Saturday, December 24, 2016

inspiration plus

This guy continues to inspire me more than I can imagine, and more than he'll probably ever know.  A while back I asked my friend JaNae, if she thought that the paper would print a story by Janvier about his thoughts on Christmas in the Congo, in the Refugee Camps, and his thoughts about the way we celebrate Christmas here.
The editorial board liked the idea so much that they assigned the story to JaNae, and also assigned a videographer (Matt Herp)

The result is a wonderful front page story front page story with Matt's video embedded. You can also watch the video on you tube

Sometimes stories like the ones of Janvier and so many other refugees really help me to put things in perspective.

I volunteer with another refugee family.  They were in a camp in Tanzania (Janvier was in a camp in Rwanda). Yesterday we took them presents...they were surprised. Their Christmas celebrations in Africa focused on Church and food, family and friends.

in fact one of the volunteers has been reading them a book about Santa and Jesus. The little kids got excited about Santa, but they all agreed that Santa, snowmen, reindeer, and elves don't really have anything to do with the Christmas season.

We have lots to learn from our new neighbors!

Monday, December 19, 2016

GFA DAY 37 Dayita learns to read

       What happens when you can’t read? If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you don’t know. In this country we promote literacy, there are laws requiring people to go to school, and even if you don’t enjoy curling up by the fire with a novel, one of the classics, in hand, you know how to read. You can read your bible. You know enough to fill out applications for a loan, a job, school, or financial assistance. You can read a newspaper to know what is happening in your community or in the world. You know how to open a bank account and write checks to pay your bills.

       But in many parts of the world learning to read and write is reserved for the rich. Or for men.  An estimated 250 million women in Asia are illiterate. In some cultures, the norm is that men are educated and women are not. That might work as long as the woman marries well, and her husband takes care of here, their children, and the finances. But what about someone like Dayita?

       Her husband worked as a laborer to provide for their family, but it wasn’t enough to make ends meet, and so Dayita found a job sewing clothes to supplement her husband’s income. She faithfully deposited her meager wages into the joint bank account, but even with her wages to help, there was still never enough. So she worked harder, but there was still too much month left at the end of the money.  Her husband managed the finances, and so certain things had a priority when it came to being funded. Instead of feeding the family, Dayita’s man was feeding his drinking habits. 

       Finally Dayita was able to open a bank account of her own, but because she couldn’t read or write, she needed help filling out the deposit or withdrawal slips. Luckily for Dayita, there were two women in her village willing to do more than fill out the forms and show her where to make her mark.
       
      Two women from the local Women’s Fellowship started a literacy class. They teach two-hour sessions, using a bible based curriculum. It took two months for Dayita to learn how to deal with the bank deposit and withdrawal slips.  Now she can do that and more. She can read the names of buses and bus stations, and is learning about the love of Jesus.


       Dayita is one of the lucky ones; her husband supports her efforts to learn to read and write. He no longer has access to her money to support his drinking habit, but Dayita is still allowed to go to school. We may take it for granted, but literacy is truly a precious gift, and the Gospel for Asia ministry of literacy classes for women is truly changing lives. 

Want to help? find out how

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Christmas Hope

What Christmas means to me

I recently saw a post on someone’s social media that said “becoming a Christian ruined Christmas for me.” My first reaction was “that’s pretty harsh”, but I get where that person was coming from. I usually start the Advent season in church by reminding people that a lot of Jewish babies were born 2000 years ago, and while it’s great to celebrate Jesus’ birth, what’s really important is what happened some 30+ years later. Lots of babies were born, lots of men were crucified, but only one was resurrected. Only one died to conquer sin and death.

So if  'ruining Christmas' for us means that all of a sudden (or even gradually) our obsession with lights and presents and parties goes away, then I am definitely there. Instead of focusing on Santa Claus and bonuses, Christians have the opportunity and obligation to focus on the true meaning of the season. And the true reason for the season lies in a baby born in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago, who went on to turn the world upside down.

Yesterday I had the privilege of being present during the interview of a young man who, after spending 11 years in a refugee camp, was relocated here by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The reporter asked this 21 year old man if his faith had been tested while he was in the camp, and also how his faith had sustained him. He agreed that being in the camp was a test of faith, but how that faith is what kept him going when their limited food rations didn’t last until the end of the month. He talked about a hope of returning to his home land, a nation that his family had been forced to leave because of the terrible circumstances of a civil war. But through it all there was God. He went on to talk about how people here celebrate in so many different ways, but also how so many people leave Jesus out of the celebration.

It sure made me think, and the reporter and I talked a little later about how we whine and complain over some pretty inconsequential things compared to what people in the refugee camps have to endure.

So Christmas for me has to include hope. Hope that Jesus will return soon, because with that second coming, will be the restoration of creation. A hope that I can keep strong in my faith in the face of the trials that each of us faces on a daily basis, and a hope that instead of just putting in time until I finally ‘escape’ this place, that I can ‘live well’: caring for others, and caring for creation.

