Category Archives: faith

What Defines You?

If I were to ask you “what defines you?”, what would you say?  Are you defined by what you do (your job, sport or hobby)?  Who you are culturally (African, hipster, gothic, etc.)?  By what ideals you hold to (Aristotelian thought, Nihilism, ideas of morality)?

Have you ever though about what God thinks about you?  If you are not religious or spiritual, this probably never happens, or often, who knows.  What if how you define yourself ought to be tied up in how God sees you.  After all, he made you.  Before the world was created, he had YOU in mind, and in this particular slot in history, he has placed you.

I’m one who places his trust in Jesus Christ, who came to earth to give us Love; the Father’s Love.  And it is in Christ where my hope and life lies.  Below is a video brilliantly made by an artist named Dan Stevers, and if you also put your faith in Christ, let it just remind you of the basics; that if indeed you’ve placed your life in Christ, how our Father views you, is how you are defined, is where your true identity lies.

I would like to challenge you.  Is your identity grounded in something that will last?  Say, forever?  When you’re dead, will the way you are defined, save you from death itself?  What if by embracing God’s identity for you, you become saved from death, and when death comes knocking on your door, it won’t be able to enter.  What if by embracing God’s identity for you, you tap into the very core of why you’re created.  And finally, what if by embracing God’s purpose for your life, you become a better singer, a better athlete, a better worker, a better mother, or a better father.

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The Sufficiency of God: Rock for the Present, Hope for the Future

The classroom is an excellent place to be.  One learns so much in such a place, but you can’t stay there forever.  Life requires you to venture out and live.  But because none of us have the memory of an elephant, we forget things and we need to return to the classroom of life again and again.

For the Christian, the Bible has all the lessons we need, but if you’re like me you wonder at times “Is this really true?”  I can remember countless times finding myself in a conflict.  Angry at someone who wronged me, denying the urge to revenge and embracing the escapist mentality.  I run away and go do something else that will consume my mind in hopes of drowning my anxieties in worthless busyness.  The other extreme can be equally useless, that of immediately spouting off the tongue with the emotions of the moment.  In so being reactionary we often harm those we love.

If we truly believe that the Bible is true, and what it says about itself is true, than Christ is sufficient for everything.  That trustworthy statement could have transformed so many situations for me.  Instead of running away or instead of giving full vent to my tongue, with self-control I could have brought my situation to the Lord and humbly ask His wisdom in the matter.

He is so sufficient!  Isn’t it funny how we do this.  In the moment we say, “My temper can’t handle thinking about anything but alcohol right now, so I’ll just take a sip…..but Jesus? NO!  I need something here and now!”  It’s like we forget stories like how God saved the Isrealites from the Egyptians, or how God delivered Israel in countless battles, or consider this verse that epitomizes the suffiiciency of God for us on into eternity.

“And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.  And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.”  – Revelations 21:22-23

This is talking about heaven, when John the apostle saw Jerusalem descending onto earth he noticed there was no temple, and no need for the sun and moon.  In other words, the Glory of God and the presence of the Lamb, which is Jesus Christ, will be our sufficiency and true good.  There will be no need to offer sacrifices anymore, no need to worry about things done in the hurry of the day or the necessity of rest at night.  There will be no more sin, no death, no more pain.  God will be our sufficiency in the most amazing way!!

This is not just hope we have for the future, but an echo for the present.  We are fallen creatures and not perfect yet, as Christ is, but even so God extends his sufficiency to us who will take it.  And grasp it and cling to it we ought.  Like a floundering drowning sailor at sea swims and clings to a floating board of wood, so we too must struggle against pride and selfish-ness and anything that might hinder us from humbly reaching out to the ever-sufficient hand of God.

“All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”  – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Top Death-bed Regret; from new book

Every morning I get out of bed, skip breakfast so I can make a big one later, and drop off my wife at work.  Our TV doesn’t work, and I don’t subscribe to a major newspaper, so most of the news I get briefed on comes from the radio in the car.  Emily and I happily listen to NPR every morning as well as other stations that might strike our fancy.

This morning I happened to tune into 101.9, the “Mix”.  If you hail from Chicago, you’ll know this station well.  They were talking about an interesting book compiled by a nurse.  This nurse tended to those on their death bed, and being at the bedside for countless people she heard many of her patients dying regrets in life.  She compiled the top regrets into a book.  I didn’t catch the book name, nor did they mention the author, which I wish they would have mentioned.

