Walking in the Word


Preachers wrestle a professional hazard; relegating endeavor in God’s Word to the relentless quest for the next scintillating sermon.  Like any believer, it is incumbent to spend time daily in God’s Word simply to hear His voice, grow in grace, and heed His Spirit.  I’m normal; I have to work at this discipline.

At the time of this writing, in my routine of personal Scripture reading, I am working through Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible.  It deals extensively with the value and practical benefit of God’s Word.  

Today, verse 47-48 uniquely caught my attention.   
47 
I shall delight in Your commandments,
Which I love.
48 
And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments,
Which I love;
And I will meditate on Your statutes.

Did you notice the repetition?  Somebody shared that if something is repeated, it’s important.  (Then, they said it again, to underscore the point.)  When I started university, I had no idea how to succeed.  Wise counsel advised, “If the Professor repeats something, write it down, you’ll see it a third time; on the exam.”  A familiar method of Hebraic instruction, which Jesus regularly employed, was simple repetition.  “Truly, truly” waved a flag to catch our eye and open our ears.  Paul wasn’t fooling when he wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice!”

Twice the Psalmist speaks about honoring God’s commandments, inserting the editorial assessment, “which I love”.  Don’t miss it.  Oft times when we hear God’s commandments, we view them an irritation, restriction, or imposition.  The Psalmist is elevating our hearts and our game to a higher plane.  This writer, who also penned, “I delight to do Thy will” is echoing the sentiment of the Apostle John who wrote, “His commandments are not burdensome”.  

When you love the Lord, you love His Word and you love His ways.  Let’s give specific application.  Scripture unashamedly commands us to:
  • Give our money generously
  • Forgive an old enemy willingly
  • Keep ourselves pure sexually
  • Gather for worship regularly
  • Serve the Lord joyfully

That’s just a few pump primers.  

When you and I hear those Bible commands, we experience three possible visceral responses: we can loathe them, leave them, or live them.  If you love God, you love His commandments.  Conversely, when you love His commandments, you love God.  I don’t know which comes first, but I do know they go together!

Year End Ministry Synopsis

Video glimpses before and behind the scenes!

Government & God

I am a loyal American; but our government has a fever!   Regardless of political persuasion; not news to you.  Exhibit A: Kavanaugh Confirmation Debacle.  Exhibit B: Recurring vote tabulation irregularities in Florida.  Exhibit C: Mounting Federal Debt.  How am I doing so far?

Our Union has survived rough times before.  A sitting Vice-President shot and killed the Secretary of the Treasury in 1804.  The Civil War saw 700,000 Americans slaughtered at the hands of their fellow countrymen.  Two sitting Presidents have been impeached and of a third resigned in disgrace.  Democracy deeply flawed, to say the least.

Washington cannot and will not fix itself.  Track record: corrupt at worst; inept at best.  Tell me where I am wrong.

As Christians what are we to do?  Permit me to plainly assert my thesis up front: Pursue Piety over Politics.  I know; that sounds na├»ve.  Remember, I am a preacher; not a politician.  Besides, you got a better option?

For followers of Christ, this quandary is not new.  From our inception; moral values place us contrary to secular society.   In the biblical world, God’s people always existed in tension with civil authority.  Scripture appropriately addresses this ticklish and thorny issue head on.  Take heed, then take your cue.

  1. Nod in consent.  “There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”  (Ro 13:1)  Jesus to Pilate, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” (John 19:11)
  2. Bow in submission.  This one is sometimes distasteful.  Jesus discussing taxes, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mk 12:17)  “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities….” (Ro 13:1-4)  “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution…For this is the will of God…Fear God.  Honor the King.”  (I Pe 2:13-17)
  3. Face consequences of conscience.  As People of Principle, on occasion we feel compelled to resist (im)moral dictates of mainstream society mandated by Government.  Queen Esther approaching the King, “If I die, I die.”  (Es 4:16).  Peter and John, “Whether it is right in God’s eyes to listen to you or to Him, you be the judge.  We cannot stop speaking…”  (Acts 4:18-20)
  4. Kneel in prayer.  “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (1 Tim 2:1-2)
  5. Look toward the Eastern Sky.  A day is coming when Jesus will reign above all. “For unto us a child is born…and the government shall be upon His shoulders…” (Is 9:6-7)  “…he has a name written, King of Kings, Lord of Lords.”  (Rev 19)

Now where the rubber meets the road in front of your house.  Be involved politically.  I am.  Hold your nose and vote. I do.  Ultimately however, we exert lasting leverage through moral purity rather than inflamed partisanship.   Evidence from history: Exhibit A: Documented Social Impact upon England from Wesleyan Religious Revival.  Exhibit B: William Wilberforce (a committed Christian) successful twenty year struggle to abolish slavery in British Parliament.  Exhibit C:  German Theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer standing against Nazi regime.  Exhibit D: The First Great Awakening Pietistic movement led to founding the first 100 Universities in the American Colonies. 

