Wednesday, September 30, 2015

My Lucky House

It can be fascinating leading a weekly Bible study in which all the participants – bar myself – are Asian. It sometimes helps bring the Bible to life.

Once we were discussing the issue of eating food that had previously been offered to idols. This is a real issue for many Asian Christians. Despite the words of Paul (for example, in First Corinthians he says about such food that, “we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do”), most Asian Christians I know will not eat food that has previously been placed as a religious offering before the home altars that are found in the houses of many Buddhist and Taoist families.

My (Korean) wife had previously refused to eat some choice fruit offered to her by a Chinese Buddhist friend, after learning that it had come from the family altar. Others in our group say that when they are given such food they accept it, but will not eat it, instead passing it on to Buddhist friends.

I recall the time when we were talking about feng shui, an ancient Chinese spiritual discipline that seeks to bring harmony to our lives through bringing us into alignment with the natural forces of the universe. It is often used in home design and construction.

One member of our group noted that feng shui is practiced routinely by so many Chinese – particularly in Singapore – that even Christians subconsciously apply many of its principles when buying or building a home. That led to a lively (and unresolved) discussion about whether Christians should be adhering to the practices of other spiritual disciplines.

It’s like the argument about whether Christians should practice, say, yoga. And I guess Jews have similar issues about whether or not to ignore Christmas.

One lady told how her Buddhist father-in-law, visiting Melbourne from Malaysia, called in a feng shui expert to check out their home. She admonished him (it takes guts for a Chinese woman to admonish her father-in-law) and told him not to talk about these things.

As she said to us: “I don’t believe in feng shui, but it can prey on your mind. It’s better not to know.”

I know what she means.

In our neighborhood of Melbourne is a giant, white-stone mansion owned by a family of very wealthy Indian Sikhs. (Locals jokingly refer to this palace-like residence as the Taj Mahal.)

Three-and-a-half years ago we bought a new home. And when we came to sign the purchase contract we learned from the real estate agent that we were buying from this particular Indian family, who owned many properties around Melbourne.

One Saturday, soon after we moved in, I was away, but my wife was working in the garden when an Indian couple arrived. They asked if they could take a look at our house. It turned out that they were members of the wealthy family that had previously owned it.

They told my wife that of all their many properties, it was our house that had been their former residence, before building their mansion (and then renting out our house for many years).

“We were struggling,” they said. “But after we moved into this house all our businesses started to prosper.”

They told my wife it was a shame we had removed the small pond they had built in the front garden, as this was particularly auspicious. Nevertheless, they assured her: “This house is an extremely lucky house.”

My wife told them that as Christians we believe all our blessings come from God. And of course I do believe that.

Yet, the words of those Indian visitors do prey on my mind. Is mine a lucky house? I can’t help – very occasionally – hoping so.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

POWER OUTAGE


Sin in a Christian’s life is a relationship destroyer






Light and darkness oppose each other, both in property and in function. For example, go into a dark room and flip the light switch. Out goes the darkness, and in comes the light. The light has expelled the darkness, exposing whatever had been in the dark.

The Bible says, “God’s light came into the world, but people loved darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil” (John 3:19 NLT). It goes on to say, “All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed” (John 3:20 NLT). But when an evil-doer welcomes the light of God into his or her life, the darkness of sin is dispelled. 

On the flip side, does darkness ever overcome light? The answer is yes: there are times when it does. Have you ever been in a lighted room during a storm, when all of a sudden, the light went out? That occurrence is usually referred to as power outage; something has interrupted the power source. “So, what happened?” you might wonder. Well, the power went out because the power flow has been interrupted by the storm.

In the spiritual world, sin is what interrupts the flow of God’s power in a Christian’s life. Sin interrupts our fellowship with God, resulting in fear, the lack of joy, and effectiveness in our Christian life. When Adam and Eve sinned, they became fearful and ashamed; they hid from God; their sin had put a separation between them and God. How sad! The solution, of course, is to go back to the Lord and confess, renounce the sin, and ask for restoration. The first couple never confessed their sin, but admitted guilt when God confronted them. Similarly, when the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, it is to time to come clean. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NIV). Also, in Proverbs, we are warned, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). In addition to finding mercy, our prayers are answered. The Psalmist knew that very well, because he testifies, “Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me. I cried out to him with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer” (Psalm 66:16-19 NIV). It is a good practice to examine our hearts when things don’t seem to be going well, just to make sure we are not experiencing a power outage.

Sometimes, when power is restored after an outage, the power stays on for only a short time before it goes out again. We see that repeatedly in the history of the Israelis: they sinned, lost fellowship with God, they cried out to Him; He answered and restored them, only for the cycle to repeat itself. We need consistency in our walk with God to maintain an ongoing and uninterrupted relationship with Him.

