Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Ever-changing Times, Unchanging God

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As we stand on the threshold of another year one thing is for sure—we cannot be sure what another year will bring. For example, while doing some research I wondered about the things people faced 100-years ago as they looked forward to a new year in 1919. Here’s what I found:  

In 1919 the world was ready for peace and quiet. The “War to End All Wars” (WWI) finally ended on Nov. 11, 1918, after 16 million people lost their lives in conflict. The world was also recovering from a devastating influenza pandemic that affected about 500 million people, or one-third of the global population at the time.

On January 15, a large storage container burst at the Purity Distilling Company in Boston, sending a tidal wave of molten molasses through the streets at 35 miles per hour, killing 21 people and injuring 150. On January 16, the eighteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, prohibiting the sale of alcohol. Thus, the days of prohibition had begun.

In June another amendment passed, giving women the right to vote. Also that month, the Grand Canyon became a national park and the first trans-Atlantic air travel occurred when Jon Alcock and Arthur Brown flew from Newfoundland to Ireland. In September, the Florida Keys hurricane slammed the islands and killed more than 600. The next month president Woodrow Wilson suffered a stroke, but the First Lady hid the news and began running the country herself. And in the sports world, the Chicago White Sox threw the World Series in one of the greatest scandals in baseball history.

Amid all the trials and triumphs of 1919, a lot of notable people passed away and important babies were born. Among the obituaries were Theodore Roosevelt, who died in his sleep at age 60 on Jan. 6, 1919, and wealthy industrialist Andrew Carnegie, who passed at 83 leaving behind his vast empire. That year some world-changers were born too including—Nat King Cole, Jackie Robinson and Edmund Hillary.

As I studied those headlines from a century ago, I was reminded of the old saying, “All new news is old news happening to new people.” Aren’t our times filled with some of the same stuff? Disasters, war and peace, sickness and death, scandal and technological innovation.

Like those folks in 1919, we don’t know what 2019 holds, but we do know the One who holds time in His hands. Psalm 33:11 says, “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart are to all generations.” Even though the calendar changes our Lord changes not (Mal. 3:6) and “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb. 13:8).  

We ought to take comfort in the unchanging nature of God (called by theologians “God’s immutability”). When you have some time, look up these verses and note the following truths—God’s promises are unchanging (Num. 23:19), God’s purposes are unchanging (Pro. 19:21), God’s provisions are unchanging (James 1:17) and God’s prophecies are unchanging (Acts 1:11).

In a world full of change, where it seems like the ground beneath our feet is quicksand, I’m glad I can anchor my faith in a God of consistency. God cannot change for the better, because He’s already perfect; and being perfect, He cannot change for the worse.

Maybe, A.W. Tozer said it best, “What peace it brings to the Christian’s heart to realize that our Heavenly Father never differs from Himself . . . Today at this moment, He feels toward His creatures, toward babies, toward the sick, the fallen, the sinful, exactly as He did when He sent His only-begotten Son into the world to die for mankind. His attitude toward sin is now the same as it was when He drove Adam and Eve from the Garden and His attitude towards the sinner the same as when He stretched forth His hands on the Cross and cried, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”[1]    -DM

[1] A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1961), 53.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Come Let Us Adore Him

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            It was just a few days before the big Christmas pageant and one of the boys who was going to play a wise man became sick with the flu. The frazzled play director not knowing what else to do conscripted one of the extra shepherds to fill in. The newly minted wise man was given his lines and directions, “Now Johnny, you will go last. After the first two wise men present baby Jesus with their gifts, it will be your turn. Give Joseph your gift and say, ‘I bring to baby Jesus, frankincense.” Johnny was nervous, but it was only one line.
He practiced and practiced for two days and inevitably the big moment arrived. The wise men took to the stage. The first one bowed before Jesus and said, “I bring to the King of kings gold!” The next wise man stepped forward and right on cue he knelt and said, “I bring to the Christ child a precious gift of myrrh!” Johnny was sweating bullets. He nervously stepped up and extended his hands and offered a small box. Poor Johnny got tongue tied, “Uh . . . umm . . . here baby Jesus, Frank sent these!”

How often do we hear gold, frankincense and myrrh as part of a Christmas pageant, without ever asking, what in the world are these things? I think we all understand the value and importance of gold, but what about frankincense and myrrh?

Frankincense comes from the sappy resin of the Boswellia tree, a gnarly plant that grows in the harsh desert environments of Somalia, Ethiopia, and Yemen. Harvesters slash the bark and let the resin bleed out and harden. These hardened drips are called “tears.” The tears are graded by color and aroma, and could be as valuable as gold during ancient times. Frankincense was an important part of ancient Jewish rituals in the Temple in Jerusalem. In various forms, it acted as incense, perfume, and an ingredient in meal offerings.

