May 31, 2008

Saturday was a wonderful day.  It started with another morning of teaching.  We finished Matthew 5 and 6. As usual the class asked great questions, and we had a good time.  After lunch, we headed to Tehuipango in the mountains.  Driving straight there it is a good 2 hours, but we needed to pick up people in several villages along the way.  I drove the blue Suburban that was packed solid with humans, but I don’t think there was a single complaint!  We arrived at our destination at 4:30 PM and began getting ready for a time of praise and worship and teaching with over 200 of our Indian brothers and sisters in Christ.  We started about 6 PM and were packed and ready to leave around 11:30 PM.  It was a beautiful time as musicians from many places shared their music.

One of the first people I saw was little Erika from Atlahuico.  She came up and gave me a big hug!  It was a moment of pure joy – so familiar and yet so special.  The love of Christ in the hug from her transcended all barriers of language and culture!

Here is something that should encourage all of you – especially those in dcf and particularly the dcf music team.  At the time of music last night in Tehuipango – I could hardly believe my ears when I heard Holy (a song by Waterdeep that some of our dcf band taught the musicians here in Spanish) being sung loudly in NAHUATL (the indigenous language)! How cool is that?  Praise the Lord!

I was asked to teach at the meeting, so I gave two short lessons.  One for unbelievers on God’s love and provision of salvation through Jesus Christ.  The other for the believers out of John 15:9-12,

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.  If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 
These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and 
that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

After the meeting we had a wonderful time of fellowship over bowls of Pozole (a delicious soup – check out the gigantic metal tub they served it from in the photos). There was enough for everyone to get a bowl. We then made our trek back to Rio Blanco, but this time we needed to take a group to Zoncolco.  So down the mountain for nearly 2 hours and then up to Zoncolco. Now this is a road that is just being built, and I have never driven on it before – and it is 1:30 AM.  I think you would be hard pressed to find a road like this in the States.  It has no guard rails (most roads here do not), and if you misjudge things by a few feet, then you, your passengers, and your vehicle will plunge hundreds of feet to a fiery ball of death!  Praise God for His continued traveling mercies.  

After dropping our passengers off in Zoncolco we got on the autopista (Interstate) and headed back to Rio Blanco.  I was following Juan, but I was asked a question, got distracted, and missed our exit.  I was a little frustrated with myself because the next exit was a good 5 minutes away.  However when Juan went back to look for us; there was a bad wreck caused by a drunk driver.  Perhaps the Lord spared us once again.

We arrived back about 2:30 AM.  I had been so tired, but once I got to the house I had a hard time falling asleep.  The last I looked at my clock it read 3:30 AM….just a few hours before the Sunday morning meetings.  It was a very long but valuable day.  I am thankful to God for His provision of strength, and most of all – His love!


Friday marks the half way point of my time here in Mexico.  Today I was able to get a few hours of rest and study in the afternoon for which I am very thankful!  The adoption meeting that I wrote about earlier was a real blessing.  Also the doctor and his wife from Honduras offered to help my wife and I with an adoption in Honduras if we desired.  Just today they talked with a friend in Honduras that told them about a 3 year old girl who needs adopting.  Her mother had left the family, and the father wants to give the little girl away. How terrible!  I ask you to pray for this little one.  Claire and I aren’t sure exactly which avenue to pursue at this point, but we will seek God in prayer and wise counsel from our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

This evening I had the opportunity to preach here in Rio Blanco.  Our subject matter was Love.  Our texts were Luke 10:25-37, James 1:21-27, and John 15:9-11.

You can read a previous post about the Good Samaritan if you like.

Our main points:

1.  Love is the key!
2.  My neighbor is anyone I have the power to help
3.  I have a special responsibility to those in the church family, the poor – orphans, widows, and aliens
4.  Jesus desires us to be full of joy.
5.  The fullness of my joy in Christ is normally in proportion to my obedience to Christ.
6.  Being full of joy should be the standard for the Christian life, not the exception

It is late, and the schedule for tomorrow is full.  I will be teaching the missionaries for a couple of hours in the morning, and then we will drive a couple of hours to Tehaipango where there will be a music event with many musicians and people from various places.  I have been asked to give a message there.     The Lord has been gracious to provide physical strength, mental alertness, and fullness of spirit.  Thank you to all those who have been praying for me and please continue to do so.  I am truly blessed to have people in this world who truly love and care! 

p.s. I didn’t take a single picture today. I will try to be more faithful with the camera tomorrow.

“Make Peace not War” – James 3:13-4:12  Part 2 (Please read part 1 first.)

“But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth” (James 3:14).

  • Bitter Envy = desiring the position, power, praise, or possessions of another individual.

