Monday, April 28, 2008

Salvation: Grace, Faith, Works

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9, NKJV).

Understanding grace, faith, and works can be challenging. However, studying such concepts can bring great rewards. We can develop a healthier and more accurate understanding of God and ourselves.

First, we need to understand that we have been saved by grace. Jesus Christ took the punishment for our sins because God loved us. We had done nothing worthy of Christ's sacrifice. It was his gift to us. Without it, although God loved us, his anger could not have been averted. We were facing hell. We could not buy our way out of it. We could not resist enough temptations to avoid it. We could not commit enough random acts of kindness to make up for the failures already committed. We had spit in the face of the most righteous and powerful being in existence. We had no hope of reconciliation. That is what makes God's grace so amazing. He was willing to forgive us, not because we deserved it, but because Jesus was willing to stand in our place and suffer for us. That's what God's grace is all about.

Then we need to understand the faith through which we have been saved. In this context, faith is not merely believing facts. It's that and much more. Faith is trusting in and depending on Jesus Christ to save us. We believe the facts concerning Christ's identity as the sinless Son of God, his death in our place on the cross, his resurrection by the power of a pleased Father, his ascension into heaven, his sending of the Holy Spirit to live within his people, and his promised return in triumph over his enemies. However, the faith through which we are saved moves beyond believing facts to placing our confidence in the one those facts describe. It is a confidence in Christ that leads us to follow him alone, because we realize that we cannot be confident in ourselves. We have found ourselves lacking, but Jesus completely adequate. Our faith is placed in him.

Finally, we need to understand that our works do not cause God to save us. Our salvation is God's gift. We have no reason to brag. He has never been impressed with any effort to impress him. Naturally, an appreciation of God's grace and a trust in Jesus Christ will lead to God-honoring actions, but they are not the basis of our salvation. He wants our trust before he wants even one good work. He knows that a good work without trust is empty showmanship, but that humble, grace-inspired trust will produce a life full of good works, an artistic masterpiece created by God himself. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10, NKJV).

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Baptism: The Sinner's Prayer

Yesterday, I picked up a small religious tract at a local business. At the end of the tract, I read this version of the sinner's prayer:

"Dear God, I know it's true---I've been lost in sin, wandering further and further from You. Please forgive me. I do believe that Jesus died to take my punishment and keep me from being forever lost. Help me to live my life on this earth with hope and faith and courage, as I look forward to the day You take me home to be with You! Amen."

I love the attitude of humility, the exaltation of Jesus, and the dependence upon God expressed in that short prayer. It reminds me of the apostle Peter's words about baptism:

"Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you---not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience---through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 3:21, NASB).

When a sinner is baptized with an attitude of humility, exalting Jesus, and depending upon God, his baptism becomes his prayer---"an appeal to God for a good conscience"(NASB) and "the pledge of a good conscience toward God"(NIV). It becomes a powerful, life-changing moment in his relationship with God. It becomes the sinner's prayer.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Important and Useful Information

In the latest edition of the Christian Chronicle, I read an inspiring article about Dean and Sherry Adams, a couple who serve a small Church of Christ in Dickinson, North Dakota. They have been incredible assets to the network of Churches of Christ in that state for the last 30 years. Now they are facing a difficult time in paying the medical bills for their children who were born with hypogammaglobulinemia, a genetic disorder which hampers their bodies' abilities to fight infection. They have had a small, but very significant, ministry which has honored Jesus Christ for decades. Now they could use our help. If you would like to learn more about the Adams family, please go to Please consider sending a little (or a lot of) money to help a family that has helped so many over the years. (If the Christian Chronicle places the story on its web site, I will edit this post in order to provide the link to it.)

At, you may read about the amazing story and see amazing photographs of a pre-born child who reaches out and grabs the finger of the surgeon who is operating on him. If you do not agree with the pro-life position, you may change your mind about the humanity of pre-born children and the need to provide legal protection for them after viewing this web site.

