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!

A Spotless Bride

“In the crushing – in the pressing, you are making new wine.”

-Hillsong Worship-

It was during a Sunday service in 2003 or maybe 2004 when we first heard our pastor lift a teenage girl in prayer. Her name was Crystal. She’d been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. We became acquainted with her over the next decade as she frequented the same circle of believers. Much to her chagrin she always ended up the center of attention. I remember wondering if she felt like cancer had become her identity as people faithfully and fervently prayed for healing. While there were significant periods of remission, the cancer always returned.

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” Rom 8:5-6

If there was one thing about Crystal that stood out most, it was a profound, almost palpable peace that seemed to envelop her. When I last saw her she was having horrific seizures several times a day. Yet, we never would have known it if she hadn’t told us herself. Maybe it was my imagination but her eyes only seemed to grow brighter as her life drew to a close. I remember the hospital room being filled with “persistent widows” praying for the miracle healing they just knew had to come.  Ironically, Crystal was far more concerned with comforting them.  There was something she wanted to share. Could it be that healing for the sake of healing alone is never the point, that there are deeper things, bigger things than mere physical health? But she was slow to speak and soft-spoken when she did.  No one could hear her amidst the desperate invocations of the miraculous before visiting hours ended. I’m not being sarcastic. Surrendering to life’s end is hard for all involved even though the same natural end awaits us all. Very few truly embrace what the Bible says about this. I worked in nursing when I was young and used to care for the dying. They always had so much to impart as they shed the superficial layers of their lives. I really wanted to hear Crystal. I wanted people to embrace rather than just give lip service to the fact that “the world and everything in it is passing away.” 1John 2:15-17 It was clear to me that

Cancer was Crystal’s ministry.

Everything she loved in and about the world had been repeatedly torn from her grasp. In truth, she was dying in every picture taken of her as an adult. The light and life in her eyes was a result of all the crushing and pressing that had transformed her into new wine. I could see that she yearned to pour it out. To be honest, I remember feeling angry…really angry! While people prayed for healing I prayed they would shut up and listen. Meanwhile, Crystal was patient, surrendered, desiring nothing.  I remember looking into those crystal clear eyes – her head and body covered in praying hands. I wanted her to know that I shared her frustration. Instead, I saw Jesus staring back at me – convicting me of my petty anger and resentment.

Crystal died soon after.

It may be my counseling background that has me viewing the current state of the world through the lens of Crystal and the five stages of grief through which every terminally ill patient must theoretically pass. They are denial, bargaining, anger, sadness, and finally acceptance. They speak for themselves. What is most relevant here is that these stages apply to all who dwell on the earth. I have observed that some people get stuck in one stage or another. Some form of emotional /spiritual illness often results. Today people are losing their sanity over the sudden recognition of their own mortality. It’s as if death didn’t exist before COVID. Similar to those who prayed for Crystal’s healing to the exclusion of all else, many are failing to embrace the reality that can only be seen amidst

True Trust and Surrender to God.

If you ask me COVID is just a symptom of a much deeper illness. People are desperately praying as I write, that God will heal our land. Yet the faith to which so many cling is really just denial. I’ve said many times, that as a nation, we are guilty of the same sins that resulted in God’s judgment of ancient Israel. He is judging us now. Still, many remain unable or unwilling to grasp the reality that individual justification is possible amidst God’s simultaneous judgment of a nation. Biblical illiteracy causes others to confuse God’s discipline with His wrath. Jeremiah 29 While people do everything in their power to cling to passing moments of bliss and preserve bliss’s beauty in its prime, it’s getting harder to deny that the world and especially the USA is in fact terminally ill. It has been for a very long time. Periodic lulls or remissions simply perpetuate the illusion that all is well. Meanwhile, God is speaking in and through the illness that he has no intention of healing. At least not in the way so many of us desire.

Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear and hear not: for they are a rebellious house. Eze 12:2

One thing seems certain. People will respond to what is coming in accordance with their respective stages of grief.  Those in the denial and bargaining stages will continue to work and pray and cling to ideas and prophecies that a coming messianic POTUS will save the day. Meanwhile, the devil laughs, “Heads I win. Tails you lose”. Some will call for national repentance and like Jeremiah intercede on behalf of the nation. These often rail at unjust government as if we are righteous. But don’t expect to see Big Eva or any mega-church calling upon themselves to “turn from their wicked ways“. The fear of rejection is just too strong. Those in the anger stage may react foolishly and perhaps even violently while embracing a false belief in another 1776. Once again the devil flips a coin. “Heads he wins. Tails you lose.” Others will be so grieved that they become despondent. Some will even take their own lives. Still, others will step into Prov 3:5-8 driven acceptance and like Jesus in Gethsemane and perhaps Crystal on Kauai, walk-in Col 3:3 and James 1:2-4 knowing that “to live is Christ. To die is gain.” Phil 1:21. A place where worldly desire is seen for what it is and the only prayer that remains is

“Thy will, not mine be done” 

By the way, this is a benchmark, not a platitude.

I didn’t know Crystal well enough to say when her transformation took place. I only saw the result. One thing is certain. She made peace with God and her own mortality long before I stood at her bedside. All she wanted was Jesus. And while she never had the time or opportunity for a husband, the crushing and pressing and suffering that was her life produced a new wine of grace and holiness becoming of a spotless bride.  2 Cor 11:2, Eph 5:27, Rev 19:7

A spotless bride, not a prosperous person or nation, was and is the ultimate purpose of Jesus’s coming.

May we “Set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth

May we be spotless like Crystal.


May our only cry be,

  

Maranatha!

The Persecution Line

“All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

2 Tim 3:12-13

This is a discussion prompt, not a declarative blog per se. I want to know what you think. The heat is being turned up as people debate Afghanistan, COVID, and the best way to manage threats to public health and civil liberties. Lots of people, Christians especially are viewing it through the lens of persecution for which there are varying definitions. We know that the church is being persecuted in places like Afghanistan, China, Iran, Ethiopia, Mozambique Nigeria, etc. And while it would seem that the seeds of similar future persecution have been sown in the 1st World West, the fact remains that people are not being incarcerated, blown up, and beheaded for preaching the gospel. Given that we still have the freedom to debate whether or not we are being persecuted, I figured now might be a good time to ask, what qualifies as persecution and

what is the correct biblical response to it?

