August 31, 2003
Of Blue Frogs and Big Macs
Well, our time in Upstate New York is growing short. This will be our last full week here before returning to Florida, the land of perpetual sunshine (yay!) and slow internet connections (boo hoo).
Highlights of our journey north have included an association witht the Blue Frog club (a group of us who meet at a coffee house by the same name). The company of the Chairman and the Viceroy will be sorely missed--although I expect it to continue via the various instant messenger technologies at our disposal.
Another highlite of our stay here has been my two-day-a-week employment at the local McDonalds. This has afforded me much contact with the "real" world.
Our last meeting, at Peoples Baptist Church in Newfield, NY, was a blessing. Pastor DePue was my eighth-grade history teacher. We had a great time sharing our ministry, and seeing some old friends as well.
August 30, 2003
More On the Ten Commandments
It has been a couple days, but I still cannot get the Ten Commandments debate in Alabama out of my mind. It would seem that an elite and condescending few have decided for the rest of us (through dubious constitutional maneuvering) that God has no place in public life.
In a very small (miniscule, actually) attemp to show solidarity with those who are taking the stand (and the heat) in Alabama, I will now post the Ten Commandments in their entirety as they appeared in the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building.
I am the Lord thy God
Thou shalt have no other gods before Me
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image
Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy
Honour thy father and thy mother
Thou shalt not kill
Thou shalt not commit adultery
Thou shalt not steal
Thou shalt not bear false witness
Thou shalt not covet
These are not options, they are laws. They are not subject to public opinion or human decree. Removing them from man's courtroom is not advisable. Removing them from God's courtroom is impossible.
August 29, 2003
Vision for the Future
When God gives somebody a vision of what He can do through their lives, it becomes an overbearing passion that grows stronger with each passing moment. I thought that today I would take a little time to share with you (and the vast sea of humanity that comprises the regular readers of this blog!) the vision God has given me.
Let me quickly add that this is not the last-night-I-had-a-vision-that-I-must-gather-a-following-of-people-and-lead-them-in oxcarts-to-Utah kind of vision. I say this in case anybody happens to be reading from here or here or even here. This vision is, rather, a deep desire that is the product many years of prayer and supplication. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
1.I have a vision for Brazil. Since a missionary came to my church when I was 10 and showed slides of his ministry in Bahia, Brazil, I have been hooked on that country. When I was 17, I went to visit that same missionary. I am sure I was not much of a help to him while I was there, but God used that two-month experience to hook me on Brazil. I still required some time to surrender to ministry, but Brazil was in my blood from that time on.
The vastness and diversity of Brazil give it enormous potential on the world scene. I pray daily that God will visit true revival on that great nation, and that the world will marvel at what He has done there. To this end, my wife and I have joined Baptist Mid-Missions in order to join with an excellent team of missionaries with the same vision.
2. I have a vision for the state of Maranhão. This is my wife's home state, and there is much to be done there. I have a dream of starting a church in São Luís--the capital city--that will in turn start other churches in the state and throughout the northeastern region, and then on into other regions of Brazil. I also envision it being a missionary church, training up and sending out missionaries throughout Brazil and the world.
3. I have a vision for the world. Brazilians are beginning to look beyond their own borders, to the white fields around them. There are virtually no countries in the world where Brazilians are not welcome (contrast this with the number of countries around the world where Americans are NOT welcome!).
I forsee and army of Brazilian missionaries around the world, proclaiming Christ in places thought un-accessable. To do this, we will have to establish active mission agencies in Brazil and educate the churches on how-to's of sending and supporting missionaries. It can be done, and I am convinced it can be done in my generation.
Thank you for your patience with my "soapboxing" today. These are subjects that weigh heavily on my mind all the time. It is my prayer that each of my readers will catch a vision for what God can do through them, and then pursue it with every fiber of their being.
