Tag: Salvation

Friends in the Foxhole

There is a striking contrast between those living a peaceful, routine, Disneylandish sort of life at home and those who must face tragic realities of war or oppression as a normal part of life. There are many accurate parralels which can be made between war and our spiritual lives as Christians, as the Church. The Christian life will not survive lived as passive business, nor is it always fun, nor should it be reduced to a pursuit of all American good times. Often we live our lives completely oblivious to the warlike spiritual realities all around us. The Christian life cannot be passive, nor can we afford to live on cruise mode. Those of us who wish to end all struggle as God’s blessings effortlessly overflow into our lives, as we relax and enjoy the ride, will find that this only sinks us deeper and deeper into spiritual stagnation and defeat. In the Christian life, if we are not moving forward, if we are not fighting the war, we will find very quickly that we will be forced to pick up our gear and charge into battle. The forces of our sinful nature, the world, and the devil and his legion are forceful and strong. The battle has been won in Christ…which means we must fight to enter into His rest (i.e. the Gospel)!

All of us, as Christians, are soldiers. Some have different positions and differing assignments. If we could cross this analogy over into the mission field, I’d like us to consider a couple things. Missionaries abroad could be considered, if you will, to be on the front lines of the war. Meanwhile, many are stationed back home at headquarters, and some of those, not all mind you, have dodged the draft. Many are back home learning Greek, examining in depth studies on apologetics and theology. Others are raising families or building businesses. All of these things are good, to note, given the right context. People who are deciding on a church to attend may consider things like the children’s program, the preacher’s personality or the music style, others are more concerned with the mission statement, how missional minded the church is, or the structure of church government, or any combination of these sorts of things. The reasons we have different types of churches which, all things considered, have the same Gospel, are endless. I am not saying these things aren’t important or that people shouldn’t study Greek. I will say, that some people are using studying as a backdoor out the house of serving. And, “what”, you ask, “is my point?”

What is the ultimate overarching divine assignment of the Church? It is that God would be glorified as we enjoy Him! Then, that the world might see Him as we have, and glorify Him. So, as the Church, our ultimate overarching objective is that all the world would worship God, which has been Sovereignly designed to be their perfect and greatest best. Our war mission is this, nothing less, and each of our individual commands is unique. Some of us are called to be going to the front lines, some communicating with the front lines and reporting to headquarters, some are calling for recruits, some send resources and others cry out to God. The goers cannot go without the strategic support of those back home. Why do I say strategic?

God has been strategically working since before time began. He created a world where He could be most glorified in His work of redemption. Some believe He created the perfect world. He was strategic when and how He sent His Son, and strategic in how He prepared for His arrival through the ages before. He was strategic in how the Gospel spread through persecution and the Roman trade routes, the Koine Greek lingua franca, and the Jewish merchants. He was strategic in choosing Paul as an Apostle and He is strategic in His plans for you and I. All He does is with intention and strategy originating in a mind full of schemes of infinite wisdom. As a logical and ordered being His war strategies are numerous and intertwined, and we know, according to His word, the gates of Hell shall not prevail against them.

As full time (most often overtime :)) missionaries in Ukraine, my wife and I, and others we work with, have a team of financial and prayer soldiers who consist of baptists, presbyterians, charismatics, Calvary Chapelers, Sovereign Gracers, non-denominationalists, inter-denominationalists, etc., etc. and differing shades within these Evangelical camps. When you are on the front lines of war, the denominational lines begin to blur. I am not saying they aren’t important, or that I don’t understand the sense behind some of them. What I am saying is that we are at war and we have victory in the Gospel! In Ukraine, in the foxhole so to speak, we are planning and preparing to, by God’s grace, plant a church in the future and are gearing up and training now. God is assembling a special forces unit to plant a new church in Odessa. It is very important for those on this team to have like-mindedness in our beliefs, especially in our understanding of the Gospel. However, in the foxhole, a place where resources and mega churches and Christian sub-cultures are few, we are thankful for the people God brings to us. As long as we have the same Gospel and that is thoroughly understood and we agree on the large majority of the implications of that Gospel, then we can work together. When you meet a friend in the foxhole with bullets wizzing above you, things which were heavy concerns back home begin to seem more trivial in light of present threats of destruction.