Sin in a Christian’s life is a relationship destroyer; no matter how small or big the sin, because God judges sin wherever and whenever He finds it. Did you know one of God’s names is Jealous? Moses said to the Israelis, “Do not worship any other God, for the LORD whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exodus 34:14 NIV). God did not want any kind of sin to cause a power outage in our relationship with Him. This is why He hates sin, and sent Christ to be the substitution for us in the first place: to restore fellowship with us.

Since we’re made in God’s image, we possess His jealous nature, which helps us cherish and safeguard our relationship with Him. We need to be jealous enough to not allow anything to come between Him and us, or take His place in our lives. We need to hate anything that will cause a spiritual power outage in our relationship with God. The apostle Paul, in anguish over false apostles in the church of Corinth, wrote to them to express the same. “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him…” (2 Corinthians 11:2-3).


Any time we have a spiritual power outage, we can undoubtedly trace the root cause to some sin in our life. Let’s be on our guard, constantly, and be attentive to the Holy Spirit!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Judge Not Someone Else's Servant


The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Romans 14:2-4 NIV.

“Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?” Paul used very strong language to remind us to keep our eyes on our own papers! There’s a difference between sharing your own testimony and experience with someone and demanding they follow your example or a specified set of actions in order to be seen as a “good Christian.” People and institutions that demand total adherence to one set of beliefs while judging folks who don’t adhere to them are exactly the people Paul was writing against in Romans 14.

I highly appreciate mentoring and general principles for folks to follow as they learn how to have a relationship with God. But the goal is for each person to develop an individual relationship with God where they receive direct guidance. Imagine what the folks in Ur thought when Abraham declared God had called him to start walking to an unknown place?

Abram:  “God’s called me to take all my family and leave dad, mom, my home and my country to go to a new place.”
Neighbor:  “Where are you going?”
Abram:         “I don’t know.”
Neighbor:  “How long will it take?”
Abram:  “I don’t know.”
Neighbor:  “How will you take care of everyone?”
Abram:  “I don’t know. I guess God will provide.”
Neighbor:  “Doesn’t sound like God to me. I think you’re hearing things! Seems really crazy to me to set out on a journey without knowing anything. Stay here, talk to the elders first, take some spiritual discipline classes, and pray about it as you’re teaching Torah classes. Give it a year or two so you can mature and listen to wise counsel. That’s the way we do things here.”

What about crazy old Noah who built an ark when there had been no rain for who knows how long? John the Baptist lived a very odd lifestyle compared to the religious establishment and regular people. Joseph had dreams, Deborah was a judge, Peter left his family fishing business to follow Jesus around the country. Every one of these folks knew they were God’s servants and they heard directly from him for their lives.

God speaks through his Word and other people, but our goal is to separate the wheat from the chaff and focus on what God has directly spoken to our own soul. I may be called to live my life in a very different manner than you. Please ask me what I’m hearing from God rather than condemning me for the differences. Follow God’s voice in your life—even if those around you don’t hear the same word for themselves.

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
Henry David Thoreau



Saturday, September 26, 2015

Do Christians worship one God or three Gods—Father, Son and Holy Spirit: Trinity explained.

Do Christians worship one God or three Gods—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—as some unbelievers seem to think?

As a Christian I have heard many argue that the concept of the trinity means that Christians worship three Gods. So how to reconcile this seeming contradiction—that Christians believe in one God yet worship three?

Growing up I was a math tutor for a bit and that was when the language of math spoke to me and helped me understand. I probed a friend about the issue of oneness and how to explain that there is only one God when the concept of Father, Son and Holy Spirit may seem otherwise. This friend explained it in mathematical term.


He said this: three in one is the same as 1x1x1 which is equal to 1 to the power of three, and not the same as just a simple 1. (1 cubed.) That resonated with me and like a light bulb in my head I understood.
But what does the Bible say? Here are just a few of many:

Deut 6:4:  Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
Deut 4: 35 "Yahweh, He is God; there is no other besides Him." Deuteronomy 4:35
"I am Yahweh, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God." Isaiah 45:5
What about in the New Testament? In the words of Jesus in Mark 12:29


Jesus said: … 'HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; 

The word “echad” used here means united whole, a plural oneness
“…adonai eloheinu adonai echad”

Yachid means “one” as in singular, and so if the meaning here was supposed to imply a simple “oneness” meaning just a plain number one, and not a plurality in the one as in 1 to the power of three, for instance, the word “Yachid” would have been used.

But here it’s echad —like in one cluster of grapes, and not one grape—is used.
Perhaps it’s the fact that I am an author, but individual words matter to me. Why else would the Bible say that every “jot” and every “tittle” is important if we are meant to merely skim over meanings and not dig deep into the meaning of each word used?

