Category Archives: Interviews

In the Home Stretch …in the End of Times!

“God chooses a nation to become the geographical point, where the attention of the world will concentrate mainly in the end of times, and chose the nation of Israel.”

Dr. Armando Alducin

Dr. Armando Alducin, Founder of "New Life for the World."

Dr. Armando Alducin, Founder of “New Life for the World.”

Nearly 36 years ago, Dr. Armando Alducin had a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ.
After having studied and experimented with various philosophies and religions he became an atheist, because according to him, no absolute truth could exist in any system of thought.
Happily, through his brother Alejandro and the missionary Emilio Aandereud, Dr. Alducin came to the knowledge of the truth and began his life in the Christian walk.
In 1982 he founded “Vida Nueva para México” [New Life for Mexico], which later on would change its name to “Vida Nueva para el Mundo” [New Life for the World], an organization that is currently bringing the Gospel to more than 55 nations. In fact, along with his brother Alejandro, Dr. Alducin has founded more than 40 churches in different parts of Mexico, the United States, Europe, South America and Israel. His ministry also sustains several missionaries around the world.

Dr. Alducin, how do you see the current picture in the geopolitical framework in relation to the so called “the end of times” stated as such by the Bible?

It is a great blessing to know that 2,600 years ago the Hebrew prophets in the Bible, in a chronological-supernatural way were able to draw us a map, a guide for us to know –those who have reached these times in the 21st century, that we are actually in the end of times of human history.

The prophecies mainly of the books of Ezekiel and Daniel are amazing in the light of the prophecies of the Apostle John in the book of Revelation. The Bible has chosen Israel to be a thermometer, thus, through Israel we can measure the temperature of the world; and we know that the Middle East started the beginning of civilization in Iraq and what is now Syria, which was Mesopotamia back then, and it was not yet divided, and civilization was going to end there.

It is incredible that now in the 21st century, we are right in this moment, in the month of November 2016, where the Middle East is a boiling pot. Now, the civil war in Syria is about to bring about an international social outbreak, in which many nations will have to be involved. It is wonderful, that this does not infuse us Christians any fear. Why? Because we know that these are signs that Jesus anticipated us, signs that were going to be manifested, that we really are in the end of times and we should rejoice. And Jesus said, “When these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

So, I think it is the time when the Church and those who are Christians be aware that there is a day of judgment approaching, and that the Lord created us as free and responsible moral agents, and that we have to repent of our sins to stand before the judgment of God some day.

In fact, we are living wars, rumors of wars and natural phenomena like tsunamis, among others. But many people assert, “There has always been the same thing.” What is the answer to that statement: “there has always been the same”, as we are now living that “end of times”?

Wars have always been there, ever since Cain killed Abel, there have been murders and wars; but not ever before the 20th century, the past century, had all the nations of the world been involved in the First and Second World War. And Jesus said in Matthew 24, Luke 21 and Mark 13, that there would be wars and rumors of wars, and that nation would rise against nation. And this has never happened until the 20th century. We realize that this was the beginning of what Jesus in Matthew 24 proclaims, as the beginning of sorrows. In the First and Second World War, the United Nations was formed to try to prevent a Third World War and we know that since the Second World War up until now, the 21st century has seen more than 283 revolutions and coups d’État. Now, with all the technology that we have and with all scientific advances, we are on the brink of an international social outbreak of war in the Middle East.

Throughout history, we know that Israel has been hated by certain groups or nations. In fact, they wanted to exterminate Israel. In that perspective, how should we understand that Israel is the “thermometer of God”?

Many people say to me: “well, why did not God choose the Italians, the Spaniards, why not the Mexicans or the Ecuadorians”? This is the answer:
God chooses a nation to become the geographical point, where the attention of the world will concentrate mainly in the end of times, and chose the nation of Israel. God chose the nation of Israel, because the Messiah was born there, and this is proved by the genealogies of Jesus Christ in Luke and Matthew. Christ is the only person born in history, from whom his genealogy can be traced, from Adam or from Abraham. No other man, no matter what monarchic ancestry he may come from, not even the kings’ origins can be traced.

Jesus Christ proves that by being descendant from King David, from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, He was really the Messiah that God had chosen.

Romans 9: 3 – 4 states that God chose Israel so that through the Jews, we obtain the Book of the books,

Dr. Armando Alducin, San Antonio, TX

Dr. Armando Alducin, San Antonio, TX

which is called the Bible. The book that was written in Hebrew and Greek has the earliest record of history, archeology, cosmology, anthropology, psychology, literature, poetry, among others. With respect to this book, I have always asked people and it is one of the questions whereby I like to challenge the scientific, political, philosophical, writers’ audiences, I always say: “tell me,” –and I have 35 years of preaching this message – “Which book do you know is better than the Bible?”; and up until this moment, after 35 years of standing before all kinds of fora and auditoriums, there has not been a single person who has dared to tell me that there is a book better than the Bible.

This is why God chose Israel. And I repeat, to be the point of the prophecies. Right now we realize that Israel is precisely surrounded by 22 million Arabs who are trying to exterminate it, and since 1948 when it became independent as a sovereign nation, 22 million Arabs have not been able to remove or push them to the Mediterranean.

This is to be fulfilled in the prophecy of Amos 9, which states that “they shall never again be uprooted out of their land,” and these are the evidences that the Bible leaves us, history shows that God exists.

Along these lines, there are other sacred writings such as The Quran of the Muslims, the Tripitaka of the Buddhists, and other religions whose followers claim that they are the sacred books through which their god speaks to them and conducts their lives. What should we say to them in the face of the Bible?

When we confront them with the Bible, let us remember the Hindus, they did the Vedas; The Maharani Nasutta; The Muslims, the Quran; The Tripitaka, the Buddhists; and so we can go through sacred books and none of these sacred books contains prophecies. None of them predicted when its founder was to be born. Buddha, for example, before dying, said: “seek the truth” to his disciples, he never said that he was the truth. Hindus have millions of gods. Buddhism is an atheistic religion, because Gautama Buddha did not believe in God; [speaking] of the Quran created by Muhammad, and here, this man’s moral profile is terrible upon marrying a 7 year-old-girl, for God’s sake, psychologically, he tells us that he was a psychopathic man!
No founder of any religion can even compare himself with the person of the Son of God or with the Holy Scriptures!

To conclude, what is your final message in the framework that we have discussed? Your message for our Christian audience and for those who do not necessarily identify themselves with the Christian Faith!

Firstly, I would like to remind all my brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ who we have experienced the new birth, about the words of Christ in Luke chapter 21, which states that when we see all these things, let us remember the following: “Let our heart not to be filled with carousing and drunkenness, and the anxieties of life, and come suddenly upon us that day. Because as a snare, Jesus said: ´it will come upon on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man´[at his second coming].”

Dr. Armando Alducin & Cecilia Yepez, at the moment of the interview

Dr. Armando Alducin & Cecilia Yepez, at the moment of the interview

The Church has to understand something, we have a mission: to win souls and to disciple them. Every Christian has to seek a person, someone with whom they can share the Word of God and talk about Christ, to all the people we can, because time is up!
For the people who do not know Jesus Christ, the Bible states that the human being is a sinner and that these sins cannot be eradicated or erased with religions, and that by good deeds we could never obtain our salvation. The Bible asserts that there is a barrier between God and man, which is called sin; and only through the blood of Christ, only through His sacrifice on the cross, it was possible for this barrier to collapse.

