Last Sunday morning we commissioned what will be over 300 adults and children that are launching our Webster Campus in just a few weeks. They will be led by Nate Miller, our Webster Campus Pastor, and will have their grand opening service on October 5. Please join me in praying for them!
Starting tomorrow is their "soft launch." The 300 that signed up will meet there for three weeks to be sure we are ready for all that God may bring our way!
In this video that we shot in the spring, Nate (who usually does all the camera work) got in front of the camera for some fun... Check it out. The well Nate is drinking from is the well that the generous donations from Northridge provided for the village of Maramara.
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The voice you hear laughing is Emmanuel. He is the acting director of World Concern in Chad, and I'm excited to let you know that he will be visiting Northridge in a couple of weeks! Emmanuel was born and raised in southern Chad and moved his family to eastern Chad to work in the neediest and unreached part of the country.
I love working with him (and I love his laugh). I can't wait to introduce him to you.
This Sunday we begin a new series at Northridge Church called The Journey. This is one of those weeks that I'd encourage you to bring someone with you. It is one of those weeks where I will do my best to take 30 minutes to explain the Gospel as clearly as I possibly can. So who are you bringing with you?
There is no meaningful purposes to this video - it is just FUNNY. If you have teens, you will know what I mean. Of course, MY CHILDREN would NEVER need a video like this...
We're starting a new series at Northridge on Sunday called The Journey. I hope you'll come check it out!
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You may have heard of Kent Brantly, the 33-year-old missionary doctor who left the United States to serve in Liberia - he has been on the news since contracting Ebola while working to help people with the same illness. I love how this author, Robert Cutillo, shares his own journey and explains that there isn't always a clear right or wrong when following God through difficult circumstances. You can read his article in its original form HERE.
'Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.' John 12:24
This is the epigraph to one of the greatest modern literary commentaries on the question of suffering, Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s final novel, The Brothers Karamozov. The characters in this book wrestle with their conception of God in a world of suffering, especially suffering of the innocent. In a sense, they ask the ageless question: “How can God let bad things happen to good people?” Recent news from western Africa has brought that question to the surface yet again.
Kent Brantly is a 33-year-old family doctor from Texas who is also a husband and father of two young children. Last year, he chose with his wife to go to Liberia as a medical missionary. He currently struggles for his very life, having been infected with Ebola, a disease with a high mortality rate and no cure. He contracted it while serving the needs of patients who had fallen ill with the same virus. So fast is the course of this disease that his recovery or death may be known before this article can be read.
When I read of these sad circumstances, I remembered the day we were evacuated from the Democratic Republic of Congo, called Zaire in 1991. The military had revolted, the streets were filled with tanks, and we were told to leave before things got worse. I, too, had a wife and two children of similar age. I, too, was serving in Africa as a medical missionary. I chose to go. Dr. Brantly chose to stay. (His wife and children are in the United States, having already returned for a wedding when he became ill.)
Can both decisions be good? On what basis do we accept risk, calculate risk, even embrace risk, specifically when we seek to live out our faith and express the love of Jesus Christ in a dark and scary world?
First, this world is dark and scary. Many of us live in a modern world of convenience and control, where the most relevant international concern may be what kind of ethnic cuisine to eat tonight. In abrupt contrast to this false sense of security, the biblical testimony exposes a dark world where the forces of evil are active (Eph. 6:12). In fact, Scripture goes as far as to say that “the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). Ebola wreaks havoc in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, bombs drop on civilian populations in Israel and Gaza, and ethnic hate in South Sudan leaves millions hungry, because at present we do not yet see the full subjection of everything to the authority of Jesus Christ. It is a world still ruled by the prince of darkness.
Second, Jesus loves the whole world. It is not surprising that people like Dr. Brantly, who for many years had a love for Africa, would end up there to express his commitment to follow Jesus Christ. Does that mean he chose to disregard other commitments and irresponsibly put his young family in harm’s way? The crucial distinction is that Dr. Brantly did not choose danger or seek suffering. He chose to follow Jesus. I did not choose to enter a war zone when I took my young family to Africa, though I knew there were dangers. At the time Dr. Brantly’s family went, while they knew there were risks, they did not blindly walk into active danger.
