Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A pro-life Oakland pastor chooses jail over a plea bargain

This really is an amazing story. Read about it here.

The full article is below:
For 19 days in March and April, Walter Hoye was locked in a cell with 29 other prisoners at the Santa Rita jail near Oakland, Calif. There were times when he wished he could have stayed longer.
When the metal door first clanged shut behind him on March 20, Hoye, 52, decided the space was really more of a cage than a cell. A metal grid penning in prisoners. Fifteen bunks lining two walls. Two toilets and a urinal for all 30 men, and a shower that inmates had gradually transformed into a pornographic shrine.
As Hoye made his way to an empty bunk, a few prisoners, mostly black and Latino, dogged his path. "You smuggle in any drugs, man?" one of them asked.
"No," Hoye said quietly.
Then the veteran inmates left him alone, he told me, except for "one of the brothers who was kind enough to help me make up my bed."
A few minutes later, another man walked over to Hoye's bunk and jabbed his finger at a newspaper he was holding. "This you?" he said, eyeing Hoye skeptically.
Hoye peered at the Oakland Tribune headline: "Anti-abortion pastor chooses jail."
"Yeah, that's me," he said.
In the next moment, the inmate was striding up and down the length of the cell, announcing, "Hey, he don't have to be here! He turned down probation! He doing straight time for what he believed in!"
It was true: On Feb. 19, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Stuart Hing sentenced Walter Hoye, a Missionary Baptist minister, to 30 days in jail after Hoye refused a plea deal that included three years' probation, a small fine, and an order that he stay at least 100 yards away from Family Planning Specialists, an Oakland abortion clinic.
Passionate about the sky-high abortion rate among African-Americans, Hoye began offering men and women assistance at the clinic in 2006. About one in three Oakland residents is black, compared with a statewide African-American population of 6 percent. And though blacks make up only 12 percent of the U.S. population, they account for one-third of all abortions performed in the United States. More than three in 10 black women abort their unborn children.
According to the 2006 census, deaths now exceed live births among African-Americans. "We're no longer replacing ourselves," Hoye said. "So we're not using terms like holocaust and genocide just to elicit a response. It's the truth."
In response, once a week Hoye stood quietly outside Family Planning Specialists with a sign that said, "Jesus loves you and your baby. Let us help." When people approached the clinic, Hoye would ask their permission to speak with them about abortion alternatives; he also offered them pamphlets describing available help.
In 2007, pro-abortion clinic "escorts" began to show up in groups, surrounding Hoye and impeding his movement. They blocked his sign with sheets of blank cardboard and shouted down his low-key offers of help. When that didn't scare Hoye off, clinic managers lobbied the Oakland city council and in December 2007, the council instituted a "bubble-zone" ordinance applicable within a 100-foot radius of any Oakland abortion clinic. The law made it a crime to "approach within eight feet of any person seeking to enter" a "reproductive health care facility" in order to offer literature, display a sign, or engage in "oral protest, education, or counseling."
"This law is horribly unconstitutional," Hoye said. "It allows abortion clinics to decide which U.S. citizens are allowed to retain their constitutional right to free speech."
Represented by Life Legal Defense Fund (LLDF), Hoye challenged the ordinance in court. The case is still pending, but in May 2008, Oakland public attorneys acting in cooperation with clinic managers charged Hoye with "unlawful approaches" to women, and "force, threat of force, or physical obstruction."
What prosecutors did not know was that LLDF attorneys possessed four hours of uncut videotape documenting Hoye's activities outside the clinic on the dates in question. At trial in January 2009, the tapes impeached the testimony of clinic director Jackie Barbic, who claimed that Hoye repeatedly broke the 8-foot rule and that she and a patient had to put up their hands to fend him off. Instead, the tapes showed Hoye standing still as Barbic approached him; then they showed Hoye walking away. No incident shown on the tape matched Barbic's testimony, and even clinic escorts testified that Hoye was always cordial and never obstructed anyone's path or used threats or force.
Inexplicably, the jury still found Hoye guilty. At sentencing, the prosecutor recommended the probation and the clinic stay-away order—or two years in jail. When Hoye refused the stay-away order, Judge Hing appeared "surprised," Hoye said. "The judge was essentially asking me to stop trying to help men and women outside an abortion clinic, and I just would not voluntarily give up my First Amendment rights."
In February, Hing levied a sentence of 30 days and Hoye reported to the Santa Rita jail a month later. After the newspaper-reading inmate touted the Tribune article to the other prisoners—many of them inner-city drug dealers whose highest aspiration was to stay out of prison, they clamored to know why a man would choose jail over freedom. From that moment on, Hoye found himself in constant demand.
"I would be holding court with about 30 guys, explaining why I did what I did," he said. "I explained what an abortion actually does, that it takes an innocent human life. We held prayer vigils, we had Bible studies. I must have counseled and mentored guys all day and all night. It got to the point where we started talking seriously about Christ."
Most of the men in the cage at first mouthed pro-choice slogans, Hoye said. "But when I forced them to complete the sentence, 'I believe that a woman has a right to choose to kill an innocent life,' they couldn't do it."
One morning at about 2:30 a.m., a good-looking young man named Terrell approached Hoye's bunk and asked what actually goes on during an abortion. Using his fingers to simulate a woman's legs spreading, Hoye showed Terrell how the abortionist inserts a vacuum aspirator and sucks out the developing child.
Terrell, 18, told Hoye he had gotten his girlfriend pregnant and that she had aborted. "She made the decision," he said. "It was her choice."
"Yes, I know that, but what did you do?" Hoye replied. "Did you offer to marry her?"
Terrell shook his head. "No, I didn't."
"Did you offer to help her raise the child?"
"No, I didn't."
"Did you tell her that you love her and that you were going to go the distance with her as a man should, even if she decided to give the child up for adoption?"
"No, no, I didn't," Terrell said, his eyes filling with tears. "I never knew. No one ever told me what an abortion is. No one ever made it plain."
When Terrell understood that he had, "perhaps because of his own lack of participation, been complicit in the murder of his own child, it really broke him," Hoye said.
Before Terrell went back to his own bunk that night, Hoye prayed with him. "I told him God could forgive him, that what he'd done wasn't an unforgivable sin."
But the conversation didn't end then. Terrell continued to visit with Hoye. "He began to understand that men have a responsibility to women, and vowed that, for him, an abortion would never happen again. He came to me a young man in jail for dealing drugs, trying to make some money and live the large life. I began to see him grow up."
Released from jail on April 7, Hoye rejoined his wife, Lori, in their Oakland home. Today, he is not sorry for his choice. "I've been a jail chaplain in jail before, and even had the privilege of being a guest preacher at San Quentin. Being an inmate is completely different. I was actually one of them and it gave me a different kind of credibility. I'm sure my adversary meant my incarceration for evil, but God used it for good."
(HT: Z)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ryuta Kimura's Testimony  (めっちゃいい証!)
Watch one of the best testimonies I've heard in a while.
(By the way it is bilingual - both in English and in Japanese - so give it a shot!)  It is entitled "Easter Message", but is really mostly a testimony.

