The Road to a Masters Degree in a Third World Country: And why you should probably try to avoid it.

It's late here. Far past my bed time. But life has been such a rollercoaster lately, and especially today, that I felt nearly compelled to sit down and chronicle what has happened.

I should open by saying the mere fact that I ever got through my undergraduate studies was an act of God. I remember journaling almost every night and writing out a list of things that had to fall into place — impossible things — in order for me to graduate. And following ridiculous event after ridiculous exception by the dean, I did eventually graduate.

Grad school has been a series of similar experiences.

Not so much seminary in America (where I’m also enrolled in a Masters program). That has been primarily getting out what I put in; although, that said, I did get a D in Gospels which is embarrassing for any minister. But rather I’m referring to my graduate studies here in the field at a local university. I suppose I should attempt to start at the beginning.

I live in a country where my line of work is, well, lets just say legally frowned upon. But the missionary seldom stays out of the country simply because he is unwelcome. So we have to find alternative means of a visa. Mine has been as a student. For the first several years of my stay here I studied at local universities and focused on improving my language. But after several years of that I grew restless.

Three years ago I approached the most reputable university in my area of the country and proposed to them the idea of my entering into a graduate program under their tutelage. They were excited about the proposal until they heard the scores I had received on the government approved language proficiency exam. Since Jr. High school I have been shockingly bad at taking exams. The school heard me speak and they were impressed, but my test scores simply weren’t high enough for me to enter the program. So I decided to take one more semester to really buckle down and study for nothing else but the language exam. Which I did. And then scored even lower than I had previously.

At this point I returned to the university and this time proposed they make an exception to their rule and accept me into the program on the grounds that my language would certainly improve while enrolled at their school and I would without question pass the language proficiency exam before I finished the program. Enough buttering everyone up, and waiting around, and my wish was granted.

Two and a half years ago in January of 2009 I was accepted by the school and started taking classes that summer. It was a blast. The class load was exceedingly light. Often times I would take 4 classes in a semester and 3 of those classes would meet a total of 4 or 5 times. My major was Christianity, and learning about Christianity from the prospective of a country hostile to the religion was every bit as fascinating as you can imagine. My language improved leaps and bounds, I was having fun, and best of all, the time commitment was so low I had more free time to pursue ministry than ever before.

A year and half passed smoothly. Even to the point where several teachers gave me an exception to be out of the country for two months when my second daughter was born. I completed all my necessary course work, and was even switched to an overseeing professor who led me to a dissertation where I was studying missiology.

Last August I began my formal research and my first draft of my graduate dissertation was submitted to my professor in January of this year. And that’s when stuff got messy.

My professor loved my first draft. Her suggestions for changes were small (minor structural changes) and I was certain much too quickly that I was in the home stretch. For soon after the first set of suggested changes came a second, and then a third, and then a fourth. Before I set out to write the paper I specifically called my professor and asked a question about how the paper should formatted. Should my main topics be people and subtopics be missiological thought? Or should each main topic be split up according to missiology and then the subtopics be split according to people? She chose the second option and I wrote for months. In the fifth revision she actually suggested I change the entire structure of the paper to the other way around. It would have required a complete re-write of 80+ pages. I said no.

She was not used to a student saying no.

Then came the sixth and seventh revision suggestions. At this point I actually blew up at her. She was asking me to change things she should have mentioned on the first revision, why did she wait until the seventh to say something? I later came to find out that the school actually requires a certain number of revisions. And she needed proof that we had made as many, so she intentionally held back some feedback until later revisions. There were two sections of the paper she had me re-write 3 times. Each time I turned it in she told me it wasn’t good enough. I asked what to change, and she literally told me “make it better”.

I asked, “Better how? More detailed? More specific dates, locations, and numbers? Longer? More concise? Better how?!”

“I don’t know,” she said (and I’m not making this up, though I wish I were), “just make it better.”

