Thursday, October 29, 2009

True Love

My daughter has started a blog and now is planning a new blog study on True Love. Here's more information from her on the study (and I hope you'll join her on her journey through the study of love):


What is the opposite of love? The answer may surprise you: selfishness and self-seeking. Why?

This question along with many others will be answered in the new blog study True Love. In this study, we will answered the questions of What is love? Why should we love? How to love? by looking at Jesus’ life and His wonderful word.

I hope you can join us on this incredible journey.

This study will start on November 9th at Living Water devotional blog www.well-of-life.blogspot.com

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

No praise due

“I was but a Pen in God's hand,
and what praise is due to a Pen?"

Richard Baxter

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Crow hopping

My first horse was a white gelding with splayed hooves from some previous pleasure and a limp from a wire cut on his left hock. Obviously, 7-Up had a mysterious prior life.

He had one pink eye and one with a black patch, like eyeliner. He was basically ugly but he made up for that by being pretty dense, too.

His focus for his day was eating hay and avoiding double riders by throwing out a little crow hop when my little sister climbed behind the saddle. (A crow hop happens when the horse bucks straight up.)

I thought that he’d be delighted to be with us after his dark past. We never allowed him to founder and we guarded him from any wire cuts. He was our first horse so he got lots of brushing and some apples on the side. There was always plenty of fresh water and lots of room to roll and run. He had a good life but he still crow hopped.

We came to God like 7-up came to us, a little beat up from our previous life, and we get treated pretty well. God gives us freedom and new life and hope. He loves us and shows us a better way.

And then we crow hop. We think he’s asking too much when he says something crazy like “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

We think God is burdening us with his commands. But when we have an obedience problem, we really have a love problem.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The stethoscope

video

Thanks, Marcia, for this clip!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Focus

Before focusing on your rights,
take a careful look at your responsibilities.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Home

When my grandmother was gripped by the claws of Alzheimer's, she spent a few months in a nursing home. But every day her cry was, "I want to go home."

Finally my uncle brought her home and made arrangements for in-house care.

But Grandma kept wandering through her house of 20 years, saying, "I want to go home."

By this time she had forgotten her husband and didn't recognize any of her 11 children. At her funeral, her pastor told us through teary eyes that she had finally gone home.

This world has many joys and many troubles. Even in our daily schedule, do we cling to what the psalmist wrote?

One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.

Psalms 27:4

We know that God promises to hear our requests. Is this our request: to dwell in his house? Do I ask to move in, to risk the transparency of intimacy, so that I may gaze on his beauty and seek him?

Do I long to go home?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Choices made today

This week, I've discussed some choices I made in innocence as a young person. I see God's grace to me, because I had not been well-prepared to dissect the logic and arguments of more worldly choices.

Yesterday I shared a chapter from Ken Ham's new book, Already Gone. It affected me profoundly as I am raising teenagers today in a world quite different from my teenage years.

Ham's argument is that we are losing our church-going children from conservative, Bible-believing churches. Although they are sitting in the seats right now, they are already gone in their mind.

Church has become irrelevant to them.

We see the results of that in our culture. We see a large number of church-going youths leave church and God when they leave home.

How can we help these young people?

They are faced with choices. Do they believe the Bible is true? Do they believe God is more wise than college professors? Where do they find truth?

The world welcomes them. Can we offer them a cool drink of living water and the hope of abundant life instead?

I highly recommend this book. I've been anxious to review it for weeks now. If you have any influence in your own family or if you care about young people in your church, you should read this book.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Already Gone by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

I've been discussing some of my young choices this week, because our teens today face similar, and probably tougher, choices today. This is an important book that addresses the choices our teens are making - and gives some ideas for helping them find choices that keep them connected to God. I highly recommend it.


Today's Wild Card authors are:

Ken Ham, and Britt Beemer, with Todd Hillard

and the book:


Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it

New Leaf Publishing Group/Master Books (May 28, 2009)

***Special thanks to Robert Parrish of New Leaf Publishing Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHORs:




Ken Ham, founder and president, Answers in Genesis. He is one of the most in-demand speakers in the world today, representing Answers in Genesis (AiG) at many events throughout the year.

Visit the author's website and book blog.






C. Britt Beemer is chairman and founder of America's Research Group (ARG), a consumer behavior research and strategic marketing firm. He is a speaker at major trade and industry events.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: New Leaf Publishing Group/Master Books (May 28, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0890515298
ISBN-13: 978-0890515297

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Part 1:

An Epidemic on Our Hands


Epidemic (Ep-i-dem-ic)1

1. A disease or anything resembling a disease; attacking or affecting many individuals in a community or a population simultaneously.

