"As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, and its place acknowledges it no longer.
But the lovingkindness of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him..."
~Psalm 103:15-17a

Bits and Pieces 6

Well, there have been six classes since I last posted about what I've learned in class.  So, here are some of the highlights from those six classes:

  • Jim Amandus taught the book of Psalms.  He did a great job teaching the "intellectual" aspect of the psalms as well as emphasizing the poetry and the artistic aspects.  At the beginning of each class (except for the first two), a group of students got up to lead us in meditating on a psalm.  There were a lot of creative ideas.  Most of them involved power point presentations, reading the psalm or singing a song.  One presentation, though, really did an amazing job.  They acted out the skit "Everything" (you can see one version here) and they did a superb job of acting it out.  I think it was at least as good if not better than the original one.  Anyway, here are some things I learned from that class:

    • To encounter a psalm, you must take time in reading it to feel what the author is feeling - to understand the emotion - and to appreciate its beauty and message.

    • In reading through the Psalms (and other of the wisdom literature in the Bible), it's important to understand that the ancient wise man reasoned from life to show people why it makes sense to follow God - they operate in the realm of natural revelation.  In addition, it's also important to note that ancient wise men have no problem with generalizations or with emotions.  In other words, while Psalm 22:1 asks why God has forsaken the psalmist, the psalmist knows that in reality God has not forsaken him and is indeed with him during his trial.  However, he is writing about how he was feeling at the time, and thus does accurately reflect his emotions.

    • The importance of confessing your sin: be honest about it, confess to those you have offended, and confess the root causes of your sin to God.

  • During the same week, Dave Childers taught a class on World Religions.  It was helpful to learn more about Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Chinese Religions.  I appreciated the perspective of the class.  The "theme" of the class was "A vision of the heart of God breaking for the lost."  The purpose for our study was to gain an understanding to provoke informed prayer, and to prepare us to share Christ.  In addition, he pointed out that "we desire to study without being overly critical and yet recognize that there is truth."

  • "Marriage and Dating" was taught by Dave Duff, the director of Ecola.  There was a lot of information in this class.  A lot about marriage, how God designed marriage, roles in marriage, the differences between men and women, dating, and even children!  I particularly enjoyed hearing about the differences between men and women...some of it fit in with what I already knew, and some of it was new to me.  I found it fascinating how the differences that we have complement each other and how a husband and wife can really work well together because of those differences.

  • Chris Adsit (who, by the way, worked at Cannon Beach Conference Center with my mom in the summer of '76) taught a class on Personal Disciplemaking:

    • "Christianity is perceived by most Americans as...irrelevant.  It's losing influence because we don't merge faith and life outside of church" ~George Barna

    • "Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ." ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

    • We can' t just convert people and leave it at that.  We must help them mature - disciple them.

    • Definition of a disciple: "A person-in-process eager to learn and apply the truths that Jesus Christ teaches him/her, resulting in ever-deepening commitments to Christ and to a Christ-like lifestyle."

    • "A disciple is a 'person-in-process' moving toward ever-deepening commitments to Christ.  The state of being a disciple is an attitude that involves a growth process.  If you are not learning and growing, you are not a disciple."

    • Disciplemaking is "any time one person intentionally helps another person learn a little more about or become a little more like Jesus Christ."

    • Discipleship can happen in a large group context, a small group context or in one-to-one context.  Or in all three.  Each have different strengths and weaknesses, and it would probably be best if a disciple was involved in all three.

    • "Never attempt to make anyone become like yourself.  God knows and you know that one of you is enough." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

    • Prayer is vitally important in the process of making disciples.  As Chris Adsit said, "Partner with the One who can control the hearts of men."

    • "We are no more able to cause growth than we are able to cause conversion.  Pray early, often, long and late.  Prayer isn't part of the ministry, it is the ministry; everything else is mop-up.  Most of the actual, effectual work of the ministry will be accomplished on your knees."

    • The relationship between disciple and discipler is also important: "Most things of importance are better caught than taught."

    • But, "many other important things must be taught before they can be caught."  Content is also very important.

  • This past week, we studied the book of Proverbs with Dr. Mike Roth.

    • He talked about the two main themes in the book: Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly.  Both of them are calling to us - which one will we follow?  Following Lady Folly results in death, but following Lady Wisdom results in life and understanding.

