He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" - Romans 8:32

Friday, April 30, 2010 

Missions: Fast Evangelism?

From around the world, from different tribes and tongues and peoples and nations, those who would be saved must come to Jesus, and they must come to him as he is.

We proclaim Jesus, a particular Jesus, Jesus as the son of God and savior of sinners. Merely to encourage people to articulate the name of Jesus, while allowing them to believe whatever they desire or devise in their own minds, is not a legitimate biblical strategy for the evangelist or missionary. The sons of Sceva made the mistake of thinking that the mere pronunciation of the name provided power to cast out demons (Acts 19). They knew the name “Jesus” but they did not know the man Jesus. In other words, they had come to a name, but they had not come to the man. Those to whom we go in missions must come to Christ as he is, not as he might wrongly be perceived.

Whether in North America or Africa or Asia or anywhere else, sinners are invited to come to Jesus as he is. They come to the one who is God incarnate. They come to the one whose ministry was one of compassion and caring. They come to the one who has made atonement, who has ascended to heaven and will one day return. I am not arguing that those who come to this savior must fully understand or clearly articulate all the mysteries contained in the gospel of Christ. Nor do I believe that believers, as they walk through this life, will fully grasp all there is to know about the person and work of Jesus. How many of us present have fully comprehended all the deep truths of the Trinity?

I am bothered, however, that we often intentionally deliver a minimum of information about Jesus, the gospel and the Christian life, whether in North America or around the world. The Scriptures would have us teach the peoples of the world all things that God has commanded. I believe that our evangelistic efforts have too often been influenced by our own North American cultural context. In our culture, we like things fast. We like fast cars, fast food, fast cures, fast fixes, fast . . . well, you fill in blanks. And, we like our evangelism fast.

Let me provide just an inkling of where I am theologically. I absolutely believe in the absolute sovereignty of God. I know that he can sovereignly and powerfully, in a moment, break through to a lost sinner and bring that person quickly into the kingdom. I know that our God can repeat, in a fashion, the Damascus road incident anytime and anywhere that he wishes. But, we do not expect regularly to be able to reproduce that episode ourselves. Furthermore, even the apostle Paul was not a sudden convert from a pagan religion and a pagan worldview. He was well versed in the Scriptures. His was not an empty slate. He did not come to that Damascus road experience with a dearth of information and knowledge.

- more to come from Dr. George Martin

Thursday, April 29, 2010 

Missions: Proclaiming/Preaching the Gospel with Authority

In the first two chapters of First Corinthians, Paul made use of the terms “preach,” “preached,” and “proclaiming.” Paul understood that he must preach, or proclaim, an essential message. Paul employed similar language elsewhere: “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ” (Col 1:28).

I have always thought Paul to be a good model for those of us who aspire to take the gospel to the peoples of the earth. I recall, however, participating in a seminar in missiology. Throughout the semester, each time I spoke of “proclaiming the gospel” or “preaching the gospel,” the professor stopped me and explained, “We prefer not to use the terms ‘preach’ or ‘proclaim,’ rather, we emphasize the use of dialogue.” At one point, the professor explained that to preach or proclaim is to occupy a position of authority, which can be interpreted by the audience as arrogance.

Well, we DO have something to proclaim, and that with authority! The Bible bears witness to Christ, and we must do the same. Edmund Clowney has understood this Christ-centered witness to be the key to unlocking the meaning of both testaments. For example, in noting the encounter of the resurrected Jesus and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Clowney commented: “Their hearts burned within them as they saw how all the Scriptures focused on Christ.” John Stott has reminded us that, not only are we to reveal Christ, but to “unveil him that people are drawn to come to him and to receive him.” Often, teachers of homiletics have counseled their students: “In your preaching, wherever you begin, take that beginning and run straight to the cross.”

Attorney and Bible teacher, David Rogers, has observed: “Christian evangelism should always be respectful, loving and kind, yet faithful to the truth of the gospel. Christians should always present the gospel in a winsomely persuasive manner. To be sure, Christians have not always done so. But evangelism at its best is carried out with the heartfelt desire and hope that others would enter into the abundant life and salvation found only in Christ.”

- Dr. George Martin

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 

Before She's Ready: 15 Countries Where a Girl is Most Likely to Be Married Before Age 15


1 Bangladesh 52.5
2 Niger 37.6
3 Chad 34.9
4 Ethiopia 31.4
5 India 30.9
6 Nigeria 30.6
7 Mauritania 29.3
8 Mali 25.1
9 Guinea 23.5
10 Mozambique 21.7
11 Cameroon 20.1
12 Eritrea 19.7
13 Uganda 15.9
14 Nepal 15.3
15 Nicaragua 14.6

- World Vision

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 

Fire on the Mountain

Amazing series of shots from the volcano in Iceland with lightning being added to the ash from National Geographic.

Monday, April 26, 2010 

Dr. J.D. Payne: Diaspora Missiology – What in the World is God Doing?

