Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Our Double Bind

I'm amazed how a somewhat obscure Scripture will catch my attention, as the Lord begins speaking to my heart. It's often subtle and easy to glide past, until the Lord begins adding insight to it. I was reading through Zephaniah in my daily devo's and thinking about all the imagery and somewhat obscure reference to historical events. They're obscure unless you're an ancient history buff, which I'm not.

In the wake of Christmas celebrations and end of the year news re-caps, I came across Zeph 1:5-6– "...those who bow down and swear to the Lord and yet swear by Milcom." What caught my attention is how revealing it is of human nature—not just unbelievers, so much as believers. Many of us get caught in a double bind, one Jesus addressed in Matt 6:24, about trying to serve two masters. Nowadays we call it being distracted, but it's more like being "torn between two lovers." For example, doing something on a smart phone while listening to someone. Sound familiar?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

An Unexpected Reunion

We were anticipating a fun celebration with over 160 people connected to Rainbow Village's ministry, at our annual RVM Christmas party where families and sponsored students would join us for some food and fun. But... a strong storm interrupted our plans. Instead, we woke up on the day of the party to strong rain and wind, and no power. As the morning progressed, we saw water gathering around our buildings, but we knew it would be much worse in other areas. By the afternoon, we had cancelled the party, but many coming from far away were on their way already. Two of our families were stuck in a no-man's land—in a bus. They couldn't get home because of a washed out bridge, but there was no place to stay and no money to do so anyway. Back to Rainbow they came to stay with us for the night.

Monday, December 12, 2011

I Want You to Know Me

We humans tend to complicate the simple and reduce what is great to something ordinary. It's done with all manner of things, including politics, religion, and relationships. The current political scuffle, or should I say spitting match, is a prime example. Everyone knows what needs to be done, which is basically—live within our means. Of course, we haven't been doing that for a long time, but that's pretty obvious. What complicates it all is the political lack of will to do what is right and just. It's shameful and no one is free of blame.

The point is—it's only complicated by those who don't want to do the simple but hard things. On the other hand, there are those who'd like to "solve" the immigration dilemma with a big wall and "kicking out all those illegals." Ah, it's not that simple, and we are dependent, as a nation, upon the immigrants (legal and illegal) that have come into our country—after all, we're a nation of immigrants.

Unfortunately, Christians do pretty much the same thing. Why else would there be so many different denominations and groups claiming (in essence)—we've got it all right, but the others don't. Too often, theological truth, which has great depth, is reduced to what is palatable for the masses. And yet, all sorts of "laws" are set up (formally and unofficially) that complicate and restrict the practice of Christianity—the do's and don'ts that turn many away from the church.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Then They Will Know

Judgment presents a strange dilemma. The concepts of judging and passing judgment are often confused. Choosing between right and wrong is a process of judging, but different than passing judgment on someone. When judgment is made in the latter sense, there is a consequence attached to the decision or choice made.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Poverty is Relative – Part 2

Supper at Mae Saraing © tkbeyond
I really don't get the idea of the 1% vs the 99%. The idea that only 1% of the population in America holds all the wealth is ludicrous, let alone patently untrue. The US is an example of a broad middle class society enjoying prosperity even in the midst of an economic crisis. In MOTROW, the disparity between wealth and poverty is far more noticeable than in the US. Think about world travel. Just a few decades ago traveling internationally was only a dream for the average person—something reserved for millionaires. Now, many people travel outside the US as if it's the norm, not an exception. The idea of the 99% is a sham, a deception—pure self-aborbed hypocrisy.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Poverty is Relative— Part 1

Many are worried about the economy. Greece is teetering on bankruptcy and other nations have precarious economic situations, which could lead to a domino effect throughout the world. The "Occupy" protests have spread to other cities and are turning violent in some places. Economic indicators continue being dismal, and the presidential campaign stirs more discouragement than hope. BTW, have you seen the new iPhone 4S with Siri? It's incredible how we continue consuming new stuff anyway.

Moonrise @ Rainbow Village (Dumaguete City)
In Dumaguete City, where I'll be the next three months, there are signs of prosperity, yet  poverty continues. When we first moved here in 1990, there were only 6 long distance phone lines going out from the city, and all overseas calls had to go through these 6 lines. Calls were requested through our operators and placed with  operators in a neighboring island—then we would wait for a connection to the outside world. Physical land lines were at a premium and only needed four digit identities. Today, cell phone companies vie for customers, and there's an iStore in a mall selling the newest Apple technology in Dumaguete City...amazing!

