Me with my lovely wife, Kathy:

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Some wisdom on making decisions:

One of the benefits of the cyber-world is it allows one to become friends with folk he would not otherwise meet. I have never met Pastor Charles Wood. I have benefited from his writing. He describes himself as, "Retired pastor and educator; current husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather,Bible teacher, writer and constrarian, now hidden away in Mish, Indiana."

He sends out his musings to an email list. If you want to be added to his mailing list send me a note and I'll forward it to him.

"Woodchuck" gave me permission to quote the following article:

DECISIONS, DECISIONS, DECISIONS: Many years ago (1981 to be precise), I read Garry Fiesen and Robin Maxon's definitive work, Decision Making and the Will of God. My attention had been drawn to it by a very negative review in Written by Bob Sumner in his Biblical Evangelist. At the time, I wasn't very impressed by Sumner and assumed that something he would treat so negatively must have some value to it (well, at least I'm being honest about the matter). The work was exhaustive (and somewhat exhausting to read - and is still available from, but it got me to thinking a great deal about some of the issues involved in seeking and finding the will of God. The results of some of my thinking will likely show up in my next post. It has long been my contention - and it still is - that much of what we need to know about the will of God is already revealed in the Word of God. Quite often our problem is not with discerning the will of God but in being willing to do the will of God. My over-simplified version would be: if the Bible says to do it or not do it, then either do it or don't do it. There is, however, that gray area where we have to make major decisions that are not specifically covered by the Word of God. I stand fairly well convinced that such decisions make up no more than about 15% of all the decisions we face, but that group can be very significant and also quite vexing in practical reality. Thus, I took special notice of a recent article by Dr. Van in his "Cogitations." I think he gives some sound, concise, Biblically-based advice on the subject. "Christians ought to have some clear pattern to follow in making decisions, whether major or minor. We are constantly making choices. Many things we do out of habit, and establishing commendable habits is important in every life. Some, when they face an important decision, wonder, “What would a parent do?” A good question to ask is, “What would Jesus do?” We make some decisions quickly, without much thought. We may mull over pros and cons of some matters for days and never come to a solution. Too often we only mentally flip a coin (yes, that’s a type of gambling). "There are principles in the Word of God which a believer needs to keep in mind for every decision he makes each day. The first and most important principle is not really a decision open for discussion, and so, although it is primary, it does not involve any “process.” If Scripture says do it, do it; if Scripture forbids it, don’t do it. Many choices are just that clear cut. Should we ever lie? Ought we ever to steal? Should we spend time or money on lascivious living? Should we encourage a grieving brother? Our response to whatever God expects should not be just meeting “the letter of the law,” but a joyful willingness to do His will. "Many moral issues and personal choices are that simple: obey God; do what the Scripture teaches. Should I be a witness to others? That is clearly commanded. Should I go as a missionary to Germany? Several choices and decisions are involved. For such non-moral and unrevealed matters, a simple pattern seems helpful: Ask, Search, Believe. This ASB pattern for decision making should be easy to understand, easy to remember, and easy to put into practice. To repeat, it is not to be employed for anything which is clearly commanded or forbidden in God’s authoritative instruction book (2 Tim 3:16-17). "Adam was given only one restriction, Do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Of the other trees and other fruits he saw day after day, he could freely choose. The number, the variety, the color, the taste – for all of those fruits Adam had full freedom of choice. Whatever he chose and for whatever reason he chose it, he was honoring God. Similarly we today may freely choose to wear a green sweater or a blue one. We may prefer pie to cake. "Our choices, thus, are not always right vs. wrong, but good vs. better, acceptable vs. preferable. Making a “wrong” choice is not involved in non-moral or non-revealed decisions. Although many decisions are personal preferences within the scope of God’s provision, they pertain to matters which we consider really important: Which college? Which job? Knee replacement? To a nursing home? For these decisions involving the outcome of the choice, we desire to have guidance from One who knows us and who knows the future – that is, with God. Try: ask, search, believe. "Ask. You have not because you ask not (James 4:2). A quick, unspoken prayer will do it. Ask God for guidance, for wisdom, for discernment (James 1:5). Clear your heart of personal preferences and be open to whichever choice will most honor Him. Ask God for a proper attitude (see 1 Tim 6:17-19) while weighing which choice to make and in the full confidence of being guided by Him. "'Ask' does not take long. 'Search' means, Do not make a hasty or unfounded choice. You have asked for wisdom, now use the grey matter, and expect God to guide you. You have the Holy Spirit residing within to guide you. He can lead you to Scripture verses or to important principles. He can call to your remembrance things you should weigh. In His Word, God has given us all the guidance we need to make proper decisions; expect the Holy Spirit to impress those principles on your heart. "Do the 'smart' thing – God does not honor dumbness. Confer with godly advisors. Check with those most familiar with matters that are involved. Do not “put out fleece” or expect a lightning bolt. Carefully consider everything involved, and as you face a deadline, make the best choice you can based on all you have considered. "Then trust that God has guided you in your decision. That’s the B of our formula: Ask, Search, Believe. You asked God; now believe He heard and answered and guided you in your choice. Believe that the Holy Spirit directed in the wisdom employed in reaching your decision. Accept that God has provided the principles and the special wisdom needed. He has directed you to make the decision that will best glorify Him. Do not doubt. Do not replay the pros and cons over and over. You asked God to guide – why doubt that He has done so? "Does this mean that if we employ the ASB pattern every decision we make will be the “right” decision? Will we always profit financially? Will all problems always be cleared up? Any who expect that are missing one important phase of the process: the decision we make will “glorify God.” Sometimes that may not mean “success” or “profit” as the world sees it, but in God’s supreme plan for our spiritual maturity, it is that which will accomplish His best. We believe and accept that. We know that all that God wants for us is for our good. All that God allows to happen to us is for some eternal benefit. Till we see Him face to face, we just trust Him and rejoice in His grace and goodness."

