Friday, March 17, 2017

What Are We Boycotting Today?

When Harry Potter first came out, evangelicals raged against it. I was a young pastor, and I had someone leave my church because they found out that I let my kids read it. I read it before allowing my children to so that I could judge it for myself instead of just jumping in the evangelical 'gotta be against something' bandwagon.

I asked the person who was leaving my church if they had actually read the book. No. They did not need to because they had heard from someone who had heard from someone who agreed with someone who said something about something to someone and therefore everyone with discernment knew that this was of Satan. 

That was almost two decades ago and we Christians are still looking for something to hate on. 

For example, all of the hostility, the call for boycotts, and the disgust with Disney because of the Beauty and the Beast gay scene. 

I know you haven't seen it. 

However someone posted that someone posted that someone tweeted that someone heard that someone said….

Great example happened this morning. We have a friend on Facebook that has been bashing Disney for weeks. They have declared a boycott. They have called for all Christians to stand against the film and write letters against it. We posted last night that we had seen it. This morning this person, the same one that has been on the anti-movie forefront, sent us a private message asking us about it. They said, “I want to make an informed opinion.”

So, what were you preaching for the past six weeks? An uninformed opinion? Why have you been screaming for a boycott and saying, “As for me and my house, we will not be seeing any more Disney films.”? I can tell you what has been happening.

Someone said that someone posted that someone heard that….so now all that love Jesus must hate this.

Before I tell you about the movie, let me ask you some questions.

Do you feel the same anger and hostility when you see characters in movies that have heterosexual relationships outside of marriage?

Do you react this way when a main character is getting a divorce? If he/she is separated and living in a different house than their spouse?

What do you do if there are characters in the story that are greedy and covetous? 

How do you respond to someone in the movie that does not submit to their authority?

What if someone in the movie is jealous?

Do you watch movies where characters steal things?

Do you boycott movies because children are disrespectful or if the main character is a 'man of anger'?

Do you call for all Christians to use social media and be against movies that have people being killed in them?

How much of your morality must the movie disagree with before you call for a boycott and a picket line?

If you are going to demand that an industry, whether a food chain store, a restaurant, or the entertainment world agree with your morality, then stop picking and choosing. Biblical ethics is not a cafeteria line where you can take this but leave that. Go all in or stay home. 

This is one of the things that I really do not understand. How do we decide which sin we will allow to be portrayed in a movie, and which ones all good people avoid? Lets just be honest. Have you ever seen a movie where no one sinned?

Another thing. Everyone seems to be upset that Disney has a character with same sex attraction and maybe even a ‘gay’ scene. 

Question: Why would Disney NOT put homosexuality in a movie? American culture has totally accepted it. The supreme court has ruled that gay couples are legitimate couples and can be married. Sex change operations are not even rare any more. Probably everyone reading this blog knows someone who is gay. So, why would Disney not have someone in the movie that is gay? Do you think Disney Entertainment is trying to follow the Bible and made a boo-boo?

Here is what I think that problem is. We want to stand against culture where it departs Biblical morality. We want to change culture.

We cannot see the forest because of the trees. Culture is group-think. We are trying to change the way a group thinks without trying to change the way an individual thinks. A group is a bunch of individuals. If you change enough individuals, then the group will change.

God has called us to evangelize and disciple. We are to share our faith in love with the INDIVIDUALS in our relationship arenas and with INDIVIDUALS that we come into contact with and have the opportunity to love. We are to disciple and mentor INDIVIDUALS into spiritual growth and help them become like Jesus. 

This is hard.
This takes time. 
This takes energy.
This makes me uncomfortable.

However, I can scream about how bad CULTURE is and post negative things about CULTURAL morality. Not only is that easy, it actually makes me feel superior to those rotten sinners who do not know Jesus. 

So, we constantly look for things in CULTURE that we can be against, boycott and picket. We look for things that we can put on social media so that our networks can see that we stand for Jesus. We are not know for our love, we are known for who/what/where we hate. 

Meanwhile, we won’t even share the gospel with someone we have worked with for 10 years or our own parents. We will not love our neighbors. We do not even know the names of their children. 

