Christmas Quiz

1. Joseph and Mary were from which of the following places?
A. Bethlehem
B. Egypt
C. Jerusalem
D. Athens, Georgia
E. Nazareth
F. Atlantis

2. When Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant, what happened?
A. They went to Herod for advice
B. God told them to go to Bethlehem.
C. Joseph wanted to end the engagement
D. They registered at Baby Gap
E. Mary left town for three months
F. Both B and C

3. Who told Mary and Joseph to go to Bethlehem?
A. Andrew Greeley
B. An angel
C. God
D. Mary's mother
E. Caesar Augustus
F. Herod

4. Why did Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem?
A. To get married.
To register in a census & pay taxes
C. For a vacation
D. To visit Mary's cousin Elizabeth
E. To escape from Herod.
F. To look for work in a larger town

5. What did the innkeeper say to Mary and Joseph?
A. "There is no room in the inn."
B. "You hicks can sleep in the barn"
C. "I have a stable you can use."
D. "Go away, kids. You bother me."
E. "Come back after the Christmas rush."
F. No one knows.

6. Jesus was born in which of the following?
A. Stable
B. Barn
C. Manger
D. House
E. Cave
F. No one knows

7. Which animals does the Bible say were present at Jesus' birth?
A. Cows, sheep and goats
B. Unspecified farm animals
C. Cows, donkeys and sheep
D. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!
E. Sheep and goats only
F. None of the above

8. When the angels came to the shepherds, what were they singing?
A. "Glory to God in the highest"
B. "Baby Baby"
C. "Peace on earth, good will to men"
D. "R – E – S – P – E – C – T"
E. "White Christmas"
F. None of the above

9. When the angels came to the shepherds, what were they playing?

A. Gin rummy
B. Trumpets

C. Harps of gold
D. Lutes and lyres
E. Little drums
F. None of the above

10. What sign were the shepherds told to look for?
A. "This way to baby Jesus
B. A house with a Christmas tree
C. A star over Bethlehem
D. A baby in a stable
E. A baby that doesn't cry
F. A baby in a manger

11. The baby Jesus cried . . .
A. ...and you would, too, if your first visitors smelled like sheep
B. Probably just like other babies
C. Seldom or never
D. Because the cows scared Him
E. When the doctor spanked Him
F. When the little drummer boy started banging on his drum.

12. When the shepherds finished their visit to Jesus, what did they do?
A. They just settled down for a long winter's nap
B. They saw three ships come sailing in
C. They met the little drummer boy
D. They had an impromptu worship service
E. They asked Herod for further information.
F. None of the above

13. Who saw the star in the east?
A. The Shepherds
B. Herod.
C. Mary and Joseph
D. Both A and C
E. Three kings of orient
F. None of the above

14. The wise men stopped in Jerusalem to do what?
A. Inform Herod about Jesus
B. Get some Christmas gifts for Jesus.
C. Ask about the star they saw.
D. Buy gas.

E. Find out where the king of the Jews was to be born
F. None of the above

15. What were the names of the wise men?
A. Crosby, Stills and Nash
B. Caspar, Melchior and Belthasar

C. Peter, Paul and Mary
D. Winkin', Blinkin' and Nod

E. Larry, Moe and Curly
F. None of the above

16. The wise men brought their gifts to Jesus while He was in . . .
A. a manger
B. a Holiday Inn

C. a stable
D. a good mood

E. a house
F. No one knows

17. What gifts did the wise men bring to Jesus?

A. Silver and gold
B. A pillow to lay His head on

C. A coat of many colors
D. Gold, incense and mirth

E. Myrrh, gold and frankincense
F. No one knows

18. How many wise men came to see Jesus?

A. Seven
B. A multitude

C. Three
D. No one knows

E. Twelve
F. None of the above

19. Joseph took the baby Jesus to Egypt . . .

A. to show Him the pyramids.
B. because he dreamed about it.

C. to teach Him the wisdom of the pharaohs
D. to register for a census and be taxed.

E. to put him in a basket in the Nile
F. to do none of the above.

20. How were Jesus and John the Baptist related?

A. They were not related
B. First cousins, once removed

C. Jesus was John's uncle
D. Second cousin
E. John was Jesus' uncle
F. No one knows for sure


World AIDS Day

Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles . . .
James 1:27

More than 35 million people in the world are infected with HIV/AIDS.
Every day, AIDS kills 6600 people in Africa alone.
Every day, 1400 innocent African newborns are infected with AIDS through childbirth or their mothers' breastmilk.

By the end of this decade, there will be 18 million orphans of AIDS in Africa.

Our most important weapon is prayer. We must pray that the Gospel will spread, and with it, the understanding of the joy of God's design for men and women. We must pray that the Gospel will spread even to the highest positions in the governments of AIDS-stricken nations, and with it, the desire to show compassion on those already afflicted. We must pray that the Gospel will spread to the farthest outposts of rural nations, where ignorance and illiteracy keep the people enslaved, and with it education -- the truth that sets people free.

But just as God has chosen to accomplish His will through our prayers, He has chosen to accomplish His will through our action, in answer to the prayers of millions of people -- the 20% of His world's population suffering in abject poverty, facing disease and starvation every day. What can YOU do? Write letters to your congressmen. Write letters to the president. Sign the ONE campaign's declaration.

But don't stop there. As the saying goes, "Put your money where your mouth is." If you believe the plight of impoverished HIV/AIDS victims to be important, why not prove it? Sponsoring a child will set you back between $20 and $40 a month -- about a dollar a day. If you can't afford that on your own, get together with friends and pitch in a dollar or two a week. Stop making excuses. Hundreds of reputable Christian organizations provide a way for you to give so you can have confidence that your money is actually getting to the place it is supposed to go. Your money will make a difference in someone's life. Just as the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, the journey of a million dollars begins with a single check.

Then consider this: there are thousands of opportunities through hundreds of organizations to GO to these AIDS-affected nations and work. Ask God if this is an option for your summer next year.

