Monday, May 09, 2011

A party

The Kimyal people of Indonesia receive the New Testament in their own language!  Treasure God's Word!

The Kimyal People Receive the New Testament from UFM Worldwide on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Escape from Death Row

Has anyone ever explained the Gospel to you?
Has anyone ever told you the real deal truth?
That the devil is your master; he's deceptive and cruel
and he's abusing you
Has anyone ever explained the Gospel to you?

Has anyone ever told you why you need to be free?
That you're rotting in a prison cell that you're keeping neat and clean
You see he blinded you when he caught you, now you cannot see
the truth is out of your reach
And he's got you in his deep, dark lies, like he used to have me

There is one way out
As the clock winds down
You've got to use your mouth
Cry to Jesus now
The Gospel of Jesus Christ, now you know
Is your instructions to escape from death row

Has anyone ever told you why you've got to obey (Jesus?)
It's cause the enemy gives no sympathy to a wandering stray
There is no neutral ground, you're either with or against
you can't walk the fence
Love the truth or love the lie, you've got to choose today

Has anyone ever explained the Gospel to you?
It was love that brought my Savior down to walk in my shoes
To liberate the captives, set the oppressed free
to give joy for mourning
Now! Flee from the wrath to come; there is no time to lose

There is one way out
As the clock winds down
You've got to use your mouth
Cry to Jesus now
The Gospel of Jesus Christ, now you know
Is your instructions to escape from death row

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Reaping What We Sow: Rewards, Consequences, and Proportionality

The Bible says you'll reap what you sow (Galatians 6:7.)  You should realize, however, that the return on investment will not necessarily be proportionate, in both positive and negative cases.  In some cases the disproportionality will be staggering.

In the parable about the vineyard workers recruited at different points during the day, we see that the master paid them each the same, even though some had worked much longer than others (Matthew 20.) The reason for this was that he was pouring out unmerited kindness on all of them, according to his good will.  In the parable of the mustard seed (Matthew 13,) we see that in the kingdom of God, the tiniest of investments (a sincere "yes" toward Jesus in your heart) will reap the largest of rewards (eternal life.)

On the other side of the coin, God is exceedingly merciful with negative consequences in this age.  Consider a scenario where one of your children causes thousands of dollars in damage to someone else's home through an act of willful negligence.  You as the parent have to make restitution for their act, and the strictly fair thing to do would be to force your child to work off every single dollar.  The child would have to drop out of school.  Instead, you impose your own discipline on them, designed for their good.  You allow them to suffer part of the consequences by working an afternoon job for 3 months, and you take away some privileges.  You still allow them to reap what they have sown, but you mitigate the consequence so as not to overwhelm them.  Once again, it's not proportional.  God is a good Father and often lets us suffer a portion of the consequences of our action such as sorrow, damaged relationships, lost money, etc., for the sake of loving discipline.  He carefully handles each case with love.

It's important to realize that God is reserving the full, amazing, and fearful release of consequences and rewards until the day of judgment.  He is so patient with people who are refusing to obey Him.  He is giving them chance after chance after chance to turn away from their sins and follow Jesus.  He allows them to experience just enough consequences and pain to wake them up to turn from their disobedience before it's too late.  Sadly, there are some people for whom no warnings are sufficient to snap them back to the reality of the rotten fruits which grow from the seeds of sin they have sown.  When Jesus returns at the end of the age, He will release the fullness of His wrath on those who do not know Him (Romans 2, Matthew 25, and Revelation 15-20.)  If you don't know Him, NOW is the time to heed his gentle warnings.  Pain in your life is His reminder that things are not right in the world or in your life, and everything won't be made right until He comes back.

The Gospel is not about God going back on His Word about reaping and sowing.  He will never go back on His Word.  It's about His lavish generosity in paying out extravagant dividends of life, righteousness, forgiveness, peace, joy, love and more in return for the tiniest investments of faith and obedience.  Just imagine the multiplied rewards He will give you as you invest every moment, every relationship, and every resource you have into His kingdom by obeying His Word (read Matthew 19:29 and Luke 6:38.)  Don't miss out on this unique, eternal investment opportunity.  Tomorrow is not guaranteed.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Story of Kamal Saleem

This man cried out to God with a desperate desire to truly know Him.  To his surprise, Jesus answered.  God will introduce Himself to you, too, if you ask Him sincerely, with your whole heart.  This is the God I serve.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

What Jesus Did for Me

II beg you to consider the state of your own soul. I'd like to pose a few questions to help you do that and then share my story. It won't take more than a few minutes.

