I Am Sid

I used to tell children and sometimes adults “I’m Buzz Lightyear” with a wink. In a world where appearances are everything; hardly anyone understood what I meant as they tried to decide whether or not I looked Buzz.

While there is a certain irony in the fact that one of my first poignant memories was watching the first moon landing on my parent’s Zenith black and white T.V. and I wanted to be an astronaut after that, Toy Story holds a deeper meaning for me than my childhood dreams. It begins with Buzz Lightyear, a toy astronaut with an identity complex. Basically Buzz does not know he is a toy. He thinks he’s is a real astronaut and by extension – a superhero. The story begins with Buzz comparing and competing with the other toys for the love and approval of Andy their owner. Buzz is obnoxiously oblivious to his self-delusion and rationalizes his failures to the point of the absurd. Buzz thinks falling is flying. The other toys are dumbfounded but lovingly tolerate his ridiculous grandiosity.

One day Buzz is confronted with the truth when he sees himself in a Television commercial.

Instead of surrendering to reality, he musters all of his remaining powers of denial for one more attempt at flight only to plummet to the ground. He loses his left arm in the process.

Next, we see a broken Buzz in crisis drinking Darjeeling tea with a bunch of headless dolls in Andy’s sisters’ room. His former identity is shattered, and he believes his name is Mrs. Nezbit.

His fellow toys try to salvage his shattered self-worth but to no avail.  Buzz must go through the fiery process of transformation sparked by the death of his false self. Fast forward to the conclusion, we see Buzz rallying a bunch of broken toys to overcome Sid. Sid is an archetype of evil – the bully we love to hate.

He’s also an archetypal traumatized child.

Ironically, Buzz becomes a genuine superhero but within the context of his own brokenness rather than his previously imagined celebrity status. He overcomes in partnership with other broken toys. So inspiring is the tale of redemption and destiny fulfilled that no one gives a second thought to Sid.

The blessing is in the brokenness.

Working with troubled and disenfranchised youth has been a recurring motif since I gave my life to Jesus.  It’s a calling from which I’ve attempted to stray but I keep coming back. It’s a calling that unsaved friends and family frequently regard with varying degrees of disdain. Who does he think he is – taking care of other people’s kids when he didn’t take care of his own?

What a hypocrite!

Taming Snapping Turtles

Snapping turtles will invariably bite any hand that tries to feed them. I was a snapping turtle as a teen. Those who have read my previous posts will know what I mean. God loved me in spite of it. Eph 2 Many of those whom I’ve had the distinct pleasure of serving are the same. One particular boy has a special place in my heart. I can’t tell you his real name so I’ll call him “Sid”.  Sid made a bomb just for fun and accidentally blew himself up before he arrived in our care. I get that. I made bombs when I was a boy too. In this case, it’s a perfect paradigm for how Sid was living his life. He laughed as he told me he enjoyed the burns on half his body because he got high for free. “They gave me the good drugs!” he laughed. As one might expect, Sid had a particularly foul mouth.  My supervisor counted the number of times in the course of three minutes that Sid referred to me in the urban rendition of a female dog. She quit counting at 47.  That’s not accounting for the other explicatives, and slurs he vomited. He was particularly frustrated that day because he’d dropped the pencil with which he’d planned to stab me.  “Go – head bend over and pick it up so I can kick you in yo face!” I held his gaze and calmly kicked it away.

“You a b#&*!” Sid snapped.

Still, Sid was funny and witty at times. “I need to s*&t!” he exclaimed. “Can you find another word?” I asked. “Ok,” Sid said. “How about “shoot?”. “That’s fine,” I replied. If you keep cussing it’ll be another grounding. Sid was always grounded. Later he told me he was about to shoot himself. “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” I asked completely forgetting our prior conversation.

“Blank No!… You told me to find another word.”

“Can you unlock the bathroom?”

