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Posts Tagged ‘missions’

This week: a very raw and genuine post on wrestling with God, motherhood as a mission field, the nasty word “fair,” and strong thoughts on honoring your wife from Driscoll.

Call Me Jacob

Call Me Jacob (by Sarah Clarkson, The Rabbit Room)

Our Jacob-like fight is is just one part of this glorious battle. As God lovers, we struggle toward light. We fight to keep faith alive. We don’t curse a faceless universe and stay alive out of spite, we have a goal, a marvelous light, an unceasing love that exists beyond the touch of any darkness. Toward that, we fight. For that good, we will grapple.

Motherhood as a Mission Field (by Rachel Jankovic)

The closer you get to home, the less intriguing the work of sacrifice seems. As someone once said, “Everyone wants to save the world, but no one wants to help Mom with the dishes.” When you are a mother at home with your children, the church is not clamoring for monthly ministry updates. When you talk to other believers, there is not any kind of awe about what you are sacrificing for the gospel.

Fair is a Four-Letter Word (by Ed Welch)

Look around. Any time you hear the word fair you will find broken relationships and other forms of nasty fruit. Guaranteed. In other words, during our fine dinner, I was actually turning away from Jesus Christ to utter some profanity – “this waiter should know better; this isn’t fair” – while my wife continued on her normal course of sanctification, except for when she tried to stab my hand.

How to Honor Your Wife (by Mark Driscoll)

So many guys who are Christians think “I pay for Christian school, I send the wife and kids to the Christian church. I’ve done my Christian duty.” No, you’ve abdicated your responsibility to others. It’s your job to love your kids. It’s your job to pray with your kids. It’s your job to teach the Bible to your kids. It’s your job to encourage your kids. It’s your job to discipline your kids.

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I received a Christmas letter from some friends serving in a country in Asia where nongovernment controlled churches are illegal as well as most forms of public or private expression of the Christian faith. This is a country where pastors are regularly jailed, home churches crushed, and movements squashed. Churches have to switch up meeting times and places in order to keep fellowship alive. People giving out the Jesus Film have been executed. My friends have been living there for a number of years, now as a family of 4, seeking to see the gospel furthered. I had to quote some of the letter as the wife quotes one of the nationals she is helping grow in Christ:

Someone asked me to look back on this year and give them a summary of what we have seen and I thought you might be interested in a short story or two of how the girls we disciple have grown recently.

Someone who chooses to be a disciple here must choose to go against their culture and face pressure from all sides, including parents, friends, and employers.  For many, once they grab a hold of the Truth and make His Word a part of their lives, they just can’t live the same way anymore.  I’ve seen this lived out on a daily basis from a friend I’ll call Sarah.  She has been studying regularly with me for some time and is growing in her faith, and I see a change in her week to week.  Just last week, she told me that she felt she could compare her life to that of the Israelites when they were leaving Egypt because they just complained about everything that God gave them, even though most things were meant to be blessings and provisions for them.  Because of their complaints, many lost their lives and they had to wander another 40 years.  Sarah said that as she keeps her eyes on Jesus and the road He is directing her to take, it is hard not to complain and wonder if it is fair. To paraphrase our last conversation, she said:  Due to my education and work experience, I have been working as a cashier/accountant for the last few years, but I can’t do that any longer because in that occupation, I am forced to cheat people and lie everyday. So now I’m having a hard time finding a job since I can no longer work in that way.  Also, most people must work seven days a week and it’s very difficult to have Sundays off and that is a must for me now so that I can attend fellowship.  I’d also like to have one other day during the week off to help serve and volunteer my time, but that dream seems impossible.  In addition, I’m getting pressure from my parents and friends to get married, but I tell them that I can only date and marry men who are Christians.  They all criticize me and tell me I’m stupid, foolish, and lazy.  They say that I’ve given up many good opportunities for work and marriage because of my new faith and that what I do each day is useless.  Since I’m not working, I’ve been taking advantage of my free time by studying the Bible everyday, listening to sermons online, and reading devotional books that my teacher has given me.  But they just say I’m wasting my time.  Now that I’m a Christian, I can’t be angry at my dad or those who say these hurtful things to me and I have to just hold my tongue when they yell at me.  I have to just keep silent.  But I’ve seen a change in my father.  Now that I don’t yell back, he runs out of things to say and just lets the subject drop.  When my aunt was going to come over for a visit, my mom and dad both asked me if I was going to share the gospel with her while she was there.  They were being somewhat sarcastic in their question, but it was a great idea!  I love to serve, to spread the gospel, and to spend time with the Lord.