According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the following countries/areas had the highest number of international migrants in 2005. Note the overall percentage received by the United States, compared to the other nations.

Country or Area Number of Migrants (millions) As Percentage of Total
United States 38.4 20.2
Russian Federation 12.1 6.4
Germany 10.1 5.3
Ukraine 6.8 3.6
France 6.5 3.4
Saudi Arabia 6.4 3.3
Canada 6.1 3.2
India 5.7 3.0
United Kingdom 5.4 2.8
Spain 4.8 2.5
Australia 4.1 2.2
Pakistan 3.3 1.7
United Arab Emirates 3.2 1.7
China, Hong Kong SAR 3.0 1.6
Israel 2.7 1.4
Italy 2.5 1.3
Kazakhstan 2.5 1.3
Cote d’Ivoire 2.4 1.2
Jordan 2.2 1.2
Japan 2.0 1.1

So, who is a stranger living next door to you? Do you recognize the Great Commission opportunities we have in the West when representatives of the least reached peoples move into our communities?

Here is the ironic thought to ponder for the day: Why will we risk life and limb to go to some of the world’s least reached peoples when we will not walk next door to share that gospel with those same people groups God has moved into our neighborhoods?

- Read full blog here

Sunday, April 25, 2010 

France, Belgium to Ban Niqab from Public Spaces

France and Belgium are steadfast in ban on face coverings worn by Muslim women.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday ordered legislation that would ban women from wearing Islamic veils that hide the face in the street and other public places.

In seeking to forbid the garment from public view, Sarkozy defied the advice of experts sought by the government who warned that such a broad ban risked contravening France's Constitution.

Such a measure would put France on the same track as Belgium, which is also moving toward a complete ban in a similar reaction as Islamic culture has come in conflict with native European values. Sarkozy has repeatedly said that such clothing oppresses women and is "not welcome" in France.

- Read full article from Siasat.com

Saturday, April 24, 2010 

Powerful Images from the China/Tibet Quake

Friday, April 23, 2010 

Female Converts Go Before Iranian Judge

The silence from Iran is nerve-racking. There's been no word on the result of last week's court hearing for Maryam Rustampoor and Marzieh Amirizadeh -- Iranian Christians who were arrested by security forces in March 2009.

Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs says that's not unusual, but their legal strategy is. "They made the argument in court that they couldn't be apostates because they weren't actually Muslims. They said, 'We were born into Muslim families, but we ourselves never made the choice to become Muslims. Therefore, we are Christians, but we are not apostates because we weren't Muslims to begin with.'"

They were arrested March 5, 2009, on charges of anti-state activity and "taking part in illegal gatherings" because of their participation in house church activities. The anti-state charges were later dropped.

They're still facing propagation of the Christian faith and apostasy charges, so keep praying. It's been a test of their endurance.

According to Elam Ministries, although they have been receiving medical treatment for the past five months, they remain weak and suffer from various illnesses. The two had spent 259 days incarcerated in Evin Prison where they were reportedly subjected to psychological abuse, and their medical requests were ignored.

Despite the uncertainties, their testimony encourages other believers. Nettleton says, "They are determined to continue to be a witness for Christ, to continue to stand strong in their faith. We can pray that they'll be encouraged in that, that they will have a sense of peace, a sense of God's presence, and that God will provide the words for them to say when the time comes."

Pray that the peace of God will protect Maryam and Marzieh's hearts and minds and keep them safe. Pray that they will completely recover from their illnesses and be strong -- physically, mentally and spiritually. Pray that all charges will be dropped and they will be set free.


Thursday, April 22, 2010 

@Givemeabreak - The Desire to be a Celebrity Christian & the Abuse of Twitter

Just got off the phone with @John_Calvin - if you weren't @obscureloser I would let the world know when we talked too. Now you know just how holy, connected, and important I am.

This just in:

Just made out with @myhotproverbs31wife - you should have seen it!

While I have you here:

Please pray for me - I'll be speaking at #freakinghugeconference to over 12,002,291 people. Not that the conference invitation is something I wanted you to know about or the amount of people is important, just pray God would be glorified through @me.

I've got to run:

I need to go skype with @JohnPiper & @RickWarren because they want me to help them with the mess they find themselves in. Also need to chat about the 3 books they'll be co-authoring & I'll be editing called: 1) #Don'tWasteYourPurpose 2) #40DaysofJoy 3) #PurposeDrivenPleasure


Japanese Herbivores: Men & Gender-Bending in Japan

There has been a lot of curiosity among editors about what's happening to Japanese men -- the herbivore phenomenon, or "soshoku-danshi." As I wrote for The Independent, Japan's 20- and 30- something males seem uninterested in careers and apathetic about the rituals of dating, sex and marriage. They spend money on cosmetics and clothes and even sit down on the toilet when they pee...

