John 18:11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?” (NASB)
During these tense days, I am very tempted to spend an abundance of time focusing on the Black/White racial issues in the USA. Yesterday, during my personal Bible reading, I was reminded, of our Savior’s words to Peter in John 18:11.
Peter, a fisherman by trade and not a swordsman, sliced off the ear of one who was involved with the arrest of Jesus. Jesus corrected Peter, “Put the sword in the sheath.” In other words, Jesus was telling Peter that now was not the time for physical confrontation, for there was and is a greater and more necessary mission.
So it is today, in my life and ministry. While race issues dominate the USA, there remains a much more critical mission—Gospel ministry.
My stewardship, which is also true for Christians in general, is to make the gospel known (Jesus death in the place of sinners). This message is more important than the contemporary struggles of a Christ denying world (The Psalm writer prophesies, “Why do the nations rage?”).
The answer to all social ills is not ultimately better public policy. Rather, it is individual repentance of sin against God, and the receiving of Jesus Christ as Savior.
On the one hand, the problems of this world, including racism, will not be removed until Jesus comes to establish His Kingdom. On the other hand, our personal alienation from God, which causes all of our personal guilt and loneliness, can be healed. We simply need to trust in the Savior who died in our place for our sin, so we can have eternal life with Him.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, will not perish put have eternal life.”
Thank you for your nudge, reminding me that it is time for a Boston and Beyond update. It would be helpful to do so, (nudge us), in the future as well. Many a time prayer letters are built upon personal correspondence–seems more natural that way, and easier to write. As you will see, I am using your nudge to write my prayer letter.
I can characterize what is happening in Boston and Beyond, a globalized cities initiative, with the phrase, slowdown,in order to speed up. In some ways, it seems like things in our life and ministry have slowed down. Each step forward seems to take more time. It’s kind of like walking a mountain trail rather than a city street. (It’s a good thing; we love mountain trails.) Recruitment, internships and deputation takes lots of time, so while very good progress is being made, it seems to be one slow, methodical step at a time. Forming teams and making plans to travel as teams is also not done quickly. Because efforts are spread in several areas, evangelistic relationships and Bible studies also take longer to develop, which means results take longer.
Yet, we are sure of the Lord’s leading, and confident that in the end, much more will be accomplished in the pursuit of the Great Commission, the building of the body of Christ globally:
1) We have many great gospel-centered relationships. Some of these are related to our work with Urban Peaks, which is a non-profit secular organization which raises funds to help kids take a step up. (Rock climbing is leveraged to help underserved kids have an opportunity to learn living skills by climbing.) We view this as an authenticating ministry, demonstrating our desire to help people, in general. This work forms the environment for gospel ministry. It helps the climbing community (and others) know that we don’t just proselyte, but that we are concerned for the whole person–for people in general. We do this because we understand that the Bible teaches us that all are made in the image of God, and therefore, valuable. That God views every person as of inestimable worth is made clear by the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Working with Urban Peaks and the climbing community takes time–seems slow, but it is producing opportunities.
New friends are coming to our home, even to church. And, by the way, the rock-climbing community is a tight- knit global community. Working for Urban Peaks may be an excellent way to travel to other major cities, even in countries that do not allow ministers to travel. In a culture that is post-Christian, Urban Peaks is a gift from God.
We also are developing gospel relationships in our centrally located Boston neighborhood called the South End. We live in an owner-occupied apartment building, where I have become a trustee, which means I am partially responsible for overseeing the operations of the building. As in all things, Deb works closely with me in this, and by doing so, the Lord has helped us form many friendships, some of which have developed into more “sharing of life” relationships. These kinds of relationships produce gospel sharing opportunities. Again, none of this happens quickly, but the relationships, which are being formed will eventually accelerate the building of the body of Christ, globally. After all, Boston is a global community, and we live right in the middle of that community.
As you pray for us, also remember that we have a Friday night evangelistic Bible study. This study happens in our studio, and our desire is that it will include folks from all parts of the world. We also have a Bible study on the campus of Northeastern University on Wednesday nights. This study is inhabited by young Christians who desire to invite friends who are not yet Christians. Our desire, again, is that it will develop into a time when the nations gather to hear from God’s Word.
2) We also are continually trudging up the mountain, slowly gaining new heights as we work at recruiting workers for Boston and Beyond. Next week, Deb and I will attend the Refresh Conference at Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary. While there, we have at least two meetings with prospective workers. It seems so cold calling made-in-the-image-of-God people “prospective workers”. Actually, we consider each person who shows interest in working with Boston and Beyond, as an interesting human being who may join us, and be used of God to minister the gospel to a global community.
Currently there are two individuals raising funds to work with us in Boston. Part of our stewardships is to encourage them as they move through the arduous journey of support raising. One way we do this is by staying in contact with each one and by hosting a regular online video conference where those interested in Boston and Beyond are able to share their burdens and praises. Our time of prayer and fellowships has become a great blessing to all of those involved. Not everyone who attends are planning on becoming a missionary with Boston and Beyond, or even living in Boston. But all these folks believe in the concept of ministering in the city as a conduit to ministering the gospel to the world. So, we meet together, encourage each other along life’s journey, and we pray for our world.
3) As I write this, Deb is across the studio in the kitchen preparing food for our Chinese New Year celebration to be held in our church facility in East Cambridge. Later this afternoon, we will pack up Deb’s lamb dumpling filling, head across the street to the Back Bay, subway station and take the Orange Line across the Charles River from Boston into East Cambridge. The work of building our local manifestation of Boston and Beyond, the International Baptist Church, a Christian orthodox association, continues. Our ministry responsibilities in this regard are varied and complex. We seek to nurture, encourage, counsel, work, whatever it takes to help our fellowship become what it needs to become, as the foundation for globalized cities church planting. The work is slow, and we need to make progress more quickly. It is important that Deb and I do a good job of evangelizing and discipling through baptism. We also must be successful at recruiting laypeople and tentmakers to become part of our church family–this is essential. Most of our disciples end up leaving Boston, as we planned, but these do not make a good foundation for a self-supporting church. We need mature, flexible, qualified workers to come and live/work with us in Boston–again absolutely essential.
