Sunday, May 30, 2010

Truth Series - Pride vs Truth




Just a quick pause in our series.

I have a question for you. Is it prideful to speak the truth?

In this age of tolerance, truth is:

1. completely subjective (what's good for you is fine with me, just don't judge me and I won't judge you)

2. expected to be kept silent

Because we have to accept everyone where they are, whether they are in sin through their actions or their beliefs, it is not acceptable to speak truth into the lives of those around us. Truth becomes divisive and the truth-talker is labeled as prideful or arrogant.

Is this true? Is it a matter of pride when we take a stand for truth?

Well, here's my answer. Speaking truth can be about pride or it can be about love. If you have to be right about everything and you are simply picking fights to show how smart and spiritual you are, then, yes, that is a pride issue.

But if you speak out for truth from a love of God as well as a love for others, then, no, it isn't a matter of pride.

Think about the topics we have discussed - creation, the flood and hell. What circumstance would you find yourself in defending these biblical truths? Why is it important to speak up at all?

First of all, I am working through this series as an exercise in how to find truth. Each of us needs to be confident in the teachings of God's Word. But that confidence does not come from one verse here and there. That confidence comes from a thorough study of any given topic, an understanding of the whole counsel of God and a daily walk which puts the Word into practice.

Second, once you know truth, it does change the way you look at life. It increases your faith and shows you that the gap between God and man is a lot bigger than you had originally understood. Truth becomes practical understanding of who God is and what He expects of us. It underscores our purpose for living. It is our strength in times of struggle and persecution. It increases our view of God and makes Him so much bigger than ourselves - a real comfort in life. Thus it produces in you a gratitude, a dependency and a longing for more truth.

Third, out of a love for our neighbor, we should desire that all know the truth. You've all watched a movie where a certain character doesn't have all the information that you as the viewer has. If only they knew what you knew, the movie may have a better outcome. That's the same thing with truth. You want people to have confidence in the life-changing truth of God's Word, and as you have see the difference truth makes in your life, you want others to have that same advantage.

And finally, we have been given truth by God and it is a privilege and a responsibility to defend it. Over the past two thousand years lives have been sacrificed for this truth and they have passed the torch on to us. Do you realize that today Satan has changed his course of action against the Word? Instead of trying to destroy it by wiping it off the face of the earth, he has decided to water it down and then multiply with so many variations so that no two Bibles are the same. What "christian" publishers are doing in the name of modernism is heresy! Gender neutral bibles (click here) and bibles for the homosexuals (click here) are just two examples. Another problem is man's feeble intention to put the Bible into the vernacular and modernize the language without regard to the original text. This misses the mark and becomes a tool of Satan. Very clever, indeed. Why wouldn't we defend, protect and stand for this precious gift that has been entrusted to us?

The good news is that God's Word endures, despite Satan and man.

So, is it prideful to speak the truth?

And is it possible to speak truth without pride?

What do you think?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Truth Series - Hell



Another topic for the intolerant.

Hell.

The concept of punishment and torment that never ends, that is eternal, does not fit into the fairness mindset of natural man. I am not speaking just of the world. I am including the elect as well. The world laughs off the concept of hell as a figment of the self-righteous imagination of the right-wing religious fanatic. I have heard comedians imply that they long for hell, that hell will be a place where those who know how to have fun will hang out. Gary Larson, author of cartoon series "The Far Side", made a lot of money depicting the funny side of hell:





But is there really a funny side to hell?

Once again, Satan has been working overtime. If he can discredit creation as an incredible feat of chance and then make man's eternal destination seem ridiculous rather than reality, what's he got left to do? His battle is nearly won.

Obviously the world doesn't want to believe in the biblical description of hell. Why would they? To believe in it would mean that not only were they choosing to go there, but that the God of the Bible is real and what is written in His book is truth. But if they reject the gospel message, as well as the Creator of the universe, then they would also reject the truth of their eternal destiny.

But what bothers me is the church's shying away from the truth that hell is an ETERNAL destination. I think today many in the church are leaning towards annihilationism - that when unbelievers die, they are judged and then done away with. The fact that they have no life after death is their punishment. Perhaps they suffer a bit in hell, but it ends with the erasing of that soul.

The other popular notion that is showing up in Christian discussions is the fact that after a period of suffering, the unrepentant repents and is eventually brought into eternal life. So hell is temporary and rather successful at convincing the lost to bow the knee.

Are either of these accurate? Are they truthful? Or are they a way to balance a loving, caring, sacrificial God with a just and angry God?

Well...what does the Bible say?

Christ makes several references to hell during His ministry on earth: (I'm paraphrasing)

Matthew 5:22 - if you call someone a fool, you are in danger of the fire of hell

Matthew 5:29 - get rid of anything that causes you to sin, because it's better to lose a body part than for your whole body to be thrown in hell

Matthew 23:33 - to the Pharisees, how will you escape being condemned to hell?

Luke 12:5 - fear Him who has the power to throw you into hell

Luke 16:23 - this is the story of the rich man and Lazarus - the rich man is in torment, in hell

So, Jesus referred to hell as a realistic destination.