Jesus Lifehouse Church, in Tokyo, is one of the fastest growing churches in Japan.  You can tell that they love Jesus and because of it they have such amazing joy!  JLHC is a church plant from Hillsong Church in Australia.  Maki and I attended this church once and also have friends who go here.  I recommend it to anyone in the area.

For anyone in Osaka, JLHC also has a new church plant there!  While it is still rather small, it is already a very energetic young church.  (Follow the links above to learn more about it.)
Their helpful website has been redesigned with some new features:
  • Addition of The Tinder Box and The Workshop, places where songwriters can post their songs for the church
  • New donation-based ordering. Everything on the site can be downloaded or ordered for free.
  • New contact page that lets you contact individual contributors directly
  • Pop-up MP3 player that lets you build a playlist of your favorite songs
  • A better search feature which searches everything in the posts, including song credits like original author
Especially, I want to really recommend this song, from my friend Eric Schumacher and David L. Ward.
Note:  Please also make use of the new streaming music on my side-bar!  I have really enjoyed it so far.
 (HT: JT)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dinosaurs and the Bible

For the many Christians and non-Christians that laugh at the notion of the title, I encourage you to watch this video and leave me your thoughts and/or questions.

Starting with first-hand testimony is the only accurate way to tell anything about something that happened in the past with any degree of certainty.

(Link is fixed!)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What is church like in Japan? - part 2
Ikoma, Nara ("FIC")Kyotanabe, Kyoto ("KIC")

I am not sure how long this series will go, but I do want to share a few things about our church as well as other good churches in Japan.