God bless America. 

Meet Me in the Middle

On occasion, life presents a golden moment.  Book Store coffee shop  of a prestigious Theological Seminary in a major U.S. city; with me, a young international ministry colleague (and mentee, to some extent), exploring potential academic options.  

A typical-aged Grad student is chatting with the barista, a fellow aspiring pupil working his way through school.  Their topic of discussion was “Blogs and Bloggers”.  The erudite scholars voice frustration, if not disdain for your typical blogger, and their insatiable need to express uninformed opinions on any number of topics, particularly spiritual.  The esteemed customer spouts his critique while the other steams his latte, “Well, if they have a well-researched paper with scholarly reference, then it’s O.K.  The problem is so many of those ‘in the middle’”.  Implication being, that the average Joe, Pastor, or pfff… layman, should keep his thoughts to himself.  Hang on to his words, those in the middle”.

I patiently waited for our coffee.  Nearly forty years of ministry experience since Seminary has taught me to keep my business card case handy in my pocket.  Quietly, I remove a small publicity magnet with catchy advertisement of my ministry website, “Hankolulu”.  In actuality, the blog you are now reading.

I politely place it on the counter in front of him and with a smile, softly suggest, “Meet me —in the middle— sometime.”

He glances sideways and responds sheepishly, “Well played.”

Pacific Islanders Voices

Watch this!  You'll be glad you did.

Captive Audience

Zombie passengers quietly shuffle along the early morning security line in Haiti’s rustic airport.  Without warning, a loud voice from behind with discernible American southern accent, shatters the silence.  “Jesus Christ is coming soon!  Will you be ready?  Repent of your sins and accept Him as your Lord and Savior!”  (Bear in mind, we were in the foreign land of Haiti, and not… Saudi Arabia.)

Silence.  

Three hours later at the Atlanta gate, cramped passengers anxiously await exit from the aircraft.  The same distinct voice rings out.  “Jesus Christ died for your sins.  You can have eternal life.  Don’t put it off, my friends.  Today is the day of Salvation!”

Awkward.

Here’s the thing: I resonate with my Christian brother’s doctrine and recognize his passion for lost souls.  I share it!  However, while in agreement with him, I was unable to muster even with a muffled “Amen”.  Neither did anyone else.  One can only surmise the range of emotions gurgling within fellow travelers.  Perhaps it is just as well they kept their views to themselves. 

In our evangelist’s defense, the Word urges us to be witnesses for Christ.  In Luke 14:23, Jesus told a parable to resistant religious; then offered invitation to outsiders.  He concluded his story instructing “compel them to come in”.  Our traveler did just that.

Now lets interpret Scripture with Scripture.  In II Corinthians 5 Paul states flatly “we try to persuade others”.  He concludes, “God has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.  We implore (another translation says ‘beg’) you on Christ’s behalf; be reconciled to God”.  Strong verbs!  —Though, notice the context.  It is written to people with whom he had an existing relationship.

More so, the Apostle Peter, no shrinking wallflower in his youth, now as a seasoned follower of Christ penned in I Peter 3:15 “…Always be prepared to give an explanation to anyone who asks you the reason for the hope within you.  Yet, do so with gentleness and respect”.  Did you catch his qualifiers?  Note his terminology, “asks you” and “gentleness and respect”.  Perhaps Peter learned evangelistic tact the hard way.

I’m still ambivalent about my Caribbean caper.  Somehow, I felt assaulted.  I participate often in “Conversational Evangelism”.  This however, was “Confrontational Evangelism”.  I’m not sure that tactic is prime.  I wonder if it did more harm than good.  Were more people positively turned on or negatively turned off to the love of Jesus?  Compelled or repelled?  People deserve respect, particularly when they are a captive audience.

If you had been traveling with me, what would you have said …or not?

Faith to the Forefront

“Don’t wear your religion on your sleeve!”  Where else are you supposed to keep it?  In your pocket?

I’m with you; I’m put off by hyper-spiritual, in-your-face, self-righteous, Bible Bushwhackers as much as the next guy.  However, it does seem reasonable that if you have a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ, and if you are fully convinced (which, by definition, every committed Christian should be) that He is the ultimate reality in life and eternity; it ought to show, at least a little.  Wouldn’t you agree?

Secular proponents want it both ways.  They chide believers for being out-front, then grumble when they don’t act, in their words, “very Christian”.  Which is it?  Do you want clandestine Christians or consistent ones?

“Sinners” are under no such restraint.  They freely flaunt their lifestyle with reckless abandon, with societal sanction! … But I digress….

