The Cycle of Disciplemaking

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Sarah and I are blessed that we were able to attend a workshop on the missional strategy of Four Fields as presented by #NoPlaceLeftOKC (resources on Four Fields on their site). Its a reminder that God has a design to the Great Commission. While it may look different, its core purpose is to bear witness to Christ and make disciples. While evangelism is a critical early step, this alone can’t reach the world. We are limited to our own lifetime. Just as Jesus entrusted the Great Commission to His disciples, all believers are to disciple others.

As Paul wrote to his disciple Timothy, we are to make disciples who then can make disciples. We must create a legacy of evangelism and reproducing discipleship. From there, God does the rest. One plants a seed. One waters it. God makes it grow.

For Sarah and I, our prayer is that we may not only boldly share the Gospel but teach others to teach others, trusting God to grow our acts of obedience well beyond our small hopes. Pray for us that we may continue to live our life on mission and gain clarity as to the “how” and “where”. Pray for our own discipleship, that we may learn from those who have walked before and may pour into us.

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South East Asia Profile

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Oklahoma is a growing hub of international activity. Dozens of people groups call the greater Oklahoma City area home. One of the largest non-Hispanic international people groups are South East Asians, which itself is made of numerous people groups.

A drive through Edmond, OK will reveal numerous businesses by South East Asians. Indian, Bengali, Nepali, and Pakistani restaurants and grocery stores dot the city. Beyond their own establishments, many also work for the medical and tech fields here. Well-rooted in the Edmond community, several of the South East Asians would attend services at the nearby mosques and temples. Collectively, while from different countries and backgrounds, South East Asians form a group of near-culture people that have almost no Gospel presence in Edmond and OKC.

Of the few South East Asian Christians, I know of only a few small Indian churches and house churches and one small Bengali church. These dozens of Christ-followers are a drop in the bucket for impacting their people with the Gospel. There is a great need to create disciples of Christ that will then go on to reach the South East Asians of Edmond, OKC, and throughout the world (learn about the 10/40 window).

South East Asians are some of the most challenging people groups to reach. With different faiths, languages, cultures, and geo-political backgrounds, there is a difficult task ahead for anyone sowing seeds among these peoples. However, with the command of the Great Commission, Christ also gave the promise that He is with us. The impossible is made possible through Jesus.

The largest people groups in Edmond and OKC also include Koreans, Chinese, Arabs, and Vietnamese.

For the South East Asians:

-Pray that God raise up believers who will bear witness of Christ to them

-Pray that hearts will be turned from the false truths of Islam and Hinduism, declaring salvation in no other name than in Christ Jesus.

-Pray for disciples who will go on and start Gospel movements among their own people, leading to new churches that will continue to fulfill the Great Commission across the globe.

Person of Peace

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As my family embarks on a new adventure in living on missions, prayerfully towards the international communities in Edmond, OK, we are praying for two types of people. One are partners who also are on fire for impacting the international students and residents with the Gospel. The other is to find persons of peace. A Person of Peace is a term for those individuals who are welcoming to the missionary, interested in your life as a Christ-follower, and may even assist you in your work.

THE “PERSON OF PEACE” PRECEDENT

While its very possible that God will not provide a person of peace, it is important to recognize that sometimes He may. It is A method He uses to accomplish His work. There are numerous examples in the New Testament where God used welcoming and open non-believers. Jesus encountered the Woman at the Well and Zacchaeus. Philip would meet the Eunuch from Ethiopia and Paul would meet Lydia. These men and women were not only eager to hear the Good News but would later assist others in hearing it.

MY MUSLIM FRIEND

When I served with the International Mission Board as a missionary, I spent a great deal of time befriending Muslims. Often my encounters were blessed but short-lived. I’d meet a new friend, we would lightly discuss our faiths, and often I would give them Gospel media as a gift. I would sometimes revisit them but due to language barriers, I was always limited in my ability to talk in-depth regarding spiritual topics.

