Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Defective View of Hell or a Defective Heart

Without a doubt, this was one of the key moments at Lausanne. 

Posted at Desiring God:

On Lausanne's website, John Piper's exposition of Ephesians 3 is among the most watched, most discussed, and highest rated sessions from last month's congress in Cape Town. I mention that only to suggest that what he says in it has really struck a cord with those who've heard it.

It was an important and timely word. If you're interested in hearing it yourself, you can now watch or read it on our website.

The high point of the message is when Piper makes this plea to listeners (pardon the length—the context is necessary):

If God had not put Christ forward to bear his own wrath, if Christ had not become a curse for us, as Galatians 3:13 says, then all the nations and all Jews would have perished under God’s wrath and entered into everlasting suffering in hell, as Jesus said in Matthew 25:46.

The reason I draw out this implication of the cross is to hold together in this congress and in the church of Christ two truths that are often felt to be at odds with each other, but don’t have to be.

One truth is that when the gospel takes root in our souls it impels us out toward the alleviation of all unjust suffering in this age. That’s what love does!

The other truth is that when the gospel takes root in our souls it awakens us to the horrible reality of eternal suffering in hell, under the wrath of a just and omnipotent God. And it impels us to rescue the perishing, and to warn people to flee from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

I plead with you. Don’t choose between those two truths. Embrace them both. It doesn’t mean we all spend our time in the same way. God forbid. But it means we let the Bible define reality and define love.

Could Lausanne say—could the evangelical church say—we Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering? I hope we can say that. But if we feel resistant to saying “especially eternal suffering,” or if we feel resistant to saying “we care about all suffering in this age,” then either we have a defective view of hell or a defective heart.

I pray that Lausanne would have neither.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Why Jethro? The Wisdom of What God Doesn't Say

I found this intriguing as a lesson in spirituality and leadership, with perhaps additional implications in missiology.  From John Bloom:

God gave very detailed instructions to Moses regarding the construction of the tabernacle and the keeping of the law. So isn’t it interesting that God didn’t tell Moses how to perform his role as judge in Israel?

Instead he allowed Moses to struggle with an overbearing workload for awhile and then sent Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law and priest of Midian (a pagan priest?), to give him counsel. In Exodus 18, Jethro observes Moses’ administrative approach to judgment and then gives sage advice on delegation. The outcome was a much more effective and efficient way of serving the people.

Why didn’t God just tell Moses that from the beginning? Why Jethro? I think one very important reason is that God speaks with clarity and preciseness everything that is required to make his people holy throughout the generations—every promise to be trusted and every commandment to be obeyed. But outside of that, he leaves much to our figuring out. And when he guides, it’s usually indirectly.

The vast majority of our methods or systems are not to be considered sacred. God does not intend for every church, denomination, or organization to structure by thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, which is what we would do if we thought this was God’s official way of organizing people.

I love the Bible. God is so wise. He is as intentional in what he does not say, as he is in what he does say.

So in our prayers for strategic and administrative wisdom, we should expect God to send us Jethros and not some special revelation.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Does the “Kingdom” Make Sense to Muslims?

Why do we hear the Synoptic Gospels talk so much about the Kingdom but then the Epistles talk so much about Jesus?  Newbigin explains (chapter 5):

In Jesus the kingdom is present.  That is why the first generation of Christian preachers used a different language from the language of Jesus: he spoke about the kingdom, they spoke about Jesus.  They were bound to make this shift of language if they were to be faithful to the facts.  It was not only that the phrase “kingdom of God” in the ears of a pagan Greek would be almost meaningless, having none of the deep reverberations that it evoked from someone nourished on the Old Testament.  It was that the kingdom, or kingship, of God was no longer a distant hope or a faceless concept.  It had now a name and a face – the name and face of the man from Nazareth.

Sometimes I feel that my “Kingdom” talk has the same effect on Muslims as it did on first century Greeks.  In my experience, Muslims interpret “Kingdom of God” as simply meaning “God’s Creation.”  I know kingdom talk is quite popular in Muslim ministry these days, but can anyone else relate to this issue I’m having? 

