Saturday, 28 June 2008

'THE SCHOOL' By Gerhart Tersteegen

I first heard of Gerhart Tersteegen back in 1974 when I was about fifteen. At the fellowship I went to we used sing many of his hymns along with many old Wesley hymns we had put to guitar music.We met in different houses in Holywood, Co.Down, most of us were also still at school.Many nights as we sang praises to God we did not know whether we in heaven or earth, such were the joy and ecstasy we experienced in the Spirit. This was surely a mountain top experience which preceded for many of us, that of the valley. This was one of the hymns we sang. The words I think are simple, but also beautiful- expressing the desires of our hearts. The goal was not to become big, bold, brash(and bad) for Jesus, but to become and experience the favour of the Father for His child, and also to become obedient -even if it meant shame and pain.Is maturity in the Christian life being able to do more spiritual things- becoming more confident etc(c.p.The Corinthians)? It may be, but if we become proud of our achievements and feel God is lucky to have us we have need again to go back to first principles.AK

Matt. xviii. 3.

Where is the school for each and all,
Where men become as children small,
And little ones are great?
Where love is all the task and rule,
The fee our all, and all at school,
Small, poor, of low estate?

Where to unlearn all things I learn,
From self and from all others turn,
One Master hear and see?
I learn and do one thing alone,
And wholly give myself to One
Who gives Himself to me.

My task, possessing nought, to give;
No life to have, yet ever live--
And ever losing, gain;
To follow, knowing not the way;
If He shall call, to answer, "Yea--
All hail all shame and pain!"

Where silent in His Holy Place
I look enraptured on His Face
In glory undefiled;
And know the heaven of His kiss,
The doing nought, the simple bliss
Of being but a child.

Where find the school, to men unknown,
Where time and place are past and gone,
The hour is ever NOW?
O soul! thou needest ask no more;
God tells thee of His open door:
Still, hearken thou!

G. T. S.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Motives for Mission

In this article I will examine what I consider to be the highest motives we can have for being involved in Christian mission. I would appreciate any feedback on what you consider to be your own strong motivations for mission and evangelism.Peace and Grace.

The mission of the Church may be defined as “what God has sent the Church into the world to do.” This includes both evangelistic and social responsibilities. Many speak of our mission, but what about our motivations for mission? Scripture has much to say about not only our actions, but also about the reasons and motives behind these actions. It is God who tries (Jeremiah 12:3), knows (Psalm 44:21) and searches (Jeremiah 17:10) the heart. He does not judge by outward appearance. Indeed, even in our worship he discerns whether we are worshipping with both our hearts and our lips (1 Samuel 16:7; Matthew 15:8). In 2 Corinthians 13:3, Paul declares, “If I give away all I have and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” In Philippians 1:15-17, he acknowledges that the gospel can be preached from motives of goodwill and love as well as from envy, rivalry, selfish ambition and insincerity.

The Love of God
It should be understood that the Church’s mission is more than a good or even a great activity that the Church does. Christian mission springs from the very heart of the Godhead. Both the Old and the New Testament have much to say regarding the missio dei and both reveal God’s love for humankind in its spiritual and physical dimensions. The “love of God,” as a motive for mission, contains at least three elements significant for mission:

(1) God’s love for us,

(2) our love for God, which is proved by our obedience to God (John 14:15) and

(3) God’s love working through us to reach others.

The love of the missionary God is seen in the act of the Father giving up his only begotten Son in the incarnation, and his Son being willing to live a life of self-sacrifice and ultimately to die on the cross for humankind (John 3:16; Romans 8:32; Matthew 20:28). In 1 John 4:19 we are also reminded that “we love because he first loved us.” If our response is to truly love Christ in return for what he has done for us, we must obey his commands. God expects his disciples to be motivated by his love. We can do this because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts (Romans 5:5). Jesus, who commanded us to love one another, also promised that if we obeyed him, the world would know that we were his (John 13:34-35).

This love is more than just a fleeting emotional feeling; it is an act of the will and a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:1). This love also compelled Paul in his mission (2 Corinthians 5:14). Jesus Christ said to his disciples “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). As disciples, we are obliged to follow his example. Our love for God must be shown in “incarnational mission.” We are to identify with those we seek to reach, entering their worlds, their pains and their sorrows.

Many Christians list obedience as being a primary motive for fulfilling the missionary task. I would agree; however, obedience should necessarily flow from our love for God. John R. W. Stott once said that “loving obedience to God and his Christ is the first evangelistic incentive” as obedience is “the fruit and proof of love.”1 If obedience does not come from a heart motivated by the love of God, there is a danger of the missionary task becoming legalistic and lacking God’s blessing.

