Highland Park Baptist Church
Header

On the Cusp of Something New

July 27th, 2013 | Posted by bvosler in Missions - (Comments Off on On the Cusp of Something New)

When I was younger, I loved snow skiing.  There was this gripping blend of the thrill of downhill speed and the tranquility of nature.  I can remember, as I was first learning to ski, pushing myself towards higher, faster, unexplored, unknown, more difficult terrain.   Standing at the top of my first black diamond run, my heart racing, I slowly inched towards the edge.  I stop sharply.  I wait a second more.  I take a deep breath, grab hold of my ski poles, and dive in.  That brief moment of anticipation, which simultaneously seems to last forever and no time at all, is so vivid.

All of those emotions, the excitement and trepidation, the unknown, the coming challenges, the new places to explore, are welling up in my soul these weeks.  In two weeks, I marry Sarah White, the most beautiful woman in the world, and we begin a new adventure together.  We not only know that God has called us together as husband and wife, but that he has called as husband and wife to go where he sends us to build the kingdom.  There are so few fitting words to describe how we feel.  We have so many questions!  Where will we go?  What will God call us to do?  When will he call us?  What will life be like there?  What are the people like?  What will be the fruit of our work?  Will we suffer for the cause of Christ?  What would it be like to raise a family there?  As we ruminate over all these things, seeking the Lord for wisdom, there are a number of verses that remind us of God’s role in our call.

First, I think of Proverbs 16:9, which says “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”  We have peace that we can make plans, all the while knowing that God himself will establish our steps.  Those steps may or may not be what we had planned, but we can rest in certainty that they are established and rooted by him.  Secondly, (and for me, even more exhilarating) is Ephesians 2:10.  Immediately after explaining that we are not saved by our works, Paul says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we may walk in them.”  Right now, Sarah and I are asking those questions I mentioned above.  I was reminded this week, however, that God has already prepared good works for us to do!  There is a job somewhere that God has prepared for us to do and He allows us to be involved in discovering what he has prepared for us.  We stand at the cusp a new, unexplored, and exciting chapter of life.  We await, with great anticipation, running the race that He has marked out for us.

Brad McCarthy

Missions

Engagement

June 5th, 2013 | Posted by bvosler in Missions - (Comments Off on Engagement)

Right now I am at a very unique time in my life.  Four months ago, I asked my now fiancée (then girlfriend) to be my wife.  The excitement and joy was incredible!  As we stood on a bridge over a river after she said “Yes!”, the symbolism of the bridge captured the moment.  Just like the bridge, engagement isn’t the destination; it’s the time between dating and marriage.  “Betrothal” they used to call it, “a mutual promise or contract for a future marriage”.  Marriage is the intention and marriage is the focus.

What took me a couple months to fully realize are the incredible parallels engagement has with my relationship with Jesus.  As a Church (capital “C” in “Church” meaning the universal, worldwide church), we are betrothed, engaged to Jesus.  There is a “mutual promise or contract for a future marriage” between the Church and Jesus.  We are his and he has promised to return and take us home to be with him.

Something that’s really fun about engagement is getting to tell everyone “It’s official!  We’re getting married!”  And let me tell you, no one forces me to talk about my bride-to-be or to tell the story of our engagement.  I love talking about her and telling the story!  At this point in our engagement, there is almost no one that we know that doesn’t know about our engagement and future marriage.  This is such a challenge to me as I think about my relationship with Jesus.  Is there overflowing evidence of my love and relationship with Jesus?  Of all the people I know, how many of them know about how much joy my relationship with Jesus brings?  Something else about engagement is the time.  There a limited amount of time to prepare everything for the marriage.  Sometimes it feels as if it’s flying by.  Sometimes it feels as if that day will never get here.  Regardless, every day has this anticipation, this excitement, the feeling that “Marriage is one day closer!”  Am I applying that same perspective to my relationship with the soon-coming Christ?  Do I find myself feeling “Christ’s return is one day closer!  Our union with Jesus is coming soon!”?  I know there are times I can’t help wishing that Christ would come back sooner.

What’s the difference between the two, between my engagement to Sarah and our betrothal to Christ?  I know the exact date, time, and location at which our engagement will end and we can plan and prepare accordingly.  With Jesus, we must live every day as if it was that day: the day we will be reunited with him for eternity.  For just as I gave my fiancée a ring as a symbol of the promise of our coming marriage, Jesus has given us “the promise of the Father” (Luke 24:49) so that the world will know that we belong to him.  Now we wait, with great anticipation, for that day when he takes us home.