I mentioned in the last post that many successful churches in Japan are bilingual.  Many Japanese are very eager to improve their English and to have a chance to practice English with native speakers.  It is a great privilege to be able to serve non-Christians in a very real way by opening up very cheap English classes for them on Sunday and then by offering bilingual services.
Another way that we reach out to non-Christians on Sundays is by speaking to concerns that are on their mind.  Unlike Americans, most Japanese do not have a belief or an understanding of a creator God.  It is important for us to be able to give a reason for the hope that we have in the God of all creation.  (1 Peter 3:15)  To really share the gospel clearly, we must start, therefore, in Genesis.

Last week in Ikoma and next month in Kyoto, our church will be offering a short lesson in creation taught by Dr. Ando, a top-level biologist who graduated from the top university in Japan, Tokyo University.  Obviously, Dr. Ando is not ignorant to the claims of macro-evolution, but sees clearly that the scientific evidence for creation is more overwhelming, especially in light of the trustworthiness of the Bible, God's word.
If you are in Japan, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Dr. Ando's book, "Darwins Glasses", and/or attend her lecture next month at Kyoto Chapel.  See here for details.
Where is Dungy now?
Check it out here.
(HT: Z)
Helping inmates change their post-sentence fortunes has become a post-football priority for former Colts coach Tony Dungy. "He could have absolutely been doing anything else, but decided to spend time with us," said Traveguz Butler, an inmate at Florida's Hardee Correctional Institutition. "It's uplifting. I'm glad that he was able to lower himself down to our level."
KCRG of Iowa bans freedom of speech!

I am really sad for my home state of Iowa.

Today I repeatedly tried to make the following comment on a pro-gay article at, a local Iowa T.V. station:

I believe in civil rights, but where is the line of morality and immorality?  Is it okay to marry two people?  Is it okay to marry my daughter?  Is it okay to marry a dog?  Who decides?

I followed up with this comment after the above comment was repeatedly rejected:  This comment section is not free itself. Where are my civil liberties? There is no room for real discussion here. Though I said nothing vulgar or course whatsoever, my comments have been shut out. Why?

Justin Taylor has some great advice for you Americans living in America:
I think it might be time for some bold and creative Iowa conservatives to consider Francis Beckwith's gameplan, from an article published in 2004 in light of the situation where the San Francisco mayor began handing out marriage licenses to gay couples:
I believe . . . that given present circumstances that the best strategy is to take the mayor at his word and employ “street theatre” in a provocative way in order to force the other side to defend their marital nihilism in all its glory. Here’s the plan: Have about 50 folks go to San Francisco city hall and request marriage licenses, but not for gay marriages, rather, for other sorts of “unions” that are also forbidden by the state: three bisexuals from two genders, one person who wants to marry himself (and have him accuse the mayor of “numberism,” the prejudice that marriage must include more than one person), two married couples who want a temporary “wife-swap lease,” a couple consisting of two brothers, two sisters, or a brother and a sister, an adult mother and son, and a man who wants to add a second wife and a first husband in order to have a “marital ensemble,” etc., etc. Let’s see if the mayor will give these people “marriage” licenses. If not, why not? If not, then the jig is up and the mayor actually has to explain the grounds on which he will not give licenses to these folks. But what could those grounds be? That it would break the law? That marriage has a nature, a purpose, that is not the result of social construction or state fiat? If so, then what is it and why?
This is the sort of public philosophical interrogation that has to occur if the social conservatives really want to win. All their legal and social-science posturing — i. e., their appeal to what the majority of citizens want, etc. — will be for naught unless they can press the other side to account for their point of view. For this is not a dispute about “policy.” It is a battle over the nature of who and what we are and whether we can know it. It is philosophical combat over metaphysical turf with no Switzerland to which one can flee for asylum.
The street theatre I am suggesting will show that once marriage is defined merely as a contract between consenting adults rather than as an institution grounded in our natures as men and women, recognized and honored by the wider community, then marriage simply does not exist. According to the mayor of San Francisco, marriage is not something we enter; it is something we create or undo by our willfulness. It is not part of the order and nature of things that we honor and preserve by subjecting ourselves to its moral grandeur; rather, it is like the colors of traffic signals, diplomatic immunity, or the dollar amount of parking fines, arbitrary rules created by governments in order to facilitate safe travel, economic transactions, international relations, state funding, and/or public peace. Ironically, that means that gays who are forbidden by the state to marry each other are not being treated unfairly or unjustly, since, according to their own view of things, marriage is a creation of the state and there is no standard of marriage with which the state’s definition must be consistent in order to be considered “just” or “unjust.” Consequently, the premises that ground same-sex marriage put in place ideas that are consistent with, and will likely lead to, the unraveling of marriage itself.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mama is Beautiful

We are training Noah to honor his parents.  Of course I wanted to train him to know the truth and say it boldly!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

New Family Picture
Some of you saw it already on the side bar, but here it is - close-up and personal!

