A remarkable story straight from today’s headlines.

Pray for GazaSteve was really disappointed. He’s a Commission To Every Nation missionary to Muslims who’s seen many amazing miracles but God just didn’t come through on this one. Working with a ministry in Gaza he was going to help a deaf soccer team attend a special camp for deaf players being held in Paris. It was a great opportunity to show the love of Jesus to these deaf Muslim men.

After a boatload of red tape they managed to get airline tickets and all the other details arranged. The hard part was done. Now they just needed $1,000 for passports. None of the guys could afford to buy their own.

Steve put the word out and waited. Surely lots of folks would want to help with this ministry opportunity. No response. The final date came and went and they didn’t even have enough money to buy a single passport. It was a huge disappointment. They had to tell the guys it just wasn’t going to happen. Continue reading

The Bible is filled with untrue statements.

tattered bibleThe Bible is filled with statements that just are not true. I was reading in Romans today and it said this:
(5:3) we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;

I don’t know about you but tribulation – for just a teeny example, think of a flat tire on a rainy day – does not cause me to break into my happy dance.

Or how about this one also in Romans:
(8:28) And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, …

We know that? Really? If I know that then why do I freak out when things I don’t like come into my life?

Continue reading

The Great I AM not

i amIn Exodus 3 God referred to Himself as I AM. Grammatically that leaves a blank that I want to fill in. I am … what? And the words that we could use to fill that blank are nearly endless.

He is love. He is joy. He is peace. He is patient. He is kind. He is holy. He is faithful. He is …

In worship this morning I was thinking of all that He is and realizing that if He is the Great I AM, then I am the great I am not.

He is Holy. I am not. He is always kind. I am not. He is always faithful. I am not. He never fails. I do. He does not judge by outward appearance. I do. He always thinks the best. I don’t. In every area where He is the I AM, I am the I-am-not. Continue reading

Why I do dumb things

alien fingerTammie Burger is a concert pianist and her husband, Stephen, is a “shrink” – therapist. They are also a missionary Pastoral Care couple with Commission To Every Nation doing a wonderful job of giving care and oversight to CTEN missionaries in Central America. I felt this post had insight that could help many of us understand at least one reason we may do dumb things – even when we know better. I hope it helps you like it did me.     – Rick
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I took a tumble in the yard and dislocated the ring finger on my left hand. It was all askew. Grotesque, actually. I thought it was broken, but Stephen saw it was dislocated, grabbed it and put it back into place. Not a happy thing, but even more disheartening, because I am preparing a series of classical piano concerts–the first one is in less than a month.

My hand feels foreign after the trauma, and my finger is quite awkward and definitely slow. Still swollen, still bruised. But, if you’re going to mess up a finger and still try to play the piano, the ring finger on the left hand is definitely the one to choose….you can work around it.

I’m working on Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata–which I learned originally when I was 13. With all the shortcuts and bad habits 13 year-olds will develop. I used particularly bad fingering when I originally learned it, but years later did the right thing and spent a lot of time fixing the fingering. It took a long time to unlearn those bad habits, but worth the effort. I rued my youthful mistakes, but worked through them. I’ve performed the piece several times since then. Continue reading

Slaughter, Savagery and God’s Glory

martyrsFor years Christians have been routinely slaughtered around the world but with the coming of the Islamic State of Iraq it’s finally front page news. The focus on it and graphic awareness that news coverage brings is causing Christians to get discouraged, frightened, angry, saddened and confused. Undoubtedly there has been “a great disturbance in the force” but could it be that the disturbance is one of rejoicing?

Scripture says “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15). Wherever the church has gone martyrdom has always followed. As Tertullian stated, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

In fact, we get our word “martyr” from the Greek word translated “witness”. So, when Jesus said, you shall be my witnesses, the first disciples heard, “you shall be my martyrs”. A martyr is simply one who testifies to the truth of his message by his willingness to sacrifice his very life rather than deny the message.

As we see the horrific pictures of butchered Christians we are repulsed and can easily wonder, “where is God, where is our government, where is hope in the midst of this mess?” But there is another level which sees that each of those who bowed their head rather than bow their knee was screaming with their own blood, “Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”

The first martyr of the church, Stephen, proclaimed forgiveness and witnessed to the truth of his message in a way that surely impacted the future apostle Paul. In the early apologetic story, Octavius points out that Romans praise to high heaven men who suffered great agonies for the cause of Rome but among Christians even the women and young boys “treat with contempt” the tortures heaped upon them rather than deny their faith. In the same way, the death of each of these in Iraq and around the globe –men, women and children – screams to the executioner that Jesus Christ is Lord and worthy of their very lives.

We can be certain that with each death a roar of applause goes up from that “great cloud of witnesses” as these runners cross the finish line and are triumphantly welcomed home by their Lord and Saviour. “Well done. Race well run. Enter in to the joy of your salvation.”

I am not saying we should do nothing to oppose the evil. We are still called to “do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God” but we must see this world from a higher plane. The news media will not give us this exalted perspective. We must get it from the Word and from God’s messengers to the church, its leaders.

