Monday, January 23, 2012

rentals, repairs and reading

For those of you who have been asking about Liz and the baby, everything is going well. Liz is feeling great and we are very excited to meet our little girl in a few short months. As time progresses, the more it hits me just what is about to happen. It's both exciting and terrifying (a good kind of terrifying).

It has certainly been a busy start to a great year. It is encouraging to be hearing back from many of those I have contacted about serving with us at ANBC in various ways this year. And it is exciting for us to see who the Lord is bringing to us and the team that he is putting together for the various ministries. God is so Good and Sovereign.

The ANBC advisory committee is beginning to take shape, as well as many of our critical roles for our summer camps and retreats. Liz and I are planning to take teens to one of NBBI's teen retreats, so please be in prayer about that as we approach teens about coming. If you have been thinking about serving at Arrowhead in some capacity please prayerfully consider it, you just never know what the Lord will do.

We had a rental at the Center this past weekend, and we have another one next week which is great for ANBC. It is a great facility and is available, so it's good to have it in use throughout some of the quiet months.

I've had a few unexpected repairs to make in the past week as well. The transformer on the furnace died, and I was forced to replace it - it wasn't a huge expense, but at this time of year in the cold it is vital and was unexpected. As well, on the weekend during our rental I went to the upper dorm to get a cot and discovered that in the big wind we'd had last week one of the thermal sliding windows had blown out and was in smitherines on the floor. So, with the help of a couple of guests we covered the hole with plywood and cleaned up the glass. A new window should be here next week.

I've also begun to make plans for our newly energized staff training program for this coming year. Staff training will be mandatory for all staff this year. It is new and incorporates a great deal of very beneficial information, so even for returning staff it will be important. There is some new material that I am investigating with respect to the staff training, including a book that I am hoping to be able to furnish each staff member with. I'll tell you more about it once I've finally decided on it. I am also investigating a cabin devotion booklet that I am quite excited about. A fellow missionary told me about it last week and I am hopeful that it will suit our purposes. Again, this is just a teaser, I'll fill you in once I've decided on it.

Well, that's a pretty good ol' Monday ramble, have a great week yourself!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

John 3:16 and Focus on the Family

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." ~ John 3:16

I will preface this blog entry for those of you who may have difficulty with my meaning here. I am not criticizing God's Word, in whole or in part - I am criticizing it's misuse and poor contextualization.

As Christians it is our purpose to evangelize (Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 12:28-31), and make disciples.

Yet, so seldom do we take into consideration just what that means, and by what method we might best achieve making disciples of Christ. It is a very common idea that we need do no work, that God's Word can and will do all of the work and we need to simply "get it out there"; that being stewardly in method is a waste of time.

We live in a culture that is absolutely bent on ease and on convenience, ultimately self is the supreme end goal of man (this is commonly known as humanism). Our "fast food culture" can be easily seen in the way many choose to live, to work, to interact, to worship, to pray, and (wait for it) to evangelize. We've allowed the attitudes of our culture to infect our Faith and the way in which we share it - or don't.

Focus on the Family (which is shrouded in controversy itself) produced and aired a new commercial on January 14, 2012 during the Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots NFL Playoff game. The video was almost immediately available on YouTube accompanied by the following message;

"Nothing is more important than sharing the life changing message of Jesus Christ's love. Tell someone you know today."

Aside from the fact that The Gospel is about more than the Love of Christ alone and that John 3:16 teaches only one aspect of the Love of Christ; there is also the issue that Christ's Love also perfectly and completely includes God's wrath and fury (Romans 2:6-11), God's hatred (Psalm 5:5), His jealousy (Exodus 20:4-5), His Justice (Job 34:12), His judgement (1 Corinthians 5:13, Psalm 7:11), indeed ALL of His attributes. The Biblical definition of God's perfect Love is far deeper than the inference drawn from John 3:16 alone. So, for Focus on the Family to present this as the message of God's Love is not a complete picture and misrepresents just what the atoning work of Christ is.

