Category Archives: Ruminations

Simple enough

We live in a time when everything seems to be so complex.80674818

College degrees are seen as a must in order to succeed; you are thought to be incapable of figuring out the complex if you don’t have one. Video games have upteen levels of complexity to navigate, tv series go on and on to unravel the plot and there’s no such thing as a simple relationship.

When you move into the religious or the spiritual, complexity rises to new levels. You need professional clergy to “figure it out” and dumb it down for the lay folks; a knowledge of Old English is required in order to be seen as having the “right” Bible and most “spiritual things” are seen as being achieved only after years of intense struggle.

So, most folks pick up a Cliff Notes or Dummies version of spiritual growth in three easy lessons and resign themselves to the impossibility of being a true Jedi of the faith.

That’s sad.

It also means that Satan takes the match and rules the church.

That’s wrong.

But, what if it really isn’t that complex? What if this spiritual thingy is far more simple than we’ve been led to believe?

Would that change anything? Would it up the stakes? Would it wrest the church out of Satan’s hand?

But Jesus was matter-of-fact: “Yes—and if you embrace this kingdom life and don’t doubt God, you’ll not only do minor feats like I did to the fig tree, but also triumph over huge obstacles. This mountain, for instance, you’ll tell, ‘Go jump in the lake,’ and it will jump. Absolutely everything, ranging from small to large, as you make it a part of your believing prayer, gets included as you lay hold of God.” —Matthew

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Book report, kinda

ForgottenGodForgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit, Francis Chan

I like Chan. A lot. His Crazy Love messed me up. I made it required reading for our staff of pastors and workers in Brazil. I highly recommend it.

I purchased Forgotten God before it was published and had been eagerly anticipating it for several months. When it came in last Monday, I read it in one setting. I then reread parts of it over the next few days. I intend to give it another going through in its entirety, this time marking it up.

I found myself  doing fist pumps on multiple occasions — he was asking the same questions I’ve been asking and describing the very problem I’ve become so aware of in the church today. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with as much excitement as I did this one.

But, I found my enthusiasm waning as I passed the halfway point. I began to sense that he was going to pull up short.

And he did.

I honestly didn’t care where he came out on the issue of Holy Spirit but I really wanted to see where he landed and the thought process that got him there. He purposefully didn’t draw a conclusion.

Lame.

This book started with such promise of addressing a serious problem in the church, and Chan typically does such a good job of addressing the problem, but he took “the easy way” out.

There is much good in it. That’s why I’m going to reread it. I’m not opposed to anything he said, and he stated some really good points that I want to delve deeper into.

I’m disappointed that he left that which he alluded to multiple times floating around like an ethereal cloud that you just couldn’t grasp.

First Day

Waking up in Ubaúna is always an interesting event.

The sounds, the smells and the sights are always arresting, even to one who has experienced it upteen dozen times. I love hearing the remarks of the “newbies” who’ve never had the pleasure. Brings a smile and a chuckle to my lips.

Today is the first full day on the ground. We’re going to be busy, busy, busy.

First thing up is working with the Seed of Hope kids painting pictures. Three different locations, 300 kids… for some reason I think we’re going to have our hands full.

Puttin’ bullets in my gun

Didn’t mean to get so many of you all riled up with my ruminations on education.

Ok, actually I did.

So, am I some sort of holy-roller, backwoods, snaggletoothed, ignorant hillbilly who handles snakes and drinks poison? Do I disdain education as a creation of the devil and assume that ignorance is bliss? Just what is wrong with me?

If things are viewed in their proper perspective, the acquisition of information, knowledge, can be powerful. If viewed wrongly, it will castrate you spiritually. I still have the scars to prove that one.

Jesus was about as straightforward as he could be when telling his disciples about the Spirit’s role in their lives. In fact, he stated that if he, Jesus, didn’t leave, the disciples would never receive the Spirit. He, Jesus, could not teach them what they needed to know, could not open their hearts and their minds in the intimate way the Spirit could. He laid down the smack: you need the Spirit or you’ll never get anywhere just hanging around me.

“There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. —John

Pardon me for attempting to be exegetically and hermeneutically correct, but what in the world is Jesus saying here if it isn’t what he is saying? What part of “guide you into all truth” doesn’t cover “all” truth?

Knowledge can be attained through guidance by the Spirit. Reading and studying materials that broaden your scope of understanding in the natural world of the Word’s value will reap benefits in the spiritual. The value can be incalculable IF it is secondary and subservient to the Spirit’s professorial role.

In that role, knowledge becomes ammunition in your spiritual assault weapon. With the Spirit downloading into your databank, the accumulation of information makes you a deadly threat to the enemy.

Go ahead, make my day!

How dare we?

I know that most of you who read this are not, nor have ever been, full-time missionaries living in a foreign country far You are firedfrom home. That is why you should read it.

I have been.

Putting aside the God-call aspect of a missionary living in said foreign country, why is it that we Americans act like such brutes when it comes to our financial support of the missionary? We tend to view the American-born missionary as a second class citizen; our view of the national-born missionary is several rungs lower.

I just read a blog entitled “How Not to Drop a Missionary’s Support” and I’ll readily admit that “Amen!” was on my lips. Actually, “You’re dang right!” was what I said.

You should go read it right now!

Not all missionaries should be on the field; not all missionaries have been called to be there; some should come home and quit giving Jesus a black eye. But that doesn’t give us the right to simply leave them stranded, or worse, not even let them know why we quit sending their salary.

You have no idea what it feels like to be 5,000 miles from “home” and to realize that you’re stuck, unable to pay your bills, unable to put food on the table for your children, unable to even come back to the U.S. to try to rectify the situation… unless you’ve been there.

I have been.

We are supposed to be Jesus to the world; does that give us a license to exclude the missionary?

Religion vs Horoscopes; hmmm… I don’t know

Here’s a riddle for you: why do people without religion believe in horoscopes?

Why do people who abandon “church” still cling to magic, miracles and other mystical channels?

Shouldn’t they be atheists?

the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse.

What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.

So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.” It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them—the God we bless, the God who blesses us.

Are short-term mission trips worth it?

As one who takes folks regularly on short term mission trips, I occasionally have a sitdown with myself and ask if it is really worth it.

From a personal perspective it is a mixed bag.

As the organizer and leader of such groups it is a tremendous amount of work. I tend to feel like the mother hen herding her flock of little chicks. The questions, the misunderstandings, the “drama,” the little details that no one else thinks about… after a week or so, it can begin to drive you crazy.

From a pure financial standpoint I’ve had to wrestle with feelings of guilt and waste. All that money, just to take a group of Americans to a place that they will stay for a few weeks. How effective will they actually be to the work they are visiting? Will there be any real Kingdom work that takes place? Imagine what you could do with those resources if you could apply them directly to the work instead of paying for airfare, food and transportation for visiting Americans.

Of course, reality says that those funds would not be available to the work if the individuals did not make the trip. Most people will not forgo a trip and donate the same funds for use in-country without their presence. It doesn’t diminish, however, the effect this straw man has on my psyche.

Then there is the issue of the spiritual maturity of the traveling guests. For most American Christians who travel outside of the U.S. to a place where Christianity is a rather new commodity, they are ill prepared for what they encounter. Their only basis of reference is their experience in the American church; what they encounter can be upsetting, frustrating and even frightening. While I consider that to be an excellent springboard for the deepening of faith, it isn’t always a pleasant experience.

Next up: so, are short term mission trips a waste of time?