When I was in the U.S. recruiting a financial team, many churches allowed me to come speak although I wasn’t apart of their “denomination”. Others did not. Many will only support missionaries from their congregation or denomination. I understand that and I understand why. But, it seems the emphasis has been placed on peripheral doctrines which are not aiding our, the Churches, war strategy. I do not mean that because some doctrines are considered “non-essentials” that they are unimportant, the question is, how important should they be in light of the war we are in? So, we have to strategically decide how we can pool our resources to be more effective war strategists, and I am not talking mere finances. When we plant a church we will have a team which is in agreement on the key issues. Don’t get me wrong, the vision, eschatology, soteriology, ecclesiology, liturgy, homoletic structure, and the mission strategy are all very important. But there comes a time when we must ask if it’s more important I have all these things 110% understood, or that I’m giving my time to people and discipleship? Strategically, when should I stop hiding in a closet learning and blogging, and begin serving and going? Our leadership team will be in agreement on our essential beliefs and particular “non-essentials”, which may be considered non-essential for church membership, but not for leadership, and these things are to be determined. But, don’t you think it’s great that we can go plant a church without a denominational stamp and understand the Gospel, and the breadth and power and scope of it, and harp on it ’til we die, and have that church thrive and work? Striving for unity around the Gospel to have as many friends as possible with us, in the foxhole.

For those of you who are curious, I would gladly disclose my views on any or each of these doctrinal topics, in detail, some of them being tentative. I will also say on any of them I could be wrong. Whichever camp on each of these issues you would find me in, by default, you would find there are people fighting in the foxhole with me, who I disagree with. This does not mean however that we are not wearing the same uniform and firing at the same enemy. So, wherever I fall, I cannot please everyone. Which as much as I want to be in harmony with all my fellow soldiers, my priority is to be faithful to God, to pursue truth in a passionate and worshipful manner as I believe He commands us to do, and to divide His Word, without dividing the body. This will mean there are things we disagree on, but it does not mean we can’t love each other. Please, stop backbiting your brothers and sisters and strategically deploy yourselves into battle, together united around the Gospel as much as possible. I don’t want to have a church which carries a label, and along with that many misunderstandings from those who have been trained by a biased mindset or culture. I want to center around the Gospel and the person of Jesus, love people and teach the Scriptures as they word it and let the truth be it’s own defense. Disclosing theological buzz words and controversies creates an atmosphere where many opportunites to love and disciple people can be lost. So, our war strategy is to work hard, to dot the “i’s” and cross the “t’s” of our theology, so much so that we know which hills are worth dying on, and in such a way that we don’t impend advancing into enemy territory. Love never fails! The aim of deepening our theology is to help ourselves and others find an increasingly profounder doxology!

For so long I strongly desired and worked tirelessly to get more Bible training. I believe preaching is the greatest privilege a man could have and an enormous responsibility…to give an account for overseeing men’s souls is a frightening thought! So, with much care and humility, a man called should be given to diligence in preparation. I desired to learn the biblical languages and read 100’s of books before even attempting to open my mouth.

Then, I came to Ukraine. I came to where bombs were being dropped and shrapnel was flying and saw the immense need for the Gospel. Suddenly, it seemed far less important whether or not I could read the Greek New Testament or quote all the church fathers (of course for some of us this is our calling and we need you guys and thank you so much for defending the Gospel, and for all your hard work!). Now, what mattered was practical hands on picking up an AK-47 and pulling a wounded soldier out of harm’s way. And what mattered wasn’t that I was an expert, but that I knew the Gospel, and understood the Scripture enough to teach it in a meaningful way. There is a thin line where we must decide when learning should become going. For each of us we must decide this time strategically. For me, it seems God has called me to begin full time service, however hard or uncomfortable that is, and set aside my theological, what could be proud, aspirations. And, as we fight this battle, the education continues, but the strategic emphasis is practical ministry where theology is learned and applied in the context of doing.