2. Anything which takes possession of the minds of people as an epidemic does of their bodies; as, an epidemic of terror.


A majority of twenty-somethings — 61% of today’s young adults — had been churched at one point during their teen years but they are now spiritually disengaged (i.e., not actively attending church, reading the Bible, or praying).

George Barna
Chapter 1


Guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge” — which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith. Grace be with you (1 Tim. 6:20–21).


I dare you. I dare you to try it this Sunday. Look to the right, and look to the left. While the pastor delivers his message, while the worship team sings their songs, while the youth pastor gives his announcements, look to the right and look to the left. Look at the children and look at the teens around you. Many of them will be familiar faces. They are the faces of your friends’ sons and daughters. They are the friends that your children bring home after youth group. They are your children . . . the ones who have been faithfully following you to church for years.

Now, imagine that two-thirds of them have just disappeared.

That’s right, two-thirds of them — the ones who go to secular school, even those homeschooled or sent to Christian school, the boys and the girls, the kids who are leaders of the school’s Bible club, the kids who sit in the back row with their baseball caps pulled low over their eyes — imagine that two-thirds of them have just disappeared

from your church.

Yes, look to the left and look to the right this Sunday. Put down your church bulletin; look at those kids and imagine that two-thirds of them aren’t even there. Why?

Because they are already gone.

It’s time to wake up and see the tidal wave washing away the foundation of your church. The numbers are in — and they don’t look good. From across Christendom the reports are the same: A mass exodus is underway. Most youth of today will not be coming to church tomorrow Nationwide polls and denominational reports are showing that the next generation is calling it quits on the traditional church. And it’s not just

happening on the nominal fringe; it’s happening at the core of the faith.

Is that just a grim prediction? Is that just the latest arm-twisting from reactionary conservatives who are trying to instill fear into the parents and the teachers of the next generation? No, it’s not just a prediction. It’s a reality — as we will document clearly from commissioned professional and statistically valid research later in this book. In fact, it’s already happening . . . just like it did in England; it’s happening here in North America. Now. Like the black plagues that nearly wiped out the general population of Europe, a spiritual black plague has almost killed the next generation of European believers. A few churches are surviving. Even fewer are thriving. The vast majority are slowly dying. It’s a spiritual epidemic, really. A wave of spiritual decay and death has almost entirely stripped a continent of its godly heritage, and now the same disease is infecting North America.

Many of us saw it coming but didn’t want to admit it. After all, our churches looked healthy on the surface. We saw bubbling Sunday schools and dynamic youth ministries. As parents and grandparents we appreciatively graced the doors of the church, faithfully dragging our kids with us, as our ages pushed into the 40s and 50s and beyond. But a vacuum was forming: there were the college students who no longer showed up for the Sunday worship service, the newly married couple that never came back after the honeymoon. . . . Sure, there were exceptions and we were grateful for their dedication. For the most part, however, we saw that the 20- and 30-somethings from our congregations were increasingly AWOL. To be honest, none of us really wanted to admit it, did we? And so we began to justify to ourselves that maybe it wasn’t happening at all.

Recent and irrefutable statistics are forcing us to face the truth. Respected

pollster George Barna was one of the first to put numbers to the epidemic. Based on interviews with 22,000 adults and over 2,000 teenagers in 25 separate surveys, Barna unquestionably quantified the seriousness of the situation: six out of ten 20-somethings who were involved in a church during their teen years are already gone.1 Despite strong

levels of spiritual activity during the teen years, most 20-somethings disengage from active participation in the Christian faith during their young adult years — and often beyond that. Consider these findings:


Nearly 50% of teens in the United States regularly attend church-related services or activities.
More than three-quarters talk about their faith with their friends.
Three out of five teens attend at least one youth group meeting at a church during a typical three-month period.
One-third of teenagers participate in Christian clubs at school


That’s all well and good, but do these numbers stand the test of time? Is the involvement of churched children and teens continuing into young adulthood? Unfortunately not. Not even close. The Barna research is showing that religious activity in the teen years does not translate into spiritual commitment as individuals move into their 20s and 30s (and our own research, you are about to discover, will illuminate you with reasons as to why this occurs).

