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 Yoke

Every once in a while I like to go back and review things I’ve written to see anything has changed. Recently Cathy and I reviewed Character from last March where I talked about prophetic teaching I gave to our GAP year squad about the 4th Turning. It was not well received by the Gen Z audience. I wrote that while I didn’t know the truth about COVID at the time, or the nature of the emerging crisis, it represented one of two things. Either it was a predictable crisis based on identifiable cycles in history that would eventually usher in another 20-25 year period of peace and prosperity. Or it marked the beginning of birth pains that Jesus prophesied in Mat 24. In either case, I said that the final outcome for individuals and people groups will be largely determined by the character of those affected. Romans 5.

“…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Today I remain inclined to believe that Mat 24:3-8 birth pains have ensued. I explained this in greater detail in the Gospel of the Kingdom. While I am not certain about the exact timing of the millennium, I remain convinced that preterists and pre-tribulation rapture adherents are dead wrong about the last days. There have been multiple tribulations and days of the lord. Isaiah 13:8 Yet the final Tribulation and Day of the Lord is still to come and the true remnant Church must endure through it until the end to be saved. Mat 24:13 If in fact, we are in Birth Pains and not just another 4th Turn, then the next point to be watching for will be the Ezekiel 38-39 / Dan 9:24-27 war and the reinstitution of the daily sacrifice in Jerusalem. This may or may not include the actual construction of a third temple on the temple mount.

Where does the USA fall into the end of days? That’s easy. It doesn’t. If we are in a Fourth Turn we might expect for the USA to reemerge as a great nation. Otherwise, the USA is done as a superpower and depending on your perspective; as the last remaining bastion of freedom and prosperity in the free world. The proverbial line in the sand has been clearly drawn. You will either support a Marxist and therefore Satanic agenda that proclaims “whiteness” as the original sin while supporting, the pedophilic grooming of our children in public schools, LGBTQ+ as normal and healthy, abortion, and the elimination of free speech to name a few. Or you will reject it instead of God’s word and accept the consequences.

Most professing Christians will compromise instead.

In the meantime, we are to “Set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For we have died, and our life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then we also will appear with him in glory.”…We are to “Put to death therefore what is earthly” in ourselves. Col 3 is the actionable foundation of Christian character.

Putting to death what is earthly begins with dealing with our Sin.

Why do I keep mentioning this?

Because I don’t see or hear anyone else placing at the forefront such that people would be driven to repentance or driven out the back door.

After defining the futility of struggling with sin based on human ability alone,  Paul declared,

“Oh, what a wretched man I am! Who will save me from this body of death” Rom 7:24

Paul’s depiction of sin was based on a particularly gruesome form of punishment whereby a murderer was yoked to the corpse of his victim. Having a dead body hung from one’s neck as it decomposed was a death sentence to be sure and a slow painful one at that.

It’s been two years since the dump in which we used minister closed down.  We just found another that brought old memories into the present.

The old dump

The first thought most people have when they see dump scavenge for the first time and after the shock subsides is,

“Why would anyone choose to live here?”

There are various reasons that include mental illness and addiction. The most common one is opportunity. This is where people work. The only rule at the dump is that the first person on the truck gets the load. While they are mainly looking for recyclables, there is always the chance of finding a yet to be defined treasure.

No one wants to miss out on the big score.

Living nearby increases their odds of a better life or so they hope.

Heidi Baker tells a story about one of her original ministries in Mozambique. It was in a garbage dump. She wasn’t there very long before she was assaulted with a broken bottle that a man held to her throat and threatened to kill her.  Ironically she wasn’t robbed.

Instead she was accused of conspiring to steal their garbage.

Assuming that heaven is as undiscriminating as many believe, I figure a lot of us are going to be amazed when we realize the abject lack of difference between the Porcha for which the stockbroker strived and the empty beer can be fought over by dump scavengers in the third world.

We will all realize that every last one of us was a dump scavenger and that what the world thought was abundant life

is really a rotting corpse. 

The word “Yoke” is mentioned more than 50 times in the bible and is usually associated with bondage or slavery. Today the world recoils at the idea of being yoked to anything or anyone especially rules. “Love is Love”, “My body my choice!”…  That’s to be expected among nonbelievers. As for Christian

You are not your own,  for you were bought with a price. 1 Cor 6:18-20

Still, some people can’t even handle the idea of oxen being yoked.

