Sabbatical Over, Gearing Up for 2017

Refreshed, invigorated, ready to roll. These words sum up how I feel after taking a sabbatical over this last year. While still speaking in churches and serving in the community, a much needed break has allowed me to refocus on potential avenues of service.

One such opportunity has presented itself just recently. Berean Bible Baptist in Binalbagan, Philippines has invited me to come and speak at a youth event in April of 2017. This is a great opportunity for Ta Ethne. I have been friends with Pastor Janel Vergara Nemeno for 5 years now and he is doing a fantastic job in Binalbagan.

In keeping with the mission to provide teaching and discipleship resources at little or no cost to churches worldwide, we will be going free of charge to this event, God willing. Because of the sabbatical, I have started a Go Fund Me account to help offset the cost of the trip. Normal channels of funding will take time to re-establish due to the long period of relative inactivity from this site, but I believe that God will provide.

Should you desire to help fund this trip, there is a paypal button on our site or you can go to .gofundme.com/th-mission-trip-to-the-philippines and donate through there.

Keep us in your prayers and know that 2017 is shaping up to be an exciting chapter in the history of Ta Ethne.

 

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Voluntary Sabbatical Nearing The End

For those wondering why no new content has been published in the last several months, wonder no longer. While the Twitter feed has been constantly updated, this website has not. The main reason was a self imposed sabbatical.

During this time away from blogging, I sought to determine what direction Ta Ethne needed to go in. While blogging is fun and there are many issues that need to be addressed, I realized that the main calling of this ministry, to teach and train Christian leaders worldwide, was suffering from a lack of focus. With many things clamoring for attention, the purpose of providing training materials was being lost.

This time of reflection and seeking direction is nearly at an end. Soon, in the next few months God willing, Ta Ethne will begin offering training courses online. While the courses are under construction, one main decision is still to be made. There are lots of e-learning course management systems available and picking the right one is a labor intensive project.

With systems ranging from Moodle to Blackboard, MyICourse to Schoology, picking the right one for this project is a challenge. Any thoughts anyone has on formats can be emailed to me at taethne@outlook.com.

Here’s to a great fall as we get back to re-focusing on our calling to train and equip Christian leaders worldwide.

Reflections on 20 years of service

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Ta Ethne. From humble beginnings in 1995 using Prodigy dial-up to start what was then called Discernment Ministries to partnerships across the globe, God has blessed us with many opportunities. We started by offering Personal Investigative Bible Studies free to any who wanted one and writing articles on the dangers of heresies in the church. Growth was slow and while many audio and written resources were produced and distributed we seemed to struggle just to stay afloat. 2004 saw the lowest point of our existence. Grand were the plans that year, with the biggest being a Bible Institute. Courses were prepared, instructors lines up, a building secured and a launch date was set. An online option was offered and we enrolled our first students from India. Then the wheels came off one by one, the institute never materialized,  and we had to see where we missed God’s leading.

From that soul searching moment came 2005 and a new direction began. A trip to East Asia unexpectedly led us to work with the underground church and started a partnership that is still running. That was followed by training opportunities in Malaysian churches and the rest was history. Books started to be written and made available, speaking engagements started happening and our role of helping to train church leaders across the globe was cemented.

A couple years ago we relaunched with the name Ta Ethne, feeling it better fit our purpose. A move to the Southeast US was also accomplished and new resources continue to be developed.  God willing, in the coming year, we will begin production on an audio version of The 180 Project and begin work on some new resources.

Continue to lift us up in prayer as we look forward to serving another 20, 30, 40 years or longer. Partner with us and spread the word. Have us come for a seminar or conference or help donate so we can continue to offer resources free to churches in other countries. We have invitations to go and speak in India and the Philippines and simply are waiting for the funds to come in. God has blessed us these many years and we are confident He will continue to bless us in the future.

Excerpt from The 180 Project

The following is an excerpt (unedited) from the second chapter of our work in progress, The 180° Project. Please be in prayer as work continues and the final chapters are being written: 

Riding on a carousel is great fun for thousands of children. Brightly painted horses, enchanting music and shining lights all add to the experience. One can climb on a gaily decorated pony and go up and down while revolving around and around or sit upon a horse transfixed on a pole, forgoing the vertical movement. No matter which one you ride upon, when the carousel stops its spinning you are back where you started. It is a pleasant ride, but one that takes you nowhere.

For many people, a carousel ride is an apt description of their spiritual life. If you have attended the same church regularly for a long time, you have probably observed such people. As a pastor, I have lost track of the number of people caught up on a spiritual carousel, a merry-go-round of misery that they cannot stop.

