Sunday, December 31, 2006

Antioch on the Orontes and Seleucia

We started out day in Antioch on the Orontes (also known as Syrian Antioch). What an incredible experience to be in this city, so rich in Christian history. Antioch was the hub of Paul's missionary activities, his journeys usually started and ended here, his commissioning church was here, he confronted Peter here (Galatians 2), he took rest here between trips, the letter with the result of the Jerusalem council was addressed to the people here, many believe Matthew wrote his gospel from here, Paul likely wrote his letter to the Galatians from here, and it was the first place the word "Christian" was ever used.

P.S. You'll be glad to know our bags finally arrived this morning.

The city of Antioch looks much different today than it did in Paul's time.

The Orontes River flows through the center of Antioch as it did in Paul's day.

We spent some time studying artifacts at the museum in Antioch.

We then made our way about 25 miles Southwest to Seleucia. Seleucia is the port city where Paul and Barnabas set sail for Cyprus on their first missionary journey.

The two inlets into the sea are all that remains of this ancient seaport.

As we walked along the ancient seaport I looked out to sea thinking about Paul and Barnabas doing the very same thing some 2000 years ago, wondering what God had in store for them on their journey.

This is the inscription of the Emperor when Titus' tunnel was completed in 72 AD.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Greetings From Istanbul!!!

We finally made it here… Well kind of. Emily and I and all our classmates made it but our bags didn’t. Last I heard all of our bags (yes all 40 from our entire group) were somewhere between London and Adana, Turkey. Although we’ve been wearing the same clothes now for over 48 hours, our spirits are sky high as we prepare to study firsthand the journeys of the Apostle Paul.

We spent the today (the 30th) in Istanbul. It was freezing cold but we saw several amazing sites in the only city in the world that spans two continents.

The Blue Mosque (named for the tiles on the inside and not the outward appearance) was a bit of a let down. I had heard so much about it but when we were actually there it seemed to be more for tourists than a Muslim place of worship. Interestingly enough myself and a fellow student, Onsi, both felt a significant lack of a feeling of demonic oppression than we had felt at other mosques before.

We then visited the Hagia Sophia (the center of the Eastern Church for a thousand years). It was sad to see how much destruction of the church had taken place when it was converted into a Mosque in 1432 (it is now a museum). However the history of this building is amazing. Of the 7 Ecumenical councils, numbers 5 and 6 took place here. It was also the first basilica to have a single domed roof.

The Ecumenical Councils took place right here

The mosaics on the walls (many of which were covered up by plaster when the basilica was converted to a mosque) are absolutely stunning. This picture is made up of thousands of single colored pieces of glass.

We caught a late flight and headed 350 miles south to Adana, the 4th largest city in Turkey. Tomorrow we’ll see Antioch (Paul’s base of operations and the first place the word “Christian” was used) and Seleucia (the port Paul and Barnabas sailed to Cyprus on their first journey).

Thursday, December 07, 2006

What is Chanukah?

The celebration of the Jewish festival of Chanukah (sometimes written as Hanukkah) remains a mystery to many Bible believers. It begins this year on Friday, December 15, at sundown. Its beginning is on the Jewish Shabat this year. The date is Kislev 25 on the Jewish calendar. It continues for eight days in commemorating the tradition that the oil for the light in the Second Temple (the one built in the time of Haggai and Zechariah – completed in 516 BCE) was sustained so that the Maccabees could finished [sic] their victory over Antiochus Epiphanes and the Seleucid domination of the Holy Land. The Temple was then cleansed from its pagan defilement.

Jewish People give gifts to one another on each day of this celebration, usually beginning with a small item that does not cost a great deal. Each day the gifts increase in value.

The prominent symbol of the celebration of Chanukah is a Menorah with nine branches instead of the seven used for the Temple Menorah (lampstand). The four branches on each side of a central candle (total of eight) represent the eight days that tradition says the light of the Temple was sustained miraculously by the oil. The arguments among Jewish scholars over the significance of the central candle continue to this day, but the prevalent view of rabbinical tradition is that the central candle refers to the light of the Messiah Himself!

That seems to match what we read in the Gospel of John. In John 10:22 we read that our Lord Yeshua was present at this “feast of dedication” in Jerusalem, and it was “winter.” In John 7:2 we know that the events of that chapter were clearly at the time of the “feast of Tabernacles” which comes in the fall in the month of Tishrei (Tishrei 15-22), which is the seventh month o the Jewish calendar. The following month is Cheshvan, and immediately following is the month of Kislev when Chanukah is celebrated. So, the period of time between the events of John 7 and John 10 is approximately 63 days. Some Biblical scholars believe that there is a slight “time gap” between John 7 and John 8, the story of the women taken in adultery. In John 8:12 Yeshua said: “I am the LIGHT of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” Similar words were spoken by our Lord in John 12:35-36, 46.

In John 8:20 we learn that the words of our Lord Yeshua about being the “LIGHT of the world” were spoken in the “treasury” as He “taught in the temple.” If the occasion was connected with the celebration of Chanukah, then we know that giant candelabras were lit in that area of the Temple during the festival; and all the way from Amman, Jordan, it looked like Jerusalem was on fire (remark in the writings of Flavius Josephus)! It appears from the closing words of John 8, that Yeshua escaped an attempt to stone Him. John 9 is the story of the man born blind who was healed by our Lord. It is possible that the words of John 10 about the Shepherd and His sheep should be connected with the story of John 9. In any case, by John 10:22 we are now at the “feast of dedication (Chanukah).”

