Misreading Scriptures with Western Eyes - A Book Review

When I first heard about the book, Misreading Scriptures with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O'Brien, I was immediately intrigued.  Having spent time on the mission field in Russia and Croatia, I knew that Christians in other cultures saw some Scriptures differently than we did in the West.  My interpretations and focus in regards to certain passages did not always line up with those I was sharing the Word with.  It became obvious to me that Christians in other countries interpret some Scriptures through a different cultural lens.

This book by Richards and O'Brien addresses these cultural biases head on in this book.  The book appears a bit academic and "heady" at first but the authors use of both personal and professional stories marks the right balance for this book.

The authors address three layers of cultural assumptions in their book:
  1. Those Above the Surface - obvious assumptions such as social mores, race, ethnicity and language barriers.
  2. Those Just Below the Surface - less obvious cultural assumptions like individualism vs. collectivism, honor/shame vs. right/wrong and our concept and perception of time.
  3. Those Deep Below the Surface - assumptions buried so deep in our culture that we can't really imagine anyone thinking differently: rules and relationships, virtue and vice, and finding the center of God's will.
The authors provide questions to ponder at the end of each chapter which helps stimulate thought in each of these areas and I found myself challenged in many ways.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to open up their reading and understanding of the Word of God.  It is never good to rest on our laurels and this book will challenge you to look at your preconceptions like never before.  A must read.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review purposes from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Merry Christmas

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:8-14)

Merry Christmas to all!


Hope For Today

I found myself thinking about hope quite a bit lately. 

Hit with some rough times, I found the message of hope to be one I needed to be reminded of. 

Discouragement unchecked can turn to depression and anger can turn to bitterness.  I have struggled with both discouragement and anger recently and realized I needed to remind myself of the hope we have in Jesus Christ.

I went looking through the Scriptures and found numerous verses that spoke about the hope that the Old Testament men and women of God had.  Their hope was in the prophesied birth of the Messiah.  We, as His children, now have the hope of Christ's return as predicted in the New Testament.

However, as great as those words are, they did not give me hope for today.  For right now.  I dug a little more until I came across a few verses that I believe offers hope for the here and now.  The beauty of this passage is that it gives us hope for the past, present and the future!

Here it is:

Romans 8:35-39, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."


There is my hope. 

No matter how bad I have blown it in the past, no matter what I am going through today and no matter what I will face tomorrow...I am still loved.

Cared For.




It's About Giving

I love to give gifts.  I am the guy who buys Christmas presents and wants to give them weeks before Christmas.  I would be happy to give the presents as soon as I purchase them.  My wife says I am like a little kid when it comes to giving gifts.  I guess I am.

Though I love to give gifts, I also have come to recognize that we live in a very wasteful society.  Go into any thrift store and you will see the abundance of leftover stuff we have given and received on a regular basis. 

There are really two kinds of gifts you can give.  Gifts that are temporary and gifts that can change a life.

The temporary gifts are the ones that end up getting tossed aside when Christmas is over, or get replaced when a newer or better one comes along.  It's the "must have" item on our list that we lose interest in a few weeks later.

Then there are the gifts that change a life.

For example, one year my brother and sister-in-law gave us a Kiva gift certificate.  It allowed us to give a micro-loan ($25) to individuals around the world who are trying to grow their own businesses to provide for their families in nations where poverty abounds.  They pay the loan back over time and when it comes back, you loan it to someone else.  We've made 5 loans off of this one gift!  That's a life changing gift.

Another life changing gift are the ones you can give via Compassion.  Readers of this blog know that my wife and I are passionate about Compassion and have sponsored a child for years.  This Five Star charity has now released their annual Christmas catalog: 

Compassion Christmas Catalog

Did you know that you can protect a child from Malaria for only $18?  You can teach a mother to read for only $22!

You can also equip a family with livestock for only $280.

Their catalog is filled with life changing gifts starting for as little as $4.

I invite you to check out the Compassion catalog and change a life today!



Crying Out

Psalm 84:2, "My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh cry out for the Living God."

Crying Out

On Bended Knee 
I bow my head
My heart to full to cry
The life I've lived
I now proclaim
I give it all to God

I'm humbled now 
Before the King
The tears begin to fall
The pain I felt
I'm letting go
Before the throne of God

Oh I love to contemplate Him
And to seek the face of God
Oh I want to bow and worship
Crying out to the living God

My soul anew
In love with God
I cry out to the King
I love You Lord
You are my God
Ruler of everything

Oh I love to contemplate Him
And to seek the face of God
Oh I want to bow and worship
Crying out to the living God

This was the piece I mentioned when I said I was looking for words.  I have been spending more and more time in worship and this is where I personally feel like I am right now.

