A Radical Strategy to Defeat Radical Islam

Posted in evangelism, missions on February 9, 2012 by gospel2live

The M982 Excalibur is a new artillery shell first used in 2007.  It features a GPS guidance system that allows it to land within about 13 feet of its intended target.  Due to the success of this new weapon in its initial use in Iraq, the US military decided to increase production to 150 per month.  The initial cost per shell was $86,000.00, but according to Wikipedia, the cost was expected to go down to just $50,000 per shell once in full production.  Assuming that we are buying 150 of these a month at the lower price of just $50,000 per bullet, we are spending approximately $7.5 million a month for this ONE type of bullet.  That amounts to $90 million per year for just one type of bullet for just one type of gun.  This does not include the cost of the gun, the soldiers to operate it, or all of the support to get it in position to use.  It is just the cost of the bullets.

Let me ask a simple question.  What if missions were the mission?  What if we decided that instead of trying to beat our enemies into submission with $50,ooo bullets, we sent missionaries, doctors, engineers, and other people who are ready to go to risky places to die, if necessary, to promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our enemies?  How many missionary families could we send for the simple cost of buying ONE TYPE of bullet?  For the sake of easy numbers, let’s say it costs roughly $100,000 per year to fully fund a missionary to a foreign land.  Some places may cost more, and some less, but this is a reasonable number.  That means we could fully fund 900 full time missionary families for the same amount that we spend buying this ONE TYPE of bullet. Some of them may die in the service, but others would succeed, by the grace of God, in planting new churches, establishing health clinics, feeding the poor and marginalized, and physically demonstrating the love of Jesus to people who are in desperate need of the Gospel.

I am alarmed by the blood-thirstiness I have observed in much of the American Evangelical church.  We rally to support the sanctity of human life regarding abortion (as we SHOULD!), but then turn around and blindly wave our flags as we send our boys off to die trying to “kill them before they kill us!”  If we love Jesus, we should be very careful not to abandon his clear teaching that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. (Matthew 5:38-48)  Jesus’ great commission (Matthew 28:18-20) tells us to make disciples of all nations as we are going.  Bombing the people we are commanded to reach is not a particularly effective way to promote the Gospel of Peace!  Our sons and daughters DO need to be willing to serve and to die in foreign lands, but not in the military — rather in service of the Gospel that all nations would hear the Good News that Jesus has died to reconcile sinners to the Father!

How do we respond?  First, we need to repent of our hate, pride and racism.  Frankly, much of what I observe in national pride comes off as a subtle form of racism.  Somehow, we have bought the lie that Americans are fundamentally less corrupt and more noble than those in other nations.  We are blind to our own sin and need to humbly repent of our pride and ask God for grace to love our enemies — both at home and abroad.

Second, we need to repent for our lack of faith in God’s sovereignty.  Throughout the Bible God makes it abundantly clear that HE is the security of HIS people.  Psalm 20:7 and Zechariah 4:6 are just two of many examples of God’s word downplaying military might in favor of reliance on the Lord.  The nation who boasts in its military strength is nearly always laid low by inferior forces when God is not honored by the people.  We are ONLY as secure as the Lord makes us, regardless of how many bombs, planes, or warships we happen to control.

Finally, we need to humble ourselves and pray that God would give us peace and raise up workers for the harvest fields.  The war-mongering of the American church has harmed the cause of Christ, both at home and abroad.  Too many people have only experienced Christ followers as arrogant, self-righteous and hateful people.  We need to be unabashedly committed to the truth of the Bible.  But we also must demonstrate humble and sacrificial service to others — even our enemies — if we want to actually embody the Bible.  Just preaching it, or just living it, will always fall short.  We must strive by the grace of God to do both well if we want to change the world for the better.

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The Bankrupt States of America

Posted in Uncategorized on September 9, 2011 by gospel2live

There is something about a tragedy in the making that is difficult to look away from. Much like the proverbial train wreck, we don’t really want to see what is happening, and yet feel strangely compelled not to avert our eyes.

Last night, our president gave a speech calling for $447 BILLION dollars in tax cuts and spending increases to try to create jobs and deal with what is becoming a serious and chronic unemployment problem. Apart from the fact that most of us cannot begin to even fathom the reality of a number like 447,000,000,000, this announcement comes within days of yet another debt cap increase of $500 Billion that pushes our national debt to over $15 TRILLION dollars. Not counting unfunded liabilities (things like Social security and interest on our debt), our debt now exceeds our national Gross Domestic Product.

