Friday, December 12, 2008

An Example of a Day's Work in the Publishing World

I love my job. I've been meaning to post these photos weeks ago, but am only doing so now. In November, the small evangelical population of France gathers together for three days of conferences and fellowship. We each set up tables where we present our work (in my case, BLF Europe's book publishing) and have a great time connecting and reconnecting.
It was very exciting for me as I hadn't ever been involved in a professional way. On top of which we had a killer product, Manga Messiah in French! So talk talk talk all day for three days. At the end the whole team was haggard, but so happy with the turnout.
Sorry for the very selfish photos. Yes there are others presenting their work, but really, have you ever seen anything as beautiful as BLF Europe? OK, you're right, Messiah beats it by far... Oh wait! We have that too!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

All means are good to save some, that includes Manga-Messiah

Most of my French friends have grown accustomed if not annoyed with my enthusiasm for Manga - Messiah. Manga - Le Messie, is the french name of gospel in manga comics that BLF Europe has just completed. A japanese team of Christians are drawing the entire Bible in manga style. We simply did the French translation and some of the cover graphics. It is a tremendous gospel tool.
We must give credit to God for all of this. The project just fell in our lap and we took it up and went with up. We didn't have finances for the first print, but that was provided and Manga - Le Messie has been on the shelves since November 15th. In those short weeks, more than 3,000 copies have been sold and its only the beginning. I've been praying nearly everyday for all those that will be reading the book in the coming weeks. I have rarely seen such beautiful drawings and it presents the gospel with gorgeous simplicity. May God reveal Himself to many this Christmas!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Education for All? Why the Lost Try to Act Saved

This is a post that I'll have to permanently erase before I can ever run for president. I suppose that many of you reading this will also take a view contrary to the opinion expressed here. That's fine, one day you'll see the light. :-)
What is so important about the education of the poor? Why is there constantly a barrage of foundations and charities promoting education for all? On what grounds have the philanthropists of the developed world decided that Education should be the Golden Path?
What is so important about educating the poor in countries that have no education system for all? Indeed we tend to think that educating a nation will provide them with employment and rid them of poverty. Often, we only obtain the mild achievement of making poor uneducated
people become educated poor people.
Please don't misunderstand me. I believe in the need for education and will encourage it in the manners that seem most reasonable. I am forever thankful and indebted to my parents who provided me with a priceless education. Reading is perhaps the most important skill they
taught me (though critical thought is the cornerstone of all good education).
Years ago, when the only relief workers were missionaries the promotion of education made sense. Ideally, the mission would try to do two things: 1. translate the Bible into the local language and 2. teach the population to read so they could read the Bible for themselves. That was education at its core.
Now I have grown up an a completely secular society that has secularized itself to extreme proportions (so extreme that few people can understand us). It is therefore difficult for me to filter through values and ideals to pick out the biblical ones. What I do know is that my mind is left perplexed when I hear the media of my day call out for mass education. I cannot see France's educational system holding out another 15 years and I would have many opinions to
vent about it. But in a secular humanist mindset what is the purpose of educating the masses? I would like to know what is their motivation, because education as they've established in France does nothing to promote the ideals of democracy or of freedom, only a cold machine-like systematic atheism.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The World for Christ

A friend I love deeply shared with me a quote. A missionary to Japan had written on the first page of his Bible. It read:

" I for Japan
Japan for the world
The world for Christ
and All for God."
- Ganzo Uzimura -

My friend then compared the passion Uzimura had for Japan to the affection I have for my country. While I might seem to have a particular heart for the souls of my French compatriots, I cannot say that my heart for them is any stronger than for the Saoudi Arabs or the Berber or any other people group on the face of this earth. Only, by daily living among a people, the heart grows fond and cries out for a nation that is stubbornly refusing to drink water though dying in the desert of unbelief.
May we have a heart for our nations, but may we also have a global passion to see God worshiped among every people group. The greatest expression of love for a people group is not water, medicine, roads or food. If we give all these, but fail to show them the surpassing value of Christ, we have hardly begun to show them love. To love is to tell of God's grace and Jesus' love on the cross of Calvary.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Much to say but little time to write

I've been silent for several weeks now. My grandmother's death has had something to do in it, but mostly I've just allowed myself to become tired. When physically tired I'm easily discouraged and can even become depressed. Thank God I know myself now and simply do not allow myself to make life changing decisions when I am this tired, as
my feelings are all wrong.
But I've had much on my mind and much that I would have liked to write about. I just never seem to get around to putting it on paper. I'm preaching in my church this Sunday, so I will be obliged to write. I'll certainly put a summary of my sermon on the blog. It will be on Luke 7, the passage where the prostitute pours perfume on Jesus' feet. Also, rather than try to post my thoughts chronologically, the funeral has been grounds for much thought, I decided to just write.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

OK, so death is gain, now what?

I've spent the last month studying the letter to the Philippians. The passage that has attracted most my attention is the following:
 "it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Philippians 1:20-21:
I seem to know, realize and appreciate that death is a gain for me. Indeed, death will give me what I cannot have in this world, namely Jesus in full splendour and worth and the ability to appreciate him. In this world, my senses are too dulled by sin to love Jesus.
Now, I must understand what Paul meant by the other part, "To live is Christ". For Paul seemed to express that he couldn't choose between being in heaven with Jesus and staying on earth to bear fruit. For me, the choice is still too easy, so I must seek to understand what he meant.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Get the Old Ladies and You Win the War

While distributing the monthly flyer in my village, I thought of a video I'd watched. The video was made by Mars Hill Church in Seattle. On the web it is known as the "Banned Church-Planting Video" for an interesting reason...
Anyways, Mark Driscoll argues that a church-planter should strive to get the young men in their twenties. They are the innovators, the entrepreneurs, the leaders and the heads of young families. "Get the men and you win the war", says Driscoll. He is very convincing.