When I say we must strategize, I do not mean at all to be hardened in any way to the leading of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit guides our planning through biblical principles. All our plans must be subjected to being given to God’s glory and the worship of Him by all nations! All our plans must include, biblically, and therefore being led by the Holy Spirit, death to selfish ambition, redeeming the time, etc. However, there are many ways where we are falling short.

When at war, we must be conservative on how we use our resources and winning the war becomes a top priority where serious sacrifices are made, sometimes our very lives. If we are at war, and if winning a war requires strategy, which involves stewardship towards effectiveness, then we must look at how to win the war. The war is over when all the nations are worshiping Christ! This is our aim. It is not that injustices would be corrected, or that the starving would be fed, and people would have clean water. If people are worshiping Jesus this will happen, and doing these things can be a strategic means to that goal. However, we cannot leave these acts void of the Gospel or our strategy is weakened. We must be strategic in all of life’s decisions. I am pleading for all of you to spend a day, a week, a year, to sit down and look over everything prayerfully. To seriously consider these things, we probably just need to put on the breaks and pull over.

Countries at war strategize to win and do what it takes to execute their strategies. If, to win the war, it is for every unreached people group on earth to worhip Christ, for those in my neighborhood to worship Christ, my family, the atheists and the religions who have distorted the Gospel, what is your role in the grand scheme of this? Are you a goer or a sender? How does your life plans, big and small, support this single assignment to win the war whether you are a baker or a doctor? How have you rearranged your time and finances to be as effective as possible toward this aim?

How has your life been strategically arranged to help us win the war together? Are there friends who belong in your foxhole but you’ve asked to leave?

Take some extended time to pray about these questions. How have you been strategic and Spirit led:
With your primary career choice or education towards this single aim?
With God’s finances He’s entrusted to your stewardship?
With your weekly schedule, priorities, and time?
With spiritual disciplines and prayer?
In planning practical service and building relationships with others?

In encouraging others to be strategic?
In where you send missionaries?
In where you are planning to go as a missionary?
In your local missional involvement now?
In helping your church to think more globally? Or even locally for that matter?
In where missionaries are you are supporting, if you are supporting any, and in what they are doing?
What type of short term missions you support or are involved in?

Are you a goer or a sender? If you are a sender, what does that look like?

In light of the present war, which doctrines are essential for:

Salvation?
Discipleship?
Church membership?
Church leadership?
Partnering with or sending missionaries?
Working with missionaries?
Fighting in the foxhole?
Dividing over? :)

Is it more strategically beneficial for the Kingdom for you to enter the mission field on short term trips or for life?

Are you giving as much of your income and time to Kingdom building as is strategically wise and fruitful?

If you have decided to go into missions, what is your preparation plan?

Jonathan Edwards used to be strategic in planning his meals so he could be as effective as possible in life, which for him was always ministry. His time isolated with God was planned so that he could be more spiritually present to people when he was with them. There is a balance all of us must strategize. I would suggest for many of us, we have too much people time which isn’t fruitful at all. It would be greatly beneficial if the Church had a handbook which gave many examples of strategic outreaches, strategic schedules, strategic ways to use different careers, strategic places to send missionaries, strategic ways of cutting back on self indulging habits, strategic ways to be involved from home, or on the front lines, and strategic ways to save, invest, and give money towards the war efforts depending on various incomes, etc. I would love to write this book. Strategically however, I’ve currently decided to write a blog, pray for all the readers, and get back down in the foxhole with my friends.

If you can agree with this GOSPEL CENTERED CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT why not jump in the foxhole with us? To help us strategize towards the worship of God in Ukraine, click to JOIN OUR TEAM.

New Scripture Rendering!

Just thought I’d rewirite a portion of Scripture so that it fits better with some people’s theology.  Ephesians 1 would never fit into some people’s views unless we did a little tweaking to it.  It is to be a reminder that if we do not bow our knees to the truth of Scripture we are already rewriting it.