Monday, July 21, 2008

Passing it on:

Last week, as TEENWEEK was winding down, I had what could be a once in a lifetime experience.
All of "my guys" were in town. These are guys whom it has been my privilege to mentor, who are serving the Lord in significant ways.
A friend of mine took a picture of all of us at lunch. As soon as he sends me the photo, I'll post it. But here is the roster:
  • Doug Williams is a missionary to the Awa in Ecuador. He is currently serving as Associate Pastor/Missionary in Residence at CBC. He is currently involved in translating the Old Testament into Awapit.
  • Fred Stromberg is on furlough from Honduras. He is involved in church-planting in Ocotepeque.
  • Pink Davis is just about ready to leave for New Zealand (If you are looking for a missionary to support, he is your man.)
  • Daniel Cook is Assistant Pastor at a church in Easton PA.
  • Chris Merrell, a former youth pastor, is seeking direction having been recently forced to leave the country where he had been seeking to be involved in a church planting movement.

What an encouraging lunch. We chatted, we ate, we shared our hearts.

Thanks guys. Let's keep the ball rolling.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Pictures from Day 3, Water Night:

DTWOTYL (pronounced ditwattel) stands for dump the water on the youth leader. Brian Gingrich awaits the inevitable.
The old yellow tent continues to serve.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

TEENWEEK continues:

I'll get some more pictures up in the morning, but PTL, we had 197 teens at the Basketball night of TW.
Thank you for your support of this great ministry. I look forward to testimonies tomorrow, so I can hear about some of the decisions that have been made.
I was able to talk to a young lady about her soul. She told me that she had recently trusted the Lord. She said that she was very glad that she was here this week.

We have a great staff. Thanks!


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Pictures from Monday Night at TEENWEEK

Last night's activities consisted of 5 group obstacles. Teens had to use brains as well as braun, but mostly team-work to get through them:

Tonight we are at the City Pool, 6:00.
Over at 10:00

Monday, July 14, 2008

TEENWEEK day #2:

It is Tuesday morning.
I'm sorry that I didn't get this posted sooner, but the system wasn't working right last night.

We had 120 teens at TEENWEEK Sunday, and around 160 last night. Greg Alderman had a great message. The kids listened especially well.
As you can see our staff is enthusiastic and the kids are having a great time.

Tonight we meet at 6:00 at the Main Street Park, Covington (Swimming Pool)
We do swimming, D.T.W.O.T.Y.L. (pronounced, ditwatel, it's a traditional teenweek game from antiquity.) Greg will be speaking again.
Sometime during the day on Sunday we'll show the TEENWEEK video at CBC. I'll give copies to Pastors Price and Gillette so they can show it as well, if they want to.
More later.

