Go the Extra Mile

But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles (Matthew 5:39-41).

I love the Sermon on the Mount, as this is where Jesus taught His followers to not merely obey the law but to go the extra mile in serving God, experiencing life with Him instead of just doing the bare minimum (the Pharisee way).

Although the Bible is the guideline for every true Believer, the above verses are ones I never hear taught. I hear more people who are concerned about being taken advantage of, and whose focus is on defending themselves and their “rights.”

Jesus went on to say:

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? (Matthew 5:46).

I agree that evildoers should be punished, and Scripture affirms that, but Jesus taught us to go the extra mile in order to live at peace as much as possible and to love those who do us wrong.

extramile

Maybe part of the problem is that we think of love as warm, fuzzy feelings toward a person when, in reality, love is something that comes from the heart. It is refusing to be angry and bitter no matter how much of a right you have to be so.

I realize this is easier said than done, but this is where the Holy Spirit comes in. James 5:16 tells us that “the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” I am testimony to the fact that, if you desire desperately to have a clean heart toward someone who has wronged you, God will answer that prayer.

My bottom line is this: Do you respond to situations like Jesus would? There is a time to speak and a time to be silent. There may be a time to defend yourself, but I believe that it’s often pride that causes our flesh to become defensive and retaliate. We need to stand for truth, but our focus should be on Christ and glorifying Him. If that is not your motive, pray for wisdom before you do anything other than what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount.

A Testimony of Faith

A poem written during the nascent days of The Reformation.

By Margaret of Valois, duchess of Alencon, France,th

sister of King Francis I, a persecutor of The Reformers.

Is there a gulf of ill, so deep and wide

That can suffice but e’en a tenth to hide

Of my vile sins?

Well do I fell within me is the root,

Without are branch and foliage, flower and fruit.

My God, thou hast come down on earth to me, –

To me, although a naked worm I be.

Word Divine, Jesus the Salvator,

Only Son of the eternal Paer,

The first, the last; of all things renovator,

Bishop and king, and mighty triumphator,

From death by death our liberator.

By faith we’re made the sons of the Creator.

Though poor, and weak, and ignorant I be,

How rich, how strong, how wise I am in Thee!

In spirit noble, – but in nature slave;

Immortal I am, -tending to the grave;

Essence of heaven, – and yet of earthly birth;

God’s dwelling place, – and yet how little worth.

Facing a Task Unfinished

This is a great post about the hymn entitled, “Facing a Task Unfinished.” It can be found here at the Gospel Coalition website.

“In Matthew 24, atop the Mount of Olives, Jesus told his disciples, “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Almost 2,000 years later, we’re still here, which is all the proof we need to keep on preaching the gospel, especially in places it’s yet to be heard.

Yet the gospel message isn’t restricted to sermons or tracts or books. Think of how you first absorbed the good news. For many of us, I imagine it wasn’t through a sermon, but a song.

Keith and Kristyn Getty are convinced of the vital role music plays in Christian discipleship. This is why they’ve spent much of the past two decades writing new hymns and restoring old ones—to help Christians and churches continue “making melody to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19).

I corresponded with Keith Getty about their re-introduction of what he dubs the “greatest hymn on missions ever written,” how God uses music to shape Christians, other missions hymns your church should start singing, and more.


What’s the story behind the song “Facing a Task Unfinished”? Who wrote it and why?

Frank Houghton, an Anglican bishop and missionary to China, wrote the hymn in the 1930s. Originally it was written with a request to bring 200 more missionaries to China, which was a horrific period in Chinese history.

Facing a Task Unfinished” was a hymn I grew up loving. So I began talks with OMF (China Inland Mission) about a new version around the time of TGC’s Missions Conference in 2013. OMF then approached me last year and asked if we would do something for their 150th anniversary in Singapore, where OMF director Patrick Fung planned to introduce a new challenge and revitalized vision for missions.

We were so excited for the hymn itself. I think it’s the greatest hymn on missions ever written. The vital importance of missions is present throughout the entire song. So we put an agreement together to create a new copyright.

The hymn has fallen out of widespread use over the past century. How’d you come across it?