We nearly came to blows more than once. There was one section I was asked to write which was just downright strange. So I asked for an example. She wouldn’t give me one, so I wrote something just guessing what she wanted. She gave it back and said no. So I rewrote it. And again a no. Finally she found the thesis of another student who wrote something similar. I wrote something along the same lines, thrilled to finally have an example. This time she said, “Oh no, don’t follow that model. This student did a terrible job and should have never graduated. I just gave you this to show you how long it should be and how to format it. Don’t write anything like this, it’s terrible.”

I wanted to pull my hair out.

I wanted to pull her hair out.

Finally after re-writing one section for the fourth time and being told it wasn’t right I simply asked her to re-write it for me. She knew what I wanted to say by this point, and it was only about a half page long. Turns out she did an excellent job re-arranging my sentences into a “better” order more along the lines of what she expected. I again blew up at her over this. This section was a background to the paper that has nothing to do with the actual research, but just how the topic was chosen etc… Finally she said, “Look, this background section is the most important, because when you defend your thesis it is highly likely that most of the teachers will not read your whole paper. They will just read this one section and decide whether or not to pass you.”

While thankful for the honesty I again was furious. I poured my heart into this research and this paper, and now she was telling me the story behind why I chose the topic is more important to the institution than what I actually wrote?

Finally through many many more details I dare not write out, the date for a final paper arrived and I turned one in. My teacher called me to tell me that it was printed, but she had changed just a few things. I opened the draft of what she changed and it turns out she completely threw out two pages I had written and re-wrote them. Granted she was an expert on the topic of this two-page section, and she wrote it better than I had. But I was unwilling to turn in a paper with my name on it, and a sworn statement in the back saying these were my words, when they were in fact not my words.

That morning I spent a long time on my knees before calling her to tell her I would need to get the thesis re-printed after changing that section back to my inferior writing (but at least it was mine). And much to my surprise she relented without putting up much of a fight. 24 hours later a new version was printed. After looking at it she called me in a frenzy. I had quoted a source about the number of Christians and churches in this country and I had to remove it. While the whole world may recognize one number, this country’s government recognizes another much smaller number. How dare I print a number that wasn’t government approved. But since I was unwilling to change my document to obviously falsified numbers it just had to be taken out.

This time the printing company was able to just replace that one page.

Again everything was turned in.

Then yesterday I got an email from the school informing me that the course schedule I took was incorrect. While I had achieved the 34 required credits (it might have been 36 or something, I really don’t remember), they were the wrong credits. The professor who oversaw the course plan I made up 2.5 years ago simply advised me incorrectly. I was therefore expected to find a way to get credit for two classes I haven’t taken, and before the end of the week. Also, I didn’t attend any of the 15 required events a student must attend before graduating. Also, I needed to write 5 English abstracts to improve my written English as part of my degree.

I spent more time on my knees yesterday before calling my professor to figure out what the stink I was going to do. Then I called and she explained who to call, what to say, and then she laughed and told me not to worry about it saying this happens to everyone. WHAT?!

More hair pulling from my head.

More imagined hair pulling from the school dean’s head.

Today I prayed more before calling two teachers to ask for their forgiveness. To ask them to please make an exception for me and give me credit for their class in exchange for turning in a homework paper to each of them. I point out the prayer not to point out my spiritual-ness, but to say that God showed up in a big way. God softened both teachers hearts with a yes. At 11:00AM I turned in one paper, and by 6:00PM tonight the same teacher called to tell me to come pick up my grade. He then proceeded to complement my language and request I write a book review for him for one of his books so he can publish it having had the commendation of a foreigner.

My English abstracts were a breeze. The 15 events I needed to attend I’m trying to fill in with the seminary classes I’ve taken since enrolling and other things.

Anyhow, it’s all coming together. Maybe.

I still haven’t passed that blasted language proficiency exam. And I’m more and more convinced I never will. But then, I look back at what an act of God it would have taken for me to even get into this school, and then the number of things that have miraculously fallen into place since then. I look at how yesterday I was convinced there was no way I would graduate (and there still might not be), and how hopeful today seems.

