man praying in a cave

A Still, Small Voice

Can you imagine what it would have been like to witness the events that took place on Mount Carmel between Elijah and the prophets of Baal? Can you picture the false prophets dancing around, slashing themselves, pleading with their god to send fire down to burn up sacrifice? All the while, Elijah stands there mocking them and their gods saying, “Where is your god? Is he in the bathroom or is he asleep?” And then, finally, can you picture hearing Elijah’s prayer and the LORD’s miraculous answer? What an incredible display of God’s power and might!

I often pray for God to answer my prayers in a similar manner. I mean, I want to see him move in power! I want to see Him victorious over His enemies! I want the world to know that He alone is God! It seems to me that a “Mount Carmel-like” miracle would do the trick, right?

But, if I am honest, I’ve never seen anything that comes close to this in my life. I am not saying that it can’t happen, I just have yet to see God move in this manner today.

For a long time, I had difficulty understanding the events that took place after the definitive victory at Mount Carmel. Elijah flees in fear after Jezebel makes a personal death threat. He finds protection and safety in a cave at Mount Horeb, the place where Moses met with God. After asking why Elijah was there, the LORD tells Elijah to come out and stand in His presence. Suddenly, a powerful wind comes, followed by a strong earthquake, followed by more fire from heaven. But, the Scripture says that the LORD was not in these things.

Then, Elijah hears a gentle whisper. He comes out to meet with the LORD who speaks to Him gently: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

And what was Elijah doing there? Why was he running from Jezebel after he had just witnessed the LORD defeat the several hundred prophets of Baal? It seems to me that when God’s judgement didn’t come upon Jezebel in Elijah’s timing, Elijah wondered if God was still working. By answering Elijah with a still, small voice God taught Elijah that He didn’t need natural disasters or miracles to prove His power. Even when Elijah couldn’t see it, God was still working.

Maybe you need a miracle today. You really need to see God’s mighty hand move. Or perhaps you have been praying for God to manifest His power in a Mount Carmel fashion. Let me encourage you to remember that God is God even when we don’t hear the roaring thunder. He is still on His throne even when we don’t see the flashing lightning. And He still speaks today, even if it is a still, small voice. Don’t be afraid when He is quiet. He is still the LORD God Almighty.


Scripture reading: 1 Kings 18-19

Song for reflection and prayer:

Asian Christian theology Hwa Yung

Book Summary: Mangoes or Bananas? by Hwa Yung

Mangoes or Bananas?: The Quest for an Authentic Asian Christian Theology by [Yung, Hwa]

Mangoes or Bananas?: The Quest for an Authentic Asian Christian Theology. By Hwa Yung. Oxford: Regnum Books International, 2014, 6372 locations, $8.69 Kindle edition.

It is undeniable that the Western Church has made great strides in bringing the Gospel to Asia within the past few hundred years. However, the Gospel is not the only thing we have brought to the Two-Thirds world. Along with advancements in technology and medicine, Western missionaries have also brought (some might say imposed) traditions and customs that are quite foreign to Asia. In doing so, Asian believers have historically struggled to understand how to live out their faith in Christ within their respective cultures. Hwa Yung, Bishop of the Methodist Church in Malaysia, deals with the growing “dissatisfaction with Western theology” among Asian Christians in his book Mangoes or Bananas? (Kindle location 209). Yung’s aim is not simply to inform Western believers about the issues Asian Christians are facing, but to encourage Asian Christians to devote themselves to developing biblical, contextualized theology for their specific contexts.

