Why the Gospel Needs a Product

Computer Tutornig















On a Monday night in late 2009 I was drowning my sorrows in a two-liter bottle of coke and feeling pretty sorry for myself.  After returning to Melbourne Australia for a second-term of service the Lord was doing great things, but part of me knew I could be doing more.

This idea had been growing in my heart for a long time because I truly wanted to do more for the Lord in Melbourne, but there weren’t opportunities to do more in the local Churches.  Most missionaries have experienced this kind of frustration that demands new ministries be created, or the unsaved be drawn to Church.

That night an idea began to grow in my mind that has helped guide my ministry since…the Gospel needs a product.

Now that idea may scare some people (it scared me at first) so allow me to clarify what I’m saying.  I am not telling you the Gospel has lost it’s power to save people, or transform lives.  And I’m not encouraging Churches to leave strong exegetical preaching for a ministry that attracts people.  Instead it’s a sad truth that the unsaved are no longer coming to us (the Church) so we must come to them with the Gospel.

In most cases this means creating what my home church calls a “Gospel Bridge” or a relationship built upon common interests and seeks opportunities to share the Gospel.  As someone who has tried to do this in the past I can tell you it’s difficult (my being an introvert doesn’t help) but I’ve learned that if you offer a product (something they want for free) then building those bridges become much easier.

Last month I started offering children from local schools five-minutes of iPad time (to the first five) and glasses of juice to the first seven.  As you can imagine this resulted in lots of kids, and I ended up turning many of them away 🙂 Along with that tablet time however was a Bible lesson and Gospel presentation.

Yes there are some children who drank their juice or played a game and then left immediately not interested in a Bible story at all.  But I also have a core group of five or six children who hang around my house every afternoon to play games, listen to Bible stories, and understand the Gospel.  In a way with Gospel bridges firmly built I have entered into a mentoring relationship with them.

This week I began a free computer-tutoring program in the community designed to develop relationships with adults in the community (they aren’t too interested in juice).

There has already been some interest in this program, and some people who are trying to take advantage of it like the man who came by this morning asking me to fix his broken phone 🙂 But out of all those “consumers” there will be a few who God has chosen for Gospel bridges.  People who in the midst of conversations about email and facebook will hear the good news that can save their soul.

To be honest I wish the Gospel didn’t need to be connected with a free product, and there are definitely times when this isn’t absolutely necessary.  Offering products also can easily emphasize physical needs (giving people what they need) instead of sharing Christ.  Yet we must still be faithful because for the twenty who gulp down their juice and run, five will truly listen

The Hardness of Children’s Hearts, and the Need for Crowd Control

la-na-thrown-student-south-carolina-20151028-001By now most of you have seen the video of a school officer flipping a student backwards out of her chair because the student refused to leave a classroom, or cooperate with the teacher.  This sparked a huge conversation about who was wrong in the situation, and who should have done what.  My personal belief is the school should have contacted the child’s mother and had her deal with it instead of the deputy getting involved, but he definitely went too far.

Having said that I don’t think people are asking the right question about this situation.  Instead of asking who is to blame?  We should be asking how did we get here?

Perhaps I am thinking about this too deeply, but for me this event illustrates two crucial parts of our broken society:

  1. The misuse of power by those in authority
  2. And in a deeper sense the disrespect of those in authority by children

I’ll be the first person in the world to admit the deputy completely overstepped his bounds here and should be fined.  This is especially true since there had already been allegations of excessive force against students in the past.  Yet this abuse of power took place because one girl refused to leave the classroom.

Should she have flipped her out of the chair?  Absolutely not!  But he wouldn’t have to do that if she had complied with his and teachers request to leave the classroom.

Yes it is scary that police deputies will use this much force to subdue a student.  But it’s also scary that the student defiance played a part in this.  And the scariest thing of all?  We see this defiance in children as young as five!

Being someone who works in many children’s ministries (and loves it) I’ve seen dramatic changes over the years in how kids respond to an authority figure.  In the beginning all it took was a teacher to tell little Johnny or Susie to calm down and they would be okay.  Today that just doesn’t cut it anymore…today you need “crowd control.”

As someone who has logged countless hours as crowd control I can tell you

  1. It involves taking control of a group right away by reviewing rules, giving out prizes, and rewarding those who follow the rules
  2. Constantly roaming the room calming down children who aren’t paying attention, or are disrupting everyone else
  3. Separating disruptive children from everyone else, and making sure they know exactly why they are there
  4. And being mean (strict) when necessary

In the past everything would be fine if the teacher made the rules clear, and enforced them.  Today most children’s ministries wouldn’t be caught dead without crowd control

I happened to be sick one afternoon winter and wasn’t able to be at a weekly after-school Bible program.  Later on that week I asked how things went, and was told the whole time was utter chaos because there weren’t enough people to keep the kids under control.

The next week I began the program with a very serious talk about how disappointed I was with them misbehaving while Mr. John was gone last week and noticed a boy (we will call him Jason) had his shoe off waving it around.

