In 1839 James Harris and John Williams from the London Mission Society in 1839 were killed and eaten by the Cannibals in the South Pacific islands. We may not be familiar with their names but they paved the way for John G. Paton. He would later write, “Thus the New Hebrides baptized with the blood of martyrs; and Christ thereby told the whole Christian world that he claimed these islands as his own.”
John G. Paton at the age of 33 landed on the island of Tann in 1858 just shy of 20 years from the death of James and John. John was called the South Pacific and could not shake that there were lost souls in need of the gospel.
John left a fruitful ministry in the city of Glasgow, Scotland knowing God was leading him to the mission field of Vanuatu. He was confronted by an older gentlemen, Mr. Dickson, that was part of this ministry and was wondering why he would leave such a ministry and take such a risk.
Mr. Dickson exploded out loud to John, “The cannibals, you will be eaten by cannibals!”
John responded to Mr. Dickson,
You are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms.
200 years after the death of John Paton 92% of the people of Vanuatu identify as Christian.
God Uses All Circumstances for His Glory
James Harris and John Williams were used to stir something in John Paton whom God used in the South Pacific. They gave their lives for the sake of the gospel which was also used to influence John and others.
In a similar way the Apostle Paul was in prison and in chains yet he wrote to the Philippian church that all that he was going through was for the advancement of the gospel (Phil 1:12). Though he was chained he saw God use his imprisonment for God’s glory. Paul writes, And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (1:14 ESV).
The brothers were not afraid though Paul was imprisoned for his faith, instead they were emboldened. Paul had an understanding that God uses all circumstances for his glory.
This is the gospel going out. It is almost like multiplication. Some may be pioneers in a certain area of gospel ministry but their influence impacts many.
Who Do you Influence?
A couple of times Paul encouraged the church to imitate him (1 Cor. 4:16; 11:1). This was not in boasting of his character. He was pointing to the one who influences him, Jesus. Jesus is the one he strived to imitate after and so the church would do the same.
We may not know the impact we have in the life of others. We may not know who is watching us. May we live in such a way that points people to Jesus.
John Williams and James Harris influenced Paton and others by their life of counting the cost and giving of their lives for the gospel. They were not alive to see the fruit of their ministry well at least this side of eternity.
May we all live faithfully and trust the Lord in what he is doing!
Everything is green in Washington, granted their annual rainfall is almost 35 inches! Coming from Southern California it is almost like seeing things for the first time. Things are green and grow in plenty. One of those plants that grows in plenty is the blackberry. It is more of a nuisance than anything because it is everywhere and It grows like a weed here.
In the back of our property there are some blackberry bushes that have crept in and before we moved in were taken care of. They were cut down and even sprayed. As I went around the property they have grown back and if not taken care of will again become overbearing.
Though I am painting the negative of blackberries, I am wanting to highlight in the positive how this is connected to love. The Apostle Paul prayed for the church in Philippi that their love would would abound more and more (Phil 1:9).
Our Love Grows
Like blackberries which can grow quite crazy as a believer we should desire for our love grow as well. How does this happen? First, Pau’s prayer was that the church’s love would grow more for Jesus and others.
In another letter to a different church he prays, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:17-19 ESV).
Paul’s prayer was that was one contemplates and experiences the love of Christ which we can never fully fathom yet we would grow in it. To put it another way, the more I bask in the love of Christ the more I grow in the love of Christ. I will never fully comprehend on this side of eternity but I can grow in understanding day by day.
As our love grows in reflection of Jesus Christ’s love we then can grow in our love towards others. Pastor and author Steven Lawsons said, “The greatest petition we can bring before God on behalf of other Christians is that they would deepen in their love for him and for others…Where the love of the brethren grows, the church is most like heaven and becomes attractive to the world.”
Full But Never Full
I am filled with the love of Christ as that was poured out through his perfect and sinless life, his sacrificial death, and his glorious resurrection. Though I am filled I am never full because I am daily being filled and filled again of his love.
Paul was pointing out to this fact as he prayed for the church’s love to abound more and more. They are filled but never full as they experience and know Christ’s love each day. As blackberries grow and it seems like nothing can stop them, may our love which is founded in Christ continue to grow despite opposition or hardships.
Where does joy come from? Joy is different than happiness. Joy is supernatural. Happiness is temporal. Joy isn’t dependent on circumstances but happiness is.
Our middle son had some money that he saved ready to buy a particular toy. So the day came and I took him to Toys R Us (R.I.P.). It was some ball that he saw on T.V. that he just had to get. I reminded him of our dog at the time which ate everything. This dog ate my leather shoes, part of my leather Bible, our sprinklers, a plethora of toys, you name it! But my son persisted and said I will watch him. I relented (as this was going to be a teaching moment for both of us) and he was so happy on our ride home. He couldn’t wait to play with this ball.