Sarah went on to explain that many people around her are in the same condition and that in some ways we are all like the Israelites.  But now, she can see that even the difficulties that she faces is just training from the Lord and that it’s not an easy road, but it’s worth it because the end will be so good.

Is all that worth it? This sweet gal has given up marriage and jobs for the sake of Jesus. She’s been drilled by her family and friends for it. If Christ did not rise from the dead, then we who believe in Jesus are most to pitied, especially Sarah. But Jesus did rise from the dead and He tells us this:

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. (Hebrews 10:32-35 ESV)

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4 ESV)

You bet it’s worth it. In this life we get plenty of fresh starts to remind us of this: a new year, a new day, a new month, a new birth, or a new decade even. One day, Christ will give us one final fresh start that will be like none other we’ve ever seen. Father God, in 2011, let me more fervently anticipate that day when everything will be made new.

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Below are 13 messages and sermons or series that have especially impacted me or stuck with me in some way. All of these are obviously worth listening to. I have honestly listened to many of these dozens of times just trying to let the truths and paradigm shifts in them just wash over me.

Let Your Passion Be Single from John Piper

God used this classic message back in 2003 to almost single-handedly redirect my life. Until I heard this message, I think I would have really struggled to communicate my Biblical worldview in a coherent manner and I’d always struggled with the place of joy versus duty. When I heard this, it was like a light bulb going on in my heart and I have been forever transformed by the key truth that Piper discusses: God is glorified most when I enjoy him above all and that joy is inherently tied to the glory of God.

The Meaning of Fatherhood and the Difference Dads Make (4 Messages) from Mark Darling

I heard Mark deliver these messages live at a fall retreat back in 2000. His communication of who God the Father truly is simply breaks me. Mark just spills out his heart in these messages and is incredibly vulnerable, you can’t help but be moved and stirred by God’s heart towards you in the Gospel.

Men of Whom the World was not Worthy (Biography Series) from John Piper

This whole series is worth listening to and a great introduction to many of these heroes of the faith. My favorites are the biographies of Simeon, Paton, and Judson.

The Freedom and Justice of God in Unconditional Election from John Piper

This is an incredible exposition of Romans 9 which was very helpful for me. He talks about why this is important to understand, why it’s a good thing, and how this truth should encourage us.

Grace Makes Wimps from Mitch Majeski

I think about this message often in how Mitch contrasts the grace of the Gospel up against the discipline and forcefulness of the Muslim faith of his friend. I cannot track this message down online though. If anyone can find it, comment below. He uses clips from “Les Miserables” but if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll understand.

Ruth: Sweet and Bitter Providence (4 Messages) from John Piper

This is just an excellent series about hope in the sovereignty of God. It’s especially helpful in seeing more than just the surface level of the book of Ruth.

Doing Missions When Dying is Gain from John Piper

This is another classic message from John Piper given at Wheaton College on the topic of missions. Be careful, you might be ready to just pack your bags after listening to Piper get fired up about us wasting our lives and what it may take to reach the nations.

Suffering and the Sovereignty of God (2005 DG National Conference messages) from various speakers

Listen to every message from this conference, Steve Saint’s message is probably my favorite as he talks about his father, Nate Saint, and the impact of suffering on his life. Piper’s kick off message is very sobering and powerful.

The Gospel in You from Tim Keller

We understand that we’ve been forgiven, but do we understand that we’ve been justified? This is what Keller digs into in this message. What does it mean and imply that we have been given the righteousness of God? I was able to be at this sermon in person last summer (2009) at the Campus Crusade conference in Fort Collins.

Spiritual Art of Listening part 1 from Larry Crabb

This is another message from the Campus Crusade for Christ conference last summer. Don’t be deceived by the title, this message is all about the Gospel and grace, a very honest message from Crabb.

Predestination from Mark Driscoll

This message is much less technical than Piper’s message above. Listen to Piper’s message first and then this one to help clarify. Driscoll basically defends the doctrine of predestination and election and why it’s a good thing.

Humor from Mark Driscoll

This is probably becoming a classic from Driscoll. It will definitely make you laugh.

Preaching the Gospel to the De-Churched from Matt Chandler

This message is really Chandler walking through the life of the church of Ephesus and the lessons for us. Why did that church die? What is our life really about? Chandler pours out his passion in this one.

