Category Archives: God

Does true Hope exist?

 

I don’t know why but I was just thinking about death recently.  The sun is shining, life is good, but I believe I started pondering it for a good reason.  I’ll share that reason with you.

I think death entered my idle mind as I started thinking about my little brother who is in the Holy Land right now, touring around Israel.  I love him so much.  My mind went into “what if…” mode.  I hate it when it does that, and I have to forcefully stop it sometimes, because it can be so damaging.  But my mind played the “what if…” question to my brother.  “What if my brother died in Israel?”  Well he would certainly get a front row seat of the return of Christ when he rises from the dead, but in the off-chance he did die in Israel, it would be a devastating blow the family.  We would miss him dearly!  But praise be to God, we would have hope of seeing him again.

Does everyone have this hope?  I know of a family who don’t believe in a heaven and hell.  They believe that we live for the best we can in this life, and then die.  Die and disappear pretty much.  Which is why its important to them to invest in society so much, so as to leave a legacy.

I want to pose a series of “Isn’t it curious….” questions to this type of outlook towards death, for those who say there is no God, and there is no after-life, we just…..disappear.

Isn’t it curious we place so much effort and life into the pursuit of love….only to lose it in the end?

Isn’t it curious we spend the good part of our lives investing in material things that we seek and work to call our own…to only lose it in the end and it become others possessions?

Isn’t it curious how we react to death…as if death is a cruel thief stealing our loved ones at a most inconvenient time?

Isn’t it curious how we mourn and miss our loved ones….as if we feel we have been dealt a crappy hand, and life turns to be an unfair master?

Isn’t it curious why a word even exists called HOPE?

If a word called “hope” exists, and all is useless in the end, are we just fooling ourselves when we talk about hope, at all?

Or maybe there is hope…true hope!  Hope that says, “All your love is not wasted!”  Hope that calls back from the grave, “You’ll see me once again, but in paradise!”  Hope that offers a saving hand to you, that will pick you up out of any trouble you get into.  Hope that says, “Even if you’ve been dealt a crappy hand, ultimately there is hope for you beyond the grave.”

Hope is written on Christ’s arm as he turns to death and deals a blow so great, it crushes him to disappearing, while saying, “Death is swallowed up in victory; O death where is your victory?  O death where is your sting?”

Those who love Jesus Christ, we are “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” Titus 2:13-14

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The Necessity and Fullness of Assurance

To be assured, and re-assured is one of our most basic human emotional needs.  A child needs to be assured of their parents love for them, so they don’t grow up in a despairing desert of loneliness.  A teenager needs to be assured of their friend’s companionship, that they “got their back”, so the channels of adolescence are lived out in meaningful friendships.  A wife needs to be assured of her husband’s unfailing love, so she feels safe and cherished in the arms that still want to sweep her away into the horizon called “happily ever after.”

Many things confuse people, but just as many bring stability.  A teacher who doesn’t know an answer, or a friend who just doesn’t know how to console can be very frustrating and unassuring.  But a teacher who has wise answers and a friend who can pour wisdom into your life can breathe the fresh air of assurance into your life.

And because we are spiritual beings, we also need spiritual assurance.  We like to know that our spirits are at rest for good reason and not just for the feeling, or if our spirits are in turmoil we need to know how and where to remedy the tumultuous boilings that spring up in our soul.

There is immense assurance in spirit that we can have through knowledge of the mystery of God.  “Ok, that’s weird.  That’s a little spacey and ‘out there’.  So if I know the mystery of God, I’ll find assurance?”  Indeed!  The mystery of God is knowable.  Consider this word from Colossians;

“For I want to you know how great a struggle I have for you…to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery…” Col. 2:1-4

The “full assurance” is attainable.  Not partial, not a down-payment, FULL assurance.  Bombproof assurance.