Similar to frankincense, myrrh is a resin that comes from another unique plant growing in the same harsh area of the world. In this case, it’s the thorny, scraggly Commiphora tree. Much of the ancient myrrh made its way to Egypt, where it was used as an ingredient for embalming mummies.

Some time after the birth of Jesus, Magi from the east came for a visit (Matt. 2:1-11). Known popularly as the “Wise Men,” these Magi were probably the latest in the line of a pagan priests, mystics and astrologers from Medo-Persian lineage. Historians such as Herodotus tell us that the Magi were considered “king-makers” in the ancient world.

Nothing in the Gospel accounts says there were only three wise men, but that tradition might have come from the list of their three specific gifts. We can’t be sure if the Magi understood the prophetic significance behind their gifts, but the Holy Spirit certainly did. Each of these gifts corresponds to a unique aspect of Christ’s ministry. The gold—a gift fit for a king—pictured His sovereign royalty. The frankincense and its use as incense portrayed Christ’s sinless deity. The myrrh was a forecast of Jesus sacrificial death and burial (Mark 15:22-23; John 19:38-40). In AD 248, the Christian apologist Origen made this connection writing: “Gold, as to a king; myrrh, as to one who was mortal; and incense, as to a God.”

Suppose you could give a gift to Christ, what would it be? How could you possibly select a gift for the One who not only has everything, but who made everything? The Wise Men did. They can be an example to us. In addition to the gold, frankincense, and myrrh, they gave the Savior some gifts we can give him today: their witness and their worship. -DM

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Trouble at the Inn

Guideposts: An artist's rendering of children portraying Joseph, Mary and the innkeeper

During this busy Christmas season, you will probably be attending or maybe participating in a pageant. One thing that I remember about all the plays that I was a part of as a kid is that nothing goes quite as you practiced it when it’s time to perform. Years ago, a subscriber to Guideposts magazine submitted one such story and it has been republished several times.   

Nine-year-old Wally Purling was going to be the innkeeper in a church’s Christmas pageant. Most people in the church knew that Wally had difficulty keeping up. He was big, awkward and a slow learner. But what Wally lacked he made up for with a big heart.    
The time finally came when Joseph appeared, slowly, tenderly guiding Mary to the door of the inn. Joseph knocked hard on the door and out came Wally. “What do you want?” he said, swinging the door open with a brusque gesture. “We seek lodging.” “Seek it elsewhere,” Wally spoke harshly. “The inn is full!”
Joseph pled, “Please, good innkeeper, this is my wife, Mary. She is heavy with child and needs a place to rest. Surely you must have some small corner for her. She is so tired.” Wally, true to his character, looked down at Mary with a long pause, long enough to make the audience a bit tense with embarrassment. “No! Begone!” the prompter whispered from offstage. Wally struggled with the moral dilemma, but said his lines anyway, “No! Begone!”
Joseph sadly placed his arm around Mary and the two of them started to move away. However, the innkeeper did not return inside his lodging as scripted. Wally stood there in the doorway, watching the forlorn couple. His mouth was open, his brow creased with concern, his eyes filling with tears.
And suddenly this Christmas pageant became different from all others. Wally surprised everyone. “Don't go, Joseph,” he called out. “Bring Mary back.” Wally’s face grew into a bright smile. “You can have my room.” Some people in the church thought that the pageant had been ruined. Yet there were others who considered it the most Christmas of all Christmas pageants they had ever seen.[1]

Like I said earlier, things don’t always go as scripted. It didn’t that night of the Christmas play and it didn’t go the way Mary and Joseph planned either that first Christmas in Bethlehem.

After a long and difficult journey from Nazareth, the last thing they expected was to be turned away into the cold, “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)

But, we can’t be too harsh to judge the innkeeper. Most folks in Bethlehem were ignorant of the fact that God was invading their small town that night. Not to mention that the little shepherding town was bulging with travelers who were there to be counted in the census.

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Jesus’ rejection at birth became a paradigm for his whole life and ministry. John makes the statement in the prologue of his gospel that, “He came unto his own and his own received Him not (John 1:11).” Moreover, the prophet Isaiah predicted some 700 years BC that the Christ would be, “despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (53:3).

The rejection that began at the cradle followed Jesus to the Cross. The ultimate loneliness came when the Father turned his back on the Son as the sin-debt of the world on him. Jesus cried out those gut-wrenching words, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46).