I was out one day visiting a community when I met a group of men who worked at a local bazaar. This close-knit group of nearly 20 shopkeepers were all from the same region of Pakistan. I greeted them and was received warmly. One man, who I will call Aagha, was far more eager to know me than the rest. His English was the strongest of them all and we were able to chat very casually. In later visits, Aagha would actually help me translate to the groups. Soon, discussions began about what it was like being a Christ-follower. The group invited me to dinner for the sole purpose of hearing about what the Bible says of Jesus. Aagha served as my translator and would fire back questions the group had, as well. Eventually, I would build relationships with the entire community, gift them with the Gospel, and even have a showing of the Jesus Film in their native language! All of it, however, started by God utilizing Aagha, a Pakistani Muslim. While I never knew if Aagha came to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord, I know, to and through him, I presented the Gospel to many who were seeking spiritual peace.

PRAYERS FOR OUR “PERSONS OF PEACE”

For Sarah and I, we are praying for the internationals who will not only be receptive to the Gospel but will help us break through into new areas and people groups. Not having any other language asset beyond Urdu, these persons of peace may very well help us with translation and language learning. This is a critical need for us as we discern how God will have us make disciples of the nations. Please pray for us in this way:

-For teachable, humble spirits that will discern God’s direction and join Him in His work, not “ours”. 

-For partners, both individuals and organizations will come alongside us (and us them) for reaching the Edmond international communities.

-For persons of peace, who will receive us warmly, eager to learn of and embrace Christ as Lord and Savior, and be a disciple-making bridge towards new communities. 

 

New Purpose

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While this site has often gone neglected, its being repurposed and breathed new life. My wife and I are starting a new life, after 5 years of me teaching in higher education. For the past couple years, we have been sensing God leading us towards international ministry and evangelism. As we start this new journey, I wanted to find the space to post my insights, bear witness to God’s work in our lives, and further the discussion of evangelizing in this Digital Age. I hope this site may serve as a resource of ideas in your own calling from God. Blessings!

What Really Matters

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I have but one label that I refuse to let diminish. Its not American. Its not a political party. Its not my job title. Its not even husband, father, or son.

Its being a follower of Jesus.

What I desire is to love and serve my God. To honor Him means to follow His commands. No matter the headlines, we are all called to one task, to share Christ.

Its good to be politically informed. Its good to care about issues. Its good to have ambitions.

What is not good is when we let these become idols.

It doesn’t matter who won the election. When I woke up after election day, I still am faced with Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

It doesn’t matter when the laws of the land and popular culture shift remarkably from Biblical values. I still live under Matthew 28:19, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.”

It doesn’t matter what job I have, circumstance I live in, or what is happening around me. I still must submit to Acts 1:8, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

I am not calling for an ignorance or apathy to politics, or careers, or life in general. However, there is no greater command than to love God with all our being. There is no greater policy than to love our neighbor as ourselves. There is no greater issue than the vast lostness of humanity and the need for Christ as Savior and Lord.

No leader will save us. No law will fix us. Only Christ. Forever, only Christ.

To see the world change, we must see every knee bow and every tongue confess Jesus as Lord. (Phil 2:10-11). What a beautiful thing that our Creator calls us His own and invites us to join in His work.

The Right to Offend?

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Scene of the Attack on Charlie Hebdo

Two Muslim brothers walked into the offices of the French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, on January 7, 2015. Equipped with assault rifles, they massacred 12 people while injuring several others before dying in a shootout with police. A branch of Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility, justifying the attacks for Charlie Hebdo’s articles mocking Islam and Mohammed, the founding prophet of the religion. As France mourned, an international debate raged on free speech and antireligious publications. A year later, heated discussion continues among both policymakers and journalists on what should and should not be said.

 

The Debate on Freedom of Expression

It’s paramount to understand the context of the leading voices in the debate over freedom of expression. Despite objectionable content, Charlie Hebdo was entirely within French law and protected by Article 10 of France’s “Declaration of Human and Civic Rights of 26 August 1789,” which states, “No one may be disturbed on account of his opinions, even religious ones, as long as the manifestation of such opinions does not interfere with the established Law and Order.”

