Saturday, July 31, 2010

Favorite Memories from AFHE 2010

Last weekend I worked with some other Voice of the Martyrs representatives at their Kids of Courage booth in the exhibit hall for the annual Arizona Families for Home Education convention.  It was my fourth time there, but this was my first time there with my new orange jail jumpsuit and handcuffs as a way to represent the repression of Christians in hostile countries.  Here are some of my favorite memories from this year:

  • The family at the booth across the aisle had several young children.  The mother informed me afterward that they had warned their children, “We are going to Phoenix next, and there is a lot of crime there so you need to be careful.”  When the kids saw me in my handcuffs and orange jumpsuit, they told her, “Wow, you were right, there is a criminal in here!”  (The youngest child, a boy, later came over and wanted to try on my handcuffs.  To his delight and my amazement, his hands were still just small enough that he could squeeze them out of the handcuffs!)
  • At the beginning of the convention, a man came by the booth, saw my handcuffs, and said, “Here, let me check something!”  He pulled out his keychain and he had a handcuff key on them.  He tried it in my handcuffs to make sure it fit, which it did.  He then went off to his own booth.  At the end of the convention as we were packing up, I discovered that I couldn’t find my key to my cuffs.  (The next day I discovered that it was in a box that had already been taken out to my car.)  Fortunately I was only wearing them on one wrist, which meant I could get my orange jumpsuit off, but I was still a bit concerned about making it out to my car without attracting police attention.  Then the Lord reminded me of the man with the key.  I found his booth, and fortunately he was still there and very happy to unlock me.  The girl with him went into hysterical laughter.
  • The girl in her late teens who, after signing up for the newsletter and writing a note of encouragement on a greeting card, asked (with emphatic earnestness) “What else can I do?”  I was so surprised by this that I failed to ask the diagnostic questions that I have trained you reps to ask (!), but still gave her a few ideas that will hopefully be helpful.  Most people after signing up for the newsletter and writing a note of encouragement headed off to the next booth—but she wanted to do more.
  • The middle-aged woman who told me how she had been attacked 3 years ago in Scottsdale by a man with a 10 inch blade.  He got her down on the ground.  Then she remembered the name of Jesus.  She screamed “Jesus!” and kicked him—hard.  A second scream of “Jesus!” with a kick.  The third time she yelled “Jesus!” he fled.  Police never caught him.  She forgave him in her heart, and told me that God has delivered her from fear or any other lingering emotional trauma from the attack.  So, she can relate to some of the trauma that persecuted women experience.
  • My VOM colleague Mark Panttila shared an insight he’d heard from John Piper about John 11: “Now Jesus loved Mary and Martha… therefore He stayed there two days.”  Jesus wanted to give them something better than a physical healing; He wanted them to see the glory of God.  I used this brief insight a couple of times at the table to explain one aspect of the paradox of persecution.
  • Meeting people who have been in or have friends who have been in some of the countries VOM works in.
  • A woman shared an insight she’d heard from a pastor: “Why does the church grow under persecution?  Because there is so much forgiveness.”  This seemed valid to me; it does seem that when persecuted Christians don’t forgive, the church struggles.
  • The mother who was utterly stunned when I asked if she would like to sign a note to a pastor in jail.  She had no idea that Christians still undergo persecution.  The expression on her face was priceless.  Although she did not cry, she seemed shaken to the core.  She stood there for a while before writing her note.
  • The woman who shared about the amazing heart her 5th grade daughter is developing for the persecuted church and missions.  She was in a sewing group with some other homeschooled daughters.  They made aprons.  The others decorated their aprons with animals or flowers or something.  She decorated hers with countries—and the state of persecution in those countries.  She has also taken homemade gifts with attached Bible verses to every home in their neighborhood, twice.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Stirring Blast from Paul Washer

After watching this, I couldn't help but wonder why my own heart doesn't long for the glory of Jesus and the beauty of His bride (the church) as passionately as Mr. Washer and God do.

