Focus

John 18:11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?” (NASB)

During these tense days, I am very tempted to spend an abundance of time focusing on the Black/White racial issues in the USA. Yesterday, during my personal Bible reading, I was reminded, of our Savior’s words to Peter in John 18:11.

Peter, a fisherman by trade and not a swordsman, sliced off the ear of one who was involved with the arrest of Jesus. Jesus corrected Peter, “Put the sword in the sheath.” In other words, Jesus was telling Peter that now was not the time for physical confrontation, for there was and is a greater and more necessary mission.

So it is today, in my life and ministry. While race issues dominate the USA, there remains a much more critical mission—Gospel ministry.

My stewardship, which is also true for Christians in general, is to make the gospel known (Jesus death in the place of sinners). This message is more important than the contemporary struggles of a Christ denying world (The Psalm writer prophesies, “Why do the nations rage?”).

The answer to all social ills is not ultimately better public policy. Rather, it is individual repentance of sin against God, and the receiving of Jesus Christ as Savior.

On the one hand, the problems of this world, including racism, will not be removed until Jesus comes to establish His Kingdom. On the other hand, our personal alienation from God, which causes all of our personal guilt and loneliness, can be healed. We simply need to trust in the Savior who died in our place for our sin, so we can have eternal life with Him.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, will not perish put have eternal life.”

Sharing this needs to be my focus.

Will you believe in the Son?

Bill

Ministry during the Coronavirus Epidemic

A colleague in ministry asked me to comment on this for the purpose of a presentation she was doing. These were my comments to her with some editing and minor changes.

Jean,

I see the international student population as one sector of a much larger missional opportunity/responsibility found in the global city. Many cities in the United States are in some ways more connected globally than they are regionally. However, as the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated, large cities affect the surrounding areas as the coronavirus spread from global cities to global cities and then into less globalized areas. In fact, the spread of the coronavirus is an illustration of the B&B strategy of ministering in strategic cities, in order to minister to the world. By ministering the gospel in globalized cities, the gospel more naturally spreads globally (just like the coronavirus). This phenomenon is the result of the globalization of the city. Many cities are connected to other international cities by various populations including; academics, immigrants, refugees, business people, tourists, sport communities and government workers. When we touch any one of these communities, we potentially touch the world. It is my belief, for several reasons, that the city is God’s Great Commission gift to the body of Christ. That is to say, our Savior is building His promised church by gathering the world into strategic places called cities, and, therefore, Great Commissioned -minded people should discern the movement of God and join Him. 

The questions in my mind are these: 1) How has the coronavirus affected recent ministry in the city? 2) How are we responding to these challenges? 3) Will there be long term detrimental effects to ministering to the global community as a result of the coronavirus? 4) What are some lessons we have learned during this time of quarantine?

  1. How has the coronavirus affected recent ministry in the city?

It has severely limited personal contact with anyone. One strength of the city is the density of the human population. This density allows us to connect with many different people groups in a short span of time. Just out our door (literally) the world is walking by, and we have the real potential of ministering the gospel to them. This pandemic has brought all of that to a screeching halt. Social distancing is not a ministry tool. 

  1. How are we responding to these challenges?

One thing that we are doing is ministering in a deeper way to those with whom we already have connection. It has been a good time to show the love of God by looking after one another, whether with a Christian or a not-yet-Christian. Caring for folks from the heart with deeds of thoughtfulness helps prepare the ground for a gospel witness. Focusing on those whom we are already ministering will many times lead to new friends interested in learning about God. Since this allows the ministry of the gospel to naturally flow from one person to the next, it is a very healthy way to go about ministry. We have seen this happen during this time of quarantine. 

Since our ministry has always used online tools extensively, it has been relatively easy to do more of the same. In fact, several individuals and families who have left the ministry here to go to other parts of the country/world have checked in to our weekly online services. This has been very edifying to all involved. 

  1. Will there be long term detrimental effects to ministering to the global community as a result of the coronavirus?

I do not think so for a several reasons: a. Cities are too invested in the global community to allow for large scale change now. They can’t afford not to be globalized. b. Cities are a major part of the history and story line of the Bible, beginning in Genesis and finishing, literally, at the end of Revelation. It doesn’t seem biblically possible for cities to become less than globalized at this point in history. c. The plagues of the Tribulation do not appear to be of the same sort as the coronavirus. This leads me to suspect that we as a human race (God’s image bearers) will figure out ways to overcome this type of pandemic. d. Cities have suffered through worst pandemics than the coronavirus and have survived, indeed flourished, afterwards. In summary, I think the new normal will be mostly like the old normal. 