It’s been a laughable ride. There is no way I would have done this again if I knew what I was in for. But the Lord brought me this far. I have little reason to believe he cant seal the deal.

-------

The above section I wrote a few weeks ago but wanted to wait until everything was complete before I actually published it. What followed was still horrifying. The next day one of the teachers who agreed to give me credit called me and changed her mind. I spent the next many hours trying to figure something out and eventually turned in an old Greek exam for Greek credit. The professor who gave me credit wrote me and asked if this was in line with our beliefs. He said this assuming I was a Christian, I had no idea he was a believer. I told him that when I talked to the head of the department he had not asked me to attend classes and get credit, he had asked me to find a teacher willing to give me credit for something I could turn in.

The system is definitely broken, but we were working within the system.

Finally the school accepted everything submitted and a date was set for thesis defense. I flew in at midnight the night before and then woke up to report at 8AM at the school along with my nine other classmates who would defend that morning. My wife and I had been praying the teachers who read my thesis would be affected by a paper which so clearly explained the gospel and it's transforming effects. We also prayed the Lord would be glorified in the defense.

There were three teachers and I was asked four questions. Really only one question was specifically about something I wrote. The other two teachers merely complimented my research and writing and then wanted to talk about missiology. The first question I was asked was, "Why would these people choose Jesus over what they previously believed? What made Jesus better?" And the second question was, "You used conversion numbers as your sole measure of evangelistic success, but how were these people's lives changed after becoming Christians? Did their lives change?"

What?!

So in front of three teachers from three universities and nine of my classmates, I got to talk about the superiority of Christ, and the effects of a transformative faith. These people lived in fear of evil spirits, but what Jesus offered was freedom from fear. These people worshipped something with a real tangible power, but the Christian God created those spirits and is infinitely more powerful.

It was much more in depth than that, but this should give you some idea.

And now its done. A few meals needed to be bought to say thank you to different professors. And now I'm officially a Master. A Master of Religion with a focus on Christianity and a thesis on Missiology. However, in this country you get two certificates. A certificate of your degree, and then a certificate of graduation. I wont get the latter until I nail the language proficiency exam. That might be in June (when I take it next) or five years from now. But the school is in no hurry. And no teachers can call me anymore and tell me I'm still shy a few credits, or some document, or anything else ridiculous. I'm out from under their thumb. And praise the Lord.

I wrote this out for two reasons, the first is to say that God works in some crazy ways. And the second is to say, before you consider pursuing a Masters degree in a third world country — think twice. And then don't do it.

Waking Up: Worship and Justice in a Messed-Up World ➙

In his book The Dangerous Act of Worship: Living God’s Call to Justice, Mark Labberton writes, “Worship is what happens when people wake up!” It is a “dangerous act of waking up to God and to the purposes of God in the world, and then living lives that actually show it,” he says.

The problem is, we are so absorbed in our own busy lives, our own local lives, our own inner lives, or even our own ministry lives, that we are sleep walking. Sometimes we sleep walk right into church oblivious to the most important realities of life.
Amazing how many people — even on the mission field — can be sleep walking.

A Plea for a Kingdom Mentality

I just returned from a lunch meeting with two church leaders and the missionary lady who oversees their network. The lady (I’ll call her Linda) has been at work in this city for more than 10 years and now helps oversee the leaders of a network of several churches. They also run a number of small groups. A friend I made about 9 months ago introduced me to one of these church leaders who brought Linda along to talk about how we can help to bless and support their church.

We spent a good bit of time talking through the different materials and trainings we have available as resources. We told them we’re really not interested in starting our own ministry from the ground up but rather, we want to resource the existing churches, bless them, and cast vision for forward movement. We asked in what way we can be most useful to them in support.

After a while of sharing Linda finally leaned forward and asked, “All right, this all sounds well and good but if we accept your training and help, what do you expect in return? What’s the catch?”

