Why I Hate Religion

In the early days of missions, missionaries would take the Gospel into areas where the Gospel had never been heard. Some places would have heard the Gospel, but hardly anyone believed, or there was serious persecution from unbelievers.

Today many missions fields have changed…..

they have become religious!

The area of Saint Vincent where I live is a community called Barrouallie. If you include both my community, and the two just over the hill, there are more than ten churches in less than a ten-mile area! Every Sunday dozens of families can be seen walking to church because its an integral part of the community. So much so that during the pandemic, churches were only asked to close for one weekend.

There are blessings to being in a religious mission field

  1. People care about the things of God (I pass out tracts almost every day, and people take them)
  2. Acts of sin won’t be tolerated
  3. and there are many open doors to talk about the Lord

But regardless of those blessings, I would rather not live in a religious mission field

Because there is a huge difference between being religious, and being saved!

The old saying is “before you get somebody saved you have to get them lost first.” Its true that only after a person stops relying on their own good works that they are ready to be saved. Because Salvation is based on faith alone instead of any works.

The problem with religion is it’s based on good works

  1. Going to church
  2. Reading your Bible
  3. Tithing
  4. telling others about Christ (etc)

These good works are meant to be a FRUIT of Salvation that proves we are God’s children. But the can never be the foundation for perfection, because God’s standard is perfection. If God let one sinner into Heaven who had not accepted Christ, He would not be perfect, and therefore not God!

Unfortunately Satan deceives many individuals into believing religion is the same thing as saved. This leads countless individuals who thought they were saved into a Christless eternity.

This is why Christians must make a very clear distinction between those who religious, and those who are saved.

While in Australia as a missionary, I was able to volunteer in a conversational English group, that had quite a few different religious represented. Towards the end of a session the Lord led me to explain the difference between religion and salvation so I said “I hate religion”!

I chose not to elaborate on that statement, so the next week another volunteer asked me “why did you say that”? And in front of many religious people, I explained that good works changing your hands can never change your heart.

There are days I wish the Lord called me to a pagan country.

Because the religious ones are harder to reach.

Sharing What You’ve Learned

A few years ago I prepared notes for a class on “The Life of Christ” using the same textbook that Dr. Wayne Willis taught me from during my days at Piedmont Bible College (now Carolina University). And last summer while putting together notes on Eschatology I fondly remembered many lessons Dr. Hoyle Bowman taught me (in his own voice of course).

The call to teaching is an incredibly important one….

because God calls us to share with others the truth that has been shared with us.

The thing about wisdom is it’s very quickly forgotten. The Lord has privileged me to learn from many Godly men and women, some of whom have gone home to be with Him. Their wisdom has been very formative in my spiritual growth, and ministry philosophy. And now it is my responsibility to share with the next generation of leaders what they taught me.

The teachers my pass on

But the legacy of their ideas must continue!

This legacy idea doesn’t just involve my professors from Piedmont, but older resources and books as well. In classes I use textbooks from solid scholars from past years:

  1. Dwight Pentecost
  2. John Walvoord
  3. and Wayne Grudem (though he is newer)

In this way the knowledge of these older scholars will live on in the hearts of new students

And they will have a solid theological foundation for the future.

Today students are bombarded with dozens of new philosophies, theological ideas, and ministry programs. What they need to hear is the wisdom that created a firm foundation for us in our younger years. And will do so for many years to come.

Ministering to their Wallet, as Well as Their Heart

Once every year around November I bring in “Christmas barrels” that include personal items for me to use during the year (like coffee and electronics) as well as some ministry tools. Almost every year I also bring in items that can’t be found in SVG for individuals who will pay me back during the year.

Over the years I always collect from individuals after the receive the times….

Except for Bible College Students

They almost always get items for free.

The financial reason for this is because students are unable to work a normal job since they are always at the college. But even if they had the money, I still wouldn’t worry about getting paid back. Because a big part of missions is giving to the next generation of ministers what they need to succeed.

I have written about this in the past, but a pastor visiting Saint Vincent for a Bible conference gave one of the best definitions of missions I’ve ever heard. He said “missions is like being a grandparent. Their goal instead of doing the work themselves, is to give their spiritual grandchildren what they need to do the work. Then they just stand back and smile.”

This grandparenting view of missions has greatly impacted my teaching because it reminds me students don’t just need spiritual help, but financial as well.

This begins by simply sharing what you have

Over the years, I’ve shared any goodies from home, and necessary items with the students

  1. Jolly Ranchers
  2. Gatorade
  3. Oreo Cookies
  4. Peanuts
  5. and LOTS of coffee (I even give them creamer which I never use)
  6. Pens and backpacks
  7. Notebooks
  8. And other items

After sharing what you have, it’s about giving what they need

There are two people I’ve ever allowed to drive my car without my being present. The first has since gone overseas, the second is a college student who drives it to do young peoples meetings on Fridays. It was a joy to go up with him one weekend to see the young people he was able to minister to.

This post probably sounds like I’m bragging, please forgive me for that, the truth is I can do so much more for the students! Instead of making myself look good, my point is missions must be at it’s core generous. While we cannot help everybody with everything, we must give whatever we can to those who are actively serving the Lord.

How Does it Work?

In my second year of teaching at Bible College, a tradition began. I’m not entirely sure how it got started, believe a student jokingly asked me for Kentucky Friend Chicken. I agreed, and ended up buying it for all of the students.

Eventually buying KFC for everyone after the classes final exam became our traditional form of celebration.

While I’m sure the students enjoyed KFC, the most important part of that meal wasn’t the chicken…..

It was the conversation while eating our chicken.

Often during class questions would come up about how to practically apply what what he had been learning, or how it worked in daily life. There wasn’t always time to emphasize application during class itself, so meals together (both the celebratory KFC, and college meals) were spent talking about how to live out what we learned.

Those meals may have been more important to students than class because it answered the question “so what?”

This application step of teaching because it helps students understand

  1. Why this information is important
  2. What chance it should bring to their lives
  3. And how they can help that change take place

Sadly many teachers (myself included) have overlooked the importance of applying the information we teach, expecting the students to apply it themselves. This does great damage to the class because it’s the teachers job to build excitement in students (not the other way around). And one of the best ways of creating excitement is to show how the material can help them spiritually.

A big part of this is not only explaining how this works in class, but also taking it for a “test spin.” Over chicken we would discuss how the material in class could apply to different scenarios they experience at Bible College, or in the ministry. As the material becomes a principle of life that can help with ministry challenges, their excitement soars.

Foundationally our discussions around KFC show that truth must be applied. Having an understanding of theology is definitely useful, but if it DOESN’T IMPACT YOUR LIFE, what good is it? Theology along with other truth is meant to affect not only our head, but our hands.

Our meals together helped me reject the “dump truck method” of teaching that simply dumped a huge amount of information into students minds, and then left them to sort it out. Because teaching in the end teaching isn’t about covering the material, it’s about transforming the student.

Standing On Your Own Feet

Teaching bible college students has taught me Biblical education must be theologically based, and practical to daily life.

It was also be very loud!

To be honest I enjoy having discussions regarding the more controversial, or dividing subjects (dress, forms of worship etc.) even if our conversations do get VERY ANIMATED! Firstly because there are few places where those subjects are actually discussed. And secondly, people aren’t used to defending their beliefs with Scripture.

Sadly this is the way many Christians defend their beliefs

  1. Find one (or two) verses that teach what they believe
  2. Use that verse as the foundation for an argument based totally on their personal opinion
  3. this is neither Biblical, or glorifying to God!

This doesn’t mean that verse (or verses) aren’t part of Scripture of course. However the emphasis of this argument is the persons own opinion. In some cases an individual will look for a passage that defends their position instead of actually studying what the Bible says about that subject!

The point it is isn’t enough for Christians to have a theological foundation….

They must have strong convictions that can be defended from Scripture

This usually means using doctrinal or theological themes as an answer to controversial questions. To use an example, we discussed whether or not it is right for women to wear pants. I actually am against women wearing pants most of the time, but probably not for the reason you think. My foundation is not Deuteronomy 22:5 which states “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God”. My reasons are this a Jewish covenant (we are Gentiles), and there are no other verses in Scripture referring to a woman not wearing pants.

My foundation for this belief comes from the broader theme of modesty, or wearing nothing that would lead someone to lust. Much of the current style of jeans are created to accentuate the body (at least in SVG) so I’m against women wearing them.

Deuteronomy 22:5 BY ITSELF is not a firm foundation for my convictions. If I used that alone, the defense would come from my own personal opinion or beliefs. But if modesty is the foundation of my conviction there is a massive amount of Scripture to back it up!

It pains me to see so many Christians who use one or two verses (out of context) as a foundation for their convictions. If we are going to proclaim the Gospel of Christ boldly in this world, we must stand firmly on the rock of Scripture instead of the shifting sand of personal opinion.

You Can’t Teach Them Everything

Wednesday I began putting together notes for Fall classes at Baptist Bible College of the Caribbean. Starting the senior year of classes with the current students I’ve learned a lot of lessons about teaching (Some of them the hard way).

One of the first lessons learned, and most important is this….

you can’t teach them everything!

There will always be TOO much information to cover during a class. For instance, last fall I taught a class on Major Prophets which covered almost 200 chapters!! It is obviously impossible to teach everything there is to know about a subject. And more importantly, it isn’t necessary!

Bruce Wilkinson in his excellent book “The Seven Laws of the Learner” describes what he calls the “irreducible minimum.” This refers to the most important information about that subject that students absolutely needed to know. The role of the teacher is to understand that minimum, and then repeat it till their students grasped it.

The notes for my original classes were outline formatted and ran around 200 pages (double spaced). These notes were definitely impressive, but I noticed during class (particularly the second week) we would have to skim or rush through twenty to thirty pages each day! Obviously this is far too much to cover if the student is supposed to master the information!

The notes for my next class (Historical books) will have a three to five page outline for each book. The whole set of notes will be less than fifty pages. But I can GUARANTEE YOU students will get more out of those notes.

Why?

Because the emphasis is on repetition and discussion of the core truths.

What Wilkinson refers to as “the irreducible minimum” I call “themes.” A theme would be a Biblical truth found within the context (never just one verse) that points towards a theological theme found elsewhere in Scripture. Themes usually fit into larger categories such as characteristics of God, total depravity, redemption, and Gods plan for evangelism.

The real reason I emphasize teaching themes is because otherwise I’ll decide what’s important to teach instead of Scripture.

All of us have verses or subjects in the Bible that we find especially interesting. There is absolutely nothing wrong with sharing these truths in class because our passion for them is reflected in our teaching. However, it is dangerous because our own emotions or personal interpretation is relied on instead of context.

At the end of the day the important truths aren’t the ones that “speak to me.”

They are the ones emphasized in Scripture.

Wednesday afternoon I started the hard work of compiling outlines, notes, and background material on the Historic Books. That’s actually the easy part because in about a week I’ll start working all of that information down to brief outlines focused on the themes of each book. It would honestly be easier to just share the passages that speak to me, but that would be robbing students of God’s Truth.

I have failed many students by trying to teach them everything, or only what is interesting to me.

But with the Lord’s help my current teaching philosophy emphasizes what Scripture emphasizes,

And this is what will transform lives.

Getting Back on the Bike

picture taken from http://www.mikevaughan.co.uk

This week I have revisited some “confessions of a missionary” that emphasized areas of my life that needed lots of work spiritually. Thankfully the Lord gives the grace and strength to arise when we have fallen, but we must have the tenacity to try again through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The successful Christian life isn’t about never falling (because we always will)….

It’s about how many times you get up after you fall.

The thing about spiritual growth is it’s incredibly hard work, that takes lots of self-discipline. Some would say this is sinful because we are under grace instead of works in Christ. However even under grace there is a responsibility on our part.

Last week I shared a devotional that explained God gives illustrations of obedience being God’s Wil for the Christian life.

  1. We are called by God to become “doer’s of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22)
  2. Christ illustrated this with the parable of the wise men where he says “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock” (Matthew 7:24) (emphasis added)
  3. And finally James states very clearly “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17)

Yes this obedience is done in the power of the Holy Spirit instead of our own strength. But that doesn’t change the fact that we are called to obedience

To put this in simple terms, there is a greater blessing from God to those who faithfully obey. Our Salvation has nothing to do with obedience (obviously), but our closeness to God has everything to do with obedience!

The application of that truth is this

Our obedience doesn’t have to be perfect……

but it does have to be consistent.

What keeps us down when we fall is a belief that everything has to be done perfectly without any weakness. As human beings with sin-natures we cannot accomplish this, so we eventually just throw up our hands and give up. But perfection isn’t the goal, faithfulness is! God gets greater glory from that child who keeps getting up spiritually than the one who tries to be perfect.

