Comprehending Short Term Missions

In many things, I have learnt not to be too caustic towards other people. I often adopt this tone when I really dislike something–under the guise of sarcasm, I make very disparaging remarks, and the lines between where I’m being serious and joking blur. Unfortunately people get offended easily, especially when something as sacred as the modern pilgrimage to overseas countries, is questioned. It is certainly something that is important as being born again for many Christians today.

A lot time has to be spent at the beginning of any conversation exerting that I was generalising. I wasn’t talking about all missions trips, and I wasn’t judging any specific one. It was a general trend that I’ve been assessing and thinking about, not any specific trip I was thinking about.

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Fighting Against Sin The Wrong Way

“Our first problem is that our attitude toward sin is more self-centred than God-centred.

We are more concerned about our own “victory” over sin than we are about the fact that our sins grieve the heart of God. We cannot tolerate failure in our struggle with sin chiefly because we are success-oriented, not because we know it is offensive to God.

W.S. Plumer said, “We never see sin aright until we see it as against God…all sin is against God in this sense: that it is His law that is broken, His authority that is despised, His government that is set at naught…Pharaoh and Balaam, Saul and Judas each said, “I have sinner”; but the returning prodigal said, “I have sinned against heave and before thee”; and David said, “Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned”.

God wants us to walk in obedience—not victory. Obedience is oriented toward God; victory is oriented toward self. This may seem to be merely splitting hairs over semantics, but there is a subtle self-centred attitude at the foot of many of our difficulties with sin. Until we face this attitude and deal with it we will not consistently walk in holiness.” (1)

I am learning more and more how the simple act of being a Christian has been transformed into a complexity of emotions and self-help. I am convinced that the webs of self-help and Biblical counselling have become so ambigious, that we cannot see between the two. Where the Spirit’s work has been replaced with self-help trash and the self-help trash masquerades itself as the work of the Spirit–I don’t know why we are not finding ourselves content in God. Is it not because we have not God within us? Yet, the two are distinct because we look for our righteousness in Christ, and not within our sinful hearts. And this is only through opened eyes from a genuine experience of the true God, not empty spirituality of this world.

Maybe our attitudes towards sin are more tempered by our minds instead of the exact nature of God. In Isaiah, God says that we should be holy because He is holy. I find that especially within myself, my attitude toward sins are more a set of rules to follow than to follow and conform more and more to the image of God. Because only then do we realise how much larger this fight against sin is than just me (Hebrews 12v.4). Keeping our fight against sin to ourselves rejects the gifts of God through the Church, it pushes away the wonderfulness of fellowship with other believers in Christ and the communion of the Holy Spirit. Because surely an army is the collective of soldiers, not just one man against the world.

Why does the Church of Jesus Christ so often seem to be more conformed to the world around it than to God? Is it because we are not fighting sin the right way?

(1) p20-21.  Bridges, Jerry. The Pursuit of Holiness. NavPress: 1978.

Erasing Hell: Thoughts on Francis Chan and his new book

Francis Chan’s new book Erasing Hell will be coming out July 5th.

That isn’t important though, the more important thing is that this post is better than the JesusneedsnewPR blog. Teehee, I’ll delete that sentence later, but anyway–I can’t say I’m a fanatical fan of Francis Chan, I’m excited with what he says and what an influence he has on other people. Ask any youth group who their favourite preacher is and it most likely will be either Rob Bell or Francis Chan. I much prefer the latter by a long shot, and indeed, Francis Chan has, since the release of “Crazy Love”, exploded in popularity. I’m currently listening to Crazy Love through audiobook, and I’m about halfway through it and I can see why. There is a certain humility in his work, that is relevant and relatable to the audience to whom he is addressing. This is further amplified listening to him speak, he speaks with utmost conviction, which comes across, you’ll see in the video below. Reading that he has given all royalties from Crazy Love to a ministry to children trapped in sex trafficking — his ambition and convictions are ever clearer.