The idea of a "triune" (a Greek word) God is hard to understand but not impossible, After all we humans are in some sense “three persons in one” too—I am made up of a body, a spirit and a soul. Yet there’s only one me. (Some people may say, thank goodness to that!)

Also, in Genesis this idea of plurality of oneness is seen even in Gen 1:26
Then God said, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

God is described as Elohim in the Bible even though the ending –im (in Elohim as opposed to Eloha—which is singular) denotes plurality. This is again in keeping with and consistent with that “compound” one (in the 1 to the power of three illustration) referred to above.


Even from the very first verse in the Old Testament in Genesis 1: 1 this plurality is used.
Perhaps another time we could explore other word meanings.

Listen to this 12 minute message of Grace here .

Emma Right is a multiple award winning young adult and children's fiction author. Her fantasy and suspense thrillers for young people have won many awards and her children's books have been Amazon best sellers. Sign up for a free Princess Series Book, here. A homeschool mother of five she hopes her wholesome books will empower, entertain and enlighten her readers.  Find out more at http://emmaright.com/ and get free books for children.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Sustainable Developement


What’s on the agenda for the UN conference?


After last week’s blog about atheism, which followed a couple of weeks of what I like to call “Fun with Theology”, I told my readers I’d try to write something light and cheery this week. Well, maybe I could write a happy poem about the conglomeration of world leaders who will take part in the UN Sustainable Development Summit 2015, which runs September 25-27.
 
Old Xi-Jinping and Vladimir
Might squabble on Agenda 21.
But Secretary Ban Ki-moon
Will peacefully implore until he's won.
Obama’s there to light the way
And offer every situation hope.
But if he fails to get it done
Hey, don’t forget they’ve also got the Pope! 
 
 
 
Truth is, I’m not sure there’s anything light and cheery about to happen at the UN. I’ve recently read a few articles on Agenda 21, which was first proposed at the UN conference in Brazil in 1992. The “21” refers to the 21st century. “Agenda” refers to changing the world for the better. Of course, our world does need change. And who better to formulate the process for bringing those changes than the UN? Right?
 
The articles I read and websites I visited purport unprecedented vision for global sustainability. They also promote conspiracy theories. Of course, other sites (mostly from the UN) suggest those theories are easily debunked. Articles address everything from complete eradication of land ownership to “spreading the wealth” until all countries are equally impoverished. One article caught my attention because it tackled a subject I’ve faced this year. The title: “Is the UN Using Bike Paths to Achieve World Domination?”1
 
I took note because I now have a bike path running through the back of my property. I “donated” land for this. My neighbors and I fought it on the county level. Not that I hate bike paths—I rather enjoy it being there. But local government pulled out an obscure law from 1936 to help themselves to our land. And that was not right. But UN involvement? The bike path stretches on and so does the argument.
 
I didn’t read the entire 351 pages of the original Agenda 21, but I did skim through it. Especially near the beginning, before I got drowsy. It’s undergone changes since 1992. Here’s an interesting quote from a 1996 document:
 
“The realities of life on our planet dictate that continued economic development as we know it cannot be sustained…Sustainable development, therefore is a program of action for local and global economic reform – a program that has yet to be fully defined.” The Local Agenda 21 Planning Guide, published by ICLEI, 1996.
The version to be addressed at this year’s conference looks into the near future. The update to Agenda 21 is titled “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” These five objectives wrap up the preamble and summarize the document’s intent:
 
The Goals and targets will stimulate action over the next fifteen years in areas of critical importance for humanity and the planet:
 
People
We are determined to end poverty and hunger, in all their forms and dimensions, and to ensure that all human beings can fulfil their potential in dignity and equality and in a healthy environment.
 
Planet
We are determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations.
 
Prosperity
We are determined to ensure that all human beings can enjoy prosperous and fulfilling lives and that economic, social and technological progress occurs in harmony with nature.
 
Peace
We are determined to foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies which are free from fear and violence. There can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development.
 
Partnership
We are determined to mobilize the means required to implement this Agenda through a revitalised Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, based on a spirit of strengthened global solidarity, focussed in particular on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable and with the participation of all countries, all stakeholders and all people.2
 
 A lot of determination. Not much allowance for debate, though debate will most certainly occur during the next three days. Not all government leaders are on board as objections are raised by both Republicans and Democrats.
 
If you’ve read my blog, you know I see the world through Bible glasses. So I couldn’t help but think this plan for a government-led Utopia sounds good, but skews just enough from God’s plan to make it not only undoable, but undesirable—kind of like what happens in my fiction. Does my Christian worldview make me an enemy of the New World Order? I realize there’s not much I can say about any of this without sounding like I want to keep poor people hungry and uneducated people dumb. That’s not my intent. I just think somebody’s got a better plan to fix this world. And I’m going to follow Him.
 