Can we still save life as we know it in America? I think it is doubtful. Mathematically, it would require huge increases in taxes combined with severe spending cuts (austerity measures) carried out over about 20 years. Even if our current politicians could agree to such a plan, we the people would need to continue to elect politicians who would continue to tax us heavily and spend very little on helping us for about 20 election cycles. How likely do you think THAT is?

In fact, look at what our politicians of BOTH parties are doing. After the midterm elections in 2010, they needed to raise the debt limit to give themselves permission to borrow more money to pay the governments bills. Democrats refused to agree unless there were additional spending promises to extend unemployment benefits. Republicans refused to budge unless there were an extension of the Bush tax cuts. So how did they resolve it? They reached an agreement to raise the debt ceiling (and thereby borrow more money!) by agreeing to BOTH reduce revenue (extend the tax cuts) AND increase spending! The latest offer by the president is more of the same — increase our spending AND decrease taxes. Looks like the magic money fairy is going to have to print a bunch of new money to pay for this too, right?

To put this in perspective, what our government is doing would be like a couple facing bankruptcy who decide the solution to their problem is to quit their jobs and take a lavish vacation to Las Vegas and put the whole thing on their credit cards!

Already our government and financial leaders are printing money (they call it quantitative easing) to be able to finance our government spending. Throughout history, every government that resorts to printing money brings hyperinflation to its people. Just like the store clerk has no confidence in bills I might try to print out in my basement, eventually government printed money becomes “just paper” and people stop accepting its value. This is when you see the pictures of people pushing wheelbarrows full of bills to buy a loaf of bread and a couple of eggs! While timing these events is nearly impossible, it is hard to believe that the whole system collapse is far off.

So what does this have to do with the Gospel and living a life as a follower of Jesus?

1. We turn to the Lord for our security, not money, possessions or the government. The Psalmist writes, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.” (Ps. 20:7-8) We must never lose sight of the fact that God “steers the hearts of Kings.” He is absolutely in control — not wringing His hands in worry over how we are going to get out of this mess. We see throughout scripture that God works in and through the circumstances of life to the good of those who love Him and trust in Him and to the righteous judgment of those who reject Him. As American Christians, we tend to get caught up in finding our security in the prosperity of our nation. Being utterly dependent upon the Lord for our daily bread may be the best thing that ever happens to us.

2. We must at least consider the possibility that America is under God’s judgment.  While saying such things publicly will subject you to everything from ridicule to open rebuke, God DOES judge sin.  We, as a nation, have a lot to repent of.  We kill our unborn children. We openly endorse lifestyles such as homosexuality that are an offense to God.  We WALLOW in sexual sin and pornography — really a form of worshiping images made in the likeness of men and women.  We allow human trafficking right here under our noses.  We exploit the poor and the alien.  We worship the rich and famous and envy their often ill-gotten gains.  We pursue leisure and comfort rather than a right relationship to our Creator.  We pay lip service to God in socially appropriate services, but then worship and serve created things all the rest of the time.  Hebrews 12:5-6 states, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by Him.  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”  If we fail to repent of our sin, God’s judgment is just, well, judgment!  But if we respond to the Lord with repentance, then tough times become a part of his loving discipline that enables us to share in his character — in particular, his holiness.  We need to call the church, and our nation, to repent of sin and to seek mercy from the Lord.

One of the ways that God judges nations is by sending spirits to kings and advisors that lie, confuse, and dull and dilute wisdom.  (See 1 Kings 22; Isaiah 19; Isaiah 29)  While we think of earthquakes, storms, fires and droughts as being the “typical” ways God judges, perhaps the constant stream of bickering, insanity, and propaganda out of our politicians and media is really the hand of God’s judgment.  After all, a people who would even allow most reality TV shows to air — let alone watch them and talk about them with all their friends — deserves to get the handed nothing more substantial than canned phrases and sound bites from their captors.  They may be lying and deceiving, but we tolerate it without thinking.  So who is really to blame?