However, as I was doing my route in Recquignies, I was hit with the reality of my present situation. It seems that most people in the village are little old ladies, where am I supposed to find the men?
As I was talking to God about this, it hit me that Driscoll might have it all wrong. It isn't the men we need, for example, look at George Verwer's testimony. As he always tells us, some little old
lady put him on "her Holy-Ghost hit-list" (aka Prayer) and he gave his life at a evangelistic meeting.
So I felt that God might be saying to me, "get the old ladies and you
win the war..."

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Tribute to a Great Little Woman

With tears and much joyful sadness, I write a tribute to Sophie Kapitaniuk, my 75 year-old grandmother.

After years of battling illness, her heart stopped last night (Friday 7th November) and the doctors were unable to do anything. She has gone to be with Jesus and I know her to be most happy now. 'Mamy', as her grandchildren called her, was a pillar and model to me. Her influence upon my life is incalculable as she was a woman of prayer with strong faith.
75 years-old, she still laughed like a child to express her joy. God and the Bible were her greatest sources of happiness. She was perhaps the most excited of all my family when I dedicated my life to missions as she had been praying that at least one of her eight sons would become a missionary. In my grandparent's view, missions and the pastoral ministry were the two highest callings and Papy and Mamy wished to see the world engulfed in the worship of Jesus.
The Bible was a daily source of comfort and strength. Because her sight was so diminished, she had to be read to. She savoured and meditated upon God's word each day. I often wonder why God would take away the sight of a woman who so loved the Bible, when most of us see and do not treasure His word as we ought.

Her grandchildren were another source of great joy. She always has loved children. Mother of eight, grandmother of 25 (this number is always on the rise), she loved having children around. Her grandchildren sensed this and reciprocated her love. Offerings of drawings, paintings and countless 'bouquets' of flowers adorned her house. Her smile will be a wonderful memory to cherish until I see her again.
By her death, Mamy leaves a void in my life. She was a friend, a prayer-partner, a counsellor and my grandmother. Though short in stature, she is high in my esteem. Her treasure was Jesus, and therefore, in heaven was her heart. She lived out Psalm 71:

"Even when I am old and grey, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come." Psalm 71:18
Though she experienced suffering that would have made most modern men doubt or renounce their faith, she clung to Jesus knowing that He held her tight. Her heart was for the lost and Bill and Sophie were always on the lookout for an opportunity to tell people about the forgiveness found in Jesus. How often I heard Mamy say, "Bill, give them a new testament!" or "Bill, here is a tract to give to that person!" She also told people about what she had experienced with Jesus, but Mamy was the praying strength in the 50 years of my grandfather's ministry of evangelism.
Though dead, her life will continue to speak. Death was gain to her, so her life was well-lived. If there is one thing she would want for each of us, is that we not waste our momentary earthly lives. 'The best is to come,' she told me recently and now that time has come for her.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Book Review: Out of the Black Shadows by Stephen Lungu

As is my habit whenever I read a captivating story, I must finish it in one reading. I have never learned anything about delayed gratification. It is no wonder then that I struggle so to fight sin with the future joy of heaven. However, with books I find it no fault, it only means that I sleep little and must fight sloth the next days.

This book is an account of the life of Stephen Lungu who grew up in what is present-day Zimbabwe. Abandoned by his father as a toddler, his mother also abandons him by the age of eight. Stephen is the eldest of three and must provide for them. Early on, he escapes his aunts who resentfully have been putting up with the three children. Stephen grows up on the streets, forming a gang in his early teens and eventually getting involved with the revolutionary party who is attempting to destabilize the government all forms of unrest, riots, petrol bombs, attacks etc...
On way to bomb a Christian gathering, God reveals himself to young Stephen, who repents and gives his life to God. From that day onward, Stephen Lungu is a different person and goes on to become an evangelist with a great heart of compassion for the lost people around him, as he himself was saved from a life of misery.

That is a very short summary of the book. There are good twists and some profound insights into God. While I would have liked to know more about his reading of the Bible, I appreciated the description of the men that shaped Stephen Lungu's life, especially Patrick Johnstone, the author of Operation World. I also benefitted from Lungu's humble account of the events in his life. I've never met him, but I'm led to believe that it isn't false modesty. Because of his childhood, Stephen was brought up to believe that he had no worth and that it was his fault that his parents abandoned the family. Only God's miraculous hand is able to heal his view of himself.

I recommend the book to everyone that enjoys a well written and exciting biography.

Friday, November 7, 2008

There is much meaning in the death of young people

My life as I now know is it is only because God has seized me. I've been allowed to know the greatness of Jesus' love on the cross. He died for my sins the death I ought to have died so that I can now live for God.
But God has also used the death of someone else to lead me on the path of life. Through the death a 17 year old I realized that my life was worthless unless lived for God. The first funeral of my life was for a young woman who'd just celebrated her 17th birthday. I was her age and it left me profoundly changed.

Where would I be today if it weren't for the speeding, drunk driver who killed Mikaela on a warm July evening? I'm thankful for the experience of her death, because I shudder to think how I might have wasted my life elsewhere. That I today serve God is by God's grace, that I was able to spend three years on the Doulos is by God's grace that summer evening.