For the article, I interviewed Ushikubo Megumi, president of Tokyo marketing firm Infinity and author of "The Herbivorous Ladylike Men Are Changing Japan." Her company claims that roughly two-thirds of all Japanese men aged 20-34 are now partial or total "grass-eaters," and a long way from the classic twin stereotypes of 20th century Japanese masculinity: the fierce, unyielding warrior and the workaholic salaryman...

Ushikubo believes that the postwar corporate samurai is increasingly a carnivorous dinosaur, whose legendary dedication to the company -- at the expense of family -- is increasingly waning. Grass-eaters, by contrast, are uncompetitive and uncommitted to work, a symptom of their disillusionment with Japan's troubled post-bubble economy. "People who grew up in the bubble era (of the 1980s) really feel like they were let down. They worked so hard and it all came to nothing," says Ushikubo. "So the men who came after them have changed."...

In reality of course, the grass-eaters may be merely the latest flowering of an old tradition. Japanese culture has long had a strong element of androgyny: During the Tokugawa period (1603-1867), men played women and women dressed as men for the theater, while erotic art celebrated bisexualism and transgender role-playing.

The common element between the Tokugawa era and today, says Osaka-based philosopher Morioka Masahiro, is peace. "Japan has been free from any form of conflict since World War II, and that has liberated men from the need to be manly."

- read entire article here
Pray that the Japanese would believe that Jesus is returning with a sword, a conflict they cannot escape, & one that should drive them to seek peace & reconciliation with God through Christ.


Chan is Practicing What He is Preaching

- Doug & life2getherblog

Wednesday, April 21, 2010 

Understanding Japan: Wealth is the Best Contraceptive?

Snippets from this article:

Each year, the Durex condom people publish a survey that shows the Japanese have among the least active sex lives, a finding that tantalises economists and sociologists.

Yet what if Japan's demographics are more of a strength than a weakness? This contrarian idea is worth considering for two reasons. One, Japan is doing nothing about its population. Two, other rich nations will be in the same boat before long, making Japan a prototype.

''Wealth is the best contraceptive,'' says Nicholas Smith, director of equity research at MF Global in Tokyo, who has long studied the supposed correlation between procreation and economic growth. ''There is a well-known correlation between rising per capita gross domestic product and falling fertility.''
Immigration is a taboo issue in homogeneous Japan, leaving us to mull how it can fare with what it has, demographically speaking. The strategy seems to be morphing into Asia's Switzerland, proving that living standards needn't shrink with population...

Discrimination means Japan only taps half of its 126 million people. A lack of affordable daycare also is a disincentive for working women to have children. Unable to balance work and family, more are putting off motherhood. Corporate Japan will have to get over its collective sexism. As it does, women will play a bigger economic role.
Japan's demographic cushions aren't a cure-all. Without a rapid increase in worker productivity, the nation will find it harder to maintain its high living standards. The rise of China and India and competition from South Korea are direct threats to Japan's future.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010 

Plasma Screens & Jesus

I think the obsession these days with "culture" & "relevance" in Evangelicalism is really just a love of the American world & all it's pleasures & the desire to hang on to what that world offers & still be "Christian."

It's just my opinion.

Monday, April 19, 2010 


Saying someone died at the perfect time is like saying someone got raped at the perfect time.

from 22 Words by Abraham Piper:

A couple days ago I jokingly posted this tweet:

I read about someone dying "much too young" in a plane crash and wondered if anyone's ever died in a plane crash at the perfect age.

To my surprise, it turned a little bit more serious for me when a couple people responded that whenever someone dies it’s the perfect time.

Really? Do we want to claim that like it’s so obvious and easy to believe?

Whether it’s true or not is beside the point, because, regardless, it’s a terrible thing to say blithely, if at all.

To say that someone died at the perfect time smacks of sanctimony. It’s a benign, Hallmarky way of saying it’s a good thing they died. Believe it if you feel you must, but be careful how you talk about it.

Death sucks and is never perfect.

Sunday, April 18, 2010 

A Church By Any Other Name

Have you noticed that church names are getting increasingly strange? Our friend Dennis Baker has. He's been keeping a list of church names in order to document how far we've come from the days of "First Presbyterian" and "Springfield Baptist Church." He sent us the following list of 130 church names. I've added my reactions in parentheses.

1. Resonate
2. Revolution (Where only senior pastors get beheaded.)
3. Radiance (Where the female vocalists all glitter like Mariah Carey.)
4. Elevation (U2 songs every bloody Sunday.)
5. Restoration
6. Renovation (You can do it! God can help.)
7. Mosaic
8. enCompass (Wii th--nk [outside] the box. We R crAtiVe.)
9. Epiphany Station (Next stop, Conjunction Junction!)
10. Soma (Our pastor knows Greek.)
11. Sanctuary
12. Rock Harbor (If your life hasn’t run aground yet, we can help.)
13. Journey (“Don’t Stop Believing” is our theme song.)


Saturday, April 17, 2010 

Open Doors: North Korea

Friday, April 16, 2010 

Best 10-year-old Hoops Player in the U.S.?

Thursday, April 15, 2010 

Alégrense las Naciones!

