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

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.

The Road to the Cross: Jesus' Authority Questioned

The Road to the Cross: Jesus’ Authority Questioned

“What gives you the right?” Have you ever heard this in an argument before? It’s a question of authority. It means the other party wants to see your credentials. They want to know by what authority are you able to speak and behave in such and such a manner.

Jesus was asked this question by the “chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders (Mark 11:27).” They had just witnessed Jesus “clean house” in the Temple and they were enraged. They wanted to find a way to kill Jesus. Not only did this man from Galilee claim to be the Son of God, now He was threatening business!

The easiest way to prove someone is a fake is to ask for their credentials. If you go to the doctor you will probably see his diplomas hanging up somewhere in his office. If you don’t see the diplomas…well, you may want to consider changing doctors. I don’t know about you, but I like to know that my doctor has earned the right to put “Dr.” before his name.

But, Jesus did not hand over any identification or diplomas to these people when they questioned Him. Instead, he gave them a question of His own. He asked, “John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me (Mark 11:30)!” We know from the following verses that this question created a huge dilemma for the leaders and scholars. If they were to say that John did by the authority of heaven, everyone will ask why they didn’t believe him. If they say it was by some human authority, the people will become very angry. That’s because many people believed John to be a true prophet of God. To save face, they answer Jesus with a “we don’t know.”

Friend, Jesus doesn’t need a business card to prove to you He is God. First, the works of Jesus testify to who He is. Second, the Father spoke from heaven about His Son, Jesus. Third, John the Baptist made clear that Jesus was far more than simply his cousin ( see John 5). People can try to dance around the truth like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. People can even play it safe by saying “we don’t know,” but it won’t change reality. Jesus’ opponents didn’t want the truth; they wanted an excuse to keep things the way that they were.

Maybe you are reading this and you are not a Christian. Please, whatever you do, don’t straddle the fence. Either Jesus is God or He is a liar. Either His authority is from heaven or it is man-made. However, if you are honestly seeking the truth you only arrive at one answer:

Jesus is Lord of all! 

And if you’re still looking for credentials…look no further than the empty tomb. We will talk more about that very soon.

 

 

 

The Road to the Cross: A Cursed Fig Tree

The Road to the Cross: A Cursed Fig Tree

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it. Mark 11:12-14


Have you ever had your hopes dashed? Have you ever expected something to be so great, but when it finally came you were utterly disappointed?

A few years ago, I sat down to lunch with my wife and mom at a restaurant that I enjoyed eating at when I was little. I decided to order the fried chicken dinner that day. When the waiter brought it to our table it looked so delicious. I couldn’t wait to dig in! However, once I took a bite I knew something wasn’t right. The chicken tasted of cleaning chemicals—a far cry from buttermilk and spices. Even though my plate looked like the one in the menu, in reality, it was all for show.

When Jesus became hungry on his way to Jerusalem, he thought he would find some sustenance from a fig tree along the way. He saw the leaves on the tree from a distance. That was a good sign; that meant figs! For fig trees, the leaves and fruit come at the same time. A fig tree doesn’t blossom, instead the fruit is the blossom; it is an inverted flower. But, when Jesus came to the tree He saw that there were no figs for Him to eat, and He cursed the tree. Apparently, the leaves were all for show. The next day, the disciples found that the tree had withered (Mark 11:20-21). Truly, no one would ever eat from that tree ever again.

Now, was this story simply about a fig tree? No, I don’t believe so. It believe it is a lesson for us all. For the people of Israel, the fig tree was a physical representation of their spiritual condition. From a distance things looked great! Just the day before, people were cheering and laying down their cloaks. They were claiming things were ready and in order for the Messiah’s coming. But, upon closer inspection, it became abundantly clear that this was not the case. Do you remember what Jesus did later this same day? He drove out the money changers from the temple courts. The temple was supposed to be a “house of prayer.” Jesus said that it was, in fact, a “den of robbers.”

Like this fig tree, we can be “all leaves and no fruit.” We may look like the greatest Christians to ever walk the face of the earth from a distance, but if Jesus came close would he find any fruit? Is our faith genuine and thriving, or is it all for show? Perhaps the better question is: “when will Jesus’ patience run out before He sends His judgement?”

The Road to the Cross: Palm Sunday

The Road to the Cross: Palm Sunday

When you think of a king what comes to mind? I immediately think about someone with the most power, wealth, and authority in the kingdom. I can almost picture the kings of old riding their chariots through the streets with their swords sheathed to their sides. Trumpets are blaring and flags are waving. The people cheer and bow before him as he passes by.

I can almost hear the thunderous sound of the war horses as these kings led their armies into battle. I can picture them fully armored, ready to take on their enemies. You won’t see them crying. If men have to die in order to ensure the king’s victory, then so be it.


Now imagine this:

You are a young Jewish person living in Jerusalem. You’ve heard a rumor that a man from Nazareth raised someone from the dead who had been dead four days. Suddenly, you hear from a distance people you know crying out:

Hosanna (Save)!” 

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Blessed is the king of Israel!”

The people are talking about the promised Messiah! They are quoting Psalm 118! Could it be that the anointed one has finally come?

You make your way through the crowd to get a closer look. You see people paving the road with palm branches and their own cloaks. This means victory! Your heart is pounding now! And then you see him…and…you’re confused….

You were expecting to see a great warrior who would be able to take on the Romans. But this man they call Jesus doesn’t look like a king. He looks like any other rabbi in town. He isn’t riding a horse; he’s riding on a donkey. He looks like a man on a business trip, not like a man preparing for battle. He isn’t leading an army, just a rag-tag group of his disciples. And to make matters worse, he’s weeping (Luke 19:41-44)! 