TEENWEEK is here:

TEENWEEK is an amazing happening.
Grace Brethren Church, Faith Baptist Church, and Covington Bible Church put on a great series of events for teens every summer. We began, yesterday with an event at Lake Moomaw.
We went green this year. Other than transporting the group and the equipment to the Lake we used no fossil-fuels in TEEENWEEK Day #1. The kayaks and canoes were propelled by very young muscles.
God is good! He would be good even if our event had been held up by rain, but the weather was a reminder to us about God's grace. We drove through a major rainstorm to get to the Cole's Point recreation area. By the time we got there it was dry. Later, during our meeting, when we were under shelter #1, the rain resumed. for some reason I had emphasized getting all the teens under the roof before the meeting started, so when the rain came the some adults who were on the perimeter had to move in, but the kids were already in place in the dry. : ) PTL!
I don't have the official #s, yet, but there were around 120 teens there, yesterday.
Since our main speaker, Greg Alderman, is arriving today, Chris Merrell shared a message about how to make the most of this week. The bottom-line is something all of us, old as well as young, need to apply.
  • Pray--a number of kids signed up to pray at 10:00 & 2:00. Join in!
  • Realize that life is not primarily about me, but about God, and what the Lord wants to do through us, particularly,
  • Reaching out to others. Draw them in. Reach out to them. Share the Lord with them.
  • Make the most of the opportunities. We can see our area change as we see lives changed.

I hope to put up some pictures later today.

Check back for updates.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Some further thought on Micronesia:

Missions work is complicated. It always has been. I think it is more so today because of the rapid change in the world around us.
I have already introduced you to Asial Ruda. I enjoyed getting to know him while I was in Palau. Like me, he was visiting there for Gospel Day. Though he is Chuukese, and ministers in Yap, for a number of reasons--involvement with Liebenzell Mission, being a graduate of PIBC (Or as it was known when he graduated, Micronesian Instutute of Biblical Studies), etc.--he has a number of connections to the church in Palau. Over a couple of meals that we shared together, Asial shared with me about some of the changes that have taken place in his Island state. Asial is still in his 40s. He told me that when he first went to Yap it was common for people to show up at church functions wearing grass skirts. When there was a meal at their meeting place, many people would bring food wrapped in leaves. No more. Now it is Western clothing and Tupper-ware. Former Missionary on Palau, Bill Schuit, told how when he was there, boats were the primary means of transportation, now roads and bridges have changed life so that one local told him that only tourists and fishermen use boats now.
In the West, we have been dealing with negative culture for decades and we still aren't doing as well as we would like. There is no gradual change in these Islands on the other side of the world. When satellite TV comes, it all comes. When Internet access arrives, everything can be accessed.
Missionaries, pastors and other Christians workers are constantly trying to hit a moving target. "Let's see what is the status of the culture of the people I'm trying to reach, today?"

My conclusion is that in a place like Micronesia, where there is a substantial church already in existence--flawed, but in many places, and ways, basically sound--that our best chance is to help train a generation of indigenous Christian-leaders, who can bring the changeless truth of scripture to their rapidly changing world.

Again, I welcome your comments.

Check out my friend, Dave Owen's blog for some more pictures and reports.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Can a church lacking in orthopraxy, really be orthodox?

Again, if this is the first time you are reading this blog for a while, you might want to read the last 2 postings. Hopefully, they will make this one make more sense--or less nonsense, maybe.
[in the picture to the right, Asial Ruda, a Chuukese missionary to Yap, and Harald Gorges, Liebenzell Mission, Germany]

I grew up spiritually in an Fundamentalist environment. My church was an IFCA, Bible Church. My pastor graduated from Moody, back when it was a bastian of conservative Christianity. I attended a Bible Institute and Bible College that both had a clear linkage to the birth of Fundamentalism in the early-mid 2oth
Century. I pastor a church that comes from the same heritage.

If I am talking to the right person, I might describe myself as a Fundamentalist. I owe a great deal to those who came out from among the liberals and Biblical compromisers of the past.

However, the word Fundamentalist has come to mean something different than it once did. It seems like Fundamentalists used to stand for something. Often, now, they primarily stand against things. Then there are many who call themselves Fundamentalists who have taken extreme positions--KJV only, various dress-codes, a very narrow view of aceptable music, etc. When people have this in mind when they use the term Fundamental, I reject the label. Unfortunately, in the current culture, I'm afraid that this is the kind of philosphy that people usually associate with the term. (Likewise the term "evangelical" is becoming so associated with politics that it may be a worthless description as well.)

I tell you a little about where I came from, in order to give you a frame of reference for what I am about to write.

Fundamentalist type mission agencies, in my experience have been rather quick to declare vast parts of the world as devoid of any sound churches and in great need of evangelism. I think everyplace is in need of a greater witness, and the Lord commanded us to go into all the world, but the following anecdotes will give some idea of what I mean:

  • I remember hearing a missionary, speaking in a Bible College Chapel, say concerning an entire country that there was no sound gospel witness there. I remember sittng there, thinking about a friend of mine who was a missionary in the country that was being mentioned. The problem was my friend ministered with a mission that didn't have "Baptist" in it's name. So it didn't count.