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Here are 11 of my favorite books of all time. I base my choices on 2 main criteria. First, was it a paradigm shift for me when I read it? Did God use it to redirect me in a significant way? Second, how much of this book has stuck with me? Was its impact on my life short-lived or do I still think back to it? Here there in alphabetical order by author:


To the Golden Shore by Courtney Anderson (Published in 1956)

An engrossing read about the life and tribulations of the first American missionary, Adoniram Judson. I first heard of his life through this sermon and, soon after, roughly 5 years ago, this book fell into my hands. This man is one of my heroes. His story stirs me and moves me to tears when I get into it. From rejecting the faith of his pastor father in college to how God pursues him and restores him to an authentic radical faith to many deaths he suffered taking the gospel to the Burmese people that rejected him so many times, God speaks to me through Judson’s life. I want to be like this man and I want to imitate his faith. I want to be a missionary like he was. The other part of this story that moves me is his relationship with his brother. It’s a minimal piece of the book but what is there and how God uses their relationship just pierces my heart.

The fact was, any inhabitant of Burma – even of a border of a seaport such as Rangoon – lived at mercy of a despotic governor. Everything depended on his whim. Officialdom was unspeakably corrupt. Treaties meant nothing. The Burmese had no conception of trade, and only contempt for foreigners. Missionaries would have to live like rats in holes, unable to teach the Gospel, exposed to arbitrary torture or execution if discovered. For a man, life would be difficult; for a woman, impossible… Let them go back to America, or anywhere else in the world – but forget Burma.

Judson did not forget Burma in 1813 and he suffered everything that was predicted and worse. But he thought all of it worth it for the sake of the glory of God and the Gospel. The fruit of this man’s life is roughly 2 million adherents within the Baptist Convention today.


Victory Over the Darkness by Neil T.Anderson (Published in 1990)

Many Christians are living under half a gospel… For some unknown reason, we have left the Resurrection out of the gospel presentation. Consequently, we end up with forgiven sinners instead of redeemed saints.

This book helped me a ton early in my walk in the mid 90’s. It helped me to start to grasp what it means to have freedom in Christ, what it means to have a Christ centered confidence, and the power that God has given me in Christ over the power of sin. Anderson can be a bit psychological at times, but he’s pretty grounded in the Bible and his main purpose is to help you understand who you are in Christ. My theology and leanings are very different than when I read this book but it was such a help to me at that point as a young believer trying to figure out this walk with Jesus thing. This book very much aligns with a series of talks called “The Meaning of Fatherhood and The Difference Dads Make” given by Mark Darling.


Experiencing God by Henry T. Blackaby (Published in 1994)

You will never be satisfied just to know about God. Really knowing God only comes through experience as He reveals Himself to you.

Like Victory Over the Darkness above, this was another book I read very early on after I came to Jesus. This book covers numerous areas of our walk with Christ but the biggest help to me was in understanding how personal God truly is. God is not far off and wants to speak to us through prayer and through His Word. This was a major concept for me to get as a young believer.


The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Published in 1880)

Why have You come now to hinder us? And why do You look silently and searchingly at me with Your mild eyes? Be angry. I don’t want Your love, for I love You not. And what use is it for me to hide anything from You? Don’t I know to Whom I have been speaking? All that I can say is known to You already. And is it for me to conceal from You our mystery? Perhaps it is Your will to hear it from my lips. Listen, then. We are not working with You but with him – that is our mystery.

Considered one of the greatest novels of all time by many, it is special to me because of the circumstances in which I read it. I first read this great work while in my senior year of high school. I did not know Jesus. I did not see any of the Gospel in this book. I was apathetic and the Gospel was just words and foolishness to me. I came to Christ less than a year after reading this book and proceeded to read it again a few years later. I was dumbfounded by how pervasive the Gospel is on these pages. Dostoevsky had to know Jesus to write what he writes. This is a man who wrestled with the depth of sin as well as the unending extent of God’s redemption. Alexei, Dmitry, Ivan, and Smerdyakov are living characters because they are us. To even name the depraved, foolish, disengaged father after himself is quite troubling. It’s meant to be. This book is about all of our wrestling with God and who He is and who we are. Writing this makes me want to pick this book up yet again! I love Dostoevsky. His fiction is second only to CS Lewis in its impact on me. Brothers Karamazov stands out to me as a testament to the change that God has worked in my life. I can pick it up and think back to the blindness that I had. God had to intervene to remove it in order for me to see Him and for the Gospel to be more than just foolishness to me. I read this and I know, without a doubt, that I was blind and now I see. This is a long book but well worth the time it will take you to engage with it. I don’t know anyone who knows Jesus who writes like this today.


Living By the Book by Howard Hendricks (Published in 1991)

This book is the gold standard in how to read and study and engage with the Bible. I’m not sure I’ve seen anything else come out that is better. This book will encourage you as well as overwhelm you because of all the training and tools he gives you. The workbook that you can get with this book is fantastic and worth purchasing as well. Don’t be intimidated by the table of contents and let Hendricks teach you how to trust God for more when you approach His Word. Hendricks essentially teaches you how to read in this masterpiece.