Yet Jesus instructs all believers to,

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Mat 11:29-39

Paul explained that Jesus’s yoke is true freedom and that of the world is slavery.

“For freedom, Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Gal 5:1

Many people claim to have free will.  Yet Paul is clear that apart from Christ all are slaves to sin. Sin blocks free will such that

“All we would do; we don’t – all we would not; we do.” Rom 7

No amount of intelligence, ingenuity, talent or human strength will free us. Don’t believe me? Try putting sin to death on your own. Maybe go one week without telling a single lie to anyone including yourself.

On the other hand, there is complete freedom in Christ.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” Rom 8:1-2

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Cor 3:17

While it is true that no yoke is free of requirements, the “yoker” is always the sustainer and taker of life for the yoked. 

The ultimate deception lies in the idea that it is both desirable and possible to free of all yokes.  

It is not.

Choose your yoke.

Maranatha

The God of This and That

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

-Heidi Baker-

We’ve been full-time missionaries in Honduras for 4 years now.  October will mark 5 years since we left Hawaii for IRIS Global Harvest School of Missions in Mozambique the cost of which remains the only outstanding debt that we owe.  That’s ironic because the longer I am on the mission field the more I realize how priceless that experience was.  And while we had a graduation ceremony, I am increasingly aware that I have yet to graduate. 

I suspect that is by design. 

While Rolland and Heidi Baker both hold Ph.Ds in Theology, they never formally taught on that subject. When we arrived we were greeted with,

“A lot of you came here to learn how to do missions.  The truth is you came here to die.”

I have often wondered about that and it occurs to me that we’d probably have something called Bakerism today with Bakerists  arguing with other “ists” over other “isms” had the school tried to condense the sovereign will of God into a university-style syllabus.  Instead, we began and ended with the idea that missions flow from intimacy with, and dependency on Jesus.  The implication was that intimacy must be sought.

It can not be humanly imparted or taught.  

There was also an underlying motif regarding the inseparable connection between intimacy with God and suffering. This seems counter-intuitive when you consider the theological streams where the Bakers are most often embraced and those that reject them. Whatever you may think about them, the fact remains that the revival that so many crave was birthed out of suffering in Mozambique and has been the norm for the better part of two decades. Until recently most of this suffering was the direct result of storms, flooding and resulting famine. As of this writing, people have been beheaded in a village where we did an outreach. Untold numbers have been shot. Tens of thousands are fleeing radical Islamists who have created yet another internal refugee crisis. We are praying for Mozambique and expect more revival.

The rest of the church would do well to observe and learn while it prays.

That’s not to say there wasn’t any teaching.  There was a whole range of teachings from various celebrity pulpits from around the world that may or may not have been endorsed by the staff.  As for the Bakers themselves,  Heidi modeled more than taught and always emphasized that “love looks like something.” She would occasionally give a hermeneutic on a specific passage of scripture like Jesus’s approach to the woman at the well as a model of her trademark “low and slow” “honor those we serve” approach to missions.  Rolland was more the mystic and taught like Miyagi from The Karate Kid. His lectures resembled a cross between a stand-up comedy act and a Zen Koan possibly designed to leave people scratching their heads for years. He would lob one-liners like hand grenades into the crowd and then giggle as student brows collectively knit together.  

“Ah yes, pray the money in they say”.  “Well…hehehe what if God says no?” 

“Lots of people argue about what God is or isn’t.” He’s a God of this.” “No he’s a God of that.”  They say. “Well what if He’s a God of this and that?”.

He’d talk about miracles and missionary tales but mostly about the miracle giver in a way that sounded like a Song of Solomon 2.0. It definitely made the “macho” in me squirm. Then he’d run around the pavilion shouting “BOOF!”, pretending to shoot people with his microphone while hundreds of twenty-somethings fell down consumed with what I viewed as sheer bandwagon fallacy laughter. I wasn’t having it. I was mad.  I’d come here to learn how to do missions not act like a stupid drunk kid.  I remember Rolland paused and looked at me for a moment before deciding to forgo the “Boof”. My offense immediately melted into a conviction that I had failed the “become as a little child test”. I then experienced the rejection of a little child deemed unworthy of the “Boof”. Mission accomplished. I know it sounds silly.  But God has different ways of tearing our old wineskins apart and causing old wine to flow like blood and more often tears on the floor. I have since learned that silly is often an easier path through ears and into hearts than are hardcore theological arguments.  That is not to say that theological correctness isn’t important. It most certainly is.  Anyway, Heidi addressed getting knocked down in a later session, “If you don’t get knocked down, just get down.” she said.