This is the message of the Bible given by God to us, He offers us salvation without having to do anything but believe, what Jesus did in our place, on that cross. So, invite Him as your Lord and Savior, repent of your sins; believe that after 3 days He rose from the dead, and from then on, begin to feed yourself spiritually with the Bible, because that is the nourishment of the Spirit of the Lord.

It is important for us that during these times that we are going through, we take God seriously, people must repent in their lives and learn that there is a God who loves them eternally, and that this is perhaps the only opportunity you may have in order to determine the Eternal destiny of your soul!

Missions: Reaching out the World from Where You Are!

“This text [Acts 1:8] actually says that the thrust of mission is where people are they should have access to the Gospel.”

                                                                        Dr. Terry Casiño
TerryCasino-photo1Dr. Terry Casiño was born in the Philippines. He is a theologian, missiologist, educator, missions strategist, and catalyst for global diaspora missiology. He earned his Doctor of Theology (Systematic Theology & Philosophy of Religion) from Asia Baptist Graduate Theological Seminary in the Philippines and Doctor of Philosophy (Missiology & Contextualization) from ACTS, the international graduate school of Asia United Theological University in South Korea.

An international scholar, Dr. Casiño’s works have been published in the UK, South Korea, the Philippines, North America, India, and Australia.

He has served invariably as a minister, lecturer, conference speaker, missions consultant, or researcher across Asia, Europe, Africa, North America and Latin America.

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The following is an excerpt of the Asomavisión TV interview with Dr. Terry Casiño. Courtesy of “De Sobremesa TV Program” and Pastor Pablo Gutiérrez, Producer / Interviewer [Quito, Ecuador].

 

What are your first thoughts about this biblical text (Acts 1:8)?

Acts 1:8 actually is very central to our theology of missions as Church. Because it was a text that was given to the disciples before Jesus ascended to heaven. And Jesus laid out a plan on how to change the world and how to spread the Gospel, using this text.

There are two things that I would like to share about this text.

The first is the scope of missions.

And Jesus said that it started in Jerusalem, then Judea and Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth. So, mission in this particular text is basically universal. But this text does not talk about priority of mission.

Sometimes we think of Acts 1:8 as something that refers to priority in mission, but this text is not about priority. This text is about mission strategy.

In the original language, the word “ἔν τε” (en te) “both” in English, is crucial for understanding of this strategy. Because it actually says, “beginning both in Jerusalem, and Judea and Samaria.” So, the word “en te” is so important. It means simultaneous activities in Jerusalem and other parts of the world.

The second important thing about this text is the thrust of mission, the emphasis of mission.

Some church leaders, for example, would teach that for Acts 1:8 to be fulfilled, then we need to start this from Jerusalem and then move to Judea, and then move to Samaria and then to the uttermost parts of the Earth. But this text actually says that the thrust of mission is where people are they should have access to the Gospel.

In other words, it does not guarantee that if our Jerusalem Church is big that our vision for other nations will be big. Because when our Jerusalem Ministry sometimes gets bigger we get stuck within our Jerusalem and then we forget the other nations, the other people groups.

So, what this text is all about is very simple. That souls or individuals in Jerusalem are equally important with those who are outside Jerusalem, vice versa.

Why to begin in Jerusalem?

Well, Jerusalem is the hub for all this missionary work. Because if everyone goes out of Jerusalem, then there will be no one to support those who are going out.

So, there has to be a strong integration between ecclesiology -the doctrine of the Church-, as well as missiology, which is really the study and the practice of missional work.

And if I add one more…
The text says Jerusalem and all these geographical locations, right?

That is like linear… going in one direction. But today the nations have come to Jerusalem. They’re here in Quito [Ecuador]. The nations are here!

And because not every believer in Ecuador can go to the nations, so God sent the nations here. Then, it is important that we recognize the presence of the nations here, so that we can fulfill Acts 1:8.

You have done missions work in several parts of the world like Asia, Africa and in America, but let me ask you, what motivated you to get involved in missions?

I never thought of becoming an overseas missionary. Because I thought Filipinos, you know, are enough

Pastor Pablo Gutierrez interviews Dr. Terry Casiño. Translated by Cecilia Yepez [Asomavisión]

Pastor Pablo Gutierrez interviews Dr. Terry Casiño. Translated by Cecilia Yepez [De Sobremesa – Asomavisión]

for me. Plus Philippines is beautiful! Just like Ecuador!

But when I was 20 years old I attended a mission’s conference. And I was a very young pastor. It never done on me that there are people who need the Gospel outside my country.

It also never done on me that there are people who need the Gospel outside my own cultural community. But then God sent me to the mountain areas. So I served as a tribal missionary for some years.

So, I started with a tribal group and then God sent me to Japan in 1988. Then God sent me to South Korea in 1992. Then after that, you know 50 other countries more.

But the motivation is basically based on what I saw, you know, outside of my own community.

The hunger for meaning, the hunger for truth. The hunger for something deeper, although they’re professionals, although they’re medical doctors, or lawyers, or engineers, there’s this hunger for truth in their lives.

I’m so much interested in people moving from one place to another. We call it diaspora missions. There are one billion diaspora people in the world!

When you talk about missional diaspora, you are referring to people in general moving to different places for several reasons; you are not actually referring to people involved in missions, i.e. missionaries who are sent off and are financially supported. Could you explain more about that?

Well, the missionaries are part of the global diaspora. All kinds of people who move from one place to another are under diaspora.

There are almost 250 million international diaspora. And there are more than 700 million internal diaspora. Like in Ecuador, in South America, especially in Colombia, there are internal diasporas. People moving from one place to another because of so many factors.

In fact, Colombia has 15% of all these diasporas alone, internal diaspora. And there’re so many diasporas in Lima and also in Brazil, all kinds of parts of the world, especially Europe now.

So, one of my interests is this.
If I cannot go, for example to Peru to reach out to the Peruvians. I reach out to the Peruvians in Charlotte area [North Carolina].

So for example, if an Ecuadorian church cannot go to India. Then that church can reach out to the Indians here [in Ecuador].

Because diaspora means from everywhere to everywhere.

Thinking out loud, from mission perspective, one needs to train the workers who will travel overseas. It is also needed to raise funds and to take care of their emotional area. And this

Dr. Terry Casiño, during one of his conferences in Quito, Ecuador

Dr. Terry Casiño, during one of his conferences in Quito, Ecuador

process usually takes several years of preparation. Based on the Biblical Text (Acts 1:8) and on what you have mentioned on Missional Diaspora, we should not stop going into the world but we should also prioritize the outreach of those who are already in our nations. Is it so?

Exactly, we’re talking about strategy, not priority. Because it doesn’t make sense spending so much money going overseas and not being able to reach out to those people whom we are trying to reach overseas and they’re already here.

And we would always send missionaries overseas. We should! But we should also be good stewards of the funds and resources that God has given us as a church.