Most of us had the same experience riding a bike

We were incredibly scared so our parent (usually dad) ran behind us holding onto the bike so it we couldn’t fall. Of course they eventually DO let go (without telling us) and we coast along on our own. But immediately after realizing they have let go, we fall! The parent will give some tender attention to us, and then say “now get back on the bike.”

Because that’s how you learn how to ride a bike, getting back on!

Riding a bike is a process, just ask any child who is learning to do it. They are covered with bruises, scrapes, and cuts from falling down. But they keep getting back on!

Why?

Because the joy of riding is stronger than the pain of falling.

We all fall friends and sometimes hear a voice saying “stay down!”

Please don’t listen to it. Get up, dust yourself off, and get back on the bike.

The joy is worth the pain.

Rising When I Fall (Micah 7:8)

This week I have been writing a series of “confessions” that deal with weaknesses in my life. I don’t share those for self-pity or attention, but to highlight the fact that we are all in need of God’s help. At times people may view missionaries as “super Christians” who never struggle, which is very far from the truth.

Of course owning our weaknesses is only part of the victory…..

We must claim the victory over them through the Holy Spirit.

The book of Micah is quite sad because it describes a time in Israel when injustice ruled the land. The Jews had wandered from the Lord, and He responded by withdrawing protection. Now the people were allowed to consume and destroy one another.

In the midst of that sorrow over injustice Micah writes these words:

Mic. 7:7   Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me.

In this time of overwhelming injustice and sin Micah focused his eyes upon the character of God. This refers to a repentance (turning back to the Lord) and prayer that God would restore the justice they needed. He also submitted to the time and plan of God by waiting for the Lord to do the work.

Micah continues to speaking directly to those who mocked him (were celebrating their sin) telling them not to rejoice. He then shares my favorite phrase in this passage.

when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me. (emphasis added)

Micah told them he had fallen (sinned, and experienced the punishment of God). But because of his repentance, he would also be restored.

The beautiful message of that phrase is WE WILL FALL…..

But through Christ, we can get back up!

Micah makes clear his confidence is that God once the time of judgement had ended, would restore him to a place of strength.

Micah 7:9 I will bear the indignation of the LORD, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness.

The application for us today is don’t expect the Christian life to be perfect. We all fall daily spiritually (at least I do!) but the cross of Christ has paid the price for not only our past sins, but present, and future as well! So EVERY TIME I fall, God through His grace will lift me up!

The problem is Satan doesn’t want us to rise. He wants us to wallow in the shame and guilt of our sins, believing the Lord cannot use us. Or perhaps we never attempt anything else for God since we failed that time. So when we fall a big part of us may say “stay down!”

But we must rise

I will apply this thought tomorrow, but today be encouraged friends God gives grace for every time you fall

Yes, Missionaries Stare at Screens

I fondly remember the summer of 2020 when the Lord led me to make reading of physical books a commitment. This came from an understanding I spent far too much time staring at screens between my laptop, phone, and kindle. With the Lords help, the evenings were always reserved for reading which led to spiritual, as well as mental growth.

In December 2020 I took a picture of all the books I’d been able to read (along with a few by kindle that I didn’t have a physical copy of).

That picture used to give me joy……

but now it makes me very sad

Since that time I began to slowly fall back into entertainment by screens using Netflix, or news in the evenings instead of reading. I told myself “just ten minutes of this, and then I will read my book”. But as you can imagine, it ended up lasting a lot longer. Books such as “Digital Minimalism” make it very clear social media, or streaming sites are created to keep our attention. The apps especially make it very easy (too easy!) to swallow up all of our free time.

In a deeper sense this isn’t really about social media and streaming though

It’s a question of how we will invest our free time.

I usually come home from visitation about 6:00 in the evening pretty tired. In that moment I have an incredibly important decision to make.

  1. Do I read a book while cooking?
  2. Or do I watch something?
  3. In the end this comes down to education, or entertainment?

Sadly in my tired state I choose entertainment most of the time.

“But wait!” you might say, “it isn’t a sin to be entertained!”

No it isn’t……

but every time I choose entertainment over education at night, I develop a habit of choosing it at other times.

James Clear in his book “Atomic Habits” says our choices “are like votes for who we would like to become.”

So if I vote for entertainment every night at 6:00, guess what I will vote for when I do have energy.

Recently I was at the doctors office (had taken a member there) and brought a book, and notebook to pass the time. As the minutes passed I spent some time working on sermons in the notebook and decided to reward myself with fifteen minutes of social media. But because my brain was focused accustomed to indulging in it every night, it was incredibly hard to just spend 15 minutes on it. The book was never opened 😦

The answer to staring at screens is simple but not easy…….

Defend your free time with everything you have!

This means making a book THE FIRST OPTION in EVERY SITUATION! I currently rely heavily on my kindle because it doesn’t allow me to go online (I have a basic reader) but don’t use the phone app since it is too much of a distraction. The funny thing is if I make myself reach for the book first, I will enjoy it immensely! But reaching for it first is very difficult.

In my backpack I always have a physical bible, a kindle, and preferably a physical book. In my right-hand pocked I always have my phone. In moments of what I reach to makes all the difference in the world.

Yes, Missionaries Get Distracted

A few weeks ago I shared a devotional at prayer meeting from the book of Proverbs entitled “do it now” (you can find a version of it here). The more I studied for that devotional, the more it convicted my own heart. Through it the Lord showed me that one of the greatest sins in my life is “randomness.”

Randomness is not the absence of activity……

it is activity without structure.

The funny thing about randomness is the people are actually quite busy! Unfortunately, they spend most of the day doing THE WRONG THINGS! The secondary (unimportant) tasks will be accomplished, while the harder (more important) jobs are left undone.

At the core of randomness is a continually distracted mind (and life).

In other words, there is no plan

As someone who struggles with randomness, I desperately need structure:

  1. A to-do list for that day
  2. A schedule that focuses on accomplishing those tasks
  3. A clear vision or purpose that includes future goals
  4. A rythm of healthy habits that help accomplish those goals
  5. And most importantly…..WRITE IT DOWN!!!

Structures incredibly important because it gives you a target to shoot at

Randomness tries to shoot at every target that pops into your head. This is good initially, but our short-term memory is known to focus on things only for a brief period of time. So the target of randomness keeps moving!

It’s far better to have one specific target, take aim, and hit the bullseye for each goal.

The greatest lie randomness ever tells us is that planning is “a waste of time.” Again, it is true a random life will be very busy. But we must ask ourselves, “is it effective?”

As someone who has spent too many days running around like a chicken with my head cut off dear friend, let me answer that with a resounding “no!”.

Yes structure is hard work and takes lots of time.

But it’s the difference between an arrow hitting the target, or laying in the grass nearby.

Yes, Missionaries Get Lazy

A few Saturdays ago a friend was in town, so he stopped by to visit me. As I walked out of the house he took one look at me and said, “boy you have gotten fat!” He actually continued to talk about how fat I had gotten, and made me promise to lose weight by the time he came to visit again.

My first response to his statement was surprise with some frustration….

but my second response shame

because He was right, I HAD gotten fat!

The truth is I’d known I was heavy for a while (combination of treats from my Christmas barrel, and lack of exercise). But I kept on making excuses about it (I’ll start training tomorrow). The Lord knew I needed someone to confront me about being overweight, which is why He sent my friend.

So last Sunday I began working on getting more exercise

  1. By walking to places locally instead of driving
  2. Starting strength training through an app
  3. And getting started on longer training walks

While starting this exercise program I started to ask myself “how did I get fat?”

In the past people always told me I had the OPPOSITE problem of being TOO SKINNY! When I came home for two-weeks of Christmas in 2018 my mom and dad were shocked at how much weight I lost (it comes from being in a tropical climate, and walking). I can remember friends expressing concern about how skinny I was in 2019, at which time I wore a small shirt!

So did I become fat?

It’s easy……….

I GOT LAZY!!!

It probably began with unhealthy habits that didn’t involve activity developed during 2020 (I stayed at home). After a while that added some weight to my body, and got me out of shape. Shortly afterward the walking done during ministry and visitation that used to be so easy now resulted in being out of breath, and exhausted. So I began to pull back on the activity (it hurt after all) and became even more overweight.

The Lord used last week to remind me that laziness of all kinds creeps into our lives slowly (never overnight). We don’t realize its a problem until the day that short walk fills our lungs and legs with pain. And because laziness didn’t come overnight, it cannot be conquered overnight.

Monday evening I was a bit discouraged while going through the core training with my exercise app

  1. I couldn’t do the exercises properly
  2. EVERYTHING HURT
  3. And I couldn’t do it as long as I was supposed to!

The Lord then reminded me it wasn’t about being pretty or perfect….it was about doing the work

In the same way, we conquer laziness but focusing not on results, but simply showing up

Do it Now! (Proverbs 14:23)

The Lord reminded me of an very important but often forgotten point.

Talking about doing something is never as good as doing it!

I happen to be someone who likes to plan things out before attempting them. There’s obviously nothing wrong with planning of course, but the planning can become an excuse for not attempting the action.

Or to paraphrase Proverbs 14:23: Hard work brings rewards, but talking about work brings poverty

This message can be broken down to three simple words….

Do It Now!

There are two foundational truths that challenge us to do the work now. The first is God calls us to obedience

  • We are called by God to become “doer’s of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). This means a true Christian will obey the Lords commands (James 2:14-26), so submission is a fruit or “outgrowth” of Salvation.
  • Christ illustrated this with the parable of the wise men where he says “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock” (Matthew 7:24) (emphasis added)
  • Finally James states very clearly “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17)

The second truth is quite frightening. Satan doesn’t want us to do the work of God!

  • He will come up with many different reasons why we can’t do the work that day (proverbs 26:13)
  • He encourages us to put it off till tomorrow, even though we may not have tomorrow (James 4:14)
  • Or do it when you “feel ready”

The devil knows that God desires for us to accomplish His will. So in order to destroy the plan of God, he will do everything possible to keep it from getting done!

There are many applications of doing it now, but for me it comes down to dealing with problems before they grow.

Jack Kent wrote a children’s book named “There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon.” It’s about a small boy who finds a small dragon in his room one morning, and tells his mother. Her response is “there’s no such thing as a dragon”! The dragon continually grows throughout the book while the mother still refuses to admit it even exists! Finally after the dragon has carried away the house, the boys mother finally admits there are such things as dragons. At that point the dragon became small again.

As someone who has spent far too much time ignoring the dragons in life till they start carrying away the house, let me beg of you. Do the work! And deal with your dragons when they are small.

From the Archives: Missions is embracing Rest

Originally written June 1, 2021 added material in bold and italics

To give some background to this post, at the time I was suffering from an incredibly bad cataract in my left eye, and a weaker one in my right eye. My blogging was non-existent during that time (three posts total from May to mid July when I got the surgery) because I could barely see!

Last week this time I was getting ready to visit a local clinic, and get my second vaccine shot.

I don’t share that to start a big debate over whether or not a person should be vaccinated. It’s my opinion you should be for your safety and others, but the point of this post is what happened AFTER the shot.

I fully expected to feel awful the day of the shot, so didn’t plan much afterwards. I ended up getting home around 2:00, and spent most of the day in bed after that.

Following that day of rest I woke up Wednesday sore, but with good energy, It felt great to have strength during the day that helped me catch up on what wasn’t finished Tuesday.

Then Thursday came

I woke up not feeling too great, but was able to get stuff done that morning. But around 2:00 though my whole body started hurting! So I ended up spending much of that day in the bed or resting as well.

Thursday really frustrated me because I wanted to do work, but my body just wouldn’t co-operate. Yet looking back on it, I believe it was Gods way of teaching me a lesson.

The period of time between mid-May and early July when I returned to the States was God’s way of teaching me to rest in Him instead of focusing on activity. In late June it got so bad I couldn’t even drive! There were many frustrating days during that season, but in it I found my identity isn’t found in work, but Christ

I love being busy, which is not a bad thing. However, it’s easy to begin worshipping my work, In other words, i find my identity (happiness) in how much is accomplished during that day. When productivity becomes something that I worship instead of God. It is a problem.

So the Lord gave me two days last week with little work accomplished.

As the frustration faded Thursday afternoon, the Lord reminded me that effectiveness or “getting things done” wasn’t something to be worshipped. Instead it was a form of worship to God.

This makes all the difference because my identity and happiness doesn’t have to be found in how much I accomplished that day. Instead it’s found in the cross of Christ, and Gods placing His righteousness to my account.

This doesn’t mean I should sit around and do nothing all day. It does mean that God in His grace gives me days of rest. And those restful moments come because the work of Salvation doesn’t rely on me.

