Saturday, May 31, 2008
Friday, May 30, 2008
Recently, through a message at church, I have been thinking about the difficulties of understanding the Bible. As Peter says, "There are some things in them (Paul's writings) that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures." (2 Peter 3:16)
Although God's Word is in its essence a book with a simple message, the foundations are anything but soft and easy to understand. Paul told the church at Corinth, "Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature." (1 Cor. 14:20) God does not want us to settle for "easy believe-ism", He want us to press onto really know Him; at least as much as it is possible for us to do so. God wants us, more than anything else, to love Him - and to love Him with all of our minds. (Mark 12:30)
That being said, there are a number of very difficult questions that need to be thought about and answered in the pursuit of trying, to some extent, to KNOW God and His ways with our minds, as He commands us to do. We need to pursue theology not as a game, but with great reverence and prayer and humility and diligence. A more weighty work does not exist. It is not a mere head-game. The following are some questions that I feel are important for us to think about in this pursuit.
First, questions for Arminians:
1. What made you or makes you smarter or wiser than those who reject Christ or never do seek for God in the first place?
2. If God wants all people to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4), why doesn't He ultimately make that happen?
3. Why does God make my free-will more important than whether I go to hell or not?
Next for Calvinists:
1. Why does God predestine only some to heaven but most to hell for an eternity?
2. If God wants all people to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4), why doesn't He ultimately choose for that to happen?
3. Why does God make His glory more important than whether I go to hell or not?
In immature circles these questions are sometimes asked as a hammer to show how foolish the other side is. This is obviously not what God would want. However, like I said above, I believe He wants us to press on to know Him and take these questions seriously. By knowing Him better, we can love Him more and help others to know Him and love Him more also. We can be more sensitive (through the struggle!) to those who do not see things exactly the same way we do. We can love both Calvinists and Arminians, or those in-between, with an understanding that we are all on a journey to know God and love God. But let's not forsake the habit of pressing on to know Him through His Word! (Phil.3:10-12)
OK. I have my answers to the questions. I am curious to hear yours!
Thursday, May 29, 2008
For those of you who have to (or regrettably choose to) be next to a computer more often than a Bible, this Scripture memory program might be good for you. It helps you to review through e-mails and then quizzes you at the end of the week. Try it out - it's free!
"How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your Word. I have hidden your Word in my heart than I might not sin against you." (Psalm 119:9,11)
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Monday, May 26, 2008
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Friday, May 23, 2008
Noah is learning a variety of things. It is fun to see him copy us! Let's just hope he only copies the good things he sees!
Noah's first strawberry. By the way, he loved it!
We had a nice family picnic with some friends.
Could you really get angry at this little guy?
He's waving at you!
What a beautiful day it was!
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Several times people have asked me, "Why did you go to Japan when America itself has so many problems?" And, "Why leave America when your family is there?"
Samuel Zwemer writes, "Most of the Apostles died outside of Palestine, though human logic would have forbidden them to leave the country until it had been Christianized." Maybe some argued with them, "The need in Jerusalem is so profound, our responsibilities to people of our own blood so obvious that we must live up to the principle that charity begins at home. After we have won the people in Jerusalem, of Judea and of the Holy Land in general, then it will be time enough to go abroad."
God had other plans.
Through the persecution at Jerusalem, God literally pushed his people out, just as he had at Babel. God's plan to fill the earth with His glory was not going to happen with human strategy and engineering. The glory of the impossible awaited. It was the bigness of this task and its difficulty - truly a task that only God alone could accomplish - that thrilled the early church to take Christ's commission seriously and to make disciples of ALL nations.
Shusaku Endo wrote the famous Japanese novel, "Chimoku" or Silence. I read this book a year after arriving in Japan. I am glad that I didn't read it before that! Truth be told, "Silence" is a great and captivating book, but it is not for the new missionary. Endo paints a vivid picture of the days when the Jesuit priests first came with the message of Christ. After a few decades of wide acceptance the days of Christianity were literally put to death. Every means of torture were leveled at the Christians to get them to recant. Simple death-sentences were only adding fuel to the fire of the Christians. Methods to cause recanting included upside-down crucifixions on the beach as the tide came in, people being hung upside down and slowly bled to death by cuts in their forehead, etc. Many gave in and recanted under the excruciating pain and temptation. Some withstood even to the end, but eventually, over the course of 300 years, Japan was thoroughly "cleansed" of the Christian problem. Endo ends his book with an image of a swamp. He describes Japan as being that swamp in which the tree of Christianity can never grow.