In Revelation we are given the best description of hell and the length of its endurance:

Rev. 19:20 and 20:10 tells us that the beast, the false prophet and the devil are going to be thrown in the lake of fire, where they will be tormented day and night "forever and ever." (Doesn't sound temporary to me...)

Revelation 20:14 and 15 then tell us that death and Hades (waiting place unbelievers for the judgment seat of God) are thrown in the lake of fire and anyone whose name was "not found written in the book of life" was thrown in there as well.

Hebrews 6:2 mentions eternal judgment, also. Eternal. Long time. No end.

Now, I am not doing a great job of preaching the reality of hell here, but I am trying to show you that hell is a real place that Jesus warned of and that we are shown exists eternally. James MacDonald has given the best sermon I have ever heard on hell, called "What's Down with Hell?" and I would recommend everyone buying it and buying extra copies to give those whom you love. It is a straight forward sermon on the reality of hell and his soberness with the topic is chilling. Here is a clip of that sermon to whet your appetite - click here

So why is the concept of an eternal hell so distasteful to believers? I think it's because we place God's mercy and love on a higher platform than His righteousness and justness. "How could a loving God punish man eternally? Where is the love? That would be cruel and unjust. And God is love, therefore He loves all men. After all, Philippians 2 tells us that one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. Therefore, all men will repent one day and all will spend eternity with the Lord. Right?"

Wrong. Hell is not a place of repentance. Hell is a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:42, 50; 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28). This term "gnashing of teeth" is not a picture of repentance. It is a picture of hatred and rebellion. It is an act of anger. There is no repentance in hell because the Spirit of God is not convicting in hell. As James says in his clip above, life is the time for repentance, death is the time for judgment.

When we waffle on the eternal existence of hell, we are not loving our neighbors enough to warn them of the truth. Now, salvation is so much more than just rescue from physical pain - the salvation message is founded in the fact that you can have a personal relationship with God and be restored to your intended purpose in life. But don't be deceived - without salvation, you will still glorify God because even in hell, because God is glorified whenever His attributes are on display, including His wrath.

Bottom line, we need to be honest about hell. We need to be bold. When someone looks at you and says, "So, if I don't believe in Jesus, am I going to hell?", don't waffle.

Don't say, "I don't know."

Don't say, "I hope not, but maybe."

Tell them the truth.

Say, "Yes."

So, to answer my original question, no, there is not a funny side to hell.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Truth Series - Creation, part two




I have to go back to Creation for a moment.

My daughters are taking an Old Testament 111 course at a local Christian college this spring. Last night they came home and told me that the professor does not believe in a young earth and doesn't take Genesis literally. He says that it is poetry and not meant to be a literal account.

This does not surprise me but it does tick me off.

There is one more passage that you need in your arsenal to defend literal creation. Hebrews eleven is the called the faith chapter because it starts by defining faith and then listing out the various characters from scripture who displayed saving faith as an example and encouragement to all believers. Despite the fact that the first twenty-two verses use people from the book of Genesis, implying that they were actual real people, it is paramount to note that before even one name is mentioned, the faith chapter extols those who by faith believe that God created the world in the manner He recorded in Genesis.

"By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible." Hebrews 11:3

This is the first charge of faith. What we see today came from the mouth of God. It didn't come from a big bang and it didn't mutate into intelligent life. By the word of God, just as Genesis records, this world was created. What we see today did not form out of something previously existing, like a tadpole to a monkey to a human. No, what we see today came from the words of God as He created. He created finished products.

And it takes faith to believe it.

Why? Because this very foundational belief is the starting place for Satan to weaken the structure of the Christian faith. If he can convince man (and he has) that everything we see is independent from God, then he has removed the greatest evidence of God's existence. Romans 1:20 says that all men are accountable for the fact that God exists because creation displays His invisible attributes, His eternal power and His divine nature. Creation proves God's existence. This is why Satan has worked overtime to discredit what we see, to lesson the testimony of nature itself.

But it is interesting to me that the faith chapter begins with faith in God's creative activity. And that's the first thing that professors of OT Survey classes at Christian colleges discount on day one of class.

If you believe that God created through the use of evolution, that He was the source of the big bang and Genesis 1 and 2 are not literal accounts of His creative activity, then you have to discount the story of Adam and Eve as being literal as well. Evolution would demand that humans evolved as a species, not as simply two individual people. At what point did God choose to put a soul into the creatures who were mutating into humans? When Adam and Eve were chosen, were there hundreds of thousands of other humans on earth who were just not as advanced as they were? And why did the evolutionary process stop in those other human-like creatures - did God wipe them all out so that He could just start with two humans? What about their offspring? Do we get our sin natures from Adam and Eve or could we have come from one of those other human-like creatures? Or were Adam and Eve the only two humans in a sea of evolving creatures?

Here's the next problem - the first person named in the faith chapter is Abel. So if the creation week is simply poetry and not literal, making Adam and Eve representative of fallen man, then is their son suddenly a true character? Or is he representative of what faith should look like? What about Enoch? Real or make-believe? Then we get to Noah. Was that story real as well, or is it just poetry? When does Genesis shift from fictional poetry to truth? Abraham is next in Hebrews 11 and I think most would agree he was real.