-Brad McCarthy

Missions

Human Trafficking and HPBC

April 23rd, 2013 | Posted by bvosler in Missions - (Comments Off on Human Trafficking and HPBC)

The following is a synopsis of a recent article about an arrest made of a two human traffickers:

“A man and a woman are facing charges of torture and human trafficking after allegedly forcing a woman to work as a stripper.  The charges resulted from an investigation by the police along with assistance from government forces.  Authorities said the man and woman enslaved a young woman and forced her to work as a stripper since December. They allegedly collected all her earnings and used threats and violence to control her.  The investigation began when the male trafficker, age 30, allegedly assaulted the 18-year-old woman at a hotel.  Police were dispatched there referencing a report of assault and battery in one of the rooms.  Upon arrival at the hotel, authorities found the two suspects and the victim in the room. The victim needed to be taken to the hospital for injuries.  Authorities believe she had been assaulted by the male and further investigation revealed that the female trafficker tried hiding the assault by turning up the volume of the TV in the room to cover up the noise of the assault.”

When you read this story, it sounds typical of something you would expect in southern Asia or Cambodia.  The surprising fact is that the “authorities” mentioned in this article are the FBI and Southfield Police Department and the hotel is located at the corner of 12 Mile and Northwestern Hwy.  (Read the full article here @ http://www.candgnews.com/news/authorities-arrest-two-human-trafficking-suspects-southfield

This past semester, as part of a course that I am taking at Moody Theological Seminary, I had the opportunity to work with a group that investigated human trafficking on a local scale and discussed how HPBC could respond.  There are some key results of our research.  The first is that, as we saw above, humans are being trafficked right around us.  I had the opportunity to interview the Public Information Officer for the City of Southfield regarding human trafficking.  He said that this type of incident is the first incident of its kind in several years and that it happens on a fairly infrequent basis.  Through the semester, however, we discovered that within the broader scope of metro Detroit, this is not so uncommon of an issue.  When the Auto Show came to town in January, there were several news stories highlighting the spike in human trafficking that accompanies events like the Auto Show.

Another key point that we discovered is that there are very limited resources for victims of human trafficking.  We discovered a very limited number of non-governmental organizations that work with victims.  There are a very limited number of shelter beds.

In addition, legislatively, the state of Michigan received a score of 47 out of 100, equivalent of an F letter grade (as evaluated by Shared Hope International’s Protected Innocence Legislative Framework).  The summary of the report is:

Michigan criminalizes sex trafficking of minors under age 18 without regard to force, fraud or coercion, but it does not reach buyers, and the purchase of commercial sex acts with a minor is not penalized under any law. Convicted sex trafficking offenders are not required to register as sex offenders.

This really opened our eyes to how our legal system is not adequately prepared to respond to this issue on a domestic level.  I highly encourage you to read the full report card found here http://sharedhope.org/PICframe2/reportcards/PIC_RC_2012_MI.pdf

As we began to go deeper into our research, we were asking, “What can we do?  What can the church do?”  The first key step is awareness.  As we as a church staff pray and seek the Lord about our response, here are a few things that you can do right now:

  • Learn to recognize the signs of someone who is trafficked.  The Department of Homeland Security has an online training program that takes 30-45 minutes to complete and I highly recommend it.  It can be found here http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/training/dhs_awareness_training_fy12/launchPage.htm
  • Program the following number into your phone: National Human Trafficking Hotline – 1 (888) 3737-888.  If you see or hear anything suspicious, call this number and they will pass the information along to the proper authorities.
  • Pray for victims and traffickers, that they may be free, see justice, and grow in a relationship with Jesus.  Pray also with us for how we as HPBC can respond.
  • Ask your local, state, and federal governmental representatives what they are doing to address this issue.

If you would like to know how to get involved more, contact Brad McCarthy here http://www.highlandparkbaptist.com/about-us/staff/brad-mccarthy.

 

Tough Questions – A (Mission) Field Report

March 22nd, 2013 | Posted by bvosler in Missions - (Comments Off on Tough Questions – A (Mission) Field Report)

With so many ministries at the church, sometimes there is more happening than we realize.  One example of this is a small group of young adults that meets every Tuesday night at a condo here in Southfield.  One of many Life Groups that is a part of the Young Adults ministry at HPBC, this Life Group in particular is structured to invite and welcome people who are not followers of Jesus.  The topic?  “Tough Questions”.  Each week, the group spends several hours wrestling with some of the tough questions that tend to be avoided, questions like “Who wrote the Bible and how can we trust them?  Why do we only have certain books in the Bible?  Does science contradict or support the Bible and why does it matter?  What relevance do these Bible stories have to me?  Is the Bible true?”