Just to give you an example, there are 30 million Chinese tourists at the western side of Europe every summer. And we spend so much money trying to teach our missionaries Chinese language or you know, training them in their culture. And yet, there are 30 million of them right there every summer.

It’s a mission’s strategy!

Your final words for our audience!

Well, it’s very simple. Know that the love of God and the forgiveness of God are offered to everyone.

If you are a child of God, God has called you to serve Him as a missionary. And you should fulfill that mandate.

And if you are still seeking for truth, and if you are not very sure about your salvation, come to Christ! Because Christ is the Salvation for this world. Not your works. But Christ’s grace!

God bless!

Peace and Adversity, Beauty and Pain…just in one place?

“If there is a loving God who created us, then he ought to be distraught at the state of the world.”

                                                                                         Amber Van Schooneveld

Amber Van Schooneveld, writer

Amber Van Schooneveld, writer

 

 

Amber is the senior writer and editor for Compassion Canada. Before, she worked for Compassion International, as editorial manager of writers and photographers in the field. Amber has always had a sensitive heart to the suffering in the world. When she was a child, she would cry when other children would kill ants. Since then, she has moved on to be moved by greater suffering in the world. Amber is the author of Hope Lives and Passport to Prayer, both aimed at helping people know God’s heart for the suffering in this world and to take action. She has a degree in English from Colorado State University and lives in Colorado with her wonderful family.

 

 

 
Is it possible for peace and adversity, for poverty and wealth, for beauty and pain to fill this world at once?
Sometimes, sitting in my peaceful home in Colorado, enjoying the lovely scenery, having a hearty family meal together and watching my children play with each other, the images you watch in the news of war, disaster and extreme poverty can seem inconceivable. How is it that I, even with all of life’s pains, disappointments and inconveniences, can live in such security when so many others, Syrian war refugees, for example, live in such fear and deprivation? It boggles the mind.

Yet we all know that this is indeed the state of the world. But none of our experiences are all good or all bad. Even in my secure and peaceful life, I’m not sheltered from the pain of cancer or suicide. And those living in extreme poverty also can still have the joy of family and the beauty of God’s creation. All, or at least, most of us experience both great beauty and love and heartbreaking pain and loss.

 

In your several journeys throughout developed and developing countries, what has caught your attention in regards to this phenomenon?
Returning home to the US after traveling to a developing country, I’m almost always struck by how

Amber, author of "Hope lives"

Amber, author of “Hope lives”

people don’t realize how good we have it. Living in a relatively affluent place, it’s easy to look around at those wealthier than you and believe that you are just barely making it. Few of us have the context to understand the luxury we live in because we aren’t surrounded by the alternative of people who do not have running water, adequate food, safe homes or access to banking, medical care, insurance or social safety nets.

On the other hand, I’m always struck by how similar we all are, no matter what country we are from. People are people. There are significant cultural differences, but I believe at our core we are all far more alike than we are different. We have the same desires, to be loved, to be safe, and to see our children and families thrive.

 

Is it God’s responsibility (if there is a God) or man’s responsibility for all the tragedies this world is experiencing?

I would say it is both. If there is a loving God who created us, then he ought to be distraught at the state of the world. And the Bible tells us that He is. (For example, In Luke 19, it is recorded that Jesus wept over the suffering that was to come to Jerusalem. And throughout the Old Testament it says that God hears the cry of the oppressed.) So the most challenging question that has ever been asked is, why does a loving God allow so much suffering? It’s not a question I can presume to answer well, and I don’t think it’s one we will fully understand on this side of eternity.

Many Christians have answered the question of suffering by saying that God uses our suffering to strengthen our faith and draw us toward Him. While we know that God uses suffering, both from experience and from passages like Romans 5:3-5, I don’t think this answer is the whole story. It can lead to bad theology, for example, someone asserting that God caused a child to die in order to teach a mother a lesson about faith. For me, the truth that I cling to when staggered by the suffering in the world is that God created a world in which there is free will because He wanted to create a world of loving relationships. For love to exist, free will is necessary, meaning man is free to do both good or evil. God says He has a plan to redeem the evil that is perpetrated in this world, but just like a tapestry that is beautiful on one side and tangled on the other, it is hard to see the sense of so much suffering in our limited perspective.

But throughout the Bible, God says that we are also responsible to answer to the suffering in the world. He calls us to speak out for justice, to break the chains of the oppressed and to help those in poverty. Although we don’t understand why suffering is allowed, we do know that God calls us to be active in stamping it out of this world. In fact, in Ephesians 2:10, Paul says that God has prepared good works for us to do in advance! What a huge honor that God values us so much as to allow us to be His hands in actively bringing peace, justice and equality to the world.

 

As surely we cannot close our eyes and say that this world is a “paradise,” is there any hope?

Amber, in one of her trips, sharing with two little Indian girls

Amber, in one of her trips, sharing with two little Indian girls

Though we can’t fully understand why God allows so much suffering, I often think back to Genesis 16, in which God noticed the suffering of Hagar, a servant. When she was dying in the desert, God saw her need and helped her, which led her to call Him “the God who sees.” In the midst of our suffering, we are never alone. God says He is close to the broken hearted. He sees the pain of the world, He listens to the cries of the oppressed, and He calls all of us to be active in being His hands in offering comfort, succor, love and physical help to this world.

The Threat of Mediocrity

“Nobody was called by God to stand idly; nobody was called by God
to be served. God’s calling in our lives is related to what He wishes to do in us and through us, in behalf of those who surround us. We need to do all for the glory of God, as a result of our lives completely turned to Christ.”

 

Wndell Miranda, Educator, Theologian & Coach

Wendell Miranda –  Educator, Theologian & Coach

Wendell Miranda

Wendell is from Brazil and is 42 years old. He has been married to Jemima 18 years. They have one child, Francisco who is 8. Wendell is educator, theologian and coach. He has been working over 10 years on leadership development projects in the areas of management, strategic planning, human relations, and mentoring. Wendell is also Pastor of the Assemblies of God in Brazil, Director of “Visão de Futuro” Institute and Director of “Libertadora” Radio station.

 

Below a short interview with Pastor Wendell Miranda. We also share a few excerpts from his book “The Threat of Mediocrity.” (Used by permission from the Author).

*****

You launched recently your newest book named ”The threat of Mediocrity” (“A ameaça da mediocridade” –its original title in Portuguese) . Please, share with us what is it all about?

What we try to communicate is that creating any project, without striving for excellence, it is harmful to organizations and to individuals. It is a real threat when we do something just for doing it, to do something in any way and to consider that as normal. That is what it means.

*****
”Mediocrity …describes the lack of merit due
to the lack of talent. Mediocrity comes from Latin
and it means ”what is in between”, from the word ´medius,´ ”middle”.
The adjective ”mediocre” means median, the one or
what is medium. Mediocrity indicates what is not
fully lower, but it does not get
the highest of excellence either.”
*****

What motivated you to write a book like that and why?

I have been motivated since I joined ”Compassion do Brasil,” to think and to develop actions of excellence. That is a very strong legacy for living / sharing together with my brothers from that beloved

At the book launch - Pastor Francisco Miranda, father of Wendell.

At the book launch – Pastor Francisco Miranda, father of Wendell.

organization.

