The Valley of Vision

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,

Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,

where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;

hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox

that the way down is the way up,

that to be low is to be high,

that the broken heart is the healed heart,

that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,

that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,

that to have nothing is to possess all,

that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,

that to give is to receive,

that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,

and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;

Let me find thy light in m y darkness,

thy life in my death,

thy joy in my sorrow,

thy grace in my sin,

thy riches in my poverty,

thy glory in my valley.

Taken from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions by Arthur Bennett

[Image Credit]


I thought it would be a fun Friday treat to give you guys a look into our home life. In this post you’ll find a link to the blog Sarabeth maintains about the three dogs we have living with us in our  loft. The purpose for her blog is so that her sister and brother-in-law can check in on their babies every now and then.

Last summer they moved across the Atlantic ocean to carry out missions work for our Lord. (For a little more on missions, read here.) They own two dachshunds, Roxy and Sydney, but they couldn’t take them along because they heard that the people group was hostile against dogs. So they left them in our care. Our dog Pixie was glad to have new roommates to play with (especially Sydney), and so this has been our life for the last ten months.

Enjoy. And please tell my wife what a wonderful blog she has: The Dachshunds

(Also, please don’t judge us for the poor quality photos. We’re trying to save up for a better camera to post better pictures for you all.)

[Image credit]

The Birth of Death

Death was a concept not yet introduced to the world in Genesis 4. At least not in the physical sense. For all we know our remote ancestors thought that death equaled thorns in the earth and pain in childbirth. That’s it.

Thorns + pain = death. Not so bad. We can live with death.

Now, unless Eve or any of her granddaughters had suffered a miscarriage or one of their kids was killed in an accident, which neither instance is recorded in Scripture, no person before them had ever ceased to breathe. But an ugly reminder kept looming in the back of their minds: upon the sentence for their crime, God said that they would return to the ground from which they came. So far, thorns and pain didn’t result in that.

“So what then,” they must have wondered, “would be the cause of that?” Was God just being symbolic? I’m sure they noticed a change in the animal’s behaviors when darkness fell over the earth with that juicy crunch of fruit. The lion no longer slept with the lamb but hunted it. What went through their minds when they saw a spider catch a fly in its web the first time and proceeded to suck its blood?

But that was how animals died: they ate each other. The human race is unique, they would have rightfully reasoned; clearly we are separated from the animal kingdom in many ways. Adam knew that, because he was unwilling to take any of them as his bride.

But then, even the plants died, but not through means of being eaten. They simply withered away into dry flakes and were swept off by the cold winds. People surely can’t die like plants since we’re so unlike them as well… Unless God made it clear to them what exactly death was, I don’t think they could have comprehended the idea of a funeral for a loved one, or recalling the memory of one who no longer exists on earth. That being the case, they never would have dreamed of what their eldest son would teach them concerning life and death.

We have no idea how long Cain harbored jealousy against his younger brother. We don’t even know how long he had been plotting to kill him, or if it was just a spur of the moment instinct, or even that he meant to kill him at all. It’s doubtful he even thought such an act was even possible. He’d seen hawks pluck mice off the ground and lions take down elephants, but he had neither beak nor fangs. Surely when they wrestled as kids it didn’t take long to learn that a nose could be damaged by a crack of the knuckles or a leg could be punctured by a tree branch. Maybe Cain just intended to push his brother to the very furthest limits of pain.

Abel’s death taught the world what God meant when He pronounced that we would return to the ground from which we came. Surprisingly, the next two recorded deaths, supposing they were recorded chronologically, also resulted from murder. Cain’s great, great grandson Lamech (Noah’s father) murdered “a man for wounding me and a boy for striking me” (Genesis 4:23b).

We must all, then, die like animals, Adam must have thought. He ended up being the first person to be recorded of dying a non-violent death at the age of 930 and passed away like a withered plant.

And the world has been experiencing death ever since. And guess what. We’re still not used it. After we’ve heard stories of trillions of people dying throughout all of history in almost every sick and peaceful way imaginable, we still are jolted by the news of a loved one or famous figure passing away. Death does not sit right with us, and it never will. Even the hardened war general is often stunned by his own mortality in his clearest moments.

