And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them (Acts 4:13).
In the twenty-first century, few words would be more insulting to a church than, “And of the rest durst no man join himself to them.” We have become obsessed with having a large crowd at the church that we are often blind to the clear praise that God gave to the first church in Jerusalem. For sure, this church did not lack a crowd (Acts 2:41; 4:4). And though God does point out the many people that He added to the church, He also praised them because people didn’t join their ranks. How clearly this demonstrates just how much different God’s perspective of a church is from ours. We would do well to take a lesson.
There are churches that obsess about the number of people in attendance. They are willing to do almost anything to get more. There are other churches that take pride in the fact that people won’t come, as a kind of badge or proof of their spiritual prowess. This church in Jerusalem was like neither.
Paradoxically, the church at Jerusalem had both large numbers and people afraid to join them. So, what’s the key here? The key is found in verse 14—believers joined them.
And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.
The contrast between verse 13 and 14 is stark—and so helpful. Consider all the good things that the apostles and christians were doing to the people of their communities. Verse 16 tells us that they were healing every one that came to them. There was great reason for the words in the latter part of verse 13: “…but the people magnified them.” So, interestingly enough, many people around them who were not a part of the church; that is, they weren’t believers; sang the praises of these christians. Yet they did not join them.
There might have been a number of reasons why these people did not join themselves with the christians. One might have been persecution. The threat of persecution (by “persecution” I am referring to suffering in any form as a result of one’s faith) is a strong resistance to people trusting in Jesus. Here in Cambodia, even before a person trusts in Christ they often become the targets of nasty words, threats, and mockery. This often serves to cool the person’s interest before they are saved. It’s sad, but true.
Last Sunday, a lady in our church brought her sister-in-law to church, who is not a christian. After the service was over (which I later learned was spot on that sister-in-law), the lady in our church asked her sister-in-law to hold her Bible. She refused, saying she didn’t want someone to think she was a christian. That might seem like slight, yet it has a familiar ring, reminescent of Acts 5:13.
Another reason that people did not join themselves with the church in Jerusalem might have been that they did not believe. Society lauded the holiness, good works, and uprightness of the church, but just didn’t believe in the Lord Jesus. This happens regularly here in Cambodia. People that do not believe praise the christians they know, but they themselves don’t care to join in. It just costs too much. Yet another reason might be the strictness of our faith. Just recently I have heard complaints from non-christians that God requires repentance from false gods and 100% faith in Christ alone. That is strict and exclusive, yet it is absolutely true. For at least these reasons, they didn’t dare (“durst” is a form of “dare”) join with the believers in Christ.
It is fascinating that at the church at Jerusalem, for all the high praises they received from society, unbelievers didn’t typically join them. The ones who joined them were believers. For the unbelievers, the persecution was too strong, the message to strict. For the believers, however, those who dared not join with them before found themselves happily seeking them out that blessed group of God’s people.
Should it be our goal in the twenty-first century to get as many unbelievers into our churches as possible? Should we tailor our styles or customize our message in an effort to draw unbelievers in? Is the church not primarily for believers? This is plainly evident in verses 13 and 14. As the church of the living God, our primary concern should be to honor God in our church meetings and our personal lives. Towards the lost, we should love supernaturally, call unceasingly, and pray fervently. But at the same time, we should have a church that exhibits such dedication to the holy God of the Bible and His word, that people dare not join our ranks; that is, they dare not join us until they have come to know that great God and Savior Jesus Christ. I think the question must be asked: are people that know not God comfortable in your church? Are they “cool with” your faith? If that’s the case, or if that’s your goal, you are in woeful disagreement with the church that God praised in Jerusalem.
We need churches of such quality that those who don’t know God are uncomfortable with our love, loyalty, and dedication to Jesus Christ and His word! We need churches of such stature that the clear teaching of God’s word is such that those without God can’t just hide out to sit and listen. But oh the joy when those who avoided us and our Savior come looking for His people in His church after they have found Him that is altogether lovely and worthy!
