and one additional “big item,” like a doll-house or an indoor plastic basketball goal, then give the rest away. Kids can get used to doing this right after or right before Thanksgiving each year. It could become part of the Christmas experience.  

2. Teach your kids that used items are just as fun as new items. There really is little use in having to buy new items for children when you could provide them with better toys for less money by shopping at thrift stores and garage sales, or by swapping out with other parents. Kids really don’t mind this. The only thing that can spoil this is creating lust in children by exposing them to too many advertisements. The toy manufacturers know just how to appeal to kids.   

3. How about doing some internal recycling sometime around Christmas? Try grouping the kids’ toys into boxes and storing them. Each month (or whenever you think appropriate), rotate in a new box of old toys and temporarily retire the ones the kids have just been using. You will only need about three or four boxes for this. This will make old toys more interesting and appreciated. Perhaps you could ask the kids to select a boxful of toys for now, before Christmas, then, after they have played with their new Christmas toys awhile, do a good job of separating all their toys for the rest of the year. The kids could help you sort them.  

4. Parents could have a gathering with other parents in the church for a toy exchange. Each family could bring a box full of toys (or more), and swap toys for a whole “new” set that could then be wrapped and given to their children. Bring toys that are nice enough to pass on.  

5. Instead of having “gift exchanges” where each child brings a brand new gift to give to another boy or girl (who may not like it), have a “new to you” gift exchange where each child brings a used toy (or even more!) to give away.   

6. Have a “Christmas garage sale.” Involve the kids in the whole process, from cleaning the toys to setting up. It may be more enjoyable to move the sale out on your driveway. If it’s cold, be sure to have hot chocolate ready for the customers. The toys (and hot chocolate) could be free, or the kids could charge reasonable prices (cheap) for everything and use the money they make to buy gifts for others in the family. Or, the kids may be encouraged to give the money they make to help children somewhere in the world who have much less. You may enjoy doing this Christmas garage sale with other families in your church and/or neighborhood. This may be a strategic way to meet or reconnect with neighbors.  

7. Along with collecting food items to give to a needy family in your church or community, also include age-appropriate toys. Let your children pick out several from their own collection that they think will be especially enjoyed.  

Ultimately we want to promote and provide a context for the exercise of the selflessness which can only be found in people who know Christ. Some kids especially need work in this area because of years of over-stimulation and childlike self-centeredness. In many countries of the world, children have only a couple of toys (maybe handmade). Though we should enjoy what we have, doing as much as possible to make kids grateful is a really important parental task. It is one that is not easy and demands prayer and careful planning, over time.   

If our children are truly followers of Christ, they will enjoy the encouragements to think in God-honoring ways about their toys. If they are not, these ideas will provide many opportunities to preach the gospel to them. For example, as we teach them about giving up their toys for the temporary joy of others, we will be able to speak about the Christ who gave His life for the eternal joy of His people. And God may even use the sinful struggles your children have with some of the ideas above to convict them of their sin and their need of the Savior. These seven ideas will matter most if parents connect them to the gospel.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Soils Booklet

New Item for Evangelism!

The SoilsThis is a strikingly beautiful, colorful, 12 page booklet (4"x6") displaying Jesus' parable of the soils from Matthew 13. We used thick cover stock throughout for a quality feel. It ends with a simple challenge that will help the reader to discover how he listens to Christ's word.

We will sell this booklet only in 10 packs and 100 packs, 10 pack for just $6.00 (includes shipping) or 100 booklets for just $50 (includes shipping). We believe this tract has many uses. How about enclosing them in your Christmas cards?

See the entire booklet here: The Soils