But this is good news. Death should not become commonplace with us. God forbid we ever grow comfortable with it. Why? Because it’s not natural. Death (or thorns or pain) was not part of the original design of life. It is a consequence that we must live with for a while, hence the pain it brings when it rears its ugly head.

Because when the curse is lifted, and the fog of sin clears away, we will one day see life everlasting, the way God meant for it to be. The only reason that we can look forward to that is because God’s Son took on the curse Himself. Pain, thorns, and all. And by dying for us, He essentially pressed the rewind button on death so that someday, every body will be resurrected from the earth and every person will stand before God and give an account for his life.

This is great news for those who believe in Christ as their savior. But this is dreadful for the many more who chose not to believe in the resurrection of life – namely, Christ’s resurrection.

But death didn’t enter the world upon Cain’s murder. Death entered the world as soon as Adam and Eve broke God’s first and only commandment, and chose the wrong side of the line to stand on when the serpent drew sides in the garden.

Because of that, we are born dead. Each of us, separated from God, the giver of life. We grow up, experiencing birthday parties and happy moments, but in the grand scale of our lives, there is no meaning, and we’re really no different than zombies meandering our way through our five day work weeks, just trying to pay the bills on time. A life lived apart from Christ is a walking death.

Only through faith in Jesus Christ will you find life the way it was meant to be. You will still have to live with the consequences of our sins, but when you return to the earth from which you came or Christ comes back, He will usher you into your new Heaven and new Earth, and just as it was before Cain struck Able, nay, before Adam and Eve ate that fruit, we will not know the meaning of death, and we will never have to toss another spade of dirt on a casket again.

[Image credit]

Standing Up to Bullying is Not Enough

Anti-bullying campaigns have become a rally call for kids who are being harassed and picked on in the schoolyard and at home. When I was growing up, bullying was almost more of an initiation process certain kids had to go through in order to be accepted into the group. The eighties and nineties was a good time to be a kid because racism was a distant memory our parents carried with them and sexual orientation wasn’t to become more prominent until after we graduated from high school. In those two decades of rest, the only way you were going to have a hard time at school was if you were a punk, annoying, or bad at sports – in which case, you just had to prove yourself to be accepted and everything was cool. Things are much different now and the stakes are much higher, as the movie Bully, due to hit theaters nationwide this Friday, suggests.

With the explosion of Facebook, Twitter, and other major networking devises invading nearly every home in America, bullying doesn’t stay on the schoolyard like it used to. With girls feeling more pressure than ever to look a certain way, and guys required to put on a certain façade, bullying has cut deeper into the core of people’s beings more than ever before, and it has more tools to do so more than ever. The onslaught and brutality of bullying today, in its many forms, has caused many children to turn the gun on themselves, believing that there was no way to escape it. It’s not child’s play anymore.

But we’re not going to discuss bullying here. Instead, we’re going to look at the other end of the spectrum. We’re turning our sights from the wicked assailants to the “helpers” of victims of bullying. There are many people who have good intentions to help those who are suffering from this devastating plague. No child or adolescent should ever feel like their life is being threatened or that there’s no safe place to go to share their hurt and pain. But allow me to propose a thought:

Telling kids that they’re all right just the way they are is just as harmful as bullying.

Let me quickly disparage any notions by stating what I don’t mean. If a boy would rather play a flute than with a ball, I don’t think you should take the flute away. If a girl would rather play softball than take dance, get her a glove for her birthday and play catch with her. I’m not talking about skill preference here.

Consider this story: Let’s say I was born, naked, as we all are. The nurses cleaned me up, cut the cord and took care of all the procedures. If my parents took me home without any clothes on, people would consider that to be a bit cruel. But let’s say some years pass and they still never put clothes on me. Soon, I’m heading off to school buck-naked and hopping around the schoolyard totally exposed. When people question my parents about this, they look stunned and say, “Well, he was born that way.” Just because a baby is born with six legs doesn’t mean we shouldn’t remove them if it’s not life-threatening. If a child is born with a tumor, there’s no reason to keep it there just because he’s born with it.

Folks, we cannot let this generation of kids grow up believing that they’re okay just the way they are, sin and all. Yes, we must stop the bullying. But at the same time, lovingly come alongside children and tell them what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s not right for a boy to kiss other boys. Why? Because God will seriously deal with those who choose to give in to the wicked desires of their hearts. When we tell children (or adults for that matter) that it’s okay to “love” who you want, how you want, and when you want, and be who you choose to be (gender-speaking), then we are inviting the wrath of God to be poured out on them, and we are in essence just as bad, if not worse, than the kids sending hate messages to their inboxes.

