Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Perfect Theology - Brad Jersak

I am currently enjoying Can You Hear Me? by Brad Jersak. It is one of the best books on the voice of God I have ever read, and the voice of God is perhaps the subject I read the most about. It is a phenomenal, practical manual on how to listen. While I recommend it highly, I do not agree with every word or statement in the book, and I disagree with Brad Jersak's theology on a number of major doctrines which he adresses in other books. I read from many authors, ministers, and theologians with whom I disagree. I know that I will not stand before God, justified because of my perfect doctrine or theology. That is not what justification by faith means. If I was judged by my theology, I have no doubt that I would be condemned. In my understanding of doctrine and God, I have missed the mark. I do not have perfect theology. But I have Jesus. 

This is not to say that anyone who claims Jesus is justified by faith, but that faith and understanding are not the same thing. It is absolutely true that we must have our faith placed in the One True God, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and live with Him as our living Lord. Our understanding of God can violate that faith and we can find ourselves worshipping a God that is not real. Our theology matters. But what matters most, in theology and practice, is that Jesus Christ is the perfect revelation of the Father. He is perfect theology.

Brad Jersak recently posted the following on his Facebook page. It has been said many times before, but it must be emphasized again and again. As we read the Bible and study the Word, we must see the living Word before us: Jesus Christ, the perfect revelation of the Father.

My doctrine, part 5:
Jesus is the only perfect theology.
John 1:14 (NIV)
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:18 (NIV)
No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and* is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
John 14:9 (NIV)
Jesus answered: “Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father'?
Colossians 1:15 (NIV)
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
Colossians 2:9 (NIV)
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.
Hebrews 1:1-3 (NIV)
[1] In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, [2] but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. [3] The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

When You Take a Bible to Africa

A few years ago I wrote Damaging the Cambridge ESV: 2 Days Inside a Backpack with Over Five Inches of Rain, which detailed the result of an unwise choice to bring my Goatskin leather wide-margin on a backpacking adventure with urban youth. The post was picked up by Bible Design Blog and quickly became the most popular post I had ever written. Though older and wiser, I am still just as committed to bringing my Bible on adventures. This time it wasn't a rainy backpacking adventure, but a two week trip to Uganda, where I stayed in the bush of Wanenga with a team of 14. Much to my delight, I ended up preaching twice a day, twice to a crowd of over 2000 people. My trip was truly a transforming experience and I have a journal full of miraculous stories. Over 200 people made decisions to give their lives to Jesus Christ and well over 1000 people reported miraculous healing. I will be publishing several reports about the trip as well as audio and video soon, but this early post will focus on the Bible I brought on the trip, how I studied, and how it fared.

You can see my setup above. I brought two journals and the ESV Single Column Journaling Bible from Crossway. I had rolled all of my clothes tightly and wrapped them in rubber bands for packing. These rubber bands were later used to secure my books together and hold my pens: two ballpoints and a black 005 Pigma Micron for those ever important minuscule, archival quality, waterproof Bible notes.

The Bible itself fared well. It did not have to endure any rain; instead it was subjected to my grubby hands. We were staying in the rural villages where there was no running water and red dust invades everything. My hands, and really my whole body, were always dirty. The camera didn't pick it up, but the pages were smudged with dirty fingerprints and dust, and the letters on the binding were nearly rubbed off. In addition to this, the Bible was tread upon by a number of cockroaches, though I avoided smashing any on the cover.

The cream colored hue of the paper in the Bible helped mask some of the dirt, and I am not at all disappointed with the character that has been added to this Bible. I'm glad I brought a hardback, rather than a more expensive Bible, though several times I opted to preach out of a cheap urethane covered Bible a friend brought, so I could fold the Bible in half (scandalous, I know).

The journal I brought along specifically for chronicling the trip fared somewhat worse than the Bible. This is a hardcover sketchbook I picked up from Walmart. I like the textured hardcover, the price, and the thick, blank pages. The rougher texture of the paper gives my pen more traction and I like the cream color. The texture of both the cover and the paper attracted a lot more dust and grime. The cover was roughed up quite a bit and there is at least one very unfortunate stain as, in the heat of the moment, I smashed a cockroach with it. See the whiteish stain next to the binding below.