You may have heard about James Coates and Aurter Pawarreski, two Canadian pastors who were arrested for continuing to hold regular church services.

It’s almost old news now but it sparked a fiery and ongoing public debate. 

James Coats remained respectful while claiming the government has no authority over worship before turning himself into police. Artur Pawlowski is a Polish immigrant who repeatedly kicked health inspectors and police out of his church calling them “Nazis”.  He was still screaming ” Nazi!” and “Gestapo!” when they arrested him in the street. His supporters did the same from the sidelines. Artur Pawlowski is from Poland and his family suffered under the Nazi occupation and then Russian communists. 

He may understand more about what is coming than those of us raised in the entitled west.

Then there is the 71-year-old Pastor Sherwood arrested in London while  delivering a message on the sanctity of marriage.  His message was viewed as  homophobic.

There is no Biblical basis for homosexual marriage. Still, Sherwood wasn’t attacking homosexuals. He was defending the sanctity of biblical marriage on the basis that is a representation of Christ’s relationship to His Church.  He wrestled with the police a bit before they got him in handcuffs. Sherwood was preaching the word of God in a public square as it has been preached for the last two thousand years. It always has and always will anger certain people. Apparently the police were trying to defuse a volatile situation and he was later released. The Canadian pastors were incarcerated. In this case they claimed their authority superseded that of government officials based the constitution and Heb 10:25

“not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

They view this passage as an absolute command rather than an exhortation to endure persecution. Hence they adopted Peter’s defense in Acts 5

“We must obey God rather than men.”

I could be wrong but the historic context of Hebrews 10 where believers risked imprisonment and death to gather, seems more akin to what is happening to believers in places like Afghanistan than those protesting COVID measures in the west. That’s not to say that I like or in anyway agree with what it happening in the west.

Only that the scriptural argument seems rather weak.

Meanwhile, the Canadian government and the pastor’s detractors insisted that it was a public safety issue and that no one told them they could not meet. They just had to comply with COVID health standards. That meant no more than 15% of capacity at a time. After all, there are fire safety regulations related to the size of public gatherings in buildings. The Pastors replied that this would require them to do an impossible eight or more back-to-back sermons per day. They asserted that censorship of their preaching was the real agenda. I understand and empathize with their passion as well as skepticism regarding COVID data on both sides. Still, what is the biblically correct response to authority when I do not agree with it? Where exactly is the boundary, the proverbial line in the sand that I must not cross?  

What is the deal-breaker, the proverbial hill upon which I must be willing die?

There have always been evil people who abuse scripture for the sake of an agenda. Jesus versus Satan in Mat 4 is a good example. Another would be how Adolf Hitler duped the Catholics and most of the German protestant church with  Rom 13,

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God…”

The standard argument against blind obedience to this passage today is rooted in verse 3

“For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 

Our obedience is contingent upon the Government doing good. Otherwise, Peter’s declaration in Acts 5 applies. Yet context matters. Peter and the other disciples were specifically ordered to stop preaching the Gospel in Acts 5.

While the proverbial jury may still be in session regarding vaccines, there is a difference between bad, albeit well-intentioned public policies and carefully planned genocide.

Today we have places like China, Afghanistan, and Iran imprisoning, torturing, and killing Christians. China was officially exposed for harvesting the organs of  Falun Gong and Uyghur Muslims in 2019 when even the UN had to acknowledge it. I don’t see anyone protesting it apart from Uyghurs and Falun Gong themselves. The western Church acknowledges persecution but hardly anyone is on the streets engaging in civil disobedience. We also have the abortion genocide taking place. There have been a minority of fools using physical force to oppose it, the strongest opposition has been in the form of legislative battles and churches preaching the gospel while providing an alternative path to adoption.

I can not help but wonder if those supporting and or protesting COVID measures are genuinely concerned for the well-being of others, the violation of God’s law, and the persecution of His image-bearers.

Or does persecution only matter when it is happening to them?

In any case Mat 16:25 Mat 10, Mark 13:9–13, Luke 21:12–17 are worth considering.

Today more and more people in the west seem willing to go to jail or worse over masks, social distancing, and vaccine passports. Again, I’m not saying that I agree with government policy and MSM narratives. As I have said in the past, I DO NOT! I could be wrong but as time goes on I am increasingly convinced that whatever the actual agenda may be, our health and well-being are NOT it. I am also convinced that at least fifty percent of the global population, and I’m being generous, has ZERO ability to discern and filter fallacious arguments. Most simply choose a political tribe, open their mouths, and swallow the corresponding narrative like baby birds in a nest. I guess this affords them the illusion of safety and inclusion.

If I were the devil I’d be giddy as hell.

Hence, we must contend with the fact that Jesus beat the devil through submission as exemplified by the cross. As for us we have hard truths like that proclaimed by Peter in 1 Pet 2

“Beloved, I beseech you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh that wage war against your soul. Maintain good conduct among the Gentiles, (unbelievers) so that in case they speak against you as wrongdoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right.  For it is God’s will that by doing right you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.  Live as free men, yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil; but live as servants of God. Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” 1 Pet 2:11-17

Candlesticks of Christianity

I say “hard truth” because Nero was the emperor to whom Peter would have been referring at the time. Among other abominations, Nero is known for burning Christians as human candles to light the streets of Rome. It was under Nero that Peter was ultimately crucified.

He was killed for preaching the gospel not demanding his rights.

Whether or not the current global trajectory will be interrupted by opposing social and political forces is anyone’s guess. If I were a betting man I’d be all in on NO. Meanwhile, MSM narratives are becoming increasingly absurd. I’m not sure if this is indicative of their desperation or their arrogance.  Still, the fact remains that left unchecked, our current trajectory can only lead to Mat 24:1-13. I know people are cheering the new abortion legislation in Texas and rightly so as it is a dent in the ongoing genocide.

Still…

I suspect that any small victories on our part now will mainly serve as fuel for what is coming in verse 9.

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.”

People hate us now for our biblical stand on abortion when we have little to no power over it. Imagine if Roe V Wade were overturned. Hence, our first, but certainly not our only concern within the body of Christ today should be verse 10.

