Seeing Is Believing

thomas“My Lord and my God!”

These were the words of the reluctant disciple known as “Doubting Thomas.” He doubted for a week, in between appearances of the resurrected Jesus. Once he saw Jesus, he no longer doubted.

Paul was a Jewish leader who persecuted the early Church, but once he saw the resurrected Jesus, he went from persecutor to preacher; from prosperous to persecuted.

Jesus said to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (John 20:29).” Thomas, Paul, the other Apostles and according to Scripture 500 others saw the resurrected Jesus, and they believed.

Belief in the resurrection of Jesus is key to receiving the power of His sacrificial death for our rescue from the effect of sin, which is separation from God. According to Jesus’ words to Thomas, there are those who see and believe, and there will be those who believe without seeing the actual body of the resurrected Jesus.

So, the vast majority of Christians through the ages have not seen Jesus, physically. Occasionally, Jesus appears to people, but for the most part, Jesus leaves the job of revealing salvation to His disciples of every generation with the help of His Holy Spirit.

Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:35).” We hear so often that the churches are full of hypocrites, and yet Jesus tasked the Church to love one another. This love will identify them as His disciples…as “Christians,”…as those who have believed in the resurrection without seeing the physical body of Jesus.

I’ve never had a vision of Jesus. My wife had one when she was very young. I’m jealous (sort of). Thirty years ago I began to read about an interesting phenomenon that I could not readily appreciate. Random individuals from a particular group of people were having visions of Jesus. These were not Christians, but people who seemed to have these things in common: belief in one God; desire to follow God; an open heart.

At first I didn’t think much of these visions of Jesus since I had believed in Him without benefit of vision or dream. I had seen Jesus in the lives of His followers (and, yes, I have seen a great lack of Jesus in some of His followers). But, as I observed this group of people, I began to value their visions as gifts that God was giving them because that is how God’s grace is.

I have thought much of how important it is to represent Jesus to those who don’t know Him. I’ve learned that by reading His revelation, the Bible, I learn more and more of how to reveal Him to the world. Yet, still, God sends visions and dreams of Jesus to various people in this group. I cannot reveal my source nor the location of the story, but last year, in the midst of a battle in a place that Americans would refer to as “God forsaken,” two men from this particular group of people approached a friend of mine and asked, “Please tell us more about Jesus. He appeared to both of us in separate dreams, and we want to follow Him.” I remember wondering why my friend had remained in that dangerous place. He was not able to leave because of travel restrictions and visa problems, yet in his faithfulness to live and pray among an oppressed group of people because God placed him there, God sent a dream to two men who risked everything to follow Jesus, even though they were surrounded by Muslims, and in fact were previously Muslim, too.

Muslims are having visions and dreams about the resurrected Jesus! Islam teaches that Jesus did not die on the cross, hence they don’t believe in His resurrection.

As I prayed this morning for the world, my nation and the current refugee crisis, I wondered, “how many of these refugees had visions and dreams of Jesus. I know of one, and that story has influenced other refugees as well. But visions and dreams are not happening enough to touch the world. The world needs to see Jesus in His followers.

If “seeing is believing,” then I don’t want to people to believe anything less of me as a Christian than this: I want to love others as Jesus has loved me.


  1. Pray. It is hard to love someone if you are not praying for them (vice versa, too). Pray for our enemies as well as our neighbors. Pray for the government and for those who have never heard about Jesus.
  2. Deny ourselves. Putting ourselves first, is not how we love others. Practice putting others, first. This should be learned at home, first, as it would be scandalous if we put our neighbor first, and don’t practice this with our families.
  3. Look at the world through the lens of Jesus. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament and is revealed in the New Testament. Why don’t we stone adulterers today? One reason is that Jesus showed us a better way to deal with sin in our community.
  4. Get moving. Stagnation for anyone is a death sentence. Get off of Facebook. Get off of the couch. Get on with life. Jesus’ commission was to “go and make disciples,” not “grow wide on the couch and complain about the lack of disciples in the world.”
  5. Repeat (there are other things we can do, but repeating the four above is a great start).

Remember, seeing is believing, and I want the world to believe I am a follower of Jesus so that they might want to listen to His Word, believe in His resurrection and follow Him.