I am sure you can guess what happened. No more than five minutes goes by and I hear, Daddy! The dog ate his new toy. That happiness he had quickly turned to anger and sadness.
Can you relate? How often have we been happy just to turn around and be sad. Maybe you were happy your team got a touchdown but sad because they lost the game. Happy you received some good news but then sad because something else happened. We are fickle creatures.
Joy is deeper and a gift that is given to the believer.
The Book of Philippians is About Joy
15 different references to joy is found in this book. 9 of those 15 references we find the verb “rejoice.” 4 of the 15 the noun “joy” and 2 references to “rejoice with.”
Commentator Steven Lawson defines joy as Steven Lawson defines joy as, “A spiritual grace that we all need to experience in our Christian lives. We live in a world of stress and anxiety that all too easily and subtly can steal the peace of God from our hearts.”
I am reminded that Paul was in chains when he wrote this letter to the church in Philippi (1:12-18). If he didn’t mention his Roman imprisonment we would not have known based on the focus of this letter being one of joy.
Paul was able to have joy because he understood that joy was something that resulted from salvation. It is from the Holy Spirit as the believer is being transformed, we have fruit of that work.
Joy is a Spiritual Fruit
The fruit of the Spirit is described as, “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23).
This means that the Holy Spirit who is doing a work in and through the believer is working joy in the believer’s life.
Paul was able to have joy even when he was being persecuted for his faith because knew nothing can rob him from the everlasting love that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:35-39).
Joy and Salvation are Connected
In King David’s song of repentance and restoration he asks the Lord to restore unto him the “joy of your salvation” (Psalm 51:12). The prophet Habakkuk declares, “yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (Hab. 3:18). The Apostle Paul understood that God is the one who saves, it is by his grace alone (Eph. 2:8-9).
No matter what happens in this life, for the believer he has eternity to look forward to. No one and nothing can rob the believer of what Jesus has done. The believer thinks about this and understands that they can have joy in what Jesus has done- conquered sin and death, the only way sin can be forgiven, the wrath of God has been absorbed by him, and it is not based on anything we have done. In fact, if it were we would be so far from God because of our sin. So joy stems from an understanding of God’s great grace and how serious our sin is. Joy comes from salvation because the believer understands that this life may be hard and we will suffer at times but their name is written in the Lamb’s book of Life (Luke 11:20).
What do you think of as a safe place? It may be described as a child runs to the comfort of his mother or father and the protection of their arms. It could be a shelter in the midst of a storm. Maybe it is having security during a violent uprising. As those serve as a sort of safe place there is no other safe place than being under the mighty hand of God.
Peter writes to the Christians in Asia Minor, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
He is pointing out that the safest place to be is under the mighty hand. Here are few points to reflect on.
1) Humble Yourselves
The mighty hand of God can seem like a burden or a shelter. For example take the Exodus event into account. To the Egyptians, God’s mighty hand was one of power and might. They rebelled against God and his mighty hand was heavier. But for the Israelites, the mighty hand of God was safety and a shelter. He protected them and guided them. The psalmist says, “For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock” (Psalm 27:5).
The Egyptians rebelled and his hand was heavy towards them. The Israelites needed to walk in humility and it was a shelter. The same is true for you and I.
2) Access to God
The one who walks humbly (because God opposes the proud) receives grace and can approach his throne of grace boldly because of Jesus, the humble servant, who paved the way for us.
We then can cast our anxieties on him. The word cast means to throw off or like a fisherman casting his lure we cast our anxieties, worries, and stresses and give them to God. This passage doesn’t tell us what God does with them, but all I know is that we can give them to him and he will handle them a lot better than I can.
3) He Cares For You
Notice Peter points out why we can cast our cares and worries to God. He does not just say because he is God and he can handle it which is true. Or, we can cast our cares because God is sovereign and is in charge of it all. No, we can cast our cares on him because he cares for us.
This is amazing that the sovereign God who knows you cares for you. His care is deep and wide. His care was demonstrated as Jesus suffered and died on our behalf on the cross. God’s care was confirmed through his resurrection from the dead three days later. God is the God who cares for you!
The safest place is to be under the mighty hand of God!
It has been somewhat of a whirlwind since our arriving to our new home on Sept. 13. God has called us to Bellingham, Washington to lead his church, Rome Community Bible Church.
This is our second week being here and we are enjoying the Washington rain! I wanted to take a moment and reflect on the points from 1 Peter 5:1-5 that I shared from the first message as it pertains to my position as an under shepherd and a biblical expectation of that role.