Thankfully my body is back at full-strength and I’m slowly but surely catching up on unfinished tasks. But I’m grateful that even if the to-do list is never finished, I will still be Gods child.

The truth is it would take about a month till my eyes were full-strength. But through that season of hardship I found myself relying on the Lord instead of myself, and that He is faithful.

Choosing Average or Excellent

Last month we began the process of restoring the stage at church. This involved removing the carpet that had covered it, and replacing that carpet with tile.

The project itself was a good reminder that change is a good thing,

But it must be done the right way.

Removing the stage carpet was not a problem since everyone was in favor of that. However when it came time to look for tile, the decision wasn’t so easy. We had decided on a newer form of tile that ended up being quite expensive, and hard to find (lots of people wanted it).

After a morning of looking for the newer tile (and failing) I went with a friend and found another kind of tile that could be purchased that day for a cheaper price. But this was an older style of tiles that didn’t look good in the long-run.

We were faced with a choice between average tile, and excellent tile

Of course we decided to spend the money and get the higher quality…..

But that made me think about how many times we choose average over excellent

Choosing excellent over average is very easy when we are talking about something connected to ministry like tiles on a stage. But it’s much harder to consistently pursue excellence in daily life. There will almost always be an easy average road, and a difficult road of excellence. And the paths we choose make a great impact upon life.

Just today I chose between being average and excellent many times when it related to my fitness

  1. Do I get out of bed (excellent) or hit the snooze alarm (average)
  2. Do I exercise (excellent) or put it off till tomorrow (average)
  3. Do I eat a healthy meal (excellent) or an unhealthy one (average)
  4. Do I walk while visiting people locally (excellent) or drive (average)

The sad truth is I find these questions very convicting because of many average choices.

The motivation to choosing excellence is this: You cannot get an excellent ministry without an excellent personal life

In other words, it doesn’t matter what kind of tile I put on the church stage if my sermon preparation habits or lazy.

And the most majestic building won’t accomplish much if I don’t have integrity

The truth is the Lord does indeed build the church, but the leaders of that church have a responsibility to represent Him well. Growth comes not by making the inside more beautiful, but choosing Gods road consistently.

Leaving Foolishness Behind

Last month, a young man named Jonathan got saved, and began attending church. He was very committed to serving the Lord and rejecting the old sinful way of life.

I’m sure Jonathan knew this would mean leaving friends who weren’t interested in things of God……

but it probably happened sooner than he expected.

I like to tell people who are interested in growing in the Lord they need to leave behind “the foolishness.” By this I mean individuals who will fit into the Biblical term fool. Those who sit around doing nothing, take the Lords name in vain, usually drink, display anger, distract those who actually want to serve God. It is possible to spend time with foolish people (I do) but it’s important not to spend too much time around them. Because the more time you spend around foolish people, the more foolishness you will experience!

Last Tuesday was a perfect example of how fools bring foolishness, or confusion and conflict.

A simple issue of a man taking two lengths of steel for welding without asking (he should have asked) that cost less than $20 US became a big issue. The owner of a chicken shack the steel was taken from had a loud confrontation with the man’s girlfriend who lives just across the road. For hours they screamed and shouted at one another! Then Tuesday night someone burned down the chicken shack!

Sadly there is no proof of who actually did the job, so nothing will come of any investigation. The chicken shack owners have already built back a smaller stand to sell from.

That afternoon I saw Jonathan wearing his secondary-school uniform, which made me very happy! He had reached for four (around the end of grade 11) before leaving school, with only one year left before graduating! He told me that afternoon the Lord led him to start classes again.

While I am proud of Jonathan’s going back to school, I’m actually more proud of WHY. He recognized the foolishness of those around him, and got away as fast as possible!

Jonathan was actually apprentice to a welder in the process of learning a skill. But this was the same welder who neglected to ask permission before taking the lengths of steel. In a testimony during out prayer meeting service, Jonathan said seeing the huge argument between neighbors over steel showed him this wasn’t a safe environment. He immediately went to his boss, and told him he was going back to school.

I rejoice over Jonathan’s deliverance from the foolishness, but mourn over those who will not leave

Many people in Barrouallie have social lives that revolve around foolish people, which means they experience foolish things. I’ve had friends tell me countless times they are done being in those places, only to see them there the next day. The problem is we all need places to socialize, and there aren’t too many healthy places in the community to do this. Which is why the Lord is leading me to create a refuge for those who want to escape foolishness.

The decision of Jonathan to walk away from what he knew to begin something new was a reminder for me from God. A reminder that no matter how careful we are, socializing with fools will affect you.

Eventually we have to leave the fools behind.

Spiritual Guerilla Warfare

On June 1 Matt Walsh of the “Daily Wire” news group released a film called “What is a woman” (it can be viewed here after subscribing to the daily wire.

In the movie he interviews many experts on transgenderism asking the simple question “what is a woman?” while seeking proof a man can become a woman through identification, or surgery.

What makes his movie fascinating is his approach.

He doesn’t get angry or shout at people….

He simply asks questions.

This is purposeful since Matt Walsh understands most holding to views such as transgenderism (even the experts) cannot defend their own views. So instead of confronting them directly, he calmly asks for proof that their view is correct. This is firmly grounded in the “burden of proof” philosophy that places the burden not on myself to prove you wrong, but you to prove yourself right.

Walsh explains this philosophy in depth with an interview with ex-NFL player Jason Whitlock (you can find it here). Whitlock in the interview asks him “can we win the culture war?”

Here is his response

“Right now, we are kind of the guerrila fighters in a hostile environment. We’re kind of the ones in the woods that are having to hide…come up with these little operations, and we got to this point over the course of generations. So it only makes sense that to pull ourselves out of it, it’s going to take generations too.”

This guerilla warfare quote stuck with me since most Christians today find themselves in a “hostile environment”

And it means we must show wisdom.

I have found in many conversations with those who disagree with me on political or religious on the mission field that transforming what people believe or hold to takes time. Very rarely will one conversation change things. Instead change comes using Walsh’s strategies of asking questions, highlighting weaknesses, and showing a better way that will put a “pebble in their shoe” as author Greg Koukl says.

A calm question has much greater power than a screaming voice

It’s Okay if Your Not Okay

This week I finished reading Mark Vroegop’s excellent book, “Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy. Discovering the Grace of Lament.” In it he describes how a series of miscarriages led he and his wife to practice prayers of lament bringing their sorrow to God, but trusting His goodness.

The book itself shares many wonderful lessons….

But for me the most important is “it’s okay if your not okay.”

Life is hard! So occasionally everyone will have a bad day. It’s interesting while struggling with things like anger, self-pity, discouragement, frustration, and weariness we will put on a smile and act like everything is fine (when it obviously isn’t). Even worse, when a brother or sister in Christ comes by and ask us how we are doing, we will always say “fine” even though everyone can clearly see we are anything but fine.

This attitude flows out of a belief that we should suffer (or endure) tough situations with confidence and strength. But there is also a sinister attitude that believes “nobody can see me hurting.” Part of this comes from people using us in the past, but most of it comes from our stubborn pride.

This leads to the covering up of our sorrow which is actually the ABSOLUTE WORST THING we could possibly do! Because that sorrow won’t stay covered up forever. And it will reveal itself with an explosion of anger!

Pastor Vroegop in his book encourages us to do something different with our sorrow…..

Embrace it!

He encourages us to embrace our sorrow in four ways

  1. Keep turning to prayer
  2. Bring your complaints
  3. Ask boldly
  4. And choose to trust

The first two steps (keep turning, and bring your complaints) encourage us to deal with our sorrow in a Biblical way. This means bringing it to the Lord in constant prayer, and sharing our frustrations. The author explains these are complaints from a confused heart instead of a bitter or angry one that believes God isn’t fair. After facing our sorrow we can turn back to the Lord (ask boldly, choose to trust)

The beauty of this is there’s a balance between grasping the grief, and grasping God. This is illustrated by my favorite quote from the book.

“lament is the personal song that expresses our grief while embracing God’s goodness.”

As someone who is not always okay (but tells people I am) this idea of lament is a beautiful reminder sorrow and grief are tools for God’s glory. But they must be embraced instead of hidden.

Racism is a Heart Problem, Not a Skin Problem

Originally written August 18, 2021

As one of the few white people in my community (I’m usually the only one) I’ve had lots of conversations with Vincentian friends about racism. This is particularly true about racial situations in the United States. And I’ve had some fun experiences because of my whiteness as well

A few weeks after coming to Barrouallie I was walking down the road, and a man called me over. He smiled and said, “why is a white man walking up and down my street?” The important thing to remember is he wasn’t being racist, in fact when he was excited to learn I’d come as a missionary. For the first few months the name “white man” stuck, not because they were being racist, but because they didn’t know my name, today they all call me John.

Living here has taught me many lessons about racism, but none more important that this

Racism doesn’t have to do with your skin color…….

It has to do with your heart.

I would define racism is an attitude that looks upon other people groups as less important than you. But there are others who define it as some other nationality (particularly white) getting privileges others don’t receive.

This is a very flawed definition because the answer to racism becomes “becoming inclusive” or making sure others have the same rights as white people. I’m all for people having rights or privileges, but that won’t fix the attitude of my own heart, or how I perceive them.

The only cure for Racism is a transformed heart that treats all people groups with dignity and respect.

Over the last six-years, the Lord has helped me live in unity with my Vincentian brothers and sisters. This has nothing to do with my being “anti-racist” or becoming more “inclusive”. I just treat them with respect and dignity as image-bearers, and they do the same for me.

It’s a joy to see how the people of Barrouallie “look out for me” because I “look out for them”

  1. Last year I suffered from a severe stomach virus so we couldn’t have church. Four church members came by to cook for me, and make sure I was okay. The next day many people from the community asked what had happened.
  2. Another time I got sick, and had three separate friends to come by, and see how I was doing
  3. A few months ago my car hood wouldn’t latch properly. Three people came by to tell me it wasn’t closed, and then a neighbor helped me fix it
  4. Another day I left a car door open (still not sure how that happened). A friend came down, and told me it was open….nothing was taken
  5. And a few years ago I went home for Christmas and let a young man in the community drive my car while I was gone. The week after I got back a woman motioned me over and whispered “I saw somebody else driving your car!”

The point is it’s possible for people from other races to live in harmony

You just treat them with dignity and respect

And it helps if you’re part of the same family 🙂

There is no easy fix for racism friends, but I can tell you the starting point is your heart instead of your skin color.

Bring the Wandering Home

This week I shared a burden for a friend that I’ll call Stan (not his real name) who was trying to give up rum and cigarettes. The Lord led me to create a “refuge” or place where he could be without the temptations of a rum shop (you can read more about that here).

I wish I could tell you that Stan has been faithful to the Lord since his decision a few weeks ago…..

But he hasn’t

Two weeks ago I invited him to have a Bible study with myself and another friend. He promised to come, and was actually with us up till that time, but didn’t show up for the Bible study. Then Stan began to strangely avoid everybody. In the last fourteen days I have seen him just once, which is not normal!

It isn’t hard to figure out what is going on

He fell back into drinking and smoking, or got himself into more serious trouble, and is ashamed of it. This keeps him away from me, church, and those who would be a Godly influence. The saddest part of this whole situation wasn’t his falling back into sin (though that breaks my heart). It’s the shame and guilt isolating him from others.

And this sad story is repeated countless times

An individual makes a decision for the Lord and does well for a short-time (usually based on emotion). But eventually they fall, and hear the voice of Satan calling them a failure. “You may as well just give up!” Satan tells them….and so they do.

I’ve met countless “backslidden Christians” like Stan who tried to serve the Lord in their own strength, failed, and never tried again.

So what is the answer?
Christians must pursue them with Grace

  1. By continuing to seek them out (I can’t let Stan hide from me)
  2. By offering love and grace when we do meet again
  3. By explaining sin cannot be dealt with alone
  4. And by explaining the Gospel is based upon Grace instead of works
  5. More than anything this means not allowing shame to isolate himself from everyone else

The thing about shame is it lies to us

It emphasizes only one part of the Gospel, that being our utter depravity (we are sinful and cannot save ourselves)

But the other part of the Gospel that shame overlooks is God’s gracious forgiveness for those who turn to Him.

Pray for me as I search out the Stan’s of Saint Vincent and explain that your more sinful than you can ever imagine, but God is also more gracious than you could ever imagine.

The Harvest Will Come!

One of the best things about my rental property is the large mango tree in the backyard. I greatly enjoy continuing the long-standing tradition begun by former missionaries of placing ripe mango on the wall in front of my house for people to take.

But a strange thing happened this year….

I had very few mango’s to put on the wall!

Part of this has to do with the La Soufrière volcanic eruption in 2021, but mostly it’s because we haven’t been getting much rain. For a few weeks now I’ve had people asking about my mango’s, and I always tell them “wait for the rain to come.”

