Monday, April 23, 2007

More Simple Math: The Power of One

Over the last year my wife, Myra, and I have become friends with a very special person, Jane Walker. After visiting the Tondo dump in Manila last year where Jane has a miraculous ministry to the poorest of the poor Myra wrote the article that is linked here: Tondo, Philippines: Heroes of the City Dump.

I will let you read the article for yourselves, but suffice it to say that if one person can believe God to start something with nothing in the worst place in the world then what would happen if more than one would believe God for such things? True faith looks at the valley of dry bones and says God can speak life where there is nothing but death.
Ez 37
  • One is good, but two is better.
  • Addition is a sort-term solution, but multiplication of laborers for the harvest is the ultimate answer.
  • If Jane can do so much with so little what can we do with so much?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Footnote: a reflection on present-day truth

A terrible tragedy happened this week in Virginia as a young man was so convinced that the world was against him that he took the lives of many as well as his own. Imagine the thoughts in his head, day and night, festering hatred and darkness until it ruptured into this massacre.

We read about Hitler and others who seem not to be even human, and we will probably never meet such people. We read about this killer in Virginia and realize that, yes, it is possible to meet such an unstable person.

On a closer level we meet bitter and cynical people every day who are quite functional and would never hurt anyone. A larger category is our upbeat friends who struggle with insecurity at times.

Then there is the person who believes everything that God says about him and lives accordingly bringing blessing and life to those around them. The Hitlers of this world are quite rare, but so are the Josephs. I have tried to show a common theme in all these people. The degree to which we exhibit light or darkness is to the degree that we believe truth or lie.

  • May we all endeavor to be like Joseph as we walk this journey in a foreign land.
  • Let us also be quick to share The Truth with others who are bound to some degree by The Lie.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. John 10:10

Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. 3 John 2

Manasseh & Ephraim, Truth Part 6

Now before the year of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph, whom Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bore to him. Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, "For," he said,"God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father's household." He named the second Ephraim, "For," he said,"God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction."
Gen 41:50-52

This is the first time in the life of Joseph where we get a hint of what he was feeling during all of his ordeals. He does not tell us directly, but does so in a more profound way. Many people of that day named their sons in a way that exhibited a part of the character of God or declared how they thought God was dealing with them. Joseph declares in the names of his sons that God has healed him from his pain and that God has blessed him in the midst of affliction. He is declaring that God is good.

How did God actually cause Joseph to forget his pain? I believe that it was by blessing him – this showed that God had not abandoned him even if his brothers had – and then by showing him God’s purpose in it all. (
Rom 8:28; Gen 50:20). We ultimately forget what is unpleasant by remembering what is good, and in this case, Who is good.

This is in stark contrast to how his father, Jacob, viewed his own trials which did not even come close in severity to those of Joseph. God also blessed Jacob everywhere he went, but Jacob was in constant inner struggle. What is the difference between father and son? The condition of the heart.

Their father Jacob said to them, "You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and you would take Benjamin; all these things are against me." Gen 42:36

For those of us who are not as spiritual as Joseph – this is my group - most of forgetting pain is tied up in forgetting the lies and torment of the enemy that was associated with the problem. This is also remedied by realizing God’s goodness. Not convinced, too simple? Just turn it around then. When all the dust is settled and you are healed of your pain – regardless of how long it takes – what would have been the solution? You would have had some encounter with God, and His truth would have flooded your soul saying that He is good and He cares for you.

There is no Plan B or magic pill for life, only God.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Zaphenath-panea, Truth Part 5

Imagine for a moment young Joseph as he considered the dream that God had given him. What could it possibly mean? All he knew is that in some way he would rule over his family, and that is about all we and Joseph know until we all get surprised by Pharaoh many years later. What Joseph actually saw was a glimpse of one moment of the dream, yet the fullness of this dream was hidden.

As Joseph went from his dream to a literal pit, became slave then prisoner all seemed lost. The plans of man seemed to rule supreme, and there was nothing Joseph could do to change his situation, not even encouraging an influential person with his spiritual gift. He was simply a forgotten novelty, good for a moment but not needed afterward.

So where was God when all this was going on? Frankly, right in the middle of it, and He was bringing Joseph, his family, and Pharaoh into a head-on collision with a problem that eclipsed any of their dreams or insecurities. It ultimately was not about any of them or their positions. It was about the salvation of the known world from a terrible famine. The need is the same today, but the famine is greater. It is spiritual.