At Christmas, God sent a message of love to the uncaring world. We would not afford him so much as a cramped closet; no time to stop and worship; no interest in this peasant child.  But Bethlehem’s babe came to find room for us. He would one day reserve accommodations for each of his children at the Father’s house that awaits in eternity (John 14:1-3).

Homeless no more, Jesus throws open the doors of heaven, so that no one might be left in the cold. But He awaits us to make our RSVP with Him, by repenting of our sin, and trusting in His life, death and resurrection alone for salvation. Have you made room for Christ? -DM

[1] Dina Donohue, “Trouble at the Inn,” Guideposts, 27 October 2014 <>

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Obedience of Christmas

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            Sid Gilbreath was on his way home from work one cold Christmas Eve. His family was waiting on him to arrive so they could eat dinner and start their holiday traditions. As he weaved his way through rush hour traffic Sid saw something that changed his plans:

             As I rode behind a city bus I thought, “Everyone else is home waiting to enjoy a holiday dinner.” Until I noticed the two people up ahead by the side of the road. A woman with a small child. She waved anxiously as the bus got near, but the driver didn’t stop. Just passed them right by in a cloud of exhaust. Why didn’t he stop for them? Express bus? Out of service?
The air cleared, and I saw the woman and her child closely. No, the bus wasn’t out of service. The driver hadn’t stopped because they were black. That was the way it was in 1957, even on a cold winter’s night. What could I do? I had potatoes, carrots and pot roast waiting for me at home—not to mention a mother-in-law. But that woman and her son sure looked desperate. I felt the Lord promoting me to do something. How could I just drive past? I slowed to a crawl by the bus stop and rolled down the window. “Is there some way I can help you?”
The woman pulled her coat closer around her, shivering. The little boy looked about seven. He wiped away tears with the back of his hand. “Two buses passed us by,” the woman said, clearly trying to control her frustration. “My son, Michael, here is supposed to play the Angel of the Lord in our church Christmas pageant tonight. It starts in less than an hour. I don’t know when another bus will come by.”
I pushed the passenger door open. “Climb in,” I said. “I’ll drive you to the church.”  Michael clambered into the back seat and the mother introduced herself, “I’m Mrs. Johnson,” she said and gave me the address of her church about 20 minutes away. “If you don’t mind,” she said, “I need to help Michael go over his lines.”
Mrs. Johnson prompted her son, “For unto you is born…” “Jesus the Lord!” Michael said. I gave him a thumbs-up in the rearview mirror. “Now say it just like the Bible does,” Mrs. Johnson said. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior…” “Who is Christ the Lord,” Michael said solemnly. “Now the very last part,” Mrs. Johnson said. “And this shall be a sign unto you…” Michael picked up his cue right away. “Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
Over and over Michael practiced his lines. By the time we arrived at the church, he was letter-perfect. Mrs. Johnson and Michael stepped out of the car. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” she said. “It was no trouble,” I said. “Sharing Christmas Eve with you and Michael is a gift I’ll never forget.”[1]

Think of it—Sid was faced with a Christmas choice that presented itself as an interruption—obey the Lord’s inner prompting or go about his business. Of course, only after he obeyed did, he receive understanding and an unforgettable blessing.  

While studying the original Christmas story again, I was reminded how the theme of divine interruptions and obedience is played out in the lives of Mary and Joseph. Their lives were rocked by the unexpected news that Mary would carry the Christ child. Yet, each one of them responded with obedience. Mary answered the angel Gabriel, “38 Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Likewise, we read of Joseph’s quiet obedience, “Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him . . .” (Matt. 1:24).

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One of the hidden lessons of Christmas is the blessing of obedience. Mary and Joseph did not understand God’s complete plan. Even after they had experienced His miraculous conception and birth, they still marveled at the things said about Jesus. Was their obedience easy? Not at all! Just think of traveling 80 miles by donkey through the desert with a wife in her third-trimester! But, despite the unknowns and hardships, Scripture never indicates that any of these people regretted or second-guessed their willing participation in this turning point of history.

We marvel at the obedience of Jesus’ earthly parents, but what’s even more amazing is His obedience to the Father’s will. Philippians 2 reminds us of Jesus’ surrender “5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

Never has One been so high and stooped so low. As we think about obedience, we must look at Jesus—our Lord was willing to obey, are we any better? Perhaps, this Christmas the greatest gift we can give our Lord is our complete obedience. -DM  

[1] Sid Gilbreath, “Blessed by a Christmas Angel,” Guideposts, 24 October 2018 <>

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

What Lessons Can We Learn from Missionary Martyr, John Chau?