 © Rick Apperson, 2012


Looking for Words

I was sitting in my chair reading a book when the phrase bounced into my head.

"On bended knee
I bow my head"

I knew it was the start of something.  I immediately grabbed a pen and wrote the phrase down on a blank sheet of paper.  (I always do this, capturing the idea as it comes so as to not lose it.

As I started writing, more words came jumbling out.  Some lines seemed to tuck in nicely with the above phrase, some were just brainstorming words and phrases that at first did not seem connected.

I put the pen down and went to bed.

Laying there, I repeated the opening phrase to Sarah and something clicked and I jumped out of bed, ran to the living room and wrote a complete section.

I picked it up again today while contemplating Psalm 84:2, "My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God."

I have labored over this piece longer than many things that I write.  It feels like I am missing a word, a phrase to tie it all together.

So I am looking for words, and yet through the search, the journey I am taking as I re-read these lines I have on paper, I find myself focusing even more on the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

From haphazard scribbles is coming a desire to know Him more.

What leads you into His presence?


The High Calling - A Review

I was pointed to a website I haven't seen before this past week.

The website has some thought provoking articles, like How to Quit Your Job with Grace and Integrity.

The High Calling is really an online magazine and community which is founded on the belief that God cares about our daily work. I struggled for a few years in seeing God in my job, like when I worked on cars for a living, and would have found his resource helpful then.  I actually found it helpful now as well.

The site has a wide range of articles, interviews, devotionals, and inspirational stories—all specifically created to help the reader to find God in our work and family.

You should really check this site out.

While there you can sign up for their Weekly Calling which usually has an audio message from Howard Butt, a Christian business leader and author, several articles from The High Calling website, a video from The High Calling, and several other articles from around the High Calling community and other sites.

I checked out a few of their Weekly Calling newsletters and was overall impressed.  Some of the articles were very thought provoking.  My only criticism would be that some of the articles would have benefited by having a corresponding Scripture that backed up the premise of the article.

Overall I liked what I saw and just signed up for the newsletter this week.  You should check it out.

Go to  The High Calling and look for the newsletter sign up on the right hand side of the page.


An Act of God! - Just A Thought #54

I heard the term, Act of God, quite a bit this past week.  It was used in the media to explain hurricane damage, floods and earthquakes.  I even heard it used to describe a crane being bent in half by the wind and dangling 750 feet (228 meters) in the air.   

Two things went through my mind while watching these broadcasts.  One, I did not know so many people in the media believed in God.  Two, why does God not get recognized for all the good things He does?

I know that an “act of God” is legalese for any act which is outside human control and therefore not the responsibility of any individual or corporation.

I also know it is always defined as a bad thing, like a tornado!

God gets a bad rap!

I want to see God’s children redefine an act of God.  Let’s take this phrase and turn it on its ear because when I wake up each morning, I consider that an act of God! 

“I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.” Psalm 3:5

I look out my window, see the sunshine and the rain, the snow and the stars at night, and I see an act of God.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

“In his hand are the deep places of the earth, and the mountain peaks are his. The sea is his. He made it, and his hands formed the dry land.” Psalm 95:4-5

We take the good things for granted and blame God for the bad.  God did not create the chaos we see around us.  He provided a way out.  (John 3:16)

We blame God for death, mayhem and destruction.  How often do we thank Him for our very life? 

The next time you walk outside; why not stop for a moment and thank God for His mighty act of creation. 


The Father's Love Letter

My Child,
You may not know me, but I know everything about you.
Psalm 139:1

I know when you sit down and when you rise up.
Psalm 139:2

I am familiar with all your ways.
Psalm 139:3

Even the very hairs on your head are numbered.
Matthew 10:29-31

For you were made in my image.
Genesis 1:27

In me you live and move and have your being.
Acts 17:28

For you are my offspring.
Acts 17:28

I knew you even before you were conceived.
Jeremiah 1:4-5

I chose you when I planned creation.
Ephesians 1:11-12

You were not a mistake, for all your days are written in my book.
Psalm 139:15-16