Sunday, November 6, 2011


At its heart, willfulness is self-exaltation—making our self most important. This includes pursuing selfish interests and making them of highest value. We do this, or they become such, by the amount of time and energy invested in them. OK, nothing new with that observation, but what's behind it? What drives this want, this desire, this consuming lust? Why does it become greater in value and importance than anything or anyone else?

Grabbing for Candy at Rainbow's Christmas Party
This willful drive is seen as early as toddlerhood with the learning of "no" and insistence of self-will, in spite of its self-destructive possibilites. Currently, in the US, it's being demonstrated by those involved in the "Occupy" protests, the shameless stalemate within Congress and with the President, along with the continuing greed of financial institutions, as with the latest revelation of exorbitant bonuses for mediocre performance. So, is it just simple greed or pride that drives this willfulness? It's deeper than that.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Madmen and Justice?

Muhamar Ghaddafi's beaten and gunshot body was pushed onto TV screens by media touting his final capture and downfall—the downfall of a tyrant—the Madman of Libya. There are still plenty of images and video footage to view, if you need it. Of course, there are some claiming he was unjustly put to death, and should have been granted a fair trial. Did he receive justice at the hand of those he oppressed? He had opportunity to escape, surrender and negotiate for peace with the rebels. Perhaps he brought justice upon his own head—literally. Madmen, aka tyrants, and justice—isn't that an oxymoron?

© tkbeyond
Reading through the prophet Jeremiah, I came across, "Rescue those who have been robbed from those who oppress them. Don't mistreat foreigners, orphans, or widows, and don't oppress them. Don't kill innocent people in this place" (Jeremiah 22:3 GWT). The idea of social justice has become a hot topic for many Christian believers over the past decade or so. It may be more vogue now, but it has always been the center of God's heart, as indicated by Jeremiah's words.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Repentance Is Not About Behavior

"You've turned your backs, not your faces, to me" (Jeremiah 27c GWT). This is what God says to His people through Jeremiah. It's a recurring theme in God's messages through Jeremiah to Judah (the southern kingdom of Israel). Judah had abandoned the living God for lifeless idols. It wasn't just misplaced worship or foolish religion, it was accompanied with gross immorality and perversion of justice. The behavior of the leaders and people was atrocious. But this wasn't God's main issue.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Contentment and a Wandering Heart

Public Market–Chaing Mai (© tkbeyond)
American culture is a funny thing—it's ironic. We have unparalleled liberty and prosperity, yet generally lack contentment as a people. Based on this, advertisers and public media have reaped multi-billion dollar revenues. We have so much and still want so much more. A good portion of the world's population wants what we have. When they can't have it they hate us for it, or want to destroy it. Who can blame them, really?

Take the current protests aimed at Wall Street. Our US Constitution guarantees freedom of rights (the 1st Amendment in Bill of Rights). Of course, a segment of our population wants to shut them up, and another group wants to ride the wave of their sentiment. But, so far, what they want isn't clear except some form of access to greater wealth—envy and discontent (greed) protests greed.

Monday, October 10, 2011

An American Icon and an African Story

The death of an American icon, Steve Jobs, captured the headlines and induced reminiscence by many last week. He was a creative and marketing genius, no doubt, and I appreciate the products he introduced into American life. For a while, his death took center stage in the midst of a growing protest of Wall Street's excesses. But my heart has been captured by a young South African girl named Chanda.
(BTW, the girls in this photo are from Ethiopia © tkbeyond)

Monday, October 3, 2011


© tkbeyond
MOTROW— no, not Motrin, nor is this some phony, phonetic attempt at saying Montreal with a peculiar accent. It's an acronym, a set of letters that stand for something, but more on that in a bit. I use acronyms, but don't always like them. Acronyms are big in special fields of study and institutions, like government for example. They're great shortcuts, especially when writing, so you don't have to waste time and effort writing all those words. The problem is understanding what they mean. Unless there's some familiarity with the acronym, it may look like a jumble of letters or something written in code—actually, it is code, it's symbolic.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Words, Daydreams and the Fear of God