This celebration is known as the “festival of lights,” and many scholars believe that all the “lights” associated with the celebration of Christmas actually have their roots in the Jewish festival of Chanukah.

Reprinted from Hope for Today Newletter Volume XI Number 12 - “What is Chanukah” by David Hocking

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Bondage Breaker by Neil T. Anderson

After my experience in Eastern Europe last September I realized I didn't know as much about spiritual warfare as I should. So I picked up several books dealing with the topic. I just finished one of them entitled The Bondage Breaker by Neil T. Anderson.

Anderson divides the book into three parts. The first part examines a Christian's identity in Christ while the second part looks deeper into Satan's tactics to defeat us. I thought these two sections were good but he could have condensed it considerably.

However it's the third section, "Steps to Freedom" that I found most helpful. Based on the premise that "...people are not in bondage because of past traumas - they are in bondage to the lies they believed as a result of past traumas" Anderson puts forth a seven step process to teach Christians God's truths and help them overcome the enemy.

Don't be fooled, Anderson clearly rejects that there is anything magical about the words or process used. Helping Christians to discern and reject lies about them from Satan and learning to see themselves as God sees them, will set them free from bondage. Anderson then gives a step by step process to help Christians discover Satan's footholds in their lives and how they can remove these footholds through prayer and confession.

For the most part I think this book is fantastic and I recommend every Christian buy it. I also very highly recommend every Christian to go on a half-day personal retreat to complete chapter 13's Steps to Freedom in Christ.

You can buy the book by clicking here The Bondage Breaker®

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Guardian

Due to the busyness of my schedule I don’t often get a chance to go to the movies and when I do, I usually go to one that doesn’t require much heavy thinking, as a way to “escape” if you will. This blog is not a source for movie reviews, however it does focus on contemporary apologetics and after watching this movie, it got me thinking about something that I wanted to share with you.

I went and saw “The Guardian” a few days ago. The Guardian (staring Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher) is a movie about the United States Coast Guard rescue swimmers. Although the film takes some creative license, these men and women have arguable the most difficult job in the world. When you are far out to sea in the middle of a dangerous storm and your boat is sinking, these men and women risk their own lives, as their motto so clearly states, “So Others May Live.”

So others may live. What a noble concept; sacrificially ending one’s own existence so that someone else can extend theirs. It sounds nice but is it accurate?

Perhaps being accurate isn't the right question. Perhaps a better question would be to ask “Is believing in the nobility of laying down one’s life so that another can live, consistent with a person’s worldview?”

Let me try to unpack that a bit:

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I believe that human beings are valuable because they are made in the image of God (See Genesis 1:26). Sacrificing one’s own existence for another is noble and virtuous. John 15:13 says “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

However not everyone can say that. There are many different worldviews and religions that teach many different things. Depending on your specific worldview/religious beliefs will determine whether you truly believe saving another’s life at great personal risk is noble, foolish, or moot.

Consider the following:

Evolution/Naturalism – An evolutionist (or naturalist) believes that mankind exists as the result of pure accident. That protons, neutrons and atoms just happened to combine the right way to create life and over billions of years humans are the latest in a series of life forms. But if you believe in evolution you can’t ascribe worth to a human any more than you can a rock. Neither has more value than the other. Jumping from a helicopter into 20 foot seas to save a person is no more noble than trying to save a piece of granite.

Furthermore, risking your life to save another is contradictory to the “survival of the fittest” philosophy embraced by Charles Darwin. Darwin stated that mankind’s chief end is to survive in order to pass down your genes to the next generation. Those most fit to survive will pass on their genes and those least fit will die off, thereby continuing the evolutionary process. But by risking your life to save someone else, you not only risk removing yourself from the gene pool, but enabling one “less fit” to continue to pass their genes on. Rather than being a righteous action, the rescue swimmer is simply demonstrating his/her own “less fit” status for passing on genes than that of the victim. Saving another’s life at risk to your own is a complete contradiction of Darwin’s philosophy. (To further develop this concept read my post on “What is a Right?” by Clicking Here).

Hinduism – A Hindu would have a hard time finding the nobility in sacrificing your life because the victim essentially had it coming to them. Hindu’s would argue that the victim’s potential drowning must have been bad karma from his/her previous life. They would say that hopefully in the next life the victim would do better in breaking free from the cycle of reincarnation.

Buddhism – A Buddhist would find no nobility or justification in self-sacrifice because there really isn’t a problem at all. The victim isn’t really drowning and you’re not really there to save them because you, the victim, and the raging seas around you don’t really exist in the first place. You just appear to be a person at a specific point in the cycle towards reaching enlightenment. It's simply an illusion.

Atheism – An atheist would have to find the rescue swimmer foolish to sacrifice his/her life. Since atheists don’t believe in God they can’t justify or attribute any value to human beings, and since they don’t believe in an afterlife, there would be no “reward” in heaven (or paradise etc.) for the foolish actions of the rescue swimmer. Nothing to look forward to but complete nothingness as your body rots away.

When I look at these different worldviews in this situation I find myself struggling with what I know to be true in reality. That deep down in my heart, saving another's life is a good thing. While sitting in that theatre I don’t know how many Buddhists, Hindu’s, Atheists, or Naturalists there were, but I presume there had to be some. However I couldn’t find a single person in that theatre that seemed to be feeling anything less than genuine admiration for the rescue swimmers of the US Coast Guard. Nobody mumbled about “foolish acts for no good reason.” Nobody yelled out that “Nothing that film depicts really existed so what’s the big deal?” Nobody sighed outloud “He must have deserved to drown due to Karma. I’m sure he’ll do better in the next life.”

