Monday, January 30, 2012

Book Review: Finding Purpose Beyond Our Pain

purposeBy Paul Meier, MD and David L. Henderson, MD
Nashville, 2009, Nashville
Number of pages: 278

This is one of those books that I read too late in life. I wish I read this book when I was, like, twelve. You read this book and feel like it contains the secrets to the Universe. Simple. Profound. And not nearly as cliché as the previous sentences I've written.
"What if, instead of chasing after a pain-free life, we realized that pain is not the enemy? In fact, pain can be our ally if we allow it to lead us away from danger and toward the healing power of Christ," write the authors. What a concept. We spend so much time chasing happiness and trying to avoid pain that it takes most of a lifetime to learn that pain is the first step to healing. In fact, healing can't happen without pain.
There are three reasons why we miss the lessons that come from pain:
  • we focus on our circumstances instead of God
  • we have more fear of pain than we have fear of God
  • we forget how faithful God has been in the past
"Comparing our circumstances to others' and calling it injustice will not bring relief from pain. It only makes it worse," the authors write. So true. This is the story of my life. I get so wrapped up in how the other guy is lucky or promoted or better looking or at the front of the lunch line that it weighs me down, causes exhausting mental gymnastics, and fills me with hate. It's like pain with compound interest. Quite a waste of time.
Not only is there purpose beyond our pain, but there is purpose beyond your injustices. The authors list five:
  • Remember your status.
  • Always give thanks.
  • What you see is not all you get.
  • Justice deferred is not justice denied.
  • Keep a record of rights.
These points sound biblical? They are. As you read them in the book, the authors develop these thoughts practically and reference them scripturally.
The book is organized into seven parts exploring these concepts:
  • Injustice
  • Rejection
  • Loneliness
  • Loss
  • Discipline
  • Failure
  • Death
The Meier and Henderson, as educated and experienced as they are compared to us commoners, write in a way that's accessible and completely understandable. You don't have to have a PhD to hang with these MDs. As I re-read areas of this book for this review, I became very aware of my desire to read the book again. I think it will serve as a great reference and I'll need to resist the temptation to loan it out knowing how helpful it will be.
So don't ask. Here's a link to purchase your own copy.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Barna: Football, Faith and John 3:16

Tebow mania is a fact. Even though his Broncos had their butts handed to them by the Patriots, the conversation about Tebow and his exhibition of Christian faith isn’t going away anytime soon. I predict it will be a topic in popular discussion for the few years. From Saturday Night Live’s never-ending lampoon of Tebow’s own personal Jesus to Jimmy Fallon’s mash-up glam-rocker Tim tebowieTeBowie, everybody is talking.

A mash-up of Philippians 1:15-18 comes to mind.

Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love (think: Tim Tebow), knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict [Tebow]. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

Last week, the numbers 3-16 were topics in the cable news cycle for the first few days of the week. Barna recently did a study about whether or not public displays of John 3:16 even meant anything to the TV watching public the verse in broadcast to.

David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, directed the study on behalf of the American Bible Society. He put the findings in context: “The controversy surrounding Mr. Tebow ends up affecting so many people because—whether they have an affinity for sports or not—most Americans have at least some knowledge of the Bible and connection to Christianity. Despite the pundits' protestations, more Americans than one would expect know exactly what Tim is Tebow-ing about in the end zone.” read more here… 

316Here’s the thing, in my whole life I’ve never seen John 3:16 so discussed in public. Granted, during the 90’s, there was a group that would stand in the seats behind end-zones holding placards emblazoned with John 3:16 held high as field goals were kicked. Many people saw the reference (Tebow was growing up during those years…) curious and talking about the Bible verse. But it was never headlines across the country discussed on AM talk shows, cable news, and public radio as much as Tebow’s public display of his faith and life-verse: John 3:16.

Whether you love Tebow and his sport or not, here’s the bottom line:

“Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Haiti Two Years Later

Today marks the two year anniversary of the devastating earthquake that buried Haiti in rubble. This is an article I wrote last year, published in the Good News, where I interviewed Angel Aloma, director of Food for the Poor. Haiti still needs help.