“And then many will fall away (be offended) and betray one another and hate one another.”

The temptation for believers to be offended at one another on political grounds and deceptive MSM narratives will only get stronger. Offense is “Skandalon” in the Greek.

Skandalon means “trap”.

Perhaps you think this is hyperbole. Maybe you are still holding onto hope of the imminent return of the comfortable norm. If that is the case then old existential reality has yet to I for one believe we need to prepare the body of Christ to endure the coming persecution in a way that most glorifies God. Our sermons and conversations with one another should reflect that.  According to Voice of the Martyrs when a Muslim in the persecuted middle east surrenders to Jesus it is with the understanding and condition that they are willing to be persecuted and martyred for the sake of the gospel.

They are given zero hope of experiencing their best life now.

Perhaps you have already embraced this reality. If so, great. Now help to prepare others.  Still, I invite everyone to take an inventory of their lives and ask, “what evidence is there in my life that would suggest that I am prepared?” “What if anything needs to change?” “What is stopping me?” It’s no coincidence that Richard Wurmbrand the founder of Voice of the Martyrs saw persecution coming long before the Russians invaded Romania, long before he was thrown in prison and tortured for 14 years. He memorized 365 scriptures, one for each day of the year countering fear.  He went into persecution prepared to glorify God. That is exactly what he did.

His preparation continues to bear fruit today.

It also occurs to me as I write, that I have several competing points of view within my own mind. Maybe you can relate. There is the old man, the satanic fleshly former US Marine ready to throw down for “My rights damn it!”.  Then there is the logical, argumentative, apologist that abhors skewed data, logical fallacies, and especially the cult of scientism.  This part wants to believe that given enough evidence and a clear enough argument, most people will make the smart decision. Then there is the new man, the born again, spirit-filled, Acts 17:11 Berean style believer who stands on the 2 Tim 3:16-17 God-breathed truth that the word of God is the objective standard of all truth and conduct.

I discipline myself to choose the latter. 1 Cor 9:27

I am convinced that the body of Christ is at a crossroads today. It is increasingly marked by 1 Cor 11:17-19 division in the spirit of “choose this day whom you will serve”. Joshua 24:15 We need to clarify and commit to what glorifies God amongst ourselves rather than argue and divide over politics. There are a lot of heresies between WOKE and the Qanon cult. The most heretical typically sound the most loving in worldly terms. Every great-sounding heretical position and false gospel narrative is easily identified by the near or total absence of sound scriptural arguments. It seems to me that the only way for Christians to obey Jesus’s command in Mat 24:4 and choose wisely now is to make certain that our worldview and subsequent choices conform to the word of God.

Psalm 138:2

So what do you think?

Where is your persecution line?

Maranatha

Lament of a Speed Bump

I was at my first missions conference in Honduras and feeling a bit out of place amongst a slew of veteran missionaries when an old man alone in the corner beckoned me over. I can’t recall his name and I never saw him again. But I’ll call him Jeremy.  Jeremy had been in Honduras for over 40 years and was pushing 80. He looked me up and down and asked, “so what do you do?” then cut me off before I could speak.  “You see all these people here? All they talk about is themselves and what they do! No one talks about the Bible! They couldn’t care less”. I just stared not really knowing what to say. After all I talked a lot about what we do. “You know what? You’re a speed bump too.” I can see it in your eyes.

No one likes a speed bump.

I was in prison the last time I’d heard something like that. People imagine all sorts of things about prison. But prisons have their own culture where merchants artists and musicians thrive in a booming underground economy. You can get almost anything you want from heroin to shampoo provided you know the right people. Shampoo especially Pantene was a primary obsession and status badge.  I never did grasp the obsession with Pantene shampoo. It seemed the compulsion to barter and hoard was just innate. They called it “running store”. Running store was forbidden and could get you thrown in “the hole”.  The hole is jail inside a prison.

It seemed absurd to me that the rich and powerful were determined by the ability to stockpile shampoo in a footlocker. There was tremendous pride among store owners and the inmate leaders that allowed them to operate. It was as if they were building a legacy. Legacy is important in the criminal world. Cash was prohibited of course and therefore useless. Cigarettes and porn were the primary currency in which most products were trafficked. Porn was technically forbidden but most guards simply turned their heads. Individual pages from porn mags were placed in plastic document protectors and traded like baseball cards.  The only rule in conducting business was an implicit agreement to live by lies. That’s how trust was built. Prosocial behavior was always embellished especially in front guards. The nicer and more respectful the inmate the more bad was concealed. “Good morning sir. How’s the family? Is there anything specific we can pray for you today?” meant the guy probably had a shank or drugs under his mattress.

“No need to look here, sir. I worship Jesus.”

“It’s us against them so shut your mouth.” was the number one rule.  If there’s a shakedown and we get caught someone has to take the fall. Volunteer to get thrown under the bus if you want to move up in rank. Be a “stand up guy” and people will respect you. But “Snitches get stitches.” Other than that anything goes. At the end of the day assenting to this culture amounts to walking in quicksand.

The further one steps, the deeper one sinks.

Those who step in rarely get out.  I was one of the few who realized that the only way I would escape the revolving door of recidivism would be to reject every aspect of the culture in which I was immersed

and resolve to live not by lies.   

Obviously, this put me at odds with everyone around me including some of the guards.  And don’t think for a minute it was because I prayed and talked about a loving Jesus. Everyone in prison knows that Jesus. You might get mocked or ignored but there is rarely a problem with sharing  “God so loved the world…” “The joy of the Lord is my strength”, Or He has plans to prosper you to give you a future and a hope… Inmates love that Jesus.

Problems only arise when darkness gets exposed.

So I set up camp in Ephesians 5.

“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible…” Eph 5:11-13

I won’t speak about the specific things I saw. Some of you would vomit. Suffice it to say it didn’t take long before I realized that turning one’s head is synonymous with “taking part”. My motto became,

“You want me to shut up?! Kill me!”

Believe me, they wanted to.

There were two Matson containers on each side of the prison yard. They were welded together to form “classrooms” in which we addressed our addictions and criminal thinking errors. One particularly poignant moment was the  day I entered the container and was greeted by 50+ men clapping their hands and stomping their feet chanting,

“We’re gonna eat you alive!”