This breaks my heart. In fact I couldn’t help but nervously laugh and tell her I was so sorry she had to ask this. And then I went on to explain that our vision is to see this city reached and transformed. To see the name of Jesus glorified in the whole city. We recognize as a small group of people that we simply cannot have a big enough impact on this city by ourselves.If we are serious about transformation then we need to see where we can be of most use and go and serve in those areas. I told her we’re not here to make a name for ourselves, but we’re here to try to make much of the name of Jesus, and the way we think we can best accomplishing that is by serving the existing church.

I recognize there are a lot of places where pioneer work is essential, and certainly people are called to plant churches. However, we as a group feel our role in this place is to encourage and cast vision to the local existing church to grow, and plant new churches. This city is much less in need of new churches networks and much more in need of vision, unity, and a heart for God and the city.

Sadly, I also understand her concern. Just 8 months ago I met with another missionary man to whom we offered support, development, and training for his church leaders. He said no way, because his experience was that people would train his people and then take them away from him and his church. He then proceeded to say, “Unless someone comes to me and tells me specifically they’re leaving this church, they are mine, and I’m not sharing them with anyone.” I wish I was making that up. But I’m not. We told Linda we’re Kingdom minded, and she likes the idea, but she’s skeptical we can really be that way. I believe without Christ we cannot be, but with Him we can.

Have you thought about your role in your city? In your state? Or nation or the world? Are you seeking the Kingdom of God or the kingdom of your church? Are you seeking the name of Jesus, and if so, are you releasing people to go where they feel called to go? Are you willing to accept that your church/ministry/small group is not going to be the perfect fit for everyone? Are you willing to consider that other people's efforts will be blessed by the Lord despite the fact that they do things different than you? Or even though they have a slightly different theology than you? Are you raising up leaders who love the Lord with all their heart so you can feel good about any realm they decide to go serve in? Or if your people differ with you in their thoughts of church government are you not allowing them to do what God has called them to do?

Are you Kingdom minded?

Pray for your city to be changed, so the name of Jesus is elevated higher than the reputation of any one church network. And pray your city would be known for it’s love of Christ, and the Christians of your city would be known for their love for one another. Pray the churches and other ministries in your city would have a Kingdom mentality, and pray for God to show you where your weaknesses are in serving His Kingdom instead of your own.

Psalm 86:9

"All the nations you have made shall come
and worship before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name." - Psalm 86:9

Buried Under an Avalanche of Options ➙

Want to read a book? Just decide if you want it in hardcover, paperback, or digital format, and if digital, which device, which app, which font size and which background. It’s that simple. Within a few hours, you’ll be happily reading.
Unsure of why I've never heard of this guy and his blog until today. But it makes me happy I eventually found it.

On Christian Contentment

I've just gotten my hands on a book on Christian contentment I've been interested in and will probably be sharing a bit from it as I get around to reading it.

I just wanted to share a preliminary thought. God knew exactly the situation we would be in right now, however miserable it is (mine has been pretty awful the last few days). If it's in our control to change and improve our situation and it doesn't oppose the will of God, I certainly think it's wise to pursue change. That said, I also think we're called to be content with where we are because we know God has put us exactly there.

But the difference for the Christian is this. We may be called to be content, and we should be (see Paul... anywhere), but if God has called us to something specific and we're not somewhere in the journey on the way there then contentment should not be on our radar. In fact the belly of large fish might be more suitable. But that said, the road to Nineveh deserves as much of our contentment as when we arrive there.

More Tom Wells, On Sanctification and Missions

God is more interested in our sanctification than He is in our service. Let us get that clear. It explains much else, including many of our apparent failures. No God-sent missionary who believes in Jesus Christ is allowed to call himself a failure!

This does not mean that a missionary is a special breed of Christian. To change from his native land and culture to another does not place a halo on the head of the Christian worker. No one knows that better than the missionary himself. If others make that mistake he is not likely to do so.