I sponsor a child. His name is Mbagnick Faye, and he's from Senegal. My $30 a month provides him with food, clothing, and education. He also now has an opportunity to hear the Gospel and experience the love of Christ. I pray that someday in heaven I'll get a chance to meet Mbagnick. God willing, if I do, I think I will find that the experience is worth $30 a month.

For more information about how you can pray, give, or go, visit www.one.org, www.worldvision.org, www.data.org, or www.worldaidsday.org


The Cutest Kids Ever!

Ok, people, here are some more adorable shots of the adorable kids that I nanny for. I took them today and some of them turned out really well! Awww...
IMPORTANT NOTE: I've added a "comment approval" thing to my blog so I don't get random jerks saying dumb stuff like some of my friends have had, so please don't worry that your comment didn't show up right away. It goes to my email first and then I approve or reject it -- and I won't reject it unless you curse or slander or something like that!


Recent Pictures -- Something Else To Keep You Occupied

This post serves 3 purposes, which I will outline as follows:

1. To placate Lindsay, who thinks my challenge has been forgotten, and that the kids she nannies are cuter than the kids I nanny (in your face, Lindsay)!
2. To gripe about the general suckiness of the pictures I took at the Nickel Creek concert. Stupid long exposure required to take pictures in the dark but with bright lights on stage grr grr grr... Not even one decent shot all night.
3. To have something to post since I may finally have real time to sit down and write something meaningful sometime around mid-December.

So here. First a couple of shots of Will playing air hockey, and then some fuzzy blobs on a stage that bear some resemblance to Nickel Creek.

Now, who can tell that those people are really Nickel Creek? I mean, if you didn't already know, would you say, "Oh sure, that's Sara Watkins on the left fiddling her little heart out, and the band's Incredible Virtuoso Amazing Clogging Bassist, and Chris Thile in the middle wailin' on the mandolin, and Sean Watkins on the right, virtually obscured by that guy's huge head but still recognizable"? Would this count in a court of law as an alibi?



A Little Something to Keep You Folks Occupied

This may be the least-prayer-related blog post I've ever done, but with the end of classes still two weeks away, I'm struggling to keep my head above water... so a random post seemed like a good idea. Here goes:

Today I was sitting in New Testament waiting for class to start, when I see that Dr. Plummer has brought a CD player to class. He sits it on the podium and explains that today, we will be doing some activities to help keep us awake since it's so close to the end of classes. He hands out a photocopy of a lyric booklet from a cd. He tells us the story behind what we're about to do. An acquaintance of his was making a Christmas CD and asked Dr. Plummer to do a paraphrase of the first part of John 1 from the Greek, something compelling and free-form. Then they recorded the translation over Alex O'Nan's cool, spacey electronic music, resulting in a pretty awesome little Bible experience, if I do say so myself.

Well, the interesting thing is, before we start listening, Dr. Plummer confesses that he has no idea what kind of music it is. "I don't know. Emo? I've heard of that before. It might be emo..." So that got me going on Emo. Then I looked down at our notes for that day's lecture and my eyes came to rest on the phrase "Universal Redemptive Concepts" (a prominent theme in John's Gospel, for those of you who are interested). What a great name for an Emo band! I thought.

And then I was done. With apologies to Dr. Plummer, I don't know if I heard half of what he said for the rest of the class, because I was too busy looking around the room searching for "found" emo band names.

So here is a challenge: look around you right now and "find" emo band names. You can't just make them up, they have to be inspired by actual objects or words that you see.

My list:

1. Universal Redemptive Concepts
2. Five Shelves
3. Space Heater
4. Commemorative Edition
5. Foil
6. Blue Ink
7. Maybe Mountain

... get the idea? Any actual Emo bands can feel free to use any of these names. I call "Foil" for my new Emo band. Kidding.


What Makes A Christian? Part 2

Finally, part two is here! Get out your Bibles and follow along, kids. Let's ask some questions and get some answers about what's true of Christians on an eternal level:

1. If I'm a Christian, what has God accomplished for me?
He has loved me with an everlasting love. Jeremiah 31:3
He has given me the privilege of being born again. 1 Peter 1:3
He gave me life when I was dead. Ephesians 2:5
He has given me every spiritual blessing. Ephesians 1:3

2. What did (does) Jesus do for me?
He died for me while I was still a sinner. Romans 5:8
He opened the true way for me to come to God the Father. John 14:6
He came back from the dead to break the power of death. Acts 2:24, Hebrews 2:14
He intercedes for me with God the Father. Romans 8:34

3. What is the Holy Spirit's role in my life?
He completely transforms me into a person with Real Life. Romans 8:11
He lives in me as a witness of my salvation. Romans 8:16, 1 Corinthians 1:22
He grows the fruit He has planted in my life. Galatians 5:22-23
He enables me to do what God wants me do do. Acts 1:8, Romans 8:26

Now, ask yourself some follow-up questions.

Do I believe these things -- and not just with my head, but with my heart and my life? Do I behave as though these things are true? Or do I deny them with the way that I live? Do I have so much confidence in what God has accomplished, what Jesus has done, and who the Holy Spirit is, that I have a constant desire to know God more, to trust Jesus more, to submit to the Spirit more?

To Be Continued...


What Makes A Christian? Part 1

Once upon a time, I was a kid in junior high and high school, praying to survive from one day to the next without making a total fool of myself. But God, being gracious, provided me with some opportunities toward the end of junior high and into high school to defend my faith to a friend who was on a bold spiritual quest. Seemed like every day she had another question or challenge. So I went out and bought a book for teens on Christian apologetics (defending Christian beliefs) and read up. Praise God for this resource! It really helped me to feel prepared as I grappled with my friend’s questions. Praise the Lord that we remained friends throughout that time, and praise Him in a big way that she’s a believer, and active in ministry. Her life is a huge source of encouragement for me.

