Category Archives: Christians

Love Costs Everything

“I baptized 13 Christians and 11 of them were killed by the following week.” 

This is a vivid, raw and in-your-face trailer for a video coming out in March about the persecuted church.  The Apostle Paul asked Christians not to forget his chains when he was being persecuted and we should not forget our brothers and sisters in Christ who are being beaten all the day along for daring to trust in Christ alone.

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Thoughts on DG Conference 2011

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This past weekend 3,500 people gathered at the Minneapolis Convention Center  for the DesiringGod 2011 National Conference. This years theme was Finish the Mission: For the Joy of All Peoples- Bringing the Gospel to The Unreached.

Louie Giglio spoke on The Global God Who Gives the Great Commission. He preached on Psalm 148 and said, God is surrounded by a symphony beyond our wildest dreams.” I can’t begin to describe how he brought to life this Psalm, so you will have to watch it at the DesiringGod website. Check in at around 42 minutes to find out what I’m talking about or better yet, watch the whole thing. Bottom line- we sang with stars and whales to the glory of God!

David Sitton spoke on reckless abandon when it comes to missions and he was the right guy to lay it down. He gave 14 years of his early life to bringing the gospel to people who wanted to kill him in Central America. He said that the danger question in regards to sending missionaries into dangerous areas is really an American question. The world will not be reached by worldly wise people but by people like those found in Hebrews 11. That is a chapter about fools for Christ. There is no chapter about the reasonable risk guy.

David Platt talked about the glory of God, the lostness of man and the Gospel of Christ. He mainly drilled down into the text from Isaiah 6 and had four points:

  1. We have an incomprehensibly awesome God.
  2. We are sinfully lost people. The way we talk about hell shows we have no idea what we are talking about.
  3. We have a scandalously merciful Savior.
  4. We have an indescribably urgent mission.  One that should be undertaken without condition and regardless of cost.

His talk was my favorite one.

Michael Oh addressed the Lord’s purpose and provision in the Lord’s Prayer. He said, “In Jesus Christ we have nothing to envy…Every gift of God should be enjoyed as a gift from God and not as a god.”

The speaker panel took the first 15 minutes to address what “the call to missions” really is. I found two points very illuminating on how the decision to go into missions should be made. It should not be a decision made on one’s own. It should be made through much council from people with wisdom and authority in one’s life (i.e., pastors, other missionaries, family). Also, ask God to give a Scripture passage that would burn into your mind with such passion that it can’t be shaken and for that passage to bring clarity to your decision.

Ed Stetzer is a researcher and church planter and lost me a couple times during his talk. He got very technical on statistics and terms within missions that I am glad somebody can handle. He defined being missional as being  one who is sent, and argued that not every Christian is a missionary. Those who cross cultures to bring the gospel are missionaries. Some of the quotes from his talk were excellent:

“Don’t let your church be a cul-de-sac on the great commission highway.”

“Hold your models loosely and your gospel firmly.”

“The church should be a missional, missions, gospel-centered, Spirit-empowered church so that his name and his fame will be widely known.”

I am grateful to God for being able to have gone to the conference and now want to be a faithful steward with what I have learned. I have dipped my bucket into this well and want to share it with the people I love at my church. My desire is for them to catch a desire and passion for seriously supporting our missionaries that we are sending and see that this what we were made to do. Christians are either goers, senders or disobedient when it comes to missions. Right now I want to be the best sender possible. Maybe that status will change someday for my family.


Dispatches From The Front

 


Of Gods And Men

I just read an article in WORLD Magazine in regards to a movie review on Of Gods and Men. It is based on true events that took place between 1993 and 1996 when a group of monks are persecuted by Islamic terrorists. An interview was done with Henri Quinson, who is a monk and was an adviser on the movie set. He had a remarkably insightful quote that I have been thinking about this morning:

“Christians need to understand the only way out of this clash of civilizations is to live our faith in a convincing and intelligent way and try to build relationships with real people. Some people say you can have a dialogue with Islam. No! You can’t have a dialogue with theories or theology. You can only come into a relationship with a person.”