‎”3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will have blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ should we not lose our salvation;
4 because He knew we would choose Him before the foundation of the world, leaving it up to us to be holy and without blemish before Him.  In love
5 having foreseen we’d opt for adoption as children through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to what felt right to us,
6 to the praise of the glory of His grace combined with our reaching a turning point and realizing it was time to make the right choice, by which He conditionally bestowed favor on us in the Beloved,
7 in whom we have our redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His prevenient and saving grace,
8 which He made to abound toward us, thanks to our cooperation in all wisdom and prudence He and us had,
9 making known to us, as we figured it out, the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which Jesus, Judas, Pilate and the Pharisees and all the Old Testament prophecies, foreshadowings, etc. coincidentally happened to act out perfectly,
10 in God’s hopeful plan of the fullness of the times, to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things on the earth, in Him;
11 in Whom we volunteered for an inheritance, and God observed down the corridors of time we would exercise faith, seeing who would be good enough or smart enough to repent, helping us, He who works out whichever things He can hold together while never violating anyone’s free will;
12 so that we should be included in the praise of his glory, we who made a decision to hope in Christ:
13 in Whom you also, having heard the word of the truth, the Good News of your potential salvation—in Whom, having also believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit who will do His part as long as you do yours,
14 Who is a possibility of our inheritance, to the redemption of God’s sorta kinda possession, praising Him, not mentioning all that we did of course, for making it possible for us to have some of His glory.”

Ephesians 1:3-14

New Semi-Pelagian Versian

Life Story (In a Nutshell)

 

I had to write a short autobiography for the application of the Missionary Training Center I’m attending this fall so I thought I’d post it if anyone is curious.

Mt. St. Helens, May 18, 1980

Father, Gary, third from the left and my mother, Peggy, in front of him.

Born in the bicentennial, I was just 9 years old, and the oldest of four children, when my parents divorced.  In retrospect, as far as I can decipher, I was devastated.  I have a clear picture of asking my dad on more than one occasion if he and my mother would ever be together again.  As the oldest child, I was the only one of us to go back and forth between my mom and dad growing up.  My mother moved to a farm in Nebraska with our grandparents when I was just 10 or 11 years old.  Eventually we moved to Lincoln, NE and lived in the city.  As an adolescent from a broken home with a mother who was manic depressive, I ran the streets a lot, got in fights, stole and vandalized for fun, and was in trouble with the police fairly often, if they caught me.  As soon as my mother couldn’t handle me anymore I’d take a bus back to Portland, Oregon to live with my father. 

Dad

My father was more straight laced, so to speak, then my mother, and a musician in the worship team at our charismatic church. I idolized him in a sense.  When I lived with him I did better in school and better in church. 

Mom

My life felt like it had more order.  The only problem was he had married a 15 year old girl when he was 32; my babysitter.  Her rules for the home didn’t jive too well with my idealistic concepts of what a “normal” Christian home should be.  Their rules were very biased in favor of her children and as soon as I couldn’t take the anal strictness anymore I’d dash off back to live with my mother.  It wouldn’t be long before once again my criminal life escalated to worse heights than it ever had before.  And so was the cycle of my young life.
 

Young Nelson Family

  

Cookie Monster

 
I believe I was 23 when I began doing some serious investigating into my life.  I was living a life of partying, violence and crime.  I was so unhappy that I had taken all my potential to do something with my life and done nothing with it.  I hadn’t even graduated high school when all my life I was placed in honors classes.  How could I have wasted so much opportunity?  After some time of being in and out of jail, just drinking the weekends away, and giving drug dealing a shot, I began to come to my senses.  I started to ask very hard what I really wanted to do with my life.  I decided I would become a lawyer, and I set out to reach my goals.  Then I ventured up to Alaska to earn money as a fisherman for college.  One small turn of events would change my life forever.  What was it?  Puffing a little marijuana.
 

My B.C. Days

Potassium Intake Needed for Muscle Cramp Prevention

After fishing in the Bering Sea for about 3 or 4 months, I came home on a three week break, bought a car and put it in storage.  Some old friends and I went out to the lake to do a little sport fishing, drink some beer, and roll up some blunts.  Well, I told them I couldn’t smoke because I had a drug test coming up for work.  They kind of egged me on to take just one small hit.  No need to mention, I ended up failing the drug test even though I took preventative measures.  They still wanted me to work for them and said I had three more weeks to relax then come back and try again.

