Month: April 2015

Pray for Paradise Island: Fiji

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WikiMedia

  • Population: 854,098
  • Capital: Suva
  • Official Language: English, Hindustani, and Bau Fijian
  • Area: Fiji is located 1,200 miles Northeast of New Zealand. There are two larger and 110 smaller inhabited islands, both volcanic and coralline. There is around 7,100 square miles of land in this area, slightly larger than the state of Connecticut.

Prayer Requests

  1. Fiji has an abundant amount of resources: forest, mineral, and fish. It also has one of the most developed economies in the Pacific and attracts many tourists each year to the beautiful island. Despite living in Paradise, the country suffers from coups, which are sudden violent groups that attempt to overthrow the government. Please pray that God would give the leaders in that country wisdom and patience as they combat these civil wars.
  2. People suffer from Alcoholism and abuse in the homes. Broken families are prevalent in Fiji. Ask God to convict the hearts of men and women who are captivated by the power of sin and break their chains of entanglement so they can live victoriously.
  3. The Indian people are working hard to build a positive community on the Island. Unfortunately, racism undermines their efforts. The British and Fijan people perceive them as outsiders and sub-human. Since Fiji professes to be a Christian country, it discredits the gospel in the eyes of most Indians. Pray that God would send revival to the churches and bring peace and reconciliation for all people. Jesus said he was coming back for every tribe, tongue, and nation, and that includes the Indian people.

The 4 Major Themes of the Bible: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration

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There are 4 main themes that interconnect the history of the Judeo-Christian worldview. The first is creation. In the beginning, God created time and the universe by His power, turning nothing into something (ex-nihilo). He created the stars, galaxies, fish, cucumbers, trees, giraffes, and his greatest work of all, humankind. God placed the man Adam and his wife Eve in the Garden of Eden, a perfect environment, and gave them the responsibility to tend the garden and take care of the animals.

Meanwhile, a mighty angel named Lucifer, who was once created perfect, rebelled against God because of pride and envy. He was cast out of heaven and took the form of a serpent. He tempted Eve to disobey God by eating something God told her not to do, for her protection, and when this happened, both the man and the woman felt shame and their relationship became fractured from God. This is often referred to as the second major theme of the Bible. The fall of Man, or as Christian scholars would say, original sin. This means that human beings are no longer born morally good, but are born with an evil inclination to disobey authority.

The struggle between good and evil continued in the first couple’s family. One of their sons, Cain, murdered his brother. Several generations later, the world was filled with such violence and defiance towards God, that the only man alive at the time, Noah, was extended grace. God revealed to Noah that He would send a great flood to bring judgment on the people, and so he told Noah to build an ark. After the flood, Noah and his family began to repopulate the earth.

Noah’s descendents birthed the start of Judaism by the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in 1900 BC. God promised to bless Abraham’s offspring and, through that seed, to bless all the nations of the Earth.  Jacob, the youngest of the patriarchal Fathers, had twelve children, and the eleventh child, Joseph, ended up becoming a powerful force in Egypt for 400 years until the Pharaoh of Egypt, Ramses II, enslaved them. To rescue the Israelites, God raised up a prophet named Moses, from the tribe of Levi, to bring the people out of Israel out of Egypt and back to the land which had been promised to Abraham.

Once safely out of Egypt, the children of Israel camped at Mount Sinai, where God gave Moses the 10 commandments, which was the basis of their covenant. In addition to the moral code (Do not murder, steal) the law defined the role of the priest and offering of sacrifices to atone for sin. Atonement could only be made by the shedding of the blood of a spotless sacrifice. The law also detailed how to build the holy tabernacle, in which God’s presence would dwell and where He would meet with His people.

Over the next several years, Joshua led the people of God through various battles and they began to conquer many nations. However, they started to worship the gods around them and lost their identity. As a result, they no longer wanted God to be their king, but asked for a human king because they wanted to be like other nations. God granted their request, and Samuel anointed Saul as Israel’s first king. Saul was a disappointment, disobeyed God and was removed from power. God then chose David, of the tribe of Judah, to succeed Saul as King. God promised David that he would have a descendant who would reign on throne forever (the promised Messiah being Jesus Christ, God in the flesh).

David’s son Solomon reigned in Jerusalem around 950 BC, but civil war broke out, and the kingdom was divided. The northern kingdom was Israel and the southern Kingdom Judah. Israel continued to have wicked kings, and God brought the Assyrian nation upon Israel in judgment. After the northern kingdom was destroyed, the nation of Judah was overtaken by the Babylonian empire around 574 BC. This is during the time when the prophet Isaiah predicted a Suffering Servant who would suffer for the sins of His people and be glorified and sit on David’s throne. The prophet Micah predicted that this promised one would be born in Bethlehem.