Words, daydreams and the fear of God—these are notes from my study notebook while reading through Chapter 5 of Ecclesiastes. It's actually the gist of verse 7 [http://goo.gl/O3KSC]. Solomon says daydreaming comes from worrying too much, and a multitude of words produces careless speech. But in the end (as at the end of the book–Eccl 12:13), the important thing is fearing God. He alone holds every life in His hands. Throughout the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon weaves bits of wisdom and insight between large batches of cynical observations made over a lifetime. There is a point to it all.
Lighthouse at Key Biscayne, FL
King Solomon was considered the wisest man in the world, not by his account, but the Scriptures and many contemporaries testified of this, including the Queen of Sheba (Ethiopia). He was well-educated, accomplished, a man of the world, a powerful world leader, yet coming to the end of his life he questioned it's value—"Everything is pointless" (Eccl 1:2)

Although he had amazing wisdom, he didn't seem to use it with women. He had hundreds of wives and hundreds of concubines, and he admitted this had ruined his life. Though he had amassed incredible riches and enjoyed every aspect of life he could imagine, he felt empty. He had fallen into a dark cynicism eclipsing all his success. Something, everything, was missing.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sunrise, Sunset


The other morning I walked down to the beach to watch the sun rise. I took some photos, watched others coming to view the sunrise, but my priority was spending time with the Lord—remembering who He is and His faithfulness—as both Creator and Redeemer. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tapestry of Gospel Ministry

I've been out on the west coast in southern California this past week. I have some posts I'm working on, but thought I'd share a message given at Village Church in Orange County this past Sunday. I had a wonderful time fellowshipping and ministering. It was Missions Sunday and I was graciously invited by Ptr Matt Kyser and Mike and Jenni Ramsey (heading up the missions) to share at the Sunday morning service and later at home group meeting. It was a full and fun day! I was also able to share at the missions luncheon along with several others missionaries—it was great to be included with them and this very special church body. If you're in Orange County, it's a great place to be plugged into—they're on mission and very inclusive.

This message is one of a series of messages on the Essential Gospel that will be highlighted in the book I'm currently writing (actual rewriting). Please feel free to comment and share it with others. Just click on the link below and then click on either the listen or view icon (bottom right of page) to get to it.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Anomaly, Ambiguity or Ignorance?

I came across a statement of Jesus in His priestly prayer from John 17—"For their sakes I sanctify myself...." It reminded me of a similar statement about Jesus in Hebrews— "He learned obedience through what he suffered...." [http://goo.gl/Z0sOE] Things like this catch my attention, seeming almost contradictory. Are they an anomaly, an unusual occurrence creating a theological conundrum? Perhaps there's a different construction in the original language making the statement appear ambiguous for translators. Then again, it may be simple ignorance on my part. I typically figure it's the latter before getting too worked up about other possibilities.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Commiserator, Interrogator or Mediator?

Recently, I began reading through Job in my morning devotions. I was not looking forward to it. I've read through it many times and taught through it, but it can be kind of depressing. If you focus too much on the dialog between Job and his so-called comforters, it's a pretty drawn out drama of commiserating and interrogating. It's an ancient way of discussing an issue philosophically, so it may seem tedious. The primary purpose or theme of Job is answering the universal question of "why," when people face suffering, injustice, or simply the consequences of living in a fallen world.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Influence or Integrity?

Ancient Job's character is clearly described in the opening verse of the book bearing his name [http://biblia.com/bible/godsword/Job1] – He was a man of integrity: He was decent, he feared God, and he stayed away from evil. He was also considered "the most influential person in the middle east." Weighty words of description. I've often read that leadership may be defined as influence. Is a good leader a person of integrity or influence? Can they be one without being the other? Are they one and the same or is there a distinction? These two words have very different meanings. One is based in power, the other in character.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Limitlessness of God

I remember my dad bringing me out to view a lunar eclipse. We gathered together with some neighbors late at night, way past my bedtime. I was about four years old. It is one of my earliest remembrances of childhood and God. As we gathered in the moonlit night, awaiting the eclipse, my dad explained how the universe, the stars and galaxies, had no known end. He was a mechanical engineering student at the time, so it was from a scientific cosmological viewpoint rather than a theological one. It would be nearly four decades later before he came to know God personally. Yet that night, he unwittingly put the fear of God in me. Not like a preacher might, but because he spoke of the universe being limitless.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Governor Holds a Prayer Meeting

