Friday, January 31, 2014

I Hate Photos

The other day I was going to use the camera for a ministry project and the memory card was full, so I put all the Christmas photos on my computer. 

I was shocked.  I think that my wife may be having an affair.  I had proof.  Somehow, she let her defenses down and someone took a photo, more than one, of her hugging, kissing and laughing with her lover.  I bet I had over 20 pictures of her and some fat guy, IN MY HOUSE, holding hands and being together.  Her and this fat guy were with my kids.  Here she is, getting a present from that fat guy.  She is eating beside the fat guy.  I was going to confront her when I realized something.  Her fat lover looked a lot like I did, only much fatter.  Or was he?

You know why so many people make 'lose weight' resolutions for new year? It is because they saw Christmas photos.

I look in the mirror once a day when I get ready to leave.  I slap a pea sized sqeeze of gell on my hair, rub it in, admire the handsome devil in the mirror and go my way.

I did not know that the guy in the mirror looked like the guy in the photos.  I hate photos.

I have decided to either stop having my photo made, or to make sure that all photos are from a slightly higher elevation (to hide my double chin) or from the chest up (to hide everything else). 

I was thinking about the passage in James where it says that when we are a hearer of God's word and not a doer we are like a guy who looks in the mirror.  We see what we look like...we really see ourselves...but then we leave and get busy with life.  We forget what we saw and we think that we are something else than the momentary reality revealed.

A modern re-telling would be that we are like someone who sees a photo of themself, then walks away from the computer screen and gets busy with life.  We forget what we look like and think that our fantasy is reality. 

We go to church and hear some of the many truths that we do not live out.  We see ourselves as the shallow, friendless, empty Christian that we are.  Then we get busy and forget about what we saw and we think of ourselves as passionate followers of Christ.

We hear a missionary speak of the needs of the poor, and then see all of our possession, our clutter, our storage sheds, and our sybmols of wealth.  We have a snapshot moment and see ourselves as God and the world see us.  Then the phone rings and we start once more to think of ourselves as we perceive not as we are.  We are not wealthy nor capable of helping the poor.  We think that we are almost poor, or are poor ourselves.  We don't remember the photo.

Or we do what I do.  We control the camera.  We only expose ourselves to the truths that we feel best reflect our lives. 

How about today you and I do something different?  Let's keep the photo in front of us.  THAT is who we are, is it who we ant to be?  If not, don't manipulate the image, change the reality.

Leia Mais…

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Giving Giving Gone

I once read something that, although I may not agree completely with it, has caused me to think.

The author had an illustration of a cliff.  The bottom of the cliff was labeled “NEED”.  On the top of the cliff, he had several people standing, from extremely close to very far away.

His question was, “How far away from need are you?”  

The context of the book was that in the USA, most of us do not live very close to need.  The farther away from need you live, the more luxury and comfort you have.  It wasn’t a bad thing, but an observation.  He said that although we may experience hard times, very few of us live in fear or the presence of starvation, dying of thirst, hunger related illnesses, lack of sanitation, no shelter, or danger.  He then made the statement that the American Dream is to move farther and farther away from need.

I tend to agree with this. Then the bombshell dropped.  What do you think about this?

He said that the farther away from need that you are, the more difficult it is to give sacrificially.  We can give generously, but not really sacrificially.  Giving up a comfort is not a sacrifice. Reducing luxury is not a sacrifice.  A sacrifice entails true pain and/or death.  

Sacrificial giving means that we may just fall over the cliff because of it.

Consider Bill Gates, or some other multi-billionaire.  He gives 200 million to charity.  Is this generous?  Absolutely. Was it sacrificial?  Well, after giving the 200 million he still has 60 billion dollars and at a 3% return he is making 1,800,000,000/year in interest alone.  Was that a sacrificial gift?  I don’t think so. Generous, not sacrificial.

How about a person making $200,000/year.  They give a $50,000 gift to the Kingdom.  Is it generous?  Yes.  Was it sacrificial?  The problem is that they cannot purchase their new Lexus until next year…sacrifice of simply giving up a luxury?