How did you come into existence? Does your origin have anything to do with your conscience? Are you doing what your Creator wants you to do? Will you be held accountable for that? How will you stand up under scrutiny?

I don't know of any better way to convince you to believe in Jesus than to tell you what he's done for me. From an early age I believed in God as I was taught by my parents, but my heart was locked up in self-interest and pride. In elementary school, I developed social problems with my peers. Doing well in school exacerbated this problem. I now know this is a fairly common experience, but that makes no difference when you're going through it as a child. The pain of rejection began to shape my soul and define me. I was in a downward spiral of antisocial behavior, because I thought I wasn't liked.

When I was 12, God supernaturally healed me in a way that is impossible to fully relate. In one evening, I was changed from being fearful and awkward to being confident in God's love and finally able to relate to others as myself, without pretense. My life has never been the same since God told me that night that He accepted me, and His opinion matters more than that of anyone else. It wasn't discovering myself that made me comfortable in my own skin - it was discovering God and His thoughts about me.

I would not stand up very well under scrutiny. My pattern of rejection as a child was not just the result of wrongs done to me but of my sinful responses of contempt and pride toward most of the people I knew. I stole from a good friend once. I disobeyed and lied to my parents. I did not love God with my whole heart.

We as people tend to justify our faults and compare ourselves among each other, but the only comparison that matters is to Jesus Christ, who never sinned. For my sins, I would stand guilty before God except that He put Himself in my place on the cross and took the punishment I should have gotten - the wrath of a truly good God.

Like me, you can also be forgiven of all your sins before God - past, present, and future made clean - by deciding to follow Jesus. Believe and obey Him. Maybe you too need to be healed of some scarring of the soul caused by yourself or others. God's Spirit wants to come live inside of you and begin healing and restoring you once you believe. His presence is refreshing and life-giving.

Jesus is inviting you into his kingdom, offering you eternal life. Your Creator loves you. Won't you accept the gift of salvation that he purchased for you on the cross?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

An aside on economics

Somebody wrote an article saying there was a "silver lining" to the recent tsunami in Japan. Another person criticized that on Facebook. I wrote this in response:

One of the downsides of industrialization and technology is that those who specialize in doing work that gets taken over by machines can become underemployed. Then the profits for physical production increasingly go to those who invent the technology and those already in possession of the capital to own and manage the technology. The technology does not eliminate, but reduces, the demand for manual labor causing those who make their living thereby to face stiff competition, lower their compensation, and their status at the bargaining table.

A disaster does temporarily increase the demand for labor and so the question really is if we're handling things correctly in the good times. Would we really have realized the gains that the opportunity cost says we would have, or would those people have been underemployed?

I think that through just management practices, we can fully employ laborers. The misconception is that a good business manager is one who ruthlessly cuts costs without consideration for the effect on workers. The problem with this that, ultimately, quality is in the hands of the one actually doing the work, not the manager.

Right now the world economy is in a crisis of quality, because everyone is in a race to the bottom to sell the cheapest goods.

For their own long-term self interest as well as the corporate good, business management needs to focus on quality by fully employing, empowering, and compensating their laborers.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand

Stop doing things you know are wrong, and start doing what is right.  Change your thinking. Stop always thinking about ways you can please yourself and start thinking about how you can please God.  Just try.  God sees even the feeblest of efforts and rewards them.  No matter how many times you fail, He will pick you up if you continue to set your heart on obeying Him.

For more specific suggestions, read Matthew chapters 5 through 8.

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Primacy of Love

Love is ill-defined.  It's not easy to pin down.  But something inside most people tells them that love has something very central to do with the meaning of life.  People near death regret their self-centered pursuits in life and wish they had spent more time with family.  Even violent criminals who reject all decent human relationship are grasping at a feeling of power to fill the void left by the power of love in their hearts.  Having power over people can feel deceptively similar to being loved by them.  Little kids are the most telling, however.  Just watch one of those little rug rats for 10 minutes... yep, we were made for love.

Does the Bible agree with this gut feeling or not?  According to the Bible, the answer to the questions of what is most important, what you were created for, and what God wants is the same - love.  There's a hitch, though.  This can mean completely different things depending on one's definition of love.  To one, it removes all sexual boundaries.  To another, it means spending the rest of her chaste life in Calcutta relieving the suffering of the lowest outcasts. What exactly is love?