Recently a nationally known governor held a prayer rally. It stirred up all sorts of public discussion, not all of it edifying or encouraging. Centuries ago there was another nationally known governor who held a prayer rally of sorts. His name was Nehemiah. It was a pretty impressive meeting. It was led by Ezra the scribe and priest, and started with a reading of Scripture (the Jewish Law), which was followed by some pretty serious feasting (see the story in Nehemiah 8- http://biblia.com/bible/godsword/Ne8.1-18).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cross-Cultural Encounter Across Town

I had an interesting and truly cross-cultural experience in NE Florida this week. In the morning, I began with preparation of some materials translated for teaching used in No Thailand and Myanmar. Some of the materials are in the Sgaw Karen dialect, while others are in Burmese.
Later, I had a lunch meeting at a popular seafood restaurant on the intracoastal waterway running near Ponte Vedra Beach, a well known (to golfers) and wealthy community near Jacksonville. Our server was a young Thai woman from Bangkok. On my way back from lunch, I stopped to copy the Burmese materials from a workbook on IBS (Inductive Bible Study). This was a bit of a challenge

Monday, August 1, 2011

Ezra the Scribe and Surfing Lessons

You, Ezra, using your God's wisdom–the Teachings you hold in your hands–will appoint judges and administrators for all the people who know your God's Teachings and live in the province west of the Euphrates River. In addition, you will teach anyone who doesn't know the Teachings. [words of King Artaxerxes in Ezra 7:25 GWT]
Ezra, the Jewish scribe and priest, was an important leader of the exiles returning from Babylon, back to what had been their homeland. In Ezra 7:25, it's clear he had tremendous influence as a leader. What influence has God given you? Who are the people you come into contact with during a day or week? Don't look past the people you work with, or who live nearby, or those you cross paths with at the store or post office.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Transition of Leadership- part 3

If you've followed on along, this is the 3rd post related to the story of leadership transition from King Solomon to his son Rehoboam, as told in 2 Chronicles 10. If not, you might want to review the previous 2 posts. As with part 2, this will mostly be questions to consider, and these will focus more on the one coming into a leadership role or position. Athough it can mostly be looked at from a younger leader's (pastor's) perspective, there are some good things to ponder for those of us who've been in leadership for quite a while.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Transition of Leadership– part 2

Last installment (part 1) we looked at the story of Rehoboam in 2 Chronicles. It is a sad example of a kingdom changing from one leader to another– King Solomon to Rehoboam, his son. It can also be a model for transition of leadership in most any organization, including a church. One thing especially difficult is a transition from a founding pastor (or leader), to a younger, much less experienced leader, as in this story. It is very difficult to "fill the shoes" of someone who has established the culture of a church (or organization), and even more difficult to operate under their shadow, when they stay within the organization or church.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Not-so Smooth Passing of the Baton- Transition of Leadership (part 1)

Recently, I was reading through 2 Chronicles. In the midst of genealogies and royal histories, the Lord opened up some thoughts for me. In Chapter 10, the transition of power from Solomon to Rehoboam, his son, is a clear example of how not to do leadership transition. Let's be honest, for anyone who has gone through a transition of leadership in any field, it can be very tricky and difficult for everyone concerned.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What's Going On?

Well, apparently the world didn't end! There have been, of course, many comments and opinions made regarding the failed prediction of final judgment that was to take place last weekend. Some of them reasonable attempts to address this miscalculation, but many mocking it or spouting their own take on predictions and God's judgment. I've personally lived through several modern-day predictions that have not come to pass, Christian and otherwise. Like the day I flew from Colorado to California in 1969, when California was to slide into the Pacific after a cataclysmic earthquake. BTW, we landed safely.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Arab Spring (Spring 2011 newsletter)

The following is an article from a recent newsletter of a good friend of mine (DB-name withheld) who is a pastor-missionary working in the Middle East (particularly Egypt) and does training in the US, as well. His perspective on current events is much more insightful (based on personal experience and contacts) than typical media sources.