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If you have been following the media recently, then you no doubt heard about the killing of missionary John Chau. Here’s what’s been reported so far—On Nov. 22, 2018, John Chau, 26, was slain by the hostile natives of the remote Sentinel Island, a territory of India. Chau was attempting to befriend the natives of the island with the ultimate goal of evangelizing them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Chau knew about Indian government regulations which forbade interaction with the Sentinelese, who are known to shoot arrows at outsiders. Because of the danger of this mission, Chau paid local fishermen to drop him off at the island under the cover of darkness. Not long after making contact with the Sentinelese, Chau was killed by a hail of arrows from their warriors. Chau’s diary was recovered and in his last entry he wrote, “You guys might think I'm crazy in all this, but I think it's worth it to declare Jesus to these people.” “Please,” he said to his parents, “do not be angry at them or at God if I get killed, rather please live your lives in obedience to whatever he has called you to and I'll see you again.”[i]  

When I first heard about Chau’s death I was conflicted. I have wrestled with how to process his sacrifice. No doubt, his heart was in the right place. It’s never wrong to want to take the Gospel to the nations, especially an unreached people group like those on Sentinel Island. I commend his boldness and courage and my heart goes out to his family as they feel a profound sadness.

However, at the same time I have wondered—did Mr. Chau go about his mission the right way? After all he was breaking the law, and he knew about the incredible risk he was taking. It still remains to be seen whether or not his effort will bear fruit leading to the salvation of these violent and reclusive people. Should we view what John Chau did with the same esteem as other missionary martyrs like Jim Elliot and his colleagues, John Williams, William Tyndale, John Huss or John Patterson?   

I’m not sure if answers to these questions will be easy to come by, however after reflecting on the tragedy I have a few lessons that I think Christians can take away from this. First, the most obvious take away is that the Gospel is worthy of laying our lives down. Jesus said in Mark 10, “29 Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, 30 who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.” When it comes to the Gospel, from an eternal perspective the reward outweighs the risk. The challenge of missions is to ask ourselves, “Are we willing to make the sacrifice and lay our lives down for others?”  

Second, methodology matters as much as our motivation. What John Chau did was more of a “John Wayne” approach to missions. By that I mean, he appeared to venture out alone. I’m not sure how much planning went into his mission or if he even knew the language of the Sentinelese people. As far as I know, he was not sent out or supported by a mission organization or church. This is important because when you study missions in the Gospels and Acts you find out that out the Lord and the Apostles gave some clear strategies. Jesus commissioned His disciples to go out in teams of two (Luke 10:1-12). Paul also traveled with companions like Luke, Silas, Timothy and Barnabas. Also, Paul’s mission efforts were backed financially and prayerfully by the believers in Antioch (Acts 13:1-3). Paul also had a clear strategy when he went into a new place—he would first go to the synagogues and preach to the Jews before he tried to interact with the Gentiles (Acts 17:2). Moreover, Paul had a pattern of visiting and discipling the network of churches that he helped start (Acts 14:21-28).

Dr. Al Mohler commented on this same thing by comparing Chau’s effort with Jim Elliot’s saying, “I would also point to a distinction in methodology. Jim Elliot and the missionaries who were with him were part of a larger effort. They were part of a culture, of a church sending culture of missionaries. There were those who would continue the effort, who would learn from what happened to Jim Elliot and would continue to try to make contact with the tribe. There was an infrastructure, there was methodology, there was not a solitary effort because if that solitary effort had been the case in Ecuador, there would not have been the following of the team that was able eventually through persistent efforts to reach the tribe with the Gospel of Jesus Christ . . . And to put the matter bluntly, this is not the way that most modern missions organizations would seek to reach this kind of group. That doesn't mean that they wouldn't demonstrate the same kind of courage, it doesn't mean that missionaries even today are not serving under the threat of martyrdom and often facing the reality of martyrdom. It doesn't mean that there should have been no effort to reach this unreached people group, not to mention the thousands of other unreached people groups still on planet earth. But it's also true to understand that Christian missionaries and mission sending organizations have learned something about how, over the long term, to be even more effective in reaching these unreached people groups.”[ii]      

Third, we should always be pushing into the last frontiers of missions. John Chau’s efforts highlight an important aspect of global missions—the unreached people groups. This refers to the isolated pockets of ethnic groups and cultures that remain untouched by the Gospel. Many of these groups remain inaccessible because of a language barrier, geographical barrier or as in the case Sentinelese, they will not even entertain outsiders because of their violent nature.