Do you see the danger in allegorizing Genesis? And this fictional label has been placed on Genesis simply because people don't have enough faith to believe what it actually claims. Why is it so hard to believe God created in six days?

Sorry for the rant. But Hebrews 11:3 is a good reminder that the Christian's call is one that is grounded in faith.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Truth Series - One Way




As ridiculous as this interview was, unfortunately the squirming and uncomfortableness of claiming this truth is real.

Is Jesus the only way to heaven? Is there only one way to having an eternal relationship with God?

It was explained to me once that our understanding of God is like a colony of blind men hearing an elephant approaching their village. Some think that what they hear is thunder, others feel the ground shake, so they think it is an earthquake. But they are quickly told that an elephant is being led into their midst. The blind men cautiously approach the elephant and touch it. Some feel the large, leathery ear and they think an elephant is like a flat, rough piece of material or curtain. Others feel the hard toenails and think an elephant is like a rock. Still others feel the trunk and think an elephant is snakelike. The point is that because they are blind, they cannot see the big picture.

Then I was told that this is what man's view of God is like. What we see and feel is only a small part of what He truly is. So people all over the world are given different glimpses of God through their own religious system and one day we'll see the big picture, which basically is that all religions and experiences are a part of God.

Hmmm...

Well, to that I have to ask, What does the Bible say?

We all know that Jesus said He is the way, the truth and the life, and that no man comes to the Father except through Him. (John 14:6) And II Timothy 2:5 tells us that there is "one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men."

Basically, this is the story of the scriptures - God is righteous and holy, and sin earns eternal punishment. In the Pentateuch, God gave sinful man His law, so that if man wanted to earn eternal life, he could clearly see what was expected of him. But Romans 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory. Galatians 3:10 tells us that whoever relies on the righteousness of the Law to save them is under a curse, for it is written that anyone who doesn't abide by the Law is cursed. Thus all men are cursed. Period. Unavoidable. Our righteousness is as filthy rags. No one is righteous, no one understands or even seeks after God. So that's the starting place.

Enter Christ. He became sin who knew no sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). He lived just as we live and died the death that we deserved - not just physical death, but He bore the wrath of God on His Person - an eternity's worth - so that our penatly would be paid. (Hebrews 2:17, I John 2:2, I John 4:10, Romans 3:25) He took our identity and gave us His own. He gave His life as a ransom for ours (Mark 10:45).

So the story looks like this: Man sins and has eternal death. Only a perfect sacrifice can offered in our place, or else we are condemned to eternal hell. Jesus offered Himself to pay our debt and gave us His identity. Now we can have an eternal relationship with the Father because we bear the righteousness of Christ.

Okay, so if other religious systems work, then Jesus' work on the cross was simply theatrics. If there are other ways to God or if there is no penalty for sin, then why in the world would the Father sacrifice His Son? If the works of man, which every other religious system relies on, are sufficient to save, then there is no need for the cross and the Bible is just a lie. But if God's Word is truth and there is a penalty for sin and only Jesus, being God Himself and sinless, could pay that price, then there really is only one way to God and it's through His Son. This means that all other religious systems are lies created by Satan to lull people into a sense of security as they head to a very hot eternity.

We need to stand on this truth. Yes, we are intolerant of other religions and other systems. Yes, we know that we are right and all others are wrong. The Jews, the Muslims, the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Mormons, the Buddhists, the Hindus - they're all going to hell. Only the man who has put his faith in Jesus Christ, who has surrendered his life to God through Christ alone will have eternal life. Jesus is the only way, and folks, waffling on this point for the sake of tolerance is actually a very hateful thing to do, because this truth has eternal consequences.

But believers today are shying away from taking a strong stance on this one. As you saw in the video, it is hard to look at someone and tell them you are right and they are wrong. But that's what truth is all about. It is not an acceptable answer to say that you believe your way, but you leave the judging up to God. Obviously, God is the righteous judge and will judge the hearts of men, but we are given the criteria of judgment and we must stand on it as truth. Again, it is a hateful thing to have the truth and not share it. This world tries to make intolerance the enemy, but intolerance of lies is at the heart of the Christian's claim. We cannot listen to lies and keep quiet.

So, to answer our question, the Bible confirms that there is only one way to God and that is through Jesus Christ. Believe it and speak up.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Truth Series - The Flood




Okay, this one is going to be short. I promise. Maybe.

Local or world wide?

When it comes to Noah's flood, or rather God's flood, do you believe that it was localized in the middle east or did the flood waters cover the earth? By the way, the picture above is Answer in Genesis' depiction of what a local flood would have had to look like...

Well, what does the Bible say? Read it for yourself:

Genesis 7:17-23: Then the flood came upon the earth for forty days, and the water increased and lifted up the ark so that it rose above the earth. The water prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. The water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered. The water prevailed fifteen cubits higher, and the mountains were covered. All flesh that moved on the earth perished, birds and cattle and beasts and every swarming thing that swarms upon the earth, and all mankind; of all that was on the dry land, all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, died. Thus He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky, and they were blotted out from the earth. and only Noah was left, together with those that were with him in the ark.