Turns out – nothing quenches Holy Spirit so much as pride.

Those who regularly read my blogs may have detected that I am always repenting and reforming as I am being conformed. I am fully aware that I will always know in part and see in a glass darkly until the perfect comes and I am known as I am fully known. Still, I thirst for righteousness and have very little patience for blatant fraud and heresy. I am not a cessationist. Rather I am passionate about “testing everything while holding fast to what is good.” 1 Thess 5:20-21 There are some false theological streams in which some Harvest school graduates are immersed that I find downright scary if for no other reason than they and their disciples are going to melt like snowflakes in a flame amidst the call to endure what is coming. I want to know Him far more than I want anything from Him. I think Rolland and Heidi would agree. That said, If I never see another miracle, sign, or wonder again and it would have absolute zero impact on my faith.

Both Cathy and I experienced full supernatural deliverances when we surrendered to the Lord. We know that we serve a personal God who actively intervenes in His creation according to His sovereign will.  We’ve seen God cast out demons in people and seen tumors disappear. Twice we saw the miraculous replication of food. Once in Honduras when we didn’t ask for it,

and once in Mozambique after Heidi had a group of five-year-olds pray.  We’ve seen cataracts dissolve, deaf ears opened and lame people dance when they previously couldn’t even stand. We’ve been delivered from what should have been sudden death at least three times while on the mission field. Only God knows the actual count. We’ve seen the other side in action as well. Still, most times we don’t see anything happen when we pray.  Some would call that proof of stupidity. 

Others would say we need to grow in faith. Luke 17:6

I just listened to a podcast featuring Dick Brogden.  He told a story of when in his twenties he had fervently and faithfully prayed for a Kenyan woman to be raised from the dead. Suddenly her body jerked upward. “Praise God!” he exclaimed.  Then he realized a particularly large woman had just sat on the end of the stretcher and the leverage had jerked the body upward.  He felt stupid and angry at God and asked the Lord why?  The answer he got was that God would trust him with His power when He could trust him with His glory.  Dick had to admit that if God had raised the woman from the dead he would have written newsletters and given testimony thanking God but also making darn sure that everyone knew that Dick had been heavily involved. I think a lot about that when I write about what we do.  I am absolutely convinced that if anyone is ever raised from the dead when I pray it will be because enough of Brian has died and been flushed away. It will not because of any grandiose growth in my faith.

The miracle of suffering

I recently read about David and Svea Flood a Swedish missionary couple who went to the Congo in 1921. Long story short the village chief prevented them from witnessing to anyone for fearing of angering the village spirits. Only one young boy who was allowed to sell them chicken and eggs heard the gospel. They felt like failures and then lost everything. Svea died, another couple adopted their young daughter Aggie, and David returned to the West where he deconstructed and fell away from the faith. Aggie grew up in South Dakota.  Long story short she eventually learned what had happened in Africa. She did more research and found that the boy to whom her parents had ministered was now a pastor that led his entire village to Christ. At last count, 110,000 people had been baptized as a result of that single seed. Aggie then sought out her 73-year-old birth father who was alcoholic and still very angry with God. He cried when she told him that his efforts had not been in vain. In the end he reconciled with her and with the God of this and that.

So why does God do miracles sometimes and not others? Better yet, why does God do miracles at all?

One reason is for unbelievers to take notice. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” John 4:48 Signs and wonders follow the preaching of the gospel. Mark 16:20.  As for sign chasers,  I always imagine Jesus shaking His head and rolling his eyes just before He performed a miracle.

For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? Mat 9:5

Yet even Jesus could do nothing apart from His Father. John 5:19  Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. John 15:5. It would seem to me that in addition to dying to self,  miracles are contingent upon our alignment with the will of God. True alignment with God looks like people weeping on their faces not men in thousand-dollar suits in celebrity pulpits boldly declaring a self-ordained anointing, power and authority to align God’s will with theirs.

I have a hypothesis.