We ignore INDIVIDUALS and let them go to a Christ-less eternity while we scream against culture. 

I have an idea. Instead of running around trying to be 'against' something, why not be for Jesus? 

Instead of trying to force people who have not placed their faith in Christ to live like Christians, and/or develop systems of moral checkpoints for lost culture to follow, what if we started seeking to evangelize and disciple our neighbors?

How about we make it our purpose to share the love and the gospel of grace to others? Wouldn't it be wonderful if we were as excited about helping people know Jesus as we are enthusiastically against pop and modern culture?

Okay, sermon over.

Now, about the 'scene' in Beauty and the Beast.

The movie is all about sacrificial love. 
Belle takes the place of her father in what she thinks is an eternal jail. The Beast became who he is because of superficial judgment and he learns to love and then that love allows him to free Belle, knowing that it means he will be a beast forever. 

The movie is about standing for what you believe. Belle refuses to compromise in order to be the most popular person in the village by marrying Gaston. Belle’s father stands against the village. Belle stands up to the Beast. 
The movie is about true love of character and person, not superficial attraction. That is the whole plot.

Yet, all of this is not enough to make up for….here you go….

We were watching for it. Six of the seven of us that went knew that it was in the movie and which character it involved. My 8 year old had no idea, but everyone else was on guard.

After the movie, no one knew what the hype was about. From my wife down to my 12 year old daughter, no one knew what scene people were talking about. Denise and I had to look it up  on line when we got home to see what we had missed. If no one had told me that this was a 'gay' scene, I would have never known. People are wanting to boycott Disney because of a scene that we did not even catch while watching for it. 

Here it is. At the end of the movie, everyone is formal dancing and partners are being switched. Suddenly, a girl leaves the hands of a man and another person, a man, ends up in his hands. They look at each other. Scene ends. 

That was it. Two guys danced together (think waltz) for almost a second before the camera moved on to another scene.

If that scene is enough to make you boycott something, go for it. However, go back to my first questions.

Just a thought.

Leia Mais…

Thursday, March 9, 2017


I am not saying that I am old.

However, I remember a time, long ago (but not in a galaxy far, far away). I believe that I was in the 8th grade. A relative came over to our house for dinner and was talking to my parents. He worked for a government contractor. He told us about global positioning satellites. A program that the government had been developing for a while that was finally fully functional. It could pinpoint your location, determine your speed, and plot the best course for you to follow.

We found it hard to believe.

In the early 80's the GPS was made available to the public. I had a friend that was one of the first to purchase one. He paid almost $2,000 for it. The first one that I ever purchased cost over $300.

Now, every smart phone has one. You can even use it in Bolivia! Seriously! When we moved here 10 years ago, you could not even get a street map. Now, just today, a friend needed to come by the house for the first time so I sent them a screenshot of google maps with our house circled on it.

Yesterday I needed to go meet the short term team that was here at a campground that they were working at. I had never been there before. It was wwaaayyy out in the country. My Bolivian foreman with the team opened his MapsMe app and put a pin on the spot. He then messaged me the coordinates. I opened my app and said go there. Boom, a short while later I was there after being led out of the city and even up a dirt road.

GPS's are awesome. When was the last time that you actually had to write down directions with landmarks and other helpful hints on how to go somewhere? I remember telling people to turn where the tree was in the middle of the road or to go right at the gas station. Now, we just send them the address and wait for them to arrive.

A GPS will tell me what to do. I follow it without any real reservations. The voice says to turn in 1 mile, so I turn in 1 mile. I follow. I trust. I obey.

When it comes to our GPS, it is all about following.

However, when it comes to church and Christianity, we no longer talk about following.
The buzzword is leading.
We want leaders.
We develop leaders.
Pastors need to be leaders.
The church needs more leadership.

I agree/disagree. I think that in place of leadership, the church needs more followership.

Jesus did not say, "Lead me". He said, "Follow me." The disciples were not focused on the top ten leadership principles. They were watching Jesus and following Him. Even the great leader, the Apostle Paul, said, "Follow me as I follow Christ."

