In May of 1990, the Voyager 1 spacecraft first launched in 1977, returned the final pixels of the now famous photo known as “The Pale Blue Dot,” the earth from over six billion kilometers away suspended in a single ray of sunlight. Ironically, it was Carl Sagan, an atheist himself, whose words are most often quoted.
“That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.”
That anyone could look at that picture and remain an atheist baffles me not because of the size of the earth, but because of the level of hubris and pride, it requires a tiny little vaporous human (Psalm 39:5) to declare that there is no God and all of creation came into being by chance.
You have probably heard about the political turmoil in Honduras. Some of you know we have stopped posting about the crisis on Facebook and are wondering why. Basically, we do not want to be viewed as having a political opinion in a country where foreigners can be deported for expressing one. We are here to bring the love of Jesus regardless of who is in power. Suffice it to say that there is nothing new under the sun. Current disagreements are severe, resentments run deep, and people are dying mostly in major cities in, and as a result of protests. Regular world media news outlets are near worthless as they are only reprinting each other’s old news as new news. But word on the street has it that there is growing anti-American sentiment, and the situation is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. I’m listening, via Facebook live as I write, to the former Honduran president who was removed in a coup de tat in 2009 accuse Americans of being assassins and here to kill Hondurans. He keeps talking about civil war and Honduran youth who are not afraid to fight and to give their lives. He says he’s not afraid to fight and die because he is a Christian. That’s different. Whether or not the situation erupts into a full-scale civil war is anybody’s guess. We live in the original “Banana Republic” a term O’Henry coined to describe Honduras in the 19th Century and is still used today to describe countries plagued by chronic political and socioeconomic instability.
Even so, we are trying to be wise and prepare as best we can. The key for us is to remain faithful to the call while being aware yet not consumed by news and outward circumstances. After all
“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6-7)
We are having a blast loving on the kids here and preparing for Christmas. Every day is an adventure. This week we drove three hours into the mountains on an outreach where we got stranded for the day because our vehicle broke down. To be honest I have never been on a trip in that particular vehicle when we have not broken down.
It’s almost a tradition. Anyway, we worshiped God and walked and laughed a lot. The next day the kids who were with us couldn’t stop talking about how fun it was. That’s just normal life on the mission field.
Which brings me to the topic of tares. Or wheat and tares to be more precise. There’s been a fair amount of discussion regarding Jesus’ parable of these in Mat 13:24-30. Good people versus bad people is the most simplistic explanation. The problem is that bad people are often regular people doing bad things that they believe are right or good. The protestors kidnapping, stripping and torturing four police officers feel justified in their actions just as the Army feels justified in shooting protestors dead in the streets. So, it’s got to be deeper than that. The most poignant “ah-ha” moment for me regarding this topic was when I viewed a photograph of wheat and tares growing together in a field. They both look pretty much the same except the tares grew up straight and tall as if reaching for heaven as they matured while the wheat by its side bowed low toward the soil from which it came. The issue appears to be one of pride versus humility.
Maybe it’s just my perception, but it seems that the most powerful people in our world are often the most prideful. Pride is the real original sin and it only makes sense that it would be rewarded in a fallen world. The prideful do what benefits them, and their circle of supporters be it large or small because their supporters benefit them. All of them speak in terms of the greater good, but at the end of the day, they like people who agree with them, help people who help them and undermine or destroy those who don’t. Some are more vociferous in their approach while others remain passive aggressive.
There’s always an opposition to those in power and a proverbial boogie man created or invoked to manipulate the public’s emotion. The opposition attacks those in power because they have too much power and the narrative is always rooted in helping the less fortunate and making unfairness fair. In reality, they just want power for themselves. So, they use anger and fear and the promise of greater wealth and power for the underprivileged to awaken the most primal tribal instincts that exist within us all. Then they rally their supporters like football fans most of whom have no idea that they are being sent into the streets as pawns to protest and maybe die for what they don’t understand. The protests become increasingly violent, those in power react with force which sparks more anger and violence in the broader population and civil war ensues. Too often civil war leads to genocide. Sometimes those in power continue to dominate. Sometimes the oppressed gain the upper hand only to become the oppressors themselves. Then the cycle repeats with a new generation that believes they are different and are doing something that has never been done. Ironically one of the opposition mottos here now is “This time they picked the wrong generation.” The truth is that governments are the number one cause of death for human beings throughout history. Governments composed of men and women, tiny little tares standing tall with terrific pride, believing that they have or are the answer.