Most of them are pulling away from church, are spending less time alone studying their Bibles, are giving very little financially to Christian causes, are ceasing to volunteer for church activities, and are turning their backs on Christian media such as magazines, radio, and television. What does this look like numerically for today’s

20-somethings?


61% of today’s young adults who were regular church attendees are now “spiritually disengaged.” They are not actively attending church, praying, or reading their Bibles.
• 20% of those who were spiritually active during high school are maintaining a similar level of commitment.
19% of teens were never reached by the Christian community, and they are still disconnected from the Church or any other Christian activities.


Shortly after Barna blew the whistle on the problem, individual denominations and churches began to take an honest look at what was happening as their children and teens began disappearing into the young adult years. Their findings confirmed the trends that Barna had found. Dozens of groups have looked at the issue from slightly different

angles. Each study yields slightly different results, but their conclusions are unanimously startling. For example, when the Southern Baptist Convention researched the problem, they discovered that more than two-thirds of young adults who attended a Protestant church for at least a year in high school stopped attending for at least a year between

the ages of 18 and 22.

There are exceptions, of course. Here and there we find a smattering of churches with vibrant participation from the 20-something age group. In some cities, we are seeing congregations develop that are made up almost exclusively of people from this age group. But unfortunately, these are the exceptions and not the rule. The trends that we are seeing can no longer be ignored. The epidemic is a reality. The abandoned church buildings of Europe are really just buildings, yet they are graphic symbols — warnings to those of us who are seeing the same trends in our local congregations: we are one generation away from the evaporation of church as we know it. Slowly but certainly the

church of the future is headed toward the morgue and will continue to do so — unless we come to better understand what is happening and implement a clear, biblical plan to circumvent it.

The trends are known; more and more are finding out about them — but the vital question concerns what is the root problem of why this is happening. We need to know why if we are going to formulate possible solutions.


Twenty somethings struggle to stay active in Christian faith.

20% churched as teen, spiritually active at age 29
61% churched as teen, disengaged during twenties
19% never churched as teen, still unconnected


Who, Why, and What?

I began traveling and speaking in the United States in the 1980s. As an Australian, it didn’t take long before I felt I had a good feeling for the pulse of American Christianity . . . and I saw some tremendous needs. At the time, America could rightly be labeled the greatest Christian nation on earth, the center of the economic world — and

although the Church was equipped with nearly every conceivable tool and luxury for developing and expressing its faith — I could see that the Church was in great need.

Since moving to the United States in 1987, I have spoken in hundreds of different churches from many denominations, numerous Bible colleges, seminaries, and Christian conferences on American soil. I have talked with the pastors; I’ve listened to those in the congregations; I have experienced “worship” in almost every conceivable style and form. The ministry of Answers in Genesis is deeply committed to the American church. In fact, the faltering health of the Church in the greatest Christian nation on earth is what motivated my wife and me to move our family to this country in the first place. My wife and I testify that God called us as missionaries to America — particularly the American Church — to call it back to the authority of the Word of God beginning in Genesis.

The Bible calls the Church “the Body of Christ.” Today, over 20 years after our move, the statistics prove that His body is bleeding profusely. The next generation of believers is draining from the churches, and it causes me great personal and professional concern. I’ve sat in the grand, but vacant, churches of Europe. I know where this is headed. Where Europe is today spiritually, America will be tomorrow —

and for the same reasons, if the Church does not recognize where the foundational problem lies and address it.

When I began to seriously ponder Barna’s numbers, naturally I wanted to find out more. For help, I called on a trusted and respected supporter of Answers in Genesis. As the chairman of America’s Research Group, and as a leading marketing research and business analyst expert, Britt Beemer specializes in studying human behavior. Over the decades he has conducted dozens and dozens of surveys for leading corporations as well as small businesses. He analyzes the marketplace and the clientele, and makes recommendations that keep the companies excelling in a competitive world. When we were considering building the Creation Museum, we asked Britt if we could reasonably

dream of 250,000 people visiting each year. Britt did his research and predicted that 400,000 people would visit the museum in the first year! He was wrong by two days. (The 400,000th visitor entered the museum 363 days after we opened.) Needless to say, when we had questions about the epidemic of people leaving church, we turned to him for answers.

Our goal was simple: We wanted to know who was leaving, why they were leaving, and what (if anything) could be done about it. To that end, Britt and his America’s Research Group initiated a qualified study with probing questions to get powerful insight into the epidemic the Church is facing. To get to the core of the issues, his team studied only those whom we are most concerned about: every person in our

sample said they attended church every week or nearly every week when they were growing up, but never or seldom go today.

We selected those between 20 and 30 who once attended conservative and “evangelical” churches. We wanted to look at the churches that claim to be Bible-believing congregations with Bible-preaching pastors. According to Barna, about 6 percent of people in their 20s and 30s can be considered “evangelical.” This is about the same as the number of teenagers (5 percent).4 The results from Britt’s research would

undoubtedly have been more drastic if we had considered more liberal congregations. We deliberately skewed the research toward conservatives so that we could all understand that whatever problems showed up would be much worse for the church population in general.

After 20,000 phone calls, with all the raw data in hand, Britt began to analyze the numbers. The things he discovered— as well as the things he didn’t discover — began to shed light (in a quite astonishing way) on this monumental problem facing the future of Christianity.


The sample included:

1,000 individuals from coast to coast
Balanced according to population and gender
With just over half being aged 25-29
With under half being aged 20-24


First of all, he didn’t discover anything abnormal about the group as a whole. There weren’t an unusual number of homeschoolers, or secular school kids, who were leaving. There wasn’t a significant number of females compared to males that had decided to leave. In other words, the 60 percent plus of the evangelical kids who choose to leave the church look pretty much like the 40 percent who decide to stay — at least on the outside. The breakdown of those who left really fits the profile of the evangelical population in general.

So at first, the who question didn’t seem to give us many answers. So then, why? Why did they leave the church? When we asked them this open-ended question, we got an earful.

At first, we were surprised (and a little disappointed) that there wasn’t a single reason. It would have been nice to find a single identifiable virus somewhere. How simple it would have been to stereotype the whole group and point out one germ that had been causing the sickness to spread. But the numbers didn’t say that. A single identifiable culprit didn’t appear.

Other researchers have come to similar conclusions. When LifeWay did their research for the Southern Baptist Convention, 97 percent of the “dropouts” listed one or more specific life-change issues as a reason they left church. The most frequent reason they gave for leaving church was almost an indifferent shrug of the shoulders.


The top 10 reasons were:

1. 12% Boring service

2. 12% Legalism

3. 11% Hypocrisy of leaders

4. 10% Too political

5. 9% Self-righteous people

6. 7% Distance from home

7. 6% Not relevant to personal growth

8. 6% God would not condemn to hell

9. 5% Bible not relevant/not practical

10. 5% Couldn’t find my preferred denomination in the area


“I simply wanted a break from church” (27 percent). The transition into college and adulthood also affected many: “I moved to college and stopped attending church” (25 percent), and “work responsibilities prevented me from attending” (23 percent). Others simply “moved too far away from the church to continue attending” (22 percent). In all honesty, these kinds of results just seemed too shallow for us at Answers in Genesis. And they seemed too superficial to Britt as well. We have a massive epidemic on our hands, and researchers seemed to be content with answers that sounded like “I just didn’t feel very good,” or “I wasn’t there because I chose to be someplace else.” Too many researchers accept simple, superficial answers. They acknowledge that there is a massive shift taking place in the spiritual lives of young adults, but when it comes to really figuring out what’s going on, they kind of throw up their hands and sigh, “I guess that’s just the way it is!”

End of story? Not hardly. This is precisely why we teamed up with an expert like Britt Beemer who probes, and probes, and probes until he finds the right reasons. We found the real reasons, though some of them will shake many churches to their very core.

Never content with the easy answers that people give to justify their behavior, Britt is an expert in consumer behavior who taps into their minds as he finds out what people really believe in order to reveal what is driving their behavior. Until Answers in Genesis commissioned this study, never before had this type of research been conducted — and our research was formulated to not just deeply probe what people believe but answer the questions in regard to WHY people believe what they do. We can now identify the real answers as well as the causes affecting young people who leave the church.

As Britt studied his data, it was obvious that multiple issues are behind the exodus from church. The why? question would prove to be more complicated than many expected. But soon, as the numbers became more clear, patterns emerged, assumptions were destroyed, and quirky findings surfaced. One of the most important and startling findings turned out not to answer the why? question, but rather the when? question.