Now, at the same time that God was dealing with my fear of confrontation in the area of sharing the Gospel, a series of revivals took place in my hometown. Teenagers flocked to hear one particular speaker, and they would flood the altar at the end of the evening sermon, crying as they nailed slips of paper with their sins written on them to a cross at the front of the church. I remember sitting by one girl who wept loudly the whole time, and professed that she had “rededicated” her life to Christ. The next Monday at school, she was cursing as usual, planning for her next big party, and treating the “un-cool” kids like me just like she always had. As far as I know, she is still living for herself instead of God.

So what gives? The first girl claimed she wasn’t a Christian, yet God was clearly working in her life. The second girl claimed she was a Christian, but certainly didn’t act like one! So how can you tell which of your friends are Christians and which ones are not?

First, I want you all to do something. Look at your arm. Do you have skin? Bones? Muscle? Are you visible? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, hold on, because this may come as a shock: you are not the Holy Spirit!! You can’t see into anyone’s heart or tell what God is doing in their lives unseen. Therefore, it’s not your job to cast judgment on someone. But with that caution in mind, you all probably know the saying, “If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.” Jesus told His disciples that we’d know a tree by its fruit (Matthew 12:33). Makes sense, right? If it bears apples, it’s an apple tree. Similarly, when people claim to be Christians, we should see “fruit,” or evidence, of it in their lives. Pop quiz: what are these “fruits”? We could undoubtedly list dozens, but let’s start with the most obvious: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Sound familiar? They’re the Fruit of the Holy Spirit, and the Bible tells us that anyone who is a Christian has the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:38 and Romans 5:5, for instance).

To Be Continued...


The Founders and God, in Virginia

I recently got back from a nerdy U.S. History trip to Virginia; three friends and I visited Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, Colonial Williamsburg, an important location in the events leading up to the American Revolution, and Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America. It was fantastic. I learned a lot about Thomas Jefferson's fascination with agriculture and just how brilliant he really was. I also sat in Patrick Henry's pew in the Episcopal church in Williamsburg -- I get goosebumps thinking about that! Anyway, it was amazing, and I have a deeper respect and admiration for the courage of the Founders. Check out this link for the text of Patrick Henry's famous and chillingly powerful "Give me liberty or give me death" speech!

It's been a long time since I believed that the Founding Fathers were a bunch of devout Christians who wanted to build the USA on the foundation of Evangelicalism. That's baloney, though we hear it preached just about every Independence Day. There were undoubtedly a few serious Christians in the group, but most of the Founders took as much (if not more) from the Enlightenment as they did from the Bible, and a great many, including Jefferson and Franklin, were Deists. But let me be clear: we can praise God that He created Jefferson and Franklin and all the others with the courage, intelligence, and desire to found a nation where we can pray for our lunch in public, read our Bibles on a park bench, and go to church in full view of policemen, without fear of persecution.

So praise God that we have freedom to learn, and then learn about America's awesome history -- it really is amazing to realize that these men were willing to give up their lives for the nation they loved. And also praise God that we have freedom to share the Truth about Christ with those around us. Then go do it! Take advantage of the freedom you have, and tell your friends how they can have a relationship with the True God who reveals Himself in history and saves everyone who turns to Him in faith through Jesus Christ!


California Prayin'

Hey, all, get ready to pray! I got a phone call last night from a dear friend in California asking for prayer. As you may know, there is a wicked wildfire blazing near Los Angeles that covers almost 24,000 acres! As of today, the fire is about 40% contained, but still threatens many homes. Thousands were forced to evacuate, including the staff of the camp where my friend works. She was already safely at the camp's other location on Catalina Island, but all of her possessions are still back at the primary site. Please pray for God's protection of the camp and the staffers, and pray for strength and wisdom for the thousands of firefighters working to get the blaze under control. Also, pray that God would reveal Himself to people through this disaster, and that He would be praised for His provision and protection.


Questions that deserve an answer

Dear "Little Timmy,"

You left the following comment on the previous post, and I think your questions are important; so important, in fact, that I would like to dedicate this entire post to addressing your questions. Thanks so much for your willingness to put yourself out here. This is what you wrote:


I don't know you, but I was surfing the web and came across your blog - you certainly have an interesting way of looking at the world. I am not a 'Christian' - so I was wondering if you would enlighten me.

Laura wrote:
"In the ten minutes or so it took you to read through this short article, 817 people died. 725 of them died and went to Hell. What are YOU going to do about that? Will you let God put a fire in your heart to tell others about Him? Pray that He will."

Where are you getting these statistics from? How accurate are they? On what basis does God send someone to hell? Do you believe that you are going to heaven or hell? If you believe that you are going to heaven, then why do you deserve to go to heaven? Finally, what is the nature of hell?

Little Timmy

Well, "Little Timmy," let me first say thanks. I'm sure that the worldview I hold looks pretty weird from the outside! I'll start, if I may, with your two more straightforward questions first. These numbers are based on the statistic, mentioned early in my previous post, that 11% of folks on Earth are Christians -- see the U.S. Census information or a World Almanac to confirm -- and also on global birth/death rates. I believe, based on those two things, that this statistic is accurate. All of the statistics I posted were taken from a sermon preached last week at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary by Dr. William Henard. I posted a link to an audio version of the message in an earlier comment, if you'd like to listen to it.

And then you've asked a few more questions that require more thought and care to answer. Please forgive my clumsiness in responding; I can only write what my limited brain power allows, and what God has shown me in His word, the Bible. In order to give appropriate weight to your questions, I'll address them one at a time. If you like, you can have a Bible at the ready, or open a Bible website like www.crosswalk.com in another window, so you can check to make sure I am quoting Scripture accurately, and so you can read the context of each passage.

I have a few presuppositions that the answers below assume. First is that God exists and both CAN be known and MAKES Himself known. Second is that Jesus Christ is the divine man in Whom God chose to make Himself known. Third is that the Bible is God's message to humanity about Himself, and contains only truth. Even if you don't believe those things (and I don't expect you to, since you said you're not a "Christian"), please play along just for the next few minutes as though you did believe them -- it makes things so much more fun! And it will, I hope, help you understand why I answer the way I do. So, here goes...

