Volume 5 | September, 2018 View as Webpage
Monthly News & Updates
Dear Friend in Christ,

Grace and Peace to you from your fellow EFACters. As I write the introduction to this newsletter, we are preparing to visit faithful believers in Melbourne, Sydney (Australia), Dallas, and Birmingham (USA). Outside, I can hear a lawn mower--lots of rain and lots of sun have produced lots of growth.

Similarly, EFAC has been growing. We now have a functioning EFAC intercessory prayer team, so that growth is being watered by the spirit. The sun of the Spirit and the Word are lighting our path. Our souls are being warmed. The result is growth--exponential growth. You can read more below and on our website. With all that has happened, it is hard to believe that the work of revitalizing EFAC only started about six months ago.
Bible, Prayer and Theology: EFAC's Strategies for Facing Today's Challenges
by Rev'd Richard Crocker

The Bible shows that the Church has faced challenges and difficulties from the start. From within the New Testament Church, we see a traitorous disciple, disputes about mission priorities, arguments between Hebrew and Greek background converts, and instructions to rebellious congregations. Add to that the external pressures from scoffers, local disturbances and riots, imprisonment of leaders, encroaching of other beliefs, and outright persecution from imperial authority. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much imagination to transpose this experience of the first church generation to today’s world. Church life is still challenging.

As a service to the Church, EFAC has established an intercessory prayer team and sends out a monthly prayer bulletin. As we receive the prayer requests, we notice the need for help. Spiritual renewal in a European church, retention of hard-won property in an African setting, and protection for Gospel ministers in a majority Muslim setting. There are continuing attacks on churches, violence against ministers, and kidnapping of vulnerable Christians in parts of Africa and Asia. There is sorrow as congregations work out how to handle changing teaching about marriage in Western contexts, the terrible news of clergy sexual abuse, and the need for justice for victims and care for current members. We also hear joy—as in the New Testament Church.  New church development in an area of great poverty, large-scale prayer and preparation for evangelistic ministry in a sensitive area in Asia where changing religion is officially discouraged. 

What does Scripture tell us about how to handle the questions of the day? The Apostle Paul used a consistent method: theology, then application. He teaches about God and the Gospel of Jesus, and, “therefore”, brings his counsel to the church and its questions. In the Letter to the Ephesians, for example, he takes space to expound the glories of the work of Jesus in salvation and the cosmic significance of the People of God. Chapter 4 begins, “I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you …” to take advice on lifestyle, leadership, marriage and family relationships, and prayer ministry in conflict. Following the magisterial description of the Gospel in Romans, Chapter 12 begins, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy.“ Paul then describes what the application of mercy looks like. He reviews spiritual gifts and love, living under man’s law and God’s law, dealing with differences between brothers in faith and conscience, and giving to the poor. The other epistles similarly link a theological foundation and practical instruction to address the questions of the day. 

EFAC seeks to mirror this approach through its Theological Resource Network (TRN). We gather theologians who are faithful to the Scriptures to consider questions of the day and to “therefore” advise the faithful on how to act. An example of this type of approach is seen in two documents from England found on the EFAC Reading Page addressing contemporary questions: “Guarding the Deposit” and “Gospel, Church and Marriage: Preserving Apostolic Faith and Life”. These have already been used around the world as other places experience the same questions as England. Dr. Peter Walker heads the TRN, and has started to recruit theologians around the world for similar work in their localities. He may be reached at  trn@efacglobal.org .

It seems that we are continually engaged in a spiritual conflict. However, by prayer, careful study, and faithful obedience to God, we can find the wisdom and encouragement we need to live and spread the Gospel. We are developing prayer and theological support. Despite first century difficulties, the Gospel did, and has, spread. The global EFAC fellowship is around to help keep it going!
By Dr. Caroline Crocker

Have you ever been in pain, whether emotional or physical? If you live on planet Earth, chances are you have been—or will be—at some time. We don’t enjoy pain and would do anything to protect our loved ones from it, but it happens. Pain is a part of life. 