Third, we should never be surprised by the likelihood of suffering if we choose to follow Jesus.The entire first letter from Peter is written to a persecuted church so that they will not see their ordeal as strange but almost natural (1 Pet. 4:12). Suffering and death appeared suddenly and uninvited one day in the community where Dr. Brantly and his family had chosen to go and serve. They did not choose this danger or plan for this risk. He chose to stay, as one uniquely qualified to serve the people ravaged by the disease. He carefully followed infectious control protocols, not seeking to be sick but hoping to stay healthy so that he could serve others. He contracted the disease despite every good effort. He is not alone. He stands with more than 100 African health care workers who have been infected with this virus, half of whom have died.
There is no golden rule for staying or going in the midst of danger. I chose to leave. It was clear that things would grow worse, and I had little to offer in the military crisis. There was even a possibility that the presence of foreigners would only add to the trouble of our fellow Congolese Christians. But I do not rest in certainty that I made the right decision to go. I cannot help but believe that Dr. Brantly made the right decision to stay. But there is no consolation in knowing we are right, or in being able to prove that God is just when bad things happen to good people. Our consolation must have deeper roots.
Jesus’ words in John 12:24 are given in the context of a request, not unlike the words in a song sung at my church this past Sunday. “We want to see Jesus,” said some Greeks in Jerusalem to worship during the Passover feast. How little did they, or do we, understand what is being asked. If we want to see Jesus, we will have to lose our life, not literally in most cases, but then who knows. If we are following Jesus and not asking him to follow us, then “where I am, my servant will also be” (John 12:26).
In the great love of Jesus Christ for the whole world, and especially for the least, the lost, and the left out, we should not be surprised to find Jesus in Africa in the middle of an Ebola outbreak. The presence of Dr. Kent Brantly in Liberia in July 2014 is a clear and beautiful display of the heart of God for a broken world in our day. I for one am thankful—very thankful—for his life.
Jason DeGraaff recently spoke on singleness during our "Weird" series recently. I thought he did a great job talking about his journey with his singleness and explaining how marriage isn't everything (but it's not nothing, either). If you'd like to see his sermon, you can watch it through Northridge's website.
This article struck me as a great followup to Jason's sermon, so if you'd like to learn more - either for yourself or the people closest to you - keep reading. You can find the article in its original format HERE.
About 35 percent of adult church members in Britain are single, so clearly the subject of singleness has considerable personal interest to many people in our churches. Each single person will have a different experience. There are age differences. Being single at 20 is very different from being single at 30, 40, or 70. There are circumstantial differences: some have never married, while others are divorcees, widows, or widowers. And there are experiential differences: some have chosen to be single and are basically content; others long to be married and feel frustrated.
What does the Bible say to all these people?
So much in our society is structured around couples. It’s often just assumed that adults will have a partner and that there’s something rather odd about them if they don’t for any period of time. Oscar Wilde summed up the view of many: “Celibacy is the only known sexual perversion.”
There’s nothing new in this negative view of celibacy. In the first century, Rabbi Eleazar said, “Any man who has no wife is no proper man.” The Talmud went even further: “The man who is not married at 20 is living in sin.” Given that background, it is astonishing how positive the New Testament is about singleness. Paul speaks of it as a “gift” (1 Cor. 7:7), and Jesus says it is good “for those to whom it has been given” (Matt. 19:11).
A friend of mine once belonged to a young adult church group called “Pairs and Spares.” Single people can be made to feel like spare parts in their families, social groups, and churches. One man was so fed up with being asked “Are you still single?” that he began to respond, “Are you still married?” We must resist the implication that singleness is second best. The Bible doesn’t say so. Marriage is good, but so is singleness: it has been “given” to some.
But what if I don’t think I have the “gift” of singleness? I don’t find it easy being on my own, and I long to marry; does that mean I’m experiencing “second best”? No. When Paul speaks of singleness as a gift, he isn’t speaking of a particular ability some people have to be contentedly single. Rather, he’s speaking of the state of being single. As long as you have it, it’s a gift from God, just as marriage will be God’s gift if you ever receive it. We should receive our situation in life, whether it is singleness or marriage, as a gift of God’s grace to us.