There was always something. “Hey, you know – I was just thinking,” began the three hundred pound Samoan who’d just beat a former college running back turned crackhead in the 40-yard dash. “I wouldn’t want to do or say anything that would make someone want to kill me when I got out.” Coincidentally this was right about the time another Christ professing inmate was released.  They’d found him dead, shot in the back of the head execution-style in the parking lot behind his church. As always the inmates knew it before the media did.

One day a guy who’d already done 20 years for murder called me over and said, “Hey Gray, You know what my favorite part about shooting people is?” He showed me his finger. “It’s sticking this finger in the bullet hole.” he pressed his figure hard into my chest and laughed. It must have been Holy Spirit that anesthetized the fear but I just stared blankly into his eyes. “But you know what?” He continued. “Ain’t no one here gonna mess with you. I can see it in your eyes.”

There was fire in my bones in those days.

I had a fire in my bones when I started my missionary journey and proclaimed Isaiah 6:8 “Here I am send me!” Back then I thought it was a call to give stuff to the poor, sell Jesus door to door, and proclaim God’s unconditional love due to people’s inherent awesomeness.  Today I know it marked Isaiah’s acceptance of a call to proclaim a hard and unpopular word to a stiff-necked, sinful, and dismissive people. It was followed by God’s judgment.

Most people don’t believe God judges anything or anyone today.

He just wants to bless their hearts after people allow Him in.

Jerimiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” was another misused feel-good favorite of mine. It was usually spoken over people whom I knew absolutely nothing about and flowed out of warm fuzzy feelings proceeding from what seemed like obedience to Holy Spirit. I called it prophetic. It was probably projection. Like so many others I prophetically proclaimed this scripture over the lives of others without ever examining the original context let alone the condition of their lives.  Of course, God wants the best for us. That’s why He sent His son to die in our place. Tell me,

Why is that never enough?

It’s only been in the last year or two that I finally internalized that Jeremiah 29:11 is not a healing and prosperity proof-text.  Like the father who takes the time to explain why he is grounding his child for a week, Jer 29:11 is part of God’s explanation for His discipline. ‘This spanking is for your good son’  He had “grounded” Israel, meaning He sent them into captivity for 70 years as a result of their spiritual adultery and sexual sin. You see, the Israelites faithfully worshiped God in the temple as was required. That was a good thing. The problem was that they’d leave the temple and head for the hills to have wild orgies in the high places. The goal was to create a pornographic show that would excite the pagan gods Baal and Asherah into doing the same. Apparently fornicating demons were good for fertility and the harvest. The same relationship between porn and idolatrous worship today might be worth noting.

Jeremiah warned them repeatedly for years. Meanwhile, expedient positivity prophets of the day proclaimed, ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.’ Jer 14:13.  God called them liars. Israel got sword, famine, and captivity.

To paraphrase Art Katz, ‘true prophets are the most irrelevant people in the room until the day when they are the only relevant people in the room.’

Just recently we learned that a smiling, praying supposedly spirit-filled father of multiple children at a house we repaired fathered at least one of them with his teenage daughter.  There’s another abused girl we heard rumors about months ago but have no actual proof.

As it turns out this is common in our area .

The guilty include those like me who turn their heads.

Thump, thump, discordant bump...

Like so many in Honduras, the people in the mountains near us have been evangelized to the utter brim. Most have accepted Jesus into their hearts more times than they can remember and certainly every time an American missionary showed up. There are passionate tear-filled calls for God’s anointing, power, healing, and provision, etc. There are extensive sermons on God’s power, prosperity, healing, and deliverance, from generational curses especially curses that block prosperity. It makes perfect sense. This is the gospel they’ve received from the USA.  Nothing is ever spoken about sexual sin even though a vast majority of families are headed up by single mothers.

What is the point if there is no transformation?

A drunken, incestuous, fornicating bride is the fruit of a gospel devoid of reverence, and repentance – a gospel that preaches the power and benefits of God without ever mentioning His requirements. No one was ever persecuted for preaching identity, healing, and prosperity while feeding people, building houses and handing out free stuff. People are persecuted for exposing sin and warning of its consequences. Lets face it, most of us  don’t want to be persecuted.

We want to be successful in Jesus’s name.

To be honest, sometimes I look around at the church and its culture and I don’t see a whole lot of difference between it and the culture in prison. 

Bump, bump discordant thump.

I just watched a prominent Pastor for whom I have always had the utmost respect. He gave an excellent sermon on YouTube regarding the times in which we are living and what we can expect in the coming years.  He applied Psalm 2 and Mat 10 to the events of today. He was spot on regarding the fact that we must be wise as serpents not just gentle as doves. Then he lost me.  He began outlining his strategy to save the business side of his ministry when the nations rage. He said he was encouraging other ministry leaders across the country to do the same. His idea is to have a handful of designated people who would be targets. These people should forfeit any official position or title so they can be free to say the hard biblical truths that need to be said and face the consequences on their own without endangering the business.

In effect, ministries should have designated people whom they can throw under the bus as needed.

I mean I get the “there is no greater love..” theme but come on. That’s what criminals do in prison. What about trusting God?  I’m thinking 1 Cor 3:13-15 applies.

“each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

If the business side of a ministry is worth saving then God will save it. Other wise it’s going in the fire guys. Hebrews 12 is worth considering too.

“Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.” Heb 12:27

Christianity began in the context of a relationship in Jerusalem, moved to Greece where it became a philosophy then spread to the west as a business. In many cases, marketing and strategic business plans supplant scripture and prayer. Charismatic celebrity preachers inspire young people to be like them and supplant the Holiness and Sovereignty of God. Today almost anything goes. We’ve got CRT and Enneagrams, a Universal Christ, and even Christian Witches selling Christian Tarot cards. The church is a lot like Israel in Jeremiah’s time. 

Changing direction now will require a seed to fall to the ground and die.

No one wants to hear that the activity of Christianity is first and foremost about facing everything that is wrong within ourselves individually and corporately and teaching others to do the same. This is our primary function and foundation. The rest is up to God. 