4) Deb and I have the potential opportunity of traveling to at least three international urban centers/cities over the next year. Two of these are in places that are not open to Christianity. All three have great potential for Great Commission ministry. As the Lord leads and enables, we will be helping young believers be faithful in cities to which they have returned. In other places, we will be learning about new areas of opportunity and hopefully developing ministry relationships with the body of Christ in those cities. One step at a time, up the mountain path, slowly ascending, but in the end, the ministry will peak:-)
5) There are other very important things going on that are both difficult to describe and unwise to share. All I can say is that God seems to be moving in fascinating ways, which may result in accelerated ministry. Confidentiality is mandatory here, but after having been co-laborers with some of you for over thirty years, or longer, I think you can trust us when we say, pray for these undefined, unfocused requests. We need wisdom, patience, and, above all, increased Godliness. Climbing the mountain includes looking into mysterious fog-shrouded canyons.
6) We do have needs. Firstly, after we leave for Iowa next week, a construction crew will be installing a loft in our studio. Since we live in 310 sq. ft., every inch gained is helpful. The construction and related cost will be around $6,000.00. Secondly, our traveling for Boston and Beyond is expensive and gifts towards our traveling/passage fund would help us. Thirdly, we always need to maintain our monthly support needs and are, therefore, on the lookout for new financial partners. We are not actively pursuing deputation meetings, but if a church shows interest, we would be excited to present Boston and Beyond to that church family.
7) Finally, many of you gave special gifts to us at Christmas time. Thank you so much. The gift is helpful, the charitable heart is life-giving.
Things seem to have slowed down so that we can speed up. We are ascending a rough upward mountain trail, but the view from the top will be…. In the case of Boston and Beyond, it will be ten thriving discipleship centers/churches in ten cities ministering to ten civilizations the gospel of Jesus Christ. These will be places where all sorts of people find shelter, the rich and the poor, the educated person and the simple man, the sophisticated and the addicted, folks from all places and of all ethnicities—a little bit of the kingdom in the church.
I am writing this series of blog posts primarily to help a special friend, Habibi, to understand why God and the Bible are so essential to everything in my life. It is my fervent and continual steadfast prayer that my Habibi will grow to love God and His Word as I do.
It could be that these writings about my understanding of God and His Word, may help others as they seek God. It may also help some prepare to explain who God is and why it is important to pursue Him. That would be wonderful.
Before we start studying the Bible, we need to understand a few things about the Bible. The Bible contains sixty-six individual books, which together form one book. With many different authors, written over centuries, this library of books tells one unified story of God’s desire for mankind, the history of man’s rejection of God, and God’s sovereign efforts to fix the relationship between God and man. Interestingly, the history contained in the Bible stretches from the beginning of time into the time when all things have been set right between God and all things, including man and the created universe.
The Bible presents thestory, not a story. It is the authoritative account by which all other accounts will be judged.
The main theme of the Bible is the reconciliation between God and man. That reconciliation is the central theme of the Bible may be understood by studying Luke 24:25-27,
And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that athe prophets have spoken! 26 “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
We will study Luke 24 a bit more in the next post, but notice how Jesus reproves the foolishness of His disciples for not understanding that all Scriptures point to Him.
Application: As the Bible states, all of history is explained in the Bible. The central theme of the Bible is Jesus, the Savior of all those who believe. Those who follow Jesus receive special blessings from Him, Who made us to know Him and enjoy Him forever. Believe in and follow Jesus.
Ge 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.
Bill: I am reminded that God is at the root of all things. There is no explanation, no meaning, no anything without God. In the beginning there was only God and from God came all things. How foolish it would be, then, to try and live life while ignoring God. Stated positively, if we begin with God, all things will be put into proper perspective (order), which will allow us to live our lives within the blessings of God.
3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.
6 Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. 8 God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.
9 Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. 10 God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. 13 There was evening and there was morning, a third day.
14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. 16 God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. 17 God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. 19 There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.
20 Then God said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.” 21 God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.
24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind”; and it was so. 25 God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.
Bill: It must be understood that our creator God created all things in six literal days. We should learn from this that our God is all powerful, all knowing, and everywhere present (notice that the Spirit was hovering over the waters, which allowed God to organize the unorganized into a beautiful creation.) This also reveals our God to be the author of all things beautiful.
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Bill: Although all things are created by God, all things are not created equally. We (humankind) are created in the image of God. We are God’s special creation, created to enjoy God and serve Him forever. As His image bearers, we a have the privilege and responsibility to creatively and wisely manage the earth ethically, morally, firmly, and beautifully.
29 Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. 31 God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Bill: When God finished creating, He pronounced His finished product, “very good.” It is correct to say that at the completion of God’s creation, all things were perfect.
Application: All that we have is from God and belongs to God. He has given us the wonderful and awesome responsibility of managing His creation. What we have, we should manage for God. By doing so, we enjoy the blessing that is called life.
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?
2 When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, my adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. 3 Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not fear; Though war arise against me, in spite of this I shall be confident.
4 One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple. 5 For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; in the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock.
6 And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me, and I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.
7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice, and be gracious to me and answer me. 8 When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.” 9 Do not hide Your face from me, do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my help; Do not abandon me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation! 10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me up.
11 Teach me Your way, O Lord, and lead me in a level path because of my foes. 12 Do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and such as breathe out violence.
13 I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage;