The Key to Living Well?

Hey TD!

What is the key to living well? I believe it is abiding in Christ.  John 15 speaks quite a bit on this:

4“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8“My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. 9“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11“These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

Our friend, Margaret Manning Shull, from Ravi Zacharias Int’l Ministries, recently posted a very valuable article in RZIM’s A Slice of Infinity.  Please read the article below and grow your acumen in abiding in Christ, not only for your sake, but for the sake of all those around you! – Arthur

The Art of Abiding by Margaret Manning Shull

When it comes to exercise many of us ask: “How long will it take?” or “How much do I have to do?” The shorter the duration the better, we hope. Scientists at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario have researched the benefits of shorter-duration, high-intensity workouts. They found that the aerobic benefits were just as high as those who had worked out for much longer periods of time.(1) As one professor noted, “If you are someone, like me, who just wants to boost health and fitness and you don’t have 45 minutes or an hour to work out, our data show that you can get big benefits from even a single minute of intense exercise.”(2) This is good news for all who feel there are not enough hours in a day.

Yet, as good as this news may be for some, I am increasingly nervous about all the schemes and strategies to make one’s life more efficient. From the One Minute Manager to the One Minute Workout the short-cutting of our lives appears endemic. If one needs a quicker, faster, shorter version, there is an app for that. But I worry about what happens to our aptitude for endurance in the elevation of the efficient?

Edgar Degas, Musicians in the Orchestra, oil on canvas, 1872.

By contrast, author Malcolm Gladwell argued in his book Outliers that ten thousand hours of deliberate practice are needed before one can become good at some things. He cites Mozart, Bill Gates, and the Beatles as examples of brilliant artists and inventors whose patient practice and discipline began at an early age.(3) In fact, many artists suggest that their creative expression is something that must be practiced—exercised, as it were, just like any muscle. Significant achievement—in any area—is realized when bounded by discipline, and a tireless commitment to practice, routine, and structure. The painter, Wayne Thiebaud, once said that “an artist has to train his responses more than other people do. He has to be as disciplined as a mathematician. Discipline is not a restriction but an aid to freedom.”(4) Sadly, Thiebaud’s and Gladwell’s views are often the minority report in our hurried age.

Assumptions about growth in the spiritual life often parallel these assumptions about efficiency. Often, the drive to see measurable results creates unrealistic expectations. We often want a One Minute Spiritual Life that still yields unbounded growth and instant transformation. We expect the constant flow of “good feelings” surging through us. If we do not experience these things, or if we don’t perpetually experience something novel and instant from the rhythm of worship, prayer, or study, then we believe that something isn’t right. Sadly, we eschew the repetitive nature of discipline and routine.

Ritual, discipline, commitment, and structure seem impediments to growth, rather than the soil in which spiritual growth is nourished and fed. The drive for efficiency lures us into wanting a spiritual life more like osmosis—a process over which we have little control or responsibility.

There are not three easy steps to a vital spiritual life, nor an efficiency guide to greater transformation. And in his life and ministry, Jesus makes this connection between growth and discipline. In the gospel of John he exhorts his followers to “abide” in him—literally to rest and to take nourishment from the life Jesus offers.(5) Rest is the opposite of the efficient. In addition, he describes abiding in terms of love and obedience. “Just as the Father has loved me, I have also loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love; just as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”(6) Jesus insists that joy flows from a life of discipline and obedience that includes keeping his commands. They are not separate endeavors, but intimately enjoined to produce abundant life.

How ironic this statement seems when most of us do not associate joy with discipline or endurance! Our daily living often feels like monotonous routine. We can understand the desire to find a short-cut that brings excitement or instant results. But joy cannot be reduced to a feeling, nor is it dependent on the whims of our personalities. Joy is the result of a life lived in the rhythm of rest, routine, and discipline. Following in the way of Jesus can sometimes feel both tedious and difficult, as surely it is both tedious and difficult at times. But disciplined obedience is not a blockade to fullness of joy, but rather a doorway that opens into the abiding presence of God. There, we encounter one who produces something beautiful that remains.

Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.

(1) Gretchen Reynolds, “One Minute of All-Out Exercise May Have Benefits of 45 Minutes of Moderate Exertion,” The New York Times Blog, April 27, 2016, Accessed 20 May 2016.
(2) Ibid.
(3) As cited by Timothy Egan in “The One Minute Life,” The New York Times, May 13, 2016, Accessed 20 May 2016.
(4) As cited in Clint Brown, Artist to Artist: Inspiration & Advice from Artists Past & Present (Corvalis, OR: Jackson Creek Publishers, 1998), 87.
(5) John 15:4-5.
(6) John 15:9-11.

 

The Gospel in Asia

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Hey TD,

In light of TD’ers heading to love and serve orphaned children, typical children, and college students in China and Taiwan this summer in Jesus’ Name, I’d like for us to pray for these trips and get an overview of what God is doing in Asia.

I read the following article a few weeks ago in Tabletalk magazine and would like to share it with you.  Pray about it and ask the Lord what He wants you to do in response.  Your response can come in many forms, big and small.  But there should be some response of some sort, even if it’s to pray. – Arthur

The Gospel in Asia

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The advance of the gospel in Asia over the last century has been extraordinary. Christian churches are growing and thriving in countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, and of course South Korea, which boasts some of the largest churches in the entire world. Yet the gospel is also taking root in countries where we might not expect it to. For example, a movement of Reformed churches is growing in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world. Moreover, the exponential growth of the house church movement in China is remarkable considering that the Communist government places strict restrictions on the activities of Christian churches. Clearly, the work of the gospel in Asia is something we rejoice over, continue to pray for, and look for opportunities to support.

PLANTING THE SEEDS

The roots of the modern evangelical movement are often traced back to the First and Second Great Awakenings in North America. These revivals have a mixed legacy, but we can be thankful for their emphasis on conversion and evangelism, which sparked a global missionary movement that ultimately marked the nineteenth century as the great century of Protestant mission work. Protestant missionaries traveled to Africa, South America, and Asia spreading the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. While we cannot ignore or fully disentangle the Protestant mission movement from the often-brutal historical context of Western imperialism, which led to many European countries’ annexing territories around the world and the subjection of indigenous people groups, missionaries did plant the seeds of the gospel throughout the world—including Asia.

A good example of planting seeds was the missionary work of Robert Morrison, who was sent by the London Mission Society to China in 1807. He was one of the first to translate the Bible into Chinese and bring the gospel to southern China. James Hudson Taylor followed Morrison, arriving in China in 1853. Taylor founded the China Inland Mission, with a focus on reaching the interior of China, away from the more popular and lucrative port cities. Unique for his time, Taylor and his colleagues chose to dress and eat like the local Chinese as a way of identifying more closely with those to whom they were trying to minister. The work of Morrison and Taylor introduced the gospel to China, and their legacy lives on today.

Another example of gospel seeds being planted in Asia and bearing amazing fruit occurred in Korea, where the first Protestant missionaries arrived in the nineteenth century. Protestantism grew during the early twentieth century with the famous revival (1907–10) in the northern city of Pyongyang. As a result of the revival, Christianity was firmly established and would play a crucial role during the period of Japanese colonial rule. Christianity served as a point of resistance against Japanese occupation, and especially against the imposition of Shintoism. After Korea gained independence, Protestant Christianity continued to grow, and today South Korea’s population has the highest percentage of Christians in East Asia.

THE GOSPEL IN ASIA TODAY

Asia is a vast region, and each country has a distinct story about the gospel’s spread. No country is the same, but the Holy Spirit is working to bring the same gospel to each country. Here are three examples that will give us a glimpse into the work of the gospel in Asia today.

THE GOSPEL IN KOREA

After the Korean War, South Korea continued to see tremendous growth in churches and ministries. The fervency for evangelism and discipleship gripped Korean Christians, resulting in tremendous growth for the church in Korea. The numbers today are astounding. The largest church in the world is the Yoido Full Gospel Church, with more than three hundred thousand congregants. Yoido Church is a Pentecostal church, but many Korean Presbyterian churches have membership numbers in the tens of thousands. The Hapdong denomination which is a conservative Reformed Presbyterian denomination similar to the Presbyterian Church in America, has a membership of more than three million. In comparison, in 2015 the PCA reported a total membership of slightly more than 370,000. The largest Presbyterian church in the Hapdong denomination has a membership of more than 75,000.

The astounding growth of the church in South Korea has led to estimations that Christians make up nearly 29 percent of the population. This is one of the highest percentages of Christians in any country besides the United States. But the Korean church is not content to see the gospel impact only their country. Korean missionaries are now going out to the entire world in the same way their nineteenth-century Western predecessors did. Korea is often listed as the nation sending the second-highest number of missionaries, with the United States still sending the most missionaries of any country in the world.

THE GOSPEL IN CHINA

It is notoriously difficult to assess the growth and state of the church in China. In 1949, when the Communists defeated the Nationalists for control of the country, it is estimated that there were five hundred thousand Christians. With the Communist government’s restrictions on religion, many Christians gathered together in unregistered churches, avoiding public activities and gatherings that would draw scrutiny from officials. Yet all accounts point to the fact that the church in China, even under these hostile circumstances, grew and continues to grow. Chinese Christians are not deterred in their desire to spread the gospel even in the face of severe government opposition. Many scholars estimate that there are close to sixty million Christians in China. One scholar projects the growth to reach two hundred million by 2035. In comparison, there are 159 million Christians in the United States, and that number has been declining each year in recent decades. Consequently, China could eclipse the United States in total number of Christians in the next two decades. If the growth in China continues, Communist China will have one of the largest Christian populations in the entire world. The potential for the Chinese church is great. Not only is there an enormous opportunity for evangelism and church planting in China, but also for missionaries to be sent from China, especially to regions such as the Middle East where it may be more difficult for Westerners to gain entry.

THE GOSPEL IN INDONESIA

One last example is found in Indonesia. The country comprises a series of islands and is the largest Muslim country in the world. In the midst of this Islamic stronghold, the evangelist Stephen Tong started a growing Reformed evangelical church movement. Tong’s church in the capital city of Jakarta averages four thousand attendees each week. He has also founded a seminary and a Christian school, and he has planted multiple churches throughout Indonesia. Tong holds gospel rallies throughout Indonesia, where he preaches to thousands in stadiums and other open-air settings.

As his ministry has grown, Tong’s impact has extended beyond Indonesia to other Asian countries. He has established a regular preaching tour every week to Singapore; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Hong Kong; and Taipei, Taiwan; in addition to his Sunday preaching in Jakarta. Recordings of many of his sermons and lectures have circulated throughout the Chinese-speaking communities, earning him the reputation as one of the most influential preachers in Asia. Tong is likewise committed to Reformed theology and has introduced many in Asia to this rich biblical tradition.

THE GOSPEL MOVING FORWARD

The gospel is moving forward in Asia in unprecedented ways. Borrowing the words of Jonathan Edwards, who ministered during the First Great Awakening, this too is the “surprising work of God.” The gospel seeds that were planted more than two centuries ago have produced great spiritual fruit. What can we as Christians in the West do to support this movement of the gospel? Let me close by making a few suggestions.

1. Pray for the work of the gospel in Asia. 
Many brothers and sisters are serving in countries where there are enormous challenges and significant dangers.

2. Participate by reaching out to and sharing the gospel with foreign students and workers in your community from Asia
In this age of globalization, there are many students and workers from Asia coming to the United States for short periods of time. As they hear and receive the gospel in America, they will return to their home countries with the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.

3. Finally, if you have the opportunity, go and travel to Asia and see for yourself what the Lord is doing
Contact missionaries and churches and ask what their needs are and how you can go and help. I am certain it will be a life-changing experience.

© Tabletalk magazine

Dr. Jeffrey K. Jue is provost, executive vice president, and Stephen Tong Chair of Reformed Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He is a teaching elder in the PCA.

TD Fri. – It’s a HUGE Friday!

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Hey TD!

We’ve got a HUGE meeting this Friday at TD, so don’t miss out! So, what’s so HUGE about it?  Well, we’re going to …

… hand out the very cool V4V swag!

… mine through the personality test data and discover what the results mean for us individually, for TD, and for our church.  If you missed our last TD, click here and take this personality test asap and report your results to your small group leader

… show a very special video …

Two weeks ago, my family sent our first letter and picture to our new daughters in China.  Our agency translated it and went to visit them in the orphanage.  Late last week, we received pics and video of them, including the reading of our letter to them.  Though it’s of a pretty personal nature, of course, we decided we’d like to show the video to you, our TD family, as you’ve been journeying with us and will play a part in acclimating them to their new family and new homeland.

So, was I lying? It’s a huge Friday, right?  Make plans to be at TD and we look forward to worshiping and celebrating our God and His goodness with you! – Arthur

TD Fri. – T&T Night is Back!

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Hey TD!

Due to popular demand (well, Judy … but she’s popular!), T&T Night is back! Guys meet with guys and talk guy stuff and girls meet with girls to talk girl stuff.  That’s all we can really tell you right now.  Oh, we can also tell you that it’s going to be a blast!

T&T Night is from 6:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. and is NOT at church.  But it IS for dinner!  Contact one of your small group leaders for your location and for what food item to bring.  RSVP today!

 

TD Fri. – “The Sub-Conscious and the Way God Made Us”

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Hey TD!

There’s so much to say about the picture above, isn’t there?  Sandra really hit it out of the park in opening the door for us to begin walking through as we begin to observe, discover, and consider the unique ways God has wired and designed each of us, the people and culture He has placed us in, as well as the experiences He has ordained for us that has shaped us thus far.

Click on the link to listen (sorry, you won’t get to hear the movie clips!):

“The Power of Sub-Conscious Liturgies” mp3 (Sandra)

This Friday, we will take another step or two towards walking through the doorway by engaging in activities designed to help us discover more about ourselves, the way God made us, and what to do with that.

Jonathan Edwards stated that the two most important forms of knowledge are knowledge of God and knowledge of ourselves.

Jonathan Edwards stated that the two most important forms of knowledge are knowledge of God and knowledge of ourselves.  We often spend so much time on the former and so little time on the latter.  This is an area of my life that I’ve been personally working on in recent years and have found humbling, fascinating, and powerful.  It’s something we must all be working on.

Come join us for TD this Friday as Katherine and I facilitate some exercises and discussion that will hopefully open doors of discovery and transformation in your life.  Katherine is a psychology major at UCLA and has been experiencing the transforming power of Christ in her own life the last few years.  I look forward to our time together. See you Friday! – Arthur

What is Shaping You?

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Hi TD!

As a follow-up to Sandra’s insightful lesson last week, The Power of Sub-Conscious Liturgies, here is an article by author Nancy Guthrie that explores what it is that actually gives us our true inner-man shape.  It’s an important read for us as so many of us are being trained on how to portray and show a certain spiritual shape that is quite different from the shape we’re actually in.  We’ve got to go to the 90% of us that is below the surface and work on the shape down there.  It will eventually and inevitably show up in the 10% above the surface.  Please read and take action. – Arthur

What Is Shaping You?

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There’s a section in department stores these days called “shapewear.” It’s in both women’s and men’s clothing. These stores are banking on our concern with the shape of our bodies and our willingness to invest in garments that promise to give us the shape we’re looking for.

But when we read Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, we discover it’s not what is shaping our bodies that he is most concerned about. He’s concerned about what is shaping our perspective, our priorities, our pursuits, and our opinions. He writes:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom. 12:2)

His words force us to ask ourselves: What external forces are shaping my internal dialogue about what matters? What pressures me to make the choices I am making about how I spend my money, my time, and my energies? Am I self-aware enough to know?