  • I was, a couple of years ago, in a preacher's meeting where a representative for a stateside church planting mission was speaking. He made the categorical statement that every community, not just town or city, but every community ought to have a Bible Church. I remember thinking what if a small community has a conservative Presbyterian church, a solid Baptist Church, through in a Brethren, Gospel preaching Charismatic, and a solidly Evangelical Methodist Church for good measure. Should that community have a Bible Church? Should the resources that are perhaps already spread to thin be further dilluted by the entrance of another church? I fear that the gentleman would have unequivocally responded, "Yes."

  • In recent years I have become acquainted with some fine Christians from other parts of the world whose heritage is much different than mine. My Fundamentalist upbringing (and colleagues, I fear) look at suspiciously at these believers. (To be sure there are areas of disagreement between me and them, but) I have been impressed with these folk's passion to serve our Lord and to live life based on the teaching of God's word. These Christians don't cross their "T"s and dot their "I"s in the same way I do, but they are solid Christians doing good work. I have been privileged to be in parts of the world where they have left their missions imprint. Some of the churches they have left behind are carrying on solid ministry; others, not so much--not unlike the pattern I observe in churches founded by more Fundamental mission agencies. Yet many in the Fundamental camp are not even willing to give these folk a place at the table. They look at what they have done and instantly declare that it is insufficient, and not worthy of support.

I asked the question in the title of this post, Can a church be orthodox if it is lacking right practice? One of the problems is that we in the Fundamentalist tradition have been very good at "rightly dividing" the Word of God and constructing ever more narrow doctrinal statements to keep out various heterodoxies. It is much harder to look at a church and judge whether or not the ministry is leading to sound living. I know the two should go together. My observation is they often do not.

I fear that too often decisions about where to plant churches are being made on an entirely insufficient search for orthodoxy, without a correspondingly rigorous investigation concerning the difference that a ministry may be making in the lives of people.

Again, I'm open for comment.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

What is the best way of getting the job done?

If you just checked in, you might want to read my previous post to get some background on what I'm talking about. I took this lovely little girl's picture right after a very long service, June 29th at the Koror Evangelical Church. I know some of the people who teach her, and other boys and girls in Palau. I know that these folk have a great desire to see little girls like this grow into women who love the Lord, and serve Him passionately. Having met some Palauan Christians who are 10, 20, 6o years older than this little girl, I see some measure of success.

So, how do we seek to provide the best opportunity for this child to grow in the Lord, reach her peers and make a difference in her tiny island-nation?

Obviously, we need to infect her world with the gospel. I didn't, likely couldn't talk to this little girl, but judging from where and when I met her--having just come from a children's meeting at church--and by the smile on her face I think there is good evidence that the Gospel has entered her heart.

If people are going to serve the Lord, there needs to be more. What is the best way of providing the people of a particular area the resources to get the job done for the Lord? In particular, let me frame the question this way:

I'm trying to keep this abstract, but I just read a blog that said that this little girl's church is hopelessly deficient. What is needed is a new, different, better, more nearly doctrinally correct assembly of believers. While out on a bike-ride I went by the church founded by the blogging pastor. Is he reaching people for Jesus? I hope so. Is what he is doing--and those who work him--best for the Christian future of my young, photogenic friend? I'm not so sure.

I don't know the pastor of the church I rode by, but do have some acquantence with the mentality that seems to always think that the answer is to start another church. I get the idea that faced with following scenario many of my colleagues would give their standard answer: "What this community needs is a solid New-Testament Bible-preaching (fill in some other descriptive words) Church. I think I'll start one."

  • A town of a thousand located at an oasis in the middle of an otherwise desolate, desert Island, surrounded by thousands of miles of ocean.

  • In that town there are four churches all which basically teach the Bible, each with a solid attendance of 250.

  • However, one church baptizes wrong, another sings wrong, the third associates with objectionable ministries, and the fourth has a pastor who has been married too many times.

In my observation, which is admittedly very limited, before missionary X goes to my fictional village to start a fifth church, he doesn't even know about all four churches. Or, if he does his knowledge is very limited.

Just a question a few questions for thought:

  • Is a fifth church really what this community needs?

  • Is there a place for a ministry that might help move one or more of these existing churches to move toward a more nearly Biblically-correct position? (I have been pastoring the same church for 35 years. We still don't have it right.)

  • We are stewards of the resources God has placed in our keeping. Is this the best way to use them?

We desire to see the church blossom, but the some of the decisions we have to make along the way are prickly! We will not wrestle with these tough choices without some discomfort.