The sad and most wasteful thing about bitter envy is that it keeps the follower of Jesus from fulfilling his true calling in Jesus. Think about it this way. God gives each follower of Christ a spiritual gift by the power of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 12:7), and each person has a unique set of natural gifts and experiences. In others words there is only one you! If by envy you are trying to obtain what God has for someone else, then you will forfeit what God has specifically laid out for you.  In other words it is possible through envy to miss your calling in life.

  • Self-Seeking = desiring to be the one who ultimately benefits from the actions done rather than God and our neighbors.

Motivation is so important in living a life that pleases God. Often times our “efforts for God” hide our true desire to gain benefit from the situation. Brothers and Sisters this should not be the case. God’s love for us should be motivation enough to respond in kind. The problem is that we have inherited our self-seeking nature through Adam’s sin. When you were a small child and playing with other children, no one had to teach you to be selfish. No one had to teach you to grab the best toy, and no one had to teach you to throw a fit when you didn’t get your way. You came by your self-seeking ways from the get go. In fact you had to be taught to share and threatened with punishment if you did not.

Left to our own devices we will not to be anything but self-seeking. We must have a new life in Jesus and walk according to the power of the Holy Spirit in order to have the best kind of life. Religious programs and things done in your own strength may have an appearance of “good conduct,” but they will ultimately result in a heart full of pride happy with its own accomplishments. I cannot say enough that without God’s help and power any attempt at living for Him is futile.

May God help us today to walk in the power of His Spirit…to put bitter envy and self-seeking away and enjoy the kind of life God truly intends for us!

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”   Colossians 3:1-2

All true followers of Christ were raised with Him.  What does this mean?  It means that as Christ rose in newness of life we who believe became participants with Him. He gave us a new life, a life that is to be centered around Jesus and the eternal as opposed to ourselves and the temporary.  We need to ask ourselves this question often, “do I have a heavenly or an earthly mindset?”  In a complex world that begs us to strive for bigger and better, for the here and now, for you and yours, Jesus calls us to something higher. He calls us to have a total “other world” perspective, and this “other world” perspective will cause us to live in this world a life of self-sacrifice, humility, and profound purpose: to love God and neighbor.  Today let’s seek this “other world” in prayer and practice.

In Ephesians 3:13-21, the Apostle Paul makes three requests to God for followers of Jesus. First, that they would “be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man.” Our source of strength is the Holy Spirit who is in us. Whenever we trust in ourselves and our own strength we will fail, but when we draw on God’s strength we can have true victory in our lives over the trials and temptations we face.

Second, Paul prays, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” Now we know that Christ comes to live within us when we accept Him as Savior. This is not in doubt, but the issue here is whether or not He feels at home in us. We often have secret rooms, closets, and spaces that we do not want Him to enter. We are ashamed of them, and at the same time our flesh desires to keep them. For Christ to fully feel at home, we must clean house. We must confess our sins and give those areas of our lives to Him.

The third item Paul prays for is, “that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” These are two goals that we should constantly be striving for, and we know when Christ comes for His own we will changed and made able to fully comprehend Christ’s love and be filled with all the fullness of God. But in the meantime, my prayer is for each of you who reads this to know more Christ’s love for you and become more like Christ in your love for your neighbor as you are filled by God and emptied of yourself.

Love is the answer.

Principal 1: Love is to seek what is best for your neighbor.
Go back to the story Jesus tells of the “good Samaritan” (see “Who is my neighbor?” post). The Samaritan took care of the beaten man’s woundss and provided for his recovery. It is obvious that this is what the beaten man needed, and the Samaritan loved this hurting stranger as he loved himself.

Principal 2: Love is sometimes hard.

In the historical account of Luke 18:18-27, a young wealthy aristocrat comes to Jesus and asks what he must do to have eternal life. Jesus knew the young man had money as his god; so Jesus told him to sell everything he had and give it to the poor. The young man went away sad. We need to understand that Jesus had great love for this young man and was seeking what was best for him. Unfortunately, the young man refused to be helped because he loved money more than God. It would have been much easier for Jesus to tell the young man that he was okay just like he was and that nothing in his life needed to change. It would have been easy, but it wouldn’t have been loving.

Principal 3: Love cannot be forced on someone. (note exceptions)
We can lovingly invite a person to receive our help, but they must accept it of their own will. Just like hearing about the rich aristocrat, it can be a frustrating thing to watch someone make bad decisions while refusing legitimate offers of what is best. We can pray; we can invite; we can exhort; we can encourage, but we cannot force love.

(Exceptions: children, the mentally impared, those under the influence of drugs. It would not be loving to let any of these walk into heavy traffic because they wanted to. We would lovingly force them to stay on the sidewalk.)

Encouraging word, Philippians 1:9, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight” (NIV).