The Fear of God
It is sometimes perceived that the “fear of the Lord” (meaning, to be concerned with a God of judgment) is not relevant for those living since the New Testament era. It is true that the fear of the Lord seems more prominent in the Old Testament than the New Testament. Nevertheless, the New Testament still concerns itself with this important subject. God is still holy (Hebrews 12:14; 2 Corinthians 7:1) and there is still a final judgment (Matthew 25:41).

The fear of the Lord means living our lives to please the Lord. While on earth, Jesus sought to please his Father. Christians must also seek to please God and live a life worthy of him (Colossians 1:10). In 1 Corinthians 5:9, Paul writes that it was his goal to please God. Why was he motivated as he was? Verse 10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” As a result, Paul encouraged his readers to “persuade men” (v.11).

Michael Green notes, “This fear of which he speaks is not the craven fear of the underdog, but the loving fear of the friend and trusted servant who dreads disappointing his beloved Master.”2 He goes on to write, “This fear was a contributory factor in the ceaseless evangelistic activity of the apostle Paul.”3 In seeking to persuade men, we can begin to understand Paul’s concern for those who were not in Christ. Paul saw himself as similar to the prophet Ezekiel, who had been called to be God’s watchman as he declared to the Ephesian elders, “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:26). He believed he was “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” (2 Timothy 1), a herald and teacher (1 Timothy 1:11) and an ambassador of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).

He was like Isaiah, who having seen God in his awesome majesty, could not refuse his invitation to “go and tell this people” (Isaiah 6:9). Like Jeremiah, Paul could not hold in God’s Word. This holy compulsion was a combination of both the love of God for the people and a grave concern that the trust committed to Paul should be discharged (1 Corinthians 9:17). The Church’s mission should still be motivated by a healthy appreciation of the fear of God, which will give to the Church a sense of its own holy calling to reach the lost. The Church will then become fearless in the midst of fierce opposition. Paul the great missionary had to endure great sufferings in order to fulfill the ministry to which God had called him.

The Glory of God
Perhaps the greatest motive for mission and evangelism is for the glory of God. As with the love of God, the glory of God can have more than one dimension. The first is that we evangelize in order that God would be glorified. The second is that we evangelize in order to receive glory and praise from God (as opposed to man). Both motives are important and biblical. First, we will look at evangelizing to receive glory or praise from God.

John said of the Pharisees that “they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43). Jesus himself declared that he did not receive glory from men (John 5:41); rather, he was approved by his Father at his baptism (Mark 1:11) and exalted because of his obedience on earth (Philippians 2:9-11). The idea that we should not strive for a reward from God is unbiblical. The Bible is clear that all will be judged by Christ (Daniel 12:3; Romans 14:10,12; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:12,15). Though there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1), it would appear that judgment for believers is for reward instead of punishment. Luke 19:17 implies there may be different degrees of rewards for believers for service rendered. Paul in his ministry was careful to build with quality material so he would not be put to shame when God put his work to the test (1 Corinthians 3:15). Whatever our reward may be, it should be a strong incentive for evangelism and mission.

We will now look at what I believe to be the purest motive for mission: that God himself would be glorified and honored. God the Father “exalted (Jesus) to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow” (Philippians 2:9-10). Paul instructed the Corinthians that even ordinary things should be done for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 3:1). How much more should we seek to honor and glorify the name of Jesus Christ in the work of evangelism! The Church also seeks to win over those under the control of Satan, that they may serve and honor the true and living God. As Elijah declared himself to be “very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts” (1 Kings 19:14), so Paul also claimed that his own ministry was “for (Christ’s) name’s sake” (Romans 1:5). Likewise, the missional Church as the bride of Christ must be spurred on with a holy jealousy to bring honor to his name. M. Thomas Thangaraj rightly points out that “an adoration of God leads to a profound sense of love and gratitude to God, which in turn motivates us for engagement with others in mission.”4

The prophet Jeremiah warns us that “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure”(Jeremiah 17:9). It is not surprising that an assessment of motivations for mission should prove to have a sobering effect on the Church. The Church should therefore be prepared to listen to both the Word and the world in its criticisms of it, so as not to become self-deceived (Hebrews 4:12; Proverbs 18:13). The three positive motives for assessing mission listed above naturally intertwine like a threefold cord (Ecclesiastes 4:12). Mission and the motivation for mission should be seen as originating from God and should result in the Church following the example of Jesus, who in holy obedience, love and seeking to glorify the Father, came “to seek and save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). AK

1. Stott, John. 1967. Our Guilty Silence. London: Hodder and Stoughton. 18.
2. Green, Michael. 1995. Evangelism in the Early Church. Guildford: Eagle. 29.
3. Ibid. 297.
4. Thangaraj, M. Thomas. 1999. The Common Task. Nashville: Abingdon Press. 149.