3.  Prepare for tough times.  Most apocalyptic writers would at this point urge you to stock up on precious metals, canned goods and ammo.  The theory is that you have to take care of your own and be prepared to kill your starving neighbor if they come for your stuff.  Others will have plans for how you can become rich during hard times by taking advantage of the desperation of others.  However, the Gospel calls us to love our neighbors.  While it is certainly wise to have a supply of extra food on hand (especially facing a winter in northern Minnesota!), I think that the Gospel calls us to be prepared to feed our neighbors, not just fight them off or fleece them.  There are things that we can be doing right now that will enable us to help our entire neighborhoods to survive in extremely difficult times.  We need to be serving people right now.  Blowing snow, sharing produce, building relationships with the people in our neighborhoods allows us to have a foundation in place to talk if things get bad.  Besides, this is ALWAYS good Gospel work!  Think about who in your neighborhood is particularly vulnerable and prepare to take care of them if needed.  Bad times create good opportunities for us to share the love of Jesus by sacrificially and generously loving our neighbors.

4.  Draw near to God.  The Gospel gives the one who trusts in Jesus’ death and resurrection a sure hope that this life is as close to hell as we will ever get.  As we draw near to God and meditate on his great and precious promises, our earthly anxieties decrease and our great hope of being face to face in his presence increases.  Jesus told us not to fear the one who can kill the body, but rather to fear him who can cast both body and soul into hell!  If the world falls apart around us, we need to be able to give a reason for the hope that we have.  The nearer I draw to the Lord Jesus, the more likely that I will be able to face both adversity AND prosperity with grace.  Even is America were to cease to exist, the Kingdom of my primary citizenship cannot be shaken!  My King is Lord of all the universe and will never face an adversary who can threaten his rule and reign!  How can I fear anything when I am in HIS presence?

Let me close with Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength,

a very present help in trouble.

2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,

though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

3 though its waters roar and foam,

though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

the holy habitation of the Most High.

5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;

God will help her when morning dawns.

6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;

he utters his voice, the earth melts.

7 The Lord of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,

how he has brought desolations on the earth.

9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;

he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;

he burns the chariots with fire.

10 “Be still, and know that I am God.

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth!”

11 The Lord of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Luke Tamu — Emmanuel Community Center Kenya

Posted in Emmanuel Community Center Kenya, Luke Tamu, Uncategorized with tags , , , on February 10, 2011 by gospel2live

For the past 3 years, I have had on-going contact with Luke Tamu of Emmanuel Community Centers of Kenya.  Luke Tamu has stayed in my home on numerous occasions.  Luke Tamu has attended several conferences and speaking engagements with me.  Luke Tamu has invited me to bring a team to minister at Emmanuel Community Center in Kenya with their orphanage and Bible College.  Although I have not traveled there personally, other American churches have now taken teams to do various ministry projects with Luke Tamu and Emmanuel Community Centers.

If you are contacted by Luke Tamu of Emmanuel Community Centers in Kenya to partner with them in ministry, there are several contacts that can help you to make a wise decision about how to best partner with Luke Tamu and Emmanuel Community Centers.  I would be happy to provide references to assist your decisions.  Email me at Kevin@CrossHillChurch.org and I can provide you with the contact information needed to properly research your ministry partnership with Luke Tamu and Emmanuel Community Centers.

This may not be the most eloquent post I have ever written, but it may serve Jesus Christ and His church better than any other I have written.  I wish something would have shown up on a google search when I first considered partnering with Luke Tamu and Emmanuel Community Center of Kenya….

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Update from the land of Church Planting…

Posted in evangelism, missions with tags , , , , , on October 26, 2010 by gospel2live

Faithful readers… both of you!  The past year has been an amazing journey.  We have left the security of a good job with an established church to raise support and begin a new work.  God has provided for our needs in amazing ways.  We have added two new members to our family as our adoption of two brothers through the foster care system was completed in July.  We have rented out our old house and moved to a new house in the community where we are starting the new church.  As I write this, I am, quite honestly, both exhausted and refreshed, exhilerated and terrified, and depressed and enthusiastic about the future!  In other words, welcome to the bi-polar life of a Jesus follower!

As for the church plant, we are gathering on Sundays with a group that averages about 35-40 people.  All but one of the families who are regularly a part of our group are people that we did not even know a year ago.  Many of them had already left churches that had abandoned the Bible before they had heard about Cross Hill.  Many had not been involved in a meaningful way with ANY church as adults.  While my planning included a lot of thinking about training leaders and launching people into ministry, I have had to adjust to meet the needs of people who are super eager to learn, but are starting out with very little knowledge of the Bible.  Honestly, it is amazingly encouraging to see people reading the Bible in a way that a starving man attacks an all-you-can-eat buffet!