What I mean is this. In speaking of success and failure we are right at the heart of what being a Christian is all about. God is determined to save His people in the fullest sense of that term. Salvation means a great deal more than to keep a sinner out of hell!

And then later in the same chapter.

But there is a broader view. It is this: God's team is the winning team. Never mind the setbacks. They will come. But as surely as God is God, His team is the winning team. In the most discouraing place on earth and at the most disheartening hour, the cause is never in doubt. Of what other cause can this be said? None on this earth; not one! The missionary is engaged in this world's only sure pursuit. Let him take heart. His resolve can never be in vain. He serves the royal Master, the victorious Prince.

This dude is on fire.

Both quotes are by Tom Wells from A Vision for Missions.

Hudson Taylor and Near Death by Cannon Ball

At another time, early in the morning, I had joined one of the missionaries on his verandah to watch the battle proceeding, at a distance of perhaps three-quarters of a mile, when suddenly a spent ball passed between us and buried itself in the verandah wall. Another day my friend Mr. Wylie left a book on the table after luncheon, and returning for it about five minutes later, found the arm of the chair on which he had been sitting shot clean away. But in the midst of these and many other dangers GOD protected us.

After six months' stay with Dr. Lockhart, I rented a native house outside the Settlement, and commenced a little missionary work amongst my Chinese neighbours, which for a few months continued practicable. When the French joined the Imperialists in attacking the city, the position of my house became so dangerous that during the last few weeks, in consequence of nightly recurring skirmishes, I gave up attempting to sleep except in the daytime. One night a fire appeared very near, and I climbed up to a little observatory I had arranged on the roof of the house, to see whether it was necessary to attempt escape. While there a ball struck the ridge of the roof on the opposite side of the quadrangle, showering pieces of broken tile all around me, while the ball itself rolled down into the court below. It weighed four or five pounds; and had it come a few inches higher, would probably have spent its force on me instead of on the building. My dear mother kept the ball for many years. Shortly after this I had to abandon the house and return to the Foreign Settlement—a step that was taken none too soon, for before the last of my belongings were removed, the house was burnt to the ground.

If you're in ministry and Hudson Taylor isn't a hero of yours it's because you haven't read A Retrospect. And when said book is free as a Kindle book (and you have an i-Device) then you're even more without excuse.

I read through this and I'm so overwhelmed by the awesomeness of this man's faith. I live my life in a crazy place. But it ain't this crazy.

And because I don't know how to say it better, I'll quote what I wrote for the Sieve

but that part of me deep inside – that part
all of us men cannot seem to shake – that part
of me just wishes for a little more excitement
sometimes. all the while wishing my wishes don’t
come true.

Living Radically - David Platt

At a friend's suggestion I'm reading Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream - By David Platt. It's a pretty convicting book about what it would look like for Christians everywhere to actually live differently from the world. To give, instead of live for themselves etc...

Here are a few quotes:
The lesson I learned is that the war against materialism in our hearts is exactly that: a war. It is a constant battle to resist the temptation to have more luxuries, to acquire more stuff, and to live more comfortably. It requires strong and steady resolve to live out the gospel in the middle of an American dream that identifies success as moving up the ladder, getting the bigger house, purchasing the nicer car, buying the better clothes, eating the finer food, and acquiring more things.
Earlier in the book he gives an example of someone who is fighting that war.
For the next few minutes, he described how he was selling his large house and had decided to give away many of his other possessions. He talked about the needs he wanted to invest his resources in for the glory of Christ. Then he looked at me through tears in his eyes and said, "I wonder at some points if I'm being irresponsible or unwise. But then I realize there is never going to come a day when I stand before God and he looks at me and says, 'I wish you would have kept more for yourself.' I'm confident that God will take care of me."

When God tells us to give extravagantly, we can trust him to do the same with our lives. And this is really the core issue of it all. Do we trust him?
When I got back my taxes this year I was surprised and disappointed to find we weren't giving this year as generously as I thought we were. Time to re-evaluate.