Hope is such an important part of what Christmas is all about. For liturgical churches, and even some families, who celebrate the Advent Season with the traditional wreath, we even light a candle that represents and signifies ‘Hope’.  I want to include a couple of links in this post: links to trailers of movies that released earlier this year, movies that include the theme of hope, and both of which will be available on DVD next week (Dec 20, 2016).

The first is “Greater”, the story of Brandon Burlsworth a young man who hoped against hope to get a spot on the football team. He finally made it, but it wasn’t easy, and along the way he relied on his faith to maintain his hope, his dream.  It’s a pretty incredible story, and even if you’re not a fan of college football, this faith elements of Brandon’s story make this a must see film. His hopes were realized, not because someone gave him a handout, but because after someone gave him a chance, he did whatever he needed to do to get to the next level.  Watch the trailer for GREATER

And the next is the story of Hillsong: Let Hope Rise, the movie.  If you’ve been to church a few times there’s a good chance that you’ve heard or sung a worship song by this group. Hillsong started small, but has grown and the current estimate is that on any given Sunday, 50 million people in churches around the world are singing their songs. Their hope has always been to engage people in worship in such a way that it brings them closer to God. One person actually says that the songs they write are meant to be sung, not just listened too.  Worship is a verb, an action verb, and the hope of Hillsong is that people will participate in music. This is a humble group whose hope is to serve God. One member points out that they don’t do what they do to get rich, they do it to serve. Watch the trailer for HILLSONG LET HOPE RISE

It’s easy to get distracted and drawn from one’s faith, especially this time of year when there are so many things clamoring for our attention, so many people full of good ideas for fun times (ideas and times that often involve poor choices if we choose to pursue them). My hope is that, in the midst of the fun times of the season, that Jesus will continue to be the center of the celebration.
There’s also a part of the suggestions for this post that is difficult for me. Bloggers are asked, “Was there something you were able to do for someone this Christmas season?”  Short answer Yes. But it was done because of what Jesus did for me, not so that you would know about it.

Suffice to say that I root for the underdog. And that means seeing people, even the most unsavory types, as being children of God, created in His image. Brandon Burlsworth certainly wasn’t an unsavory type, but he sure was an underdog when it came to getting a spot on the team. The homeless in our cities are our neighbors and are worthy of love, dignity, and respect. Immigrants and Refugees are not coming to our country because their lives were so simple, fulfilling and financially beneficial at home. People released from prison have paid their debt to society, they deserve a second chance. People don’t go to 12 step meetings because their lives are perfect. Churches are full of sinners, people who make bad choices, but Jesus died for them, just as he died for me.


My hope for all this Christmas season is that in the midst of whatever trials you might be experiencing that you would still find time to celebrate Jesus. Worship Him, and point other people to Him…He died for them, just as he died for you. 

And in the spirit of Christmas, I Hope to have some 'swag' to give away early next week, compliments of Grace Hill Media.  Like the post for a chance to win.

Friday, December 16, 2016

GFA Challenge Day 36 Bridge of Hope

There’s a lot more to sharing the Love of Jesus than handing someone a bible and encouraging them to have a nice day. It goes even further than sharing the gospel story, leading someone in the sinner’s prayer, and then allowing them to go forth and sin happily ever after.  Sending a check can be a good thing, but people want, and need, to see the love of Jesus demonstrated. And on a regular basis that is happening at Bridge of Hope, a children’s ministry of Gospel for Asia. And amid beautiful scenery well fed, healthy children can experience hope and joy.
                                                 

Yes they get a bible, yes they hear the gospel, yes there is someone to lead them in a prayer; and all of those things are definitely important, but there is so much more that the Bridge of Hope children need. And it’s provided at the GFA sponsored schools.

They hear about Jesus, but also get healthy meals. They learn the stories of the Bible and they also get much needed medical care.  In areas of the world where poverty is the norm, children are being offered the opportunity to escape that trap, they can break the cycle of inter-generational poverty. They learn about—and learn to have—hope. And the hope they find is a hope that they can share with their entire family.  

                In a perfect world there would be no need for Bridge of Hope Ministries, but perfect is a long ways off, and so we are grateful for this arm of Gospel for Asia and their efforts in this area. Bridge of Hope allows you to partner financially, to sponsor a child, to help break the cycle. Children learn self-esteem, they learn their part in caring for God's creation, and they learn to be productive citizens. When you sponsor a child, your donations go directly to Bridge of Hope programs, you can correspond with your child, and know that your prayers are making a difference.
Read more about this program and the children it supports HERE


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

"GREATER"= the story of Brandon Burlsworth releases on DVD Dec 20

GREATER

The Inspiring True Story of College Football Player Brandon Burlsworth
Starring Chris Severio & Neal McDonough
Debuts on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital December 20

Bonus Materials Include Bloopers, Deleted Scenes & Commentary



First off, let me be clear that I'm not a football fan, I don't follow high school, college or pro football, so several months ago I almost said 'no' when the kind folks at Grace Hill Media offered me the opportunity to watch the movie "Greater"  ahead of its release. But in that invitation there was also enough of a hint that this was more than football involved in this movie. And that element of faith was what drew me in. This is not just a movie about football, there are valuable life and faith lessons to be learned by following Brandon's example.

This film was released earlier this year, and now the DVD of Greater will be released on Dec 20th, one week from today. This would make a great Christmas gift for the college football fan in your life.  Greater is the story of Brandon Burlsworth, who wanted, from a very  early age, to be an Arkansas Razorback.  Of course there was no way this was going to happen, based on his football skills and lack of abilities, but someone saw something in this young man who refused to take 'no' for an answer, and went on to become, according to a press release,  'the greatest walk-on in the history of college football". 
           
"PLANO, TEXAS. (December 6, 2016) – Brandon Burlsworth, possibly the greatest walk-on in the history of college football, is profiled in the inspiring sports biopic GREATER, debuting on 
Blu-ray, DVD and digital December 20 from Well Go USA Entertainment. Told he wasn't good enough to play Division I football, Burlsworth (played by Chris Severio) took a risk and walked on in 1994, becoming the most respected player in the history of the program. GREATER also stars Neal McDonough (“Arrow”), Leslie Easterbrook (Police Academy franchise), Michael Parks (Kill Bill, Django Unchained) and Nick Searcy (“Justified”).  Bonus materials include bloopers, deleted scenes and writer & director commentary.
"

Throughout the film one can't help but be impressed with Burlsworth's dedication. Even when suggestions on how he might improve are made with a hint of sarcasm, he takes them at face value and when he achieves the goal, heads back with that bubbling spirit, that says "OK, I did that, what's next?" Athletic success doesn't come easy for everyone;, but Burlsworth's hard work certainly paid off for him. Hard work just might be the answer when it seems like everything is going against you. Sometimes when you want to quit, that just means you need to ask what needs to be done, and then do that and more. 

His dad is pretty much out of the picture,  lots of brief appearances followed by broken promises, but he has the unwavering support of his mother, and the sometimes reluctant support  of a much older brother.  And a constant faith in God which gets him through heartbreak after heartbreak.  We have a generation of 'fatherless children' growing up, that's not God's plan, but sometimes that obstacle can be overcome. God, our heavenly Father doesn't disappoint like earthly fathers sometimes (often?) do. 

There are many scenes of Brandon on the practice field earlier than any of his team mates, and staying later, but each day starts with him reading the Bible, and every weekend sees him making the drive home from college to accompany his mother to church.  

What makes Brandon's faith stand out is not how he tried to prove that he had it, but the simple fact of how he lived it. As time went on the team members who made fun of him for his glasses, his faith, his weight,  or any other reason, saw how he responded and started following his example.  They started going with him to Bible studies, and their lives changed as a result  of his unwavering faith.

The press release (remember I don't follow football in any form) states:  "Eleven days after being drafted into the NFL and before he was able to sign the contract that would have changed the financial status of his family forever, Brandon died in a car accident on his way home. His death stunned the state: He did everything right, and yet he was snatched away before he and his family could enjoy the fruits of his labor."

But the legacy lives on through the charitable foundations founded in his name. Scholarships are given,  and  walk-ons are much more likely to play ball.



Bring the Kleenex!

By the way, this is a giveaway blog. I'll have some GREATER 'swag', compliments of GraceHill Media. Comment here or on the Face Book to be entered into a random drawing. (please, you need to be in my local area, so I can deliver or you can pick up)

Monday, December 12, 2016

Hillsong – Let Hope Rise releases on DVD and Blu-ray in time for the holidays on December 20 and on Digital HD on December 6.   And I have a copy of the DVD for someone (locally) who is willing to post a link to my post on their FB or other social media site.
.You've heard their songs, and have probably sung them, and now this fall they released a movie about how a group singing in a small church is now an international sensation.
   

Here’s the Current Press Release:
HILLSONG – LET HOPE RISE

Acclaimed Worship Film Arrives In Time For Christmas

Available on Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD on December 20 and Digital HD on December 6

 “A slick, stirring concert film that details the sound and mission of the most impactful group in evangelicalism.”
Joe Coscarelli, New York Times

“It does something Hollywood doesn’t do too often — tugging deeper than heartstrings, appealing to your soul.”  
Caleb Parke, Fox News

“I’ve Never Had An Experience With God In The Movie Theater.  This Movie Changed That.”
Matthew Bell, Daystar

Scottsdale, AZ, November 29, 2016 – This Christmas season, Hillsong – Let Hope Rise, the movie that chronicles the spectacular and miraculous rise to prominence of the Australia-based worship band, Hillsong UNITED, and features powerful performances of their most iconic and beloved hit songs such as, “Oceans”  “Mighty To Save” and “Hosanna”, will be available on Digital HD, On Demand, DVD and Blu-ray™ combo pack.

The film, which opened in theaters across the country this past summer, received positive reviews and feedback from audiences including a high “A” grade from Cinemascore.  It also scored high among Christian film critics and received endorsements from leaders such as Bishop T.D. Jakes (The Potter’s House), Pastor Joel Osteen (Lakewood Church), Rev. Samuel Rodriguez (National Hispanic Christian Leadership), and Pastor Ken Foreman (Cathedral Of Faith).

Hillsong – Let Hope Rise  explores Hillsong’s journey from a tiny church in the Sydney suburbs to an influential international ministry whose songs are sung every Sunday by more than 50 million people across the globe. Their songs have been translated into 90 languages and the band has sold more than 20 million albums. 

From a single church in suburban Sydney, Hillsong Church now extends to cities on five continents (including London, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, and New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Phoenix in the US) with more than 100,000 weekly attendees.  In addition to its local church initiatives, Hillsong partners with international organizations committed to ministry; examples include feeding and educating children in the slums of India, building housing for those living with AIDS in Africa and rescuing victims of human trafficking around the globe.

Recently, Hillsong Church partnered with global faith-and-family broadcast leader Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) to launch Hillsong Channel, a ground-breaking 24-hour television network.  Hillsong Channel is now available in over 77 million U.S. households and features renowned pastors, Christian leaders, and energetic, cutting-edge worship from award-winning singers, songwriters, and musicians.  

“It’s our hope that by sharing an up-close and unvarnished look inside our music and lives, we can shatter pre-conceived notions of what it means to follow Jesus in today’s modern world,” said Brian Houston, founding pastor of Hillsong Church.

Hillsong – Let Hope Rise  is rated PG (for thematic elements) and directed by Michael John Warren (Jay Z’s Fade To Black).  The film is produced by Jonathan Bock, Matt Weaver, Ben Field, and David Higby. 


DVD and Blu-ray™ bonus materials include additional Hillsong favorites filmed live in concert like, “The Stand” and “Wake.”  For additional information here's a link

Friday, December 2, 2016

American First Freedom Where it began and where it will end

            We hear a lot recently about Christians in America being persecuted. But most of that is an exaggeration. A coffee company which has never claimed to be based on and operated by Christian principles not having Christian symbols on its cups at Christmas time is hardly persecution. We also hear a lot about separation of church and state, or that in this age of political correctness and tolerance, that Christianity is the only religion which is not being tolerated. The First Amendment gets talked about a lot. Anyone can express their thoughts about Christianity and it's freedom of speech, but when a Christian dares express Christian belief or worldview, it seems to get labeled as a hate crime.  All in all there is a lot of confusion about what the founding fathers had in mind; and we don't have a time machine, so we can't go back and ask them to explain themselves.  Is this a "Christian nation"? Did they intend freedom of religion, or freedom from it? How involved should the Christina Church or any other religion be involved in setting policy at the state or federal level. How involved should government be in religious affairs. Can or should religious organizations be exempted from certain laws or rules, based on religious beliefs and practices?  And those are just a few of the questions that everyday Americans, on both sides of the issues, are dealing with on a regular basis.
            Are there answers that will satisfy everybody? Absolutely not. But scholars try to clarify the issues. They look at where the freedoms started and where we are now. And they look ahead to what the future holds. The second edition of First Freedom: The Beginning and End of Religious Liberty ( Jason G. Duesing, Thomas White, and Malcolm B. Yarnell III, B&H Academic, 2016) is a collection of essays by noted voices in the field, addressing the religious First Freedom, where it started, where it is, and where it's heading.

            Duesing's essay on the beginning of religious liberty opens the book, and he opens his writing by addressing Thomas Jefferson's phrase "a wall of separation between church and state." Duesing writes, "And if Jefferson did not have a full grasp of his intended meaning, the subsequent generations have labored to supply it for him--but without unanimity."  And we continue to see that lack of unanimity even, and especially today.
            The book is divided into 3 parts, starting with a historical overview of American politics and religion. Next is "Religious Doctrine 101, covering Christian doctrine of  Religious liberty, religious liberty and the gospel, and religious liberty in the Public Square. The final section addresses contemporary challenges to Religious Liberty.
            Although Parts I and II give a lot of information, for the most part it's historical, and provides some of the necessary background for the challenges discussed in Part III. Challenges including the Sexual Revolution, Christian Universities, and international law, and what is happening in Majority-Muslim countries and how that might affect us here.
            So is the End of Religious Freedom near? Is it already here? The book ends with an answer to that too. The end of Religious Freedom was foretold a couple of thousand years ago. Read the book of Revelation. Read Jesus' promises in the Gospels and in the Book of Acts. For the Christian there is hope. But beyond that there is the knowledge that one day religious liberty, religious freedom, freedom of religion and freedom from religion as we know them will all end. Scripture  tells us that one day every knee will bow, and every  tongue confess Jesus as Lord. For some of us that will be a happy, joyous day, for others, it will be the beginning of a new religious regime. Everyone will acknowledge the true religion, the One True God, and His rule will be supreme in the new creation, the New Jerusalem.
            This is a book written by scholars and theologians--noted voices in their field. It is written for what I perceive to be a limited audience. That audience being Theologians, scholars, and a probably highly underrepresented population: Christian leaders. With the laity questioning what is happening to their church and their religion, with a generation of people growing up without church, light on religion, but heavy on opinions fueled by misinformation, leaders need this book.
            My desire is that this information could be presented in a way that would make sense to the members of American congregations, those people who are questioning, but don't have the background or the patience to read scholarly works.