  1. What are some lessons we have learned during this time of quarantine?

This has been a difficult time for me (Bill)—some days up, some days down. Deb and I moved from 1,900 sq. ft. a year ago to being quarantined in 311 sq. ft. this year. We did not come to the city to practice social distancing. This made for a spiritual battle for me with serious ebbs and flows. I have often asked myself, “How do I join God in this?” I have even been disenfranchised with the city and the people of the city. I have felt that the local leadership given has been at times inadequate, and the herd mentality that followed that leadership disillusioning. Yet, I do pray and respect those in governmental positions charged with my care–that is to say, things are frustrating. This has been a time of waiting on God, a pause if you will, stranger than most things I have experienced. I guess a lesson that has been reinforced is my need to trust Him even when I don’t understand what He is doing. This has been a strange time when we just had to stop, sit down and think or do nothing at all. I like thinking, but after a while…. It has also been reinforced in my life and thought process that while much can and should be accomplished with online tools, personal physical presence is also very important. As one person put it, “Those with whom we fellowship online are like the stars of heaven—they always shine brightly, but we still need a hug once in a while!” One other lessen that was re-enforced in my life is the conviction that God created me to engage people with the gospel, not cloister in a monastery. God made me in the mold of Philip the evangelist, so no MONKeying around😊  

Hope this helps,

Bill

Boston Riots and Looting

We will clean up our city!

It was late in the evening, Deb was sleeping, and I was finishing up some correspondence when I received a text from a friend asking what was happening in the South End (our Boston neighborhood). I didn’t know what he was talking about until I checked the Boston news and started watching out our studio window. I began to hear sirens and soon the street traffic picked up from the all too familiar coronavirus malaise. Then I noticed groups of young men roaming the streets with bags full of looted goods from local stores. Finally, across the street at the CVS, the front door window was smashed and the store broken into. A lone police officer happened to be close and he singlehandedly apprehended the perpetrator, but it was not long until a posse of forty or more police offices came riding up on their bicycles. Later, around 2:30 or 3:00 AM the street calmed down and I was able to go to bed. 

In the morning, I quickly walked the city and was amazed and disheartened at the damage that had been done to businesses all across Boston. At the same time, I was encouraged by individuals and groups of people who came to the center of Boston with their brooms and other cleaning tools, prepared to clean up the mess made by lawless looters.

I asked one young man if he was with a group, and he said, “No, I’m not with anyone, I’m just a kid from the North Shore who wants to help clean up the mess. A little later, I interacted with a family who came into the city center to help put things back in order. Finally, when walking across the Boston Commons, three men on a garbage truck drew my attention. I asked them if they thought the riots and looting would happen again that night. One representing all three stated, “I don’t know if it will happen again tonight, but if it does, we will be here in the morning to clean up our city!” I spontaneously replied, “I love you guys.” We had a mutually understood moment. Two of those men were black and I am white, but we share some common values as all people do, because all are made in God’s image. The rioting and looting that happened in Boston was not a racial thing, but a lawless thing. Blacks and whites were both involved. Lawless people took cynical advantage of an opportunity to do what is reprehensible. 

I have much to say about the racial tension that is now rampant in the United States, especially the Christian response to it, but that will need to wait for another blog posting. 

But for now, let me say I am so thankful that in the midst of a man-made disaster, I found people in the city, who share my love for the city. All of us are made in the image of God, and sometimes that image shows. 

Why I believe in the God of the Bible

I hope this story/explanation will be about belief in the unique God presented in the Bible. Believing in the God of the Christian Bible is distinctively different than believing in the god of Islam or the god of Judaism. It is also quite different than believing in the multiplicity of the gods of Hinduism or in the philosophy of Buddha. While most religions have some truth, Christianity is the Truth and its message is both distinctive and also exclusive. In other words, according to orthodox Christian teaching, it is incorrect to say that all religions lead to God. The Bible teaches that Jesus is the only way to God. My purpose is to explain why this exclusive view of Christianity is both reasonable and also correct. 