"Before, the church in these countries throughout Latin America saw their own needs very greatly, and there are still very large needs that can be met. But despite this, they've also seen the greater need of reaching out to those that have not heard the Gospel," says Reyes. "So we're seeing more and more missionaries throughout Latin America going not only into missions, but requesting specifically for training going into the 10/40 Window."

The generally-Muslim countries of the 10/40 Window provide a perfect mission field for the Latin American church.

"Because of the similarity of culture, skin tone ([which] is something that is very important [in this case]), and then the non-history of violence with other countries, Latin Americans are more acceptable in these countries."

- read full article here

Wednesday, April 14, 2010 

Unicorn & Jesus Christ is in the House

Tuesday, April 13, 2010 

"Thunder god" & the Gospel

Sex slavery is rampant among tribal religions in Ghana. In a system commonly referred to as Trokosi, girls are given to tribal priests as payment for sins. "Trokosi" means wives or slaves of the gods.

Every Child Ministries is rescuing these women and their children who were born into this environment. ECM co-founder Lorella Rouster says ritual servitude, or shrine slavery, is common.

Recently, Every Child Ministries liberated 55 slaves of the "Thunder god." Rouster says it was a long process that started five years ago. "We went to the priest's home to meet the wives and to share the Gospel. We also met him and began to share the Gospel with him. At that time he was very interested.

Rouster says that was the beginning of a liberation that was supernatural. "Several members of the ECM team have been visiting [this priest] for the past five years. And, very gradually the priest has come to faith in Christ. He has come to the point where he was willing and even anxious to leave his idolatry and his priesthood and come out as a believer."

Rouster says his conversion led to the release of the slaves. And that's not all. "This priest convened all 63 other priests who were under him and urged all of them to follow Christ, too."
The priest has made a dramatic turnaround. He's now listening to God's Word on a Faith Comes By Hearing (FCBH) "Proclaimer" given to the priest, and he and his family have been listening to it constantly. But, also in the evening he has been playing it in his yard, and the whole neighborhood has been gathering to listen to it."

This home once used for idolatry is now an outpost for God's Word.

The road hasn't been easy for the priest. Rouster says, "He has really stood firm. Some of the local chiefs have come and argued with him and tried to turn him back, but he has stood firm." They're waiting to see when he gets sick. When he does, they're going to blame it on his conversion to Christ.

Rouster says many of the liberated slaves have already turned to Christ. "Even before the actual liberation took place, the priest allowed us to share the Gospel with the women, and many of them made professions of faith in Christ."

The road ahead is long, says Rouster. "Liberation is an event, but rehabilitation -- that's a process. Some of the things we're doing are vocational training, counseling, and we'll continue sharing the Gospel with them and disciple those that have come to Christ.


Monday, April 12, 2010 

Today in 1850

Today in 1850 – Adoniram Judson Died


Father Frog

Doing his fatherly duty, a male Oreophryne frog in Papua, New Guinea, cradles his clutch and two newly hatched froglets. Each night the male Oreophryne embraces the egg mass, possibly to keep it moist or to protect it from small predators like insects.

- National Geographic

Sunday, April 11, 2010 

The Kind of Thing That May Actually Help With a Great Commission Resurgence

A newly identified team of missionaries from the International Mission Board will focus on helping leaders of overseas church plants build solid theological foundations.

Four missionaries will serve as full-time area theological education consultants for the Americas, Asia, Africa and Europe. They will build relationships with overseas seminaries and Bible schools, developing programs for leadership training. They also intend to work with Southern Baptist seminaries to encourage and facilitate partnerships with national Baptist seminaries.

The team will be headed by Chuck Lawless, dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. The mission board hired Lawless as its global consultant for theological education in 2008 to assess the status of theological education overseas and to identify areas where Southern Baptists can help ensure the development of theologically sound churches.

"We've been planting churches but not always doing the best job of discipling," Lawless said. "My prayer is that these new consultants will be another step in helping ground national pastors and lay leaders in the Gospel."

Other team members include Calvin Morris of Georgia, who has served in the Americas since 1988 and will be the theological education consultant for the Americas; Louisiana native and 16-year missionary Preston Pearce for Europe; and Missouri native Randy Arnett for Africa. IMB leadership is still working to identify the fourth consultant who will serve Asia.

Arnett, a former IMB regional leader for West Africa, has been heavily involved with theological education during his 20-plus years on the field, teaching in situations ranging from formal, brick-and-mortar seminaries to oral, lay-leader training sessions in African villages. Comparing the need for solid theological education to Jesus' story in Luke 6 of the man who built his house upon the rock, Arnett said it must be part of the spiritual DNA of every believer and church.

"We talk a lot about the right DNA in a church or the right DNA in a believer, and a lot of the time we're thinking about obedience-based discipleship," Arnett said. "We also have to look at the theological components. What are those components of that healthy church or that healthy believer that we need to instill in that DNA?