The Bible doesn't give a hard and fast definition of love.  Instead, it points to the cross of Jesus Christ and says, "Look at that - that's what love is." (my paraphrase)  In another passage, it lists the behaviors and attributes of love so we know how to recognize it in ourselves and others.  That makes it pretty easy to pick out the fakes and enemies, but it doesn't proscribe a formula.  

The Scriptures also assert love's unique place among personal traits by saying that it's possible to have every single other positive trait and still not have love (1 Corinthians 13.) That's unsettling - because of both the ambiguity and the purity. So, I ask again, what is love?  (Cue Haddaway... sorry, I couldn't resist! Ok, enough jokes.)  

To make an analogy: love is less like Maxwell's equations than it is like a juicy apple.  You can't know it until you taste it! And, it necessarily involved pleasure. Here's another key from our passage in 1 Corinthians 13, which contrasts love with knowledge.  "Love never ends... as for knowledge, it will pass away... So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."  When you pass into the next the life, it won't matter how much you know.

One final distinction remains to be made. Whom should be loved first? Pay close attention to Jesus' prioritization in the following passage.  Everything depends on it.
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”                                      -Matthew 22:34-40
If you don't know God, this is your confirmation that the meaning of your life does indeed center on love - your love being given to God first!  The Bible says He is jealous, and His eyes are like a flame of fire.  Run to Him and get consumed by love and truth.  Follow Jesus.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Do you want to know God?

Do you really want to know the answers to the big questions? If you're like most people, the answer is "No way!"  The unifying ethic of your life is to follow what makes you feel good.  As a successful person, you value delayed gratification, but it's really only on a scale of days, months, or even years for the most disciplined.  The practical agnosticism of popular American culture has permeated your thinking.  To say you're not sure about God is an understatement; you're not sure you even care.

The problem with your ability to ascertain the truth about God is not in your intellect, but in your heart.  Those temporary comforts like food, cars, trips, jobs, and even family are enough to distract you from thoroughly questioning their eternal value.  You easily allow your curiosity to be quelled. For some, your depression is rooted in that nagging, honest feeling that you're missing something central, but you've allowed someone to "help" you feel better about it.  Pain should drive us to cure its cause, not just mitigate its symptoms.  

Don't fight the initial discomfort caused by probing questions such as, "Who made me?" and "Why?" Everything is at stake.  Use your reason and study the evidence, but realize that you are not alone is this endeavor to find the truth.  Someone is actively hindering your investigation. You obeyed him instead of God (you thought you were just doing what you wanted,) and now he doesn't want you to let you go free.  Your oppressor is the Father of Lies, God's enemy.  Not only are you a resident of his kingdom/concentration camp, but because your rebellion against God involved your mind and heart, he has influence over that, too.  After years of sinister brainwashing at the hands of his prison guards, you've barely got your wits about you, spiritually speaking.  If there was an escape plan afoot, how would you know about it?  Do you even want to? What now? Enter the Jesus the Liberator.

So [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: 
          "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
          Because He has anointed Me
          To preach the gospel to the poor;
          He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
          To proclaim liberty to the captives
          And recovery of sight to the blind,
          To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
          To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." 
Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
                                                                                           - Luke 4:16-21
Start the prison break.  The only thing you have to do is come to the end of yourself and ask Jesus for help.  There is no prerequisite for doctrinal agreement before you do this; in fact, if you wait to sort out all the facts you may never come to Jesus.  Don't worry; He will help you with that later.  Get yourself into the Kingdom of God as quickly as you can.  Ask God to free your mind so that you can know Him and obey his commandments. This is the only alternative to death in the devil's concentration camp.

Have you ever really tried to seek God?  To understand Him? To know what your Creator wants so that you can prioritize that above your own desires?  If they're honest, most people will answer "No." There may have been a time in your life where you felt very awful, maybe because you were a victim or maybe because you were guilty, and you felt humble and temporarily emotional enough to ask God for some relief.  But in your mind, you were committing an irrational act of desperation with no real expectation of a reply.

Here is a guarantee: if you seek God, you will find Him.  In the Sermon on the Mount (of "...turn the other cheek..." fame,) Jesus said, "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened." (Matthew 7:8)  Are you really seeking God or just satisfying intellectual curiosity? Are you truly humble, or do you think you can fix yourself through your own efforts? Do you expect Him to answer you?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Test post

I just downloaded an app for my iPod touch that will let me post on the blog, so here goes.