In China

•January 17, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I guess you’ve noticed that I haven’t updated here lately. I have an excuse. I’ve been in China, and next month I’ll return for full-time language studies. I’ve been blogging here, and I’ve cut and pasted this from my first post on that site:

After many years of schooling and pastoral ministry, I’m changing gears. On November 10th, Lord willing, I’ll depart for Shanghai, China, to explore opportunities to learn Chinese for the eventual resumption of graduate studies, this time in Asian Christianity. I hope to spend a week or two in Shanghai, several weeks in Nanjing (a former capital and home of the national seminary), and a day or two with a friend in Hefei before returning for family Christmas in Pennsylvania. [as it turns out, I also visited Beijing, Tianjin, and Qingdao]

January and February will likely be a time of finalizing plans to return to China with an educational visa (or a work visa if I acclimate through English teaching), visiting family and friends, and making long-term arrangements for my house, car, and finances here. When the new Chinese semester begins in late February, I hope to dive right in.

I appreciate your support and prayers. Please visit this site, my Twitter page, and my Facebook page to know how best to pray for me. To track the progress of the new church here in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania for whom I offer the sincerest prayers for success, please also visit Riverbend’s site. My profile (which can be retrieved from the sidebar) may be useful to potential patrons, and my email address remains May God bless you all.


God bless.


Realistic Reversal

•May 7, 2009 • 2 Comments

If the Western Church’s current decline is reversed, it won’t be through the efforts of the Western Church. The Western Church won’t make the effort, and God is jealous of the credit. Any reversal– and oh! the project that would be in this narcissistic, fast-paced, sex-crazed, skeptical, irreverent, individualistic, info-overwhelmed age– will be the decided intervention of a sovereign God.

Like my friend Richey used to say, “we have to come to the end of ourselves.” I imagine God saying, “Chill out! I got this.”

Kids and Kites

•March 25, 2009 • 2 Comments

Nicer weather has energized my neighborhood’s children. A few doors down, they play-fight. Two go at it while others shout from a porch and take their turns. At other times, they throw or kick balls around the cars. Some of them skateboard. Today, as I prepared for my run, my attention was drawn to a new activity.

The little girl across the street ran up and down the sidewalk with a homemade kite. Running back and forth, she tried to get her little invention airborn. It looked well-crafted. Fishing line for string. Streamer for a tail. But the houses blocked the wind. The tree caught her line. Still she persisted.

There’s something invigorating about the coming of spring. Like my neighbor girl, I am encouraged to press on, anxiously anticipating the result.

Impartial Benevolence

•March 24, 2009 • 4 Comments

I enjoyed a lecture at Lehigh University tonight. The presenter, Professor John Hare of Yale University, did a particularly good job of drawing our attention to the idea of impartial benevolence–its source, the implications of its demands, its relationship to our own desire for self-satisfaction. Several parts of the discussion seemed particularly pertinent.

His description of the concept of impartial benevolence was good. Deciding whether to purchase a nine-dollar movie ticket requires consideration that the same nine dollars could allow someone in a poverty-stricken country like Zambia to live for a week. Impartial benevolence, which seems to be a largely universal standard and is often framed in Good Samaritan terminology, requires one to extract himself from the situation and determine whether to purchase the ticket irrespective of his role as either the purchaser or the starving Zambian.

That’s clear, but painful. A tension exists between this ideal and our capacity for its accomplishment. Our desire for impartial benevolence competes with our desire for self-satisfaction (and the satisfaction of those close to us). Of course, theism offers a solution here.

Another interesting discussion revolved around the source of this Good Samaritan ideal. Although Professor Hare was unaware of examples from the animal kingdom of benevolence for creatures outside of one’s community group (and thus of an evolutionary origin), several questioners pressed this. Could the idea of impartial benevolence be the step in evolution that allows our species to exist despite its capacity for self-destruction? Could the idea of impartial benevolence–and thus of Good Samaritans–be the invention of those who believe that the construction of such indivuals benefits the larger society? Great interactions.

In the end, Professor Hare, although allowing for non-theistic incentives to act impartially benevolent, conveyed Kant’s sense that non-theistic alternatives are “rationally unstable.” It is God who presents mankind with the notion of impartial benevolence and offers a clear path toward its realization. Super.