There are generally 10-15 people in attendance: some students, some young professionals, some Americans, some Chinese.  For the past several weeks, a foundational understanding of the Bible has been growing.  This past week, the focus shifted.  Instead of explaining, asking questions, and discussing about the Bible, the Bible spoke for itself.  The study began with the question “Is the Bible based on fact or faith?”, each attendee answering in turn.  Then the Bible was opened to Genesis chapter 1 and the process of observation -> interpretation -> application was introduced.  It was new and uncomfortable at first, with many of the observations seeming too basic to be meaningful, but as the group began to understand the process, a new depth of meaning began to rise from the pages.  People who had never studied the Bible before and people who had studied it their whole lives were digging deep and finding treasures in the scriptures.  The story of creation suddenly became relevant as readers realized that there was more to “Night and Day” and “light and darkness” than just the physical.  As one young professional observed, God only called the light good, not the darkness, and this resulted in Him separating the light from the darkness.  He then concluded, “It seems like light and darkness cannot exist together.” Another student followed by saying that maybe God was separating them in order to prepare humans for a regularity of life.

These observations and interpretations led to significant life applications for all.  Join us as we thank God for what He is doing among the members of this group and as we continue to ask Him to reveal himself through the Word.  If you are a young adult that would like to be part of this group, contact Jimmy Smith (jsmith@highlandparkbaptist.com), Young Adults Pastor, or the group leaders, Bruce Culver Jr. (brucecjr@gmail.com) and Brad McCarthy (bmccarthy@highlandparkbaptist.com).

Brad McCarthy

Missions

Smartphones As Tools For Bible Study

February 6th, 2013 | Posted by bvosler in Missions - (Comments Off on Smartphones As Tools For Bible Study)

Smartphone and tablet technology is prolific. Many of us have these devices in our home, if not right in
our pocket, but don’t realize the computational power that is available and how this tool can be used to
deepen our study of the Bible, grow in our relationship with God, and share the gospel with others. This
is a practical guide to various apps and resources. Every app featured in this post is free to download.

Bible Apps

Although each of these apps gives you access to the same Word of God, each one allows you to read,
study, and explore in a different way. Click or tap the picture of each icon to learn more.

“Bible Study with Accordance” (iOS/Mac/PC) – This is my daily reading, studying, all-in-one Bible app. It comes preloaded with the ESV Bible with links to Greek and Hebrew dictionaries. In the app, hold your finger down on a word to search for the definition from the original language. Each Greek or Hebrew word is assigned a “Key Number” by which you can search for all instances of that word in the text. This allows you to, as John Piper says, “dig for gold rather than rake for leaves” (Desiring God, pg. 13) in your study of the scriptures.

“Bible” by LifeChurch.tv (iOS/Android/Blackberry/Windows) – This is the app I use when I need multiple
translations. There are hundreds of translations in hundreds of languages. When I am talking about
scripture with an international student, instead of struggling to find vocabulary we have in common to
make an impromptu translation, I pull out my phone and look up the passage in their language. Another
great feature is built-in reading plans to take you through anything from reading the whole Bible in a
year, to reading passages about Jesus’ birth the twenty-five days before Christmas.

“GLO Bible” (iOS /Mac/PC) – This is the app I use when I am exploring and visualizing the Bible. I am
a very visual learner. Imagine reading through the description of how the land of Canaan was divided
between the twelve tribes of Israel. It describes that the tribe of Simeon was given “Beersheba, Sheba,
Molada, Hazar-shual, Balah…” (Joshua 19:2-3) and the list goes on. I, however, have no idea where
any of these cities are located. GLO helps visualize that by linking from Joshua 19 to a satellite image
of Israel with a colored overlay showing these divisions. GLO includes maps, videos, images, historical
references, and panoramic virtual tools to help bring the stories of the Bible to life.

Ministry Specific Apps

In addition to apps that aid in studying, reading, and exploring the Bible, there are several apps created
specifically for Christian ministry.

“Got Questions?” (iOS/Online) – Produced by Got Questions Ministries, this app exists to answer
questions. If you have questions, they will tell you what they believe the Bible says about them. The
questions cover topics such as God, Humanity, Angels and Demons, Family/Parenting, Life Decisions,
Bible Versions, and more. It also has the option for you to ask your own questions. Each answer is in
the form of an article that includes several Bible references.

