29 December 2012

Who is He?

(Note: This was written last year, but I didn't have time to finish the post, and was just reminded of it since the Christmas season is once again fading.)

Lima is slowly shedding the Christmas decor and embracing summer. Now that Epiphany/Three Kings Day has passed, only an occasional lost-looking Santa is still lurking around. Sometime between the last time I left the apartment (I'll admit, it has been a few days) and today, the decorations in the lobby vanished. We had a little tree, lights on the window, and of course the obligatory nativity. The one in our lobby was simply Mary and Joseph and an empty blanket. In Peru, and other Catholic countries I believe, Jesus is not placed in the nativity until Christmas Eve. So in the days leading up to Christmas I kept looking at the stoic figures kneeling in reverence to an empty blanket, and looking forward to the day the scene would be complete.

We came home late on Christmas Eve... Jesus still hadn't arrived, but then, it wasn't midnight. We came downstairs the next morning fully expecting to find that someone had placed the baby in the manger overnight...but nothing had changed. The unmoving Mary and Joseph still bracketed an empty blanket. Jesus hadn't come. Ah well, I thought, everyone was partying until the wee hours, they likely just forgot. I'm sure they'll get around to it later today.

But they didn't. Not Christmas day. Not that week. The year came and went and still no Jesus. Epiphany arrived, the nativity scene was packed away. The baby Jesus never appeared. And no one else seemed to notice.

You don't have to look real hard to find some symbolism in that. This entire season of build-up to the supposed celebration of Christ's birth, but when the time finally arrived, everyone forgot Him. They ate, they drank, they fiesta-ed. (They set off so many fireworks so close to the building that I felt like I was living through an attack by a hostile power with low altitude bombing runs and anti-aircraft fire. Seriously. It was ridiculous.) Some even took time to go to midnight mass or let an excited child place the baby Jesus figure in the manger, but even for most of these, most of Lima, most of the world, Jesus wasn't really there on Christmas day, or any day for that matter.

There are still people in every corner of the world who have never heard the Good News of Christ. There are even more who have heard part of the story but have it so tangled up in religious trappings, man-made practices, and myths that they miss the point and the gift of Salvation. For so many people, Jesus is that peaceful halo-wearing 8 pound 6 ounce baby, a doll that is placed in the manger next to the ceramic sheep every December (if they remember). He's an icon, a statue, a cultural practice, a mythical figure, a familiar tradition. A nice little good luck charm that sits on a shelf. That's the Jesus they know. That's the Jesus they are comfortable with. The problem is...that's not Jesus.

The generations before Christ's advent read prophecies, heard stories, and created an idea of who their promised Messiah would be: a mighty warrior who would overthrow their oppressive government and enemies! A conquering hero who would take his rightful throne as King of the Jews! That fit their idea of what a savior should be, how he would deal with the problems of the world. But Jesus was born into humble circumstances, not exceptionally handsome, nothing too special by human standards. He wasn't a warrior or nobleman, and he wasn't wealthy. He didn't seek to overthrow the government, or lead a bloody battle. But still...there was something about Him. And then, just as the fervor surrounding Him was reaching a heightened pitch...He was hung between common criminals on a cross. To so many it seemed like Rome had dispatched with yet another fraud. Some savior. So many missed it then because Jesus didn't meet their expectations. He wasn't what they wanted. They had an image in their mind of what He should have been, and He didn't match up.