There is another side to Francis Chan that makes me uncomfortable though. I’ve read Forgotten God before–actually I’ve read it a couple of times because I was blessed by it a lot the first time. It undeniably has had a great influence on my Christian walk actually. Yet for all its importance and relevance, what is distressing to me so is how little was dedicated to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. I’m not doubting he knows his material about the Holy Spirit, but he jumps quickly to the application of the Scripture without addressing the subject where he drew it from. Without creating that Scriptural foundation, his applications seem bare and according to his own agenda. Why yes, in case you were wondering, I do have complaints about every single author out there! Naw, I truly do like Francis Chan, he’s a great guy. I truly hope you get to the time to watch the video and purchase his new book though — you won’t regret it.

Nevertheless, I always look forward with anticipation to any new project of his. This one seems in a direct reaction to he-who-shall-not-be-mentioned. There is a simple honesty and down-to earth attitude that pervades everything that he says, and I admire that in him above all else that he does. Apparently in the youtube comments, his honesty and fervour is taken as over-acting and false, but I would argue otherwise. I see his willingness to engage and provoke thought in people is wonderful.

There is a moment in the video where he muses the relationship between God and men described by Paul as the relationship between a clay and a potter. He laments how he is a piece of clay, and it is expected of him to teach other pieces of clay about the Potter, and what he is like. At about 1 minutes in, his genuine nature comes through especially in this scene. I wonder what depth that statement truly means in our own lives–perhaps with greater humility we do need to approach things.

There was an interview I read where Francis Chan was asked about the emergent church, a potential hot potato that no one wants to own up to or reject often. This is what he said: “As a pastor I hear a lot of emergent leaders talk about what is wrong with the church. It comes across as someone who doesn’t love the church. I’m a pastor first and foremost, and I’m trying to offer a solution or a model of what church should look like. I’m going back to scripture and seeing what the church was in its simplest form and trying to recreate that in my own church. I’m not coming up with anything new. I’m calling people to go back to the way it was. I’m not bashing the church. I’m loving it.”

What do you think about Francis Chan, which books of his have you read? Would you be purchasing Erasing Hell? Does he have a lesser emphasis on doctrine and understanding, and greater emphasis on the application of bible verses? Do you see this in his writing, and how does it compare to other authors who have written on similar topics like “Don’t Waste Your Life” by John Piper or even, “The Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne?

Poverty or Riches: Deconstruction of the American Dream

I wonder if it is a possibility that anyone is worse off than us now.
Dare I compare our sorry plight to the “children in Africa”? My references to the “children of Africa” are not out of pettiness, but, of which I will refer to frequently in this post is a reference to anyone who is financially poorer than me. But is financial need not one of many of life’s problems of which we have to solve?

In many ways we are different: I live on a different continent. I live in a country that is comfortably defined as First World, compared to their Third World developing countries. I am receiving a college education, while they are likely to have never attended elementary school. Yet, in some ways we are similar, like how I have spent the past hour sorting through a carton of feijoas searching and eating the rotten ones, they likely do this daily and have been for everyday of their lives. Yet at the same time, we are essentially different because at the same time I was typing an essay on the role of the B.N.Z building in the development of New Zealand architectural history on a laptop with sticky fingers.

Here is the fundamental difference between these: they have no incline of the American Dream. 

They don’t seek to become successful in this world. It is a total paradigm change when you are transformed from hunter-gatherer to business man. The disappearance of the worry of surviving through to the next day, turn to seeking to create something of yourself. Almost at once, it seems that anything in the world is able to be accomplished and within our reach. We know that only a few reach the top of this pyramid, but somehow we think we are one of those. There is something really emotive about helping the children in Africa on television, but I wonder if it is all worth it. Smiling constantly while we are glued to our television screens, I wonder who the poor ones are. I wonder if the children in Africa are ever seeking fame and riches when they are suffering to feed their families. But no, their entire mindset is built around surviving, and if sponsorship money would survive them to the next day easier then perhaps that is worthy to them.
There is a moment in 30 Rock, where Jack Donaghy takes his baseball team that he is coaching into his office at 30 Rockfeller Place. Tracy Morgan as part of his community service for one of his crimes is assigned to coaching this team, but Jack soons takes over.