I am not denying that we need leaders. However, I think that we need to understand what a leader is and focus on the right thing.

My definition of leadership, which I teach in my 'Leadership Conferences" is this:

A leader is a follower being followed.

I believe that what we have made a mistake on is this. We have focused on being followed, not on following. We concentrate on our leadership, and ignore our followership.

Christ has called us to FOLLOW Him. As we FOLLOW Him, then our lives will intersect, impact and influence others.....TO FOLLOW Him. The goal is not to get ahead of people, it is to get behind people and help them know God better and love Him more.

Let me say it this way.

If you are not leading people to become more like Christ, then you are leading them astray.

If someone were to truly follow you, if they were to mimic your attitudes and copy your character, if they were to repeat your words and do your works, if they were to become like you...would that mean that they were more like Jesus?

If your children truly follow you...will they end up being like Jesus or just being a nice, middle to upper class conservative person? (This is not mutually exclusive, nor is it the same thing).

If your life truly does lead people...what are you leading them to become and where are you leading them?

I believe that we should focus on following.
We should follow the heart of Jesus.
We should follow the passion of Jesus.
We should follow the leading of Jesus.
We should follow the words of Jesus.
We should follow the actions of Jesus.
We should follow the example of Jesus.
We should follow the works of Jesus.

We should follow.

I say this to pastors and to parents. I honestly seek to live this out in my life.

We should BE who we want others to BECOME.

Pastors, can you honestly, from your pulpit, encourage your church to BE like you? If not, then why? What is it about your life that prevents you from saying that? Repent!

Parents, can you, before God, say to your children that if they BECOME who you ARE, then you will be proud of them and God will be glorified? If not, they why? What is it about your life, your attitudes, your words, your heart, your actions that prevents you from telling your children to be like you? Repent!

I believe that we should stop trying to develop six levels of leadership and instead seek to become deeper, more passionate followers of Christ.

If you are following Christ with all your heart, He will lead you to impact the lives of others, to help the poor, to reach the lost, to disciple the young, to influence your other words, following Him will make you a leader. A true leader who helps those following Him to become like the ONE he is following.

Just a thought.


Leia Mais…

Monday, March 6, 2017

Fake News

I love being vindicated. Actually, it does feel good. I was reminded by Facebook and Timehop about some posts that I made back in 2011 and 2012. I was constantly challenging people to stop just believing what their favorite news opinionator said, because opinions are not news. People were just spreading hatred.

I remember this first bothering me way back in the late 80's or early 90's. I used to listen, please do not judge me, to Rush Limbaugh while driving to work. One day I realized something. By the time that I got to work, I was angry. Everyday I became angry at "Them". "They" were so stupid, so criminal, so incompetent, so 'everything that 'We' were not.

The more that I listened to conservative talk radio, the less I loved my neighbor.

Fast forward to the last two decades. More and more opinion channels call themselves the news and simply state what their target market wants to hear. Not the news....but, and I cannot believe that this was actually said, "alternative facts". It isn't just President Trump that does this, it is both sides.

Here is the danger of fake news. People read it, hear it, and repeat it so much that we no longer think it is fake. We believe it so much that we will argue vehemently about something that we have never even bothered to validate. Fake news becomes the driving passion of our day and the foundation of our opinions.

Supposedly it was Adolf Hitler's propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels that said, "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it."

We are living proof that it is not the factual support that something has that determines whether we believe it or not, but our predisposition and point of view. We love to believe stories that reinforce our disdain and hatred of the other side. That is sad but true.

May I give you another phrase to use in place of fake news? How about this: A lie. Fake news is a lie.

The sad thing is that fake news is not a new thing. Way back in the garden of Eden, there was a fake news report given to Eve. You will not really die. It was told to her by the Father of Fake News. She believed his report. She acted on what she believed. She died.

He is still broadcasting and we are still listening.

We still believe fake news. Things like:

Fake News: You can determine your own morality. Society decides what is right or wrong.

Fake News: It doesn't matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.