And finally last week the rains came!

Yesterday (Saturday) I walked into my backyard and picked up eight mango’s for people to eat (I don’t generally climb the tree, just take the ones that drop). Now the front wall, and the wall separating me from my neighbor has at least five lined up.

I can’t help but be reminded through this experience that just like a physical harvest, a spiritual one takes patience. Unfortunately this is something many of us (myself included) have little of! We become frustrated when spiritual fruit doesn’t come as quickly we believe that it should, and often just give up in frustration.

But the God who brings physical rain to grow fruit on trees will also do a spiritual work in lives if we are patient.

Ministry is sometimes frustrating because you put lots of work into lives, and see little fruit. Thankfully as I wrote last week, God is the one who brings the fruit, but He rarely works on our time schedule. Of course God’s time is always best, but it’s hard to remember that when you don’t see a difference being made.

In those moments we must rest in a simple fact….

The rain will arrive

And the harvest will come!

God WILL build His church! But He sovereignly chooses to bless the faithful who go through the seasons of bounty, and famine. So we plow the ground, plant the seed, add fertilizer, give water, and pull out the weeds. Knowing that someday our Lord will bring the harvest.

The World Needs a Refuge

A few houses up the road from me is a local “rum shop.” These are small stores that sell things like chicken, or daily necessities, and of course rum! Some individuals spend much of the day relaxing there with friends.

Though I don’t drink for any reason, I’ll occasionally visit the shop to visit the friends. There have also been times when I did counseling or even a Bible study there.

Recently a friend came and told me the Lord wanted him to stop drinking and smoking (he is especially addicted to cigarettes).

After congratulating him on the commitment and praying with my friend, I encouraged him to take an incredibly difficult step….

He had to leave the rum shop.

What made this so difficult is this step had an emotional challenge as well as physical since all of his friends were at the rum shop. Also this place was a part of his habits since he was used to going there after work.

It was actually possible for my friend to go to the rum shop and not drink or smoke. Especially if he told all of his friends that he’d stop doing both! However, eventually his willpower would wear down, and in a stressful moment he would fall back into the habit of getting a cigarette.

This is why he needs a refuge.

Recently I started making plans for a friend to make a large wooden table in my back yard with benches. This area will eventually become a refuge for those who want to escape the influence of things such as rum and cigarettes, as well as the music or profanity often heard there. Of course things like counseling and Bible studies can take place there, but in the beginning it’s just a place of peace.

Everyone gets stressed out sometimes…..

And where we go in that moment of stress makes all of the difference

The Lord has reminded me while working on the refuge about how many men in this community struggle with addiction to rum, cigarettes, or another substance

  1. how many are at the rum shop every day
  2. How many would rather work for a shot of rum than money
  3. How many spend every last dollar on alcohol, and run up a huge bill
  4. How many simply want to forget their pain

Yes I could look them in the eyes and say “don’t drink!” but that does little good when they are stressed, and there’s nowhere to go but the shop.

Please pray for me as I build this refuge. May the table be filled with men who choose community and Christ over a bottle.

God Will Build His Church!

Missions can sometimes be a frustrating ministry. All of your evangelistic outreaches bring little fruit, and individuals who you put lots of time and effort into discipling let you down. This is why the Lord likes to surprise us every once in a while with a reminder that the Gospel still works.

I’m incredibly grateful for the surprise of grace God gave me last Sunday.

I was getting ready for Sunday School when a young man named Jonathan showed up. His coming was actually a huge praise since he’d promised to come in the past, but to be honest few people actually follow that up with action. Not only did he come, but Jonathan was paying very close attention to the Sunday School lesson.

Before the morning service a church member called me over, and motioning to Jonathan said “he would like to give a testimony.” Since we sometimes have an opportunity for testimonies during the service, I just encouraged him to share that testimony when the time came for testimonies.

When the time came he approached the pulpit (which I allowed him to do since Jonathan has a quiet voice). He told everyone that the night before he’d accepted Christ as his personal Savior, and was completely committing himself to the Lord!

It was a joy to pray with Jonathan after the service, and make plans to begin discipleship lessons during the week. But the greater blessing was to see the Lord save a young man, and bring him right to us.

This was a huge reminder it isn’t my job to build or grow the church. Instead I’m called to serve the Lord faithfully in evangelism and discipleship. Then GOD HIMSELF will build the church!

Often the temptation is to twist things around so I am the one who builds the church in my own strength, or using my own plans. Satan in those moments will shout “try harder!” to those leading the church, but he knows the key isn’t in striving but submission to God.

Of course the work of pastoring and leading the church takes lots of discipline and effort….but this is done in dependence upon the Lord faithfully following His plan.

I rejoice with the blessing of Jonathan

But I rejoice more in knowing if I do my job faithfully, God is faithful to do His

More Than Ever, We Need Spiritual Parents

Last week there were two shocking incidents in Saint Vincent regarding young people. The first was a seventeen year old girl who was stabbed repeatedly, and stuffed into a bag (her body was found the next day). The second was a seven year old boy who was found dead in a car Thursday night.

The case of the boy was especially sad because he had not been home since Monday (people saw him Tuesday), and his mother had not filed a police report. She later told police that her son slept a lot a friends or family members, so she didn’t worry.

My point here isn’t to shame the mother…..

But to point out children need structure.

Lack of structure for children is a problem I have seen growing in Saint Vincent in recent years. Children need a safe home environment, rules (that will be enforced), and parents who know where they are at all times.

Sadly in Saint Vincent the men are too much of cowards to become fathers for their children, so the mothers care for the kids. This often means mommy is home with the youngest child who understandably takes up her time and energy, so the older children have a huge amount of freedom. Many of them are seen “in the road” or going up and down Barrouallie all hours of the day.

I personally believe that God wants to use those shocking deaths of two children to wake parents up…..and help them realize children need to be protected.

And this is why Saint Vincent needs now more than ever spiritual mothers and fathers!

A spiritual parent is a mature Believer who earns the respect of the child, and after communicating with the parents creates activities, or ministers to their needs. This can be as serious as a Bible study, a reading help program, homework help, an afternoon playing football at the park, coloring, or any number of other things. Through those activities the Gospel will be lived as well as shared.

As children grow older a spiritual parent becomes a voice of Godly reason when their friends want to get involved in things they shouldn’t. It’s my understanding the seventeen year old was stabbed to death by her boyfriend. You also become someone who meets their needs since the seven-year old boy was known to ask neighbors for food.

The greatest characteristic of a spiritual parent though is just to show love

I can’t help but wonder if the life of this seventeen year old girl had been spared if she had a Godly women who poured her heart into the child’s life at an early age, teaching that her identity is found not in a boyfriend, but Christ.

And I can’t help but wonder if that seven-year old had died if a Godly man had given him a meal, and a safe place to sleep every night.

My heart yearns for young people like this all over Saint Vincent who are walking a dangerous path, and just need someone to help them. May the Lord help me continue loving and discipling as many of those children as I can.

Living by “Island Time”

After being in Saint Vincent for seven years, I’ve acclimated myself to the way of life here, and actually PREFER IT to living in the States.

But there is one way I cling to my American background…….

I work from an American view of time.

“American time” simply refers to being on time for pretty much everything. In fact, I usually go by the “if your not ten minutes early your late rule.” This is very different from “island time.”

Vincentians are not as time focused in their culture. This isn’t a bad thing because it helps them develop stronger relationships with one another (lots of time is spent with friends). However it can cause frustration for someone used to working on “American time.”

They even have a saying called “just now” usually used when telling someone when they will come (“I’m coming just now”). The first time someone said that to me here, I expected them to come almost immediately, but it was a few hours before they arrived! This really confused me till a friend explained “just now” did not mean immediately. It meant “I will come when I can.”

Usually this doesn’t really bother me too much, but I got kind of annoyed last week. A friend was supposed to come over for lunch so I could give him a meal, and we could study Scripture together. Around 11:00 I saw my friend, and asked if he was ready for lunch. He told me yes and I encouraged him to come as soon as possible. Sadly he come over an hour late, and didn’t have time to do a Bible study.

I was definitely not a happy camper!

It wasn’t till the next day I realized the problem was my Fault! I had approached someone working on “Island time” as if they were working by “American time.”

The better way to do things would have been to say “whenever you have some time, come by for some food and a Bible study.” This would be frustrating in a sense because I’d have to put my plans (and schedule) on hold for him, but embracing their way of doing things will strengthen my ministry.

One of the most dangerous things a missionary can do is try to fix a culture.

There will always be things that we believe America does so much better, and sometimes it may BE BETTER! But wise missionaries understand for every way America is better than the mission field, there are five or six ways it ISN’T BETTER!

And we understand the goal of missions isn’t to transform your culture…..but transform your hearts.

Dealing With Our ὀργὴ Anger

Like so many of you, I am mourning the violence seen in the Buffalo shootings, along with those in Milwaukee, and a church in California on Sunday. Apart from the Gospel of Christ transforming lives, there doesn’t seem to be an answer to the rampant violence in this world.

While we cannot do much about these shooting deaths…..

But there’s a lot we can do about the many relationships destroyed by conflict, or misunderstandings

Because we are all fallen human creatures, we are bound to “get on one another’s nerves” of offend each other sometimes. And we usually don’t respond to those stressful situations with an attitude of love and grace. Sadly many Christians once their emotions have cooled down don’t go the trouble of restoring that relationship.

Because the issue wasn’t dealt with there will usually be a small amount of frustration or anger with the individual. Most of the time we can forgive them easily, but occasionally that small anger will grow. And if we aren’t careful that anger can grow to explosive levels.

There are many words for anger in the Greek New Testament, but the most powerful is ὀργὴ (pronounced or-gey)

This word refers to a “swelling or great pressure.: It gives the idea of a volcano that continues gaining more and more pressure till it literally explodes. Usually at the worst possible time!

Last week a simple situation (a man being removed from his home because he wasn’t paying rent) became a HUGE ordeal in our community. One woman walked by and simply said the home-owner was wrong for making the man leave. This led to an argument between the home-owners son and the woman, then the home-owner and her family arrived shortly to continue the argument. For around two-hours they stood about forty-fifty feet from each other shouting expletives and arguing. All this because one woman said the other was wrong!

I know from experience that ὀργὴ wrath can explode at any moment so it must be dealt with.

Ken Sande has written an AMAZING BOOK called the Peacemaker (you can buy it here). In it he gives good advice on handling our explosive wrath in what’s called the “Four G’s”.

  1. Glorify God: Sande encourages readers to ask “How can I please and honor the Lord in this situation?”
  2. Get the Log Out of Your Own Eye: This means confessing what YOU DID WRONG in the situation (regardless of what they did) and the root cause of it
  3. Gently Restore: This involves personally apologizing for your part in the conflict, and lovingly showing the other party how they are in the wrong (bring to repentance)
  4. Go and Be Restored: Finally you do whatever it takes to heal that relationship over time

In a very basic way the violence of this world is the result of so many ὀργὴ volcano’s just waiting to blow. Which is why it’s so important for us to “defuse the bomb” and now allow our anger to grow.

Don’t Waste Your Singleness

“A spouse, and a minivan full of kids on the way to disney world is a sweet gift and a terrible God.  If everything in Christian community revolves around being married with children, we should not be surprised when singleness sounds like a death sentence” Kevin Deyoung

Last Sunday while preaching through 1 Timothy, I spoke on singleness and marriage. To be honest this is a strange subject for me to speak on since I do believe its God’s will for singles to get married, while at the same time I’m single at the age of forty-six!

Leading up to last Sunday I thought a lot about the balance between pursuing marriage (because it’s God’s Will) and serving the Lord as a single. In the end, the Lord reminded me of the quote shared at the top of this post by Kevin DeYoung in “What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality.”

From the time I read that quote in the summer of 2015, it truly spoke to me. Especially the first sentence because it shares how marriage is a sweet gift (something to be pursued) but a terrible God (something we must have at any cost).

Practically for me this means on the one hand saving myself in every way possible for my future wife (I haven’t met her yet, but pretty sure she’s Vincentian :-)). While on the other hand using my singleness for the Glory of God in the meantime.

That’s actually harder to do than it sounds!

Most people go to one of two extremes:

  1. Give up on getting married, and just focus on having fun with their singleness
  2. Or spend their entire lives waiting for marriage so God could use them

Interestingly both make the same mistake…..

They waste their singleness

One wastes singleness by falling into sin, while the other refuses to do anything for the Lord (since they aren’t married yet). But both do a very poor job of using the gift of singleness.

And singleness is a gift!

  1. It gives extra time and energy that can be used for the Lord
  2. Quiet and privacy allows you to get more done in a shorter amount of time
  3. And Your able to take become part of more adventures (easier for a single man to go on a trip than a family)

Is marriage a gift as well? Of course it is! The important thing is using the gift God has given to the best of your ability.

