THE Big Story

Here’s an interesting presentation of THE Big Story of God, humans, and the world:

Please bear in mind that this is a three-minute summary, so do give the presenter some leeway if he does not include some details we would prefer to see if we were the ones to present a Big Story 😉 .

What do you think?

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Note (added 10/10/08): This presentation was developed by James Choung, who explains it further here.

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Back from Davao; For My Classmates: Don Carson Links

I’m back from Davao where I taught a two-week summer class on the Old Testament prophets, at Koinonia Theological Seminary.

Davao is at the lower right corner of this map, while Manila is at the top half of the map. It’s about 961 km (597 miles) from Manila, 1hr 40mins by plane.

I promised my students I’d give them the links to a pages containing links to Dr. Donald Carson’s audio lectures and sermons. So, classmates, here they are:

D. A. Carson Audio sermons and lectures – Free from around the Web; and

D. A. Carson MP3s.

Dr. Carson is one of my favorite Christian scholars, and I highly recommend his books, commentaries, and audio lectures and sermons. Widely read, sharp intellect, and an able defender and promoter of the faith.

He has also preached at All Souls Church in London, which used to be headed by the Rev. Dr. John Stott. His sermons are excellent examples of solid exegesis and application. His messages at All Souls can be downloaded from their site. Just search for sermons by preacher, “Don Carson”.

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American Idols Shout to the Lord

I don’t really watch American Idol, so I missed the two episodes last week where, it turned out, the remaining contestants sang Darlene Zschech’s beautiful song Shout to the Lord.

I was just alerted to this through my favorite blog Parchment and Pen, which asked: What’s up with American Idol and Jesus? and posted a link to this YouTube video:

Maybe the program is just pandering to the strong conservative Christian market base, but that’s OK. Thanks be to God that praises to Jesus Christ are sung on US TV primetime.

(Seems that something happened behind the scenes, though, because the name “Jesus” was replaced by “Shepherd” in the first night’s performance, during the actual Idol Gives Back telecast. But the same song was sung again the following night, with the name “Jesus” placed back!)

Canadian Idol, on the other hand, seems to be already open to Christian songs. Their 2004 winner, the very talented Kalan Porter, performed this awesome number on that show, a moving rendition of MercyMe’s I Can Only Imagine:


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(Bonus clip 🙂 : Porter also sang this powerful song, for which a fan made a video montage on YouTube:)

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(Note: Wikipedia has a note about the performance of Shout to the Lord in last week’s Idol Gives Back show where the name “Jesus” was replaced by “Shepherd”, but was placed back in the following night’s repeat performance of the song. The Parchment and Pen post from which I got the original heads-up has interesting views on this from various commenters.)
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Life After Life After Death

Since I mentioned Easter in my last post, here’s a good “teaser” regarding the concept of resurrection, which I stumbled on just today: N. T. Wright on Resurrection.

Good comments by the readers at the end, too.

Quotable quotes from Bishop Wright (possible answers to the question Where do we go from here? 😉 ):

Heaven is important, but it’s not the end of the world.”

There is life after life after death.”

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I think the writer of the movie Gladiatormeant it in a different way, but the line that he gave for the character of Maximus is true: “What we do in this life will echo in eternity”.

God bless you, and by His grace and mercy grant you resurrection life through Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen.
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Judging God

Last March 16, my wife and I were guests on a radio show where we talked about Palm Sunday.

Palm Sunday is the first day of what Christians call the Holy Week, which culminates in Easter Sunday. We observe Holy Week every year to commemorate the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

On Palm Sunday, we celebrate that day when Jesus entered Jerusalem and was hailed by the people as a king. The people took off their robes and laid them on the road for Jesus’ donkey to walk on. They broke off branches of palm trees and likewise laid those on the road.

In the Gospel according to Matthew, the people shouted “Hosanna to the son of David!” They hailed Jesus as the descendant of the great king David, the greatest king the nation of Israel has ever had.

In Mark’s account, the people shouted “Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming!”

And according to Luke, the people shouted “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Clearly the people saw Jesus as the king-descendant of David, who would re-establish the kingdom of Israel and sit on David’s throne. He was the Messiah who had been proclaimed by the prophets and whom the nation had been waiting for for hundreds of years.

Finally the shame of Israel would be ended! Finally they would be a great kingdom again! Finally they would be able to throw off the shackles of the Roman empire!

This Jesus would be the one to lead them! This Jesus—his teachings and his mighty miracles for the past three years show that HE is the promised deliverer of the nation: the Christ, or Anointed One, Yeshua ha mashiach, Jesus the Messiah! This Jesus is THE Christ!

Less than one week later, they were shouting, “Crucify him!”

“Give us Barabbas! Crucify Jesus!”

What happened?

Expectations.

They had expected a human king who would help them overthrow the Gentile colonizers.

He had come to destroy the powers of Satan, the usurper. He had come to overthrow the ruler of this world [1]. But that wasn’t what they expected, and that wasn’t what they wanted.

That still isn’t what most people want.