Sid ran away for the second time a few days later.  The police brought him back in handcuffs. He was spouting off about “swinging on staff” as soon as the cuffs were off. I guess he thought he sounded pretty tough. The cops told us he’d surrendered when they threatened to release the dog.  They thought that was pretty funny.

They didn’t have a dog. 

Every day I’d greet Sid with a smile and a hand on his shoulder.  “How ya doing Sid?” to which he’d reply,

“Blank you! You blanking blanker!!!”

This went on for weeks. Every day Sid would snap until he was tired of snapping.  I’d hold him accountable and give him every available consequence. I’d tell him he needed to stop blowing himself up, that threatening me amounted to him holding a gun to his head and screaming “stop or I’ll shoot!” But Sid didn’t care. At least that’s what he wanted us and himself to believe. One day the Lord prompted me to stick my head in his room after he’d had a particularly rough phone call. His sister and his dad told him to “stop being stupid”.  Sid had at least three tears streaming down his face as I spoke.

“You don’t want to hear this now”, I began. “But let me just plant one seed. If you ever get tired of blowing yourself up and give your life to Jesus, that demon that is destroying your life will leave.”

“Hell yeah,” Sid said.

One day I told Sid I loved him after he called me and other staff the usual slew of explicatives.  He finally laughed. 

“You really like the bad kids don’t you?”

“Hell yeah!” I said.

One day one of Sid’s side kicks, asked me if there is anything a kid could say or do that would make me hit them? “Absolutely not” I replied.

“Well…what if I hit your wife?” He grinned.

“That’s different,” I replied.

“Wait! Is that biblical?” Sid asked with a grin.

It was around that time that Sid started to open up about the most horrible trauma you can imagine.

“My mom is a whore.” he began. “One of her boyfriends was beating her up.  I thought he was gonna kill her.  So I grabbed a bat and beat his @$$! Then my mom called the police and pressed charges on me!”

Sid’s favorite aunt shot herself in the chest and bled out in front of him when he was 12. “I didn’t know what to do…” he said nearly crying again before he could get the walls back up. Sid had concluded that not giving a “blank” about anything is the key to survival. I told him that’s only true if you are planning to do life in prison.

“That’s where I’m going,” he said.

Then a miniature miracle happened.  Sid started saying “thank you” instead of “F-you” and “good night” instead of “Blank you mother blankers”. One day he stopped, turned to me, and said,

“You know I could be a really good man if I changed.” 

“Hell yeah!” I said.

The next day Sid asked me a question. “Hey, Mr. Brian ya know what you remind me of?” “What’s that Sid?” I asked. Given the previous night’s revelation, I was half expecting a positive response.

“A Q-tip!” he cackled.

“I can see why you might say that” I replied. Sid’s shoulders sank in disappointment and he walked away.

Then Sid tried to form a gang of other broken boys. He facilitated a classroom brawl at our school and tried to lead a rebellion. In the end, they took him out in handcuffs. One plant, one waters only God gives the increase.

I wept for Sid.

 The longsuffering of our Lord is salvation.  2 Pet 3:15

That’s the reality on earth as it is in heaven.

One reason why my wife and I have such a heart for the Sids of the world is that they are transparent. That’s why we lived with inmates for twelve years. As I always say, “I’d rather be punched in the face than stabbed in the back.” Their Sid reputations are fully documented and usually precede them so they don’t bother to pull punches in telling me exactly what they think.