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Tis the Season to Be Naughty or Nice

santa kabobs
Thanksgiving is approaching and then Christmas (there are other holidays, but as a Christian, people already think I am not politically correct, so I don’t need to try and be PC, because I’ll still disappoint them) and these are times when we will be challenged in many ways. Here are just a few:

1. Those who count calories will lose count quickly;
2. Those who use credit cards will max them out, just as quick;
3. People will be tempted to lie about why they can’t go to a gathering, or lie about how good someone’s fruitcake is (actually, I cannot lie, I hate fruitcake)
4. Many businesses will fail or succeed based upon how much money that they can make over the next couple months, and that means many in retail will not spend time with their family as they really would like or need.

As I was growing up, gift-giving was something we enjoyed. I am the youngest and received the most presents. I recall as I grew up, I visited some families that took gift-giving to extremes that I was not used to. It really made me uncomfortable. I really hated seeing the wasted food that was trashed after exorbitant feasts, also. I was ready to give up on Christmas and Thanksgiving celebrations because of the abuses I saw. I wanted to remember that Jesus is the person we are celebrating at Christmas and God’s Providence is what we celebrate at Thanksgiving.

Boycotts and critiques are attempts to make the participant feel better, while nothing really changes, and the world continues to celebrate in drunkenness, gluttony and greed. So my suggestion is that we try and redeem the celebrations.

Here are a few thoughts:

1. Find a homeless person or two, and take them to a restaurant;
2. Invite foreigners, even Muslims, to come and celebrate with you. Let Muslims know if you will have pork, and have something that they could eat, instead (like Guinea Fowl, a popular dish during this time, that we call “Turkey” because of the Muslim Turks who used to trade this with the English);
3. Provide some tangible assistance to people in need (hopefully you know someone with a need, if not, then ask a charity or church for help);
4. Begin reading the New Testament at this time (if you read three chapters a day, you can finish in about three months), and while reading, listen to the Holy Spirit tell you how you can be more like Jesus;
5. Do something intentional and nice for your neighbors (aside from the mandatory wave that we often do). Distribute homemade cookies, or give them a hand delivered card or an ornament for their tree. If they don’t know why we celebrate Christmas, ask them if you can take them out for a cup of coffee and talk about it.

You get the picture, just reach out to people in love, and let the goal be to serve someone rather than being served.

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Travel Tip: How I Keep from Spoiling My Hotel Key Card

key card

You may have had this happen, too (perhaps it is more of a problem for guys than for ladies), but I would find myself at my hotel room door, trying to open the lock with a key card, and only see a red light in response. This has happened when I was tired and needed some sleep, or while on a five minute break during a conference.

A key malfunction requires one to make a mandatory visit to the front desk, as the clerk is the only person who can solve the problem at hand. This is especially troublesome when at a conference hotel, and there is already a line of people waiting to have their key cards reactivated.

I’ve been told that my cell phone is most likely the culprit, as the phone demagnetizes the strip on the card. The solution, I am told, it to keep the card away from my smartphone.

This sounded simple, so I would put the key in my left front trouser pocket, while my phone would safely rest in my right front trouser pocket. This would work, as I made my way back to my room. Later in the day, however, while back at the conference or touring the city, my phone and card would somehow make a connection, and the key would, again, deactivate. Sometimes I would find the card and phone in a warm embrace in one or the other pockets. I would have to go back to the front desk and humbly repeat my plea for assistance, “My key doesn’t work, can you please help me?”

Another way I have tried to solve this dilemma was by placing the key in my shirt pocket, but the problems with this included the following:  (1) The card fell out when I bent over; (2) I didn’t have a pocket on my shirt; (3) Or, embarrassingly, I forgot I had placed it in my shirt pocket (they are light as a feather, by the way). and asked for a replacement key.

One day, I noticed a young lady who was wearing her younger sister’s jeans (I am sure of this, because they were very tight fitting, and certainly were not the correct size). Inside her back pocket was a smart phone. About 75% of the phone was exposed, and I wondered if she were about to lose it. But, honestly, I’ve seen this type of behavior around the world, and wonder how many young ladies lose their phones in toilets, on busses or simply while strolling through a park. Ah, but then I also recalled that most of the time, smart phones are not in pockets, but in hands, as people often are looking at their phones. And contrary to what my wife thinks, I am not always looking at my cell phone, just usually when she is talking (!).

Anyhow, my eureka moment caused me to consider stuffing a key card in my back pocket, like the young lady had stuffed 25% of her phone in her back pocket. And now, that is exactly what I do: I keep my phone in my front pocket and my card in my left back pocket.

