Saturday, January 31, 2009

Wonderful Story

Read this amazing true story of an atheist who recently become a follow of Christ.
Relationships with Believers

Watch a great message from my twin brother, Doug.
I know that I need better and deeper relationships with my fellow brothers and sisters.  Watching, I realized that this is where my spiritual health is lacking the most.
Our Recent Adventures in Parenthood

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Japan's Message: "Have More Babies!"

After hearing Nancy Pelosi's comments, I think we Americans
need to hear this message.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Kurt Warner:  The true story is better than the "movie-version" e-mail!
Kurt Warner grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, went on to my alma mater (The University of Northern Iowa) and became a Christian.  Other than those three similarities the path of this 3-time Super Bowl starting quarterback and mine are very different!  His story is much more exciting.  Read the partly-true e-mail version, and then the even better true story here. 
You know who I'll be rooting for during the Super Bowl!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

I Hate Religion
  Marc Driscoll
What Sanctity of Life Comes Down To

With Obama's crazy views reversing good abortion laws, we need to turn our focus back on what is at the root of this evil.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Atheists Ask Lee Strobel
"Hemant Mehta, the 'friendly atheist' who gained notoriety by selling his soul on e-bay, asked me if I would answer questions submitted by his atheist friends. I said I’d be glad to."  Here are the questions and Lee's answers.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

ジョン・パイパー
パイパーさんの中絶についてのメッセジは最近日本語で翻訳されたんです。ぜひ読んで下さい!
Here is a recent message by John Piper about abortion translated into Japanese.  I encourage you to read and pass it on!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Do you have any extra Bibles?

"Research indicates that the average American Christian owns nine Bibles and is actively in the market for more. That statistic troubles us here at CRI, since we receive more than 400 letters a month from pastors and Christian workers in developing countries whose churches own no Bibles or Christian books."

Why not consider giving them to people who really need them!  The process is VERY easy.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Darwin's Personal Struggle and the Church

This year, being the 200th birthday of Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his infamous book On the Origin of Species, I want to devote some time to thinking about Darwin's impact on the world as well as to devote some time to thinking about what impacted him.

Did you know that the idea that the Earth is billions of years old did not come from Darwin?  This thought was deeply entrenched, not just in men of science, but regrettably even in the church long before Darwin came onto the scene.

Now picture this:

"The doctor tries to look away as he says, 'I'm sorry.  I've done all I can.  Your daughter is dying.'"

How would you respond?  You see your 10-year-old daughter suffer terribly for several weeks and then you hear the news.  Not being trained well by his Christian culture or by his own church in the book of Genesis, Darwin is pushed over the brink.  "As far as we know, it made him turn away from God once and for all."

"Without the Bible's explanation that Adam's sin brought death and a curse on the world, there is no satisfying answer to why evil exists on Earth.  The church failed to give Darwin a satisfying answer for the sight of the snake devouring a baby bird or the pain of losing his daughter.  Those in the church who claimed that God brought Adam's 'very good' world into existence through millions of years of death and suffering made God out to be an ogre and a liar."

What do you think?  Could God call the created universe "very good" if he used millions or years of death and suffering to do it?  Or is it better to assume that all creatures were created in a literal six-day period and then given the label "very good" (Genesis 1:31) before death had entered the world?  And probably most importantly, are we missing a key part of the gospel when we leave out the extent to which Adam's sin affected world?  How will future sufferers react to a God that casually allows death and tragedy into the world before sin, while counting it all very good?

I welcome your responses.

(Quotes taken from Answer Magazine, p. 33 Jan.-Mar. 2009 edition)

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Secularization of the West

No one has to convince you of it.  While many Americans might becoming more devout Christians, at the same time many more are losing their faith in the Bible.
Could this be a big part of the cause?

Any thoughts?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Some Things I Love about Japan

A few weeks ago I commented on some things that I thought were strange or unusual in Japanese culture.  Today I wanted to comment on some great things about Japan and Japanese culture.

10.  Cakes are much more lightly sweetened and therefore more distinctly tasteful.  Instead of just getting a mouth full of sugar, like you get with American cake, you are enabled to taste the various ingredients more distinctly.  It took me awhile to get used to it, but once I did, I don't ever want to go back!