I told the people last Sunday if I had my way I’d be driving a large family around in a mini-van, but that is not God’s plan for me right now. So until he leads me to my Vincentian wife (and if He doesn’t that’s fine by me) I’m obligated to use the gift of singleness to the best of my ability.

Aiming at The Right Target

This week I will finish reading for the second time “The Seven Laws of the Learner” by Bruce Wilkinson, and probably got more from reading it this time!

There is far too much information in this book to put into a short blog post, but allow me to share the books foundational truth.

The goal of teaching isn’t to cover the material…..

The goal of teaching is to transform lives!

Bruce Wilkinson states (I believe correctly) that much of the preaching and teaching within Christian schools and churches is absolutely dead. This is because so many come in, and emphasize teaching the truths of Scripture while never really applying it to life. The master teacher however isn’t satisfied with covering the material, he demands the student be affected.

He uses an illustration from his early days of Seminary taught by Dr. Howard Hendricks to drive home this point.

The author decided one day to purposely look out the window during class as an experiment to see how long Dr. Hendricks would allow him to remain distracted. It took just over three-minutes before the professor put class on hold to confront one student looking out the window!

Wilkinson then asks a convicting question?

How many of us would let him just stare out the window during class? (after all, we covered the material).

On a more personal level he points out how preaching emphasizes “covering the material” by spending almost all of the time on explanation of Scripture, then illustration and application will often be put on at the end. While explanation is good, it must be balanced with clear illustration and application to show people why they should live in such a way, and how to do that (ideally 50% teaching, 50% illustration/application).

Thinking about this truth, I cannot help but be convicted by the number of lessons or sermons that did a great job of “covering the material” but did a very poor job of impacting lives.

It’s true that not every message should be a “home run” that brings an emotional response, but every message must have as it’s goal application of truth to everyday life. And in a deeper sense equipping of Believers.

I’m grateful for this timely reminder from the Lord that it isn’t enough to reach someone’s head,

I must reach their heart too.

NEVER Stop Growing!!!

Recently I began to read some books that brought a great conviction to my life.

Not because I was sinful…..

But because I could do better.

Last month I went through again “Christ Centered Preaching” by Bryan Chapell, and it greatly challenged me to preach “redemptive sermons” instead of sermons based on works. Currently I am going through “The Seven Laws of the Learner” by Bruce Wilkinson, and am INCREDIBLY CHALLENGED by the thought that teaching’s goal is to help the students understand instead of cover the material.

The interesting thing is, there’s nothing wrong with my preaching or teaching skills. Honestly these are my strengths in ministry! But I want them to become stronger.

The interesting thing is that speaking being a strength actually became a weakness in my ministry! I emphasized growth in other (weaker) areas and became somewhat complacent, EVEN LAZY in my preaching and teaching!

And accepting good speaking skills instead of great ones was a dishonor to the Lord.

Missions has taught me that even the strongest skills will weaken over time when we stop developing them. In the same way a sword grows dull over time and needs sharpening, skills, our abilities need to be “sharpened” from time to time.

So we NEVER stop growing!!!!

This doesn’t give the idea of explosive growth, but slow consistent growth

  1. By growing in our knowledge of the subject through books, and podcasts
  2. By constantly evaluating our effectiveness
  3. By continually making changes to the process
  4. And by making effectiveness the goal (doing our VERY BEST)

Satan doesn’t try to make us completely rebellious friends (he’s far too smart for that)……

Instead he tries to make us complacent and lazy by saying we’ve done enough.

He wants us to go to war with a dull sword.

The Lord wants us to continually grow in every area of life through study, personal development, and walking in the Spirit. This way when the day of battle comes, we don’t have a dull sword in our hands.

Grace for Wasted Days

Last week wasn’t a very good one….

I made the foolish decision to indulge in jelly beans and Oreos friends sent over. This resulted in headaches, and lack of energy Monday along with Wednesday. A pretty ineffective week when lots didn’t get done because of my mistake had me feeling pretty blue on the way home.

That’s when I saw the sky.

The sunsets here in Saint Vincent are almost always spectacular. Most nights I can turn towards the sea about 6:15 and see a picture of breathtaking beauty, But there was something special about Fridays sunset, it was somehow extra spectacular.

That beauty of that sunset wasn’t just physical though….

it was in the message it conveyed.

Part of me wanted to sit down at 7:00 Friday night and desperately try to catch up on all of the things that I didn’t get done. But that sunset was Gods way of saying “rest now John, there will be time to work tomorrow.”

The beauty of the Gospel isn’t that we are perfect, but that there’s grace for each new day

Christ comes to offer us not only Salvation, but cleansing and restoration when we fail. Therefore when we fall (and we will) the response shouldn’t be to try harder! Instead the response is to repent saying we CAN’T DO THE WORK, and beg Christ to do the work through us!

It’s interesting that Satan tries to get us to do the exact opposite

When we fail he fills our hearts with shame, and tells us to “try harder” instead of relying upon God for help. This creates a vicious cycle since we cannot serve God in our own power. A cycle that blinds us to God’s grace.

So walking home Friday I confessed to the Lord that laziness and lack of motivation had creeped in since I’d eaten too much junk food. I asked Him to forgive me of that laziness by His grace, and empower me to stay focused instead of distracted. I thanked the Lord that effectiveness wasn’t based on how hard I worked, but how close I was to Him.

Yesterday (Saturday since I wrote this Sunday) was a VERY productive day without junk food (a few handfuls of jelly beans last night).

It felt good to be back on track

But it felt better to know that God gives grace when I am off track.

Stop Eating Junk Food!

A little over a week ago, I received a shipment of Bibles from my home church Salem Baptist. Along with those Bibles they sent my FAVORITE treats, starburst jelly beans, and birthday-cake oreos!

The plan was to eat just a few of them at a time….

But that didn’t happen 🙂

In just over a week, I’ve crushed almost an entire large container of jelly beans one handful at a time, and polished off two large packs of Oreos. Part of this is due to the face that I don’t usually have things like this, and partly because they are irresistible.

I indulged in that junk food thinking it wasn’t a big problem (I’ll lose the weight after all)

But I was wrong.

I woke up Monday morning with a splitting headache, and didn’t feel like myself almost all day. Tuesday was better, but I spent most of Wednesday feeling exhausted and lacking energy. All of those extra sweets had resulted in a “sugar spike” that affected me physically till Thursday.

Realizing the source of the problem, I’ve stayed away from the sweets for the most part since Wednesday (Okay I did indulge in some jelly beans at night).

The Lord has reminded me through this experience that you cannot eat junk, and expect to be effective

This message can also be applied to the food that we fill our minds, and hearts with.

You cannot expect to serve the Lord at 100% while feasting on

  1. The worlds entertainment
  2. Music that heightens our emotions, but doesn’t draw us closer to God
  3. A lifestyle of comfort, or rest
  4. or compromised convictions

Things like this FEEL GOOD at the moment, just like jelly beans and birthday cake Oreos! But filling your heart and mind with the worlds junk food will not bring happiness.

So what is the answer?

Feast on Christ!

  1. Study and meditate upon Scripture
  2. Pray constantly
  3. Discipline yourself for the purpose of Godliness
  4. And surround yourself with Godly friends

There is nothing wrong with an occasional handful of jelly-beans

But they cannot constitute your diet.

In the same way may we reject the worlds junk food, and feast on Christ.

Feeding the Body before the Soul

A few weeks ago I shared with you a burden for a friend Jamie (not his real name) who struggles greatly with an addiction to alcohol. You can read more about his needs by clicking here.

As I shared a few weeks ago, one of the saddest things about Jamie’s alcoholism is it’s enabled by other people. He is constantly doing work for people in the community (usually rum shop owners) and instead of money or food, they pay him with shots of rum.

There is a responsibility on Jamie’s part of course because he wants the rum more than food or money, this is why he does jobs for the rum shop owners! However it’s still incredibly sad to see him penniless and starving at the end of the day with no food at home.

The truth is Jamie just needs someone who can give him some guidance…..

This means I must meet both his spiritual, and physical needs.

And in most cases his physical needs should be met first!

This definitely doesn’t mean that Jamie’s lack of food is more important than his eternal soul. Obviously living with Christ for eternity is a far better than a full belly. Yet the most pressing need in his life that moment is taking away his hunger pains. And it’s as I meet his most important immediate need that his heart will be ready to hear the Gospel.

Often in ministry (and missions especially) relationships must be developed over time in order for evangelism and discipleship to take place. Giving someone a tract or a gospel witness can be done quickly, but the deeper one on one process of evangelism takes lots of time.

And few things build a bridge into someone’s life more than taking their own needs seriously

  1. By buying them medication
  2. Bringing a bag of essential foods (flour, sugar, rice)
  3. Making them a meal
  4. Checking in on them to see how things are doing
  5. And just being there when times are rough

To use an illustration, evangelism is often like planting a garden. It is possible to simply put a seed into the ground and get a crop. But in most cases growth takes things like watering, weeding, cutting back other plants that take it’s nutrients, and fertilizing the soil. In the same way “loving on people” encourages the soil that has already received the Gospel.

Honestly we probably feed the body and the soul at the same time. But and emphasis on feeding the body (meeting their own needs) creates an openness to Christ.

So over sandwiches, pork chops, hamburgers and hot dogs, or fried chicken I’ll explain the Gospel to Jamie. And as his physical hunger is met, he will realize it’s his soul that’s truly starving.

A Ministry of Big-Print Bibles

The Lord has allowed me to plant the seeds of the Gospel in many hearts through tract distribution over the last five years. This ministry brings me great joy, but there is also a burden to go deeper.

Part of evangelism is sowing the Gospel near and far…

But it also involves entering into a deeper outreach with those whose hearts are tender

The Lord has opened the door for me to begin Bible studies with friends (a number of them unsaved) where we meet one morning, and then read through a passage of Scripture. I’ve seen the Lord greatly use these studies as it gives opportunities for them to ask questions, and more detailed explanation of Scripture.

One of the things holding back these studies was the lack of quality big print Bibles in SVG. Most individuals here have severe cataracts or other eye problems, so reading fine-print Bibles are extremely hard. Adding to the problem is you cannot find many big print Bibles here, and those that can be found are very expensive.

A few months ago I asked friends to send money to purchase twenty big-print Bibles that would then be used to start bible studies in the community. The Lord responded in a way I couldn’t even imagine!

A friend from my home church Salem Baptist contacted me about helping raise some money for the Bibles they could send. After a while they realized they had put the old pew Bibles (they’ve been replaced) in storage. So with the churches permission she sent twenty-five big print Bibles at no cost for me!

I am overwhelmed by the generosity and love of Salem Baptist Church in meeting this need!

Please pray for me as I begin meeting these individuals to deliver their Bibles. Pray the Lord would allow us to meet together during the week, and through the reading of His Word, they may be led to Christ,

Satan is at Work Around You (and you don’t even know it)!

A few weeks ago I was using a visual of this power-point slide from Good Soil Evangelism describing how Satan was cast out of Heaven after rebelling against God.

A girl looked at the picture and said, “that can’t be Satan!”

I asked her why and she said, “Satan is red with pointy horns and a long tail!”

Thankfully I was able to explain that while people may THINK Satan looks that way, he was actually a very beautiful angel.

That conversation reminded me how often we expect Satan to work in huge, or massive ways. When something like persecution, false doctrine, or Believers falling away from the Gospel take place that’s obviously Satan!

Yet Satan doesn’t usually work that way….

Instead he prefers to work in subtle ways so that we don’t actually realize he’s at work till it’s too late.

Satan knows that a direct attack would lead us straight to God since we cannot face him alone. So instead he prefers to take the “back door” so to speak, sneaking slowly but surely into our lives.

It’s helpful then that we understand ways Satan is at work around us without our even knowing it.

  1. Satan opposes our message by blinding the eyes of the unsaved (2 Corinthians 4:4): The unsaved have countless excuses why they cannot accept the Gospel. This is because Satan is continually whispering in their ear “you have plenty of time!”
  2. Satan opposes our witness by making the unsaved believe they are saved when they aren’t (Mark 4:15): Countless unbelievers rely upon works (baptism, church attendance, a prayer they prayed) instead of Christ’s death on the cross
  3. Satan opposes our ministry through Discouragement (1 Thessalonians 2:17): We become so focused on results or activity that a daily walk with the Lord is ignored
  4. Satan opposes our growth through Shame (Revelation 12:10): As the “accuser of the brethren” Satan brings shame and guilt into our hearts when we fail the Lord, and tells us to just give up

These are just a few ways that we are daily surrounded by the work of Satan and his demons.

