God is glorious for cross-cultural missionaries

Here is the second part of my course preparing people for cross-cultural mission. (Here is part one.)

God is glorious

You are going to be very conscious of what other people think about you.

Your fellow team members

Do they think you are competent? What are they making of your progress? How do they evaluate your ability to adapt to the culture? How do they evaluate your ability to do ministry?

They will make many suggestions, mostly from a desire to help you. But they will often sound like criticisms – especially if you are already feeling insecure (‘You should have done this.’ ‘Don’t say that.’ ‘You should try doing this.’).

Your neighbours and friends.

You want to make a good impression for Christ. What do they think of you? What do they make of your strange ways? Are you getting the culture right? Are you reading their responses accurately?

Your supporters back home

People are giving to support you. Are they getting value for money? Will they continue their support? Will they be impressed by your reports? Do they value what you’re doing? What will you say when you have nothing about which to write home? What will you say when all you have been doing is slowly learning the language? What will they think when things go wrong?

Communication back home is difficult. You will be going through experiences that are hard to share, that are outside other people’s experience.

We can easily become controlled by the opinions of other people. This is one of the commons reason why we sin: we crave the approval of other people or we fear their rejection. We ‘need’ the acceptance of others and so we’re controlled by them. The Bible’s term for this is ‘fear of man’. ‘Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe’ (Proverbs 29:25).

The Bible’s response is a vision of the glory of God. We need a big view of God. We need to fear God. ‘He will be the sure foundation for your times,’ says Isaiah, ‘a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.’  (Isaiah 33:6) The key to God’s treasure is to fear him. To fear God is to respect, worship, trust and submit to God. We tremble before him in awe. The fear of God is the response to his glory, greatness, holiness, power, splendour, beauty, grace, mercy and love. Often, in Psalms 18 and 34 for example, this is what the Psalmist is doing. In the face of some threat he is speaking the truth about God to himself. Keep telling your heart that God is glorious so that fear of others is replaced by trust in God. ‘I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.’ (Psalm 34:4-5)

What behaviour and emotions might follow from not embracing the truth that God is glorious?

Again, think of putting that towel over your head so you find refuge in God. Whenever you see someone who you fear or whose approval you crave, imagine God next to them. Who is the biggest? Who is the most majestic? Who is the holiest? Who is the most beautiful? Who is the most threatening? Who is the most loving?

Jesus says: ‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul,’ says Jesus. ‘Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.’ (Matthew 10:28) The fear of God liberates us from being controlled by other people’s expectations. We are controlled instead by God’s expectations. We still serve other people. That’s why we’ve been set free (Galatians 5:13). We take other people’s expectations seriously because we want to love them as God commanded. But we’re not enslaved by them. We don’t serve them for what they can give us in return – approval, affection, security or whatever. We serve them for Christ’s sake. By submitting to his lordship, we’re free to serve others in love.

It is an act of believing the gospel to open up, to be able to say: ‘I’m having a bad day, please pray for me,’ to not feel the need to protect your reputation or project your best.

Rewrite Psalm 31, either as a version adapted to your context or as a negative Psalm which says the opposite of the original.

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Porn Statistics

In my forthcoming book, Captured By a Better Vision: Living Pom-Free purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US, I describe the spread of pomography as an epidemic. Here are some stats that back up this claim …

  • Every second, 28,258 Internet users are viewing pomography and $3,075.64 is being spent on pomography
  • The pomography industry is larger than the revenues of the top technology companies combined: Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix and EarthLink
  • There are 4.2 million pomographic websites, which is 12% of all the websites on the internet
  • Every day there are 68 million (25% of the total) search engine requests for pomographic terms
  • 42.7% of internet users view pom
  • The average age of first exposure to pomography is 11 years old and 80% of 15-17 year olds have had multiple hard-cor e exposure
  • The 35-49 age group is the largest consumer of internet pomography
  • 47% of Christians say that pomography is a major problem in the home
  • 17% of women struggle with pomography addiction and 70% of women keep their cyber activities secret
  • The USA produces 89% of all pomographic web pages (Germany are the next biggest producer, producing 4% of all pomographic web pages)

Captured by a Better Vision aims to offer hope for people struggling with pom and guidance for those trying to help them. It is published by IVP  in the UK on 19 March 2010. It will be published in the US by InterVaristy Press.