"What happens all too often is that we come in and we blow the Gospel out there ... and pop the question really quickly, 'Will you trust Jesus?' And the person may respond, but that DNA from the beginning is unhealthy.... We don't want to see that believer or church fall away."

Arnett has witnessed firsthand how dangerous a lack of theological training can be. While teaching at a seminary in Togo, West Africa, he started a church with a national Baptist partner. But Arnett didn't realize this man, who was leading the new church, was mixing the Gospel with elements of African traditional religion -- the worship of spirits in nature and of ancestors.

"When it came to dealing with people's spiritual problems, he resorted to what he knew from his African traditional religion -- beating people with brooms, hitting them on the heads with handkerchiefs -- doing all sorts of strange stuff that was simply way out of line," Arnett said. "We ended up shutting down that entire church start because it had already fallen into heresy."

The four-person consultant team's efforts will be combined with more than 140 IMB missionaries already engaged in both residential and nonresidential theological education.

Evangelism and church planting efforts must be grounded in solid theological foundations and leaders trained in those foundations to sustain growth, said Gordon Fort, vice president for global strategy for the International Mission Board. "So the question is, 'How do we best deliver the theological education in a way that helps us sustain our objective but also meets the needs of our Baptist partners?'

"This is where I think there's been some misunderstanding on behalf of those who feel that because we focus on evangelism and church planting we don't care about the seminaries, about theological education, which is not true.... What we're trying to do is have a balance between those two where we don't divert our energy and resources from that frontline growth."

Fort added that he's particularly excited about seminary-to-seminary partnerships.

"I believe our seminaries in the States have much more capacity and capability to do theological education than the IMB," Fort said. "They have the faculty, the resources, the experience and the history."


Kazakhstan Persecution - In Your Freedom, Pray

A Baptist pastor does know what his future brings but is trusting God.

Forum 18 News reports Kazakhstan has left threats to deport Viktor Leven "hanging in the air." The now-stateless Baptist, who is Kazakh-born, was convicted of missionary activity without state permission, and because he and his wife do not have passports, they cannot either obtain paid work or travel by train. He and his family live on what they can grow themselves.

Another Baptist, Zhanna-Tereza Raudovich, who was fined 100 times the minimum monthly wage for hosting worship in her home, has had an appeal against the fine rejected and has appealed to the Supreme Court.

Akmola Regional Police held a seminar on ways of struggling against religious extremism, during which Baptists were associated with terrorism. Asked why this association was made, police told Forum 18 that Baptists were not extremists but they "do violate the law often" as they continue religious activity without official registration.

Churches like those Leven pastors have applied for registration, but the government has failed to grant it.

- read more details here

Saturday, April 10, 2010 

Now We See in a Mirror Dimly

Heaven will solve our problems, but not, I think, by showing us subtle reconciliations between all our apparently contradictory notions. The notions will all be knocked out from under our feet. We shall see that there never was any problem.

- C.S. Lewis: A Grief Observed, pp. 83

Friday, April 09, 2010 

'Peace, Child; You Don't Understand.'

When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of 'No answer.' It is not a locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As though He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question. Like, 'Peace, child; you don't understand.'

Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are there in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask--half our great theological and metaphysical problems--are like that.

- C.S. Lewis: A Grief Observed, pp. 80-81

Thursday, April 08, 2010 

Have They Never Been to a Dentist?

The terrible thing is that a perfectly good God is in this matter hardly less formidable than a Cosmic Sadist. The more we believe that God hurts only to heal, the less we can believe that there is any use in begging for tenderness. A cruel man might be bribed--might grow tired of his vile sport--might have a temporary fit of mercy, as alcoholics have fits of sobriety. But suppose that what you are up against is a surgeon whose intentions are wholly good. The kinder and more conscientious he is, the more inexorably he will go on cutting. If he yielded to our entreaties, if he stopped before the operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless. But is it credible that such extremities of torture should be necessary for us? Well, take your choice. The tortures occur. If they are unnecessary, then there is no God or a bad one. If there is a good God, then these tortures are necessary. For no even moderately good Being could possibly inflict or permit them if they weren't.

Either way, we're for it.

What do people mean when they say, 'I am not afraid of God because I know He is good'? Have they never even been to a dentist?

- C.S. Lewis: A Grief Observed, pp. 50

Wednesday, April 07, 2010 

Death Will Shake You from Mere Verbal Thinking

"Feelings, feelings, and feelings. let me try thinking instead. what grounds has it given my for doubting all that i believe? I knew already that these things, and worse, happened daily. I would have said that i had taken them into account. I had been warned - I had warned myself - not to reckon on worldly happiness. We were even promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, 'blessed are they that mourn,' and I accepted it. I've got nothing that i hadn't bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not in imagination. Yes; but should it, for a sane man, make quite such a difference as this? No. And it wouldn't for a man whose faith had been real faith and whose concern for other people's sorrow had been real concern. The case is too plain. If my house has collapsed at one blow, that is because it was a house of cards. The faith which 'took these things into account' was not faith but imagination. The taking them into account was not real sympathy. If i had really cared, as I thought I did, about the sorrows of the world, I should not have been so overwhelmed when my sorrow came. It has been an imaginary faith playing with innocuous counters labelled 'illness,' 'pain,' 'death,' and 'loneliness.' I thought I trusted the rope until it mattered to me whether it would bear me. Now it matters, and I find it didn't.