1. "On what basis does God send someone to hell?" According to the Bible, God is perfect, and created people to be perfect as well, and to represent Him on Earth (see Genesis 1-3). But evil entered the world, and it corrupted everything about us, leaving us with no possibility of living up to God's standards (see Romans 5:12 and 7:14-25). Joshua 24:19 says that God is holy, and that He has a Holy jealousy that will not allow Him to have a relationship with those who turn away from Him. Everyone who rejects Him, He will also reject (see Leviticus 26). God has a perfect standard that we, in our own human ability, can never live up to. I'm sure that you can see in humans a tendency to rebel, to try to do things our own way -- anyone who has spent time with a "terrible" two-year-old can certainly attest to that! And when we rebel against God, turn away from Him and reject him with our lives and our attitudes, we get what we deserve: death (see Romans 6:23), completely separated from God. When we insult a perfect God and trade his amazing offer of life for our own selfishness and sin, we deserve perfect justice (see Romans 1 and Jeremiah 2:11-13).

2. "Do you believe that you are going to heaven or hell?" I believe that when I die, by God's gracious gift, I will be with Him forever in Heaven.

3. "If you believe that you are going to heaven, then why do you deserve to go to heaven?" Well, this is the big question, and here is where there's some big confusion about Christianity. The reality is, I don't deserve to go to Heaven. I deserve to go to Hell, because I sin. I screw up. I fall far short of God's perfection (see Romans 3:23). But, here is the part that gets me every time I think about it: God chose to save me from the death and Hell that I deserve. That's called mercy -- NOT getting what I deserve (see Romans 8:1). Then He chose to give me eternal life through His Son Jesus. That's called grace -- getting what I DON'T deserve (see Ephesians 2:8). I could never pay for my sin, could never be good enough to earn the mercy and grace of God, so Jesus, God's perfect, sinless Son, paid instead. I belonged to Hell, and I deserved death, but Jesus died a shameful death on a cross, to keep that punishment from falling on me (see Romans 3:24).

I put my hope and trust in Jesus, that His death was enough to change the way I relate to God. I am now a "Christian" because I trust Christ, and know that through Him God, out of love, chose to save me from Hell and give me new life. He loves me, and has had a plan for my life, even since before time (see Ephesians 1:4), not because of anything good in me, or because of any good thing I've done, but so that He could use me to give Him glory (see Ephesians 2:8-9). For this purpose He sent His representative, the Holy Spirit, to shape me and make me more like Jesus -- not just to make me a nicer person or help me do good things, but to point people to God, and to show that all the credit for every positive result of my life goes directly back to God (see Romans 8:29 and 11:36).

4. "Finally, what is the nature of hell?" Well, two of the Gospel writers quote Jesus as calling it "an unquenchable fire" (see Matthew 9:43 and Mark 9:45). Folks in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus called Hell "Gehenna," a word that referred to the nearby Hinnom Valley, where infant sacrifices had once been offered; where, in the first century, all of Jerusalem's ritually unclean garbage was burned, twenty-four hours a day; and where the bodies of criminals or those denied proper burial were dumped (see Wikipedia's article about it). It's a pretty powerful image, don't you think? Other Biblical images of Hell also involve decay, darkness, fire and sulfur -- and most of all, misery and torment. Heaven, on the other hand, is described in grand superlatives: great joy, peace, delight, pleasure, and every good thing are to be found there in the direct presence of God! In other words, Hell, according to the Bible (which is the only way we can know what it will be like), is not some eternal party with an impish Devil presiding over the festivities; neither is heaven some dull convention of harp-playing angels. Hell is utter torment and eternal separation from God and His love and holiness; Heaven is total delight and eternal worship in the presence of God and His love and holiness.

The good news is, because of God's gift of mercy and grace through Jesus' death on the cross, I never have to experience the agonies of Hell, nor the misery of a meaningless life. I can look forward to heaven, and work to fulfill the purposes of God while I am alive. This amazing gift is available to anyone who trusts that Jesus' death is enough for them (see John 1:12).

"Little Timmy," I don't know how much of this has sunk in, or if I have answered your questions sufficiently. But I'd like to encourage you to do one thing: think about your life. What would happen if you saw yourself as hopelessly flawed and destined for death? Would you continue to go down that road, struggling through life empty and purposeless? Or would you reach out for Jesus and ask Him to change your heart and give you a whole new life, with all its meaning and purpose? What would happen if you did that? My encouragement is for you to try it on for size. Walk around in those shoes for a week or so. Ask God if He's really there. Ask Him if He'll show you that He loves you and wants you to know Him. Take a look at some of the Bible passages I've referred to. Look for God. The Bible says that you'll find God when you seek Him with all your heart (see Deuteronomy 4:29).

You were made with a sense of right and wrong, a desire for justice, a need to relate to things and people outside yourself. Something in your heart, maybe long ago, has cried out for some sense of meaning -- maybe you don't even feel it anymore. We're restless, we humans, always searching for something more. I hope that what I've written tonight has pointed you toward that Something. All those characteristics and desires -- God put them in you to show you that you need Him.

I'll be praying for you, brother, as you continue to ask questions and seek answers. God is real. He has promised that He rewards everyone who seeks Him earnestly. Test that promise, and see if it holds true. It has held true for me. Peace to you, as well, from the Author of true and never-ending peace.


In My Lifetime

My dear brothers and sisters, I want to share something with you that so touched my heart that it has actually changed the way I feel about sharing the Gospel. Last Thursday, a speaker came to Southern Seminary's chapel service and preached about sharing the Gospel in a way I had never heard before. Russ and Jenna, y'all can vouch for this -- I sat and choked back tears (ineffectively) as I heard what he said about the impact that we could have for Christ if we would only be obedient!

We have two of the letters that Paul wrote to Timothy, preserved by the Holy Spirit in God's Word. Paul encouraged Timothy, and God encourages us today by saying:

"Before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom, I solemnly charge you: proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching. For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will accumulate teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths. But as for you, keep a clear head about everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry."