Here is the upside.  This Sunday we will see four adults dedicate their lives to follow Jesus in baptism.  We have another group of people that will likely want to be baptized by the end of the year.  We have people reading the Bible and asking awesome questions.  Many of our people are inviting friends, talking about the changes in their life that Jesus has brought, and “doing the work of evangelism” without me having to say much of anything about it!  Week after week, as we meet for a pretty “no-frills” Bible study, I see the Spirit of God at work in peoples’ lives in confronting their sin, reconciling them to God, and in helping them to find healing and wholeness in their lives.  Even after over an hour of teaching, people stay and hang out over coffee — despite many of them coming from traditions where a 50 minute gathering is “pushing it.”  Despite stepping out without even a salary guaranteed, God has stirred people to provide for our needs, often without even being solicited!  Praise God!

Here’s the hard part.  We have seen difficult spiritual opposition in discouragement and depression among some of our family and core team.  Marriages have been strained at times by this spiritual oppression.  Establishing patterns and routines has been extremely difficult with the amount of change that is taking place.  We are rapidly approaching the need to deal with structural and organizational issues that lie WAY outside of my comfort zones!  With the new people come new problems that tax our energy and our emotions as we walk with people through dark valleys to find their healing in the Gospel.  One of my most common thoughts is “Who is sufficient for these things?”

Here’s the bottom line.  Jesus Christ will build HIS church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it!  I am NOT sufficient for these things!  Thankfully, God gives us his grace, ill-deserved kindnesses, so that through the power of his Holy Spirit people might be reconciled to God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Hallelujah!

Eschatology and Evangelism

Posted in evangelism with tags , , , , on December 5, 2009 by gospel2live

Is a particular view of eschatology (the study of end times prophecy) essential in order to be urgent about evangelism?

One of the arguments put forward by those who hold to a pretribulation rapture is that their view properly leads to an enthusiasm for evangelism.  The argument is basically that since Jesus could come at any minute to bring believers to heaven prior to a time of tremendous suffering where God’s wrath is poured out on those left behind, we should be motivated to share the Gospel with as many people as possible to help save them from the time of trouble ahead.

While I will leave the merits of particular eschatological views to others to debate, I do not find eschatology to be a compelling force for evangelism.  In fact, the pretribulation view might actually lessen our urgency for evangelism, since many sincere believers think that the rapture of the church will be the very sign that causes their friends and family to realize the claims about Jesus are true and to turn to Him for salvation.

Regardless of your views regarding the end times, there IS a far more compelling motivation for us to be talking about Jesus to the ones we love.  This morning, a 39 year old woman left her home and headed out in a pickup on Hwy 53 — a four lane divided highway that is about as safe as a highway can be.  I don’t even know this woman’s name, but I am reasonably certain that she did not expect to die today.   However, she lost control of the pickup on an icy bridge deck and was pronounced dead at the scene of the one vehicle crash.  For this woman, today was her day to stand before Jesus.

While there are a million ways in which our lives could be cut short, our best motivation to be talking about the Gospel is because it is, in fact, really great news!  While love and concern for people is a legitimate motivation for evangelism, the best one is our love for Jesus.  When we are truly in love, whether it is a new romance or the birth of a child, NOBODY can get us to cease talking about it!  So ultimately, our way to increase the motivation to do the work of evangelism is to cultivate a deeper love for Christ.

Church Planting in Northern Minnesota

Posted in Uncategorized on November 24, 2009 by gospel2live

The blog has not received a lot of attention again lately as we have been devoting our efforts to transitioning ministries.  As of December 31, I will be leaving Chisholm Baptist to begin church planting work with the Evangelical Free Church in Virginia, Minnesota.  We have been privileged to be a part of Chisholm Baptist for the last five years, but we are excited about the call that God has placed on us to plant.

St. Louis County is the least churched county in the state of Minnesota.  Only 4% of the population is involved in an evangelical church.  In the Virginia area, there are roughly 40,000 people and only about 2 evangelical churches with an average attendance over 100 people.