9.  While I am on the dessert topic, I love the little spoons and forks that Japanese use.  It makes the whole experience of eating dessert more of a savoring and relaxing time rather than a woofing down and pigging out time!

8.  Japanese toilets school American toilets!  You can set your flow to a #1 or #2 (Depending on your job!) and you can wash your hands at the top with the incoming clean water.  What more could you want!  Of course the plug-in warm toilet seat is a nice addition as well.

7.  Japanese refrigerators are so much better.  More cost-efficient, compartmentalized and easier on the environment.

6.  Cozy houses, not hotels.

5.  Polite waitresses and waiters - especially to foreigners!

4.  Most people are thin and eat appropriate portions.  Restaurant food is good, healthy, and it is always just the right amount.  (OK I admit, I'm not a big eater.)

3.  Though most Japanese aren't very direct, they are sincere and trustworthy.  You don't get a lot of smart-alecks or blatant liars here.

2.  Japanese Christians are so precious.  They persevere under extremely dry and spiritually dead environments, face social ostracation and yet manage to do a lot of great work for the kingdom, even in their busy work-filled lives.

1.  Of course number one is my wife Maki.  Without her wonderful presence in my life, Japan would indeed be a very difficult place for me to stay long-term!  I love my family and I love my homeland too much.  God knows!
Why Judson?
Some have asked why we chose the middle name of our new son.  Our son is named after a man I respect very much and would like my son to emulate in his own life as he lives to love God and others in all the nations.
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Here is a summary from a post I made last May:

Adoniram Judson was the first American overseas missionary. His testimony is a greatly inspiring one (you can read or listen to it here.)

After leaving for Burma (Myanmar) his first two children died in infancy and then his wife died. Six months later his third son, age 2, also died. Many would have understandably given up and gone home. Not Judson. He stayed on for 38 years until he died at the age of 61 in Burma. When Judson was lying loaded with chains in a Burmese dungeon at one point, a fellow prisoner asked with a sneer about the prospect for the conversion of the heathen. Judson calmly answered, "The prospects are as bright as are the promises of God."

Judson eventually saw God break through. He was remarried and had other children. And by faith in the promises of God, God mercifully allowed him to see some amazing fruit. Hundreds were saved from eternal destruction in hell and God showed Himself MIGHTY to save. It is the glory of trusting the "impossible". In 2003 Patrick Johnstone estimated that in Myanmar the Baptist Convention (from which Judson came) to be 3,700 congregations with 617,781 members and 1,900,000 affiliates- this is due largely to the fruit of this dead seed who trusted in a God who can do the impossible.

May we all live like Judson and as Martin Luther said, "Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also. The body, they may kill. God's truth abides still. His kingdom is forever!" or as Hebrews 13:13 says, "Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek a city that is to come."
3 Myths about Calvin

I've been reading Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion in order to get a clearer idea of the thinking of this great reformer.  It helps that this year is the 500th anniversary of his birth.  Unfortunately, Calvin (and Calvinism in general) get a lot of unfair treatment by others simply because people do not try to understand Calvin.  Here are a couple myths that I have discovered:

Calvin ruled Geneva with an iron fist.
Wrong. He wasn't a citizen until late in his life. He didn't vote. He was fired after only two years and sent packing unceremoniously. Do dictators get fired? To be sure, especially after he returned from exile his influence did grow considerably and he was probably the leading personality in the city by the 1550s. Nevertheless, the small city council (petit conseil) over ruled Calvin on at least two key issues. He wanted to observe the Lord's Supper weekly and he wanted to include an absolution or a declaration of pardon in the liturgy. Both of these should have been minor issues for a tyrant but he was unable to persuade the people and the civil leadership to let him do it. These failures to persuade suggest that Calvin did not have the sort of absolute authority that many people imagine. Indeed, at the end of his life, Calvin himself worried that not only was the Genevan Reformation a failure but that the entire episode might be coming to nothing.

Calvin murdered Miguel Servetus.