We will try almost anything to avoid or minimize pain. In the USA we spend $16.4B/yr on painkillers. This doesn’t even take into account the $34B/yr spent by the many who are seeking relief with non-traditional alternatives such as acupuncture, homeopathy, or chiropractic therapy. Pilgrims in the 16 th century would attempt to cure toothaches with a stolen sliver of wood from Luther’s deathbed; we haven’t changed much. We are also not too excited about emotional pain. We spend $10B/yr on anti-depressants and billions more on seeing therapists. Now some countries are even legalizing assisted suicide, so people can avoid the intolerable pain of dying or seeing a loved one suffer. 

Why doesn’t God do something about all this? Why would a loving God allow pain? These are questions that have plagued people ever since humans learned that God, indeed, loves us. I can't give a definitive answer, but will content myself with adding to the discussion.

Many years ago I read a book that helped form my thoughts on pain:  Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants . Written by Dr. Paul Brandt, a physician who treated lepers, this book convincingly asserts that physical pain is necessary because it alerts us that something is amiss. Lepers, who cannot feel pain, do not know that, for example, that they are touching something hot or a blister is forming and, therefore, do not change their actions to prevent further insult. The damage we associate with leprosy is not caused by the disease, but by unnoticed physical injury. So, why pain? Why not a tickle, a light, or maybe a sound? Interestingly, Dr. Brandt’s experiments showed that any other alert, such as a bell ringing or perhaps a light flashing, was insufficient to cause lepers to avoid injury: only pain did that. He used an electric shock, and even that was ignored if it was expedient to do so. Thus our need for escalating pain.

One could postulate the same with regard to emotional pain. It alerts us that something is wrong. Perhaps the sufferer is lonely or grieving; perhaps they are allowing boundaries to be infringed; perhaps they have learned unhelpful ways of processing experiences; perhaps they are living in persistent disobedience to Jesus; perhaps there is an illness. Whatever the reason, pain alerts the sufferer to the need to make a change or seek help. 

But, what about the pain that cannot be remedied by, for example, moving away from the fire, taking a pill, or finding a therapist? One does not have to go far to find people in extreme pain where there is no answer this side of Heaven. It is tempting to throw out a Bible verse like Jer 29:11, where God appears to say the He knows the plans He has for us, plans to prosper and not to harm us, to give us a hope and a future. Sounds good but, actually, this verse is addressing the people of Israel, not us as individuals. 

Well, how about Romans 8:28?  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” We are those who love God and are called by Him, so this verse does apply to us. Therefore, everything will work for good, right? That interpretation makes sense from the context. This interpretation also appears to be in keeping with the rest of Scripture, where we see that the cross and resurrection mean Jesus triumphed over evil. He is SO POWERFUL that He not only overcomes all the devil throws at Him, He even twists the bad around to increase good! That amount of power blows my mind.

We recently visited Germany and learned much from Martin Luther. His life provides an illustration of this phenomenon. Luther had a very difficult childhood. His parents were intolerant and excessively demanding. We were informed that, when the boy Luther stole a nut, his mother beat him until the blood ran. When Luther announced he was going to become a monk, his father refused to speak to him for 17 years. It is highly likely that this harsh upbringing contributed to Luther’s emotional problems while in the monastery. No matter how hard Luther tried to remember all his sin in confession, no matter how much he beat himself as penance, no matter how he starved himself subdue his body, he never felt he had done enough to satisfy God. 

His mentor, Johann von Staupitz, realized that, if Luther kept going as he was, he would kill himself with trying to please God. So, this wise man advised Luther to focus on Jesus instead of himself and later invited him to Wittenberg to teach the Bible. In preparing for classes, Luther discovered Phil 3:9, “…not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith…” Salvation comes by the grace of God and is accessed by faith. No works required. No purchasing of indulgences needed. This was a turning point in Luther’s life and the repercussions of his 95 theses and work are still felt today. God took the evil of Luther’s upbringing and the pain it caused and used them for good. 

