Posts by Jesse

My wife, MacKenzie, and I recently moved to Thailand as tentmakers. When we aren't studying and working, we partner with the local church to equip indigenous pastors and missionaries to reach their neighbors with the Gospel.
The Father who saves fathers

The Father who saves fathers

I have hesitated for a long time about talking about this publicly, but last year I spoke to my biological father for the first time ever. It actually happened while I was reading my Bible. I heard my phone buzz and saw that I had a message from someone on Facebook. When I saw the name…I froze. I realized it was someone with my biological father’s name. But could it really be him?

I clicked on the notification and read the first line of his message to me. I knew instantly it had to be him because he was talking about things no stranger would know about me. He said a lot of things in the message, but ultimately, he said he wanted to have a relationship with me if I was interested.

It is important for you as readers to understand that I am 25 years old. My parents divorced before I was born. I had never spoken to this man. I only kind of knew what my father looked like from pictures that were taken before I was born. And all I ever heard about him was that he was a very nice man, but he had somewhat of a tumultuous past. I had also been told that he had been in and out of prison over the years. In other words, it was hard to know what to think, let alone how to move forward with my day.

My world had been turned upside down. My initial reaction was that I wanted to tell my wife. But it took me all day to muster up the courage and find the words to tell her. In fact, I ended up blurting it all out right before my wife had to go to work. It felt good for me, but my poor wife had to work for several hours with that bouncing around in her mind. My wife is so good to me, by the way. It just needs to be said again.

After praying to the Lord and talking with my wife, I decided that I would respond to his message. I wanted to at least keep the lines of communication open. Obviously, it is very difficult to start a relationship with someone who lives on the other side of the world, but it was my hope that we could at least get to know one another to some degree.

Over the next few days we would message off and on. And that is when I heard the glorious news that he had become a Christian while in prison. In fact, now he is an evangelist to those with similar backgrounds.

It was at this moment I was reminded again of the greatness of God. Not only did He change my life, he changed my father’s. Not only did He become the Father I needed, He became the Father he needed. Over the years, people have often asked me if I wished I had grown up with a dad or if I would change anything about the past. I wouldn’t change anything because everything that I have experienced led to this wonderful revelation:

God alone has the power to redeem.

He is not limited by our mistakes, failures, or weaknesses. He isn’t indifferent towards our pain or circumstances. He is not slow to move or respond. He does everything in His perfect timing. And there isn’t a single person who is beyond His reach.

God is a loving Father who saves–not only scrawny, 13 year old boys, but also the fathers they have never met.

Glory be to God the Father of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

what are the little foxes in Song of Solomon 2:15

Love and War and Little Foxes

As some of my readers may have noticed, I haven’t been posting everyday like I had been doing earlier in the year. I had every intention of writing for 365 days straight, but things just didn’t work out that way.

Starting this blog wasn’t a New Year’s resolution of mine. It was born out of a very real need for communication in my heart language. When you go from one culture where you can fully express yourself and be understood, to a different culture where those things don’t come as easily or naturally, I think it is important to find some way to  “download” your thoughts. Otherwise, you start to go a little stir crazy.

From the beginning, this blog has been about developing a greater zeal for knowing and loving Jesus Christ. While blogging has truly helped me to organize and weigh all the thoughts I have floating around in my head, it has, first and foremost, helped me to become closer to my Savior.

The reason I stopped writing for the past couple of months wasn’t because I stopped trying to grow in my relationship with Christ. Rather, I stopped writing because I have been growing in my relationship with Christ. The past few months have been some of the most difficult spiritually on record. Recently, I have warred with doubt, fear, and insecurity, sometimes all at once. The enemy has been gunning for me, so to speak. But now, through spending more secret time alone with God, I am learning how to confront these things head on with His Word.

For much of my life, I have cowered from confrontation out of fear of losing someone or something I hold dear. Many times I have asked God to take the fear away without much avail. I realize now that I should instead pray for more love, for it is perfect love that casts out fear (1 John 4:18).

With that being said, I hope to begin writing more regularly again. In general, I pray that God would fill me with more joy, victory, hope, and love as I follow Christ. For me, this is a season of catching foxes. These are the things that seek to steal my joy and disrupt my intimacy with God.

Perhaps, it’s time for you to catch those little foxes too.