As you probably guessed it from the title, I’m not a fan of “Total Depravity.” But, lest I am instantly defined by those who do not like my title, let me provide some definitions. Total depravity is:
…man’s natural condition apart from any grace exerted by God to restrain or transform man.
This quote, by John Piper, seems on its face to be acceptable, I would agree. However, it is the defining of the above statement that leads me to beg to differ. Moreover, the definitions and presentation of Total Depravity, as well as the other 4 points of Calvinism, irritate me for this reason. I almost never hear a Calvinist come out and make his positions clear in one breath, especially when speaking with a non-Calvinist. Among each other the code is apparently understood: “doctrines of grace,” “effectual call,” “sovereign grace,” etc. However, among others you will practically never hear a Calvinist say “I believe that all men are so sinful that everything they do, think, feel and say is inherently evil and that they never and cannot seek God, believe or repent.”
I hear the one in the back saying, “You misunderstand Total Depravity.” Actually, what I wrote is just a summary of Mr. Piper’s article on his position on the TULIP. In this article, I want to rebut his version of Total Depravity. And, lest any Calvinist sympathizers say I haven’t read what actual Calvinists say, I chose the writing of one of the most popular modern Calvinists.
Let me make a couple of other things clear. Just because I don’t believe in the definition of “Total Depravity” as defined by Mr. Piper does not mean that I
- believe a man can save himself.
- believe that man has a spark of divinity.
- believe that men are basically good.
Some will read that and just deny that I actually mean what say. I can’t make it any more clear. Even Piper said this:
But if the mercy by which we are brought to faith (irresistible grace) is not part of what Christ purchased on the cross, then we are left to save ourselves from the bondage of sin, the hardness of heart, the blindness of corruption, and the wrath of God.
So, if I don’t subscribe to the Calvinist system I have to believe this? Well, I don’t on both accounts. Every honest Calvinist knows that if any one petal of the TULIP withers the entire flower falls because the points are mutually dependent. If one point stands, as a Calvinist defines it, they all must stand.
John Piper asserts this of Romans 14:23:
Therefore, if all men are in total rebellion, everything they do is the product of rebellion and cannot be an honor to God, but only part of their sinful rebellion.
In his total rebellion everything man does is sin.
At the beginning, however, he says this:
There is no doubt that man could perform more evil acts toward his fellow man than he does.
So, more than once Piper says that everything man does is sinful. So, whether or not man is doing as much sin as he possibly can, the result is the same: everything he does is sin. The problem is Piper’s proof verse, or rather the second part of his proof verse, Romans 14:23:
And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
This verse has a clear context. If it didn’t, and you amputated it from its context, then nearly everything people do, Christians and non-Christians, would be sin. Mowing the grass would be a sin. Walking down the street would be a sin. Driving the car would be a sin, because we do these things without forethought all the time. Piper explains the verse like this:
This is a radical indictment of all natural “virtue” that does not flow from a heart humbly relying on God’s grace.
So, the “faith” in the verse is not referring the persuasion that doing a doubtful act is indeed pleasing to God, as in the context, but relying on God’s grace for salvation? So, he redefines the context to basically mean, “If you are not a Christian, whatever you do is sin.” The context is clear in verses 5, 6, 14 and 22. In fact, in verse 22, God says:
Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. (emphasis mine)
The scripture actually mentions faith and sin in the previous verse! So, Romans 14:23 cannot be honestly used to argue that every, single deed, word or thought of a lost man is sin. Yet, Romans 14:23 is the main pillar of the entire Total Depravity argument. If his argument about the meaning of Romans 14:23 stands, then men can never seek God, believe, repent, etc. That’s the subtle direction the argument is going. In other words, it is impossible for man to make any kind of movement toward God. No matter the difference of opinion of the timing of regeneration among Calvinists, it necessitates an act of God to cause a man to be able to do those things. That act, according to Piper, is regeneration.
Because Piper’s interpretation of Romans 14:23 is clearly overturned, we must examine how depraved man actually is, according to the Bible. Before we do that, we must make another definition clear: sin. Piper asserts that everything an natural man does is sinful. Yet, according to the Bible, sin is not defined in the reverse sort of way: if he does it, it is therefore sin. No, sin has a very clear definition in scripture, the transgression of God’s Law:
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4).