And in the three months that I have been following this policy, (in about ten separate hotel stays), I have not had the pleasure of interrupting a hotel clerk (while she was playing games on her cell phone) in order to reactivate my key card.

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Young Muslim Men Are Not the Only People Fleeing ISIS


Prior to 2014, I think our church in Istanbul had only 1-2 refugees associated with us. Now, given the current situation, we have had at least 17. Included in this number are a Syrian widow and her two sons.

This woman and her family used to live in Jordan, which is where her husband became ill and died. He was a well-known author in Syria, and his death could have been prevented, but they had no money for medical treatment while in Jordan.

So the remaining three in the family moved to Istanbul and through mutual friends, found our church. We welcomed them, and they tried to build a new life. However, it was too expensive, and hard to learn a new language, so they moved back to Syria (!).

From time to time I would communicate with the widow through social media to see how they were doing. And today, while pondering the current refugee crisis, I reached out to her.

“We are in Germany,” she wrote.

“How was your journey from Syria to Germany?” I asked.

“Oh my God! It was so difficult, but the Lord was with us. Thank you for your prayers for us.”

I want to thank everyone who has prayed for our ministry, our church and the millions of refugees coming from Iraq and Syria. When we began our church, I didn’t know that this great refugee crisis was going to happen. I am humbled to think that we have had a small role in helping refugees.

Some people are critical when they think of the refugees coming into Europe saying, “why are there so many young men?” and assuming they are all Muslims. I know of three children, two women, one 60 year old man and only two young men in their 20’s who would all call themselves Christian have made the difficult journey from death to life in Europe. These are ready to become productive citizens in Europe and to honor God. They are thankful that they have found a new home, far from ISIS.

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Language Blunder: Mispronunciation of One’s Name Can Be Embarrassing


We moved to Almaty, Kazakhstan in October, 1996, and at a friend’s suggestion, we hired a driver for two days a week for a few months. While the most of the week, we walked and used public means of transportation, two days, weekly, we rode in style in a red Russian Lada.

Our driver was very quiet and spoke no English, though I was trying to learn Russian. Soon, I learned to speak words like “home,” “school,” and “store,” with great proficiency. Our driver’s name was Yevgeny, and he was called by the shortened version of Zhenya (the Russian equivalent of “Eugene” and “Gene”). I had trouble with the “zh” and the “ya” sounds which are one letter, each, in Russian, but I had no idea how badly I was mispronouncing his name.

Many times while we were out, we would meet someone I knew, and I would try to introduce my driver. Without fail, he would pick up on my actions, and before I could state his name, he would stick out his hand and say, “Zhenya, Zhenya!”

One day, the friend who had arranged for our driver asked how we were getting along together. I  told her that all was well and that I was learning the city through him. Then I tried to tell her a story about my driver, when she suddenly stopped me and asked,

“Peyton, what is your driver’s name?”

I answered “Jina.”

My friend burst with laughter, and then explained that I was mispronouncing his name and calling him “wife.”

Zhenya, though very quiet, never seemed to want me to introduce him to anyone. :)

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He, Too, Had Been a Refugee

baby Jesus flee

I’ve said it for years…

…He, too, had been a refugee.

I remember when I first thought about this, I was overwhelmed.

His words to the meek and to those who find themselves in last place, were not just comforting, but words from the lips and heart of a man who had experienced displacement due to political persecution while just a baby. We are not sure how old he was when his family fled the realm of their maniacal ruler. Most likely not older than two. I don’t think that he would have remembered the drama when his father was warned and then departed with his young family to another country. But he probably remembered growing up in exile. You see, he, too, had been a refugee.

When he was an adult, he became a teacher. Once he said to his students that they needed to be ready to flee when danger comes. In his words, he spoke of how difficult it would be for pregnant and nursing mothers to be on the run. I’ve often thought of how his own mother probably told him how challenging it had been for her when she had traveled while pregnant, gave birth far from home, and later had fled political persecution with a nursing baby. He, too, had been a refugee.