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Captured by a Better Vision – Contents and Commendations

My new book, Captured by a Better Vision: Living Pom-Free purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US, is due to be released in the UK on March 19.

Here are some commendations:

‘Fantastic practical and realistic help… I highly commend this timely book.’ Carl Beech

‘A lifeline for those who feel trapped… A message of grace, strength and hope.’ Ian Coffey

‘Will rescue many a marriage and restore many a man to a place where purity and passion coexist in biblical relationship.’ Steve Gaukroger

Here’s the table of contents:

Foreword by Lyndon Bowring

Introduction: Let’s talk about porn

1 Looking beyond the frame

2. Freed by the beauty of God

3. Freed by the grace of God

4. The fight of faith

5. Freed for the glory of God

6. Conclusion: Putting it all together

The chapter titles don’t give much away, but they do emphasise that this is not just a grim assessment of the grip that porn has on so many Christians. Instead, this is a book which brings a positive message of hope and freedom. I’ll post an excerpt in a future post to give you a flavour of the book.

You can see me talking about the book here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FO3NktNg3qU

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John Owen on Christ’s Humbling Himself

More extracts from John Owen on The Glory of Christ.

Chapter Four: The Glory of Christ’s Humbling Himself

We may behold the glory of Christ in his infinite willingness to humble himself to take this office of mediator on himself, and uniting our nature to his for that purpose. He did not become mediator by chance. Nor was it imposed on him against his will. He did not have to become mediator. He freely chose to become mediator. He willingly humbled himself in order that he might make a righteous peace between God the Judge and man the sinner. (39)

Christ is a sanctuary, a sure refuge to all that put their trust in him. and what would a troubled man fleeing to a safe place be looking for? He would look for all his needs to be met, to be delivered from all his fears, to be protected from all dangers.  Such is the Lord Christ to all sin-distressed souls.
     Christ is a refuge to us in all our spiritual sorrows and troubles (Heb. 6:18). Are you burdened with a sense of sin? Are you weighed down under the oppression of any spiritual enemy? Do we, as a result of any of these things, ‘walk in darkness and have no light’? One look at the glory of Christ will strengthen and comfort us. (47-48)

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John Owen on the Glory of Christ in His Person

More extracts from John Owen on The Glory of Christ

Chapter Three: The Glory of Christ in His Person

This is a glory whose beams are so wonderful that the blind world cannot see their light and beauty and so many deny the incarnation of God. Nevertheless, this is the glory of our religion, the glory of the church, the only rock on which it was built, the only source of present grace and future glory. (28)

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John Owen on Christ’s Glory as God’s Representative

More extracts form John Owen’s Glory of Christ.

Chapter Two: Christ’s Glory as God’s Representative

The foundation of our religion, the rock of which the church is built, the ground of all our hopes of salvation, of life and immortality, is the revelation that is made of God’s nature and will by Jesus Christ. So if Christ fails, if he, the Light of the world becomes darkness, then we are for ever lost. But if the Rock stands firm, the church is safe and shall be triumphant for ever. (12)

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John Owen on Seeing Christ’s glory

I’m reading The Glory of Christ by John Owen while on holiday and thought I would blog some extracts.

I’m reading the abridged and simplified version by R. J. K. Law (Banner of Truth, 1994). Owen’s original work is entitled Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ and is in volume one of Owen’s Works (ed. Goold).

Chapter One: Seeing Christ’s Glory

The greatest desire that Christ expressed in his prayer was that his people might be with him to behold his glory (John 17:24). It is clear that in this prayer the Lord Christ was referring to his own glory and actual sight of it (John 17:4-5). He is not concerned that his disciples should merely see how glorious he was, but that the beholding of his glory might bring encouragement, strength, satisfaction and blessedness to his disciples. (1-2)

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