Monday, February 24, 2014

How strong are you?

Some say God will never give you something He thinks you can’t handle.

No. God will never give you anything He can’t handle.

"Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God..." 2 Cor. 3:5 

"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work." 2 Cor. 9:8 

God will give you the grace to face whatever messy situation, whatever troubling circumstance, whatever terrible plight, whatever strained relationship you face. And He will use it to turn you to Himself in deeper dependence on Him. That is the purpose of difficulties, that we might see our neediness and rely more fully upon God.

“There is redemptive purpose working in the midst of pain; nevertheless, that does not make the pain go away.” Paul Tripp

Pain and suffering and difficulty can be redemptive; if we get over the 'just get through this' mentality and actually look for what God desires to teach us through those cirucmstances. It doesn't make the difficulty go away, but our response to the difficulty can be transformed by God's almighty power.

What difficulty has God placed in your life right now? Is it overwhelming to you? Think you can't handle it? That's good, because that's right where God can work. Cry out to Him in desperation and tell Him how much you need Him. Confess your inability to control things and to handle things the way you would like. Ask Him what He wants to teach you right now. And then be prepared as He refines your heart through the difficulty. 

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
Isaiah 42:2-3


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Book Reviews

Partially because I read so few books last year and partially because I have so many in front of me that I really want to read, I’m trying to be consistent in daily reading time. I have finished several books so far this year (for some of you this may be nothing and to others impressive, so don’t compare yourself). I decided that it would be fruitful to write short summaries of the books I’ve read so far, for my own benefit as I look back on them, and to share with you, as you might consider reading them. There are much better reviews than mine on many of these, so if you want to look into them, be sure to search for others.

Here to There: Getting from CROSS to Your Mission Field
This book is practical as well as solid. It summarized many things I heard at the CROSS conference and gave insight into how to pursue foreign missions. With a huge emphasis on the church, it gives tips on how to get your church involved, how to be sent by a church, what a missions organization can do for you, and how to be careful to make sure your goal in missionary work is primarily the gospel and the planting of churches. Additionally it speaks of what it means to be qualified to serve as a full-time missionary, something we tend to negate in lieu of our “missionary calling”. I recommend it for any teen or adult interested in furthering the gospel globally.

Filling up the Afflictions of Christ, by John Piper
Powerful testimonies of the cost of spreading the gospel to all people. John Piper summarizes the lives of William Tyndale, John Paton and Adoniram Judson, and reveals how their lives were gospel-centered and devoted to following the Lord no matter where it took them or what it cost them.

Crazy Busy, by Kevin DeYoung
Not as short as I expected, but not long my any means. Packed with great information to help you think through your reasons and motives in being “busy”. After all “Busyness does not mean you are a faithful or fruitful Christian. It only means you are busy, just like everyone else.” (Crazy Busy) A lot of times we’re busy because we’re focusing on meeting every need or pleasing people rather than God. Sometimes it’s because we spend too much time in front of a screen. Sometimes ministering to others is just inefficient and causes us to be busy. You can be busy for a variety of reasons. This book is not one full of formulas or answers to make your life less-busy, but rather direction on how to help set your priorities straight and stay Christ-focused in the midst of seasons of busyness.

Just Do Something, by Kevin DeYoung
I had somewhat of a negative assumption about this book, based off a couple quotes I read beforehand, so I was eager to read the whole thing for myself. I appreciated and agreed with many of the points in this book. However I do think it would have been helpful if there had been a bit more clarification when it came to how to choose a spouse, as it came across as though if you meet a Christian, you can automatically marry, without considering whether you have similar passions, direction for the future, goals, etc. Now, this book wasn’t entirely marriage based, so he couldn’t have spent too much time getting into all that, so I’ll give him some grace. One thing I really appreciated in this book was that Kevin DeYoung said that one thing Christians tend to forget about when praying about where to take a job is whether there is a good, solidly biblical church in the area. Being a part of a local church is so important, so we mustn’t dismiss this question. I also think his emphasis on considering how God wants to sanctify us and if and how we are loving the Lord with our heart, soul and mind was great. Unfortunately, many Christians can get caught up in the “What does God want me to do?” (usually involving a non-moral decision, not a clear-cut command in Scripture), to the neglect of the things we ARE to do. It may come across a bit “extreme” in regards to some things, but I believe Christians can glean much wisdom from this book.