With the benefit of hindsight, you'd think we'd be able to avoid that same problem today. But instead, even those of us who understand the price He paid for our sins, we take small parts of who Jesus really is, the parts we are comfortable with, and we take over and craft Him into something that fits nicely into the box in our minds: Jesus- the nice guy who smiles and hugs little children, heals the blind, tells us to love our neighbors and help the poor. And we pick out what serves our own ideology and convince ourselves that Jesus is really a lot like us:

"There’s the Republican Jesus who is against tax increases and activists judges, for family values and owning firearms.
There’s Democrat Jesus who is against Wall Street and Wal-Mart, for reducing our carbon footprint and printing money.
There’s Therapist Jesus who helps us cope with life’s problems, heals our past, tells us how valuable we are and not to be so hard on ourselves.
There’s Starbucks Jesus who drinks fair trade coffee, loves spiritual conversations, drives a hybrid and goes to film festivals.
There’s Open-minded Jesus who loves everyone all the time no matter what, except for people who are not as open-minded as you.
There’s Touchdown Jesus who helps athletes fun faster and jump higher than non-Christians and determines the outcomes of Super Bowls.
There’s Martyr Jesus, a good man who died a cruel death so we can feel sorry for him.
There’s Gentle Jesus who was meek and mild, with high cheek bones, flowing hair, and walks around barefoot, wearing a sash and looks very German.
There’s Hippie Jesus who teaches everyone to give peace a chance, imagine a world without religion, and helps us remember all you need is love.
There’s Yuppie Jesus who encourages us to reach our full potential, reach for the stars, and buy a boat.
There’s Spirituality Jesus who hates religion, churches, pastors, priests, and doctrine; and would rather have people out in nature, finding the god within and listening to ambiguously spiritual musical.
There’s Platitude Jesus, good for Christmas specials, greeting cards, and bad sermons; he inspires people to believe in themselves, and lifts us up so we can walk on mountains.
There’s Revolutionary Jesus who teaches us to rebel against the status quo, stick it to the man, and blame things on the “system.”
There’s Guru Jesus, a wise, inspirational teacher who believes in you and helps you find your center.

There’s Good Example Jesus who shows you how to help people, change the planet, and become a better you." - Kevin DeYoung

But that's not really Who He is. He is so much more. So much more than we can even comprehend. 

When most of us look at the Bible to learn about Jesus we tend to start with the New Testament Gospels that tell of his physical life on earth, but even that is limiting. Christ was there at the beginning of Man, He'll be there at the end, and in fact, who He is is woven throughout the entire Bible. Four books weren't enough to hold all that He is; every single book of the Bible points us to who Jesus is and reveals bits of His character: 

In Genesis: He is Creator, for all things were made by Him and for Him. He is the ram in the bush, a covenant-maker, Jacob’s ladder bridging heaven and earth, the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob.

In Exodus: He is the Deliverer, the Passover Lamb, the provision of manna in the wilderness.  

In Leviticus: He is the Great High Priest, our eternal sacrifice, the Lord Who makes holy.

In Numbers: He is the bronze snake lifted up, bringing healing to Israel; He is the Trusted Guide- the cloud in the daytime, and the pillar of fire in the darkness of night.

In Deuteronomy: He is the Prophet greater than Moses, He is the God who goes before us, our Shield and Helper and Glorious Sword. He is the One True God of Israel.

In Joshua: He is the Captain of our Salvation, the One who leads us into the Promised Land, Rahab’s scarlet cord, the fulfiller of promises.

In Judges: He is both Judge and Lawgiver.

In Ruth: He is our Kinsman Redeemer.

In 1 and 2 Samuel: He is the Prophet of the Lord.

In Kings, and Chronicles: He is the Reigning King.

In Ezra: He is the one who fulfills His promises.

In Nehemiah: He is the rebuilder of the broken.

In Esther: He is Mordecai, working for the good of His people and revealing the providence of God.

In Job: He is our ever-living redeemer, the God who gives and takes away.

In Psalms: He is our Shepherd, our Song, our Refuge and Deliverer.

In Proverbs: He is Wisdom.

In Ecclesiastes: He is our only hope.

In Song of Solomon: He is the bridegroom, the Rose of Sharon, the Lily of the Valley, the Lover of my soul.

In Isaiah: He is Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

In Jeremiah: He is the Righteous Branch and the Portion of Jacob.

In Lamentations: He is the weeping prophet, He is the potter that puts our broken lives back together again.

In Ezekiel: He is the life in the dry bones, the Watchman of our souls, our High Tower, and our Inheritance.