They did talk briefly about the single most mentioned regret that the nurse heard.  After considering the entirety of their lives, “working too much” was the most mentioned.

Why did they work too much?  What was the problem?  That’s a question that could have millions of answers, but I’m sure answers like “money, prosperity, happiness, nice house, nice car” is what composes much of the working classes motives.

More compelling, and striking to the heart, is the question Why did they come to this conclusion?  Why after a lifetime of good hard honest work, did they realize “Wow, I worked so much, but lived little.”  Wouldn’t they be proud of their accomplishments?  Perhaps thats why on peoples tombstones loved ones don’t put, “He worked hard all his life.”  Maybe after all has been said and done, work really isn’t the all in all.

Perhaps they suddenly realize all that they worked for, was in vain.  Death the ultimate sure thief, comes and takes away all that is precious.

When someone prepares for a disaster, they make sure they have means to survive for when the storm passes over.  Survival requires you to look beyond the disaster.   Before a hurricane, you stock up on fresh water and canned goods, because after that storm you may not know what will be available.  Your world is going to change.

If people spend as much effort looking at what might be beyond the grave with as much effort as they spend working all their lives for something that will be taken away, death won’t be so much of a thief.  But merely a transition.  And regrets?  A vapor of a memory for those who put their trust in the one who has already conquered the grave.  Jesus Christ our Lord!!

If you haven’t struggled through that in your life, I invite you to. Work, labor, struggle, wrestle with this question.  Where am I going?  That is a question worth working towards an answer!!

Stats revealing how our church may be a bit off-goal!

First a quick history lesson.  The gospel arrived in Jerusalem, and from there the world knew of Jesus.  First in Israel, then to surrounding Middle Eastern countries (before Mohammed great monastery’s were everywhere in Saudi Arabia), then spreading west-ward to Europe.  Through the ages, the gospel crept further west, spreading to America, and then to South America, as well as shortly after spreading to Asia.

Well that’s the whole world then, right?  Phew!  But as far as people who know Jesus Christ as their Savior, or even knowing who he was historically, most of the world does not know Him.  So when we talk about the “least-reached people” we talk about people groups who have the least amount of believers among them, and do NOT have access to the gospel because no church or Christian presence is there in their own language.  The most reached ones being countries like South Korea and America, with confessing believers in Christ ranging in the 30% of the population.  Least reached countries being like Indonesia (which is mostly Muslim) where the believing community is more like 0.01%.

The stats below are presented to bring to your mind the perspective of urgency in our world that oh so desperately needs to know Jesus Christ.  Because “globalization” is happening and is already here, and our world is ever increasing to be an Internationalized community, its good to know where we stand in perspective to other countries, gospel-wise.  So now, the stats:

We Live in an Asian World**

(this includes the Middle East)

61% of the Worlds population are Asian

12.7% are European

8% are from Latin America

5% of the Worlds population of the world are North Americans

“Asia is the only continent where Christianity is not the largest religion.”

“Asia is our greatest challenge for world missions.”

America is Packed Full of Churches

The US and Canada have 575,000 churches, or one church for every 537 people.

In Turkey there is approx. 1 BELIEVER for every 2.5 Million people in Turkey.  About one church for every 5.5 million people.  That’s like ONE church for New York, of about 150 people.

In some places the stats are worse, like India and Pakistan.

Least-Reached People groups by Blocs

Western (much of Europe) – 100 Million

Tribal/animalist – 242 Million

Buddhist – 376 Million

Chinese – 400 Million

Hindu – 841 Million

Muslim – 1.27 Billion

Foreign Missionaries Working in those Least reached Blocs

Western – 60,000

Tribal/animist – 11,200

Muslim – 7,000

Hindu – 5,000

Chinese – 2,000

Buddhist – 1,800

We are Good at Reaching the Churched Here in the West

(Not in the stats, but ask yourself how many people you know have attended church once, grew up in the church, have heard of Jesus Christ, have a Bible but not read it, or just heard of Christmas or Easter)

74% of our Foreign Ministers we send out, are sent to reach “nominal Christians” either in the America’s or Europe.

If Asia consists of 61% of the Worlds pop. how many are we sending to Asia?