Jason happened to be the worst kid in our program and exhibited a complete lack of respect for all authority. No matter how many times we separated him from the others or withheld prizes he just didn’t care.  That afternoon I ended up sending him to the principals office because he was just being too disruptive.

I came to visit him a few minutes later and asked why he was waving a shoe around when everyone else was listening but he just shrugged his shoulders and refused to say a word.  As the secretary called his mother Jason suddenly started to cry and told me that he had “sand in his shoe.”  I thanked Jason for telling me what the problem was (never saw any sand) and encouraged him next time to raise his hand and ask permission to take his shoe off instead of disrupting the class.

Notice that the hard heart of this little boy in the first-grade wouldn’t break or show any remorse until the moment his mother was on the phone; and then it was probably only fear of punishment that broke him.  Now imagine what it would take to bring obedience in the third, fourth, or fifth grade.  The sad truth is children’s heart are just getting harder…before long a call to their parents won’t even make a dent in the armor.

My point is we often don’t think about a child’s authority problem till their in Jr. High, but at that point it’s already far too developed.  There is more of a need than ever before for parents to instill in their children a respect of authority (their authority) at a young age so they obey before the moment a police officer oversteps his boundaries.

Thoughts on the Affect of Poverty

Ministering in a small island town has helped me gain a new perspective on, and burden for individuals who struggle with poverty.  The truth is what we call “poor” in the United States would be viewed as rich in a place where children don’t the street can’t afford clothes, and beg for food every day.

Being here has helped me understand better the issues those in need struggle with, and in a deeper sense how it affects every part of their lives.

One of the more interesting articles that emphasizes this holistic affect of poverty is Joe Carter’s “Why Being Poor Is Too Expensive” that uses a recent article “Being Poor is too Expensive” by Eric Ravenscraft as it’s major source.

Carter begins by referring to a movie where a poor african-American family plans a weekend getaway but blows a tire, and then since they don’t have a spare are forced to drive back on the rim.

Not much is made of the event by the characters in the movie, but those who are poor (or have ever been poor) know exactly what it means. If they weren’t able to pay for a small repair like a flat tire they certainly won’t be able to pay for the damage that comes from a bent rim. The car will either be abandoned or be sold for scrap. Either way, it means the same thing: they no longer have a car. Life for them will became just a little bit harder, a slight more miserable.

That’s one of the worst things about being poor: almost everything becomes a luxury good.

This idea that the smaller expenses of life being a luxury are explained further

If you’re higher up on the economic ladder you get things fixed, whether tire or teeth, before the repairs become even worse and become more costly. But when you’re poor, even small repairs are more than you can afford. And they lead to catastrophic consequences. It’s not that you’re ignoring a situation or ignorant about the inevitable disastrous outcome. You know it’s a problem and that it’ll be an even bigger problem in the future. There’s just not much you can do about it.

In other words it isn’t that they don’t want to fix the problem…they CAN’T fix the problem.

The article borrows an illustration from Ravenscraft involving transportation.

Transportation has two major hidden costs when you’re poor. First, lots of expensive car repairs are avoidable…if you have money to fix them early on. I used to ignore changing my brake pads for months. My car would start making that familiar squealing noise that indicated I didn’t have much time left before the brake pads were gone. I hated the noise, but I hated overdrafting on my account more. So, I turned the stereo up a little louder and tried to drive less.

Replacing brake pads can cost an average of $145, depending on your car. If I had to spend $145 to change my brake pads (assuming I even had that much in my account), at best I’d wipe out my food budget for the month. At worst, I wouldn’t have enough to pay utilities. So I’d put it off.

He proceeds to explain putting off replacing break pads eventually meant grinding the rotors which was of course a much more expensive repair.

Carter finishes his article by encouraging Christians to view poverty in a more personal day-to-day fashion thinking about the small expenses which to them would be luxuries.

Much of the discussion about poverty in our country tends to focus on the macro level. While it’s important to consider broad, general effects like unemployment or welfare policy, it’s just as essential to consider what we can do on a more personal level. There is so much we Christians can do for the poor, both as individuals and churches, if we simply take the time to find answers to the question, “How can I make life less expensive for the poor?”

On a personal level this article has helped me respond differently to those who visit and ask for things like food, soap, or cooking oil.  In the past my American worldview would think about how cheap those things are (oil would be $5, soap maybe $10) and wonder why they couldn’t go buy those things themselves.  Now it’s clearer to me how $5 would be much more than spare change for them….it’s a massive amount.  May God help me remember what I view as cheap others view as a luxury.

The Problem with Love That Has No Labels

Thoughts for this article comes from the post Identity: Learning to love the difference for The Gospel Coalition Australia.

Last week Dan Patterson wrote a very interesting article for the Gospel Coalition Australia Blog on the subject of Identity.  In it he describes a poignant short-film called Love has no labels that speaks against the Christian view of gender and sexuality.

The film begins in a public space with two people standing face-to-face behind a large x-ray screen. All the viewers can see are the skeletal figures of the two individuals embracing, kissing and talking. They walk out from behind the screen and the viewers learn that the individuals are women.