Paul mentions two advantages of singleness in 1 Corinthians 7:
Single people are spared the “troubles” of marriage. There are many great blessings in marriage, but there are difficulties too. Understandably, Christian couples don’t often talk openly about the hard things they face, which can give singles a rose-tinted view of marriage. But there’s a downside even when a married couple’s relationship is good: life is more complicated. There’s more than one person to consider in decisions about use of time, accommodation, holidays, even the daily menu. And there’s more than one person to worry about. Children bring great pleasure but plenty of anxiety as well. Marriage does bring “many troubles in this life” and, Paul says, “I want to spare you this” (1 Cor. 7:28). He mentions these troubles here chiefly because of the bearing they have on the next point.
Single people can devote themselves more fully to God’s work: “An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife—and his interests are divided” (1 Cor. 7:32-34). A vital part of the Christian responsibility of married persons is to care for their spouse and children. That should take time, time that cannot therefore be spent in witnessing to people, helping out at a camp, doing the church finances, or leading a Bible study. Single people have more time to give to such things. It’s no coincidence that many activities in church life depend to a large extent on those who aren’t married. A few consciously choose to stay single to devote themselves to Christian work. Most single people haven’t chosen singleness in that way and yet they have the same advantages as those who have. Instead of focusing on the difficulties of being single, as some do, we should all make the most of the advantages of God’s gift of singleness while we have it.
When God saw Adam on his own in the Garden of Eden, he said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Gen. 2:18). So Eve was created to meet Adam’s need for companionship, and the two came together in the lifelong, sexual relationship of marriage. Although the New Testament is positive about singleness, there’s no doubt marriage is regarded as the norm. It is God’s loving gift to humanity and the chief context in which our desire for intimacy is met. Single people are therefore likely to struggle with loneliness and sexual temptation. Those struggles are certainly not exclusive to the unmarried, but they are very much a part of the single condition. Some will seek to lessen them by getting married. Others will either choose not to marry or will feel unable to because of their circumstances, personality, or sexual attraction. They are likely to face a lifelong battle with loneliness and sexual temptation.
Those two battles are closely related. The lonelier we are, the more likely we are to struggle with sexual fantasy and fall into sin. We need to be proactive in seeking help in these areas. We aren’t designed to be on our own, and if we aren’t to be married, whether in the short or long term, we should seek to satisfy our need for intimacy in other relationships. That will mean taking the initiative in keeping in close contact with friends and family. And we must be self-disciplined in “fleeing from sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18). It often helps to have one or two close friends to whom we are accountable in this area.
Many who are presently single will one day marry. Others will remain single throughout their lives. But no Christian is single forever. Human marriage reflects the marriage God wants to enjoy with his people forever. The Bible speaks of Jesus as the bridegroom who will one day return to take his bride, the church, to be with him in the perfect new creation. On that day all pain will disappear, including the pain of a difficult marriage or singleness. God will wipe away every tear from our eyes and a great shout will be heard: “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready” (Rev. 7:17; 19:7).
After we had spoken about heaven, an elderly single lady said to me, “I can’t wait for my wedding day!” We should all share the same hope. And we can already experience something of that intimate marriage with Christ here on earth by the work of the Spirit in our lives. Human relationships do matter, but none is nearly as important as our eternal relationship with Jesus.
Thank God for the gift of singleness. Whatever your experience of singleness, recognize it as a gift from God and make the most of it for as long as you have it.
Do all you can to be godly. It’s easy for those who are single to lapse into a selfish, self-centred lifestyle and into sexual sin, whether in thought or deed. Be self-disciplined and accountable to others.
Keep your eyes fixed on heaven. It is our eternal relationship with Christ that ultimately matters.
A final word to those who are married:
Don’t think of singleness as second best. Christian preacher and author John Chapman spoke of friends taking him for long walks and telling him he should be married. He commented: “It would have been a great help if they had read the Bible, wouldn’t it?”
Remember that your family is the whole church. There should be no lonely people in our church. We need to be opening up our homes to one another and relating to one another not just in the nuclear family, but in the church family.
Keep your eyes fixed on heaven. Human marriage matters, but it will not last forever (Mark 12:25). Our relationship with Christ must come first.