Because of His miracles, they thought they could expect Him to feed them forever [2]. They didn’t understand, nor did they care, that He had come to give them more than physical bread and more than physical water. He had come down from heaven as the bread of life [3], and he assured them that whoever came to Him for drink would never thirst again [4]. But that wasn’t what they wanted.

Most people still don’t care for those.

He had come to deliver them from sin and death. They expected to be delivered from the Romans and from poverty.

Then they woke up on Friday to see that this supposed Messiah had been arrested and tortured by the Romans, handed over to the conquerors by their own religious leaders. And he couldn’t say anything in his own defense, couldn’t call on an armed group to try to free him.

What kind of liberator is that? What kind of Messiah is that?

So when their religious authorities told them to ask that the Zealot Barabbas be released instead of this pretender Jesus, well—at least that one had tried to do his part in overthrowing the hated Romans.

“Give us Barabbas! Crucify Jesus!”

They judged and evaluated God, and rejected Him when He didn’t meet their expectations.

Until now—people still stand in judgment of God. The created still evaluates the Creator.

And when He does not meet their expectations, they reject Him. They prefer “saviors” who would save and feed them in ways they expect and understand. They create their own gods, according to their own expectations, according to their own image.

Almighty God has very graciously revealed Himself to us through His prophets, through the Scriptures, and ultimately through His own Son [5], but humans prefer their own imaginations over the divine revelation.

In his post The Gospel According to Oprah?, Pastor Eyriche Cortez cites the story of the “world’s most powerful woman” being turned off by the revelation that God is a jealous God—she then proceeded to look for a god whom she would be more comfortable with.

According to the story [6], she judged God, found that the revelation He gave about Himself in the Bible did not meet her expectations and preferences, and decided that the God of the Bible was not the true God.

She is not alone in this.

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To be continued…

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[1] cf. John 12:31
[2] cf. John 6:1-26
[3] John 6:35
[4] John 4:14; 7:37-38
[5] Hebrews 1:1-4
[6] I found the original version of this Oprah story here. Check it out. Worth reading.

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This is Part 1 of a series. Other posts in this series:

Part 2: Original Sin

Part 3: To Understand, Stand Under

Part 4: Dying for Rebels
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“A Bad Smell”

God is good!

Our project was enthusiastically received by our client’s transformation officers (TO’s). These TO’s would be in charge of training the project officers who, in turn, would lead the organization’s tens of thousands of clients in Bible studies all over the country (the organization is a coalition of 11 Christian microfinance organizations with branches all over the Philippines).

They all agreed that the Bible study materials/devotionals which Perry developed would be very helpful in enabling them to provide a holistic ministry to the micro-entrepreneur clients—not just helping them in terms of providing loans and business and management skills training, but also in terms of sharing spiritual blessings with them.

The TOs’ enthusiasm was further boosted by reports from field tests, where random samples of clients were asked to read and study the materials, which we have entitled Gawaing Bahay (Household Work).

A great majority of the clients are mothers who are borrowing money in order to set up small businesses that can augment the family income.

One mother said that, in all her 43 years, she had never read the Bible. She thought that it had nothing to teach her. Besides, she thought that she could never have the time. But when she read the Gawaing Bahay material, she realized that the Bible was very relevant to her life, and could actually be appreciated even if read for only short chunks of time in the midst of her very busy schedule as mother, housewife, and microentrepreneur. Now she is motivated to study it along with the Gawaing Bahay as guide.

Another said that the Gawaing Bahay materials, which draw lessons from ordinary household work such as doing the laundry, cooking, sewing, etc., gave dignity to her routine housework, a perspective which she never had before.

Our client has already bought 30,000 copies of the Tagalog version for distribution to their microentrepreneur clients. We are now in the process of translating the Tagalog into Ilonggo, Cebuano, and Ilokano, three other major Philippine languages. We are also polishing the English version, which we will also print soon.

Below is an excerpt from the English draft of Devotional #4 of Gawaing Bahay (the Bible verses are taken from Today’s English Version):

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A Bad Smell
(Devotions 4)

If clothes are not washed well, they will have a bad smell. One day, I was folding the clothes that had been washed. While doing this, I smelled the clothes. One sock didn’t smell good. I asked myself, “How come? This is the only one that doesn’t smell good. All the others are okay.”

Probably it was because the sock was thick and black. Maybe I didn’t scrub it well, thinking that it was black anyway and any remaining dirt wouldn’t be noticed. But I was wrong. Maybe the dirt couldn’t be seen, but the uncleanness can be smelled! So I soaked it again in laundry detergent, and this time I scrubbed and rinsed it well. When it was dry, I held it to my nose and smelled it again. “Hmmm,” I said, “Now that smells good.” Since then, I have been more careful in washing black clothes to make sure that they will not smell bad.

Dirt in dark clothes may not be noticeable. But you cannot hide it even if the color of the clothes is dark, because it will smell. Sin is also like that: it smells bad even when it is not easily seen. This is why we cannot say that we can hide our sins because no one knows what we do in secret anyway. We should be more careful of secret sins because some day it will smell—and then what a shame it will be!

The Bible says that we ourselves are the ones who suffer when we know that we have done wrong and yet refuse to admit it.