Of all the 20 to 29-year-old evangelicals who attended church regularly but no longer do so:

95% of them attended church regularly during their elementary and middle school years
55% attended church regularly during high school
11% were still going to church during college


I think this is one of the most revealing and yet challenging statistics in the entire survey — and something we didn’t expect. Most people assume that students are lost in college. We’ve always been trying to prepare our kids for college (and I still think that’s a critical thing to do, of course), but it turns out that only 11 percent of those who have left

the Church did so during the college years. Almost 90 percent of them were lost in middle school and high school. By the time they got to college they were already gone! About 40 percent are leaving the Church during elementary and middle school years! Most people assumed that elementary and middle school is a fairly neutral environment where children toe the line and follow in the footsteps of their parents’ spirituality. Not so. I believe that over half of these kids were lost before we got them into high school! Whatever diseases are fueling the epidemic of losing our young people, they are infecting our students much, much earlier than most assumed. Let me say this again:

We are losing many more people by middle school and many more by high school than we will ever lose in college.
Many parents will fork out big bucks to send these students to Christian colleges, hoping to protect them in their faith. But the fact is, they’re already gone. They were lost while still in the fold. They were disengaging while they were still sitting in the pews. They were preparing their exit while they were faithfully attending youth groups and

Sunday schools.

What a reminder to parents (and Christian leaders) to do exactly what God’s Word instructs us to do — to “train up a child in the way he should go . . .” (Prov. 22:6). And further, “These words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house,

when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deut. 6:6–7; NKJV). What a reminder to teach children from when they are born — and a reminder to be diligent in providing the right sort of training/curricula, etc., for children.

Sadly, I think many see children’s programs as entertainment, teaching Bible stories, and so on, but when they get older we need to think about preparing them somehow for college — but as our research showed, by then they are already gone! For most, it was basically too late!

This topic regarding when we begin to lose our kids is where the study began to get very interesting and very illuminating. For example:


Those who no longer believe that all of the accounts and stories in the Bible are

true:

39.8% first had doubts in middle school
43.7% first had their doubts in high school
10.6% had their first doubts during college


Clearly, there is a slightly delayed reaction going on. The doubts come first, followed shortly by departure. Students didn’t begin doubting in college, they simply departed by college. Again, if you look around in your church today, two-thirds of those who are sitting among us have already left in their hearts, it will only take a couple years before their bodies are absent as well.

The Beemer study has a tremendous amount to offer the churches, the pastors, the parents, and the researchers who are sincerely looking into this problem. Britt’s study didn’t look just at behavior; he looked at belief. By making correlations between those beliefs and the behavior and intentions of those who have left the Church, the veil was lifted, powerful new insights were revealed, and very surprising results were

illuminated. In the pages ahead we will give you the highlights of some of these numbers. But brace yourself, because in many instances the results are shocking, and they point a finger at many well-intentioned, firmly established programs and traditions of churches that are utterly failing the children who faithfully attend every Sunday morning.

You will need to swallow hard and be prepared to consider things very carefully; Be ready to give up long-held, cherished notions in regard to certain church programs of which perhaps you would never have considered the slightest possibility that there was such a serious problem as this research clearly showed.

First, we will investigate key aspects of the epidemic, including:

the effects of Sunday school
the two different kinds of kids who are leaving the Church and why it’s so important to know the difference
why the Church has lost its value and is now considered irrelevant
Second, we will investigate the solutions that are within our grasp:

how to defend the Christian faith and uphold the authority of the Bible from the very first verse
what it means (and doesn’t mean) to live by the Bible
the revolution that is reclaiming “church” in this culture
Along the way the investigation will be spiced up with a variety of fascinating findings regarding the following:

music
friends
unbiblical church traditions
teaching
beliefs about Genesis
If you are a parent, a pastor, or a Christian educator, then this research is for you. Or maybe you are one of the millions of students who are thinking about leaving the Church or have already done so. If so, I challenge you to let the numbers speak for themselves and then be ready to allow God to use you in new ways to make a difference for the sake of the next generation and the Church. Even though the results were obtained in America, because it has had the greatest Christian influence in the world and has been an enormous influence on the world (Christian literature, missionaries, etc.), it is likely that such research would show similar (at best) or much worse results in other

countries.

Yes, I challenge you. This Sunday, look to the left and then look to the right. According to our research, two-thirds of the children and teens you see will be gone in a matter of years. What can be done about it? Plenty, as you will soon see!