Monday, 16 June 2008


Before I begin I would like to distinguish between those people we as Christians would deal with on a day to day basis including friends and family whom we would have a long term relationship, and those strangers to whom we will rarely have any dealings unless we decide to engage with them. It is the latter group that I am primarily thinking about in this post (with the former group, I would imagine most Christians would be praying for opportunities to sensitively share Christ.)

I ask this question because I believe that in our post-modern, post-Christian, politically correct world it would appear to be something Christians are often embarrassed to do, but at the same time feel guilty for not doing. This is especially true when there are so many people around us who don’t know who Christ is, and why he came. We either feel frustrated because we think that we can’t do it or have decided to put it to the back of our minds, reasoning it away by arguing that ‘it is not my gift' or just plainly deciding not to bother.

I’m convinced that for everyone who is a Christian, to be a witness for Christ can be the most natural thing to do.If you like: it's part of our spiritual DNA put there by Christ and the Holy Spirit. I’m not saying that we should all start an Evangelistic Association and travel the globe like Billy Graham, but that we should be prepared to step outside our comfort zone and speak to others about the most fantastic news that there has ever been since the beginning of time.

Well, why should we bother to tell others about Christ? Before Jesus left this world Mark’s gospel records his great commission to the disciples. Note that he didn’t say: ‘go into all the Cathedrals and preach the gospel'; Nor did he say ‘go into all the churches and preach the gospel'; He didn’t even say ‘go into all the Mission Halls and preach the gospel'. No No No.

However what did he say was: ‘Go INTO ALL THE WORLD and preach thee gospel to every creature.’ That is some statement. The whole world means that there is no place in his world that is exempt. Even the uttermost parts of it, even that which we consider Satan's territory. In practice what does it mean?

As regards places: it’s where people are. There’s no point going to the North Pole because no one lives there. It means Latin America, Australia, Cambodia, Russia, and Belfast.It means pubs, clubs, trains, buses, parks,bookies, schools, work places, even churches, cathedrals and mission halls, towns and cities, hamlets and villages- as our Lord commanded:'go into the highways and the byways'.

As regards people types it means Black, white, Chinese, Japanese, Lawyers, school teachers, soldiers,doctors, prostitutes, gays, hetero-sexual, moral people, socialists,capitalists- every sort of social class, colour, nationality and sexuality.

But do we really believe that Jesus would have gone into pubs and into clubs? After all he was the Son of God;After all he was sinless; He was was totally holy and righteous:totally pure!

‘Jesus came to nice people to make them nicer.’ I think that should be a verse in the TEV Bible that is 'Today's Evangelical Version'.It fits well with the contemporary Church.

In practice I think that is what we are more inclined to believe- because it would mean we could go to church each week and forget about the masses that are without hope and without God. But it's wrong: He was friends with the ordinary fishermen; his friends did drink; his friends were swindlers; his friends included lepers who would have gone about crying ‘unclean, unclean' as the Law of Moses proscribed and he did touch them and he healed them. Some of his friends were even prostitutes-How scandalous. Imagine the holy righteous Son of God- the friend of sinners-the friend prostitutes and gays!

That’s why my friend Patrick Troughton who has been only a Christian two years, and at the age of 70 tramps the streets of Belfast at 1,2, sometimes even 3 O’clock in the morning looking for strays- not cats and dogs, but men and woman, created in the image of God but marred by sin and Satan- often finding them literally lying in the gutter. He does it because God has touched his heart and he heard the word:'As the father sent me , so I send you' and sought to obey it. He now has a passion for the lost in his soul, because he knows the love that God had for his lost soul!

Why should we evangelise? Answer: Because as Paul tells us 'Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’.
Jesus also declared: ‘I’ve come not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance’ and again: ‘I have to seek and to save that which is lost. Amen

One of Paul’s greatest opponents were the Jewish Christians who tried to keep the gospel message within Judaism. In a similar manner many Christians are inclined to keep this all powerful message that can save the world inside the Church. God wants us to spread it abroad.The complete verse is : 'Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the chief’. I like that: Paul said it,Wesley said it and Bunyan said it-'Of whom I am the chief'.I join them too. We don't go out to those without Christ with a superior or arrogant attitude rather we go out as forgiven sinners who understand their pain and weakness.We go out with passion but also compassion.