            I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my review.

Time To Break Some Rules

        Leonard Sweet is a prolific writer, not one that I always agree with, but he always makes me think. Having said that, in his new book The Bad Habits of Jesus: Showing Us the Way to Live Right in a World gone Wrong (Tyndale, 2016) I find very little to disagree with. And much to think about.

         Jesus and 'bad'  are not words that generally go together in a Christian conversation. From a 21st century Christian perspective, Jesus is good. One hundred percent good, until we look at the pre-resurrection Jesus in the context of the society in which He lived. Then we notice a disconnect.
           
      And it's a good thing that as Christ followers we notice that disconnect. Jesus did not come to maintain the status quo. He came to turn the world upside down. He is the Messiah that came to judge, and to lift people out of oppression, and as he broke many of the cultural and societal rules of His day, we see that he was pointing to the time when the Kingdom of God would truly be established, and the perfection of creation would be restored.

                The 15 chapters of this easy to read book are stand alone, but also part of a cohesive whole.  Each chapter recounts some of the events found in scripture, and the rule that Jesus broke in that case. BUT it goes beyond breaking rules. Each rule that Jesus broke was a rule made by man, that kept people from their intended life as a child of God. As Jesus broke the rules, he showed his followers how to live in such a way that their actions would be God-honoring, instead of self-serving.

                All of us probably need to look at some of the rules that we're following, and try to understand how by breaking them we could help make the world a better place. More like God intended it to be.


                I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for posting a review.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

thoughts on Essential Worship

            Everyone has ideas about worship. We like to do things our way, and for years people in the pews, and even some members of leadership teams seem to want to limit the definition of worship to the music. Many of us have attended services where  there was 15 - 20 minutes of  worship (music) followed by the service.

            But there is so much more involved with worship, and Greg Scheer has done an admirable job of pulling it together in an understandable way. His book Essential Worship: A Handbook for Leaders ( Baker Books, 2016) is helpful for new worship leaders as well as experienced leaders. As a sole pastor of a small church, I found the book helpful for my own planning purposes.


            The format of the book is simple: five sections which flow and mesh nicely. Scheer starts with some principles which cover the basics of worship: what it is, who it's for and what it does.  From there he moves to Part 2: the past. Whether you're a fan of hymns or not, they definitely played a major role in the  worship of most Christian churches over the past few centuries. Like them or not, we can learn from them. I find that a lot of younger pastors and worship leaders don't have a good grip on things like the church year, how to use the liturgy (and yes every church has a liturgy.)  Then Scheer moves on to parts 3 and 4: using music and the arts in worship.

            I don't want to downplay the importance of music, and it certainly takes a preeminent role in most services, but Scheer also talks about using the arts in worship. This is something new and different for me. It's just not something that we do on a regular basis. However we are created in the image of the creator, and we have senses that can all be used to help us enter into the presence of God. Read the first few verses of Psalm 34, especially verse 8: Taste and see that the Lord is good. If every breath can be seen as an act of worship, and we're encouraged to 'taste and see' , then it stands to reason that we can use our other senses also. And for that we need something other than a choir, a soloist, or a band.

            Part 5 talks about the people who are involved in worship: the world, the congregation, the worship leader(s), the pastor, and also included a section on the importance of mentoring. Yes even pastors and worship leaders can learn from others, need to learn from others, and also need some level of accountability.

            I learned a lot from this book, and am excited to be able to share it with others on the leadership team.

            In the interest of full disclosure, I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for publishing a review on my blog and a retail site. I was not required to write a positive review.


            5/5

Monday, November 14, 2016

DAY 35 GFA Challenge. Oppressed because they were born women

Looking for a movie to show at church? One that’s filled with all sorts of things that we don’t want to think about or talk about in church? Sounds counter-intuitive, but there are some things that need to be talked about, and things like sex trafficking, bride burnings and girl infanticide are among them. No this isn’t the latest Hollywood movie, it’s been around for a few years so it’s not going to be on the list of Oscar nominations.
             