The Jewish people were deported into Babylon for over 70 years, and after they fell to the Persian Empire, the Jews were released to return to Judah. The Jews returned home to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. Malachi wrote the last book of Jewish history and prophesies that the Lord would come to His temple and that a future king would come into Jerusalem riding on a donkey.

This brings us to the 3rd theme of the Bible: redemption. The Old Testament is the story of God’s plan to bring redemption of man. The sacrificial system, the spotless lamb, the savior of the world, the one who would die for his own people, was about to arrive on the scene. The suffering servant of Isaiah, the Son of David, the Messiah of Daniel, and the humble king of Zechariah, all to be found in one person, Jesus Christ.

Jesus grew up as an observant Jew. He began his public ministry at the age of 30. John the Baptist had been preaching of the coming Messianic kingdom and baptizing those who believed his message and turned from their sins. People were following Jesus and calling him the Son of God, which was considered blasphemous because Jesus was equating himself as equal with God.

In his final trip to Jerusalem, Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples. That night, during a time of prayer, Judas betrayed him and Jesus was arrested and dragged through a series of mock trials. He was condemned to death by crucifixion by the Roman governor. At the moment of His death, there was a great earthquake. Jesus’ body was taken from the cross, laid in a nearby tomb, and on the third day, Jesus’ tomb was discovered empty.

The Jewish people realized that the sacrificial systems, the tabernacle, the priesthood, the atonement, the suffering servant, all of these prophecies were fulfilled in the God-Man, Jesus Christ: He is the ultimate lamb of God, He is the High Priest, He is the King of all, and He is the Savior of the World.

The final theme is restoration. It is when Christ will return and make all things right. We are living in the already-not yet eschatology. This means that Christianity is spreading, and the kingdom of God is growing, but the millennium, the thousand year reign of Christ, hasn’t yet occurred. We are waiting for the day when the Messiah will bring peace to the Earth and establish a new heaven and a new earth. Read this verse and meditate on this future day. We have this hope in Christ. God bless and share this good news with others!

Revelation 21:1-8 says, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look! I’m making all things new.” He also said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “All is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will freely give water from the life-giving spring. Those who emerge victorious will inherit these things. I will be their God, and they will be my sons and daughters.

The Bereans: Knowing Truth from Error in a Corrupt Society

Photo Credit: Ravi Zacharias Ministries

Photo Credit: Ravi Zacharias Ministries

An FBI agent was once asked, “What procedures are taken in law enforcement to determine whether money is fraudulent? He replied: “We have such a keen awareness of what real money looks like that its easy to recognize the real from the fake.” So then, the FBI agency spends more time examining the real currency rather than focusing their efforts on fraudulent cash.

Jude advises us to discern between truth and error. He said, “Contend for the faith that was once delivered to the Saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God.”

In the book of Jude, the author mentions specific ways you can determine false prophets. They are blasphemers, motivated by greed, and rejoice in their own wickedness. They look nothing like the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The Lord told us that we will know true believers by their fruit. If these attributes are not identifiable in your leaders, then its possible that you are following a false prophet.

In the book of Acts, Paul of Tarsus and Silas preached at Berea. The inhabitants there received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily to determine whether they were teaching the truth, and many of them believed.” As Christians, we need to be diligent like the Bereans and early church, contending for the faith once delivered to the saints.

Father, help us to discern between truth and error. Give us an extension of your grace through the power of your Holy Spirit. Teach us to teach others your truth so they won’t be led astray. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

The Power of Christianity is Found in a Person

Photo Credit: WikiArt

Photo Credit: WikiArt

“And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, so that, as it is written, Let the one who boats, boast in the Lord ( 1 Cor. 1:30).”

I lived in the beautiful city of Louisville, Kentucky for three years of my life, studying at Southern Seminary. A group of us friends had an apologetics outreach to the University of Louisville, engaging philosophical debate with Atheists about the meaning of the universe.

After deep reflection and argumentation from the Theist position, the smartest Atheist in the group stood up and said, “I have heard enough. I don’t care about all your arguments. I care about your Christ. Why don’t you Christians act like Him by demonstrating love towards other?” I was shocked. I thought he wanted concrete, empirical evidence to validate God. Instead, he wanted a subjective, meaningful experience of truth.