Dug Down Deep, Joshua Harris
I re-read this book as I haven’t read it since it came out a few years ago. I was pleased with the truth packed into this easy-read. It answers many apologetics-like questions in an interesting way, and compels you to know and study theology. Great introduction to learning how to answer questions like: Who is God? What is He like? Who is Jesus? Why did He have to die? What is salvation? What is the purpose of the church? Why study theology? The format is not too intellectual that it will go over your head, but still includes deep truth. Solid and biblical. He hits hard the importance of studying theology, and yet reminds us what it means to embrace it humbly. I recommend for anyone who is interested in theology or who wonders why theology even matters. “We’re all theologians. The question is whether what we know about God is true.” (Dug Down Deep)


Monday, February 10, 2014

Final Session of CROSS 2013

Mobilizing God’s Army for the Great Commission, David Platt
If you don’t read any of my other posts on the CROSS conference, please read this one.

I’m in awe of God’s goodness, His saving grace, and His intense mercy. I don’t even have the words to express how the last session of the CROSS conference went. It can’t be adequately described. All I can say is that God showed up! He awakened hearts and moved in a powerful way. We had a time of worship and prayer and then David Platt led us in a challenging message. You must watch it. If you aren’t moved, then you need to ask God to awaken you from your apathy. Because it is powerful when the Holy Spirit is moving in the hearts and lives of people.

At the last session of the conference, David Platt began with saying that by end he would ask for people to commit to returning to their churches and letting them know of their desire to be sent out as missionaries. I hadn’t thought about how there might be a “decision” at the end of the conference. During the service as I heard the Word proclaimed and truth declared, I struggled with what God would want me to do. Would I stand and publicly express my desire to be a missionary, or did God want me to help be a sender and stay where I am, serving and proclaiming the gospel in my area? I knew that, as Matt Chandler declared, ‘So little of our lives are actually about Christ.” I knew that Scripture speaks much about taking the gospel to all peoples, and throughout the conference I was impassioned to be more purposeful in that. I was convicted in being passive in regards to this when David Sitton said, “Pray to the Lord of the harvest then answer your own prayer and go!”

The commitment David Platt was asking people to make was this:
“Informed by the Word, inspired by the gospel, I resolve to communicate to my church my desire to go as a missionary, to cross a culture and spend my life for the spread of the gospel.”

David Platt wasn’t calling people to move tomorrow or to make a rash vow, but to carefully consider what God may desire for their lives. His picture was that of a blank check, being willing to say, “Whatever you want I’ll do, wherever you want, I’ll go.”

“The ultimate issue is not whether you stay or go, but whether you obey.” David Platt
After quoting Romans 1-8 and speaking about going, David Platt called people to stand and commit that “Informed by the Word, inspired by the gospel, I resolve to communicate to my church my desire to go as a missionary, to cross a culture and spend my life for the spread of the gospel.”

The response of those ready to go was overwhelming. Hundreds stood up. And I couldn’t stop crying. I did not stand. I wasn’t sure if God was leading me to commit now or not. Was it the fact that I didn’t know where or how or when or how long that caused me to not commit? Maybe I was wrong, but I do know that if God provided an opportunity and He wanted me to go, I’d go. Here I am Lord.

I’m encouraged that God is raising up a generation of risk takers for the gospel, who are willing to go to the ends of the earth for the glory of God in the joy of all peoples and are willing to die, because they have nothing to fear because this love so amazing “demands my soul, my life, my all.” (When I Survey) The words of this hymn, as well as others like “In Christ Alone” rang ever true in light of the truths we had heard over the course of the conference. They took on such new meaning in light of the truths culminating in our hearts. When you sing words like “whatever my lot Thou has taught me to say it is well, it is well with my soul” after hearing about how some of us will die for the cause of Christ, the words become more precious. These words, these realities, are not to be taken lightly.

There are people in the world who have NEVER heard the name of Jesus. And what do we do about it? We sit around wasting time, lost in the daily mundane, thinking that someday we might go on a short term mission trip or give to the Lottie Moon offering. How little eternity is on our hearts!


Thursday, February 6, 2014

My CROSS Conference Testimony

The CROSS conference was the best use of my winter break and the most impactful conference I’ve ever been to. It was more than a mountain-top experience or an emotional high. God was there. He was present, and the response was beautiful worship to Him (not merely in song). The response was obedience. It was a willingness to say “Yes, Lord, whatever You want.”

One of the many things that was particularly convicting for me was the point that we are to be goers or senders. Yes, I knew that, but they took it to a new level for me. Often I see missionaries as the ones that “make the sacrifice” to go, which is true, but what is equally true is that we can be radical, sacrificial givers. We need to help send missionaries and support the spread of the gospel by giving, even to the point that it hurts. We are called to regularly support missionaries. We need more senders than goers! It doesn’t matter whether God sends me or has me stay; I have a crucial role in the spread of the gospel.