Not one single person. In actuality it was quite the opposite. I personally believe that’s because deep down in all of our hearts we know that sacrificing our life for another is among the most noble, generous, loving things we can do.

We can make up all kinds of excuses about where we came from, whether we have a second shot at life, or whether we even exist at all, but when it comes time to put our beliefs to the test, all these beliefs will fail, most without even realizing it, because God didn’t create us that way.

God loves mankind so much that he sacrificed his Son for us, and being made in his image and following his example, it is the supreme act of love to do it for another and for that reason alone, do we find self-sacrifice for the benefit of others to be among the most noblest of all deeds.

Friday, October 13, 2006

What Does A True Christian Look Like?

"...And even in the painful aftermath of the shootings, the Amish continued their witness to the love of Christ, reaching out to Roberts’s family, attending Roberts’s funeral, comforting his wife and children, and providing for them through a fund established for Roberts’s victims and their families. One victim’s family even invited the Roberts to their daughter’s funeral. In the most dramatic way, they forgave Roberts."
-- BreakPoint Commentary - 10-11-06 - Charles Colson

By now almost all of us have heard about the recent tradgedy in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania where 5 young Amish girls were executed by a gunman (Charles Roberts) in their schoolhouse. But while many of us try to sort through our own feelings there has been little coverage, or at least little understanding, of how and why the Amish are handling it the way they are.

Quite simply, the Amish are taking the words of Jesus literally.

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you."
-- Matthew 5:43-44

Perhaps Katie Weaver, an Amish woman that traveled from Michigan to support those in Pennsylvania, said it best, "We can tell people about Christ and actually show you in our walk that we forgive, not just say it."

But how can someone forgive another when something so bad has happened? That's a great question. Is it a clear understanding that our own sin is just as bad in God's eyes? Is it being able to tap into some sort of supernatural strength from God? Is it both of these or even more? I wish I had a clear cut answer. Until I do I take comfort in knowing that not even Jesus' 12 closest friends figured it out right away.

[Jesus speaking] "And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him." And the apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"
-- Luke 17:4-5

Read the entire BreakPoint commentary

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Lord's Prayer Sung in Ukrainian

The following video... actually it's audio recorded in a video format (long story), was recorded during a worship service at a new church plant among "teens and twenties", (many ostracized by the "official church" solely for their age) in central Ukraine.

I always feel like I'm getting a taste of what heaven will be like when I hear songs sung to God in foreign languages.


Monday, October 02, 2006

Demonization and the Power of Jesus

I had an incredible experience last week. One that's never happened to me before. Even now I am trying to sort through my thoughts and feelings about it. Rather than try to put everything down here and attempt to have it make sense, I'll redirect you to the blog of someone else who was there with me and is much more articulate than I am.


or go to

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Ukraine and Romania

I'm just finishing up a 14 day trip through 4 countries that has found me in 8 different hotels with 5 different roommates. As you can imagine I'm pretty tired but I wanted to post a few pictures of just a few things I've learned:

The Russian Orthodox Church traces its origins to Ukraine.

The Orthodox Church seems to put more emphasis on works than what Jesus did on the cross.

Although beautiful to look at, the Orthodox church in Ukraine and Romania has found itself completley irrelevant and unable to reach the people.

This is the inside of a Ukrainian Orthodox church.

Life in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.

Anyone hungry for some Ukrainian food?

Even though it's located less than 100 yards from their "home" the lead bishop of the Orthodox Church in Romania has made it clear that he wants nothing to do with these children.

Who will share the love of Jesus with these children?

Marian and me in Sept. 2005

Marian and me in Sept. 2006

On my trip to Romania in 2005 I quickly bonded with a young boy named Marian. I believe he is probably 5 or 6 years old, but life in these wretched conditions makes one's age difficult to determine. Having no running water, electricity, food, or even a toilet, can take it's toll. It was such a blessing to be able to find my friend Marian again on my return visit. I didn't think I'd be able to find him among the hundreds of other children and if I did I wasn't sure how he'd be. I was thrilled to see how much healthier he looked this year. He still had that same warm smile that I remembered and he seems to be overcoming impossible odds.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

So Have You Heard The One About...?

I've got a good one for you. While giving a history lesson to around 1500 Catholic theology students the Pope, reading from a 14th century document, says:

"Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."
In angry response two Muslims stormed a Catholic hospital in Somalia and shot a 70 year old nun 3 times in the back killing her and her body guard. Then we find out:

"Hardline cleric Sheikh Abubakar Hassan Malin [in Somalia] on Friday told worshippers at his mosque to hunt down and kill whoever offended the Prophet Mohammed. "
Okay so let me make sure I have this right; These Muslims are angry about the Pope reading from a document more than 600 years old, which describes their religion evil and inhuman and to express this anger they go out and murder innocent people?

Am I the only one who sees the irony in this?

Click Here or Click Here for the articles

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Has Billy Graham Become an Inclusivist?

I know I have a hard time imagining that as well but after having read a featured article in the August 14th edition of Newsweek magazine I was definitely surprised to learn of the evolution of some of his beliefs.

The article was written by the managing editor of Newsweek, Jon Meacham. If that name rings a bell it may be because I wrote a critique a few years ago of his article about the birth of Christ. [To read those critiques Click Here and Click Here].