The Bible was written not to satisfy your curiosity but to help you conform to Christ’s image. Not to make you a smarter sinner but to make you like the Savior. Not to fill your head with a collection of biblical facts but to transform your life.


Perelandra by CS Lewis (Published in 1943)

I love CS Lewis’ fiction more than I love the rest of his writings. His depth of thinking about our walk with God and genius in communicating it through story stirs my heart. Perelandra is the second book in Lewis’ Space Trilogy. In the series, Lewis uses the question of “What if there were life on other planets?” to illustrate and draw out Gospel themes. Perelandra takes place on a Venus where creation has not yet fallen and where the first Adam and Eve have just been given life. They get separated and the battle for Eve’s heart begins. Two individuals are sent from Earth: Ransom, the main character, representing God and Weston, a representative of Satan. It moves from there. From the unfallen world Lewis imagines to the dialog and Satan’s path of deception, this is well worth the read.

I almost included Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters” but I had to narrow it down. Perelandra is better but the audio dramatization of The Screwtape Letters from Focus on the Family is very well done and extremely enjoyable.


The Great Divorce by CS Lewis (Published in 1945)

Lust is a poor, weak, whimpering whispering thing compared with that richness and energy of desire which will arise when lust has been killed.

This is probably my favorite fiction book ever. It’s a short read, easy to get through in one sitting. Even now, I’m not quite sure how to describe this book without doing justice to its depth. Lewis uses a main plot about a journey from hell to heaven to dig into what matters to us. What is our one thing? How does that one thing hold us back from pursuing joy in God? Can we let go of it? I’ve read it once or twice every year since college (10 years) and it simply gets better every time I pick it up.


Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Volume 1 by Josh McDowell (Published in 1972)

This first apologetics book that I was exposed to and given to me by a very good friend (his short note in the cover still encourages me today). It’s more of a reference book but it is a very thorough reference book regarding the validity of the New Testament and the evidence that Jesus truly did rise from the dead. McDowell actually wrote this book in his own journey to believe in Christ. A must have reference book in any Christian’s library. There are a million books demonstrating evidence and arguments to believe in God but not too many like this one which details references and notes, building his argument for the resurrection of Jesus so simply and conclusively.


Mortification of Sin by John Owen (Published in 1656)

This is the most recent read of any of the books on list but quite likely the biggest paradigm shift I’ve had in how I approach my battle with sin and what it means to grow spiritually. This is a book I wish I had read 15 years ago instead of just 2 years ago. This book is a must read for any believer. Owen effectively nukes every method you ever had for fighting sin and directs you Biblical to how to kill sin and push to victory. Sounds fun but reading this book the first or second time through is like having Owen do open heart surgery on you without any anesthesia. Also, be forewarned, this book is not about some simple step by step method to fighting sin. Owen does not yield to recipe theology here and you will be forced to wrestle with your own sin and how to see it rightly.

The basic characteristic of an unmortified course is the digestion of sin without bitterness in the heart. He who is able to swallow and digest daily sins in his life without conviction in the heart is at the very brink of turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.


Desiring God by John Piper (Published in 1986)

The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.

Honestly, the book did not impact so much as this one sermon that explains the main message of the book! The concept of “Christian Hedonism” was an idea that blew my mind and put the pieces of the Bible together like nothing I’d ever heard before. If you read one book on this list, read this one. Once you get the vision that Piper is attempting to help you connect with, your perception of the way things are will change. Listening to that sermon, and understanding the main points of Desiring God, rerouted almost my entire theology. That is no understatement; ask anyone who is close to me.

This is the great business of life – to “put our mouths out of taste for those pleasures with which the tempter baits his hooks.” I know of no other way to triumph over sin long-term than to gain a distaste for it because of a superior satisfaction in God.


Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret by Dr & Mrs. Howard Taylor (Published in 1932)

Never shall I forget the feeling that came over me then. Words could not describe it. I felt I was in the presence of God, entering into a covenant with the Almighty. I felt as though I wished to withdraw my promise but could not. Something seemed to say, “Your prayer is answered; your conditions are accepted.” And from that time the conviction has never left me that I was called to China.

This is the first missionary biography that I read not long after I came to know Jesus and right in the midst of spending a summer in China back in 1997. It impacted me deeply. I wanted to be a missionary and still do and this book got me fired up to go. I ended up taking a year off of school in 1998-1999 to go back and I think this book was a piece of what stirred me up in zeal for pioneer missions. I love his life and the unbelievable sacrifices he made and the faith that he demonstrated over and over again.

My Top 3?

My top 3 out of this list would have to be Mortification of Sin, Desiring God, and The Great Divorce but I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by any of these books.

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