Ever since we were born into this world, it has been working to press us into its mold.

Of course, we don’t like to think of ourselves as this impressionable. We like to think we are independent in our thinking. But the truth is, we are such products of the environment we live in that we often don’t recognize what is pressing in on us. Or perhaps we don’t feel the pressure because we simply give in to it. It makes no sense to Paul, however, for the lives of those who have been called and foreknown and predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son instead to be conformed to this world.

Instead of being conformed, Paul instructs us to be transformed. There’s a contrast here between something pressing in on us from the outside that causes us to be conformed and something taking place on the inside that causes us to be transformed. Where inside is this taking place? In our minds. And what is happening in our minds? They are being renewed. There’s a renovation project going on.

Have you ever renovated anything? The word used by Paul for the “renewal” of our minds literally means “to renovate”—to rip out the old and put in the new. The one doing the renovation work is the Holy Spirit. But there is something here for us to do. The tool the Holy Spirit uses is the Word. This means we must bring ourselves under the influence of the Word.

In his book Growing Your Faith, the late Jerry Bridges explains this process as similar to what we tell our son when he comes in from playing on the dirt pile: “Go take a shower.” It is the soap and water that will wash away the sweat and the dirt. But Tommy must bring himself under their cleansing action to become clean. So we say to him, “Go take a shower.”

Likewise, when Paul says to us: “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” he’s instructing us to bring ourselves under the transforming influence of the Word of God. As the Word of God pours over us, the Spirit will use it to accomplish its cleansing, renewing, renovating work in our minds. Our minds will begin to work correctly. Our thoughts will align more closely to God’s thoughts. Our way of valuing things will align more closely to the way God values things. In this way, we will grow in our ability to know what God wants.

We won’t need to wait for some extrabiblical, supernatural word from God to be spoken into our subconscious thoughts to know what to do. We’ll be able to discern the wise course of action. God doesn’t decide for us and then transmit His decisions to us. Like a good father, He is teaching us to discern what is good and acceptable and perfect. How? He is renewing our minds as we come under His Word. He is giving us the mind of Christ.

The world around us is trying to press us into its highly individualistic mold. But the Word is transforming us into people whose identity flows out of being a bondservant to Jesus Christ and no longer a slave to our own independence or self-fulfillment.

The world around us is trying to press us into its consumer mold. Its advertising seeks to convince us that we cannot be content without whatever it’s selling. But the Word is transforming us into people who can say, “I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

The world around us is trying to press us into its mold of thinking the goal of this life is comfort and security. But the Word of God is renewing our minds so that we have very different aspirations from simply a comfortable life with a comfortable retirement. We want to expend ourselves for the gospel until the day we die. We so deeply believe that our heavenly Father is taking care of us and has secured a future for us in which we will gain everything, we just aren’t so concerned about losing out here. We are pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

The world around us seeks to press us into its mold. And we can simply relent. We can be shaped by the world around us. But we don’t have to be. We can resist. We can be shaped by the Word of God. As we take it in, think it through, and live it out, it is going to change us in profound and pleasant ways. We’re going to increasingly know how to live in the world around us.

Nancy Guthrie

Nancy Guthrie is an author, conference speaker, and Bible teacher. She is author of The One Year Praying through the Bible for Your Kids, What Grieving People Wish You Knew about What Really Helps (and What Really Hurts), and the Bible study series The Promised One.

TD Fri. – “The Power of Sub-Conscious Liturgies”

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” We unconsciously learn to love rival kingdoms because we don’t realize we are participating in rival liturgies.” – James K.A. Smith

Hey TD!

This Friday will be our only Bible study in April. I sure hope you can make it out as Sandra leads us into a look into our subconscious lives; the place it is said to hold the power over our lives.

Come ready to take a look inside, and to consider why it is you do what you day and act the way you act.   You may be surprised.  In the end, we want to learn how God can hold not only our conscious convictions and beliefs, but our everyday lives as well.

It’s going to be an insightful time together. – Arthur