Here are some of the “highlights” (or lowlights) of Meachams interview with the most well-known evangelist of all time:

[In reference to the Bible] …"I'm not a literalist in the sense that every single jot and tittle is from the Lord," Graham says. "This is a little difference in my thinking through the years." He has, then, moved from seeing every word of Scripture as literally accurate to believing that parts of the Bible are figurative…

I’d be interested to know how he reconciles that with Second Timothy 3:16 which states “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” [emphasis mine].

[At one point in the article Meacham inserts a section from an interview with Franklin Graham, Billy’s son.] In perhaps his most celebrated remark, Franklin has referred to Islam as "a very evil and wicked religion," and declines to back down. "After 9/11, there were a lot of things being said about how the God of Islam and the God of the Christian faith were one and the same, but that's simply not true ... ," Franklin told NEWSWEEK. "The God that I worship does not require me to kill other people. The God that I worship tells me I am to love my enemy, to give him food when he's hungry and water when he's thirsty."…. Asked about his son's use of the phrase "evil and wicked" in reference to Islam, Graham says: "I would not say Islam is wicked and evil ... I have a lot of friends who are Islamic. There are many wonderful people among them. I have a great love for them. I have spoken at Islamic meetings, in Nigeria and in different parts of the world."

Refusing to condemn the worship of a false God? I could be way wrong, but it seems to me anything that worships and praises a false God would be, by definition, evil and wicked (remember the first commandment?). I guess I just can’t see how God would look at that sort of behavior and be pleased with it.

Finally, here is the biggest ouch moment for me. Billy Graham, the man who has preached of Salvation through Jesus alone, all over the entire world for the past 60 years goes on to say:

A unifying theme of Graham's new thinking is humility. He is sure and certain of his faith in Jesus as the way to salvation. When asked whether he believes heaven will be closed to good Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or secular people, though, Graham says: "Those are decisions only the Lord will make. It would be foolish for me to speculate on who will be there and who won't ... I don't want to speculate about all that. I believe the love of God is absolute. He said he gave his son for the whole world, and I think he loves everybody regardless of what label they have." Such an ecumenical spirit may upset some Christian hard-liners, but in Graham's view, only God knows who is going to be saved: "As an evangelist for more than six decades, Mr. Graham has faithfully proclaimed the Bible's Gospel message that Jesus is the only way to Heaven," says Graham spokesman A. Larry Ross. "However, salvation is the work of Almighty God, and only he knows what is in each human heart."

Wow! I know, not what I was expecting to hear either. Don’t get me wrong, I completely agree that only God knows the heart, God loves everyone, and that God alone is the gatekeeper of heaven’s doors. But I also believe John 14:6 that says “Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. It seems clear to me that belief in Jesus for the forgiveness of one’s sins is a foundational requirement. I can’t understand where he see’s a loophole for those religions that deny Christ. Then again, the article is written by a strong opponent of historical Christianity and it’s quite possible that Billy’s words have been twisted against him to support Meacham’s personal agenda.

If you’d like to read the article, in its entirety for yourself, go to I'd be very interested to read any of your comments whether you agree or disagree with me.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Outnumbered and Surrounded by Enemies

I receive a free monthly magazine from The Voice of the Martyrs. An organization that works with Christians persecuted for their faith, around the world. In an ironic twist, it seems more often than not, that these persecuted Christians are doing more to share the love of Jesus with non-believers, than those of us who live in free countries.

The following is taken from an article from a recent edition of the magazine. (It should be noted that in Egypt it is illegal to convert to Christianity).

One Egyptian Christian approached two imams of a large mosque. He told them “I want to know about the truth and talk about Islam. The imams were delighted and told him to come to the mosque the following day at one o’clock.

The next day when the Christian walked in, he was surprised to see the two leaders sitting there with 10 of their students, or disciples. The Christian prayed, “Oh God, help me find a way to talk to them.” He was outnumbered and surrounded by enemies. Sitting down on the carpet with the group, he addressed the imam with the traditional term “beloved.” The imam stopped him. “You cannot call me that!” said the irritated leader, “I cannot love you as a friend.” The Christian opened his Bible to Matthew 5: “But my holy book, the Bible, commands me to love you. Jesus said we should love our enemies.

The imam’s disciples were watching this discourse with great interest. One of them turned and asked their leader, “Why can’t we be a friend to him?” Another asked, “Why does God say we must hate him, but his God tells him to love us?” The imam stood up, furious, and tried to speak, but his anger, or the hand of God, caused his voice to choke up. He put his hand on his own throat, his face turning red, then whirled around and left the room. The Muslim disciples moved closer on the rug, clustering around the Christian. They asked questions for the rest of the afternoon. They wanted to know more about this power to love your enemies. Some still meet with this bold brother.

To get your own subscription visit The Voice of the Martyrs website.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Spiritual Accountability Questions

The following is the letter from Chuck Swindoll I mentioned in my last post. I think it lists some great questions and I plan to use it as a guide in my accountability group.

Being creatures with blind spots and tendencies toward rationalization, we must also be in close touch with a few trustworthy individuals with whom we meet on a regular basis. Knowing that such an encounter is going to happen helps us hold the line morally and ethically. I know of nothing more effective for maintaining a pure heart and keeping one’s life balanced and on target than being a part of an accountability group. It is amazing what such a group can provide to help us hold our passions on check!

Recently, I was encouraged to hear about a minister who meets once a week with a small group of men. They are committed to one another’s purity. They pray with and for each other. They talk openly and honestly about their struggles, weaknesses, temptations, and trials. In addition to these general things they look one another in the eye and answer no less than 8 specific questions:

1. Have you been with a woman (or man) this week in such a way that was inappropriate or could have looked to others that you were using poor judgment?