There are two responses to this

  • Understand we are fighting a spiritual battle
  • And recognize the work of Satan

First we understand just how much of life is a spiritual battle. Many of the challenges that we are face come from Satan himself who is trying to discourage, or distract us from the work of God. So Believers have to wear the armor of God so that during those attacks they can stand firm (Ephesians 6:11-14).

The second is actually more important to me…..

Satan is continually trying to gain a small foothold in my life. Not enough to bring complete rebellion, just a subtle compromise. But that small part will slowly begin to grow bigger and bigger until it consumes my life. So the encouragement of Ephesians 4:27 is needed, “neither give place to the devil.”

Satan wants us looking for someone with big horns and a tail! Because as long as we are doing that, we won’t see him quietly infecting our lives.

From the Archives: French Toast Sticks and Unique Challenges

Originally written July 2015

Last week I had the opportunity to spend five days at the Annual Conference of Baptist Mid Missions [1] in Elyria Ohio. It was an absolutely amazing time that the Lord used to encourage my heart.

  1. Through strong Biblical preaching
  2. Through workshops that gave practical help for challenges Missionaries face
  3. Through fellowship with other Missionaries
  4. And opportunities for short-term ministry placement while the Visa process is completed (this was before coming to Saint Vincent).

What encouraged me more than anything though was the knowledge that other people have struggles like mine

You see Missionaries are “unique people” who therefore face “unique challenges” that few people will understand except for other Missionaries

Unfortunately missionaries have little opportunity to discuss those challenges, and how God helps them since all of the time is spent ministering to others. This becomes a problem because over time Satan can make us (missionaries) believe that we are the only ones who struggle with those challenges.  And of course this leads to our acting as if everything’s fine when it isn’t.

Something like the Annual Conference allows us to step away from work for a few days and become honest about some our needs, which always reveals we aren’t the only ones struggling.

Thursday morning I ate breakfast with some missionary friends from India who had never eaten a “french toast stick” (poor souls). As we finished one of them asked why my return to Australia was delayed and I spent about five minutes giving an answer (Editors note-I could not receive a Permanent Residency Visa in Australia because of changed immigration laws). Once I finished she looked at me and said “that’s exactly what’s happening to us!”.

That simple phrase had an incredible impact because Satan loves to tell me that I’m the ONLY ONE who EVER experienced a delayed return to the mission field…and that’s just not true.

Thinking about that breakfast reminds me of the Prophet Elijah in the Old Testament who in discouragement complained that he was the only one who still stood for God in Israel. God responded by telling Elijah there was there still 7,000 people faithful people in Israel, and soon provided Elisha as a prophet to continue Elijah’s ministry

It is true that most people haven’t gone through the unique challenges I face, but that’s okay, because each of you go through struggles I couldn’t comprehend. We can praise God however that there will always be individuals who can not only understand that challenge, but share how the Lord brought them through it.

A Frugal Generosity

Ministry takes money!!!

There is no getting past this because they expenses of daily ministry (fuel, ministry material, etc) and needs of those around you are definitely going to add up. This is why I’ve had to put a lot of though and prayer into a philosophy of money that’s called “frugal generosity.”

The basic idea goes like this……

I live frugally (simply) myself, so that I can give generously to others

Practically this means I save as much money as possible by being frugal (I prefer that to the word cheap)! Then the savings are organized in a lockbox since I deal mostly with cash. As needs arise for friends or church members the Lord leads me to help, I give out of the savings.

The Lord has greatly used those savings as a ministry to help others! Recently I was able to:

  1. Purchase a plane ticked for a friend who couldn’t afford it on his own
  2. Pay for a church member to have an infected tooth removed
  3. Give out groceries to two family’s without food
  4. And bring a friend to the house for Easter weekend for a time of relaxation

The important thing isn’t the giving though

It is the frugality so that I’m able to give

Living in an area where there isn’t a lot of work means many people have great financial needs. Obviously there are too many for me to reach every one of them, but the Lord has burdened me for those who are struggling (particularly close friends, or strong believers). Commonly individuals in great need will approach me to ask for some help (a few dollars, a bag of sugar, a bag of rice).

So my frugality isn’t just about saving money, its goal is to make sure I have something to put in the hands of the needy.

This basic way of living allows my money to become a tool in the hands of the Lord. For many, money is used for their own comfort, but frugality uses money to share the Love of Christ. Obviously this doesn’t mean I cannot have nice things and take care of myself, or I have to help everyone (I can’t). But frugal generosity ensures that money isn’t all about me.

It’s about those who have very little.

The focus of this post isn’t to make myself look good or ask for pity. It is to encourage others to embrace the frugal life, so that they can give away in a generous way.

Defusing the Bomb

Image taken from a post entitled “stop being so angry” at https://hassemanmarketing.com/

Last Saturday a man living close to me was having a really bad day

I believe that stress, and lack of money led him to spend the day smoking marijuana and drinking rum. This led to some bizarre actions (He would openly weep about the lack of money one moment, and respond in anger the next).

Saturday evening I heard a commotion outside and saw him standing in the middle of the road. At almost the same moment, a friend came down tell the neighbor to leave my dog alone (I later learned he had been hitting my dog who was securely leashed with a stick). Things calmed down, and then the man came out again loudly cursing me (he claimed my dog bit him, which didn’t happen) and the friend.

My friend responded by coming back down ready to physically attack him…..

thankfully I got out the gate before that happened.

As I approached the neighbor he started to immediately calm down. Within a few moments he apologized for how he acted, and asked me to forgive him.

This experience was a vivid reminder that many of us are walking time bombs!

All of us experience stress in life. Normally that stress is at a manageable level, but occasionally the stress of life begins to overwhelm us. Slowly but surely we become more and more burdened, like a rubber band that has been stretched too tight. And like that rubber band, eventually we will have to snap!

Interestingly, it’s usually a small thing that causes an explosion. My dog can peep his head just over the wall surrounding my house (but not bite anybody). I honestly believe in his inebriated state my neighbor THOUGHT the dog had bitten him, and began hitting the dog with a stick to defend himself. It’s also possible he was just trying to play with the dog. But a small thing may have become violent if I hadn’t come to intervene.

Which is why God calls us to defuse the bomb!

The temptation in situations like this to respond with anger or hostility. But that only makes the situation worse! God only gets the glory as we enter into that volatile situation, and bring peace

  1. With a calm (but firm) voice
  2. By separating the individuals (I asked my friend to walk away in order to calm the situation)
  3. By finding out exactly what is making them so angry, and empathizing
  4. By apologizing for what took place (if possible)
  5. And by asking them to help calm the situation

Most of all defusing the bomb illustrates the Gospel which brings peace into chaos!

I was angry when I walked out of my gate Saturday since the neighbor had been acting foolish all day, but by the Grace of God, the Holy Spirit calmed my heart as I walked across the road. So as I walked down the steps towards him it wasn’t with a shouting voice, but one filled with concern.

It was amazing how the peace I displayed affected him….

  1. He immediately put down the cutlass he was carrying (I don’t believe he would do anything with it).
  2. Kept repeating the words “your my friend”
  3. and held his hand out for me to shake (in that moment I didn’t shake it, but made clear I cared about him)
  4. He then told me there would be no more trouble, and left

Later some friends told me the situation went from rage to calmness because I acted like Christ. I’m not sure about that, but know the catalyst of that change was the Holy Spirit’s peace in my heart. As Colossians 3:15 says, “let the peace of God rule in your hearts.” When the peace of the Holy Spirit controls our lives (we rest in God’s sovereignty) we not only keep from being bombs ourselves, but defuse those around us.

Adding to The Family

Last month a boy and his mother had to move out of their home in the area because the rent was too high. They ended up staying temporarily with a friend while organizing money for a new rental property.

The son is a sweet boy I will call “Billy.” He is very good natured, but also incredibly shy, and speaks with a very quiet voice. When he started coming to church with my friend on Sunday nights I wanted to find a way to minister to him. We met a few times at the house for bible lessons, but his being shy made conversation difficult.

Finally Thursday I invited him to come play with some other friends from the neighborhood the next day (we occasionally have “sports days” on Friday so kids can learn to play as a team. He was VERY excited about doing this with them tomorrow.

The other children were less than enthused….

Not because they didn’t like him, but because they didn’t KNOW him.

Since sports days are about learning to work with others I informed them there were two options. Option A let him come and play with them, or Option B stay home. Understandably they chose Option A 🙂

After starting things Friday I went to get Billy. He spent a few minutes off by himself. but then started to play with the other kids. Of course after a while they were playing together as if they’d known each other for years. After sports he sat down alongside them to feast on mangoes from a nearby tree. One of the kids told me they had to make a kite out of sticks, a plastic bag, and thread for school Monday. I offered to help them make the kites, and she immediately said “bring Billy.”

That’s the moment I knew he was accepted

We all built kites yesterday, and were even able to practice flying them at the local park (while trying out the playground equipment). I finally walked Billy home around 3:00 with a huge smile on his face.

What probably drew me to Billy is he’s like me as a child; quiet, shy, and introverted…..

Someone who just needs a friend.

A big part of the Christian life (and missions in general) is finding that individual who needs a friend, inviting them into the family, and making sure that they are accepted. This process sadly can’t involve every child who needs friendship, but it can bring in an as many as possible.

This afternoon Billy asked me if Jamie (not his real name) could come to our reading help ministry. I promised to let him come once I’d go permission from his mother.

May the family keep expanding!

Stop Saying “Stop It!”

picture used from Good Soil Resources Power Point Slides

Last Thursday, Dr. Bob Kelleman founder of RPM counseling ministries, wrote a blog post entitled “Shepherds please think “protect well.” Stop saying “suffer well.”

In it he described the experience of having to pull his drunk father off of his mother who he was beating. The next day his mother secretly began to file for divorce due to repeated abuse by her husband (I don’t believe in divorce, so personally feel she should have made formal charges, and had him arrested. However there is no excuse for staying in an abusive relationship).

Sadly a Christian neighbor came by and “shamed her” for trying to get out of an abusive marriage. This led to five more years of abuse till his mother finally had enough.

Dr. Kelleman takes his own experience and used it to challenge the response of many Christians to those who are in an abusive situation they should “suffer well” by submitting to the abuse. Instead you should “protect well” by confronting the abusers (even if they are in the church).

The principle of telling someone to “suffer well” is to simply throw out Scriptural truth without ministering to the person. Dr. Kelleman describes the Christian neighbor as “marching over to Mom without a shred of empathy, without walking in Mom’s shoes, without entering Mom’s soul.”

He brings up a classic tv sketch with Bob Newhart that I’ve included below where the counselor just says “Stop it!”
countless times to the counselee. In the same way we tell the individual who struggles countless times just to stop with no compassion.

The application isn’t to keep saying “stop it.”

It is to be a friend who helps them do the will of God!

The thing is they don’t need someone who yells “stop it” continually, and most strugglers WANT TO stop it! The point is they can’t without a transformed heart. They need someone who will indeed share the truth, but do it in an attitude of love and humility. Someone who gives them a shoulder to cry on, and a listening ear. Someone who walks a mile in their shoes.

From the Archives: Why God Led Me Away From Volunteering

Originally written June 5, 2015

In early April the Lord told me to do something really strange…step away from every volunteering ministry

This was weird since this was a wonderful way of connecting with the unsaved, and sharing the Gospel. The Lord’s allow me to have an impact on many lives through these ministries for the cause of Christ. And to be honest I still loved doing it.

However realizing the Lord knows what’s best for me more than I do [1] my focus began to revolve around studying and writing instead of active ministry. That was fun for a few days but soon I found myself getting bored.

My first response to this boredom was going online and looking for any new volunteering opportunities in the area, then I remembered God was leading me away from this.

After a week of this different philosophy my frustration was building and I began asking the Lord to open a door of opportunity instead of trying to force it open myself.

God answered in an incredible way

On June 17th I will be on my way to Chittagong, Bangladesh to teach two classes on behalf of Piedmont International University.

The first is an overview of Christology that uses forty Biblical events to describe the Bible’s big story. The second class is an Introduction to Classic Christian Literature which interestingly will be using films on major Christian books since we don’t have time to read them.

In late April when I was asked to teach this class [2] immediately it became clear why God wanted me to step aside from everything else…He was calling me deeper

That’s the thing about God, He loves to open huge amazing doors for us if we let Him.

The problem is we (I) are totally focused on our own strength, and end up pushing with all of our might against a much smaller door (but one we are just sure is God’s Will).

Because God loves us and wants us to choose Him willingly He will give us what’s behind that door.  But He knows they won’t satisfy because the door we walk through is too safe.