God's word makes a clear claim - the water covered every mountain by fifteen cubits and every living thing on earth died. If it was a local flood, then you would have to believe that there were only mountains in the middle east and that the only animals on the earth lived there as well. Period.

You might be wondering why this is a truth that I believe is discounted by believers. Well, if you believe that the whole world was flooded and ultimately destroyed from the flood waters, as Peter mentions in II Peter 3:5,6, then you are in the minority in the church today. Why? Because most don't agree with you. Most don't believe a literal account of Genesis for reasons I stated in my last post and they don't think that it really matters whether it was a local flood or a world-wide flood. If you don't believe me, ask around. Ask the believers you know what they think of the flood. You are going to be surprised.

Why is this a big deal? Does it really matter? Well, it matters for a few reasons. First of all, God's Word says it was a world-wide flood. That is reason enough to believe it. When believers discount the truth of the above verses, they are in essence calling God a liar. And if the Bible contains lies disguised as truth, then we're in big trouble, wouldn't you say? So when the Bible makes a truth statement, like the earth was completely covered with flood waters and everything died, then we must believe it and stand on it.

Another reason that this matters is that the flood supports the young earth theory. It uniquely provides the answer to the geological strata that, barring a major catastrophe, could only have been laid over millions of years. But if you believe the literal account of creation, then you know the earth is not old but young. The appearance of age then has to come from somewhere, and the flood gives us our explanation.

And by the way, did you know that on every mountain top there have been found fossils of sea life? Curious, wouldn't you say? But not unexpected if you believe the Genesis account of a world-wide flood.

Okay, I'll be done with this one...short enough?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Truth Series - Creation



We might as well start at the beginning. This is not a new debate by any means and I am not foolish enough to think that a blog is going to change the world. But when it comes to creation, believers need to seek God's face first and then look to science.

Years ago I invited the middle school science teacher from my children's Christian school to come hear creationist Ken Ham speak at my church. It was like pulling teeth to get him to come, but on the final night of a three night conference, the teacher came. It was life-changing for him. His favorite area of study was genetics and that night Ken spoke on genetics from a biblical perspective. This teacher was floored - he was a graduate of Calvin College with post-graduate work from Grand Valley State University. He told me that in all his years of education, he never heard God included within the realm of science, except for one mention of Him in a class at GVSU. Four years of undergraduate at a Christian college and no inclusion of God in his science classes. He had always believed that you had religion and God on one side of life and science stood on its own - the two worlds did not mix. That night he heard science from a biblical perspective and it opened his eyes to the fact that the Bible can be trusted from a scientific perspective.

Today, scientific theory wants to explain life and matter without the involvement of a higher power. Or maybe there is a higher power but it is not the God of the Bible and it is very uninvolved. Therefore, to produce what we see as the world, they need billions of years and lots of good luck. And sadly the church has bought into this plan. They look at science and say that a literal understanding of the Bible contradicts the truth of the geological record, therefore the Bible must be allegorical and not literal when it comes to creation.

My husband was invited to speak at a senior seminar class for science majors at Calvin College. He was asked to defend a young earth, therefore a literal creation. When he was done, the teacher thanked him for coming and sharing the narrow-minded, uneducated view that these students were going to face when they returned home to their communities and families. You see, according to the professor, Genesis was not meant to be taken literal. It was a book of stories teaching a group of uneducated Jews coming out of a polytheistic worship system that there is only one God. Thus the story of creation was meant to retrain their minds into thinking monotheistically, and was not a literal account.

Okay, so where do we begin? Am I really going to write a blog defending the biblical account of creation against evolutionary theory? Well, in this whole series I want us to learn to ask a first question. This question is going to be the rock solid foundation that we build our beliefs on. What you do after you answer this question is your choice. So here it is:

What does the Bible say?

This will be our first question and it will be our guide.

Yes, I understand the Jews were coming out of hundreds of years of slavery within Egypt and Moses recorded a monotheistic account of creation for them. But if we truly believe that God's Word is truth, then in comparing scripture with scripture and taking it at face value, we will find that God's word clearly teaches that He created in six, literal days. Creation is the first act of God that we are given in the Word and I believe it is dangerous to allegorize right out the gate when the context doesn't allow for it.

Genesis 1:1 tells us that "In the beginning God created..." We know that God exists because of His creation (Romans 1:20). For six days, Genesis records exactly what God created on each day, how long each day was (an evening and a morning) and then assigned a number to each day (one, two, three, etc.). Every time a number is associated with the word "yom" or day in Hebrew, it is in the context of a literal twenty-four hour day. In addition to God over-emphasizing that He created in days, He also created in an order which would not allow for millions of years. How could plants be created on day three but have no daylight until day four, unless the days were short and not long periods of time?

Jump to Exodus 20. God is giving the law to His people and tells them to work six days and rest on the seventh, just as He created in six days and rested on the seventh (Exodus 20:9-11). He is making a literal example out of His work in creation. Literal. This is a highly overlooked passage that clearly supports a six-day literal creation. I worked for six days and so should you. Literal.