A family has an income of $35,000 and $7,000 in the bank.  They give $3,000 to mission work.  Was it generous?  Yes.  Sacrificial…you may be starting to think so….I believe it is getting close.

The problem is that we view limiting our luxury as a sacrifice.  We also think that because we make $50,000 and spend $49,000 that we have no money to give.  We have no money to give because we are constantly seeking to move farther away from need and into more luxury.  

Now consider a person living in abstract poverty, for example a man that I have done ministry with.  He is homeless (we built him a home).  He is a pastor but his church is poor and does not pay him.  He works as he can doing construction, but does not have a full time job.  His family of seven had 20 pounds of potatoes with no other food.  They have not eaten meat in over a year.  I go to his house, and upon leaving he insists that I take six eggs with me to give to a poor family that we are sharing Christ with.  This is the only thing apart from the potatoes that he has.

Was that generous?  Yes.  Was it sacrificial?  Yes.  Why?

Jesus gave us an example.  A rich man gave a lot of money (generous).  A widow gave two cents.  Jesus said that the widow gave more than the rich man, because she had given all that she had while he merely gave out of his wealth.  In other words, limited luxury versus approaching need.

The author’s point is that while generous giving refers to the amount of the gift, sacrificial giving places us in the proximity of need.  He concludes that North American Christians, as a general rule (there are exceptions) do not understand sacrifice.  We give out of our abundance (and we are wealthy by world standards—spending what you earn does not mean that you are not wealthy).  We rarely approach need.

I tend to agree….but am not sure.  What do you think?  

Leia Mais…

Monday, January 27, 2014


As you walk or drive through the city here, one thing that you constantly see is graffiti.  It is everywhere.

Some of it is nothing more than a paint can scribble on a wall.  Probably some type of tag.  Sometimes you see declarations of love.  Our neighbor had someone write a love note to his daughter on their wall.  I thought, “Now that is a way to win a father’s heart.”  Other times there are political protest, and sometimes pretty good art.

I was walking home and snapped these photos on the way to show you.  I was thinking about the motivation behind graffiti.  Why do people even do it?

I think it is because, in truth, we all think that we have something to say and we want to be heard.  A great example of this is the plethora of radio and television talk shows in the States.  Everyone in the audience has an uninformed opinion to shout.  Or look at Facebook and Twitter.  I have something to say and I want it to be heard.

I think that this desire is from God.  We do all have a message.  We do all have a story. The best and most worthwhile is our chapter in HIS story.  What He has done and is doing.  

Next to that, I think we need to look at our message and ask ourselves if it is worth communicating.  Does it help others?  Is it a good word?  Will others grow because of my message?

Or am I just verbally vomiting on them, tagging their ears with my ugly verbiage?

I think that we all have a message that we can tell in a good way.

What is your message?

Leia Mais…

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Passing Ispection

Pass Inspection?

I recently did something for the first time since I moved to Bolivia seven years ago.  I got my car inspected.  Truth is, for six years I have been driving ‘not quiet legal’.  Inspection lines here are sometimes (no exaggerating) 30 hours long.  You can hire people to wait and sleep in your car, and they will call you about an hour out.

It has gotten better.  I got both of my cars inspected and only had to wait nine hours in line and go back four times--three of which were the fault of the inspector.

I finally got it inspected.  I did not know what to expect about the inspect, so I made sure that mechanically everything was great.

They inspected my lights.  Then made sure that I had a fire extinguisher and reflective triangles to put out when my car breaks down.  They also checked my first aid box to see if I had band-aids and alcohol.  I guess that with the condition of the average car they can be sure that a car will break down, maybe catch on fire, and someone will get hurt.

This was all fine and good.  However, the thing that surprised me was what they did not check.  They did not check emissions.  They did not check my brakes. They did not check my steering.  They did not check my tires.  They did not check anything that ensures that my car is actually safe to drive, only safe to break down.

I thought to myself that it was strange that the important things, brakes, steering, tire condition, and emissions were ignored while a first aid box was enforced.  