Britt’s Bit: The AIG-ARG Connection

On behalf of Ken Ham, I want to thank you for picking up this book. I make my living generating numbers and statistics, and they are an important part of my personal ministry. When numbers and statistics are interpreted correctly they mean something. They aren’t just arbitrary measurements for things that don’t matter. Numbers do

matter. They represent things that are real, that are measurable, that can be observed, and (in many cases) that can be changed with the right remedies. That’s what America’s Research Group is all about. At ARG we draw conclusions that are meaningful to our clients. We are behavioral scientists who study human behavior. ARG provides each

client a foundation built on practical, useful information that ensures their ongoing success.

That’s why I am such a firm believer in Answers in Genesis. Not only is their ministry important, but AIG is a reminder of what God can do through one person who steps out in faith and allows God to use them to defend and proclaim the truth. Ken moved his family to the United States more than 20 years ago, having started a ministry out of the trunk of his car and a few cardboard boxes in his house. I don’t think anyone would have believed (particularly Ken) what God had in store for a ministry of such humble beginnings.

Today, the Answers in Genesis website gets millions of visitors per year. Tens of thousands of resources (books, DVDs, curricula, magazines, etc.) move through AIG’s warehouse year after year. A small army of trained speakers are reaching tens of thousands of people face-to-face on every continent on the globe except Antarctica. (As far as I know, no one has volunteered to go there quite yet!)

I love keeping track of the AIG ministry and what people say about it. I’ve been tracking public opinion religiously (pun intended), and I have a deep desire to protect and to equip this ministry. When the Creation Museum opened, it created a national media tsunami, and at least one-third of the comments voiced about the ministry were clearly negative. The naysayers had their day, but they didn’t last. Today, only 1/20th of the comments about the museum are negative. I think that is an amazing accomplishment. As I projected, 400,000 people came through those doors in the first year.

I make my living studying human behavior and attitudes statistically, which gives me a unique viewpoint of how and why people act the way they do. I sincerely invite you to come along with my friend and ministry cohort Ken Ham as he takes you on a personal tour through my numbers. I’ll be throwing in my “bit” on a regular basis, giving you my take on the statistics and their importance. As you begin to understand the trends of the past, and see where the Church is at present, you will discover highly practical action points that will make a difference in the future. I believe that if you get a handle on a few of the numbers that describe what is happening in the Church today, you will see the potential for change that resides within you as a pastor, a parent, or a Christian educator. And that’s important. The next generation is counting on us.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Weighing the options

I was 14 at time, newly immersed in a new school that was 20 times larger than the small country school of my elementary years.

The hallways were packed with students toting textbooks while connecting with friends.

I walked alone that day, moving from my Biology class to typing class. I re-played the lecture from Biology as I maneuvered the crowded hallway.

Our topic had been evolution. We had spent several days on the intricacies of the evolutionary process and had viewed the drawings of fetuses which proved how human fetuses early in their development are identical to other animal fetuses. This proved that all humans and animals came from the same source.

We hadn't studied anything so sophisticated in my country school. This was new ground for me.

My pastor never discussed evolution. Not in his sermons, not in the confirmation classes I was required to attend. Not in our youth group.

But I had read the first chapter of Genesis and I mulled over its content on my trek through the hallway's obstacle course. I bumped into other students in the crowded walkway and sidestepped a knot of friends exchanging lunch plans before skittering off to class.

The issue was very simple to me, probably because I was a simple 14-year-old country kid. Was Genesis true or not?

Either the first chapter of Genesis outlined that God created the world or it didn't. And, if it didn't, then why should I pay any attention to any further writings in the Bible?

The hallway cleared out as I neared the typing classroom and I shifted my books before entering.

I knew in an instant that I could not live my life if the Bible was not true. And in that same instant, I knew, therefore, that Genesis had to be true.

I knew that the evolutionary theory held no sway in my life. I had choose where to put my faith and I chose, with a simple clarity that amazes me today, that my faith was in the Bible.

And God has not let me down.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A simple choice

When my first question to my first history professor was answered with a, "How the bleep do I know?" I realized I wasn't in friendly territory.

I was a freshman history major, excited about the university experience and nervous entering my first class.

My instructor was a fiery-tongued professor who considered freshmen only slightly more valuable than viruses. He strutted across the classroom discussing Minoan culture and Greek accomplishments, although all, I suspected, were not to be compared with his own great achievements.

World religions were all interwoven to Dr. Grumpy. If there was a superior religion, it may have been the Babylonian because that system seemed to include all the stories of all the religions.

But special ire was reserved for Christians. He dissected them at every opportunity, explaining to us why their particular system of myths was most reviling. He hated Christianity and if we freshmen wanted any standing with him, we'd better learn to grow up and do the same.

