Friday Five: Mike Lambert

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536623_561366103879852_1316570538_nToday, it’s my privilege to welcome to the blog, Mike Lambert. Besides being our friends, Mike and his wife, Wendy and their three boys are also members of Gages Lake Bible Church and are missionaries with Trans World Radio. Mike currently works as an engineer with Shure, the microphone company. The Lambert’s have a terrific story. They came to faith in Christ a few years ago, began attending church and also listening to Moody Radio here in Chicago. They began to really grow in their faith as a result of the preaching and teaching on Christian Radio. Then, one day, Wendy heard an appeal from Trans World Radio about the need for missionaries to help bring the solid teaching of Christian radio around the world. Fast forward to today and Mike and Wendy are beginning their journey as missionaries for TWR. They will serve the Lord in Guam. Recently, Chris Fabry interviewed Mike and Wendy on his national radio show. I asked Mike if he’d stop by my blog so I could interview him here. 

What was it that first motivated you to go into full-time missions? To be perfectly honest, I was pretty reluctant.  Wendy had heard about the need TWR had for engineering support on Guam and looked it up on line.  When she told me about it, I looked and thought “that looks perfect, except it’s a missionary position”.  I had never considered becoming a missionary.  I prayed about it for nearly a year.  During that time, I was constantly reminded of Guam and TWR’s need.  Finally, one Sunday in particular, the sermon was about Peter walking on the water.  I prayed what Peter said, “if it’s you Lord, call to me and I will come”.  I felt like he was saying to me “I think you know I already have”.  That was it, I went home that day and filled out the preliminary questionnaire.
It is quite a radical lifestyle change. Was that hard to get used to? Not really.  I really feel like we are doing what the Lord is leading us to.  Now that we are in this process of support raising and looking forward to starting our mission, I can’t believe I resisted it for so long.  I see now that I was trying to reach heaven while still holding on to the world.  Letting go and submitting to His will is very liberating, not to mention exciting.
Explain the work of Trans World Radio.  TWR broadcasts Christian radio programming in over 160 countries in over 230 languages.  Each year, they get over one million listener responses from around the globe.  From the station in Guam, the high powered short wave transmitters reach as far north as Japan and Russia, as far West as eastern India, and down into Australia and New Zealand.  China has one of the fastest growing Christian communities, but trained pastors are scarce.  To assist, TWR distributes Radio Church Kits to supplement radio broadcasts for China’s house church leaders. Each kit contains a radio, a Bible, and discipleship materials, carefully designed to ground Christian leaders in solid biblical truth.  In addition, they also broadcast a program called Seminary on the Air to help train new leaders.

Why Guam? When we interviewed at the TWR headquarters in Cary, NC, they asked if we were open to other locations or if we would only serve on Guam.  We told them we would go wherever we were needed.  Right now, the need is greatest on Guam for engineering support.  I recently saw a quote from the station manager on Guam that, in order to properly run a station that size, they need a minimum of two transmitter engineers.  Currently, they only have one.  That is one person on staff to respond if a transmitter goes down, or if there are problems keeping them from getting their signal out to the 1+ billion people in their broadcast area.  That is why there is such a critical need there.
Most people don’t understand the lengthy process of getting to the field. Can you share that and how individuals and churches can help? It has been quite a journey so far with the application process, screening, interviewing, and training.  Support raising can be the most challenging part, though.  We need people and churches to partner with us to help us reach people for Christ.  To learn more, people can see our TWR staff page.
*The Lamberts are currently raising support for their mission to Guam. If you’d like to consider supporting them, please click here

 

5 Hard Truths for Parents

I hesitate to write a parenting post, only because I’m not an expert, just a father trying his best to parent the way God wants me to. Our kids are still young, so there is no “finished product” to evaluate to see if what I’m saying even makes sense. So when you read the following, take those above caveats in mind.

Parenting involves hard truths. It is a way that God searches your heart, humbles you, and softens you for His service. I’ve learned five hard truths about being parent, that I’d like to share with you:

1) There is no guarantee that your kid will be great. When I say greatness, I mainly mean biblical greatness, which involves knowing, loving, and serving God. It means living above the world, living an extraordinary life on mission. I’m referring to kids who become adults who have an impact for Christ on their generation. It’s hard to accept the fact that God doesn’t really give us a guarantee that our kids will achieve this. We need to disabuse ourselves of the bad theology that says Proverbs 22:6 is an ironclad guarantee that if we “follow the formula”, inserting our kids in one end of the evangelical assembly line, that they will come out at the other end as perfectly formed Christians. This is not a note of despair, but a breath of fresh air. It means that our job is to simply be faithful with our children, to provide the kind of loving, nurturing, providing, spiritual environment where faith can best grow. We’re to sacrifice for them, discipline them, teach them, and motivate them to fulfill God’s call on their lives. But we cannot change our children. We cannot alter their hearts. Only God through the regenerating work of His Holy Spirit can produce the kind of righteousness we would like to see. This is very important, both for lazy parents who are tempted to be less than faithful and overly analytical parents who bludgeon themselves daily with the false notion that they are constantly failing.This reality is why we must pray fervently for our kids.

