Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Don't Waste Your Singleness!

If you are an unmarried Christian (whether never married, widowed, or divorced), would you take a few minutes to fill out my short survey?  And please forward this on to other single Christians you know.  Let's use our singleness to full advantage for Jesus!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Are You Like Lu?

"This woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity, which she continually did."  Acts 9:36.

My friend Lu went to be with the Lord recently.  You need to meet her.

I met Lu because we both served on a team of volunteer representatives for the Voice of the Martyrs from 2006 to 2012.  Lu was not the most gifted of my teammates, or the strongest.  Besides the normal wear and tear of 70+ years of living, she had more serious health conditions including hepatitis C. But because of her incredible drive, she accomplished more than any of the rest of us. 

When VOM announced that they wanted to find churches willing to host regional conferences around the country, only one of my team decided to take up the challenge: Lu.   She organized a VOM conference at her church in Flagstaff, Arizona (not a metropolis), and 500 people from as far away as Wisconsin showed up.  Lu had intestinal surgery just days before the conference but still was there in person to make sure everything ran smoothy (and it did).  She had things organized down to how many cookies each volunteer needed to bake.

When a church in Southern Arizona asked for a VOM rep to come speak, none of the nearer reps (including myself) could find time.  But Lu drove 5 hours each way, spoke, and so connected with the people that one of them became a rep himself. 

The woman seemed to have only two speeds: gallop and collapse.  When she did collapse, she rebounded quickly, often within hours. 

Some hard workers are stoic or sour.  Not Lu.  She often signed her letters, "Joyfully, Lu".  And joy exuded from her pores.  She loved whatever she did.

Over the years we were together in the same car for at least 5000 miles, not to mention all the hours outside of the car.  We faced all kinds of situations.  Lu reacted to unexpected challenges and opportunities better than many people half her age.  I never saw her afraid.  She had an indomitable confidence in the goodness and sovereignty of God.

I worked with Lu toward the conclusion of her life, a life filled with service to Christ.  Lu and her husband Dick met at Bible college and Dick planned to become a pastor.  But not long after their marriage, meningitis permanently shattered Dick's emotional capacities.  Lu, the "weaker vessel", had to become the strong one in their marriage.  She did this with unusual grace, helping Dick to use his remaining abilities to their fullest.  She was strong in a way that made the men around her better leaders, not weaker.  They went on together to serve support roles in a variety of ministries, including Wycliffe, where they became friends with founder Cam Townsend and went through the jungle training camp in Mexico.

I don't even remember all of the things she did.  She hosted tea parties for girls.  She smuggled Bibles into China.  She loved to pray, and was with me in the most powerful prayer meeting I have ever seen.  She gave her wedding dress to a girl in Pakistan.  She was what a normal Christian is supposed to look like.

Dick and Lu

All of these feats were fueled by a deep, daily love relationship with Jesus.  These were not the works of a woman seeking glory from man or merit from God.  She knew that she did not deserve Christ's love or forgiveness, and it bubbled out of her in everything she did.

Want an 8 minute taste?   Here's her VOM "retirement" speech from 2012.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Justifying Our Luxury

A few days ago I discovered the following videos.

In the first, TV preacher Kenneth Copeland takes possession of a new jet for his ministry.  (They still are trying to raise another $2.5 million for upgrades.)

The second video shows Copeland and another preacher (who also has a jet) discussing why they "need" a jet for their ministries. 

The videos are sickening, but I don't share them here to bash prosperity preachers.  Hopefully you are discerning enough to already know that these men are preaching a false gospel.  Rather, I share these videos in order to ask whether we ourselves are guilty of using similar rationales in justifying luxury in our own lives, on a smaller scale. 

As Christians, we claim to follow a Man who didn't even own a pillow, and to respect an apostle who wrote 1 Corinthians while hungry and homeless.  I am not advocating a vow of poverty or financial asceticism.  I'm suggesting that we re-examine our reasons for believing we need the things we buy. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Writing a Reluctant Robber

Periodically I get fraudulent emails.  Perhaps you do too.  Since I have an online business, these often take the form of requests to buy large quantities of products I sell.  I sometimes write back to the scammer to tell the scammer:

Due to the 99% chance that you are engaging in criminal activity (theft), we have no desire to do business with you.  However, I do desire that God bless you.  If you are indeed, as I suspect, a thief and a liar, please, give up your wickedness.  Jesus will take away your bad heart and give you a new, good heart if you will allow Him.  Please read a Bible and find Jesus before it is too late.  All thieves and liars will go to hell.  (Revelation 21:8).  I don’t want that to happen to you.
But yesterday, a scammer wrote back!  He said:
Thank you.  I was touched by your message.  Not doing this intentionally but i must live. I pray may God forgive me. If really you want me to stop let me know how you could help me finacially. Then i will promise you to you to stop.
What do you say to a guy in that situation?  Most likely he's an educated but unemployed young man in Ghana or Nigeria.  Here's what I told him:

Thank you for writing back.  I'm sure that your life is very difficult, and I am truly sorry.  What I have to say to you will sound harsh.  But please read this.  I say this because I do truly care about you. 

You said, "I must live".  You are right.  But the problem is, you are thinking of the small life.  You are not thinking about the big life.  As long as you think wrong, you will continue to sin.  Your small life is your life right now.  Even if you received 1 billion dollars right now, you probably would still only live to be 90 years old.  Then you would die.  Your big life is your life after you die.  The big life never ends.  You will spend your big life either in heaven or in hell.  After you die, you can never change your location.  You will either be in hell forever or in heaven forever.  After 10 billion years, you will still not be able to change your location. 