One more thing: Another topic will be addressed at the UN conference, and it may fly without anyone paying much attention because Sustainable Development is stealing the show. French leaders have proposed a resolution creating a Palestinian state. The UN will vote on it—most likely adopt it. And that might change the world.
 
1 “The Atlantic”; article by Andrew Cohen, Feb. 7, 2012
2  taken directly from the UN document:
Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development


 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Christian Singles – Looking for Love in All the Right Places?

Enter “christian singles” in Google and it returns more than six million links. A while ago I did a keyword search of the most popular search engine queries with the word “christian.” I found that “christian singles” came top, followed - surprisingly - by “christian t-shirts,” “christian debt counseling” and “christian gifts.”

I had no idea that catering to Christians looking for love was such big business.

My interest was aroused some years ago when I moved to a new church and found that a prominent member ran an introduction service (not specifically aimed at Christians). So I visited some of the Christian dating service websites.

The initial impression of course is how commercial they are. I guess that’s to be expected. It’s clearly a competitive business.

Do they work? Certainly the testimonials are impressive. Here’s one:

It’s rather crazy… I did this on a moment-to-moment whim, just scanning around to see what this type of site was all about, purely on impulse. I signed up for the trial and 2 days later, met him. I’d never been in a chat room, never seen personals ads, never done instant messaging. It’s been 6 weeks now and he’s on his way to come meet me. We’re pretty sure marriage is in order, and it appears the Lord has been working in some beautiful ways. I never thought this kind of thing could be safe or reasonable for Christians, but it seems to be possible after all. Thanks for making this service available.

Here’s another:

Yes I met my soul mate on the site. He sent me an e-mail on the 25th of Feb. and I didn’t return it until Feb. 31 because I was so frustrated with the site, because I had sent e-mails and I was just ignored, so when I received his I took my time to return it. I was so glad that I did because he is all that I had prayed for. The Lord has blessed me richly because he is a wonderful man. We emailed for a while then I gave him my number and we talked and got to know each other better. I think that we got to know each other better this way than if we were together all the time. We have a wedding planned, anyone and everyone from the site is welcome.

(Of course, not every Christian single is looking for marriage, and the Crosswalk.com website provides some extremely useful resources on the single life.)

Finally, on a personal note, another testimonial.

I met my own wife (she’s Korean) more than 28 years ago (pre-internet days) through an introduction service (not a Christian one). She had been praying to meet a Christian man to marry. She got me instead. I wasn’t a Christian back then. Six-and-a-half years later I came to the Lord.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

THE DEVIL IS BATTLING FOR THE SOULS OF OUR CHILDREN





The Bible has a lot to say about children. “Children are a gift from the LORD, they are a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3 NLT). How amazingly awesome! This means no matter how children came to be, they are still from God. I believe the gift is given from the time of conception, so that the circumstances under which they are conceived do not matter. It could mean having a baby you don’t want because of financial restraints, rape or the like, but it is still the gift of God. God makes the decision when to give a gift, and under what circumstances. 

The average recipient of a gift accepts it with joy and gratitude and cherishes it, even when he or she does not see the usefulness of the gift right away. The appreciation stems from the fact that the giver has expressed love. Gifts are not necessarily given because the recipient deserves it, worked for it, or requested it. Usually, the giver gives out of the goodness of his or her heart. No wonder when families are expecting a baby, they go out of their way to prepare in very special ways to welcome this gift from God.

When God gives the gift of children, He also has plans for them, and expectations for their nurturing and godly upbringing. He does not leave His expectations to chance, but carefully maps out how to make it all happen. Through the Bible, He gives clear instructions for raising and caring for children. God has plans for each child’s welfare, and plans that each will come to faith in Jesus Christ.
It is also important for us as parents and caring adults to be aware that the devil has intentions for each child. Knowing that the devil is evil, we should conclude that his intentions will be the opposite of what God wants for our children. The devil, of course, is very secretive about his intentions, and being the liar and deceiver that he is, he will misrepresent everything to mislead and misdirect. He tries to undo what God does, because God is his arch enemy.

 Because we have God’s nature, God instructs us, and makes it natural for us, to provide for the needs of our children (see Matthew 7:11). He also wants us to train them in the way they should go, which should be the way we are going ourselves—the way of godly living!  Successful training should start very early in a child’s life. The training should be well thought out and well planned, and ongoing, not occasional or haphazard. God, through Moses, conveyed to the Israelites, “You must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9 NLT). This is God’s prescribed training for raising Godly children. The devil does not take a break from plotting evil, and neither should we take a break from training and encouraging our children!