These memories came back to me today because of a conversation I had with Y*, a girl in my class. I was reading a book and she asked if it was the Bible. It wasn't, it's the Confessions of Augustine I replied. This was the start of a conversation that allowed me to discover the hopelessness of my classmate's life. Her mother is a practicing Catholic and she also used to be, she explained. But when she was 17, her best friend was killed in an accident. They were
driving a scooter together and a driver clipped their bike. With a struggle, her friend managed to regain balance, but then hit a post on the side of the road and died on the spot. Y* survived the accident but attempted suicide which caused her to fall into a coma for three weeks. Since then, she knows she'll die when her time has come but doesn't see the need to believe in a God. They were both 17 years old as I was, but our reactions were very different. Y* was turned away from God and I was thrown into his arms.

There is much purpose in the death of our young people. I pray that Y* would see Jesus and choose joy rather than meaningless misery. I don't know who said this, but it is not a tragedy to die. The tragedy is to die and not be ready.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I'm a beggar

February 16, 1546
Martin Luther scribbled his last words on a piece of paper before dying. Reading these words tonight put joy again in my heart. Frankly I am tired. I've been undisciplined (again) and am in serious need of sleep. In this condition I distrust my negative feelings, sometimes even depressive, I ignore them and choose to remind myself of the joy I've known.
"We are beggars! This is true."
Last words of Martin Luther
These words stirred joy in my heart, for I read great truth here. Again and again I am reminded that I don't draw my strength and joy from the right source. I'm a rebellious sinner who has been shown everlasting grace by a great, glorious and holy God. I come without conditions as a beggar to receive grace, grace and ever-abundant grace. To remember from what God saved me and to what I have been saved is enough to eternally fill me with joy, if only I let Him do so.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fighting the Battle Where Satan is Attacking

"If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point." -- Martin Luther

Friday, October 24, 2008

What Am I Doing You Ask? Ask No More!

Upon arrival in France (July 15th), I was convinced I would be in the USA by January 2009 to study in a Bible School. Funny how things can change so quickly. I still love the Bible. I cannot believe that I've not taken the time earlier to know this book God gave.
But as I began to enquire about applying to Wheaton College, I was informed that I would not be able to apply for a January semester as I didn't have any transfer credits. I would have to wait until the August semester. Moody Bible Institute had already accepted me, but I hadn't paid my earnest money, so couldn't just show up. They also require transfer credits to join in January.
So I decided to take a two year diploma here in France. The course is well appreciated by companies and is pretty much just what I've been doing on Line Up with the Doulos... So yup, the studies are pretty easy so far. They take six months to teach what OM does in 2 weeks! :-)
So it is no surprise that I was relieved to be able to take the class while being interned with a company. I applied with BLF Europe (I know I know, my dad works there too), a small French Christian publishing company. I'm back in the book world and am loving it!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Praise God for Ryan Air!

Ryan Air is this low cost airline that has revolutionized they way we live, travel, date and fall in love. A friend of my mine, upon hearing that I was considering a long-distance relationship, had only one question for my attention, "Ryan Air! Does Ryan Air fly there?"
One of my best friends is flying in today from Dublin. It will be good to see him again for the weekend. We first met onboard the Doulos where we were on the same work team for 6 months. With a few other guys we began meeting together on a near daily basis to start of the day with prayer, encouragement and Bible reading.
He left the ship about two years before I did, but he's done a good job calling up every holiday to talk about life. Each time, we've reconnected nearly instantly. I'm grateful to God for the gift of friendship. May it continue this time around.
For those of you reading this that feel you don't have that kind of friendship, pray and ask God, who loves to care for His children. Then live a life as transparent as possible, allowing people to see your strengths, weaknesses and failings. That is good soil for friendships to take root.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Perfect Deal, Sleeping to Glorify God

It is very frustrating how sleep-dependent God has made me. There must be some good in it. Perhaps to keep me humble as I would be prone to think too highly of my abilities if not hindered by my need for much sleep. I think my body needs more than 9 hours of sleep each day and it will never get them as long as I live.
Yet last week I had to come to a point of surrender. I was so tired and therefore so depressed that I despaired and cried out to God. I basically had to say, "God, you are God and I am not. You are great and I'm puny. You are wonderfully powerful and I am extremely feeble. I need you and you don't. I'm going to bed now, because I'm being a fool and you don't need me. I can sleep and you will continue to work out your wonderful plan for the salvation of your children, the joy of your elect and the glory of your name. Please give me restful sleep, in Jesus' name."
And with that I went to bed, cranky, tired and frustrated at how weak I am. Yet is this not a way to glorify God? To work with all your heart is God-glorifying, but to rest in His sovereignty is also wonderful worship, if done consciously.
So fear not you sleep-deprived generation. Glorify God by sleeping, granted that your life glorifies Him in the first place...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pray for me, there's a reason I'm not blogging

Dear friends,

I've not been in touch for some time now. I'm at the lowest I've been since coming back to France. Please pray for me. I'm physically exhausted and its affected my relationship with God.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Translation Anyone?

I'm finding life in France quite busy. For those who've been trying to keep tabs on what I'm doing, you've certainly realized that blogging is not the solution for me.

One big problem is that I can't be bothered to keep both my English and French blogs updated. And since my French skills have decreased considerably during my three year stint with Doulos, I've been trying to write a lot in French. So for you out there that would like to know what is going on here in northern France, I suggest you check out my French blog. I've just set up a little translation gadget that allows you to understand what I'm talking about without any of the beauty of the language. Isn't that a bargain? :-)

This doesn't mean the English version of my blog is dead. It is certainly on hold until I get my life under control here in Old Europe. I miss the settled life of Doulos!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What of Jesus?