While I was still in high school, my church did an awesome thing: they helped a Vietnamese “boat” family relocate in our home town. My girlfriend and I were part of the entourage who welcomed the family at the airport. They were two brothers and a sister. My girlfriend and I later married, but it was early in our relationship that God enabled us to cross paths with a family that needed help (we are thankful that we’ve been able to meet other families in challenging situations). Those three Vietnamese were later joined by three more from their family. We used to meet with them at least once, weekly, just to visit. It was our first cross-cultural experience together. At that time, I was touched to think of how Jesus, himself, had been a refugee, like these people.

A friend of mine in Almaty, Kazakhstan, told me that her family had to flee, twice, to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in the 1950s and 60s because of political persecution. She knew what living in exile was like and it colored her life. Once while my friend was sharing a sad memory, I mentioned that Jesus, too, had been a refugee.

In the last four years, I have come into contact with several refugees. These have come from different countries, and in every case, they have fled religious extremism. I’ve told them, as well, that Jesus, too, had been a refugee.

And to all of us who have not known what it is like to have our dignity stripped, and our hope crushed while we wonder if we will be alive tomorrow, if we will be safe tomorrow, if we will be able to rest and  stop fleeing…to us, I want us to remember that Jesus, too, had been a refugee.  And when we see the news about refugees drowning remember that many have been raped, brutalized, starved, extorted, lied to and attacked, and that has been since they have been on the run from governments and terrorists who have shown them injustice because of their age, gender, religion or political stance.

When I consider my own history, I know that part of my family tree includes the French Huguenots. The Huguenots were Reformed Protestants who had suffered Roman Catholicism France. The majority were killed, but about 500,000 fled France to a dozen or more other countries,  including the Virginia Colony.

My ancestors, too, had been refugees. My Savior, too, had been a refugee.

I am thankful that my ancestors were welcomed to this land and became productive members of American society.

I wonder if those who welcomed my family to America realized that Jesus, too, had been a refugee.

I don’t want us to forget this.

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I know It’s Dangerous, But We Must At Least, Try

refugee“I know it’s dangerous, but we must at least, try.” These are the words of a man I met last year in Istanbul. He told me this, several times.

This man, with many from his family, had miraculously escaped Iraq, just before many from his extended family and village had been cowardly killed by ISIS.

He, his wife and his four-year-old daughter, were under my care in Istanbul. The current refugee crisis was already underway, but it was NOT yet recognized by the EU, and hardly noticed by the US.

As Yazidis, my new friends did not feel comfortable in Istanbul. They wanted to get as far away from Iraq and ISIS as they could. My friend has a brother in Europe and another in America, so his goal was to make it to Europe.

They wanted to take a boat to a poor European nation. I strongly opposed the idea, “The boats are not safe, and the people helping you are really wicked opportunists,” I pleaded with them.  But my friend said, “I know it’s dangerous, but we must at least, try.”

They waited, daily, for their contact to inform them that it was time to go to the boat and escape. Whenever I saw my friends, I wondered if it would be the last time I would see them alive.

One morning we awoke to a news headline about an boat overfilled with refugees that had capsized in the Bosphorus. Among the dead was a four-year-old girl. I furiously tried to contact me friend, as my heart told me that he and his family had been on that boat. Later in the day I contacted him, rejoiced that they were safe (I wonder how many people cried over the deaths of the other refugees).

I continued offering to help my friend, but my help was not tangible enough for him. I learned during this time that refugees are in “panic mode,” and it is very hard to stop them from moving.  Soon, he sent his wife and daughter to live in Northern Iraq, in the Kurdish autonomous region, and he was determined to smuggle himself into Northern Europe.

For a period of time, I heard nothing from my friend, then suddenly I heard that he had, safely, made it to his destination. I have heard very little, since then, though his success has been confirmed by his brother in the US.

Since meeting my friend, I have made other friends and acquaintances. One was a freedom-fighter and the other was a journalist who fought his own battles in the Middle East. I’ve met a few musicians, farmers, factory workers, school kids and housewives, as well. All of them echo the same words that my refugee friend from Iraq said, “I know it’s dangerous, but we must try.”

Currently the world having the greatest refugee crisis since World War II. We know what and who created that crisis, and many lives were lost putting down Hitler. Many nations welcomed refugees from that war, and they have become part of those societies.

While it may seem hard to welcome this new influx of refugees, we must. It may seem “dangerous,” but we must at least try.  I believe we will succeed if we try, and that this will honor God through the words of a former refugee, himself, Our Lord Jesus the Messiah who said,

“…I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me (Matthew 25:35, 36).”

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