 Let’s consider being positive role models for our children in all that at we do and say, allowing them to see us as we read the Bible and pray and relate kindly and respectfully with  others. And how about replacing some of those cartoon characters on their bedroom walls with Scripture verses that they can see every day, read, meditate on, and memorize?
God is faithful, and so are His promises. In Proverbs, He promises that if we raise our children the right way, they will continue on that path, “Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it” (Proverbs 22:6 NLT). Yes, some do go astray every now and then, but with continued prayer, they come back to the path they had left behind.

The devil hates God! He is a liar, and will use any tricks he can to misdirect our children as an   attack on God. How can we afford to let these precious gifts from God go in the wrong direction? Let us train and encourage them in their walk and let’s pray for them, without ceasing, that they will continue to walk faithfully with their God.

The Scripture tells us the devil is looking for someone to devour, and that includes our children.  “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith” (1 Peter 5:8-9 NLT). Let’s fight and weep on our knees over the souls of our precious children. What tricks has the devil succeeded in using in your home to discourage your children and to strain your relationship with them, making you ineffective in your leadership role? The apostle Paul tells us, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 NLT).

The devil is battling for the souls of our children. Let’s fight back by teaching them to walk in the fear of the Lord, and let’s be watchful and prayerful. We cannot afford to let the devil win the battle; God has made available to us all the necessary resources to wage this war wisely, strategically, and victoriously (see 2 Peter 1:3). Amen!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Faith of the New Atheist


Spreading a post-modern, judicious brand of unbelief.

 
I wonder if even 10% of the people who proclaim their belief in God actually do believe in God.  Daniel Dennett1

 
As one of the leaders of the New Atheism, Mr. Dennett wonders about belief. He questions whether those of us who claim belief in God really possess it. Perhaps we only believe in believing in God, because believing in God is a good thing. Believers, whether genuine or not, might scoff. They’ll likely become defensive or act offended. Personally, I’m glad Mr. Dennett brought it up. Religious people should ask themselves whether they believe, or only believe in believing. Christians need to have an answer as to exactly what they believe. And they ought to know why they believe it. Otherwise, the fair and reasonable wonderment of Daniel Dennett will cut a hole in their flimsy belief in believing.

 
Mr. Dennett stands with a few other authors and thinkers who have earned the title of leader among the New Atheists. They include Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and probably the most recognized in the pop-cultural movement, Richard Dawkins. Harris expresses worry about people “pretending to know things they clearly can’t know.” In my Christian experience, I’m somewhat concerned about that too. I don’t want to pretend to know what I should know definitively. That is, the truth of Scripture and the message of the Gospel. The late Christopher Hitchens believed “being an atheist is something you are, not something you do.” I hold to that faithful philosophy as well. Being a Christian is not something I do. It’s a much deeper reality than that. Dawkins states that “evolution led him to atheism.” I too was led (by the truth of the Word of God), and it took faith to follow. The New Atheist speaks with the same tenet of belief I hear from Christians.

 
The unbelievers are evangelical and their language proves it. They write books, and their books are not sloppy or lazy. These people are educated, practiced, and convinced. The movement spreads its message not only in bookstores and online, but on billboards. While religion may be banned in schools, there is no rule against atheistic ideals. At the college level, the ethics of atheism spread further and anchor deeper in the worldview of each generation.


 
The faithful atheist becomes a proselytizer. Rivaling Christianity in the number of organizations, the New Atheism offers endless websites, blogs, magazines, newsletters, social groups and clubs. The only organizational distinctions between the atheists and Christians are prayer groups and charities. Of course, some charitable organizations are supported by the New Atheists. At the top of the list is Planned Parenthood. Go figure. Also listed among charities likely to include atheist donors are helpful institutions like Doctors without Borders and The American Red Cross. Christians might support these, even join the cause, out of concern for humankind. But a line is drawn between the atheist donor and the Christian giver.
 
The atheist might say Christians crosses the line with a hidden agenda to use charity as a means for evangelism. But perhaps the same line, with an altered purpose, is crossed by the atheists. They’re aggressive in their quest to spread the message of New Atheism around the world.

 
What is the message? There is no hope, no promise, no eternal life. No God. So…if there is nothing, why the fervent hunt for converts? I think it goes back to what Dawkins said—that he was led by evolution. I’m not arguing evolution with him or anybody else—it’s pointless and useless. But I question if that’s actually what led him. Jumping the chasm to atheism isn’t a direct leap of the intellect. A brilliant, deity-denying atheist can follow Satan’s call as swiftly and unwittingly as a fool.  The end result is the same as it is for the one who believes that believing in God equates being redeemed by God. The faith of the New Atheist binds him to the unseen, completely disregarded, adamantly denied power of darkness. It’s the opposite of heeding God’s call, but it does take faith. And it does promise eternity. The kind not even a fool would want.