By Bryon Mondok
The Good News

Since the first days after the quake, Food For The Poor has worked to alleviate suffering and rebuild the lives of the Haitian people, said Angel Aloma, Executive Director of Food For The Poor in an interview with the Good News. “It’s a long-term solution. There are no short cuts to it.”
Food For The Poor launched a campaign two days after the earthquake and have continued the work ever since.
“It’s continuous. We’ve been there for 24 years. And we have accelerated our work tremendously. But it’s not a special campaign. It’s a continuous effort.” said Angel Aloma, Executive Director of Food For The Poor
Aloma was born in Santiago, Cuba, and raised in Jamaica. He received his Master’s Degree from Nova Southeastern University.
Growing up in Jamaica has uniquely equipped Aloma with the necessary skills to guide Food For The Poor through the organization’s incredible growth. Because Aloma is especially attuned to the plight of the poor in the western hemisphere, he leads numerous mission trips to the Caribbean countries.
“Food For The Poor is in just about every city in Haiti,” Says Aloma. “We have distribution centers in the north and the east and the west and the south. Because we work through churches, we have a tremendous network of more than 2,600 recipients who actually collect from our distribution centers and then they distribute to their churches and the churches distribute to the final beneficiaries. Our mission, basically, is to turn the church of the first world to church of the third world.”

Good News: Tell our readers what was going through your mind when you saw the news about the earthquake. Were you in South Florida at the time?
“I was about to leave for the Dominican Republic. When it happened, I was about to meet with the president of the Dominican Republic, but the meeting was cancelled. I was on my way to the airport when I got a phone call saying the president would not be able to see me. So I cancelled the trip and then about half an hour later, all hell broke loose in Haiti. It was a shock for us; we had a group there from Lynn University going with some of our staff members. And, unfortunately, although eight of the twelve students survived, four students from Lynn University and two faculty members lost their lives at the Hotel Montana. We also had a staff member that was with them that was buried in rubble for 17 hours before she was saved.“
Good News: How soon after the earthquake were you able to get into the country?
“I went down there six days after the earthquake, myself, and spent eight days in Haiti. I had to go through the Dominican Republic. I brought in a convoy of four trucks with water and medicines and cement to start the rebuilding. I took 1,500 bags of cement. That’s the actual truck that I rode over on.”

Good News: What was it like being on the ground there?
“When I went to the Hotel Montana - where I always stayed - I saw it completely in rubble. Knowing that four of the students and two teachers from Lynn had died there and that one of our staff had been buried there for 17 hours, the owner came up to me and hugged me and started crying. I started crying also. It is just very, very sad. When I drove downtown, seven to fourteen days after the earthquake, there were still dead bodies all over the place. The stench in the city was horrendous. One night, my nose actually bled from blowing it so much trying to get rid of the stench. I’ve seen a lot of dead bodies in my life, but I wasn’t prepared for the decomposition of the bodies. The stench was all over the city. Downtown you could see the bodies, but there were areas where you couldn’t. Bodies were buried under the rubble, but you could still smell them. It was a very pervasive situation.”

Good News: How do you respond to the cholera situation? When your mission is to distribute food, how does a crisis like that play into what you are doing? Is it an interruption of your work?
“Since the cholera outbreak, we have installed thirty solar powered water purification units. These are systems that will purify, if you have a water source, regardless of how contaminated the water source might be, up to 10,000 gallons per day. We have installed 30 of those in the Artibonite area, the area with the most cholera incidents. That means that we have a total production of 300,000 gallons of pure water per day. That came almost immediately after the cholera epidemic started.“

Good News: How are you able to handle set back after set back? How do you endure them?
“I saw some of the most inspiring things that I’ve ever seen. At one of the tent cities I met some women that had lost their babies in the earthquake. In the midst of their grief, they had volunteered to breast feed the infants that had lost their mothers. And I thought to myself, ‘my God, can anyone give more of themselves than that?‘ The generosity of the people who are suffering toward each other is amazing. I saw people whose hands were bleeding from helping their neighbors dig out the rubble to try find their relatives even though, by that time, the majority of them had died. They wanted to at least give them a decent burial.”

Good News: What does that do to your faith?
“It strengthens it. It strengthens it because when we drove home at night around nine o‘clock after very long days, we had to drive around groups of people whose churches had been destroyed. They were congregating in the streets to worship and praise. I thought to myself that if these people, who have every right to feel forsaken by life and by God, if they are able to maintain their faith and be here, now, amidst the tragedy of lost family members, lost possessions, lost homes, and lost churches, and still gather to worship and thank God for their blessings, that really strengthens my faith, let me tell you.”
Food For The Poor provided millions of meals from the rice, beans, canned goods and water that were shipped into Haiti. They’ve installed latrines near tent cities where several thousand people were sharing fewer than a dozen portable toilets. Solar lights have been installed near the latrines in tent cities and other communities to provide a higher level of safety for the people living nearby.
By the end of November, 2010, Food For The Poor sent 1,377 containers valued a $182 million in relief to help the people in Haiti. These containers included food, water, and water filtration systems, medicines, building supplies, tools, boots and hygiene kits in response to the cholera.
“This isn’t a campaign with a beginning a middle and an end. Haiti is going to need help for the next 20 or 30 years,“ Aloma said.

