Monday, April 29, 2013

When God "Wastes" Your Life

I found these words by Walter Henrichsen encouraging:
"God revealed to Abraham, "Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years." With an apparent disregard for human suffering and the utter waste of over ten generations living in slavery, God simply decides that this is how He will build a nation out of a clan. The Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob spent their lives doing nothing while God worked His will through them. You may find yourself tempted to conclude that God would never insist on your life being spent in ways that seem to you wasteful. When Providence arrests your efforts to fulfill your goals and objectives, remember that He is the same God that seemingly 'wasted' generations of His people in the Old Testament. Never allow your understanding of your importance to God and your need to 'redeem the time' to cause you to despair when He acts in ways that seem to belie this truth."

Friday, April 26, 2013

Call to Worship: Come Ye Sinners

There was a time in my life when I would have categorized this hymn by Joseph Hart as an evangelistic hymn, a hymn aimed at non-Christians.  But the longer I live as a Christian, the more I see that I need this hymn too.  When I sin, the solution is not to try to fix myself, but to run to the cross again.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Humble Orthodoxy: Save Yourself $9

At the risk of seeming a jerk, I am going to suggest that you don't need to buy Joshua Harris' new book Humble Orthodoxy

It's not that the message is bad.  It's very good.  It's both humble and orthodox!

Nor is it that the message is unneeded.  Heaven knows there is a lot of prideful orthodoxy and humble heresy floating around out there!  We need help finding balance.

But I just can't justify telling you to spend $9 to buy this book while John Newton's 200 year old letter "On Controversy" is available for free online.  His letter covers Josh's topic more succinctly, more beautifully, and more convictingly.  If you're looking for something longer to read about holding knowledge with humility, check out chapters 12 and 13 of John Piper's Think (also available for free). 

I received a free copy of Humble Orthodoxy from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for writing a review.  My review was not required to be positive.  If you will rate my review below, it will help me get more books to review. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Shoplifting at Henry Radio

The year was 1984.  My parents had heard the now legendary interview by James Dobson of Raymond Moore that would spawn the modern homeschool movement.  They decided to homeschool me and looked around for an umbrella organization.  Bill Gothard had just announced the formation of the Advanced Training Institute, and my parents applied to be charter members.  One of the prerequisites was that they attend both Bill's Basic and Advanced Seminars.  Both mom and dad had attended several Basic Seminars, but never an Advanced.  And there was no Advanced Seminar in Phoenix that year, so we drove to Los Angeles so they could attend one there.

While in Los Angeles, we stayed at the home of dear friends, Gary and Carol Masters.  The Masters had shared Jesus with my father before he became a Christian, and they continued to be a constant source of refreshment in our lives long after his conversion.

The Masters' home.  As a child, it seemed like paradise to me.

Me with Gary and Carol Masters and their son Larry.  Gary and Carol seemed old to me and 12 year old Larry was like a very mature older brother. 
If you have attended any of Bill Gothard's seminars, you know that one of the things he talks about is gaining a clear conscience.  That is, going back to people we have offended or wronged in the past, asking their forgiveness, and making restitution as best as possible.

One day while we were in Los Angeles, Mom and Dad were talking about this topic while they drove down the freeway.  Dad was remembering that as a youth, he had shoplifted some electronics parts from Henry Radio in Los Angeles.  The parts were small and easy to hide in his clothes.

Dad was saying that he would like to make restitution, but that Henry Radio was probably no longer in business (the theft had occurred over 25 years before).

Then happened one of those rare, divine moments that will be forever a part of our family story.

At that moment, a truck bearing the logo of Henry Radio drove by them on the freeway.  Simultaneously stunned and thrilled, Dad followed the truck to the store, went inside, explained his story to the proprietor, and made restitution. 
We still have the receipt from that transaction, a tribute to the Jesus who saved a thief and gave him a clear conscience.  My father is, to this day, one of the most generous and "eager to reconcile" people I know.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Call to Worship: Ye Servants of God

This hymn by Charles Wesley is a call for the servants of God on earth to worship Him with the same zeal and devotion with which the servants of God in heaven do.  I especially enjoyed finding this recording of a men's ensemble in India singing the song -- a reminder that Jesus will one day be worshiped by people from every ethnolinguistic group in the world.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Persecuted Church Conference in Phoenix

On April 20, the Voice of the Martyrs is hosting a regional conference in Phoenix.  Although I am no longer with VOM and am not planning to attend, I highly recommend this conference.  I have heard all of the speakers in person before.

Matt Rose works for VOM-USA and has traveled to many restricted nations around the world.  I worked with him at a number of events -- he is a great guy to work with.