Also, I have been providing suport to some churches, in Brazil, as well as giving lectures and ministering to different audiences. I got bothered for listening and observing many people holding back to some activism, making their schedules and projects by using the ”automatic pilot.” Then, during a conference for leaders, I had the desire to share my vision of being alert and to combat mediocrity.

*****
“God, I am sure that mediocrity
is a sin, and that it must be faced
as a sin, otherwise we will allow it to dominate our minds and our hearts.”

(John Edmund Haggai)
*****

We are living in a post-modern society, especially in Latin America. Other countries / continents are even living in post-post-post modernism. Don’t you think that one of the main features of this kind of society is ”mediocrity”?

The fast food society tends to preserve the quantity in detriment of the volume’s quality, without paying attention at the content. I believe that it is possible to develop the binomial quality#quantity, when we reject the mediocrity and we commit ourselves to make our best. A society that values the disposable relationships, has a strong tendency to follow mediocrity and, then, to transform that in a feature.

*****
”This century has been increasingly showing
the socio-cultural appeal of the ”image overvaluation,”
that it is nothing more than the culture of appearance,
exteriority, superficiality. It is praised when the most important
is what we appear to be instead of what we really are”.

*****

What do you propose in your book, as a measure of overcoming the mediocrity? What is your advice, especially for the young generation, in order not to get involved in mediocre acts?

The Threat of Mediocrity by Wendell Miranda

The Threat of Mediocrity by Wendell Miranda

I speak a lot about dedication, commitment and integrity. These elements are essential vitamins to combat weakness generated from mediocrity. When you commit yourself, there is engagement, you offer your best. Every morning you must give yourself to your mission and your vocation and at the end of the day you must ask yourself: Did I really do my best?

****
”… in searching for excellence we need to give ourselves to God and
to his work wholly, namely, completely, entirely. Living in integrity
is to live in plenitude. God does not want the remains, God does
not want our wastes, God does not want the leftovers;
but God wants us completely for Him, He wants us fully and not just
half, or just a piece.”
****

To conclude, you probably wrote some anecdotes in your book, as a way to illustrate that ”cancer” in our society. Please, share some of them with our readers?

Yes! The strong appeal to the ”image worship”! This has generated many unpleasant and fragmented quarrels. This search reflects itself on a daily basis relationship. I can remember about different situations: The leader that was hurt because there was not the expected highlight on his name, on the outdoor advertising, citing his participation at the conference; or the individual that said he would do the task in anyway, because God can understand…Or that one that prepares his report falsifying information, because he understands that the end justifies the means.

*****
“John Mason said:

*Do more than exist – live
* Do more than hear – listen

*Do more than agree – cooperate
* Do more than talk – communicate
* Do more than grow – bloom
* Do more than spend – invest
* Do more than think – create
* Do more than work – excel
* Do more than share – give
* Do more than decide – discern
* Do more than consider – commit
* Do more than forgive – forget
* Do more than help – serve
* Do more than coexist – reconcile
* Do more than sing – worship
* Do more than think – plan
* Do more than dream – do
* Do more than see – perceive
* Do more than read – apply
* Do more than receive – reciprocate
* Do more than choose – focus
* Do more than wish – believe
* Do more than advise – help
* Do more than speak – impart
* Do more than encourage – inspire
* Do more than add – multiply
* Do more than change – improve
* Do more than reach – stretch
* Do more than ponder – pray”

 

Is the Collapse of Global Society accelerating? Any Hope?

“No society can sustain itself without a belief in absolute values, because then the law of the jungle will prevail…”

 

Dr. Miguel Núñez

Dr. Miguel Núñez

Dr. Miguel Núñez

Dr. Miguel Núñez (MD, Th. M., D.Min.) is the senior pastor of the International Baptist Church (IBI) in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He is also the founder and president of “Integridad y Sabiduría” (the Integrity and Wisdom Ministry) which has the vision of awakening Latin America to God’s truth.

He is the author of two books: “Jesús, el hombre que desafió al mundo y confronta tu vida” (Jesus, the Man that Challenged the World and Confronts Your Life) and “Una Iglesia Conforme al Corazón de Dios” (A Church After God’s Own Heart). He is also the co-author of the book “Seguirazgo” (Followship), which deals with leadership.

He is the TV co-host of “Respuestas: Verdades Absolutas para un Mundo Relativo” (Answers: Absolute Truths for a Relative World), a program transmitted throughout all of Latin America and some other countries as well.

Dr. Núñez practiced medicine as a physician in the area of internal medicine and infectious diseases in the United States for 15 years (1982-1997), and he was a clinical professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

In addition to pastoring the church, he serves as a teacher and an apologist, and he is also a frequent guest speaker in all of Latin America and the United States. He has been married to Dr. Catherine Scheraldi, a practicing physician, for more than 30 years.

 

First of all, Dr. Nuñez, I’d like you to talk about the current times our global society is experiencing in terms of spirituality, although we realize that it bears an influence on all the other areas of a given society.

I believe society is in the midst of a crisis –a crisis of values, integrity and leadership. That’s one way to see it. On the other hand, we also know that Europe and North America are facing a time that has been called the post-Christian era. I don’t think Latin America is actually there, but it is obviously being influenced by the winds of post-Christian societies.

A post-Christian society is where Christian values have no significance at all. They play a very small role and have slight influence. Latin America is experiencing a different moment now, because God is definitely moving here. Actually, God is moving in what is called the “Global South:” Latin America, Africa and Asia. Something new is happening. The Reformed Theology that changed the face of Europe during the time of Martin Luther’s Reformation never really reached Latin America. Even five hundred years after this event which will be in 2017, the Reformation hasn’t been seen in our continent. However, such values have started to blossom and be embraced by a younger generation of people in their 20s, 30s and 40s who are proclaiming the Gospel, and that gives me hope. It’s like Latin America is being bathed by two winds: the wind of secularism and post-Christian societies and a new wind of evangelization coming from more mature movements based on a more solid doctrine than what we have seen here so far.

A few weeks ago, you mentioned at a conference that the United States and Europe are experiencing a society that is post-Western, postmodern and post-Christian. But what is happening now with Africa and Asia, and yes, Latin America? Although, you have already mentioned briefly about it.

Well, when we think about this kind of post-Christian society, like I briefly mentioned in the previous question, we’re talking about societies that were greatly impacted by Christianity and were developed based on Judeo-Christian values. But today, those same values have been removed from society, and now people prefer identifying themselves with secularism which has no identity with God, much less with the God of the Bible. So we see what has happened in Europe where churches have been slowly dying off, and the United States is experiencing something similar. Statistics for the year 2050 for the United States and Canada are not at all encouraging for the Christian movement and its membership.

Africa, Asia and Latin America have been influenced by Christianity, but because of the immaturity of the Church, the Church has made huge mistakes and has diluted the Gospel to the point that during the last 20 years, the most popular gospel has been the prosperity gospel which is not in accord with the biblical gospel.

However, I believe that things are starting to take a right turn now. We’re not even half way there yet, but there are a group of people who experienced that approach and departed from it. They came away empty and now they’re looking for the true Gospel and are going to churches that preach a sound doctrine. And this same phenomenon is taking place in Latin America, in Africa and in Asia where churches that once embraced the prosperity gospel are now having a new experience.