Now a quick word about this “full assurance”.  It is attainable, yes, but how.  Through understanding.  The full description of this assurance is “the riches of full assurance of understanding”.  To get a larger contextual picture of what’s being talked about it, lets enlarge our view of the surrounding verses;

“…to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Col. 2:2-3

So the mystery of God, is Christ (read the surrounding chapters to get a feel for why he chose that word ‘mystery’).  The answer to humanity’s crys and pleas, is Christ.  All wisdom and truth finds its culmination in Christ, from whom every wisdom and truth comes from.  Christ is the source; he is the lake of wealth from which all rivers finds its source.

Perhaps you need assurance for your spirit.  You may not be entirely sure in terms of really knowing where you will go after you die.  You can’t be sure.  Or maybe you are sure, but you’re not sure where you stand with Christ.  Who is He to you?  What if you knew one thing, that if you knew it, could save you from everything, and rejecting that one thing will cost you everything?

That one thing is Christ.  Know Christ, you gain…everything!  Reject Him….you lose everything.  It is said in Christ, “all treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are hidden.  Know Christ, you have access to that treasure.  Know Christ, gain assurance in your spirit.  You may not have “full” assurance at first, but by learning the word of God, learning what Christ said, learning about your place in Christ, your assurance will grow to its fullness.

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

A Sacrifice that Commands Attention

Morris and Wendy Johnson work with Wycliffe Bible Translators in the US now (they used to work abroad), and from time to time I get an email from them about their whereabouts, their work or a story.  On Easter they sent out a wonderful Easter story!  It embodies how vital effectual translation is.

Linguists and Translators (which the Johnsons are) don’t just deal with words, but ideas, for ideas are communicated, seen, and felt through words.  But say you come to a culture in Paupau New Guinea who has never heard of Jesus Christ, never heard of Christianity, doesn’t even have a reference point of sacrificing things for their wrong-doings, how do you begin to communicate ideas like that to them.  This wonderful Easter story shows that struggle, and the surprising response of the people.

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A Sacrifice that Commands Attention

Adapted by Borghy Holm from an excerpt from In Search of the Source by Neil Anderson with Hyatt Moore (Chapter 16: Broken Bodies).

“How could villagers in a Papua New Guinean rain forest grasp what it meant to “flog” someone? As our Folopa translation team was gathered one day, we became mired in a passage in Mark 10 where Jesus predicted what was about to happen to Him.

“…the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him, and kill him. Three days later he will rise” (Mark 10:33-34, NIV).

We were stuck, I didn’t have a word for “flog.” What do you call it,” I asked, “if someone hits another, say an enemy, with something like a rope?”

That drew a blank. Apparently hitting someone with a rope was nothing that sounded familiar to them. But it was about to happen to Jesus and it was part of the passage, so I cast about for other ways to describe it.  My eyes fell on a piece of rattan vine left over from tying the thatch on the roof. It was lying on the old woodstove. The vine was about three feet long and as thick as my little finger. I picked it up, and instructed the men to imagine the vine was a piece of rope and the woodstove was the back of Jesus. Then with all my might I started beating the iron stovetop.

Immediately Owarap Ali – his eyes wild and his nostril flaring – shouted out: “That’s not hitting with a rope, that’s fokoso sirapo!”  He was indignant, staring up at me from his place on the floor.

Fokoso sirapo.  I wrote the words down. “Tell me more about it,” I said. But when I looked up, they were all just staring at me. It was as if it had taken them right back to the old days of revenge and bloodshed.  “Wait a minute,” someone said. “Do you mean they did that to Jesus?  But here it just said they were going to do it. Did they really do it to Him?”

Quiet fell on the room as I answered, “Yes.” Finally Eleke Whi Ali said, “We used to do that. But we only did it to our enemies, and then just before we were going to kill them.”  Yes,” I said, “that is coming, too.”

They hung their heads. In the corners, the large shell earrings of the old men swung back and forth in stunned sadness. The memory offokoso sirapo “floggings” was too fresh in their minds. They were seeing a deeper vision of the awful cruelty – the enormity of it all- than I had ever understood. And that this would happen to Jesus…someone they had grown to respect and like.  He was a Man who would put little children on His lap, who would reach out and heal those in need. These men knew what torturing and flogging were all about . That this Jesus would come to suffer like this was too much to take in.