“JP Unreached” (iOS/Android) – All of us can agree that there are people in the world who have never
heard the good news of Jesus Christ. What we might not know is who they are, where they live, what are they like, and what percentage follow Jesus. JP Unreached, produced by the Joshua Project, was created as an awareness and prayer guide focused on these people. Each day, a different people group is featured. As I am writing this post, the Dzakhchin people of Mongolia are featured, listing a summary of the people, prayer requests, and a verse to pray over them. Perhaps you could also set a reminder for 10:40am, where this app would remind you to pray for the featured people group, many of whom are within the 10/40 window.

Secular Apps in Ministry

In addition to apps that are created specifically for ministry, by thinking creatively, there are many ways
to use “secular” apps for the building of the kingdom.

“Videos” (Universal) – There are many videos that are produced for outreach purposes, most famously,
The Jesus Film. As effective as that film has been, getting a friend or coworker to sit down and watch a
feature length movie can be a big commitment. That is why the Global Short Film Network exists. They
have created a library of short films with big themes and meanings. Each film is paired with a set of
discussion questions to start a spiritual conversation.

“Evernote” (iOS/Android/Blackberry/Mac/PC/Online) – When it comes to taking notes, this app is the
best I’ve found. Being also a kinesthetic learner (learning through actions), taking notes during anything
helps me remember what I learned. There is an option to set up multiple folders for sermons, personal
Bible studies, and prayer request lists. It also syncs between your devices so the notes you take on your
phone Sunday at church will be available on any other devices.

“Reminders” (Universal) – As part of my role as a disciple and a disciple maker of men, I am responsible
for accountability. Every day, I have a reminder set on my phone to ask specific questions to specific
men. This helps me fulfill the commitments that I have made to those men. It could be used to remind
you to pray for a specific person at a certain time or to encourage a coworker or classmate.

“Kindle” (iOS/Android/Blackberry/Online/Kindle Devices) – While many of us have heard of (and even
own) a Kindle device, there is an incredible volume of free, theological literature available through
Amazon. Look for works such as Fox’s Book of Martyrs, Selected Sermons of Jonathan Edwards, or
Works of Martin Luther with Introductions and Notes (Volume I and II). If you do not own a Kindle
device, you can also read the books on any computer and most smartphones. Check out this site
www.gospelebooks.net for a daily listing of free kindle books.

These are just some of the apps that I use on a regular basis, but hopefully this gets the creative process
started as you think about your context and how to use this tool to reach your community.

In conclusion, I have two things to say. First: All of these apps will never replace the feeling and focus of
holding and reading a real, physical book. Second: Smartphones are black holes, sucking you into their
gravitational pull so you can never again see the light of day or experience freedom from their grip. But
since there is a good chance that you are reading this from your phone, take a few minutes and check
out these apps.

Brad McCarthy

Missions Associate

“Every warm winter is the answered prayer of a homeless man.”

December 13th, 2012 | Posted by bvosler in Missions - (Comments Off on “Every warm winter is the answered prayer of a homeless man.”)

This quote is something that God laid on my heart several years ago, during the winter of 2008-2009.  It was a brutally cold winter and my first year at university.  On January 29, a story was published in The Detroit News of a man found frozen in ice in the bottom of an elevator shaft in Detroit.  As was later discovered, the man’s name was Johnnie Redding, a long-time resident of the streets of Detroit.  It took me a long time to wrestle with the implications of this article, but no other news story has had a more lasting impact.

As I sat in my dorm room in Southfield, just off M-10, a twenty minute drive from where this man died, the words of Jesus came clearly to my memory:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’  Matthew 25:34-40

What an incredible opportunity we have to serve Jesus!  All of the resources we have been given are opportunities to bless.  As I started looking at how I was spending my time and money, I realized I was spending it primarily on myself.  After that point, I started getting more involved in ministries in downtown Detroit.  Suddenly, I was friends with the Johnnie Reddings that were still on the streets.  I got to know Keith, Terry, Brother Fred, Mr. Wilson, Bruce, Gill, Will, David, and many others.  Each of these men had a story to tell.  The day I met Keith he had come to commit suicide in the park where we hosted our BBQ, but his life was changed because he saw the love of Jesus in a tangible way.  Although he lived on the streets, Brother Fred knew that he was a full time missionary to the men and women God put in his path and every time I see him now he reminds me, “When I see you guys down here, I just see Jesus”.  Bruce was struggling to keep afloat, but he experienced the love of Jesus when we helped him furnish his apartment and shared Christmas Eve dinner with him.  Men and women like these are all around us, not just downtown.  Many around us are hungry for more out of life.  They are thirsting for a purpose and satisfaction, imprisoned by sin.  Let us love our neighbor as if they were Jesus.  As we pray this winter, let us pray and ask God to move on behalf of these people.  When the weather outside is frightful, let us pray that all would find their delight in Jesus and that we as a church would love them like He would.