For more videos like this, visit For more on Mr. Washer's ministry, visit

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Splinter of God's Knowledge

If you have not yet heard of the "computational knowledge engine" called WolframAlpha, it is worth the 13 minutes it will take you to watch the intro video.  Despite its rather obscure name, it is a helpful tool for finding information on nearly any subject.  It forms a helpful trio with Google and Wikipedia and will, I predict, become a site you use frequently.  It will stagger you to see how many statistics are accessible through one simple web site.  It will humble you to realize how much knowledge it contains.  And it will then awe you to then contemplate how many things God knows that Wolfram doesn't.  Like this:

Monday, July 19, 2010

Train versus Tornado!

This brief, undoctored video reminds us that life can go from routine to terror in a split second. You'll be watching through the lens of a camera mounted on the back of a train engine.

We never know when a tornado may hit our lives. Money, possessions, family, health, and even our very lives can be stripped from us instantly. But Jesus says we can prepare ahead of time.

"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it." - Matthew 7:24-27, ESV
Don't take your next two minutes for granted. Begin preparing now for your next tornado. Come to Jesus in repentance and trust.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Good Music Does Not Create Good Worship

With all I wrote recently about the necessity of making musical choices that honor Jesus, I don't want you to think "I listen to good music, so I'm safe."  It is frighteningly easy and common to worship God with our lips while our hearts are far from him.  The video clip below is a stark example of this.

Prayer Service for the Opening of the Sixty-fourth Session of the United Nations General Assembly
14 September 2009

Church of the Holy Family
The United Nations Parish
New York City

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Gift of Contentment

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11- New Century Kindle FormatLast Christmas we received the gift of a book from a woman who has never sent us a Christmas present before, and who did not know that I love Puritan writings.  This book, The Art of Divine Contentment by Thomas Watson (1620-1686) proved to be a great blessing to me.  I didn't realize how much discontentment still lurks in my heart until I started reading this book, or perhaps I should say, until this book started reading me!  As seems to be the case with all Puritan-era writings, the book reflects an incredible familiarity with Scripture, clear analogies, convincing logic, and a convicting "punch" that you just don't find in most modern Christian books.  You can buy it here (among other places).

Monday, July 5, 2010

"In Dependence Day" 2010

What better way to spend Independence Day than sharing Jesus with non-Christians?  And what better way to discover how "in dependence" upon God we are than sharing Jesus with non-Christians?  Such was my experience this weekend.

On Saturday morning Dad and I went to the Lake Montezuma Independence Day parade.  (Our hometown schedules their festivities for Saturday the 3rd whenever July 4 falls on a Sunday.)  Some friends volunteered to hand out tracts, which freed me to focus on starting conversations with people.  I didn't do so well.  I got into a very interesting conversation with a Buddhist, but I went to get a glass of water and by the time I got back, he had gone back to work at a booth.  Then during the parade of course almost no one wanted to talk because they all wanted to watch the parade.  After the parade while people were still milling around and eating and talking and enjoying the other festivities, I sat down with an old character named Gordon.

They were giving these flags away at the parade.  What's wrong with this picture?  (Click to enlarge if needed.)

Gordon and I talked for quite a while.  He is a really interesting man with definite convictions, some of which are dead right and some of which are dead wrong!  Unfortunately, theology is one of the issues he is dead wrong about; he rejects Jesus and the Bible.  But at least I got to share the gospel with him: that God is holy, that we are rebellious sinners who deserve hell, that Jesus is the morally perfect "Lamb of God" who took the punishment that we should have gotten, and that our sins can be exchanged for Jesus' righteousness when we turn from our sins and trust in Jesus alone to rescue us from them.

I was a bit disappointed that in two hours at the parade I only spoke with two people about Jesus.

On Sunday afternoon there was a larger Independence Day event in Cottonwood.  Several people from our church including myself, my dad, and two of the pastors came.  Before heading to the event, we prayed, expressing our dependence upon God, knowing that the boldness to speak, the words we should use, and the people we should speak with all come from Him. 

Pastor Jim had discovered last year that standing in the (seemingly never ending) food line was a great place to strike up a conversation with someone about Jesus.  He showed me how to do it with Joe, a man from California.  It turned out that Joe already professed to be a follower of Jesus, but Jim tactfully shared the gospel with him anyways just in case, and Joe appreciated it.  (Yes, we who are already Christians need to be reminded of the gospel.  Often, in fact!)