So, sin is not “everything lost men do,” but that which violates God’s Law. So, the unsaved man taking his kids to school, kissing his wife or working on the construction site is not sin, for it does not violate God’s Law. This is very important. Redefining the very definition of sin totally changes and fits into the argument, from the Calvinist’s perspective. But I still haven’t answered how depraved man is. John Piper’s own use of very good verses will suffice.
Romans 3:9-10, 18 are fine verses to show man’s depravity. Piper quotes them as well, and rightly so:
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God..There is no fear of God before their eyes.
God says men do not seek God. Can they seek God? This verse does not answer that question. Then Piper asserts that men do seek God:
It is a myth that man in his natural state is genuinely seeking God. Men do seek God. But they do not seek him for who he is. They seek him in a pinch as one who might preserve them from death or enhance their worldly enjoyments. Apart from conversion, no one comes to the light of God.
On the one hand, Piper wants to take a strict view of Romans 3:9-10 to argue that no one seeks God. But, that would have to include us Christians. It does say “none.” On the other hand, he says that men do seek God, but reminds us of this caveat: men do not genuinely seek God. He says they only seek God in a pinch, etc. Psalm 107 gives several examples of sinners whom God saved out of their trouble when they sought Him in a pinch:
Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron; Because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the most High: Therefore he brought down their heart with labour; they fell down, and there was none to help. Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses (Psalm 107:10-13).
There is nothing to indicate that these men knew God, notwithstanding the verses in the early part of the chapter. To say they did to fit the argument is dishonest. Yet, they sought the Lord in a pinch. God thought it was genuine enough to save them (not from sin, but) out of their distresses. So, we have a number of examples of men seeking God. Also, Piper adds an additional requirement by saying men must seek God for Who He is. Whatever that means, it’s not in the Bible. He provides no proof of that. Then, Piper says, “apart from conversion, no one comes to the light of God.” No one argues with that. But, that is not the issue at hand. The issue is that Piper asserted that men do not genuinely seek after God, which is patently false.
Let me clarify something. God does indeed say that men do not seek God. God is always the initiator in contact with men. This is the whole point of Romans 3. Men don’t seek God because they don’t want to (John 3:19). This is supported by Romans 8:7-8, which Piper also quotes. Ability to seek God is not in view in Romans 3. When unregenerate men do indeed seek God, and they do as has already been shown, it is because of the grace of God. Don’t forget that in the scripture God is constantly found seeking men out. Consider our most recent passage, Psalm 107, verse 24:
These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep.
Even the works of the Lord are symbols of God’s seeking man! This is also found in John 1:9:
That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
So, to summarize, men do not naturally seek God. This is clear. Yet, when God makes himself known to them, as he does, they do indeed seek Him. Many a Calvinist would simply reverse the perspective and say that it is because they are effectually called, or chosen. Nothing merits this manipulation of plain truth. This argument is critical to the Calvinist’s view of Total Depravity, because if the scripture says man can indeed seek God, then he might also be able to believe when presented with the truth of God’s Word.
Next, in an attempt to assert than man cannot do “good,” Piper feels it necessary to make sure we understand what he calls “good.” Actually, those three paragraphs are pretty nebulous. Whatever the case, it is irrelevant. As we have seen, sin is not enumerated by what a lost man does, but by God’s Law. It is surprising how out-of-the-way Piper goes to define “good.”
Then, John Piper brings up Romans 8:7-8:
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
This is the first and only time a verse of scripture used by Mr. Piper uses the word “can.” This is the crux. Can man seek God, believe or repent? Piper uses this verse to assert:
So natural man has a mindset that does not and cannot submit to God. Man cannot reform himself.