The point is stated on the x-ray screen: “Love has no gender.”

It is poignant and compelling because, while viewing the two identity-less individuals behind the screen, it is difficult to have misgivings about the apparent love between them. The viewer is challenged when the identity-less individuals step into their socially recognisable identities by emerging from behind the x-ray screen.

Patterson is careful to point out; “To identify the two people as women and therefore lesbian, however, misses the main point of the film. The film’s purpose is to communicate a message that problematises the understanding of relationships on the basis of identity categories, in this instance woman and lesbian. If the concept of ‘woman’ does not exist, then nor does ‘lesbian’, thus making a grand statement about what it means to be human and how humans can live.”

The films idea of identity categories are illustrated with other individuals

The next identity-less couple is revealed as mixed-race: love has no race. Two young girls step out, one of whom has a disability: love has no disability. Three people follow—two men who are obviously coupled and a young boy, perhaps their son: love has no gender. The next couple appears to be older, which was not evident when they were behind the screen: love has no age. Two little girls then emerge after playing clapping games: love has no race. Finally, two women and two men dressed in different religious attire appear: love has no religion.

The film concludes with the punch line: “Love has no labels”.

Dan Patterson’s article is very helpful because it points out the videos main point (“Love should not be legislated against, or withheld from, another person based on difference.”) but the underlying message as well…a celebration not of individuality, but sameness.

One is left with the impression that the film is promoting mixed-race marriage, cross-generational friendship, integrated child’s play, inter-religious relations, and homosexual partnerships. But if that was the case, the captions would read love has gender, love has race, love has age, and so on: love has labels.

It quickly becomes apparent that the film is not a celebration of difference, but sameness. In other words, the film attempts to promote marriage, gender, friendship, religion and sexuality on the grounds that there is no difference.

Towards the end Patterson deals with the core problem.

While the film produces a rhetorically powerful argument it must be acknowledged that it operates on a remarkably sad presupposition: difference must be done away with in order to create the conditions for love to flourish within society.

In other words there must be a unity or sameness to all of us as we all give up our “labels” and this is what the world calls love.  Patterson ends by pointing out how differences instead of something we should destroy becomes a tool of God’s Glory.

The Christian alternative to the inadequate solution of difference-blindness is reconciliation (Col 1:19–23). Reconciliation is the redemptive process that salvages human difference through its re-creation in Christ.

Where hostility plagues humanity’s relationships (within the self, with others and God), Christ brings peace through his own death. In Christ, humanity is delivered from the perversion of difference and the hostility that results.

Difference is therefore not a threat to human identity, but a truly beautiful characteristic of it. This means that human flourishing occurs when reconciled differences in Christ constitute loving relationships between us, and between God and ourselves.

May God give us articles like this that help us see differences as something that needs to be celebrated instead of eliminated.

How the Image of God affects Pornography













Thoughts in this article and quotations come from http://www.canonandculture.com/10-lies-you-must-affirm-in-order-to-look-at-porn by Jared Moore


Yesterday I wrote an article looking at the demise of Playboy who last week shared they would no longer use nude photographs.  This isn’t because of a conviction, but due to their losing a fight against pornography.

This and other recent events have thankfully led to some excellent writing on the dangers of porn, with “The Ten Lies You Must Affirm In Order To Look at Porn” by Jared Moore being one of my favorites.  I enjoyed this article because Moore began with the premise of every person being created in the image of God.

But do Christians consistently believe that all mankind was made in God’s image to reflect His own glory back to Him? If the answer is “yes,” then we will seek to view our fellow image-bearers as God’s mirrors who display His glory. If the answer is “no,” then we will value humanity as something less than God’s mirror, as something less than God’s image. And what we do reveals what we truly or consistently believe about God and man.

He continues in the article by describing lies that individuals believe if they don’t view people as created in the image of God.

  1. The person isn’t a human being defined by God: When you view a man or a woman as an object, you see him or her as created in the likeness of something less than the image of God. You might value them a little higher than the animals; but, not as a human being, as God intended.
  2. The inner parts of this “inhuman object” aren’t made for God’s Glory:  If you are a professed Christian, then you represent Christ in all that you do, including in how you think and what you think. By treating God’s image-bearers as merely objects for sexual lust, you value their appearance above everything else about them; thus, you only value God’s creating ability in their outward appearance. 
  3. This object is not human: If they are stripped of everything except their sexual worth, then they are diminished to something less than human, slightly above an animal, if that.
  4. This object is not an avenue to enjoy the Lord: It is impossible to enjoy the Lord through sin. If you look at your object’s body instead of his or her good works, you selfishly use him or her insteadof enjoying the Lord (1 Tim. 2:10).

According to Moore when thinking about pornography we need to ask ourselves, whose glory is mankind created for?

Man was made in God’s image for His glory. We are not God; man was not made for our glory. One cannot abuse God’s image-bearers, whether oneself or others, and simultaneously and consistently believe that God is God, His word is true, mankind exists to mirror Him, and the good news is Christ’s redeeming work…not porn.