good books make you think

I recently (yesterday) re-read Every Man's Battle. It's really a very good book. But I wanted to steal a quote which they cited from a Leonard Ravenhill book entitled, Revival Praying,

"This present day is like an arena whose terraces are filled with the militant godless, the brilliant and belligerent skeptics, plus the blank-faced heathen millions, all looking into the empty ring to see what the Church of the living God can do. How I burn at this point! What are we Christians doing? To use a very tattered phrase, are we just "playing church?'"

I once had a college student quit volunteering with middle school kids because he said he couldn't' stand the fishbowl. I asked him what was wrong with the fishbowl and he said he couldn't live like he wanted to with everybody watching him. I asked him if had listened to what he just said. He didn't see a problem with it.

I'm not trying to point fingers. I'm really not. Nor sling mud. We all just get muddy then. But I am wondering at what point will people take seriously the call to walk with Christ.

I am not talking legalism here. Legalism is faked righteousness through outward behavior to make ourselves good enough for God to love us. It's outward appearances without inward transformation. I'm talking about our outward actions matching our inner belief. I'm talking about transformation that manifests itself in a changed life, not merely a personal, inward change that only I can see. That's part of the deal, but a little like rebuilding the motor in a car but never putting it back into the engine compartment and connecting it to the transmission. Sure you have a good motor, but what's the point of a motor if it isn't motoring something along?

The first verb of the Great Commission is go. There are a lot of verbs in the New Testament regarding how believers are to act, what we are to do, how we are to live. Be holy. Do the work of a evangelist. Be men of courage. Love your neighbor. Be on the alert.

We are a people who do because we are. We have been transformed and are being transformed, but the church in general (at least the church in the US and here in Guatemala) often has little outward impact on the world in which it is found.

The Great Commission commands us to Go. Make. Baptize. Teach. We are commanded to not have a hint of sexual immorality; flee from it. To consider others more important than ourselves. To love the Lord with every facet of our being. To not show partiality. To not embitter our children. We are not to get drunk or stay angry. We are to be a people who reflect the very holiness of God.

Alas, we are poor mirrors.

I certainly do not live a perfect life. I truly do not. But I want people to examine my life, evaluate it, and point out where my behavior is inconsistent with my belief. Why?

Because the world is watching. The militant godless, the brilliant and belligerent skeptics, the blank-faced heathen millions are watching to see what the people who call them to salvation really do. How they really live. If it's really worth it. If it really works. If God is real, then so should be our transformation.

A terrible thought, that last one. But see, God is real. And His reality is not based upon my faithfulness or my belief. My failure does not impact His deity. He is not made less or more by our belief. He is God, has always been God, and will remain God even if not one single person believes in Him. He is wholly other than we and will remain so for eternity.

But I do believe. And so do a whole bunch of other people. And I want the God in whom I believe, the Savior in whom I trust, the Spirit who fills me and guides me; I want them to rule me. I want them to change me. And I want them to change the world around me for God's glory. I want us to stop playing church and start living Christ. And I want to start today.


please get a new plate

I really ought to stop saying I have things I want to blog about and just blog about them. So here's a little Random Buffet.

- I've been keeping up with the UN and G20 events over the past few days. I find politics and world leaders generally interesting. But the UN is like a mish-mash therapy group that never does anything but talk. They just let people say whatever they want to say and then ask for money. How do you give a man (Ahmadinejad - president of Iran) who denies the Holocaust a platform for discussion? Can you imagine what people would do if he said that Dr. King was never murdered or that 9/11 was faked? It is almost as ludicrous as saying there is no moon and kittens are evil. The idiocy of my fellow man baffles me.

- People need to stop getting divorced. Quit using the Bible as an excuse while you blame the other person. If your spouse leaves you, that's different. You can't control other people. But if you aren't going to stay married don't get married. Just live together - if your going to sin you might as well be blatant about it. Or don't be in relationships. Didn't we learn a long time ago that lying is bad? Unless you said something different on your wedding day than all the rest of us, you can't stop being married until one of you dies. I know it's hard. Life is hard. Things that are difficult grow us up. And if you want a divorce that's clear evidence that you need to grow up.

- Being a parent is really hard. For me, being married is just fantastic. "A wife of noble character is the crown of her husband" says the Proverbs, and man is that true. I guess that applies to husbands of noble character as well. Anyway, being a parent is really, really hard. It just is. I guess if we didn't give a hoot about out kids it would be easier, but since we love them and want them to love the Lord and understand who He is and to live lives that honor and please Him, we have our work cut out for us. They aren't born knowing how to behave. We have to teach them. The lie. They scream. They press their little (but powerful) wills against our own to see who will win. They make messes and break things and disappoint us. They eat gross things and get body fluids everywhere. They climb on us and poke us in the eye and spread toothpaste all over the bathroom. They track in grit and beetles and smear yogurt on their Sunday hair. And our two children have a combined age of about 5. What will the next decade bring?