Some friends of mine, missionaries, a while back were faced with some choices along the lines of what I am discussing. Here are some communites with churches, all flawed. What is the best way for us to have a lasting impact? How do we help begin a movement that will result in the Gospel going out for generations? My friends chose to work with those churches and leaders who were willing to be taught. The answer, they concluded was not to start a new church, but help an old one.

Speaking of help, I could use some in clarifying my thinking. I'm not done yet, but I welcome your comments.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Seventy-nine years of the Gospel.

It was just my privilege to be in Palau for a little over a week. Yes, I did survive. In fact a week ago today I was enjoying a picnic on one of the lovely beaches in the Rock Islands of Palau. I understand it was one of the spots featured in the series. While I did enjoy the scenery, snorkeling, food, and the new experiences; that wasn't why I was there.

It is complicated as to how I got there, but I'm on the board of the Pacific Islands Bible College. The main part of our operation is on the Island of Guam--a USA territory, and the hub of the region called Micronesia. To get there go to Hawaii and keep going for another 4,000 miles, or head to Japan and head south for 1,500 miles or there-abouts. Overall the region is a big as the Continental United States, but all the land mass together is smaller than Rhode Island. As one would expect, because of the vast expanses of ocean that separate these Islands, there is a great deal of diversity among the people of this region. The following is not exhaustive; it represents my limited interface with this little-known (at least to most Americans) part of God's world.

Beginning in the 16th Century Portuguese and Spanish explorers made contact with the islands. The region was dominated by Spain until 1899.

For the next couple of decades Germany was the dominant influence.

In the World-War-One era the Japanese moved in. They developed many of the Islands militarily. On many of the Islands there were far more Japanese than natives. Their mark on the culture of the Islands can be heard in the languages, tasted in the food, and discerned in the phonebook by reading the names.

Most Americans are familiar with the War in the Pacific--part of World War II. Pelileu is part of Palau. The people of Guam celbrate not only the Fourth of July, but, also, July 21st--commemorating the American liberation of the Island from Japanese control. A friend of mine from Yap told me about how many of neighbors were made slave-labor for the Japanese military, and how he hid in a homemade bomb shelter during American bombings. The Chuuk lagoon is known as the Japanese Pearl Harbor. In Operation Hailstone many warships and transfer vessels were sunk. They remain until the present, making the lagoon a premier wreck diving site.

The United States was the controlling influence in the region following the war. That influence continues, even though the most of the Islands are now part of independent nations.

The Federated States of Micronesia is made up of Chuuk, Yap, Pohnpei, and Kosrae. There are nearly 110,ooo people who live there.

Guam is a US Territory, witch maintains a significant military presence there. The native Chomorro people are minority. You can shop at Kmart, eat at chain restaurants, and do other typical American things there. There are between 150, and 200 thousand people who live there. It is a horrible place to go bird-watching. The brown tree snake, accidently imported during WWII, has all but eliminated the avian population.

Palau is one of the smallest nations in the world. It has a population of 21,000. It appeared to me that all of them do nothing more than drive their cars up and down the main road in the Capital, Koror. : )

There are some other Islands involved, but since I haven't had much to do with them, I'll leave the research up to you.

PIBC is a college that functions in three different nations. The main campus is on Guam. We have a campus in Chuuk state and a teaching facilities in Chuuk state, and Yap state of the Federated States of Micronesia. We also have a teaching facility in Palau. That represents people whose primary language is Chuukese, Yapese, Palauan. The campus on Guam is also host to people who speak several other tongues. Instruction at the college is in English. Students have to pass a proficiency exam to enroll.

As I said, before I got into the geography lesson, I was in Palau because I serve on the board of PIBC. This year, so we could interface with a celebration of the Palauan Evangelical Church, our yearly meeting was held in Palau. Billy Kuartei, board member, pastor of Koror Evangelical Church, and Palauan president's chief of staff, was our host.

Meetings are meetings, so I won't bore you with the details. Bottom line, thanks to the dedicated, sacrificial ministry of the staff, the school is moving ahead with its mission to train servant leaders in this region.

Seventy-nine years ago missionaries from Liebenzell Mission (here is a link to the American division of the mission) Germany together with representatives from the Evangelical Church of Chuuk, brought the Gospel to the Islands of Palau.

Liebenzell published a book with an overview of the growth of the church in Palau. If you contact them at the address above, they'll help you get one. I don't know what they cost.

Today there are congregations in many of the communities.

As I sat in meetings celebrating the entrance of the Gospel to these Islands, and participated in a group discussion related to church issues, I was struck by several thoughts. Check back over the next several days, and I'll share some thoughts and questions for discussion.