Bridge-players tell me that there must be some money on the game, 'or else people won't take it seriously,' - apparently it's like that. Your bid - for God or no God, for a good God or the Cosmic Sadist, for eternal life or nonentity - will not be serious if nothing much is staked on it. And you will never discover how serious it was until the stakes are raised horribly high; until you find that you are playing not for counters or for sixpences but for every penny you have in the world. Nothing less will shake a man - or at any rate a man like me - out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses. Only torture will bring out the truth. Only under torture does he discover it himself."

- C.S. Lewis: A Grief Observed, pp. 41-44

Tuesday, April 06, 2010 

Embracing Accusation / John Piper Mix

Monday, April 05, 2010 

Easter & Fatherhood Eve by the Bomans

We stood in the Moscow Holiday Inn lobby and waited on our driver, Vitali, to pick us up and head to the airport. We were to catch our flight to Astrakhan, Russia to see our daughter for the first time in three months and finish the process of bringing her home. Like I usually do I looked through the big rack of tourist brochures while we waited. I noticed several pamphlets for “gentlemen’s clubs” and “escort services”. And I guess it was the daddy welling up in me, but I couldn’t help but ask myself “wonder how many of those girls were orphans?”

Had Rebekah remained instutionalized and never received a family, she would be turned out on the street at 16. A reality that could keep me awake at night. The little girl we have loved and cherished for the past three months, years from now, alone in this dimly lit place. Now, some will tell you that after the age of 16 there are opportunities for housing and further education and a variety of other benefits available to the children, but I doubt seriously that there are many successful transitions into the world outside the orphanage through those means. In all reality, prostitution or organized crime is a likely destination for the young men and women that institutions produce, not because the Russian government steers them there, but because a lack of parenting does. I am so thankful that God has brought us here to rescue her from things like that.

My heart is full and overflowing with emotion that our “gotcha day” for Rebekah will coincide very nicely with Easter. We were hoping we would get her on Good Friday, but in a way I find it fitting that her new life will follow the celebration of the resurrection, and not before. Adoption is in so many ways a resurrection. Our adoption and salvation in Christ is the crucifixion of our old self, and the being raised to new life in Him. An event not at all possible had Jesus Himself not been raised.

Tomorrow will likely break Rebekah’s little heart and she will be removed and separated from the only safe and stable thing she has ever known, Baby Home #2. She will be with us forever and she will never again see the wrinkly faces of the Russian caregivers, or the belligerent orphanage director, or the bubbly social worker, all of whom kept her emotional life support until God could bring us to her. Her old life will pass away and a new life will begin, and if she could only know what waits for her on the other side of the Atlantic. The family, the friends, the warmth of her quiet home on Crossley Avenue, and two parents that love her and will pursue her little heart as long as it takes. When that plane lands, an earthly resurrection will be complete.

When Allison and I came here on our first trip in December we went through hell. I have never known fear, trial, and fatigue like I knew it then. We faced many challenges and were subject to many attacks by the enemy. And we came frighteningly close to saying “this is too much” and walking away. And it was only through wise counsel and support of family and the light of God’s grace that we had the clarity to do what God had called us here to do, begin the process of bringing this child home. Now it is my shame that we almost failed to stay the course, but praise be to God that He did not allow us to fall. The Grace of God came with every lost hour of sleep, every frightening diagnosis, every meal missed, every blister on our feet, every tear shed, and every night we lay awake in our own personal Gethsemane asking God “If you are willing, remove this cup from me…”. And that same Grace sits here with me now. Praise be to God Almighty who ushers us through when we are too afraid to go any further.

When we left from that first trip, we left a small picture album, with pictures of Allison and I, and Family, and even Gracie the hound with Rebekah. We wanted her new home to at least be familiar to her in picture. We were told when we came back this trip that it had become her favorite thing. That she would sit in the corner and look at it again and again and again. Allison and I fought back the tears on the playground that day, I have never been filled with more love and heartbreak than I was that day. Oh how I wanted to pick her up and tell her “precious girl, if you only knew...” Little does she know that with those pictures she is merely looking at a mirror dimly, but soon she shall see it all face to face. It will be real, the past will be gone, and she will receive a new life. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

And now Allison and I stand together, holding onto each other and a Resurrected Savior. I am fearless about tomorrow, it will be hard, but in the end we will see the Glory of God unfold in the life of this beautiful little girl.

So, this Easter is special, we will celebrate Christ’s resurrection today, and in a practical way we will celebrate it tomorrow as well. Rebekah will leave everything behind, and we will dress her in new clothes and finally we will step, as a family, beyond those rusty iron gates forever.