I determined the exact time of your birth and where you would live.
Acts 17:26

You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Psalm 139:14

I knit you together in your mother's womb.
Psalm 139:13

And brought you forth on the day you were born.
Psalm 71:6

I have been misrepresented by those who don't know me.
John 8:41-44

I am not distant and angry, but am the complete expression of love.
1 John 4:16

And it is my desire to lavish my love on you.
1 John 3:1

Simply because you are my child and I am your Father.
1 John 3:1

I offer you more than your earthly father ever could.
Matthew 7:11

For I am the perfect father.
Matthew 5:48

Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand.
James 1:17

For I am your provider and I meet all your needs.
Matthew 6:31-33

My plan for your future has always been filled with hope.
Jeremiah 29:11

Because I love you with an everlasting love.
Jeremiah 31:3

My thoughts toward you are countless as the sand on the seashore.
Psalms 139:17-18

And I rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17

I will never stop doing good to you.
Jeremiah 32:40

For you are my treasured possession.
Exodus 19:5

I desire to establish you with all my heart and all my soul.
Jeremiah 32:41

And I want to show you great and marvelous things.
Jeremiah 33:3

If you seek me with all your heart, you will find me.
Deuteronomy 4:29

Delight in me and I will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4

For it is I who gave you those desires.
Philippians 2:13

I am able to do more for you than you could possibly imagine.
Ephesians 3:20

For I am your greatest encourager.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

I am also the Father who comforts you in all your troubles.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

When you are brokenhearted, I am close to you.
Psalm 34:18

As a shepherd carries a lamb, I have carried you close to my heart.
Isaiah 40:11

One day I will wipe away every tear from your eyes.
Revelation 21:3-4

And I'll take away all the pain you have suffered on this earth.
Revelation 21:3-4

I am your Father, and I love you even as I love my son, Jesus.
John 17:23

 For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed.
John 17:26

He is the exact representation of my being.
Hebrews 1:3

He came to demonstrate that I am for you, not against you.
Romans 8:31

And to tell you that I am not counting your sins.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19

Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19

His death was the ultimate expression of my love for you.
1 John 4:10

I gave up everything I loved that I might gain your love.
Romans 8:31-32

If you receive the gift of my son Jesus, you receive me.
1 John 2:23

And nothing will ever separate you from my love again.
Romans 8:38-39

Come home and I'll throw the biggest party heaven has ever seen.
Luke 15:7

I have always been Father, and will always be Father.
Ephesians 3:14-15

My question is…Will you be my child?
John 1:12-13

I am waiting for you.
Luke 15:11-32

Love, Your Dad
Almighty God

Father's Love Letter used by permission Father Heart Communications

1999-2011 www.FathersLoveLetter.com


My Yo-Yo Life

Up and down, up and down.

I could never get the hang of a yo-yo when I was growing up.  I could do it a few times but invariably, it ended with the yo-yo just hanging there, hanging on by a thread.

This past week, my life definitely seemed like a yo-yo.  Monday started off fairly normal, then I went to work.  It seemed as if all hell broke loose.  Over the next three hours, it seems I used every management, pastoral and counseling tool in my repertoire.  When it was all said and done, I was exhausted.  I felt empty inside.  I came home to just veg and 20 minutes after walking in the door, the power went out for the next 6 hours.  

Tuesday morning I felt like I was operating on vapors, but throughout the day, the Lord continuously strengthened and encouraged me.  Wednesday, my wife and I experienced a fairly embarrassing incident and it seems I quickly crashed to earth.  By Thursday, it felt like I was hanging on by a thread.

"I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."  (Galatians 2:20)

My wife gave me a quote that said in part that "Christ did not want to be our helper, but rather our Life.  He wants us to experience His life in the heat of the moment."

In the heat of the moment, I was not letting Christ shine through.  Heck, to be honest, by Thursday I was questioning God's goodness.

Now I know He is good, but in the midst of the storm it is hard to see clearly.

Yet He did bring us through the storm.  A friend reminded me of Romans 8:35 which says, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?"

Romans 8:37-39 answers that question:

"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Nothing can separate us from His love.


Everyone Has A Story

For the past six years I have worked with the Salvation Army.  I have seen a lot over these 6 years, not all of it pretty.  I’ve learned a lot as well.

One thing I have learned is to listen for the story.   

There is a cynicism that has crept into our society where we act like everyone on the street is a substance abuser, makes the wrong choices and “has an excuse (story)” for their actions.  I have learned how far from the truth that really is.