At, you may read the thoughts of William Wilberforce's great-great-grandson. He says that his ancestor would be involved in the pro-life movement today if he were alive. William Wilberforce led the efforts to abolish the slave trade and slavery in Great Britain's parliament 200 years ago.

At, you may read a devotional piece about real perseverance. It will encourage you to keep on going when you read about what others are enduring for the sake of God's glory.

At, you may read the blog of an organization dedicated to fighting human trafficking and slavery in the United States and around the world. (Yes, it still exists despite its illegality. So it needs to be fought.)

Thanks for reading and for considering helping the Adams family with their needs!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Tagged Again

Trey Morgan ( tagged me this morning. I was a little surprised, since Jackie Chesnutt tagged me yesterday. I have never been tagged two days in a row. By the way, I highly recommend both of their blogs. Here are Trey's questions and my answers:

What I Was Doing 10 Years Ago:

I was trying to get Janet pregnant. Don't worry. I won't provide too much information. I will say this much: doctor's appointments, medication, artificial insemination, and continuous monthly disappointments take much of the romance out of something that should be a lot more fun. Infertility is not an enjoyable experience for a couple who would love to have children. Eventually, we were able to adopt our son. You may read more about our adoption experience at You may read my feelings about the significance of our son's adoption at

Things I Would Do If I Were a Billionaire:

Besides living in a nice hotel (see yesterday's post for more information), I would like to spend my time as a minister for the Contact Church of Christ. I would not want to preach, because I am not much of a public speaker. However, I like to lead home Bible studies and I like to help people with their needs.

I would like to support our current ministers more, also. I know that they are always needing financial support, even though I never hear them complain about it.

I would like to support Christian Services of Oklahoma more, too. It is our adoption agency. I would love to be able to help even more Christian families to adopt children.

Finally, I would like to support a team of missionaries who would travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo in order to reach the Pygmies with the gospel of Christ. The Pygmies are one of the largest unreached people groups in the world. They need to know about Christ and what he had done for them.

Three of My Bad Habits:

I wake up too early on my days off from work, eat too many sweets, and spend too much time on the computer.

Five Things on My To Do List For Today:

1. Finish this post.
2. Eat dinner.
3. Get some exercise (probably a bicycle ride with my family after dinner).
4. Watch last night's episode of LOST.
5. Read my Bible.

Five Places I Have Lived:

1. Glenpool, OK
2. Tulsa, OK
3. Oklahoma City, OK
4. Broken Arrow, OK
5. Catoosa, OK

Five Jobs I Have Had:

1. Bookstore clerk
2. Fast food worker
3. Student center clerk
4. Tutor for a Japanese exchange student who had trouble in her U.S. government class
5. Rural letter carrier for the postal service

Five People I Want to Know More About:

1. Bob Logsdon
2. Sarah Logsdon
3. John Dobbs
4. Preacherman
5. Mitchell Skelton

If you are one of the 5 people I want to know more about, consider yourself tagged. Please answer the same questions on your blog. Thanks!

Thursday, April 24, 2008


I have been tagged by Jackie Chesnutt ( If I have tagged you, please list 7 random facts about yourself on your blog, and then tag 5 other bloggers. Here are my random facts:

1. I use my 5 year old son as an excuse to watch Saturday morning cartoons. Johnny Test and Batman are my favorites.

2. I seriously considered majoring in art while in college so that I could become a cartoonist or comic book illustrator. The Elks Lodge even gave me a $1000 scholarship with that in mind. Instead, I earned a Bachelor's of Science in Education with a minor in social studies from Oklahoma Christian University.

3. My favorite food is German chocolate cake.

4. If I were a billionaire, I would live in a nice hotel so that I would not be responsible for yard work, home maintenance, or repairs.

5. My favorite television show is Babylon 5.

6. Our dog is named Bat Dog. When we got him from the animal shelter, our son named him. How could I object? I like Batman cartoons, too.