 
1] The Folly of Pretense, Daniel Dennett; The Guardian; July 16, 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Canaan Hymns - the Sounds of Christian China

One of the unexpected joys of doing research for my novel “Brother Half Angel” – set in China, and the first of my Brother Half Angel series of international thrillers – was discovering the gorgeous and moving Canaan Hymns.

These are Christian hymns, to be sung in church – in China.

So they are somewhat different from the hymns we sing in our Western churches. Different from our traditional hymns, and different too from our modern praise-and-worship music.

How different?

The best explanation I can give is that they carry a slightly sentimental tone to them, a sense of nostalgia, with unpretentious melodies and lyrics that speak of the beauty and majesty of China and of a simple life spent in the presence of God. They are slow, melodic and a little dreamy. They are not deeply theological. They will not be to all Western tastes.

When I lived in Japan I became a big fan of the Taiwan singer Teresa Teng, who died tragically of an asthma attack at the age of 42. She specialized in folk songs and romantic ballads, with a voice that was once described as conveying “seven parts sweetness and three parts tears.”

That’s what the Canaan Hymns sound like.

But just as moving as the hymns themselves is the story of how they came to be written.

One night in 1990 a young Chinese peasant girl named Xiao Min, unable to sleep, found a song flooding into her consciousness. Over ensuing weeks and months more songs arrived, unbidden, often while she was at her work in the fields picking cotton.

These were songs about God, about His great love for the Chinese people, about the Christian life of prayer, worship, joy and sacrifice.

Traveling evangelists realized the songs were a direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and began to spread them throughout the country. Soon Chinese believers everywhere, especially those in the underground home churches, were singing these songs whenever they worshipped.

Over the years Xiao Min received many more songs from God, until their number reached around one thousand. They were named the Canaan Hymns.

Go to YouTube and you can find examples, as well as some documentaries about the hymns and about the composer Xiao Min.

Here are some of the lyrics for “Dark Night,” one of my favorites:

In the dark night, flowers are more fragrant.
In the dark night, footsteps become surer.
A journey in the dark is nearing its end.
Stay true to God.

Listen to it here, and experience, as I have, the warm feelings of love and compassion that percolate from these tender and very special hymns.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

REDEEMING THE TIME



Procrastination is the thief of time




The Bible tells us in Ephesians 5:15-16 (KJV2013), “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Verse 16 of this reference is worded in the NLT as, “Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.” So redeeming the time is an admonition to use time wisely, avoid wasting time, and simply put, make every minute count. There is a sense of urgency embedded in the phrase, “redeeming the time.”

Time redemption in our present world is important, because we have an impermanent world; it will not go on forever, and each day that passes brings us closer to the end of it. The end can mean many different things:  death, poor health, limitations brought on by advancing age, and of course,  the return of the Lord. Any and all of these will automatically end our ability to be productive. For this reason, whatever we need to accomplish in this life has to occur within a particular time frame, which is when we are capable, because there will come a time when we will be incapable. King Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes has this to say: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom” (Ecclesiastes 9:10 NIV84).

Also, our responsible use of time should benefit others. What if, by the time we are done digging in our heels, and consequently wasting time, these people are no longer able to benefit, because they’ve experienced life-altering circumstances like death, dementia, and the like? We would have lost the opportunity to minister or be a blessing to them.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit a local nursing home with the bell choir from my church. The nursing home staff brought the residents to an auditorium for the visit. Most of them were in wheelchairs. Some paid attention and participated, but others didn’t. I was saddened as I looked at them and thought to myself, “There are both Christians and non-Christians in this group.” No matter what they believed, their productive years are behind them. For the unbelievers, how many had turned their backs on the gospel in their younger years, and would they understand and accept it now? For the believers, how many seized every opportunity in their vibrant years to serve God? If they hadn’t in the past, it seemed almost too late.

This is our time to work diligently, because the Scripture says, “Night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4NIV84). We need to be redeeming the time now, when we are not confined to hospital beds, wheelchairs, oxygen tanks, and the like. If the Lord tarries, many will likely find themselves in that situation: with lots of time, but without the ability to serve in a meaningful way, their gifts and talents dormant.

Also, when we see Jesus face to face, there will be accountability regarding how faithfully, diligently, and responsibly we’ve used our talents, abilities, gifts, and opportunities. What do you think God will say to you then? Will He say, “Well done, my faithful servant! “or will He say, “You slothful servant”?  What will you say about yourself at the end? Will you be able to agree with the apostle Paul, who confidently said at the end of his life, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on the day of his return” (2 Timothy 4:7-8 NLT2013)?
So what are your plans, and when will you start making every minute of your life count? The old adage says, “Procrastination is the thief of time.” Let’s not procrastinate any longer, because time is short. Let’s redeem the time!   