It’s true, some of the “street” people abuse substances and make other poor choices, but many have suffered sickness, got behind on a bill or were laid off when the company downsized due to a poor economy.  Lest we forget though, ALL were created in the image of God.  (Genesis 1:27)

“Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all.” Proverbs 22:2

When we walk down the street and see those in need, do we see God’s image in the person we try to ignore?  Do we see the image of God in the poor, the needy, and yes, even the substance abuser?

How often do we think about the soul of the man or woman on the street? 

I will say this, God thinks of them DAILY!  (Psalm 139)

He loved them enough to send His Son for them.  (John 3:16)

Can we not stop and hear their story? 

I mentioned that I have learned to listen to the story.  It isn’t always easy but with practice, we can look beyond the symptoms and listen to what is going on in the heart of the down-and-out person.  A cup of coffee with a stranger may place us outside of our comfort zone for a moment, but it can change a life forever.

These are my neighbors.  This is my mission field. 

Will you listen to someone’s story this week?


Not What You Expect

I wrote this piece a few days ago for a colleagues blog.  (You can see Stanley Groothof's blog here: 4th Point)

The man was dirty.  He reeked of alcohol.  His appearance was the very epitome of a homeless person.  His language was rough and yet, in mere moments, he preached a Gospel message that had everyone in tears. 

We were well into worship on a Sunday morning when he walked in.  He took a seat and then bounced up to get some water.  He sat down and bounced up again looking for a snack.  A third time he stood up because he had soiled himself.  All this before I ever started my message.

I believe I was preaching on love that day.  Really, I can’t remember. 

What I remember is that in the middle of my message, this man asked if he could say something.  After I said yes, he began to talk about love, our need for God and how we should love our neighbors.  He talked about making mistakes and taking baby steps to Christ.  He didn’t talk long but he impacted the whole congregation.  As people wiped their eyes, I sat stunned that this man whom I had known for years as a “street person” had just articulated the heart of the Gospel.  I was humbled. 

God has a way of doing that.  He has a way of using people you would least expect to express the basic truths of the Word of God.

One lady had sat in our congregation for a few months.  She is a very sweet woman and one who is considered “special needs.”  After sitting in our services for some time, she came one morning and handed my wife a piece of paper.  (She likes to write letters to communicate.)  What she had written were two very beautiful, heartfelt worship songs.  It was a very real reflection of a child like faith. 

These were two very different people, both of whom had me turning to the Father in worship! 

It reminds me of the story of Rahab the prostitute found in Joshua chapter 2.  Rahab hides two Jewish spies as they check out Jericho in advance of the Israelite army.  As they are being hunted, she helps them escape.  She also expresses her own belief in God. Her actions were not what you would expect from a prostitute.  Yet Hebrews 11:31 lists her as a woman of faith and James 2:25 mentions her good works. 

God shows Himself in unexpected places and in the lives of unexpected people.  How has He surprised you?


Faith Matters

Life is filled with incredible highs and discouraging lows.  One moment we seem to be having the best day ever, but the next minute we can come crashing down to earth.  The ups and downs of life are enough to give us emotional whiplash.

This, to me, is why faith matters.  I personally need the steadying influence that only Jesus Christ can offer.  Jesus has this to say in Matthew 11:28, "Come to me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.”

Who doesn’t crave rest?  We run around to and fro, trying to get more and more done each day, yet it seems we never catch up.  In fact, we seem to slip further behind.  Everyone seems tired and exhausted and a day “off” seems to be more of a myth than a reality.

In Psalm 46:10 we are encouraged  to  be still and know that He is God.  How can we be still?
Well, if we look at the example of Jesus in the New Testament, we see that He would go away to the mountains.  He would go off by Himself to pray and rest. 

I believe we need to intentionally retreat at times.  It might mean going for a hike, a walk or a bike ride.  We might need a stroll by the river, or just to lay down on the couch and veg!  It is possible to prioritize rest. 

The second part of that Scripture  is to know that He is God!  To know something is to understand it with clarity and certainty.  How do we know God?  Scripture says,  “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” (Psalm 34:8)

Why not stop for a moment, read the Bible and pray to the Lord?  Maybe you too will see that faith matters.


Dear God

Dear God,

I am writing today asking that you bless Tsehay, our sponsored child through Compassion! We've known her for over 10 years now Lord and have prayed for her and loved her like one of our own.

Each time we get a letter from her, it touches our hearts and helps us to understand that much more why sponsorship is so important.