In any case, it is always a sure thing to just talk about Jesus.

Related Post: The Kingdom, the Cross, and the Church

Friday, November 19, 2010

Mobile Phone-Empowered Ministry

Having short videos on my cell phone to Bluetooth has been a fantastic addition to my witness.  So I was glad to see this recent article in IJFM: The Little Phone that Could: Mobile-Empowered Ministry (HT: TH). 

Here is a nice quote for those expatriates who are content with owning a lame mobile phone (aka my wife):

What a strange world we live in, a world where we highly literate, technologically savvy expatriates who live and work with “backwards” illiterate tribal peoples find ourselves lagging years behind those same people in our use of portable communications and media technology. My western co-worker, for instance, still purchases his mobile phone on the basis of whether or not it has a built-in flashlight with little concern for the fact that the phone has no camera, memory, or Bluetooth connectivity (that’s not to say I haven’t often wished my phone had a flashlight too!). Meanwhile, the local youth among our people are trading in their phones every few months for the latest model and spend hours each day using them to view and send one another songs, videos, and poetry. This is not something unique to the people I work with—the U.N.’s International Telecommunications Union estimates that there are now more than five billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide!

You need to get a phone that has Bluetooth capabilities- for Jesus!

How convenient would it be if the mobile phone you carried had a veritable toolbox of songs, poetry and/or videos that point to Christ and which you could share with people you came into contact with throughout the day?…  The great thing is that viewing and sharing photos, music, and videos on mobile phone is now so common among the people group I live among that whipping out my phone and sharing one of these video or audio files with them is completely natural!

Videos can make the gospel viral:

Missions strategists tell us that our outreach should be reproducible by those we are seeking to reach. The ubiquity of the mobile phone’s presence and Bluetooth phone-to-phone connectivity make mobile media ministry eminently reproducible. We simply send Bluetooth videos on to those interested in them and they can then replay them and show them to others. Those other people, in turn, can show them to their friends who in turn can send them on to their wider circle of friends. Rather than solely reaching our limited circle of acquaintances and friends, mobile phone media has the potential to reach thousands and even tens of thousands.

Bluetoothing is not a magic bullet that will start CPMs around the world- it’s just a tool that can be useful.  And by the way, the iPhone is only cool if you can Bluetooth from it.

From the conclusion:

Mobile phones are the most widely used media technology among the unreached today… Are we investigating the amazing new abilities that mobile phone technology brings to the table? Do we recognize that the mobile is the next generation of mass media subsequent to TV and internet, and that its abilities surpass those of the previous generations? Are we finding ways to use these new capabilities to spread the glory of God among the unreached? I challenge you to think strategically while acting quickly to harness the potential mobile phone outreach offers in bringing the gospel of Christ to the lost.

Here are a couple sites in Arabic that have good short videos:

Here is a short English video for Muslims that is available for translation into any language.

Below is a Sabeel Media video on Jesus healing the man with a withered hand:

Stories of the Prophets Jesus اليد الذابلة والمسيح المنتظر from Sabeel Media on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What are the Indications that a Muslim Has Left the Kingdom of Darkness?

From the website of Greg Livingstone, under the Ministry Issues tab, What are the Indications that a Muslim Has Left the Kingdom of Darkness?:

What are the indications that a Muslim has left the Kingdom of Darkness and entered the Kingdom of God’s Beloved Son? I.e., ‘been born again’? Indwelt by the Spirit? Clearly become an obedient follower of Christ Jesus?