I heard Darcie Gill speak when she was in Flagstaff in 2009.  Like Matt, she travels regularly around the world encouraging persecuted Christians.

Russell Stendal, a missionary to Colombia, has a remarkable story.  He was kidnapped by Communist guerillas there in 1983 and now devotes his life to reaching them (and the paramilitary and government soldiers) with the gospel.

'Sarah' Liu from China lived out her faith in Christ in her homeland. Her faithfulness ultimately led to her arrest, torture, and 6 years in prison. Reflecting on what she went through during that time, “I thought of Christ being beaten on the way to the cross. He suffered for me and in a small way I shared in that suffering for Him. It gave me courage to survive my time in prison.” 

To register for the conference, click here.

If you don't live near Phoenix, there may be a VOM regional conference coming to a city nearer you.  Visit to check.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Captive in Iran: Where Light is Most Fruitful

In 2009, two young single Christian Iranian women were caught evangelizing Muslims and imprisoned in Tehran's notorious Evin prison. Their "crime" could easily have gotten them executed, but instead, God gave them an incredible ministry to Muslim women inside the jail, and such international publicity that the Iranian government eventually released them to save face.

Captive in Iran is their story.

Maryam and Marziyeh's boldness touched me when I first read of them in VOM's 2009 newsletters.  My mother had special seasons of prayer for them.  I shared about them in my 2009 IDOP message, and then was delighted to tell my church a few weeks later of their release.  So it was a great joy to finally read the all the details of their 259 days of incarceration. 

It turned out to be a different book than I expected.

At first I thought it might be like Dan Baumann's Imprisoned in Iran.  He, too, spent time in Evin for evangelism.  But he experienced far worse physical and emotional abuse than these women did (they had regular access to a telephone and were not beaten or kept in solitary confinement like he was) and consequently his emotions dipped much lower than theirs, to the point where he attempted suicide.  Maryam and Marziyeh, on the other hand, remained relatively strong even in their darkest hours.

It isn't like Corrie Ten Boom's The Hiding Place either.  No warm, lengthy story of their upbringing; no truly three dimensional characters whom you feel like you know afterwards; no struggle to forgive; no contrast of personalities (Corrie and Betsie were clearly different; Maryam and Marziyeh seem like spiritual twins).  I doubt you'll see a movie made of this book.

Nor does it match Richard Wurmbrand's Tortured for Christ for brilliant passion or In God's Underground for depth of suffering.  Their suffering (although terrible) was just a fraction of Wurmbrand's, and their writing is not as spiritually profound as his.

Although they distributed 20,000 New Testaments in Tehran before their arrest, there is a surprising scarcity of reference to specific Scriptures in the book.  I wanted more mention of particular passages that encouraged them during their suffering, or that were helpful to share with the needy Muslim women around them in prison. 

Perhaps most worrisome, the gospel is not altogether clear in the book.  In some of their conversations with Muslim women, Maryam and Marziyeh encouraged them to pray to Jesus about their family or legal problems.  Did they think people can "test drive" Jesus to see how "effective" He is, before turning from their sin and trusting Him alone?  The only prayer God hears from a non-Christian is a prayer of repentance and surrender to Jesus.  They seem to hope that their Muslim friend Shirin (who was tortured and executed) made it to heaven.  ("Now, by the grace of God, at least she was at peace."   "[S]he loved Jesus in her heart, though she would never say so".) 

So with all these lacks, why did I still find this book well worth reading?

First, in a world sorely lacking in positive role models for singles, these women model well what it means to have "undistracted devotion to the Lord" (1 Corinthians 7:34-35).  Their passionate love for Jesus oozes out in everything they do and say.  They led an exemplary lifestyle of simplicity and devotion to evangelizing Iranian women.  Their book contains many stories of sexual perversion, but they are careful to avoid sensual details.

Secondly, sufferers do not always see the fruit of their suffering immediately, or even in this life.  God's trees ripen at different speeds.  But in the case of Maryam and Marziyeh, He seems to have chosen to vindicate His name more promptly.  In many cases their enemies became their friends, their convictions became widely respected, and their prayers were frequently sought.  God gave them courage to publicly and clearly confess their allegiance to Jesus, despite repeated threats of death and opportunities to compromise.  They had more freedom to evangelize in the prison than they did before their arrest or after their release.  It is rightly encouraging to read a modern story of God moving for His children in such dramatic and obvious ways, something like Daniel in the lion's den.

The book also is very helpful in showing how to support and pray for the Christians who are in Iranian prisons now.  We must not forget them.  There are at least four (three of them in Evin):

Farshid Fathi
Behnam Irani
Alireza Seyyedian
Saeed Abedini 

Most importantly, the book shows how hungry the people of Iran are for the gospel.  The law (even the flawed Sharia law of the Quran) awakens the sinfulness of the human heart.  By strictly enforcing Sharia law, the Iranian government has created a generation of people enslaved to sin, desperately wanting a Savior.  It has made its people sick of Islam.  Praise God!