Lord, my heart also rejoiced this week when I read that 837 children were sponsored this week. September is blog month for Compassion and the work is already paying off. I can only imagine all those precious children being told they have a sponsor.

As exciting as that number is, there are 2,271 to go this month. Each one waiting for a sponsor.

Father I pray that each one of those children find a sponsor this month.

Thank You Lord,


PS, for those of you reading this, why not make my prayer come true and check out the sponsorship page? Sponsor A Child

Come to the Party!

I am late to the party but I still hope you will all open the gifts!

This month Compassion is trying to find sponsorship for over 3,000 children.

Here is the Sponsor a Child page

I want to challenge you to go to the page and to pray over the children. Pray for sponsorship, pray for them to know Jesus, pray for God to protect them.

When we receive our updates on Tsehay, our sponsored child of 10 years, we get so excited to see what God is doing in her life. She is in a poverty stricken area of Ethiopia, yet we have seen the reports and read her letters of all that God is doing in her life and in her family.

I want to challenge you to checkout the Sponsor a Child page and spend time asking God to reveal His heart for the poor to them.

Maybe it seems over the top to make that challenge in these economic times. However, I believe God will provide the means if you follow His leading. My family has had it's fair share of financial struggles but have never missed a month of sponsorship.

What do you have to lose?

I dare you to check the page out!


No Distractions - Just A Thought #53

"Dad! Don't talk to me when I am in town!"

It began with my two year old son playing in the yard. I was resting in the hammock and smiling as I watched him play throughout the yard with his little riding car. He had moved to the farthest edge of the yard and was fiddling with the back of his car. He was definitely in his own world.

I called out to him, "Caleb are you fixing your car?" He hollered out, "Dad!" and then marched back across the yard to finish his statement, "Don't talk to me when I am in town!" I am sure some parents might see that as disrespectful, but I saw something different.

I saw an intense focus.

Caleb was focused on what he was playing and by talking to him, I brought distraction, thus taking him out of the moment.

Proverbs 4:25 says "Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you."

I have found at various times in my life, when my focus is distracted, I take my eyes off of Jesus Christ and I stumble and fall.

When I keep my gaze firmly planted on Jesus Christ, when I focus on Him day in and day out, my joy is firm, my faith refreshed, my strength renewed. When I seek God with my whole heart, I find that nothing seems impossible because we serve a God of the impossible.

"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." Matthew 6:33

No distractions are worth missing all that God has for us. I don't know where you are at right now but God knows. Fix your gaze on Him


10 Questions with Lopez Lomong (2x US Olympic Athlete)

Welcome to 5 Questions With.....

Except you'll notice that today it is again 10 questions. That's right! This is yet another Super-Sized edition of the 5 Question feature.

Today's guest is Lopez Lomong. Lopez was a barefoot lost boy of the Sudanese Civil War. He eventually made it to the US where he became an American citizen and graduated from Northern Arizona University. He is a 2x Olympic Athlete. He recently wrote his biography, Running For My Life. This is a book you must read!

Before reading his interview, why not check out this video of Lopez:

Let's get to it:

1. Your book, Running For My Life, tells of your abduction from church in Sudan at the age of 6. How hard was it to recount that period of your life?

It was very hard because in one second I lost my family, my childhood, and everything that had once made me happy. It is hard to think back on that time because I felt a sense of loss and hopelessness.

2. You ran for your life and ended up in Kenya where you became a refugee for 10 years. Did you ever feel like giving up hope?

Although life was terrible in the camp, I felt a sense of responsibility for the 10 young boys in my tent that became my family. We empowered each other with our companionship and gave each other a reason to keep fighting. We did not have anywhere to go or any alternative so the importance of having these 10 boys was critical.

3. It was while at the refugee camp that you drew closer to the Lord correct?

Not exactly. God played a role throughout my entire life. It was not one moment or one incident that drew me close to the Lord, but rather his constant hand in my life. Although I had a little bit more formal religious education in the camp, I prayed throughout my entire journey and that is where I found my closeness.

4. You came to the US at 16. What was the hardest part of adjusting to life in the US?

Culture was the biggest shock. At 16 I was so used to the culture in the refugee camp. I also wanted very badly to be seen as an American rather than an immigrant. Also it was my first time ever going to school, so that was a huge adjustment. Another big adjustment was thinking of myself as a child again - although it was the most amazing thing to have a family again, I had to get used to the reality that they cared for me and were here to love me and guide me.