Catch the foxes for us,
    the little foxes
that spoil the vineyards,
    for our vineyards are in blossom.

Song of Songs 2:15

Christian couple holding hands together

How Can You Make Your Marriage Stronger?

As much as movies and Hollywood would like you to think otherwise, there is no such thing as a perfect marriage. Every couple has their own issues they deal with. In fact, I don’t know of a single married couple who hasn’t had a fight before. Unfortunately, many couples choose to forego the fights and ignore their problems so that they fester. This weakens the relationship tremendously and inflicts lots of pain and emotional damage. That is why we see so many couples today filing for divorce or choosing not to get married altogether. As Christians, we should understand how important and sacred marriage is. We may never have the “perfect marriage,” but we can all do some things to make our marriages stronger to the glory of God.

Pray and Read Together

This one probably seems obviously, but I cannot stress just how important praying and reading the Bible together is in a Christian marriage. These two things totally affect the overall health of your marriage. If you aren’t regularly praying for your spouse, as well as, encouraging and reminding one another of God’s Word, you need to start today. It is important that a couple grows spiritually together, for the Bible says, “the two shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24; Ephesians 5:31).” If I choose to neglect prayer and the reading of God’s Word, I am essentially neglecting and being unloving towards my wife. The Bible is clear that the more we love and pursue after God, the stronger our marriages will become.

Put Your Spouses Needs Before Your Own

I don’t know about you, but I can be very selfish at times. Not only that, but sometimes I complain about having to get up from the couch to do something for my wife. This is so wrong, and it shouldn’t be so! Ephesians 5:25-28 reads:

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

God has commanded us as husbands to love our wives with a passionate, sacrificial, unconditional love, that is, the love of Christ. And He has commanded wives to submit to their husbands as the Church submits to Christ, its head (Ephesians 5:22-24). In other words, selfishness and pride have no place in a Christian marriage. If the Bible says to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves (Philippians 2:3),” shouldn’t that include our spouses?

Be Completely Honest

Not much needs to be said here other than “a healthy marriage is an honest marriage.” One of the major reasons couples get divorced is because of secrets and lies. Jesus said in John 8:32 that “the truth will set you free.” A marriage that glorifies God is one that is built on the firm foundation of Christ, who is the Truth (John 14:6). Are you telling your spouse the whole truth? Is there something you are hiding or need to confess?

Develop Intimacy With One Another

When many people think about the word intimacy they usually think about sex or physical affection first. While sex is one way Christian couples develop intimacy, it isn’t the only way. However, it should be said that strong, godly couples not only have sex, but they really enjoy sex as it is a gift from God. Sex is sacred, holy, and should be protected as such by both the husband and wife; Hebrews 13:4 says, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”

As stated above, sex isn’t the only way to have intimacy with your spouse. Every husband and wife should think of ways other than sex to develop intimacy. Whether its spending quality time together, planning a trip, giving her a gift, or simply telling her how much I love her, I can do plenty of things to become closer with my wife every day. Ultimately, that’s what marital intimacy is all about; it’s about spending time with the other person in order to know them and appreciate them fully with love, specifically the love of Christ.

Final Thoughts

If it is your desire to see your relationship with your spouse grow stronger then take steps today towards seeing this happen. But let me be clear, nothing in your marriage will change apart from the work and help of the Holy Spirit. In our own strength, we cannot enact the change or growth we so desire. But God can and He will! So, take some time for you and your spouse to pray together and ask God to change you both from the inside out. Brothers and sisters, if and when we devote ourselves to Him, He will “do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us (Ephesians 3:20).”

 

Understanding Eschatology (End Times)

2 Minute Seminary: Understanding Eschatology (End Times)

Premillennialism

Premillennialism is the position that Christ will physically return before the literal 1,000-year reign on earth. When Christ returns, believers who have “fallen asleep” and those still present on the earth will receive their glorified resurrected bodies. Together all those in Christ will reign with Him on the earth for 1,000 years. At the end of this time, one last rebellion will come against God and His saints by Satan and those who still never repented. Ultimately, Satan will be destroyed and the wicked will face God’s everlasting judgement in the lake of fire. The new heaven and earth will come, and the elect of God will live with Him forever without sin, death, or sorrow.

Some also believe that Christ will rapture His Church prior to the tribulation period. Then He will bring them back to begin His 1,000-year reign. Others believe believers will be present either for part or all the tribulation period.