I would like to bring a few things to the readers’ attention before I go any further. The book is split up between 9 chapters: Introduction, Toward a Theology of Mission, Criteria for Missiological Theology (Parts 1 and 2), Asian Theologies up to World War Two, Ecumenical Theologies After World War Two, Conservative Asian Theologies After World War Two, Toward an Asian Christian Theology, and A Personal Journey (in the Second Edition only). Being that chapters 5-7 deal heavily with the works and influence of other Asian theologians, I will be commenting on Yung’s understanding of how their ideas have shaped Asian theology, rather than critiquing them directly. With that being said, Yung is a conservative evangelical so it will be apparent for readers to know where he stands in relation to the others. Finally, it will be difficult to understand a majority of the book without having a basic understanding of what Paul G. Hiebert calls “the flaw excluded middle” (Kindle location 1491). For Yung, any theology, whether it be Western or Asian, that does not address both ‘high religion’ and ‘folk religion’ is seriously lacking (Kindle location 245). Additionally, any theology that fails to speak to ‘signs and wonders’ of the Holy Spirit does not fully address the Asian Christian’s worldview (Kindle location 4634).

In Chapter 1, Yung takes the time to point out some of the main issues being faced by Asian Christians, issues that imported Western theology has either addressed improperly or neglected entirely. Yung claims that the differences between Asian and Western histories, as well as, worldviews are among some of the biggest hurdles to overcome. Additionally, Yung writes that Enlightenment thought, which has heavily influenced Western theology, “produce[s] a climate of skepticism that hampers the genuine expression of biblical faith (Kindle location 256).” Perhaps the most intriguing of the issues mentioned is that Western theology is viewed as ‘unengaged’—it has “emerged out of the academic and speculative tradition, rather than pastoral and missiological practice (Kindle location 337).” Yung uses these issues as a springboard for discussing the importance of contextual or ‘indigenous’ theology (Kindle location 425). Additionally, Yung emphasizes that a contextualized Asian theology will be birthed out of a proper understanding mission theology (Kindle location 652). Throughout the rest of the book, Yung keeps the theology of mission at the forefront of his mind, for which I applaud him.

Chapter 2 is essentially an analysis of what theology of mission is and is not, or better yet, what it should be in relation to developing Asian theology. Being that Yung is affiliated with the Lausanne Movement, it is no surprise that he takes a look at how it has helped shape our understanding of the mission of God. Yung also does a good job here of pointing out the good and bad that has arisen from a more ecumenical approach. For Yung, mission is “comprehensive,” not confined to evangelism or church planting, rather it includes “deliverance from diseases and demon powers, as well as sociopolitical action and justice in the world (Kindle location 1219).” He carries this discussion over into chapter 3, “Criteria for a Missiological Theology (Part 1).”

Again, Yung takes the time to stress how vital contextualized theology is. Specifically, he provides definitions for things such as evangelism and pastoral ministry from a missiological perspective (Kindle location 1443). Western readers may disagree with his conclusions, especially in terms of the role ‘signs and wonders’ play in ministry, but they cannot deny that the issues addressed are questions that non-Westerners have. Being that I now live in Asia, I found Yung’s conclusions to ring very true. I especially liked the following statement: “For, if our worldviews miss out on some dimension of reality, we will fail to bring the gospel to bear that aspect of reality (Kindle Location 1524).” Western Christians can learn a lot from Yung in this regard; we not only need to contextualize our theology, but we need to also consider the blind spots our own worldviews may have to reality. Thankfully, Yung states, the Holy Spirit can be trusted to lead people in the way of truth despite our mistakes (location 1717). Chapter 4 (Part 2) deals heavily with the hot-button issues of pluralism and inclusivism. Yung argues that these are not really Asian notions, although aspects do exist in some Asian religions. Instead, He argues that pluralism and relativism came out of liberal-Western thought (Kindle location 2261). Furthermore, Yung explains that the majority of world religions are actually exclusivist in many of their claims.