In Daniel: He is the revealer of mysteries, our Rescuer, the fourth man in the fiery furnace.

In Hosea: He is the faithful husband to a faithless wife, the forgiving God who heals waywardness and ransoms us from the power of the grave.

In Joel: He is the one who pours out His spirit on all flesh.

In Amos: He is our burden bearer.

In Obadiah: He is the ultimate authority and Savior.

In Jonah: He is God’s Mercy and Grace.

In Micah: He is the promised Ruler from Bethlehem, the One who breaks open a way for deliverance.

In Nahum: He is our Jealous Avenger.

In Habbakuk: He is the Evangelist crying for revival.

In Zephaniah: He is the King of Israel, Mighty to Save.

In Haggai: He is the Restorer of God’s lost heritage.

In Zechariah: He is the righteous gentle King riding on a donkey, He is the Wall of Fire around Jerusalem and the Glory within, He is the cleansing fountain, the Measuring Line, the Branch, the King over all the earth.

In Malachi: He is the Messenger of the Covenant, the Refiner’s Fire, and the Sun of righteousness rising with healing in His wings.

In Matthew: He’s Emmanuel, Messiah, the fulfillment of the Law, King of the Jews.

In Mark: He’s the miracle worker, Servant, and Rabbi.

In Luke: He is the Son of Man, Teacher, and the Salvation of the World.

In John: He is the Word made flesh, the Son of God, the Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

In Acts: He is our ascended Lord and the Author of Life, and the voice speaking to Saul on the Damascus road.

In Romans: He is our Salvation and Atoning Sacrifice, the One who justifies through faith.

In First Corinthians: He is never-failing Love, and the Conqueror of sin and death.

In Second Corinthians: He is the Father of compassion, the God of all comfort, and sufficient grace.

In Galatians: He is the One who sets us free.

In Ephesians: He is the Head of the Church, our Chief Cornerstone and our Peace.

In Philippians: He is our gain, our Goal, and the God who meets every need.

In Colossians: He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all of creation holding all things together, the fullness of God, He is our Life.

In 1 and 2 Thessalonians: He is the God that tests our hearts, and our soon-coming King.

In 1 and 2 Timothy: He is the Mediator between God and Man, the revelation of Grace.

In Titus: He is the Blessed Hope, our Great God and Savior.

In Philemon: He is the friend that sticks closer than a brother.

In Hebrews: He is the heir of all things, the radiance of God’s glory, author of our salvation, the one who makes men holy, the blood that washes away sins, our Ransom, the mediator of the New Covenant.

In James: He is the Great Physician, the One who is able to save and destroy.

In 1 and 2 Peter: He is our Living Hope, the Living Stone, the Chief Shepherd and Overseer of our souls.

In 1, 2, &3 John: He is the Word of life, the True Light, the Righteous One, the Atoning Sacrifice for our sins, and Love.

In Jude: He is the Lord coming to judge, our Only Sovereign, majesty and power.

In Revelation: He is Alpha and Omega.

He is the Beginning and the End.
He is the First and the Last.
He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. 
He is the coming King.

"He is the keeper of creation and the creator of all. He is the architect of the universe and the manager of all time. He always was, He always is, and He always will be. Unmoved, unchanged, undefeated, and never undone. He was bruised and brought healing. He was pierced and eased pain. He was persecuted and brought freedom. He was dead and brought life. He is risen and brings power. He reigns and brings peace. The world can't understand Him. The armies can't defeat Him. The schools can't explain Him and the leaders can't ignore Him. Herod couldn't kill Him. The Pharisees couldn't confuse Him. The people couldn't hold Him. Nero couldn't crush Him. Hitler couldn't silence Him. And the New Age can't replace Him. He is life, love, longevity, and Lord. He is goodness, kindness, gentleness, and God. He is holy, righteous, mighty, powerful, pure. His ways are right and His word is eternal.  He is my Redeemer, my Savior, my God, and my Friend. He is my Peace. He is my Joy. He is my Comfort. He is my Lord and He rules my life."