Fake News: Science has proven that God does not exist, therefore religion is simply a psychiatric balm.

Fake News: God loves you more than them.

Fake News: We can believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior and have lives that look no different from our unbelieving neighbor...with the exception of church attendance.

Fake News: It is okay to share fake news.

Here is the bottom line.

Satan is the father of lies.
God is the God of truth.

Which of these two do your social media postings represent more often?

Just a thought.

Leia Mais…

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Bad Mechanic

I have a friend who was having car trouble. He was hearing a 'tap, tap, tap' noise and could smell that it was running hot.

So, he took it to a mechanic that he had heard good things about. The mechanic was extremely busy, but he took a quick look at my friend's car. He told him that it was not really that serious. The car was low on oil and water. All my friend had to do was put in oil and water and the problem would be solved.

A few days later, my friend went back to the mechanic with the same problem. He could hear a tapping noise and smell that the car was overheating. The mechanic asked, "Did you put in oil and water like I said?".  My friend replied that he had not yet done it, but was planning on doing it today or tomorrow. "Well, you need to do it pretty quickly.", replied the mechanic.

A week later he was back at the mechanic complaining of the same problem. They had the same conversation. My friend had not put in any water or oil. The mechanic assured my friend that this was all he had to do, and that if he did it then his problem would be solved.

I saw my friend last week at the store. He was driving a different car. I asked him about it and he said that the engine in the old car was too far gone to do anything about and it finally just froze up and was beyond repair. He said that he had to get a new car. Then he said this:

"We tried everything to keep the old car going, we even took it to a mechanic."

This parable is unfortunately an accurate description of what I have experienced many times in the past thirty years of ministry. Couples will come to me for advice because their marriage is in trouble. The warning signs are everywhere. They know that if they do not do something then their marriage will end.

I listen to what is going on, and then using the Bible to find solutions I give them advice on how to apply certain passages to their lives. Passages such as how to forgive, what love is, the role of in-laws, how to handle money,  and the importance of communication. I hear what is going on and tell them what to do.

The next week, they are back in my office with the same problem. I ask if they have done what I said, and the answer is, 95% of the time, "No, but we are planning on it."

The scene plays out a few more times. They stop coming. They get a trial separation and then a divorce. Then they say this:

"We tried everything to keep our marriage going, we even tried counseling."

Did they?

This also happens daily, at least weekly, to almost everyone reading this blog.

Think about it.

We go to church with lives that need some type of change. It may not be radical, but let us be honest, we are not perfect and we can all become more like Jesus. We hear God's word taught. We listen to what is said. We nod our heads in agreement and may even mumble "Amen" as we write down our notes.

Then...we change nothing.

The next week the scene is repeated.
Decades later we are still listening to everything and changing nothing.

Honest Question: When is the last time that you CHANGED something in your life after going to church and hearing the Word?

Read that question again. I did not ask you when was the last time that you LEARNED something. When is the last time that you actually, practically, really CHANGED something in your life because of what you heard?

I once read, and after decades in the ministry agree, that the average adult Christian does not lead anyone to Christ or make any meaningful changes in their doctrinal beliefs three years after their conversion. The same book (I cannot remember it's title) pointed out that the average Christian makes no changes in their ethics or morality after the same amount of time.

So, for year after year we go to church or read our Bible and agree with what we hear...and change nothing.

If your life is not full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, meekness, forgiveness, humility, wisdom, righteousness, compassion, truth, and passion, is it the 'mechanic's fault'?

Have you tried everything, even going to church?

Maybe it is time to apply what we hear...that could actually solve our problem.

Just a thought.

Leia Mais…

Monday, February 13, 2017

Travel Pants

I like travel pants. Wear them all the time. I love the pockets. I have a travel vest that has, this is no exaggeration, 24 pockets. When Denise and I went to Italy last year, my vest was my carry-on luggage. I have traveled to a missions conference before, and I had my change of clothes, my 19" MacBook, and my iPad all in my vest. No luggage, no carry-on, just my travel pants and my travel vest.