Amillennialism

Amillennialism argues that there is not, nor will there be a literal 1,000-year reign. Rather Christ is reigning in the hearts of His people. Those who agree with amillennialism do believe, however, that Christ will return one day to destroy Satan, his followers, and death. Until that day, Christ’s Church will experience suffering and persecution as the Gospel is preached. Yet, evil will never prevail over the Church and its mission to reach every nation. And one day the saints of God will live eternally with God in the new heaven and earth.

Postmillennialism

Postmillennialism asserts that Christ will return after the 1,000-year reign. However, unlike premillennialism, Christ’s millennial reign is from heaven, not earth. Adherents believe Christ exercises His reign through His Spirit and His Church’s proclamation of the Gospel. Another distinctive is that conditions of the earth will only improve as time draws closer to Jesus’s second coming. All aspects of life and culture will be redeemed.

At the end of the millennium, God will loosen His restraint on Satan and the wicked. Then Christ will come to defeat them once and for all, ushering in the new heaven and earth as well.


Please understand that each of these views are considered within the realm of orthodoxy. Historically, the Church has affirmed each of these views at different points in time. Most American Christians held to a form of postmillennialism during the Civil War. Go back and read some of the lyrics to the hymns that were written at that time. It wasn’t until the 20th century that premillenialism became the majority held view. Prior to all of this, many early church theologians held a very amillenial view of the end times. In other words, while we may not agree on everything, we are still brothers and sisters in Christ. Like one of my professors always said, “It will all work out in the end.”

3 Needs in Church Planting

3 Needs in Church Planting

I love to read about missiology and study church planting movements throughout the world. It is amazing to see how God is redeeming people from every nation, tribe, and tongue. He is doing it by His power, according to His will, for His glory and good of the nations. As someone who is living in a cross cultural context, I get to hear the encouraging testimonies of pastors and missionaries from almost every continent. They also share their needs and difficulties of ministering in their native contexts. What I hear most often is the need for 3 things: expository preaching, systematic theology, and the training up of leaders. Now there is a lot that can be said about these things, but today I’ll discuss them briefly.

Expository Preaching

Mark Dever defines expository preaching as “preaching in which the main point of the biblical text being considered becomes the main point of the sermon being preached.” An expository preacher who be someone who keeps his sermon grounded in the text at hand. Please understand that I am not a stickler when it comes to expository preaching. In fact, I believe that topical sermons and even biblical storytelling have their place within the local church. But the majority of our time spent preaching should be devoted to expository preaching, preaching verse-by-verse through every book of the Bible. It is the responsibility of the pastor/teacher to preach/teach the whole counsel of God to his congregation. It is especially important in church planting to explain and teach how all of Scripture fits together in order to provide the local church with a strong, biblical foundation. Yes, the Bible consists of 66 books, but it is telling 1 story. The goal of expository preaching is to help people understand what any given text means and how it applies to us today.

Systematic Theology

Systematic theology involves “organizing the teachings of the Bible into categorical systems.” Let’s say, for example, that you are leading a Bible study on the subject of angels. If you only talked about what Revelation said about angels, you would have a rather lopsided view. Furthermore, if you only taught from the New Testament much of what the Bible teaches about angels in the NT can only be understood with some background of the Old Testament. Systematic theology is the response to the problem of doing theology in the vacuum of one book or testament. It is important that we look to all of Scripture gain a fuller understanding of what it teaches. It is my personal opinion that the teaching of systematic theology is effective for making mature disciples.

In our context, there are few systematic theology resources in Thai. There are some theology books that have been translated from English to Thai. And now we are beginning to see some Thai theologians take on the challenge. Yet, the number of options is still relatively small. As an American, I feel spoiled with the amount of resources available to me in English. It is my desire to see more godly Thai men devote their time and efforts to developing a systematic theology that is wholly biblical and distinctively Thai.

Leadership Training

I think sometimes we assume that future church leaders are going to make themselves, as if people will become prepared by some sort of osmosis. Not only is this foolish; it isn’t the example set in Scripture which is far more intentional (see the relationship between Paul and Timothy). To be clear, I am referring to the training of young men to become pastors, teachers, elders, and deacons. It is imperative that we train them how to preach, teach, and serve. Frankly, this responsibility shouldn’t fall to the Bible colleges and seminaries; it is the job of the local church.