Starting in January, we will be raising support, doing evangelism and discipleship in the community, and preparing our core groups training curriculum.  We covet your prayers.  I have established a prayer group on Facebook that is open to the public.  You can find it at “Iron Range Church Plant Prayer Partners.”

Also, we are currently scheduling visits to churches in January and February.  If your church would like our family to come and share our vision for church planting, please send me an email for more information.  While we do need individuals and churches to support this work during its startup, we would be willing to visit churches even if they do not have financial resources to join our financial support team.

Prayerlessness in American churches tends to be the norm.  We want to establish a culture of prayer in the DNA of this new church.  All the strategy, resources, and talent in the world cannot cause the regeneration of a single soul.  Unless God moves, we labor in vain.  Therefore, we invite you to join us in praying that God would pour out his Spirit in Northeastern Minnesota to cause the spiritually dead to be born again, to create a movement of new and healthy churches, and transform the region to one of spiritual deadness to one of spiritual vitality.  We pray that every day the Iron Range would move towards a greater reflection of the rule and reign of Jesus Christ in our communities!

I’ll try to get back to regular posting soon, but until then I encourage you to pray for us as we try to prepare for the new work while leaving well from the old.

Individual Discipleship Plans

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 21, 2009 by gospel2live

Now there are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Cor. 12:4-7

Becoming a Christian is a one-time event.  At some point in time, you must be born again.  When you were physically born, the doctor, a nurse, or your parents noted the date and time.  For those who are born again spiritually, there is also a point in time where God takes note that He has saved you – he has given you the faith to believe that Jesus died for your sins and He declares you righteous based on that faith.

However, the rest of the Christian life is clearly a process, not a one-time event.  Just like physical birth leads to various stages of growth, re-birth leads to spiritual growth.  Unlike physical growth which follows pretty set patterns and timeframes, our spiritual growth can often seem to be hit or miss.  We may go through great growth spurts where we mature by leaps and bounds, only to enter seasons where we seem to lose ground and become lethargic spiritually and seem to shrink farther away from maturity.  David Powlison describes this process by comparing it to a person who is using a yo-yo as he walks up the stairs – there is constant up and down motion, but it is ascending as it goes.  At least, we want it to be ascending!  We want to be able to see that there is progress being made and that we are becoming more spiritually mature, despite whatever struggles we may be engaging in at the present time.

So why do we sometimes fail to see any spiritual progress, either in self or in others?  First, growth follows birth.  One reason that spiritual growth does not take place is because there has been no spiritual birth.  Scripture admonishes us to examine ourselves to be sure that we are in the faith.  If you have seen no growth in your love for God, your ability to resist sin, and development of spiritual fruit, then you (or one you are concerned about!) may never have been born again.  It isn’t as much about praying a prayer as it is getting a new heart from God that is capable of loving God.

For those who have been born again, there can be problems in establishing consistent growth.  Sometimes a baby experiences “failure to thrive.”  In these circumstances, the child fails to gain weight, develop skills, or otherwise mature.  Often this is due to a lack of proper nutrition or nurturing.  In the same way, many Christians suffer from a spiritual “failure to thrive.”  They may regularly attend church, or even serve in some form of ministry, but they do not grow in their maturity.  They do not experience a growing love and passion for God, a progressive movement towards holiness, or a sense of their purpose and calling in ministry to the church or the world.

As our children grow, our parenting must change to accommodate their growth.  We make decisions about diet and activities so that they continue to grow to maturity.  As a church, we need to nurture people to provide for their individual growth.  This will NOT be a one size fits all plan!  Different people are at different maturity levels and are being given different gifts to perform in different ministries!  Most churches struggle to see that this is a process that will need different methods for different people.  It is much easier to focus on standard programs that individuals can customize to their own needs, than it is to focus on individuals and tailor make a discipleship program that takes into account their unique creation by God.

We, however, are not willing to be deterred by a challenge!  That is why I am putting together some basic assessments that you can work through, with me, to come up with an Individual Discipleship Plan.  We can look at your life and prayerfully examine where change and growth needs to occur.  Additionally, we can set goals that match up with your skills and abilities, so that you might move into a ministry that God is calling you to participate in – not just something you feel a need to do out of guilt or necessity.  If you want to become intentional in your spiritual growth, please set up an appointment to talk.  Whether you are a spiritual baby, or an aging veteran, there is always room to grow in our likeness to Jesus!