The pants have pickpocket proof pockets with double latching. There is a pocket that is passport size with a velcro flap. In the thighs there are actually hidden pockets that blend right in where you can extra cash and even if you are robbed no one will know you have it. Of course you can do what you want with the pockets, but they come with a pocket guide that tells you where things are designed to be put that way you don't even have to try to figure it out yourself.

Travel pants are a cool way to travel. Unfortunately, they are also the model for how we try to live our lives. In a word: Compartmentalize.

We compartmentalize everything. We even try to draw charts and make little fun acronyms like J.O.Y., Jesus, Others, Yourself. We try to arrange our time around work and family.

We do our church thing on Sunday.
We do our work thing Monday - Friday.
We do our family thing some evenings and Saturday.

We have these nice little pockets that have been labeled for us to put things in. Our God-pocket is in a hard to reach spot since we don't need it very much. Our politics pocket is the quickest draw, easiest to access one since we use it all the time. Our work pocket is the big pocket so a lot of stuff can be crammed into it. Our family pocket is the one over our heart. It is small and not used, but we like to think it is more important than the other pocket, with the exception of course of the small little pickpocket proof God pocket.

The problem is, this doesn't work. Life is not a travel jacket. God is too big for our small box (pocket). Saying that your family is important is nothing like actually showing that your family is important by.....doing something really weird like....being with them and enjoying it.

Life is holistic. You cannot be a follower of Christ on Sunday, a follower of money the rest of the week while being an evangelist for your political party and giving your children a gentle nod of attention for an hour. Either you are a follower of Christ EVERYWHERE, ALL THE TIME, or you are not ANYWHERE, ANYTIME.

Jesus is not a part-time God.

Either your family is important to you in this moment...or they are not.

Let me give you an illustration I used at church one time. I had a dish box with the divider inside so that there were 24 compartments. Each compartment had a label. I then took out the divider to make it one big the label is:

God and my worship.
God and my wife.
God and my children.
God and my friends.
God and my church.
God and my money.
God and my career.
God and my entertainment.
God and my time.
God and my personal development.
God and my evangelism.
God and my discipleship.
God and my politics.

God doesn't fit into your little travel pants. He doesn't fit into your little box. He doesn't allow people to compartmentalize Him.

He is to be your life. You don't balance your life giving Him part of it. You balance your life by letting Him be the center of it and everything else is a spoke branching off of the center. If God is not the center, then you life is not in balance.

Just a thought.

Leia Mais…

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sweet Aroma

Every Friday something happens that is not that pleasant to talk about. 

In Bolivia, as in many parts of the world, one cannot flush their toilet paper. Many homes in the city do not have toilets. Those that do, even in the restaurants and large stores, the plumbing and paper make it so that flushing is not an option. The finest steakhouse in the city has a trashcan beside the toilet for your TP.

That means that you end up with a trashcan full of used TP.

What to do? What to do? 

You could put it in the trash. However, the trash collectors here have to open up the trash and sort it. Bottles, cans, plastics and then the non-recyclable trash go into different bins. Therefore, if you put your used TP in the trash, a city employee is going to have to dig through it. (Yuk).

The solution of a large portion of the city is to burn the used TP in their yard every Friday. All of our neighbors do this. We have no a/c or heating, so our windows and doors are always open. We will be sitting at our desk, maybe eating lunch, writing a sermon, or just going on with our day when the first waft of smell crawls over the window and invades our olfactory senses. 

It was horrible. 
It was nasty. 
It was disgusting. 
It was like you could feel the typhoid climbing down your throat to invade your body.

Notice that all of those verb tenses are past tense. It WAS all of those things. Now it is just a part of life. We have adapted to it. We smell it and go, "It is Friday, TP burning day."  Or I will ask Denise, "Do you smell something burning?" She replies that it is Friday. No disgust. No gag reflex.

What happened? We got accustomed to not only the idea of not flushing and burning, but also the actual event and smell of burning used TP. We no longer imagine disgusting little bacterias on a war campaign against our health. We just smell it and move on. 

We got used to smelling poop.

