John the Baptist must have been a fascinating character. We know so little about him other than his lineage, where he lived, what he wore and ate (locusts raw and not on pizza), and what he did for a living. While it seems like a lot, knowing this information does not reveal all that much about a person (well, maybe the locust part does). However, in John’s case, his rather mysterious personage tells us all we need to know. He was an instrument, a vehicle, a preparer for something (someone) greater. No one pays much attention to the construction crew that paves the road upon which the presidential limo travels. No one oogles over the hammer in the hand of the Continue reading “Locusts!? I Don’t Even Like Spinach!”
Wes Stafford, president and CEO of Compassion Int’l, wrote of his experience growing up as a Third Culture Kid in the Ivory Coast. His folks were missionaries among the Senufo tribe; a people of hunters, fishermen, and farmers. Every Wednesday he and his friends would walk into a nearby village for Market Day where the different tribes would buy each others’ goods. A tribe of craftsmen would always arrive early and set up their kiosks under the shade of a grove of mango trees. This shade was a luxury as the temperature in the sun would often reach 120 degrees F. Continue reading “Are You Without Wax?”
North Korea is more than a dictatorship, it is a totalitarian regime where citizens must not only obey their leaders but worship them as gods. This is a very consistent theme throughout history. Dictatorships have often been accompanied by emperor worship or at least hints of deification: the Roman Caesars, King Herod (Acts 12), Hitler, Stalin, Emperor of Japan, even the anti-Christ (2 Thess 2:4). Kim Il Sung, the founder of “modern” North Korea created “Juche,” (literally, self-reliance) the country’s ideology which has become the state religion and the government uses cult indoctrination to see that it prospers. North Korean children are annually given one piece of candy, which is a luxury in a country where 40% of children are malnourished. These children are taught that before they eat their candy they are to give thanks to their country’s dictator-god. They are also taught to sing worship songs found in a book of 600 hundred hymns to Sung and his son Kim Jong-il. In fact, there is a Christian ministry that has put Christian lyrics to at least thirty of these hymns and is broadcasting them into the country. (The reverse of what Hitler did when he took Christian hymns and changed the lyrics to support the worship of the State.) To keep “Juche” in place, the government harasses, tortures, imprisons, and kidnaps those who dare follow “the God of heaven” and his Son Jesus Christ. Thus to disavow “Juche” is tantamount to treason just as refusing to step on the “Fumie” was in sixteenth-century Japan or to burn incense to the Emperor was in second and third-century Rome. I wonder what test of citizenship we might someday undergo in the West? Pray for the Church in North Korea.
Christianity Today is celebrating a “rebranding,” which includes a new visual identity and the launch of a new ministry website, ChristianityToday.org. As a part of its celebration, it is asking people to respond to the question “What is my hope for the future of the Church”? Since I am a contributing editor to Leadership Journal, also published by Christianity Today Int’l, I was invited to write something in answer to the same question. To be honest, when I went on the website and started to read people’s hopes for the future of the Church, I got scared. Call me Mr. Sensitive, but after being a pastor for 40 years all I’ve heard have been people’s preferences for what they want the Church to be like, and these preferences are often hidden behind their hopes, dreams, and “suggestions.” I believe that many of these “suggestions” are based upon flawed Continue reading “What is Your Hope for the Church?”
Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), a minister in the Church of Scotland, in Volume 6 of his Works, wrote a discourse on the text in 1 John 2:15, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” The title of the discourse was “the Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” He began by saying, that there are two ways that we can deal with the love of the world, which so often fills our hearts and leads us to do things that are not pleasing to God. We can either renounce the world (just stop doing that stuff) or we can replace love for the world with a new love that is even stronger. Continue reading “A New Affection”