According to the International Missions Board there are still 7,076 unreached people groups in the world today, which constitutes an estimated 3.13 billion people.[iii] Clearly, we still have a lot of work to do in the area of missions. If nothing more, perhaps John Chau’s death will underscore the fact that there are billions of people on our planet who have never even heard the name Jesus. This ought to break our hearts as well as motivate us into action.

I leave you with the words of John Piper, “There is a call on this generation to obey the risen Christ and make disciples of all the unreached peoples of world . . . Don’t think the days of foreign missions is over, as if nationals can finish the work. I am praying that God will raise up hundreds of thousands of young people and “finishers.” So, “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into this harvest” (Matt. 9:38) and ask Him if you should be one. Expect this prayer to change you. When Jesus told His disciples to pray it, the next thing that happened was that He appointed twelve to be His apostles and sent them out. Pray for harvesters and you may become one. God often wakens desire, and give gifts, and opens doors when we are praying and pondering real possibilities and real needs.”[iv]  -DM

[i] Ashley May, “American missionary killed by remote tribe leaves behind diary: 'I hope this isn't one of my last notes'” USA TODAY, 23 November 2018 <>
[ii] Al Mohler, “Motivation vs. methodology: What the modern missions movement has taught us about how to most effectively reach the unreached,” The Briefing, 26 November 2018 <
[iii] <>
[iv] John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003), 174-176.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Plod for God

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You’ve probably never heard the name Geronimo Martin. I hadn’t either, until I read about his contribution of getting the Bible translated into the language of his people—the Navajo Indians. Geronimo was born blind, but as a young man He trusted in Christ as Savior. He understood the power of the Bible to change lives and he had a life-long dream of the Navajo people having God’s Word in their tongue. 

In 1944 the Wycliffe Bible Translators enlisted Geronimo to help them translate the Bible. Geronimo would read an English Braille Bible and translate it into Navajo, while his wife Lois wrote it down. It took 12 years to complete the New Testament. Navajos accepted the NT with gladness, but after a few years, there was an outcry for the Old Testament to be translated. Geronimo set out again to help translate the OT in 1968, which was finished in 1984, the same year he died at age 67. One year later, the complete Navajo Bible was published which Lois witnessed.    

The translation process did face setbacks along the way. Lois Martin remembers an unexpected problem. “We had just finished the Book of Job, which took maybe three month’s work, and we were going to Tucson, AZ. We had the handwritten manuscript, at least 100 pages covered front and back, in a suitcase tied on top of the car with other luggage. The rope must have loosened and the suitcase fell off. I walked over the entire area but never found it.” Smiling serenely Lois says, “We learned Job’s tribulations by doing the book over again.” In all, it took the Martin’s 42 years to complete their entire translation of the Bible.[i]              

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Bible translator Geronimo Martin  

The Martin’s were the epitome of plodders, which means “to work or act perseveringly; to drudge; moving or walking heavily and slowly making laborious progress.” It's not a pretty word. It conjures up images of a person trudging along with their legs knee deep in mud or crossing sandy dunes in a blistering desert.

We can sometimes get discouraged when we’re plodding, because we aren’t seeing results soon enough. So, we consider throwing in the towel. But many times, if we would just plod on a little longer, we’d reach our goal. We need to adjust to the idea that being a Christian is always a dazzling mountaintop experience. More likely it involves plodding through the lowly valleys and sometimes these spells of plodding may even last years.

The Martin’s were consistent plodders and so were many others in the Bible. Noah plodded for 120 years to build the Ark (1 Peter 3:20). Joseph diligently collected grain for 7 years (Gen. 41:53-55). Moses trudged through the Wilderness with the Israelites for 40 years (Acts 7:36). Nehemiah worked 52 days to repair the walls of Jerusalem, brick-by-brick (Neh. 6:15). Then there is Jesus who inched His way up Calvary to die for our sins, each step more painful than the last (Mark 15:20-22).

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Plodders have their eyes on the goal; they resist every effort to get them on a detour. “This one thing I do!” is their special verse (Phil. 3:13), and they will not change. Warren Wiersbe joked, “Consider the postage stamp. Its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing till it gets there.” If we are going to be plodders we must stay diligent until the harvest comes (Gal. 6:9).

We think faith means doing big things for God, but more often faith is about a consist day-to-day trusting God over a long period. Faith is believing God one task at a time, one day at a time, trusting in God’s power to change the world through a series of obedient steps. Don’t be afraid to plod for God! -DM         


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

When the Ride Is Over...

