Choose Your Hill

The likely duration of the devastation in Honduras is just starting to sink in following our outreach last week. The sense of powerlessness we felt as we passed miles and miles of tarp cities along the way is hard to describe.

1 min video no script just footage.

Meanwhile, Josh fell hard off a ladder and injured his shoulder. His arm is in a sling.  If that weren’t enough our ministry vehicle has big issues and 

We are grounded for a few weeks.

What to do, what to do?…

I know. How about we catch up on the news.

Errant Epistemology

As usual, our world is in turmoil over worldviews and politics.  As always there are many on both sides of the political sewer stream who believe they know the truth. Yet apart from hands on daily experience the only thing any of us really know for sure is the content of what we have been told or shown via some form of media. Like it or not most of what we consume only skews reality.  As a media creator myself I know that some of that skewing is inevitable. Some is by design.

Inevitable causes result from the emphasis being determined by the creator. If you watch one of my videos you inevitably see what impacts me. I want you to see and feel what I see and feel. That’s why I’m creating it. The greater my passion the more my own biases pass through the lens of your perception, world view, and life experience. You then draw your own conclusions and pass them onto others. The process goes on ad Infinitum.

On some level, every media consumer becomes a co-errant creator.

Skewing by design is intentional and may be used to honor or dishonor the subject.

Anyone who has been interviewed by me knows that I cut errors. Any hesitation, confusion, cussing, stuttering, or farting is removed such that even the most awkward and nervous subject looks like a seamless orator. I do this both for the sake of time and honor. The dark side of this is that people can be made to say things they never said.  All it takes is a simple switching of camera angles and adding b-roll to cover spliced clips.  For example, I could ask you what you thought about cockroaches in one question and what you think about puppies in the next then splice the answer to the first question onto the second and walla!  You have been transformed from a clean person into a genocidal puppy killer. 

Yes, it’s really that easy.

Viewing is skewing

The diminishing attention span and patience of viewers as well as the accelerated speed at which people scroll through SM messages requires videos to be shorter and shorter.  Advertisers know they have no more than 5-15 seconds to hook you or you will scroll through their message on your device.  That’s why they allow you the “Skip Ad” option. As a result, billions of people make instant and completely subjective decisions regarding truth and the nature of reality everyday based on media titles and headlines like “Trump Invokes Insurection Act” alone.

You don’t have the wisest serpent in the den to discern where this might lead.

What is True?

Four years ago on New Year’s Eve, we were en-route back to Kauai from Africa where we had attended the Iris Global Harvest School of Missions.

Africa was paradigm-shifting, to say the least.  We saw what it means to really lay it all down for the sake of the gospel.  We learned that while miracles and projects happen and doctrinal differences always arise, mission work a.k.a. Christianity begins and ends with intimacy with God and stopping for the one in front of you

Thankfully it wasn’t until we returned that we heard the myriad controversies regarding Heidi Baker. Like any famous person she is enshrined by some and bedeviled by others. Suffice it to say that anyone who has not personally encountered her on the mission field should stop talking.

The same applies to Christians talking about anyone’s character whom we only know via the media. As it turns out I have been duped too. Allow me to be the first to repent of this.

The entire body of Christ is comprised of fallen, cracked pots.

How easy it is to forget the brokenness that drew us to Christ in the first place.  Still, the body of Christ has had challenges with discerning and holding onto truth from the start. One minute the Corinthians are on fire for the gospel. Then getting rebuked for sexual immorality in next. 1 Cor 5 On a good day we prophecy in part, know in part, and see in a glass darkly. Therefore everything we do must be grounded in a love for one another that we model before others. John 13:35  Otherwise we become loud dystopic clangs in an already dying world. 1 Cor 13:1

There’s a lot of clanging today

I don’t know about you but I can be pretty fiery. It doesn’t take a whole lot of media viewing to stoke my stupidity and expose my deficits in this area.

Part of the problem is that our society has become an ocean of normalized narcissism where personal opinions and significance have become idols and are monetized by Social Media. Yup being angry at someone because they disagree with the ALMIGHTY ME is narcissistic. Calling for revolution or civil war is psychotic. It may be coming soon thanks to the new religion of

Self-aggrandizement and maligning others in the temple of the smartphone.