Here are some really surprising statistics I learned:
According to recent polls 11% of the people in the world are Christians. This means there are 5.4 billion people on Earth who don't know Christ.
2 billion people on Earth have little or no access to the Gospel.
138, 000 more lost people are alive today than yesterday.
196, 000 people will die today. 174, 000 of them will die and go to Hell.
345, 000 babies will be born today. 307, 000 of those babies will grow up, and live, and die without Christ.

But what about Churches? Don't they make an impact? Sure:
Let's say that your denomination baptizes 400, 000 new believers a year. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? But at that rate, it would take 650 years to win America, and an incredible 10,000 years to reach the entire world for Christ.

That sounds pretty depressing. Ten thousand years? It sounds like an unreachable goal, doesn't it?

But what if you were to say to God, "Father, use me to win just ONE person to Christ this year." Then, when you lead that one person to Christ, you disciple him and teach him how to share the Gospel. Then the next year, the two of you go out and each win someone to Christ, disciple them and teach them how to share the Gospel, and continue to do that at the rate of just ONE person per year, here is what would happen. Brace yourself, because this is huge.

All of America would know Christ in just 28 years.

The entire world would know Christ in just 33 years.

In my lifetime! The whole world -- every man, woman, boy, and girl of every tribe, language, and nation -- would know Christ... IN MY LIFETIME!

So, the question now stands, are you going to be that person? Are you going to realize that it's not an unreachable goal, and that you don't have to lead thousands to Christ to have an impact? Will you let God put a fire in your heart to reach your friends? How do you develop that passion?

Passion for sharing your faith is lit up through personal commitment. It's not just something you like or are good at, it's something you choose to do. It is intentional. Paul tells Timothy to keep a clear head, to endure hardship, and to do the WORK, to accomplish the task, of an evangelist. He doesn't say "be an evangelist," and he's not telling you to be Billy Graham! He is telling you to do the WORK of an evangelist, to actually share the Gospel!

Passion for sharing your faith is intensified through personal conviction. This demands a right understanding of the Bible. Look at what Paul says! Jesus is coming to weed out those who don't confess Him as their Savior from those who do! Don't be fooled -- Hell is a real place of evil and torment and total separation from God. This personal conviction also demands accountability. I'm not going to pull punches here, guys. YOU will one day stand before God and explain to Him everything you ever did. One day, you'll have to explain why you decided not to tell your dying friends and neighbors that God made a way for them to live with Him forever!

Passion for evangelism is set afire through personal concern. Paul says to be patient as we share the Gospel with the lost folks that we love. And you do love them, right? You love them enough to tell them how to be saved, right? You love them enough to do whatever you can to keep them from Hell, right? Even when you don't love what they do, you love them, right?

In the ten minutes or so it took you to read through this short article, 817 people died. 725 of them died and went to Hell. What are YOU going to do about that? Will you let God put a fire in your heart to tell others about Him? Pray that He will.


Listening to God and Putting a Leash on Your Thoughts

Well, guys, I was just about to add a new post about the prayer of adherents of other world religions, but it doesn't seem thorough enough to satisfy my slightly perfectionist tendencies, so I'll save it for another day.

Here's the real deal, something I can't emphasize enough: pray. Do you get it yet? Pray. And then pray some more. And then pray a little more after that, and when you're done, pray some more. But don't stop there.

Have you ever had a friend who just wouldn't shut up, that whenever you were with him, he did all the talking, and you wondered if it would even matter if you painted eyeballs on your eyelids and went to sleep because you weren't contributing to the conversation at all? I'll bet that that friendship didn't last very long. It's not much of a relationship if one person does all the yakking while the other one just sits there. Now, God's not a bored pal sitting across the lunchroom table trying to figure out a way to escape -- He's far more patient than you or I could ever be. But it's kind of inconsiderate to have the total attention of the All-Powerful Creator of the whole universe and not let Him get a word in edgewise, don't you think?

So shut up a little bit, just every so often. The God we serve is in the business of revealing Himself to people, and He wants to reveal Himself to you. Let Him.

That said, let me throw in a word of caution. God's Word tells us that we're not to believe every spirit, but that we're to test the spirits to see if they are from God or not (1 John 4:1). In other words, you can't just blindly go with whatever passes through your brain while you're praying. Everyone who is or has ever been a teenager knows that human thoughts and emotions are seriously prone to all kinds of error and contradiction and can lead us in a tragically bad direction if we don't make our thoughts wear a leash. So, what's the leash? The Word of God. Sometimes your mind just needs a little cutesy collar like the ones my friend Lindsey puts on her adorable miniature schnauzer. Other times, that sucker needs a heavy-duty metal choke chain! Every thought that floats into your head has to have the Bible's leash put around it, and accepted or rejected based on what's in God's Word. Does it fit? Do you know God's Word well enough to be able to tell?

Just as a case in point, how about a sample internal monologue, from a sweet little Christian girl who just hasn't been able to find the time to learn the Bible:

Silly Sally: La-dee-da, La-dee-dee, praying to God, dum-dee-dum
Thoughts: Hey, I think God loves everyone.
SS: Yup, that sounds like something I heard in church. Cool.
T: Hey, I think if God loves everyone, then that means he must not want them to go to hell.
SS: Yeah, that sounds pretty good too!
T: Hey, I think that God must be pretty powerful if He made everything
SS: For sure! Keep going!
T: Hey, I think that if God loves everyone, and doesn't want them to go to hell, and He has the ability to keep them from going to hell, then that means everyone is going to heaven whether they believe in Jesus as their savior or not!
SS: All right, I'll buy that! It makes God sound nice, and I like nice people! La-dee-da-dee-da

All of you should be hearing a major red alert in your brains right now. Let's try this again, with a person who is familiar with scripture:

Bible Betty: Thanks, Lord, for the Bible! It's so great that You gave this to me so I could know You better.
Thoughts: Hey, I think God loves everyone.
BB: Obviously, that's true. John 3:16 says that God loved the world so much that He sent Christ to die for them!
T: Hey, I think if God loves everyone, then that means he must not want them to go to hell.
BB: That's also true! 2 Peter 3:9 says that God is unwilling for anyone to perish and wants everyone to come to repentance!
T: Hey, I think that God must be pretty powerful if He made everything!
BB: Yeah, He definitely is! In fact, Colossians 1:16 says that he even created power itself!
T: Hey, I think that if God loves everyone, and doesn't want them to go to hell, and He has the ability to keep them from going to hell, then that means everyone is going to heaven whether they believe in Jesus as their savior or not!
BB: That's not true! God has a standard that none of us can live up to! Romans 3:23 says that every one of us has sinned which makes us unworthy to be in a relationship with God Who is perfect. And the only way we can have a right relationship with God is through Jesus, who took our sins to the cross! Jesus says in John 14:6 that nobody can get to God except through Him! I'm rejecting that thought, because it opposes what I know is true from Scripture!

