Thursday, June 25, 2015

Getting in the Trenches

It is an honor and privilege to get in the trenches of life with people who regularly sacrifice for the sake of Jesus and His gospel.

A few weeks ago, a small team of ministry friends went to the Dominican Republic to work with a group of village pastors. These pastors aren't rich, do not lead large churches, lack formal education, and are often overlooked. However, God is using them to advance the gospel among the poorest of the poor in Haitian villages of the Dominican Republic.

I spent five days with three other pastors from the States training these amazing people. Our theme was "More than a Preacher". In other words, we focused on the Great Commission of Jesus regarding "making disciples". The mission of Christ was not primarily centered on conversions; rather it was rooted in the idea of "teaching people to observe all that [Jesus] commanded" while "equip[ping] the saints for the work of ministry" (Matthew 28:18-20, Ephesians 4:1-16). All this is for the glory of Christ, love of God, and love of people.

The Gospel Coalition has made great theological resources available in Spanish for free (plus shipping). Such resources are very difficult to come by in the D.R. As pictured above, they were happy to receive these beneficial books!

I am grateful the church I pastor, Advance Community Church, tangibly supports mission work in the Dominican Republic. We are also blessed to be serving (directly and indirectly) alongside the ministries of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Meeting God in Missions, Del Rey Ministries, The Christian & Missionary Alliance, Surgeons for Sight, Lancaster Christian Academy, and many others.

If you would like to help us better serve the pastors and people of the Dominican Republic, please consider supporting this missions ministry as we bring teams, supply clean water, build bathrooms, provide medical services, serve in the public and private schools, develop empowering relationships, and advance the gospel.     

Monday, June 15, 2015

Sometimes the Truth Stings

    The past two Sundays have been the most difficult sermons to preach this year. We have been going through the book of James since April. His teachings are blunt and often counter-cultural. Last Sunday, we explored the end of chapter 4 where James rebukes man's pride. Last night, we studied the beginning of James 5 where he rebukes the rich for their self-indulgence while poor are still suffering.

Today, I want to share a few helpful thoughts as I continue to process these texts:
     As a pastor, I have had people confess a multitude of sins - adultery, addictions, anger, lust, etc. Yet, I can only recall one person who ever confessed that he was struggling with greed and self-indulgence. Why is that? Greed tends to be a silent assassin. We tend to be victims of greed and don't even know it. I usually know when I sin in thought and action. But greed is far more stealth-like.

     "Why can't we see it? Once we move to a particular home/area, we find ourselves surrounded by a number of people who have more money than us. We tend to compare ourselves to them and not the rest of the world. We want to justify ourselves and can always find someone else who seems more excessive than us. But the rest of the world is not fooled. When people come here from other countries, they are shocked at the level of comfort is viewed as necessity" (Timothy Keller - Counterfeit Gods).

     This illustration is helping me process the reality of the Gospel in a world where millions live in desperate poverty and billions live without Christ.

     "If I am walking by a lake and I see a child drowning, I don’t stop and ponder what I should do.  Nor do I just stand there praying about what action to take. I do something. Immediately, without hesitation, I jump into the lake and save the drowning child. The parallel is not perfect, but consider the realities we have. At this moment, millions upon millions of men, women, and children, are starving and dying without food and water. Orphanages, foster homes, and city streets and slums are overflowing with boys and girls who need a mom and dad. Ultimately, while we contemplate this gospel, over two billion people in world have never even hear it. They are waiting to hear the good news of how God’s love for them in Christ can satisfy them on earth or save them for eternity. But God loves us too much to allow us to live with indifference or inaction. Clearly, Jesus has put before us a choice: we can spend our resources on short term pleasures that we cannot keep, or we can sacrifice our resources for long-term treasure that we’ll never lose" (David Platt - Counter Culture).

     "In the end, radical stewardship will look different from person to person, from church to church - but we are all called to be good stewards, to prioritize rightly, to sacrifice for the King out of gospel-soaked generous hearts. Radical sacrifice must always overflow from a heart that is gripped by the gospel; otherwise, it becomes a joyless and fruitless effort of self-righteousness" (Trevin Wax).

Sometimes the truth stings. However, the Scriptures are clear. May God continue to refine us all as we seek to honor Him with our time, talents, and treasures.