Admonishing supporters of open expression, Dr. Bart Cammaerts writes in his article, “Charlie Hebdo and the Other Within,” that the freedom of expression cannot be left unchecked, “this freedom comes with responsibilities and as far as I’m concerned this freedom is not necessarily a primary right in all circumstance, it has to be balanced out with other rights and protections, for example the right not to be discriminated against, the right not to be racially abused.”

There is, however, a third major voice in the debate of free speech. For the religious, the satire of Charlie Hebdo could be more than insults. It could be blasphemy. John Tate explains in his article, “Toleration, Skepticism, and Blasphemy: John Locke, Jonas Proast, and Charlie Hebdo,” how satirizing religion can be viewed as more than a simple insult. Tate writes, “Religious belief, when deeply held, is likely to define the core identity of a person, and so demands that such individuals tolerate that which is at odds with such belief are likely to produce some resistance. This is particularly the case with ‘blasphemy,’ which in advancing images, statements, or opinions profoundly at odds with particular religious beliefs, sometimes in a derisive or satirical way, impugns all that religious believers hold dear.” For some, an insult on their faith is perceived as a direct assault on them. While this is an invalid reason to support or commit violence, it’s conceivable that blasphemy can be used by the extremists to justify their actions.

Je Suis Charlie : I am Charlie

 

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Je Suis Charlie : I am Charlie

The attack on the office of Charlie Hebdo rattled the world, both in its brutality and its blatant assault on the freedom of expression. In the wake of the attack, many took to social media, using the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie (I am Charlie), demonstrating solidarity with both France, the newspaper, and the belief of freedom of speech. However, while #JeSuisCharlie was adopted by many, another hashtag gained prominence, #JeNeSuisPasCharlie (I am not Charlie). Fabio Giglietto and Yenn Lee studied the evolution and use of the hashtag in their article, “To Be or Not to Be Charlie”. The authors shared, “Users of the said hashtag showed resistance to the mainstream framing of the Charlie Hebdo shooting as the universal value of freedom of expression being threatened by religious intolerance and violence.” Just hours after the tragedy, a movement began that condemned the attacks but similarly rejected the rhetoric used by Charlie Hebdo that initially put them in the crosshairs of terrorists.

 

Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie : I am not Charlie

The day after the Charlie Hebdo attack, NY Times journalist David Brook penned the op-ed, “I am not Charlie Hebdo.” He begins by commenting on the hypocrisy of America to extol the brave comments of the French publications and similar voices while simultaneously trying to silence and punish those same opinions within our own borders. Brook argues that most of us cannot claim to be Charlie as we would not use such inflammatory language. However, the satirist has not only the right to speak but is even necessary at times. Despite this occasional need to challenge thoughts, the author considers such speech as juvenile and often harming more than helping. Brook writes, “Healthy societies, in other words,don’t suppress speech, but they do grant different standing to different sorts of people. Wise and considerate scholars are heard with high respect. Satirists are heard with bemused semirespect. Racists and anti-Semites are heard through a filter of opprobrium and disrespect. People who want to be heard attentively have to earn it through their conduct.”

In his article, Brook supports the freedom of expression and places society as the gatekeeper. This approach certainly stays within the letter of the law. In fact, it proposes no legal change, whatsoever. What it does ask is for individuals to aspire to more mature dialogues and reject those voices that are pointlessly inflammatory. Legal action would still need to be taken in cases of clear misdemeanors and felonies. However, the idea of society policing conversation raises the tide for all boats. The outspoken gain too much response but like a child’s tantrum, they will quiet down when they don’t receive the attention they crave.

Christian Satire?

Ephesians 4:29 (NIV) says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” The Biblical perspective encourages talk that similarly generates productive communication, including satire. Looking at Jesus Christ, the perfect model for Christians, he did not shy away from trading barbs with the corrupt. In Matthew 23, Jesus called the Pharisees, “hypocrites,” a “brood of vipers,” and accused them of murder. Throughout the Gospels, Christ can be seen using insults, parables, and dashes of humor to attack the religious leaders.  This was not said to tear them down but to say, “what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.” Stubbornly corrupt, Christ’s words were meant to convict.