Please do not misunderstand me, I have no desire to alienate my many friends who are not Christians. I am not writing to condemn, but to offer hope, and the hope I offer is much more than a teaching. This hope is the hope of a perfectly fulfilling relationship with the Triune God, Creator of the universe. His desire is you, and He is ever reaching out to you. My desire is to show you how you can know Him personally. 

At the same time, the hope I am describing, while more than a teaching, certainly is a teaching. The life that Christianity offers is not a shallow existence, using the vocabulary of religious platitudes, a kind of Christianity that is not able to offer satisfying answers to the difficult questions of life. Rather, authentic Christianity and the relationship available in the Christian God is based upon the solid, intricate, surprising and *orthodox teaching of Scripture. True Christianity is able to answer those deep questions of life. In fact, I believe Christianity is the only faith that is really able to explain life as we observe it. Satisfying our deepest questions is at least one way in which God draws some to Himself. In His love and mercy, He allows us to have eyes to see the logic of the life that is all around us. He makes sense of that which seems chaotic, pathetic, dangerous, and deadly, but also beautiful, meaningful, and lovely. He helps us understand why such a wonderful world, full of promise, is also so full of death and corruption. *I am not referring to the Orthodox Church . I mean orthodox as in correct theology. 

So, what is coming is both a story and a teaching. It is the story about why I am secure in the teaching of the Bible. It is a story in that belief in the God of the Bible came to me as I lived my life. It was because of life that I could understand God’s message to me. God showed me little by little who He is and why things are the way they are, in both the physical universe and the world of men, but also within me. God revealed to me who I am and why I need Him. Simultaneously, this presentation is also a teaching, actually the teaching found in the Bible. The story and the teaching intersect in that the teaching of the Bible helped me understand the experience of life. I hope you will see that these answers satisfactorily answer the deep questions of life and the questions of your soul.

I have been a Christian for around 46 of my 66 years of life. I grew up in a family of six, two younger brothers and an older sister. Our family spent many weekends and vacations camping. It was on one of these adventures that my story of belief began. I must have been 12 or 13 years old, and my family was camping in the Grand Teton National Park of Wyoming, USA. My sister and I were sleeping outside of the family tent, and that’s where an awareness of my relationship with God came to life. My sister had fallen asleep, the night was chilly and quiet. I remember two things: the howl of the coyotes and the beauty of the Wyoming starlit sky. Although it was many years before I became a Christian, my journey to Him began that night. While transfixed by the awesome but bewildering Wyoming sky, I began to wonder about the deep questions of life. It started innocently enough. I wondered how far away was the closet star and the furthest star, what was beyond all the stars, and then how big everything was and how small I was. From there, I wondered who was I, and what was life all about. Suddenly, I was alone in a vast universe. I was lonely.

These were the kinds of questions and feelings that entered my soul that evening, and they continued to trouble my heart, until answers finally came years later. Actually, to place the answers to my questions at a point in time is inaccurate. God was busy during the intervening years, showing me more of Himself and of myself and of life—all of which led me ultimately to Him. 

On that Wyoming night long ago, I was both confronted as well as blessed with God’s creation. Part of who He is entered my soul that night, and the Bible, Genesis, chapter 1, explains why.

Before the Wyoming trip, I don’t remember ever thinking about God or religious things. But beholding God’s handywork that night, I was forced to wonder who I am in the midst of the vast universe. As I mentioned before, I  felt pretty small staring up at that sky, and my smallness made me feel lonely. I remained lonely until I became a Christian, which was at least seven years later. 

There are two portions of Scripture which have helped me to understand my loneliness. The Bible explains how all things came to be, and all things begin with God creating all things. In Genesis one we read,

1In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. (Genesis 1:1-2)

 New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ge 1:1–2). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

It may seem simplistic, but that God created the universe satisfies my curiosity and my longing. I know the monolithic view of the West scoffs at what it views as a naïve, uninformed and ignorant view of origins. This doesn’t bother me. In fact, I think it’s foolish to think all things came into being from nothing, apart from intelligence, and that by chance the complexity of the universe arose. It seems much more rational to accept the explanation given in Genesis one—God created all things. It seems obvious to me that a study of our physical world demands an explanation which includes an intelligent creator. By studying the creative activity of that Creator, we can learn many things about Him; 1) He is all powerful (omnipotent). He created all things. 2) He is all-knowing (omniscient). He had the intelligence needed to make that material universe. 3) He is everywhere present (omnipresent). The Spirit of God was hovering over His creation. The Bible explains that it is ultimately by God’s power that all things hold together.