2. Have you been completely above board in your financial dealings this week?

  • Are you honoring God with your money?

  • Tithing regularly?

  • Getting out of debt?

3. Have you purposely exposed yourself to any explicit material (pornographic and/or sexually suggestive material) this week?

  • Have you held on to or fostered any impure thoughts?

4. Have you spent daily time in prayer and in God’s Word this week?

  • Where is the Bible you are reading?

  • When do you have your time with God?

  • Do you keep a prayer list?

5. Have you fulfilled the mandate of your calling? In other words, have you fulfilled the responsibilities God has called you to as a member of His body and witness to the world?

  • How is your service for Christ going?

  • Have you done your part of fulfilling the Great Commission by sharing how to become a Christian with someone or discipling other believers?

6. Have you taken time off to be with your family this week?

  • What have you done to show your wife she is cherished?

  • What have you done to show your kids they are special and unconditionally loved?

7. Is there anyone you need to ask for forgiveness from or anyone to forgive?

8. Have you just lied to us?

Authenticity and Accountability

The past month has found me right in the midst of a move to a new home (hence the reason I haven’t posted in so long). As is inevitable in any move I began looking through old files and I came across a letter from Chuck Swindoll. As I read it I began to think about the hundreds of pastors and church leaders I’ve worked with from all over the world and two of the biggest obstacles to their work.

One of the biggest chasms between many pastors and their congregants is a lack of authenticity. So often it seems that a pastor will preach from the pulpit about how everyone else should live their life, but then never takes the time to explain the struggles he is facing in his own life. This often causes the church-goer to believe there is something wrong with them if they are struggling with something that seems to affect no one else. Over time this syndrome will cause many to view the pastor as having a “holier than thou” status and eventually they will walk away from the church disgruntled.

The other half of this deadly combination is a lack of accountability. Quickly eroding the trust and credibility of the pastor and just a small step away from becoming full blown hypocrisy, lack of accountability will cause the most moral of men to eventually fall. One of the most destructive things to happen to a church is moral failure by a pastor. Perhaps the single best method for preventing moral failure is accountability. (Anyone remember Proverbs 27:17?) Far too often a pastor is so busy tending to people that he fails to forge accountability relationships with others, however these relationships are absolutely vital if one hopes to have any defense against the giant bulls-eye painted on him by the Devil.

Becoming authentic and honest from the pulpit will require a tremendous amount of courage (at first) and the solicitation of feedback from trusted peers, but it can be done and it will become easier over time. Gathering a friend, or small group of friends, together to help hold each other accountable is much more difficult. It may even seem terrifying at first. Revealing your deep innermost struggles and temptations to another person may leave you feeling vulnerable and awkward at first. But with the right person (or group of people) and an atmosphere of trust and confidence, one can establish a line of protection against moral failure that will be exponentially more difficult for the Devil to penetrate.

Although I have written specifically about pastors, that by no means excludes any of us from needing to exhibit these characteristics in our own lives. How will those who don’t have a relationship with Jesus, come to have one if they look at our lives as inauthentic or holier than thou? How will they view me if I continually have moral failures and do little to prevent it from happening again? For me personally, authenticity and accountability are two areas I could do much better in and I plan to make an intentional effort to improve them starting now. How about you?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Did They Really Say That? # 2

"The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy"

-- Bringham Young in Journal of Discourses 11:269 on August 19, 1866

(Bringham Young was the second prophet and former President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints [Mormon])

Sunday, May 21, 2006

King of Glory Video

This was a video played during the church service on Easter Sunday. It is a morphing of historical images of Jesus set to music. I didn't create it and I'm not sure who did (otherwise I'd give them the credit) but I think it's pretty awesome. I had to compress the file quite a bit so it may appear a bit choppy but it is still definitely worth a watch.

The video is about 5 minutes long so it may take a few minutes to download. (It may be faster just to download the video. For a PC Right Click on the picture and select "Save Target As" for a Mac, hold down the "Option" button and click on the photo.) Also, this particular video will require a Quicktime Player to watch


Thursday, May 18, 2006

I'm Still Alive

Okay, so I just realized that last you heard I was in the barrios of Venezuela and that was over 2 weeks ago. I could see how leaving you hanging probably wasn't the best idea. Sorry about that. Things have been insane these past few weeks. Seems like nothing is going right. We've had major computer problems, health issues, both our cars died and we're looking for a new place to live. Unfortunately blogging as been put on a temporary hiatus (very temporary). I'm trying to get back to it ASAP, especially with the Da Vinci Code coming out tomorrow.

Thanks for hanging with me in the meantime.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Still in Venezuela....

I had a quick minute and wanted to put up a few pictures. Here are just a handful taken over the past few days. They include photos of a plaza in Venezuela, a church, and me during one of my finer moments of cultural sensitivity. (Click on any photo to enlarge).

Monday, April 24, 2006

Welcome to Venezuela

I arrived in Caracas Venezuela late last night. I'm here to work with our teams working with the poor in the barrios as well as helping our staff transition to Venezuelan led leadership. The barrios of Caracas fill the hills. Communities are filled with generations of families that never leave the barrio. Millions of people only know life like this. (Click on a photo to enlarge).

Barrios line the hills

Barrio homes stacked upon each other

Me with barrio homes in the background

Some of our team that live in the barrios day in and day out

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter!

I just wanted to wish you a Happy Easter.