   I’m talking about Gospel for Asia’s film “Veil of Tears”.  The movie points to a society that oppresses women, oppresses them simply because they’re women.  The horrors described in this film shouldn’t be happening, but they are, and silence on the part of the church is a sign that we don’t care, and to those who are experiencing this oppression and who don’t know about the love of God, our silence is seen not as apathy but as approval.

                We don’t want to hear about this type of crime, and we certainly don’t want to talk about it, but crime against women happens. A family arranges a marriage for their daughter. The dowry is agreed upon and paid, but then instead of ‘happily ever after’ the groom’s family decides that the dowry isn’t enough and demands more. If the demands aren’t met, the bride is abused, tortured, even sold into slavery so that she can make up the difference. And the groom keeps the dowry. Serial engagements and dowry payments are a lucrative way to make a living.

                Girls might be seen as a drain on the family income, and so they can be sold or bartered away. Sometimes they are just left to die, and in this day of modern medicine which allows us to tell the gender of an unborn baby, lots of abortion decisions are made based on that one factor.

                We can ignore what is happening, and shut out the conversation, or we can step up and face the crisis, and in doing so bring hope to millions of women who are suffering because of their crime of being born female.


                Yes, it might seem like an overwhelming problem, and we wonder what one person might be able to do. The good news is that Gospel for Asia is already on the ground, sharing the GOOD NEWS, and there are ways that individuals, families, and faith communities can help.  Start by watching “VEIL OF TEARS, and then go HERE for some suggestions as to how you can help. (And by the way,  you can help even before you’ve seen the movie.)

Monday, November 7, 2016

GFA Day 34. Women need to hear the Gospel too.

In many parts of the world a male-dominated society is the norm. Women are treated as second (or third) class citizens, as objects, as conveniences. They are forced to do the menial tasks that men don’t want to do, they are expected to ‘be available’ when the husband is feeling amorous or ‘needy’. They have children and whether or not the man wants to be a father, she is expected to care for the children. Education is not important, they may never learn to read, they don’t have the same rights that men might have.

Not a happy life for many of the women in parts of Asia.

And unfortunately, the lack of equality often extends to hearing the gospel. In a male dominated society, it would be inappropriate for a woman to visit with a male missionary, and female missionaries are often discouraged (for safety reasons) from visiting some of the areas where the gospel is still widely unknown. There are few churches in these areas, and women might be discouraged from attending, or forbidden to attend, or just completely unaware of the church’s existence. If you don’t know how to read, you can’t just pick up a bible and learn about Jesus: that is if there were a bible available in a language or dialect that you could read, and assuming that after feeding and clothing your family on less than a dollar a day, you could afford to buy one.

And that’s where Gospel for Asia can help. GFA trains women missionaries, and helps them minister in some previously unreached areas. Women missionaries can talk to the women who are suffering in so many different ways, and who so desperately need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. GFA missionaries undergo three years of training, and to date over 2000   female missionaries have a passion for reaching women with the love of Jesus.


But their training, and their ongoing support, has a cost. For $30.00 a month you can support an woman missionary, a trained, native missionary who can, with your help, impact thousands, and change lives fro eternity. Click HERE to learn more about sponsorship

Friday, November 4, 2016

What to do when the 'bride' is a 'bridezilla'

Somewhere along the way Christianity has gotten their idea of church wrong. We try to depict the Bride of Christ, the church, with the same pictures that John used in the Revelation. And wouldn’t it be nice if the Church today, on earth, were the eschatological bride that we read about: the bride has made herself ready, with fine linen bright and clean (Rev 19:7) and the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven is prepared as ‘a bride beautifully dressed for her husband’ (Rev 21:2)  or the bride, the wife of the lamb,  described as the Holy City, coming down out of heaven from God: shining with the glory of God, as brilliant as a very precious jewel and as clear as crystal (Rev 21:9-11).

But far too often the bride of Christ is anything but. More often than not, the church is not the perfect place that we want it to be, and that shouldn’t surprise us, after all, it’s people like us that make up the church, people like us who come together as the bride, and, in a nutshell, we’re imperfect people who can’t quite figure out how to make the church the perfect place to be on Sunday morning, or any other time for that matter.

So instead of the beautiful bride, the church frequently comes across as the ugly step sister, or as Ted Kluck and Ronnie Martin call her The Bride(zilla) of Christ (Multnomah, 2016).  The subtitle of the book—What to Do When God's People Hurt God's People, is equally telling. Intentionally or unintentionally, we don’t always get it right. Pastors, elders, deacons, youth leaders, Sunday school teachers, small group leaders—we all get it wrong, we all make mistakes. We all hurt the rest of the body.
But as always, there is hope to be found in Jesus, and the authors are very adept at pointing out how grace, forgiveness, and repentance go a long way towards bringing the members of the body closer to the place God wants us to be.