5. How do you feel the Lord watched over you during this time?

God put me in a family that loves me unconditionally and helped me find a place where I was accepted and at home. I finally felt a true sense of peace with my family for the first time in a long time. It was a blessing!

6. You went to college and never gave up on your dream to be an Olympic athlete. How special was it to make the 2008 Olympic team?

It was very special. It was an opportunity to represent and give thanks to a country that had taken me in. It was incredible to have a country that I was proud of and an identity! Carrying the American Flag in at the Opening Ceremony was one of my most proud achievements - it was my dream come true. I was not longer a "lost boy" but a person with a country and an ambassador through sport.

7. God seemed to give you a platform to tell your story during the Olympics. Do you feel that running is gift from Him?

Absolutely. I am so blessed to have this talent. My legs once saved my life and now running is my platform to speak about what still needs to be done to keep children from struggling as I did in South Sudan. I use this platform to be voice of the children in South Sudan who are not heard in their struggles.

8. What can you tell me about your partnership with World Vision?

I recently started my foundation - Lopez Lomong Foundation - with the 4 South Sudan program to target clean water, health care, education, and nutrition for the people of South Sudan. World Vision is a great partner in supporting my cause logistically as they have a huge amount of human resources and experience working in South Sudan. They are a key part of implementing the projects that I design and fundraise for. http://lopezlomong.com/foundation/

9. What is the main work of the Lopez Lomong Foundation?

The main project is 4 South Sudan focusing on 4 basic needs - clean water, education, nutrition, and health care.

10. How did it feel to make the 2012 Olympic team?

It was incredible. I was so proud to join a second team and have another opportunity to represent my country in a second Olympics. It was a huge accomplishment to be on this international stage once again. I am looking forward to Rio 2016 as well!!

Thank you so much for taking the time to do Lopez!

Thank you so much and please let me know if there is ever any other way I can help! - Lopez

You can read more about Lopez Lomong's life in his new book, Running For My Life, and please check out his website: http://www.lopezlomong.com

To see past 5 Questions guests see the 5 questions page under the tab above.


What If I Lost It?

We each have unique talents and gifts from the Lord. There are areas where His strength is evident and we know He has called us to operate in certain ways.

What if you lost it? What if something happened and you could no longer do the one thing you felt the Lord had called you to?

What is that one item you enjoy doing, one area you feel a special talent or interest in?

Now picture it gone...forever!

How would you feel?

I would feel panic.

I know because it happened to me....twice!

I have always felt the Lord's call to write. I feel so relaxed and comfortable putting things into words that at times it feels like second nature. I find myself listening to the random words and phrases of others for those "hooks" that can become future devotionals, sermons, etc.

Once I was so focused on the writing about the Lord that I was missing Him completely. When i realized I had made writing an idol, I also sensed the Lord telling me to shut it down for a season...2 long years. It felt...miserable. After that time had passed, I felt the Lord calling me to write again. Yet things had changed. I no longer felt the need to write just for the sake of writing. I waited until I felt the Lord's nudge before putting things on paper.

While in the midst of my recent concussion, I had a flashback to that time of no writing. Days after the concussion, I sat at my computer staring at a blank screen. I was saying the words out loud but could not get my fingers to type. It was almost like looking at a foreign language. I saw the letters but my brain was not making the connection between what I wanted to write and actually typing it out.

I will admit, I got scared. In a moment of panic I wondered if I would ever be able to write a sermon or devotional ever again. It may sound silly but in my befuddled state, it was a genuine concern.

Obviously the ability has returned, but so has the realization that I need to look at surrender again. What does it mean to count everything as rubbish that I may gain Christ? (Philippians 3:8)

I know God could still use me in other ways if He shut down one avenue of expression, yet the thought of giving up my lifelong interest terrified me.

Which tells me I place a higher value on my writing than I should.

Which means I still have some surrendering to do.


The Chick-fil-A Controversy

I tend to stay out of "culture war" controversies here on my blog. I would rather focus on Jesus Christ then the latest trends that get people on both sides of an issue all fired up. However, recent comments that I have been reading on Facebook just got the juices flowing and I felt the need to weigh in.

I decided to post this AFTER the turnout by Christians and others who support Dan Cathy's recent comments on marriage, and BEFORE the planned Kiss-In by those in the LGBT community who disagree with those same comments.

First of all, setting aside the hoopla, let's look at the actual comments in question that were made in the Baptist Press: “We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that."