In addition, pastors should always be on the lookout for future church planters and missionaries within their own congregation, starting with the children’s/youth ministry. It is never too early to get people thinking about how they can participate in reaching the nations for Christ. This is just as true overseas. One of our hopes as missionaries is to see more Thais sent out to reach the nations for Christ as well. The Great Commission is the task of the Church, not the responsibility of a select few. Training qualified leaders involves helping them to come to understand the mission of God.


Certainly this list is not exhaustive. There are plenty of other things that are important when planting churches; however, if these 3 things a neglected, the churches we plant won’t be healthy. There are plenty of church plants in the world. The problem is that few of them are rooted in the Word of God. Please be praying for the church planters and missionaries all around the world who diligently devoting themselves to these 3 things.

Are Truth and Morality Subjective?

Are Truth and Morality Subjective?

One of the things I encounter most often when talking with people is what many apologists would define as “subjective moral reasoning.” In simpler terms, it just means that they believe they determine what is morally right and wrong. From their perspective, they are perfectly capable of discerning truth and morality. However, if truth and morality are nothing more than a matter of opinion, then no person’s actions can be called good or evil. There is no standard of morality by which to judge anything.

The reason many people believe this is because it creates an environment in which no one questions them. If someone, such as myself, happens to question their worldview then he or she is seen as a hateful bigot. Again, not because they are in reality, but because that person claims that they are. Yet, from their worldview all beliefs are supposed to be equally valid, even the ones they disagree with. You can see the glaring hypocrisy here.

Without an objective source of truth and morality, anything goes. Without an objective standard of what is good, one could argue Hitler’s actions are just as “good” as Corrie Ten Boom’s. This is one reasons why I could never be an atheist because my conscious tells me that some things are objectively good and some things are objectively evil. The Bible says in Romans 2:15 that God has written His law (standard of goodness) on our hearts. We know that it is wrong to steal, lie, murder, and cheat. If we call these things good, it is because we are suppressing the truth, not accepting it.

This is why the Gospel is so offensive. It calls all people to repent of their sins. The truth is…we have all sinned against a perfect, holy God and according to God’s Word, are deserving of death. He is our creator and moral law giver. How can we, creatures made from the dust, think we know better than the One who made us? But, the good news is that Jesus died in our place. He took our sin and gave us His righteousness. And to those who call upon His name, He gives us His Spirit who leads us into all truth.

Friends, truth and morality start and end with God. We need Him. We need His Word. And that isn’t subjective.

abortion and the god Molech in the Old Testament

21st Century Molech

“You are not to make any of your children pass through the fire to Molech. Do not profane the name of your God; I am Yahweh.” Leviticus 18:21

There is an interesting command God gives to the Israelites in Leviticus chapter 18. It is sandwiched between other commands concerning prohibited sexual relations and forbidden pagan practices. God specifically calls out Molech, a god of the Canaanite people. According to ancient historians, worshipers of Molech would sacrifice their infants to Molech to ensure prosperity for their future. It is said that the Canaanite people would also get rid of their illegitimate children by way of child sacrifice. I even read somewhere that poor families would sell their infants to those who did not have babies of their own.

It is important to understand what was going on when people worshiped Molech. The Canaanites would heat up a statue of Molech until it was red hot. The statue usually featured a bull-like figure with outstretched arms that slopped down like a slide into a fire pit. The infants literally melted before the eyes of those in attendance. Keep in mind that the child’s parents were among those watching. Yet, they were told not to cry or shed a tear lest they forfeit the blessing that would come as a result of their sacrifice. In fact, the Canaanites would play loud flutes and drums to drown out the sound of the infant’s screams.

Wicked is not strong enough a word to describe what was going on here.

Going back to the command that God gave Israel, we see that He abhors such behavior and practices. Don’t forget that the command was given amidst other commands about  sinful sexual practices. This type of “worship” would be tempting to those who either didn’t want their child or felt this was the way they could take hold of their future.

Make no mistake, Molech is still being worshiped today. He has just taken on a more modern, 21st century look. The drums and flutes have been discarded, but there is still plenty of noise to drown out the cries of the infants. In both situations, the baby is offered up so that the parents might have a “better life.”

God was patient with the Canaanites for 400 years before He sent His righteous judgement. When will His patience run out with us? Oh Lord, have mercy!