We had to stop work for the morning. They couldn’t go on.”

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There are thousands of languages like this, that are largely unwritten and no one is doing work in.  Wycliffe needs your help should you chose to give it.

Terry Jones and Politics, Pulpit and the Quran

Everyone reading this, please watch this video first, and then proceed.

I just want to contrast the core of what two pastors said and draw light to one of them (and hopefully show one is really not so much a pastor at all)

Reverend Ed Rowe

“I’m here to say, the Quran was not just burned.  The “quran burning” burned everything Jesus said on the Mount of Olives, it burned every statement Jesus made.  I’m here to say there is nothing in the gospels that support the burning of the Quran.”

Reverend Terry Jones

“We did not come [to Dearborn] to demonstrate against the Quran.  The only thing we ask is that they honor and obey the constitution of the United States.  If they are willing to do that, then our message is one of ‘welcome.'”

I want to highlight two words that makes Reverend Terry Jones more like “Republican” Terry Jones.

“Gospel” and “constitution.”

What does Reverend Ed Rowe quote for his authority?(Gospel)  What does Terry Jones quote for his reason of demonstrating?(Constitution)  For Terry we clearly see that he is using and abusing his pulpit for “patriotic” propaganda!

At the core of Terry’s worldview, is an extremely messed up idea of government.  For some the order, the system, the infra-structure that a government brings constitutes the blood in their veins, they’re all about government.  They believe in the solutions, they believe in the people who founded it.  They might even be dreaming that it is a perfect system.

It’s interesting to consider the story of the prophet Samuel and Israel’s first king, Saul.  With all the chaos happening in Israel, God was pleased to place someone in charge, to put order to this chaos.  Right?  I mean, they needed help, so it would have made sense to appoint a king, someone to put int place a “system”, or a government.  Wrong!  What did God say exactly when Israel asked for a king to be over them?

“Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations’ but the thing displeased Samuel….And the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but rejected me…”  I Samuel 8:5-7

What?  Israel rejected God by asking for a king?  How is that?  Listen further, this drives to the core of the sufficiency of God.

“…for they have not rejected you, but rejected me from being king over them.  According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you.” vv. 7-9

God is sufficient?  For everything?  Indeed yes!  And so it is a slight form of idolatry that government is.  It’s when a people like Israel say, “We cannot see God, we cannot touch God, and we cannot tell if he is even there.  Let us appoint for ourselves a person, or an assembly of people to act like God, to determine the laws, to perceive what is right and wrong for us.”

And so, Republican Terry Jones (not Reverend), a loyal patriot to his great nation, commits idolatry of the slightest kind, and with stars and stripes across his heart he burns a book.  Radicals burn things!  Cars are burned in riots, flags are torched in protests, and people light themselves on fire in utter desperation.

Are we radicals?  Are Christians to be different?  You bet!  Are we to burn books?  No!  Those who seek the warfare of the physical, take on physical means!  Bullets, propaganda, bombs, and mobs.  Those who wage war on spiritual forces, arm themselves with spiritual armor.  Equipped and empowered with the zeal of God for the lost, we ought to live like Christ.  Set the captives free!  Champion the light into darkness!  Breathe life into dead bones!  Love the unlovable!  Correct the uncorrectable!  Give a firm hand to those who would slight you, but do not strike.  Pour water into leaky and dry cisterns, but do not exhaust your own.  Give, give and give as if you have to draw on supernatural resources to continue!

Terry Jones misunderstands government as a pastor.  Government has its place, it is a terrific thing, don’t get me wrong.  But I am embarrassed of my brother when stupid gospel-less things come out of his mouth.  A pastor seeks the Glory of God.  A statesman seeks the Glory of a Nation.  Two different offices; two different people.  One seeks the coming of a perfect ruler to a perfect kingdom; the other seeks to make his rule perfect.

Pray for Terry!  He not only burns Qurans, but bridges!

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…”