Saturday, August 30, 2008

Venezuela 2008

Ok - I've been having trouble with my computer and I'm in the middle of rebuilding it and doing a fresh installation of Windows. This is why photos and videos of this summer's mission trips have been long coming. Well, I have gypped some that I managed to upload to Facebook and my wife has been able to upload several to her blog with her functioning laptop in Venny. (You may want to check out her photos and posts regarding her trip to the Yukpa Indians. To give you an idea, one of the first things they did when they got there was dig the toilet. Baths were taken in a cold stream at the foot of a steep hill and they cooked outside. Talk about roughing it.)

This is a skit of the gospel done by the Venezuelan youth at the baseball clinics we did.

The lady in the green is who we call "mafia lady". She's pretty boistrous, but loves the people of her neighborhood. As one of the wealthiest people in the neighborhood, she is very generous to her neighbors and allowed us to do a carnival right in her yard. The first year we did anything with her, we did a gospel presentation using her carport as a stage. When those who desired to accept Jesus Christ were asked to raise their hand, she called out, "Everyone raise your hand!" She wasn't a Christian herself at the time, but has since grown to trust Christ as he savior. That same year we did food distribution in her neighborhood and offered prayer for each neighbor we saw. My family met the lady in blue, who is standing next to her in this photograph, and prayed for her. She is raising her four young grandchildren by herself and has a very difficult life.

In Ebenezer, the people heard we were coming and planned a special surprise for us. They taught some of their children, 7 boys and 7 girls, a traditional Venezuelan dance. These 4 girls were part of the troupe.

Here's my daughter, Hope, sitting with the team as we enjoyed lunch one day at the church.

The Olivers brought a guitar. This is the first year we've brought a stringed instrument. The first year we went to Venezuela, Brian and Lisa Souther and their family brought recorder flutes to play, so this isn's the first instrument we've ever brought.

Here are most of our kids sitting on the side one evening during an evangelistic service.

Paul loves his friend Liseth.

We do so many types of activities, it can be said that we wear many different hats. This year we did evanglism, discipleship, construction and visited people in nursing homes. AJ demonstrates this rather literally.

Here are many of the ladies chatting about something. Patti Makar on the far left in the back had come to Venezuela a few years ago, but had taken time off. Her husband, Jimmy, was on the cycle I was on in London.

Here's my wife and her best friend (other than me), Adriana.

I gave my testimony here as Adriana translated.

This was taken at one of the nursing homes. Paul is really wanting down so he can run. That's why he's looking at me funny.

Jeff is probably just interacting with this cool-looking kid in a normal way. However, knowing Jeff it's not hard to imagine that he's tryint to discuss some finer theological point with him.

How proud could a father be that his kids are happy to be in church somewhere in a third-world country?

Melinda was another who took a couple of years away from Venezuela. Actually, she and her family have been spending Summer vacations helping out in areas ravaged by Katrina.

One of the baseball clinics ended in a scrimmage. Here we have some cheering fans.

Shade is a good thing to find most days in the tropics.

Some boys at a baseball clinic.

Hank was playin catcher and batter coach during the scrimmage. One time he called for another batter and didn't get one. On investigation, he realized that the Venezuelan minding the batting queue was busy explaining the gospel to the boys in the queue. Hank would present to gospel after the scrimmage to all the boys and parents there.

One of the Venezuelans helping with the clinic was also the pitcher for the scrimmage.

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Off to London

It seems like only a couple of weeks ago I was in Venezuela...

Actually, I was. One of these days I'll get around to posting some photos and accounts here. I already have some photos up on Facebook. (I'm not sure if you'll be able to access these - I have the albums tagged for "everyone". It is what it is.)

I'm leaving to day for London for more ministry. I can't be too specific, but we have a specific people group we are reaching out to and God is doing great things there. As you are led, please pray for us. Aside from standing up for long periods of time, the physical work isn't too demanding. However, the spiritual warfare can be tedious. From the teams that have been going on throughout the summer, the response has been tremendous. However, the spiritual warfare is no less than it ever was. Our spiritual enemy doesn't like what we're doing I'm sure and a productive year easily causes people to become lax. Pray that we would continue to bear the gospel well.