Listen, random thoughts happen to the best of us. My brain has definitely come up with some pretty wacko, out-there ideas over the years, but my thoughts have a leash. They are controlled, God willing, by Scripture, through the help of the Holy Spirit.

Don't go at this prayer thing alone. Start digging into the Story that God wrote for you. It's all about Him, and He'll reveal Himself on every page.


Prayer triggers - Tripping your prayer switch

How many times have you gotten ready to climb into bed at night and realized that you never spoke a word to your Heavenly Father during the entire day? You know (or at least I hope so -- you've been reading your Bible, right?) that Scripture tells us to pray "at all times" (Eph 6:18)! But so often we pray at meals and at church, forgetting to incorporate prayer into each part of our lives! So how exactly can we pray all the time? I've found it very helpful to develop little triggers that remind me to pray throughout the day. (Some of these are my mom's!)

Sirens are a great reminder to pray, both for the folks involved in the emergency, and for friends and family who are struggling with medical issues. Don't you think police officers, firefighters, EMTs, and doctors would appreciate your prayers as they deal with the situations they face each day as part of their jobs? Of course! So when you hear a siren go past your house, take a moment to lift up the situation to God, who knows all the details.

When I'm driving in traffic (which stresses me out a LOT), I try to remember to pray for the people driving around me. Do they know Christ? Does God mean anything to them besides a swear word? I pray that God would reveal Himself to them and stir their hearts to want to know Him more. It's then that I remember that my ultimate purpose on Earth is to honor God, not to get from point A to point B more quickly!

I am so blessed to be going to seminary! My professors pray at the start of every class -- this is an amazing way to season my entire school day with prayer! But just because some of you all don't have professors who lead prayer each day, it doesn't mean you too can't pray before each one of your classes, or at the start of a new task at work. Why not pray for God's hand on the lesson as you sit down at your desk? Or why not pray that God will reveal opportunities to share the Gospel with folks you come in contact with at work?

Every time you sit down at your computer, pray that God would give you a desire to keep your thoughts pure by visiting only sites that would honor Him, and that He would motivate you by the Holy Spirit to be focused on the task at hand. Taped to the edge of my computer screen are 3 pieces of paper. One says, "I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. Psalm 101:3." Another says, "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:6." The last one simply says, "STEWARDSHIP." I know that God has given me the responsibility to spend the time He has given me on this Earth wisely. That may mean cancelling my cable. That may mean grounding myself from the internet for
a while. But it definitely means that I know that I will answer to God about how I spent every hour of my life.

Quick-draw triggers:
-when you sit down to do your homework (you DO do your homework, right?), thank God for the opportunity and ability to learn. Pray for your teachers and fellow students. Pray for God's guidance in your life. Pray that the Holy Spirit would give you the diligence to study well.
-as you file away your pictures from this summer, pray for each person in the photos. Pray that they would be drawn closer to God and that they would be encouraged in their faith journeys.
-while you're watching TV, pray for the celebrities you see. They need Jesus too! Or better yet, turn off the TV, pick up your Bible, and spend some time hanging out with your Creator!

-when you're cleaning up your room, pray for those who don't have a place to sleep or a change of clothes. When you're cleaning the kitchen, pray for those who live in such poverty that they can't afford to eat on a regular basis.

There are so many ways for us to incorporate prayer into our lives. Can you imagine how different your day might be if you prayed at every time mentioned above? What are some other ways you can make prayer an automatic part of your day?


Praying for Muslims!

Approximately 1.3 billion Muslims live in every region and most countries of the world. While the Middle East is the birthplace of Islam and an important center of Islamic influence, the largest Muslim populations are found in Central, South and Southeast Asia. There are an estimated 5 million Muslims in the United States. Muslims bear witness that God is one and that Muhammad is His final prophet. They consider Jesus as one of God'’s greatest prophets, but they do not accept Him as divine or as man's Redeemer and Lord. Muslims do not understand or accept God's ultimate expression of His love shown in Christ'’s life, death and resurrection. They focus on God's holiness, justice and power. They strive to earn His favor and entry into heaven through obedience to Islamic law, good deeds and acts of self-sacrificing devotion. Muslims live within a protective wall of laws, traditions and relationships that separates them from God's love. Your prayers take His love beyond the wall.

A Muslim man stopped by a small Central Asian church a couple of weeks ago. A believer at the church began to share the gospel with the man, but he quickly admitted, "“Honestly, I'm just looking for a job." The believer responded, "We don't have any work, but I can pray for you."” Then with the man's permission, the believer prayed. The man came back to the church on Wednesday after finding a job and asked the believers to pray for a wife! Pray for this man, who has experienced God's power and love at work in His life, to find not just a wife, but a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Like many Central Asians, most Azeris are Muslim, but are not deeply committed to their religion. However, a growing number of young people are seeking spiritual truth. Many believers say that before coming to Jesus, they passed through a time when they sought a relationship with God through Islam. Pray that when Azeri young people who are trying to find God realize that He cannot be found in Islam, they will continue to feel the God-given hunger for salvation. Ask God to reveal Himself to them and show them through His Word and His witnesses that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

She was recently evicted from her home by her own brother-in-law when he sold his dead brother's apartment. Now this poor widow lives in the bottom of a building in what used to be a garage. Believing friends have helped her plant a garden just outside her door to provide her with fresh vegetables. In her new season of life, this widow is very open to spiritual things and has requested a copy of the JESUS video. Pray for her to seek and find the Lord.