I believe that that phenomena is an apostate movement. I think there are two large apostate movements at present. One is “completely Christian,” meaning that it identifies with the type of Christianity that is the prosperity gospel which has embraced five continents and almost every denomination. The other movement doesn’t have Christian roots. It’s anti-Christian and is based on a redefinition of marriage, because that’s the foundation of the family.

The only way for us to pass faith on from one generation to another is having Christian families that are based on Christian values and teaching those values to the next generation. But if that family model does not exist and we redefine it today believing that it can be two men or two women raising a child, then the next generation won’t acknowledge the faith. And if they don’t acknowledge the faith, they won’t experience salvation. And if they don’t experience salvation, then there’s no hope for them.

So I said that that’s an apostate movement simply because different denominations in all five continents have begun embracing this new definition of marriage, and I believe that those two things will become important and will deeply undermine what we have considered Western Christian society until now.

And speaking of Christian foundations, a few days ago, I received a comment through this blog. The person who wrote referred to one my interviewees and said something like this: “Who do you think you are to disqualify other religions and impose your Christian philosophy as the only truth?” Apparently he was a follower of the Eastern philosophies.

It’s incredible that those people who don’t want us to spread the Gospel continue proclaiming their own

Cecilia Yepez interviewing Dr. Miguel Nuñez at IBI

Cecilia Yepez interviewing Dr. Miguel Nuñez at IBI

philosophies and moral values. We don’t have a problem with other people talking about their beliefs. Our problem is that they don’t want us to talk about ours.

We believe in a pluralist society in which different philosophies are taught. It was always like this in the West. In Europe and in the United States, no one ever prevented other persons from expressing their philosophy of life or their religious beliefs. But today the problem is that the followers of all those other philosophies and religions want us to stop expressing ours, and that’s the fight we’re having against that movement.

And along that same line, why does the Christian Church insist on saying that Jesus Christ is the only true God and therefore the only way to transform lives?

Well, I think we could address this topic from different angles. Let me start with the wider angle, a wider lens. Christianity is a worldview. A worldview is the way we see life, the way we interpret life and react to it. It’s not just a religion. It is religion, but it goes beyond that. It’s a worldview!

Worldviews must be tested. Literally, there is a number of questions and questionings that every worldview must answer. And then, when those answers are given, they have to be consistent and coherent.

Therefore, when we define Christianity as the only true faith and Jesus Christ as its founder and the only true God, the first answer would be because this is the only worldview that responds to the most important questions people have, and in the end, it’s what is totally coherent in its answers. When I start by asking where I come from, well then, God is the Creator. What am I here for? Well, God reveals to me that we are His handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do the good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. The first question has to do with destination: Where do I come from? The second question is about purpose: What am I here for? The third question is about destination: Where am I going? So your direction depends on what you do with God in your life. What is right and what is wrong? That’s a question of morality. Well, there’s a God who is absolute, holy, just and omniscient and who is the standard of good and evil.

So then we have Christianity and reality: God created the heavens and the earth. That’s reality. There is God who precedes all creation and everything that has been created as well.

But, if we put other worldviews to the test, you could ask, for example, a person who believes in Hinduism about the reality that has been created. Then one group will say that even what you and I are doing isn’t happening and that it’s just an illusion. It’s like the dream of Brahma and we think we’re doing it, but it’s really not happening.

This in inconsistent, because if that were true, then when I’m about to cross the street, I wouldn’t have to pay attention to the cars because they don’t exist. And if someday I have surgery, I won’t need anesthesia, because pain is an illusion and it doesn’t exist. So then you begin to notice the inconsistency of those other worldviews.

If you ask another follower of Hinduism about this same topic, he may say that yes, reality does exist, but we’re really only an extension of Brahma. In other words, Brahma exists and we’re an extension of him, so to the extent that we purify ourselves, then we unite with Brahma, and in the end, Brahma is the only reality.

Well, the truth is that when the Word of God defines this, we can clearly see the difference there is between God the Creator and His creation. So how do we come back to God, back to His presence? If we are saved, it’s by keeping our individualities, our personalities and our characteristics in a very, very different manner.

One Hindu may say that god is personal and another Hindu can say that god is impersonal. They live with those contradictions. Christian faith does not break the law of non-contradiction. If there is something we cannot negotiate, that’s the law of non-contradiction which says that “two contradictory statements cannot both be true when they are said at the same time and in the same sense.” God cannot be personal and impersonal at the same time.

So I could have turned to the Bible to repeat what Christ declared when He said, “I am the truth, the way and the life,” but I have just defined this a bit more philosophically by saying that Christianity is a worldview that responds to all the important questions of humankind with consistent and coherent answers. No other worldview can do that.

But if I turn to the Bible, then Christ made a statement about Himself that He later proved. He said, “I am the truth, the way and the life.” He died and was resurrected. He said, “I have the authority to give my life, and I have the authority to take my life back again.” And He proved that with His life, with His death and with His resurrection.

Just to close this very important idea, would you share with us a concrete example to prove that Jesus is the life?

Dr. Nuñez hosting "Answers: Absolute Truths for a Relative World."

Dr. Nuñez, TV co-host of “Answers: Absolute Truths     for a Relative World.”

Well, I think saying that we can prove it by using a scientific method is just not the way to address this matter because Christianity is not a science, so we have to do this in a different way. I believe we have to ask about the resurrection, for example. Are there historic and conclusive evidences about Christ’s resurrection? The truth is that even non-Christian people came to believe it after evaluating the veracity of the historical New Testament documents and found that there is no other document from ancient times that comes close to the veracity of these New Testament documents.

For instance, when we take a look at the Iliad and the Odyssey, famous written works from the past, we realize that there are four, six or at the most, eight copies that date back to a thousand years after the death of their author. But when we think about the documents of the New Testament, there are fragments that date back to 25 to 50 years after the death of their authors. There are other fragments and more complete documents from the years 250 A.D. to 300 A.D. And there are fifteen thousand copies! Not four and not eight! There are fifteen thousand copies in Greek that can be compared!

So I could give you many examples of this type of evidence, but there really is enough conclusive historic evidence to prove Christ’s life and Christ’s resurrection. It’s more of a historical proof than a scientific proof. People have tried to do away with Christianity for two thousand years, but they haven’t succeeded. Today, Christ is the most influential man in the entire history of humankind.

When Napoleon Bonaparte was in exile, something that caught his attention was precisely how this man who had died could still bring people together over the centuries. Napoleon said that when he was a general or the emperor, people responded to his voice, but when he didn’t have a title, no one followed him anymore although he was still alive. He didn’t understand how people kept on following that man hundreds of years after His death. Well, people follow Him because He is who He said He was: the way, the truth and the life. And the primitive church gets stronger, gets larger and continues to grow after His death. It should have been just the opposite, but a persecuted church is the church that became stronger after His death.

To conclude, in what times do you think we are living according to the biblical perspective of the so called “last days”? And is there any warning message to the world first of all, and to the Christian church as well?

