Update from India

This dining hall for the Dr. & Mrs. J.W. Cook Children\'s Home in Amravati, India, was built with funds from Grace\'s Harvest OfferingJohn Cook just sent an email sharing some important details of the ministry we help support there.  First, the Dining Hall we gave money to build in 2006’s Harvest Offering is up, and almost finished off–it is already being used by the children who live in the Children’s Home.  Just a few finishing touches are needed.  Children are still waiting to be supported in the Children’s Home, and you can sponsor a child (either from a poor family who cannot raise the child, or the child of a village church planter ministering in an area where the children would not be safe and unable to attend school) for $50 a month. 

Another important development is the construction of the first building for Grace Bible College.  This strategic training facility has outgrown its rental facilities and could triple immediately with this building.  The $200,000 needed will build a three story structure with enough space for classrooms, a library, offices, and housing for staff and students.  The leadership of GBC would like to honor each gift of $200 by placing a brick with the donor’s name in the entry hall of the building.  One thousand such gifts are needed to give GBC a permanent campus, next to the children’s home.

Pray for these ministries, and if God directs, consider a gift to IMI for the ministry in India (either finishing the Children’s Home, sponsoring a child in the home, or helping to build the Bible College building. 

Published in: on April 29, 2008 at 9:37 am  Leave a Comment  

Where to listen to some good sermons…

All right, the answer to this question should be, “just go to church,” and I hope that it is, especially for all of the Grace family! But what I am sharing here are some of the links that I regularly use to listen to sermons that challenge me and encourage me. I don’t line up with every bit of theology of any of these preachers, but I learn and am strengthened by all of them. I use my IPod Nano and go to ITunes to find most of these (I subscribe to a number of them and get each new message downloaded. Someday I hope that our sermons will be available to you this way (HINT: if you know how to do this and would like to help us make this a reality, let me know!). You can also go to individual ministry sites to download MP3 files (as you do now at Grace’s website‘s message archive. 

If you use the web, you probably know that you can download Apple’s ITunes for free and use it for podcasts. Go to this link to download ITunes if you need it. Then, choose the podcast tab and find any of the following.

MY CURRENT TOP FOUR SERMON LISTENING CHOICES

John Piper needs no introduction to most of you. His preaching is the source of much of his writing, and I like hearing him preach even more than listening to him write. On ITunes, look for Desiring God Audio. The ministry website is here.

Matt Chandler is Pastor of The Village Church in Highland Village, TX, where my brother’s family attends. He preaches in a unique and powerful style, and God has rapidly expanded the ministry of the Village (he would say in spite of the leadership). Doctrinally strong, relevant, and connecting to a young audience of many new believers and those seeking Christ, Matt is a young pastor who blesses me. His sermons, available through ITunes Podcast link (look for Village Church Sermon Audio podcast).

Ravi Zacharias is an apologist and speaker whose messages have taught me and encourage me when it comes to sharing the gospel and understanding theology.  Look him up on ITunes–his program is called “Let My People Think,” and his ministry website is here, and you can download audio there, if you need to.

Some of you will be put off by Mark Driscoll’s preaching. He is edgy, and uses humor, sarcasm and caustic wit in a way that makes me sound positively bland. He got saved in his late teens, doesn’t find church culture generally encouraging or powerful in terms of witness and growth, and has planted a church and birthed a ministry that is a conundrum to many–Reformed, evangelistic, non-traditional, and “in your face.” Yet God has brought hundreds to Himself under Mark’s preaching, and thousands more either to Himself or back to Himself through Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. Find him on ITunes, or go to the church’s website and follow the links to the media library, where you can get audio and video downloads.

Published in: on April 29, 2008 at 9:13 am  Comments (1)  

Becoming, and Staying, a New Community

In the last April message on Mark 3:7-19, I referenced Jesus’ break with the Pharisaic/rabbinic synagogue community and the origins of his new community–later inaugurated as the church.  He “withdrew” from the first, followed by his disciples.  He later gathered his followers on the mountain where he designated 12 apostles, in juxtaposition to the 12 patriarchs/tribes of Israel (over whom they would rule in the Messianic Kingdom on 12 thrones).  Interestingly, the 12 patriarchs would populate their community/nation through natural birth.  The populating of the community featuring the 12 apostles is captured both in their assignment (sent forth to preach and have authority over demons) and in their new name (apostle–“one sent with a charge or commission”).   

I spoke of how this new step in Jesus’ ministry would be more visible as we proceeded through Mark, but that the differences in the character of the two communities could be summarized as follows:

The Community He Leaves               The Community He Establishes

                Defined by Rules                           Defined by Relationship

       Everyone should be the same                    Differences welcome

             Outward Conformity                         Personal Commitment

                   Fear controls                                      Love controls

Leave important matters to the experts      Everyone shares in the work

            Tradition of the Elders                           Preaching of Jesus

              Plagued by demons                            Power over demons

This is a contrast that I think we need to wrestle with.  Each generation faces a similar temptation to make God’s unique workings through his word and his power the “norm” for future generations.  A person or a ministry sees God work powerfully.  In order to further that kind of work, we ask the person to train people to do exactly what he or she did, or we make the ministry a permanent fixture of church life.  Soon, the work may no longer be taking place, but the style or ministry continue on as the normal way of doing things, and any thought of change seems sacrilegious.

What should we do?  First, we need to ask ourselves if we live as if we belong to the old or the new community.  We then need to ask if there are reasons why we continue to embrace parts of the old that were replaced by the new.  Finally, we need to ask how we can keep the experience of Jesus’ message and power from “calcifying” into a system that we perpetuate, rather than a relationship we experience and lead others to seek and experience.  I’m praying today that we will be wrestling with these thoughts.

You can find the message outline and the audio file at Grace’s website.

Published in: on April 28, 2008 at 9:53 am  Comments (1)