1% to Jewish people

2% to Chinese (Asia)

3% to Buddhists (Asia)

4% non-religious Aetheists

6% to Muslims (Asia)

Where There is Darkness There Aren’t Enough Candles

Ratio of Foreign Ministers per Million in Geographical areas

<25 FM’s per Million in Middle East

<25 in Eurasia

<25 in Asia

85 FM’s per Million in Africa

100 in Europe

175 in Caribbean

415 in Latin America

500 in Pacific per Million

If the church is the body, are we more like a mis-proportioned body builder, who only works out his biceps, but forgets to work the rest of his body and so appears awkward.  Are we like a shipbuilder who focuses all his attention on the mast and sail, but forgets to water-seal his hull, and so making him dangerously prone to sinking?

Don’t get me wrong, local ministry of the church is absolutely necessary!  Just posing the question….perhaps we are a bit mis-proportioned?

What do you think?

** All stats and information found in “Through God’s Eyes: A Bible Study of God’s Motivation for Missions”, by Patrick O. Cate, William Carey Library, Pasedena, CA. Pp. 61-69

AW Tozer on Justice and Goodness

Tozer has always been and will be one the fiercest writers I know!  Fierce in the sense he writes like a lion; you can tell the fire of God has breathed through his life in his years pastoring in Chicago.  In this excerpt pay attention to God’s Justice, as an act versus an identity.

“Justice, when used of God, is a name we give tot he way God is, nothing more; and when God acts justly He is not doing so to conform to an independent criterion, but simply acting like Himself in a given situation.  As gold is an element in itself and can never change nor compromise but is gold wherever it is found, so God is God, always, only, fully God and can never be other than He is.  Everything in the universe is good to the degree it conforms to the nature of God and evil as it fails to do so.  God is His own self-existent principle of moral equity, and when He sentences evil men or rewards the righteous, He simply acts like Himself from within, uninfluenced by anything that is not Himself….God’s compassion flows out of His goodness, and goodness without justice is not goodness.  God spares us because he is good, but He could not be good if He were not just.  When God punishes the wicked…it is just because it is consistent with their deserts; and when He spares the wicked it is just because it is compatible with His goodness; so God does what becomes Him as the supremely good God.”

– AW Tozer, “The Knowledge of the Holy”, The Justice of God, p. 88

Rob Bell and the Good News

Largely, I am very disappointed to read Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins”.  It dances so close and around the heresy known as Universalism, that says everyone will eventually go to heaven, because all roads lead through the pearly gates in the end.  Through poor exegesis and embarrassing uses of scripture he tries to “express” his views on hell.  I say express, because what Rob as an artist is really doing, is expressing his faith in this book.  It’s not a systematic theology, but merely an expression it seems.  A severely lacking expression that would definitely lead some unaware people into false beliefs about Christ.

However….I admire his attempts deeply in making the Bible palatable to the every-day post-modern person.  I have been discerning to sift through the heresy to search out that shepherds heart he has.  He does have a point in the following excerpt in terms of how we use our “Christian-ese” when talking with those who don’t believe.

“So when the gospel is diminished to a question of whether or not a person will ‘get into heaven’ that reduces the good news to a ticket, a way to get past the bouncer and into the club. The good news is better than that.  This is why Christians who talk the most about going to heaven while everybody else goes to hell don’t throw very good parties.”

– Rob Bell in his book “Love Wins”, p. 178-179

The question that he raises in my mind, How can we best talk, gossip, present, and bring up issues found in the Bible without being that “judgemental” believer, who holds the doctrine of justice over ones head, while holding the doctrine of love in the other.  May God give us the words to use graciously, the times wisely, and most importantly His heart for the lost.  We need a heart transplant every single morning!

PS – If you are reading the book, Dr. Ben Witherington has a good chapter by chapter review of the book here. The series is called “For whom the Bell tolls…”

How Mandy Smith survived losing her hushand to cancer

We know things like this happen all of the time.  Cancer strikes, and it is a master who knows no courtesy.  Zac and Mandy Smith were a happy couple, and they were ’til God called Zac home.  Here we have an incredibly inspiring story,  in two videos made by Zac and Mandy.  They tell of how Zac wrestled through questions like “Why me?  Are you still good, even though you allow bad things to happen?”

The first video is Zac telling his testimony a year before he died.

The second video is of his wife telling how she still gives God the glory, a year after her husbands death.

Go here, to watch the second video.