    • We discussed how we need to be teachable.  Am I wise when someone corrects me, or am I a scoffer?  Do I dishoner the one who corrects me?  Do I make excuses or insult the one correcting me?  Instead I should love the one correcting me, become wiser and learn more.

    • Proverbs 10:19 - one way to avoid sin is to talk a lot less.

    • Proverbs 18:13 - we must listen - really listen - to what others have to say; and we should not make a judgement before hearing both sides (Proverbs 18:17)

  • And finally, we had Mark Burch teaching Ephesians:

    • "If you can change what someone believes, you can change everything.  If you don't change their beliefs, you won't change anything else, either."

    • "A productive Christian behavior system is the product of a solid Christian belief system, not the other way around!"

    • "What's the big deal about grace?  It challenges most religious assumptions and changes the focus from me to God - not 'what can I do to earn God's favor?' but ' what has God done?'"

    • "In the gospel, we discover that we are far worse off than we thought, and far more loved than we ever dreamed." ~Steven Curtis Chapman

    • "The greatest deception of the enemy is to tell us that God cannot use us until we have our own act together."  God uses weak people; we are more useful to God when we're weak, because then we have to rely on God.

    • "The unified, trained body of Christ is the most powerful expression of God on teh face of the earth." ~Bill Hull

    • If you are a believer and you are not using your gifts, you are hurting other believers.

    • Money - materialism - is probably our biggest idol; it is the only area of life we are told to test God in, and most people are not willing to do it.

    • "Biblical submission: a willingness to yield my life, my desire, my plans, to God's design - to His will and His Word."

    • We are living in a war zone - why are we living for fun and entertainment?

    • We equip ourselves for the battle on our knees.  Prayer is the work of the church.

    • Every single great revival began with prayer.

    • The enemy has us deceived that prayer won't work.

    • What are you living for?  What is your purpose in life?  When you get to the end of your life, will you wish you had done more?

I know these are all kind of random...they are just some various thoughts that stick out to me as I go back through my notes.  But, I'm doing this more for my own sake - to think through the classes again and have another copy of the things I've learned - than for anything else.  Looking forward to next week's classes: 1st Thessalonians and Christology!  Should be good!  Oh, and the Day of Prayer for Ecola is on Tuesday!  Definitely looking forward to that!

The Tragic Issue of Slavery


It brings to mind appalling, gruesome, hideous crimes committed against people made in the image of God.  And it's over now.  William Wilberforce, Abraham Lincoln and many others worked hard and diligently - sometimes at great cost to themselves - to free the slaves.  We still have some repercussions to deal with, even years later, but for the most part the issue of slavery is a shameful part of history that we can look back on as an example of the atrocities that one human can commit against another.  It's over now, though, right?

Wrong.  Slavery, repellent and horrifying as it is, is still in full force.  In fact, there is evidence to suggest that there is more slavery in the world today than there was during the time of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.  It is estimated that there are more than 27 million slaves around the world.  On Wednesday, Ecola Bible School brought in a guest speaker from International Justice Mission to present the film "Call and Response."  While I knew a bit about this problem of human trafficking and slavery, I didn't know the extent of it.  There are children being forced into the military in Africa, people taken as slaves and forced to work without pay, girls being kidnapped, raped and sold as sex slaves.  And it's not just happening in other countries, but even right here in America.  The statistics are horrifying:

  • In 1850, the average slave in the south cost about $40,000 in today's money.  Today, a slave costs an average of $90.  Since buying a person is so cheap, they are considered "disposable" - there is no real concern for their well-being because it would be so cheap to replace them (info taken from Free the Slaves website).

  • "Nearly 2 million children are exploited in the commercial sex industry." (taken from International Justice Mission's website)

  • Human trafficking is the world's third largest criminal enterprise, after weapons and drugs (from IJM)

  • With the earthquake in Haiti, the door is wide open for many of the women and children there to be kidnapped and forced into slavery (see this article).

To get a good idea of the widespread problem of human trafficking, read this report from the US Department of State.  I highly encourage you to read through this report.  At the very least, skim through the stories in the introduction.  Here are a couple stories and some other info that really struck me.  (Not for children to read.)