THIS…

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” Mat 7:21-23

Have you ever stopped and really considered that passage?  Better yet, have you ever scrutinized yourself in accordance with those three verses especially in the context of your most treasured assumptions about God?  That passage is in my opinion the scariest one in the entire bible. It is entirely possible to be doing all the right things even supernatural things for all the wrong reasons and not even know it. The remaining question is, “how can I really know if God knows me?” Even more, “do I even want to be known by God, or do I just want a cheap fire insurance policy and freedom from the anxiety that we used to call conviction of sin?”

“…If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.” 1 Cor 8:1-2.

That’s encouraging. But then “who loves God?”  I mean – I feel like I do. Still, Jesus said, “If you love me keep my commandments.” John 14:15  I just murdered the same guy ten times today, coveted my neighbor’s stuff and committed a host of other sins in my mind. Mat 5-6 Now what? Do I redact the scriptures that make me uncomfortable, find a teacher with a more palatable hermeneutic or face the truth – “oh what a wretched man I am!”? Sigh…I guess I’d better head on back to the old throne of grace and say “sorry”…  Yes, I know my wretchedness is covered by the shed blood of Jesus and that there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. Rom 8 Of course, I am saved by grace through faith that is not even my own so that I can’t brag about it. Eph 2:8-9 Still, the fact remains that I don’t always obey His commandments. Not only because I can not but because I choose not.  Again, I don’t have self-esteem or identity issues. I’ve heard countless feel-good sermons over the last fifteen years explaining my identity and why I am the righteousness of Christ… The fact remains that Mat 7:21-23 is still there in its unredacted form declaring that not everyone who thinks they are saved and doing the will of God will be saved in the end. Maybe I just need to sing “I am a friend of God” and “Reckless Love” until I believe it.  Or maybe as George Mueller wrote I need the simultaneous recognition of my utter depravity with the grace and miracle covering of the blood of Jesus. Maybe I need a full and realistic view of my filthy rag works and the offscouring of all things that I am in the context of His righteousness in which I am so miraculously clothed. It doesn’t matter that I am a missionary.  Any time I take an honest look at my reflection in the dark glass, the truth of ME strikes Acts 2:43 (Phobos) terror in my heart. It is, I think, a fruit of sincerity in that it produces “a broken and contrite heart that God will not despise.” Psalm 51:17 That in turn yields a return of the joy of His salvation. Psalm 51:12 It results in wisdom Prov 9:10 and genuine life application alignment with God Prov 3:5-8 the verification and validation of which some times but not always, maybe, just might be confirmed by a sign or a wonder.

…and THAT

It was during our first trip to Honduras that I also made my first trip to a third-world dump and saw children eating raw garbage. 

Meanwhile, Cathy went to a river baptism where she and three girls got covered in gold dust. Previous to this I saw a video featuring falling gold dust and people who claimed to awaken with divine dental work in the form of mysterious gold fillings and gold teeth.  All of it sounded ridiculous to me but I kept my mouth shut.  All I knew was that I’d just witnessed the worst, most heart-wrenching poverty I’d ever seen. I told Cathy I felt like I’d been hit upside the head with a cement block. 

Now she was ranting to me about pixy dust on her cheeks?!!

Still, I had to admit it was pretty strange. It disappeared the moment we tried to remove it from her skin but it stayed on the three girls for days.  A picture of them hung on our wall in Hawaii for years.

Pretty soon gold dust testimonies were rampant throughout charismania until some big-name megachurches notorious for hosting “glory clouds” got caught pouring gold glitter into air ducts. 

“Gold dust mold dust. Whatever!” I thought and dismissed the whole thing.

Then I heard a podcast featuring a pastor who claimed to have seen gold dust in his church.  He’d been in Jerusalem praying when a Rabbi approached him to ask what he was doing.  “Why I’m praying for the peace of Jerusalem.” The pastor replied. That sparked the Rabbi’s interest.  Somehow the conversation got around to the subject of gold dust at which point the Rabbi freaked out.  “Gold dust is falling on the gentiles?! Gold dust is falling on the gentiles!!” He exclaimed.  Apparently, somewhere within extra-biblical Jewish literature, there is an expected prophetic sign of the coming of Messiah involving gold dust falling on the gentiles.

Who knew?

