Saturday, December 31, 2011

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wesley and Whitefield
 Ian Murray has an extremely interesting piece on the controversy and communication between the two friends and spiritual giants here. 
Murry writes:

"Error must be opposed even when held by fellow members of Christ, but if that opposition cannot co-exist with a true love for all saints and a longing for their spiritual prosperity then it does not glorify God nor promote the edification of the Church."
Read more here.
Testimonies through Japan's Disaster
from Samaritan's Purse:

Monday, December 26, 2011

Prioritizing Rest and Balance
Good word from Owen Strachan and Doug Sweeney:

When one becomes too driven in the area of primary duty, all other areas of life will suffer: family, friends, church involvement, evangelism, and more. It is wise to rest and to pace oneself. Furthermore, it is humble to do so. Though it may not seem to be motivated by pride, overworking sometimes reveals a desire to control the world such that one cannot be happy unless all is in immediate order. Though it seems strange in a very busy age, resting can often glorify the Lord since it expresses humility and a recognition of God's sovereignty.
Fonzie Christmas?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

My Message for Sunday
Merry Christmas! 
Happy Birthday, Jesus!
Some people think, why has Christmas become such a big deal?
Why do we see Christmas trees and decorations wherever we go?
Is it just so people can sell things and make the start of winter feel a little better?
I believe God has a purpose in it.
God has made Christmas a big deal because Jesus is a big deal.

Now you might laugh and say, “Well, that’s silly.”
“Is Jesus really a big deal in Japan?!”
The only place where he is celebrated is in a few tiny churches.
Only 1% of Japan pays Jesus any attention today.
So how can Jesus be a big deal?

Jesus is a big deal because he is precious, because he is like a diamond hidden down low, away from the proud.
This diamond, this treasure, is for all.
But only those who lower themselves will see and believe it.
Already many in Touhoku have been lowered and humbled and many are finding God’s love in Jesus Christ.
Stories are coming back of lives changed and people filled with joy.

When Jesus was born an angel came to lowly shepherds and said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
This great joy of knowing Jesus and his salvation from sin and hell is for all people -  and all peoples in the world.
And the great news is that Jesus is not some tribal deity, He is the Creator and sustainer of the entire world.
He is giving us breath right now. He is keeping our hearts beating right now.
And he loves you and was born into the world to know you and be known by you.

“Suddenly a great company of heavenly host appeared (to the lowly shepherds) with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’”

Look at that last part, “peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

God’s favor doesn’t rest on just good people of the world, because no one is consistently good in their thoughts, words and actions.
God’s favor rests on those who rest in Him and in His work for us.
Those who have experienced the emptiness of the world can find true rest and peace and joy in Him.
The shepherds are great examples for us.
When they heard the news of the Savior announced by the angels, they left their sheep and went in joy to find the Christ child.
They left everything and ran to find Him.
They recognized that He was the best Christmas gift they could ever imagine.
This long-awaited promised Savior and King had finally come, for them!

Do you believe God cares for you?
Do you believe He cares enough to come and rescue you from all pain and evil?
Do you recognize Him yet as your own personal treasure?

Not only was Jesus born for us, he died for us, in our place, for our sins.
He did it so that we could experience heaven forever with God.
God loves you this much.

It is not just the relgious or educated people who will find this precious gift from God.
You don’t have to know much to find him and his salvation this Christmas.
You only have to know enough to receive Him as a free gift.

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born the king of the Jews?” We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him. When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.”

While the Magi, the wise kings came from foreign countries because they recognized the sign of the coming Christ, most, including King Herod and all of Jerusalem, were only disturbed by it.

Though they knew so much, they couldn’t just simply receive the gift from God.

King Herod did not want Jesus, he wanted to remain the only king.
Oh, yes, he knew the Creator God was real and that he wasn’t really in charge.
In fact, he even knew that he was just a puppet king to the Roman authorities.
Still he foolishly tried to kill Jesus so that he could remain the only king.

The chief priests and teachers of the law assured Herod and all of Jerusalem that the long-awaited Messiah, the Christ, the King, would come from Bethlehem.
It was clearly prophesied in the book of Micah.
He and all of Jerusalem knew the prophecies and even saw the star that was a great sign in the sky.
And yet they were simply disturbed and chose to ignore Him rather than to rejoice in Him.

Please don’t do that today.
Don’t ignore your own peace and eternal life.
God has shown himself true in the Bible – by his fulfilled promises, prophesies and faithfulness.
He is to be trusted fully.
By his grace, trust in Him, believe in Him today.
You will know and enjoy fullness of peace and love in Him.

