In the spring of 1975, the Communist Party of Kampuchea–more popularly known as the Khmer Rouge–took official control of Cambodia. Pol Pot, a Marxist driven by visions of a pure socialist state and his desire to rebuild his country, led a revolutionary army into unlikely power and immediately began to implement his plans for a better Cambodia. For the next four years, Pol Pot would pursue his socialist utopia by establishing a strictly agrarian economy and removing any possible signs of capitalist influence from the country.
That’s putting it lightly.
Pol Pot’s aim to create a “New Socialist Man” who was “dedicated only to the collective,” required that he eliminate any trace of the old society. Les Sillars explains,
Pol Pot’s goal was to create a new society that was purely socialist and purely Khmer. First, the regime had to crush the old society and everything connected to it: religion, free markets, private property, schools, political and economic institutions, as well as traditional ideas of morality, sexuality, and family (67). Continue reading “With Christ in the Cambodian Killing Fields”
The past thirty years have seen an increase in the phenomenon known as short-term missions. In the last three decades, American church members have enjoyed a growing ease of access to multi-week foreign mission trips in which they provide assistance to the ministry of overseas missionaries and Christian workers. Many churches have joined in what has been called the Short-Term Missions Movement by sending their members across the world on these single or multi-week ventures.
Certainly there is value in this kind of ministry. Although writers like Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert offer poignant criticism of how many churches are conducting their short-term mission trips in their book When Helping Hurts, they also conclude that these overseas trips should not be eradicated from church budgets. Reformation, not removal, is the aim of their critique. (see also Robert Lupton’s Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help for a trenchant critique of and recommendations for our short-term mission projects). Nevertheless, there is a hidden danger in these noble attempts at getting Christians to be more globally-minded. Continue reading “A Sustainable Christian Life Requires that We Love Those Around Us”
Horton says it well and memorably: “The key to maturity is time and community” (64). Our impulse for the extraordinary, however, fuels a desire for quick growth which in turn draws us away from community; at least, a community to which we commit ourselves for any length of time.
The Restless Generation
It’s become a truism to say that millennials are the restless generation: they jump from job to job, city to city, and church to church. Something new, something bigger, something more exciting is only a airplane flight or road trip away, and they would be foolish not to pursue it. But this approach to life hasn’t made our restless souls any happier. “[I]s it any wonder,” Horton ponders, “that we’re miserable if we don’t care about things that take time, require submission to a community, and do not yield immediate and measurable results” (65)? Continue reading “A Sustainable Christian Life is Characterized by Steady Faithfulness”
Michael Horton’s Ordinary is both a convicting and refreshing book. Horton helps Christians cultivate what he calls “sustainable faith” in world that is characterized with an obsession with the exceptional. The first sentence of Horton’s book is a list of adjectives and phrases that are used daily by savvy marketers to attract my generation to some new product. “Radical. Epic. Revolutionary. Transformative. Extreme. Awesome. Emergent. Alternative. Innovative. On the Edge. The Next Big Thing. Explosive Breakthrough” (11). Unsurprisingly, churches use these kinds of words and phrases are used to attract folks in my generation to their weekly gatherings and programs.
Yet, what the Church fails to recognize when it uncritically follows the world in its promotional tactics is that creating of a taste for the extraordinary will actually serve to undermine healthy, persevering faith by tempting people away from the normal means of spiritual growth. Horton helps us here. In this article I will mention the first of three ways. Continue reading “A Sustainable Christian Life Begins with Justification by Faith Alone”
When I was 19 years old, Jesus Christ saved me from a life of futility and sin. By his grace, God not only ignited in my heart new affections for Christ and other Christians, he also gave me a clear sense of purpose and calling and dislodged the hopelessness that previously characterized my life. The all-consuming call on my life now was to glorify God in everything I did, and I was ready to respond to that call. “I’ve wasted 19 years of my life,” I reasoned, “I need to make up for lost time.”
Soon after my conversion and from a desire to give myself to vocational ministry, I completed my sophomore year at the University of Portland and transferred to The Master’s College (TMC)—a small Christian college north of Los Angeles—in order to study the Bible and prepare for ministry. Continue reading “Resistance to the Ordinary”
I was a college sophomore when I trusted in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of my sins. The spiritual joy that characterized much of my first few months as a new believer, however, would eventually face significant obstacles. One obstacle in particular that threatened to throw me completely off course was the sad yet steady reality of Christian defection. Continue reading “Ministry as a Means of Perseverance”
At times perseverance can be a burdensome concept. We are called to remain faithful to the end and to hold fast to Christ; battling sin and exercising faith. And it is no small issue: our continued perseverance in the faith demonstrates that our salvation is real and God has been and is currently at work in our lives. But I am afraid that some of us (many of us?) mistake the call to perseverance as a call to muster up enough spiritual energy to make sure we make it to the finish line; perseverance is all up to us. This kind of thinking, however, can lead despair and spiritual frustration, especially for those who are well aware of their sin and weaknesses.
So the discovery that perseverance is primarily a matter of resting in the mercy and grace of Christ is both refreshing and empowering. The book of Hebrews, perhaps the one New Testament book that speaks the most about the essential need for perseverance also provides, more than any other book in the New Testament, the means to that perseverance. And the good news is that perseverance is not all up to us.
Throughout the book of Hebrews, we are given warnings to not drift away from Christ (2:1); to not let our hearts become hard to God’s Word (3:7-19); to hold fast to our confession (3:14); to grow into maturity (5:11-14) and to exercise sincere faith in God’s promises, (10:19-11:40). Daunting responsibilities, to be sure. And the mistake we can make upon realizing our responsibility to persevere, is to attempt to do it on our own. But thankfully, this is not what God expects us or calls us to do. Instead, he draws us to the throne of grace, where we have a merciful and faithful high priest who has sacrificed himself so that we might have full and unhindered fellowship with God. It is by this fellowship and enjoyment of God that we are enabled to hold fast to our confession of faith in Christ.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16)
Any call to persevere in the faith that draws us away from trusting and resting in Christ to trusting in resting in our own efforts is doomed to failure. And reading the commands to persevere in the faith outside of the context of Christ’s merciful high priesthood will only serve to burden our souls and actually hinder our perseverance. Fortunately, God has designed salvation in such a way that we are enabled to persevere, not by determined will power, but by drawing near to him through Christ.
Photo: See-ming Lee