And yet we love them. Just. Because. They. Are. That's the answer I give my 3 year old when he asks my why I love him. Just because you are. And all the messes and breakage and punches to the groin and stabs in the heart change none of that. I learned that from God. Because He so loved us that he gave us his only son and the Great Lie is that somewhere, somehow, someone told us that God doesn't love us and we lived our lives according to that lie. But we, if we do nothing else, will have children who never doubt their parent's love. We have and will make mistakes as parents, but the one mistake will will never make is letting our children think we don't love them. And that's what makes being a parent so hard.

That went longer than expected. I was going to talk about my Quest for the Perfect Biscuit but that will wait for another time.


Hello, Sunday

Well it is now Sunday afternoon. What a wonderful thing, Sunday afternoons.

We had a busy week being hospitable and enjoying lots of company. We had the Foote family (6 total) stay with us for 2 nights and fed them lots of food. Starting Wednesday at dinner we fed 12, then 14 for breakfast (homemade biscuits and gravy) then 24 for lunch on Thursday. It was a lot of fun. Like a family reunion.

I thought I would get time to blog a little more last week but proved myself wrong. I am quite good at that.

There are probably too many things to type up so I'll have to put things on the back burner and just blog as I have time.

After church today we tried a restraunt down the street for lunch. Q79, with a tip. That's $9.63 for the whole family. Not bad. We'll see if any of us gets sick. That's always the kicker.

We now get an ABC feed (channel 7 out of L.A.) and were happy to see Texas Tech vs. Texas last night. What a hoot. I think the Cowboys play tonight and if we get that, I am going to watch it. Unless the power is off again in which case...I won't.

One of the things I have been thinking about is how important it is to teach people how to think. If anything is an obstacle to work in the church here it is that people have not been taught how to think for themselves. To look at an issue (pick your poison) and distill it down to the actual problem, then evaluate it according to what the Bible teaches and make decisions accordingly.

Most leaders here repeat what someone else taught them without evaluating what was taught, using Scripture as the base for understanding.

I have noticed that people say that the Bible can mean so many different things that it's impossible to be sure what you believe. The Bible means something different to everybody. But that just isn't true. The Scripture is God's revelation to us - not to confuse us - but to teach us who He is and how to live and act and love here on planet earth.

Certainly there are passages that are obscure and very difficult to understand - but the main things are the clear things and the clear things the main things. I confess I grow weary of the Bible being used as a collection of proof texts instead of the living and active Word of God. We are under the Bible's authority, not the other way around. And the body of Christ has spent so much more time arguing the minutiae instead of obeying the obvious that I wonder some days how we are functioning at all.

I'd better get off my soap box before I upset someone. Not that many people read my blog (at least I don't' think they do) but I'll save that last point for a post in itself...I'm off to take a nap.


Country Cousins are go

This week ought to be fun. We're on a team with 5 other missionary couples who are spread out over a good chunk of Guatemala. We call ourselves the Country Cousins because only one of the couples lives in Guatemala City. Including the kids there are 4 generations spreading from 21 months to 84 years. It's wonderful. But this month they are all coming to our house! We're so pumped. As strange as it seems, we just love having adult Americans stay with us overnight. We love Guatemalans, of course, but it's fun to sit and have conversations in English and play a board game without explaining everything.

We get to plan meals for people with dietary restrictions and think about what people would like to eat that we can make a lot of for not much money...and we're truly enjoying it quite a bit. We need to go to the Market today and buy all our fruits and vegetables because Gladys has tomorrow off for Guatemalan independence day and without her it takes us about 4 times as long to clean and bleach all the produce. She's a machine.

It will be a lot of normal life with all the preparations thrown in. But it's fun. It's practicing hospitality and for us it is simply a joy. I hope everyone else enjoys it as much as we do.

Hopefully I'll have some time to blog about something more substantiative tomorrow.


Never Forget

To the nearly 200 terrified people who jumped to your death - I remember.

To the 411 firefighters, cops, paramedics and port authorities who perished - I remember.

To the people of flight 11, 175, 77 and 93 - I remember

To the 327 foreign nationals who died on our soil - I remember.

To the 125 who died at the Pentagon - I remember.

To the 19 who murdered them all - I remember.



We're on this team called a Transformation Team or T2 for short. Aside from the fact that it reminds me of the best Terminator movie (hands down), I think it's a pretty good name. And a marvelous idea. The actually comes from the phrase, "transformed to transform" and is basically how our mission is being run. A bunch of disciples fulfilling the great commission.

Our team meets once a month and we're called the Country Cousins mainly because we're sort of spread out over Guatemala. One couple from the City, us 4 hours away, another couple 2 hours from us, and 3 couple more or less living near Lake Atitlan (a really cool lake that is behind us in my profile pic). So we most often meet in the middle at the lake.

