Burn the Qur’an or Love Your Neighbor as Yourself?

Over at the White Horse Inn, Michael Horton has provided a well thought out response to the recent fuss about burning the Qur’an.  In it, he seeks to help frame the debate from a Reformed perspective that is based on the doctrine of the spirituality of the church, or Two-Kingdoms doctrine.  Although the issue has been set forth as political and Christians are to engage in the political arena, there is much more at stake than politics and military success.  Horton writes,

As citizens of democratic nations, Christians may be concerned about the implications of Qur’an-burning for international peace and justice. However, as citizens of the kingdom of Christ, they have even more reason to denounce such actions. Recall James and John—the “sons of thunder”—asking Jesus if they could call fire down from heaven on a Samaritan village that rejected their message. We read that Jesus rebuked them.  Continue reading


Out with the Old, In with the New: Narrowness Cloaked in Openness

There is much talk in the church today, as there was in the 70’s and 80’s, about updating the methods used by churches in accomplishing the Great Commission (Matt 28.18-20), as if God only gave a command and didn’t also provide the necessary instructions for carrying out the command.  The worship wars have expanded their theatre of conflict now to include the nature of the church and how to do evangelism and missions.  The mantra of the day is “we must be relevant!”.  But apparently relevance is a code word for looking like the world–your local coffee shop to be more specific.

Underlying the call for new methods is a new fourth mark of the church.  Historically the church has been understood by the three marks of the right preaching of the gospel, the right administration of the sacraments, and faithful church discipline.  Yet, today, to these three, a fourth mark is emerging (pun intended) and that is the mark of marketing how one does those things.  Some preach the gospel dressed formally and some preach it in flip flops and shorts–never mind that both are apparently meeting with and representing the same God.

Adding marketing to the list of marks provides the justification to flood the religious market with all manner of different styles of churches, so that if one “type” of church is not bringing in the throngs, then we need to offer a different product.  This market driven model apparently provides the justification for churches planting new churches on top of one another without any forethought as to what this says to a community about God and his gospel. Continue reading

>Raised Up With Christ and Devoted to Prayer, Colossians 3.1-4 & 4.2-4

>What is the relationship between the plot line of the Bible, missions and prayer? In today’s sermon I attempt to show how these three things come together. Back in June, the 76th General Assembly requested that today, September 13, 2oo9, be set aside for a special season of prayer for the work of Worldwide Outreach of the OPC. In the OPC, Worldwide Outreach speaks of more than just foreign missions, it also includes home missions and Christian education. Given this call to prayer for the mission of the church, I thought it would be helpful to look at what God has to tell us about prayer and missions.

In order to do this I look at Colossians 3.1-4 and 4.2-4 together. Here is a preview:

. . . Missions is not something that the church attempts in and of her own strength, wisdom and strategizing for God; rather, missions is about God’s plan and his activities, and the church’s privilege to participate in what he is doing. And one of the main ways that the church participates in missions is through prayer. Praying for the church’s work, then, is not peripheral, but is central. It is central to the nature of missions as God’s work and it is central to who we are in Christ.

. . . The Bible is an integrated and true story with a plot line. And the plot line centers on a God who is on a mission to glorify himself, through his Son, by creating a people for his name’s sake. From the beginning, God has been on a mission to bring a people to experience and enjoy the eternal fellowship experienced and enjoyed among the three persons of the Trinity.

. . . Paul calls us to understand our place in the drama of redemption, our place of sharing in the role of the main protagonist, Jesus Christ, so that we might know how to live out our new roles in this continuing drama.

. . . And hear me, God will accomplish his ends . . . God is on a great unstoppable mission to glorify himself through the Son by saving a people for his name’s sake. When this understanding of God, his purposes, and our new identity in Jesus Christ grips us, how can we do anything other than pray for his mission in which we are participating?!

. . . Those who preach and teach the gospel, those who administer the sacraments and church discipline, those who plant churches here in America, those who go to foreign lands across the globe, those who write and publish studies to help people to be nourished in the their faith and trained for gospel ministry, they are not the only ones who are called to participate in world wide outreach. The congregations, you, Grace Church, also have been called to share in the work by your prayers. Not everyone will be a preacher–but everyone has a role in God’s unfolding drama of redemption. When you pray, you participate in the forward advancement of the gospel and the forward advancement of the plot that leads to the ultimate consummation of the story. And therefore we pray.

What a privilege it is to be redeemed and to play a role in God’s continuing mission of redemption as we find ourselves bound up and united to the main protagonist of the unfolding drama, raised up with him and devoted to prayer.

You can listen to the entire sermon here.

Hope in the Wilderness

As I have been preaching in the Gospel of Mark, one of the main themes Mark communicates about Jesus is that he is the fulfillment of the long awaited promises of God in the Prophets of the Old Testament to finally and ultimately deliver his people out of their bondage and slavery. In the Minor Prophets, one of the images used to communicate this ultimate salvation is in the imagery of a second exodus. God will save his people by meeting them in the wilderness in order to lead them into their eternal inheritance. One place you find this is in the second chapter of Hosea:

Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achora door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt, (Hos 2.14-15).

For many of us, this imagery is not fully grasped because of our setting. Most of us do not live in wilderness settings. Well maybe these photos will help.

This week some from the OPC’s Ugandan Mission are doing an outreach to the Karamajong people in the mountain region of Lomorimor, pictured to the right.