The class was a turning point for me because I had to choose. Was I going to follow the faith of my childhood or embrace the world of the progressive academic?

My professor's poisonous lectures repulsed me. His lectures were angry, his comparisons ugly.

I didn't know my Bible like I should have, but there was a sweet tug from my heavenly Father. It was easy to choose his gentle call compared with this daily venom.

The professor dangled advancement, acceptance, and academic honor before the class. If we listened to him, he'd lead us to his place of mature historical understanding.

I understand better today why Jesus gently told his disciples, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (Luke 18:17)

I had a choice at 18 years of age: to grow up into the protocol of the academic community or to remain a child with Jesus.

I picked the sweet fresh living water of my Lord and I've grown up like the tree planted by the stream. My desire is that my fruit would honor Jesus, not an academic tyrant.

Happy are those
who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers...
Psalms 1:1

Monday, October 12, 2009

Another Chinese pastor arrested

On Sept. 17, Pastor Hua Huiqi was arrested by Chinese authorities in Fengtai District, Beijing, according to China Aid Association.

Pastor Hua reportedly called his wife, Ju Mei, and told her he had been forced into a Public Security Bureau (PSB) vehicle while on his way to a dinner meeting. Less than 30 minutes later, Hua phoned his wife again and told her that the police had taken him to an unknown location. The phone line then went dead.

Six days later, Pastor Hua was seen being escorted to Beijing Tiantan Hospital by five PSB officials to visit with his brother, Hua Huilin who is seriously ill. The Hua family's request for him to visit his brother had previously been denied. His elderly mother, Shuang Shuying, who was released from prison a few months ago, is also seriously ill and Hua has been denied requests to visit her.

Pray for this family that has endured a lot for the sake of Christ. Ask God for Hua’s release and for healing for his brother and mother. Pray believers in China will remain faithful.

From Voice of the Martyrs

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Grandma's witness

Our culture values youth and beauty over age and experience. But look at what this 92-year-old woman, who was definitely not too old to be of value, did:

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Words

We love a good speech. John Chrysostom, bishop of Constantinople in 407, was called the "Golden Mouth" because of his excellent sermons. People who came to hear him speak were advised to bring no money because they would become so intent on his words that they didn’t notice the pick-pockets.

Today, a pastor with excellent oratory skills can sometimes form a mega-church or gain a large following.

We join churches, follow leaders, vote for politicians based on their ability to woo our ear.

A writer long ago lamented the problem of golden speech. He saw no people loyal to God but rather unfaithful ones who lied, flattered and deceived - trusting their own words over any other.
"They say, 'Through our tongues we have power; our lips are our own—who can be our master?'" (Ps 12:2)

There's power in our words. James called the tongue a fire that no man can tame.

And there should be power because God breathed his own life into us. We know the power of God's word. We know, from John, that the Word was in the beginning and it was with God and it was God. (John 1:1)

Our psalmist had harsh words: "May the Lord cut off all flattering lips and the tongue that speaks boastfully." (Ps 12:3)

But he offered words of hope as well. God's words, he reminded us, are pure words - like silver refined in a furnace.

We live today in a cacophony of words, blasted by speeches and enticements to buy, to go, to follow.

God listens to the groans of the afflicted and poor rather than magnificent oratory.

What am I listening to?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

In the Presence of the Poor


I've had a keen interest in the work being done by Christians in India. I have friends there who have completed a three-year stint training locals to lead their churches and teach their own people. The situation in India is challenging, with a sort of freedom of religion juxtaposed beside intense persecution.

When I had a chance to read In the presence of the Poor by Kay Marshall, I was anxious to learn more about the work in India. It's an important, thoughtful book and I'd recommend you read it, too. I've included purchase information at the end of this post but here's more about the book:

Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX—There is no shortage of books about Western missionary heroes. But in the developing world, just as in the West, the most effective way to reach the lost is through the local church. As one Indian Christian leader told missionaries from abroad, “You have been offering the water of life to the people of India in a foreign cup. That is why we have been slow to receive it. If you offer it to us in an Indian cup, we are more likely to accept it.”

This is the new face of missions. The global church can learn much from the stories of indigenous missionary heroes.
In her new book, In the Presence of the Poor, author Kay Marshall Strom shares the amazing story of Professor B. E. Vijayam, Ph.D., a university professor and award-winning scientist who has made a career of reaching India’s poorest people with God’s love.