Suffice it to say, Yung finds many problems with Western liberalism, but to be clear, he is not anti-West. In fact, readers will find many places throughout the book where Yung celebrates all that the Western Church has done for the Asian Church. (Kindle location 4472). However, he stresses the idea that Asian Christians should be mindful and vigilant as they theologize for themselves, being careful not to make some of the same mistakes the Church in the West has made. In chapters 5-7, Yung is not simply looking at some prominent Asian theologians in recent history, he is demonstrating the ripples that Western liberalism and dualistic thinking have created in Asian theology. This idea is best summed up at the end of chapter 7: “Underneath the Asian ‘clothes’ and ‘colors’ that have been given to these theologies, we have found layers and layers of Enlightenment and dualistic thought. It appears that mature examples of a truly contextual Asian theology have yet to emerge (Kindle location 4094).” In chapter 8, Yung proposes some key ideas to consider if the Asian Church want to see a change in this trend.

Yung likens chapter 8, “Toward an Asian Theology,” to the drawing together of threads. All of the issues have been presented; it is now time to present some solutions. I personally believe this is where Yung’s writing really shines, as it is exceedingly practical and contextual for Asian readers, and helpful for Western missionaries. First, Yung list off some of the ‘literary genres’ Asian theologians should devote themselves to addressing; they include: biblical exegesis, apologetics, systematic theology, ancestral practices, ‘healing, exorcism, and the miraculous,’ Christian leadership patterns, ethics, personal ethics, and a theology of social engagement. While Yung commends the Church in Asian for its good grasp of evangelism and pastoral care, he argues that much more can be done to help Asian Christians “come to a deeper grasp of the message of the Bible in its totality (Kindle location 4191).”

Yung also mentions some of his concerns for contextualization in Asian theology, one of which may not sit well with more conservative believers. Yung argues for more ‘dialogue with Asian religions’ to show respect, effectively communicate the Gospel across cultures, and cooperate with those working towards social change (Kindle location 4398). While I agree with Yung’s reasons for dialogue, I did feel uncomfortable with his position on “salvation of those who do not have explicit faith in Christ (Kindle location 4407),” but perhaps this is because of my conservative background. I think herein lies one of the reasons Yung wrote the book. It is easy for me as a Western missionary to simply teach what I have been taught without contextualizing or considering that I may be wrong. So, although some discomfort may arise for Western readers from what Yung says, it is not because Yung is unorthodox, rather some issues Western minds have never really tackled. It here that the Asian Church can be of significant help (Kindle location 4218).

Since chapter 9 is more autobiographical and in Yung’s own words “repetitious,” I will conclude with his postscript which explains the title of the book itself. However, I encourage readers to interact with Chapter 9 as it helps paint a picture of how Yung has had to wrestle with many, if not all, of the issues presented in the book.

Yung brings his book to a close by comparing the differences between a banana and a mango. He explains that while Asians love bananas, they are “of uncertain origins (Kindle location 4483).” The mango, however, is uniquely Asian— “the sweet, succulent flesh of the mango is prized much more highly (Kindle Location 4488).” In relation to theology, Yung believes that a majority of Asian theology is like the banana. It looks yellow on the outside, but on the inside, it is white. In other words, Asian theology is just Western theology dressed up to look Asian. Yung says we need more mangoes, or Asian theology that is Asian through and through. He says this is crucial if Asian Christians are to develop a “clearer sense of self-identity” and to heal from any divisions caused by the impositions of those ‘without’ (Kindle location 4504).

As an American Christian living in Thailand, Mangoes or Bananas? is one of the most helpful and insightful books I have read since moving overseas. It opened my eyes not only to the issues my Asian brothers and sisters in Christ are facing, it also taught me how my own culture has influenced the Church in Asia today. Being that this book is more academic in nature, I know that it will not appeal to everyone. However, I think this should be required reading for seminary students regardless of what continent they are serving. The Western Church needs to become much more acquainted with the plight of the Eastern Church. Yung’s book is a great place to start!