  1. S/he has come to understand the facts re: Who Christ Jesus is, and what He was accomplishing in His visit to the earth-the ONE sent from Allah to ransom him, bringing him acceptably to God.
  2. S/he has faced up to fact that he has been a rebel, demanding his own desires, and despite carrying the title, “muslim”, ignoring, not truly submitted to, Allah.
  3. Confessing his sin in heart felt repentance for his disobedience, then determining to look to Allah to change him
  4. Coming to understand that he must rely on the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross as a subsitutionary atonement.
  5. S/he should memorize the titles attributed to Jesus in the N.T., i.e. “Lord of Glory”.
  6. Recognize that Christ is alive, having broken the power of death, and that he is returning to rule the world in peace, removing all suffering.
  7. He is determined to know what God wants through the Scriptures, and to obey, and practice everything Christ and His apostles taught. “God said it, I believe it, that settles it”.
  8. Daily asks what does God want…
  9. Called to new community UMMA, and is determined to live out the “one another” commands demonstrating the difference Christ living in him will make, as a witness.
  10. Desires to forgive those who offend him, and help believers who need reconciliation.
  11. To love his neighbour by seeking to bring them also into Christ’s Kingdom
  12. Understands it has been granted to him not only to believe, but also to suffer for His sake, therefore he will confess Christ as his Saviour and Master.
  13. He lives as a ‘good steward’…“seeking first the Kingdom of God”, i.e. to discover his gifts and role in establishing need-meeting house churches where Christ is not known.

Here is a nice video chronology of the Livingstone’s 50 year ministry.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Should Christians support laws that ban Muslim women from wearing the face veil in public?

From Christianity Today, Christians Should Defend Muslim Liberty:

Joseph Cumming, director of the reconciliation program at the Yale Center for Faith and Culture at Yale Divinity School, David Johnston, author of Earth, Empire and Sacred Text, and Christine Schirrmacher, a scholar with the Institute of Islamic Studies of the Evangelical Alliance in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, discuss whether Christians should support laws that ban Muslim women from wearing the face veil in public.

Christian commitment to religious liberty is rooted in Jesus' teaching, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (Luke 6:31). When Christians dialogue with Muslims, a vital concern we rightly address is restrictions placed on Christians in Muslim-majority countries. If we want Muslims to uphold religious liberty for Christian minorities, we must defend religious liberty for Muslims when they are the minority.

Some respond, "We will defend Muslims' freedom when Muslims begin respecting freedom for persecuted Christians in Muslim-majority countries." Concern for the suffering church is right (Heb. 13:3), but immediately after the Golden Rule, Jesus adds in the Luke passage, "Do good … expecting nothing in return" (6:35). We must defend liberty for others whether or not they reciprocate. Christians should set a moral example for the world, not wait for others to lead.

But does Islam really require a face veil? This is vigorously debated within the Muslim community. Most Muslims worldwide interpret Islam as requiring a headscarf but not a face veil for women. A minority of Muslims sees the face veil as mandatory or recommended, while an opposing minority sees even headscarves as unnecessary. Should the state adjudicate this debate?

To answer this following Jesus' do-unto-others principle, consider the parallel issue among Christians. Most Christians interpret 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 as not requiring women to cover their heads. But a significant number of Christian women (notably in non-Western and African American churches) do cover their heads in Sunday worship. And some (e.g., traditionalist Mennonites) conscientiously cover their heads throughout the week. Though we each have opinions on this exegetical question, we would not want the state to adjudicate it for us. If we would not want this for ourselves, then Jesus' teaching strongly suggests we should not impose it on Muslims.

But is the veil inherently oppressive to women? In some contexts (for example, Afghanistan under Taliban rule), women have been forced to wear face coverings against their will. In such circumstances, defending women's human rights as equal before the law is a legitimate Christian concern (Gal. 3:28).

Nevertheless, many self-respecting, articulate Muslim women make a conscious choice to veil, or they advocate their sisters' right to do so. Some even see their modest clothing choice as a feminist statement.

When the state compels them to uncover themselves in public, they feel violated. Jesus' do-unto-others principle suggests we let Muslim women speak for themselves about what their clothing choices mean to them.

But what about security when we cannot see people's faces? The state has a legitimate concern to ascertain the identity of people entering sensitive locations like airports. In such venues, however, we already offer women the option of being checked in private by female security personnel.