In one day the only man who knew about the problem and had the authority to act was aligned with the one man who understood the magnitude of the problem and had the perfect solution from God. In rapid succession Joseph was remembered, found, washed and brought before Pharaoh. Joseph’s gift – it had never stopped working and had even brought him here – manifested in such wisdom that Pharaoh made him governor of Egypt and gave him a name that described his true calling, Zaphenath-panea, which is often translated “God speaks”.

Joseph was eventually reunited with his family as they traveled to Egypt for food. They were fearful when they realized that the one whom they had condemned was now the one who could save them. Joseph’s ultimate response was mercy. He was walking in the footsteps that Jesus would one day reenact on a much grander scale, with the descendants of the same brothers and ultimately with the whole world.

"As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”
Gen 50:20

A few simple truths from this story:

  • God is in control even when evil seems to prevail, and His goals are always GOOD no matter what the circumstances. Rom 8:28
  • Serving others during adversity gets our eyes off of ourselves and protects us from the lies of the enemy.
  • It is ultimately not about us or fulfilling a personal dream. It is about God’s goodness and mercy to a world that treated Him like they treated Joseph. It is about saving the lost.

    צצפנת פענח - He still speaks. He still saves.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Great Expectations, Truth Part 4

"For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Jer 29:11

In the Dickens’ classic, “Great Expectations”, the protagonist, young Pip, finds that his advancement in life is not due to chance. It is due to the tangled, behind-the-scenes manipulations of characters with varied motives, some selfish and some good as we see in his benefactor, the convict Abel Magwitch. Still, even what is meant for good produces bad results in both character and position in life.

In our lives we often fall into several traps as to why we think we succeed or fail. It could be due to our abilities or lack of ability. It could be due to our strict adherence to a code of ethics that God might honor if we hit the mark. We may see ourselves as victims of circumstance or the decisions of others, or it could be that God has lost track of us in the crowd of over 6 billion souls that inhabit this sphere. It is a sad and lonely thought to be lost in the crowd or to be the victim of the crowd as we see in Dickens’ and our present world. We already saw that Asaph almost fell victim to this mentality in
Ps 73.

However, it could be – and this is the truth - that our God is loving and active at a level of detail that incorporates our frailties into His plan. He detours opposition and produces an even greater good than our greatest expectations. In this light let’s look at another protagonist, Joseph, whose opposition was great but whose benefactor was greater, God, and let’s walk beside him with the benefit of knowing the end of the story from the beginning.

Joseph had a dream. It was from God, so this was a good start. However, the moment he shares this dream, things go horribly wrong. His whole family ridicules the dream, and after his brothers attempt to murder him out of jealousy, they sell him into slavery to people from another nation. Joseph is carried against his will further and further away from the fulfillment of his dream. In captivity his gifts continue to work, and he advances – as a slave.

In lesser crises we as Christians too quickly look to our circumstances and comments of others to interpret for us what has happened with our lives. The friends of Job are a great example. Here are a few thoughts, and think of Joseph’s outcome when you read:

  • “I really thought that God wanted me to do that, but no one else thinks I am capable. Maybe I did not hear God or He does not think my life is important.”
  • “My vision is big, but I just lost my finances. Friends think that I should be satisfied with what I have, with my station in life.” They say, “His circumstances show that he must not have the faith necessary to accomplish the task.”
After a continual dose of this kind of thinking we give up, throw away hope and the dream, yet this dream comes back to us and even produces fruit for us in the darkest of places as with Joseph. This is actually a torment at times as the lies of the enemy intensify to keep us out of the presence of God. The truth of the matter is that we might just be right in the middle of God’s plan, learning His faithfulness, learning to love Him more than the dream and growing in character. And in one moment God can overrule all people and circumstances to establish His will in our lives as with Joseph. God is good, He is in control, He never changes. Do you believe this?

"Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you." Deut 31:6

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Influences & Connections

From time to time I want to share with you some of my favorite blogs, articles or web sites. Here are a few:

My wife, Myra, and I just celebrated 16 years of marriage. She is my perfect match in every way. She is the one who encouraged me to write, but she is the better writer. Enjoy her insightful and encouraging thoughts:
Change is constant, but so is God

Myra encouraged me to write, but Joey Bonifacio was the one who launched us all into the blogosphere. We call him the wizard of blog, but I know him as one who has made evangelism and discipleship a more joyous adventure. This post is one of my favorites:
Discipleship & Strangers

I majored in physics at university and later worked as a research engineer. My fondest memories are the daily discussions with atheists, agnostics and some Christian professors. Read this article about one such professor – not one of my professors - who excels in his field:
Why this scientist believes in God

Finally, my best and worst day of the week was Wednesday when I was asked to host visiting missionary,
Bob Kraft, for lunch. I used the church van to drive to Makati to pick him up, and I was given excellent directions to the hotel. However, I am so tall that the top of the van blocked my view, and the little bit of usable windshield that I had was tinted. Then it started to rain. I was essentially a blind man driving as I put on my reading glasses to call for directions – all landmarks were higher than the windshield would let me see – juggled the cell phone and generally was comic relief for passers-by.

I finally made it to Bob’s hotel a half hour late. We then tried to backtrack to a restaurant for lunch, and I felt like Wyle Coyote in the Roadrunner cartoons as all the laws of physics were working against me. Road repairs at every turn blocked my return trip, and I was glad to find out that Bob had a big breakfast and was not hungry. We ended up sharing a coffee at the church cafeteria, and throughout this whole ordeal I found Bob to be a very patient guest. Why am I rambling about this? Because it feels good to vent my stress and laugh a little at myself! It is my therapy.

Anyway, back to Bob, he has a great ministry in the Professional Tennis Tour, and it is very clear that our paths will cross again in Eastern Europe because many on the pro tennis tour are from Russian and Ukraine. Take a look at his web site to see the unexpected ways God’s kingdom is advancing:
Tennis Ministry International

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The Apple Myth, Truth part 3

One of the greatest misconceptions of the Bible is that Adam and Eve were so overcome by the desire for the forbidden fruit that they decided to disobey God. It simply did not happen that way. Creation was not that fragile, and the first family was not fighting the same internal struggle that we deal with every day. One more point, the Bible does not say that the fruit was an apple, but that is not so important right now.

The devil is not very original. He uses the same tactics with us today that he used in the beginning; however, his tactic – The Lie – is so subtle that we do not even recognize it at the first reading. Let’s follow along. In the beginning…

God was good – in the eyes of the first family – and evil was bad. The barrier to disobedience was enormous, and it had to be removed before Eve would even think of that which was bad. The barrier was GOD, so the enemy had to get Him out of the way. This is how he did it:

"…Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" Gen 3:1
Lie #1: Has God really said anything?

“…You surely will not die!” Gen 3:4
Lie #2: If God did say something, He lied!

"For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Gen 3:5
Lie #3: God lied because He wants to keep something good from you.

Summation: God must not be good, and that thing He was keeping from you is not really bad.

Now after this we see Eve’s new perspective: When the woman saw that the tree was good for food… Gen 3:6

Before the enemy’s lies God was good and sin was bad. After “The Lie”, God was perceived as bad, or less than good, and that which was bad became good. Communion was broken with God, man died spiritually and the compass of his soul and body now received all of its so-called truth from the world. This accurately describes the inclination of the unsaved world today.

When God gives our sprits new birth through Jesus we still have to deal with a body that is oriented towards the world. Our souls – mind & emotions – are caught in the crossfire between the lies of this world, what our flesh feels to be true and the The Truth that now resides in our spirits.

This awkward position is a terror to new believers because they do not understand what has just happened to them, and it is too often the source of a low-grade depression in older believers who find themselves trapped in the same realization that Asaph was in. (
Ps 73).

Like Asaph, we can only come out of the haze when we come to the truth of God’s Word, and because the world and our bodies do not take a break from trying to contradict God we cannot afford to take a break from His presence or His Word.

Here are some encouraging truths that will sustain us in this battle.

  • God sees us as being perfectly forgiven for all time – because we are completely forgiven - even though He is still perfecting us. Heb 10:14
  • The inner battle that we have is common to all Christians, even to the Apostle Paul. 1 Pet 5:8-10; Rom 7:15
  • Believing that GOD IS GOOD is the sentry at the door of our hearts that saves us from many attacks. Rom 8:28-39
  • There is no condemnation for us while we are in this process of practical transformation. Rom 8:1

In my upcoming posts I hope to show you that the enemy uses the same simple attack today as with Eve. However, we can build a fortress of truth concerning how good and powerful God is on our behalf. This is our encouragement. He loves us, He is good, He is God.