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! 139:23-24

Christianity is not an invitation and commission to market a warm fuzzy, cute and cuddly, laughing, “love is love” Jesus who came to heal and prosper His children, and make them feel heard and seen. Its definitely not about systems, and power.

It’s about Witness not whiteness. 

Thump, thump discordant thump.

Jesus was pretty matter-of-fact in speaking about the inevitability of sin in the world. One might even say He sounded fatalistic.  Yup, you can’t fix it. But,“woe to the one through whom that sin comes.”

“It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.” Luke 17:2

Some might say the “him” in this passage is the devil, devil, devil, everything is the devil. Others think of pedophiles. I think he was talking to us.

It doesn’t matter if it’s inflated numbers of people saved, children housed and fed or numbers of sick people healed, we live by truth or we live by lies. We can rationalize in a Machiavellian “the end justifies the means” sort of way and say ministry takes money and people give to things that are working not broken. But the gospel is not a strategic business plan. It is not contingent on our success but on our willingness to be broken poured out, and utterly dependent on God.  At the end of the day embellishing the positive to conceal the negative for fear of appearing ineffective, losing support, or damaging one’s legacy is like trying to walk on quicksand with a hundred-pound pack. The stated intentions may be for the greater good.

Yet the further one steps, the deeper one sinks.

We see this dynamic repeatedly playing out in big-name, high-dollar ministries all the time. Most recently RZIM was destroyed for hiding the serial sexual sin of its founder Dr. Ravi Zacharias. After all, Ravi was brilliant and helped to lead millions to Christ. His apologetic approach was particularly effective in the Muslim world. He even evangelized one of the Sheiks that founded Hamas. Ravi was one of my heroes and I attended RZIM academy online. It was heartbreaking when he died and sickening when he was exposed. It’s no coincidence that Cathy pulled me away in the middle of writing this paragraph. “You need to watch this!” she said. It was an old 1990s YouTube documentary about four Iranian pastors who were martyred and the resulting explosion in the growth of persecuted churches in Iran. Ironically, it featured Ravi Zacarias as an authority on the Muslim world. He was actively engaged in sexual sin when he spoke. Today his ministry and the legacy he’d built over at least four decades have been sucked beneath the sand.

Meanwhile, the underground church in Iran is the fastest-growing one in the entire world.

Today back in Babylon everyone is redefining, redesigning, reimagining, rebranding and rediscovering but definitely not repenting. One prominent Pastor just blamed his error on the understanding of his followers. Tell me, what exactly is so hard about saying,

“Hey, you know what? I was wrong.”

The answer is that being wrong is bad for business. Especially for people who’s business is dependent upon with a personality cult following.

Jesus sends us out as witnesses, not businessmen. We are to proclaim His Holiness and His Coming Kingdom. “Repent!” is our primary message without which no other message matters. Not even one. It is the job of Holy Spirit to bring conviction. People repent and are saved AFTER they realize they deserve and are destined for hell and that God wants to save them because of HIS IRRESISTIBLE GOODNESS, not ours. We are God’s enemies, children of wrath until we are saved by grace from HIS, inexorable wrath. Eph 2

No one repents because they are awesome in the eyes of God.

They just raise their hands and make a transaction. Maybe they find a comfortable church later. None of it means much. The fact remains that only 6% of Americans today subscribe to a biblical worldview. Something is deeply wrong. Maybe the church is so sick because they are taught that once you accept Jesus into your heart the deal is closed and you don’t need to repent anymore. Just help build the business…I mean kingdom. There are couple-three preachers I can name off the bat who claim they never sin. Yet Paul pulled no punches when he called out sin among believers especially sexual sin in the church of Corinth in 1 Cor 56. He was very clear regarding how we should treat those who don’t repent. Paul was a speed bump.  Uncomfortable speed bump sermons like his have never been popular in the postmodern era.

They never will be. 

Hence the Greek word for witness is “Martyr”.

Stephen was a speed bump. He wasn’t even supposed to preach. He was supposed to wait on tables. Instead, he was stoned to death after he preached the gospel and told the religious leaders,

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” Acts 7:51-53

Stephen and the other disciples were loving men because they were loyal to the TRUTH alone rather than men. They were also hardened, bold, fearless men who didn’t back down and didn’t mince words to make them more palatable and politically correct by

“Speaking in love”.

Truth is love the opposite of which is fear. Get over it!

Jesus didn’t weep or scream when Herod mixed the blood of the Galileans with the sacrifice. He didn’t howl “how dare they murder my children whom I loved and planned to prosper” Instead, He told those present,

“the same thing will happen to you unless you repent”. Luke 13

In fact, he said it twice

My point is that if we really loved people more than our miracles, ministry, money, success, and legacy etc. then we’d risk being hated or even killed to warn people of what is coming. 

“Then he (Jesus) began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done because they did not repent.” Mat 11:20

Jesus is the same yesterday today and forever. Heb 13:8

To be honest, I’m not sure how we are going to address what has recently come to light. We are lone rangers up here. and believe me, I am fully aware that pointing a finger means I have three more pointing back at me. I only know that we must do something. Right now I feel like Ezekiel, as I imagine it when he discovered the abominations in the Temple. Ezekiel 8. It could be just the tip of the iceberg.

As Cathy just said,

“People will want to kill us. Maybe they will.”

Phil 1:21

I need prayer for fire in my bones like I had in the days when I was first saved and didn’t give a rip about who liked me and who didn’t. Cathy pointed out that we can’t effectively address the situation if we are angry. We need to weep for the lost and not in our flesh. Still, part of me wonders if I’m not angry enough? I mean what am I afraid of? Looking back I can see how God preserved me even when people conspired to kill me. He can preserve me now. Still, I’m older now and softer, more grandfatherly and I guess it just hurts more when the proverbial car wheels hit my edges and run me over.

Who am I kidding? I don’t ever give people a reason to run me over anymore.

I need to repent!

Thump, thump, discordant thump.