Wanna know something? This is how it is with sin in our lives. At first, the sin revolts us. We cannot believe that we did or allowed that to happen. We seek forgiveness. We feel guilty. We feel ashamed. 

Then we do it again. After repeating the above cycle, something starts to happen. We don't feel AS guilty. We don't feel AS shameful. We don't feel AS bad.

We commit the sin again. Guess what...we see that it is sin, but that is the extent of our revulsion. Just a label on the action or thought. 

Then, we remove the label. 

How can we explain our obesity and weight issues without acknowledging the sin of gluttony? It is because we do not think that eating more than we need, more often that we need to, is a problem. We may say that we have a weight problem. Do we ever say that we have a sin of gluttony problem? We may feel bad physically but do we ever feel bad spiritually? 

How else can we explain the consumptive lifestyle that we live...always clamoring for bigger, better, faster and more without using the sin of coveting to describe it? Simple. We just ignore it as we charge up our credit cards. 

What about the sin of anger? We live in anger. We speak harshly to our spouses and our children. We have road rage and spout obscenities, even the christian cuss words, at other drivers. We speak evil of the opposing political party/candidate. We gladly spread fake and true news that hurts other people. Are we ever convicted of the sin of anger? Does gossiping, backbiting and spreading rumors break our hearts and cause us to weep over our sin?

Or do we just smell it and move on with our lives?

Sin is disgusting and wrong, even when we grow accustomed to its stench. 

It is time to take out the trash. Instead of just putting up with the smell, lets stop the sin. Repentance is a wonderful thing. 

Just a thought.

Leia Mais…

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Being For Something Does Not Mean That You Are Against Something Else.

Being For Something Does Not Mean You Are Against Something Else.

I said that in the title because I am about to post something that people will react to. Do not misread this or assume anything negative….got your attention?

Look at the title and think about it before reading farther. I can be totally for something. That does not mean that I am against something else. The two can be unrelated. I can love football. That does not mean that I hate baseball. 

I also love how the church and Christians in America not only has tremendous pride in our military, we celebrate it. We love our veterans and support our troops. It is part of our DNA. Look around at your church and see how many families have members who work in the military. We are, as evangelical churches, extremely patriotic and grateful for those whose patriotism included military service. That is awesome!

This May, my son, who is already in the Army, will be commissioned as an officer. We are so proud of him. We are flying from Bolivia to the States to be there when it happens. He is serving his country and has worked hard for this moment. We love and are proud of him. 

Not only does the church support the Military, the average church has three or four opportunities a year to actually give a standing ovation to our men/women who are serving and to our veterans. Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, Independence Day, and in some churches 9/11. We have flags, sing patriotic songs, and then have everyone who is or has served stand. We then applaud them, and in every service that I have ever been in it turns into a standing ovation.

That is cool. I love it. When I was a pastor in the States we did this every single one of those days listed above.

Now, lets look at something else and just do a compare/contrast. 

We give special recognition and standing ovations to those who serve in our country's military.

What about those who serve in missions? 

Do we recognize them?
Do we show that we appreciate them? 
Do we seek to send our children into this career of serving the Lord in other countries?    
Do we want to listen to their stories?
Do we call them heroes? 

Or do we politely nod at them and then make every effort possible to avoid their table lest they have a donation card on it? Do our eyes glaze over in boredom when the pastor mentions a missionary is present (even though we may offer a golf clap) and then boredom turn to dread when we discover they are speaking?

Do we show them the same respect that we do our military?  

Does your church have a Sunday where missionaries are verbally praised?

You may say that the church donates money to support them. Our military also receives a salary/benefit package from our money (taxes). Yet we do more than say, “We pay our taxes, that should be enough gratitude.” No, we want them to KNOW that we appreciate their sacrifice, their willingness to live in other countries and give up personal freedoms so that we can remain free.
What are the missionaries doing? 
Aren’t they leaving their homes, parents, children, friends, communities, churches, culture….everything in order to preach/teach true freedom?  Aren’t they fighting the good fight of faith? Yet, do they get any special attention? 

Shouldn’t those serving on the front lines of God’s Kingdom get at least the same respect as someone serving in the military for an earthly kingdom…at least from our brothers and sisters in Christ?