I hope to add some new *cute* video of Noah and Taka soon, so stay tuned!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Meaning vs. Meaninglessness, Order vs. Chaos

From the recent debate between William Lane Craig (Christian) and Christopher Hitchens (Atheist).
Why Marriage?
(HT: JT)
Reflecting on his forty years of matrimony, Piper explains:
Most foundationally, marriage is the doing of God. And ultimately, marriage is the display of God. It displays the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his people to the world in a way that no other event or institution does. Marriage, therefore, is not mainly about being in love. It’s mainly about telling the truth with our lives. And staying married is not about staying in love. It is about keeping covenant and putting the glory of Christ’s covenant-keeping love on display.
“If you are married, this is why,” says Piper. “If you hope to be, this should be your dream.”
John Piper's book, This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence, is now available in hardcover.
Download the book (PDF).
What is Church Like in Japan?

I want to start a new series to inform people both in and outside of Japan.  "What is church like in Japan?"  I hope to answer that question in the following posts.
For now, here is a good church that I recommend in Osaka called, J-House.  As is true for many successful churches in Japan, it is bilingual.  They also offer a gospel choir, which is popular with Christians and non-Christians alike.
Where is God?

A message I will give tomorrow at our church in Kyoto.

Getting dumped  //  being gossiped about //  being ignored.

In varying degrees, most of us have felt the pain of rejection, of disrespect or of being unwanted or unloved.

Whether it is this or some other form of hardship or struggle, we all face pain in many ways as we go through life.

As some have said, “If you haven’t suffered yet in some way, just wait a few more years!”

Living in a world that has been corrupted by human sin, sometimes it is hard to see the goodness and love and mercy of God through it all.

But does God have a purpose for any of these pains and sufferings?

While we can praise God when good times come, where is God when things really hurt?

Does he care?  Couldn’t he stop it?  Why would he even allow it in the first place?

These are all questions that need answers and that I would like to at least begin to address today.

I realize this topic is way too big for one message, but I hope to give you at least a starting point from which you can continue to seek God on your own in preparation for your own future struggles.

Joseph was a man who loved God, but his brothers had rejected him.

They were the ones who were ignoring him and talking behind his back.

You see, Joseph was his father’s favorite, and everyone knew it but Joseph.

Not only was Joseph a talented young man, he also loved God.

This made his brothers hate him even more.  “Goody two-shoes”, they probably called him.

One day, Joseph’s brothers had had enough of Joseph and they did an evil thing.

They put him in a pit and then sold him to a slave-trader who happened to be going to Egypt.

They told their father that wild animals had suddenly attacked and killed Joseph and all that remained was his bloody coat.

As Joseph slowly marched to a foreign country all alone, leaving everything and everyone he knew, how rejected and alone do you think he felt?

 How much pain was ripping through his heart, and what were his thoughts?

“Look at where my faith in God has gotten me, no where!  I am finished following this God.”

Is that what he said?


Though Joseph undoubtedly experienced great pain, he continued to trust God, even when he didn’t understand what God was doing.

Joseph knew deeply that God was a good and faithful God to those who love Him.

He knew not only from his own experiences, but also from the amazing stories he had heard about God’s faithfulness in the lives of his father, grandfather and great-grandfather, Abraham.

Their lives also had been far from easy, but God had never failed to work all their experiences for their good.

The fact is, behind the scenes, God was amazingly engineering all of this rejection and pain in Joseph’s life, for a good purpose.

But Joseph’s story is not finished.  And your story is not yet finished either.

Maybe some of you today are struggling in your view of God, and you just can’t see how God could allow what has happened to you to happen.

And maybe more than just one bad thing has happened to you.

Well, Joseph could identify with that.

You see, Joseph was sold to Potiphar, the captain of the guard in Egypt.

Joseph submitted to God’s will and worked hard and faithfully for his new master.

You would think that his good deeds would show God that he had passed the test and he could now be rewarded.

But that was not the case.

Again Joseph faithfulness to God was tested, as Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph not once, but many times.