I had a very encouraging conversation with a classmate a few days ago. She claims to be a believer. As she told me her story, she explained that her parents were devout Catholics, but that she'd rejected God at the age of 17.

I was so excited to hear this and I gladly started asking her questions. She explained what it was that led her back to the belief that God exists. It is then that I grew curious as she described the God she believed in.
Her God didn't seem to match up with the God I knew from the Bible. Hers was more a God of common sense, as if Kant had been her mentor in her search for the divine.

The realization finally hit me, we hadn't agreed on the basics! In my eagerness to hear her story, we never spoke of sin and of Jesus. That is why I ask the question, "what of Jesus?" Is he really at the center of our lives and talk? Do we understand that all truth in the universe is defined on how they accept Jesus? 

Monday, September 29, 2008

Pray More Than You Criticize

I felt rebuked by reading the notes of Marc Driscoll at the Desiring God Conference. I'm going through a more difficult time and I would like to shoot down several people that probably deserve it. So these words were good for me.
I perhaps didn't read them as I was intended to. I read them as if I were the shepherd and I examined myself to know if that was indeed a description of myself.

"Pray that they would have a thick skin. Pray that they would have a humorous outlook. That they would laugh at themselves, that they would have a tender heart toward Jesus and the sheep. That they wouldn’t be hammered, that they would keep a tender heart, that they would have a humble disposition, that when criticisms are true, they would repent. That they would look at a criticism for a kernel of truth to be sanctified by."

You can read the whole thing for yourself here

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Isn't there more to life than this?

Monday, September 22, 2008

What is a church?

If I were to ask you, what is a church? You would probably have something in mind that resembles a bit the photo. If I were to ask a passerby here in France that same question, he would certainly agree.
We're a nation with a Catholic heritage. So that photo is exactly what we understand as being a church. Its a big building, where the windows depict stories. The building isn't heated and the benches we sit on are uncommonly uncomfortable (they must do it on purpose), so
much that it comes as a relief when we stand up for part of the liturgy.
There is a priest who does his rounds. But for lack of priests and of
funds, the mass in villages is often held midweek, so that the priest
can hold mass on Sunday in a 'bigger' church. That is a church in the
minds of my people.

In my mind as well, there is often this notion that the church is a
building and something that we do on Sunday morning. God gently
reminded me of the truth during the month of August as I rediscovered
His church.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Dawkins Delusion

I read Richard Dawkins' book, The God Delusion a few months ago. Well, I didn't really read the whole thing. I just read until Dawkins gave his thesis, his "so we know almost beyond a doubt that God does not exist." (page 96 if my memory is correct). After that I skipped ahead to the two chapters on morality, to see if Dawkins had an answer. He doesn't.
But today Dawkins came back to mind and as I was reading up on him, the name of Professor Alister McGrath came to my attention. I read an interesting article on Dawkins' book by this professor. He concludes:

"Aware of the moral obligation of a critic of religion to deal with this phenomenon at its best and most persuasive, many atheists have been disturbed by Dawkins's crude stereotypes and seemingly pathological hostility towards religion. In fact, The God Delusion might turn out to be a monumental own goal - persuading people that atheism is just as intolerant as the worst that religion can offer."

Read and learn. God is not dead. They're trying hard, but He's not dead, not even close.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Roller Coasters and Prayer Life

I've just watched this little clip made by George Verwer and his gopher. Enjoyed it and thought I would pass it on. George is 70 years old and still going strong. Click and see...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

When Did I Give Up On It?

When did I give up on the belief that man has free will?

I don't know if I ever had this belief formulated, but I certainly acknowledged that Jesus had taken "a risk" by dying at the cross. This was a consequence of Phillip Yancey's influence in my life. I believed that Jesus died for the world, but we had the freedom of accepting him, or refusing him, hence the "risk".
While it isn't clear when I changed belief or what was the leading argument, it is clear that I no longer believe in the doctrine of Freewill.
If I knew what it was that had me convinced, I would use it to convince others as they become offended by my view. But I have no idea what it is that changed my opinion. All I know is that in God's sovereign grace, He saved me from my sins. He picked my out of my former ways and told me to live for Him. He changed my heart and I was enabled to love Him as He is the only being in the universe worthy of my worship and affection. In Ezekiel 11v19, God says it well:

"I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:"

In my sinful state, I know myself to have been utterly unable to chose God. God chose me.

Friday, September 12, 2008

How good is good enough?

What is excellence? How do you know if you've worked hard enough and
tried hard enough? While working onboard the Doulos, I often heard
people remark in this manner. They would comment on how the task was
above them, they couldn't do it and yet, by God's grace the job was
done. I don't want to criticize this view, as I've been there many
times. But there is something in that attitude that perturbs me. It
seems to say that we should be placed in jobs that our beyond our
ability so that God is the one who does the job.
This is all very nice, but couldn't we also say that we do our best
and no matter what we do, God is the one who gave us the ability to
do and will what we did? I don't know if this makes any sense. What I
suppose I dislike is the attitude, "I'm not qualified for this, I
have no idea what I'm doing." I would contrast that with, "I can do
this. I've studied, worked myself to a place where I can confidently
say, 'I can do this, through God who strengthens me.'"
Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Phil. 2v12)

This is perhaps obvious for some and dumb to others. Again, I've
spent three years with the Doulos, where we're repeatedly placed in
areas out of our expertise. But in a general way, I think we should
take some confidence in our abilities and simply work our self hard.
And when we succeed in the end, we give God all the credit.
What I mean by this is simply:
Should we have a God who uses us in our weaknesses or a God that gives us strength? Are these different or the same thing?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Why Did God Create Old-Age? (Part 3)

On what you can do when you are old and bed-ridden.