2) Your child, upon entering life, is a sinner in need of regeneration. Nobody likes to think of their child as the bad kid, right? I’m amazed at how blind we parents can be to the faults of our own kids and supersonically sensitive to the faults of the kids of other parents. It seems our generation is likely to be more defensive on this than our parent’s generation, but maybe that’s just my experience. It seems that we parents are more likely to defend our child at all costs against any accusation of misbehavior and constantly point it back at the other kids, whose parents are obviously less intentional than we. But if we believe what the Scripture says about humanity, about the Fall, about every person’s desperate need for redemptive grace, then we’ll stop hurting our children by defending their sin. The truth is that one day it may be the other kid that commits the outrageous acts in the church nursery and then the next week it may be my child. I must constantly remind myself that my child needs a work of the Spirit as much as the other kids. Parents, we need to be less sensitive when it comes to criticism and/or correction of our kids by other parents and we need to acknowledge that our kids are not the perfect angels we like to think they are.

3) There is no method, no strategy, no system that can do the work of the Holy Spirit. We evangelicals love our parenting formulas and every year the strategies seem to change. Now, I’m grateful for the many tools provided by ministries like Family Life Today and Focus on the Family and other organizations. They have helped Angela and I immensely. I’m grateful for books, for seminars, for conferences. But I have come to realize that I must first pray for my child’s salvation. That is to say that it is my hope and prayer that each of one of our children come to faith in Christ as their Lord and Savior. Why? Not only do I care deeply about their eternal destiny and their intimacy with God now, but the Holy Spirit is the only agent who can actively change my child’s heart. Parenting is much more of a joy when the Holy Spirit is doing His work in the lives of my children. The Spirit can take my faithfulness, my teaching, the environment I create and can use that to work in the heart and lives of my children. There is a great temptation to sort of “forget” or “eliminate” the role of the Spirit in parenting. We can too easily become enamored with our system of character-formation (which is important) and almost convince ourselves that parenting is all up to us. Yep, our kids will be good because we did it right! That’s humanism. You don’t have to be a Christian to parent this way. It leaves no room for the miracle of the gospel.

4) You will make a lot of really big mistakes You are not going to get it all right in your parenting. You will have glaring blindspots that your kids will one day lament as they consider their own parenting. But guess what? This is where God’s grace bleeds through. Be faithful, be humble, be apologetic, be present–and God will use you to mold the lives of your kids. It’s better to realize this up front than to fool yourself into thinking that you’ll be perfect, that whatever mistakes your parents made you will now iron out. It’s better not to convince yourself that you’ve finally mastered the balance between grace and law in your home. It’s better to go through your parenting years with the humility to realize you don’t have all the answers, the grace to apologize when you mess up, and the confidence that God can somehow take your flawed efforts and shape the hearts of your children. What encourages me about my children is to know that God loves them infinitely more than I love them, that God wants their spiritual success, their wholeness, their character more than I do. It encourages me to think that the huge, glaring gaps in my parenting will be filled by the Heavenly Father.

5) You need to unselfishly prepare them for their mission. The biggest temptation we parents face, I think, is to consider our kids as our kids rather than God’s children. Don’t misunderstand me, when I look at my children, I think all the time, Wow, these are my kids, this is awesome. And yet I have to remind myself that they are God’s children more than they are my children. This matters because it affects the way we parent. If we have children for our own pleasure and enjoyment, they will ultimately disappoint us. And we will ruin them by trying to mold and shape them, either into our own image or into the person who completes what we feel we lack. Instead, like Abraham, like Hannah we must relinquish control of our children to the Lord for his mission. This means rather than overprotecting them in a germ-less Christian bubble, we teach them and train them and equip them for life. We don’t assume the gospel and the great doctrines of the Christian faith, we drill these truths deep into their hearts and souls, so that they can carry this deposit of faith in their generation. It means we start teaching them essential life skills so they can go into the world and make a difference. It means we work hard at identifying their gifts and talents and how so they can discover their God-given vocation. Preparing our children for life means we slowly prepare our own hearts for the moment they will leave the nest, so we don’t hang on and destroy their adulthood, so we don’t hover over their relationships, their marriages and hurt their mission.