Drew Dyck in his book “Yawning at Tigers” (awesome book by the way) describes our choosing safety over God’s Will using the illustration of a lagoon at a resort, and the actual ocean

The problem really wasn’t what was in the lagoon. Its what wasn’t. There were no waves, no spray from the surf, no tides, no coral reefs, no danger, no depths. It wasn’t the ocean (pg.20, par.3)

If the ocean is like God, the lagoon is a poor, but useful replacement. It’s domesticated Christianity. It’s engagement with a letter deity (pg.20, par.5)

In a thousand little ways, we’ve chosen the comfort of the shallows over life in the deep (pg. 21, par.3)

As I prepare for Bangladesh I’m dealing with some conflicting emotions. Part of me would prefer to teach kindergarteners English instead of flying to a foreign Country and teaching Theology, but at the same time I know thats a door that I would have opened instead of God.

And it’s the safe little lagoon.

We can be thankful that God knows deep inside each of us is a craving for something deeper than the average life. And therefore He calls quietly but urgently for us to follow Him into the deeper water.

Editors Note: Soon after that call to deeper water, the Lord led me to Saint Vincent 🙂

When Your House is a Refuge

A friend came over last Friday to spend the long Easter weekend (Friday through Monday) with me, and speak at the church Sunday. Most of the time when friends come to visit I take them around Barrouallie to explain my burden for the people, and we get involved in daily ministry together.

But instead of a time of activity….

The Easter holiday was a time of rest

Those four days became an opportunity to encourage one another

  1. With rest
  2. fellowship
  3. Good food
  4. and lots of coffee!

Ministry has a way of wearing you down with spiritually, physically, and emotionally. This is why it’s necessary to take a break for rest and relaxation from time to time. Usually this calls for a place of refuge or reset where you can just be away from everyone else for a few days. For my friend that place of refuge was my house!

I used to question the importance of these breaks, after all there is still work to do! But then I realized it’s hard to minister when your exhausted.

In the past I used to go to America once a year for two-weeks every Christmas. This wasn’t an extended time away, but it allowed me to go through a time of rest and renewal. That usually involved being incredibly lazy for two or three days catching up on my rest, and then starting the work of strategic planning. By day ten I was refreshed, and ready to go back at it!

Of course not all of us can go to America…..

So we go to Barrouallie (the next best thing)!

During the weekend we went through the same basic cycle

  • Sleep
  • Eat
  • Drink Coffee
  • Talk about life
  • Repeat

I know that sounds incredibly boring and lazy, but for someone used to hustling from one ministry event to another, this is EXACTLY what they need!

The Greek New Testament has a word καταφεύγω (katapheugó) that we translate as “refuge” but is better translated “run to refuge.” The basic idea is a place where you can run for safety or rest. In the Christian life we all need to have a καταφεύγω to run to in times of stress or exhaustion. A place where we can refocus our eyes on the Savior, and draw closer to Him.

Last weekend reminded me how much my friend and I truly needed a time of rest. And it also reminded me there are countless men who need a refuge that offers food, coffee, rest, and encouragement from the Word of God. May the Lord help me keep my door open for those who long for a refuge.

What Happens When the Music Ends

The Lord has given me a great love for Saint Vincent and the people of SVG so I prefer being here to America! But there are a few things about Saint Vincent (and Barrouallie in particular) that make me angry.

Not angry at the people…..

But angry about how Satan has deceived the people.

And at the top of the list that make me angry is Vincentians love of a party culture.

Like everywhere else, the people of SVG are always looking for an excuse to have a party. Of course during that party their life is filled with happiness! But that happiness does not last. The next day they are left depressed (and usually without any money) waiting for the next party.

The sad truth is once the music ends (the party is over) they are in a much worse state than before.

I was recently reminded of that painful truth because Covid mandates have recently been removed here, which opens the door for parties. Over the Easter weekend on Saturday a huge dance party event was held for young adults and teens in a nearby facility.

Then on Sunday videos started coming in (none of which I have watched, or want to watch)

  1. Of a girl passed out on the floor while a young man dances over her with his pants down
  2. Of another girl rubbing against a young man who has exposed his penis
  3. And of another who was so drunk, her friends had to lead her along by the hand so she wouldn’t fall down

As horrific as these videos are, the truly sad thing is things like that have been happening for many years, long before smart-phones allowed them to be recorded and shared. Generations of people have learned the happiness of sin is gone once the music stops.

The Biblical response to this lie of Satan isn’t to remind them of what happens when the music ends (they are aware of that)…..

It is to show them Christ is sweeter than the world.

It is only through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that true happiness can come into a life. He is source of our peace, courage, wisdom, and joy. It is because of Him we can display Godliness in the greatest trial. His strength is what helps us in our weakest moment.

Of course this doesn’t mean the Christian life is always enjoyable. In fact, the life of sin is guaranteed to be more fun because those who serve the Lord will be attacked by Satan. However in that suffering there will be a true satisfaction that comes from the presence of God. One that doesn’t rely on alcohol, music, or emotion.

What those in the party culture must understand is the world cannot make you truly happy. This happens as Believers approach them after the music ends not with an attitude of condemnation, but love that proclaims the mercy and grace of God.

In a few months carnival will come to Saint Vincent for the first time in three years (it’s been shut down for two years because of Covid). My heart already aches for what will take place in July. At the same time I am thankful that God opens the door for the Gospel to be shared when the music ends.

Rum is not the Problem!

This morning I went to visit some friends, and almost immediately noticed Jamie (not his real name) had a very sizeable wound under his right eye.

The wound itself broke my heart, but what bothered me more was I knew exactly how it happened……

He had become drunk, and face-down on the ground.

Jamie is a very hard worker, but he’s absolutely addicted to strong rum that can be purchased here cheaply (a small bottle is about seven East Caribbean dollars). Most of the time Jamie is running errands for the owners of local shops who instead of giving him money, give bottles of rum. Because he has a learning disability, it’s easier for people to take advantage of Jamie by giving shots of rum instead of money, so he often goes a day without eating.

Even more heartbreaking the community of Barrouallie is filled with Jamie’s.

These individuals may not struggle mentally like Jamie does, but just like him, their lives revolve around strong rum.

Which brings up the question…..how do we reach people like Jamie?

The first step is understanding rum is not their problem

I visit with Jamie’s mother almost every week so we can pray, and read Scripture together. As you can imagine her heart breaks seeing the affect alcohol has on her son just like me. This pain leads her to confront her son almost daily about not drinking. Occasionally Jamie will stop drinking for a short-period of time (a few weeks) but soon he’s back to spending most of his day at the rum shop.

The point is telling someone to stop drinking is not enough because rum is not the problem!

The HEART is the problem!

The reason Jamie (and so many others) are enslaved by rum is their hearts are far away from God. Even if they DID stop drinking successfully, that won’t change their filthy heart! So instead of focusing on the rum (a symptom of the sin problem) we must focus on their heart relationship with God. Only the Gospel of Christ can truly break their cycle of addiction.

Reaching the Jamie’s of this world isn’t about telling them “stop it!” but about explaining the truths of Scripture in a loving way. Recently I began cooking for Jamie a few times a week. Eventually those meals will lead a time when we can read Scripture and discuss the Gospel on my front porch. Pray for me as I continue to build a stronger relationship with Jamie, and point him to my Saviour.

Because once someone has drank from the fountain of living waters, rum isn’t good enough anymore.

Missions is Killing the Chicks

Picture from https://thefarmingfoodie.com/everything-you-need-to-know-about-raising-baby-chicks/

There is a hen in the community who has taken a liking to my backyard. She will lay her eggs secretly, and suddenly one morning I’ll see six our eight chicks following her around.

Now I love all animals….

but those chicks have to die!

The reason why is their mother ravages the backyard finding food for them

  1. Ripping up tomato plants
  2. Destroying flowers
  3. Digging massive holes in the yard
  4. And biting into the mangoes that fall from my tree, and are given to people in the community

That last part for me is the most frustrating because there are people who don’t have much food, and really enjoy the mangoes I give to them. But the mother hen would destroy every one the moment it hit the ground!

So last week I finally decided to do something about the chicks. After putting a leash on my trusty guard dog Vincy I let him loose in the backyard for some “chick hunting.” There is actually one chick left, but I’m pretty sure mama has left him, so he gets a reprieve for now.

I realize letting my dog kill those baby chicks may seem barbaric….but the damage they were doing to my property made it necessary.

There is a good correlation between those chicks and my sin-nature.

Often a sin may seem “small and unimportant.” It may even seem cute! But that small sin will do incredible amounts of damage to my Christian life and testimony. Over time it will grow bigger and multiply itself. Soon the whole backyard will be filled with destructive chickens!

It is far better to do the hard work of putting that sin to death as Romans 6 tells us through the power of the Spirit.

I am grateful for this visual reminder that sometimes the most gracious thing I can do for my sin is kill it

An Australian Memory: Goodbye Kev

Editors Note:  The Following post was written on May 14, 2015 in honor of my Kev IV my latest inflatable kangaroo who people would sign during my furlough meetings  

Editors note: With the completion of my school ministry and a “farewell tour” for Kev IV my inflatable Kangaroo last week I wanted to write him a fictional letter of thanks for being such a huge help to my ministry.

Dear Kev,

Please don’t be offended as I put you in storage along with your Great Grandfather (Kev Sr.), Grandfather (Kev Jr.), and Father (Kev III). The truth is nothing has done more for my ministry (except for the Gospel) than a collection of inflatable kangaroos.

The funny thing is it all started as a joke in 2009 when my Aussie friends presented your Great Grandfather to me (while singing the Australian national anthem off-key). The idea was to take random pictures of Kev Sr. and put them on Facebook while in the States on furlough.

Somewhere along the line I decided to start taking your Great Grandfather to Churches with me while presenting my ministry. I’ll never forget the night a little girl walked up to me and asked in a very quiet voice, “can I sign him?”

The rest was history

Truthfully I started bringing Kev Sr to Churches because it was fun.

  1. To see the expressions on people’s faces when I walked down the hall with an inflatable kangaroo under my arm
  2. To see children’s eyes light up when I pulled him out of the car
  3. And to see motorists do a double (or triple) take when I let your Great Grandfather ride shotgun

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But I started bringing him for a different reason…to create a relationship with people.

The awesome thing about being a Missionary is it allows me to share my burden for Australia with people all around the United States. The bad news is I often only get to see them once, and we usually only spend one service together (around an hour) which of course isn’t enough to develop a real relationship.

The thing is I want to have that kind of relationship with people

  1. One that shares the bad news as well as the good
  2. That allows them to become an active part of my ministry
  3. That interacts with them (finds their needs, and ministers to them when possible)
  4. And leaves room for the random or ridiculous experiences of life to be shared

Thankfully with Social Media it’s possible to have this kind of relationship. The problem is getting the contact info from people so that relationship can be created. The sign up sheet for updates would always be on my table, but it seemed as if it wouldn’t gain much interest.

Eventually I realized that there needed to be something that created a bridge between that service, and a relationship that would continue outside of the Church building using Social Media.

Over the years your ancestors (and yourself) have been that bridge. As people signed their names on a kangaroo with sharpie it was more than just something fun…it was the beginning of a relationship.

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Now don’t worry buddy even though the farewell tours over you aren’t being “put out to pasture” just yet. We have a Vacation Bible School coming up next month, and I just know those kids won’t forgive me if Kev IV doesn’t come along. And even after that there’s always going to be a need for me to create those deeper relationships.

Besides…I still love seeing the looks on people’s faces the first time they see you

Missions is Going Back to Prison

Last week I was able to visit the Belle-Isle correctional facility for the first time in fifteen-months. It was an incredible blessing to restart our weekly services with singing, testimonies, special music, and a message from God’s Word.

Last week was a time of great rejoicing….

but we have lots of work to do!

Because this ministry is run by the prison system instead of our church, assemblies of all denominations are allowed to come and teach. This leads to a lot of confusion because groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses openly teach false doctrine, and many of the inmates hold to a view of works Salvation because of what they hear from other speakers. In 2020 we had some question and answer sessions because a group of them believed you had to worship on the Sabbath day (Saturday) in order to be saved because the Seventh Day Adventists preached it.

In a perfect situation I wouldn’t be involved with a ministry that allows other groups to teach false doctrine. At the same time, I’m obligated to preach the truth! So The best way to stop the growth of false doctrine in the prison is to clearly explain the true Gospel.

A deeper problem than false doctrine is the fact that many of these men either don’t have a personal relationship with Christ, or someone who can disciple and train them with Scripture. Within the prisons structure where they have services every day, the men do well. But few have the spiritual maturity to continue serving the Lord after leaving the facility.

They may want to serve the Lord and turn from their old ways, but the temptation of friends, and difficulty of taking care of their own needs leads them right back to prison. A former prisoner explained it this way, “the only people who were waiting outside the gate for me when I got out of prison were the people who put me there in the first place!”