Why should we tell others about Christ?
Not because those we speak to will always be grateful. We may well face opposition. We may well be misunderstood; we may well be physically assaulted. But should we really expect a ‘flowery bed of ease’ when Christ told us that it would be through much tribulation that we would enter the Kingdom!
James tells us to even ‘Count it as pure joy ...all the trials and tribulations you encounter for they build character';and even Paul the master evangelist declared: ‘We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.'

Why tell others about Christ?
Because how are they to know if we don’t tell them. As Paul states: ‘we are ambassadors of Christ’.
Also that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”He then goes on to state:
'How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ'.

Do we hear that word of faith in our hearts? Do we hear his voice saying 'Whom will I send and who will go for us'? The harvest is indeed plentifuil but the labourers are few.
Dear brother and sister will you heed the call?

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

The Catechetical Lectures of Cyril of Jerusalem (c.313–386) reviewed by Lester Ruth

My daughter is currently finishing off her A level in Religious Education and has been looking at the way 'faith' as a personal response to Christ became more and more associated with 'the faith' as a body of Truth that Christians must believe to be part of the Church.

In Paul's writing we notice in his last letters to Timothy and Titus (disputed by some as being non-Pauline) he also speaks of 'the faith' which he had not used previously in his epistles. Nevertheless Paul had always emphasized the importance of 'sound doctrine' and to hold to 'the tradition' and teaching which he proscribed as well as of course, personal faith in Christ- a personal trust in Christ for salvation.

Some of the Church Fathers would appear to have emphasized the belief in the 'body of Christian truth' as opposed to 'personal faith' but I don't think they would have completely neglected one in favour of the other. During the debate over the Trinity it used to be said: 'Try to understand it and you lose your mind: Try to deny it and you lose your soul'! It is also true that some of the Church Fathers would have disagreed with one another, some even, such as Origen appear to have had conflicting teachings- perhaps an early and mature Origen. Some historians even view Origen as being the Father of both Orthodoxy and Heresy!

One thing is we can learn a thing or a hundred from these men who risked life and limb for the sake of the gospel,and often ending up wearing a martyr’s crown.Some Catechetical courses would have lasted up to three years in preparing the disciple for Baptism.This might be seen as parallel with the three years the Lord spent teaching his twelve disciples.

Regarding those interested in the Christian faith we sometimes rush them too much and expect them to walk before they can talk. If three years training or a discipleship course(covering all areas of Christian living) was required of new converts by the end of it they would be more fully equipped to serve the Lord in the world.I think it should come back -though we live in an age of instant coffee, we will never get instant saints. In this article Lester Ruth reviews the the Catechetical Lectures of Cyril of Jerusalem which can be downloaded using the link.

Can a theologian be a good pastor or evangelist? Can an effective, church-growing evangelist be theological? Can a caring pastor preach doctrine in a relevant way? Is it possible for one person to be a dynamic evangelist, pastor, and theologian all at once?

I venture to guess that many today would answer “no.” Some literature on effective evangelistic and pastoral ministries takes a swipe at theological reflection to get at the “real” concerns of “what works” today. The attitude is reflected in the opinions of those ministers who feel that they truly learned what’s important for the church once they got out of formal educational institutions. Unfortunately, the approach taken by some academics can reinforce the divorce between theology and ministerial practice. I once asked a student taking a course on a patristic theologian, for instance, whether the class had given any sense that the early church figure being studied was a wonderful pastoral evangelist. The answer was “no.”

And that’s why looking at Cyril, the fourth century bishop of Jerusalem, is so helpful. In his addresses to the baptismal candidates in his church, he does a masterful job of weaving together solid theology, effective evangelism, and nurturing pastoral care. Whatever Cyril’s vestments actually were like (who knows exactly what a fourth century bishop would have worn?), he did wear simultaneously the metaphorical caps of evangelist, pastor, and theologian as he prepared new Christians for their baptism at Easter and preached to them the meaning of the sacraments afterward.

Cyril’s catechetical lectures raise questions that are still important: What do people need to know to be active Christian disciples? What’s the appropriate threshold for baptizing someone? Is “buying into” the commonly held doctrines of the church essential in evangelizing someone? Cyril’s answer is a resounding “yes.”

Cyril had paid a deep personal “cost” in being able to teach theology to his sheep; three times he was exiled by anti-orthodox factions, forced to spend nearly fifteen years away from his pastoral post in Jerusalem. When he was able to exercise his role as bishop, he was rewarded by the enthusiastic response of the people to his preaching. According to one contemporaneous report, his flock shouted exuberantly as he taught them each day leading up to baptism.