While I'm gone, I'll leave you with some lighter things to keep you occupied. When I'm feeling down, the following two sites are sure to give me a good chuckle if not a serious belly laugh:

If you like cats:
Lolcats: I Can Has Cheezburger?


If you like dogs:
Loldogs: I has a hotdog


Then, someone takes Garfield comics and photoshopped Garfield out of the picture leaving only Jon Arbuckle looking hilariously mentally disturbed. These can be found at Garfield minus Garfield.


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Friday, August 15, 2008

What is Faith?

Andrew at the City of God states very clearly what faith is. I couldn't have said it better myself:

Something amazing, and yet incredibly simple, occurred to me today.

Faith is trusting in the good God whom we know even when we don’t know how He is consistent with the things we see.

Since we know this good God, we know everything must be consistent with Him in some way, but we can’t always explain how. Faith is simply not suppressing that knowledge in those situations.

This means that, from a philosophical/apologetical perspective, there is absolutely no evidence against the existence of the Christian God, since God has a) revealed Himself to us, and b) made clear there will be times when we have to fight off the temptation to claim we don’t know Him because of our ignorance about how some things are consistent with him. Thus, in an ironic way, situations that seem inconsistent with God and His goodness serve to prove His goodness nonetheless.

Or to put this all another way: there is no neutrality when it comes to God, and God really does exist.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

For we walk by faith, not by sight.

And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” … Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Offensive Cross - A Bloody Service

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,
"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart."
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."

The Offensive Crucifixion

Have you ever seen some of the remarkable cross designs people have made over the ages? There are beautiful crosses all over the place. Through the efforts of Christian artisans, it has become a popular design element in even secular design circles.

However, the crucifixion is offensive. It is bloody. It is gory. Say what you will about Mel Gibson’s The Passion, but his violent portrayal of the torture and crucifixion of Christ is rather more accurate than we’ve seen before.

Would we consider an iron maiden an aesthetically pleasing design element? Perhaps we would if we were the Addams family. It would be weird to hang a tiny guillotine around our neck or wear electric chairs as earrings.

Are we Jews or gentiles? Is the crucifixion a stumbling block or foolishness? Where it is offensive to anyone, it should especially be offensive to Christians. Why? Because that’s where our sin is. Are we not offended by our sin? We should be, and more than anyone else. The wages of sin is death. That’s the horrible death we deserve. It’s offensive.

Messy Servanthood

But we must find God’s wisdom in such offensiveness. If Christ is the revelation of the Father, then the crucifixion as His crowning achievement among us is definitive of the nature of God. Few understand this: if God is eternal and absolute, then there are no bounds to His existence. (Properly, He is substantial or essential, but this is meaningless if you haven’t studied philosophy.) His eternal nature is creative. We would expect that He would only create eternal things, since He is eternal, and that which he creates would be harmonious and integral to His own existence. What is incomprehensible is that God created that which was not Himself. He created a temporal world, ours. In no way is He diminished by this, but now exists something that is not God, although its foundation is in His substance.

Inasmuch as Christ is the author of life, there can be no death in Him – yet He died. (Is it any wonder that he was resurrected?) This is the revelation of God’s sacrifice in creation. Inasmuch as all things were created through Christ, they are recreated through Him. Consider if you will a cloud of particles, if it were possible, that all absolutely sought their own purpose to the exclusion of every other particle. The cloud would disperse and have no unity. Consider the same cloud of particles that all absolutely served one another before themselves. They would be unified and bound together in common purpose. Is God not absolutely unified? Then would the unified cloud not more accurately reflect His nature? Sacrificial service is foundational to God’s eternal nature.

How much then, if we are to imitate our Lord, should we imitate His sacrifice in service to each other? I’m not saying we should seek death on a cross. What I’m asking is how much do we bear one another’s burdens?

My wife came home from a Mothers Of Preschoolers class once where some messy projects were taught. If I recall correctly, the phrase offered where children are concerned was, “embrace the mess.” I have 3 active kids, four animals, and a small house. It matters not how much you clean, there will always be a mess somewhere in the house. Raising kids are that way.