First of all, I’m going to give a technical definition of “the last days.” In the Bible, the phrase “the last days” technically means the times from Christ until now. That’s the first part. When you open the Book of Hebrews it says, “But in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son.” So this text gives us a good definition of when these “last days” began.

Now, within these “last days” there’s a period that the Bible states as the time when we will be closer to the coming of Christ. I don’t know whether He will come in five years or fifteen years or fifty years. I can’t determine that. I’m not a prophet and I’m not a prophet’s son, like the Bible phrase says. But I do believe that the days in which we’re living are taking us quickly to that very end, regardless of when it will happen.

Society as a whole cannot be sustained by the values it’s embracing at present. It won’t last. Even in ancient times when society was extremely corrupt, people still believed in absolute values. Perhaps Plato, Socrates and, Aristotle didn’t believe in the God of the Bible, but they did understand that there was an Absolute or Supreme Being, something beyond. And they spoke about virtues –cardinal virtues. Nowadays, people just don’t believe in absolutism at all. No society can sustain itself without a belief in absolute values, because then the law of the jungle will prevail, and that means that each individual believes that good is what he or she feels is good. Such a society cannot sustain itself and it will collapse. And when it collapses, it won’t be just one nation or just one area that collapses. Entire continents will collapse. Since we are part of a global culture, then that global culture experiences similar changes as well as similar values. Some occur first and then others follow. For example, Europe is always first, then the United States and then we follow. But I believe we’re fast approaching what will be the collapse of society. There’s no way for society to survive without a correct definition of marriage. It just won’t happen.

When will it happen? Honestly, I don’t know. But I think there are signs pointing towards a relatively short time, even though that “short” time may be much beyond my lifetime. I believe we will see God’s intervention as a way of judging the sin that has become so widespread lately and also of completing His redemption plan. Christ didn’t mention the exact time or date for His coming, but He didn’t say that we wouldn’t have a clue as to when the “last days” would be, either. He said that in the same way when we look up in the sky and know it’s going to rain, the generation alive at that time will say, “It seems like the last days are getting closer!”

So, if our generation does not have a clue, and the next generation is the one meant to precede the coming of the Lord, some people will be clearer about this because the signs of His coming will also be clearer. Or perhaps it may happen during my lifetime but after some years when the signs may be clearer.

But yes, I do believe we are getting closer to a collapse, even from a sociological point of view. Malcolm Muggeridge talked about empires and how they decayed when certain signs began to appear. He mentioned the rise of eroticism that is obviously present these days. There’s also an increase of boredom. We can’t deny that people are bored. They’ve tried out everything and nothing seems to satisfy them. There’s more entertainment; people just want to enjoy life and do nothing but have fun. And finally, it’s interesting that he said another sign is when governments create increasingly more complex taxation systems. Governments get into so much debt, they start inventing new taxation systems to collect money to help pay those debts.

We’re seeing all of these signs of collapse. That’s a sociological analysis, not even a Christian perspective. So if you add moral collapse to all this, I believe the Lord must be just around the corner, even though I don’t know when that will be.

So what is your message of warning for the world and for the Christian Church?

Christ said to us, “I am coming soon.” So that could be today. Therefore, I believe that the best warning message is that you must be prepared for the day when He will return, even if that happens today. Consequently, your only hope is the Gospel of Christ and finding salvation and holding on to Him, clinging to Him through thick and thin, regardless of all the changes. You must believe in His Word, believe in His promises and develop hope in those promises that He left with us. It’s not about looking around to see what’s happening, but rather thinking about the eternal life in which our hope lies.

This world has no hope. This world will continue to be like it is now. Christ Himself said that. It will

Teacher, apologist, guest speaker in Latin America and the United States.

Pastor, teacher, apologist, guest speaker in Latin America and the United States.

remain like this until the last days. This world began sinful and will end sinful. Things will only change when He comes back to judge and redeem it. I can’t rest my hope on any new government or on any new educational system or on any new generation, because all of them will eventually produce the same results as in the past. Someone has said that history doesn’t change, only the actors are different. And we really do have the same violence as before, the same paganism from the past, the same promiscuity and homosexuality from ancient times. “What has been will be again,” said Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes. And sadly enough, that’s true, but history isn’t circular like some people say. They say it’s a never-ending circle that goes around forever. No. History is linear. The problem is that along that timeline we make the same mistakes and repeat the same sins, but history has a beginning and an end. I think it’s good to define it as linear because when we say that history repeats itself, we give the impression that we think history is circular and never ends and we’ll be living like this forever, but that’s not so. History is linear and it has an end that we will certainly see someday!

 

Bringing Back The Light!

This revival will turn the whole Israeli society around, and Israel will fulfill their calling, ´For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem´”

 

Ariel and Shayla Hyde

Ariel, Shayla and their daughters, Anayah and Amalyah.

Ariel, Shayla and their daughters, Anayah and Amalyah.

Ariel and Shayla come from backgrounds rich in ministry experience, having served the Lord with their families in the U.S., Germany, Thailand, and Israel. Today, they are serving in full-time ministry in Haifa, Israel as part of Tree of Life (www.TreeofLifeIsrael.org), and are actively part of Carmel and Kerem El Messianic congregations.

Ariel, a graduate of Wheaton College (Wheaton, IL), served in the Israel Defense Forces, representing Israel to international organizations and embassies. The Lord has opened up doors for him to share the Gospel with Jewish people online through websites and videos, on the streets of Israel, and at special outreach events. He leads an evangelistic media team, and also teaches evangelism seminars to equip and inspire Israeli believers to share the Gospel more often and effectively.

Shayla completed a bachelor’s degree in Music Education at Southeastern University (Lakeland, FL), while being mentored for three years in Collegiate Master’s Corps, an intensive ministry training program. She has taught music, led worship and served in ministry to children in the U.S., Thailand, and Israel.

What times is Israel living right now concerning the Word of God and concerning the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ?

We believe we’re in more exciting times now that any other time in history. Why? We are witnessing the miraculous fulfillment of many prophecies concerning Israel and the Jewish people that are all preparing the way for the return of Jesus.

God promised over 60 times in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) that He would scatter the Jewish people all around the world, but ultimately bring them back to the land of Israel (see for example Ezekiel 11:17, Jeremiah 32:37-41), and we have seen and are seeing this fulfilled in our day. He said the nation of Israel would be reborn in a day (Isaiah 66:7-8), and it happened.

He said the land would be desolate and a desert until the Jewish people returned, and then it would blossom (Ezekiel 6:14; Ezekiel 36; Isaiah 35:1) – and that’s exactly what happened.

He said the nations around Israel would seek to destroy them once they returned, but that He would supernaturally deliver them (Micah 4:11-13). Again, this happened in the wars in 1948 and 1967 and others – where Israel was outnumbered, out-armed, and out-trained and yet somehow still won.

There are many other prophecies about Israel and the end times that have been fulfilled in our day. Ariel actually wrote a booklet together with his father about how God has miraculously fulfilled His promises to the Jewish people, called “Supernatural or just Remarkable?” It can be found here: http://www.treeoflifeisrael.org/supernatural-or-just-remarkable/. It’s proven to be an effective outreach tool to many secular Jewish people who don’t believe in God, showing them God’s faithfulness and love and showing them that the Bible is indeed inspired. It’s also been a great encouragement to Christians, who can see how God has been faithful to His promises to Israel and therefore will be faithful to His promises to all of us!