Brad McCarthy

Missions Associate

Suffering for Righteousness Sake

October 23rd, 2012 | Posted by bvosler in Missions - (Comments Off on Suffering for Righteousness Sake)

The book of I Peter is directed at first century believers scattered throughout modern day Turkey. These people are among the first generation of believers who never saw Jesus and yet still believe. They are also facing widespread persecution. It is in light of this persecution that Peter writes this letter. He gives specific directions to the believers as to how they are to interact with each other in 3:8-12 (the passage of study for which I am preparing):

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:8-12 ESV)

The Psalm in this passage is an excerpt from Psalm 34. The context of this Psalm is also important to note, as it was during a time of great danger in David’s life, having just escaped from King Abimelech.

However, it is not the persecution on which I would like to focus, but our call in persecution. Peter here addresses the state of our heart and our mind. This is important because persecution and pain affect both our thinking and our feelings. As someone who has experienced significant amounts of physical pain, I can understand this. The natural response in pain is “There’s something wrong.” While this is true at times, when that pain is a result of persecution, the opposite is true. While the goal of those who persecute is to silence and destroy the church it in fact does the opposite. It proves true the words of Jesus (Matt 10:22, John 15:18-25). I believe that it is in light of this reversal of logic that our minds are to be unified and humble. We must be unified in mind with Jesus and with each other. When we set our minds on things above (Colossians 3:2), we are not concerned with earthly logic. This unifies us together AS we are unified to Christ. As we humble ourselves, having a correct view of ourselves as lower than God, we will not be persecuted for our sake but because we are like Jesus.

The pain also affects our hearts; our emotions and feelings. Every follower of Jesus that faces pain is someones son or daughter. Many are fathers and mothers. Brothers and sisters. Leaders. Teachers. The people we love. Our hearts are to be sympathetic, tender, loving as brothers to these people. This comes as a result of setting our minds on the things above. When I understand the reason behind someone’s pain, it keeps me from minimizing it. This
minimization, this brushing aside, is one of the most hurtful things to do to a brother in pain.

When I reached this part of my study and preparation, part of me wanted to stop because I know that these words (unified, humble, sympathetic, loving, tender) are not the words that best describe my attitude towards my persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. Do you sense that hesitation to stop reading? That if we keep going, we will find pain? This is in fact what we will find. If we stop here, however, we hold ourselves back from obedience to God. As a church, we have been created in a community. To clarify, when I say “as a church”, I mean
as the body of Jesus across the whole earth. Not just the “American churches” or the “protestant churches” or the “underground churches” or the “good churches” but every single person on this planet that is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. This is the community in which we have been created.

The reality of this church is pain. Let me share with you some recent headlines I received in the news:

Syria’s Christians Drawn Into Conflict
Christian Boy Tortured and Killed in Pakistan
Jailed Iranian Pastor Facing Death, Denied Medical Care
Muslim Rioters Attack Five Churches, Kill Two in Kenya
Ugandan Pastor Speaks Up After Acid Attack By Muslim Radicals

And the list goes on. These are not “Syrian churches” or “Iranian churches” or “African churches”. This is THE church. We live in a time where we can no longer claim ignorance to what is happening to the church around the world. These are our brothers and sisters. The elders and pastors of our church. Fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As I read these stories, I feel for these people. I can feel growing inside of me that brotherly love and that sense of unification with them. Yet even in this, there is a resistance. “They’re so far away, I could never do anything to  help them. They’ll never know that I didn’t do anything.  Really, though, what can I do?  I’ve never met them and probably never will, so why does it matter?”  The answer to “What can I do?” begins simply with 1 Peter 3.

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” (I Peter 3:8, ESV)

As we pursue these things with our local community, we must pursue them with the church as a whole. What does this look like in practicality? Although that is largely up to how the Holy Spirit directs your heart as you step forward in obedience, I think it begins with prayer. The power of God working through the prayers of his people reaches across oceans, into the thickest cell walls, and breaks the hardest hearts.

You are now faced with a choice. Do we carry on, pretending we never knew? Or do we step forward, not knowing what we may face? I believe the persecution of our church is that which we can no longer ignore.

Brad McCarthy

Missions Associate

_____________________________________

For more information, here are some ways you can keep informed about the church around the world as well as make a difference in the lives of our brothers and sisters.

International Christian Concern – www.persecution.org

Christian Freedom International (based in northern Michigan) – www.christianfreedom.org

Release International – www.releaseinternational.org