I have no problem with that. Yet, I fail to see how “man reforming himself” has anything to do with that verse; that is, unless Piper is setting up a straw man by intimating that those that do not hold a Calvinist position think that man can reform himself. I don’t believe that because of Romans 8:7-8, which Piper is using. Remember, no matter how we try to interpret it, the verse does not say that the carnal mind “cannot believe or repent.” The verse says the carnal mind, which surely includes lost folks, “is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Absolutely true. This is a truth also found in Romans 3:19-20:
Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
The lost man cannot be subject to God’s law. This verse says nothing of whether a man can seek God or believe. Yet, Piper asserts:
So natural man has a mindset that does not and cannot submit to God. Man cannot reform himself.
He misquotes the verse. The law could never save anyone, because man is sold in sin and under sin. The verse simply does not support Piper’s point. The fact that sinners are not and cannot be subject to God’s law is the very reason why Christ died (Gal. 2:16)! Lastly, it is also absolutely true that the man in the flesh cannot please God. This speaks nothing of man’s good, but of God’s displeasure with his sin. At this point I can imagine a Calvinist saying, “If a man can seek God, believe God and repent, then he can please God!” Nothing like that is in view in the verse at all. God does not receive the believing sinner because of the merit of his faith. God receives a sinner because of the merits of Christ’s work and because God promised he would receive them if they believed.
Finally, the favorite analogy is used—death. Piper brings up Ephesians 2:1:
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.
The interesting thing about the use of this verse is that it is an entirely deductive argument. Again, Piper injects incapability:
The point of deadness is that we were incapable of any life with God…We were totally unable to reform ourselves.
Whereas it is true that man cannot raise himself from the dead, spiritual death is often used by the Calvinist to make a point that a dead man cannot seek God or believe. Of course, because men are dead “in trespasses and sins” those dead men can still sin, but only not make any move toward God, as it goes. That would be fine if we were talking about a physically dead man. However, spiritual death is in view. Spiritual death is reworded in Ephesians 4:18:
Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.
So, if spiritual death is anything, it is the absence of life. Yet, consider these verses:
And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life (John 5:40).
But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name (John 20:31).
If you’ll notice that in both of these verse, faith is the requirement for life. Faith comes first, then life. So, the Calvinist, like John Piper, uses the analogy to assert that dead men cannot believe or seek God. However, Jesus said on at least two occasions that a man must believe to have life. So, awakening from death happens after faith—upon faith.
Let us hear the conclusion of the matter. There are other verses used by Calvinists to argue their definition of Total Depravity. I have addressed these because these were chosen by one of the most popular Calvinists around. My point was to show that the Calvinists’ understanding of the depravity of man is flawed. Depravity makes men—all men—totally deserving of an eternity in the lake of fire. Depravity makes all men totally defiled before God and unable to please Him. Depravity makes all men desperately need a Savior. However, the scripture simply does not support the idea that depravity renders a man incapable of responding to God seeking him. Therefore, I believe the other points should also be considered suspect.
I recently received an article through several of my social media “orifices,” an article which caused a dual reaction in my heart. The article is “Things that Discourage Millennial Christian Leaders” by Brother Cary Schmidt at Encouraging Words. In summary, the article is basically a summary of Brother Schmidt’s take on the millennial generation (the generation born roughly between 1980 and 2000). As I read, I found myself both commending and challenging some of his major and minor points. I would like to submit my take on the millennial generation.
I am a millennial. I was born in 1981. I have almost every type of social media account and use them regularly. I have a smart phone. To my knowledge, except in jest, I have never used terms such as “movie house,” “honky-tonk,” “bull-fightin’ britches,” or other terms of a previous era. I say this tongue-and-cheek only to point out that my family and I are not outsiders. We are insiders. Many of my closest friends on earth are of this generation. I love this generation and believe it has great potential. It must, for it is the generation that will make up God’s servants in the first part of the 21st century. Yet in all honesty, what I see of my own Christian millennial generation is often discouraging.