Isn´t Israel the chosen land /people of God? In your experience, how receptive are currently Jews to the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Is there any difference between younger and older generations?

Yes, Israel and the Jewish people are God’s chosen land and people. But the Scriptures tell us that God actually blinded the eyes of many Jewish people so that they wouldn’t recognize their own Messiah (Romans 11:7-8). But the result is that the Gospel ended up going to the rest of the world (Romans 11:11-12). Paul says that once the Jewish people turn to Jesus, it will bring “greater riches” to the rest of the world (Romans 11:12) and will even be as “life from the dead” (Romans 11:15).

In fact, this is another crucial prophecy concerning Israel and Jesus’ return. Jesus said that He would not return to Jerusalem until the Jewish people welcome Him in the name of the Lord (Matthew 23:37-39).
And what’s exciting to see is that there is now an incredibly rapid increase in how receptive Jewish people in Israel are to the Gospel. There were only a handful of Messianic congregations (of Jews who believe in Jesus) in Israel 30 years ago, but today there are around 200.

Ariel, Shayla, and daughter Anayah playing Boaz, Ruth, and Obed in an outreach event with 120 non-believing Jewish people present.

Ariel, Shayla, and daughter Anayah playing Boaz, Ruth, and Obed in an outreach event with 120 non-believing Jewish people present.

At outreach events in the past, if we could get 5-10 non-believing Jewish people to attend, it was great. But over the last year or so, we’ve had several events where 120 and even 150 non-believing Jewish people attended and we had the privilege of sharing the Gospel with them and seeing many turn to Jesus. This was totally unprecedented a few years ago.

The younger generation is definitely more open as a whole to the Gospel than the older generation, but God is softening the hearts of many older people as well. God said that once the Jewish people would return to Israel, He would remove their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh and pour out His Spirit on them (Ezekiel 36:24-28), and that is exactly what we’re seeing happening today.

What does it exactly mean when the Scripture says “All Israel will be saved…” (Romans 11:26)? Will all Jews eventually accept Jesus as their Messiah? What about previous generations?

This is one of many glorious promises of a national revival in Israel at the end of days – it is our goal and our vision! This can’t possibly include all previous generations, because many have died in rebellion against God and/or against Jesus (think of Judas Iscariot, for example). However, God has been merciful and opened the eyes of quite a few Jewish people throughout history to receive Jesus as their Messiah even on their deathbed.

But now He is opening their eyes to “look upon Me whom their pierced” (Zechariah 12:10), mourn in repentance, and live for Him the rest of their lives. This revival will turn the whole Israeli society around, and Israel will fulfill their calling, “For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3). It will be as “life from the dead” for the rest of the world (Romans 11:15).

Tell us briefly about your evangelistic projects in Israel. Please, include your amazing experience as you filmed the “Isaiah 53 Video.”

We share the Gospel in lots of different ways in Israel – from outreach events at the holidays to sharing on the streets to media evangelism. We have a Hebrew evangelistic website that has testimonies of Israeli believers sharing how they met their Messiah. We’ve also been going out on the streets and interviewing Israelis about different topics, sharing the Gospel with them, and making videos out of the interviews.

Ariel interviews Israelis on the street, sharing the Gospel with them and making videos out of the interviews.

Ariel interviews Israelis on the street, sharing the Gospel with them and making videos out of the interviews.

Our most recent video about was Isaiah 53, “The Forbidden Chapter.” This chapter, which is a powerful prophecy about the Messiah fulfilled by Jesus, was removed from the weekly readings in the synagogues, and so most Jewish people have never read it before.

So we read this chapter with Israelis on the street, and had some incredible responses both on the street and from the people who have watched the video. We’ve now had over 1.4 million views and thousands of Israelis writing in about it!

Here are just a few out of thousands of responses:

  • Liat: “Amazing!… Could we have missed the Messiah???”
  • Moti: “Where are they reading from?? The New Testament???” (We answered him that we only read from Isaiah 53!)
  • Boris, an immigrant from Belarus, wrote us after going through a state of confusion about the claims of the rabbis and of Jesus. After watching our video and talking with us, he said, “I definitely believe that Jesus is the Messiah.” We’re helping him connect with other believers who can disciple him.

We’ve had in-depth conversations with quite a few interested Israelis. Many others have asked to meet with us in person or on the phone. A number of them have ordered the New Testament or other evangelistic materials. Praise God for this great harvest!

We’d greatly appreciate your prayers and support for us and for the work that God is doing in Israel today! You can find out more here: www.TreeofLifeIsrael.org

The English version ofThe Forbidden Chapter” (Isaiah 53) video is below. There is also a Spanish version translated with the support of Towards Excellence. It is available in our Spanish site  www.hacialaexcelencia.org

 

Storytelling, a Powerful Connection between God, Parents and Children!

Celebrating the Second Year Anniversary of “Towards Excellence”…

Hello excellence seekers! I adore the “Towards Excellence” blog and know that, in its creator, Cecy Yepez, you are in great company on your journey toward a loving and generous life. I had the pleasure of meeting Cecy on a mission trip in San Lorenzo, Ecuador and she immediately became my Ecuadoran Pixie. At least in America, a Pixie is associated with being feisty, powerful, and beautiful. Cecy’s humor and wit are full of this feistiness and you can’t help but appreciate her for it. Her power comes from the One and only King of all kings and Lord of all. She never hesitates to remind others of this ultimate source of goodness and grace given to all who will accept Christ as their Savior. And beauty? Cecy is dripping with it. Her heart is full of such an incredible love for all people and, through it, she shares the journeys, stories, and truths of many. She prays on her words and how each story can help to affect His Kingdom for good. I am so honored to be a part of “Towards Excellence” and encourage you to support works of this spirit-filled nature. God bless you all!

Reji Laberje
Reji Laberje Author Programs, LLC.

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“…our children are built to engage in stories and God left us the greatest true storybook in existence. Pair the two and I think a natural love will occur.”

Reji Laberje

Reji was born in the Chicago, Illinois area, but grew up just north of there, in a mid-sized town called Manitowoc, Wisconsin, the daughter of a postal worker and involved mom. She has two sisters, Kim and Stacy (who are still her closest friends, today) and the three of them were raised with Atheist beliefs, but at age 33, Reji was baptized and has never looked back. Reji was always an artist, working in

Reji Laberje

Reji Laberje

theater, forensics, public speaking, and writing, and she graduated early from high school to move away and pursue her dream of acting at age 18. She had a few small roles and a short stint on a local-based television show, but it was her day-job of working with Spanish speaking customers to take phone orders that paid her bills. Like many young dreamers, acting wasn’t meant to be for Reji, so she ended up joining the military where she proudly learned to be and served as an Arabic Linguist for the United States Air Force and National Security Agency. While in the military, she earned her degree in International and Intercultural Communications and she met and married her husband, Joe. The military had her family living and moving all over and she and her husband served in every community where they lived, in schools, kitchens, churches, scout groups, and local youth organizations. After seven years living in the greater Washington D.C. area, they were done with government and moved back to Wisconsin to continue raising their three beautiful children, Bradley, Kimberly, and Laura. It was then that Reji took a small writing, speaking, and teaching business that she had always done alongside her many interests and various jobs over the years and turned it into her full-time career to create Reji Laberje Author Programs, LLC. Now, through her company whose vision it is to make far-reaching, positive impacts, and through her ministry work with children, marriage mentoring, small bible group leadership, local, national, and international outreach, the Alpha course (a 10-week class teaching the basics about Jesus and the Bible), and of course writing for many ministries, Reji and Joe, with their children and many pets, live an always active, but equally fulfilled life with Christ at the center.