Marlena traveled to the Persian Gulf to earn money for her family as a domestic servant in a wealthy household. Instead of a room of her own, Marlena slept on the kitchen floor and worked 20 hours every day of the week serving the family. The employer’s wife confiscated her passport the day she arrived and forbade her from ever leaving the house. The family locked her inside whenever they left. The employer’s wife beat her and called her names when she did not work hard enough. When Marlena tried to run away, the employer told her that she would be arrested for leaving the house without permission. Though the recruitment agent promised her $200 per week, Marlena was never paid by her employers. After eight months, Marlena escaped, but once on the street, the police found and arrested her for running away from her employer. She sat in a deportation center for two years, waiting for her sponsor to grant her permission to leave the country.

.    .    .

At just 17-years-old, Maryam dreamed of a better future than her life in Kazakhstan. A man paid her parents $300 and forged a passport so that she could work in Russia as a shop assistant. When she arrived in Russia, the shop turned out to be a locked cell with barred windows and a metal door. After the armed guards told her she would be used as a prostitute, rather than a shop assistant, she said: “I refused by saying that they could do anything they want, but I wouldn’t be a prostitute. I was punished for that. I was beaten up, raped, and starved. In five days I gave up.”

.    .    .

The explosion of the Internet and the growing use of digital cameras and cell phone cameras have given perpetrators additional tools to victimize children. Predators are going online to share stories, trade child pornography, and plan sex tours. Sex tourists use chat rooms, message boards, peer-to-peer file-sharing servers, news groups, and specialized Web sites to obtain information on potential destinations. One disturbing activity is the establishment of “cyber-sex” dens where some children may be sexually abused by a foreign pedophile and the images beamed via a webcam to the Internet. Payment to watch these live “shows” is often made by a credit card via an Internet connection.

There is so much information...so much to process...and where do we even start to make a difference in this?  Well, I have a few suggestions, and will hopefully have more in the coming weeks, as I meet with some friends to pray and research how we can help.  But please, whatever you do, don't just go away and forget all of this.  We must do something.  Every little bit helps.

  • While this is all overwhelming to us, we have access to the One who can make a change.  God is all-powerful and able to do anything, and we have the privilege of being able to come before Him with our requests.  To get ideas of how to pray, you can sign up for the IJM weekly prayer update here.

  • Put this phone number in your cell phone: 1-888-3737-888.  This is the National Human Trafficking Hotline that you can call anytime you suspect a case of human trafficking.  Go to their website to learn more.

  • Talk to others about it.  The more people are aware of the problem, the more we will be able to do to help, and the more effect we will have.

At this point, I'm in the "depressed" stage: I have been learning all this information about modern slavery and the horrific things being done to people, who are made in God's image, and I don't really know what to do.  I feel overwhelmed, and my heart breaks for the people, especially the children, and all the women forced into prostitution.  Please pray with me for the many people in slavery, for the victims who have been rescued, for the people working to free them, and for justice to prevail.

"Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters"

He forms the mountains and creates the wind.

He declares to man what is his thought.

He makes the morning darkness.

He treads on the heights of the earth.

The LORD, the God of hosts, is His name!

He made the Pleiades and Orion.

He turns deep darkness into morning.

He calls for the waters of the sea,

And pours them out on the surface of the earth.

The LORD, the God of hosts, is His name!

The LORD God is the One who rescued you

and delivered you

and redeemed you

out of the land of Egypt.

The LORD God is the One who led you,

and protected you

and provided for you

during forty years in the wilderness.

The LORD God is the One who went before you

and fought for you

and drove out the Amorites

so you could possess the land.

You, O Judah, and you, O Israel,

Alone are the ones that God has chosen.

From among all the families on earth,

The LORD, the God of hosts, has chosen you.

Yet you, O Judah, have rejected the law of the Lord.

And you, O Israel, sell the righteous for silver.

You trample the head of the poor into the dust.

You commanded the prophets not to prophesy.

"I sent famine on the land, yet you did not return to Me.

I withheld the rain, yet you did not return to Me.

I struck you with blight and mildew, yet you did not return to Me.

I sent the locust to devour your crops, yet you did not return to Me.

I sent pestilence among you, yet you did not return to Me.

I killed your young men with the sword, yet you did not return to Me.

"So I will send a fire upon Judah,

And it shall devour the strongholds of Jerusalem.

No one shall be able to escape,

An adversary shall surround the land

And bring down your defenses

Your strongholds shall be plundered.