Rebekah Grace Boman will walk out of an orphanage tomorrow, because Jesus Christ walked out of a tomb today.

- Zac & Allison Boman


Sunday, April 04, 2010 

Happy Easter

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Romans 16:20

Saturday, April 03, 2010 

Evidence for Easter in the Deaths of the Apostles

(1) The Apostle James

James, the Apostle of the Lord, was the second recorded martyr after Christ’s death (Stephen was the first). His death is recorded in Acts 12:2 where it is told that Herod Agrippa killed him with a sword. Clemens Alexandrinus and Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History II.2) both tell how the executioner witnessed the courage and un-recanting spirit of James and was then convinced of Christ resurrection and was executed along with James.

Date of Martyrdom: 44-45 A.D.

Probability rating: A for the death of James, C- for the death of the executioner

(2) The Apostle Peter

Although, just before the crucifixion, Peter denied three times that he even knew Christ, after the resurrection he did not do so again. Peter, just as Jesus told him in John 21:18-19, was crucified by Roman executioners because he could not deny his master again. According to Eusebius, he thought himself unworthy to be crucified as his Master, and, therefore, he asked to be crucified “head downward.”

Date of Martyrdom: ca. 64 A.D.

Probability rating: A

(3) The Apostle Andrew

Andrew, who introduced his brother Peter to Christ, went to join Peter with Christ in eternity six years after Peter’s death. After preaching Christ’s resurrection to the Scythians and Thracians, he too was crucified for his faith. As Hippolytus tells us, Andrew was hanged on an olive tree at Patrae, a town in Achaia.

Date of Martyrdom: 70 A.D.

Probability rating: B

(4) The Apostle Thomas

Thomas is known as “doubting Thomas” because of his reluctance to believe the other Apostles’ witness of the resurrection. After they told him that Christ was alive, he stated “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). After this, Christ did appear to him and Thomas believed unto death. Thomas sealed his testimony as he was thrust through with pine spears, tormented with red-hot plates, and burned alive.

Date of Martyrdom: 70 A.D.

Probability rating: B concerning his martyrdom, D concerning the exact method of execution.

(5) The Apostle Philip

Philip was corrected by Christ when he asked Christ to “show us the Father, then this will be enough for us” (John 14:8). Christ responded, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father ‘?” (John 14:9). Philip later saw the glory of Christ after the resurrection and undoubtedly reflected with amazement on Christ’s response to his request. Philip evangelized in Phrygia where hostile Jews had him tortured and then crucified.

Date of Martyrdom: 54 A.D.

Probability rating: C

(6) The Apostle Matthew

Matthew, the tax collector, so desperately wanted the Jews to accept Christ. He wrote The Gospel According to Matthew about ten years before his death. Because of this, one can see, contained within his Gospel, the faith for which he spilled his blood. Matthew surely remembered his resurrected Savior’s words, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20), when he professed the resurrected Christ unto his death by beheading at Nad-Davar.

Date of Martyrdom: 60-70 A.D.

Probability rating: B

(7) The Apostle Nathanael (Bartholomew)

Nathanael, whose name means “gift of God” was truly given as a gift to the Church through his martyrdom. Nathanael was the first to profess, early in Christ’s ministry, that Christ was the Son of God (John 1:49). He later paid for this profession through a hideous death. Unwilling to recant of his proclamation of a risen Christ, he was flayed and then crucified.

Date of Martyrdom: 70 A.D.

Probability rating: C

(8) The Apostle James the Lesser

James was appointed to be the head of the Jerusalem church for many years after Christ’s death. In this, he undoubtedly came in contact with many hostile Jews (the same ones who killed Christ and stated “His [Christ's] blood be on us and our children” (Matt. 27:25). In order to make James deny Christ’s resurrection, these men positioned him at the top of the Temple for all to see and hear. James, unwilling to deny what he knew to be true, was cast down from the Temple and finally beaten to death with a fuller’s club to the head.

Date of Martyrdom: 63 A.D.

Probability rating: B that he was cast down from the temple, D that he was being beaten to death with fuller’s club after the fall

(9) The Apostle Simon the Zealot

Simon was a Jewish zealot who strived to set his people free from Roman oppression. After he saw with his own eyes that Christ had been resurrected, he became a zealot of the Gospel. Historians tell of the many different places that Simon proclaimed the good news of Christ’s resurrection: Egypt, Cyrene, Africa, Mauritania, Britain, Lybia, and Persia. His rest finally came when he verified his testimony and went to be with Christ, being crucified by a governor in Syria.

Date of Martyrdom: 74 A.D.

Probability rating: B

(10) The Apostle Judas Thaddeus

Judas questioned the Lord: “Judas said to him (not Iscariot), Lord, how is it that you will show yourself to us, and not unto the world?” (John 14:22). After he witnessed Christ’s resurrection, Judas then knew the answer to his question. Preaching the risen Christ to those in Mesopotamia in the midst of pagan priests, Judas was beaten to death with sticks, showing to the world that Christ was indeed Lord and God.