The false doctrine, and demand for spiritual maturity makes it incredibly important that our prison ministry emphasizes Salvation.

I firmly believe many of the men know exactly what to say so people think they are saved, but they don’t know the Lord. They may even deceive themselves by relying on good works, or a prayer (just saying words not really a conscious decision) for Salvation instead of faith in Christ. This is why the true Gospel must be clearly, and patiently explained.

Please pray for me as I move from a “teaching focus” in the prison ministry that emphasized doctrine, to an “evangelistic focus” that emphasizes personal faith in Christ. Pray that the brief time I have with them every Wednesday can be used by the Holy Spirit to convict hearts, and lead them to Salvation. Also pray if it’s God’s will I could begin discipling some of those men, either in the prison or outside after they have left.

May the Lord help our time on Wednesdays lead towards transformation instead of rehabilitation. Because rehabilitation only impacts the outer symptoms of the problem, while transformation changes the heart.

Missions is Remembering the Truth…..

We used to have a visitation team that would go out every Sunday afternoon visiting senior saints. Because they couldn’t physically come to church, we “brought church to them” by singing older gospel songs, sharing from the word, and encouraging their hearts with fellowship.

All of them loved our visits because not many people came to see them, but one was particularly excited when we came. Everyone called her “granny” (not her real name).

She became so excited about our visits she wanted to see us more often!

Because this wasn’t possible (our list of saints to visit keeps us from visiting each one every week) I promised to come see her personally. And so, in early 2017 I started visiting granny on Thursday mornings. We’ve been doing that consistently over the last five years, except for an extended time she spent outside of Barrouallie during the pandemic.

Thursday mornings with Granny have been a great blessing to my heart as she excitedly shared stories of her childhood, read Scripture, and sang some of the older Gospel hymns….and many Sundays I brought her to church (possibly the highlight of her week).

But the pandemic changed that…..

When Covid was strong I told Granny I couldn’t bring her to church because she was almost eighty, and had breathing problems (asthma). Sadly since that day in 2020 she hasn’t come to church. Not because of protocols, but her health and strength has taken a downturn during the pandemic. She used to walk up the steps to her house after church without much of a problem, now it takes all of her strength to come off the porch.

Worse than her physical weakness is Granny’s mental weakness.

During the pandemic she began to forget more and more, then recently she started to adamantly tell me things occurred that never happened! This loss of mental focus is probably due to the fact that she doesn’t leave the house.

It is frustrating to see a woman who a few years ago pre-pandemic had an incredibly strong mind struggle to understand what she said a few moments ago……

But she still knows the truth!

Last week I wrote a short devotional (you can read it here) about my visit with Granny last week. She was angry because being home was incredibly boring, and she wanted to go to church. To brighten her mood I spent lots of time singing older hymns with her. It was amazing to see the smile on her face as I started in on one of her favorite hymns (I know her favorites), and two or three words in, she joined me without missing a single word!

I will miss the Thursday mornings discussing Scripture with Granny on the porch when her mind is strong. But as this dear saint nears the end of her journey I will enjoy Thursday mornings reminding her of the truth she’s temporarily forgotten.

Satan Hates the Church!

Last Sunday night I was speaking from 1 Timothy 4:1-5 on the subject of Satan’s lies. Two men were there who didn’t know the Lord (one has been consistently coming on Sunday nights, the other came for the first time) so I prayed as the sermon began to close that the Lord would work in their hearts.

My closing challenge was “Satan has right where he wants you” and used the well-known illustration of a painting that depicted Satan playing chess with a man. In the painting Satan is getting ready to take the mans king ending the game (and taking his soul) so it’s named “check mate.” However, a famous chess player studying the painting realized the man had ONE MOVE LEFT! Of course the application of that illustration is Christ’s the only way we can escape Satan’s condemnation.

As I told the story of the chess painting the Holy Spirit was at work…..

But that’s when the drunk man decided to come in.

I believe he had no interest in coming to church, but seeing his friends inside, decide to come in too. But being drunk he became a huge distraction by changing seats three times (eventually sitting on the front row!) and talking very loudly. So I asked him in a kind, but authoritative voice to leave because he was distracting everyone.

Sadly the moment was lost after he left. My unsaved friend talking with me Wednesday night said the Holy Spirit was really working in his heart, but the distraction made him angry about the drunken man interrupting church.

The next morning the drunk man (now sober) immediately gave me a hug, and apologized profusely for the way that he had acted last Sunday night. I forgave him because he was truly repentant, and explained the best way to prove he was sorry was showing up sober.

Last Sunday was a painful reminder that Satan hates the church, and will do anything he can to keep people from accepting Christ!

But this hatred of Satan can never keep us from doing the work of God

Because God loves the Church!

These setbacks of Satan are frustrating, but they give opportunities to live out what we preach. People saw my gracious response to the drunk, and willingness to forgive him for his foolish actions. And that made my testimony stronger!

The two men who came last Sunday returned last night with three of their friends! I spoke to all three today who said they really enjoyed the service, and will be coming again.

Satan will always persecute the church because he hates it…..

But he cannot prevail against it.

The Fear is Fun

In late July 2021 I had TWO eyes that gave excellent vision! The rest of my medical furlough focused on two things. Making memories, and studying for future college classes.

Memories were made with my brother and his family by visiting a local amusement park twice. There’s something about riding roller coasters that bonds you!

Going there twice also reminded me of an important truth…..

Fear is part of the fun!

The first time we went it was incredibly busy so we didn’t get to ride many of the popular rides. The second time it was totally different! Now we could ride a scary roller coaster, then turn around and get back on a second less than ten minutes later.

More than one of those rides frightened me! I got on anyways because my fourteen year old niece was with me (couldn’t let her see me being a chicken) but as those rides left my heart was racing. Sometimes that first ride was PRETTY SCARY! The interesting thing was the second time we rode it, that ride wasn’t so bad anymore. And after the third time it didn’t scare me at all!

The thing about fear is it’s great…..until we face it!

We often envision the worst-case-scenario about things that frighten us. Taking things that would probably never happen, and making this the only option keeps us from attempting it at all. But when we actually force ourselves to face the thing we feared it surprisingly isn’t so scary after all.

The trick is to not wait until our fear is gone before attempting things. The Christian life will always be a combination of fear and faith. The fear will definitely be there, but the faith will always be bigger than the fear.

So take my advice dear friend and face your fears.

Close your eyes if you have to, and scream at the top of your lungs

I promise you will enjoy the ride.

Looking for Fruit

Ministering in a religious mission field creates many different challenges. One of the greatest is understanding when a person is truly saved. A religious person can believe the right things, do the right things, and even pray a sinners prayer without becoming saved.

So how do we know when Salvation has come?
We look for fruit!

Its true religious can do things. But the fruit of Salvation is a TRANSFORMED LIFE! As mentioned earlier this week, religious people focus on Godly action’s while their own hearts are incredibly sinful. Salvation transforms and cleanses the heart of an individual, so a dramatic change takes place overnight.

This transformation is seen in the change, but the consistency of that change is what truly reveals who has been transformed.

The decisions of a religious person are normally based on emotion or circumstances. So they start strong (sometimes even stronger than everyone else) but quickly run out of energy. The blazing fire seems to become a pile of ashes overnight.

True transformation on the other hand keeps burning!

This doesn’t mean there will never be struggles for the new Christian of course. They will find themselves on the front lines of spiritual warfare! Satan will do ANYTHING to keep them from serving the Lord. But the true Believer has the power and presence of the Holy Spirit to help withstand Satan’s attacks. The young Believer obviously won’t be perfect but with God’s help they will stand firm.

The problem with the religious is they fall down, and never get back up.

Many people refer to themselves as backsliding Christians. They were doing well, but then messed up spiritually. But don’t worry because they will “catch themselves” (make it right). I always ask people when they backslid, and its usually over seven years ago.

That is not a backslider….

That is an unbeliever!

A true Believer would return to the Lord because the conviction of being away from Him would be far too great for them to endure. Only those who don’t really have a relationship with the Lord can walk away for that long.

It is tough sometimes inspecting spiritual fruit. In a way it would be easier to just let the person believe they are saved. But for those who don’t know the Lord, telling them the hard truth is the most loving thing I could possibly do!

God’s Way is Best

A week after my first eye surgery in July 2021, they did a surgery on a much less severe cataract in my right eye. After the first surgery I was able to see things far away and at a decent size clearly. But small (fine) print was still a huge struggle.

The reason for this is because I qualified for a special cataract surgery (I can’t remember the name of it) that sees close using the right eye, and far away using the left eye. The trick is you have to be accustomed to having a “dominant eye.” For someone with contacts, this means you only put them in one eye instead of both. People who don’t have a dominant eye cannot use this type of surgery.

Over the years I’ve begun putting a contact in my left eye only, and have been able to see clearly. So I asked the surgeon if it was possible for me to get the special surgery. We talked about it, and he agreed.

The beauty of this surgery is it eliminates the need for corrective lenses entirely!

I was pretty sure it would work, but excited to try. One thing I hadn’t been able to do is have devotions from my Bible because the print was too fine to read without the surgery. My hope was the morning after the last surgery I’d be able to read it.

I got the surgery Wednesday, and Thursday morning grabbed a cup of coffee, with my Bible. I slowly opened it and looked down…..

I could see the words perfectly!!!

This experience has reminded me how God doesn’t always do things by our own timing. But when He does the work it is glorious! The Lord did more than I expected (getting my eyes fixed so the contacts could work properly) by eliminating the contacts altogether!!

It is hard waiting on the Lord sometimes. But we can take heart in knowing He will bless abundantly

A Circumcision of the Heart

Reaching a religious mission field first of all involves showing individuals that being religious is not the same as being saved. But it is also involves showing Believers that the Christian life is not about religion.

The sad truth is many believers are saved by Grace through faith…..

And then try to live the Christian life by works

A lot of times this isn’t even a conscious thing because the focus is on outer acts such as attending church, prayer, and reading Scripture. Of course these things are wonderful, but the most important thing to God is a personal relationship walking closely with Him. This emphasis on works can make us believe that we are close to the Lord when this isn’t really true.

I can remember when the Lord taught me this in the eleventh grade. Up till this point I had accepted Christ, was actively involved in the church, and had accepted the call to preach. So I was in no way rebellious or wicked! But the whole emphasis was on just doing what the Lord wanted me to do.

One Wednesday night at youth meeting a friends brother gave a devotional from Romans 2:29. As he explained how the Jews were emphasizing outer works like physical circumcision while the Lord cared about an inner relationship, the Holy Spirit began to convict me. Suddenly I realized that Christianity is a relationship with God, not something that we do.

As an illustration its about the difference between a personal and public relationship with God. A public relationship with God is absolutely a part of Christianity with the outer works. Yet there must also be a personal (private) relationship with Him based on time spent in meditation, Bible study, and prayer. It is the personal time spent with the Lord that’s truly important to God. Unfortunately many Believers have a vibrant public relationship, but a weak personal relationship.

The answer to this problem is to start with the personal relationship, and work from there.

As a person focuses on their heart relationship with God (time spent with Him, commitment to Him) then the public relationship will become vibrant. Now the outer acts such as church memberships are forms of worship that flow out of a heart that truly loves the Lord.

The Apostle Paul is right in asking the Galatians if they are foolish enough to think faith can save them, and then works can perfect the Christian life (Galatians 3:3). The same religious works that could never save someone, could never bring Holiness.

Time with Family

The major reason for my medical furlough was the cataracts on both my eyes (the one on the left was very severe). But that definitely wasn’t the only thing I was looking forward to.

One major goal during this furlough was to spend time with family.

the Lord knows that missions work takes us away from our families. This is a sacrifice I make willingly (as well as my family) because salvation and discipleship of souls is a great calling. At the same time, going years without seeing family face to face (it had been 2 1/2 years since I’d been in the States) was a challenge.

So after getting my eyes fixed, my only goal was to spend time with family. Ministry could have been done during that time, but I honestly wanted to focus on being present with loved ones.

Because family is precious

A few days after my first eye surgery (but before my second) I went out to eat with my dad and brother. It was a wonderful time of fellowship talking about the past, and what God has for us in the future. The lord brought many opportunities to simply spend time with my family, and recharge.

It’s funny how the small things affect us sometimes.

When I think about the medical furlough my mind doesn’t go to the eye surgeries

  1. I remember drinking coffee with my dad while we go to Lowes
  2. I remember taking my mom out on date
  3. I remember make a silly video with my nephew
  4. I remember spending the night at my brothers house and watching movies with my nieces and nephew
  5. I remember riding roller coasters with my teenage niece

Yes I’m incredibly thankful my eyes were fixed

But I’m more thankful for a family to spend time with after they were fixed

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