It has long been a tradition for John 3:16 to be painted on faces, chests, and emblazoned on banners during football games. In 1993, Steve Taylor even dedicated a song to "Bannerman", touting the honorable brazenness at thwarting the establishment for the sake of the Gospel. Even very recently Timothy Tebow was seen to have the scripture reference painted on his face. Not to mention the mystecism developing around the fact that he passed for 316 yards against the Steelers, and set an NFL playoff record with 31.6 yards per completion; which only serves to prove out the varied response that can come from this sort of Biblical representation. It is true that the passage (John 3:16) was highly Googled following the game, and perhaps it will cause some people to "reach for a Bible", but what then? And what of all the people who now seem to recognize it as a totem instead of a passage from God's Word?

In kind, this is the offering of Focus on the Family to the cause of the Gospel (ostensibly);

God's Word is precious, and will not return void (Isaiah 55:11). It is inerrant and perfect and we must certainly hold tightly to the ultimate Truths therein. John 3:16 is a fantastic passage of scripture, it is filled with Hope and Promise. It is a piece of God's Word. But it simply does not give the complete picture of the gospel. It is a portion of the frame around a beautiful picture of salvation. Without the contents of the frame you are left with a deep mystery.

Indeed there will be many who will see the video of the cute children reciting the well known passage and be filled with a warm feeling, comforted that they have done their part in standing for Christ in America simply by being a Christian. It is true, that there are those who come to Christ simply by reading His Word, in fact I have some good friends whose testimony of Faith is just so. They had no personal influence in their life, they simply had a Bible and they read it and the Holy Spirit worked in them. I am not suggesting that God's Word has no power - but God's Word out of context, in a single verse, is a different story altogether, and often it paints a picture contrary to God's Word.

My concern here lies in the presentation of the gospel, and the utter inadequacy of simplifying it to the point of making it palatable. John 3:16, all by itself says; God sent Jesus, His Son - and whoever believes in Him will go to heaven forever. As Christians we have a context for all of these phrases. But, break it down for the audience and you have a sheer plethora of possibilities;

  • Who is God? This will get as varied an answer as the number of times you ask the question. So, we've assumed right off the mark that our audience (whoever it may be) understands God from a purely Biblical perspective. This is as dangerous as it is naive a place to begin from. (Romans 3:11)

  • Who is the only Begotten Son? We have the same problem here as we did for the last question. We live in a World that is filled with false "christs". (Luke 21:8, Ezekiel 22:28) We are sorely remiss to assume that our audience is understanding Christ as He is.

  • What about whosoever believeth? Is it enough to simply believe in Christ? Is this the only relationship we must have to be reconciled to Him? What does the Bible teach about "salvation"? In James 2:19 we are told that even the demons believe and tremble; this does not, however, mean that demons qualify to go to heaven.

  • What about eternal life? So in order to live forever, all I have to do is believe in Jesus? Even if we disregard all of the previous problems that have arisen, we have just presented the gospel as a way for people to save themselves for eternity. We have ensured that their understanding of their relationship with God is strictly for their own benefit. This is prosperity gospel worldview - and it is wrong.
What of Sin? What of Repentence? What of God's Wrath? What of a real and humble relationship with God! John 3:16 is the end of an excellent presentation of the gospel. Yet, in a corrupt world, it is a misleading piece of scripture that can, by itself, potentially do more harm than good. It provides people with enough information and a false confidence to be permanently insulated against ever coming to a real saving knowledge of Jesus Christ in repentance. Pared down, it is cultural syncretism at best. The two most commonly know scripture verses, outside of the Church, are John 3:16 and Matthew 7:1 (though often, not even understood in context of being from scripture), yet both are taken out of context and misunderstood, and used to build worldview. It is sad, and it is a reflection on how we, the Church, present God's Word to the world.

Let's not forget the aspect of this issue, that this commercial by Focus on the Family is so very clearly NOT intended to be evangelism, as is evidenced by the plea for funds at the conclusion of the 40 second clip. This is a commercial intended to elicit an emotional response, while presenting a familiar and comfortable feeling to the viewer. It is a marketing campaign targeted at Christians, thinly veiling itself as evangelism. I would go so far as to suggest that this somewhat sinister approach to fundraising is something that Christ would take great exception to. read Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-18.