I appreciated the authors’ honesty and openness as they described their faith journey. (And I got quite a kick out of Kluck’s comments about vulnerability having a tendency to become a tactic. (Think about it, how many people who talk about how humble they are, are really humble; and when you put your vulnerability on display, well, sometimes there’s an ulterior motive.)

This is not, despite what it may seem from the sub-title, a self-help book; rather it’s the story of how we often get disillusioned because the church, the Bride of Christ, is not yet what it will someday be.  To soften the blow, the authors share some things that have worked for them as they deal with the consequences of imperfect people trying to get closer to the perfect Jesus.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for publishing a review.


4.5/5

GFA Day 33: Pray for Women's Fellowship in Asia

Here in the US we take a lot of things for granted. We’re used to seeing female politicians, female military officers, female pastors and female lay leaders in our churches. But In parts of Asia, women aren’t always allowed to do a lot of the things that they do here. The thought of a group of women gathering to pray together is unheard of in parts of the world. Why? Because of gender bias, yes, but also because it’s never been done before.

But thanks to GFA’s Women’s Fellowship, thousands of women are getting together to study God's word, and to pray together. They’re memorizing scripture, reaching out to other women, and honoring the God who saved them in ways that just a short time ago were unknown to them.              
              


Women’s Fellowship is reaching out to women- among the most unreached people in much of Asia, and God is at work in the lives of these women. As you pray today, and this week, why not pray for these women, who may not have the same opportunities that we have in the USA, but who still are responding to God's love. They, like us, have needs, wants, and desires. And they, like us, are often confused about how a loving God could let things happen.

FOR YOUR PRAYER LIST:
-          Women’s Fellowship: the needed support to be able to continue to mentor, disciple and love women who are coming to faith.
-          The participants in Women’s fellowship: that these women, many who are first generation Christians would mature in their faith.
-          Women’s Fellowship leaders: Several are the wife of a pastor or a missionary, and they are in need of God's guidance to lead their groups and point women toward Jesus.
-          Godly Mothers and Wives: that God would be with these women as they deal with all the normal things happening in families, remembering that in many of the poor parts of Asia, there is an epidemic of drug and alcohol abuse and financial crises. Help them point their husbands and children to a path that is God-honoring.
-          Pray the number of women participating would grow: that more women would find WF as a means of Hope and Support.
-          Health Care: pray for healing from physical diseases as women learn basic hygiene skills.

-          Literacy classes: pray that through these classes women would learn, and be empowered in such a way that they can better support themselves and their children. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

How the Gospel Can Disrupt a Community

There’s a lot more to transformation than many people realize, and in some cases that transformation may even look like disruption. Your life does not stay the same when it’s transformed: it’s disrupted. When a community is transformed the status quo is disrupted. But if we wanted to maintain the status quo, we probably wouldn’t be worried about transformation.
Christ followers are generally aware of the transformational power of the gospel on their lives, even though we might not call it disruptive, but that’s exactly what the gospel does to individuals, it disrupts their way of thinking, their way of doing, and their way of life. Even recognizing the impact that the gospel has on one’s life, most people don’t or won’t take it to the next level and look at how the gospel disrupts communities.
                And that’s where Mac Pier stepped up to the plate with his book A Disruptive Gospel: Stories & Strategies for Transforming Your City (Baker Books, 2016).

                Just like people, cities have different personalities, different values, and different needs. For each of them there are different things that excite them and get their attention. What works in one place might not, probably won’t, work in another. At least not when it comes to specific plans and programs. But there is one constant, that disrupts and transforms in any situation, and that is the gospel.
                As a teenager in South Dakota some decades ago, Pier was instrumental in disrupting his community’s ethos by pulling members of the community together for different things like before school or Saturday evening Bible studies. And in the years since then he has worked with people around the globe to find alternatives to the darkness that so often prevails.
                This book covers movements in several countries on several continents and shows just how disruptive (i.e. transformational) the gospel is.  If you’re looking for a one size fits all answer, or a guaranteed to change your community program, you’ll be disappointed. If you’re looking for ideas that will spur your imagination and remind you of the power of the gospel, then this book is for you. The ideas and examples offered here might just be the impetus you need to start a movement that, through the gospel, through the might of the Word of God, might be the catalyst for a total transformation of the community in which you live. A movement which brings people into the life-giving relationship with the Savior.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a written review. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Thoughts on Leithart's "THE END OF PROTESTANTISM"

                For quite some time I've been concerned about the role that denominationalism plays in furthering or hindering the Kingdom of God. There is only one Torah, one set of wisdom writings, one account of the Prophets and what they had to say. There is only one Gospel, one set of epistles, and One Account of the Revelation that the Apostle John received on the Island of Patmos. How then do we get so many different interpretations of what God meant when this several men and women, guided by the Holy Spirit, penned the 66 books that make up what we call the Bible?