We Tell People About Jesus Because He is an Awesome, Glorious God

I think one of the reasons I was always hesitant to do evangelism was a lack of understanding about just how good of news I’m bringing when I’m sharing the gospel. And I think if we dwell a few minutes on the awesomeness of our God it’s pretty difficult to not be passionate about telling people about Him.

Today I was out with two of my teammates sharing with a really fascinating lady we had previously met. She was very willing to talk about religion even though she is a self-proclaimed atheist. I think my tendency once someone turns me away is to just drop the issue and leave it. Certainly there are times where that is the most appropriate thing to do, but today one of my teammates pressed on. While there was no physical interaction, I imagine what he was doing a little bit like he grabbed her by the shoulders, shook her back and forth and yelled, “Life, life, eternal life!” I’m fairly certain this is a quote from Pilgrim’s Progress, but in a much different circumstance. Whatever the case it gives me pause as to the firmness with which I share. The boldness in which I preach.

1. The Almighty Glorious God vs. Impotent Idols

I live in a culture where household gods are very common. In fact most businesses have a small idol of some sort somewhere in the shop, or restaurant or whatever, and food is sacrificed regularly. By their own admission very few people believe in these, but they say they’re afraid not to — after all, what if they did have power and they weren’t being appeased?

I’ve shared before that often I’ll open my Bible and turn to Isaiah 44.:13-19 I’ll point them to the verses and have them read them. Aloud.
“The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house.  He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it.  Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it.  Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, ‘Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!’  And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, ‘Deliver me, for you are my god!’  They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand.  No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, ‘Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?’ “
Now in my context this is a little more obvious than perhaps in the American context. but it applies similarly there. People are bowing down to the idols of materialism, or if you’re in High School, popularity or if you're in business, power, or whatever it is. All of these things are impotent.

Now lets talk about the power of God. Our God created the universe. Created the world. Created the trees, the rivers, the oceans, and what I think best displays his power — the mountains. Water runs through streams and rivers and causes canyons and valleys because of God’s design. By God’s design the same water makes delicious tea, beer, or Coca-Cola (if that’s your poison). And by God’s design that same water turns white and magnificently beautiful when it freezes. Every drop of it that falls from the sky in frozen form is unique. By God’s design it covers the ground and gives a reminder of cleanliness to even the dirtiest places on earth. By God’s design we can make it into snowballs and throw them at each other. By God’s design we can sled or ski down hills covered in it.

I rather like the way Ravi Zacharias talks about the power of God, using Lazarus as an example.
Have you ever wondered what you would do to frighten Lazarus after he’d been raised from the dead? What would you do to threaten him? ‘Lazarus, I’m gonna kill you?’
Caligula says, ‘I’m going to kill you.’
He says, ‘Ha, ha, ha.’
He says ‘stop ha, ha, ha-ing. I’m going to kill you as I’m killing all the Christians.’
He doubles over in uncontrollable laughter, comes up for air and says, ‘Caligula haven’t you heard? Death is dead! Death is dead!’

How do you frighten somebody who has already been there and knows the one who’s going to let him out?
When you tell someone about Jesus you’re telling them about the creator of the mountains. About the creator of snow, of trees, of rivers, and of man. You’re also telling them about the one who can heal disease, give sight to the blind, give freedom to the demon possessed, and even conquer death.

An iPad may bring you joy for a time (in fact I think it likely will), or being the most popular kid in school, and worshipping a log of wood carved into the shape of an idol may bring you comfort for a time. But that man-made image, popularity, and fancy toys, cannot create even the smallest grain of sand let alone the mountains. They cannot heal you from a rug burn, let alone save you out of death.

They are impotent, worthless idols that offer nothing of lasting value. Worshipping them in practice or in your heart yields nothing of value, and distracts you from following the one true and powerful God.