I think there is in each of us a fear of aging. We've all seen a loved one grow old, lose mental capacities or physical abilities. We've seen what's left of them as sickness and age makes a mess of their bodies. We know it to be an inevitable part of life and yet, we dread the day we'll have to fight the demon of age ourself.

For the active people out there, being bed-ridden is perhaps the most horrible thing you can imagine. Firstly because you love being up and about. Secondly, because "who then will continue on with the Lord's ministry?" Both my French grandparents are active Christians. They love Jesus and therefore have always been actively looking for ways to reach the lost and to bring hope to the hopeless. However, the drawback to this lovely mindset is that there is a dichotomy that is set up between the secular and the holy that is unbiblical. You cannot uphold that 'ministry' is more important than loving your wife and family (seeing that marriage is high in God's affections and that it is a man's responsibility before God to be a good father and husband). How can preaching be more ministry-like than putting your kids to bed? All things can and should be done to the glory of God.

So what are we to do when bed-ridden and old-age ravishing our body?
• Meditate on God (Psalm 63v6 & Psalm 4v4), considering His goodness.
• Tell the next generation about Jesus Christ (Psalm 71v18).
• Pray to God without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5v17). My grandmother is a remarkable example in this. I'm sometimes led to think that God has kept her alive because he loves to hear her pray with passion, like a 75-year old child of God.
• Rejoice always (1 Thessalonians 5v16) so that the world would know that you have a greater hope yet to come in heaven.
• Be a listening ear to those who come to find advice. Speak little, pray for wisdom and give great-God answers (Proverbs speaks of this everywhere).

Those were a few of the ideas that came to mind.
Photo: Doulos

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Fear vs. Hardening

"Blessed is the man who always fears the LORD, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble."
Proverbs 28 verse 14

During the month of August, my church is closed. So a few of us have been gathering together for fellowship on Sunday mornings. I may describe this is greater detail in some future post. The reason I mention this here is that for those of us who met up these past weeks, the fear of the Lord was a recurrent topic.

Indeed, to fear the Lord sounds strange to our contemporary ears. Its archaic, isn't it? As you probably know, King Solomon's thesis, in the book of proverbs, is that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" (Proverbs 1v7). However, what struck me in chapter 28 (quoted text above) is the opposition Solomon makes between fearing the Lord and having a
hardened heart. To soften your heart is to fear the Lord. To harden your heart is to ignore God and rebel against Him.
So I find this verse helpful in explaining the fear of the Lord and
thought of our conversations the past two Sundays.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Abigail and Project Life

The following post is an excerpt from a newsletter I receive from a friend in the Philippines. She is working among the urban poor.

"There are 17 applicants for our student sponsorship program. A sponsor would like to sponsor a girl. So, I went through the application, I spotted a girl named Abigail. She is 11 years old and is still in 3rd grade. I reviewed the applications again, but still Abigail is in my heart. So, I went to 12th Street and just did an investigation and asked the people there about her. There were so many negative words said about her. And then I talked to Abigail and asked her if she goes to school, She said "no". She burst out into tears. She said that she didn't know where her mother is, her brothers and sisters were all given to different people and she was the only one left to her father who sells umbrellas in the street. She waits for her dad to come home every night because she is afraid to sleep because some of the boys who take rugby[see NOTE] stay outside their small apartment. Some nights her dad wouldn't even come home. I heard her heart's cry. I felt God is telling me, she's the one we are to help. Sometimes, people choose people based on their good reputation, looks, etc. But God looks at the heart. He chooses ordinary people not because they are good but because He is good."

The Old Woman

"Last Sunday, I was on a tricycle going home, I saw an old lady crawling across the street. Her left leg was cut off. I got out of the tricycle and tried to help her. She said, she is used to crawling. She was on her way to a church. She had no wheel chair because it costs P3000 (US$67) and is very expensive[NOTE 2] for her. I took her address and the mobile number of the pastor and I would try to look for a sponsor to give her a wheelchair. Then yesterday, someone called me up and she said, she's going to donate a wheelchair. Praise God! I picked it up this morning and delivered it to the old lady. God is so faithful."

NOTE: Rugby is the name of a cheap glue that children buy to sniff the fumes. Addictive, it is often used to lessen the hunger pangs.
NOTE 2: This woman probably lives with one dollar a day.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Why did God Create Old-Age? (Part 2)

Counting your blessings is something we should all do. It is healthy,
normal (we're so blessed) and it glorifies God greatly as He is the
provider of all good thing.

I was taught a good lesson as I visited Mamie, my grandmother, at the
hospital. She loves reading the Bible, praying and talking, three
things I also enjoy doing. So that is what we were doing. As visiting
hours were coming to a close, we prayed with each other. Mamie, 75
years old, having known serious illness for most of my existence, was
praising God in prayer for His many blessings that know no end.
She meant it, I really believe she did. She thanked God for so many
things always returning to the greatest thing of them all: Grace in
the death of Jesus. Oh how my grandma prays! I was amazed that
despite all the pain, intense and nearly constant, she could praise
her God for all his goodness.

Why did God create old-age? Well, I don't know, but if in it, we're
able to take sickness, pain and handicap well, I think that it is a
glorifying thing. Is old-age a means for God to finish killing the
pride in our own hearts? What is it of old people that God likes?
That we recognize ourselves so dependant on Him? That we tend to
become childlike again? I don't know, but I want to learn now how to
count my blessings, so that even then, when all seems dark and pain
is so excruciatingly clear, I would praise God for Jesus. Oh let us
prepare ourselves to age well!