*This is by no means an exhaustive list of principles and truths, just some that I’ve been reflecting on lately. 

Embracing The Tension of God

This last Sunday we continued our series through The Lord’s Prayer. We examined the phrase, “Our Father in Heaven.” As a model for prayer, this doesn’t look too different from the way we might pray today. Perhaps we begin our prayers with something like, “Heavenly Father . . . ” But to the disciples who heard Jesus’ instructions for prayer, applying the word, “Father” to prayer was radical. The word, “Father” is “Abba” and is a more personal term than Yahweh or Elohim. It’s something a bit more formal than “Daddy,” perhaps “Dearest Father.” At any rate, it indicated intimacy and closeness. It indicates active, personal care.

There are glimpses in the Old Testament of this father relationship. In Psalm 103 David describes God’s care as that of a father to a child. And in 2 Samuel 7, you can’t escape the powerful imagery God uses to talk to David, “I shall be your father and you shall be my son.” Proverbs 3:12 says that “the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” But typically, they thought of God in reverence and fear. We think of Moses experience on Sinai, when he came down from the mountain and his face glowed.  We think of the entire sacrificial system and tabernacle and temple structure. It reinforced the idea that God was transcendent, great, and to be feared.

Jesus, however, introduced a new concept, the signaling of a new covenant between God and His people. It began with Jesus himself referring to God as his Father. Jesus first words, were “I must be about my father’s business” (Luke 2:49).

The Sermon on the Mount takes this further, by instructing the disciples to call Jesus father. Particularly in this prayer, Jesus is instructing his followers to consider Elohim, Yahweh, their Abba. How can disciples of Jesus have this kind of closeness with God? Through Christ, who is the mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). All humans are, by creation, children of God in a corporate sense. They were created and are sustained by God’s sovereign grace. But only those who have put their faith in Christ experience the closeness of God as their father and come boldly before God (Hebrews 4:16). Consider what John writes in the first chapter of John 1:

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13 (ESV) 

John further distinguishes those who have God as their father through Christ and those who do not:

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 1 John 3:1 (ESV) 

Paul affirms this in Romans 14:

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 

We, who have been redeemed by Christ, are children of God. He is our Father. This is a special, exclusive relationship with God through Christ. And how do we know we have this, how do we know we are children of God? The Holy Spirit reminds us, He speaks to our hearts and reminds us that God is our Abba Father. 

So there is an intimacy, a tenderness, a closeness we experience with God. Theologians call this immanence. 

However, Jesus’ intructions on how to begin our prayers don’t stop there. He says to open our prayers, “Our Father in Heaven. The phrase, in Heaven implies two things, I think:

First it reminds us that we are not of this world. If our Father is in Heaven, that means that our home is in Heaven. This means that we will not ever be totally comfortable on this earth. In 1 Peter , Scripture describes our condition as “exiles” and temporary residents.” This should inform our prayers in that while we pray for “daily bread” to a father who knows what we need before we need it, we should pray with a kingdom mindset, not merely seeking complete and total comfort on earth, but that God’s mission through us might be fulfilled.

Secondly, and most importantly, it reminds us of the authority of God. If the word Father speaks to God’s closeness, his intimacy, his immanence, the phrase in Heaven speaks to God’s transcendence. Heaven, in Scripture is the seat of power and authority. There is a tension here in the text that reflects the rest of Scripture, of how we should think about God. He is both transcendent and immanent. That is to say His all powerful and sovereign and just and yet he is also near and loving and available. Both of those are true of God. His transcendance isn’t diminished by his immanence.

This sounds like an egghead discussion for a few theologians, but it actually has implications for the way we approach God and the way we worship. Jesus instructed us to begin our prayers this way to reminds us of these two important attributes. We pray to a powerful, transcendant God who has chosen, in His grace through Christ, to be close to us. This gives weight to our conversation, to our prayers. We are not simply praying to another friend who is as limited as we are. We are praying to a transcendant God who can act.

This should also inform our worship. We tend, in modern evangelicalism, to emphasize the closeness of God, but we are in danger of ignoring the transcendance of God. We tend to fashion a God who is like us, we are often flippant in our worship. We’d do well to embrace this tension we find in the Lord’s prayer. So with equal weight, we should, for instance, sing, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” and “Immortal, Invisible.” We should be humbled and awed before the majesty of God and yet praise Him at the privilege of an intimate relationship with Him through Christ.