You think "I must live".  But you are sacrificing heaven in the big life to gain a few more dollars in the small life.  Jesus said, "How is a man profited if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?" 

You said, "I am not doing this intentionally."  You are wrong.  You are doing this intentionally.  You don't like it; you feel guilty about it; you know it's wrong.  But you are destroying your relationship with God so that you can earn a few more dollars.  This is a choice you are intentionally making. 

With Jesus' help, you can choose differently.  Stop your stealing right now.  Yes, I mean right now.  This minute.  Cry out to Jesus to save you and make you a new person.  Contact the people you have lied to and stolen from.  Confess your sins to them.  Tell them you will repay the money you have stolen, when you are able.  Then you can have a clean conscience to ask God to provide for your needs. 

God may choose to provide food for you.  Or He may let you starve to death.  But even if your life ends at age 22 of starvation, it is only your small life.  Better to die at 22 and go to heaven, than to live to 92 and go to hell.  Jesus said, "He who saves his life will lose it.  But he who loses his life for My sake and the gospel will save it." 

Father God, you know "Mark's" real name.  Please help him to trust You.  To believe that You are good.  To trust that it is better to follow You and die, than to disobey You and live.  Give him the gifts of faith and repentance.  Bring glory to Yourself through his life.  For Jesus' sake, amen! 
 Do you have any other suggestions?  What would you say to a person in "Mark's" situation?

Friday, July 21, 2017

"Pretend" You're a Missionary!

Many professing Christians have the very bad notion that only a few are called to be missionaries.  But the Great Commission was given to all of us.  Stop waiting for a "call" -- you've already got one.

If you were a missionary, what would you do?
  • Seek training to improve your evangelism and discipleship skills.
  • Seize opportunities around you to evangelize and disciple.  No matter where you are, opportunities are all around you.   
  • Look for other "missionaries" in your area that you can collaborate with.  (Hint: hopefully your church.) 
  • Ask your friends to become prayer supporters.
  • Send them regular updates on how to pray for you (and how their prayers are being answered).  Personally, I send out a prayer update email about once a week to friends who pray for me and my family.
  • Periodically evaluate whether you should move to a new area where there are fewer missionaries.      
Hey, those are things that all Christians should be doing!  Start today!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Unhappy with Happiness

I think I've become a grinch.  How could anyone dislike a book called Happiness, particularly when the author is Randy Alcorn?  What makes my discomfort even weirder is that I agree with almost everything in the book.  No matter how hard I try to pin down my objections, they remain just out of sight, like tiny splinters in your finger that you sense only when you brush your hand a certain way on your pants.

Happiness is long, and massively researched.  Much the same as he did with Heaven, Alcorn has written a definitive work on the subject.  In some ways I found the length exhausting; I did not require as much proof and nuance as Alcorn provides.  But for people more critical of his main points, perhaps the additional documentation would be helpful.  And I know that for people in the midst of depression, long books with short chapters (like this one) can be a wonderful source of warmth and encouragement.

Much of the length is due to quotes from other authors' writings about happiness.  Many of these are from Puritans, my favorite genre!

I like Alcorn's main message, which is that "God wants you to be holy, not happy" creates a false and dangerous dichotomy.  When we attempt to obey God out of duty, and think that affections for God are unnecessary, we are on the track for moral collapse.  We must and we can find supreme happiness in Jesus. 

But in his attempt to encourage Christians to become a people known for happiness, I fear that Alcorn spends too much energy encouraging them to pursue happiness through what I regard as side-eddies, rather than heading straight for the Fountain.  Why spend so much ink trying to find Biblical evidence that Jesus laughed, that God is playful, that we might ride bicycles in heaven, when God's grander joys are clearly laid out for us in Scripture?

He quotes with approval from Robert Hotchkins:

"[Christians] ought to be preoccupied with parties, banquets, feasts, and merriment.  We ought to give ourselves over to celebrations of joy because we have been liberated from the fear of life and the fear of death."  (102)  It is the word preoccupied in that paragraph which I particularly take issue with.  It seems to leave no room for fasting, for sobriety, for warfare, which will also all be a part of the Christian's life until Christ's return.

On the same page, Alcorn himself suggests:

"A feast of Saint Francis, in which churches invite the community to celebrate animals in a way that's God honoring, not pantheistic, could be a joyful and powerful outreach to people who otherwise would never connect with a church."  (102)

The attempts to find reason to believe pets will be restored to us in heaven comes up again:

"We needn't be embarrassed either to grieve the loss of our pets or to want to see them again.  If we believe God created them, that he loves us and them, and that he intends to restores his creatures from the bondage they experienced because of our sin, then we have biblical grounds for not only wanting but expecting we may be happy with them again on the New Earth."  (404-405)

I could cite more examples, but it would be tedious for both you and me.

In summary, Alcorn's book combined some beautiful truths in an imbalanced package, which made it impossible for me to truly enjoy.  The reader must keep his tweezers ever present.  If you want to read a book that will truly stoke your happiness with massive, grand truths, I recommend John Piper's The Pleasures of God.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Need Counseling?

I am pursuing certification as a Biblical counselor through the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.  Praise God, I just passed my exams and now there is only one hurdle left: completing 50 hours of supervised counseling.

If you know anyone who might be interested in receiving Biblical counseling, feel free to pass on my contact info to them.

  • No problem is too big or too small.  Anything from anxiety or abuse.
  • If the counselee is a woman, I will have another woman sit in on the counseling session.
  • The sessions can be conducted in person or via Skype video call.
  • There is no cost or fee whatsoever.

To learn more about what Biblical counseling is, click here.