As you read, don’t be afraid to get caught up in the excitement, too. Your shout sparked by good theology wouldn’t offend Cyril at all.

Lester Ruth is Lily May Jarvis Professor of Christian Worship at Asbury Theological Seminary.

Read this classic at the CCEL

Monday, 2 June 2008

The Story of Vanya: A martyr for Christ

I first heard this story about Vanya when I was about fifteen years old. At that time I was trying to work out whether I could be a Christian and still be what I considered to be a 'real man'. My heroes were all macho guys who I sought to emulate.I believed Christ was manly and fearless but had my doubts about some Christians I'd come across: 'would they be prepared to die for Christ?' I thought.So when I heard this story I gave in and told the Lord I would do the best I could for Him - even to die for Him if it was required.It was probably more like a Peter declaration and I probably would have failed in the end. Nevertheless it was a importanrt mark in my life.Many young Russian Christians were also deeply affected by Vanya's life and death- giving them great courage during a time of great persecution in Russia.I look forward to meeting him one day. AK

For copyright reasons I can not publish the story here so please hit the link below to read this great testimony.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

NORTH KOREA -Without prayer, the church can’t survive. North Korean Christians suffer the worst persecution of anywhere in the world

In North Korea, the most closed country in the world, the state is the source and purpose of life. It decides where you live, where you work, what sport or musical instrument you play, what you eat and whether you eat.
The deceased former leader, Kim Il Sung, and the current leader, Kim Jong Il, are honoured as gods. Under these 'morning stars', Christians risk their lives every day.
At least 200,000 people suffer in harsh concentration camps. Between 50,000 and 70,000 are Christians, reckons 'Brother Peter', who has many contacts with the North Korean underground church.

Korea used to have a large Christian population. The capital, Pyongyang, was even called the 'Jerusalem of the East'. But since the end of the Korean War in 1953, things have changed. Of the 20 million people in North Korea, only 200,000–400,000 are Christians.

Sculptures and portraits of Kim Il Sung are on display everywhere. North Koreans and even tourists are expected to bow to these idols.
Kim Il Sung, the so-called saviour and morning star, promised to make his country an example for the world and turn it into the first paradise on earth. But in 1995, one year after his death, starvation hit North Korea, and at least 2 million people there have died from hunger in the past 10 years, 10% of the total population.

"The famine had a significant impact on North Korean society," reports Brother Peter. "The state couldn't take care of its people any more: the food distribution was dismantled, so an underground market arose and the government didn't take action against it.
"A lot of people started to cross the Tumen River, the border with China. The food they were able to carry back to North Korea was sold on the black market. This sign of weakness damaged the glory of Kim Jung Il. Not all people believe in him anymore. They saw him building monumental buildings whilst people were starving."

Smugglers and defectors who are caught are often tortured to death, according to Peter:
"Their last days or weeks are terrible. The North Korean authorities submit them to days of interrogation and severe beatings without giving them food and water. Eventually they die.
"Survivors are sent to the worst political camps."
Christian help

When refugees succeed in crossing the border, they are helped mostly by Christians.
"There was a time when they knew they had to look for buildings with a cross on them. They heard from other people who managed to go to China that these people were willing to help them," Peter relates.
"But the Chinese government found this out and are now very upset. In the border area, they are really hunting for North Korean refugees. The police put pressure on the churches. Churches will lose their registration if they are not willing to turn in illegal North Koreans, and churchgoers face imprisonment for up to five years.
"Many Chinese and Korean-Chinese congregations choose to cooperate with the authorities. I can't tell any more which churches we can still trust.

"Another difficult factor is the number of North Korean secret agents who are trained to disguise themselves as Christian refugees. Only by God's grace are we able to tell the difference between a real and a fake refugee."

People who are able to travel between China and North Korea manage to spread contact addresses among North Koreans who want to flee. If their escape succeeds, they arrive in a whole different world.

"North Koreans are indoctrinated beyond imagination. Their perception of Christians and Christianity is completely distorted.
"At primary and secondary school, even at college, the teachers tell made up stories about evil Christians. One story that is frequently told is about a Christian mission that worked during the 30s in North Korea who had a vineyard with much fruit. One day some children went to the vineyard and ate some of the fruit. The missionaries found out and caught the children. They took a toxic substance and wrote on their forehead the word 'thief,'" said Peter.(Article continued as a Comment)