“The Social Dilemma” is an absolute must for anyone who has ever asked questions like “How could anyone believe the Marxist driven Portland riots were a peaceful protest” or “How could any Christian support a Nazi white supremacist homophobic rapist like Donald Trump?”

The answer is scarier than you might imagine.

About two years ago I wrote Truth or Trump where I discussed what I learned during my old Forex trading days regarding how media manipulates markets and political narratives for profit. I concluded that political rage is destroying the witness of Christians. In the Anatomy of Deception, I covered the economic theory of Reflexivity and what George Soros termed the Fertile Fallacy and the Manipulative Function by which he determines reality. These also drive markets, public opinion, and behavior. That all of the aforementioned entities are working together to reform humanity in the forge of social media is- well… terrifying.

“The Social Dilemma” was a proverbial capstone.

God and Government – Fear Not

While there are all sorts of typological analogies that can be drawn from the Old Testament regarding kings and kingdoms, it is God who establishes both in accordance with His disposition toward nations. Our God-given rights can only be revoked by Him.

His disposition toward Israel in Habakkuk 1 and Jerimiah 19 looks very different from Isaiah 45.

Hence He established both Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus.

Those who assume God didn’t establish Joe Biden and stand ready to redo 1776 should consider the almost prophetic words of John Adams in a letter to the Massachusetts Militia on October 11, 1798.

“We shall have the Strongest Reason to rejoice in the local destination assigned us by Providence. But should the People of America, once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation while it is practicing iniquity and extravagance; and displays in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candor frankness & sincerity while it is rioting in rapine and insolence: this Country will be the most miserable habitation in the World. Because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition revenge or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

The operative question here is; do the words, “moral and religious people” describe our nation today?

If that gets you thinking then you might be ready to read The Killing of Uncle Sam.  Whatever you might think of Dr. Rodney Howard Brown’s controversial theology, he is writing as a historian. It definitely lends perspective to the words “turn from their wicked ways” in 2 Chron 7:14

“if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

The bibliography alone is worth twice the price of his book. 

Many of problems we face today are largely a result of our nation’s collective obsession with Netflix and sports instead of history, civics, and sound Bible exegesis.  That two generations increasingly view what amounts to neo-Marxism as compassionate Biblically sound doctrine is a reaping of what we have sown.

Today we are in a very precarious position.

Everyone is being gaslit.

Everyone needs to question their epistemology.

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s … thick with evidence that a truth is not hard to kill and that a lie told well is immortal.” – Mark Twain –

Our desire for and self-proclaimed God-ordained entitlement to justice comfort and prosperity is the source of our undoing.  That’s the round about way of saying, “mammon kills!” Those are hard words but Jesus had hard words for those who should have known better. They are preserved for our edification.  He and the apostles preached and modeled a message of total surrender of everything but the gospel.  In the end, none but Judas backed down.  All were beaten and killed for preaching it.

They did so amidst the following political climate and under rulers whom they never once opposed on political grounds.

  • Herod Antipas imprisoned and beheaded John the Baptist in 28AD for criticizing his marriage.
  • In 37AD well known Caligula embarked on a reign of terror which included the execution of James and the imprisonment of Peter from which he miraculously escaped.
  • He was succeeded in 41AD by Claudius, who expelled all the Jews from Rome.
  • 62 AD saw Nero who blamed/set up Christians for the Great Fire of Rome in 64AD.  He is best known for burning Christians as human candles and sending them to their deaths in the amphitheater. Both Paul and Peter were executed by Nero in 66AD.  Nero committed suicide in 68AD and was succeeded by Vespasian, 69AD.
  • Titus destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem in 70AD. He died in 81AD and was succeeded by his younger brother Domitian.
  • Domitian continued to persecute Christians because they wouldn’t worship the Roman gods or sacrifice to the Emperor.  He exiled the apostle John to the  island of Patmos in 89AD

The Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount define our rights.

Here are some more hard words.

The gospel is not a call to political change, comfort, prosperity or even justice in this life. The Gospel is a call to die.