                Because I have struggled with this question for several years, I was excited to be able to read an exciting book by Peter J. Leithart, The End of Protestantism: Pursuing Unity in a Fragmented Church (Brazos Press, 2016). 

                Leithart's book is all about unity. Although Jesus may have said that brother would be against brother, that was before the establishment of His church. The 'church' that collection of human beings that claim to follow Jesus, should be pursuing unity above all else.  As Leithart writes "'One God=one humanity' is axiomatic for Paul. The reunion of humanity in Christ is the gospel, the revelation of the one God against his many rivals. The unity of the church is an 'evangelical unity', a unity proclaimed in the good news of Jesus, a unity that must be realized among those who believe ". 

                The premise of this book seems to be simply stated in the following way: the status quo constrains us. The church, through its history, includes division. This is a division that needs to be walked through. Leithart suggests that we need a 'death to our present divisions so that we may rise reconciled'.

                Obviously denominations are not all bad, and there are many similarities that exist within the composite, but when divisiveness, arguments, and mudslinging occur, there is definitely a call to reconciliation.

                Leithart's call for reconciliation, for unity and unification is a call to being biblical rather than traditional.  

                My sense is that there are many pre-believers who are afraid to commit, because they're afraid that they might be picking the wrong church. After all if the "CHURCH" can't agree on things like baptism, communion, church discipline, 'once saved always saved' and a host of other issues how can an outsider know what to believe.

                Granted many of those issues are personal choices and interpretations of scripture that have been adopted by the various denominations and are not essential to one's salvation, but wouldn't it be nice if at some time the differences would disappear. After all in an eschatological sense, there will not be any denominations in heaven. There won't be separate mansions for Baptists, for Lutherans, for Methodists or Pentecostals.  Christ's church will finally be perfect, and their won't be any arguing with Him about whether communion can be offered more than on just the first Sunday of the month.


            I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for posting a review.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

GFA DAY 32 The Power of Prayer

Sister Mary suffered from debilitating pain and couldn’t find a cure. A vast amounts of money wasn’t enough to buy a cure, and eventually she planned to kill herself. But on the night she expected to find death, she found new life. Jesus came to her in a dream, and she gave her life to Christ.

Mary could have done like many people do, commit to going to church—when it’s convenient, but she decided that she would truly follow Christ. She shares His love throughout the community praying for the needs of individuals, families, and villages. Many of her prayers have brought about physical healing. But even more importantly they have brought spiritual healing. 

In an area where black magic is the norm, where superstition rules, Sister Mary’s prayers have brought about healing, transformation, and changed hearts. God can use your prayers too. 


                                            Why not start today by praying for: 
+Widows. The treatment of widows in South Asia is unimaginably horrific.
+ Abandoned Children. Countless children in Asia have been discarded and abused, but they are not forgotten.
+ Asia’s Youth. Did you know that 40 percent of India’s 1 billion people are under the age of 18?
+ National Missionaries. Everyday people who love the Lord and rely on Him for help as they give their lives to further God’s Kingdom
.
To see more ways to pray for South Asia visit


            GFA has provided a short video (about 8 minutes) about Mary’s prayer ministry and the effect that it has had  on the people within her expanding circle of influence. Watch it HERE

Saturday, October 29, 2016

thoughts on REBIRTH

Just a few months ago I wrote about a novel called HasteningThe premise was to send missionaries into all the world, until, a la Matthew 24:14, there was ‘no place left’ where the gospel had not been shared.  Now Stephen R Smith has released the sequel in this 'No Place Left' saga. Rebirth (2414ventures, 2016), picks up where Hastening ended.
             
              Senator Michael Worth, now Number Seven of a group of extreme power brokers known simply as the Ten, wants to be Number One. On his way to that exalted position he decides to take on religion, all religion, including Christianity. Of course that’s not his stated goal; he wants to be the instrument through which universal peace is finally achieved.  It’s within this context that Christopher Owens and his group, KPF (Kingdom Preparation Force), try to go to each under- and un-reached people group in the world. In Hastening we learned that they goal was to reach all groups by 2025, and in doing so be part of the generation that will ‘hasten the day” (2 Peter 3:12) and welcome Christ’s return.

                The group knows, because they have read through the biblical book of Revelation, that a lot of ugly things are going to happen before Jesus finally returns, and they prepare for the worst. Through their preparation their faith strengthens, and many are martyred for the cause.

                If you’ve read the New Testament, you’ll get many of the references to false prophets, false teachings, and some of the elements of John’s Revelation. For those who haven’t read through the Bible, the references are explained.

                If you don’t understand why missionaries do what they do, this book may give you a pretty good idea. Although there is a synopsis of Book I of the saga at the start of this book, Book II, I would recommend that you read Hastening, before digging into Rebirth.

                If you’re a Christian interested in end times, and you like pleasure reading, this novel is probably something you would enjoy.

                I received an electronic copy of the book in exchange for agreeing to post a review.


                4/5