It’s not all bad, though. I like the Christian millennial’s willingness to challenge others to prove their views from the Scripture. I like the millennial’s willingness and eagerness to try new things and be innovative. I like the millennial’s aversion for camps, clubs, cliques, schools and the often slavish loyalty to institutions that have long-since departed from the loyalist’s own beliefs. Like the millennials, the generation before us has many reasons for commendation, and some reasons for critique. There were and are some in the previous generation that had what I would consider (remember, I am a millennial) undeserved loyalties to schools or groups. There are some in the previous generation that practice shoot-from-the-hip dogma with little proof or explanation of their positions outside of tradition. Millennial Christian leaders are adept at pointing these things out and using them as grounds to ride the pendulum the other direction, while not noticing the religious whoppers that they themselves have swallowed without the same cynicism that they gave to the previous generation (think “God doesn’t care what kind of music I listen to,” or “It only matters what’s in my heart”).
I have also found in Christian millennials, and yes, even church leaders, some nasty little foxes that are now serving a catalysts to bring about changes that are not positive. And these foxes are actually serving to allow the changes to go virtually unchallenged, because of a lack of self-cynicism. So, here is a view of Christian millennials and the leaders among us from a millennial.
1. Christian millennials fear rejection and ostracizing by the culture in which they live. They seem to be terrified of being labeled “irrelevant,” “out-dated,” odd or “Pharisaical,” whether is it merited or not. Let’s be clear: the culture in which we now live is wicked. It is becoming more and more wicked each year that passes. We should not be worried what our “culture” thinks of the way we follow God’s Word and will. I can understand making the Gospel and Bible teaching as applicable to the audience as possible. However, the fear of rejection by “the culture” in the heart of a Christian leader is debilitating and will often lead to decisions that are not in accordance with the Scripture or to decisions in which God’s Word was not seriously consulted at all. That, I’m afraid is the root of this problem. I am persuaded that fear of man (Proverbs 29:25) clouds the objectivity of the millennial and taints his judgment. I have seen this first hand in my own family members who are not Christians, how a lack of uprightness and “differentness” of a Christian (with a pure doctrinal statement) led to a dismissal of the Gospel by my family members. This is a serious problem with serious repercussions. We must accept that faithfulness to God will mean ostracizing and mockery by “the culture” (2 Timothy 3:12).
2. Christian millennials are averse to playing it safe in matters that are unclear. With the rights-culture permeating the West, millennials feel that their mere question of a matter is grounds for action or change. They are keen on pointing out matters in ministry that are gray. But, rather than play it safe in the gray area (that is, an area that they themselves say is unclear) they take the ambiguity as a kind of license to do it, then defend their actions in this gray area vigorously from all attacks of the “traditionalists.” “This is a gray area. It doesn’t have anything to do with doctrine,” is often the refrain. If it is a gray area indeed, then shouldn’t Romans 14, verses 15-16 be as closely and prayerfully regarded as verses 5 and 10 are? Faithfulness to the Scripture demands that clear Scripture be contended for; Christian charity demands that ambiguity be ruled by love for your brother. It works both ways.
At this point I want to challenge an assertion that is often presented when gray areas are brought up. To put it briefly, many millennials (and non-millennials) define a gray area as a “non-doctrinal issue.” They also often narrowly define “doctrine” as a list of beliefs that are enumerated on a doctrinal statement. In this way, almost all contentious matters can be relegated to one’s preference in style, as if the Scripture never addresses the practice of our obedience. Once doctrine is defined thus, in practice almost everything outside of the doctrinal statement can be purely preferential. Therefore, any argument or criticism can always be labeled as judgmental. I know it sounds like I am just speaking in generalities, but I have heard this very idea in use many, many times. This narrow understanding of doctrine is unknown to Scripture. “Doctrine” in the Bible merely refers to the body of what a person teaches. It is most certainly not simply theology, soteriology, eschatology, etc. Consider Matthew 16:12:
Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
A cursory reading of the context reveals that Christ was warning, not of the doctrinal statement of the Pharisees, but of what they taught and practiced. This verse is one illustrative example of the use of the word doctrine in the Bible. Because of the broad definition of doctrine in Scripture, it is impossible to draw a line at the place where “doctrine” ends and preferences begin. Any line drawn must be arbitrary and subject to the individual’s estimation of what is worth contending for. And thus, because “doctrine” is boxed away neatly, many practical teachings of the Scripture seem to be disregarded, like Romans 12:2 (worldliness), 1 Timothy 2:9 (modesty), Psalm 101:3 (entertainment), Psalm 26:5 (separation), Romans 13:8 (debt), etc. Detractors from my point will say that the Christian millennial leaders do live by these verses. Why, then, do I see so many violations of these Scriptural teachings? I would expect to see at least some basic practice of these Scriptures. It has nothing to do with “behaviorism,” but everything to do with being a Christian who loves his God with all of his heart who wants to please and honor Him in every thought, word and deed (1 Corinthians 10:31). I would not dare make some sort of rule list by which to judge all my brothers and sisters in Christ and hold them to my own standard. But, seriously, where are the Christian millennial leaders that are being self-critical and testing their own preferences by the Scripture?