7. I rarely drink anything except water, milk, or juice. Trust me, I'm not a health nut (see #3). I just don't care much for pop; and I can't stand the taste of coffee or alcohol.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day

"Praise the LORD from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
stormy winds that do his bidding,
you mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars,
wild animals and all cattle,
small creatures and flying birds,
kings of the earth and all nations,
you princes and all rulers on earth,
young men and maidens,
old men and children.

"Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for his name alone is exalted;
his splendor is above the earth and the heavens" (Psalm 148:7-13, NIV).

A good devotional about Earth Day may be found at

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Church's Elite

I read an amazing sermon today by John Piper at
In the sermon, John Piper reveals the identity of the elite (but far from elitist) members of God's church. It could be a worldview altering message.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Prayer for the Open-Hearted

"One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message" (Acts 16:14, NIV).


We can be so arrogant,
believing that we convert people to you.
We could preach and teach all day long,
but nothing worthwhile would happen
without you doing the impossible work of opening hearts.

We could feed the hungry,
clothe the naked,
visit the prisoners,
defend the orphans and the widows,
house the homeless,
and find jobs for the unemployed.

But what ultimate good would be done
unless you opened hearts to your love?

We want to open hearts,
but we can't.
We can only plant and water
the seeds of your grace.
We can't make the seeds grow,
but you can.

You can change the lives of the people we love.
You can open their hearts to faith.
You can open their hearts to love.
You can open their hearts to hope.
You can open their hearts to peace.
You can open their hearts to joy.
You can make things right deep down in their souls.

Show us your power!
Show us your glory!
We want to see it
in the open hearts around us!
For Jesus' sake,
please do it!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Jesus and Justice

In 1994, Gary Haugen was a Harvard-educated lawyer working for the U.S. Department of Justice when 800,000 people in Rwanda were slaughtered in an 8-week genocide. He was loaned out to the United Nations to direct its investigation of the murders.

His investigation changed his life. His eyes were opened to suffering and injustice in our world on a scale he had never seen. A few years later, Gary Haugen founded the International Justice Mission, an organization committed to freeing victims of oppression, prosecuting perpetrators, securing safe places of caring for victims, and changing communities so that injustice is no longer acceptable.

In his book Terrify No More, Mr. Haugen wrote,

"In former jobs I had traveled the world, witnessing the results of injustice, from abusive and murderous police and soldiers in the Philippines to South African apartheid to genocide in Rwanda. I had frequent conversations with attorney friends from church about a gap that existed in the great humanitarian efforts established worldwide. Wonderful organizations addressed many needs of the poor---providing comfort, housing, medical care, and food. But an obvious question emerged: Why don't we rescue them when they are being abused?

"There were, for instance, efforts in Cambodia to feed the hungry, heal the sick, shelter the homeless, and preach the gospel; some of these ministrations were offered within yards of the brothels of Svay Pak. Although some of these efforts might reduce the risk of some children being sold as sex slaves, what about the kids who were inside the brothels and getting abused now? Who was going to get them out? And who was going to do the most powerful thing to prevent it from happening again; that is, who was going to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice? What were we doing when the poor suffered because of the abuse and oppression of other people?

"The question became even more acute as I considered the commitments of my community of faith, and especially as I considered the teachings of Scripture on the matter. When I was directing the UN's genocide investigation in Rwanda, it became clear in the aftermath of those massacres that at the point of most critical need, as blood-hungry mobs circled the churches in which the victims huddled, those victims were not crying out for food, medicine, or housing. They were crying out for someone to restrain the hand of the oppressor. And likewise for the girls in the brothels of Svay Pak; their very souls were crying out for someone to rescue them from the hands of those who, day by day, abused them in ways that cannot be described in polite company. Who was going to respond to that need and see that the purveyors of such brutality were actually made to pay a price for their crimes?" (pp. 33-34).

Today Gary Haugen and his team of private investigators, attorneys, and social workers risk their lives to rescue victims of abuse and oppression around the globe.

In many ways, he is following the example of Jesus Christ. At the beginning of his ministry, Christ announced,

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Luke 4:18-19, NIV).