There is a poignant scene in the passion of the Christ where Mary is seen clutching fists full of the earth as her son is being nailed to the cross.  She rises from her knees in conjunction with the soldiers pulling the cross into its vertical position then opens her fists to release the earth as the cross drops into the supporting hole. No one including the disciples understood what was happening until after the resurrection.  The very act that brought eternal hope to the world emptied all of them of any hope they had in it.

All of us must get to this point.

Cathy and I often wonder how we and others would react to the crucifixion of our King if it happened today.

I suspect many would be calling for revolution and civil war.

Rev 13:10 is clear.

There is a lesson for America there.

As for us our heart and our hill are best described in the words Cathy recently wrote to a friend.

Bringing Hope in a dying world is our heart cry. That Hope on a starving person’s death bed is longer lasting than any hot meal. Of course, a hot meal is good and important too. But knowing that when they leave this world, even if they are all alone, that Jesus’ arms are open and, ready to receive them into eternity with Him is all that will matter then. That said, our prayer request is that this message of Hope will cross the language barriers, that Holy Spirit is active and Jesus is glorified.  That we will continue to hear and be obedient to God’s leading and that

His will be done!”  

Now might be a good time to pause from climbing the summit of success and define the hill upon which you are willing to die.

Maranatha!       

Still Growing Down in Honduras

A Gray Hope Missionaries Update

When people ask missionaries about missions the easiest answer is to give details about ministries and what we’d like to think we see God doing through us and around us. There have been times when our own reports sound more like an investment prospectus than a report of what God is doing. Most missionary blogs and newsletters do not begin with a list of failures and brokenness.  And while the secular cults of personality and comparison have invaded the church and made the quest for personal significance and success into idols,

His strength is made perfect in weakness.” We would rather boast in our infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon us.  For when we are weak, then we are strong. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Brokenness remains the key to missions.

Therefore we are always compelled to first qualify ourselves according to our failures and infirmities before we qualify any ministry we do. Our lives before Christ included things like addiction, divorce, suicidal ideation, and prison to name a few. I struggled with alcoholism for two decades and failed at everything before being instantly delivered from it and the buckshot coming my way amidst a point-blank shotgun blast. I wasn’t looking for Jesus at the time. I was looking to die. I did. Cathy was essentially looking to do the same when Jesus delivered her. John 15:16

The extent to which God uses us today remains a function of our brokenness and the utter dependence upon Jesus that flows from it.

That brokenness is not just historical.   

Like most aspiring missionaries we had dreams of changing the world for Jesus when we began. That’s before we accepted that God may use us but He doesn’t need us to do anything for Him. He places us where ever He does because where He puts us is the best place for Him to conform us to His image. Rom 8:29 As easy it might be to tell tails of adventure and harrowing brushes with death, and how we are saving Honduras in spite of it. The fact is that while the adventure is real it is God and sometimes Hondurans who save us. If that weren’t bad enough, for the record, we have never led a single person to Christ. We have planted and watered a lot of seed. 1 Cor 3:6-8 We have also been present when people made the decision to surrender John 4:36-38. We have never healed anyone. We have seen God heal people when we prayed for them. John 11:4 I once saw a demon-possessed man set free on a short term mission trip as I prayed. But honestly, I only prayed because I was last in line in a fire tunnel and the pastor was yelling at me. I didn’t know what to say so I just started saying “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” over and over until he fell down sobbing at my feet. People said it was amazing. I was more amazed than anyone because I didn’t believe in any of that stuff at the time. When we teach we assume we are there for one person because most people usually don’t care what we say. As it turns out we frequently teach in tongues. Many times we hear, “Wow I really liked what you said.” Only we never said what they heard. My point is that our path was and is one of God accomplishing His will in spite of us rather than because of us. We are not spiritual special forces as some are prone to view missionaries. We are people that God uses to prove that He can use anyone anywhere provided they are a yielded vessel. He is the potter. We are His cracked pots. We just keep putting one foot in front of the other as His will and purpose unfolds before us.

Most times it feels like we are just along for the ride.

I realize this might not be the purposeful and intentional way in which many imagine the great the commission should unfold.