But this month everyone is headed out to our house. 6 couples. We could not be more pumped. Jenny and I have discovered the delight of hospitality. We both come by it genetically through our most hospitable moms. Learning how to host people and practice hospitality as a couple has been such a delight. We love it. We love feeding people and planning meals and eating and even cleaning up afterwards because we love people and that's part of how you do it. They'll be about 20 of us crammed into our house and we hope it's a hoot. If you don't know what I mean by, "It's a hoot" you have also probably never had really good sweet tea or butter roll and need to visit your Southern friends and let them teach you what it means.

We won't meet for a week. Can't wait.


the art of living

Normally I get all excited about a Psalm and then blog about it. I still love the Psalms, but there is a well known book right next door that may contain the most well known (if not least applied) verses in the Bible.

It's been said that Psalms is for the heart and Proverbs for the head. All those little verses were designed to stick in our brain. Like "Got Milk?" and "Where's the Beef?" and "Just do it.", we remember them. They are axiomatic, aphoristic. They click with us. We get them. They make sense. When we read one we say, "oh yeah, that's so true."

Like these:

25:20: " Singing light songs to the heavyhearted
is like pouring salt in their wounds."

25:11: " The right word at the right time
is like a custom-made piece of jewelry."

What did you think when you read those? They are so true. They make sense. They are true to life. What's worse than someone being cheery when you are sad? And how precious is it when someone speaks just the right words to you at just the right time? Worth more than gold. They make sense because that's how life is. It doesn't matter that they were written 2,700 years ago.

I have heard the Bible called "God's Instruction Manual". To be honest I find that description pretty awful. It puts the word of God on par with books that tell us how to clean a waffle iron or set the time on our DVD player. But I understand the sentiment. If you want to know how to do life, go to the Bible. The beef I have with the phrase is that the purpose of the Bible is not only to instruct but to transform. God wants us to study His word so that we will be changed, not just instructed. Maybe we can change the phrase to "God's Transformation Manual" but that's just awkward so I'll drop that altogether and get back to what I was talking about.

The thing about Proverbs is that they ought to be savored, mulled over and thought about. They are easy to memorize. You probably have a few memorized even if you don't know chapter and verse. Just about every aspect of life is talked about in the Proverbs from sex to money to marriage to how to be a friend. It is a book about the art of living. And it's one that is best read slowly and thoughtfully and repeatedly. With 31 chapters you can just pick the date and read that chapter.

But the kicker with Proverbs is application. Think what a difference it woudl make it we applied just these few:

21:23 Watch your words and hold your tongue;
you'll save yourself a lot of grief.

16:18 Pride goes before destruction,
a haughty spirit before a fall.

Just those two. Wow. If I actually applied those to my life...wow. Want to avoid destruction? Want to avoid causing yourself a lot of grief? Hold your tongue. Don't be prideful. Amazing. True. Simple. Proverbial. There is, literally, a lifetime of instruction in those 31 chapters, all of it meant to change our behavior. All of it meant to help us be people of wisdom. To be people who live life well. To be artists at life and thus reflect our Creator.

So let's see...today is the 5th. Chapter 5 starts off with this, from The Message (fantastic for Proverbs)

Dear friend, pay close attention to this, my wisdom; listen very closely to the way I see it.
Then you'll acquire a taste for good sense; what I tell you will keep you out of trouble.

That sounds like a good start to me.


in passing

Someone once told me to always remember the phrase, "This too shall pass." It sounds like something my mom would say but I can't remember if it was her or another sage so it shall remain in the general wisdom compartment of my brain.

It sure is a handy phrase.

Today I think I'm basically over whatever it was that made me sick. That makes 5 days of it. The kids are just about better, minus a cough. It passed. I know several of you have been praying for us. Thank you.

Last night when our son awoke at 1 something because he wanted me to adjust his covers? This too shall pass. Not that I wasn't upset, mind you. I was. But that simple little phrase helped me kiss him and tell him not to get up anymore and go back to bed without yelling or getting all rilled up.

I don't have time to write all the things that have passed but next time you're in the foxhole (even if in reality it's more like a pot hole) remember, "This too shall pass". It certainly helps me.


a bit better.

Thanks for your prayers while I'm sick. The kids are on dr. prescribed meds and are doing better. I'm over-the-countering it and improving slowly. I haven't had a cold/flu like this in a couple of years. It's not much fun.

I am thankful that we live in a time where medicines are available and mostly affordable to treat the symptoms of such an illness. For most of history people just suffered more. Of course, they had treatments of some kind, but not like we do today.

Anyway. I had to cancel going out to a pastor's prayer meeting today. I waited until this morning to see if I could go, but there was just no way. I'm bummed but that's life.

On a bright note - Jenny made home-made Pop Tarts and they are basically one of the best things I have ever eaten. Goodness. And I can't even really taste them. I can't wait to eat one when I'm not sick. Head to her blog to see about how she did it.