Lest any misunderstand or misinterpret my point, let me be clear. Just because one cannot draw a line between doctrine and preference in the Scripture does not mean that all minute details of practice should be argued (1 Corinthians 11:6). However, it does mean that we cannot simply narrowly redefine “doctrine” to exclude the things that we think are not of the highest importance, then accuse others on our right who disagree of being Pharisaical or judgmental. We must believe in the diety of Christ our Lord and salvation by grace, as well as avoid watching adultery played out on television. Both are in the Bible. Both should be obeyed. What’s more, begin to involve my children and what influences them and the criteria for what is worth contending for change even more.
3. Christian millennials are often unwilling to honestly and bravely examine their own preferences by the Scripture. This is where the rubber meets the road, in my opinion. In general, millennials do not like criticism, as is probably true with everyone to some degree. However, it is the responsibility of Christian millennial leaders to examine themselves and their beliefs and ministries by all of God’s Word with brutal honesty. We should be willing to objectively scrutinize our own viewpoints by the rule of God’s Word, even non-“doctrinal” issues. With all honesty I say this: I don’t see this happening. On the contrary, I see many millennials using gray areas as a license to press the limits. I see millennials’ apparent disregard for clearly defined standards of practical righteousness as set forth in Scripture. I am not referring to how-long, how-short, how-beaty kind of arguments. I am referring to even basic adherence. I rack my brain, sometimes, wondering, “How in the world could they say that’s at all modest or unspotted from the world? How could they say that glorifies God at all?” To many, this is simply judgmental. Yet, God commands me to “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Where are the Christian millennials that will bravely look at their family’s wardrobe and say, “Is this dress modest and appropriate for a Christian?” Where are they that stick the neck out and ask, “Is this song a clone of the world?” Where are they that ask themselves, “Should I be watching this show with this evil in it?” This is not behaviorism. This is being a Christian wanting to abstain from all appearance of evil for His Lord’s sake. This is being a Christian millennial that is trying to apply all of God’s Word to his life in his era.
Lastly, let me say this. It is not true that you must equate tradition with doctrine or either worry only about “doctrinal” integrity. There is a middle ground. The middle ground is not one that uses the length of your hair or skirt or sound of your music to judge the spirituality of your brother. The middle ground is honestly looking at the Word of God—all of it—and conforming to it in every way that you know how. For sure, we will not always agree on the final conclusions of those examinations. However, defense of one’s actions and excuses to simply test limits among Christian millennials must stop. We cannot continue to be the judges of the previous generation’s faults while we are willfully ignoring our own reluctance to examine what we believe and practice. I love this most applicable quote from Brother Paul Chappell:
It’s okay to challenge the preferences or convictions of the last generation, but show us how you are going to conform to His image and not to the world in your generation. (emphasis mine)So, I’ll part with four exhortations to Christian Millennial leaders:
- Brutally and honestly try yourselves and your beliefs by God’s Word in every matter.
- Be the Christian that loves and seriously considers the reproofs of the generation before, even if those reproofs come with an undesirable attitude or disposition.
- Tenaciously build your life and ministry on faithful adherence to all of God’s Word, no matter how “the culture” views it or whether or not it is a “doctrinal” issue.
- Truly love and pray for those to the right and left of you.
So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.
Coincidentally enough, in my personal Bible reading I just happened to be at the well-known place in Isaiah in which the Lord is talking about his “righteous servant,” who is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ. I love and appreciate when the Lord’s timing in my Bible reading is spot-on.
