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.