However, it does lend some perspective to Eph 2:8-10

The valley of Megiddo from the Mount of Transfiguration. We received a free round trip to Israel last year.

There is a tendency in the contemporary body of Christ to pursue Mat 17 Mount of Transfiguration type experiences.  Many Christians spend their entire lives chasing prophetic affirmations mostly about themselves and encounters with the manifest presence of God. Yet the mountain top is the place where God reveals Himself as the anchor to which we tether our faith as we venture into the valley below. It is the firey crises of faith in the valleys of life that burn off the dross and purify us.

Becoming a missionary is volunteering for the valley.

COVID was one such valley for us as we found ourselves locked down immediately after moving to a remote mountain village where we didn’t know anyone and many had never even met a gringo before. The State Department kept sending emails advising us to evacuate. When the border closed we knew we were committed and that we were on our own if we get sick. Several months in, depression and anxiety crept up on Cathy. A sense of futility bordering on apathy snuck up on me as I heard that familiar Gen 3 whisper, “Did God really say?…” “Did God really place you here? Or were we imagining things?” There were only two places to go to at this point. One was what AIM alumni know as the “Q” zone (the quit zone) deep in the valley of the “Project Mood Curve”. The other was deeper into the Secret Place.

  Thankfully we were both compelled toward the latter.

Yet even that was a function of His grace more than it was our will and our choice.

That’s when His purpose opened up. God confirmed that we are exactly where He wants us.

Perhaps the biggest difference between full-time missions in the third world and ministry in the first is that missionaries have fewer options from which to choose before God becomes the only one. While the first world rewrites the book of Ecclesiastes, missions offers a short cut to the truth in chapter 12.

Never the less it is a paradoxical process of growth that He brings us through.

“When you are done growing, you’re done.”

-Heidi Baker-

We want less of us and more of Him.  John 3:30-36

So we keep growing down.

All that being said, “becoming” a missionary is simple.  It is hearing and being obedient to God’s call regardless of whether it makes sense.  It is counting the cost and laying down in faith whatever is, for what God’s word says could and should be. 

Being” a missionary is living in James 1:4 and sometimes enduring the reality of the verses immediately before. 

Lately, it’s been walking through mountain jungles to deliver food because of the lockdown. 

And filling the gap at our house because fear canceled school. 

Of course, the true purpose is neither food nor school but opening doors to eternal Truth. More often it means planting in hope that another may harvest. One thing we have learned;

People don’t care what you know until they know how much you care. 

We Do.

We are into our fifth year on the field and our fourth year in Honduras. 

Right now, we are in a fairly remote mountain location called Cerro Azul Meambar and in Luke 10 forerunning stages of a new ministry among partly Miskito Indian people. That means going low and slow, building relationships and trust, and becoming a part of our new community. We do a lot of children’s ministry. Children are great ambassadors between us and sometimes more skeptical adults.

Our real heart is for discipleship which among other things means involving kids ages 10 -13 in outreach.

The second aspect of forerunning is not as fun. It is finding and binding the Mat 12:22-30 strong man. In missions terms, the strong man is the person, issue, or situation that impedes gospel truth. It can be an individual, political party, or social issues like poverty, domestic violence, or addiction, etc.  After nearly six months we are narrowing it down. Most children here only attend school up to the 6th grade at which point they might grow coffee and net an average $3 for every hundred pounds of beans they grow.  If they harvest for someone else, they might make $2. 

Hondurans are notorious for their stoic, and fateful surrender to hopelessness.

Our prayer is that the fateful become faith-filled.

That said, the strong man appears to be alcoholism here.

It makes perfect sense in the spirit.  In addition to the two of us being former addicts, I was an adolescent substance abuse counselor and a clinical supervisor for a decade before I was a missionary. For fun, Cathy and I ran a faith-based co-ed transitional housing program for prison inmates. We lived with 5-10 inmates and sometimes their children for twelve years. As much as we have tried to get away and do something different, God continues to place this population in our path.  It was our brokenness that led us to Christ.  Apparently, it is still the same brokenness that continues to qualify us in ministry.  Ok, Lord.

Thy will be done.

Maranatha!