A verse popped into my head.

You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. (Mt. 23:24)

That pretty much describes us doesn’t it. We ignore the really important things in life, and focus or stress over what doesn’t matter.  We do this in our churches, where secondary doctrines divide Christendom.  We do this in our families when Facebook takes precedence over being with each other and we ignore our children in order to further our career.  We do this in the Kingdom where we focus on this world and our comfort and allow poverty and ignorance of the gospel to be the norm in the rest of the world.

We pass inspection, but fail the test.  

How about we start to focus on what matters, not what others say is important? 

Leia Mais…

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Get In The Game

Last night we did something that we have not done in a few years.  We watched a football game.  We don’t have television in our home here, and if we did, it would not show American Football.  However, one of my kids has become a football fan (he loves Green Bay of all teams), so he asked us if we could watch a playoff game.  

We hooked up our projector to our computer and took a mirror off the wall to project it on.  Then, although we had to wait about 10% of the time for buffering and occasionally it would suddenly jump ahead, we watched the game.  

As we watched it, my kids started talking about professional sports and how good even the worse player actually is (including Tony Romo, “ouch”) in order to be a professional.  We talked about how much preparation time and energy went into becoming a professional.

As we thought about it, I turned my attention to both the Christian life and to being a missionary.  Many people think that a missionary is really the “Professional” of Christianity.  We are the ones who really have it all together.  We have been highly trained.  We are incredibly talented and gifted. We are uber-motivated.  We are the ones that the rest of you watch and talk about.  That really isn’t true.  

There is a huge difference between serving God and being a professional.  A professional needs ability.  A servant only needs availability.  A professional depends upon his or her own resources to get the job done.  A servant simply believes and trusts in Christ.  A great example of this recently happened to us.  It really drove home how simple it is to impact lives for Jesus Christ.  It is so easy that a little girl can do it….literally.  Here is what happened.

One morning one of my girls came to me and said that last night they had been chatting and praying with the other girls.  They all came together then and asked me how much it would cost to build a church for a poor community.  I told them about $10,000. Without blinking, they replied that God had told them to raise money and build a church.  I, while trying to encourage them, dismissed the idea.  Five girls ages 14 and down, with no job, savings, or allowance simply could not raise $10,000 while living in another country.  It was not going to happen.  

That night my wife, who is almost always more in tune with Christ than I am, asked me if it were possible that God had indeed spoken to them.  If it were, then shouldn’t I encourage them to walk by faith rather than dismiss their efforts?  So, I called them in the next morning and asked them if they were sure that they had heard from God and that He wanted them to build a church.  They were full of faith and confidence.  I actually decided to film it.  Watch this unscripted question and answer and if you are like me, marvel at their faith.

I posted this on YouTube, and mentioned their plans on my Facebook page.  That was the extent of my help.  I really wanted this to be of God and not from me.  Within a few months, they had received about $1,000.  They kept praying.  One day they told me that they were fasting for the church project.  A little more time went by and I forgot about the project.  Then my phone rang.  It was a church in Missouri.  They have never been to Bolivia before, however they saw my post and watched the video.  They showed it to their church and decided to send all the money that was needed and to also send a team to help build it.  Just like that.  Here is a video of me telling the girls.

We will be going to the jungle in May and build a church for a river village where there are only four believers, but a man has a vision to reach the rest of the village.  The vision God gave five little girls will come to pass in a year.

My girls are not professionals.  They are not educated.  They are not trained.  They do not have experience.  They are not specially gifted.  They have absolutely nothing to offer.

They just believe that God wants to reach people for Jesus Christ.  They believe that it is a work of God and not of man.  If it is God, then what does it matter how talented or how weak the human vessel is?  

How about you?  The Christian life is not a spectator sport where 50,000 fans cheer on a few professionals.  It is a walk of faith where every single believer has the Person of God living inside of them and the call of God upon their life.  You, yes you, are the one that God wants to use to change the lives and eternities of others.  How about you get into the game?

Leia Mais…