But you know, God “does the laundry” very well. He knows everything about us—even sins done in secret. If you will only listen to Him, He will make you realize those sins so that you can allow Him to wash them away. He does not want to leave you smelling bad!

Things to Think About or Do:

(1) This is very personal, and you do not have to share this with anybody: Is there anything in your life which you know is wrong but which you do not want to let go?

(2) Would you like to spend some time, maybe 15-30 minutes, talking to God about it?

 “Hmmm, newly washed clothes really smell good!” That’s what we want, right? That is why we look for detergent soap and fabric softeners that will not only clean our clothes, but also leave them smelling clean. We feel good when our clothes smell clean, and we feel confident when we wear them.

A life surrendered to Christ smells clean. When we allow Jesus Christ to cleanse us from our sin, and specially when we serve Him, our lives “smell good” not only for God, but also for other people:

God uses us to make the knowledge about Christ spread everywhere like a sweet fragrance. For we are like a sweet-smelling incense offered by Christ to God, which spreads among those who are being saved and those who are being lost.
—2 Cor. 2:14-15

God is so good to cleanse us. He knows that we will only be truly happy when we are clean. You might want to use the following Psalm as a prayer to God:

Be merciful to me, O God,
     because of your constant love.
Because of your great mercy
     wipe away my sins!
Wash away all my evil
     and make me clean from my sin!

I recognize my faults;
     I am always conscious of my sins.
I have sinned against you—only against you—
     and done what you consider evil.
So you are right in judging me;
     you are justified in condemning me.
I have been evil from the day I was born;
     from the time I was conceived, I have been sinful.

Sincerity and truth are what you require;
     fill my mind with your wisdom.
Remove my sin, and I will be clean;
     wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear the sounds of joy and gladness;
     and though you have crushed me and broken me,
I will be happy once again.
Close your eyes to my sins
     and wipe out all my evil.

Create a pure heart in me, O God,
     and put a new and loyal spirit in me.
Do not banish me from your presence;
     do not take your holy spirit away from me.
Give me again the joy that comes from your salvation,
     and make me willing to obey you.

Then I will teach sinners your commands,
     and they will turn back to you.

Spare my life, O God, and save me,
     and I will gladly proclaim your righteousness.
Help me to speak, Lord,
     and I will praise you.
—Psalm 51:1-15

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God is so good and gracious to allow us to participate in a great work that He is about to do among our countrymen. All praises, thanks, honor and glory be to Him!

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Michael Card

Still VERY busy. And nervous: our project will launch tomorrow. God is good!

I want so much to post something about faith. I have been thinking about what faith in God means. I was stimulated not just by the reactions to my posts, but also by the post Can I Just Define “Faith” However I Please? and the reactions to it in Reclaiming the Mind, and also by the latest posts and comments in Johnshoreland such as this and this. Lord willing, I might be able to find some time to write on this next week.

In the meantime, while searching yesterday for a completely different set of videos, I came across a set of Michael Card vids on YouTube. He’s simply amazing, a truly gifted artist, excellent poet and songwriter. I’ve been a fan for more than ten years now, but yesterday was the first time I saw song videos from him, and I was really blessed.

Michael’s so good I just have to share the following, even while I still don’t have time to write down my thoughts on faith. I’m sure you’ll be blessed, too. (There are more Michael Card song videos posted on YouTube, but I just chose these three for this post.)

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Immanuel

A sign shall be given:
a virgin will conceive
a human baby bearing undiminished deity.

The glory of the nations,
a light for all to see,
a hope for all who will embrace His warm reality.

Immanuel! Our God is with us! …


So what will be your answer?
Oh, will you hear the call
of Him who did not spare His Son
but gave Him for us all?

On earth there is no power,
there is no depth or height
that will ever separate us
from the love of God in Christ!

Immanuel! Our God is with us!
And if God is with us,
who could stand against us?
Our God is with us! Immanuel!

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Why?

Why did it have to be a friend
who chose to betray the Lord? …

And why did there have to be a thorny crown pressed upon His head?
It should have been a royal one made of jewels and gold instead. …

Why did there have to be a heavy cross He was made to bear?
And why did they nail His feet and hands?
His love would have held Him there! …

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Love Crucified Arose

Long ago He blessed the earth,
born older than the years.
And in the stall across He saw
through the first of many tears.

A life of homeless wandering,
cast out on sorrow’s way.
The shepherd seeking for the lost,
His life the price He paid.

Love crucified arose!
The Risen One in splendor!
Jehovah’s sole defender
has won the victory!

Love crucified arose!
And the grave became a place of hope,
for the heart that sin and sorrow broke
is beating once again!

Throughout Your life You felt the weight
of what You’ve come to give—
to drink for us that crimson cup,
so we might really live.

At last the time to love and die,
the dark appointed day,
that one forsaken moment when
Your Father turned His face away!

Love crucified arose!
The One who lived and died for me,
was Satan’s nail-pierced casualty.
Now He’s breathing once again!

Love crucified arose!
And the grave became a place of hope,
for the heart that sin and sorrow broke
is beating once again!

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May you all have a special experience of God’s amazing love this week. God bless you!

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