A Stubborn, Happy Woman- Grandma

Raised on a farm in North Dakota and literally having the last name of Hell, having stubbornness course through ones veins is to be expected I suppose. Such was the case with my Grandma. She was one of the most determined and stubborn people I have ever known. However, on Monday, January 10, 2011 she left this world leaving me with another reminder of who she was: one of the most happiest people I have ever known.

I have many, many memories when I think of my Grandma. There was always an endless supply of peanut butter and honey sandwiches at her table. There was the ability to fix almost any problem I had. More than once I told her as a child, “Grandma, you can do anything but fly.” There was the ever present open door at her house; taking offense if I would call ahead of time to ask if I could come over. There was the legacy of a loving marriage that lasted over 50 years.

I remember her trying to be the primary care taker for my dying Grandpa as bone cancer ate away at his body. She fought against aging eyes plagued with macular degeneration and lungs that had bore the brunt of a bad smoking habit. Often times she would create a bigger mess from the one she was trying to clean up and would quietly swear under her breath. I had the privilege and the pain of seeing a woman trying to love and take care of her dying husband.

Above all, I will remember my Grandma as one of the happiest people I have ever known. Her bright smile accented a freckled face and red hair, offset by ever increasing wrinkles as the years progressed. Her home was a hotel, an apartment and a bed-and-breakfast. Numerous grandchildren lived with her at various times in the last decade. I would stayed at her house 3 days a week while going to college and working full time. At night I would come through the door to be welcomed with a piece of chocolate cake and ice cream.

Her joy was in serving others. God transformed her from being a legalistic Catholic to being a lover of Jesus. During my college days I would wake up in her house at 6:00 in the morning and find an open Bible, on the kitchen table. She loved the Word. During the last few months of her life her vision became so poor that she could no longer read. Psalm 34 was a chapter I read to her many times and she would interject “amen” and “hallelujah” throughout the reading.

She was not the image of perfection and had struggles she wished she didn’t have. She was a sinner saved by grace. She was a lover of Jesus. She was a lover of people. She did not grow bitter when people took advantage of her and Grandpa. Until the last breath of her life she was a humble, gentle, happy Grandma that left me an example to follow.

For we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison as we look not to the things that are seen but to things that are unseen.

II Corinthians 4:16-18


Thank You, John Piper

Tonight I watched a live stream of John Piper at the Passion Conference 2011. He has been away for 8 months and to hear him again was nothing less then amazing. He spoke on the topic of God making much of himself through us, rather than only making much of us. At the end of his sermon I got on my knees in tears thanking God for his sovereignty, his love, his mercy.

I’ve met John Piper once back in 2007 when I was going to Bethlehem Baptist Church. Johanna and I thanked him for his sermon series on marriage which helped us greatly being newlyweds. I began devouring his books and listening to his sermons as a defeated, weak and shallow Christian. I began reading his books as a skeptical seeker and was transformed by the grace of God into a rejoicing Christian. In that year I read Desiring God, What Jesus Demands of the World, Don’t Waste Your Life, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, Future Grace, and Suffering and the Sovereignty of God. I couldn’t get enough.

Tonight I pulled out an old journal and found the entry from November 1, 2007 when God radically changed my life. I was wrestling with the idea of a sovereign God who elects His children to eternal life. I didn’t like that idea because it meant I wasn’t in control of myself (I later found this to be a glorious thing!). I can remember the image very clearly as I sat at my dining room table in my apartment in North Branch, MN by myself.

I had just finished reading the first chapter of Suffering and the Sovereignty of God. I found it to be the greatest explanation for suffering and the purpose behind God allowing it. This led me to Romans 9 where the Apostle Paul laid me bare with my wrong notions of salvation and God’s control of the universe. I finished this chapter with a prayer to God acknowledging his sovereignty and thanking Him for it. I wept.I then felt such a resolute, deep assurance of my salvation that I had never experienced before. My destiny was secure.

That began a new trajectory in my life. It was one of God being glorified in me because I was becoming increasingly satisfied in Him. It was a work of the Holy Spirit and I was happy to not try and take credit for it!  I attended Bethlehem from 2006 until 2010. I am forever grateful to have sat underneath Pastor John’s preaching for those four years. I learned much about who God is.

John Piper seems like a good friend to me, although as I said, I have only met him once. He is a friend I know only on screen and through the words on a page. I am glad I will have an eternity to get a chance to chat with him.