At the cross, Christ gave his life to rescue us from the abuse, oppression, and slavery of sin. He defeated Satan and his co-conspirators of injustice. He built a church to provide a safe place of caring for victims. His actions continue to change the world as more and more of us are no longer satisfied in doing nothing while our neighbors are being oppressed by sin.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Families and Poverty

"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
"Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.
"Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.
"Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged" (Colossians 3:18-21, NKJV).

Earlier this week, I heard a radio news report which stated that the state of Oklahoma spends hundreds of millions of dollars annually fighting poverty caused by divorce and out-of-wedlock births.

Today, I received a letter from FamilyLife with these striking statistics:

*41% of married couples today admit to infidelity
*57% of men admit they've committed infidelity in every relationship they've had
*54% of women admit the same
*40% of children today will grow up without a father in the home
*A recently divorced man is nearly 9 times more likely to commit suicide than his female counterpart

Although I'm not an expert in this field, my personal observations do not conflict with what I have been hearing and reading this week. After 7 years of volunteering in urban ministry, I have a difficult time thinking of many intact families who are living in poverty unless they are dealing with physical or mental health problems. Adultery, divorce, and single-parent households seem to be normal among the poor, the middle-class, and the wealthy.

People are hurting. They are living with the bitterness of betrayal and abandonment. They are living with the guilt of betraying their spouses and abandoning their families. They do not know how to raise their children alone. They do not know how to love and respect their husbands and wives. They do not know how to honor their parents who have made mistakes. Their relationships are frayed; and it has affected them emotionally, socially, and spiritually.

People need good news. They need forgiveness and an opportunity to start life over. They need hope. They need to learn biblical principles concerning life and relationships. They need Christ.

Christians and churches have been called by God to help meet these needs.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Prayer Meeting

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV).

A couple of months ago, the Contact Church started to hold prayer meetings on Wednesday evenings. Although I have not been able to attend each evening, I have benefited every time I have been able to make it.

Sometimes I need a quiet time with others. I need to be reminded of the goodness of God. I need to hear the praise and concerns of others in the family of God. It is a refreshing time to gain some new insights, some encouragement, and some strength. It's a time to talk to God on behalf of others, even when my words are inaudible. I'm certainly thankful that God is willing to listen and answer when we speak to him.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Living in the Tension

"Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord. Therefore
'If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of
fire on his head.'
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:17-21, NKJV).

"Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil" (Romans 13:1-4, NKJV).

Shortly after the terrorists' attacks on September 11, 2001, I prayed with a group of Christians for Osama bin Laden and his fellow terrorists to repent, to have a change of heart and to become followers of Christ. Afterwards, a fellow Christian asked if I supported the war against terrorists. I answered, "Yes." Confused, he asked, "Then how can you pray for them on one hand and support efforts to kill them on the other?" That's a fair question.

My answer lies within the tension between the end of Romans 12 and the beginning of Romans 13.

I attempt to care about my enemies, as Paul taught in Romans 12. Despite the evil within them, I want the best for them. I would love to see terrorists turn from Allah to Jesus Christ. I want them to place their trust in what he has done to save them. I would love to see them acknowledging Christ as their Lord and submitting to baptism in his name. I desire to see them expressing faith in Christ through love for others.

I also support my government's efforts to avenge the innocent and to terrorize people who would harm others, as Paul taught in Romans 13. The government has a God-given responsibility to do so. When I served on a jury a couple of years ago, I had to deal with this issue as we were attempting to sentence a rapist and burglar for smashing in his girlfriend's face. Wanting to love my neighbors by protecting them from this violent man, I pushed for the strongest sentence possible. While we need to love our enemies, we cannot allow it to prevent us from loving our other neighbors. The government exists to prevent evil people from harming others. When it is attempting to do its job, I need to support it.

I will continue to pray for the terrorists while supporting the government's war against them. In doing so, I am trying to love my neighbors and my enemies.

How Jesus Could Have Avoided the Cross

Throughout his ministry, Jesus knew how it would end. He would tell his disciples, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life" (Matthew 20:18-19, NIV).

Could Jesus have avoided his crucifixion?