That comment has grown and morphed into an internet juggernaut. I have seen postings from friends and others in the LGBT community tossing around words like "anti-gay, human rights and civil rights."

I have seen Christians and political conservatives toss around things like "free speech, pro-family and standing up for the Gospel."

Instead of calmly and rationally talking about matters, people got their hackles up on both sides...and the Chick-fil-A sandwich was caught in the middle. Protests were planned, supportive rallies were organized and people have used one mans comments on his personal beliefs to raise all kinds of support for whatever side of the "battle lines" they stood on.

I read the comments on Facebook where people have resorted to name calling, intolerance and immaturity. I see where Christians have tried to make support of Chick-fil-A and eating a chicken sandwich into a support for the Word of God itself. "Taking back marriage" has meant that you buy a chicken sandwich to prove you believe in God! I have seen comments where those in the LGBT community act like Christian boogeymen are out to get them.

I have this image in my mind of Jesus looking at the whole affair and weeping.

He is weeping because the LGBT community feel that Christians and by extension God, are filled with hate and anger towards them.
He is weeping because we as His children have failed to demonstrate His love, grace and mercy to those we disagree with.
He is weeping because His children put more emphasis on politics than prayer, protests than the poor and demonstrations than evangelism.
He is weeping because "religious" politics seem to have taken the place of relationship with HIM.
He is weeping because a chicken sandwich has nothing to do with SALVATION!

It's time for Christians to get back to knowing nothing except Jesus Christ and Him Crucified . (1 Cor. 2:2) It is time for all of us who claim to be His followers, to actually start following Him. He went into the streets and ate with the sinners, loved the unlovable, showed grace to those trapped in sin and pointed the way to the Father.

So instead of rallying around a chicken sandwich, let's rally around the Son of God!


10 Questions With Ben & Julianna Zobrist

Welcome to 5 Questions With.....

Except you'll notice that today it's 10 questions. That's right! This is another Super-Sized edition of the 5 Question feature.

Today's guest are Ben & Julianna Zobrist. Baseball fans will know that Ben Zobrist has been the starting 2nd Baseman for the Tampa Bay Rays since 2009. Julianna Zobrist is a Christian singer and musician with a just released album, Say It Now.

As their schedule allows, they also travel and minister together. They share about marriage, relationships, baseball, and faith.

In this interview they cover all of those topics.

Let's get to it:

1. Ben, how did you come to faith in Christ?

I came to Christ through the consistent teaching of the gospel by my parents and reinforced through a Sunday school lesson about heaven and hell. I was 5 years old and understood that if I died, I had to have my faith in Jesus Christ dying on the cross for my sins to be able to go to heaven. It was for fear of the alternative of hell that I first made that decision....a Godly fear no doubt and I am thankful that God began a work in me at such a young age.

2. Do you feel baseball is your calling?

I feel that baseball has been my calling vocationally for a certain period of my life, but someday I'll be done playing baseball and I look forward to whatever is the next thing God calls me to do vocationally. I think we are all called in a greater degree by our spiritual gifts rather than the job we are currently doing. If we are employing these on a regular basis, we will be useful to God in whatever job we end up doing.

3. How hard is it to walk the Christian life in a fishbowl setting like baseball?

I think there are things about baseball that make it harder to walk the Christian life and there are also things that make it easier. Knowing people are watching all the time keeps me accountable in the way I act. The fans, my teammates and the game itself keeps you on your toes. Overall, I wouldn't say it's any more difficult than any other Christian persons walk. We all face the same challenge of a sinful selfish nature and we all have the same power available to us in Christ to overcome it.

You talk about your identity in Christ. Can you explain how verses like Gal. 2:20 impact your life?

Verses like Gal. 2:20 are a great reminder that we have been changed and we are different because the Spirit of Christ has taken up residence in us. When we are struggling with the old nature, we must put it quickly behind us because the old has gone and the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17). If we are new creations, we need to live like it.