In this verse (Isaiah 52:15) I was struck by such a clear declaration that Christ would save the Gentiles. To the Jewish mind in the New Testament times, it seems that was totally not on the radar, even a point of great contention (Acts 22:21-22). Yet, in the Scripture it is plainly recorded. Praise the Lord! The word “sprinkle” hearkens back to the sacrifices in which the priests would sprinkle the blood of the sacrifices on the various instruments in the performance of their duties (Leviticus 1:5; etc.).
Another thing in this verse that was a blessing to read was how that the ignorant would see and consider. In the context, it seems to be referring to the Gentiles and their kings. If there is a verse of Scripture that rings true in the country to which I have been called, it is this one. Here in Cambodia there is so much misinformation about who Christ is and what He has done. I seems like almost no one understands how our Lord “sprinkled many nations,” notwithstanding all of the crusades, Jesus movies, etc. Yet this is exactly what this verse is saying.
Some seven hundred years before Jesus Christ was born, God led the prophet Isaiah to proclaim that the Gentiles would hear that which they had never heard, see that which they never seen, and consider that which they had never considered. This is being fulfilled in our very day here in Cambodia and all over the world. It is being fulfilled in places awash with ignorance about Christ’s great sacrifice. Of course, many people around here know a little about Jesus, but what Christ truly has done is almost totally unknown.
However, there are some that have heard and seen. There are some that have understood and considered. For dozens of generations, their forefathers have dwelt in darkness. Yet now, in a moment, they see it! They understand it! They believe it! This is the joy of being in God’s field: showing people that Christ has already sprinkled them. It is illuminating the truths of the Gospel, the great truths found in the 53rd of Isaiah.
So, I’m curious. Why haven’t you seriously considered going out into the field to tell those “many nations” what Christ has done for them? Why haven’t you put your strength to the task of piercing the darkness for the name of that righteous Servant whose soul was made an offering for sin? Why haven’t you taken, personally, the Gospel light to those in darkness (Matthew 4:16) that they abide not still in the midnight of ignorance?
Image courtesy of Luc B
Let me tell you a story.
Last night, as I pulled up to my house, the neighbor from across the street came over to me and told me some troubling news, to say the least. She told me that someone had come around the neighborhood to inform everyone that starting today everyone’s running water would be turned off (It is odd that no one told me. I live here too, ya know!). (more…)
In the marathon that is the Christian life, there are many turns that must be taken to remain in what is popularly called the “will of God”. In actuality, the will of God is not a final state in which a servant of the Lord should find themselves when the dust of this life settles, but rather a fulfilling of God’s desire right now. The will of God simply refers to doing and being that which God desires. You might say it is doing “those things that are pleasing in his sight” (1 John 3:22).
In this effort to “do God’s will”, there are doubtless turns and changes that must be made; yea, changes that God Himself ordains. (more…)
1. The ministry of preaching and teaching Christ’s Gospel can be as unpredictable as the weather (assuming you’re not a meteorologist). From week to week, it is nearly impossible to tell how people that you have previously taught will respond to the truths you have to tell them. With that in mind, I have several “prayer projects” that I want to make (more…)
Though the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is one of the most witnessed events in history, and certainly the most important, there are some differences of opinion concerning the timeline of the resurrection. Admittedly, the exact timeline is less than perfectly clear in the Scripture, as attested by the fact that there is (more…)
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have officially begun having church services on Sundays. Actually, today was the third week we have held meetings. There is a funny story surrounding the way the meetings began. A few weeks ago I wrote to you about the lady, Kum At, that recently received Christ. Well, the very next Sunday morning I was in my office preparing for a service with just our family like we had done before. I got a phone call from this lady telling me that she was at our gate for the church service, with her two daughters. So, needless to say I quickly prepared to change gears to teach in Khmer instead of English. We have had a service every Sunday since. We hope to add some more meetings during the week soon.