"I hate, I despise your feasts.

I will not accept your burnt offerings.

I will not accept your grain offerings.

I will not even look on your peace offerings.

Take away from Me the noise of your songs.

I won't listen to the melody of your harp.

"But let justice roll down like waters,

And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."

Seek good and not evil that you may live,

That the LORD, the God of hosts may be with you.

Hate evil and love good and establish justice.

It may be that the LORD, the God of hosts will be gracious to you.

"I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob.

The days are coming when I shall restore

The fortunes of My people Israel

They shall rebuild the ruined cities and dwell in them.

They shall plant vineyards and drink the wine.

They shall make gardens and eat their fruit

I will plant them on their land

And they shall never be uprooted."

This is a poem I put together from the book of Amos in the Old Testament.  I was reading through it recently and struck with how it shows how great God is and how the Israelites flagrantly disregarded His laws.  It really shows the justice of God in punishing them.  Some of this is directly quoted from Amos, while some is a paraphrase.

Personal Evangelism and Ancient Hebrew Apocolyptic Literature (Bits and Pieces 5)

This past week we had two classes: Personal Evangelism and the book of Daniel (also known as the study of Ancient Hebrew Apocolyptic Literature).  The classes were wonderful - I learned so much.  Now it's time to process the classes a bit by dumping it all out on you, my readers.

Personal Evangelism (taught by Dr. Dan Clausen):

  • Evangelism is:

    • (according to a former student of the teacher), "the awkward duty that none of us wants to do."

    • proclaiming the good news of life in Christ and telling what Christ has done for us.

    • the "winning" part of making disciples

    • clearly communicating the good news of Jesus Christ and leaving the results up to Him.

    • being a witness of what Christ has done in your own life.

    • sharing your love for God with someone who does not yet know Him.

    • bringing life to dead people.

  • We don't go into marriage asking what the minimum is to do to stay married.  Why do we do that when we get into a relationship with God?

  • Why should we tell people about Christ?  Because we love God.  If we love God, we will care about the things He cares about.

  • Evangelism is moving people toward Christ, and discipleship is moving people closer to Christ.

  • "You impress people from a distance; you influence them from up close."

  • "God wants us to understand and accept God's grace so we can give it to others."

  • "Only 6% of young people [my generation] go to church."

  • "Our role in witnessing is to clearly and concisely present Christ; God's role is to convict the spiritually lost of sin and convince them of their need for Him."

  • "Our role in witnessing is to call people to respond to the message; God's role is to draw the spiritually dead to Himself and give them life."

Daniel (taught by Josh Duff):

  • As a random fact, Josh told us that defenestration is "the act of throwing a thing or especially a person out the window."

  • In Daniel 1:2, it says that God gave Judah, along with some of the things from the temple, into Nebuchadnezzar's hand; how ironic, that Nebuchadnezzar probably took those things from the temple to show that he had conquered God.

  • Why do we call Daniel's three friends by the pagan names that the Babylonians gave them?  We should practice calling them by their Hebrew names, which have significant meaning (e.g. Hananiah means "Lord, show us grace") instead of by their pagan names that refer to pagan gods (e.g. Shadrach means "under command of Aku").

  • Did you know that Daniel was probably 18-20 when he interpreted Nebuchadnezzar's first dream?  You know, the time when Nebuchadnezzar was going to have all the wise men of the kingdom killed (including Daniel and his friends) and Daniel saved all their lives?  Wow.  Talk about impressive.  Especially when you look at what 18-20 year olds are typically doing today.

  • I love what Josh pointed out in chapter three about the fiery furnace.  Nebuchadnezzar prepared this event to glorify himself; instead, God used it to magnify Himself greatly - and in front of hundreds of people, too!

  • Daniel 4:17 - "The Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind" (NASB) - the theme of the book of Daniel.

  • In Daniel chapter 6, Josh pointed out that prayer is a regular part of Daniel's life.  The first thing he thought to do when he heard about the law was to pray about it - the very thing that was illegal to do!

  • Throughout the book, there are a couple of things that really stood out to me.  First of all, God's sovereignty - He knows what is going to happen in the future (see all the prophecy in the book - so much of which has already taken place), and is in complete control of all situations.  Secondly, the courage of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azaraiah.  They didn't compromise in anything, but followed their God whole-heartedly.  May I follow their example.