Anselm's Proslogion Summary

Every Christian Should Read: Anselm’s “Proslogion”

Introduction to Anselm

Although Italian born, Anselm is most notably remembered for being the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 to 1109 (Wikipedia, “Anselm of Canterbury”). Anselm was a theologian and philosopher who was heavily influenced by Augustine in his theology and style, with most of his writings being in the form of dialogue (The Westminster Dictionary of Church History, 28; class notes, 32). Anselm is often cited as being the father of Scholasticism, as well as, “the originator for the ontological argument for the existence of God (www.britannica.com, “Saint Anselm of Canterbury”).” While he may have died over 900 years ago, his writings, especially in regard to “soteriology and Christology…continue to stimulate theologians” today (WDCH, 28).

Introduction to the Document

Written between 1077-1078, Anselm’s Proslogion (read online) is considered to be one of his greatest works (Wikipedia, “Anselm of Canterbury). Proslogion, meaning “a speech made to another,” reads as a prayer from Anselm to God (94). In this extended discourse, Anselm aims to prove the existence of God with the argument that God is that “than which nothing greater can be thought (100).” Anselm is specifically addressing the foolishness in saying “there is no God (Psalm 14:1).” He claims that even an atheist can imagine a being “that which nothing greater can be thought,” including the existence of said being. The argument found in Proslogion has come to be known as the ontological argument for God’s existence (WDCH, 27).

Summary

  1. Prologue
    1. Understanding the purpose and title
  2. Anselm’s Argument for God (Chapters 1-5)
  3. The Nature of this God (Chapters 6-23)
    1. Reconciling seeming contradictions about His nature
    2. Embracing God’s transcendence and eternality
    3. Understanding the oneness of the Godhead
  4. The Blessings of Believing in this God (Chapters 24-26)

In his Prologue, Anselm explains that the Proslogion was not something that came easily for him to write. In fact, he almost gave up on the project to prove God’s existence with an argument “that needed nothing but itself alone for proof (93).” However, one day the argument materialized “in the very clash of his thoughts (93).” He decided to write his thoughts down in a prayer-like, contemplative format that expressed the struggle in trying to comprehend God’s existence and nature. While the document had other titles (“A pattern for meditation on the rational basis of faith” and “Faith seeking understanding”), Anselm settled on Proslogion after being “encouraged by a number of people” to put his name to the work (93-94).

Anselm begins (Chapter 1) by calling on divine help that he might think rightly about the God whose existence he is setting out to prove (97). Anselm prays that the Lord might make Himself known, in order that, he might better understand who God is. For Anselm, belief precedes understanding; furthermore, he states, “unless I believe, I shall not understand (99).” In chapter 2, Anselm explains what exactly it is that he believes about God. He believes that God is “than which nothing greater can be thought (99).” Anselm also believes that the things that exist in both the understanding and reality are greater than those that exist only in one’s understanding. Therefore, according to Anselm, God (as defined above) must necessarily exist in reality, not just one’s understanding (100). Anselm claims that it would be foolish, “stupid” even, to deny God’s existence because “it is so evident to the rational mind (101).” Anselm praises God for His illumination, so that even if he wanted to stop believing, he cannot deny that he now understands that God exists (101). And this God does not simply exist, He exists as “the greatest of all beings, who alone exists through himself and made all other things from nothing (102).” To Anselm, God is more than just good; He is supremely good. Specifically, God is “whatever it is better to be than not to be (102).”

Anselm now turns to address some of the questions that arise from defining God in this way. For example, Anselm claims that it is better to be able to perceive things than not, so God must be percipient. But, Anselm asks how is this possible if God is not a body, for “only corporeal things can perceive (102).” He concludes that God, being spirit (which is better), perceives things in the most supreme sense. It is a perception that is not limited by the body’s senses (102). Additionally, Anselm says that God’s omnipotence does not mean that God has the power to do anything. He cites that God cannot lie because that would not be the better thing to do. Rather, God’s omnipotence means He “does nothing through weakness, and nothing has power over [Him] (103).” Weakness, as defined by Anselm here, means the power to do something one should not do. In other words, mankind’s ability to do these things does not demonstrate power, it demonstrates weakness.