Joseph literally ran from adultery, but the spurned woman he left behind, viciously lied about Joseph and for this righteous act, Joseph was sent to jail.

For eight long years Joseph sat in a dungeon.  He probably wondered, “Am I ever going to get out?”

But he was not complaining there.

He continued to seek God and God comforted his heart again and again with the knowledge of His faithfulness and goodness in every circumstance.

Genesis 39:21 says, “But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.”

As many Christians have reported, God is often times nearer in times of struggle than in good times.

In our weaknesses, we depend on God more and God loves to show himself strong to the weak.

He loves to show us that his personal love and presence is more than enough to make up for any trial we could ever experience.

And God encourages us to seek Him in our struggles.

You may find that in your struggle, God’s love draws you closer than ever before.

“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:  I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and revive the heart of the contrite.”  - Isaiah 57:15

Because Joseph knew God’s personal love deep in his heart, he was able to continue in faithful hard work, and the chief jailor started to take notice.

“And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge... because the LORD was with him.  And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed.”  (Gen. 39:22)

Joseph also had an ability from God to be able to interpret dreams.

He had correctly interpreted the dreams of his fellow prisoners, but when they were set free, they forgot all about helping Joseph out of prison.

Finally, when Pharaoh himself had a dream, Joseph was remembered and God allowed Joseph to be able to give a good interpretation.

He tells Pharaoh that his dreams were from God and that they mean that there would be seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine.

Well, Pharaoh recognizes that Joseph’s wisdom is from a divine source and immediately puts Joseph in charge of everything in the kingdom.

He suddenly goes from a prisoner to the second highest official in all of Egypt!

Finally, we are beginning to see what God is up to.

Joseph orders that extra grain be stored for the seven years of plenty so that when the seven years of famine come, Egypt alone is ready.

And as the famine continues in the whole region, Joseph’s brothers hear of the reserves in Egypt and their father sends them to go buy grain in Egypt.

When Joseph’s brothers stand before him, though Joseph recognizes them, they obviously no longer recognize him.

They had no reason, of course, to suspect a top official in Egypt to be their own brother, whom they had sold into slavery.

Joseph is deeply moved when he sees his brothers, and he secretly works through his pain and finally resolves to forgive his brothers and help them in their time of need.

Now think about this - Could you forgive someone who has messed up your life for over twenty years?

How in the world was Joseph able to do that?!

Joseph was able to forgive his brothers because he saw how God had used all of it for good.

God had saved his whole family - which incidentally became the whole nation of Israel – and God did it through his own slavery.

In Genesis 50:20 Joseph tells his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

Though evil actions had sent Joseph to Egypt, and evil actions made Joseph a slave, God is the One who planned it all, before time, for a good and holy purpose.

And God has a purpose in your life as well, to save those who believe and to use many means, even pain, to get you to see that He is the Lord, and He is enough.

What an awesome God!

Though God can never do evil, he does allow and plan for evil to come about through human and demonic wills for his good and wise and holy purposes.

And behind it all, God’s plan in every detail, will be fulfilled.

He is sovereign over all events, even the sinful human decisions like the one Joseph’s brothers made.

You see Psalm 105:17 is the God-inspired commentary on what happened there.  “...he (God) had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.”

Psalm 139:16 says, “in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.”

And Eph. 1:11 says, “...having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,”

God has a plan that cannot fail, and even when we don’t understand it, everything that happens works for the good of those who choose to love him.  (Rom. 8:28)

And therefore we can praise God that he is good, even when all we see and feel around us is only evil and pain.

It is as if God is painting a great masterpiece on a canvas all around us and all we can see is a very small part.

The ugly blacks and browns, when considered only by themselves, don’t add any beauty, but when considered in the whole painting, they make everything just perfect.

In Isaiah 46:9-10 God says, “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.’”

“I will accomplish ALL my purpose”

 There is not one ultimate purpose of God’s that will not be accomplished because he declares it all from the beginning!

God will never be left saying, “Well, I wish I could have done better there!”

 or, “I wish there was something I could do to help Mark out of this mess.”

God already knows the best plan from the beginning and therefore declares the end from the beginning. 

How that truth should cause us to trust in, rest in, love and praise God today!

All of our sufferings – every single one- have a good purpose.

Well, then, does all this mean that God does evil or somehow sadistically enjoys it when evil is being done to me?

The apostle Paul answers this question clearly in Romans 9:14, “By no means!”