Monday, September 14, 2015

How Do You Define Failure?


Never let failure get to your heart. 
--Unknown

So I’m all geared up to spend my afternoon cooking and baking for the week.  I’ve recently decided to follow the Trim Healthy Mama eating plan (low glycemic). A requirement for success is planning and preparation. I’ve chosen new recipes, went to the grocery store to buy new ingredients, and now I’m standing in my kitchen mixing, cooking, and baking.

Excitedly I put ingredients into my NutriBullet for a protein shake (I am in love with this easy to use, easy to clean appliance). As the blades are whirring around, chocolate liquid oozes out of the glass. Humm, probably too much of this new stuff called Glucomannan which thickens liquid. I grab another glass and pour half the shake in it, then clean up the mess. Tastes good but really thick.

Okay, I feel really iffy about this next recipe for an egg custard. It looks simple enough, but I’ve not eaten many custards so I don’t really know what to expect. Egg whites, almond milk, vanilla, etc. all blended together and into the oven. An hour later I take it out and there’s a puffed up brown film that completely sinks 10 seconds after removal. Underneath it’s still as watery as when I put it in. Epic failure!

Let’s try a pasta dish. I should be able to get that right! Following a Spaghetti Pie recipe, I put the Dreamfields pasta (doesn’t raise blood sugar) on to boil. I’m making great progress proofreading my upcoming book on Generalized Anxiety Disorder when I suddenly realize I didn’t set a timer! Yup, overcooked pasta but since it’s the only box I have, I’m just going to use it and hope for the best.

Lastly I decide to make healthy muffins, yum! Oven’s preheated, should only take me 5 minutes to mix up the ingredients. Oatmeal flour, Truvia, yogurt, eggs, baking soda and baking powder…wait! I only have baking soda, what am I going to do now? My options are 1) stop what I’m doing and try it another day; 2) get in my car and run up the street to the market; or 3) ask neighbors. I’ve lived in this apartment for six months and although I’ve nodded to several neighbors, I’ve really not talked to anyone. But this seems to be a good opportunity so I take a small bowl and start knocking on doors. Saturday afternoon, surely someone should be home somewhere. Eight doors later, a woman finally answers.

She brings out a box of baking powder and I tell her, “No, sorry, I need the other one, baking soda.” She kindly gives me some baking soda and as I climb the stairs to my door I realize I messed up. I actually did need the baking powder! No way was I going back to the nice lady. Grabbing my keys, I got into my car and drove to the market with my oven still on and the rest of the ingredients sitting on the counter.

Looking at my actions today, I failed in a lot of ways. What’s most important is how I process each event. Viewing failure as a character issue wounds our heart. We then use negative self-talk to condemn and demean ourselves. When others point out it’s merely a learning opportunity, we brush them aside, holding ourselves to a perfectionist standard. I believe the Bible tells me to love myself the way God loves me. That means offering myself grace, mercy, and compassion. Not everything is a character issue and when it is, God is the one who convicts my heart.

When I view my actions today through grace-filled eyes, I’m excited about what I’ve learned. No more custard, remember to time the pasta, and now I have another neighbor to wave to in the complex. Albert Einstein said, “The only source of knowledge is experience.” I believe my Heavenly Father encourages me to try new experiences as I learn who he made me to be and live out the plans he has for my life. It’s imperative we critique our definition of failure, and not let it compromise our heart.

By the way, the muffins turned out scrumptious!

Photo used by permission thru Creative Commons by tobyelwin.com



Sunday, September 13, 2015

Is Donald Trump a Christian? Does it Matter?




From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."Matthew 4:17 These are the first words of Jesus in the Bible.

1Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, 2"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."  Matthew 3:1-2  These are the first words of John the Baptist in the Bible.

They went out and preached that men should repent.  Mark 6:12 This was the understanding of the disciples as they began their first missionary efforts.

2And Jesus said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? 3"I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Luke 13:2-3 

Because of the great ongoing debate about not working our way into heaven, there are many who make a theological argument that we believe and trust in God first, then God gives us the ability to cease from sin. This argument would say that we can be a Christian and not "repent." To be fair, the argument goes on to say that this would be a very odd situation. If a person has chosen God, loves God, and has made God his master, then to continue in sin would be a contradiction. 

Others argue that the word repent actually means change your mind and turn to God. Our awaking comes from understanding that we are sinners and destined to perish if we don't turn toward God and ask Him to forgive us of our sins. Once we have recognized that we are sinners and desire a relationship with God, He offers of the gift of salvation, and the Holy Spirit begins a work in us.  

When asked if he ever asked God for forgiveness, Trump said:


"I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don't think so. I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don't bring God into that picture. I don't."