Jump to the New Testament. In a last days discussion, Peter warns that people will mock the believers' testimony that Jesus is returning - saying "..all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation." (2 Peter 3:4) He goes on to say that when they make this claim, they fail to notice that "...by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water..."(v.5) We see this today. Evolution is no longer a "theory" but taught as truth, pushing the biblical account out of the picture. Science as well as education mocks the idea of a literal creation and claims that we are advanced in our evolutionary state because of the slow process which began billions of years ago, not because of God. God is not even allowed in the discussion, let alone in the classroom. When they say this, they ignore the fact that God created and that He destroyed with the flood. The world-wide flood itself provides scientific answers to geological strata as well as animal extinction, and even explains our earth's formation of fossil fuels.

Now, this is getting long and I know that I am not arguing the scientific perspective well. I really don't have to because there are people who do that much better than I. (Go to www.answersingenesis.org and check out that site.) My point is that the Bible claims a six day creation and then warns that most will mock it and not believe it. If we start believing that God's Word is true and then build on that, then we start with a literal, six day account of creation.

"But Kristen, with God a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day (2 Peter 3:8). So couldn't a day be longer than 24 hours? Can we really know?" Well, that verse is in regards to God's patience in not having yet poured out His wrath on earth and not His creation timing. So, let's keep scripture in context, please.

So if you ask yourself the question, What does the Bible say about creation, I think it's pretty clear. So why can't believers stand on the Word of God? Why do we have to adjust and maneuver around what God states rather plainly? Why do we have to bend God's Word to meld with modern scientific theory? (Theory being the key word.)

Obviously I am hardly denting the debate, but we have to start somewhere. We have to start with what the Bible teaches. If you are a believer who holds to a theistic evolution position, I would challenge you to start by studying scripture and the follow that mindset into science. There is plenty of evidence that proves a young earth. It is down played, however, because the purpose of modern science is not to prove God's existence but to point away from the Creator and worship the creation (Romans 1:21-23).

Start with one question, "What does the Bible say?" and go from there.

Friday, May 21, 2010

What is truth?




There is nothing new under the sun.

The fact that truth is under fire is also not new. That's because truth is very hard to nail down, because everyone has their own version of truth or their own perspective. If you do not understand what I am talking about, just ask two children their own version of the same argument. Both see the conflict from their own perspective, so where is the actual truth? Truth tends to be subjective, but is it really truth then?

When my sister went to Russia to get her daughter, she was confronted with a truth conflict. She stood before a Russian judge who said that the American news outlets were reporting that Russian adoptions were halted because of the unfortunate story of a woman who sent her adopted Russian son back to Russia on a plane by himself. The judge had not actually received any instruction from Moscow to stop adoptions but because of the international attention to the news report, he felt he could not sign her adoption petition until he had clarity of what was really happening. What was the truth of the situation? Were adoptions being halted or not?

The truth was that the American journalist who sparked the story hadn't bothered to check his resources and Russia had NOT stopped adoptions. That journalist stopped adoptions because of faulty reporting. It delayed my sister's adoption for seven days, which though frustrating, were unavoidable due to a lack of truthful reporting.

Stories like this make me question the truthfulness of the media. Hmmm...

No, truth is not subjective. Truth is foundational. Truth is what you build your belief system on, what you base your relationships on, what you can depend on. Truth is the unchangeable facts that stand alone and that you can count on.

Truth is constantly under attack and has been since the garden of Eden. (Did God really say...?) But because it is truth, it can withstand the attack. Were the attacks on the Twin Towers solely a Islamic extremist group enacting punishment on the Great Satan, or was the American government behind it? There are people who will argue both sides but that doesn't mean that truth doesn't exist, it just might be unknown for the moment.

Here's my problem, though truth has always been under attack, I have never known a time in the history of the church that biblical truth has been considered more subjective than it is today. Scriptural understanding has become a matter of personal conviction and interpretation. This is absolutely frightening! Satan has gotten his foot in the door of the church and is wreaking havoc in the community of believers because no one can agree on what truth is - and no one wants to take a stand because it might offend!

So, I want to spend some time looking at basic biblical truths that believers question or shy away from today...or maybe they just flat out don't believe. My standard is going to be God's Word. Now, I can already hear the objections to this exercise - Kristen, you are going to bring your own interpretation to it and you will hold up subjective beliefs as truth and expect everyone to agree with you. That's really not my plan.

There was a song years ago that went like this: Jesus said it, I believe it and that settles it for me. My goal is to clearly lay out the scripture that supports truth and let the Word speak for itself. Feel free to call me on my subjective input and let's have a good discussion. But if our faith is not grounded on truth, then we have no foundation at all. If I am building my life on the Rock and the Rock is really made out of raspberry flavored Jello, I'm in big trouble. Is Jesus a rock or is He unstable, subjective opinion?

Jesus actually answered that question Himself. As He stood before Pilate, He said, "You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice." (John 18:37) Jesus is truth. His words are true. His Word is truth. He came to testify to the truth. Unfortunately, Pilate was blinded to the truth and all he could do was look at Jesus and say, "What is truth?"

Remember, there is nothing new under the sun. Two thousand years ago people questioned truth and they continue today.

Folks, we have the Truth. We are of the truth because we hear His voice.

