A Major Problem for American Christians

Great Quotes from Weekend Reading

The Roots of Endurance“The twenty-first century has begun with the shattering realization that there is no safe place on earth. Slowly, perhaps, many are wakening to the biblical view that ‘here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come’ (Hebrews 13:14); that this world does not offer a ‘kingdom that cannot be shaken’ (Hebrews 12:28); that we are ‘sojourners and exiles’ (1 Peter 2:11); that we should ‘not be surprised at the fiery trial . . . as though something strange were happening to’ us (1 Peter 4:12); . . .”

The Biblical Roots of Endurance,
p. 17, John Piper.

“I have found myself in conversation with Christians for whom it is simply a given that you do not put yourself or your family at risk. The commitment to safety and comfort is an unquestioned absolute. The demands of being a Christian in the twenty-first century will probably prove to be a rude awakening for such folks. Since we have not embraced the Calvary road voluntarily, God may simply catapult us onto it as he did the home-loving saints in Acts 11:19: ‘Those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word.”

The Biblical Roots of Endurance,
p. 18, John Piper

“One way or the other, Christ will bring his church to realize that ‘in the world you will have tribulation’ (John 16:33); that ‘all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted’ (2 Timothy 3:12); that we are called ‘to share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God’ (2 Timothy 1:8); that ‘we . . . groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies’ (Romans 8:23); that “whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for [Christ’s] sake and the gospel’s will save it’ (Mark 8:35); and that ‘through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God’ (Acts 14:22).”

The Biblical Roots of Endurance,
p. 19, John Piper

If I had read this book before I published my last book, I think I would have included every one of these quotes from John Piper. Oh how my heart longs for every Christian in America, from me to the oldest and youngest Christ followers in the nation, to recognize and live out these truths. May God raise up a new generation of cross-bearing followers of the Savior.

It’s why I wrote the booklet, Settlers or  Sojourners?  It’s available now from Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle format

New Book Release Coming

Update: Book is now available in both Kindle and Paperback.

Coming soon. This is an unedited mock-up of the new book(let). Originally written as a lecture for a symposium on multi-ethnic ministry and then serialized on my blog, it has been re-edited and slightly expanded in this 60 page booklet. Should be available by mid-February in Kindle and paperback formats. Please pray for a powerful impact for Christ.

 

BookCoverPreview
Unedited Mock-up of the Cover of the New Book

Update: Book is now available in both Kindle and Paperback.

Is Abortion that Important?

This Sunday celebrates life with Sanctity of Life Sunday. In honor of all those who have been impacted by abortion I offer this excerpt from my book, Picking a President: Or Any other Elected Official.

Baby at 28 weeks

Proverbs 24

11 Rescue those who are being taken away to death;
.         hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.
12 If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,”
.         does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
.    Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it,
.         and will he not repay man according to his work? 

24 Whoever says to the wicked, “You are in the right,”
.          will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations.

______________________________

In each chapter of Proverbs there are numerous verses that could be focused upon in a book of this nature. But in the current cultural climate, the verses selected above stand out. Their application is broad. Verse 11 says that there is a responsibility on the part of those who love God to rescue “those who are being taken away to death, hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.”

Are there situations in the world today where people need rescuing of this type? Might this verse apply to the civil wars in Darfur region of Sudan and Uganda? Might they apply to the rescuing of boat people off the coast of Ghana? Might they apply to the issue of abortion in our own country? Might they not apply to young girls being sold as sexual slaves in South East Asia? Read the verses again. It seems inescapable that these verses apply to each of these situations.

Does this mean that we should physically intervene in every situation? Not necessarily. But verse 12 reminds us that we do not have the option of doing nothing.

If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,”
.       does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it,
.       and will he not repay man according to his work?

God is the judge of all flesh. He knows what we know and what we refuse to act on. He weighs the heart. He keeps watch over the soul and repays according to our actions (our work).

So what should we do? One thing I think we must do is we must be responsible about who we put in power to make the decisions about what our country does in these important and complex issues of our time.

Bookmark for Picking a PresidentWhat are the potential candidate’s views on abortion? What are their views on isolationism versus involvement with the world? How do they line up with the rescuing of children from abuse? What are their positions on judicial appointments? Is there consistency to their past voting records on the issues? Do they have an ability to articulate the issues or do they just seem to be parroting talking points handed to them from others?