We dropped out of the food line after talking to Joe and went back to the beginning of the line again to look for a new person to talk with.  Just then who should I see walking into the park but Gordon!  I went over and greeted him and introduced him to Jim.  Perhaps I was a little overly enthusiastic in my greeting because he immediately started saying, "I don't want to talk about it!"  Jim managed to navigate around Gordon's initial roadblocks and had a conversation with him about the gospel.

Meanwhile, I found a new guy to talk with.  Mike turned out to be a Catholic social worker.  We had an interesting conversation.  Although he rejected the gospel, Mike was very friendly throughout.  Jim joined us midway through the conversation after he finished with Gordon. 

Me, Mike, and Jim 
(not to be confused with Manny, Moe, and Jack!)

Jim started a conversation with a new person and then I went back to the beginning of the line again after finishing with Mike.  I met a very interesting man named Arnie but because he was well educated and seemed to have his life together I didn't find an angle with which to turn the conversation to Jesus, and I didn't have the courage to simply jump right in.  Jim joined me again midway and listened to me gab about trivialities with the guy for a few minutes.  We were nearing the food tables.  Then the man asked if we had gone to the parade in Clarkdale that morning.  Jim said, "No, we were in church.  Did you go to church?"  The man said, "No, for one thing, I'm Jewish!"  Jim lit up and immediately began boldly and lovingly proclaiming the Messiah to the man.  Arnie wasn't interested.  But he remained polite.

Then as we were headed to the beginning of the line yet again, I noticed a handicapped man crouching on the ground next to the food tables.  I went over and asked if he needed help.  It turned out that he was wanting to get some food but he didn't want to cut into line in front of someone.  Yet he wasn't physically able to go stand in line like a normal person.  It reminded me a bit of the man in John 5 who was waiting to have someone put him in the pool of Bethesda.  So I asked the next person in line if they minded if this man "cut" in front of her, and of course she didn't mind.  So he hobbled along the line and got his food.  But after I walked with him over to a table another friend of his came up and they started gabbing so I didn't get to share the gospel with him.  I did leave a tract with him.

I went back to the beginning of the line and started talking with this man.  He was a puzzle.  He could explain the gospel more clearly than any of the other people I talked with that day, but he didn't like the term "born again" from John 3, and was unfriendly toward my attempts to talk with him about Jesus.  Perhaps he thought I was a Mormon or something?

The last two conversations were the best.  Stefan was somewhat wasted looking, with the rotten teeth that often accompany drug use.  After brief pleasantries, God gave me the courage to be more direct with him.  "Hey, can I ask you a personal question?  If it's offensive to you, just tell me and I'll leave you alone."  He agreed.  "Where do you think people go when they die?"  Stefan said that he was his own god and would determine his own afterlife.  Even though he kept up this irrational bravado for the entire conversation, there was a pitiable look in his eye that made me doubt whether he really believed his own words. 

Next was Sasha, a young man who looked almost as wasted as Stefan but turned out to be a network administrator from Phoenix.  (I should know that computer geeks don't have the greatest physiques!)  Once again God gave me the courage to jump to spiritual matters almost immediately.  Sasha was an intellectual, saying that the only thing he believes is "logic".  But I tried to show him that by throwing out God, he had also thrown out the possibility of moral absolutes.  He resisted this idea until Jim joined the conversation and showed him how illogical his own logic is.  Then he told us that the main reason he became a rationalist was because of the evil he saw in the Roman Catholic church.  So Jim shared the gospel with him and explained to him briefly how it differs from Rome's gospel.

It is interesting that even in the Declaration of Independence, our nation's founders expressed their dependence on God.  Yep, it's right in the final sentence:

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

As we left the park, Jim prayed aloud for the people we had spoken with.  Evangelism is a great way to realize how dependent we are on God.  As the saying says, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.  But God can.  Lord Jesus, open the eyes of these lost men!

Thanks to my friend Rick Parks for planting the "seed thought" of the In Dependence word play.