Yes, this is a depressing book for a new missionary, especially if that person believes this half-truth of a thesis! Yes, Japan is a spiritual swamp which has consumed missionaries and spit them out ruthlessly even after its borders were opened 150 years ago. Yes, Japan has never been over 1% Christian - probably never over .5% since. But what does God say?
"Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,'" - Isaiah 46:8-10
Adoniram Judson was the first American overseas missionary. His testimony is a greatly inspiring one (you can read or listen to it here.)
After leaving for Burma (Myanmar) his first two children died in infancy and then his wife died. Six months later his third son, age 2, also died. Many would have understandably given up and gone home. Not Judson. He stayed on for 38 years until he died at the age of 61 in Burma. When Judson was lying loaded with chains in a Burmese dungeon at one point, a fellow prisoner asked with a sneer about the prospect for the conversion of the heathen. Judson calmly answered, "The prospects are as bright as are the promises of God."
Judson eventually saw God break through. He was remarried and had other children. And by faith in the promises of God, God mercifully allowed him to see some amazing fruit. Hundreds were saved from eternal destruction in hell and God showed Himself MIGHTY to save. It is the glory of trusting the "impossible". In 2003 Patrick Johnstone estimated that in Myanmar the Baptist Convention (from which Judson came) to be 3,700 congregations with 617,781 members and 1,900,000 affiliates- this is due largely to the fruit of this dead seed who trusted in a God who can do the impossible.
May we, like Martin Luther also say, "Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also. The body, they may kill. God's truth abides still. His kingdom is forever!" or as Hebrews 13:13 says, "Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek a city that is to come."
Saturday, May 17, 2008
We tend to hear a lot of bad news through the media. I thought you might like to hear about what God is doing in America. This piece of news is posted by permission from a friend working with Campus Crusade for Christ.
Spring Break, notoriously known by media and society as a “party week,” but for Campus Crusade it is an opportunity to take steps of faith and practically share the love of God with those who are searching for something beyond another party. That's why each year Campus Crusade for Christ has a conference in Panama City Beach, Florida.
This year we had over 40 students from UWO head down to this spring break hot spot—the biggest group we’ve yet seen. During the week our students gained skills to help talk to their peers about their faith, then took that knowledge straight to the beach each afternoon. Over 250 college students placed their faith in Christ the week that our UWO students were there! Wow!
Among the 40 students that went from UWO, many were freshmen or went for the first time. In fact, S had almost his entire freshmen guys’ small group attend the conference.
Friday, May 16, 2008
Dead Poet's Society is a good movie. Who can forget Robin Williams bringing his prep school boys around an old picture of a long-forgotten sports team from about a hundred years prior? "Do you hear them?" he asks. "Do you hear them? They are whispering something to you. Listen... Carpe Diem! Carpe Diem! Seize the Day!"
Of course this motivated me and millions of others to think about how we spend each day and if we are "sucking out the marrow of life". It wasn't until yesterday that I thought about the philosophy that undergirds this movie. Someone reminded me that there is only one line in the movie that explains why. Robin Williams says, "Because remember boys, soon the worms will be eating you." In other words, live it up today, for tomorrow we die and then there is nothing.
A Christian high school English teacher in Equador asked his senior English class this question: "What should be the Christian response to Carpe Diem?" In the back a boy quietly raised his hand. "Yes?", the teacher inquired. "Carpe Eternitatum" - Seize Eternity!
As I thought about how I got to Japan, of course much of it was motivated on the fact that I wanted to follow God's plan to reach all the nations - especially the lesser reached nation of Japan. However, my satisfaction here, I realized, to a large extent was based on the philosophy "Seize the Day" and not "Seize Eternity". It is easy to get discouraged when you don't feel that you are "sucking all the marrow out of life." But then again God says, "Don't live any longer to make full use of this world." Whereas I often looked at my temporary success and enjoyment as a sign that I was doing well, God says, "Look at eternity. Don't focus your eyes on what is seen, but what is unseen."