Bad Hood

•March 11, 2009 • 3 Comments

Walking to the Dunkin’ Donuts tonight, I noticed that someone had spray-painted “EVIL WARRIOR” on a wall in three-foot letters. I don’t usually walk that way, so I was a little startled. Until I got here to the Dunkin’ Donuts and overheard a nursing home worker telling the cashier something worse.

Evidently, one of her co-workers discovered a bunch of guys sleeping in one of their rooms last night. They had broken a window and had been occupying the room for some time. She’s understandably afraid to go back to work tonight.

Responding to people using laundry machines as toilets, my laudromat’s janitor summed it up, “You wonder why I don’t want to live in this neighborhood no more.” I sure don’t wonder.

GGPR: The Grateful Recognition of His Greatness

•March 9, 2009 • Leave a Comment

GGPR, “God’s Great Passions Realized,” is the most succinct way I know to express the purpose of existence. From time to time, I’ll explore these great, mysterious passions and contemplate their transmission through new creations whose hearts, thanks to Christ’s initiation of the New Covenant, long to live them out.

Prepare for Impact

All that is good and right originates with our wholly good and right God. Therefore, he appropriately wants everything and everyone everywhere to recognize and extol his greatness. For Him to desire otherwise would be wrong. And for us to give this recognition to anything or anyone else is equally wrong. Consequently, God reveals himself in the Scriptures as a jealous God–jealous of the worship and glorification that are rightfully his:

“I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another.” Isaiah 42:8

“You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God.” Deuteronomy 5:7-9

“Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm: Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself? Do you have an arm like God’s, and can your voice thunder like his? Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor, and clothe yourself in honor and majesty. Unleash the fury of your wrath, look at every proud man and bring him low, look at every proud man and humble him, crush the wicked where they stand. Bury them all in the dust together; shroud their faces in the grave. Then I myself will admit to you that your own right hand can save you.” Job 40:6-14

“Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.” Psalm 150:6

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” I Corinthians 10:31

If you’re a believer, please deliberate here. Mull over a God who is passionate about the grateful recognition of his greatness.

Begin Transmission

A believer is a new creation whose heart of stone has been exchanged for a heart replete with God’s passions (Jer. 33:33) that insists on their expression (Ez. 36:26-27). Community is God’s safeguard to protect this transmission from the residual effects of the fall. Dream with me of God’s great passion for the grateful recognition of his greatness expressed in these four areas:

  • Your Private Life. Confess any areas in your life where God is not ultimate. Look out for areas where you syphon the worship that God deserves. Confess places where you’ve doubted his greatness. Reflect on areas in your own life where the greatness of God has been clearly manifest. Discover his greatness in the Bible. Prayerfully depend on God to transform your thinking where this is necessary. See whether your bank account and calendar support your profession of God’s preeminence.
  • Your Circles of Influence. Praise God in the words you speak. Live your life in such a way that others can witness your belief that he is ultimate and worthy of your confidence. Model for your spouse and children God’s priority in your life–read your Bible more and engage in distractions less. Help those you love to identify areas where they are treating other things as ultimate.
  • Your Church Family. Pay attention to the words you sing during worship–close your eyes if you must. Make those words your declaration. Sacrifice for causes that promote the recognition of his greatness. Beware of the tendency to approach church as a consumer.
  • A Needy World. Pray for the success of the Gospel overseas. Contribute to churches and ministries that will expose dark areas to the greatness of God. Volunteer in ministries that spread the Word of God.

This is just a list. Listen to your heart. Perhaps you should write these four headings on your notepad or your computer screen and ask God to help you fill them in yourself. But always filter your heart’s leading through a community of God-fearing believers. Then act.

Below are some ideas how a partnership like Riverbend might facilitate the realization of these passions:

Continue reading ‘GGPR: The Grateful Recognition of His Greatness’

Slavery, Anyone?

•March 6, 2009 • 1 Comment

I’ve dedicated my life to reversing the decline of the Western Church. If you’re not concerned about that, could you please do something about slavery?

27 million people are owned by other people, and being a possession must really, really suck. Many of them are children, and many of their owners use them as sex receptacles, forced laborers, and armed combatants. Our problems look foolish in comparison.

Consider that your whole life could have been spent in slavery. You, the possession of a heartless master. Every day. No exceptions. I assume you’d prefer the life you’ve lived. My life is being used elsewhere. Could you please give yours to this?


Rereading this post with fresh eyes, I’ve recognized my condescending tone. Please forgive me for that. I’m still growing, and there’s no good reason for me to communicate my burden for the Western Church and other imperatives in that way.