Allegiance 

April 28, 2017

“The essence of Christian obedience is not do’s and don’ts but personal allegiance to Jesus.”-Tim Keller 

Purpose of Prayer

April 26, 2017

The basic purpose of prayer is not to bend God’s will to mine, but to mold my will into his.–Tim Keller

Corporate Confession

April 25, 2017

Holy God, You are the all-wise King who created and sustains all things.  You have revealed your glory and majestic power in the world all around us.  Your fingerprints in creation are unmistakable.  Your holiness and power are made evident in your providential care for everything you have made, including us.  Yet we confess that we have not honored you and given you the thanks and praise you deserve.  Instead of worshipping you, we have worshipped idols like power, control, and reputation as if they were treasure.  These things are not worthy of our worship.  They cannot save us and protect us, nor can they transform us into pure and holy people.

 

Lord Jesus, thank you for your pure and wise worship of you heavenly Father.  You never flinched from glorifying your Father, growing daily in knowledge and wisdom and the fear of the Lord.  When Satan tempted you in the wilderness, you refused to bow down to him, instead reminding him of God’s Word, which says, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.”  Thank you that your faithful obedience and holy wisdom are to us as our righteousness before your Father.

 

Holy Spirit, make wisdom and holiness delightful to the inmost part of our souls.  Draw us daily to the cross.  Show us the perfect life that Christ lived for us, and then shape us so that we can turn away increasingly from the seductive power of the wisdom of this world and receive in its place biblical wisdom.  Grow us daily in the knowledge and fear of the Lord, until you complete that good work on the day you take us to be with you forever in heaven.

In Christ’s name we pray, amen.

Good Friday Times

April 14, 2017

4:00 to 6:00 a.m.
Jesus’s trial before Annas and Caiaphas.
(Matthew 26:57–68; Mark 14:53-65; Luke 22:66–70; John 18:12–28)
6:00 to 8:00 a.m.
Jesus’s trial before Pontius Pilate and Herod. Jesus appears before Pilate, is sent over to Herod, and then back to Pilate where he is sentenced to be crucified.
(Matthew 27:1–26; Mark 15:1–15; Luke 23:1–25; John 18:28–19:16)
8:00 to 8:30 a.m.
Jesus carries his cross, with Simon of Cyrene’s help, to Golgotha.
Lightstock

Lightstock

(Matthew 27:27–32; Mark 15:16–22; Luke 23:26–33; John 19:16–17)
9:00 a.m. (Crucifixion)
Jesus is crucified: “It was the third hour” (Mark 15:25). For the Jewish people, the first hour of the day was 6:00 a.m.
(Matthew 27:35; Luke 23:33; John 19:18–22)
9:00 to 9:30 a.m.
The soldiers divide Jesus’s clothing. He prays for them.
(Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34; John 19:23–24)
9:30 to 11:00 a.m.
The soldiers watch over the crucifixion and mock Jesus: “He can’t save himself. Come down from there, Son of God.”
(Matthew 27:36–43; Mark 15:29–32; Luke 23:35–38)
11:00 a.m. to Noon
Jesus speaks from the cross to the thieves on either side. The repentant thief asks Jesus to remember him, and Jesus promises, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” And to his mother, Mary, and to John, Jesus says, “Woman, here is your son. . . . John, here is your mother.’”
(Matthew 27:38–44; Luke 23:39–43; John 19:25–27)
Noon
A three-hour darkness descends upon the land: “When the sixth hour had come, there was a darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.”
(Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33)
Noon to 3:00 p.m.
The earth quakes, the temple curtain is torn, and Jesus thirsts.
(Matthew 27:51–54; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45; Matthew 27:46–50; Mark 15:33–37; Luke 23:35–38; John 19:29)
3:00 p.m.
Jesus dies: “At the ninth hour, Jesus cried out, ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’” “Jesus said, ‘It is finished,’ and he gave up his spirit.”
(Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34–39; Luke 23:46; John 19:30)
************
After this, before night set in, the soldiers thrust a spear into Jesus side to make sure he was dead. They then permitted Joseph of Arimathea to take down Jesus’s body and bury him in a nearby grave.
They sealed the grave with a large round stone built to roll like a giant wheel into place, covering the mouth of the tomb.
Everyone expected he would remain in that tomb, because that’s what happens with those who are dead and buried. They stay dead and they stay buried.

-Russ Ramsay

Second-Class M?

April 7, 2017

Imagine what it would look like if western churches hired their staff with the same priorities that they choose overseas missionaries to financially support.
First of all, a Children’s Pastor would definitely be out. Not strategic enough; he’s only supporting the children of believers. Youth Pastor? Also out, unless he targets neighborhood kids.
How about a Music Pastor? Or Pastoral Counselor? Nope. Those are just support roles. Not enough front-line ministry.
Administrative Pastor? Receptionist? Good heavens. We could never dream of paying someone for those kind of inconsequential jobs.
How about a Preaching Pastor? Well…..that’s if-y, but he probably doesn’t make the cut either. After all, he’s only feeding the Body. Most of the time, he’s not actually reaching the lost.
So that pretty much leaves only the positions of Community Outreach Pastor or Evangelist. Yet how many churches even have those paid positions?
I’m not suggesting that churches go about firing two-thirds of their staff. I just want to talk about a double-standard I often see.
Let me introduce you to the class system among missionaries. 
Who is on the A-List? Well, that would be the Church Planters. Among unreached people groups gives you A+ status. Pastoral Trainers and Bible Translators might be able to squeak by with an A.
The B-List? Doctors and other health workers, community development and poverty alleviation workers, ESL teachers.
The C-List? Administrators, missionary member care, MK teachers, or anyone else considered “support.”
Whatever tends to be the current trend in “justice ministry” also often ends up on the A-List. These days, that’s fighting human trafficking. It used to be orphan ministry, but that’s pretty much been relegated to B-status now. It’s cool, but not that cool.
Granted, this class system doesn’t usually originate with the missionaries themselves, but it’s come out of the culture of missions in their home countries. How many missionaries have sat before missions committees back home who examined if they fit into their “grid” of priorities? And often that grid looks exactly like the hierarchy I just outlined.
My husband and I worked for eight years in TCK ministry at a missionary school. When trying to raise support, we called and sent information packets to over 200 churches in California. We heard back from two. Churches told us, over and over again, Sorry, but that ministry doesn’t fit into our strategy.  
That all changed when we transitioned to theological training of East African pastors. Finally, we had churches calling us. It was nice. But frankly, kind of frustrating. We didn’t change ministries so that we would become more popular with churches. We switched because that’s where God was leading us. But the truth is, we don’t consider theological training to be any more strategic, or any more exciting, than what we were doing at that MK school. 
Unfortunately, the missionaries themselves are often acutely aware of this hierarchy, and it makes many feel like they are second-class. Over and over again, I hear things like this from missionaries:
Yes, I love my job as an MK teacher and I know it’s really important, but I fill my newsletters with pictures of the slum I visit once a week. After all, that’s what my supporters are interested in.
Yeah, I’m a missionary, but not a ‘real’ missionary. I live in a city and spend a lot of my time at a computer.
My visiting short-term team was supposed to help me out with my ministry to TCK’s, but they only want to spend their time with orphans.  
Why do these missionaries feel this way? Maybe because when Christians stand up and say, I’m called to missionary care! I’m called to teach MK’s! I’m called to missions administration!, the churches say, Well, sorry, you don’t fit in our strategy. We’d rather get behind the exciting church planters and the pastoral trainers and the child-trafficking rescuers. Except, we expect them to do it without all the other people they need to be successful.
And so what happens? The talented church planter gets bogged down by administrative tasks. The mom who is gifted and called to women’s ministry has no choice but to homeschool. The child-trafficking rescuer has a nervous breakdown because he has no one to help him work through the trauma of what he is facing. Missionaries are particularly prone to burn-out. Could this be partially because they are trying to do too many jobs themselves? 
I’m all about strategy in missions, and it’s important for churches to be careful in their vetting process of potential missionaries. But can we expand our idea of what strategy means? Missionaries, as an extension of the Church, must function as the Body of Christ. Could the Western Church function by only hiring evangelists? I realize that mission work can have different goals than churches back at home: Missionaries are working ourselves out of a job; they are doing everything they can to replace themselves with national believers. But to get there, they need the Body of Christ. 
We, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them. (Romans 12)
The legs can’t do anything without the arms and fingers and neck. So go out today and find your nearest missionary accountant or counselor or MK teacher. Join their support team. Encourage them in their pursuit of their calling. Affirm their value to your church or your team. And remind them they are never second-class.

Approching 

April 4, 2017

“We must pay much closer attention to the gospel, to Jesus, and to the cross, lest by an imperceptible current we drift away. Heaven never tires of the cross, and neither should we. The saints in glory never grow weary of the singing the old, old story: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”
Do not let Good Friday pass you by like a set of airline instructions. Fix your eyes on the cross. Not as the place to show us our worth, but to show us the weight of our sin. Not as the pace where Jesus simply felt our pain, but where he bore our penalty. Not as the place where God overturned divine justice, but where God in mercy fulfilled his justice. Not as the place where love died, but where love reigned supreme. Pay careful attention to the cross. Here we see a great salvation, delivering us from a great wrath, revealing to us a great Savior who was wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities, that by his stripes we might be healed.”