Pastors, we must draw back the curtain and allow Christians to see a higher, a more glorious picture of what is happening around us. Our response was laid out by Paul in his letter to another church familiar with martyrdom.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. … Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:14, 15, 21 NIV

Any institution is only as solid as the foundation upon which it is laid. The foundation of this new Caliphate is being laid upon the “seeds of the church” – the death of God’s saints.

Yes, we pray the Lord will “deliver us from evil”. Yes we pray for God to forgive those guilty of these horrors. Yes we take what actions we can righteously take to put a stop to it. But we must never forget God is still at the helm of the universe. These and even greater evils to come were all foretold thousands of years ago but just as surely as these prophetic nightmares are being fulfilled, so will the glorious prophecies of a coming kingdom of peace, justice and righteousness.

Look up saints. Lift your head. Your Deliverer is coming.

 

God made him sick

SickThis little story really rattles my cage. What do you think??

“Azariah son of Amaziah king of Judah began to reign. … He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Amaziah had done. … The Lord afflicted Azariah with leprosy until the day he died, and he lived in a separate house.” (2 Kings 15:1-5 NIV)

What?! This man obeyed God, was a good king and yet the Lord afflicted him with leprosy – the most dreaded disease of that day. Note it specifically says the Lord gave him this affliction. Sorry if that rattles your theological cage. I don’t like the idea either but it plainly says God did this.

So where is the justice in this? How can God do such a thing to a man who is walking in obedience? It would be one thing if it said God “allowed” it but it clearly says God caused it. Can we even trust God to be just when He does stuff like this to a good king who is faithfully serving Him?

I have found when I have questions about Scripture the best commentary on Scripture is the Scripture itself. Often, the answer to hard questions is found within the pages of the Bible if I will just diligently search it out. And that is the case here. Continue reading

Incomprehensible

Scrooge duckI love this passage (Romans 11:33-36) where Paul gets so overwhelmed with God that his excitement splashes out onto the page.

33A – O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!

It may be silly but I see a picture here of Uncle Scrooge, the rich duck, who loved to dive into his rooms full of money and swim around in it. The depth of the riches of God is even deeper than Scrooge’s vault. And God’s riches are of wisdom and knowledge – deeper, richer, wiser, more enduring than gold or silver.

It is like Paul sits back in his chair awed by it – Ohhh, the depth of the riches of God. Both His wisdom and His knowledge are incomprehensible.

It makes me want to dive into that vault of wisdom and knowledge and swim around in it. Can you imagine how many of our problems would vaporize if we had God’s wisdom and knowledge on our life situations? Wouldn’t our entire life change if we could see things as God sees them? I think so.

33B – how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!

No wonder there is so much disunity in the Family of God. We all think we have God’s ways figured out and His ways are our ways. Anybody that worships different than us, believes different than us, sees God differently than we do is just plain wrong because we have Him figured out. Continue reading

The fire breathing God

fireA friend of mine believes there is no hell and that all people will be saved.  “The church portrays God as an angry, fire breathing God to keep people in fear and obedient to the church.  God is love, not some fire breathing dragon.”

I thought of him when I read this song of David.

“In my distress I called to the Lord; I called out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears. The earth trembled and quaked, the foundations of the heavens shook; they trembled because he was angry. Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it.
2 Samuel 22:7-9 NIV Continue reading

Should Christians serve in the military?

In honor of Memorial Day and all who served I’m offering this ENCORE POST

Should Christians serve?Some Christians refuse to serve in the military on religious grounds.  So what of those who do serve?  Are they disobeying God?  Let’s look into God’s Word and see what HE has to say.

Note: Because this is such a complex issue and because the topic so deeply impacts the lives of many men and women who are serving in the armed forces, this topic deserves greater attention and this post is much longer than most.

1. What did Jesus say?
John the Baptist and Jesus both spoke to soldiers in an army that was oppressing God’s people.  Certainly, if it was wrong to serve in the military, it would be extra wrong to serve in an army oppressing God’s chosen people and either John or Jesus would have addressed the issue.  Neither John nor Jesus said the soldiers should change careers.  In fact, soldiers specifically asked John what they should do and he never mentions getting out of the military.

Luke 3:14
Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”  He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely — be content with your pay.” Continue reading

Should Christians serve in the military?

Should Christians serve?In honor of Memorial Day and all who served we are offering this ENCORE POST

Some Christians refuse to serve in the military on religious grounds.  So what of those who do serve?  Are they disobeying God?  Let’s look into God’s Word and see what HE has to say.

Note: Because this is such a complex issue and because the topic so deeply impacts the lives of many men and women who are serving in the armed forces, this topic deserves greater attention and this post is much longer than most.

1. What did Jesus say?
John the Baptist and Jesus both spoke to soldiers in an army that was oppressing God’s people.  Certainly, if it was wrong to serve in the military, it would be extra wrong to serve in an army oppressing God’s chosen people and either John or Jesus would have addressed the issue.  Neither John nor Jesus said the soldiers should change careers.  In fact, soldiers specifically asked John what they should do and he never mentions getting out of the military. Continue reading