The thing is, when you stop and consider carefully God’s created universe, you intuitively know these things to be true. This is why I was so taken when looking up at the stars in Wyoming. Something deep down inside of me responded to what I saw. Someone had to put those stars there, and that someone was beyond me in every way. I was dwarfed by His hugeness, humbled by His awesomeness, and scared by His utter otherness. 

Yet God is more than the creator; He is also our Father, Savior, and Comforter, and understanding how He is all these things makes all the difference. Let’s look further into Genesis 1 to verses 26 and 27

Genesis 1   26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

 New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ge 1:26-27). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

After recording the creation of all things (Genesis 1:1-25), the author of Genesis comes to the crown jewel of God’s Creation, Adam and Eve, the progenitors of the human race. Verse 26 begins with the most fascinating detail concerning what it means to be made like God. We are created in the image of relationship, the relationship found in the triune God. Notice again “Let Us make man in Our image according to Our likeness…” The plural personal pronouns are used to describe God three times. This repetition surely has a purpose, which I believe is to help us understand that God created us as relational beings, just as He is a relational being. God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three in one. All through eternity God has been in perfect relationship within the Trinity. Genesis 1 explains that God also created us to have perfect relationships both with Him and with one another. In fact, Genesis chapters 1,2 and 3 put on display both the relationship between Adam and Eve (they are together without clothes or shame), and Adam and Eve with God, as He walks with Adam and Eve in the garden in the cool of the day. If you pause for a moment to ponder this, it is a beautiful picture of what should be, peace with one another and peace with God in a creation unmarred by death.

These are the first chapters of the Bible, and they record the story of our omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God creating all things in the universe, including those stars that captured my soul and those coyotes who sounded so utterly, hauntingly lonely.  He also created my soul which responded in bewilderment to His creation call. 

Here is the main point for this post. My soul responded to God’s creation because my soul was made by Him, to respond to Him. But why, then, was I still lonely? This is a subject for the next post. But for now, let me ask you these questions: Have you ever wondered about your relationship with God or with others? Have you wondered why relationships even seem to be so important? Can you think of a better explanation then that God made us to live within relationships, that we are made by Him as relational beings? Do those other explanations really explain our personal need to be personable with others? I don’t think so. Anything less than a Trinity is not able to form a rational, logical foundation for the human need for fulfilling relationships. One more question: 

If this is not the explanation, where does love come from? 

In my next post I hope to answer the question of why I remained lonely even after beholding God’s creative wonder in the stars of Wyoming. I also hope to present the biblical explanation for the myriad of broken relationships which make up both the world of men, but also all the created universe. These explanations are the answers that satisfied my soul. These answers are why I trust the Bible, why I am a Christian.  

Teaching an International Congregation

Teaching the Bible to an international audience is a wonderful opportunity. By effectively communicating the Word of God to multiple nations/cultural backgrounds simultaneously, one is able to spread the truth of God’s word internationally. Those globalized individuals, whom you have taught, will naturally share what they have learned with the nations from which they have come. However, it is difficult to communicate with more than one culture at the same time. Being effective, doing so, will involve following biblical principles of relationship and communication.

While I believe what follows to be consistent with God’s Word, it is important to emphasis that this is not the only way to minister in cross-cultural situations. Rather than critiquing other approaches, I hope to simply share my insights from many years of ministering to various cultures in the same teaching time.

Know the Participants: It is important to become thoroughly acquainted with each individual within the multi-cultural congregation. Reading background information may be helpful, but personal interaction is essential. Extending friendship with the goal of truly knowing and understanding your fellow-made-in-the-image-of-God sojourner is the foundation of edifying communication.

Make the Goal Communication: This may seem obvious, but, often times, we Bible teachers become so excited about what God is teaching us, that we forget to make sure we are communicating on the level of our congregants. Watching the clock, we tend to speed up our delivery, thereby losing contact with those whom we are trying to communicate. Our goal should be to communicate truth, rather than complete an outline.

Interact Continually: By paying close attention to the congregation and by asking life application questions, the lesson will come alive, and the congregation will grow together around the teaching of God’s Word. Life questions are different then academic questions, which tend to exalt those with Bible knowledge. Life questions help apply biblical principles to daily living.