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Earlier this year, the world was shocked by the news of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain’s suicide. CNN wrote about Bourdain’s legacy, “His love of great adventure, new friends, fine food and drink and the remarkable stories of the world made him a unique storyteller.”[1]

Bourdain’s death came at a time when the suicide trend is on the uptick. According to the CDC a 2018 survey showed suicide rates increased by 25% across the United States over nearly two decades ending in 2016. Twenty-five states experienced a rise in suicides by more than 30%.[2]

This is jarring especially when you consider that Bourdain had the job so many of us dream about—traveling around the globe, trying the most usual cuisines and engaging in conversations with people from every walk of life, and a very successful TV program.

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You can’t help but wonder, how could someone who has experienced every wonder of the world, still want to take their own life? Doesn’t traveling the globe open up a treasure trove of insight and understanding? Perhaps, but it also could reveal that there is nothing there once you get “there.” Bourdain was once quoted as saying, “Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.” That’s the philosophy of hedonism in a nutshell—if it feels good do it! Sadly, Bourdain proved the old adage, “the best cure for hedonism is an attempt to practice it.”

Anthony Bourdain searched the world high and low, and still found nothing that could truly satisfy him. If only he would have read the diary of King Solomon he could have saved himself a lot of heartache. Solomon was the original playboy. He had all the brains and all the bucks a man could want. He had it all and tried it all, and after his pursuit of pleasure he concluded:

“10 Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart rejoiced in all my labor; and this was my reward from all my labor.
11 Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done and on the labor in which I had toiled; and indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11).

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Solomon’s raw and honest appraisal of life “under the sun” reveals a couple of timeless principles. First, sensual pleasures hold out promises that lack staying power.  The curse of pleasure is that it is fleeting, like trying to hold on to sand—the harder you grasp the more it slips out through our fingers. Second, hedonism mistakes your body to be your soul and earth for heaven. The human soul has a bottomless capacity for happiness.  Not only that, but the human soul is immaterial. Trying to fill a soul with finite things like money and possessions is futile—that’s like trying to fill up a colander with water. Because your soul is not made of matter then no material thing will be able to please it. In the end, what we need is an infinite Being who does not change in His ability to give meaning and fulfillment. The only Being big enough to fill the human soul is Christ who promised abundant life in the here and hereafter (John 10:10).  

C.S. Lewis insightfully said in Mere Christianity: “God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about faith. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”[3]  -DM

[1] Brian Stelter, “CNN's Anthony Bourdain Dead at 61,” CNN, 8 June 2018 < us/anthony-bourdain-obit/index.html>
[2] “Suicide Rates Rising Across the U.S.” CDC, 7 June 2018 <>
[3] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco: Harper One, 1952), 50.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Caught in the Act

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There is a growing trend across the nation of thieves stealing people’s packages off their front porch (which if you think about it is really foolish, because the thief has no idea what they are getting). I read where one lady was caught by authorities stealing a box that contained kitty litter—some prize! Recently, I saw a news item about how homeowners are using cutting-edge technology to fight back against these burglars. Tiny security cameras called “smart doorbells” can have their video feed linked to an I-pad, laptop or phone. When someone is detected at the door the camera sends an alert to the homeowner and they can pull up the video feed in real-time.

This happened to one homeowner in California. He checked his phone while at work and noticed two men disguised as construction workers trying to pry open the front door. The smart doorbell allowed the man to talk through his phone and yell at the burglars through a speaker. “Stop now! You’ve been caught! Cops are on the way!” The burglars didn’t waste any time making tracks.[1]

In one sense, technology has allowed us to overcome the limitation of being only at one place at one time. There have been times when we’ve all wished we could be at more than one location at a time. This incident reported in the news got me thinking about one of God’s attributes—His omnipresence, which means that God’s presence is unlimited. He is everywhere present with His whole being at the same time.

Perhaps no one expressed God’s omnipresence better than David in Psalm 139, “7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” As finite creatures bound by the limitations of a physical body, the idea of omnipresence is mind-boggling. In the beginning, God created space itself (Gen. 1:1), so it follows that He is transcendent over it. Yet, the Bible says that at the same time He is also imminent. There is no place He is not. As the writer of Hebrews says, “He upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3).

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The omnipresence of God is a double-edged sword. It is comforting to know that Christ’s presence is always with us, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). However, it’s also convicting to know that this holy God sees us at our worst times, especially when we are giving into temptation and living in disobedient sin. Just like those burglars who were caught in the act, God knows and sees and speaks when we are making a wrong move.  