If there is no weakness in God how then, Anselm asks, does one reconcile God’s mercy and impassibility? Anselm argues that from man’s perspective it only seems that God is merciful in the human sense, meaning God feels compassion and sorrow in His heart. In reality, mankind is simply experiencing the effect of God’s mercy, not that God is actually “afflicted with any feeling of compassion for sorrow (104).” Applying this knowledge of God’s mercy, Anselm goes on to explain how it is that God can show mercy to both the good and the wicked while remaining just. Anselm claims that God’s goodness is “incomprehensible;” furthermore, God acts of goodness do not always make sense to the human mind (104). While God is justified in punishing the wicked, Anselm concedes that it is better that God would both punish and spare the wicked. God’s sparing of the wicked can make the wicked good, and according to Anselm, is, therefore, just in doing so (106). In fact, God is “in keeping with [His] goodness” by sparing the wicked not according to their merits (106). In regard to God’s mercy, Anselm concludes that whatever God wills is just; on the other hand, whatever He does not will is not just. There is no inconsistency between God’s mercy and justice in Anselm’s eyes (107).

Anselm moves on to point out more about the uniqueness of the God “than which nothing greater can be thought.” Anselm lists that God exists independent of anything else (107), is “unbounded and eternal (108),” and can be found by those who seek Him, although only in part (108-110). In response, Anslem prays, “Truly it is more than any creature can understand (109).” Upon considering these things, Anselm revises his initial statement, declaring that God is actually “something greater than can be thought (109).”

Following this assertion, Anselm explains briefly some of the effects that man’s sin has had on the pursuit of understanding God. He explains that “the senses of [his] soul have been stiffened, dulled, and obstructed” because of sin (110). So, even though (in some indescribable way) God can be sensed by the soul, Anselm says God remains somewhat hidden (110). It is at this time (Chapter 18) that Anselm calls upon the Lord for help once again, in order that, he might reach Him and understand Him (111). Anselm comes to Him pondering the things that God is: life, wisdom, truth, goodness, happiness, eternity, and every true good (111). He makes it clear that while God is many things, He is not the sum or composition of all these things. In the words of Anselm: “[God is] not a plurality… [He is] in fact unity itself (111).” Anselm claims this unity also applies to God’s eternity. That is to say that God’s eternality is not split up between “yesterday, today, and tomorrow,” instead, the eternal God exists “outside time altogether (112).” While there are other eternal beings that exist, Anselm says that their eternity cannot be equated with God’s, for He possesses both eternity past and eternity future. In fact, God’s eternity “contains even the very ages of time (113).” This ultimately leads Anselm to conclude that God alone is who He is (113).

Anselm continues his thoughts on God’s unity and goodness by examining them in light of the Trinity. Anselm argues that whatever one person of the Godhead is, so is the Godhead altogether (114). To summarize, the Word (the Son) is true as the Father is true, and the Spirit which proceeds from them both is nothing less than what They are (113-114).  For Anselm, this “supremely simple unity” within the Trinity is the “one necessary thing, in which is all good (114).”

Finally, Anselm reflects on just how great this supremely good God is (114). Anselm asks if things such as created life, salvation, and “wisdom in the knowledge of created things” are truly good things, how good then must the God who created these things be (114). Furthermore, how many blessings await those who love this God (115)? Anslem states that whatever good thing one’s soul earnestly desires that is what God shall grant him in Heaven (115-116). It will be so great that the believer’s “whole heart, mind, and soul will be too small” to contain his joy (116). Anslem concludes his prayer by saying if he cannot fully understand the greatness of God in this life, he looks forward to understanding Him fully in the life to come, when he “[enters] into the joy of [the] Lord (117).”