A Collision with Douglas Wilson

My pastor is a big fan of Douglas Wilson. He first recommended that I watch a documentary called Collision, documenting a series of debates Wilson had with Christopher Hitchens. Shortly thereafter he recommended a book by Wilson called Reforming Marriage.  I watched the documentary a few days ago and finished reading the book today.

After watching the trailer for Collision I knew I had to watch the documentary. The trailer begins with Wilson borrowing a line from John Lennon to prove a point about what life would be like without a heaven or hell. The setting is in a Washington, D.C. bar. From there the trailer ramped up, whetting my appetite for more verbal sparing between these two intellectual power houses.

The debates were promoting a book, which was a result of letters they had written to each other. The book is called Is Christianity Good for the World?. Hitchens and Wilson think on such a deep intellectual level that it is amazing to sit and watch. Some of the concepts they shared required me to rewind and watch again so that I could wrap my brain around it. For Wilson though, this goes beyond mere intellectual debate and is clearly a lifestyle which he lives. Hitchens acknowledges this in the documentary. He states that Wilson lives out his belief in God and that this is a departure from many other people he has debated in the past. He notes the vast hypocrisy that exists with those who believe in a God.

The book Reforming Marriage comes in at a 144 pages and is a small manual for Christians on how to do marriage. The main theme throughout the book is that the man ultimately bears the physical and spiritual well-being of the family squarely on his shoulders. He is blunt with men. He is harsh with men. A quote from the epilogue is a taste of what the awaits in the rest of the book for its reader.

The castration of Christian men, and the consequent feminization of the family, church, and culture, began in earnest in the last century when the power of an efficacious gospel of grace was abandoned, and the substitute of religious sentiment was set up instead. In our doctrinal defiance, the feminine response of faith was confused with the masculine initiative of God in the gospel. Husbands, are required in Scripture to imitate the love of Christ, were then taught the error that the love of Christ for His people was impotent. The efficacy of love was then abandoned, and the sentiment of loving was enthroned. And men became impotent in their imitation of an impotent Lord.

Reading this book I was awakened to the need for men to be good leaders in their family. The husband/ father is the leader whether he wants to be or not. He will determine whether that image is a good one or a bad one. However, the family is not the most important thing- God is. Wilson warns that any man who puts his wife or children before God will lose both. Having maturity in one’s relationship with God will prepare that man for maturity in marriage.

The section on fighting sin is exactly what men need to hear today.  He defines the struggle against sin to be more like sweating bullets that “letting go and letting God”.  He makes reference to I Peter 2:11 and reminds men that they are to be violent against sin. This is not a light undertaking. Christian men will, for a few moments of pleasure, slander the name of Christ. Christ left a model to the church in how a husband should love his family. How are we doing as men representing this comparison?

Wilson punches home time after time that the man is the head of the home and his wife is his helper. That is how God designed it when he created Adam and Eve.

Adam was created first. Eve was sent to help. The man is established by God as the authority in the home. Under God, he is defined by the work to which he is called, while she is defined by the man to whom she is called. As they turn to the task, since the work is his responsibility, she is his responsibility. (Pg. 32)

Not only does the man bear the load to physically provide for his family, but he must also be the resident theologian for the family. He should know what he believes and why he believes it. He must communicate this message to his family. He must cultivate a home that embraces this message. Wilson concludes, “He must be a rock in his home.”

Wilson continues on in the book with practical advice for the man and his relationship with his wife. The last 3 chapters address the topics of sex, birth control, children and divorce. This book is a good read for the man who wants to read a manageable book and grasp what the Bible has to say about the responsibilities of a man in marriage and family. There are also good parts in the book addressing the woman and her role as a wife and mother.

There were only a couple minor things I disagreed with Wilson on. In the epilogue he lists a series of commitments a man should make before God. One of them is that he should commit to remove his children from secular schools and not allow them to be taught by people who are in rebellion against God.  I don’t see any Biblical grounds for this challenge he makes. If Christian parents are taking an active role in educating their children about Jesus, they will have more influence on that child than a teacher will ever have. Ultimately I believe this to be a matter of conscience for the husband and wife to pray about and decide together.