It is true that Jesus did not look like an earthly king. That is because He wasn’t ushering in a kingdom of man; He was ushering in the kingdom of God! He wouldn’t do it with the strength of horses and swords. The Christ would do it by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ focus wasn’t on destroying the works of the Romans. He came to destroy the works of the true enemy of God’s people—the devil.

And though no one asked Him to, Jesus came to save us from our sins. He died for us so that He could be the king of our hearts. Under the rule and reign of our sin, we will surely die. But, if we trust in the Resurrected King then death will have no victory over us!

The people of Jerusalem missed the Savior in their search for salvation. I pray that we would not make the same mistake. As we celebrate Palm Sunday today, praise God that He didn’t give us the messiah that we wanted. Instead, He gave us the Messiah that we needed.

Empathy vs. Sympathy Christian

Empathy vs. Sympathy

It is relatively easy to be sympathetic towards someone. Sympathy involves simply understanding someone’s current situation and having compassion on him or her. Empathizing with someone is far more difficult. Empathy is the ability to feel what another person is going through because you have gone through it yourself. To put it another way, sympathy extends a card, whereas, empathy extends a hand. Don’t get me wrong, they are both important in life. But ask yourself this question: are you more prone to listen to someone who has never been in your situation or a close friend who has?

I think Christians do a pretty good job of being sympathetic when people are hurting. We visit people in the hospital, bring meals to the shut-ins, and provide blankets to the homeless. But, non-Christians do these things too. The thing that sets us apart from the world is not how we sympathize with people. What sets us apart is how we use the painful experiences from our past to minister to people experiencing them currently. Empathy means we cry with the person, not simply for them. It is a subtle difference, but I believe it is important one.

The Scripture says that the Church is the body of Christ. When one part hurts, we all hurt (1 Corinthians 12:26). When one person mourns, we all mourn (Romans 12:5). We are connected to each other in such a way that the spiritual health of my brother affects my spiritual health. We have been called to more than pity for others. We’ve been called to love one another from a sincere heart—a heart that feels. I think a lot of Christians, especially guys, are afraid to feel anything, citing verse like Jeremiah 17:9. But, have we forgotten that this verse is in reference to the unregenerate heart? If we have been born again then God has removed our hearts of stone and replaced them with hearts of flesh. Are they perfect? No, not at all. But, one day they will be. It is important we understand that growing in Christ-like maturity doesn’t mean we become more and more unfeeling. Rather, it actually means we feel more and more, but as Jesus would (1 Peter 2:21). And no one feels more love for the Church and for the lost than Jesus.

Do you know what Jesus’ incarnation tells us about God? It tells us that He is a God of empathy. He doesn’t just know about the human experience, He has lived it Himself. Hebrews 4:15 says:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Jesus has been through it all. He has been tempted. He has suffered trails. He has lost loved ones. He even experienced death. And He did it all for us. Jesus is sympathetic and emphatic towards humanity as He is both our high priest and perfect sacrifice. A priest knows that the sacrifice is painful for the animal, but he doesn’t feel the cut of the knife. Jesus understood the wrath of God that we deserved and took our place instead. There is no greater display of empathy than this that Jesus would take the judgement for our sins upon Himself. If this is the way in which God loves us, how should we be loving others? How does our empathy towards people point them to the empathy of God?

What Will Heaven Be Like?

What Will Heaven Be Like? Part 1

I am sure that many of us have asked this question at some point. We all want to know what it will be like when we go to be with Jesus. I know that there are a lot of stories and movies out there about people’s near death experiences. Heaven is For Real is one that comes to mind. I find it interesting that so many Christians will go to see a movie about heaven instead of reading with God has already revealed about heaven to us in His Word. This week I will be sharing a few things that every Christian should remember when thinking about heaven. Here is part one:

There is no sin or death in heaven.

We know that the wages of sin is death, according to Romans 6:23. Death is the result of mankind’s sin. God created us as eternal creatures, made in His image. If Adam and Eve had not disobeyed God, they would have lived forever with God. Death entered the world in order the prevent them from living eternally in disobedience and rebellion towards God. God drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden so that they would no longer have access to the tree of life.

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever— therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3:22-24 (emphasis mine)

Notice that the Lord stopped Himself in mid-sentence. It is as if He couldn’t bear the thought of not being with His people for all of eternity. But, if nothing is done about our sin, we will still be separated from Him. This is why Jesus died for us. Eternal life can only be found in the One who suffered the eternal punishment for our sins, in six hours on the cross. If Jesus had not died and rose again, we would have no hope of heaven; we would still be in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:17).

But, because Jesus Christ is alive, we can live forever with Him if we repent of our sins and believe upon His name in faith. But make no mistake, if we do not trust in Jesus, we will not go to heaven when we die. We will go to a place of eternal torment called Hell. And it won’t be undeserved. Even one sin against the eternal, holy Judge of the universe demands an eternal, holy judgement. John 3:36 says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

Heaven is holy because it is where our Holy God dwells. The reason that there is no sin in heaven is because there are no sinners in heaven, only saints (Revelation 21:27). Will your name be found in the Lamb’s book of life? Will I see you in heaven one day? If you aren’t sure, please send me a message. I would love to explain to you how you can be sure.


If you liked this post, come back tomorrow for Part 2: There is No Sorrow or Pain in Heaven.