Be Nimble not Rigid: Some times a congregant will ask questions which are more important than the prepared material. It is essential to have mastered the main truths of God’s Word well enough, and, likewise, have gained a comprehensive understand of the congregant/congregation, so that we can discern when it is wise to change the direction of our message.

Prepare the Field: In our context of ministry, many of the those who become congregants have also studied introductory Bible survey lessons with members of the church family. Inevitably, those lessons/stories are referenced in the Sunday lesson time. What helped an individual become a Christian is then expanded upon in the discipleship ministry of Sunday morning. Notice that the Sunday morning message is an extension and expansion of the evangelistic ministry of the church.

Reap the Harvest: Following up the morning message by clarifying certain aspects of the message or by answering questions raised by the Sunday teaching is a good way to solidify what has been taught. This may be done in a follow-up service (we have at times done this in a brief after Sunday lunch service), a separate small group get together or by means of social media.

Simplify the Service: Sometimes the complexity of a service detracts from the teaching of the Word of God. It may help to simplify the service schedule: Prelude, Prayer and share (30minutes), Singing understandable songs, and the teaching/preaching of God’s Word. This may be followed by sharing Sunday lunch together. I have found that praying together and eating together are very important elements in developing the life of the congregation.

Prepare the room for interaction Study/Worship:

As you arrange the room for study/worship, think in terms of communication both between the teacher and the student, but also between the student and the student. This allows for better communication on various levels, and makes a more friendly atmosphere–more of a relational atmosphere, which more closely reflects our Trinitarian understanding of fellowship.

I hope to follow this blog post with more information on the biblical principles upon which the above points are based. In addition, it would be helpful to illustrate how our practice has actually worked out on Sunday mornings.

A Prayer Letter

Boston and Beyond

Lorraine, 

Thank you for your nudge, reminding me that it is time for a Boston and Beyond update. It would be helpful to do so, (nudge us), in the future as well. Many a time prayer letters are built upon personal correspondence–seems more natural that way, and easier to write. As you will see, I am using your nudge to write my prayer letter.  

I can characterize what is happening in Boston and Beyond, a globalized cities initiative, with the phrase, slowdown,in order to speed up. In some ways, it seems like things in our life and ministry have slowed down. Each step forward seems to take more time. It’s kind of like walking a mountain trail rather than a city street. (It’s a good thing; we love mountain trails.) Recruitment, internships and deputation takes lots of time, so while very good progress is being made, it seems to be one slow, methodical step at a time. Forming teams and making plans to travel as teams is also not done quickly. Because efforts are spread in several areas, evangelistic relationships and Bible studies also take longer to develop, which means results take longer. 

Yet, we are sure of the Lord’s leading, and confident that in the end, much more will be accomplished in the pursuit of the Great Commission, the building of the body of Christ globally:  

1) We have many great gospel-centered relationships. Some of these are related to our work with Urban Peaks, which is a non-profit secular organization which raises funds to help kids take a step up. (Rock climbing is leveraged to help underserved kids have an opportunity to learn living skills by climbing.) We view this as an authenticating ministry, demonstrating our desire to help people, in general. This work forms the environment for gospel ministry. It helps the climbing community (and others) know that we don’t just proselyte, but that we are concerned for the whole person–for people in general. We do this because we understand that the Bible teaches us that all are made in the image of God, and therefore, valuable. That God views every person as of inestimable worth is made clear by the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Working with Urban Peaks and the climbing community takes time–seems slow, but it is producing opportunities.

New friends are coming to our home, even to church. And, by the way, the rock-climbing community is a tight- knit global community. Working for Urban Peaks may be an excellent way to travel to other major cities, even in countries that do not allow ministers to travel. In a culture that is post-Christian, Urban Peaks is a gift from God.  

We also are developing gospel relationships in our centrally located Boston neighborhood called the South End. We live in an owner-occupied apartment building, where I have become a trustee, which means I am partially responsible for overseeing the operations of the building. As in all things, Deb works closely with me in this, and by doing so, the Lord has helped us form many friendships, some of which have developed into more “sharing of life” relationships. These kinds of relationships produce gospel sharing opportunities. Again, none of this happens quickly, but the relationships, which are being formed will eventually accelerate the building of the body of Christ, globally. After all, Boston is a global community, and we live right in the middle of that community.  