Significance of the Document

Anselm’s Proslogion is a significant document for the Church in several ways. First, it is a study in how to approach theology from a place of humility. Anselm’s format of a conversation with God serves as a reminder that theology, or the act thereof, is an act of worship. As Anselm said, the person who desires to understand God must believe in Him first. Second, the Proslogion is foundational to understanding an ontological argument for God’s existence. By appealing to the mind, Anselm demonstrates that a belief in God is actually far more rational than a belief that God does not exist. Third, Christians can learn much about God’s nature and attributes from reading this document. By presenting questions and subsequent answers, Anselm helps walk believers through the difficult concepts that arise from studying God’s nature. Finally, Proslogion is also a beautiful reminder of the glory that is to come for believers. Anselm’s work is an example of how important it is for theology to be practical and pastoral. Proslogion has stood the test of time because it stirs both the mind and the heart.

The Father who saves fathers

The Father who saves fathers

I have hesitated for a long time about talking about this publicly, but last year I spoke to my biological father for the first time ever. It actually happened while I was reading my Bible. I heard my phone buzz and saw that I had a message from someone on Facebook. When I saw the name…I froze. I realized it was someone with my biological father’s name. But could it really be him?

I clicked on the notification and read the first line of his message to me. I knew instantly it had to be him because he was talking about things no stranger would know about me. He said a lot of things in the message, but ultimately, he said he wanted to have a relationship with me if I was interested.

It is important for you as readers to understand that I am 25 years old. My parents divorced before I was born. I had never spoken to this man. I only kind of knew what my father looked like from pictures that were taken before I was born. And all I ever heard about him was that he was a very nice man, but he had somewhat of a tumultuous past. I had also been told that he had been in and out of prison over the years. In other words, it was hard to know what to think, let alone how to move forward with my day.

My world had been turned upside down. My initial reaction was that I wanted to tell my wife. But it took me all day to muster up the courage and find the words to tell her. In fact, I ended up blurting it all out right before my wife had to go to work. It felt good for me, but my poor wife had to work for several hours with that bouncing around in her mind. My wife is so good to me, by the way. It just needs to be said again.

After praying to the Lord and talking with my wife, I decided that I would respond to his message. I wanted to at least keep the lines of communication open. Obviously, it is very difficult to start a relationship with someone who lives on the other side of the world, but it was my hope that we could at least get to know one another to some degree.

Over the next few days we would message off and on. And that is when I heard the glorious news that he had become a Christian while in prison. In fact, now he is an evangelist to those with similar backgrounds.

It was at this moment I was reminded again of the greatness of God. Not only did He change my life, he changed my father’s. Not only did He become the Father I needed, He became the Father he needed. Over the years, people have often asked me if I wished I had grown up with a dad or if I would change anything about the past. I wouldn’t change anything because everything that I have experienced led to this wonderful revelation:

God alone has the power to redeem.

He is not limited by our mistakes, failures, or weaknesses. He isn’t indifferent towards our pain or circumstances. He is not slow to move or respond. He does everything in His perfect timing. And there isn’t a single person who is beyond His reach.

God is a loving Father who saves–not only scrawny, 13 year old boys, but also the fathers they have never met.

Glory be to God the Father of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

what are the little foxes in Song of Solomon 2:15

Love and War and Little Foxes

As some of my readers may have noticed, I haven’t been posting everyday like I had been doing earlier in the year. I had every intention of writing for 365 days straight, but things just didn’t work out that way.

Starting this blog wasn’t a New Year’s resolution of mine. It was born out of a very real need for communication in my heart language. When you go from one culture where you can fully express yourself and be understood, to a different culture where those things don’t come as easily or naturally, I think it is important to find some way to  “download” your thoughts. Otherwise, you start to go a little stir crazy.

From the beginning, this blog has been about developing a greater zeal for knowing and loving Jesus Christ. While blogging has truly helped me to organize and weigh all the thoughts I have floating around in my head, it has, first and foremost, helped me to become closer to my Savior.

The reason I stopped writing for the past couple of months wasn’t because I stopped trying to grow in my relationship with Christ. Rather, I stopped writing because I have been growing in my relationship with Christ. The past few months have been some of the most difficult spiritually on record. Recently, I have warred with doubt, fear, and insecurity, sometimes all at once. The enemy has been gunning for me, so to speak. But now, through spending more secret time alone with God, I am learning how to confront these things head on with His Word.