God cannot do evil because He is good and holy.  He hates evil, in and of itself.

But doing evil and allowing evil to exist for a good purpose are two very different things.

In God’s inscrutable plan, He allows evil to exist, and plans for it to accomplish his good and holy purposes.

But most of his plan we will never fully see or understand until we get to heaven.

Unlike Joseph, some of our lives do not end so well.

And that is why we need to look to Jesus, and not just to Joseph.

Jesus is our model and our focus in suffering.

Jesus, God in human flesh, was also rejected, betrayed, mocked and sold - not just into slavery, but into death.

Judas, Jesus’ good friend, whom he had lived with and talked with every day for three years, betrayed him for a measly thirty pieces of silver.

His three closest friends rejected him at the exact moment he needed them most.

One of them, Peter, even denied three times that he even knew Jesus.

But this wasn’t even the half of it.

On the cross, Jesus’ own Father would turn his back on his own dear Son.

There, all alone and painfully suffering, he would experience for the first time the rejection of his Daddy, as he took on the wrath of God for our sins.

But ONLY in this way could Jesus truly suffer and fully pay our sin debt, and only in this way could God show us the extent of his love.

The most wicked crime in all of history, the murder of Jesus, though planned through the evil wills of men and demons, unwittingly accomplished God’s sovereign plan fully.

Their purpose was to destroy Jesus.

God’s good purpose was to save all who would trust in Him through His death and resurrection.

Acts 2:23 says, “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”

Acts 4:26-28 adds, “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed.  For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”

Even though He had planned it from all eternity, God the Father wept that day.

Though the plan was sure and the plan was good, the reality was that it was harder than anything that we could ever imagined.

And God knows the horror and the searing pain of what you are experiencing also because he has experienced Himself.

Any pain that you know, God has experienced it also, and even more.

If there is anyone who deserved to have a life of no pain, it was Jesus,

And yet he chose the cross because he loves you and because he wants you to know his love.

And though you may not understand everything you are going through right now, or what you have experienced in the past, God does and God knows and God hurts with you.

And God wants to use it all for your eternal good.

But God does not expect you to understand it all right now.

Joseph did not understand it all, and even Jesus, who knew the answer intellectually, in emotional agony cried, “Father, why have you forsaken Me?”

It is not just okay to be honest with God about your emotions-  God wants you to pour out your true thoughts and feelings to Him! 

Though it is not okay to accuse God of doing wrong, we need to confess our confusion, and our hurt and our anger.

We need to crawl up, as it were, into our Daddy’s lap and pour out our hearts to Him.

He is there waiting, wanting to listen you.  He is there in the broken parts of your life, just as he was for Joseph in that prison cell.

And God’s love is so strong; He can handle your deepest emotions.

Dave Busby once said, “I sincerely believe that most Christians don’t do real heart work with God.  I think we say nice things to God.  And yet there is so much pain and rage toward God in so many of our hearts that we are too terrified to admit it out loud.  We are scared to death if we express our true feelings audibly to God.  Instead we pretend we are not really hurt towards God.  And then when someone tells us to just meet with God and be close to Him, we can’t because we have all that dirt down in our hearts that we must get out first.”

Jesus wants you to find him deeply in the valleys of your life.

Psalm 23:4 says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;”

And for those who trust in God with their whole lives, God promises that everything is working for your good. – Everything!

But for those who reject the Creator, while everything may go well all of your life and you die peacefully at an old age, everything will ultimately work for your destruction.

Though God has given you life and breath and all good things, He will turn to you and say, “You never acknowledged Me.”

And because God has been ignored and rejected as the fountain of all goodness, he will shut people out from his goodness forever, in hell.

But today he is saying to you, “Repent, come back to me.  Today is the day of your salvation!  I want to rescue you too, yes you!”

To those Christians who suffer year after year and continue to hope in Him, the Scriptures say, “the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.  You shall go out leaping like calves released from the stalls.”  (Malachi 4:2)

All the years of waiting in difficult times will be swallowed up in joy as you are released into utter joy and love forever and ever in heaven.

By the power of Christ’s resurrection, you will kick up your heels and dance for joy and rejoice forever like a calf that has been set free.

I’ll end with God’s words of promise to His people as recorded by John in Revelation:
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”  (Rev. 21:3-4)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Easter!