We’re all kids of a sort. Adults have the same silly attitudes as children. We have simply learned how to be more sophisticated in how we manifest these in our behavior:

“Mine!” “No, mine!” (Possessiveness)

“Huh uh!” “Uh huh!” (Personal preference determines belief resulting in false presuppositions later in life.)

“I know you are but what am I?” (Self-righteousness)

“I wanna do it myself!” (Promptly spills milk all over the counter. False self-reliance in adults stifles cooperation and limits productivity.)

No, but rather if we seek to bear one another’s burdens, we must be prepared to get involved with each other’s messes:

“Oh – spilled the milk all over the counter again, did you?”

What do we say afterward? Do we ignore it or say, “Have fun cleaning that up?” Or do we say, “Let me help you with that?”

When the mess is serious sin, are we so inclined to offer the same help with the understanding that such help may involve discipline? Perhaps we are dealing with a murderer or adulterer. Perhaps a person has been exposed to horrible things and has serious emotional problems. Are we willing to embrace the mess for the sake of the ministry of the gospel?

If you work with bees to obtain the sweetness of the honey, expect to be stung on occasion. We often don’t like to get involved with difficult people and situations because we rightly perceive that we could be harmed or even condemned by association. Christ was condemned because He kept company with sinners. That is a cross we are called to bear. It’s offensive to us and to all who observe.

Embrace the mess, even if we get bloody. That’s our service.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Can Music Without Words Communicate?



I’ve always known that music without words communicates. Inasmuch as we can see information in DNA, purposeful arrangements of pitches, timbres and rhythms performed within a sociological context can have great meaning even devoid of lyric or narration.

Music without words is like blank stationary designed for conveying certain types of messages. When wordless music is woven into a single tapestry with other elements that clearly convey meaning, then it is contextualized. Aside from faint lines on stationary, the graphical elements on the paper are most often oriented at the borders where no words go. The paper provides the foundation for the words and the graphical elements compliment the words. Likewise, music without words provides a foundation for and compliments the times when words are sung or spoken.

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Taking Socialism on the Road

I can't think of a singe word in common usage that refers to a socio-economic political philosophy that stands fully counter to socialism. Capitalism refers only to a system of economics that is relatively free in both the public and private domains. Democracy refers only to a political method of discerning public determination. Republicanism refers to a political philosophy of representative government. Conservatism varies by location and context and technically refers to the preservation of ideology no matter what the ideology is. Libertarianism refers to a philosophy of self-determination albeit limited by degree. Liberalism varies by location and context and refers to any unsettled desire to disturb the current ideology, no matter what the ideology is. Progressivism refers to the desire to change, no matter what the change is.

However, socialism stands monolithically as a comprehensive political philosophy of absolute government control over political methodology, public policy and economic system. It's also one of the worst ideas man has ever considered for self-governance.

Think about that busy road in the town where you live. It's the one where everyone hates to drive because the town planners have not planned the roads, intersections and infrastructure very well. Businesses have noted that it is a high-traffic location, have recognized that being where a lot of people are is good for business and have decided to increase the traffic problem by locating there. Given that people's need for the businesses along this road exceeds their dread of the burgeoning traffic there, they venture in to sit in long lines at the lights and risk being trapped at a business because there is no established way to get back out into the crowded traffic.

What do you do when you need to exit the place of business and get back into traffic and there is no government-established means for doing so? The only thing you can do is drive to the exit and hope someone lets you in front of them. Amazingly, plenty of people have it in their hearts to do this.

So, I sit in traffic and observe. Ahead is a traffic light and I'm in line waiting on it to change so that I can move forward a few feet, closer to the place where I can turn out of this mess and get on my way home. I ease forward and realize ahead that there is a line of cars trying to exit a gas station on my right. I decide to allow one or two out in front of me, Aren’t I nice. The car in front of me inches forward and I signal the driver of the first car exiting the gas station to move out in front of me. He inches forward and gets his nose into traffic and stops. He can't move because the person in front of me has stopped. The light is red up ahead. We're all waiting on the government to turn the light green so that we can go. Of course, a bajillion cars are piling through the intersection from the road this adjoins; gotta let them through.

