Praying for our Missionaries - Praying for Ourselves

    It has been an eventful and fruitful week as I’ve traveled to India and France, training pastors and supporting missionaries.  As I go, and as I return, I am struck once again with several profound truths.  I am struck anew by the authority and profound relevance of God’s Word.  I’m struck anew by the power of and necessity for prayer.  And finally, I am gripped by the grace of God in my own life, and in the world at large.

    After traveling to these two wildly different cultures, I find myself reflecting on their similarities.  By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote Romans 1 in the first century, yet his words have been timely this week.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the the things that have been made.  So they are without excuse.... Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!  Amen.” (Romans 1:18-20, 24-25)

God’s timeless Word articulates some of these similarities.  In those similarities, as well as in their differences, I find prayer focus, both for them, and for us.  

INDIA

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    Romans 1 speaks to the spiritual realities of India in particular ways.  Christianity is growing in the country, thanks to a mighty movement of the Holy Spirit and His work through pastors and evangelists who proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ amidst growing persecution.  Yet they are fighting against a deeply embedded worldview which denies the Creator.  The Hindu belief sees no Creator-creature distinction, which leads Hindus to worship a multitude of idols...and to at the very least venerate some animals.  The religion also sanctions a rigid social caste system which continues to affect most areas of life, oppressing those found in the lower rungs.  

    Despite the folly of unbelief in the culture at large, and maybe because of it, the gospel is taking root, particularly among the lowest in the caste system.  They are hearing of the Savior, who loves without class distinction, who in fact died to set them free...and they are coming to faith.  So we must pray.  Pray for their continued ability to preach the good news of Jesus Christ.  Pray for the continued movement of the Holy Spirit in this revival culture.  Pray for the pastors, that they would be protected from persecution, and that they would remain steadfast when it comes.  Pray for the glory of God in a dark place.

FRANCE

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    Romans 1 likewise speaks to the cultural realities in France.  France is a place of beauty, which as Romans 1 reminds us, points to the reality of the Creator who is the Author of beauty.  Yet for centuries, the French culture has been one of secularist humanism.  Man, and man’s desire, reigns supreme.  France, as a culture, lives for pleasure and leisure.  By and large, the concept of need is a distant one.  There is little despair over circumstances, and virtually no despair over sin.  And, as Romans 1 warns, God will ultimately give the people over to the  lusts of their heart.  

    But there is always a remnant.  God will not leave himself without a seed, and though it is small, there is a remnant of the faithful Church, proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ, loving others as they have been loved.  These pastors and fellow believers need our prayers as well.  While living conditions may be easier in France than in India, the soil that is the hearts of men, women, and children is far harder.  Our missionaries in France live by prayer, praying for the Lord to move in the hearts of unbelievers, opening them to the reality of their need, and to the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Let us pray with and for our missionaries in Toulouse.  Pray for the Holy Spirit to establish His Church.  Pray for the glory of God in a dark place.

TRUSSVILLE

    Every time I have been given the opportunity to be with our missionaries abroad, whether training them, supporting them, or encouraging them, the Lord presses upon my heart our continued need for the gospel in Trussville.  This past week has been the same.  As I’ve ministered in vastly different cultures, I’ve been reminded of the need for continuous gospel renewal in my own heart, and in our own community.  So I urge you to join me in prayer.  But as we pray, I want to put before you another passage of Scripture.  With the descriptions of India and France (particularly as I’ve tried to apply Romans 1 to their cultures), it is awfully tempting for our prayers to take on a Pharisaical tendency.  Something in our heart wants to pray, “Thank you Lord that I am not like them!”  

    I urge you to, along with me, recognize this tendency and pray against it.  Like the tax collector in Luke 18:9-14, let our prayer simply be, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”  After all, the gospel is about personal salvation from personal sin.  This is a gospel we all need.  So please join me in this prayer.  And join me in praying for a mighty movement of the Holy Spirit in our own community.  Pray for the Holy Spirit to continue establishing His Church.  Pray that we would be a place of light, where the glory of God shines for all to see...clear across the world.

Upcoming Sunday School Classes

Evangelism Through the Eyes of Christ

Taught by Michael Davis

     What is our calling and purpose with regard to the unbelieving world around us? If we got a chance to listen to Jesus praying for his church, what would we hear him asking the Father for? In fact we’ve been given that chance. On the night before he was crucified, Jesus prayed for us, that the Father would send us into the world, just as he was sent into the world (John 17). How do we go about living out this prayer Jesus has for us? How are we sent into the world in the way he was? 