Kum At seems to be growing. She has already read the book of John that gave her. She now has a Bible and has begun reading Genesis and Exodus. In the near future I hope to talk to her about baptism. Praise the Lord for His work in her life.
Please pray about our visiting work. It can be a slow process here to get people to put aside their many preconceived ideas about Christ and Christianity and open up to hear the truth. Recently I have had several solid opportunities to explain the Gospel clearly to some people. Praise the Lord for that. Pray that the Lord would open hearts and save souls as we go out and broadcast his Gospel.
A little over a week ago Abigail (6 years) was scalded pretty severely with some hot tea. There were no complications and her hand has been healing nicely. Other than that there is little else to report concerning our family. Everyone is healthy and well, for which we thank our God.
As always, and sincerely, thank you for your prayers for all of us.
Learning a new language is one of the most fun and rewarding things I have done in my life. However, it is also one of the most difficult. Let me quickly say that although I may use past tense in this post, I by no means am indicating that I have arrived, or anything remotely of the sort. I have not. However, I realize now that I did not come to Cambodia with a totally accurate view of language study. So, in this post I hope to point out some of the realities and/or misconceptions I have seen (particularly in my own mind) in hopes it will help some of those that are preparing to go the the mission field and learn a new language.
First of all, basically every language is very, very BIG. If you are reading this blog, then English is most likely your mother tongue. There are so many words in English that we are familiar with but never use. And, beyond those, there are thousands upon thousands of other words that we do not even know, even in our mother tongue! Since this is the case, perish the thought that the language you are going to learn is any different! The difference is you have been learning your mother tongue since you were less than one year old. You must learn a new tongue from scratch as an adult. My view of Khmer up until I came to Cambodia was small. It was akin to standing in a head (bathroom, for you non-seamen) in the middle of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. It was impossible to see how big it was! Whatever language you must learn, realize before you start that it is much bigger than you think it is. This leads to the following points.
It will be HARD. The Lord instructs us in Luke 14 to count the cost. The cost in this case is definitely worth the prize, as I said in the first sentence. We still, though, must count the cost. The couple of years of foreign language in high school are not comparable. Really learning a language to become fluent is HARD. It takes much time and study. NOTHING can take the place of steadfastness, patience, and diligence in language study. Nothing whatsoever. Please do not fool yourself into thinking it will be different for you. Prepare to put MUCH time, prayer, and frustration into the study of your target language. Various methods of language-learning may help you learn a language more correctly, but it will not diminish the time or diligence needed to do it. Exceptional ability or a “knack” for learning languages will not take the place of time or diligence. You will not be the exception. The nature of the language you will be studying does not have much of an effect on the time and diligence needed to learn it. Your language will not be easy. My point is none of the three things above will make it easy. Learning a new language is HARD; it is not easy. The only way to learn it is by investing major amounts of time, energy, study, prayer, and diligence. This is REQUIRED.
You WILL BE discouraged. Do not be surprised if you spend four hours a day or more in formal study, then hours after that talking to people and studying vocabulary, all this five days a week, and after six months still have a hard time expressing yourself. Do not be surprised if you spend two full years in formal study. It will be discouraging. It will seem like you will never learn the language. Deuteronomy 7:22 comes to mind in regard to language study. It will come a little at a time. Do not be disheartened. The nature of learning a new language is little by little. The process is so gradual that it may drive you into frustration. I know a number of missionaries here in Cambodia that really do a great job in the Khmer language. However, they still find themselves frustrated and in the pupil’s desk metaphorically over and over, even after having lived here for 10 years or more.
Lastly, if your goal is to be proficient in the language you are studying, you must realize that there will never be an “end” to study. You will always hear words that you don’t know. You will will never arrive. You haven’t arrived in English, and you certainly will not arrive in a second language. Preaching in a second language is not an end. In fact, preaching is really the beginning.
These are some of the realities that I wasn’t entirely prepared for when I came to Cambodia. These are some things that I have observed others not being entirely prepared for when going to the mission field. I hope if and when you start your study of a second language you will have a realistic view of what lies ahead of you, NOT to discourage you from marching forward, but to prepare you store up the diligence needed to continue when it seems like it never ends.