He is JESUS! 

This is Who the Bible says that He is, and your belief or disbelief doesn't change that. But Who do YOU say that He is? 

That's the question Jesus asked the disciples, "But what about you?" he asked, "Who do you say that I am?"(Mark 8:29) And that's the pivotal question He is still asking us to answer today. Who we say He is will define our convictions, our viewpoint, our life on this earth, and ultimately our eternal life. 

As we turn the page on yet another year, let us keep our focus on Jesus and bringing Him glory with the way we live out 2013. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

24 December 2012

Feliz Navidad!

Wishing you a joyful Christmas season with family and friends! 
Praying that your 2013 will be filled with new adventures 
and the Lord's continued blessings in your life. 
(And also filled with festive llamas!)

Feliz Navidad y prospero año nuevo! 


22 December 2012

Good news!

There is good news today! As you've probably noticed the Mayan calendar was wrong, no apocalypse occurred and the earth is still spinning merrily on its axis. Not a great shock to most of us, since as some have pointed out, if the Mayans could predict the future...there would still be Mayans. Yes, yesterday passed much the same as each day has for millenia, since man first walked the planet. In some ways that's very good news... but in others not so much.

Early on, man disobeyed God, brought sin into the equation and the perfect world that God created was cursed. Henceforth we have lived in a fallen world with sin, death, destruction, and sorrow as ever present reminders. If nothing had changed, the earth continuing on in such a state today would be somewhat depressing. Fortunately for us, some 2000+ years ago, the ultimate Good News was delivered:

"And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord."- Luke 2:10-11

Check out this great video:

Joy to the world, the Lord is come! We have can have hope and a future because Jesus came to pay the debt we owed on the cross. Christ's mercy and His victory over sin is the best news there could be! What are you going to do with this Good News?

08 December 2012

It's about the Cross!

There's a lot going on these days, and plenty of things coming up that could make me a little sad. Friends leaving (and soon me leaving friends), holiday traditions missed, and loved ones 3000 miles away. I think I've said it before, I never realized how many Christmas songs are kind of depressing until I spent my first Christmas far far from home! Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, I'll be home for Christmas, Christmas Just ain't Christmas, Where are you Christmas?, etc. There are plenty that can get you a little melancholy when you start thinking of those you're not with for the holidays (or ever!). 

But, thankfully, there are some just excellent Christmas songs that leave me pumped up every time I hear them! They help me keep things in perspective and remind me of the reason for the season and the beautiful plan of salvation that Jesus's birth played a part in. In light of Eternity, whatever temporary sorrows I face cannot compare. I though I'd share a few favorites this year so here's one: It's About the Cross- by Go Fish, is wonderful! And if you like a cappella music at all, I highly recommend their entire Christmas album. Enjoy this song here (Note: for those of you viewing by email, you may have to navigate to my blog page to watch the video):

It's not just about the manger
Where the baby lay
It's not all about the angels
Who sang for him that day

It's not just about the shepherds
Or the bright and shining star
It's not all about the wisemen
Who travelled from afar

It's about the cross
It's about my sin
It's about how Jesus came to be born once
So that we could be born again
It's about the stone
That was rolled away
So that you and I could have real life someday
It's about the cross
It's about the cross

It's not just about the presents
Underneath the tree
It's not all about the feeling
That the season brings to me

It's not just about co
ming home
To be with those you love
It's not all about the beauty
In the snow I'm dreaming of

The beginning of the story is wonderful and great
But it's the ending that can save you and that's why we celebrate

It's about the cross
It's about my sin
It's about how Jesus came to be born once
So that we could be born again
It's about God's love
Nailed to a tree
It's about every drop of blood that flowed from Him when it should have been me
It's about the stone
That was rolled away
So that you and I could have real life someday
So that you and I could have real life someday
It's about the cross

It's about the cross!