Last night I was reading 2 Cor. 12 and I came upon the famous verse, "When you are weak, then you are strong." God touched me with His overwhelming presence. It was as if he was reminding me, "Look at eternity! Do not worry that you are 'just a simple missionary, mostly to kids'. Don't worry that you don't always see fruit and that many people reject the good news that you share. Don't worry that you don't have all the praise of the world or that crowds aren't waiting to see you. Look at eternity! When you are weak and have little, then you are strong... because you have Me. I am your strength and your hope and your eternal reward."
Yes! Seize Eternity and eternal rewards of being with this incomparable God Almighty! He has your best plan charted out, even if today is just as routine as the last. The difference is is that God is in it, and behind it, and is with you always.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
When we think of missions many of imagine living in a straw hut or a jungle somewhere. In this 2nd video by my friend Rudy V., we see that in today's shrinking world, cross-cultural missionary work can be done from almost any place on the planet. In Germany you can reach Germans and you can reach Africans. I want to encourage you to think about how you can be a cross-cultural missionary in the place where God has called you to live. God is too big to be limited to one culture or ethnicity.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Monday, May 12, 2008
I just listened to Piper's message on the atonement. Though the title says, "Part 7 - Limited Atonement", it simply blew the doors open on my "little" limited view of the atonement! What Jesus did on the cross brings people to and is in and of itself the main thing in the entire universe! What Jesus did on the cross is for everyone in the entire world (yes, YOU!) who would believe and is actually effective for those who do believe. If you are unsure of Calvinism and Arminianism, or have never studied these important issues at all, this is the place to start seeing some answers.
Click here and go to part 7.
The glue that holds us together
(From a friend)
And then I lost my breath. And it wasn't because I was running my treadmill, either
It was because he started talking about laminin. I knew about laminin. Here is how wikipedia describes them :
"Laminins are a family of proteins that are an integral part of the structural scaffolding of basement membranes in almost every animal tissue." You see....laminins are what hold us together....LITERALLY.
They are cell adhesion molecules. They are what holds one cell of our bodies to the next cell. Without them, we would literally fall apart. And I knew all this already. But what I didn't know is what laminin LOOKED LIKE.
But now I do.
And I have thought about it a thousand times since (already)....
Here is what the structure of laminin looks like...AND THIS IS NOT a "Christian portrayal" of it....if you look up laminin in any scientific/medical piece of literature, this is what you will see...
Now tell me that our God is not the coolest!!! Amazing.
The glue that holds us together....ALL of us....is in the shape of the cross.
Immediately Colossians 1:15-17 comes to mind.
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things HOLD TOGETHER. “ Colossians 1:15-17
Call me crazy. I just think that is very, very, very cool.
Thousands of years before the world knew anything about laminin, Paul penned those words. And now we see that from a very LITERAL standpoint, we are held together...one cell to another....by the cross.< /B>
You would never in a quadrillion years convince me that is anything other than the mark of a Creator who knew EXACTLY what laminin "glue" would look like long before Adam even breathed his first breath!!
We praise YOU, Lord !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Sunday, May 11, 2008
"The Land of Disappearing Children" -- Japan's Population Crisis
Posted: Thursday, May 08, 2008 at 4:56 am ET
by Al Mohler
The nation of Japan faces a devastating population crisis. The crisis, however, is not a problem of too many people living in Japan, but too few. Japan, with several other nations close behind, faces what we might call a population implosion.
Indeed, Japan has experienced 27 consecutive years of declining birth rates. Within just a few short years the nation will experience massive social problems and a complete breakdown of economic activity.
In previous eras, this kind of population loss would be explained by war or some natural catastrophe such as famine or the plague. None of these explanations is relevant to Japan's experience, however. As a matter of fact, the population of Japan actually grew during World War II, only to start falling in the early 1980s.
As The Washington Post reports:
The number of children has declined for 27 consecutive years, a government report said over the weekend. Japan now has fewer children who are 14 or younger than at any time since 1908.
The proportion of children in the population fell to an all-time low of 13.5 percent. That number has been falling for 34 straight years and is the lowest among 31 major countries, according to the report. In the United States, children account for about 20 percent of the population.
Japan also has a surfeit of the elderly. About 22 percent of the population is 65 or older, the highest proportion in the world. And that number is on the rise. By 2020, the elderly will outnumber children by nearly 3 to 1, the government report predicted. By 2040, they will outnumber them by nearly 4 to 1.