The last 6 months has been a volatile time in the Middle East and North Africa. The Arab Spring is shaking up the region in a manner not seen since Mark Sykes and Francois Picot took to a map with their markers in 1916 and divided up the Ottoman Empire into colonies ruled by Britain and France. The governments of Tunisia and Egypt have been overthrown while brutal dictators in Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, and Libya have murdered their own citizens to stop the cry for democratic reforms and basic human rights. The revolutions could be a blessing or a curse for the church. The right to free speech and to change ones religion from Islam to Christianity without fear of reprisal would be great! But many political analysts say this is improbable. A more likely scene is the Muslim Brotherhood is elected to power.

Certainly the Revolutions did not change the fact that extremist Muslims continue to attack Arab Christians. In March, rioters set fire to a church in Helwan Egypt. In Mansheit Nasr, the area where I served while living in Egypt and where I stay whenever I visit Cairo, some of the Christian youth wanted to show solidarity with the church in Helwan. They went down to the highway below the district, where they had a demonstration, stopping the traffic. That evening 400 Salafi Muslims armed with guns & clubs attacked the young men. In the ensuing melee 10 people were killed, over 140 injured. The 9 dead Christians, pictured on the next page, left 5 widows under the age of 25 with 10 children and 3 more in the womb. By God’s grace Dreams Alive and friends gathered over $7,000 to help these families.

The Arab World is shaking. Could this be a fulfillment of an ancient Biblical prophecy? The character of Islam was already predicted before the birth of Ishmael (father of the Arabs) 4000 years ago, and remains true of Muslims today. Hagar, the mother of Ishmael was told of Muslims “He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers." (Gen.16:12, NIV). Osama Bin Laden and all the corrupt despots fulfilled this prophecy and many Muslims will fulfill the prophecy. As my Egyptian friend Randa Samir wrote, “The devil has a lot of alternatives to Osama Bin Laden. Satan is well trained in hatred and darkness in world systems.” Abraham prayed for Ishmael, "Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!" (Gen 17:18) Way before Islam entered the world the vast majority of Arabs were Christian, they “lived before God.” Now, despite the hate, the Holy Spirit moves silently & mightily in Arab nations once again, and Muslims are turning to faith in Jesus.

We are living in momentous times; any thing can happen in a remarkable way. The Holy Spirit is moving among Muslims throughout the world. As children of God let’s lift the prophetic prayer of Abraham to God in faithful prayer for Arabs. Many more of them will come to Christ.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Prophet Died Yesterday

It's been quite a while since I last posted on this blog. Yesterday Rev. David Wilkerson died (see link - Rev David Wilkerson Dies), and it is both a sad and sobering day. I admired Brother David for his character and calling. I believe him to be a true prophet for our times, and so it is sad news.

It is sobering news in that a somewhat similar modern-day prophet died in a tragic accident in Texas, back in 1982, Keith Green. At the time, I was pastoring in the Southern California desert area, and was beginning to have concerns about the direction of the Jesus Movement of which I was a part. Keith Green spoke to those concerns, rather he challenged those of us who called ourselves Christians. His death removed a prophetic voice that spoke against the prevailing drift of the evangelical church into the comfortable state it so firmly occupies today. I was saddened by Keith's death for that very reason.

With the passing of David Wilkerson another prophetic voice has been silenced by death in this world. And yet, his voice still declares the truth through his many publications and messages. In particular, I remember when his book, The Vision (now out of print), came out in 1974. I was a fairly young believer at the time. When it was published it was, to say the least, controversial. I remember it being criticized and spoken against  by many evangelicals. I also remember, several years later, an older woman in my church whose opinion I valued,  gave me a copy of the book and spoke highly of it. Now, decades later, much if not all of what Wilkerson said in that book has come to pass.

Here is the sobering thought for me today... what Keith Green spoke about before he died came to pass. There is a great "plague of comfortableness" that has settled over the church in America today. There is also a dearth of missionaries, Christian leaders and workers, throughout the world today (another impassioned concern of Keith Green's... and mine). Rev Wilkerson had very similar concerns, and his messages and ministry, Worldwide Challenge, reflected those concerns. What will follow his passing?

Regardless of where you might stand theologically regarding the "end times"... we're in them. According to Jesus' teaching in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, there are plenty of signs that we are in the last days of this age. These are Jesus' sobering words to consider from Mark 13:33-37 (ESV)
33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”