Let me be honest. We missionaries are not looking for a standing ovation when we come to your church. 

I am not writing about church mission committees doing some type of assignment and staying in contact with the church missionary. I am writing about individual Christians actually showing support to missionaries. It is awesome to feel appreciated

I love using this example in my parenting conferences about the power of spoken affirmation. Every recorded time that God the Father spoke out loud to God the Son, He affirmed Him. Jesus was not walking around with self-doubt or a low self-esteem. He knew Who He was and what His mission was. Yet, for some reason, the Father affirmed Him. "You are my Son. I love You. You make me happy." (paraphrased). 

People are PROUD of those serving in the military. We affirm them. We show them in tangible ways that we are grateful for their service.

Wouldn't it be awesome if our missionary friends could feel affirmed? 

Missionaries would love to think that people are proud of us. Instead, many times we simply feel forgotten. 

Please consider this...

Missionaries serving on foreign soil feel forgotten. 
They are lonely. 
They miss their home.
They want to be with their families.
Holidays are especially brutal to be away from family, friends, and culture.

Take Christmas as an example. In many parts of the world, those serving on the field hurt during Christmas. The weather is not like 'Christmas time'. The ambient of the village is not like Christmas. It is difficult to decorate or do many of the things that the missionary has done their entire lives. 

Their grown children are on another continent. 
They cannot purchase very good presents for their kids.
They feel like bad parents. 
They feel out of touch.
They cannot be with their extended family. 
They miss all the things that make Christmas special. 

We had a missionary friend tell us that their family did not receive anything from anyone this Christmas. As she told us, she actually emotionally choked up and had to take a breath. She had tear-filled eyes as she finished her story. This is a mature adult, in love with Jesus, serving on the field, started to cry because they did not receive a card. It is not the card. It is not the gift. It is the thought.

We want to know that you have not forgotten us. 
We want to know that you are concerned for us. 
We want to know that you are proud of us. 

You can throw all the platitudes about doing it for the Lord at me that you want to...the truth is that we are emotional people that need emotional support. 

I am not writing this in some self-serving way. I just think that it is something that missionaries would like you to know, but do not know how to express it. Your simply keeping in touch can make all the difference in the world! Thing such as:

Some type of electronic gift certificate (if the missionary has internet access) such as an iTunes or Amazon gift card is multiplied in value because of the thoughtfulness that went behind it. 

An occasional gift sent to the children of the missionary such as toys or candy are incredible. I know that postage is a lot, that is one of the things that make the gift so valuable. We just had a friend from the States send us a bag of little candy bars...the bag with a variety of bars in it. They spent $50 to send us the $3 bag of candy. The fact that they paid that much money to give my kids a little treat made us want to cry with gratitude.

Sending a missionary a treat from home can make their entire month. We had a friend send us three bags of different flavored Doritos. We spread them over a month. They arrived squished into crumbs...but we were so happy to have them.

E-cards cost nothing and only take two minutes to send, but they can brighten up a dark day just by letting the missionary know that you are thinking of them. 

A hand-written letter snail mailed if possible telling the missionary that you remember then, appreciate them and want to encourage! 

It is in our DNA to remember and respect our military. I am for that. 

But can't we also remember and respect our missionaries who are serving on the field? 

I want to use myself as an example. On the spectrum of receiving care from the States, I would say that we receive better 'care' than most other missionaries that we know. Having said that, here is what our better care looks like:

This Christmas we received two packages and one Christmas card

In the course of the year, we have three families that send us care packages.

Look back at that and realize that we are on the far end of the good side of the spectrum when it comes to receiving care. Only one family that I know has more people than we do send them packages. 

In other words, the bar has to be set pretty low if three families sending packages is next to the top of the class. 

Remember, I am not writing about monthly dollar donations. We could never begin to express how grateful we are for that. We could not be on the field without them. 

Go back to the military example that I used earlier about our military receiving their salary/benefit package. We don't say, "We pay our taxes and that pays you. Why should we do more than that?  Your pay is sufficient gratitude."

