Speaking Jesus’ Words

After Israel received the Law at Mt. Saini, after they marched to the Promised Land but refused to enter, after 40 more years of wandering, after an entire generation died in the desert, they stood on the edge of the Jordan River ready to enter the land. The LORD spoke to Joshua before the river crossing for instructions, a pep talk, and a warning. The warning was:

“Never stop reciting these teachings. You must think about them night and day so that you will faithfully do everything written in them. Only then will you prosper and succeed.” (Joshua 1:8)

This lasted awhile. For the next 300 years, the primary leaders of Israel were “Judges.” Now that the people were independent in their own land, they needed oversight. However, they were without powerful prophets like Moses, and they had no king. After Joshua, the Judges reminded them of God’s word but the people often ignored them. By the time of the end of the Judges, people appeared to have forgotten God’s word to Joshua, and they turned to false gods. People forgot the Law and everyone did whatever they wanted. Moral chaos ensued. Civic and family life deteriorated. Everyone did what they thought was right, but nothing worked out. It all stemmed from not taking God seriously—not remembering or living out the words He had given them.

Now, 3000 years later, we have so much more revelation from God. In particular, we have the teachings of Jesus recorded in the gospels. At the last supper, Jesus had a talk with his disciples which sounds similar to what God had told Joshua 1000 years earlier:

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” (John 15:7-10; emphasis mine)

Have you ever tried to do the right thing but it went terribly wrong? People don’t do what’s obviously wrong in their opinion; they do what they think is right. But our ways are naïve and misguided. After 3000 years of progress we’re not any better than the people of Israel who did whatever they wanted when they forgot God’s words. Jesus point was to stick with his teaching—that’s where things work. But how do Jesus’ “words remain in us?” I think it means knowing what they are and taking them seriously. Like God telling Joshua, Jesus here combines the ideas of staying focused on the word of God and obeying the word of God. Know them, do them. Stay in that space. This is where people are fruitful, God’s love is found, and life works.

Are You a Sending Church?

Pastor Benny's Sermon Now Online at Exponential


Kyle, Benny, Joel, Mark, and Sam at Salem, India in January 2015 (sorry Adam you got cropped out due to a photo composition problem)

Remember my trip to India in January 2015? After we returned, Pastor Benjamin Chellapandian (“Pastor Benny”), of India Gospel League (IGL) came to America during February, 2015 to visit several churches. We invited him to speak at our fellowship. Benny is the Director of Training and Leadership Development for IGL, overseeing about 7,000 church planting pastors in rural India and Sri Lanka, who have collectively planted roughly 70,000 churches over the past 25 years.

Recognizing the value of the vision he was laying out from the book of Acts, we transcribed his sermon and submitted it to Exponential.org to share his wisdom with one of the largest community of leaders committed to the multiplication of faith communities. Today it went live on their site, so rush over to Exponential at http://www.exponential.org/planting-a-sending-church/ and read an excerpt from Benny’s sermon delivered at Xenos Christian Fellowship of Northeast Ohio in February, 2015.

Consider downloading the free eBook Dan Jarvis wrote to describe the church planting efforts of India Gospel League; Commissioned: How God is Changing Lives, Transforming Nations and Involving You.


Biblical Vocabulary

Can you think in “Bible?”

In college Hack #5, I argued that factual knowledge precedes skill. I used the metaphor of language. You can’t think in German if you didn’t learn the vocabulary. I was reminded of this recently when talking to a student who had spent a year in Japan. By the end of his study abroad, he was having dreams in Japanese. He told me he spent an entire weekend recently watching Japanese language TV without subtitles, just to get to where he could think again in Japanese. I think this is a good metaphor when it comes to understanding how God thinks. What’s your Bible vocabulary?

Living in the Future of College Ministry

Review of Stephen Lutz’ new ebook


Go read Stephen Lutz’ new ebook The Future of College Ministry. It’s short (10,000 words and 30 pages), free, and insightful. The first third is an update of his 2010 book College Ministry in a Post-Christian Culture, in which he re-examines his earlier predictions. The next section presents competing metaphors for understanding how college ministry will respond to the challenges and threats developing and anticipated. The final section is a list of the 7 points of greatest vulnerability for college ministries, with corresponding suggestions for becoming “antifragile”—which he defines. I’m not going to give away any of the content at all. I’ll restrict myself to this cursory glance at the structure, because you should read the book yourself. What part of short and free didn’t you understand? The last section is the most valuable because Lutz pretty much nails it (except for #5, but my critique is too long a discussion for this post). What makes it remarkable is that he’s describing how my church has been working in the college ministry sphere for decades. I wonder if Lutz understands the implications of what he is saying.