He came looking for Adam and Eve in the garden after they ate the forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:8). He caught Jonah running away from his calling to go preach to the city of Nineveh. In response God sent a great wind to rock the boat Jonah was in and a great fish to swallow him up (Jonah 1:4, 17). Likewise, when Achan hid stolen treasure from Jericho under his tent, God revealed it (Josh. 7). And when David thought he gotten away with adultery and murder, the Lord sent the prophet Nathan to let the king know that God caught him red-handed (2 Sam. 12).

When it comes to God’s ever-present nearness you can’t have it just one way. You can’t have Him near for comfort and not for conviction. We ought, then, to meditate on the ever-present God when facing temptation in life. It could be the one thought that provides a way of escape from the sin crouching at the door. Because He is there, when tempted we shouldn’t flee from Him, but to Him. 

[1] <>

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

He Knows the Way

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5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Burleigh Law served as a jungle pilot in central Africa. One day he took off in clear skies, but shortly he noticed thunderclouds in the distance; and these rushed together at startling speed. Burleigh frantically searched for an airstrip, but there was nowhere to land. Openings appeared in the clouds here and there, and he kept turning his plane towards them, following little patches of blue. It was like a needle threading its way through fabric. Burleigh was lost in the clouds, depending entirely on visible navigation. Finally, spotting a little landing strip, he made it safely to the ground.

Suddenly a vehicle raced up to his plane, and a nurse jumped out and ran to the plane, shouting, “I don’t know where you came from, but I know you are an answer to prayer!” This woman was staying with a missionary couple who had been isolated on a remote station for months. The unsettled political situation had left them cut off from outside communication. The roads were impassible and the bridges out. The missionary wife had become sick with fever. That morning they had called together the Christians in the village church to earnestly pray for God’s guidance. That day, the Lord arranged the storm clouds to direct Burleigh Law and his little plane to that spot of earth.[1]

                   Image result for appointment congo
         Burleigh Law and family (1955)                            The book which tells this dramatic story 

If our great God can guide the birds in their migrations and the planets in their orbits, then He has an appointed way for our lives and can lead us accordingly. Oswald Chambers commented about these verses, “We have no right to judge where we should be put, or to have preconceived notions as to what God is fitting us for. God engineers everything. Wherever He puts us, our one great aim is to pour out a whole-hearted devotion to Him in that particular work.”[2]

In what area do you need God’s guidance today? Ask the Heavenly Father to lead the way. “Lord, may I love and serve You with all my heart today. Guide my path to the people and places you’d have me to go. I surrender my stubborn tendency to do life on my own terms. Teach me that my will leads to dead-end streets and that Your wisdom will keep me on the road to all that is good and fruitful.” -DM

[1] Virginia Law, Appointment Congo (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1966), 20-21.  
[2] Oswald Chambers quoted by, David C. McCasland, “God’s Direction,” Our Daily Bread, 15 October 2015 <>  

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A Change of Mind

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Mao Zedong, the leader of China was wrong on so many levels, and the results were catastrophic. He was a Communist and an atheist, and his mistaken beliefs led to misguided behaviors that are now writ large across history. For example, in the 1950s Mao developed a belief that sparrows were a pest. In fact, he developed a “Four Pests Campaign” to rid China of sparrows, mosquitoes, rats and flies.

He believed that sparrows had to go because they ate grain from the farms. Thus, by killing the sparrows of China, he thought, would result in enough surplus food for 60,000 people. Mao initiated a campaign to kill sparrows—the little birds were shot, their nests were destroyed, their eggs were broken. Chinese Communists succeeded in killing about every sparrow in Chinese air space.

But Mao Zedong was wrong. He was operating on mistaken presuppositions. He did not realize that sparrows are natural predators to locusts. With the sparrows all gone, the locusts multiplied and devastated Chinese agriculture. It is estimated that more than 30 million Chinese died of malnourishment because of the ensuing locust invasion.[1]

Image result for mao zedong sparrows     Image result for mao zedong sparrows

The point is that defective thinking always leads to destructive living. If people are mistaken in their beliefs, they will be misguided in their behavior. Faulty thinking leads to flawed habits, because what you think effects how you behave and how you live. The Bible says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). Paul admonishes us in Rom. 12:2 to undergo a thorough brain washing, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” and that we are to obtain “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16).  

Becoming a Christian involves not only giving Jesus your heart, but it also involves giving Him your mind. By studying God’s word, our thinking patterns are revamped and many of the false ideas that we’ve come to believe or absorbed from the world are debunked. A key part of that process is replacing the lies of the Enemy (John 8:44), with the truth of God (2 Cor. 10:4-6).

Just as a caterpillar undergoes the slow metamorphosis that transforms it into a butterfly, your mind is meant to undergo a steady, purposeful change as it is saturated and controlled by the Word of God. There are no shortcuts and no alternative paths. The one and only way your mind can be renewed is by the Spirit of God working through the Word of God.