We know that going above and beyond just getting paid is a great thing to do. My son has been upgraded to First Class while flying by complete strangers. He has had meals purchased while in restaurants. He has had people come up and shake his hand and say that they are grateful for his service. He has had police officers not write him traffic citations. People affirm him.

Missionaries need affirmation. Let me say that again. I am absolutely sure of who I am in Christ. He is my identity. I have been in the ministry since 1988 and am a mature Christian who knows that all that really matters is that my life is pleasing to the Lord. Yet...


Those of you that know me know that I am confident in my abilities. You know that I am not a complainer. You know that I am not a whiner-baby.


If I need it, can't you imagine how much others need it as well?

Now let me restate my title. I actually wrote this blog two years ago, but never posted it because our churches and friends are so pro-military that I was fearful they would perceive this as being anti-military. It has been in my draft folder for two whole years. I just decided today to update it and post, my title again:

Being For Something Does Not Mean That Your Are Against Something Else

I am FOR showing missionaries that you truly appreciate and respect their labor of love for the Lord.

I am also FOR showing our military that we truly appreciate and respect their service to our country.

I just don’t understand why people and churches do the second but not the first.


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Monday, January 23, 2017

“In my culture, there is no word for love.”

This was the response of a pastor from the jungle this morning as we entered a time of discussion. I had just taught a session on loving others unconditionally. This was for a group of leaders from the Amazon jungle. There were four languages represented, Spanish and three tribal groups. The point of my lesson was that the priority of our ministry is love. 

After I taught, with our chairs in a semi-circle, the leader, my friend Tony Murrin, asked how this lesson could be applied in the various cultures of the leadership present. The first man to speak said the quote above, that there is no word for love. 

I did not fully understand his explanation because Spanish is both of our second language, but the gist of it was this. The concept of love is expressed with a phrase that says you have done good to me so now I will do good for you. 

It is the very foundation of conditional relationships. 

He went on to say that there is also no word for, nor a concept of, forgiveness. The idea that you have done bad to me, but that is okay I will still do good to you and we will live in peace is not present in their culture. 

Another of the tribal leaders from a different culture spoke up and said the same thing. They do not have a word for love, they have a word that means, more or less, to return action. 

As I listened to them talk about how hard it was to communicate unconditional love and total forgiveness to a culture that has no concept of either, I contemplated how much modern America culture has in common with these jungle tribal villages. 

The truth is, we in our culture do not really have unconditional love. If we do, it is the rare exception. We have conditional relationships. We will maintain these relationships as long as the conditions are met.

I will ‘love’ you and be your friend, unless you want to pass more gun laws. 

I will ‘love’ you and maintain a relationship with you, unless you vote for or are part of a different political party. 

I will ‘love’ you and treat you well unless you are a devout member of a different denomination. 

I will ‘love’ you and stay married to you, as long as you bring me pleasure and enjoyment. However, if I start to feel like my input exceeds your output in this marriage….well, look at the divorce rate in/out of the church. 

I will ‘love’ you and we can work together as long as we are at the same socio-economic level. However, do not expect me to love or care for the poor or those less fortunate the me.

We may have a word for love, but we do not know what it is. We do not love. Our love is “You have done good to me, so now I will do good to you.” We are just like the jungle tribe. 

We also do not understand forgiveness. The leader speaking on this said that what happens in a village is that when someone has been truly wronged, one of the two families involved would actually move. They would start another village with some friends down the river, or they would simply go to another village in existence. Forgiveness was not an option. 

Same thing in our modern culture. Once more, look at the divorce rate. We move to another home in a ‘trial’ separation that always ends up in divorce. What happens after the divorce? Hatred. Contempt. Anger. Hostility. 

Look at the job change rate. We get hurt or angered at a co-worker or boss and quit. We move to another job. 

Look at the way that we turn on people who were once friends. We move to another group. 

We have a word for forgiveness, but we do not understand the true concept. 

Imagine what would happen if we:

Treat others the same way you want [s]them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, [expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6.32-36)

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (Eph. 4.31-32)

Just a thought.

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