I can't wait to sing this tomorrow!  It has been years since I have sung it on Easter Sunday.  It reminds me of growing up in my Lutheran church.  We often had a wonderful trumpet player as well as rows and rows of Easter lilies decorating the church.  This hymn brings tears of joy to my eyes as I reflect both on that scene and on all Christ has done for us.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Jesus Came to Serve

Listen to a wonderful message by my twin brother, Doug.  On this Passover Thursday, I encourage you also to read John 13 for a personal look at how Jesus humbly served as a leader.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Live Blogging the Hitchens/Craig Debate
"Does God Exist?"  
I thought that Craig did a great job here, especially of pointing to God's reality through personal experience, a vital piece that most never discuss in debates.  I do wish, though, that Hitchens could have argued better and interacted more.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Why is Good Friday Good?
My best answer may be similar to the words in this Puritan poem:

My Father, enlarge my heart, warm my affections, open my lips, supply words that proclaim 'Love lustres at Calvary.'
There grace removes my burdens and heaps them on thy Son,
made transgressor, a curse, and sin for me;
There the sword of thy justice smote the man, thy fellow;
There thy infinite attributes were magnified,
and infinite punishment was due,
and infiinite punishment was endured.
Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy,
cast off that I might be brought in,
trodden down as an enemy
that I might be welcomed as a friend,
surrendered to hell's worst
that I might attain heaven's best,
stripped that I might be clothed,
wounded that I might be healed,
athirst that I might drink,
tormented that I might be comforted,
made a shame that I might inherit glory,
entered darkness that I might have eternal light,

My Saviour wept that all tears might be wiped from my eyes,
groaned that I might have endless song,
endured all pain that I might have unfading health,
bore a thorned crown that I might have a glory-diadem,
bowed his head that I might lift up mine,
experienced reproach that I might receive welcome,
closed his eyes in death that I might gaze on unclouded brightness,
expired that I might for ever live.

O Father, who spared not thine only Son that thou mightest spare me.
All this transfer thy love designed and accomplished; 
Help me to adore thee by lips and life.
O that my every breath might be ecstatic praise,
my every step buoyant with delight, as I see
my enemies crushed,
Satan baffled, defeated, destroyed,
sin buried in the ocean of reconciling blood,
hell's gates closed, heaven's portal open.

Go forth, O conquering God, and show me the cross,
mighty to subdue, comfort and save.

(Taken from the book The Valley of Vision)
Answering the Highly-Educated Atheist
 by Dr. Jason Lisle (PhD in astrophysics from the University of Boulder)

Most people just blindly assume that our senses are reliable, that the mind is rational, and that the universe is orderly and understandable.
Few people think to ask, “Why should knowledge be possible?”

Although there is a place for discussing scientific details, it is good to remember that science itself is based on a Christian worldview. We must patiently get the unbeliever to realize that he couldn’t even do science if his evolutionary worldview were true.

If (macro) evolution were true, would there be any reason to think that the mind would be capable of rational analysis? If the universe were just the aftermath of a big bang, why would we expect it to be orderly or comprehensible? If the universe is just matter in motion, then how could there be abstract laws, such as mathematics and logic, which are required for rational thinking? If any alternative to Christianity were true, then there would be no foundation for any of the things necessary for knowledge.

This isn’t to say that non-Christians cannot know anything. Obviously they can. But this is possible only because they are being inconsistent—implicitly relying on biblical principles while simultaneously denying the Bible.

Consider those who say, “Christians are dishonest. They teach that God created the world only thousands of years ago, which is clearly false.” First, using the “don’t answer” strategy,  (from Proverbs 26:4) you’d reject the starting assumption of the critic and say something like this: “I don’t accept your claim that teaching creation is dishonest. We are equally convinced that evolution is untrue.”

Then you’d go to the “answer” part of the strategy (Proverbs 26:5) and show that the critic’s position is inconsistent: “But for the sake of argument, even if we were lying, why would that be wrong according to your worldview? The idea that it’s wrong to lie is a Biblical concept. Lying is wrong because it’s contrary to the nature of God. But in an evolutionary universe, on what basis could I say that it’s wrong to lie—particularly if it benefits my survival? I understand you agree with me that it’s wrong to lie. But my point is that such a belief makes sense only if the Bible is true.”

Friday, April 03, 2009

Japan Mission
One mission that has worked closely with ours over the years is Japan Mission.  Though the following video is somewhat dated, the needs are still the same!  I pray this opens your eyes to some of the great neediness in Japan.