Perhaps Jesus could have kept quiet. After all, his enemies hated his message. They did not want their motives exposed. They did not want the people to know how they had manipulated the Bible to build a power base, to control people, to avoid their own responsibilities, and to appear better than others. Christ's enemies did not want to hear that he was the Son of God. They did not want to be held accountable by his message.

Maybe Jesus could have stopped caring about people. Christ's enemies could not tolerate Jesus' willingness to forgive. They hated his love for dishonest tax collectors and adulteresses. They could not stand how he would ignore their rules in order to help people in need. They hated how Jesus would heal desperately sick or disabled people on the Sabbath. He even allowed his hungry followers to pick food from the field on the Sabbath. They despised the fact that Christ cared more for people than for their traditions.

In the end, Jesus knew that he could not avoid the cross. It was not who he was. He could not remain silent when people needed the truth, and he could not stop caring when people were facing physical and spiritual needs. Despite the efforts of his enemies, Christ could not be intimidated into quiet passivity and apathy. He loved us too much.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Dinner with the Contact Church's Supporters

"All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do" (Galatians 2:10, NIV).

The Contact Church of Christ started as an urban ministry. Before we were a church, we were a network of volunteers from area Churches of Christ who were working together to help the urban poor of Tulsa come to know Jesus Christ.

A little over 6 years ago, the church building at 49th and Tacoma in west Tulsa became available. At that point, the Tulsa Urban Ministry planted its first church, the Contact Church. We are a congregation specifically established to reach the urban poor with the good news of Christ.

Last night, we had a dinner to show appreciation to our supporters and volunteers from other churches. Janet, Christopher, and I sat at the table with Bob, Sarah, and Miriam Logsdon. Another man who looked somewhat familiar sat with us. He turned out to be the guest speaker for the evening, Anthony Wood. Anthony works with River City Ministries and the River City Church in Little Rock. Until a few years ago, he led Memphis Urban Ministry. He also happens to be a co-author of one of my favorite books: Up Close and Personal: Embracing the Poor. So it was nice to be able to get to know Anthony a little better and to hear him speak about becoming everything God wants us to be.

In closing this post, I would like to share this excerpt from his book:

"I (Anthony) grew up in a racist culture. My grandpa served as Deputy Sheriff of Boliver County, Mississippi, and later as Patrolman for the Clarksdale, Mississippi, Police Department during the fifties and sixties. He died when I was two years old. My basic memory of Grandpa centers on a dresser drawer full of guns, knives, billy clubs, and other weapons taken from criminals. After his death, Grandma would fascinate me by allowing me a peek into that drawer. Once I found an oddly shaped bullet. Grandma explained, 'Oh, that's the bullet from the only man your Grandpa ever shot.' Noticing the look of surprise on my face, she hurriedly added, 'But he shot him in the leg.' Struggling to satisfy a young boy's puzzlement, Grandma said, 'Oh, don't worry, he was only a n----r.'...

"I sat behind Cindy Minor in eleventh grade English. I kept our conversations to a minimum, unless no one else was in the room. As we talked before class one day, she offered me half her Snickers bar. As I silently reached out to break off a piece, someone walked into the room and groaned, 'Ugh.' You're gonna take that from her?'

"With my hands suspended in midair, I weighed Gene's comment. Should I eat a piece of candy touched by a black person or offend Cindy? My fingers never touched the chocolate. Cindy mumbled something like, 'I see.' Those two words were the last we ever exchanged...

"While in Alaska I met my wife, Candi. After our marriage, Candi got her first dose of bigotry in a most unexpected place one Wednesday night. Arriving late for Bible class one cool March evening (in Mississippi), we hurried into the worship service at a local church. We were greeted warmly by a brother at the door.

"A few moments later, a black couple arrived. We overheard them apologize for arriving late, but express their joy at finding a church. The same brother smiled and said, 'There's a church across town where you would feel more comfortable.' Their faces fell. They weren't welcome.