This is the lament of a speed bump

MARANATHA

To Laugh or To Mourn

Like so many of his teachings and posts, this one by Rolland Baker (a.k.a. Mr. Miagi in my mind) resulted in a tirade of disagreement among proverbial dissenting Daniel-sans. Some were appalled. Some were confused.  Others simply assumed he was mocking Pharisees and the religion of man. He later explained that he might have been doing all of these or none of these or all of these and more. In any case, I did some Acts 17:11 research. As it turns out the word “joy” is used 171 times in the ESV. “Mourn” is only mentioned 39 times and “mourning” 51.

That ought to tell you something! 

Amirite?

Here’s the thing.  The passage in question never once mentioned “joy”- only laughter. Laughter is mentioned 9 times in the ESV.  Job 8:21 and Psalm 126:2 sound nice. Gen 21:6, Prov 14:13, Ecc 2:2, Ecc 7:3, Ecc 10:19, Jas 4:9 not so much. Especially James 4:9.

“…Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.” James 4:8-9

It occurs to me that the automatic correlation of joy with laughter may be a bit flippant. 

Still context matters.

I’ve experienced what is called Holy laughter amidst deep repentance and face-to-face encounters with the absurdity of my filthy rag self-importance. It is the light of God’s power and grace that causes me to laugh at the narcissistic me whom I behold in the dark glass. I’ve also seen it amidst others being delivered from homicidal rage, chronic depression, and suicidality, etc. Still, as positive as its fruits can be, this laughter seems soulish to me. Relatively speaking it is also rare in a world filled with coarse joking and foolish talk.  

On the other hand, I have experienced some of the deepest and most profound joy of, and in the Lord amidst suffering and weeping. There is a depth and a  sweetness in that place that transcends any laughter I have experienced to date.

When I inquired how many dissenters to the post are living on the mission field? One person responded with “everywhere is the mission field”  “That’s true.” I said “Everywhere is also the world. The question is; where are you living?”

Point missed entirely. 

Perhaps it’s the relative material barrenness and the utter dependency upon Jesus that barrenness cultivates.   Maybe it’s the raw testing of faith where faith isn’t normally required. Maybe it’s the nature of the third world that facilitates tribulation becoming the seed of hope that does not disappoint. Then again maybe it’s just the sincere intention to endure whatever God chooses that opens the door.  But it seems easier to encounter that paradoxical, electric, mournful joy that is so often utterly devoid of laughter and so filled with tears from a place of suffering rather than prosperity.

There’s a lot of confusion.

What I hear people calling blessing and purpose today seems contingent upon material comfort and prosperity rather than its absence. Yet Jesus was a man of sorrows acquainted with grief with no place to lay His head.  He prayed for His torturers while He hung on the cross. He cried “my God my God why have you forsaken me!” in the peak of His suffering that no one can comprehend. He did it for the joy set before Him. But we want to turn Him into a laughing Jesus, a North American prosperity Jesus who would never let His children suffer even though that is the one thing of which He assured every believer on earth. 

Hence as time goes on what charismatics typically call Holy laughter seems increasingly shallow to me and the world’s laughter evil in the face of it. Maybe that’s what these mystics whom so many mock and call legalistic were getting at. Maybe that’s what Rolland Baker is getting at too. Then again maybe they are just speaking in the context of James chapter 4. This begs the question; is the collective angst expressed on Rolland’s post more indicative of drawing close to God or of friendship with the world?

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. You are good and do good; teach me your statutes. The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts; their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your law. It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

Psalm 119:66-72

Maranatha.

Our True Condition

One thing that blocks knowledge and understanding is the narcissistic tendency among fallen humans to interpret the bible as being about them personally.  While it most definitely was written for us, it was not written to, or about us.  That can be a hard sell in the church of the eternal self.

Luke 15 contains three parables, the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. People tend to view each parable separately and then make all sorts of inferences, usually about themselves. Contemporary culture and songs like Reckless Love that glorify our self-assigned, inherent value in God’s eyes along with its adoption as a false biblical justification for social uprisings have made the parable of the Lost Sheep a recent favorite.

The cross is the only complete and genuine example of reckless love and it serves as proof that absolutely all lives matter to God. However, Luke 15 is not about individual significance or social justice.

In the parable of the lost sheep, the Shepard loses one out of ninety-nine sheep which amounts to one percent of his wealth. In the parable of the lost coin, the woman loses ten percent. Jesus clarifies that the lost sheep and the found coin both represent a sinner who repents, over whom Heaven rejoices.  The earthly value is irrelevant as God rejoices equally over one percent as He does over ten.

In the parable of the prodigal son the father loses fifty percent of his wealth. In this case, his lazy, impatient, obstinate, disrespectful, ungrateful, and entitled son gets in his face and demands to receive what he deserves before his father dies. Long story short, his eventual repentance is the fruit of his receiving exactly what he deserves.

The point of all three parables is found in the character of the eldest son who sees himself as righteous and good and therefore more deserving of a fatted calf than his brother. The petty and carnally minded elder brother has zero understanding of his father’s heart let alone what is valuable. His twisted perception of righteousness is nothing more than the fruit of his own narcissism.

Luke 15 is a declaration and celebration of the value and importance of repentance. Viewing ourselves, as lost sheep, lost coins, or prodigal sons amidst our salvation and abundant blessings for which we all tend to be ungrateful at times only confirms our true condition as spoiled, self-righteous, and entitled children.

As for those who view the Parable of the Lost Sheep as representing an oppressed people group on whose behalf, they are divinely appointed to advocate and thereby cast themselves in the role of Shepard or Messiah; these are among the lost sheep whose repentance God desires. Of course, narcissism is blinding and Jesus warned there would be wolves in sheep’s clothing.

It would behoove all of us and especially those consumed with God’s love for themselves and those obsessed with social justice to remember that we are all born deserving absolutely nothing but death, and eternal torment in Hell. Our purpose on earth is to become righteous. Our only righteousness is the righteousness of Christ. Romans 3 Our only hope is in Christ and Him Crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:2 And while justice is getting what one deserves, and mercy is not getting it; grace means getting what we do not deserve.  

Our receiving it is contingent upon our recognition of our true condition.