If “F-you!” suddenly becomes “thank you” you can be fairly certain it’s real

Granted some of us grow up to be successful adults with families, houses, and cars… Maybe we get saved and start going to church. Still, we compare ourselves to others and do our best to make the grade in school, in careers, in social life, and church. People are corralled by society into constantly selling themselves to other people. Too often, who they are is determined by who they are with. Our value is determined by other people. Meanwhile, our increasingly narcissistic self-aggrandizing culture produces idolatry of expectation, giftings, anointings, and celebrity. We pursue people we think are awesome because we want to be awesome. People tell us we are amazing. We reply with “You’re amazing!” No one really believes it. So we attend conferences and prophetic meetings in hope of receiving an impartation that will make us amazing. We think we are chasing after God. Too often we are chasing our own reflection as we’d like to imagine it in God’s eyes. Maybe we have a Buzz Lightyear revelation and behold the image of our own absurdity. We rejoice that our true identity is finally revealed and chuckle that we once thought we were real astronauts. Thank God! We’ve been transformed. Now we can get to work saving the world with the other broken toys. We aren’t completely wrong.

We aren’t right either.

The longer I abide in the Lord and He directs my steps, the more aware I am of the utter brokenness that surrounds me, people faking it until they make it but never do. It appears that the average Christian carries so much shame and condemnation concerning the very things thru which God wants to display His grace, and power that it’s a wonder that anyone gets saved at all. God forbid that we would ever feel bad about ourselves. We think we can coat our mess with a prayer, a dip in a pool, and good intentions and call it the blood of Jesus.

But His blood is not a condiment to make us look or taste better and go on living as we did.

The blood of Jesus is the product of His brokenness on our behalf.

Do we think we have a better paradigm? Mat 10:16-39

It occurs to me as I write, that tomorrow is Pentecost. The first Pentecost is recorded in Exodus 19. The Jews had come from Rephidim into Sinai to encounter the presence of the living God.

Rephidim means “rest”. Sinai means “thorny”.

Maybe let that sink in.

It’s not our perfections or intentions our eloquence, our gifts, and anointing or resulting celebrity status that open people’s hearts to the true gospel. It certainly isn’t our eccentricities. Twitching, jerking, flopping, and roaring like a lion does not scare the devil let alone advance the gospel.

Neither do celebrity superheroes.

Rather, our transparency and authenticity regarding our brokenness, our weakness, – our failure in light of His love makes His truth believable to us and then to a dying world. It is only through our comprehension of this truth that we become empowered to share His amazing love with others. Aside from my brokeness, nothing brings me closer to the heart of God than when He works through me in spite of me to love the Sids of the world. We can talk about “MY IDENTITY” ad Infinitum and convince ourselves of His reckless love for the almighty “I” and “ME”. In the end, it only feeds the narcissism that consumes us and the anxiety that feeds on our delusion. Listen! If you really want to experience God, get low with the people and things that the world shuns and despises, the people you despise but might never admit to it.

Genuine Christianity is messy. Proverbs 14:4

We touch the heart of God and experience His presence when He loves the most unlovable among us – through us.

Love is the true anointing. His presence is found among the thorns.

Today I work with kids like I was and parents like the parent I became; messed up angry snapping Sids that the world loves to hate and rejoices when they get the beatdown or the bullet they deserve. People might deny it. But look at the movies they watch or the ratings-driven evening news. Everyone loves to choose a side. Everyone loves to hate a Sid be it an individual or a nation. It’s so normal we think hating is healthy. But if you want to know God, His love, and experience His peace that passes understanding, then love the people he died for. Love the Sids. Pursue the idolatry of self in the form of IDENTITY if you must. Hopefully, your Buzz Lightyear moment of truth is coming. As for me – it turns out that I never was Buzz Lightyear.

I am Sid

My true life is hidden in Jesus. Col 3:3

MARANATHA!

Peeling the Onion and Learning to Abide

Still Growing Down in Honduras

The name “Gray Hope Missionaries” has occasionally caused a few eyebrows to rise.  “What does that even mean?” they ask with a familiar reticence in their voice. I’ll admit it does sound a bit self-centered. I originally coined the title with the idea of it being a conversation starter. That’s manipulation code for initiating an evangelistic or “support us” sales pitch.

We all know God’s will requires funding.

Amirite?