Photo by Dodo Egger

Monday, August 25, 2008

Is John Piper Wrong?

Alright, the title was just to get your attention. In the future, when I disagree with Piper, I'll just cite my case without being so dramatic. My most recent problem with John Piper came about while reading Desiring God (a most excellent book). In it he claims that:

"The climax of God's happiness is the delight He takes in the echoes of His excellence in the praises of His people." Page 50

That sounds most beautiful, but it sounds too grand. I tend to react against it because I find it makes too much of man, especially a man that has had no real choice in his decision. Of course, to our eyes we do, but ultimately, God is sovereign over all our decisions. Therefore, while I can understand that he "delights in the echoes of His excellence in the praises of His people," I cannot agree with the way Piper formulates it.
You cannot compare 'echoes' with the real 'excellence'. You cannot compare a 'climax' with a more normal 'delight'. So I disagree for two reasons:
1. Climax indicates the highest peak of God's happiness. This must be found within the Trinity and not in mortal man.
2. It makes too much of a predestined man's praise.

Now, I'm pretty sure that either Piper didn't intend to sound that way or I totally misunderstood him. Nonetheless, I thought it worthwhile to make a quick note of it.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

How Can People Believe Such Things?

I was reading a Catholic weekly magazine called La Vie (The Life). In it they interview a French actress, Juliette Binoche about life, her career and other things. The quote they chose to put below her photo was what she believes. The quote wasn't to be found anywhere in the article, so I must be cautious regarding the context. However this is what she believes:
"We are our own creators. We are the artisans of our future lives. We must create new projects, ask of life new projects. Our thoughts are capable of creating. If we believe in something beyond, there will be something. If we don't believe in one, nothing will happen."(My translation)

Everything we know of life contradicts this. Everyone that competes in the Olympics is competing for the gold. They are all visualizing and dreaming for the gold medal, but only one person wins it. If I walk out on the highway and say I don't believe in trucks, that will not prevent them from running over me.
I've been seeing this kind of talk a lot these days. People speak and speak, but in the end, they haven't said anything, because they haven't defined anything. Binoche isn't the first to advocate the power of positive thoughts. The 'Law of Attraction' rubbish coming out of her mouth seems much like the book The Secret.

I believe in God, the maker of the universe. I believe in Jesus Christ, God made man. I believe in the Bible being the word of God entrusted to mankind. I believe that Jesus died for my sins and was resurrected from the dead. I believe that Jesus will soon return and judge all mankind and condemn those who have not placed their trust in Him.
God will judge us for all the evil we commit. I believe this, not because I hope the positive thinking will make it true, but because God warns us of His coming judgement. He will judge all evil and sin in the world because He is good. Binoche says one thing, but God says another. I chose to trust God, He's got a better track record.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Cutting Hedges to the Glory of God

Today, I spent the morning cutting the hedge in front of our house. I took a simple video that shows the morning's work in two minutes. My thought during the work was, "How am I supposed to do this to the glory of God?"
I didn't come to any great revelations in the matter. I still feel more value in studying the Bible, in conversation with others, in preaching and in any any other form that the gospel is shared (coffee drinking?).

Anyways, here is the video:

When Does Human Life Begin?

I just read a pretty convincing blog post. Short, but to the point.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Why Did God Ever Create Old Age? (Part 1)

My grandmother isn't doing well. She's been through much suffering, in and out of sicknesses, with short lulls in the storms. She fell down last week(again), broke some bones and things have been going down hill from there. I took my bike and went to visit her today. I took my French Bible along so that I could read some passages to her. She loves that and it also calms her down to talk about God.

I read two passages. Psalm 63 first, followed by Philippians 1 & 2. I was reading the passage for several reasons: the great emphasis on joy in suffering, dying well and what Jesus himself went through for our sins on the cross. I nearly cried when I read Philippians 1v21, despite the fact that I was reading in part for that verse. It reads: "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."
I'm a young man, in the prime of my youth. I take passages like these as beautiful and poignant credos. Here is a motto that a young Christian can build his life on. For it is true that while I live, I live to glorify Christ, but to die is greater still, because it means I'll be with Christ. As a young guy who's been saved by the grace of God, a verse like that is direction for my life. It gives purpose to my every breath.
I came to know Christ through the death of a 17 year-old, when I was only 17. As a young man, verses such as Philippians 1v21 serve as a reminder that my life is short and God may shorten it still by killing me today. But reading such a passage to your 75-year old grandmother who has gone through so much suffering, is a different matter altogether.

Who am I to read such a verse? Yes God speaks through His word, but to deliberately choose such a passage, I felt was wrong. But it led me to question my thoughts. Do I believe that death is gain? Yes, indeed I do, at least in theory. Do I believe that my grandmother knows, loves and is saved by Jesus? Yes, if there is anyone in this country saved, she is. So why do I find it distasteful to read a verse about dying?
Perhaps its because I know nothing of suffering and she's known nothing but suffering? It's true that I recognize myself unfit to speak to a woman like my grandmother about suffering. Yes I believe that a Christian is called to suffer well, but I've never been asked to do so. I've never known a sacrifice, never known a suffering!
Perhaps I feel guilty to be telling my grandmother that death is gain? First, this is awkward because I'm speaking about death. When you're talking with a guy your age, this is not a problem, but when you are in conversation with a dying woman, you cannot just blurt out: "You're dying!" Secondly, I feel it wrong to be reminding her of something I know nothing about. She's probably been near death more times than I've been alive years.

(Photo by Jiamin Choo, in PNG)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Is God An Eternal Spoil-Sport?