It was still sung in the churches I grew up in, but I think the hymn lacked two or three things it needed for popular appeal in today’s churches. First, it’s a Great Commission hymn, but it doesn’t give a chance to respond. Second, it was typically sung as a strophic four-part hymn, and with each new word came a new note—this tends to give guitarists sore hands! Third, the hymn doesn’t have an amazing sense of contour or journey, so by writing a new chorus we shaped it into more of a ballad. As a result, we were able to reinvent the song, still allowing people to sing Houghton’s original lyrics but with Kristyn’s new chorus.

You’ve talked about the “power of a hymn to galvanize a community, even in the most difficult of circumstances.” When it was originally written, in what ways did it accomplish that?

The amazing story of the song is that 200 missionaries were able to go out to China. The wider story of China is perhaps the most incredible story of Christian growth in history. The church has grown from fewer than 750,000 Christians in the 1930s to more than 80 million today. My wife and I always comment that when we sing the hymn, it clears our minds of things that are, by comparison, irrelevant.

How do you hope its re-introduction will continue that tradition?

Houghton understood that what we sing affects what we think, how we feel, what we pray for, and, ultimately, every decision we make in life. It is my prayer that by singing this song Christians around the world will get more excited about both music and mission, but also about living the mission of God on our own doorsteps and in our own kitchens, as well as around the world.

I imagine few churches sing hymns about cross-cultural missions—not for lack of desire, but lack of worthy choices. Could you point our readers toward a few missions hymns that are underrated and under-sung?

When Don Carson asked us to do the music for TGC’s Missions Conference, we wrote a song called “Lift High the Name of Jesus.” Over the years, Stuart Townend and I have written hymns inspired by different key missional figures. Our love for Martin Luther’s hymns inspired “O Church Arise.” Our friendship with Operation Mobilization and its prayer book led to us write “Across the Lands.” We also wrote a song called “Hear the Call of the Kingdom.”

The missions hymns I sang growing up were mostly gospel songs from the 19th- and 20th-century worldwide missions movement, which weren’t exactly the most timeless hymns. “All Over the World,” “For My Sake and the Gospel’s, Go,” and “We Have a Story to Tell the Nations” are a few I grew up singing. Other traditional hymns I sang in more choral-based churches include “Who Is on the Lord’s Side” or, my favorite, a hymn called “Go Forth and Tell” (set to the English choral tune “Tell Out My Soul”).

Let’s say a pastor or music director wants his church to start singing this song in their corporate gatherings. What does he need to do next?

It’s simple. If they visit our website, we’ve got everything they’ll need: lead sheets, chord charts, orchestrations, as well as translations into other languages. In fact, this coming Sunday, February 21, we’re asking any church who’s interested to sing “Facing a Task Unfinished.” Our goal is over 10,000 churches across every continent!

Speak the Truth in Love

I don’t know what your first thought was when you saw the title to this post, but my emphasis is going to be on two small, but very powerful words: in love.

We live in a world where people are willing, and often way too eager, to give their opinions on things. Gone are the days when people would weigh their words and find a way to be gracious toward others (at least to their face).

Although there is a need for honesty in a time where it’s near impossible to know who to trust, many forget that, if they don’t have love, they are merely a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13). If something needs to be said, there is a way to say it, and that way is with grace and humility.

One could argue that Jesus was not always graceful when He confronted sin, but I don’t feel like this gives us the right to get in people’s face, tear them down, call them names, etc. Jesus taught His disciples to love each other and to think of others as better than themselves. If you truly believe that the person you are confronting is better than you, you will consider your words carefully before you say them.

truthinlove3

People are more likely to receive a rebuke if they know you love them and truly care about them. If you are more concerned with being right than you are about the other person being right with God, then hold your tongue and do not attempt to address the issue. More often than not, you will just make things worse, and they may harden their heart even further and never repent.

I see this in doctrinal debate too. I love being around people who are strong in their faith and know what they believe, but some have a hard time having strong beliefs without condemning those who have different beliefs. Within the Church, there are different callings, gifts, and, yes, even doctrines. Just because someone believes differently than you do does not mean they do not love Jesus. If you are a true Believer, you are most likely at a different place in your spiritual walk than you were ten years ago. We should all be constantly learning and growing, so learn to bear with those who are at a different place than you are.