Know God's Word, read it daily, fellowship with other Christians, attend your church regularly, pray as often as possible and be equipped to share the gospel. Know it yourself first, then in all obedience and adequacy, preach the gospel completely and with great clarity. How you present the gospel, taking into consideration those to whom you are speaking, is vital to allow you to be certain that they are hearing what you are striving to convey; attention to method has merit. It's what we're here for. It is time to stop lazy evangelism, poor evangelism and strive to have full, rich lives in Christ.

I highly recommend that you take twelve minutes to hear an excellent and complete presentation of the Gospel, in the video below Paul Washer brings clarity to the Truth, and offers an example of how to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a World that does not want to hear it!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

a little input.

Something that I have been mulling over for the past several months is the possibility of initiating an advisory committee for Arrowhead Native Bible Center. In the past there have been committees, but nothing quite like this has been initiated in the past. There is great value in having the input and support of local Christians who believe in the work NCEM is doing here at Arrowhead Native Bible Center.

I have been working with our field director, Len Breen, with respect to the logistics of an ANBC Advisory Committee, and have begun to approach people with the ministry opportunity. This ministry is for the honour and Glory of God, and if it is to be wholly submitted to Him it must be surrendered to Him in prayer and humility. Please keep all of this in prayer as the team begins to take shape and as people prayerfully consider serving with us in this way. There are many details to work through over the coming months.

With respect to our 2012 schedule, plans for our men's retreat are coming together - a brochure and details should be forthcoming in the next few days! We can look forward to another fantastic opportunity for ministry through this event. Check out some of the fun we had last year:

As winter marches on, I have as yet not had to shovel or plow snow, for which I am grateful. There is call for a storm tonight, but it is supposed to melt again tomorrow with temperatures being well above zero. It has been nice to be able to focus my efforts on things other than snow removal this winter.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

the dawn of a new year

Here we are, in 2012, the year of prophecy, controversy and conspiracy. A year in which we will undoubtedly endure the hand wringing and railing of many who believe the World to end.

But most importantly, this is God's year. A year in which, by God's Grace, we will serve and minister and seek to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who require it, whether they like it or not. A year in which, by God's Grace, we will welcome a new life into our family, to raise up and Love as Christ would have us to. A year in which, by God's Grace, we will endure trials and struggles for His great Glory. A year in which, by God's Grace, we will see Him work in ways we cannot even fathom, through His Holy Spirit.

Liz and I are excited and energized for the New Year, for new programs and a fresh start. Over the next few weeks we will be busy preparing the programs and material for this summers camps. There are some exciting changes happening with respect to our summer camps. We are excited that people will have new opportunities to serve in different ways.

We've already begun to fill some of our critical positions (lifeguard, nurse, speaker, cook, etc.) and are encouraged by the responses we've been receiving. It's very exciting to see who God is going to bring to ANBC this year both as volunteer staff and as campers.

Now is the time of year when we ask everyone to begin praying. Pray for this ministry, that it might be effective and submitted to the Glory of God. That through the various programs and events God would be glorified and His Gospel would go forth clearly and effectively.

Pray for the campers, that God would already be making the way clear for them to come to ANBC and have opportunity to hear the gospel clearly presented. Pray that God would be working in the lives of the campers in such a way that they will be prepared to hear the gospel and understand it, pray that the Lord, in His will, might protect them from the attacks of the devil and preserve them for Himself.

Pray for the incoming volunteer staff, that God would work in the hearts of those that He would have come. Pray that He would provide for the needs of those who must sacrifice to come and serve Him here. Pray that those who will be coming would be focused on their relationship with God, that they would be compelled to their daily time with Him in His Word.

I've become increasingly impressed with the importance of prayer, and my inadequacy in this area. We must hold it all before the Lord, every day!

Stay tuned here for updates and opportunities. Who knows, perhaps the Lord will call you to serve Him with us this summer!