For much of my life, I have cowered from confrontation out of fear of losing someone or something I hold dear. Many times I have asked God to take the fear away without much avail. I realize now that I should instead pray for more love, for it is perfect love that casts out fear (1 John 4:18).

With that being said, I hope to begin writing more regularly again. In general, I pray that God would fill me with more joy, victory, hope, and love as I follow Christ. For me, this is a season of catching foxes. These are the things that seek to steal my joy and disrupt my intimacy with God.

Perhaps, it’s time for you to catch those little foxes too.

Catch the foxes for us,
    the little foxes
that spoil the vineyards,
    for our vineyards are in blossom.

Song of Songs 2:15

Christian couple holding hands together

How Can You Make Your Marriage Stronger?

As much as movies and Hollywood would like you to think otherwise, there is no such thing as a perfect marriage. Every couple has their own issues they deal with. In fact, I don’t know of a single married couple who hasn’t had a fight before. Unfortunately, many couples choose to forego the fights and ignore their problems so that they fester. This weakens the relationship tremendously and inflicts lots of pain and emotional damage. That is why we see so many couples today filing for divorce or choosing not to get married altogether. As Christians, we should understand how important and sacred marriage is. We may never have the “perfect marriage,” but we can all do some things to make our marriages stronger to the glory of God.

Pray and Read Together

This one probably seems obviously, but I cannot stress just how important praying and reading the Bible together is in a Christian marriage. These two things totally affect the overall health of your marriage. If you aren’t regularly praying for your spouse, as well as, encouraging and reminding one another of God’s Word, you need to start today. It is important that a couple grows spiritually together, for the Bible says, “the two shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24; Ephesians 5:31).” If I choose to neglect prayer and the reading of God’s Word, I am essentially neglecting and being unloving towards my wife. The Bible is clear that the more we love and pursue after God, the stronger our marriages will become.

Put Your Spouses Needs Before Your Own

I don’t know about you, but I can be very selfish at times. Not only that, but sometimes I complain about having to get up from the couch to do something for my wife. This is so wrong, and it shouldn’t be so! Ephesians 5:25-28 reads:

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

God has commanded us as husbands to love our wives with a passionate, sacrificial, unconditional love, that is, the love of Christ. And He has commanded wives to submit to their husbands as the Church submits to Christ, its head (Ephesians 5:22-24). In other words, selfishness and pride have no place in a Christian marriage. If the Bible says to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves (Philippians 2:3),” shouldn’t that include our spouses?

Be Completely Honest

Not much needs to be said here other than “a healthy marriage is an honest marriage.” One of the major reasons couples get divorced is because of secrets and lies. Jesus said in John 8:32 that “the truth will set you free.” A marriage that glorifies God is one that is built on the firm foundation of Christ, who is the Truth (John 14:6). Are you telling your spouse the whole truth? Is there something you are hiding or need to confess?

Develop Intimacy With One Another

When many people think about the word intimacy they usually think about sex or physical affection first. While sex is one way Christian couples develop intimacy, it isn’t the only way. However, it should be said that strong, godly couples not only have sex, but they really enjoy sex as it is a gift from God. Sex is sacred, holy, and should be protected as such by both the husband and wife; Hebrews 13:4 says, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”

As stated above, sex isn’t the only way to have intimacy with your spouse. Every husband and wife should think of ways other than sex to develop intimacy. Whether its spending quality time together, planning a trip, giving her a gift, or simply telling her how much I love her, I can do plenty of things to become closer with my wife every day. Ultimately, that’s what marital intimacy is all about; it’s about spending time with the other person in order to know them and appreciate them fully with love, specifically the love of Christ.