Dr. Vijayam was born the son and grandson of prominent Christian bishops in India, but he gained his reputation as a nationally recognized scientist. Driven by his pioneering spirit and limitless love for India’s poor and forgotten souls, Dr. Vijayam is breaking new ground in missionary practice, and he has much to teach the Western church.


As a geologist, Dr. Vijayam dedicated much of his research to improving the living conditions for the oppressed Dalit people. He encouraged other scientists to venture past the hallowed halls of academia and bring technology to the poor. As the founder of organizations like MERIBA (Mission to Encourage Rural Impact in Backward Areas), he achieved the unthinkable—uniting entire villages of Dalit people, educating them concerning their rights, and overturning centuries of culturally sanctioned tyranny.

Through various other social action groups, he brought clean water, agricultural innovation, and environmental protection to people all over India.
Dr. Vijayam is not just another social activist. Every technological innovation served a greater purpose—setting the stage to share the Gospel with India’s 4,600 people groups.

“To Dr. Vijayam, the gospel must be holistic,” Strom says. “As the Bible says, it is no use telling a person who is naked and hungry to go in peace without actually taking care of that person’s physical needs.”

Today Joshua Vision India, one of Dr. Vijayam’s projects, trains church planters to use technology for the benefit of the people groups they serve.
In the Presence of the Poor is more than just one man’s story.

It is a wake-up call to us in the Western church who have grown comfortable in our affluence and indifferent to the plight of our Christian brothers and sisters in the developing world. Strom stresses the need for partnership between churches rich in resources (i.e., North Americans) and churches rich in opportunities for evangelism (i.e., Indian churches).

Through his work with Partners International, Dr. Vijayam has sought to foster that kind of cooperation.
Strom urges Christians in the West to catch the vision of a global body of believers united in service and love for Christ.

“Now is the time for the family of God to link hands around the world. It is time for us not only to teach but to be teachable,” says Strom. “It is time for the financially blessed among us to loosen our grip and pour out the finances that will enable those with wide-open opportunities to make the most of them. It is time to support each other so that we can bring in a great harvest for the Lord.”

In the Presence of the Poor
by Kay Marshall Strom
Authentic Publishing ISBN: 978-1-606547-012-8/163 pages/softcover/$12.99 www.authenticpublishing.com

Monday, October 5, 2009

Servants

We handed tissues and listened quietly as our friend sobbed with agony. "I'm tired of my life. Does God even care anymore about me?"

The week before, another friend had stood defiantly. "God doesn't care. I've prayed and I've even fasted but he's not coming through for me."

On cue, we began our litany to prove that God cares. He'd provided finances at critical times. He'd protected children on the highway and friends in illnesses.

"Well, he doesn't care about me. I feel cursed."

So then we gave our litany on the value of hindsight. We now understood what we had not known before. God had prepared us for some upcoming event by a difficulty in our lives.

The point, as I look back, was to show our friend that God has purpose. But I think we might have been more honest had we said, instead, that we didn't always know why he allowed something. We live in an imperfect world, our days weighed down by consequences. We can waste a lot of time seeking answers to "why" questions.

But now I would tell my friend that we are servants. If the Master chooses to tell us why he's placed us in a particular place, then we're fortunate. Our place is not that of an informed confidant but of a beloved servant. Our task is to listen to our Lord and not our own desires. Our task is to trust and obey.

Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. 1 John 3:24

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Worst of times?

The present time always seems like the worst of times, just like some time in the past always seems like the best.

But these times do seem tough for those of us coddled by entertainment and ease, because we smell rain in the air. Change is coming.

How do we respond? Some would look for an escape route - figuratively for some, literally for others. Tough times can trigger flight.

But a writer, in the midst of a rough time, asked, "how can you say to me, 'flee like a bird to the mountains'?" Advice is usually free in all times, and the enemy seemed poised to overwhelm.

More advice: "if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Ps 11:3)

But our writer was not so easily swayed. He didn't believe all was lost. "The Lord is in his holy temple," he declared. "The Lord's throne is in heaven....his soul hates the lover of violence." (Ps 11:4)

Faced with a "run for the hills" plan, the writer said, "In the Lord I take refuge."

Nothing had changed, as the writer knew. The Lord still sat on his throne and knew the works of people. He still tested the righteous and the wicked. He still offered a scorching wind to the evil.

These are the worst of times. And the best of times, for God is still on his throne.
In the Lord I take refuge (Ps. 11:1)