New Year, Old Problems

I’ve never been all that excited about New Year’s because the mere change of a date on the calendar doesn’t change anything that really matters. This morning, I went out to run an errand and when I stopped off to get a coffee, I saw a familiar motorcycle parked out in front of the coffee stand that hugged the curb. Coming around the car, I saw a guy from church that had stopped by to borrow our guitar the previous night. It was nine o’clock in the morning and there he was with a big bottle of beer, strumming the guitar and hanging out with his friend, the guy selling coffee. I don’t have anything against alcohol in general, given it is consumed in moderation and with appropriate consideration to who your company is. However, I KNOW that this guy has a drinking problem.

My initial impression of him, about a year or so ago, was that he is friendly fellow with a good head on his shoulders, and perhaps some potential for leadership in the church. That initial impression has proved to be inaccurate as it has become obvious that he has a drinking problem that doesn’t concern him as it should. On numerous occasions (especially after I haven’t seen him for a while), he tells me that he hasn’t forgotten about God and that he is still

Thai Political Crisis

The Thai political crisis continues to worsen as protesters try to bring things to a head in Bangkok, shutting down both the new Suwanaphum airport and the old Don Muang airport, effectively closing the country off to much of the world. The protesters demand the resignation of the government and the government says no, but refuses to do anything other than riot police containing the crowds. The news is constantly changing here so if you want latest, I would recommend looking at the website for the Bangkok Post ( or the International Herald Tribune ( The Bangkok Post will have more up to date information although the IHT will have a more readable summary of the events and the context of the current crisis.

Our family lives two hours north of Bangkok, and thus plenty far away from any of the disturbances. Everything seems to be confined to Bangkok right now. However, after I preach in Ayuthaya this Sunday, we'll head down to OMF's Mission Home in Bangkok, which is not far from the Don Muang airport, one of the sites of mass protests and some violence. We will drive in to the mission home the back way, using the outer ring road and Expressway from the north, so we won't have to

Valuing our Elderly

The following two stories from the lives of believers at the PhraBaht church (with whom we work) have reminded me of the special care that we need to take to value the elderly among us. “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. Honor widows who are truly widows.” 1 Timothy 5:1-3

Pim’s mother was discouraged. Weak and bedridden because of diabetes, she often had thoughts of death and recently she had been having dreams about her late older sister who was calling her to come join her. ‘What’s the point of living?’ she thought to herself. ‘It would be better if I were to die.’ She would often vent her frustrations to her daughter and teenage grandson. One Sunday morning before church her grandson got tired of listening to her complain. Rather coldly, he said to her ‘If you want to die, then die already’ Those words cut her deeply and she refused to be taken to church that day.

While Pim’s mother lay at home with thoughts of death and worthlessness, the believers at church had different thoughts. They missed her. After church, Sun and Muay visited her to talk, pray, and read the Bible. A few days later, Arui came to encourage her. By the time Sunday came around again, her spirits had perked up a bit and she was glad to see us when we came to pick her up and bring her to church. I don’t think that the preacher that day knew what had

False Assurance

There is a Thai Christian with whom I've done evangelism and visitation several times and the way that he shares the Gospel worries me. His Gospel presentation is quite brief, consisting of only a few points, namely - 1) There is a God 2) You're a sinner and God sends sinners to hell 3) You want to go to heaven and not hell, right? 3) So, if you want to go to heaven, believe in Jesus because he died for your sins so you don't have to go to hell 4) God healed my ankle and he can help you too if you pray to him. This is the gist of his Gospel presentation and it is my friend's belief that as long as someone consents to say "the prayer of faith" (or "the sinner's prayer"), then that person is good to go, as it were. He would love for that person to come to church and grow in their new faith but even if that doesn't happen, at least he is saved from hell.

While my friend's desire for people to be saved from hell is a commendable one, I am concerned that his evangelistic method leaves out some important elements of the Biblical evangelism (helping people see the severity of their sin in light of God's wrath, the necessity of repentance, the Lordship of Christ, and cost of discipleship). The preaching of this kind of truncated Gospel is not a phenomenon unique to Thailand, but is quite common in evangelicalism in America (and in much of the world, I imagine). This morning as I was reading about John the Baptist in Luke 3, I was struck by how radically different John's evangelism was from my friend's all-too-common modern way of evangelism. In Luke 3:7, we see crowds of Jews coming out to John to be baptized. In modern parlance, we might call them "seekers" (I actually have a problem with the term "seekers" but that discussion can be left for another time). These are Jews who would seem to have a spiritual interest in the preaching of John the Baptist but instead of welcoming them with open arms and encouraging them to believe his message, read their Bibles, go to synagogue, and to rely on faith and not feelings, this is what John says to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the roots of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." (Luke 3:7-9). Wow! John really lays into them, doesn't he? No encouragement there! Only rebuke is to be had for those who claim to be believers but aren't bearing any evidence of being believers. John wants to shake them out of their reliance on external factors (lineage, being religious, etc) and get them to see that true faith and true heart change always results in a changed life. If someone doesn't have a changed life, then that person needs to be shaken out of their false assurance of salvation and helped to see that he is not really saved because he does not have a life that reflects true faith. This is the same point that James makes when he says, "So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." (James 2:17)

The Holy Spirit's Role in Evangelism

The is a lot of talk in modern evangelical churches about the Holy Spirit and not all of it is helpful. It is not uncommon for people to talk or sing things like, "Let the fire of Holy Spirit fall on us" or "Come Holy Spirit, revive us again" or other similar things. I was in a church meeting the other day, and the pastor had written (in Thai) on a handout, "This is the age of the Holy Spirit. We all are living in this age. The Spirit is ready to move in the lives of Christians if only we give the Spirit the opportunity to work in our lives."

I want to ask, what exactly does it mean for the Holy Spirit to move in people's lives? What does it look like to have the fire of the Holy Spirit fall on someone? And isn't it our Sovereign God who takes the initiative in our sanctification, changing our hearts to respond and be transformed? Is the Holy Spirit really sitting around, wringing his hands, waiting for us to ask Him to fall on us? I am hard pressed to find any Biblical reference to needing to call the Holy Spirit to fall on us again and again or to light us (or the land) on fire, as it were. Sure, it happened at Pentecost but that was a rather unique event that was initiated by God, not the apostles. From that point in history, believers are henceforth indwelt with the Holy Spirit from conversion onwards (Eph. 1:13-14).

Coming Back to Phra Baht

It has been really good to finally arrive back in Phra Baht after four months in the States. We got in on Saturday evening and found our house in fine condition, with a very green yard due to all the rain during the past few months. Two of our banana trees had big big bunches on them, still quite green. Pastor Jarun and his wife had been taking care of the place while we had been gone. We are thankful for their help and are glad that they have been able to take advantage of our house while we have been away.

Aside from the surroundings, we really enjoyed seeing folks at church on Sunday morning and beginning to catch up with what has been going on in their lives while we have been away. One fellow may move to another province soon, one woman has changed jobs because her employer wouldn't allow her to go to church on Sunday. Sun chatted with two elderly ladies who may be interested in helping us with evangelism. Sun and I are both feeling rather strong these days and eager to get out there and share the Gospel - both on an individual basis and in more direct evangelism - tracting and open air evangelism. On Sunday evening, we got to chat with our neighbors who had gathered across the street from our house in the community area for our neighborhood. A few months ago, the neighborhood committee put in some

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