I suppose if I hadn't let the person out, they could appeal to a nearby police officer who can come and direct traffic so the gas station that is now a parking lot can clear out. Meanwhile, the road behind me has gathered a line of cars that are backed up to somewhere in the Midwest and we are threatening good relations with Canada. Well, now we need a bill to go before the city planners to put a traffic light at the gas station. Of course it's way to close to the lights on either side of the gas station that are already too close to each other. That's why traffic is now backing up - when the light turns red, there are people sitting in the middle of the intersection waiting for the light at the next intersection to turn green, which doesn't matter much because there are cars in the middle of this intersection backed up waiting on me to let these people out of the gas station parking lot which may not happen because of the blockage at the next intersection.

No, a third light at the gas station isn't feasible. We need the occasional people smart enough not to go into the middle of the intersection if they can't drive through it so that people coming the other way can get through when the light turns. We also need people like me kind enough to let people out into traffic in short order.

Socialism looks at the people who already have their place in the road and says it's not fair that people in the gas station can't get out. Socialism would put a light at every entrance and exit to the road effectively reducing the capacity of the road ridiculously by turning it into one giant confusing intersection such that the only way to drive down the road is for all the lights to be green. This is fair for everyone. We are equally parked where we shouldn't be and the system fails. We all go home by breaking the traffic laws and all the businesses close because no one can get to them. Sound ridiculous? This is precisely what socialism does to the civil and economic landscape - every time, without exception.

The way the traffic works best is when enough people recognize the need to limit themselves and show grace. When we have people who are in dire straights and need help, there are still people on the US willing and able to help them privately. The way the economy works best is when some people of means are willing and able to occasionally help others who find themselves in unfortunate economic or civil circumstances. That's the way the US used to be and we're still like that to some degree. The more the government takes over, the less inclined people are to assume personal responsibility, not only for themselves, but for each other.

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Saturday, August 02, 2008

What Makes Bad Language Bad?

I posted on vulgarities a couple of years ago. This video of Paul Tripp on what makes language bad is from the Desiring God 2008 National Conference. Warning: some bad language used for demonstration purposes.



Paul Tripp articulates what we should understand of the Law of Moses and the Law of Grace. Following the letter of the law is mere moralism. It's good to be moral people. But true righteousness is found in the willingness to refrain from what is allowed in order to glorify God before others. It is the law found in our hearts where we submit to the needs of others and desire to be pleasing to God.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Some Accounts from Venezuela

The team made it safely home from Venezuela. Lois and the kids are still there with Pastor Darwin, his family, Ised and the whole church. They'll be going with them to the Yucpas after a week. I'll have some photos to share soon if Lois doesn't beat me to it, but I wanted to offer a couple of accounts right away.

We showed up to do a carnival next to a baseball diamond and discovered that a semi-famous baseball player (don't ask me his name - I'm sports illiterate) had come to do a baseball clinic for some boys. One of our team, Hank Dahl, had come prepared for a baseball clinic with an evangelistic emphasis and talked to the man. He was a Christian and agreed to let Hank and a few of our men help out and share the gospel with the boys.

A boy, cousin to someone in the church, had been badly burned. Amazingly, he says it was Jesus who pulled him from the fire. He was released from the hospital because the bills were too high - not because he was well enough (that's socialized medicine for you). We sent a few people to his home pray for him. His uncle, known to be an alcoholic, was in a nearby house and was moved by the Holy Spirit to get up and visit. He found the team there and heard the gospel and came to Christ. That night while we were at the church he came in and exuberantly shared his testimony of that day how the Holy Spirit made him get up so that he would hear and finally understand the gospel (he had heard it before countless times, but had never submitted to the Truth). His family testifies that he is indeed a different man.

"Ghandi" and Pedro (a father-son team) have been our bus drivers for the past couple of years. This was the third time they've driven for us.The first year they drove for us, we discovered that although they have driven for Christian teams in the past, no one had ever shared the gospel with them. Ised, our Venezuelan missionary, shared the gospel with them then and they both accepted it. Now, two years later, having seen us minister with the gospel, we were at a location where a security guard was nearby. They went to him and shared the gospel with him. I don't know that he accepted, but it shows the effects of a consistent and persistent ministry: Men, for whom God used us to bring into His presence, are now our fellow ministers among us. How blessed we are to see our Lord grow His people.

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