"When I drink my little wine -- which is about the only wine I drink -- and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed. I think in terms of 'let's go on and let's make it right.'"

What are we to make of Trump and his view of God? We can't, of course, know his heart. Only God knows if Donald Trump is saved. We have many friends and family members who make various professions about Jesus or God, but who seem far from God in their acts or failures to act. 

Jesus tells of the grain being planted in various types of soil, and that only some of that grain takes hold and results in fruit. Many highly respected pastors suggest that only 10 - 25% of those in the pews are saved. 

The statements Trump has made look very much like a person who is at a bare minimum highly dependent on themselves and not so much on God. You could potentially see a lot of Nebuchadnezzar in Trump. "Look what I have created." God clearly shows over and over that the sin He hates most is pride, but is there any one among us who has conquered pride? 

If I were to venture a guess, I don't think Trump is a true disciple of Christ. If he is saved, his treasure in heaven can be measured as being opposite to his treasure on earth that he seems so proud of. 

Does it matter whether Trump is saved?

Every US President has claimed to be Christian. Some have indicated by their statements or actions that they were more reliant on God's direction than others. Recently Jimmy Carter and Bush 43 were were the most clear about their personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Our current president has had to defend his stated belief In Jesus

My concern is less about whether he follows Christian doctrine and/or has a serious relationship with God. Currently my concern is with his actions, which seem to fly in the face of Christian standards. Calling folks names and being so overtly proud of himself both are disqualifying in my book.

 


"I try not to make mistakes where I would have to ask for forgiveness," Trump said. "When I am asked a question like that, I don't like to make a lot of mistakes."
Cooper asked Trump if he felt the need to ask for repentance.
"If I make a mistake, yeah, I think it's great. But I try not to make mistakes," Trump said.
- See more at: http://www.gospelherald.com/articles/56750/20150725/donald-trump-grilled-on-his-christian-faith-i-try-and-lead-a-life-where-i-dont-have-to-ask-god-for-forgiveness.htm#sthash.rB0VXP3J.dpuf
"I try not to make mistakes where I would have to ask for forgiveness," Trump said. "When I am asked a question like that, I don't like to make a lot of mistakes."
Cooper asked Trump if he felt the need to ask for repentance.
"If I make a mistake, yeah, I think it's great. But I try not to make mistakes," Trump said.
- See more at: http://www.gospelherald.com/articles/56750/20150725/donald-trump-grilled-on-his-christian-faith-i-try-and-lead-a-life-where-i-dont-have-to-ask-god-for-forgiveness.htm#sthash.rB0VXP3J.dpuf
"I try not to make mistakes where I would have to ask for forgiveness," Trump said. "When I am asked a question like that, I don't like to make a lot of mistakes."
Cooper asked Trump if he felt the need to ask for repentance.
"If I make a mistake, yeah, I think it's great. But I try not to make mistakes," Trump said.
- See more at: http://www.gospelherald.com/articles/56750/20150725/donald-trump-grilled-on-his-christian-faith-i-try-and-lead-a-life-where-i-dont-have-to-ask-god-for-forgiveness.htm#sthash.rB0VXP3J.dpuf

"I try not to make mistakes where I would have to ask for forgiveness," Trump said. "When I am asked a question like that, I don't like to make a lot of mistakes."
Cooper asked Trump if he felt the need to ask for repentance.
"If I make a mistake, yeah, I think it's great. But I try not to make mistakes," Trump said.
- See more at: http://www.gospelherald.com/articles/56750/20150725/donald-trump-grilled-on-his-christian-faith-i-try-and-lead-a-life-where-i-dont-have-to-ask-god-for-forgiveness.htm#sthash.rB0VXP3J.dpuf
"I try not to make mistakes where I would have to ask for forgiveness," Trump said. "When I am asked a question like that, I don't like to make a lot of mistakes."
Cooper asked Trump if he felt the need to ask for repentance.
"If I make a mistake, yeah, I think it's great. But I try not to make mistakes," Trump said.
- See more at: http://www.gospelherald.com/articles/56750/20150725/donald-trump-grilled-on-his-christian-faith-i-try-and-lead-a-life-where-i-dont-have-to-ask-god-for-forgiveness.htm#sthash.rB0VXP3J.dpuf

"I try not to make mistakes where I would have to ask for forgiveness," Trump said. "When I am asked a question like that, I don't like to make a lot of mistakes."
Cooper asked Trump if he felt the need to ask for repentance.
"If I make a mistake, yeah, I think it's great. But I try not to make mistakes," Trump said.
- See more at: http://www.gospelherald.com/articles/56750/20150725/donald-trump-grilled-on-his-christian-faith-i-try-and-lead-a-life-where-i-dont-have-to-ask-god-for-forgiveness.htm#sthash.rB0VXP3J.dpuf