1) The elder’s task is to shepherd the flock (vs 2). This means pointing you, the congregation, in the direction as you go through the daily difficulties of life, feeding you God’s word, caring for you and your spiritual condition, and protecting you from the predators of the world and even within the church.
Feeding the flock is the importance of teaching the whole counsel of the Word of God. This is presenting it wholly and as holly!
Caring is not just making visits, phone calls, or having gospel conversations. It is having the burden of the congregations spiritual well being on my mind.
Protecting is from presenting God’s Word as truth and directing the congregation to be on guard. This also means spotting the wolves in sheep’s clothing to protect the flock.
2) The elder’s motivation (verses 2-3). It is one which is motivated by looking to Jesus, the chief shepherd. It is not under compulsion or obligation but out of love for Jesus and others. It is not for shameful gain but eagerly knowing that there are the riches found in Jesus alone. Not domineering and abusing power but looking at the example of Jesus who leads willingly and humbly.
This is the proper motivation which is Jesus, the true reward. His riches are vast, his love is great, and he is worth it.
3) The elder’s reward (verses 4-5) The true reward is Jesus! The crown of unfading glory is being in the presence of the Lord knowing that the things of this world pass away but what matters is looking to Jesus who is the founder and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2). I desire to look to Jesus who is the Chief Shepherd of RCBC and that is my prayer for you too! He loves this church more than you are I could ever.
I wanted to spend a few moments to look at Theology in a casual manner on a Thursday. This was actually something my wife suggested in a conversation we were having about how to teach our children and those in the church theology.
In the Christian community the word “Theology” can have a broad meaning. Some hear it and become guarded, thinking that this is something for the students in seminary or bible college. It is academic and or those in the ivory towers. Others may think of division in the church which has stirred from theological debates and understanding.
Yes, it can be somewhat of a turn off to some, but on the other hand you can approach Christian theology as what a Christian is all about.
Christian theology at the core is Christian and every Christian is a theologian.
Everyone is a Theologian
Granted, that can be a big statement but really every person who has ever existed is a theologian. If we define theology at its simplest definition, as the study of God, everyone person has had a thought about God, whether that thought is right or wrong.
For example, The Atheist says, “There is no god.” That alone is a thought about God, though it is incorrect. That is a theological statement. Theology is a science but it is also more than a science.
What is Christian Theology
Mentioned above it is the study of God.
To study God means that we study God through the way God has revealed himself through the Word of God (The Bible or Scripture). This is what in academics is called Theology proper, which is the discipline of studying God through the revelation of the Bible.
Within this scope you can peel the different layers that are within theology. For example, Christology, which is the study of Christ. Or, hamartiology, which is the study of sin. Each of these specific areas of theology are looked at through the lens of the Bible.
How should we respond to Theology:
As a Christian we need to not fear or be intimidated by theology but pursue in understanding and study of what God’s word says about who he is. Here are some reasons to study theology
Theology is practical– It is lived out, not just studied but applied. Not just read but lived. Not just thought about but preached outload. Your God-view shapes your world-view. Theology is lived out, even if you aware of it or not.
Theology is missional– Theology is a witness. Your God-view affects your worldview. What you think about God is translanted in what you say about God. How do we know that we are to make disciples of all nations and how do we know what these disciples are supposed to look like and what are we to teach these disciples (Matt 28:19-20). These are theological questions.
Theology is biblical– What we know and say about God comes from the Bible. Christian theology is not man’s creation but found in the Word of God.
Theology is worship– When you study who God is, it leads to the response of worship. The psalmist rightly declares, “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our maker” (Psalm 95:6)! The psalmist makes the theological statement that God who is maker (Creator) is worthy of worship.
Theology is historical- When you look at history and throughout history you see the study of theology. Christians who have gone before us, who studied the Bible to know more about God. We see theology becoming clearer as truths were discovered from the Bible and communicated for us to know more about who God is. Christian theology is historical which means that it is family history. As believers we all share in this story!
Theology is Apologetic (not I’m sorry)- We need to know how to define and defend what we believe. Theology helps us in our endeavors to do just that.
Theology is to disciple– The idea of theology is to build up or to grow in our awe of God. R. C. Sproul wrote:
The purpose of theology is not to tickle our intellects but to instruct us in the ways of God, so that we can grow up into maturity and fullness of obedience to Him. That is why we engage in theology.
This mindset is for the believer but also how a believer disciples others.
What are some of your questions that you may have about theology?
I had the privilege of interviewing Pastor Elijah Braggs from Harvest Christian Fellowship on race, racism, and how the church should respond. It was sobering yet encouraging as we discussed what it means to be made in the image of God (Imago Dei) and the importance for us to pause, pray, and respond biblically.