The Red White and Blue, the Black, and the Grey


Religious Tension

An Iranian pastor arrested in 2009 was convicted of “apostasy” for turning from Islam to Christianity. He was sentenced to death because he would not recant his faith. In Afghanistan, NATO forces burned some library books from a detention center that contained hand written extremist notes. They were trying to prevent Taliban extremists from communicating to incite violence during their detention, but unfortunately some of the burned books were copies of the Quran. This mistake so offended the Afghan people that 4 Americans were killed, despite an official apology by the president of the United States. Recently, 21 Coptic Christians were killed by ISIS.

Friend Zone

There comes a time in every young man’s life when he looks over at the certain special someone that he’s had his eye on and begins to think about whether he can take things to the next level. He wants to be more than casual friends, so he wrestles together enough courage to text “R U my appendix? Cuz u give me a funny feeling that makes me want 2 take u out.” If things don’t go well, he ends up in the dreaded “friend zone,” rejected. But that’s not what I’m contemplating today. No, I’m going to bastardize the concept of the “friend zone” into a new context—the church.

Forgiveness, Immortality, and Meaning

There’s a recent Ted Talk by Matthew O’Reilly that has me thinking about universal human needs that immanent death reveals. Matthew is an emergency medical technician who encounters patients who will surely die. Apparently, conventional medical wisdom is to lie by not telling them that they are going to die. The theory is that people will freak out or something. Well, one day he told the truth:

Millennials Need a Sanctuary to Like Church

The American church is struggling to retain the millennial generation; you know, those “emerging adults” between 18 and 29. Seems everyone is writing about how to reach and retain the millennial generation, who are stampeding out of church as fast as their TOMS  shoes can carry them. Good news! There’s a new research study out by the Barna Group (apparently commissioned by the Cornerstone Knowledge Network aka church design and construction companies Aspen Group and Cogun).

Read Jesus’ Letter to Smyrna in Syria

Note: Since my blog is new I am going to post a bunch of things real fast so it will be worthwhile to read. Then I intend to post something weekly. Here is a blog that recently appeared on Andrew Wilkinson’s blog http://andrewsafari.blogspot.com/. I call this “cross-pollinating.” Go check his site and hopefully his followers will check mine.

By the time you read this, Kobani, Syria will probably have been overrun by the Islamic State death cult (aka IS/ISIS/ISIL). The Arabic name for this city is Ayn al-Arab, and including the surrounding villages it was home to about 400,000 people. There are Christians in Kobani, mostly in Syriac Churches. Before a city is overrun ISIS, refugees flee. When a city falls, genocide begins. Christians are especially at risk, as there have been reports from the Middle East of forced conversions to Islam, enslavement, shootings, beheadings (including children), and even crucifixions.

The persecution of Christians is nothing new, and well-documented in modern times. For example, the non-profit, inter-denominational Christian organization Voice of the Martyrs has been cataloging persecution and working with local churches to provide aid for decades (http://www.persecution.com/). This horrific humanitarian crisis seems unthinkable in the modern era, and the international community is wringing its hands and saying that we just can’t allow another city to fall to ISIS. Amid the shrill cries for escalating military action, it’s hard to know what to think or do besides pray.

Why I do not attend Christian faculty conferences

One of my favorite articles in psychology is entitled “Why I do not attend case conferences” by Paul Meehl (1973). In this humorous and sometimes biting essay, Paul Meehl explains the apparent discrepancy noted by his students that, despite decades of continuous clinical practice, he almost never attends case conferences in which students are required to present and discuss their clinical cases. His answer is that the intellectual level is so low that he cannot bear to attend, and he then ennumerates a list of offenses such as the idea that all evidence is equally good, the tendency to reward every student for even the lamest efforts, and other types of generally unscientific thinking.

The article is provocative and intentially offered as a polemic. Meehl is funny. For example, he offers “Uncle George’s pancakes fallacy…a patient does not like to throw away leftover pancakes and he stores them in the attic. A mitigating clinician says, ‘Why, there is nothing so terrible about that—I remember good ole Uncle George from my childhood, he used to store uneaten pancakes in the attic.’ The proper conclusion from such a personal recollection is, of course, not that the patient is mentally well but that good ole Uncle George—whatever may have been his other delightful qualities—was mentally aberrated” (p. 239). However, Meehl is not simply writing a humor column. He has a number of points to make, because he does care about the competent practice of psychology.

His points are not interesting here, but I am writing in the same spirit as Meehl to explain my paradox. I consider myself a fairly zealous Christian, but I do not attend Christian Faculty Conferences. I have a long history of trying to become a Christian professor in the secular university. After 11 years on the faculty, as I attempt to be promoted to Full Professor, I have been reflecting on what I’ve done to get here and attempt to establish myself as a missionary to the campus.