Week after week, the same individuals are at the altar pouring out the same confessions. “God, I’m sorry I got drunk again Friday night. I won’t do it anymore.” “Lord, I am ashamed of looking at pornography. I promise to never watch it again.” “God, I’m going to clean up my language this week.” “Lord, I’m sorry for…”

There they kneel, pouring out tears Sunday after Sunday, and yet their lifestyle never changes. At the altar they seem so sincere, so broken-hearted but there is no different in their life after they walk out the doors of the church. For many people, coming to the altar only has a placebo effect, the spiritual equivalent to a sugar pill. Their sincerity is short lived because it is emotion based and emotions change mercurially.

They have confessed, but not repented. The difference between the two is enormous, as we shall see in more detail in chapter three, when we break down the elements of biblical repentance. Confession is the first step; it is necessary but it is not biblical repentance.

They are sorry, to an extent. They are sorry that their sin has been exposed, sorry for the repercussions that are following them, the consequences they must now face. They may even want to reform, to stop their destructive habits, but not so much that any real effort is expended. Should God take away their desires for their sinful habits they would be well pleased. For them to exercise self discipline and take responsibility for their actions – well, why should they do that?

If God really cared, they reason, He could heal them, cleanse them, make them strong enough to conquer their demons. God is entreated as a magic genie or cosmic vending machine instead of a holy, righteous, jealous God who expects His followers to grow and mature in faith.

While God can pick you up off the spinning horse and throw you off the carousel the simple reality is that He rarely does. Never in Scripture is complete victory over every temptation instantly granted to anyone. Instead, we are required to submit daily to His Lordship, learning how His grace is sufficient, how His power is more than adequate for any battle we face. One is more likely to hear God say, “Go, and sin no more,” putting the responsibility back on us.

Mankind is called upon to endure as a soldier of the cross, not to ask for wings to fly over the troubles of the world. We are to pick up our cross and follow Jesus daily, not to ask for the cross’ removal.

What we desire is instant sanctification, not on-going reformation. God is at work transforming us day by day into the likeness of His Son. What we want is a short cut devoid of any hard work on our part. Scripture teaches us that God works in us and through us, as well as for us. Until we decide to come aboard the process His way, we will remain frustrated by our lack of spiritual progress.

For far too long, churches have taught a false definition of repentance. As a result, whole generations have grown up without the slightest clue as to what biblical repentance truly is.

Richard Blackaby once made this astute observation:

The problem with (an altar call for rededication) is that it is not biblical. The crux of the gospel message is not a call to rededication, but a call to repentance. John the Baptist preached repentance (Matt. 3:2). Jesus preached repentance, both in His earthly ministry and as the resurrected Lord (Matt. 4:17; Rev. 3:19). If one’s previous commitment did not keep him walking in obedience, a re-commitment is no more likely to make him faithful. The proper response to disobedience is not a commitment to try harder, but brokenness and repentance for rejecting the will of Almighty God. God looks for surrender to His will, not commitment to carry it out. Rather than asking church members to repeatedly promise to try harder, churches must call their people to repent before Holy God.”

The concept of repentance gets muddled up with sorrow, regret, remorse and penance. While elements of each of these things can be present in biblical repentance, there is much more to this concept.

Saying one is sorry (showing remorse) and promising to never do an action again is commendable, but it falls 90̊ short of biblical repentance. Feeling sorrow or regret over the pain or loss one has caused by their actions is a necessary component of biblical repentance, but by themselves they fall completely short of the biblical idea. Doing penance, or making restitution for a wrong is commendable but it doesn’t necessarily include the elements of sorrow or regret. By the same token, one may be sorry they were caught or sorry for the consequences of an action and yet make no attempt to give restitution to the one injured or stolen from. They may also have no remorse over the action itself.

Biblical repentance is a 180̊ change. Not only is one regretful over causing the grievance and ceased the offensive action, but they will replace that action with doing good in its place. Even beyond that, this good will have at its core the desire to serve God through that action.

For example, Scripture tells us not to have coarse or vulgar language coming out of our lips but to speak those things which are edifying or that build one another up in the Lord.

  Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29 NASB

Merely cleaning up one’s language isn’t enough, that is only a 90̊ change. A change for the better, to be sure, but far from the 180̊ change which includes uplifting and encouraging words that the Bible commands us to do.

Another example would be the command to refrain from stealing. Not only are we told not to do this in Ephesians 4:28, but we are told to go to work and provide for others so that others will not be tempted to steal.