I hope you take a moment today to reflect how Jesus' pure love for you is what enabled him to face the cross head on. His desire to give you an opportunity to come to God (which his death provided) gave him the strength to go through the most grusome type of execution known to man.

If you have questions or doubts about whether or not the resurrection actually took place, I'd encourage you to scroll down this page and look at my series of posts from March 30, 2005 through May 10, 2005 or click on the links below.

Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead? - Introduction

Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead? - Factors Increasing Reliability

Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead? - The Empty Tomb Part 1

Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead? - The Empty Tomb Part 2

Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead? - The Empty Tomb Part 3

Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead? - The Appearances

Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead? - Dying For A Cause

Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead? - Alternative Views

Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead? - Conclusion

May the Lord richely bless you this Easter!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Jesus Walked on Ice? (part 2)

<--- Modern Day Sea of Galilee

Since some of you may not be familiar with the story of Jesus walking on the water, I will start this post by looking at the biblical account first. The story of Jesus walking on the water can be found in three of the four gospels. It is recorded in John 6:16-21, Mark 6:45-52, and Matthew 14:22-33. Since the account in Matthew has the most detail, I will use it as my base passage.

"Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." "Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water." "Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."

- Matthew 14:22-33

The Sea of Galilee is 650 feet below sea level, 145 feet deep and surrounded by hills. These physical features make it subject to sudden windstorms that cause massive waves.

Okay, so let me paint the picture for you. Earlier in the evening Jesus sent the disciples on ahead out to sea while he stayed back to pray. Now it’s roughly four o’clock in the morning and there’s a boat full of experienced fishermen out about 3 ½ miles from shore. They are tired from a long night out at sea and then the storm comes in. Because of the geographical features of this sea, fierce winds pick up and massive waves begin crashing around the boat. Verse 24 states that the wind was so strong that the boat couldn’t move against it.

Are you picturing this scene?

For arguments sake, let’s set aside that Jesus, as God incarnate obviously would have the ability to control the laws of nature (after all, he created them). Let’s bring Nof’s theory of ice on the Sea of Galilee into the picture and see what that looks like.

So how is it Jesus, in his sandals and robe, manages to maintain his balance on a piece of floating ice, through a storm fierce enough to hold back a fishing boat full of experienced fishermen, for 3 ½ miles? Have you ever walked on a frozen pond or an ice skating rink without ice skates? It’s incredibly difficult to do even under the best of conditions. I would argue that it would be impossible for a man to do what Jesus did, under the conditions argued by Nof.

But let’s look deeper. In verse 29 we see that Peter wanted to join Jesus on the water. After an invitation by Jesus, Peter gets out of the boat, and walks to Jesus. After a few moments Peter realizes the ferocity of the storm, and takes his focus off of Jesus and onto the waves around him and subsequently begins to sink.

Of course this raises questions for me. If Peter was on ice, why did he begin to sink? Furthermore, if there truly was ice on the water, wouldn’t Peter or the other disciples be able to see it as he readied himself over the edge? Wouldn’t one of them be able to counter Jesus’ apparent miracle with an eyewitness account of floating ice? Yet we have no hint that that happened.

Obviously Nof takes none of this into consideration. His biased approach of supporting his predetermined conclusion leaves no room for critical analysis or plain old common sense.

Coming from a background in law enforcement, I tend to put a lot more weight on eyewitness testimony than I do any other form of evidence. In analyzing this journal article, whether I look at problems with the study, or problems that arise when compared with the biblical account, I am left with one definitive and critical question: If Jesus was doing nothing more than merely surfing on a piece of ice, than why did all of the disciples worship him saying ‘Truly you are the son of God’”?

Jesus Walked on Ice? (part 1)

<---- Current Location of the Sea of Galilee (AKA Lake Kinneret)
[click on photo to enlarge]

There is a new study out by Florida State University Professor Doron Nof in the April edition of the Journal of Paleolimnology. The study claims Jesus didn’t walk on water, rather an obscure and rare storm caused part of the Sea of Galilee to freeze, enabling him to walk on ice. Once I was able to stop laughing at the absurdity of this statement, I decided to investigate it for myself and I actually read through the article. (For those of you without access to the journal, you can checkout a news article about it by CLICKING HERE.)

As I began to read the article, I realized that there were some major problems with Professor Nof’s arguments. For ease of reading, I decided to categorize these flaws into two different categories: problems with the study and problems when compared to the biblical text.

My first problem with this study is that it’s speculative and just plain bad science. Professor Nof started his study as a witch-hunt. With a reputation for developing theories of natural causes to biblical accounts (i.e. the flood, parting of the red sea) Nof appears to develop his conclusion first and then tries to find data to support his conclusion. Any 6th grader could tell you that this is the opposite of the true scientific method which seeks to derive its conclusion from the data rather than vice versa.

For example, Nof states “With the idea that much of our cultural heritage is based on human observations of nature, we sought a natural process that could perhaps explain the origin of the account that Jesus Christ walked on water.”

Doesn’t this sound like they aren’t so much interested in discovering truth, no matter where it lies (i.e. the scientific method) but rather intentionally seek to find data establishing a non-miraculous explanation?

In an interview after the study, Nof said “I’m not trying to provide any information that has to do with theology here, all we’ve thought is about the natural process. What theologians or anybody else does with that it’s their business so to speak.”

This may sound nice at first, but think about what he’s actually saying “all we’ve thought about is the natural process.” This means he automatically excludes anything that isn’t a natural process, right from the start. The cards are already stacked against anything miraculous from even being a possibility. His pursuit isn’t to seek truth, but rather to cast doubt. It’s no different than a junior high girl starting a rumor just because she doesn’t like someone.