"That night, the Bible class studied the Great Commission. When the teacher, the same brother, got to the part about preaching the gospel to 'every creature,' he affirmed that we shouldn't be selective about the people we share the gospel with. The teacher smiled, looked directly at me and my wife, and explained, 'And blacks are creatures, too.' Their inconsistency between theology and practice reminded me of my own racist past and hardened my own commitment to see that multicolored Jesus.

"As I've come to understand the cross, I've become more aware of my own guilt with regard to racism and my own need to reconcile. The cross has freed me from my past. I no longer choose friends or work based on race. With Paul I say, 'We look at people no longer from a worldly point of view' (2 Cor 5:16)" (Up Close and Personal, pp. 68-70).

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Recommended Reading

I enjoy reading Brian Jones' blog. He serves Christ's Church of the Valley in Collegeville Pennsylvania. He has been posting some interesting thoughts about leading churches lately.

At, Brian tackles the question: Why do more women than men attend church services? I'm not sure that most women in churches are attracted to effeminate men, as Brian postulates, but he makes some good points. Some preachers emphasize affection, kindness, and gentleness while ignoring the tougher qualities of Christianity such as courage and boldness. A more balanced approach could help present a more accurate portrayal of Christ and his church. (By the way, this is not a criticism of any of our ministers in the Contact Church. They have always been very balanced and have displayed integrity in their teaching as well as their lives .)

At, Brian Jones challenges ministers to teach about hell even when it is unpopular and makes them appear less than compassionate. Faithfulness is more important than popularity or appearances.

Finally, I would like to share an article from the Christian Chronicle. Many people may have heard or read about the raid of a religious group's compound in Texas over the weekend. There were serious allegations of sexual abuse of children in the reclusive group. Until today, I had not seen anything positive about the situation. However, at, Joy McMillon writes about the kindness of local Christians who came to the aid of the women and children who were rescued from the compound. Against the backdrop of a bad situation, light is shining. God is being honored in the compassionate acts of his people.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Jonah and the Hero

These are the notes for our weekly Bible study at the Normandy Apartments. Normally, I do not make extensive notes. I usually write out several questions about a text. This week, we are starting a new study, and I felt that a few introductory notes were needed before we get into the text of the book of Jonah.

"I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity" (Jonah 4:2, NIV).

Although never explicitly stated, the book of Jonah appears to be an autobiographical work by the prophet himself.

Jonah was a prophet living in the northern kingdom of Israel under King Jeroboam II (793-753 BC; 2 Kings 14:23-25), the most powerful of the northern kingdom's rulers. The northern kingdom had always been corrupt: following false gods, listening to the false promises of those false gods, and even sacrificing their own children to appease the false gods at times. Nevertheless, God had not given up on the people of Israel yet. A minority continued to be loyal to the true God, and a few prophets like Jonah continued to appear in the northern kingdom.

The Assyrians were the most powerful and evil enemies of Israel during those years. Ninevah was their capitol city. For Jonah to be called to preach to Ninevah would have been like a Jewish prophet being called to preach to Berlin during World War II. It was hostile territory. The people were not inclined to respect a man of God, and the man of God knew that the people were guilty of horrible and violent sins against the people of God.

The book of Jonah is almost entirely narrative. It focuses on actions rather than the message of the prophet. Other books of prophecy reverse the emphasis. Most prophetic literature focuses on the prophet's message, but not his actions.

Some people attempt to discount the book of Jonah because they doubt the miracles. However, the Christian faith is built upon miracles, from the miracle of creation to the miracle of Christ's resurrection. The miracles of the Bible were recorded because they happened. Furthermore, Jesus Christ accepted and taught the historicity of the story of Jonah, just as he accepted and taught the historicity of the Queen of Sheba's visit to Solomon (Matthew 12:39-42). He did not differentiate between the miraculous account about Jonah and the mundane account about Solomon. We will follow his example during our study.

God is the hero of the book of Jonah. Through a reluctant and whining prophet, God is determined to get his message to the capitol city of the Assyrians. As Harold Shank noted, "The book of Jonah is an argument against any who seek to keep God for themselves..." (College Press NIV Commentary: Minor Prophets Volume 1, Hosea-Micah, p. 330). God reaches out beyond his people to his enemies. He warns of destruction, but when he sees repentance, God is quick to forgive.