Date of Martyrdom: 72 A.D.

Probability rating: C

(11) The Apostle Matthias

Matthias replaced Judas Iscariot (the betrayer of Christ who hanged himself) as the twelfth Apostle of Christ (Acts 1:26). It is believed by most that Matthias was one of the seventy that Christ sent out during his earthly ministry (Luke 10:1). This qualifies him to be an apostle. Matthias, of which the least is known, is said by Eusebius to have preached in Ethiopia. He was later stoned while hanging upon a cross.

Date of Martyrdom: 70 A.D.

Probability rating: D

(12) The Apostle John

John is the only one of the twelve Apostles to have died a natural death. Although he did not die a martyr’s death, he did live a martyr’s life. He was exiled to the Island of Patmos under the Emperor Domitian for his proclamation of the risen Christ. It was there that he wrote the last book in the Bible, Revelation. Some traditions tell us that he was thrown into boiling oil before the Latin Gate, where he was not killed but undoubtedly scarred for the rest of his life.
Date of Martyrdom: 95 A.D.

Probability rating: A that he was not martyred, C that he was thrown into boiling oil

(13) The Apostle Paul

Paul, himself a persecutor of the Christian faith (Galatians 1:13), was brought to repentance on his way to Damascus by an appearance of the risen Christ. Ironically, Paul was heading for Damascus to arrest those who held to Christ’s resurrection. Paul was the greatest skeptic there was until he saw the truth of the resurrection. He then devoted his life to the proclamation of the living Christ. Writing to the Corinthians, defending his ministry, Paul tells of his sufferings for the name of Christ: “In labors more abundant, in beatings above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths often. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once was I stoned, three times I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeys often, in storms on the water, in danger of robbers, in danger by mine own countrymen, in danger by the heathen, in danger in the city, in danger in the wilderness, in the sea, among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness “(2 Cor. 11:23-27). Finally, Paul met his death at the hands of the Roman Emperor Nero when he was beheaded in Rome.

Date of Martyrdom: ca. 67 A.D.

Probability rating: A

- Parchment & Pen

Friday, April 02, 2010 

Stories of Change

Stories Of Change from Sojourn Community Church on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 01, 2010 

Wrong Reasons to Want to Be Home: GO BLAZERS!

HOOVER, Ala. -- Behind a career-high three hits from freshman catcher Harry Clark, the UAB baseball team downed No. 23 Alabama, 6-4, at Regions Park on Wednesday night.

Clark also finished with a pair of RBI as the Blazers won for the seventh time in the past eight games to improve to 15-8 on the season. Alabama, on the other hand, fell for the sixth time in the past seven games to drop to 17-7.

"I thought it was a heck of a college baseball game," UAB head coach Brian Shoop said. "I would think everyone who came tonight would leave as a fan of college baseball. It was a good win for us. We played a very clean game, and when you do that, you have a chance to win games."
UAB played its seventh error-free game of the season, while Alabama committed just one error in the contest.

UAB opened the scoring with a pair of second-inning solo home runs from Luke Stewart and Ryan Ussery, and the Blazers never trailed in the game. Stewart's home run was his ninth of the season and his seventh in the past six games, while Ussery's was the first of his rookie campaign.
Blazer starting pitcher Benji Waite worked four strong innings, allowing just one run on three hits before handing the ball over to the Blazer bullpen, which divided the remaining five innings between five pitchers.

Alabama starter Tucker Hawley took the loss, surrendering three runs on five hits in six innings. Four Crimson Tide relievers saw work as the teams combined to use 11 pitchers in the game.
RBI singles from Clark in the fourth inning and John Frost in the fifth gave UAB a 4-1 lead. But Alabama picked up a run in the seventh on an RBI single from Brandt Hendricks and added another in the eighth on a run-scoring single from Cal Tinsley to cut the lead to 4-3.

Alabama was threatening for more in the eighth when UAB closer Nick Graffeo came out of the bullpen with two outs and runners at second and third. A walk loaded the bases, but Graffeo struck out Hendricks to preserve the lead.

After a pair of insurance runs for UAB in the bottom of the eighth, including Clark's second RBI single of the game, Graffeo closed out the win in the ninth.

Alabama managed a run in the ninth and brought the go-ahead run to the plate with one out, but Graffeo induced a ground ball out and then struck out Clay Jones to end the game and pick up his third save.

Josh Rutledge went 4-for-5 with two runs scored to lead Alabama as he accounted for nearly half of the Crimson Tide's nine hits.

UAB has now defeated Alabama at Regions Park twice in the past three seasons, having also won the 2008 game in Hoover. Wednesday's victory was the first for the Blazers over a ranked opponent since taking two of three games from then-No. 4 Rice to end the 2009 regular season.

The Blazers return to Conference USA play this weekend with a trip to Orlando, Fla., for a three-game series with UCF starting Friday.

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