I am not saying that we can force anyone to do anything or make certain choices. But I am saying that we are doing them a disservice if we don’t point a way out of their bully-infested torture chambers. When we say to a little girl who likes other girls that she should just accept who she is, we are only locking her into a dark and terrifying room of uncertainty, fear, and cosmic wrath. It is our job then, to open the door to that cell by showing them that there is another way to live, and that is by following the commands of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is not bullying. This is true, true love, which leads to freedom. Could that little girl still struggle with her sexual orientation even after she’s accepted the Lord’s invitation to follow Him? It’s very likely, but she will be free to choose against her fleshly desires and stand up to those who tell her to accept who she is.

Bullying is a more serious issue than it ever has been before. But an evil which is just as great is also on the rise: tolerance (or ignorance). To make kids think that they have to be gay if that’s how they feel, or to tell them that there’s no sense in trying harder at a sport or skill if they’re not any good at it, or to feed them until they’re full and happy, is just plain hatred and spite. Coddling our children’s sinful behaviors breeds a generation of ignorant, lazy and miserable people.

Let us love our children and our neighbors instead, and show them the path of righteousness that will lead to a freedom they would have never imagined in their entire lives.

[Image credit]

Charles Colson Taught Me How to Think and Write

By now you’ve heard the sad news of Charles Colson’s passing. It seems almost every Christmas since we’ve been married, Sarabeth has been consistent in getting me three things: some sort of Toy Story paraphernalia to put around my writing desk, a John Steinbeck novel, and a Charles Colson book. This week we are going to honor the life of Mr. Colson and look back at some of my favorite works by him. And let me just stress that this is not an inclusive list.

How Now Shall We Live

This was my first introduction to Mr. Colson, and is one of my favorite books by him. We had to read it for our Christian Worldview class at the Focus Leadership Institute several years back. It’s a thick book that walks through many current issues about how Christians should view (and respond to) the world. One of my closest friends was so influenced by it, he changed his political views. And it’s fun because it’s centered around a trip he took with his granddaughter where they visited Epoct at Disneyworld. Always a plus!

The Faith

What do Christians believe and why do we believe it? This is a good book for skeptics and new believers. It walks through the basics of the Christian faith, and how we should live it out in a world that is becoming more and more intolerant against it. Here is another recommendation for readers of the same groups, not by Mr. Colson.



God and Government

Colson’s discussion about our religious beliefs found in this book are solid and well argued. But I warn you – he makes it clear that even if you are not a part of the political sphere, you still have a duty – and right (for now) – to speak up on tough issues and defend what is honorable. Throughout the book is the reminder that our authority does not rest in the governing powers on Capital Hill alone, but in Christ, whom is our ultimate ruler. A great book if you’re into politics, religious rights and how the two can indeed coexist. This is an especially good time to read it in light of our current issues taking place in Washington.

Born Again

This book deserves special attention. You may read my thoughts on it here.

Additional resources: What is a Christian to think and to do? Charles Colson’s Break Point. A valuable website for believers living in a world of skeptics and cynicism.

[Images credit]

Happy Earth Day

As we celebrate Earth day this week, let us keep a few things in mind.

Let’s be thankful to the One who provided the earth for us to enjoy – do not thank the earth itself, for it is a creation just like us.

Let’s focus on cleaning up the real pollution in this world – sin.

Be it melting ice caps or a clogged ozone, the world will end in God’s timing, just as He conducts it. We can try all we want, but we can’t stop it.

As honorable as it is to save the whales and the trees, it’s even more honorable to save unborn children, and open our homes to those who are hungry and alone.

Care for and tend to the earth just as God commands. But don’t try to save it. One day the earth will see its last sunrise, then in the twinkling of an eye, it will awaken as a new creation. For on that day Christ will reveal the new Heaven and the new Earth, preserved for those who love Him. Celebrate Earth Day as you would Easter – in anticipation of the day when Christ returns, making all things new once and for all.

“In the wilderness, prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:3

[Image credit]

Chuck Colson 1931-2012

We lost a great man today.