This journal contained some quickly formed sermon outlines which were often only half used. Most days I would wake up at 5:30am or so and have a scripture or a story on my mind, which would become the text for whatever crowd I was addressing that day.

If you look carefully at the inside of the Bible, you will see my tiny scrawl in the margins. I have been using the ESV Single Column Journaling Bible since the beginning of the year. I have a specific project in progress, which I will be detailing in the future, and I continued working on it during the trip, reading ten or more chapters of the gospels each day in conjunction with some hurried sermon preparation. I may have missed a few days here and there, but I am immensely glad I brought this Bible and my current Bible reading project on the trip. No serious damage was sustained, but a lot of memories and character were added to the Bible. More about my trip to Uganda is forthcoming at

Monday, February 3, 2014

Righteous Bold as a Lion! (February 2014 Newsletter)

Making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you For I long to see you that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established—that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. Romans 1:10-12
This month we have been extraordinarily blessed by the ministry of SB, an evangelist and church planter from Bangladesh whose life and ministry are an inspiration to the world. We received a once in a lifetime opportunity to host SB in Hamtramck and be a part of his witness to the Bangladeshi community. SB pioneered a movement in Bangladesh which continues today and has seen multitudes of Muslims come to the Lord. One of the world’s most esteemed and recognized leaders in Muslim ministry shared, “No one has led more Muslims to Christ in Bangladesh than [SB].” We were thrilled by the opportunity and energized by SB’s passionate faith and endless zeal.
While I spent many hours learning from SB, recording hours of audio, and writing pages of notes, the highlight of our time was the many hours we spent in the homes of our Bangladeshi friends, sharing the truth and hope of Jesus Christ. I was privileged to spend nearly ten hours per day with SB for two weeks, and I was immersed in his wisdom and boldness.
On the day of SB’s arrival we immediately set out to share with A____ one of my Bangladeshi friends. SB and his wife shared with them for four hours, while I watched, prayed, took notes and chimed in occasionally. While my friend did not make a decision at that moment, A____ agreed that what SB shared was true and that he wanted to follow the Jesus and the way of Peace . Since that meeting “birds” have been after the seed that was sown (Matthew 13). My friend has not responded to attempts to contact him since. Please pray that God would continue to move in A____’s life and that good seed would find good soil, producing a good harvest.
SB’s boldness and encouragement in faith was a tremendous inspiration for me. I spend a lot of time sharing in what some would consider dangerous situations, but in the last two weeks, I was with SB in situations that had me genuinely scared. SB’s method of evangelism with Muslim’s is one of the most contextual I’ve ever seen, but also one of the boldest and most aggressive I’ve ever seen. We experienced much rejection as we watched many listen to the message for hours, only to reject the truth, unwilling to hear anymore. I am encouraged and my conscience is assuaged, knowing that I have given those that the Lord has placed in my life the best possible opportunity to hear and respond to the truth in their own language.
We had many positive encounters with those who wish to hear more and promise to investigate the truth. One man at a fish market agreed to have me come after SB is gone to teach him more about the Gospel and the truth. We shared with well over thirty people and spent two hours or more with almost all of them. The word quickly began to spread around the Bangladeshi community, causing concern among some and curiosity among others. It has been our goal to saturate the community with the Gospel, and SB has given us a tremendous gift by sharing the Gospel over and over in the Bangladeshi language and culture, sowing seeds that will continue to produce fruit.
We were blessed by his encouragement as he observed that he had rarely seen anyone who had done so much difficult work, making so many Bangladeshi friends and sharing in their homes. He encouraged us that we were on the right track, gave us knowledge and wisdom to advance, and is praying with us that we will find a man of peace in the community.
I expect a great increase in boldness and zeal in sharing the truth of the Gospel. Please continue to pray for SB as he will be sharing with my co-laborer Neil for one more week while I am in Uganda. Pray that God would bless him and his ministry and his Gospel work here in Hamtramck.

Read the rest of February 2014 Newsletter.
Read previous Newsletters.