So, after Luther accomplished much of what was required, was his life pain free? No. He suffered with gout, heart problems, Meniere’s disease, and depression. Was he perfect? No. Luther was rabidly anti-Semitic. These bring me to my final point. Yes, the Lord promises to work all things together for good, but He does not promise that the fulfillment will come to pass in this life. John the Baptist died while waiting for the good to appear. Abraham did receive descendents as numerous as the stars, but he did not see them while still on Earth. Neither of them was perfect and without sin and neither saw the fruits of their labors.

Returning to Luther, many of his portraits include a swan, in deference to someone he held in high esteem: John Huss (the last name means “goose”). Huss was a Bohemian who pointed out several unBiblical Catholic beliefs and practices. He was burned at the stake in 1415 for his efforts. But, as he died, he prophesied that, even though this goose would be cooked, a swan would follow. That was Luther. Hebrews 11:39-40 tells us that many faithful people did not receive what was promised to them. In Huss’ lifetime, this included him. But, it was not the end of his story, just like it is not the end of ours. 

This is a clue for dealing with our suffering. Fix your eyes on what is to come, not what is here on Earth. Focus on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise…” Phil 4:8. Soak yourself in the Word; Luther said he fought the devil with ink when he translated the New Testament into German. Be assured that God will do exceedingly abundantly more than all we can ask or imagine (Eph 3:20). Maybe He will do it here. Maybe He will do it there. (Likely it will be both.) Nonetheless, as the children’s chorus says, we know that “Our God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing that He cannot do.” We can rejoice in that knowledge, even in the midst of suffering in this sinful world. Because, in the end, we know who wins.
Pain, physical and emotional, is an unavoidable part of life.
Nobody likes pain, but we do need it.
Martin Luther had a tough upbringing, suffered as a monk, was ostracized by the church, and God used it all for good.
The room in Wartburg Castle where Martin Luther hid, spending his "spare" time translating the New Testament. Note the hole in the wall where, proverbially, he threw a pot of ink at the devil and tourists took chunks of wall as good luck charms!
Remember, even if our goose is cooked, because of God's love and power, a swan will follow.

Bishop Philip: EFAC congratulates Philip Mounstephen, our trustee, who has been elected Bishop to Truro.

Articles: To stay up to date wth what EFAC is doing, be sure to follow us on our website and Facebook. Note particularly that, on the home page, past articles are now searchable by month.

International Council: The second part of the EFAC international Council meeting will be held in Nairobi. Cathedral Dean Sammy Wainana and CMS Africa Leader Dennis Tongoi are graciously working with Richard Crocker to be sure it will be wonderful.

EFAC Intercessors : The team has grown. These faithful people are willing and able to pray for us and for all EFAC chapters. So, if your chapter has a prayer need, please email us . We will add your need to the monthly prayer request email.

TRN: We now have 50 scholars signed up to help with resourcing the international church with solid theological teaching. The first TRN conference is planned for 2019 in Singapore.

EFAC Website : What's new at our website? Check it out! We have new posts (found on the homepage ), new entries to the calendar , and a couple of new papers (found on the Reading page).

Incidentally, if you missed previous newsletters, they are available on the EFAC website under Resources, Reading, Newsletters. Or you could just click here .

While you're on our website anyway, check out the whole thing and let us know what you think! Input is welcome.
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EFAC has a prayer team, but the more prayer, the better! Praise God for the great response we have had to EFAC's relaunch.

Please pray now as we plan and recruit for the EFAC Leaders Training session in Nairobi, Oct 29- Nov 1. If you'd like to come, let us know.

Also, pray for all EFACters around the world, that they will be faithful to the mission of Jesus Christ and powerful in His service.

Finally, if you missed responding to our request for intercessors and want to help, please email us .

EFAC has tremendous potential for good, but we need to be adequately resourced.

As such, we have updated our donate page to make it easy to partner with us.

Please give generously, either by sending a check to either our British or our American address, or by clicking on the donate button on our website.

We encourage you to give us what you won't miss every month. It won't hurt you, but it will help spread the gospel throughout the world.

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