Walking in Dust

We were with South Sudanese Refugees in the Rhino Refugee camp in Northern Uganda when our team was asked to address leaders from multiple tribes several of whom had previously fought one another in the ongoing civil war. Unity was the theme. We were all assigned a time slot in which to teach. I felt completely inept and I don’t remember anything said by our team only one South Sudanese leader, a former child soldier and “Lost Boy” who stood up at the end and proclaimed,

“There is no good tribe! There are no good people! There is only one who is good! That one is Jesus!” He went on to say, “We must forgive. We must turn the other cheek. We must love our enemy!”

After praying with a woman whose child had just died Cathy asked the man with whom she was walking. “How do you cope with all this pain?” “We have nothing…” He smiled as he continued,

“…but we have Jesus!”

These doctors, nurses, lawyers engineers, teachers, professors, and preachers in the camp never imagined they’d end up living in the dust with their children in scorching heat without food or water for days at a time. They never imagined that at least one of their children would die every day due to starvation or a lack of medical care. Now they understood the futility of human resolutions and justice. Now they were on fire for God in the spirit of 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.”

I can not even describe how much we loved these people.

If there is any other place we would most like to serve as missionaries it would be there in the dust with Jesus.

I recently wrote a blog about the Fourth Turning by two historians who observed an Ecclesiastes 1:9 and Chapter 3 cycle in American history. They identified a pattern where a new era, a season, or “Turning” emerges every 20 -25 years. Four turns or seasons amount to a Saeculum or the length of a long lifetime. If you are unfamiliar with the Fourth Turning you can get the breakdown here Character.

Here are a few highlights.

“Sometime before the year 2025, America will pass through a great gate in history, commensurate with the American Revolution, Civil War, and twin emergencies of the Great Depression and World War II.”

“…The risk of catastrophe will be very high. The nation could erupt into insurrection or civil violence, crack up geographically, or succumb to authoritarian rule…”

“ …Through much of the Third Turning, we have managed to postpone the reckoning. But history warns that we can’t defer it beyond the next bend in time…”

The Reckoning is Here

We were in the beginning stages of the Corona crisis when I said I believed we are in another 4th Turn Crisis that will ultimately culminate in another 1st Turn High.

I have since revised my outlook.

This is the beginning of sorrows.

I want to scream every time I read things like the over 74 people shot one of whom was a 5-year-old in Chicago on, and immediately following Memorial Day weekend. What happened to George Floyd was dead wrong. But where is the logic? Where is BLM when scores of black people are being killed by black people in inner cities every day?!

Why do black lives only matter when a white person takes a black life?

I don’t see how we move forward without first identifying the truth regarding all the bogus agendas. Lately, I’ve been battling a temptation to make another appeal to critical thinking on social media. I wrote about cognitive dissonance in The Devil Went Down to Georgia. The problem is that the agendas of man are at the center of everything and emotion in King. Suffice it to say that given the reactions I received, things probably would not have gone well for me if I were saying all this in the street. Luckily I am safe in Honduras. How’s that for irony?

Anyway, I’m just gonna leave this here…

The black life of this former police chief killed by a looter mattered so much that Twitter took it down.

The most recent the FBI UCR Crime Stats are nearly the same

Offenders:  54.9 percent were Black or African American, 42.4 percent were White

Victims: 53.3 percent were Black or African American, 43.8 percent were White

46 million slaves in 167 countries today.

the problme is that too many refuse to see, hear, and be confronted with facts.

Either you agree and “virtue signal” your approval or you are regarded as the enemy.

I was living on my own by the age of 14. I understand the temptation to hate, to succumb to fear, and the trauma that arises out of violence. I’ve been robbed at gunpoint and beaten down by a mob. I’ve had my nose broken, jaw broken and my neck fractured. As a young adult, I lived in a neighborhood full of crack houses and nightly gunfire. My ex-wife was raped by a gang of black men and our house was burned to the ground. The difference is that I never once blamed it on the perpetrators being black. Instead, I blamed it on crack!

Besides, most people said we deserved it. After all, I was a drunk and my ex-wife was a heroin addict.

My healing came years later when I surrendered to Jesus, repented before God and forgave man.

Now I’m supposed to get on my knees and repent to man for being created white?!

Then the Lord spoke to my heart.

This is exactly what the enemy wants; everyone acting like donkeys instead of horses. When threatened, donkeys look outward to focus on an enemy and then proceed to kick each other. Horses look inward and do the opposite.

I’ll let you decide which one applies.

Like a lot of people I was getting sucked into a world over which I have no control, and of which I am not supposed to be a part.

Even so, I am human and it can hard to avoid. That’s why God gave us His Word. I don’t know about you but Cathy and I are in a season of Sola Scriptura because

sound doctrine is being sacrificed on an altar of secular humanism masquerading as love and Holy Spirit.

Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. Mat 24:4-5

“According to both the Hebrew Bible and Jewish oral tradition, a Messiah is a king, a warrior, a political figure, or a revolutionary whose mission is divine and specific to the Jews. But the leader is neither divine nor a savior concerned with the afterlife of humanity. Neither is a Messiah worshiped as a deity.”

It seems like this fits the definition of a contemporary secular social justice warrior, more than some poor nut job claiming to be God.

Yeah I know… But think about it

“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” Mat 24:6-8

Ethnos is the Greek word for nation.

Ethnos means people group. It is the word from which we derive the English word ethnicity.

For Ethnos will rise against Ethnos

And there will be famines, pestilences

Global deaths due to hunger are predicted to double this year thanks to wars and rumors of wars, and ongoing pestilences like Ebola, COVID, and locusts in Africa and Eurasia to name a few.

and earthquakes in various places.

According to the NOAA and the National Disaster Database there has been a 400% percent increase in yearly natural disasters since 1970.

As for the character of people; Paul nailed it again.

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves,

lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,  having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.2 Timothy 3:1-9

Jannes and Jambres were sorcerers and we know from 1 Sam 15:23 that God views rebellion and sorcery as the same.

Furthermore, Jesus warned us to avoid the leaven of Herod which is the politicization of a spiritual issue. Mk 8:15

There is a whole lot of rebellion and Herodic leavening going on today.

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound doctrine, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” 2 Tim 4:3

There is a famine of sound doctrine.