Jesus' words about logs and specks (Luke 6:41-42) suggest we first must defend Muslim fellow-citizens' liberty in our country, and only then will we "see clearly" enough to ask Muslims about treatment of Christians in Muslim-majority countries. This may make us uncomfortable, but Jesus never said discipleship was anything but costly.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Islam and the Goal of Love

From William Chittick on Tabsir:

Love, in short, aims at communion, union, unity. Tawhid is the assertion of oneness and unity, but it is only an assertion, not the reality. Love is the energy that drives the quest for integration. The assertion of unity and the transforming energy must work together to overcome disjunction and disarray, to achieve togetherness and harmony, to actualize oneness and union. Tawhid provides the orientation, love the force. Without tawhid, love is dispersed and scattered; without love, tawhid is empty talk.

That the word “love” expresses the goal of tawhid is a common theme in the literature. Many explain it in terms of “the sentence that expresses unity” (kalimat al-tawhid). That is, the four Arabic words “(There is) no god but God,” the foundation of the Islamic creed.

Achieving the goal depends on overcoming the illusions set up by false realities, aberrant loves and misleading desires. In the language of Sufism, the false realities are called “others,” meaning everything that distracts the heart from the Absolutely Real. Rumi explains that love actualizes tawhid in these terms:

Love is that flame which, when it blazes up,
burns away everything except the Everlasting Beloved.

It drives home the sword of “no god” in order to slay other than God.
Look closely–after “no god” what remains?

There remains “but God,” the rest has gone.
Bravo, O great, idol-burning love!

(Mathnawi, Book 5, verses 588-90)

Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tim Tennent's blog, 'Global Talk'

I just want to make you aware of Tim Tennent's blog, Global Talk.  In my humble opinion, he is without a doubt one of the sharpest missiological thinkers in the world today (and a pretty sharp dresser too!).

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Gospel and its Results Should be Neither Confused nor Separated

From Tim Keller in Gospel Theology:

What is the gospel? It is not about everything the Bible teaches. It is about how our relationship with God is put right through the work of Jesus Christ.

What are the results of the gospel? They include the eventual healing of the world and all the other alienations resulting from the disruption in our relationship to God. Racism, hunger and poverty, the ravaging and exploitation of the environment—all these enormous problems will ultimately be solved on judgment day, because the rupture in the relationship between God and humanity has been mended through Christ. The gospel is not just incarnation and atonement but also resurrection—Jesus is the first-fruits of the future renewal of the world. Therefore, the gospel—what Jesus has done to put us right with God—points forward to the day when we will also be put completely right in every other way.

The gospel and its results/implications must be carefully related to each other—neither confused nor separated. This is very close to Luther’s dictum that we are saved by faith alone, but not by a faith that remains alone. His point is that true gospel belief will always and necessarily lead to good works, but salvation in no way at all comes through or because of good works. Faith and works must never be confused for one another, nor may they be separated.

In the same way, once your alienation from God is healed, your other alienations will begin to be healed within and around you, partially now and fully later. Gospel-changed people will be moved to serve their neighbors and use their gifts and resources to alleviate psychological, social, and physical suffering, because of the hope and love the gospel brings.

Having said that the gospel and its results must neither be confused nor separated, we risk making two overgeneralizations. Some people over-emphasize the distinction, and they fail to adequately stress how the gospel always leads to community and justice and peace. On the other hand, some under-emphasize the distinction, giving the impression that gospel work is synonymous with making the world a better place.

I have heard people preach this way: “The good news is that God is healing and will heal the world of all its hurts; therefore, the work of the gospel is to work for justice and peace in the world.” The danger in this line of thought is that the good news becomes a divine rehabilitation program for the world, rather than an accomplished substitutionary work. “Believing the good news” means joining that program, rather than receiving Christ’s finished work. In other words, the gospel becomes primarily a salvation by practice instead of a salvation by faith.

As J. I. Packer says, “The gospel does bring us solutions to these problems, but it does so by first solving…the deepest of all human problems, the problem of man’s relation with his Maker; … and unless we make it plain that the solution of these former problems depends on the settling of this latter one, we are misrepresenting the message and becoming false witnesses of God.”  J. I. Packer, quoted by James Montgomery Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith: A Comprehensive and Readable Theology (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 319.