What do you think is the best way for parents to start teaching their little children to follow God´s path, the path towards excellence in life?

In my opinion, parents need to be involved in the religious education of their children. They shouldn’t just bring their children to a church service or bible camp and be satisfied that their sons and daughters are taken care of by others. Instead, ask to serve or help in some way. Ask your children questions. Learn with your children. Take on the same challenges as your children when it comes to following God’s plan. As parents, we are still our children’s number one influencers. It’s not enough to just want them to love God when they are young. Loving God is something that can be very intangible for children to grasp. Loving us, though—people who are physically present—is something they understand. So, by us loving God and being a part of that education, the children are able to have that example to which they can relate.

Do children naturally enjoy looking at storybooks? If so, how can parents take advantage of it and use creative resources to feed this natural interest, and help them to cultivate a lifetime reading habit of the Word of God?

I once was a math teacher in a middle school in an urban setting. The students were all tied to technology and a good number of my students were going through very real familial struggles outside of the school. On the best days, there was chaos, but we’d push forward, trying to teach the basic school requirements and grateful for the few students that we could also reach on an emotional level, because that would be the real mark of success. One day, we had a power outage in the school. As I was teaching in a classroom with no windows, I had to take my students to another room where we would be able to wait out the electricity’s returning. The usual unruliness ensued in a new space without any of our usual supplies around. I asked if any of the kids had a book. One girl gave me the title she had been reading; I don’t remember what the book was, but it was something to do with a teen baseball team, if I recall. I just started reading. Within less than a minute, these teenagers, all of them, had gathered around, forming a sort of semi-circle, to simply LISTEN. They were riveted. I think part of them was so

Reji brings reading, writing, and speaking education to thousands of elementary students across the U.S. every year to create a better world through better words. Here she is in April 2015 with students outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Reji brings reading, writing, and speaking education to thousands of elementary students across the U.S. every year to create a better world through better words. Here she is in April 2015 with students outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

grateful to slow down. Another part of me felt sadness in knowing that, for some of these students, they might not have ever had somebody simply read to them. I think, anthropologically speaking, we are built for storytelling. It is how we carry our history, including God’s history. We engage, naturally, not through interface, but face-to-face connections. I read the only storybook I could find in that classroom that day, but I think the children would have been just as engaged if I had picked up the daily newspaper. Our bible is filled with the most passionate and creative works ever. I tell my writing students that there’s nothing new they can write that God (and Shakespeare) haven’t already covered; they can simply bring their unique voices to the concept. I don’t think we need to get complicated about God’s Word, our children are built to engage in stories and God left us the greatest true storybook in existence. Pair the two and I think a natural love will occur.

In your opinion, as professional writer, how does one choose sound, truthful and engaging materials for children? (Either Bible based materials or positive teachings in general)

I think it’s incredibly important to bring a wide-range of literary choices to our children, particularly when they have access to so many subjects when they are outside of our presence. They WILL be exposed to a lot of the books (or movies, for that matter) that might not be our first choice for them. So, we should be the ones to discuss those books with them. Of course, the Bible is THE greatest book, but not everything my children (or I) read is biblically based, and that’s okay. I just remember to always bring it back to God.

When it comes to fantasy, one of the things I personally enjoy reading and writing, I remind children that it is God who is the original Creator and aren’t we glad that he gave us such vivid imaginations. I try to steer toward those creative writers who have genuine biblical messages, such as C.S. Lewis. In those cases, you can tap into your child’s natural entertainment interest (fantasy, in this case) and also tie to God’s message for us. A single Google search for “Secular Books Christian Authors” will lead to countless other great books that will do the same as C.S. Lewis with regard to respecting God.

However, there are also books that I and my children read which have zero biblical influence. That’s okay, too, as long as we are not reading something that is ANTI-God, as long as we have discussions about the books, and as long as the books are understood as fiction. My two daughters have read the Hunger Games trilogy and we discussed the parallels between it and our real world. We’ve also talked about the difference that would exist with God in that fictional Panem world of the series.

At the end of the day, as long as you are having discussions about the reading taking place in your home, you—as the parent—have the ability to bring God to your children’s literature.

Finally, please share with us a personal experience. How have well developed materials helped parents or even teachers to guide little children into God´s path, the path towards excellence in life?

While my primary written works consist of books for children and young adults, as well as collaborative biographies, I also have curricular material as that pair with my live writing programs and in the form of advisory courses for kindergarten through twelfth grade students. A model that is common to follow when creating these materials is the 5-E Model (Explore, Explain, Extend, Engage, Evaluate).

Exploring is usually about initially taking in the work or lesson at hand. Explaining is discussion and study

When Reji has book signings and events, she makes sure each child gets some one-on-one reading time with her. She and this young boy from Chicago enjoyed "Max Explores Chicago" together at Barbara's Bestsellers in December 2014.

When Reji has book signings and events, she makes sure each child gets some one-on-one reading time with her. She and this young boy from Chicago enjoyed “Max Explores Chicago” together at Barbara’s Bestsellers in December 2014.

relate to the work or lesson. Extending brings in other resources (and the internet is a great tool for extending). Engaging takes place through some sort of hands-on application. This can be a game, activity, art project, or even a traditional report. Evaluating is communication about how that engagement reflected the work or lesson.

To Christian work, when I write those lessons and that material, I add an opening and closing “E” that include Enjoying His story, where I bring in additional biblical references, and Exemplify through which we ask the question about how, as Christians, we can be an example of God with regard to the work or lesson at hand.

You will find that most published bible studies have all of these elements in them. They may not call them 5 (or 7) E lessons, but there are opportunities to take in the Bible, discuss it, bring in a practical life example, give an exercise to apply the biblical lesson, and look deeper into oneself to see if the outcome is biblical. The best studies also include additional verses (like the added Enjoying His story E) and suggestions for HOW to live God’s word in everyday life (Exemplify). Look for materials that go beyond singular opinions following a verse. There should be a means to CONNECT to God’s word in the materials that you choose to use for teaching it.

You don’t have to be a teacher or a writer to use this model. As a parent, you can take these same steps toward excellence in Bible teaching. The idea is that we shouldn’t make the reading of a verse or chapter the beginning and ending of a lesson. God’s word, in all of its perfection, isn’t always the easiest to understand. Break it down. Discuss, talk about real-life, apply, be accountable, always refer back to the Bible, and look to our greatest example in Christ. Share with your children how specific verses have come to serve you in your life’s work.

At the end of the day, it always comes back to being active in your children’s biblical upbringing. As I said, we are made for storytelling, but—far more important—we are a PART of His story.