This is the hope of the world.
Only Jesus Christ can take away all of your sins and guarantee heaven for you.
This is why Christmas is such a big deal.
Jesus is like that bright Christmas star on top of Christmas trees –
He is leading us with his light to truth, to love and to heaven itself.
Rest in your God, who loves you more than you can imagine.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

My Kids Loved This
(OK, I loved it too.)  Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Infinite Preciousness of God's Christmas Gift
Jonathan Edwards:
The redeemed have all from the grace of God. It was mere grace that God gave us his only begotten Son. The grace is great in proportion to the the excellency of what is given. The gift was infinitely precious, because it was of a person infinitely worthy, a person of infinite glory; and also because it was of a person infinitely near and dear to God. The grace is great in proportion to the benefit He has given us in him. The benefit is doubly infinite, in that in him we have deliverance from an infinite, because an eternal misery, and do also receive eternal joy and glory. The grace in bestowing this gift is great in proportion to our unworthiness to whom it is given; instead of deserving such a gift, we merited infinitely ill of God's hands. The grace is great according to the manner of giving, or in proportion to the humiliation and expense of the method and means by which a way is made for our having the gift. He gave him to dwell amongst us; he gave him to us incarnate, or in our nature; and in the like through sinless infirmities. He gave him to us in a low and afflicted state; and not only so, but as slain, that he might be a feast for our souls." (Works 17, 203)
Two Very Different Experiences of Christmas
I hope you experience Christ this Christmas.

Chirstmas reflection for BASIC from matt hoffert on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Saints & Soldiers
Being a missionary I often feel strongly that my life is a "good fight of faith." (1 Tim. 6:12)  The Bible continually affirms my feeling that we are soldiers who are spiritually behind enemy lines.  Sometimes I wonder why I am here.  Progress is slow and casualties are all around me.  I lament that this world, myself included, have gone so far away from God.  Sometimes I wonder how to make perceived "enemies" - the people who despise Christianity, or at least their caricature of it, my friends.  Even among Christians we can have "in-fighting", within mission groups or in our churches.  All of this reminds me that we are looking forward to a better home, a home away from war all together.  We are looking forward to the peaceful country where our citizenship will never end.  It is for that reason I keep on.

I recommend the movie "Saints & Soldiers", as it portrays all of the above "spiritual talk" in the context of a physical battle.  I encourage you to see your own life in the context of this movie.  Are you a draft dodger or are you one who would give his life for another?  Do you truly love your perceived "enemies" no matter where you find them?  The truth is that we are all in a real spiritual war bigger than any physical war there has ever been. 

Note: While much of the storyline in this movie is not based on actual events, and the missionary/soldier is a LDS missionary, the weight of the message still carries much to deeply consider.  I highly recommend it to you.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Year in Pictures
The first five are all about Japan.
See them here.  
(Below is the town where I spent a week helping with the recovery efforts.)

(HT: Z)

Friday, December 16, 2011

C.R.A.S.H. Japan Update
Good update here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Bible Study in an Unreached People Group
What is it like to study the Bible in a place where very few know anything about Jesus?  What is it like to live in a culture where one faces the possibility of being socially ostracized on a daily basis?

Yesterday I had a Bible study with a couple of young Christian men.  In studying John 9 I raised the issue of persecution for faith in Christ.  As we discussed what the man and his parents faced in this chapter, I asked them what they were experiencing.  Suddenly, one of the members stood up, pointed at the other, and in a loud gruff voice demanded, "WHAT HAVE YOU TO SAY ABOUT HIM?! IT WAS YOURS EYES HE OPENED, RIGHT?!" (v.17)

As I started smiling - thinking it was a joke, without hesitation and in absolute seriousness the other answered calmly and resolutely, "He is Jesus, the Christ, my Savior and my Lord."  The first shot back, "WE KNOW YOU ARE A LIAR.  ARE YOU READY TO DIE FOR YOUR FALSE BELIEF?!"
Again the answer came back calmly, "Judge for yourselves if I be truthful or am I liar, all I know is that I was once blind and now I see!"

It was a powerful reminder to be ready at all times to give an answer for the hope that is in us.

Friday, December 09, 2011

This made me smile and cry
A very moving thank you for all who have helped and prayed for the victims of the disaster in Japan.  Please don't stop now.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Never Too Late

Some amazing testimonies are coming out of Japan as a result of the devastating tsunami that hit last March 11:

I thought about Tsuda and how much God loved on him amid all of his pain in losing his wife and watching his home destroyed in the tsunami. He has spent most of his life worshipping Japanese idols and had never heard the story of Jesus, but yet God showed him grace.

In his old age, he may be near the end of his life. But it’s never too late to come to the cross.

Read more here.