In John 17:21, Jesus prayed that we would be one, just as He and the Father are one, but that unity will not come by fighting each other. You are responsible to study to show yourself approved (2 Timothy 2:15) and to be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within you (1 Peter 3:15), but there is a way to do those things, and the answer is lovingly.

I leave you with these words from the apostle Paul: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6). That is my prayer for all of us. Don’t let the enemy use you to bring strife and division among God’s people. Instead, encourage each other to love and good works and, if rebuke is necessary, ask God to help you to do it in love.

The Phantom Gift of Hospitality…

 

givinggift

This may seem silly to bring up, but there is a point concerning a specific “spiritual gift” (which is really not a spiritual gift) that many not only claim they have, but they also misapply! It is not only a phantom gift, but it’s supposed application is misdirected. I have searched far and wide for this gift for many years. At this point, it is safe to assume that it is at the end of a theological rainbow. And the only ones that find it are those that are taught that it exists. What is it? Nothing but the “gift” of hospitality.

Let’s begin on where they get this idea comes from. 1 Peter 4:9 says we are to show one another hospitality without grumbling. Sounds pretty straight forward. The grammatical construction implies, though, that it is following from the commands in verse 7. That means amongst other things like being watchful and sober in our prayers, and having fervent love for one another, we are to be hospitable to one another without complaining. Once again, pretty straight forward. But where someone infers from this verse that God endows us with a spiritual gift in order to be gifted in hospitality is confusing. I can see how maybe some make the mistake of reading verse 10 into verse 9 since it mentions “gifts,” but nevertheless cannot see how they can be confident about their conclusion. The list of gifts in Peter starts in verse 10, not 9. But there’s more. Romans 12 has a similar situation.

This is another popular passage cited to didactically reveal spiritual gifts. In Romans 12:6, the apostle Paul explicitly mentions “gifts differing according to the grace that has been given to us.” However, that list terminates at verse 8. Once again, the construction is in such a way that verse 9 begins a new didactic exhortation, and verse 13 is where we see hospitality cited. In context, along with Peter, we must understand that this is not referencing some special ability that the Holy Spirit gives us. In some indirect sense, once we are born again, God gives us a new heart for fellowship with believers and a love for evangelism that causes us to love the unsaved. But that is not what the “gift of hospitality” teachers assume. The believer of the hospitality gift must understand that the exhortations to use gifts differing according to grace terminates at verse 8. Then, verse 9 begins a separate set of exhortations.

So why harp on this? Why pluck this string? Two reasons: excuses and exegesis.

One the one hand, there is always someone that will misapply a verse, gift, theology, etc., to their advantage in order excuse their responsibilities (or sin) in other areas of their Christian life.  For example, they won’t evangelize because their gift is to open up their home (hospitality) to bible study. While that is good and necessary at times, this is not a substitute for any discpline the Christian is called to. And, hospitality in the Bible has more application toward persecuted and traveling believers whom have been banished from their homes, or are on evangelistic journeys. Sure opening your home is hospitable, and can be a fulfillment of Scriptural hospitality depending on the situation. But we must remember that is still not a spiritual gift.

On the other hand, basic exegesis concerning how words and theological concepts are used in their context cannot be stressed enough. The main point I’m trying to make here is that while this phantom gift is microscopic in the grand scale of heretical dogma being preached in the world, a misapplication or misunderstanding like this has avoidable consequences on a your thinking and behavior. If this simple thing cannot be grasped, exegeted, and applied correctly, what can be said of our attitude toward the basics of the gospel, or even biblical discernment? I’m not trying to make a mountain out of a mole hill, but there is something to be said about such a loose approach to Scripture. Of course, this is not a new problem, but I’m attempting to use this phantom gift to shed light on an age-old issue. The issue being the lack discernment for practical thelogy. And it is my hope that we continue to discern from where our othropraxy flows.