For more information about
Food For The Poor, go to

Monday, January 09, 2012

The End…

This is a video Aaron created to promote the new teaching series at Riverbank Church, his new gig…

Makes you think…

The End: Series Bumper from Riverbank Church on Vimeo.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Said He Was an Outlaw

This is the best guitar pickin' you ever saw singin' about the most amazing man that ever walked the earth. No lyin'

Historic Interview with Pastor Chuck Smith

This is something I wrote and posted on

Pastor Chuck Smith's emphasis on Bible exposition not only changed a church, it changed a generation.

blog-dennis - Dennis Agajanian playing...
"Chuck Smith is known globally as the Father of the Jesus Movement," said Pastor Greg Laurie as he introduced Pastor Chuck Thursday night at a live, simulcast event where he interviewed the legendary preacher.

Pastor Chuck Smith, 84, recently announced to the congregation at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa that he had lung cancer and was in need of surgery.

The event was kicked off with music from the Harvest Worship Band and Dennis Agajanian. Agajanian, a living link back to the Jesus Movement according to Pastor Greg, covered Larry Norman's Wish We'd All Been Ready. His rendition of the classic provoked both reflection and worship. The Harvest Worship Band played a nostalgic medley of Jesus Movement songs including Little Country Church.

"This isn't a look at the theology of Chuck Smith. It's a look at Chuck Smith the man," said Pastor Greg before he played a video that focused on the influence Pastor Chuck has had on Greg Laurie's life. The clip was a very appropriate introduction to the interview of Pastor Chuck.

Chuck Smith shed tears as he recounted painful memories of his older sister. He had the entire venue exploded into raucous laughter as he told the story of meeting and dating his wife, Kay. Pastor Chuck also shared his testimony of salvation and call to ministry. Greg Laurie was obviously engaged and surprised by the things Pastor Chuck talked about.

blog-chuck - Pastor Chuck SmithPastor Greg and Pastor Chuck discussed the early days of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and it's impact and influence on shaping the Jesus Movement and the Calvary Chapel Movement that followed with 1,400 US churches. Pastor Chuck was not able to put a number on the amount of daughter Calvary Chapel churches planted around the world through international outreach.

You don't want to miss this incredible event where Pastor Chuck Smith shares things about his life and ministry that haven't been shared all in one place before. This video will endear you to a man used by God to change the course of a generation.
» watch video here

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Showing Mercy

And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. [Luke 1:58 ESV]

I have a neighbor that doesn’t want to talk to anybody, sometimes. Even me. Especially me, maybe. He’s a retired guy that doesn’t hear so well and leaves his hearing aid in the house when he just wants to do work around the yard and not talk to anybody. When I’m in this kind of mood, I put earphones in. He keeps his out.

He’s a better neighbor than me. He sweeps the parking area next to our adjoining townhouses daily. We have an oak tree that shakes leaves loose part of the year and dumps acorns on us the other part. Our cars and parking lot are covered every day with that oak tree’s leavings, but he sweeps it all up making our asphalt look tip-top.

I never sweep. The stuff I have to do is much more important. I go off and run. I go to work. I drive to the store. I want to introduce my neighbor to Jesus but I’m a little busy. It could be difficult because he’s a better neighbor than me. And he doesn’t wear his hearing aid.

The other day I grabbed a broom and helped him sweep. He didn’t have a hearing aid in so we couldn’t talk. We just swept together. I helped him make our parking area look tip-top.

A little later that day, I took him a Bible. I wanted to give him a Christmas present from our family. I wanted to tell him how the Book changed my my life and made me a better man; father; husband. I’m still working on being a better neighbor. He doesn’t get visits very often so all he wanted to do is show me pictures of his life before he retired. He showed me photos of his cars and a house he built and people at a factory in Michigan where he worked for thirty years. We didn’t get to talk about the Bible much. He doesn’t get visitors very often and he needed to tell me about his life before I went home and didn’t visit again.

When I’m a better neighbor, I’ll visit him more often and earn the right to have a conversation that goes two ways. I want to show him the kindness he’s shown me and I want to tell him about a merciful savior.

I see a theme emerging for 2012.

What if we were the ones who show mercy to our neighbors so that God rejoices over us?

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Update on Über Christ Follower Lysa McMillan

I posted a few weeks ago about my friend Lysa who's preparing to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise awareness about human trafficking. Read more here.

Lysa was recently interviewed on Moody Radio South Florida 89.3 FM about her efforts. Check it out below:

Lysa McMillan
Lysa McMillan
Freedom Climber
Topic: The Freedom Climb
Website | Listen

On January 11, 2012, the National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, a team of women from around the globe will climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. This team of world-changers will be raise awareness, offer prayers, and bring in resources to rescue women and children from oppression, slavery, exploitation and human trafficking. Let’s help them get it done.