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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4Gs in F – a New Song

Here’s a new song that I wrote ages ago, but I’ve just realised I’ve never posted it on the blog. It’s an attempt to express in song something of the pastoral significance of the 4Gs that I’ve talked on the blog before.

Weary of striving to make it alone,
fearful of failure or trying to atone,
I hear ‘It is finished’, Christ sits on the throne:
Jesus, I rest in you.

2. Weary of fearing what others may say,
needing approval to feel I’m okay,
when Jesus alone is the Lord I obey:
Jesus, I rest in you.

3. Weary of chasing the lies of this world,
finding its treasures an empty reward:
my beautiful Saviour, most glorious Lord,
Jesus, I rest in you.

4. Weary of needing to be in control,
brooding on worries, disturbing my soul:
the Stiller of storms who alone can console,
Jesus, I rest in you.

5. Weary of memories recalled with dismay,
burdened with guilt that I can’t sweep away,
when Jesus has cancelled what I could not pay:
Jesus, I rest in you.

Here’s the music: Weary of Striving (Jesus I Rest in You). You can also sing it to the tune of ‘Just As I Am’.

The astute among you will notice there are five verses. One of the Gs gets two verses. I’ll leave you to work out which. But here’s a clue. Both my daughters are named after this ‘G’. It’s the second name of one and the other’s first name is the Hebrew word for it.

Tim Chester © 2007 c/o http://www.thecrowdedhouse.org. May be copied and used freely for non-profit personal and congregational use.

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The 4Gs – truths to set you free

In my book You Can Change I identified four liberating truths about God. I suggested that underlying  all our sinful behaviour and negative emotions is a failure to believe one of these truths at a functional level. Embracing, believing, trusting, delighting in the appropriate liberating truth therefore has the power to set us free from sin – though we need to recognize that this typically involves a daily struggle – the fight of faith. These four liberating truths offer a great diagnostic tool for addressing sin in our lives and in the lives of others. The four truths are:

1. God is great – so we don’t have to be in control

2. God is glorious – so we don’t have to fear others

3. God is good – so we don’t have to look elsewhere

4. God is gracious – so we don’t have to prove ourselves

Last year I visited Soma Communities with whom The Crowded House have a strong partnership. Readers of this blog will know Soma have been a strong influence on us.

Soma Communities have been using the four liberating truths a lot. They have coined the term ‘the 4 Gs’ as a short description for them. Caesar Kalinowski emailed me today saying, ‘We continue to be absolutely rocked by the 4 Gs … We now do them each time at Soma School due to the overwhelming response to the material.’ They have four free audio messages on each of the 4 Gs based on talks they gave in Estonia.

You Can Change purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US is available in the UK from IVP and is being published by Crossway in the US in March 2010. I notice Crossway already have You Can Change on their website with a cover design (below). In the meantime you can buy the UK edition from Amazon.com.

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Suffering followed by glory

Here’s another sample chapter from my latest book The Ordinary Hero: Living the Cross and Resurrection – out now  from IVP UK. It’s taken from Part Three: The Pattern of the Cross and Resurrection – Suffering followed by Glory.

Chapter 12. Suffering Followed by Glory

Purchase copies from Amazon here: purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US

The Ordinary Hero outline

The Ordinary Hero sample chapter

The Ordinary Hero ‘wordle’

The Ordinary Hero movie

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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 appreciating Christ’s glory

In his book, The Glory of God, John Owen gives advice for appreciating the glory of Christ as God’s representative.

1. Make up your mind that to behold the glory of God by beholding the glory if Christ is the greatest privilege which is given to believers in this life. This is the dawning of heaven. It is the first taste of that heavenly glory which God has prepared for us, for this is eternal life, to know the Father and Jesus Christ whom he has sent’ (John 17:3). (22-23)

2. … We are not so foolish as to think we can learn a trade without the diligent use of helps. Shall we think that we may become spiritually skilful and wise in the understanding of this mystery without making any real effort to use the helps God has given us? The most important of them is fervent prayer. Pray with Paul that ‘the eyes of your understanding may be enlightened to behold’ the glory of God in Christ.  Pray that the ‘God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him’. Fill your minds with spiritual thoughts of Christ. Lazy souls do not get the tiniest sight of this glory. The ‘lion in the way’ deters them from making the slightest effort. (23)

3. Learn how to behold the glory of Christ by remembering how you once set your mind on worldly things. Sinful, unregenerate people filled with lustful desires continually think about and conjure up in their minds those objects which satisfy their desires until their ‘eyes become full of adulteries, and they cannot cease from sinner’. If they work as hard as that to feed their lusts, shall we not work just as hard in beholding that which transforms our minds into Christ’s likeness, so that the eyes of our understanding shall be continually fill with his glory? (24)

This last paragraph is full of insight. When I think how I sometimes foster my sinful desires, I can see how I might foster Spirit-inspired desires.