So, if we really want to know truth, we have to go to the Truth-giver and seek it out. We have to pour over the written revelation of God Himself. He will answer our questions and He will give us the foundation of truth that we can build our lives on.

Sound like a plan?

Monday, May 17, 2010

I'm Back!

Just a quick post this morning to let you know I made it home safely. It was a whirlwind trip that didn't begin until Friday, due to inclement weather in Grand Rapids and Chicago on Thursday. So my itinerary looked like this:

Grand Rapids to Chicago on Friday
5 hour layover - transfer to International Terminal and check in at Korean Air
13.5 hour flight to Seoul - 2.5 hour nap (which is pretty good for me!)
Enter South Korea through their customs and try to explain why I can't provide an address where I would be staying, since my stay in Seoul was only 4 hours!
Check back in at Korean Air, go to gate and wait for sister
Reunite with sister and darling daughter and wait for flight home
11 hour flight to LA on which my sister slept 7.5 hours and Nina slept 9 hours - me? 2 good solid hours!
Enter back into America through customs and try to explain to the immigration officer why my passport picture doesn't really look like me
Go through immigration with Kim and new daughter - 45 minutes
Check into United flight for Chicago
Dinner and wait for flight - 3 hours
Fly to Chicago - 4 hour flight - 20 minutes of sleep
Arrive in Chicago, get cab to my sister's condo - arrive at 1:45 a.m. Sunday morning
Sleep until 7:30 a.m., shower, dress, eat breakfast, have my nephews meet their new sister
Drive home at noon - back in Grand Haven by 3:00

All in all, I flew for 29.5 hours, had 13 hours of layovers, slept for nearly 5 hours of flight time and had a good six hours on land...

So, just in case you thought I was suffering, I took this picture to show how nice my "accommodations" were! This picture was of the seat next to me - very nice!




And just so you can see how I could manipulate my comfort level...




And here is little Nina! What a doll - I had such deja vu from my twins adoption - she is spunky most of the time, shy when she meets strangers, has hugs and kisses a plenty (and the occasional lick which she reserves for her mother!) and was quite the trooper on the trip. She oohed and ahhed at the sites in Chicago as we drove through the city to get on the Sky Way home.




Okay, so now you know I made it home - I am running out the door for my next adventure, so I'll catch up with you all later! Thank you for your prayers and concern. God was with me all the way!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Just a nugget before I go...




Authentic faith endures through the storm.

When you see a picture of a lighthouse in a storm, as a believer do you think the lighthouse represents God? I guess it could, technically, but I think there is a better representation. Let me explain.

We all know the parable of the wise man who built his house upon the rock and the foolish man who chose the beachfront condo. Both homes were hit by storms, but only one survived. This is an obvious illustration of building your life on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ, that will support you when the storms of life hit.

Move to the lighthouse picture now. If we take that parable of the foolish man and the wise man, the lighthouse isn't God, but the lighthouse is built on the Rock. Therefore, what emulates from the lighthouse comes because of its firm foundation.

So...that makes the lighthouse believers. During the storms of life, not only are we able to survive because our foundation is secure, but we are also able to be a beacon of hope and safety during the storm. Do you see it?

Jesus said that we are the light of the world. Who needs light if the sun is shining and all is well? The light is needed in the dead of night or in the midst of the storm. Jesus' statement implies that believers are in the middle of the storm as well, but we provide the answers, the hope, the way as we walk through it as well. What a high calling we have, to be the light of the world, just as Jesus was!

So, Kristen, how exactly can I be a lighthouse in the midst of a storm? Most of us hang on to the Lord for dear life during a storm and now you're telling me that I have to be beacon of hope rather than a victim trying to survive?

Yeah, I'm saying that should be your goal. Remember, authentic faith endures through the storm. This is a recurring theme of the scriptures - Joseph, Job, Jeremiah, Noah, Esther, Ruth, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, Daniel...and the list goes on and on.

Storms are inevitable but how strong is your faith? How does one strengthen their faith? Not to sound like a broken record, but the only way to strengthen your faith is to sit around and think good thoughts about God and how you think He works in this world. Then when the storms come, you can hopefully pull on those warm fuzzies to get you through.

Okay, that was a joke.

Unfortunately that's what people do.

The only way to strengthen your faith is to know God better. The better you know Him, the more confident you will be that He is faithful and true. That's why He has given us such a huge, written account of his faithfulness. So, bottom line - you need to be in the Word, looking to increase your knowledge and understanding of God, so that when the storms hit, what you have to stand on is the firm rock and so that light emulates from your very face showing others in the midst of the storm that there is hope and there is a way to survive in Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ alone. (gasp/big breath- Was that a run on sentence or what?)

Can I get an amen?

See you all next week...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Off to Seoul




For those of you who know me, you know there is never a short story with any of my adventures. Well...I've got a new one for you!

Four years ago my sister, Kim, began the adoption process with her husband to get a daughter from Nepal. It's been a rocky road in that country, with many pitfalls and dead ends, so about a year ago Kim changed her focus from Nepal and put it on Russia. Well, that's not altogether accurate. She let the Nepal adoption wane while she began to aggressively search in Russia.