Some in our culture want to look the other way on these hot button issues by redefining what is right. Verse 24 speaks loudly against this type of thinking:

24 Whoever says to the wicked, “You are in the right,”
.           will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations.

Others want to simply declare some of these issues to be the “internal problem of another country.” Certainly, effecting change for righteousness in another country is a more complicated and delicate operation. And the principle way that believers bring about change is through the preaching and living out of the gospel. We promote the sending of the liberating message of the gospel to all people everywhere.

But sending missionaries and literature is not the end of our responsibility. It is the priority but it is only the beginning. Verses 11-12 make it clear that action is required too. They are worth reading again.

11 Rescue those who are being taken away to death;
.         hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.
12 If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,”

.         does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
.    Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it,
.         and will he not repay man according to his work?

Do your homework. Make sure that the men and women that you vote for have positions on these critical issues that are consistent with biblical faith. Make sure that your own positions are consistent with the Scripture. And pray for your candidates and for the current leaders of the nation. They need our prayers. Being faithful to God requires it. 

Prayer:

“Knower of my heart and keeper of my soul, I am so prone to do less than Your word requires. I am prone to seek my own comfort, my own security above almost anything and anyone else. Help me to be obedient in my own life. Keep me from living a life that is centered on my needs only and remains willfully blind to the cries of the oppressed in the world. Help me to do my part in rescuing those who are being taken away to death and slaughter.

Lord, would you give our nation candidates for public office that are compassionate and wise. Give us men and women who are neither isolationist nor busy bodies. Give us instead, men and women who make decisions on the basis of truth. These issues are so hard and some of them are so divisive in our culture. Give our candidates and office-holders courage to fight for the oppressed no matter what the “majority”, the “media” or their “opponents” say. Please Lord, give me wisdom in my choices. Amen.”

Questions:

  1. How can you support your local Crisis Pregnancy Center in their work of rescuing those being taken away to death?
  2. How can you let your candidate’s know your position on issues like abortion, rescuing children from abuse, ethnic cleansing in various parts of the world, etc?
  3. Do you know the candidates voting record on any of these issues?
  4. Is there something you can do to help get worthy candidates elected who can effect direction on these major issues of our time?

© Marty Schoenleber, Jr. 2015.

[1] This post is excerpted from the book, Picking a President: Or Any Other Elected Official, (CrossBooks, 2012).

Untold Stories of Missions and Gospel Power

Weekend Musings

It is important to remember the lessons of the past. All mission activity has not always been successful or benign. Sometimes, Western arrogance has accompanied our attempts to take the gospel to the world and sometimes, God, in His sovereignty, still works miracles. The following historical account is from Kairos Journal.

Image of Zulu Christians at schoolZulu Work Ethic 

When American missionary Newton Adams landed near the Cape in South Africa in 1836, he soon learned that flexibility was the missionary watchword. He had expected to work in stable Zulu communities, but they had been scattered by recent war. So he quickly adjusted to serve a new social group—refugees.

Addressing both their physical and spiritual needs, Adams employed an evangelistic strategy whereby young Zulus were hired to live with his family in exchange for clothing, education, and a financial payment made to the youths’ parents. While the scheme resulted in many converts, it had a danger—that the Zulus could easily confuse dependence upon the missionaries with dependence upon Christ.1

This particular peril increased in the years to come, when renewed strife in the region forced the mission to move. Adams petitioned the English governor, Sir George Grey, for help.2 Grey was willing to do almost anything to bring stability to the area, so he gave mission societies 500-acre plots with thousands of surrounding acres to be used as their mission field. Unfortunately, Grey unwittingly created little economic fiefdoms, with missionaries at the top of the ladder and indigenous converts at the bottom. Once again, in such an environment, it was almost impossible to know if the converts were serving the missionaries or serving Christ.3 But time would prove that the Zulus had developed a genuine, Protestant work ethic.

These missionary outposts could have left a small community of converts dependent upon the financial and spiritual leadership of their foreign friends, but the deeper spiritual lessons took root: “[T]here emerged . . . a new class of Africans who, propelled by their own initiative [and] encouraged by the missionaries . . . had become entrepreneurs and landowners and were also the leading men in church affairs.