Nof makes numerous other statements supporting this such as “…our present explanation does not exactly address ‘walking on water’ but rather provides a plausible physical process that has some characteristics similar to those described in the New Testament” but I think you get the point.

But in the interest of fairness, let’s look at what arguments Nof himself claims. Remember, Nof’s whole argument is that the water in the Sea of Galilee was frozen, thereby allowing Jesus to appear to walk on water when in actuality he was walking on ice. Nof argues that while just about impossible for the sea to freeze today, it possibly froze a handful of times over the past 2600 years.

The following are quotes taken directly from Nof:

Throughout recent history there have been no known records of a total ice formation on its top. Furthermore, given that convection requires an initial cooling of the entire lake down to 4°C, it is difficult to imagine how such a low-latitude lake, presently subject to two-digit temperatures during the winter, could ever freeze.

Such a perfect combination of conditions on the low-latitude Kinneret [Sea of Galilee] might well seem miraculous. In the last 120 centuries, Nof calculates the odds as roughly once in 1,000 years. However, during the life of Jesus the prevailing climate may have favored the more frequent formation of springs ice -- about once in 30 to 160 years

"In today's climate, the chance of springs ice forming in northern Israel is effectively zero, or about once in more than 10,000 years."

As natural scientists, we simply explain that unique freezing processes probably happened in that region only a handful of times during the last 12,000 years,"."

So let me make sure I understand, in the last 12,000 years the sea has probably frozen over 12 times, and in today’s world (which is the time frame we are doing the study) it’s practically impossible to have it freeze over, we are discounting the eyewitness testimony from those actually at the scene and are now asserting that the timing was so perfect as to allow an opportunity for Jesus to present himself as a fraud?

In the next post we’ll compare the study to what the Bible has to say about the events of that day.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Context! Context! Context! (part 2)

I was recently visiting a popular Atheist website. The writer was claiming that the Bible was perverse and disgusting and promoted immoral activity. He then quoted the following verse to substantiate his point:

Genesis 19:32 "Come, let us make our father drink wine, and let us lie with him, that we may preserve our family through our father."

Now based solely off of what is written, I would agree that this incestuous behavior is pretty disgusting. But the real question is whether or not the quoted text is actually representative of what the Bible is teaching. Remember, the Bible in many places is written as a historical narrative. That means that it records what actually happened and just because something is recorded doesn’t mean the behavior was approved of. Let’s now look at the entire story in context (remember Lot and his daughters just barely escaped Sodom and Gomorrah as God began to destroy it and Lot's wife died in the process).

Genesis 19:30-38 “And Lot went up from Zoar, and stayed in the mountains, and his two daughters with him; for he was afraid to stay in Zoar; and he stayed in a cave, he and his two daughters. Then the first-born said to the younger, "Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of the earth. Come, let us make our father drink wine, and let us lie with him, that we may preserve our family through our father. So they made their father drink wine that night, and the first-born went in and lay with her father; and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose. And it came about on the morrow, that the first-born said to the younger, "Behold, I lay last night with my father; let us make him drink wine tonight also; then you go in and lie with him, that we may preserve our family through our father. So they made their father drink wine that night also, and the younger arose and lay with him; and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose. Thus both the daughters of Lot were with child by their father. And the first-born bore a son, and called his name Moab; he is the father of the Moabites to this day. And as for the younger, she also bore a son, and called his name Ben-ammi; he is the father of the sons of Ammon to this day.”

There are several important things to note here. First, Lot was not aware of what was happening so he did not approve of this behavior. Secondly, his daughters secretly plotted against him, drugged him, and then finally raped him. Each bore a son as a result of this activity. (It is also important to note that the daughters were not driven by lust. Rather they were driven by the fear they would never marry and therefore they would be left with no one care for them. This certainly doesn't excuse their immoral behavior, but it does show how the sinful culture of Sodom and Gomorrah caused them to justify their actions.) God will not be mocked and even a cursory study of the Old Testament will show that the Moabites and the Ammonites were among the most wicked people alive during that era.

The sin exhibited by Lot’s daughters had a long and lasting outcome that affected thousands of people. (Think about people you know who seem to have a long family line of problems. They are affected by other’s choices much the same way). The Bible did not record this activity because it supports the behavior but rather to show the real consequences of sin in real people’s lives.

Not simply looking at a verse but the entire context of the passage could be used in many other situations as well. For example, John 11:35 simply says “Jesus wept.” Now if we just look at this verse, someone could claim that an all powerful God was actually more of a crybaby. However, looking at the verse in context we can see that is far from the truth and that in his crying he was not only proving his humanity, but expressing deep heartfelt emotion. Therefore when life throws us its worse and we are heartbroken, we can know that we have a God in heaven who can empathize with us.