In the book of Jonah, we notice a God who is in control. He will not take no for an answer from Jonah when the prophet does not want to warn Ninevah. God controls the weather, animals (the fish and the worm), and plants (the vine). He uses whatever is needed to reach both his prophet and his enemies.

One interesting aspect of the view of God in the book of Jonah is the view of God as Creator. He uses creation to reach his creatures, both people and their cattle or livestock according to the last verse of the book.

In the end, God challenges our prejudices. Contrary to all expectations, the city of Ninevah converted to God. We see people and write them off as hopeless. God sees people and offers them hope.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

A Few Good Articles to Read

I read a few good articles today.

At, an author encourages Christians to continue speaking what needs to be said and doing what needs to be done, despite apparent lack of progress. Sometimes I need such articles to bolster my spirit.

Noel Piper writes about the trip she and her daughter Talitha made to Africa. She reminds us of the importance of caring for the creation that God had blessed us with, and how we can honor God and receive benefits from caring for it.

At, John Piper encourages Christians to follow Christ rather than popular political ideology. Both political liberals and political conservatives have blind spots, but Jesus Christ helps us to care about people that political ideologies tend to ignore.

Praying for Terrorists

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:43-44, NIV).

Perhaps no one on earth hates Christians more than do the Islamic terrorists. Believing that they are following the will of God, they are intent on killing those who disagree with them. Without a doubt, followers of Jesus Christ are their enemies. We disagree with them at every point.

Our obligation is to pray for them. They need the grace and mercy of God. They are heading toward hell without any hope of escape, unless they come to know Christ as their Savior and Lord. We have been instructed to pray for them. Jesus wants to save them, and He wants us to cooperate with Him in His mission of salvation.

At, we can adopt a terrorist for prayer. This is an excellent opportunity to love our enemies.

Friday, April 04, 2008

The Dream Lives On

Forty years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered. I have no memories of that day, since I was born only 5 months before that tragic event.

However, I have a great appreciation for Dr. King and his legacy. In fact, in some ways, my family is a part of his legacy. Would it have been possible for a white man and woman to have adopted a black son before the civil rights movement? I'm not sure, but I doubt it. Certainly, it would not have been as socially acceptable to be a family like ours.

Nearly 3 years ago, Janet, Christopher, and I visited the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee while on vacation. The Lorraine Motel, the location of Dr. King's assassination, was converted into the National Civil Rights Museum several years ago. It was quite an educational experience, and I would like to urge others to visit the museum at some point in their lives. In a few years, when Christopher is old enough to appreciate it more fully, we plan to return.

I'm thankful that God used Martin Luther King Jr. to change race relations in America. I'm thankful for my transracial family and for the racial diversity of the Contact Church of Christ. I acknowledge that racial tension continues, but I am grateful for the progress that has been made.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Punished With a Baby?

"Sons are a heritage from the LORD,
children a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are sons born in one's youth.
Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their enemies in the gate" (Psalm 127:3-5, NIV).

Recently, presidential candidate Barrack Obama was explaining his support of abortion. Mr. Obama said that if his daughters were to become unexpectedly pregnant, his response would be: "I don't want them punished with a baby."

Mr. Obama and I have completely opposite views on this issue. He sees babies as punishment. I see them as gifts from God. He would encourage the needless killing of his grandchildren. I would encourage his daughters to keep them or to place them for adoption.

The Contact Church of Christ has a pre-natal and post-natal program to teach new mothers how to care for their children. New mothers can receive necessities like food, diapers, maternity clothes, baby clothes, and cribs in the program. Mary Lasarsky runs the program. More information may be found at Christian Services of Oklahoma can help with adoptions at If no adoptive parents are available, my wife and I would be willing to go through the adoption process again to provide for the child.

Children do not need to die in such situations. Christians are willing and eager to help everyone involved.