Billy Graham once stated, “The secret of the power of Christianity is not in its ethics. It is not in Christian ideas or philosophy, although Christianity has a philosophical set of ideas. The secret of Christianity is found in a person, and that person is the Lord Jesus Christ.

That’s exactly what my Atheist friend was looking for. An interpersonal, vibrant worldview filled with meaning, beauty, and purpose. If you are looking for a worldview like this, it’s found in the God-Man, Jesus Christ, who stepped into His own creation, died for the sins of the world, and rescued us from the enemy. He is greater than any superhero man has envisioned. What’s better; He is alive and real.

If you don’t know Him, simply pray: “Dear Jesus, I know I am a sinner who deserves Hell. I also realize you are a loving God who doesn’t desire for people to perish, but to be saved. You died on the cross for my sins and I am eternally grateful for that. I accept your free gift of salvation. With your help, I am willing to forsake my sin and put my trust and faith solely in you. Thanks for your marvelous grace. I believe all these words are true and declare them in the name of the Father, the Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

If you honestly prayed, your name is written in heaven and you are saved! I encourage you to read your Bible daily, attend a Bible-believing Church (evangelical), develop relationships with believers who will keep you accountable, and start witnessing the good news that Jesus saves sinners today!

Nepal Earthquake Devastates Land, Killing Thousands

Photo Credit: NPR

Photo Credit: NPR

On April 25th, 2015 at 11:58 A.M, the capital city of Nepal, Kathmandu, was devastated by a 7.8 earthquake. Sadly, more than 2,430 people died in this city alone. Approximately 2,500 others living in India and China also perished from this massive shaking of the ground.

The capital city of Nepal, Kathmandu, was named after the Kathmandap Temple. In Sanskrit, the word Kastha (काष्ठ) means “wood” and Mandap (/मण्डप) means “covered shelter.” Unfortunately, the city’s unique name wasn’t enough to safeguard a high wall monastery, a mud and brick cottage, various high-rise buildings, and many historic places of worship for Buddhists and Hindus living in the area from collapsing to pieces.

The city has a rich and diverse history. It was an important trading center on the Silk Road that linked India, Tibet, and China together. It still remains an important trading center for agriculture, metal casting, and woodcarving. Not only is Kathmandu known for it’s enormous treasure house of art and sculpture, it is renown for its economic development. The Nepal Stock Exchange, The National Bank, and the Chamber of Commerce all reside here.

There are more than 1 million people who live in this metropolitan area. The majority of them are part of the Newar tribe–indigenous people who love and care for others. Tourists noticed that it wasn’t the government or the police helping out the afflicted. It was ordinary citizens rescuing people from collapsing buildings, providing communal kitchens to feed the hungry, and aiding thousands through medical care.

Psalm 10:17 says, “You, LORD, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,” Please continue to pray for these precious people who lost their family, friends, and loved ones. Ask God to send volunteers around the world to help rescue the injured, serve meals to the displaced, and share the good new of Jesus Christ. May God also remind us to be thankful for all that He has given to us. In Jesus name. Amen.

Water: The Most Abundant Resource?

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Did you know there is approximately 326 million trillion gallons of water on Earth? 97% comes from the ocean, 2% is frozen in the polar ice caps, and less than 1% of water is found in fresh lakes, rivers, and springs underground. Although most of this water is salted from the ocean, there is still plenty of water to satisfy the thirst of 7 billion people on Earth.

Isn’t it sad that there are still people who struggle with getting access to clean water? I heard a story about a missionary who visited an underdeveloped country in Africa. Every day, kids from different indigenous tribes would travel about 10 miles to find clean water to drink.

During the missionary’s stay, he met a young boy who was in charge of bringing fresh water back to his family. The boy told the missionary, “Once you get to the water source, that is the beginning of the battle. There are at least 100 thirsty people hovering around the well and filling up their buckets too. Most of them are bigger, stronger, and older than me.” The missionary asked how long it takes to get water. The boy said, “It depends on the day. If I make it earlier than normal, I can fill my buckets up before getting kicked or thrown out of the way by the rest of the crowd. If I get there late, it may take the whole day.”

This story informs us that the problem is not the total supply of water on the Earth. In providing the Earth with water, God gave us an abundant amount of resources. In many cases, local water shortages are due to the lack of economic development of the nation as a whole to be able to transport, purify, deliver, and pay for clean water. There is also political hindrance and war. For example, it’s tough to get into East African countries like Sudan and Somalia because of all the violence.