Gray is the color between black and white, light and dark. It’s how I imagine hope. It’s also a Scotch Irish name that literally means hope. According to Google, the family crest which may or may not be my family crest, is an anchor.

That we live in the gray is another way of saying we see as in a glass darkly.

We need as much hope as we can get.

If you ask a missionary what life on the mission field is like you will often get an oral or written narrative along the lines of our most recent Hope In Time Newsletter, the ministry with whom we currently serve. Yes, we really do what we say. That’s not the point.  Increasingly, we find ourselves cringing at what inevitably ends up looking like horn-tooting, self-promotion. It’s a Catch 22.  We can’t be accountable to supporters without pictures of us doing what we say we do. But then it’s hard to direct the reader’s attention to God while staring at our mugs amidst a story about some tin we just nailed.  

I’ve come to almost despise the drudgery of self-promotion if only because it’s not biblical. Mat 6:1-4  When I think back to the marketing videos I regularly produced until two years ago I am embarrassed that I cultivated so much narcissism and self-aggrandizement. Yet narcissism and embellishment are just good business these days. They are expected and even praised in our consumer culture. That this is accompanied by a corresponding subconscious distrust of anyone asking for money seems rather ironic. That we associate meekness and humility with failure, and grandiosity with success, may offer some insight into why our culture has so little wisdom and discernment and continues to select psychopaths as leaders.  

But I digress.

In my experience, being a missionary has been more about coming to terms with things that people preoccupied with the first world rat race never have time or perhaps the desire to think about. 

I liken it to peeling an onion.

We began with peeling away our previous assumptions about ourselves, missions work, God, His Word and the world, as well all the ethical dilemmas that result from pride-ridden dreams of being a “world changer”.

This is counterintuitive as we are taught that success is contingent upon one’s ability to portray it.

Next came a season of preaching one thing and doing another. In my case that looked like talking about abiding while franticly striving to live up to prophetic words about my being a “world changer”.

Turns out telling people they are “world changers” is also a marketing strategy.

This recurring motif frequently ends in missionary burnout. Either we learn that,

“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 

or we quit. 

This may seem simplistic to those whose careers and prosperity are the fruit of their dependency on God. But try it after slaying prosperity on the altar. This is where we encounter our inner Judas.

Mary, therefore, took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” John 12:3-6

The temptation to do everything apart from the literal commands of Jesus can be strong. There’s always an excuse. I have learned that given a severe enough tragedy or perceived inequity, and there always is, darn near any worldly strategy can be justified in support of financing God’s will.

Yet Jesus assured us there will be no human solution to the world’s suffering and problems. That includes poverty, climate change, and injustice to name a few. The Christian walk is not about world-changing effort and success let alone how God uses the almighty “us” to do it. It’s about being broken as we learn we can not. Only brokenness teaches us to be utterly dependent upon Jesus. That is the kingdom definition of success.

It begins with accepting the abject silliness of our self-imagined significance. John 15:1-17

You can do nothing” is not hyperbole. “Nothing” means “nothing”. Hence, I’m thinking a better word for “missionary” might be

“Abidinary” – one who abides in the vine.

In our case, becoming an “abidinary” has meant dwelling both literally and prophetically in the wilderness. This has been especially true since moving into the mountains when the entire world was locked down. Our driver’s licenses expired and we don’t have a car.  Every time we are tempted to think it is coming to an end, another mutation and mutant worldly narrative kicks in. We are stunned and amazed at what the world has become and is becoming. It seems that everything we knew could happen – but probably wouldn’t – is happening. Maybe you can relate. Each time we learn that normal isn’t coming back the Lord brings us back into the Book of Exodus. We shed another onion layer as we look into the type and shadow of our own impatience, impertinence, and ingratitude.  Sometimes we are at the Springs of Marah in Exodus 15 grumbling that the living water is not sweetened to our taste.  Other times we are in Exodus 32 carving a golden calf 2.0.  Our calf isn’t made of gold but steak dinners and dreams of RV living while touring the US.