As great as the story of Christmas was, like the song says, it's not ultimately the most important part. As you celebrate Christmas this holiday season, remember that the pure and innocent Lamb of God, given life in a manger, would go on to give His life on a cross in payment for our sins. Glory to God in the highest! It's about the cross!

06 December 2012

Holiday Spirit

I don't know about you, but I'm not sure how it came to be December. How are we just a couple of weeks away from Christmas?! It doesn't seem possible. With the days flying off the calendar, a mountain of work in front of me, and frequent thoughts about January and all that is coming, I'm having a hard time feeling festive just yet. The one thing that I have been enjoying though: CHRISTMAS MUSIC!!! I love it. I get so excited for my favorite songs and carols every year. So many incredible songs with powerful truth baked right in! Nothing makes me cheerier than some beautiful Christmas music. So if you are in need of a little Christmas spirit yourself, check out this awesome caroling flash mob. Watch all the way to the end; you won't be disappointed!

05 December 2012


Check out this video that focuses on the work in North Africa and the Middle East 
and please commit to pray for and support those serving around the world. And maybe ask the Lord what He is calling you to be obedient in? 

03 December 2012

Week of Prayer 2012

It's the most wonderful time of the year! As the focus turns once again to the approaching Christmas holiday, it is time for something else that happens every year: the Week of Prayer for International Missions! This week we take time to stop and pray for the mission work going on around the world as a whole, and for specific ministries that are highlighted each day of the week. Prayer is vital to the success of the work that is ongoing across the globe and we are so thankful to those who are faithful to intercede on our behalf and on behalf of those who we are trying to reach. Thank you for your support. None of us could be here without you! 
Focus Scripture: Matthew 16:24-25, HCSB
Pastors brave threats and bombs in the Himalayas. In Central Asia, an IMB doctor’s greatest concern isn’t for safety but that his ministry will make a difference for the kingdom. A worker in war-torn Somalia of the ’90s knew he’d have to be willing to die for Jesus and spend years learning why believers in persecution grow unimaginably strong in the faith. 
Engaging people groups in the hard places comes with risk and sacrifice for all who obediently choose to be His heart, His hands, His voice. Most of us aren’t threatened because of our faith, but we need to be in prayer for those who are — not that persecution will end but that believers in persecution will stay courageous and bold.
Giving is also a call to obedience and sacrifice. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® enables IMB missionaries to live and work at the forefront of lostness and extend our witness through their full-time ministry.
Each of us and our churches are called continually to take the next step in our obedience so that Christ is glorified and to ask “What am I doing and what is my church doing to be obedient — to BE His heart, hands and voice, no matter the cost?”

Day 2:
Grace* shakes her head. Feathered earrings dance, framing her face with motion and color. She is a member of one of the indigenous tribes of South America and is talking about the future of her people.
There are outsiders who would keep them in something of a museum — as living history, she says — stuck in a time that has not been a reality for several generations. It’s not what she wants. Yet the identity of her people in the global community is not an easy issue. “A lot of our people don’t even know our [culture],” she says. “They say they do, but they hide behind it.”
She wants her people to move ahead — to “win.” She wants them to take advantage of all that is going on about them while retaining the best of their culture. That means having to change.
Grace and her tribe are among 3,400 unengaged, unreached peoples across the world. Nearly 400 are in South America. Isolated by language, culture, history and — in some cases, geography — they live mostly in small clusters of fewer than 3,000 people. Most will never have a missionary assigned to them. Yet the church is called to take the Gospel to all peoples.
Gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering allow IMB personnel to identify and understand these often forgotten people, offering Southern Baptist churches committed to embracing unengaged, unreached peoples a basis for beginning their work among them.
Pray that Grace’s people truly will “win” and have the opportunity to hear about their Savior.
Pray that your church will be one to embrace an unengaged, unreached people group that might not otherwise hear the Gospel. (Learn how at call2embrace.org.)
*Name changed.

Want to learn more?

See how your dollars help reach the unengaged

28 November 2012

Where am I?