This region of Uganda is very poor, but these people are not without a shepherd who is looking to bring them into his fold, to protect them and feed them. There is no place that the lost can go where God will not find them. The hope of the gospel is even found in the wilderness of Africa.

Below are a few more pictures of the work taking place in Lomorimor. If you want to see more, then click here.

In a recent email from Dr. Jim Knox, a missionary doctor in Uganda and ordained deacon of Grace OPC, where I am interning, Jim describes what takes place in the outreach:

[The missionaries] go into a village that has not really been exposed to our mission before and present the Gospel every day for a week. The second one was completed last week. They do a presentation to the adults and to the children, leave printed materials in both Karamajong and English, and do lots of singing. Please pray for fruit from these outreaches. Please pray for wisdom in deciding how to pursue follow-up with these villages. Please pray for those who can read in the villages, that they might actually receive the material and then spread it to the other villagers.

>The Small Things of Life

>For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? . . . Matthew 16.26

Several months ago, Grace OPC was blessed to ordain and install Dr. Jim Knox as a deacon to serve as a missionary doctor in Uganda.

For years, Jim has served on several short-term mission trips to Uganda, and has been planning to go to Uganda full time as a missionary doctor. Well, Jim has safely arrived and has already begun his diaconal ministry to the Karamojong people by working in a medical clinic.

Recently, Jim sent an update sharing how much he enjoys Uganda and provided a list of observations outlining some of the differences between living in the U.S. and Uganda:

1. Every time you wash your hands, it is like you have been out playing in the mud. Even in just walking back from the clinic, the dust can make my hands that dirty as we are in the middle of the dry season.

2. Every time I take a shower I wash off so much dirt. It looks like I just have a really great tan, but it ends up being mostly the brown dust!

3. Although it has been a long while since the mission has run out of water, we are still conscientious of water usage. So, for example, when I take a shower, I turn off the water every time I can. When I am putting the soap on my hair, I turn the water off. Etc.

4. I have begun taking showers between 4 and 6 pm. The water actually feels nice at this time of day. Otherwise, it is just too cold for me. This is the time when the day is the hottest, so the water has warmed up a bit and it is okay to have some coolness to cool you down.

5. The compost has to be taken outside every night. Otherwise, the cockroaches will multiply rapidly. They are all the small cockroaches (nothing like those in Texas or Philadelphia).

6. You always have to turn on a flash light before you move about at all at night. Just to be sure there are no scorpions, snakes, or whatever on the ground. So, I use a flashlight ever single day.

7. I wear a hat pretty much every day (I never wore a hat in the USA) because of the equatorial sun.

8. We sleep under mosquito nets.

9. By the way, “mosquito” is pronounced “moss-kwee-toe”. “Fruit” is pronounced “frew–eet”. “Guitar” is pronounced by some as “gwee–tar”. If some has diarrhoea (yes, the British spelling is used), no one says, “Do you have diarrhoea?” Everyone asks the question, “Are you diarrhating?”

10. The stove in the big community kitchen that I use burns things really easily. So, you basically just have to stand by the stove the entire time. I have been able to make a Texas sheet cake, a pumpkin cake, a spice cake, as well as various other things on the stove top. The cakes all tasted okay, but they tasted nothing like when I have made them in the USA. I guess that the ingredients are just not exactly the same.

11. I get to roast my own G-nuts. The Africans call what we call peanuts, G-nuts or groundnuts. One of the families just gave me the great idea of trying to roast my G-nuts with various things like garlic or chili, etc. G-nuts have really become a staple food for me.

12. All of our laundry is hand-washed. We hire someone to do our laundry for us. She scrubs each piece of clothing by hand. So, clothing has to be pretty tough, or it just disintegrates. But, it is so clean!! Even with all of the dust and stains.

13. I wear the same clothes for so many days in a row. Otherwise, the K-jong notice when you have multiple changes of clothes. Plus, the smells here are just different. Baths are not as common, so no one notices if you have on the same pair of clothes. [I do change my underwear every day, though, just in case you were wondering!!!]

14. When I go running, people just stare at me. It is really funny to have people stop whatever they are doing, look at you, and just continue to look at you until you are out of sight. I have had several people start to run with me, all the while speaking excitedly in Karamajong!! I can understand when someone asks me in K-jong “Where are you going?” But, I don’t know how to explain that I am just going in a circle, with no specific final destination.

15. All vegetables are soaked in a dilute bleach solution, just to kill anything that might be on their outsides!

16. I have begun to really enjoy cold water. I usually just have always drunk room temperature water, but this cold weather is growing on me. There is only one temperature that comes out of the tap, so cold water comes from storing water in the refrigerator.

17. Cabbage is a staple vegetable. I have made cabbage salad, using cabbage just like lettuce with carrots, onions, etc. I have made that cabbage salad that you put raman (yes, they are available even in Uganda) noodles and almonds (although I have to use G-nuts instead of almonds). Any suggestions for ways to cook cabbage. A head of cabbage costs less than 50 cents.

18. You can’t put toilet paper in the toilet. You have to put it in a bucket beside the toilet, to be burned later. So far, I think that I have only forgotten 3 times since I have been here!! the plumbing just can’t handle it!

19. There is a gecko in our kitchen who has lost its tail. There are geckos and skinks all over the place! They are cute, in a reptilian sort-of way!

20. When you go to the grocery store in the city of Mbale, they just use a calculator to add up your total. They don’t have regular cash registers.