Penny and Luis

So, I had a pocket full of money and three weeks to kill.  I headed to California and partied with an old roommate for a few days.  Then, on my way back north I decided to stop and visit a family I hadn’t seen for 6 or 7 years.  Back when I was 18 years old they had taken me in at one time and tried to help me finish high school.  They treated me like family and being a confused kid I left to live with my mom, who is not a believer.  This, in hindsight, turned out to be a huge mistake.

At this time in my life I had lived a rough life for some time, although I knew the truth of Christ I was incredibly numb to it, miserable inside, full of pride and sin, and God seemed liked a million galaxies away.  I thought of God as a truth but in a very distant, mysterious, mystical, esoteric, imaginative sort of way.  I remember one time walking outside half drunk on the way to a party and looking up at the sky.  As I gazed at the immensity of the sky and wondered at the stars all floating in a way which seemed to defy time, I had a powerful awareness of God.  I prayed.  I told God I remembered a time when I used to live for Him and believe in Him and I was so far gone that I didn’t know if I could ever get back on track.  I asked Him, as you would a close friend, to please help me if He could.

Bible Study in the Park

About a year later I rang the doorbell of this wonderful Christian family.  I was a little hesitant to visit them, but thought I had heard all the Jesus stuff before and planned to just kind of roll through it.  Well, was I mistaken!  They invited me in very warmly and showered me with lots of Christian warmth and hospitality which I wasn’t used to at all. They had such love and joy in their home.  I saw a better way of living, I saw life in living, and meaning in just a few short hours.  Their son, my old friend, was now married and invited me to a Bible study he was teaching at the park.  All the Christians I saw there had something I didn’t, something I needed, something I used to have.  But, it seemed like a world away, like I was looking at them through a thick bullet proof glass wall and I wasn’t allowed on the other side.  I wept silently.

That night I returned to my hotel room and couldn’t sleep. The next night came.  I couldn’t sleep.  Thoughts ran through my head about if I ever had a family, and a son, how I’d want it to be like their home.  These people had a reason for living and ways to teach their children.  What would I teach my son were I ever to have one?  What meaning, depth, or warmth was there in my life?  None, just survival and being tough.  I didn’t want it anymore.  In that hotel I got on my knees and prayed the best, sincerest prayer of repentance I could.

This was almost nine years ago.

Southern Oregon

After becoming a believer I dropped everything and moved to Southern Oregon.  I knew no one but this beautiful family.  I began to go to 5 or 6 Bible Studies a week, read my Bible in my room like a mad scientist, and scour the internet for reasons to believe in Jesus for about 8 months.  I found plenty, and my faith was strengthened tremendously.  Being raised in a charismatic, faith movement type church, I had many questions regarding doctrine and practice.  I was determined to get to the bottom of things and began attending a Calvary Chapel church, which believed in the spiritual gifts, but only practiced them in “order” in certain settings.

Applegate Christian Fellowship

This was a breath of fresh air for me and less than one year after returning to Christ I was attending their Bible College in Southern California.  Between school and fishing, it took me 3 ½ years to complete a two year Bible School and receive an associates degree in theology.  A good majority of my time was focused on forming prayer groups and doing street evangelism outreach.  While there, several friends and myself, in part, from the influence of men like John Piper and John MacArthur, slowly but surely began to take on more of a reformed perspective of the Scriptures.  Mostly it was due to the fact that we just read our Bibles a lot.


Bible College

On campus with CC Pastor Ken Graves

After completing Bible college I did a good deal of church hopping trying to find which city God wanted me to serve in and which church body I belonged to.  I was looking for something which held to sound doctrine yet was real and engaged with the modern culture.  I ended up moving to Seattle and quickly became a member of Mars Hill church.  Unfortunately, I only lived there for 6 months as, due to the economy, I couldn’t find work.  I wound up living in a friends basement in Minneapolis attending John Piper’s church and another Sovereign Grace church on the south end of town.


Piper

Not long after this I met my bride to be.  Through her God introduced me to the city of Odessa and the country of Ukraine.  I never would have guessed or imagined I’d come to such a place but being here I have found my place and God has given me a heart to reach Odessan communities with the glorious life changing truth of the Gospel.

 



Lera & I in front of the Opera House immediately after being legally married in Odessa