5. Juliana, how did you come to faith in Christ?

My story is not one of some obvious dramatic transformation, but is much like many others. I grew up going to church every time the doors were open not because my heart was completely there, but primarily due to my father being the head pastor. Christianity was normal to me. Not only normal, but expected. Spiritual disciplines were common and Christian "lingo" was cool amongst peers. A large part of my thirst for knowledge was to please the crowd I was around. And I definitely was a pro at playing to whatever crowd I was in. It wasn't until my sophomore year in high school when i went to an event called SEMP that trained students how to evangelize and then sent them into the streets of Chicago to do so, that my faith was put to the test. For the first time I didn't know what to do. I wanted to impress my peers with a "star for every convert" but I also did not want to talk to strangers on the streets about something I wasn't sure I believed. It was then that I decided, I needed to either discover what it really meant to be a Christian, or stop calling myself one. At that moment, in my humility, God opened my eyes. And in His loving kindness, he patiently continues to open my eyes and reveal to me who He is and who I am. The more clearly I see myself, the more clearly I realize my need for my Savior. All of my "good works" become nothing, and His ability to use a sinner like me for His glory is nothing short of a Miracle. He rescued me out of darkness and has made me alive with Him.

6. Your new album, Say It Now, is now available. What is the story behind the title track?

Say It Now is a shout out to women. It is my fist pumping encouragement to be bold. We were not left on this planet to just be beautiful girls. We were not left to be the perfect mother. We were not left here to be the most godly wife. We were left to proclaim the name of Christ, using those avenues of girl, wife, and mother to be our springboard for loving Him. We spend so much energy pressuring one another in our "churchy" manipulative way to be perfect. Have the perfect home. Perfect godly marriage. Perfect godly kids. We make idols of the good things and good gifts God has given us. Gifts that are to be used to make His name great, not ours. We need to proclaim our weaknesses because only then will others see our need for our Savior. And that is the point. To draw near to Christ, Abide in Him, and be bold for the Gospel. Say it now!!

7. What has been the highlight of your career thus far?

The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of "moments" as an artist was when I got to open for Casting Crowns. My new album was almost completely written, I was six months pregnant, and working so hard to finish it. I had a performance boot camp with my band where we rehearsed all day for three days and days after. The anticipation of performing for what ended up being over 8,000 people was so exciting. The show went seamlessly and for most everyone in the crowd it was the first time they had heard of me. So to walk to my tent and see a line out the door of girls and boys and moms and kids waiting to talk to me was one of the most rewarding experiences.

8. Is there a time God made His grace evident to you in a real way?

God makes His grace evident to me every day if I have the eyes to see it. Just recently I was down in the dumps having a much-loved pity party for myself because I'd just released my album, but I was going on the road with Ben to Boston. I thought to myself "I should be working on my music, I just released my album, what am I doing? Why aren't I touring?" etc. etc. you know how those types of pity parties go. But as I prayed and eventually repented of my selfishness, God quietly reminded me of my priorities. How to sacrifice and love my husband, how to sacrifice for my children. Many times that means having to step away from music. Not a week later I was sitting on the couch with my three year old and my seven month old. Zion had peanut butter and jelly all over his face, I was nursing Kruse, we were watching Curious George, and I got an email. My album was in the Top 100 Albums on iTunes. I started crying immediately and laughing at the same time. How gracious is the Lord to me! It was as if He was saying "Jules, be faithful with what I have given you...two kids and a husband to love...and let me take care of the rest".

9. How do the two of you balance career, ministry and family?

Balancing career, family and ministry is a question we get often. I could write a book on it, but in short, our lives are our ministry. Baseball is Ben's springboard for loving Christ and sharing Him with others. Music is mine. Zion and Kruse will have other avenues one day like school and sports. My mom said to me once in regards to parenting, "God blesses the motive, not the method". And I believe she is so right. We can spend so much time trying to do things for God, when He simply wants our hearts. The more we walk with Him, abide closely to Him, love Him, then he accomplishes the things in us that He wishes to accomplish. And life becomes less about what we do, and more about loving Him through the avenues He brings to our lives.

Practically speaking though, we made a commitment to never be away from each other more than 6 days. So the kids and I pack our suitcases every week and join Ben on the road. We have grown very accustomed to life in hotels and Zion and Kruse sleep in the same room, wake up and pick up the phone to order breakfast. Haha.

10. What is the best part of working together in ministry?

The best part of working together in ministry is the accountability it brings. When life gets busy sometimes it's easy to not set aside time for reading together or talking through deep truths. But when we do ministry together, Ben and I go on walks to prepare and end up praying and talking for hours about various spiritual things. Ministry together is bonding because it's eternal work. Our hearts are woven even stronger together as we seek the Heavenly.

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this Ben and Julianna.

You can read more about the Zobrist's ministry and order Julianna's new CD on their website. Make sure you check it out: The Zobrists

To see past 5 Questions guests see the 5 questions page under the tab above.