You can imagine where this is heading. Both adoptions are finishing...at the same time! About five weeks ago, Kim and her husband Fred went to Russia to begin the finalization of their adoption of Nina, the little girl in the picture above. Their trip was actually delayed because Nina was very sick, but now she is ready to travel. They knew they would be in Russia for about five weeks, so they packed up and headed over. In the meantime, the Nepal adoption was back in motion and there was a possibility that both would come to fruition at nearly the same time. So Fred stayed with Kim for two weeks, then jumped on a plane and headed to Katmandu where his sister met him to finalize the adoption in Nepal. My mother joined my sister in Russia for a week and then headed back home, and though there were minor blips in the processes (confusion over the return of a little boy by an American mother which stalled the court system and a riot in Nepal which shut down the Embassy for days), both adoptions moved ahead.

Kim has been in Russia for about ten days alone with Nina in a hotel room, waiting for final travel documents for her new daughter. Both adoptions are finished, both little girls are in their parents' possession and both parents have gotten sick. This is most likely due to their stay in Russia, but Fred has his sister to help with Justine in Nepal. Kim however is alone with Nina and though she is on antibiotics, the bacterial infection is settling in her knees, swelling them and making them stiff.

This leads to me. Kim emailed me and asked if I would meet her in Seoul to help her bring Nina home. Because you need visas to enter Russia and they take some time to acquire, Kim will fly to South Korea on Saturday morning, where Aunt Kristen will be waiting for her with a smile and a hug and a bag of goodies for her new niece! I will then fly back to LAX with her (over 11 hours) and then on to Chicago, where we will drive home on Sunday afternoon. I think Kim is doing a bit better, but with her frail health and a four year old who doesn't speak English, an extra pair of hands is just the medicine she needs. That and a bottle of Baby Benedryl to "help" Nina sleep on the plane!

So I am off on Thursday morning for about 17 hours of plane rides to Seoul. I'll arrive on Friday afternoon, spend the night in the airport hotel, bum around for the day and then meet them for our flight back to the states.

Please pray for my sister's health, as well as her husband's health and trip home from Nepal. I think we're all arriving home within a day of each other. Pray also for the adjustment that comes from adding a three and a four year old to their home. Pray that God would use me to encourage my sister and that our time together would be a blessing to each other!

Have a great weekend and I'll let you know about the adventure on the other side!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Congratulations, Katherine!

Saturday was my daughter's graduation. This video is a little surprise that was sprung on all of us...actually, we got a head's up that something was coming, so we taped it just in case! Not only did Katherine graduate Suma Cum Laude with a 3.98 GPA, but she did it all in three years! On Tuesday, after her last final, I reminded Katherine that the 18 credit hours she accomplished last summer was for that precise moment. She has worked hard and sacrificed much to earn her degree and this honor.

Katherine, Dad and I are so proud of you! You are a wonderful, brilliant, godly, driven young woman. As you begin your career at International Aid and your role as wife at the end of June, we are so excited to watch God mold and shape you into the image of His Son. These past three years have flown by for us, and now you begin a new chapter. Blessings to you and keep up the good work! Love you, Mom and Dad

Okay, enough gushing...enjoy the video...(if you can't gush on your own blog, where can you?)


video

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Happy Birthday, Calvin



Twenty-four years ago this afternoon, God placed a precious gift in my arms and let me tell you, he changed my life. I grew up with sisters, which meant a house full of girls and to have this little boy handed to me was quite a surprise. Yes, this was back in the olden days when nobody knew the sex of their baby until after it was born, unless there was some kind of emergency and a test was warranted. So, after a mere seven hours of labor which I have affectionately compared as equal to Dave's curse of working till the day he dies, this little boy was placed in my arms, and after promptly proving that his plumbing worked properly, he looked up at me with his big, blue eyes and I knew I was whipped.

He still has that affect on me today.

Calvin has had a sweet spirit about him since the day he was born. He was very verbal and could talk your ear off at eighteen months old. He loved sports and played endless basketball games and baseball games with his father in our living room and front yard. That competitive spirit now translates into online challenges, through the electronic world of sports managing and XBOX, but it continues nonetheless. I can remember he used to insist on thirty minutes of Sports Center before school...or should I say, kindergarten. He loved the statistics and the sporting news, and would sit with his backpack on his back, shoes and coat on, with his knees pulled up to his chin and watch ESPN till it was time to leave for school...year after year after year.

At a very young age, Calvin displayed the work of the Holy Spirit in his life. He was fascinated by Bible stories and loved to retell them once he heard them. He was easily moved to repentance and memorized scripture with ease. He used to sit on my lap at church and point to the pastor and say, "I want to be him when I grow up."

Before he entered the world of school, I would take him to visit my grandmother at the retirement home she lived in, and Calvin had a tender heart for the elderly. There was one man who ate alone and Calvin would often wander over and talk with him, quoting him scripture or acting out the story of David and Goliath for him, or playing catch with an invisible ball. It made him sad that this man was alone and soon, Calvin became the lunch room entertainer with all his antics and activity. The residents lit up when he walked in. Such a tender heart...