The betrothal or engagement period for a Jewish marriage is one year.  During this time the bride and groom do not see each other at all. After the betrothal ceremony, and just before leaving for a year to prepare a home for his future bride, the bridegroom would give her a Matan.  According to the Rabbi, this was traditionally a gift of gold and signified a pledge of his love for her. It was to be a reminder, that he was thinking of her while they were apart and that he would return at the appointed time to receive her as his wife.

“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”

Rev 21:2

Suddenly, the absurd didn’t seem quite so absurd. 

Fast forward to Cerro Azul Meambar Honduras last year. It was about a week after our house was destroyed in the landslide. We had the clothes on our backs,  food, and a temporary place to lay our heads but otherwise, we didn’t know what we should do. We knew worse things can and do happen. Still, there is an element of suffering in losing everything you own and finding oneself suddenly homeless in the third world. Should I throw in the towel and go home? Oh shut up, Brian!  Instead of throwing in the towel, we threw ourselves into outreaches to get food, water purifiers, beds, and clothing, etc. to those most in need. It was mostly selfish.

After all the best way to cope when you are hurting is to help someone who is hurting more.

Cathy was sick on the last day and wasn’t with us as we delivered the last bags of rice and beans. The crisis adrenaline was wearing off as we headed back to our vehicle and I started to experience some oh so irrational and unspiritual feelings of lostness as waves of fleshy negativity rushed through my brain.  Was God punishing us?  Was this a warning? “His sheep hear His voice.” Did I not hear Him?  Had I gone against his will by moving here?  Did Mat 7:21-23 apply to me? Shut up Brian! Sure I could acknowledge the theological error cognitively but the emotions remained.

That’s part of being a fallen human on a fallen earth.

The post-hurricane heat and humidity were heavy that day.  Suddenly a cool breeze picked up and blew on my face as the four of us approached our vehicle. We all noticed a small whirlwind of gold dust swirling by the front passenger door where I had previously been sitting. It was more than a little freakish to see gold dust-covering just my side of the car. I’d never seen anything like it. All I can say is that it brought tears to my eyes and I can not describe the completely irrational yet profound sense of relief, assurance, and peace that converged with what I was seeing. It was as if God was inaudibly speaking,

“Don’t worry. I know you.”

Since then Cathy and I have become more eschatologically oriented in our approach to the gospel. Not in a conspiratorial, “the vaccine is the mark of the beast” sort of way as so many seem prone.  But in the sense that the primary task in missions is a participation in the preparation of a spotless bride for a wedding and a wedding feast.

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God
    the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.  

And the angel said  to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Rev 19:6-10

That preparation includes studying ourselves approved as we are commanded to do. 2 Tim 2:15 so we can be good Acts 17:11 Bereans and avoid being deceived. Mat 24:4 It also involves watching and praying and miracles, healings, signs and wonders. Some are for all the world to see. Others may be very personal. After all, the very first miracle Jesus ever performed was only known by a few. John 2 The preparation of the bride involves knowing the grace, love, and kindness of God. It also involves knowing His severity and coming wrath. It involves blessing and the experience of abundance. It involves suffering, loss and persecution. 2 Tim 3:12

Our God is a God of this and that.

If we are to know Him we must first know about Him through His word. Sorry, but reading books by people who claim to go to heaven and dialogue with the Father everyday instead is not going to cut it. Yet if we only know about Him and never know Him personally then what does it matter if we know about Him at all? Even worse, if I claim to know Him but the things I know contradict what He says about Himself in His word then who is it that I know?  Hence Mat 7:21-23

Yeah, that’s a mind-bender.

As I often explain to atheists when they strive to refute Christianity,  I love my wife.  I can not prove to them that I love my wife. Neither can they prove that I don’t. I know that I know and that’s all there is to it. Intimacy with God works the same. By the same token, I don’t take every intimate interaction with my wife and make a doctrine of marriage out of it. Instead, I look to God’s word and compare myself, my experience and my marriage to His standard. Everything that is true, everything that matters is rooted in the fact that Jesus is the bridegroom and we are His bride. We expectantly await his return in faith with the hope that we will not be found naked Rev 16:15 and or without wedding garments Mat 22:11-14. We do so despite experiences and external circumstances not because of them. Tribulation, suffering, and persecution remain the only real guarantees for us in this age. Still, the promise of our blessed hope remains. Titus 2:13 I’m not about to make a doctrine out of my gold dust experience. And you shouldn’t use it to support or refute those of anyone else. Sound doctrine is derived from scripture alone. Still, if Jesus places His hand on your shoulder in a breeze, lights a bush on fire and speaks to you through it, or gifts you with a gold dust Matan while you wait, that’s great. I recommend receiving it the same way you are called to receive the James 1:1-4  joy of having your faith tested and with a clear understanding of its purpose. Don’t dismiss it, or worse – make it an idol of it as so many do. Just be grateful and receive His peace and the blessed assurance that He knows you. Then get back to the business of knowing Him more through His word, spending time in the secret place with Him so you can more fully obey Him, love Him and become more fully conformed to His image such that He knows you even more. 