Gaining popularity in contemporary culture is the notion that faith has no place in the public square.  Hence, no prayer before football games, no mentioning God in graduation speeches, and remove the historic cross from the park or city seal.   United States Senators aggressively challenge judicial appointees in confirmations squarely on the basis that being persons of faith disqualifies them from being impartial and fair jurists.***  (Revisionists may therefore prefer to delete portions of George Washington’s Farewell Address, President Lincoln dedicating the National Motto, “In God We Trust”, and FDR praying over public airwaves upon the D-Day Invasion, to cite merely a few.) 

I find it ironic that in times of National peril, such as 911, Congress stood on the steps of the Capitol and boldly sang, “God Bless America”.  Then retired inside and promptly pondered legislation constricting religious expression.

Jesus, who himself died (a public execution) for his beliefs, succinctly addressed this  thorny issue, “Let your light shine that men may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  

O.K., I get it: don’t wear your religion on your sleeve, let it show in your face.

1Senator Diane Feinstein, September 6, 2017 to Judge Amy Coney Barret, (A practicing Roman Catholic) “When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you…”
2Senator Bernie Sanders, June 7, 2017 angrily disputed Evangelical Christian Russell Vought, nominee for Deputy Director of White House Office of Management and Budget, over his personal theological beliefs.
3In fair representation of alternative viewpoint: during January 9, 2017 Confirmation Hearings for Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General, the following discourse ensued, “When asked by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse if a secular person has "just as good of a claim to understanding the truth as a person who is religious," Sessions replied that he was "not sure.”  (Transcript from Secular Coalition for America).



Shock & Awe !

Cruising down the highway with three leaders from one American church where I have spoken repeatedly, the topic of discussion turned to my preaching.  Each weighed in.  The last ended the conversation with a bang.  

“I think I would describe it as…  ’Shock & Awe!’”.
I guess it beats being a dud.

Speaking in Spain

Collaborating with local hosts, making an impact in Europe for Christ!

Value Beyond Vague

“Just what do you mean by that?”  Loaded question.

A recent study by Pew Research Center found that just over a quarter, 27%, of American adults are now “spiritual but not religious”, a number that has grown by 8 percentage points in five years.

Hmmm.  “Spiritual, but not religious”.  What exactly, does that mean?  …Still waiting….    I propose that we politely engage contemporary spiritualists; gently ask and patiently await a response.  That said, let me offer some possible suggestions as to the mindset behind “Spiritual, but not religious”.  See if any resonate. 
  • Whatever I wish it to mean.
  • I believe; I just don’t know what.
  • God; on my terms.
  • Salvation light.  All the benefits; none of the cost.
  • Conscience pacifier.
  • Covering my bases.
  • Ace in the hole.
  • God: don’t call me, I’ll call you.
  • I — am god.
  • Syncretism: a little Bible, meditation, far eastern philosophy, and anything else.  Throw it all together, and enjoy.

Whatever it means, it cannot mean “Biblical Christianity”.  Commitment to Jesus Christ is far from vague “spirituality”.  It contains precision.  Listen to Jesus, and Scripture.
  • “I am the Way, the Truth, the Life.  No one comes to the Father but by me.” 
  • “No other name by which men may be saved”
  • “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”
  • “The Word became flesh”
  • “In Him, the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.”
  • “What we have heard with our ears, seen with our eyes, held with our hands; we declare unto you.”
  • “We did not follow cleverly devised tales, we are eyewitnesses of His glory.”
  • “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.”
  • “If anyone would follow me, let him deny himself and take up his cross”
  • “He who has the Son has life, he who does not have the Son does not have life.”

The contrast is crystal clear.  And so, might I add, is the choice.

One final qualifier is in order.  Perhaps the modern mantra, “Spiritual, but not Religious” is a reaction against dead formal religion.  If so, I concur!  A transforming experience with Jesus Christ is not mere or more “Religion”, but a “Relationship”.  You do not perform your way into a dynamic reality with Christ.  You experience by faith.  Yet, in candor; once you meet Him as Savior and Lord by grace, you then walk in good works, obedience, and observance (Eph 2:8-10).  You intentionally seek fellowship with other like-minded and hearted-connected believers.  The Bible calls that “Church”.

If surveyors ask me, I will answer, “I am a follower of Jesus Christ.”  You can determine if that makes me “Spiritual”, “Religious”, or a kook.  I testify it makes me a “child of God”.

From Whence, Morality?

This is an brief excerpt from a lecture I offer concerning “Morality: Goodness in a Godless World”.  Ponder, if you please.


For something to be wrong, there must be a way that is right.  
Agree or disagree?

For something to be false, there must be something true.
Agree or disagree?

For something to be immoral, there must be something moral.
Agree or disagree?

Therefore, from whence, morality?
I have an answer: what’s yours?

Do Tell Me the Ending !