This post has gone on to be a bit longer than I intended. I hope you found it useful and see the importance not only for your own understanding of the Bible but in refuting those who simply pick and choose verses to make the Bible say what they want it too. If you’d like more information on this topic, you can

Monday, April 03, 2006

Context! Context! Context! (part 1)

One of the biggest problems we face in quoting from the Bible is that people can make the Bible pretty much say anything that they want. As noted Missiologist, Church Planter, and Professor Tom Steffen put it:

“People’s assumptions about God impact their perception of Scripture. Those who define the Supreme Being as a God of love may approach Scripture as devotional literature. People who view God as logical and linear may view the Bible as a book of verifiable propositions. Atheists who claim that God does not exist may search the Bible for ways to refute his existence. Some approach the Bible as a great work of literary art while others use the text mystically to discern direction for life”

Knowing this, followers of Christ must make sure that when we are quoting from the Bible, we are accurately quoting what the text is saying. Oftentimes when discussing the Bible we can be quick to turn to a verse that substantiates our point. However many people don’t know that the Bible wasn’t originally written this way. There was no “divine inspiration” of chapters and verses. In fact the Bible wasn’t divided into chapters and verses until the medieval times. Stephen Langton first divided the books of the Bible into chapters in 1205 AD and Robert Estienne (Stephanus) further divided each chapter into verses in 1565 AD. Although these divisions don’t affect the truth of the message, they can sometimes cause it to be confusing. We need to be aware of this to have an accurate understanding what the Bible is saying.

Stay tuned for the real life application…

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Did They Really Say That? #1

''We will try to see if he converts to Islam, for Islam is the religion of compassion. But if he does not, Islamic law will be enforced,''

- Afghanistan Supreme Court Judge Ansarullah Mawlavizada in reference to the trial of Afghan Abdur Rahman who faces the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Food For Thought

I recently received a letter from Voice of the Martyrs an organization that works to meet the needs of persecuted Christians all over the world. The following is an excerpt from that letter and I think it raises a good question about the nature of who Jesus was in comparison to Mohammed.

“Last week I read an article that you may see in a future newsletter. The Christian writer was talking about the violent Muslim riots resulting from the cartoon of Mohammed with a bomb in his turban. Mohammed was a warrior and violently killed many for Islam. The writer muses that if someone drew a cartoon of Jesus with a turban, what would they put in it? A fish? A loaf of bread or the name of a hospital or orphanage? This is an interesting thought to ponder…We at VOM are thankful for dedicated readers who realize that the bread and fish, along with the gospel are more powerful than any bomb.”

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Back From Cambodia

I know it has been a few days since I posted. After Indonesia I headed towards Cambodia and there isn't a whole lot of internet access over there. Now I'm home and thought I'd post some pictures from my time there.

Cambodians love Americans but not for the reasons you might think. Cambodians are predominately Buddhist (about 95% of them). Because of this they have an interesting view of Americans. They believe Americans are wealthy and blessed and in the context of their Buddhist worldview, that must mean we are good people. On our path towards enlightenment we must have been good people in our past life because we are now being rewarded in this life (the reward being wealth, life in America, freedom to travel, etc.).

This is a common form of transportation in Cambodia

The kids in Cambodia are just like the kids I've met in Romania, Indonesia and South Africa. They are joyful and full of love. We as adults, while good intentioned, tend to look past them as human beings loved by God and instead focus on their level of poverty. In my experience children don't see it quite that way. They don't care about the color of your skin or what your salary is. They just love to play and have fun with you.

While in Cambodia I had an opportunity to visit Tuol Sleng. This photo is a picture of thousands of mugshots of the victims lined up throughout the grounds. Here is an excerpt from my journal about my time there...

"Tuol Sleng is the Cambodian version of Auschwitz. It used to be a high school before the Khmer Rouge took it over and turned it into a place to torture people them and then kill them. The people they brought here weren’t criminals. They were priests, teachers, artists, professors; people of skills. The Khmer Rouge wanted to remove these people from society to start afresh. It was so horrible that my eyes tear up just writing this. Historians kept the prison as they found it in order to preserve it as a historical monument so the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge would never be forgotten. As such there are still instruments of torture lying around, blood stains on the ground, and a wall of skulls belonging to victims. A sign at Tuol Sleng told us that of the 20,000 people imprisoned here, only 7 survived. Only 7! Touring Tuol Sleng there are hundreds of “mug shots” of the prisoners who were there. Many of them were children. As I walked up and down the walls of photos I wondered how many children died without ever having had a chance to hear the gospel? Walking throughout the place I tried to tune into my discernment of spirits gift. I felt the place to be a giant vacuum. Completely empty. To have this much evil is beyond human ability alone. There is no doubt demons were involved. Now that their work is done here I feel they have completely left this place, like a soul leaves its corpse behind."

This is part of the wall of skulls.

Tom and I went on a home visit to spend time with this family. Two of the members of this family have AIDS. They live in a squatter home (a makeshift home made of spare parts lying around) behind a shopping area. We took some photos of them and then went to a one hour photo store to have them developed. Here you see Tom presenting those photos as a gift to the family. This family had no photographs of any of their family members. It was a blessing to be able to provide them this small gift.

In Cambodia a common belief is “wives are for childbearing, prostitutes are for pleasure.” This plays out in that often a man will visit a prostitute, get AIDS, then come home and give it to his wife. Most often the man will die first leaving the woman behind to care for the family. After the man dies the woman must support her family so she often turns to prostitution herself, continuing the cycle.

This little boy, Chantol is 7 years old and he has AIDS. His father died from the disease. His mother is infected. He lives in the house in a squatter community on the Mekong, in the interior of Cambodia.

Some of the staff with the organization I work for, run a place where women with AIDS can come to make crafts to earn an income instead of turning to prostitution. Here we are praying with some of these women.

This is a photograph of the Cambodian nationals who work day and night to minister to those dying of AIDS. Some work inside of the building behind us which is used as a hospice while others go out into the community and make house visits. The sacrifice these individuals make in order to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to learn about Jesus, is incredible.

Part of my time in Cambodia was spent eating ethnic food such as this tarantula. Whoever said a life of serving God was boring???