Another convicting truth was that we need to make cross-cultural friendships wherever we are. One speaker said that “there is no sanctification through aviation.” Flying overseas on a short-term trip or moving to an unreached people group will not suddenly make cross-cultural friendships happen. You will not suddenly share the gospel because you’re in a new place. In fact, it’s the opposite, because it’s harder in a new place with a new language. We need to be committed to pursuing and fostering relationships with people from other cultures right here where we are. This is training ground for if God sends you overseas in the future, and it provides ways to learn how to interact with people that come from different backgrounds.

For me, the sacrifice is obedience to do what God wants me to do wherever that is. It involves being a part of missions work in whatever capacity I can. But it’s really not a sacrifice. It’s our joy and duty. We can’t be silent. We can’t help but worship God and share this hope and joy with those around us.


Monday, February 3, 2014

CROSS Conference Summaries & Quotes 2013

The CROSS Conference blog has many summaries of each conference day that are helpful and well done. They include summaries of the main sessions. I'd encourage you to check them out.

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4

 You can also check out Justin Taylor's post that has summaries along with the video clips of the main session. Don't forget to go to the CROSS conference site to watch the main sessions and listen to the breakouts.

Desiring God has a list of some of the best quotes from CROSS. You can see mine here.


Sunday, February 2, 2014

CROSS Conference 2013 Quotes

Here are some of the powerful quotes I collected from CROSS.

"If God uses you, it will be in spite of [your physical appearance, giftedness], not because of it." Matt Chandler

"If we see Jesus properly, that will have radical implications for our lives. But that's not radical. That's normal Christianity." Richard Chin

“The ultimate issue is not whether you stay or go, but whether you OBEY.” David Platt

"The way to fullness of joy is to understand that to die is gain." Matt Chandler

"Never forgot the power of the Gospel! Never underestimate it! Eat the Gospel! Breath it! Live it out!" Mack Stiles

"If you don't care for the poor, you have a defective heart. But if you don't care for the lost, you have a defective view of hell." John Piper

“Suffering can be a blessing if it can somehow heighten our reality of God. Michael Oh

“There are a thousand needs in the world, and NONE of them compares to the global need for the gospel.”  John Piper

“The wrath of God will cost someone their life. It will either cost an eternal life of an unreached or it will cost us our earthly life to go. Which will it be?” Thabiti Anyabwile

Going to the nations without the support of the local church is a little like baptizing yourself.” Mack Stiles 

 “In 10,000 years you will not regret anything you didn’t have or do in this life.” Matt Chandler

 “Until Christ is our treasure, any other motivation we have to suffer for him is a fool’s errand.” Matt Chandler

 “Our God is worthy of the worship of 6,000 more people groups.” David Platt 

“Do not underestimate what God can do when the church is sending and workers are going to people who need the gospel.” David Platt 
“God doesn’t waste anything for those who are yielded to him.” John Piper

“It is our confidence in the sovereign grace of God that gives us any hope of success in missions.” Kevin DeYoung 

“If you will go to the nations and last, you must rest in the promise that the word of God will do the work of God.” Kevin DeYoung

“To take up your cross is to consider it better to die than to live for something other than Jesus.” Richard Chin 

“Don’t take the gospel for granted in certain areas of your life. It’s essential to everything.” Mack Stiles

“Comfort is the god of our generation, so suffering is seen as a problem to be solved, and not a providence from God.”  Matt Chandler 

“Tragically, we buy the lie that the gospel is only for the unconverted.” D.A. Carson



Saturday, February 1, 2014

Don't Complicate the Missionary Call: CROSS Con 2013

Don’t Complicate the Missionary Call, David Sitton

David Sitton gave a compelling message about defining and looking at “missionary call” in a distinctively biblical way. Here are my notes from his session.

The problem: our view of “call”
We attached extra-biblical baggage to the call. Dreams, visions, special visits from Jesus. We wait for something miraculous to happen before we know if we should become missionaries. We feel that we need to “feel” called.

But “feel called” isn’t defined, so we don’t know exactly what it means. This is harmful thinking to believers who want to go. We need the right kind of missionary training that helps leaders see who should go and helps people see if they should.

We’ve added a mysteriousness to the Great Commission that Jesus never intended.

You are called to Christ, so you are called to His mission!

Three things to do when you’re considering going overseas:

1. Open Your Bible. What does the Bible say about missions? Missionaries? Call? What is our role?
2. Open a world map. “Pray to the Lord of the harvest, then answer your own prayer and go!” David Sitton
3. Pray to the Lord of the harvest. Paul tried to go and was hindered, then God showed him where to go. When Jesus told His disciples “go”, it meant it was going to happen immediately. The message of the angels after Jesus’s ascension as recorded in Luke 24 is essentially “Stop gazing and get going!”

Missionary Jim Elliot expressed, “I don’t need a vision. I have a verse.”

David Sitton challenged us, saying: “You don’t need clarity about this mission, you need courage to obey the command.”

Listen to the session here.