Friday Five: Steve Mathewson

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Mathewson.Steve-2012webI’m thrilled to welcome my good friend, Steve Mathewson to the blog today. Steve is a fellow pastor in the Chicago area and also is a adjunct professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where I’m studying for my Mdiv. Steve pastors Crosslife Evangelical Free Church in Libertyville, IL Steve received a Master of Arts Degree in Old Testament in 1986 from Western Conservative Baptist Seminary in Portland, Ore. and a Doctor of Ministry in 2000 from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Mass. He and his wife, Priscilla, have four children.

Steve is also an author. I wanted to talk to him about his latest book, one that I’m very, very excited about, Risen, 50 Reasons Why the Resurrection Changed Everything. It’s good reading for Christians as they prepare their hearts for Easter.

What motivated you to write this book on the Resurrection?

Three years ago, I had challenged the church I pastor to read through John Piper’s Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die in the fifty days prior to Easter Sunday. On Good Friday morning, as I was nearing the end of Piper’s book, the thought struck me that we needed a similar book for the resurrection. I had been doing some reading on the resurrection and had been studying Romans 8. So I set aside my preparation for the meditation I was to deliver at our Good Friday service and spent a few hours compiling an initial list of “50 reasons why Jesus was raised from death.” I was so moved and in awe of what God had done for his people through Christ’s resurrection that I started writing! I figured I could use this with our church family. But God in his grace has allowed it to be published and available to churches and believers around North America.

You seem more motivated in this book to talk of the theological significance of the Resurrection rather than defending it’s truth claims. Why this approach?

You’re absolutely right, Daniel! This approach has grown out of my conviction that we spend so much time defending the validity of the resurrection that we have little time or energy left to focus on how it has changed everything. We spend a lot more time, it seems, talking about the significance of the cross. This stands to reason because few people dispute that a Jewish man named Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem about two thousand years ago. We rarely have to defend the validity of Jesus’ death. The dispute, of course, is over the meaning and significance of the cross. But the idea of Jesus being raised bodily from death is so controversial! So, when we discuss or preach the resurrection, we usually focus on an apologetic defense of it. This is entirely appropriate, but we cannot afford to lose touch with the theological significance of this element of the gospel.

It seems the Resurrection often gets short shrift in our gospel proclamation? Seems like we emphasize the cross and atonement and “Oh yeah he rose again.” Why is this so harmful?

It’s harmful, I believe, because the gospel consists of two main elements: the death of Christ and his resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 makes this clear. Both elements happened according to the Scriptures and were verified by history–the cross by Jesus’ burial and the resurrection by the witnesses to his post-resurrection appearances. If we underemphasize the resurrection, we lost sight of many blessings of the gospel, including the resurrection-like power we have available to us (see Ephesians 1:18-20). In Philippians 3:10-11, the Apostle Paul says that he wants to know both the power of Christ’s resurrection and participation in his sufferings. If we focus on the latter but ignore the former, we run the risk of becoming gloomy, negative, and joyless.

I wonder if Christians understand all the wonderful ramifications of the Resurrection, especially with renewal and the Kingdom?

I’m not sure that we do! In my experience, we tend to forget that the resurrection of Jesus guarantees our future bodily resurrection (see 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 and 1 Thessalonians 4:14) and that these bodies will be heavenly, imperishable bodies (1 Corinthians 15:42-48). That’s simply amazing! Furthermore, we do not make the connection that Christ’s resurrection has set in motion a series of events that will culminate in creation being set free from its bondage to decay (see Romans 8:21-22). I wonder if we realize how the resurrection makes it possible for Jesus to be our good shepherd forever (see Hebrews 13:20)? I confess that while I’ve studied and preached Acts 17:16-34 several times over the years, I had not really realized how the resurrection is proof of God’s commitment to justice. I could go on, but I think you get the idea!

What is one thing you’d like readers to take away from this book?

Wow, it’s hard to narrow it down to one thing! I suppose, though, that I want readers to take away the New Testament’s emphasis on the present blessings of the resurrection as well as the futureones. In addition to guaranteeing our future resurrection, the resurrection of Jesus Christ changes everything about our current lives. For example, Colossians 3:1-4 makes it clear that the reality of our future resurrection has been pulled back into the present and has reoriented our desires. It makes us fruitful (Romans 7:4) and delivers us from a life of self-indulgence (1 Corinthians 15:32. In short, what I want reads to take away is that the resurrection of Jesus Christ has changed everything–now and forever!

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