Wrong. To be sure Calvin did "rat out" but only after the former showed up in Geneva, despite Calvin's warning of what the civil authorities would do to him and then Servetus appeared in church.
It was the 16th-century. All the magisterial Reformers agreed that the magistrate should not tolerate public heresy against the catholic faith. It was a crime against the civil code in most European cities and Genva was no exception. If the Protestant cities had not treated heresy as a civil crime, the Roman authories would have accused them of giving hospitality to heretics. They were condemned if they did and condemned if they didn't.
There's little doubt that Calvin thought that the civil magistrate should be able to put heretics to death, but the fact is that Calvin didn't put to death anyone, let alone Servetus. Further, judging by the period, Calvin was a piker. Two or three anti-Trinitarians were put to death in Heidelberg in 1570, over the objections of the magistrate, at the insistence of the ministers! Why all the outrage over Calvin and his one heretic and virtual silence over the exponentially greater crime in Heidelberg? Calvin's opponents then and now use the episonde as a way of shaming Calvin (and Calvinists). It's not really about history. It's about the politics of perception.

Read more here.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Piper on the Economic Downturn

(HT: Zach Nielsen)
Sustaining Grace

Watch this presentation on Preserving, Sustaining Grace by Dr. R.C. Sproul.
Isn't it great to know that our hope is not in our ability to stay faithful, but in Christ's power by the Holy Spirit working in us.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Life Together for 33 years

Read my twin brother's comments on being a twin.

Update:  I'll add some of my own random fun memories:

1.  Cutting through the dirt hill on the way home and Doug getting his moon boots stuck in the mud!

2.  Seeing my friend Ryan go over the largest bike jump known to man and seeing him do a cartwheel in the process!

3.  "Going in together" to pick wilting wild flowers for a cute girl after 4th grade.

4.  Dirt clod fights.

5.  Wiping out while sledding on the hill and faking an injury only to really get hit and get my face all scraped up!

6.  Doug was the backstroke phenom.

7.  Do you still remember what I did to Gary's hat?

8.  Backyard tackle snow football.  Even got 29 year old Gary to play with us once!

9.  Doug's Buffalo Bills #88 shirt and my Earl Campbell jersey.  We were cool!  Also the "I'm a Pepper" shirts were pretty smooth.

10.  "Those red-wing blackbirds can kill you!"  We believed it too.

Friday, January 09, 2009

I Love Jesus Christ

"Jesus Christ".  It was 1997 and my friend had suddenly spoken up in his college class with these two words, not in a cursing tone but in a reasoning one.  It was almost as if a gun had gone off.  You could hear a pencil drop.  Everyone knew that those two words were weighty, that they divide, and that whatever words would follow would carry a deep and powerful message for good or ill.

A couple weeks ago I was contemplating whether or not I should keep the words, "Jesus Christ" at the top of my blog.  I decided that I do not care what other people think.  I love Jesus Christ more than anything or anyone.  (Yes, even more than my precious wife and kids.)

These words by John Piper also encouraged me to stay the course:

..here at the beginning of 2009, I [say], “I love Jesus Christ.” And as I say it, I want to make clear what I mean:
  • I admire Jesus Christ more than any other human or angelic being.
  • I enjoy his ways and his words more than I enjoy the ways and words of anyone else.
  • I want his approval more than I want the approval of anyone else.
  • I want to be with him more than I want to be with anyone else.
  • I feel more grateful to him for what he has done for me than I do to anyone else.
  • I trust his words more fully than I trust what anyone else says.
  • I am more glad in his exaltation than in the exaltation of anyone else, including me.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Son of Hamas Leader Converts to Christianity
This guy has guts for taking the way of peace. Please pray for him!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Great Song
Charlie Hall is fast becoming one of my favorite singer/musicians.  His lyrics and his heart behind them are just quality.  It all shows of a heart focused on and satisfied in God alone.  Enjoy!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year Bible Reading Plans

If you are like me, one way you want to grow during this new year is by being a better student of God's Word.  Here are some great suggestions and plans to get your heart and mind fixed more on God and His Word this year.  Enjoy!

(HT: Justin Taylor)