What is your idea of God? Many people, especially in France consider him to be a grumpy old man that is always telling you what you can't do. He doesn't really care about you, he just can't stand seeing you have fun? Is that how you view him? I once also saw him this way.

I read Proverbs 8 verse 35 & 36 recently that says:
"For he who finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord. But he who sins against me injures himself; All those who hate me love death."
The truth contained in those sentences made me nearly fall out of my chair. Here is God telling us something entirely contrary to what we assume about him! Far from being the eternal spoil-sport, he wants our greatest good and tells us how to obtain it. What he defines as 'sin' isn't simply to ruin our fun, but to protect us. By rebelling against him, we hurt ourselves!

So lets admit that our hearts desire all kinds of things of lesser value than God. Let's ask Him to give us Himself for our eyes to marvel at. But you will realize quickly that while we may say we desire the Light, we can't stand its brightness and prefer to settle for lesser things, that certainly have less value, but don't require so much of us. But we're made BY God FOR God, so who are we kidding? We won't be happy until we have Him! Desire God and stop hurting yourselves!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Books I've Read And Recommend

A while back a friend asked me for a list of books I recommended. I
wrote up this list for him and thought that I could include it to the
blog. I cannot encourage reading enough. It has changed my life. The
Bible is the one book that has had the great influence in my life and
I didn't include it into the list, because my friend and I both
consider the Bible to be a class of its own. The books on the list
are written by human authors, about the Divine Author.

Books I Recommend

I tend to favor authors, rather than the books themselves. So in the
list I'll mention Authors and their key books. Please don't take this
as the only good authors. I cannot recommend books I have not read,
so there isn't a big list. There are many other others I plan on
reading, but just haven't gotten around to yet. Also, if I liked a
book, that doesn't mean you won't like the others, we read books with
different needs at different times of our lives.

CS Lewis
Anything by him is good. God gifted him with words like I could only
dream. No one says it quite like Lewis. I would recommend starting
with Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters or A Grief Observed.
They are all amazing!

John Piper
I love Piper, but he is a better preacher than writer. His books are
heavy, full of Bible and therefore you must read them slowly. Start
with Don't Waste Your Life, an excellent book! Everything else is
excellent so start wherever you feel like it. His first and perhaps
most famous book is Desiring God.

Louie Giglio
I read The Air I Breathe: Worship As A Way of Life and absolutely
loved it! His other book is I Am Not, But I Know I AM, I've just
begun it.

Francis Schaeffer
This man is brilliant, but really deep! I didn't understand more than
5% the first time I read his book, The God Who Is There, but it
changed my life and gave me a heart for evangelism in a post modern
world. I recommend He Is There And He Is Not Silent as his greatest
and most accessible book. Start there.

Randy Alcorn
Great author. Read The Purity Principle and The Treasure Principle,
they are both great. I've not read the book Heaven yet, but I was
told it is excellent (One of Akira's favourites).

I've only read sermons by him, but everything is good. I think Mark
B. would best recommend where to start with the best.

Stu Weber
He's written a few books, they're all right, but one is a modern
classic, Tender Warrior is a must read on Biblical Manhood.

Philip Yancey
I'm a biased reader. My favourite of his is Disappointment With God,
mostly because I read it at the perfect time in my life. God used it
a lot. However, several other of his books are good: The Jesus I
Never Knew and What is So Amazing About Grace? I appreciate his very
open and honest writing style. However it can get introspective to a

Joshua Harris
I love this guy's writing, but I understand that he is a bit too
radical for many. I think he stays away from legalism so that is why
I recommend him without any hesitation. I Kissed Dating Goodbye is
his first and famous one. Excellent! Boy Meets Girl is also great,
but my favorite is Not Even A Hint (it has a new name in the book
shop: Sex Is Not The Problem, Lust Is). It is an excellent book and
both men and women should read it. It is brilliant!

John Bunyan
The Pilgrim's Progress. A must read!

Those are the ones that come to mind first. Of course there are many
more, but there is no end to writing books, therefore there is no end
to reading them.

Enjoy your reading,

Stéphane Kapitaniuk

(Photo credit: Yi-An Neoh)

If everyone speaks, no one can be heard!

A friend of mine recently emailed me a link to a Jesus website. I
went to check it out, not knowing what I would find. These days
everyone and anyone can express themselves and publish their views on
the web. But this doesn't mean everyone should. Every religious view
under the sun can be found online. While I don't like any of the non-
Christian ones, my biggest issue are the websites that get it wrong
about Jesus and about the Bible.

This website was some kind of essay on Jesus and, I suppose, finding
the 'historic' Jesus. While things sounded ok at the beginning, it
smelled fishy immediately. It turns out the author acknowledges the
historicity of Jesus (the fact that he really existed) and seems to
place great importance in him, all while denying the very things
about Jesus that make him important.
So you get the quest of modern man for a 'historic' Jesus. It's a
quest where man decides which parts of the gospel accounts are true
and which are not. Modern man decides against 2000 years of history
what is the true Jesus of Palistine. Perhaps what surprises me most
is that once they've destroyed the true Jesus, they still cling to
him, even though he's got no saving powers left. Strange...