If you haven’t yet, you may want to read “who is my neighbor” (below) before reading this post. The conclusion was that our neighbor is anyone we have the opportunity and resources to help. This did lead to 2 other questions; the first being, which neighbor do I help? The help we are speaking of here could be that of a physical, emotional, or spiritual nature. We find further instructions in the New Testament, which give us an order to live by.
1. Your family. “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (I Timothy 5:8). It would be a terrible testimony to give your money away and have your own kids without enough food to eat. But it should be noted that “provide for” is very different than “be excessive”.
2. The church. (those in the family of God). “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).
I believe that following the principal of #1 the needs in your local church would take precedence over those needs outside of your local church. Ideally the leadership in your local church is using the resources given to take care of the needs within the church and follow God’s lead on work outside of itself. In the U.S., in this time of wealth, an increasing percentage of local church resources should be headed outside of itself. However, if the local church you are a part of is self-centered, wasteful, and materialistic then you may need to take more initiative to encourage the leadership to do well, and if that fails then to designate what your giving is used for.
3. The poor. Throughout the Old and New Testament we see God’s heart for the poor and the responsibility he puts on us to look after their needs. It is also consistent that along with taking care of physical needs a priority is placed on the spiritual needs (Luke 4:18, Luke 12:32-34). It is best to support the work of the poor by those who are followers of Jesus, who along with taking care of the immediate are also providing hope and opportunity for their eternal well-being. Now there are organizations that do good things but not for Jesus. There are plenty of people who aren’t Christians who can give to those organizations – so let them do that.
4. Other people that God puts in your path. Again as Galatians 6:10 states “Therefore, as we have opportunity let us do good to all.” So depending on their type of need each person we are in contact with is a possible recipient of God’s love and grace working through us.

Having biblical priorities helps us use our limited resources most effectively and keeps us from giving to things that don’t have a God centered impact.

How do we decide what is right and wrong when it comes to issues of morality and ethics? I believe God gave us His Word which directly tells us the answer to most questions of morality and ethics and the principles for all of them. But let’s suppose your society doesn’t have the Bible. Could you still know without a doubt whether something was right or wrong? The answer is yes, because God has given us the ability to reason these things out. The problem is that most people do not want to use the reasoning abilities God gave us to come to an answer. They want to use one of two approaches. The first approach is, “Well I feel it should be like this…” The second approach is, “Well society or this part of society validates this….” The problem with both approaches is that the answer can go back and forth depending on how you feel that day or the current trend in society. We cannot be sure that either approach will find a good answer.

A question we can ask will answer our moral and ethical dilemmas and questions. Here it is: “If 100% of the people in society did “x”, what would the consequences be?”

Example: Say you are very angry at your neighbor – to the point you want to murder him. So you can ask yourself the question, “If 100% of the people in my society committed murder, what would the consequences be?” Well the answer is obvious that your society would be a dreadful place to live and that it would destroy itself. A few strong people would be left running around – trying to be the last one standing.

The moral question in a macro perspective gives the answer to your micro (personal) moral question. You can use this question for all questions of morality and ethcis: should I lie, should i steal, should i have an affair, should i move my property boundary? etc…
The great thing is this question also works in the positive: should I love, should I be generous, should I care about my neighbor, should I be faithful? etc….

Jesus was asked this question by a lawyer who wanted to justify his own life when he heard Jesus say, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It is commonly asserted of lawyers that they want good ideas and laws applied to other people but not themselves, and that they are well acquainted with searching for loopholes. The truth is we all have a little lawyer in us.

So to answer the lawyers question, Jesus told what we commonly refer to as the “story of the good Samaritan.” To summarize a man is traveling down the road and gets beat down by some robbers. It is a violent scene as they take all his possessions and leave him naked to die in disgrace. Two religious men of the same race and culture of the man who was left to die pass by without helping. They intentionally went to the other side of the road to avoid contact – to avoid the hassle of helping someone – to avoid the personal cost of involvement.

But a third man comes along – of a different culture and a different people – he is a Samaritan (half Jewish, half Gentile – hated by both). He helps the guy by cleaning up his wounds, giving him a ride on his mule, and taking him to a hotel to recover. He pays all the injured man’s expenses, and tells the hotel manager, “put any other expenses on my tab.”

Now these 2 men did not live next to each other, they were not of the same race or culture, they had no connection other than their common humanity and that one of them needed help and the other had the ability to help. So we see the answer to our question: our neighbor is anyone we have the ability to help. This presents us with tremendous opportunities and increased complexities as our world is more connected than ever. Though we have answered this question, we have created two more: which neighbor do I help, and how can I best help my neighbor? Check back for more posts on this and other subjects.

To read the biblical record of the good Samaritan see Luke 10:25-37
The painting is by He Qi – one of my favorite artists – you can visit his gallery.

We live in a unique time in history. Never before has so much information (and misinformation) been available. In this complex world it is easy to get distracted from the most important questions we must all face, and we often find ourselves struggling to know what the best course of action is. The purpose of this blog is to help us view the routine (and not so routine) things of life through the lens of loving God and loving people (Matthew 22:36-40), and to better understand our place in this world and what we should pursue with our short lives.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”