As you pray for us, also remember that we have a Friday night evangelistic Bible study. This study happens in our studio, and our desire is that it will include folks from all parts of the world. We also have a Bible study on the campus of Northeastern University on Wednesday nights. This study is inhabited by young Christians who desire to invite friends who are not yet Christians. Our desire, again, is that it will develop into a time when the nations gather to hear from God’s Word.   

2) We also are continually trudging up the mountain, slowly gaining new heights as we work at recruiting workers for Boston and Beyond. Next week, Deb and I will attend the Refresh Conference at Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary. While there, we have at least two meetings with prospective workers. It seems so cold calling made-in-the-image-of-God people “prospective workers”. Actually, we consider each person who shows interest in working with Boston and Beyond, as an interesting human being who may join us, and be used of God to minister the gospel to a global community.  

Currently there are two individuals raising funds to work with us in Boston. Part of our stewardships is to encourage them as they move through the arduous journey of support raising. One way we do this is by staying in contact with each one and by hosting a regular online video conference where those interested in Boston and Beyond are able to share their burdens and praises. Our time of prayer and fellowships has become a great blessing to all of those involved. Not everyone who attends are planning on becoming a missionary with Boston and Beyond, or even living in Boston. But all these folks believe in the concept of ministering in the city as a conduit to ministering the gospel to the world. So, we meet together, encourage each other along life’s journey, and we pray for our world. 

3) As I write this, Deb is across the studio in the kitchen preparing food for our Chinese New Year celebration to be held in our church facility in East Cambridge. Later this afternoon, we will pack up Deb’s lamb dumpling filling, head across the street to the Back Bay, subway station and take the Orange Line across the Charles River from Boston into East Cambridge. The work of building our local manifestation of Boston and Beyond, the International Baptist Church, a Christian orthodox association, continues. Our ministry responsibilities in this regard are varied and complex. We seek to nurture, encourage, counsel, work, whatever it takes to help our fellowship become what it needs to become, as the foundation for globalized cities church planting. The work is slow, and we need to make progress more quickly. It is important that Deb and I do a good job of evangelizing and discipling through baptism. We also must be successful at recruiting laypeople and tentmakers to become part of our church family–this is essential. Most of our disciples end up leaving Boston, as we planned, but these do not make a good foundation for a self-supporting church. We need mature, flexible, qualified workers to come and live/work with us in Boston–again absolutely essential.  

4) Deb and I have the potential opportunity of traveling to at least three international urban centers/cities over the next year. Two of these are in places that are not open to Christianity. All three have great potential for Great Commission ministry. As the Lord leads and enables, we will be helping young believers be faithful in cities to which they have returned. In other places, we will be learning about new areas of opportunity and hopefully developing ministry relationships with the body of Christ in those cities. One step at a time, up the mountain path, slowly ascending, but in the end, the ministry will peak:-) 

5) There are other very important things going on that are both difficult to describe and unwise to share. All I can say is that God seems to be moving in fascinating ways, which may result in accelerated ministry. Confidentiality is mandatory here, but after having been co-laborers with some of you for over thirty years, or longer, I think you can trust us when we say, pray for these undefined, unfocused requests. We need wisdom, patience, and, above all, increased Godliness. Climbing the mountain includes looking into mysterious fog-shrouded canyons. 

6) We do have needs. Firstly, after we leave for Iowa next week, a construction crew will be installing a loft in our studio. Since we live in 310 sq. ft., every inch gained is helpful. The construction and related cost will be around $6,000.00. Secondly, our traveling for Boston and Beyond is expensive and gifts towards our traveling/passage fund would help us.  Thirdly, we always need to maintain our monthly support needs and are, therefore, on the lookout for new financial partners. We are not actively pursuing deputation meetings, but if a church shows interest, we would be excited to present Boston and Beyond to that church family.  

7) Finally, many of you gave special gifts to us at Christmas time. Thank you so much. The gift is helpful, the charitable heart is life-giving.  

Things seem to have slowed down so that we can speed up. We are ascending a rough upward mountain trail, but the view from the top will be…. In the case of Boston and Beyond, it will be ten thriving discipleship centers/churches in ten cities ministering to ten civilizations the gospel of Jesus Christ. These will be places where all sorts of people find shelter, the rich and the poor, the educated person and the simple man, the sophisticated and the addicted, folks from all places and of all ethnicities—a little bit of the kingdom in the church.   