Brook’s article was not a Christian commentary but was mostly in step with the Biblical worldview. The article promotes respect and encourages beneficial dialogue. Where Scripture would differ would be in condoning efforts like Charlie Hebdo. While Brook’s may find it occasionally necessary, Charlie Hebdo went beyond satire and was borderline bigotry. Their efforts to challenge Islamic radicals was less targeted and more a scorched earth policy. The magazine often was bolstering their like-minded audience than trying to make a genuine effort to rattle muslims into reformation.  

The attacks on Charlie Hebdo were heinous. Silencing voices through censorship or violence is never the answer. However, individuals must be thicker-skinned while simultaneously rejecting destructive talk. Christians need to prayerfully consider the words they share, seeking to build others up while being ready to speak boldly, when necessary. The freedom of speech is best expressed through love and tolerance.

“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” 

Hebrews 12:14

 

Don’t worry about Zika virus…yet.

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The Zika virus, a mosquito born illness, has grabbed headlines as it causes panic among expectant mothers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began emergency actions in late January in response to outbreaks of Zika in Central and South America. The Zika virus is known for causing birth defects in the babies of pregnant women. Only a few weeks after the initial actions, the CDC would elevate their emergency teams to their highest level of response. With no cure or vaccine, the Zika virus has many questioning if they are safe and how to protect themselves.

Dr. Kristy Bradley serves as the Oklahoma Department of Health’s State Epidemiologist. Beyond local outbreak prevention efforts, Bradley also works in national groups to develop a surveillance plan for the US in response to the Zika virus. She shares how it has already made its way to the States, “The CDC is reporting a total of 84 cases of the Zika virus disease in the United States but all 84 are infections that have been acquired overseas.”

Explore an interactive map of the Zika virus cases in the US here.

The CDC breaks the spread of the Zika virus into two broad categories: travel-acquired and locally transmitted. All of the Zika virus cases in the US have been considered travel-acquired, which occurs when the patient was infected while traveling outside the US in an area with the Zika-carrying mosquitos and returns to the US. Local transmission is where the patient was infected by a domestic mosquito that carrying the virus. While Zika can also be transmitted by blood transfusion and even sexual contact, the virus would still have originated either through travel or local transmission.

Aedes aegypti

Aedes Aegypti

As of right now, there are no known cases of the Zika virus in Oklahoma. Dr. Bradley explains that our mosquitos are just different. “In regards to the Zika virus, the Aedes Aegypti, or the common name is the Yellow Fever mosquito, is the main type of mosquito that’s effective in spreading this virus…We only have some parts of the United States that have populations of yellow fever mosquitos and its not in Oklahoma.”

 

While Bradley acknowledges the outbreak sounds alarming, Zika only affects 1 in 5 people. The infection yields mild symptoms of a fever, rash, joint pains, and red eyes. The virus usually is gone within a week’s time. The main concern of Zika revolves entirely around pregnant women as it can cause birth defects in the baby. The common birth defect is microcephaly, where the baby’s head grows much smaller than average and can lead to several developmental disabilities. If you suspect you might have symptoms of the Zika, the CDC recommends seeking your healthcare provider, who can test for the virus.

Zika Virus Prevention Tips

  • Avoid travel to Zika outbreak areas.
  • If you must travel to such areas, wear long-sleeve clothing, use insect repellant, and avoid areas and times where mosquitos are common.
  • Avoid sexual contact or wear protection with Zika-infected individuals.

Dr. Bradley says there is no need for concern but that may not always be the case. While the Zika virus’s main carrier is the Yellow Fever mosquito, there is always the possibility that the virus might spread to a native species of mosquito. With so few cases in the US, chances of a domestic mosquito biting and becoming a carrier of Zika are slim. However, Bradley warns of one upcoming event that might change that, Spring Break.

 

 

The best way to stay safe from the Zika virus is to remain informed. Following information by the CDC will keep you updated and aware of prevention methods. While the potential for a US outbreak does exist, health officials say there is no immediate need to panic. More information on Zika can be found on the CDC website and also by visiting the Oklahoma Department of Health’s Zika page.