This website denied Jesus' resurrection, thereby rejecting his
divinity (since "he was declared to be the Son of God with power by
his resurrection from the dead" Romains 1:4). In rejecting his
resurrection they also destroy any means by which man can be saved of
the evil and rebellion of his heart, for the apostle Paul says
himself: "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be
pitied more than all men." (1 Corinthians 15:19)

We must be clear on what it is about Jesus that saves us so that we
can fall in love with the true Jesus and throw out all false doctrine
that only leads to despair!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Doctrine As A Reminder Of The Truth Of The Gospel

I just got off Skype with a friend in Japan. It is so encouraging to speak with other people that know God and love Jesus. If you are in an environment without any other people who love and follow the God of the Bible, the great danger is to dry up and go stale. You can be overwhelmed with doubts of various kinds. Indeed, everything and everyone around you seems to prove and think that you are out of your mind. The God of the Bible is a great and glorious God and this concept of such a greatness doesn't pass along well with mankind. Even among believers, we struggle to worship God in spirit and truth, and tend to come to Him on our own terms.

But what Akira said that was so encouraging was doctrine. As we were closing our conversation and were praying for each other, he thanked God again for His grace in the forgiveness of sins by the blood of Jesus. I felt deep tearful joy at those words. That's it! I know what God saved me from. I know the change affected in my life when I met Jesus and realized that I was a rebellious hater of God, but that He wanted me to become His child. I've heard the stories and seen the changed lives in hundreds of people from hundreds of different countries. Who dares to say that this God is just a figment of an overactive imagination? God IS! He's a great and loving and absolutely awe-inspiring God and would want nothing less than life in relationship with Him.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Do You Know How To Do Good?

"They are shrewd to do evil,
But to do good they do not know."
Jeremiah 4:22
I read several chapters of Jeremiah this morning. I read outside,
seated on the bench alongside the front of the house. As the morning
rays begin to give their heat, I read and pondered over several
wonderful passages. I thought I would share my thoughts on one,
because it is so relevant to us today.

We naturally do evil when left to ourselves. Nothing has changed,
the human race is not improving in the least in this area. In the
2500 years since Jeremiah wrote down God's words, the human race has
not changed a bit in it's heart. I would even say that we invent ways
of doing evil. We excel in the art of doing wrong and of rebelling
against God's loving commands. In the verse 22, God looks down upon
His children and observes as a loving father that His children "are
foolish." He then concludes with the quoted passage, a sad but ever
so true observation of mankind's attitude. In every way they devise
ways of doing what is hurtful to themselves and rebellious against God.
That is who I am. Apart from God I cannot do good. In fact, apart
from God there is no such thing as good. That is why God's final
phrase is so relevant, "they don't even know how to do good!" Here is
the thought that came to mind as I read the second phrase.
Christians, non-believers and Athiests tend to get all worked up when
reports come in of crimes against humanity perpetrated in a foreign
land. But in the same breath, we'll justify our actions, such as
sleeping with our girlfriend, as being an action that doesn't hurt
Who do we think we are and how can we know? God himself tells us that
we don't know how to do good!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Week Holiday In Switzerland

This afternoon we drove across the border into Switzerland. As usual,
there were no French border guards, but we were welcomed by the Swiss
to their European enclave. We'll be staying on a farm in a small
village for the next seven days. While the photo is our morning view,
there is much more to show and I'll reveal it at a later time. The
view have in the morning is out of this world.

I'm looking forward to the next few days of relaxation in the
sprawling majesty of God's creation. It is extraordinarily healthy to
be in the midst of nature. The only sound to be heard (apart from my
brothers, sisters and cousins) is the sound of cowbells. It is a
welcome sound, even at the early hours of the morning! I am resolved
to constantly focus on God during this time. I don't intend to spend
days in solitude, only a few hours will have to do. However, the
beauty of nature around me should serve as a constant reminder that
life isn't about me. Life is about God in all his splendor and glory.
Oh that I would experience this in the coming days!

-Early morning rising (is 7am early enough?).
-Bible reading and time of quiet prayer each morning(no Bible, no
-Journaling(I have several big decisions to make and journaling is a
crucial part of tracking the history of my thought process).
-Exercise(Ben, my 9 year old cousin is a push up buff. He'll keep me
-To glorify God through my helping out around the house (a mark of
true spirituality).

Friday, July 18, 2008

Where Will I Be Heading From Here?

As this blog is at its first day, it is unclear where we'll be
heading. As the title indicates, I have the deep conviction that all
things in the universe are made by God and that they are made
ultimately for God. Therefore, any conversation I entertain on any
topic imaginable has a God-perspective. I realize that in the English
speaking world there are wonderful Godly resources for knowing and
enjoying God, so I do not sense the need to contribute to that as I
am compelled to do so in French. However, I do want to put all things
in relationship to God and describe what God is teaching me in the
every day walk of life.

Let's enjoy the walk together on the path of life!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Filling Up At The Pump

I filled up a car with gas for the first time in three years. It was
crazy to realize how much money was guzzling in that bucket of rust.
I couldn't help but wonder why do people still own cars. They're
worst than children! Well maybe not, but they're sure not as fun!

A car low on gas informs the driver first by a little light on the
dashboard and later by simply refusing to move. Does my soul also
inform me that I'm low on God? I've found that it the opposite in
spiritual matters. The more I'm low on God, the less I realize it.
The more I read the Bible (by the way, I love the Bible, read it
every day), the more I'm hungry for more. There is not enough time in
a day for me to be filled with the Word. I'm a cracked vessel.

The Smell of Rain Quenched French Soil

I've been away from France for nearly three years. I was working
onboard a ship with 300 other people that love Jesus and know that he
truly walked this earth, dead for us and that the account given of
him in the Bible is true.

Yesterday, as I was leaving my Dad's shop (BLF Europe), nostalgia
rushed upon me. It had rained, leaving the most wonderful smell of
rich, black earth that has finally been satisfied with rain water.
I've been halfway around planet earth, travelling to some exotic and
tropical nations, but I'm convinced that no rain quench soil smells
as wonderfully as French earth. Thank you God for senses!