 He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. NASB

In our two examples, then, biblical repentance looks like this:

Old Habit: Replaced By: For this Purpose:
Vulgar Language Edifying Language Building up others
Stealing Work Helping others

The Dangers of Fideism

One of the most subtle dangers presenting itself to the church today is that of fideism. Fideism is, in a nutshell, a subtle rejection of learning, reason, knowledge and logic in preference to that, “simple, ol’ time religion.” Those who subscribe to fideism will tell you, ‘I believe what I believe, don’t confuse me with the facts.” Faith and knowledge are held as enemies towards one another. This attitude flies in the face of such Scriptures as 2 Peter 1:5, which tells us to “make every effort to add knowledge to our faith.”

At the heart of fideists, is an unteachable spirit. I sat through one sermon not too long ago, where the pastor sidetracked towards the end of his message and said something to the effect of, “I just preach Jesus. I don’t preach “ism’s”. Not Arminianism, Calvinism or any other “ism”.” That sounds real good but is a stupid statement. Arminians and Calvinists also both preach Jesus. They just present Him differently. Even Jehovah Witnesses preach Jesus — just not the Jesus of Scripture. Anyone who has read through Romans, Ephesians and Hebrews would never characterize Christianity as a simple “religion.” This minister was not interested in understanding the differences, just in building a straw man on both sides while he stood as a third alternative, setting himself up as above all those who were putting “man-made” doctrines over Scripture. This, of course, is a poor argument, since both sides believe their interpretations come straight from Paul, not Calvin or Arminius.

It is hard for me to sit through what I call theatrical preaching. The kind of preaching where the volume and rhetoric overshadow any exposition of Scripture. The kind where “Amens” are elicited after every sentence instead of allowing them to be a spontaneous response from a convicted soul. The type of preaching where yelling, crying, laughing and whispering are masterfully orchestrated to bring the audience to an emotional decision instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to convict.  In my boyhood days we used to call this type of preaching “chicken-walking.” Whenever I hear someone stomping, snorting and stepping on their pant-cuffs and claiming they are more spiritual than a pastor who has labored long and hard to rightfully divide the Word of Truth it irks me.

Fideism is on the rise. It is infiltrating both city and country churches. There are many in today’s pulpits who sneer at those “television preachers” while they are doing the same thing on a smaller scale at their own churches. There is a suspicion of their brethren who have earned degrees in theology and ministry and this is passed on to their congregations and fostered to create a culture of ignorance. God wants us to reason with Him, He says so Himself in Isaiah. There were many things Jesus said He wanted to teach His disciples but they hadn’t yet spiritually matured enough to handle it. Discipleship is suffering in our churches because of fideism. It is a dangerous thing to let people study God’s Word in depth because it might make them question the interpretations they have heard from the pulpit for so long.

Roman Catholicism understood this. That is why they resisted their Mass and their Scriptures being in any language other than Latin for so long. It could be why so many pastors fight for KJV only also. Quite a large percentage of Americans cannot read at a 12th grade level (which the KJV is) nor understand Shakespearean English. If they could read Scripture easily (understandably) they also might question. And we all know that  a questioning mind is dangerous to those who value control over teaching.

It is far past time to to help our brothers and sisters add knowledge to their faith. That is what Ta Ethne is all about. Join us in bringing a greater knowledge of our faith to believers worldwide  so that they can be better equipped in sharing their faith.

A March of Giveaways

This month (March) will see Ta Ethne making several Kindle editions of our books free for downloads. Each of the next three weekends will see at least one of our books for free. Included this month are Is Jesus Enough? (both the original edition and the expanded edition w/study guide), The Quest: Changing a Church’s Culture from Missions-minded to Missions-active and A Heart Hungry to Worship.

We are doing this to celebrate the release of Is Jesus Enough? Expanded edition with Study Guide in paperback form. You can download the Kindle version free March 22-23. Check out the great new cover design:

Is_Jesus_Enough-_Cover_for_Kindle

http://www.amazon.com/Is-Jesus-Enough-Expanded-Study/dp/1495381161/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1394803480&sr=8-1&keywords=is+jesus+enough+expanded+edition

Is Jesus Enough? Expanded Edition Coming Soon

Our very first resource, Is Jesus Enough?, which has been enjoyed by thousands worldwide, is getting an update. Expanded content and a study guide has been written and the book is now in the editing stage. Print release date is tentatively scheduled for early March, and Kindle editions should also be released around the same time. We are excited that this has remained popular since its original release a few years ago and have enjoyed the feedback from so many across the globe. Many have said they have used this in small group discussions and have requested a study guide be made available with it.

Thank you so much for your prayers and support of Ta Ethne. God is good and has continued to bless us so that we may be a blessing to church leaders around the world. Other resources will follow this year and we are excited about the opportunities that God is making possible.