For the full article, and for more on praying for Muslims and other groups around the world, check out the Southern Baptist Convention's international missions website at www.imb.org! It's also a great resource for anyone interested in a career in international missions!


The New Job and God's Power

OK, y'all, here is a practical way to be in the habit of prayer: add me to your daily prayer list! I'm starting a new job next week (that is, if I hear from my boss today!), and I'm a little stressed. Toward the end of last semester, I wasn't sleeping much and spent most of my time working on papers and projects while trying desperately to keep my head above water with the readings which remained, and multiplied, inexorably day after day. So I'm wondering how this semester's end is going to work out with the addition of 20 hours a week of extra responsibility!

I realize that God has graciously provided this employment for me, and I'm grateful. Please be in prayer that, empowered by the Holy Spirit, I will manage my time wisely, be a good caregiver for the kids I'll be watching, be blessed and equipped by my seminary studies, and most importantly, glorify God in every area of my life. I can't do it on my own, but Thank God that I have the Holy Spirit to carry me along, especially when I'm feeling overwhelmed.

Just one more reason 2 Corinthians 12:9 is one of my favorite Scripture verses!

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.


How to pray when you feel like you can't *

I know, I've been there. There have been times in my life that I felt like I just couldn't pray -- like my prayers weren't making it past the ceiling of my room, or like I just couldn't get the words out of my mouth. So what can we do? We know that prayer is incredibly important to a deep and intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father, so how do we break through the barrier? Here are ten ways that we can press on through a difficult prayer time into a rich, life-changing conversation with God.

1. Keep trying. Don't give up! Your enemy, the Devil, would like nothing better than for you to quit praying. Pray, even if you don't feel like it. God hears you even when you feel like He can't. (Philippians 3:14)

2. Worship. Put in your favorite worship CD and sing along. Listen to the words. Sing them to God. Praise Him for the things around you -- your house, your family, your friends. Praise Him for silly things like a good hair day or bubble gum. God's Word says that every good and perfect gift comes from Him, and that includes chocolate ice cream and big shady trees. (Psalm 9:1-2)

3. Go to the Word. God's Word is full of promises for your life. Worried about your future? God has promised that His future for you is full of hope (Jeremiah 29:11). Unsure of your salvation? God promises that everyone who says that Jesus is Lord and believes He was raised from death is saved (Romans 10:9)! You can find God's assurance for every situation when you read His Word.

4. Write it down. If you're stressed out, sometimes your thoughts can be so jumbled that you can't focus on a train of thought long enough to pray. Writing or typing out your prayer can help you express to God how you're feeling, and can really give God a chance to speak to you to help you know what to say. David the Psalmist wrote down his prayers in song form -- and if it's good enough for someone God's Word calls "a man after God's own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14), it's good enough for us!

5. Look up. When was the last time you took a minute to look at the sky? God's word tells us that the sky shows us God's glory and creativity (Psalm 19:1) -- this can help us gain a little perspective. I sometimes forget that the things that are problems to me are not problems for God. He made the whole Earth and everything in it!

6. Get outside the situation. When I'm angry, I have a pretty tough time praying for the person or situation I'm angry about, but God has commanded us to pray for people who have hurt us (Luke 6:28). Remember that God's love isn't just for you, it's for everyone! Remember that the purpose of your life is to glorify God in every situation, and to show Jesus to the people around you. Keeping this kind of perspective can help you to pray -- pray for your own reaction, or for the other people involved.

7. Fast. No kidding. You all know what this means, right? It means giving up something you want, in order to spend time with God. Think outside the box with this one. It's not smart for growing kids to skip meals, but what about the TV, internet, or Playstation? Do you come straight home and turn on the TV? Consider a week-long TV fast where you come home and open your Bible instead. Do you stop by the coffee shop on your way to school or work every day? Try giving up that time and money to God for a week or two. When you show that you're willing to give up things you enjoy because you realize that God is more important than those things, He will reward you with His presence!

8. Let it all out. Sometimes you can't pray because you're so overwhelmed with emotion that you can't even get the words out. It's OK! Paul tells us that, when this happens, the Holy Spirit prays on our behalf (Romans 8:26). Some human emotions are too deep to express, and God hears our hearts even when we can't tell Him how we feel or what we want.

9. Say thanks. God's word tells us to give thanks in every situation, whether good or bad (1 Thessalonians 5:13). Even when you don't feel like it, you need to do what God says and thank Him. He can change your attitude and your heart when you begin to thank Him.

10. Spread it around. There will be times when you'll feel so overwhelmed that you can't pray at all -- these are the times when you need a close friend around to support you and pray for you. Ask your friends to pray with you and for you, and give them permission to call and ask for your prayer help too. God doesn't intend for us to live out our Christian walk alone -- in fact, Jesus promised to be with us in a unique way when we gather in His name (Matthew 18:20).

*Adapted from "Ways to Pray When We Cannot Pray" by Cindy Hyle Bezek



Well, children...

The countdown has begun.

Today is Thursday, August 11th, and I now officially have 4 and 1/2 days remaining before my first class of the semester! I, for one, am ridiculously excited about this fact, because I am in graduate school, which means I chose to be here and thus love education. Some of you all might not be quite as psyched.

But here is where I lead into a little discussion about prayer, the actual topic of this blog. There are a lot of things in our lives that fall into the category of drudgery. In case that word is unfamiliar to you, substitute "totally boring." We have to get up every morning, brush our teeth, eat the same old cereal, go to school or work, get home, clean up, do homework or housework, and go to bed. Yawn. I often find myself complaining about little things -- a leaky faucet, the traffic on my five-minute commute to school, nothing decent to watch on TV.

How ridiculous!

Shouldn't I instead be rejoicing about the fact that I have running water? Shouldn't I praise God that I have a good car to get me to school -- and for that matter, that I have the opportunity to go to school at all? Shouldn't I thank my heavenly Father that I don't have to work 18-hour days just to make enough money to buy food, and that I have some free time to watch TV in the first place?