When you preach Jesus, when you tell someone about the creator God, you are talking about the most powerful force in heaven and on earth. Something that makes the fastest Ferrari seem painfully underpowered. Something which makes the pyramids of Giza look petty and small. Something which makes overwhelming pain seem trivial. You are offering the greatest gift in heaven and on earth. A personal relationship with the almighty God.

2. That Glory Living in Us

1 Corinthians 3:16 says, “Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?” and similarly 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?”

When we put our faith in Jesus we become a temple of the living, almighty God. Think about that for a moment.

When Solomon built an enormous temple for the Lord on earth he prayed in dedication to the Lord, and half way through he wonders aloud, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27).

Imagine a God so mighty, so powerful, and so big compared to us that even the heavens cannot contain Him, and yet he chooses to dwell within us. Think about the biggest thing you’ve ever seen in the world. A mountain, or an ocean. Then think about how small that thing is when compared with the distance between the earth and the moon. Then think about how small the earth and moon are when compared with our solar system. Then think about how minuscule our solar system is when compared with the known universe. And imagine a God that cannot be contained even within the limits of our knowledge of space, or our conception of heaven. And imagine that God choosing to dwell within puny little you.

Now remember that the next time you tell someone about Jesus. You are offering to them to have the greatest glory in the universe dwell within them. This is no small gift you’re telling them about.

Now when Solomon finished praying and asking God if he would really dwell in the temple he built we’re told the glory of the Lord descended.
As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple.  And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD's house. When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, ‘For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.’
- 2 Chronicles 7:1-3
In fact the glory of the Lord came in such display of majesty all the people of Israel saw the fire come down, and they could not help but bow down.

Our God, the God of infinite glory, majesty, power, wisdom, and might, has chosen to dwell within those who follow after Him. He has offered a hope beyond our wildest imaginations in both this life and the next. He has offered us meaning in life where without Him we have none. When we turn to Jesus and follow after a greater plan than our own, when we seek the glory of His Name rather than the exaltation of our own, when we realize our utter worthlessness apart from Him, He humbles himself to dwell within us. A concept we cannot begin to even fathom.

When you share about Jesus Christ and Him crucified, you're offering a gift so amazing that you're going to want to punch people in the face when they turn it down (I highly advise against this however). You'd have to be a fool to reject Christ if you knew even one fraction of what was offered.

3. Shoes

I've shared before about how sharing our faith is like sharing with others about a pair of shoes you like. If you buy a pair of shoes you tell others about them. Here's my story.

I'm from Colorado, and even went to the University of Colorado in Boulder where Crocs are made. I'm nearly certain you've heard of Crocs (if you're an American, and you will soon if you're not), as just about everyone owns a pair. The first time I saw them was at a shoe shop where I asked the salesman what all the hype was about, after all, they're ugly as the day is long. The salesman told me I wouldn't be able to try a pair on without buying them. So I tried a pair on, and didn't buy them. Mostly just to rub it in his face, but also because I didn't see what all the fuss was about.

Several months later I was waiting tables at a cajun seafood restaurant in Texas and after being on my feet all day long I had grown to appreciate comfortable shoes in a new way. One day when business was slow and I was standing around waiting for someone to be seated in my section, an old man of about 80 years or so walked out of the bathroom. He walked slower than molasses and used a cane, and he was wearing Crocs. I couldn't believe this old guy was wearing such ugly shoes. So I asked him about them, and he was thrilled to talk to me. He told me his feet started hurting him when he was much younger and he had to wear expensive orthotics with every shoe he wore or he would be in so much pain he couldn't walk. But these. Well, these were different. Thirty-five dollars and he felt like a million bucks. He told me I had to try them.

So I walked out of the restaurant and bought a pair on my way home. I was converted.

Over the next few years I told everyone about them. Yea, they're ugly, but you can't believe how comfortable they are. I wore them to the zoo one day with five other friends. They all wore their best shoes and all of them were sitting down by the 5th hour in pain from being on their feet. I felt like I had just stood up. It was like walking on air. So I told more and more people about them.