Perhaps Ravi Zacharias put it best in a conversation with Hamas leaders, whom many if not most people I know would describe as evil.
“…But the last day, I saw one of the leaders of Hamas, one of the four founders. I went there for one reason; I had one question for him. He gave us a great meal, told us of eighteen years he’d served in prison, some of his children had been lost in suicide bombings, and this and that. And I had a question. I said, “Sheik, I may never see you again and forgive me if I’m asking you the wrong question. Please tell me, what do you think of suicide bombing and sending your children out like that?” I didn’t like his answer. I couldn’t say much. The room was full of smoke.
After he finished his answer, I said, “Sheik, you and I may never see each other again, so I want you to hear me. A little distance from here is a mountain upon which Abraham went 5,000 years ago to offer his son. You may say the son was one; I may say it’s another. Let’s not argue about that. He took his son up there. And as the ax was about to fall, God said, ‘Stop.’” I said, “Do you know what God said after that?” He shook his head. I said, “God said, ‘I myself will provide.’” He nodded his head. I said, “Very close to where you and I are sitting, Sheik, is a hill. Two thousand years ago, God kept that promise and brought his own Son, and the ax did not stop this time. He sacrificed his own Son.”
I said, “Sheik, I just want you to hear this. Until you and I receive the Son God has provided, we’ll be offering our own sons and daughters on the battlefields of this world for many of the wrong reasons.”
I know that he is right.
None of us here knows if the current perturbation of tares will continue to escalate. If civil war comes, I won’t be surprised. Nor will I be surprised if it doesn’t. We continue to draw closer to God regardless of, not because of circumstances. Many are praying, hoping, believing for a cycle of economic growth and prosperity here and there’s lots of talk of revival mainly by Americans. But I’m not so sure that is the way things are going to play out. Not at first anyway. God’s ways are not our ways; His thoughts are not our thoughts. Historically, revival is preceded by repentance and repentance by a crisis that makes society aware of its need. We usually don’t like that part. But the Bible promises perilous times not just prosperous ones and the abundance we are promised is abundance in Him, not the world. Maybe that’s why we are seeing some of the most profound spiritual breakthroughs in our kids right now. Some that were a hair’s width away from being kicked out of here last year are on fire now preaching and leading worship and being an absolute joy to be around. The youngest kids are utterly overflowing with love and Holy Spirit, and they love to praise and worship God with all their hearts. Last night they joined together to pray for Honduras. We saw the same thing happen this time last year with Carolyn Figlioli and her South Sudanese Refugee kids when we were in Africa.
When I think of the wheat and tares I need to remember that not only does wheat bow down as it is grown, wheat is grown to be cut down then ground and baked in a fire. Only then can it become bread that nourishes others. I want to be bread. But I won’t lie. I’m no rock star martyr of the faith, and I get scared, even freaked out at times especially if I think someone I love is in danger. Christlike would probably not not be the best description of my attitude and behavior when this happens, and I am out of faith. I sometimes wonder how I will handle the real fire if and when it comes.
The answer to everything in missions always comes back to intimacy with God. It’s not your work ethic or the money and stuff that you bring. Those are all good. But when the rubber meets the road the only thing that really matters is how much oil you have in your lamp.
At any rate, we are planning a special mac and cheese and chicken nugget dinner with chocolate cake party with our 5-8-year-olds as well as our usual soaking (worship) night with everyone here. We are still making plans to host short-term missionaries which seems kind of crazy at times. But tomorrow is never promised to anyone anywhere. So, we remain focused and love what matters most in this vaporous life upon a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam “among the stars that He numbers and calls by name” Psalm 147