Final Thoughts

If it is your desire to see your relationship with your spouse grow stronger then take steps today towards seeing this happen. But let me be clear, nothing in your marriage will change apart from the work and help of the Holy Spirit. In our own strength, we cannot enact the change or growth we so desire. But God can and He will! So, take some time for you and your spouse to pray together and ask God to change you both from the inside out. Brothers and sisters, if and when we devote ourselves to Him, He will “do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us (Ephesians 3:20).”

 

3 Needs in Church Planting

3 Needs in Church Planting

I love to read about missiology and study church planting movements throughout the world. It is amazing to see how God is redeeming people from every nation, tribe, and tongue. He is doing it by His power, according to His will, for His glory and good of the nations. As someone who is living in a cross cultural context, I get to hear the encouraging testimonies of pastors and missionaries from almost every continent. They also share their needs and difficulties of ministering in their native contexts. What I hear most often is the need for 3 things: expository preaching, systematic theology, and the training up of leaders. Now there is a lot that can be said about these things, but today I’ll discuss them briefly.

Expository Preaching

Mark Dever defines expository preaching as “preaching in which the main point of the biblical text being considered becomes the main point of the sermon being preached.” An expository preacher who be someone who keeps his sermon grounded in the text at hand. Please understand that I am not a stickler when it comes to expository preaching. In fact, I believe that topical sermons and even biblical storytelling have their place within the local church. But the majority of our time spent preaching should be devoted to expository preaching, preaching verse-by-verse through every book of the Bible. It is the responsibility of the pastor/teacher to preach/teach the whole counsel of God to his congregation. It is especially important in church planting to explain and teach how all of Scripture fits together in order to provide the local church with a strong, biblical foundation. Yes, the Bible consists of 66 books, but it is telling 1 story. The goal of expository preaching is to help people understand what any given text means and how it applies to us today.

Systematic Theology

Systematic theology involves “organizing the teachings of the Bible into categorical systems.” Let’s say, for example, that you are leading a Bible study on the subject of angels. If you only talked about what Revelation said about angels, you would have a rather lopsided view. Furthermore, if you only taught from the New Testament much of what the Bible teaches about angels in the NT can only be understood with some background of the Old Testament. Systematic theology is the response to the problem of doing theology in the vacuum of one book or testament. It is important that we look to all of Scripture gain a fuller understanding of what it teaches. It is my personal opinion that the teaching of systematic theology is effective for making mature disciples.

In our context, there are few systematic theology resources in Thai. There are some theology books that have been translated from English to Thai. And now we are beginning to see some Thai theologians take on the challenge. Yet, the number of options is still relatively small. As an American, I feel spoiled with the amount of resources available to me in English. It is my desire to see more godly Thai men devote their time and efforts to developing a systematic theology that is wholly biblical and distinctively Thai.

Leadership Training

I think sometimes we assume that future church leaders are going to make themselves, as if people will become prepared by some sort of osmosis. Not only is this foolish; it isn’t the example set in Scripture which is far more intentional (see the relationship between Paul and Timothy). To be clear, I am referring to the training of young men to become pastors, teachers, elders, and deacons. It is imperative that we train them how to preach, teach, and serve. Frankly, this responsibility shouldn’t fall to the Bible colleges and seminaries; it is the job of the local church.

In addition, pastors should always be on the lookout for future church planters and missionaries within their own congregation, starting with the children’s/youth ministry. It is never too early to get people thinking about how they can participate in reaching the nations for Christ. This is just as true overseas. One of our hopes as missionaries is to see more Thais sent out to reach the nations for Christ as well. The Great Commission is the task of the Church, not the responsibility of a select few. Training qualified leaders involves helping them to come to understand the mission of God.


Certainly this list is not exhaustive. There are plenty of other things that are important when planting churches; however, if these 3 things a neglected, the churches we plant won’t be healthy. There are plenty of church plants in the world. The problem is that few of them are rooted in the Word of God. Please be praying for the church planters and missionaries all around the world who diligently devoting themselves to these 3 things.