That man shared with me about his shoes because he believed in them. They had changed his life. He wasn't shy about what he was offering me because he knew their intrinsic value. I had to be a fool to ignore his advice. His pitch was so convincing, and his enthusiasm for them so overwhelming I couldn't help myself.

But how often do we share more passionately with our friends about shoes than we do about Jesus? Do we really believe Jesus will change people's lives? If we do, how can we NOT talk about Him?

Once I bought I pair of Crocs I wore them everywhere and I told everyone about them. It was instantly obvious these shoes were something special. And the more I told my story to others the more they wanted a pair.

If you think back about your relationship with the Lord, odds are someone told you about Him. Maybe they didn't do so enthusiastically, but there was some reason or other that eventually convinced you Jesus was good, and you had to try Him. After you have believed do you have a significant testimony? Or did you buy a nice pair of shoes, take them straight home and put them in the closet? Because I can guarantee if you tried on Jesus then you have something to tell others. If you've let Jesus affect your life then your life has been changed in a way worth talking about. And if you have had even just a taste of the joy that comes from knowing Him, you're going to be dying to tell others about Him. And your enthusiasm for Him will be overwhelming.

If you clothe yourself with the whole armor of God as described in Ephesians 6:10-20, you will find more than a pair of shoes to talk about.
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Clothe yourself with the armor of God and you will experience His glory. And His glory will overwhelm you, it will change you, you will recognize your sheer worthlessness apart from Christ, and telling others about Him will not just be easy, it will be fun.

I've been quoting Tom Wells a lot as I'm reading through one of his books. He says,
You need to think, not of an instant programme [sic], but of increasing your own knowledge of God to the point where speaking of His glory becomes a part of you.
If you increase your knowledge of God, you will better understand His glory, and His glory will become a part of you. It won't take long and you won't be able to help yourself but to tell others.

Bin Laden, Eternal Damnation, and Grace

I sat my three year old daughter down yesterday and had her watch Obama's talk along with me. I don't think she understood much of it, nor was she able to keep attentive for very long. I'm not sure why I chose to share this with her, after all it was about the death of a man. But we live in a world of death and I suppose there is little reason to hide that from her.

I've read a number of reactions by various people and most of them seem unsure about what to make of it. I liked one quote I read and I intended to post a link to it, however as I followed the trail I found it led back to Brian Mclaren's blog, and I'm unsure if everyone who reads this blog is aware enough of the weirdness of who he is to send a link his way. But even his writing it was a quote from a friend who sent in a letter. I still think it a valuable thought.
Perhaps everyone is right. Perhaps the death of Osama Bin Laden has made this world more safe. I do not believe, however, that his death has made this world more beautiful.
That is a very apt description. I also appreciate my friend Todd's explanation. He writes,
From a biblical standard all of us are deserving of eternal separation from God. I believe Bin Laden got what he deserved. I don't get what I deserve only by the grace of God so I can't boast. God is just and God is gracious.
His thoughts remind me of one of the Newsboys best songs (I remember from my childhood) called "Real Good Thing." It says,
When we don't get what we deserve
Thats a real good thing, a real good thing
When we get what we dont deserve
Thats a real good thing, a real good thing
You have to look closely, but it is actually saying the same thing in two different ways. None of us can be certain where Osama went, but death is something that will happen to all of us eventually; be that by firefight with commandos or slowly fading in a hospital bed.

Osama's death should give us pause. But perhaps the fact that we're all deserving of eternal damnation should give us pause too. What a gracious savior we have.

Salespeople or Travel Guides? ➙

When I talk with friends about sharing their faith, the idea conjured up by most folks involves air-tight arguments, philosophical proofs, and aggressive tactics to coerce our friends across a line of faith. But the reality is, Jesus didn't send apostles and disciples to close the deal on sales call. He sent them to bear witness to the one who saves, loves, redeems and renews. He sent them to relate to people in their own language and embody the good news they proclaimed.