The numbers tell the story. Almost a quarter of Japan's population is 65 and older; only 13.5 percent are children. The inescapable conclusion is that there will soon not be enough Japanese to keep Japan functioning as a nation, society, and culture.
The paper calls the reality "a slow-motion demographic catastrophe that is without precedent in the developed world." Looking ahead, the paper assured its readers that it was not overstating the case. Indeed, "The economic and social consequences of these trends are difficult to overstate."
The Japan Center for Economic Research predicts that Japan will lose 70 percent of its workers by mid-century. Japan may now be the world's second-largest economy, but it cannot retain that status with a population in severe decline.
A society that stops having children is like a healthy person who simply decides to starve himself. This is an act of the human will, not a natural calamity.
The population explosion prophets are still warning of a population crisis to come, but they got the story almost perfectly backward when it comes to nations like Japan. Russia and several other European nations face similar crises.
Babies are a clear sign of cultural confidence and cultural health. The Washington Post describes this crisis as "Japan's disappearing children." Those words do describe Japan's predicament -- and this crisis will not disappear.-----
Here are Mark's two cents:
Japan is now paying its people to have children for them! By the way, Maki and I are more than happy to oblige! If we would simply follow God's commands to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth" (Gen 1:26-28) then things would be much better. On the contrary selfishness has given way to abortion and "free" living. God says, "Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children are a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are the sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them." (Psalm 127)
Saturday, May 10, 2008
(From the Heart4Japan blog)
Thank you for your earnest prayers for Japan in past few weeks! The internet suicide influence has slowed down for almost ten days now. There were still suicide news, yet we are hoping that this will come to an end SOON!Please continue to press on in interceding! These are the prayer points that we would like you to consider.
Friday, May 09, 2008
The LORD will keep you from all harm he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. -- Psalm 121:7-8
The only way you can believe this verse is if you believe that God is in control of every event in your life. "He will keep you from ALL harm". Since pain, death and tragedy happen at some point in everyone's life, one must conclude that these painful things are ultimately not harmful to us, they are helpful in guiding us and shaping us into the image of Christ, however painful they may be in the short-term. What a wonderful God that we can rest our souls and our lives in. He is watching over his children like a good Father and He will keep us from ALL harm.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Until the end of June Campus Crusade has a 50% off sale on three DVDs exploring intelligent design:
- The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel
- Unlocking the Mystery of Life
- The Privileged Planet
William Dembski writes in a blog post:
The Privileged Planet was, of course, co-written by Guillermo Gonzalez, Ph.D. (Iowa State U.)
Ben Stein’s Expelled asserts that Dr. Gonzalez was denied tenure for challenging Darwinian Orthodoxy. Perhaps someone you know would enjoy seeing what is so controversial about Gonzalez’ ideas in particular and Intelligent Design, in general.
The DVDs present solid scientific concepts in language the layman or laywoman can understand, with state of the art, memorable graphics.
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
"Luther saw that lurking beneath the controversy of merit and grace, and faith and works was the issue of to what degree the human will is enslaved by sin and to what degree we are dependent upon grace for our liberation. Luther argued from the Bible that the flesh profits nothing and that this 'nothing' is not a little 'something.'"
Read the whole article by R.C. Sproul here.
The following is the philosophy of Charles Schultz ,the creator of the 'Peanuts' comic strip. You don't have to actually answer the questions. Just read the e-mail straight through, and you'll get the point.
1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America Contest.
4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.
5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and
6. Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners.
How did you do?
The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.
Here's an other quiz. See how you do on this one:
1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.
The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that care.
Pass this on to those people who have made a difference in your life.
Friday, May 02, 2008
Check out May's free download from ChristianAudio.com.
Martin Luther: In His Own Words (Unabridged) by Martin Luther
Most all Christians know the name Martin Luther. Less familiar, however, are his words. This compilation of many of Luther's most important writings serves as an excellent introduction to those new to Luther. It also provides a fresh medium for people familiar with his writing. 2 Hrs. 45 Mins.
Use the coupon code MAY2008 to redeem this download. You can listen to sample audio here. Here is a list of the contents:
- The Small Catechism
- 95 Theses
- On Faith and Coming to Christ
- On Confession and the Lord's Supper
- Of the Office of Preaching
- Excerpt from Luther's Tower Experience
- The Last Written Words of Luther