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Visual Missiology in the Bible

The following guest post is penned by Brian Wright. Brian is a senior at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary from Arlington, Massachusetts. He and his wife Lisa spent three years in Manhattan, Kansas before moving to Pittsburgh for seminary. He is a student under care of the Midwest Presbytery of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America.

If Israel was God’s chosen people in the Old Testament era, what about the rest of the world? Did God care about the other nations? Jesus told his disciples to make disciples of all nations, and the missionary efforts of the New Testament era are hard to miss. What does the Old Testament have to say about the nations of the world?

The chart seen to the right (click image to enlarge) is a preliminary attempt at a Biblical theological timeline of God’s concern for the nations. This August, I took part in a week-long Theology and Methods of Missions class at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Three weeks before the class began, the students were split into four groups of four and tasked with constructing a visual representation of God’s interaction with the nations. We were assigned sections of the Bible by group, and […]

Safe spaces, Emotions, and Justice: The Cities of Refuge

God made us to be emotional and to love justice. Our emotions motivate us to pursue justice. God also knows that our emotions can cloud our thinking such that vengeance is not based on justice. So, in the Old Testament, the Lord established cities of refuge. There, people who were guilty might find asylum until the truth could be fully known. Only then would retribution be inflicted on those found guilty (Exodus 21:12-14, Numbers 35:10-15, Deuteronomy 19:1-13, Joshua 20).

The undergirding principle of the cities of refuge is that our emotions must be harnessed by the truth as we seek justice. Facts must bridle our feelings. Only then will we love life the way we should.

The Old Testament laws of the cities of refuge deal specifically with manslaughter and murder – the greatest injustice that could be done because it involves taking a person’s life. The principle is to govern the way we deal with all lesser injustices, hurts, and losses. We may endure loss of life in our family, what we perceive to be a harsh word from a friend, or the disappearance of the candy bar we had stashed away to enjoy later. Whatever the case, God’s law is aiming for […]

A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest

Looking for great new read-aloud books for the family? My brother and sister-in-law who serve as missionaries in East Africa recently gave us a glimpse into their world and beyond with a short children’s novel titled A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest (Greensboro, N.C.; New Growth Press, 2015). This little 150 page story echoes part Pilgrim’s Progress and part The Lord of the Rings.

The ten year old boy, Mu, awakens in a mud hut on his uncle’s compound as a mistreated orphan. As he fetches water at dawn, he is met, to his great surprise, by a talking chameleon named Tita. Tita latches onto Mu’s collar and directs him on the adventure of a lifetime across the African landscape. Readers are vividly led with Mu on his quest down pothole covered roads, through mission compounds, up mountain trails, and over rivers and streams. Where is he going? And whom can he trust amid the family members, missionaries, and others he encounters, including the strange realm of talking animals?

The African adventure amid many perils opens new vistas for Mu, but most of all, the quest probes Mu’s inner self. Who is he, really? What is life all about? What are […]

Breakfast Leftovers

Luke Harrington’s recent article at Christianity Today, How Methodists Invented Your Kid’s Grape Juice Sugar High, has made people thirsty for church history. So, I thought I’d heat up some breakfast leftovers to go along with it. A few years ago, I wrote the following article while trying to whet my junior high students’ appetite for church history.

My students seemed to find history more palatable when they see that they are already familiar with it. So, let’s check out your breakfast menu:

If you reach for Quaker Oats in your pantry, you’ll find a Quaker man staring back at you from the package label. The corporate creators of the logo who trademarked it in 1877 did not specify the character in Quaker garb as a particular individual. But, he was designed to project the values of honesty, integrity, purity, and strength associated with the Quaker faith. I can’t help but think his image is familiar to that of George Fox (1624-1691), the founder of the Quaker movement. The Quakers, or The Religious Society of Friends developed out of the Church of England in the 1650s. They quickly grew and spread to the new world. William Penn, for whom Pennsylvania is named, remains the most […]

The Long View: Developing Faithfulness

Kessler Boulevard carves a scenic route through Indianapolis and through the neighborhood where I serve as a pastor. Almost five years ago, I rounded a corner on Kessler and beheld a ghastly scene: workers had cut down at least five dozen gorgeous trees that lined the street. I almost cried. The sturdy maple, ginkgo, and other species were victims of a project to finally install sewer service to our part of the city.

The trees were at least twenty years old. Many were over fifty years old, and some probably much older. I felt a profound sense of loss as I passed stump after stump, knowing that it would take twenty years and more to restore Kessler’s canopy. In that moment, my grandfather’s words came to mind: “It takes about twenty years to see faithfulness built into a person’s life.” He was quoting someone, but in his years of pastoral experience, he had seen the truth of the statement. Mature, steady, faithful people are a precious commodity. “Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find?” asks Proverbs 20:6. I wrote this article reflecting on how, like the trees, it takes time, even twenty years, […]

Remember Their Names

How can you help family members of public figures like pastors, politicians, entertainers, and other community leaders? They live life in a shadow that they did not choose, usually. Among many things that help, remember this: they want you to know their names.