Eschatology.  No, not some sort of digestive disorder, but a technical term meaning, “Doctrine of Last Things”.    Some folks get wound up debating ‘Signs of the Times’ and Prophecy.  I’m not one of them; but since it is prominent in the Bible, it matters.  Besides, it concerns how the world will end, thus kind of a big deal.  

I can write this in a way that will not cause your eyes to glaze, brain to melt, and head to explode.  Ready?  There are four popular explanations how the world will end.  See which seems most reasonable.

Explanation #1: No End.  
The First Law of Thermodynamics: the total energy of an isolated system is constant; energy can be transformed from one form to another, but can be neither created nor destroyed.  In other words: it never ends.

Explanation #2: Slow End.  
The Second Law of Thermodynamics: The total entropy (disorder and decay) of the universe is continually increasing.  Astrophysicists almost universally believe the universe had a beginning, commonly known as “The Big Bang”, and is slowly decreasing its expansion.  Sooner or later, it will fizzle out.  

Explanation #3: Bad End.  
Law of the Jungle: We finally blow ourselves up.  Lord knows we’ve tried.

Explanation #4: God’s End.  
Primary Law from the Law Giver: God who created the universe is in control and has the last say.  In that plan, He gave His Son to redeem His fallen creatures (because sin messed up this world, e.g. starvation, oppression, corruption, and pollution).  He will restore all of creation.  Christ will return and create a new Heaven and earth, judge the righteous and the wicked, and with His redeemed saints, reign forever.

Simple, huh?  No End, Slow End, Bad End, God’s End.

Which offers you the most hope and meaning?


Haiti Happenings

Raw footage from rough ministry in Haiti !

Emergency Theology

Sometimes we have to bend the rules and flex our categories.

Stay with me.  In historic Kawaiaha’o Church in downtown Honolulu, Brendalyn P. and I attend funeral services for a respected Kupuna (elder).  The service runs long.  A bit warm in the tropics, I’m parched.  I experience an unexpected dizzy spell.  It passes but concern lingers.  Discretely, I inquire as to the nearest water source.  Brenda has no clue.

Short time later, we partake of Holy Communion, bringing the elements of bread and juice, dedicated to the Lord, back to our seats.  I prayerfully partake.  Brenda waits, and asks if we are supposed to consume together as a congregation.  I reply that I don’t know, but since I’m ordained, I get a pass.  My beloved rolls her eyes.

As we wait quietly, she inquires further about my hydration needs then kindly offers her small communion cup, “Would this help?”  At that point, I’m perplexed.  My medical needs collide with my biblical understanding.
I appreciate her offer, but figure 0.3 ounces will offer little relief.  Besides, is it kosher to offer someone else your communion juice?  I’ve got a bevy of theological questions on that one.  Then again, I suppose that is the  essence of redemption; sharing life in Christ Jesus.  

The Book of James says, “Pure and undefiled religion is this; to visit the orphans and widows in their distress…”.  James insists that the Gospel must be put into practice and applied to real life.

When Theology meets emergency.  Don’t fret; just go for it!

Miles for Smiles

Past year ministry of preaching, teaching, & training.




Phads 'n Fazes

Fads come and go, phases ebb and flow.  

I pray that my life has been a bit of contrast.  Particularly for my family who know me best, and occasionally see my worst.  Brenda and I have three adult sons (and their families), whom as a parent, I observe pass through normal stages of life, occasional ups and downs, and periodic diversion into the ditch, even wanderings in the wilderness.  I have seen them embrace differing philosophies of life, perspectives, and lifestyles.  I hope that as they look at my life over these past decades, they deduce an enduring constant; always “Dad and Jesus.”  

I doubt seriously they see perfection when they look at me.  There is none.  I do however, suspect they see authenticity.  For, I have sought to be just that.  But more so, I want them to grasp the how and why of my defined and deliberate lifestyle and admittedly, somewhat inflexible value system.  I am a redeemed child of God.  I love the Lord.  —It’s up to them whether they admire that or not.

In brutal candor, I am skeptical they give me much kinetic thought.  With busy lives consumed by careers and kids, their plates are full.  As human nature goes, only after I join the Heavenly Host, might they reflect briefly on such weighty matters as my life, death, and the deeper meaning of both.  

How about you?  Do you ponder what matters most?

Life on this planet can throw you any number of curves.  It has been said that ‘the only thing that stays the same is change’.  Perhaps that is true.  But one thing I know for sure is that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).  You can count on that — through thick and thin.

New Year Greeting

During recent international ministry; some Holiday best wishes.

Are You Serious?

Perched amidst a panel discussion for an international pastors conference, our group of Christian leaders was asked, “If you could offer one piece of advice to these pastors about ministry, what would it be?”  Pondering privately, the microphone passed to me…


“Take God seriously.” 

“Don’t take yourself seriously.”

Alive in Asia

Empowering ministries in Japan and Myanmar.