We love you,                                                       , 

Bill and Deb                         

2020-01-24        

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The Lamb of God

John 135 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). 

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 1:35–42). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

When John identified Jesus as the Lamb of God, he connected Jesus with the entire Old Testament, which explains in detail the need for a sacrifice to remove sin and to fix all things. John made it personal. Standing before them was the One who was the fulfillment of all their dreams and greatest needs.

The immediate response was to follow Jesus and learn of Him. This is also our choice–between each of us alone and our Creator, Savior God. Will we follow Him? Learn from Him? Notice in verse 42 how those who make a decision to follow Jesus are forever changed.

Introductory Things

I am writing this series of blog posts primarily to help a special friend, Habibi, to understand why God and the Bible are so essential to everything in my life. It is my fervent and continual steadfast prayer that my Habibi will grow to love God and His Word as I do.

It could be that these writings about my understanding of God and His Word, may help others as they seek God. It may also help some prepare to explain who God is and why it is important to pursue Him. That would be wonderful.

Before we start studying the Bible, we need to understand a few things about the Bible. The Bible contains sixty-six individual books, which together form one book. With many different authors, written over centuries, this library of books tells one unified story of God’s desire for mankind, the history of man’s rejection of God, and God’s sovereign efforts to fix the relationship between God and man. Interestingly, the history contained in the Bible stretches from the beginning of time into the time when all things have been set right between God and all things, including man and the created universe.

The Bible presents the story, not a story. It is the authoritative account by which all other accounts will be judged.

The main theme of the Bible is the reconciliation between God and man. That reconciliation is the central theme of the Bible may be understood by studying Luke 24:25-27,

And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that athe prophets have spoken! 26 “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

 New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Lk 24:25–27). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

We will study Luke 24 a bit more in the next post, but notice how Jesus reproves the foolishness of His disciples for not understanding that all Scriptures point to Him.

Application: As the Bible states, all of history is explained in the Bible. The central theme of the Bible is Jesus, the Savior of all those who believe. Those who follow Jesus receive special blessings from Him, Who made us to know Him and enjoy Him forever. Believe in and follow Jesus.

Our Creative God

Ge 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.

Bill: I am reminded that God is at the root of all things. There is no explanation, no meaning, no anything without God. In the beginning there was only God and from God came all things. How foolish it would be, then, to try and live life while ignoring God. Stated positively, if we begin with God, all things will be put into proper perspective (order), which will allow us to live our lives within the blessings of God.

3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

6 Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. 8 God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.

9 Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. 10 God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. 13 There was evening and there was morning, a third day.

14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. 16 God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. 17 God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. 19 There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.

20 Then God said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.” 21 God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.

24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind”; and it was so. 25 God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.

Bill: It must be understood that our creator God created all things in six literal days. We should learn from this that our God is all powerful, all knowing, and everywhere present (notice that the Spirit was hovering over the waters, which allowed God to organize the unorganized into a beautiful creation.) This also reveals our God to be the author of all things beautiful.

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Bill: Although all things are created by God, all things are not created equally. We (humankind) are created in the image of God. We are God’s special creation, created to enjoy God and serve Him forever. As His image bearers, we a have the privilege and responsibility to creatively and wisely manage the earth ethically, morally, firmly, and beautifully.

29 Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. 31 God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Bill: When God finished creating, He pronounced His finished product, “very good.” It is correct to say that at the completion of God’s creation, all things were perfect.

 New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ge 1:1–31). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

Application: All that we have is from God and belongs to God. He has given us the wonderful and awesome responsibility of managing His creation. What we have, we should manage for God. By doing so, we enjoy the blessing that is called life.


Psalm 27

27:title A Psalm of David.

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?

2 When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, my adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. 3 Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not fear; Though war arise against me, in spite of this I shall be confident.

4 One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple. 5 For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; in the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock.

6 And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me, and I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.

7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice, and be gracious to me and answer me. 8 When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.” 9 Do not hide Your face from me, do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my help; Do not abandon me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation! 10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me up.

11 Teach me Your way, O Lord, and lead me in a level path because of my foes. 12 Do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and such as breathe out violence.

13 I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

14 Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage;

Yes, wait for the Lord.

 New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ps 27:title–Ps 28). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.