When dad is a pastor, for instance, children are often met by people who are satisfied to merely know “Oh, you’re So-and-So’s son.” They see that you really don’t care about them; you only care to categorize them in your mental box.

Thus, family members of public figures can feel a bit like one Jupiter’s sixty-seven moons. People know they exist. They have names, but few know them. People only remember Jupiter. By contrast, God knows each of the celestial bodies by name; Psalm 147:4 says “He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.” If he knows inanimate heavenly bodies by name, we ought to be assured that he loves and cares for us that much more.

You can minister to family members of public figures by following God’s pattern: remember their names. Most are pretty happy to live in the orbit of their more luminous family member; but when you work to know […]

When Christians are Blamed

What should Christians do when they are blamed for problems in culture that they did not cause? Or when they are held responsible for things they did not do?

After the Orlando shooting at the Pulse nightclub in June, Christians were accused of being complicit. David French and Denny Burk each reflected on this blame-casting. The pattern may repeat itself in future events. It can be easy to become defensive or to go on the offensive, but before we do, it is worth considering the example of Moses.

Moses faced a situation with some similarities as recorded in Numbers 16. After wandering for years in the wilderness, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram challenged the leadership of Moses and Aaron in the nation of Israel. Specifically, Aaron’s priestly leadership was challenged.

God called for a public meeting the next day. He told both groups of men to burn incense before the Lord to see which he would accept. In dramatic fashion, the Lord caused the ground to open up and swallow Korah, Dathan, and Abriam along with their 250 followers and their possessions.

The Lord brought calamity of the sort that only he could bring as a warning to those who were tempted to disbelieve. It […]

A Little Gem in Job

One of the beautiful but subtle gems of Scripture is found in the book of Job.

Job was a rich man of antiquity before the Lord allowed great calamity to overtake him.

At the outset of the story Job had seven sons and three daughters (1:2). He also had 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys (1:3). Every last one of the animals was stolen or killed, and a wind storm struck the house where all of his children were dining and they all died. What great loss and grief!

After his ensuing suffering, satanic attacks, and intense dialogue with his friends and his Lord, God restored his wealth. And then some.

In his later years, he received 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys (42:12). He also had seven sons and three daughters (42:13).

It doesn’t take a math whiz to see that the number of animals Job received in his restoration is double the former number. Yet, if God is so good, why did Job not father another fourteen sons and six daughters?

Why not? Well, that’s the gem that is hidden in plain sight. Job did receive twice as many children as he had previously. […]

Expectant Prayer for the Nations

Do our prayers really matter in missions and the spread of the gospel around the globe? Is it worth leading our children to pray for specific nations of the world?

Recently, God impressed upon me the amazing era in which we live. The good news of Jesus Christ is rapidly spreading around the world.

Today, even I get to see with my own eyes the work of God in people from India, Arabia, China, and Africa – even if it is just a token of what is happening globally. My great-grandparents could only have dreamed of so many people from these lands joining us for worship as a church and sitting around our dining room table. I confess that as a child I did not expect this as I should have.

What has led to such progress? Jesus has also ordained that social, economic, and technological forces would align to propel the advance of the gospel in our day. Faithful gospel preachers have gone out over the years sowing with tears. And people have prayed for generations, and God has graciously answered.

In my growing up experience, our parents taught us to pray for the world. We prayed for specific countries from our little farm in Indiana. […]

An up-front discussion; the best seats in worship

Fans pay big money for courtside seats at an NBA Finals game. But when it comes to God’s courts of worship, the prized seats seem to be on the back row. It’s not just true of Back-Row Baptists. It’s also true of Posterior Presbyterians, Latter-Seat Lutherans, and the Rearward Reformed. The trend seems to contradict the profound eagerness the psalmist articulated as he entered the gates of God’s courts with thanksgiving (Psalm 100:4), the joy untold he found when beckoned by fellow saints to go to the Lord’s house (Psalm 122:1), and sorrow of heart he experienced when he could not lead the throng in procession into God’s house as he had previously done (Psalm 42:4).

Certainly, some people have legitimate reasons to sit near the back. These include:

Parents and caretakers with very young children
Elderly saints and physically afflicted individuals
Visitors, especially those who are nervous about being in a church in the first place
On-call servants such as ushers, nursery workers, and security personnel

For the rest, you should consider sitting nearer the front. It is a form of ministry, or service, in the truest sense. You will serve God with more vigor, and you will serve people with deeper love.

What happens as […]