In the end you might know this about God.  Others might know about that.  But none of us really know God until we know Him as the God of this and that.

Maranatha

Que Rompe Tu Corazon?

– What Breaks Your Heart? –

One of the most frequent questions we are asked by visitors is,

“What is it like to be a missionary?”

Untitled-1

To be a missionary is to pursue brokenness. It is first and foremost about love.  Love in the context of a relationship with God and with each other.  Everything we do is rooted in intimacy with Him and each other in Him. The greater the intimacy the greater our recognition of our dependence. Dependence on God is a to key success on the mission field.  It is the understanding that apart from relationship, the words “love” and “God” are meaningless.

 

Sometimes the gospel is more effectively preached with a smile, a hug or a small act of kindness that leaves people with questions rather than answers to questions they never asked.

Being a missionary means understanding that preaching a sermon and cleaning a toilet might be one in the same. 

Being a missionary means having set schedules that rarely pan out because like everyone else, missionaries are gifted and dysfunctional.  It is understanding that the patience spoken of in James 1:4 is an end and not just a means.

IMG_8556

Some days begin at 3 AM in the back of a pick-up truck on a muddy road in the rain and end at 10pm in the same.  Others might start at 10 and end at 3.  Sometimes we are hot, hungry thirsty and sick.  Sometimes we are cool, relaxed and full of energy.  Sometimes we have electricity and water.  Sometimes we don’t.  The periodic absence of first world comforts begets a greater sense of gratitude for the little comforts we once took for granted.

2

Being a missionary means not punching a time clock

or looking for one to punch. 

punching_time_clock11

It means not coveting Friday and a bigger paycheck.  It means not working for the next vacation or retirement. It means not being afraid of being late or failing to perform. It means not being distracted by materialism, the latest styles or trends or the busyness of first world life. It means not being consumed by sports, politics and sewer-stream news.

It means keeping the eternal end in mind.

It is freedom from fear of suffering and the death that no one escapes.

Being a missionary means being willing to live in the desert, proverbial and literal rather than paradise.

Being a missionary means more than being a humanitarian.

It means honoring an old man or  shaking a hand dripping with slime at the dump knowing that you can wash your hands, but he can’t and may die because of it.

It means traveling for an entire day to hug a suffering child.

Spirit break out.mp4.00_03_18_04.Still015

It means paying attention to the little things, those who don’t matter to the world.

00055.MTS.00_00_35_07.Still001

It means understanding the words of Mother Teresa,

“the most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.”

That these words apply to eternity.

That eternity apart from God is the quintessence of loneliness.

We can tell people ad infinitum that Jesus loves them, put on our best Jesus smile and our best Jesus act in hopes that they will see Jesus in us and raise their hand at an alter call.maxresdefault We can pat ourselves and each other on the back in celebration of decisions for Jesus on a given day.

But at the end of the day it’s about us seeing Jesus in them, “in the least of these” in the ONE in front of us.Gerson2.mp4.00_00_47_03.Still010

It means staying in touch with what breaks God’s heart. 

Gerson2.

There is a reason that it is written twenty-three times in the New Testament that Jesus had compassion.  Compassion (literally to suffer with) is the door to God’s heart.  Knowing what breaks His heart is the key to intimacy with Him.  Intimacy with Him is the path to joy in Him.  Being a missionary is about joy. It is the freedom to follow the call of God we received as a fruit of our relationship with Him.  It is a freedom that comes with the knowledge and understanding that if we delight ourselves in Him he will give us the desires of our Heart, of His heart.  He has.

To be a missionary means to be fully human.

To be human is to be paradoxical.

The blessing is in the brokenness.

Que Rompe Tu Corazon?