This book stirred my heart with compassion for the people of Iran.  In some ways, it seems that was the goal of Maryam and Marziyeh in writing the book; they focus more on the stories of the women they ministered to in prison than they do on their own feelings and sufferings. 

These two women made Jesus look good.  They represented His character nobly both among the dregs of society (predatory lesbians, drug addicts, murderers) and the elite of society (judges and other government officials).  Perhaps Maryam and Marziyeh could have shared the gospel more accurately.  But even so, their evangelism has borne remarkable fruit, a reminder that even weak lights make a great difference where the night is very dark.  May the Lord use Captive in Iran to bring many more evangelists to the streets of Tehran.

I received this book for free from Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for writing a review.  My review was not required to be positive.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Call to Worship: I'd Rather Have Jesus

Is there anything you want more than you want Jesus?  Bev Shea said no.  And God has blessed him with worldwide fame and a very long life (he is now 104).  But even if my life is short and unnoticed by men, I pray that "I'd Rather Have Jesus" will still be the song of my heart.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Rescue of Mr. G

I recently received an order from a new customer. It turned out that we had some things in common. He is nearly the same age as my mother, and attended the same university that she did. More importantly, he is another person rescued by Jesus! Here is the story (names have been changed). -- Daniel

Yep, that's her!

I got the bulbs and everything was in good order -- thanks again.

It is truly a small world I've attached a close up shot from the 1966 Cactus of the Alpha Phi Tau, Professional Medical Technology Fraternity. Would your mom be pictured in the middle of this crop?

In regard to my conversion, I'm sorry to say that I have not written it down, but you have reminded me that I need to so that others could be blessed by it. It a pretty long story, so I'll give you the short version.

I was raised Catholic in San Antonio , TX , and while I was schooled in the Catholic School System I never had a relationship with Jesus -- I don't know many Catholics that I believe did. I grew up fairly rebellious, and it is only by God's grace that I did not end up dead or in prison. I married very young (20) and had two daughters from that marriage, which was a difficult one that lasted 13 Yrs. I then began a life of broken relationships and two more failed marriages. Meanwhile God was working in the heart of my oldest daughter, Hope, who also had a pretty wild teenage period -- ultimately, she came to know Christ as her Lord. She tried lovingly to witness to me over the years, but I just didn't get it, nor saw my need for salvation. Later, my other daughter, Gwen, also came to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.

I met my wife, Ruth, in the late '80's and we were married in '93 -- both of us were living very worldly lives. Ruth has two sons from her first marriage, Dallas and Frederick. Ultimately, our marriage became very difficult and my relationship with the boys was very contentious. In June of 1998 our marriage had reached a very low point, and I made the decision to file for divorce after a very angry argument one morning. Then that 'little voice' told me to call my daughter Hope to tell her what was going on. Hope told me again of my need for Christ, and assured me that if I continued on the same path I would continue to return to the same painful point in my life. She asked if she could pray for me over the phone and I agreed. I don't remember what she said, but I know that it was a sincere plea to the Lord, and I remember telling Jesus, "If you are really there, take control of my life, because I don't want control of it any longer!"

After our phone conversation, I headed in to work, but as I was going to the office and after I arrived, the Holy Spirit was at work convicting me of my selfishness -- I realized that I had lived my entire life centered on myself. I had a burning need to get back home to apologize to our youngest son, Frederick, for being such a selfish jerk! I told my boss I needed the day off, and returned home. On the way home, I stopped behind an old pickup truck with a camper shell on it with this message painted across the back, "Jesus is coming!" For the first time in my life, I saw that message as the greatest news I had ever heard -- and it was at that moment that I knew, without any doubt, that my eternal salvation was a finished work.

Since then, God has healed my marriage to Ruth -- which was at a very fragile point. All of her defenses were up, and she did not know what to make of my conversion -- I think at first she thought I was just making it up. I told her that I was not going anywhere, and that I know that God intended for us to be married -- otherwise He would not have intervened when He did Ruth had been baptized and had professed faith in Christ some years before I met her, but she had fallen away from her faith. My conversion was what she needed to restore her desire to follow Christ.

Today we have nine godly grandchildren from my two daughters ( Dallas is married, but no children yet, and Frederick is engaged), and my relationship with both Dallas and Frederick has been healed and continues to grow.

That's about it, although there are many truly miraculous details I've had to leave out -- maybe I'll get a chance to share those some day.

God Bless,
Mr. G