 

– Until we go home

The Man Upstairs?

manning-bud-628

“I’m going to drink a lot of Budweiser tonight, Tracy, I promise you that,” he added. “I’m going to take care of those things first and definitely going to say a little prayer and thank the man upstairs for this great opportunity.” (emphasis added)

 

This is what all star football quarterback, Peyton Manning, said after he won Super Bowl 50 this past Sunday. Some congratulated him for sharing his “faith” in national television. However, what is the man upstairs supposed to mean? Or better yet, whom is he referencing?

I have been personally annoyed by this statement for many years. When someone calls God the man upstairs, it is a telling sign that they don’t know Him. Think about it this way. If my mother lived upstairs in my two-floor apartment building, and I referred to her as the woman upstairs, what does that infer about the relationship that we have? From a linguistic standpoint, it could just be a cultural phrase, and it’s semantic intention is purely arbitrary. However, throughout history, Christianity is defined by Christ dying for sinners, then regenerating and adopting them as His children. From there we continually cry out, “Abba, Father” (Romans 5:15). We are made sons and daughters by His will (John 1:13), and are no longer called children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3-6). At what point in Scripture or history among God’s people do we find such distancing language to describe God?

I am not too upset over Peyton’s choice of words. In part, I’m glad he said it. Because maybe now we can discuss how a true believer ought to address God among the heathen. If He is our God, why choose language that infers a gap in the relationship? This kind of speech is typically used by those that do not have a meaningful relationship. By that I mean, usually, none at all. If I called my wife “the woman upstairs,” there would be some indication that the relationship is straining, unless there’s an obvious sign I was joking.

But many aren’t joking when they use this trite slogan. To some, this is most recognition they will give God, and that is enough for them. To others, this is a hat tip of humble reverence. Whether it is done ignorantly, or with purpose, those that say that they know Him should not (dare I say will not) bow to this kind of speech. If eternal life, as defined by Christ, is knowing God, and His son whom He sent (John 17:3), I can’t see how a truly regenerated believer would allow such catchphrases to dwell in their vocabulary.

On one hand, I am saying that Christians need to rethink such pithy slogans to describe their God. On the other hand, I believe that this phrase is a penalty flag, that could be a sign that the person does not know Jesus. In other words, I believe anyone who uses “the man upstairs” has never actually met the Man (Christ Jesus; 1 Timothy 2:5). But who am I kidding? Could someone be a true believer and mistakenly utilize such ignorance? I have to consent to the possibility. But more often than not, specifically in my experience, whenever I hear “the man upstairs” come out of someone’s mouth, what follows after, whether in word or deed, as just as atrocious.

Pray for Peyton Manning.

 

– Until We Go Home

Are You Like Judas or Peter?

When I can’t sleep at night, I often listen to my Bible app. Last night, I heard the account of Peter denying the Lord. After declaring three times that he did not know Jesus, Luke 22:61-62 tells us: “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out …”

If I had never heard the story before, I would have been holding my breath. What was he going to do?!

Back in Matthew 26 and 27, we read of Judas betraying Jesus. Matthew 27:3 says that, when Judas saw that Jesus was condemned, Judas changed his mind and returned the money to the chief priests and elders. They had what they wanted, though, so they weren’t going to give up the man they had been waiting for for so long.

willingpraise

Upon hearing this, verse 5 says about Judas, “throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went … and hanged himself.” How sad! He could not live with the guilt of knowing he had betrayed an innocent man so he ended his life prematurely.

Peter, on the other hand, had a different outcome. Instead of hanging himself, Peter “went out and wept bitterly.” He too felt the depths of his sin but, instead of giving in to despair, he chose to live.  Because of this, God was able to use him, and he became a bold witness of the One he had once claimed to not know.

I doubt there is a person alive who has not failed the Lord at some point or another. Some give up and decide there is no point in even trying, while others fall on their knees in repentance and then get up, wipe the dust off, and move on, growing stronger than ever before.

Who are you more like? Judas or Peter? When you make a mistake, do you crumble and give up, or do you ask God for forgiveness and then set out to fulfill your calling once again? Let me encourage you to learn from Peter. God is there and ready to forgive a repentant heart. Sometimes it is through failing that we learn our humanity and turn to Him like never before. He loves you. Don’t lose sight of just how much.