     What do you think of when you hear the word “Evangelism”? What feelings arise in your heart? As believers we all have some sense of calling and even eagerness to share our faith, but perhaps this desire is coupled with feelings of fear, frustration, or even guilt? Unfortunately, it is often churches that place these feelings of guilt on believers. The Lord never motives his people to his service through guilt, but rather he draws us with his unfailing love and graciously invites us in to be apart of his redemptive work. That’s right, it’s HIS work…that HE is doing. There is an invitation here to be set free from the frustration and burden of thinking it’s up to us to convert anyone. I can remember as a child getting to join my Dad (who is an electrician) on side work he would sometimes do (like wire a house, or install light poles in a neighborhood). If it had been up to me to do this work, to say the least, it would have been a disaster, but I remember really thinking it was something that I got to help my Dad do this work. He was doing it and allowed me to be a part of it. The Spirit of Christ does the work of transforming hearts and he lets us be a part of it!

     Still fear often crops up in our hearts. We think, “I really want to share my faith in Christ with people I know, but I’m afraid I will ruin the relationship. What will the person think of me if I try to tell them about Jesus?” We do find ourselves in what is becoming an increasingly post-Christian Western society, while at the same time living in a region of “cultural Christianity” where many people go to church. There are certainly many barriers to sharing our faith in Christ, but often times the greatest barrier of all is our own hearts.

     The calling we all have as disciples of Christ is to make more disciples (Matthew 28:18-20), but we have not been left to ourselves to do this work. As mentioned already, it is in fact the Spirit of Christ who is doing the work. We are simply cooperating with him. To cooperate with the Spirit of Christ it is important that we grow in our understanding of how Christ actually engaged with an unbelieving world. If you think about it, Jesus (God incarnate) is indeed the greatest evangelist whoever walked the earth.

     As we learn from Jesus and become more captivated by his love for us and his commitment to his mission of seeking and saving the lost, the hurting, the broken, the self-centered, the despised; we will be more equipped for sharing our faith. This study is not meant to be theoretical, but to encourage us to put into practice what we are learning together. We will discuss together practical and simple ways to incorporate outreach into our daily lives, and identify ways that perhaps we are already doing it without even knowing it! This class isn’t about a method, or memorizing formulas for gospel presentation. Rather its about engaging with the gospel itself and biblical principles that shape how we share it. As the gospel has it’s way in our hearts it will also work it’s way out of our hearts and into the lives of others. When we see our own need for the gospel and how Jesus restores our dignity as image-bearers of God himself, we will in turn see others in the same light as those who bear the image of God and can be loved and engaged in light of that reality. Won’t you come with us on this journey of cooperating with the greatest evangelist of all times, Jesus Christ.

 

Covenant Theology: A Survey

Taught by Joel Ellis and Joe Gunter

     Why do a survey of Biblical covenants, and what are they after all? 

     Many faithful Christians have heard the term many times, but really do not have a real understanding of what the biblical covenants are, or what they mean to us today. Since the Civil War, the study of the covenants, or more properly the study of the Bible in a Covenant framework has decreased and been replaced with other methods and frameworks that have grown in popularity.

     Viewing the story and message of the Bible through the lens of a covenant framework is a basic historical Reformed Theology principle. In fact the Westminster Confession incorporates many statements regarding the bible covenants. But due to the shift of attention, many Christians who are Reformed in their theology do not have the foundation of the covenants supporting it.

     Here at Christ Church, we are familiar with the term because we are constantly hearing references to the covenant family that is our church. We hear references to the children of the covenant. What does it all mean?

     Over the next 9 classes, we want to survey the Bible covenants. We will discuss:

  • The definition of a covenant
  • Terminology of covenants and how they differ from other concepts like wills
  • What are the covenant seals used in the Bible, and what do they signify
  • The principal covenants of the Bible and how they provide the foundation for the relationship we have with God
  • The Major Covenants
    •      The Covenant of Works
    •      The Covenant of Grace
  • Further developing expressions of the one Covenant of Grace
    •      The Covenant with Noah
    •      The Covenant with Abraham
    •      The Covenant with Moses
    •      The Covenant with David
  • Some comparisons with other Bible view frameworks (if time allows)
  • What the Bible covenants mean to us today

     This class will be a “survey” that will introduce the students to the covenant framework of scripture.  The goal will be to make the material understandable and spiritually enriching for everyone.  We hope you will join us starting July 30th.