I'll be honest, when I was originally offered the position in Latin America, I didn't have the most thrilling of opinions about the region. I loved the job, but the location was...well, at least there are llamas! Part of it stemmed from wishing I could learn a new language other than Spanish, part was because the culture seemed largely homogenous to an outsider, and part was because there are so many other intriguing cultures around the world that I wanted to explore! 

My opinions have changed since moving to Lima and seeing lots of Latin America. While there are some similarities, there really is so much variety from country to country and city to city! There are a myriad of languages, cultures, and landscapes, and it's all pretty cool. And the region is home to eight cities that we classify as mega cities: Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City, Bogota, Santiago, Buenos Aires, Caracas, and, of course, Lima! Around the continent and within these cities you can find pockets of immigrant cultures that are anything but Latin, and there are workers focused specifically on reaching these groups with the Good News. 

When I moved to Lima, Peru, I never expected that I'd have to work in Chinese, but that's what I found myself doing a few weeks ago as I edited prayer cards and videos for individuals here ministering to the Chinese community (which is the largest in Latin America). It was a delightful change of pace- although I'm glad I don't have to work with Chinese script often! I've never been so happy that I only had to learn Spanish to do my job!

While I'm still an outsider in Lima, I speak Spanish and get along quite nicely, but in one cab ride from my apartment I was quickly immersed in a sub-culture where I didn't understand the language or the customs, and everyone was trying to feed me despite my protests! I had a giant plate full of shrimp dumplings at 11am served by an elderly buddhist woman who insisted on bagging up what I didn't eat to send with me. I had fried wontons in a chifa (Chinese restaurant) while my friend discipled a young believer after the lunch rush. And then I had soup, egg rolls, and sticky bean pudding at two in the morning at a closed chifa during a Chinese Bible study on the outskirts of town. It was a whole new experience, a bit like traveling to a new country without ever leaving my city. There were definitely moments where I found myself asking, "Where am I?!"  

Anyway, I highly enjoyed getting an insider's view of the Chinese immigrant community here, and I am always impressed with the diligent work and long hours that our staff puts in to build relationships and share the Gospel. They are faithful laborers! Below is a short video promo of the work with the Chinese community in Lima. Check it out if you have time, and then don't forget to do what you can to support the work, not only with the Chinese of Lima, but with people everywhere! Pray, Give, Go! 

25 November 2012

What will your legacy be?

A friend shared this video recently and I think it is great! It's the follow up to a story from decades ago and shows such a clear picture of the impact the Gospel can have on a person, a community, a people, and the world. How remarkable to be able to return years later and see the legacy of faith that remains where one faithful family shared the Gospel in word and deed. I don't know about you, but I want to leave that kind of legacy!

What do you want your legacy to be?

I think that's a good thing to keep in mind as you make decisions and plans. It should help you focus upon that which you spend you time, money, and energy. Because, as Beth Moore say, "The legacy you leave tomorrow is dependent upon the choices you make today."

If you have 15 minutes, check out this great story:

Never the Same from Pioneers-USA on Vimeo.

And I love Nicole Nordeman's song aptly titled- Legacy:

I don't mind if you've got something nice to say about me 
And I enjoy an accolade like the rest 
You could take my picture and hang it in a gallery 
Of all who's who and so-n-so's that used to be the best 
At such'n'such ... it wouldn't matter much

I won't lie, it feels alright to see your name in lights 
We all need an 'Atta boy' or 'Atta girl' 
But in the end I'd like to hang my hat on more besides 
The temporary trappings of this world

I want to leave a legacy 
How will they remember me? 
Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough 
To make a mark on things? 
I want to leave an offering 
A child of mercy and grace who
blessed your name unapologetically 
And leave that kind of legacy

I don't have to look too far or too long awhile 
To make a lengthly list of all that I enjoy 
It's an accumulating trinket and a treasure pile 
Where moth and rust, thieves and such will soon enough destroy

Not well traveled, not well read, not well-to-do or well bred 
Just want to hear instead, "Well Done" good and faithful one...