To paraphrase a comment on a recent blog that I read,

“The problem started when we stopped teaching our children right from wrong and began discussing it instead”

Today there are growing numbers of Christians who pursue Jesus but seek identity in everything but Him. There is lip service to the Word. But individual actions demonstrate an identity and faith more rooted in worldly things like psychology, the enneagram, and postmodern political solutions to spiritual problems. There is a celebration of God’s power when He heals a headache, but a deference to the world’s methods the moment God doesn’t come through as expected. There is a cherry-picking of scripture to fit an unbiblical narrative supporting a path to justice in a Postmillennial kingdom of heaven on earth. Most are sincere and not even aware that they are in error. Still, others are blinded by resentment and pride. This latter group is growing fast.

The error is rooted in an interpretation of reality according to experience instead of experiences according to the Word of God.

Jesus has become a social justice warrior within instead of the substitutionary, propitiation for sin. This movement is obsessed with worldly justice. As a result, it has become a friend of the world James 4:1-4 in unwitting opposition to the scheduled fulfillment of biblical prophecy regarding God’s redemption of man and the reestablishment of His Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven. Its priests and prophets are the likes of Antifa and Black Lives Matter. The media is their pulpit and smartphones their sanctuary. It is fraught with anxiety, and a false understanding of John 13:35 Koinonia. This movement emphasizes fellowship with the body at the expense of Truth. It pursues consensus, comfort, and validation in lieu of conviction. It’s adherents expect to be seen, heard, and pursued. Questioning them is regarded as harsh, intolerant and unloving, sexist, or racist. While the outward compassion of this group may manifest “a form of godliness, it denies its power”. 2 Tim 3:5 The growing Deconstructionist movement and the subsequent abandonment of the faith by so many should be no surprise as self-centered, worldly expectations of a narcissistic generation become impossible for a headless body to fulfill.

Paul was clear that this must happen as well.

“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first…” 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3

As for the current chapter in the ethnos versus ethnos conflict…

Even TD Jakes recently admitted “we are in the last days” and said “this is not about black and white. It’s about right and wrong.”

He also said, “We need truth”.

We do need truth.

“Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.Rev 12:10

The Greek word for ACCUSER in this verse is katēgoréō. It is the word from which we get the English word

“Category”.

Satan literally categorizes us before our God day and night.

His minions in the media and the streets are doing the same.

Black and White are categories.

They are not identities.

Not Godly ones anyway.

If you are really a Christian then your identity is in Christ. Eph 2:4-6

PERIOD.

The job of those in Christ is to preach the Gospel to every Ethnos and invite them in.

Judgment and the sword of justice will come with Jesus when He returns. And for the record, Isaiah 61 isn’t talking about narcissistic Christians anointed to bring forth justice on their own.

Its a prophecy about the anointing and justice of Jesus.

In the meantime…

It doesn’t matter if its the cop who killed George Floyd, George Floyd, Ahmad Arbery, or the father and son who killed him. It doesn’t matter if its an abusive black cop, white cop, Hispanic cop, Asian cop, or a BLM member shooting at cops in the streets. It could be a SJW repenting for white privilege, the thug beating up the SJW, or the Antifa methhead throwing Molotov cocktails at SJWs in a suburb. They could be looting a home or defending a store. Jesus said we will all spend eternity in hell unless we repent to God.

“Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Luke 13:1-5

The desire to repent and power to forgive is a true sign and wonder that follows the preaching of the Gospel.

All our empathy, virtue signaling, inner healing, and understanding of enneagrams isn’t going to change a thing. All the repentance for being created white won’t help either. It just perpetuates a false worldly narrative. All the protesting and demands for reparations, all the secular counseling, committees, political parties, and political solutions in the world will never bring an end to racism and true social justice to fruition. That’s because secular justice is of the world and according to the flesh.

In case you didn’t know or forgot, it was the myth of Jewish privilege that justified the Holocaust in the minds of German Nazis.

Secular justice simply tips the scales in the opposite direction.

Biblical justice is the ministry of reconciliation.

Reconciliation is not appeasement.

“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor 5:11-21

One thing is certain. God is no respecter of individual differences or the ways in which we categorize each other. His only categories are those who love Him and obey His commandments versus those who don’t. Acts 10:34-35

Period.

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Gal 3:27-28

As for us, we are on our knees with broken hearts. This is a season of Lamentation. We need to learn to sit in the dust and lament instead of taking to the streets in protest, to pursue the knowledge of Christ and Him crucified so that we may do our best, incompetent as we are, to disciple the Ethnos God puts in our path. Mat 28:19

Even so, the only prayer we seem to be able to pray is

“Thy will be done. Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!”

The hardest part is coming Mat 24:9-14

      Africa Bound

Well it’s been a long time coming but it should come as no surprise to those who know us well that we are giving all to become full time missionaries.  

Granted we’ve been short term missionaries in Honduras since 2008, however this different. 

We have also run a faith based transitional home and lived with furloughed inmates since 2005 which probably seems crazy enough to most, however we’ve always had financial security, and a place to lay our heads in a paradise that most people only dream of visiting.  In a word we have lived the proverbial American dream.  

Giving everything up now in hopes of serving the poorest of the poor in the most impoverished and worn torn corners of the world might sound like foolishness to some.  However this has been our dream since before we were married.  In fact we have both known since we were children that we were made for this day.

As Christians we are called to live and walk by faith.  There’s really nothing in the bible that even hints that we should play it safe.  In fact Jesus gave us the formula for success.  Those who will lose their lives for His sake will gain true life. And so we are going.  We are going with a goal of loving the lost and unloved in hopes of one day becoming love ourselves.  This is our theory.  This our plan.  To be perfectly honest we don’t really know what that looks like or even means at this point.  We are simply stepping out with child like faith, knowing only that we know nothing especially in terms of what lies ahead.  We are only certain that God has called us to a deeper place, a place of knowing Him more, a place of acquaintance with His sorrows and with those sorrows, an unspeakable joy that we know will be our inheritance if we remain obedient to His call. 

We will be departing Kauai to attend the IRIS Global Harvest School of Missions in Pemba Mozambique on Oct 4th.  This is a turning point and not just an event.  God willing we will eventually be in places like South Sudan, Honduras and wherever the Lord calls us from here on out. 

Follow us here if you’d like periodic updates as we journey deeper into the heart of God and endeavor to love Him by loving His children here on earth.