Tim Challies writes in a challenging way, “Which direction is your mind changing: toward conformity to the world or toward transformation into God’s image? Which has more of an influence over your mind: the sports page or the Word of God? Where do you find yourself more often: sitting on the couch watching television or bowing on your knees in prayer over the Word? Over a lifetime of commitment to God’s Word, you gain new wisdom to replace old foolishness and godly desires to replace satanic longings. The sins that once fueled your imagination and motivated your actions begin to lose their power and are displaced by virtues that motivate good to others and bring glory to God. Your eyes stop their lusting because your mind is now filled with love; your mouth stops its cursing because your mind is now filled with joy; your hands stop their stealing because you are convinced you can be as content with little as with much. Such transformed lives begin with transformed minds, for your body always obeys your brain.”[2] -DM

[1] Judith Shapiro, Mao’s War Against Nature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 86-89.
[2] Tim Challies, “Renew Your Mind,” 26 May 2017, <>  

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Adam and Christ

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It has been said that the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. Every promise in the Old Testament arrives in the person of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. In fact, Jesus explained that He was the fulfillment of everything that Moses and prophets wrote about (John 5:39, Luke 24:27).

Bible scholars refer to this modeling of Christ in the Old Testament as narrative typology. A type is a person, place, thing, or event in the Old Testament that acts as a model to foreshadow or prefigure a future person or event that is fully revealed in the New Testament.

The first portrait of Christ in the Old Testament is Adam. Paul draws a parallel between Adam and Christ twice. In Romans 5:14 he refers to “Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come,” and in 1 Cor. 15:45 he makes the comparison between Christ and Adam, “The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”

In Paul’s mind, Christ came to undo everything that Adam ruined. At every place where the first Adam failed, Jesus Christ, the last Adam succeeded. Let’s examine some of the striking parallels and differences between Adam and Christ.   

·         Adam entered the world through a special act of creation (Gen. 2:7). Likewise, Jesus entered the world through a special act of creation (Luke 1:35).   

·         Adam was called the “Son of God” (Luke 3:38) and so was Jesus (John 3:16).  

·         Adam entered the world sinless (Gen. 3:17-19), Jesus did too (Heb. 4:15).

·         Adam was given authority over all creation (Gen. 1:29-30) and Jesus claimed this prerogative as well (Matt. 28:18, Col. 1:15-18).

·         God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, then He opened Adam’s side which brought forth his bride, Eve (Gen 2:21-23). In a similar way, Jesus was caused to sleep (die) and His side was pierced (John 19:33-34) which brought forth His bride, the Church (Eph. 5:25).

On the same token, the Bible is very clear that Adam and Christ are strikingly different. There are many ways in which Christ is far superior to Adam.  

·         Adam was made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27), Christ is God in the flesh (John 1:14).

·         Adam was called a “Son of God” (Luke 3:38), but Christ causes us to be “sons of God” (John 1:12).

·         For a short time, Adam was ruler over the old creation (Gen. 1:29-30), but Christ is the ruler over the new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).

·         All of Adam’s descendants inherit a sinful nature (Rom. 5:12), but all who are in Christ inherit a spiritual nature (1 Cor. 15:45).  

·         Adam was tempted in a perfect garden and fell into sin (Gen. 3:6), Christ was tempted in a desert wilderness and did not sin (Matt. 4:1-11).
  • The first Adam turned from the Father in the garden of Eden; the last Adam turned to the        Father in the garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:42).

·         Adam sinned and became aware of his nakedness (Gen. 3:6-7), Jesus became sin and was hanged in nakedness (2 Cor. 5:21; John 19:23-24).

·         Adam brought about the curse of sin, thorns, sweat and death (Gen. 3:17-19), Jesus became a curse (Gal. 3:13), and in His sacrifice He bore thorns (John 19:2, 5), dripped sweat (Luke 22:44) and tasted death (Heb. 2:9).

·         In Adam all die, but all in Christ live (1 Cor. 15:22).

Maybe, Max Lucado summarized the two best when he wrote, “The Bible is the story of two gardens: Eden and Gethsemane. In the first, Adam took a fall. In the second, Jesus took a stand. In the first, God sought Adam. In the second, Jesus sought God. In Eden, Adam hid from God. In Gethsemane, Jesus emerged from the tomb. In Eden, Satan led Adam to a tree that led to his death. From Gethsemane, Jesus went to a tree that led to our life.”[1] -DM

[1] Max Lucado, A Gentle Thunder (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012), 44.