Calvin also had a passion for the Word. When he was in elementary school, he loved his Bible classes, but he struggled with small motor skills, so drawing and writing were difficult for him. I can remember one day, when he was in first grade, it had rained at lunchtime so the kids had to stay in the classroom during recess. The teacher handed out paper and crayons and told the children to draw a picture for their parents. Normally, this would have been a prison sentence for Cal, but that day he could hardly wait to pull his picture from his backpack. It was a swirling, circling mess of black, yellow and orange. Scribbling was his specialty but on this particular day, there was significance behind the drawing. When I asked him to explain what the picture was, he said to me, "It's God pouring his wrath out on the earth (that was the black and orange scribbles) and then this yellow here is lightning because that's Jesus coming back to get his children right before the wrath destroys everything!" Such excitement on his face and two things came to my mind. First, his teacher must think we're psycho here at home and second, this little guy is listening to our dinner conversation with Grandpa a lot more than I realized!

Another time he came home from school, probably in second or third grade, and he was very serious. He wanted to talk with me. He said, "Mom, if Jesus is God, who was up in heaven watching over the world when Jesus died on the cross?" I pulled him into a hug and said, "This is a great question for daddy when he gets home!" Calvin had a spiritual depth at a very young age, an interest in God's Word, a heart for the lost, a compassion for the hurting and a love for his Savior.

What a joy it has been to watch this young man grow and mature and follow God's call into full-time ministry. Oh, I could go on and on with many, many stories, but I'll keep those to myself for the time being. I just wanted to let my readers know that this is a very precious day for me, because twenty-four years ago, God changed my life through this little gift we call Calvin.

Happy Birthday, Calvin. Dad and I love you very much and are so happy that you are moving back to Michigan. You have been a true blessing in our lives and it is an honor to have you serve alongside us at the new church. You are a man of truth and integrity, and your discernment is evidence of God's hand in your life. Now, enjoy your special day and then get back to packing! Love you, Mom

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Either Way Faith...Really?




"If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up." Daniel 3:17,18

This was Daniel's three friends' reply to Nebuchadnezzar, when he demanded that they bow to his golden image. When these young men refused to bow, the king determined to make good on his threat to throw them into the furnace - the cost of disobedience. But before he punished them, he gave them one more chance. He told them that when they heard the sound of music, to fall on their faces and worship the image he had made, for "what god is there that can deliver you out of my hands?" That's when the men answered the verses above. In essence, they said, "Our God can deliver us if He should so choose. But if He chooses not to, either way, we will not bow to anyone but God."

Either way. God has a choice - to deliver us or to let us perish. Either way, we trust Him alone.

Either way faith.

Do you have "either way" faith?

I think more than not, I have "my way faith." That means that I trust God is going to do what I want, to make things go my way, and that's why I have faith in Him. When I get the answer I prayed for, I say things like, "It was a real test of my faith, but see how good God is!"

Oh, yes! And that's another thing - "God is so good." We say that when things turn out our way, right?

"I was really struggling but God is good and He came through."

"I really needed to sell my house and God is so good, it sold last week!"

"My husband lost his job, but God is so good, he got a new job already!"

But what happens when the house won't sell? Is God not good anymore? Or when there are no jobs? How about then? Or when the test results are bad? Or the fertility doctors are stumped? Or your very best friend turns on you? Is God still good? Do you have faith in Him still or does your faith waiver?

We all know the end of the story. Four men in the furnace rather than three. So for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, their story turned out great. But not all stories end like this. Sometimes God's apparent silence feels like abandonment. What do we do then?

Well, I think it starts with true faith. We've got to get rid of our "my way faith" and replace it with "either way" faith. Those three young men were staring death in the face when they made their declaration of either way faith to Nebuchadnezzar. They said it and they meant it. And when the flames of the furnace lapped at their ankles, it was the moment of truth. Do you think they expected to be saved? I don't think they did. It's not like others had made a stand for God and He had spared them from the furnace, and it was just these three guys' turn. These men were using their last platform as a testimony in the One True God. They knew that whether on earth or in eternity, they were in His hands and His care. So they defied the pagan king and prepared to meet their maker, never dreaming that God would meet them in the furnace for a worship service.

Imagine living life that way. I think we make bold statements in very safe environments. But when our faith is tested because what we are expecting to happen isn't in sight, that's when we have to put our expectations aside and rest in the person and character of God. Yes, God is good ALL THE TIME. Even when He doesn't show up like I want Him to - even when He seems absent. I have to know the character of God and cling to it, trusting His outcome in all circumstances, not just in the times that He answers my way.

Either way faith is a daily call to know the Father, to follow the Father, to trust the Father and to commit all outcomes to the Father. Either way faith knows that His Word is true: there are consequences to sin, persecution is always around the next turn, God tests with trials but never tempts, and the fruit of the Spirit only grows on healthy plants. Either way faith is not just a verbal response, but an emotional, physical and spiritual resolve. Either way faith is prepared to die, prepared to suffer, prepared to stand and prepared to be surprised.

Because either way, God is still God.

The best way to have either way faith is to be in the Word and know God better. The more you know Him, the more you will rest in His loving care and the more you will be able to take your eyes off the here and now and set them on the Eternal One.