Meanwhile, God keeps placing us at the proverbial entrance to the Leviticus 8:35 tent.

For the record, I am not claiming to be a Levitical Priest.

Rather there is just so much history and depth in the original Tabernacle and Priesthood. Leviticus 8 is about the consecration and ordination of the priests. Many believers discount the Old Testament, especially Leviticus. “That was the old covenant,” they say. “Only the new one applies today.”  And let’s be honest. Detailed descriptions of donning one hundred pounds of priestly garb before tying a bull to the altar, slaughtering it in the heat, and spreading the blood and guts around can be boring and well…gross. 

Still, everything points directly to Jesus and lends greater depth to our understanding of Him and our relationship with Him. 

The bull was first and foremost symbolic of the priest tying himself to the altar. What took place there was a prophetic depiction of Jesus who would be both the final and perfect sacrifice as well as the high priest who offered it. It was symbolic of the depth of what is required if indeed we offer ourselves as living sacrifices. Rom 12:1-2.

Meanwhile, we sing “Come to the altar” as if it were an invitation to hug Santa Claus.

The altar is an invitation to tie ourselves up, be slain and die.

The tying, which is submission, is up to us. The slaying is a job for the High Priest. That’s Jesus. Anyone who has ever slaughtered a bull knows the sheer brutality, labor and gore involved. That the same sacrifice was immediately repeated with a ram only makes the scene seem more burdensome and intense. We may not slaughter animals as a propitiation for sin today. But shouldn’t our alter calls reflect the same sober intensity? Interestingly, Lev 8:3 lends deeper context to the scene when we consider that the entire congregation was required to be present. 

This was church. 

The Levitical Priests were just getting started.

“And you shall not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting for seven days, until the days of your ordination are completed, for it will take seven days to ordain you. As has been done today, the Lord has commanded to be done to make atonement for you. At the entrance of the tent of meeting you shall remain day and night for seven days, performing what the Lord has charged, so that you do not die, for so I have been commanded.” Lev 8:33-35

There is mind-numbing, soul-shaking, typological, depth to this for those who understand. Suffice it to say that in addition to the wilderness, this is the place where God has repeatedly placed Cathy and me for the better part of two years. It is an uncomfortable place, albeit an often joyful place, a paradoxical place filled with futility and hope and the realization that our best efforts are analogous to a finger painting by a three-year-old presented to his father. Perhaps the desire to please God alone would qualify as an acceptable sacrifice. But then who can honestly say they do that? Hence, the bible says our best efforts are filthy rags. It seems more likely that our worldly displays before man for which people so often praise us has become our reward in full. Peeling the onion has shown us that

The counterfeit of true worship and sacrifice is the worship of one’s own reflection in the eyes of another and as we might imagine it in the eyes of God.

We are the tabernacle today. The tent entrance is symbolic of the place of coming to terms with ourselves as God reveals the deepest parts of ourselves in answer to prayer. Residual parts we don’t like and wish were not there. It is always parts we wish were not there that need to be cut away, discarded or burned. The altar is hard work. But the hardest part is in the submission to waiting.  

The entrance to the tent is a most necessary place.

It is at the entrance to the tent of our tabernacle that we wrestle with drudgery, immobility, and loneliness. We are all strangers in a strange land. But Honduras is a place where no matter how low and slow we go we will never be seen as equal, a part of, or the same. We are gringos. We are opportunity and blessing, consumers and cash. Sometimes we are bipedal ATMs. The deafening silence so devoid of true fellowship at the tabernacle door can produce the temptation to retrieve what was slain and return to comfort in the land of the prospering dead. We are here for seven days, however long or short a time that may actually be, according to His will and “so that (we) do not die.” There may be a different season and assignment on the horizon. In the meantime, this is what it looks like to learn to abide. John 15:5 

We are “Gray Hope Abidinaries”

Maranatha!

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!