Fortunately, there are more developing countries with access to clean water. Drinking water has increased from 30% in 1970 to 80% in 2000. There is definite progress, but its still not enough for countries along the eastern border of Africa. The statistics have remained relatively the same for the last 40 years. This needs to change!

In John 4:14, Jesus asked a Samaritan woman for water. He tells her: “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” 

As Christians, we are called to love both God and our neighbor. The best way to love our neighbor is first to share the good news of Jesus Christ. They need to know that salvation is a free gift from God. It is free water, and everyone has access to it. More importantly, this water is permanent. It doesn’t leave you thirsty for more. Instead, it satisfies the soul and gives eternal life to all who believe. If we confess our wrongdoing (lying, stealing, jealously, anger, lust, etc)  God is faithful and just to forgive us and renew our relationship.

Because of this good news, we should be motivated to love our neighbor. How can we love them? For some of us, it’s going to Africa, helping them drill for more wells, using our agricultural gifts to assist with irrigation, and making sure to provide all of them with freshwater. By doing this, we can show God’s love in a practical way.

If you are not able to travel, then I suggest praying that God would send people to help or donate to a legitimate non-profit organization that helps countries get access to clean water. As Edmund Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men and women to do nothing.” So then, go and do something!

The Key of Wisdom is in God’s Hand

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“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” -James 1:5

This week, my wife and I were picking up leaves and planting flowers in our yard. Our neighbor approached us and asked how we were doing. “Good,” we said. “Looking forward to the baby being born in a couple of weeks.” Then I asked, “How are you?” She said, “Fine, but my husband isn’t doing too well. He’s quite sick.” I said, “Sorry to hear that. We will be praying for you.”

My wife and I have been praying for this elderly couple for at least 6 months. We invited them to church on several occasions, but they weren’t able to go. I was eager to share the good news of Jesus Christ, but kept making excuses and waiting for the right moment.

This was the right moment. He’s sick, needs prayer, and I can open up the Bible and comfort him with Scripture. I called my neighbor, asked for permission to come over, and then my wife baked cookies for me to bring over as a gift. At first, I was reluctant to go, but I asked God to give me wisdom and open up the door to a spiritual conversation.

I rang the doorbell, went inside to the living room, and sat on a nice black leather recliner. He was sitting on a chair, working on a puzzle with his wife. All of us starting talking about family, friends, the weather, and his diminishing health. As we were talking, I prayed that God would open up an opportunity in the conversation to lead naturally into a spiritual conversation.

When I prayed that in my head, literally five seconds later she said, “We went to church for the first time in a long time.” The pastor preached a great sermon and we were both impressed. I said, “Great.” “What did he preach on?” The husband, who is now 90, said to me, “He preached about Jesus and how He died for our sins.” He continued. “I felt so good about what the minister said and it brought peace to my heart. I never had that before.”

I asked him, “Why not?” “Well” he said. “When I was middle-aged I got a divorce. I went one Sunday to church and told the minister. He told me I was never welcomed back to their church again. I told the minister that I will come anyways, even if you don’t accept me.”

At that moment, I realized why he declined many of our invitations to attend church. He was burned and hurt by a wolf in shepherd’s clothing. I explained to him that the Bible makes it clear, no one is righteous. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Therefore, the church is not a place for the righteous. It is a hospital for sick people who desperately need the love, forgiveness, and grace of Almighty God.

After I reassured him of this truth, I told him the parable in Luke 18 about the Pharisee and the tax collector: Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying to himself. God, I thank you that I am not like other people; swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get. But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

I asked the husband, “Which prayer do you think God heard?” He said, “The one who was honest about his own shortcomings.” I said, “You are exactly right.” God calls us to turn from our sins, to do what is right, but not to trust in our own good works to save us. Only God is righteous to save us, and that’s why He sent Jesus to be our substitute. Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for us, so that we would have the righteousness of God. When we put our full trust in Jesus, recognize that salvation is a free gift and can’t be earned, and ask His Holy Spirit to give us the power to overcome sin, then we can live a life of victory. We don’t have to fear the future because our hope is found in the unchanging power of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

In the end, I was glad that God gave me wisdom to guide the conversation. I believe that night my neighbors heard the gospel clearly. It is my hope and prayer that they do in fact put their hope and trust in Jesus Christ. As believers, we can’t save anyone, but we are responsible to shed the truth of what we know to the world. From that point forward, God will take care of the rest. Trust in Him.