The word "Rejoice" occurs in the Bible over 150 times, and the phrase "Give thanks" occurs 75 times! Yet, when we pray, we often rattle off a list of complaints and requests. Now, don't get me wrong. God always wants us to be honest with him about our frustrations -- the psalmist David was nothing if not honest when he complained to God. But David also spent a lot of time thanking and praising God.

Ephesians 6:18 tells us to pray "at all times," and the Psalms are chock-full of commands to give thanks to the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord all the time! Thank God for electricity, for a warm bed, and for a healthy body when your alarm goes off at 6:15. Praise Him for a brain that works like it should and a country that provides you with a free education during math class. Rejoice in His provision of a home and a loving family when your mom tells you to take out the trash. Again. Be creative.

There's no reason to be a sullen pray-er. Get yourself excited as you count down the days to school by praising God for everything. It just might change your attitude.


Mission Update!

Check out this update from some of our missionaries! Be in prayer for the needs they mention, as well as for God to open doors to them, for the Holy Spirit to soften hearts for the Gospel, and for God to receive glory through Jesus Christ in everything they do. If it helps you, print this out and post it on your mirror or somewhere else you'll be sure to see it as a reminder to pray.

Janine and John Gravley, Hong Kong

American Baptists relate to a number of different partners in Hong Kong. One of our partners is Haven of Hope Christian Service. This group began as a medical clinic serving TB patients in Hong Kong. In the 1950's we began offering some financial support for this work. Over the years we have provided funds for the development of this clinic. Haven of Hope now includes a hospital, medical and social services for elderly, disabled and special needs members of our community. Recently Haven of Hope decided to open a Nursing Home to care for the increasing number of elderly in Hong Kong. It was decided that this nursing home would develop a full range of caring services consistent with Haven of Hope's purpose.

Haven of Hope's Mission - “Through a ministry of holistic care, we strive to share the Gospel and develop a Christian community. In the love of Christ, we deliver our service in a caring, professional and progressive spirit so that the lives of those serving and being served are mutually enriched.”

The Sister Annie Shau Nursing Home opened on 9 May 2005. The very next day God provided an opportunity for the staff to fully realize their hope for this service. This is their report:

“A healthy elderly lady, was supposed to join her daughter, a Christian translator, to stay in China. However, due to a hand fracture, she was hospitalized and was directly discharged to the Nursing Home on May 10th. Our nursing home was chosen by the daughter because of Haven of Hope's Christian traditions. The daughter requested daily “Quiet Time” for her mother. Every day staff read the Bible and sang hymns with her and very soon this attracted other residents to join the activity. From then, quite quickly, a daily fellowship group of residents was formed. This lady is now recovered and in China with her daughter. It seems that the Christian work of our nursing home has been started by the help of an elderly lady with a fractured hand in the period of 8 weeks while she stayed with us.”

God began working even before Haven of Hope had anticipated but they were ready to see God's activity in their midst. What a wonderful example of being ready and open to God's work in our midst!

Please pray for Haven of Hope and the various ways they share God's love in Hong Kong.


What is Prayer?

prayer1 (prĂ¢r)
    1. A reverent petition made to God, a god, or another object of worship.
    2. The act of making a reverent petition to God, a god, or another object of worship.
  1. An act of communion with God, a god, or another object of worship, such as in devotion, confession, praise, or thanksgiving: One evening a week, the family would join together in prayer.
  2. A specially worded form used to address God, a god, or another object of worship.
[Middle English preiere, from Old French, from Medieval Latin precria, from feminine of Latin
rius, obtained by entreaty, from precr, to entreat.]

So, this is what the dictionary has to say about prayer -- not very exciting, is it? I mean, a "reverent petition"? What does that even mean? As Christians, we can sometimes get caught up in a mental definition of prayer, or in a formula for prayer (like "God is great, God is good, and we thank Him for our food" or the Lord's prayer), and it can really keep us from experiencing God's blessings in our prayer lives! It's not that the Lord's prayer is a bad thing, or that the bedtime prayers that we learned as children are evil, it's just that our creative God expects us to turn our brains on when we talk to Him -- and that's what prayer is really all about. Whenever you talk to God, whether out loud, or in a song, or inside your head, you're praying.

When we love people, we tell them so. When we get a gift, we say thanks (at least I hope so)! When we're frustrated or afraid, when we want or need something, when we can't get through a situation on our own, we talk to someone about it. Maybe our friends can't help or understand our problems, but we tell them anyway because it brings us closer to them. It's the same with our Heavenly Father: prayer builds our relationship with Him because we are taking time to focus completely on Him, even for just a moment. And when we pray, we can have the confidence that comes from knowing that God loves us, has a good plan for our lives, and wants us to experience the joy of living with Him every day.

But I have a question for you all: what is prayer in your life? Is it something that happens at meals occasionally or at bedtime with your younger brothers or sisters? Do you remember to pray when you're not at church? God wants us to talk with him all the time and about everything, not just on Sunday mornings or during mealtime.

So what do you need prayer for? Are you nervous about school this fall? Do you wish you and your siblings got along better? Do you need help with a decision you know you need to make but have been putting off? Stop worrying, stop wishing, and stop procrastinating. God loves you, and He wants you to climb up into His lap and tell him all about the things you care about. And we will come alongside you by praying for you, too.


Day One of the Rest of Your Prayer Life

Well, campers, you've been home for a little while now, and it's time to start living what you've learned. So, with the help of my family, I'll be keeping this blog up to date, posting an article about prayer, or some info about prayer needs for missions. Then you all can post comments with updates about your life along with specific prayer requests for yourself and your friends and family. It will be a great way to keep each other accountable about staying in the Word, sharing our faith, and living a lifestyle of prayer.

There is one catch, however...

Anyone who posts a comment or a prayer request has to promise two things: first, that they have already read or will read their Bible that day, and second, that they will pray for the other people mentioned on the blog.

Isn't technology grand?

The first post will follow very soon!