When the missionaries produced a makeshift seminary, “Grown [Zulu] men were willing to leave their stations and follow the missionary teacher, often uprooting their families to do so . . . [They] showed amazing determination, against discouraging odds, to receive an education.”4 Once prepared, the Zulus showed initiative by starting their own Home Missionary Society and traveling the surrounding regions, preaching the gospel to their neighbors who were beyond the reach of the American mission.

The Americans were “spiritual descendents of the Puritansfor whom “industriousness and Godliness were inextricably intertwined.”5 True to their roots, they offered both Bible study for the heart and tillable land to occupy the hands, making the Zulus property owners with responsibility for their own plots. The missionaries also encouraged small-scale industry, and the Africans responded; they built and ran profitable sugar mills—without missionary help.

These missionary outposts could have left a small community of converts dependent upon the financial and spiritual leadership of their foreign friends, but the deeper spiritual lessons took root: “[T]here emerged . . . a new class of Africans who, propelled by their own initiative [and] encouraged by the missionaries . . . had become entrepreneurs and landowners and were also the leading men in church affairs.”6

Footnotes:

1  Myra Dinnerstein, “The American Zulu Mission in the Nineteenth Century: Clash over Customs,” Church History 45 (June 1976): 236.
2  Great Britain had annexed the region in 1842. 
3  Ibid., 237-238.
4  Ibid., 239.
5  Ibid., 241.
6  Ibid. 

“You Will Not Forget Us”

Weekend Musings

Don McLeanIt is impossible for me to read Psalm 137 and not think of Don McLean’s 1969 Babylon. I read the Psalm’s opening lines and instantly I am transported to McLean’s 1 minute 41 second recording.

His musical interpretation, with its haunting melody, his liquidly smooth voice coupled with his understanding of the texture of the Psalm and its mourning over Jerusalem is simply unforgettable. But beyond unforgettable, McLean’s interpretation is spot on. Somber, dark, melancholy, yet, longing, loving and with just a hint of hope.

That’s Psalm 137.

To be sure, there are horrors included at the end of the Psalm that I do not completely understand and for which I can offer only tentative explanations for the extreme imprecation of the last line. Here’s the recording:

At the end of this post there is a live recording of McLean getting a whole concert crowd to sing the song in a three-part round. Beautiful. Good example for a worship leader leading a congregation.

But for now here’s a new offering for The Poetry Project.

Read Psalm 137

You Will Not Forget Us

We hang our memories where we can see them
So our captors will know we are free
And even though our hearts are shaking
We will remember our songs

And our songs will carve the memory
Our songs will be the braille we read
To remind our souls once again
That You will not forget us

Go to Psalm 138.

Worthless Activities in Our Churches

SnoringIs preaching a worthless activity in our churches? 

Why do we devote so much time to it each week when so few pay any attention to what preachers preach?  

Oh our congregations listen, they pay attention to listening, they tolerate our droning, and teaching, and preaching, and impassioned exhortations. Many appreciate the effort we make. They value the clarity of our presentation, the truths to which we point, the orthodoxy of our doctrine. It is not uncommon to hear their affirmative amens, or their laughter at our humor, and appreciation of our stories. 

There is much that the congregation gains from a week-to-week, paragraph by paragraph, consistent exposition of the word of God. The faithful preaching of the word of God does much to inform in the truth, strengthen in sorrow, encourage in weakness, empower and embolden believers to defend the faith. Nevertheless, our people are weak in applying on Monday what was taught on Sunday morning. Which is where the video below comes in.

Last week, the small group I’m a part of at Trinity Church was studying Francis Chan’s THE FORGOTTEN GOD. We were on lesson 3, half way through when the workbook instructed us to turn on the video. When the video was finished, seven very convicted people (myself included) entered into an insightful discussion about the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

See if this video from Francis Chan, chapter 3 of THE FORGOTTEN GOD workbook and video curriculum is on target for your church. And then see the link after the video for an idea that may be a step in the right the direction.

And if you want to start to change what is happening in your church, here is a great idea from Church for Men.