August 28, 2003
Sight and Sound Continued
I am not one who is easily impressed with "Christian" entertainment. The commercialism and shallowness of the CCM movement leave me disgusted and disillusioned. Having said that, I have now seen that it is possible for Christians to put on a quality theatrical performance that does not ape the world or compromise core beliefs.
I am refering, of course, to the Sight and Sound spectacular that my family and I went to see the other day. Its quality was refreshing and its message was clear. The story of Daniel came alive in such a way as to entertain, challenge, and motivate all at the same time. The actors were true professionals, yet obviously passionate about the message of the play. The technological superiority (large statues rising from the stage, animatronic lions, helicopters appearing overhead) on a par with anything I have seen at Disney. The musical numbers were superb (I especially enjoyed the delightful rendition of Them Bones).
This will not be my last time at one of these performances. The powerful way in which the Gospel was presented convinces me that we as believers need to invest more in this form of communication.
August 27, 2003
Canning the Commandments?
Today was going to be the day when I shared with you some details about our trip to the Sight and Sound prodution of Daniel yesterday. That is going to have to wait until tomorrow, because today they took the ten commandments out of the courtroom.
This case, of course, has been fermenting for months, stirring up great emotions on both sides. Today it appears as if the first step has been taken toward completely removing all vestiges of biblical law from our courtrooms.
There has been a spirit of poorly-concealed glee in the reports that I have read about the incident today. Our condescending press has been very thorough in denouncing Judge Moore and applauding the "separation of church and state." It would appear as if they (those opposed to public acknowledgements of God) feel that removing the ten commandments from sight removes their relevence to society.
They are sadly mistaken.
Imagine if someone removed all references to the law of gravity from science text books, and then proceeded to step off the top of the Empire State Building. He would soon come up against the reality that the law of gravity is relevent, whether or not it is acknowleged.
The laws of God are every bit as relevent as the law of gravity. (Actually, when you think about it, the law of gravity IS one of the laws of God). They are not nullified simply because of a society's refusal to acknowlege them. Our society will, sooner or later, come up against the reality and relevence of the ten commandments.
Let us, believers in Jesus Christ, continue to hold to God's law, stand up for it when neccessary, and not feel the least bit threatened when unbelievers try to make believe it does not exist.
August 26, 2003
Sight and Sound
It's morning (not my favorite time of day!) and the family is up and ready to travel to Strausburg, PA, for the Sight and Sound production Daniel.
I am writing now because there might not be time when we get back.
I have heard alot about this production, and am very much looking forward to seeing it. One of my biggest pet peeves is the seeming inability of modern Christianity (especially in fundamental circles) to do anything of quality when it comes to the arts. By all accounts, the Sight and Sound presentations are an exception. I will, of course, give a full account when we return.
August 24, 2003
Calling All George Baileys
Well, it's Sunday night, and I am going through the usual let-down that follows a day of ministry.
I was in Dryden NY a couple of weeks ago, and saw the building that was supposedly the inspiration for the name George W. Bailey in the Frank Capra classic It's a Wonderful Life. Since then, I have been thinking alot about the film as I have traveled through the hills and dales of Upstate New York. I have gone through many towns, with names like Cortland, Homer, New Berlin, Smyrna, Sherburn, Norwich, Marathon, etc. Each one of them at one time, however, could have been called Bedford Falls. They were each at one time the type of town that inspired the fictional town in the movie (although a strong argument has been made that the actual inspiration was Seneca Falls, NY).
In the film the hero, George Bailey, has the rare privilege of seeing what life would have been like in Bedford Falls had he never been born. He is shown the sorry state of affairs in a town where he never existed.
This scene came back eerily to me today as I drove through the above-mentioned towns. It would appear that, for the most part, there have been no George Baileys to save them.
In today's world Baily-esque self-sacrifice is out, and Potter-esque indulgence and greed is in. Any number of social and cultural issues are brushed aside by the snide phrase "It's the economy, stupid." (Thanks alot, Bill Clinton) As a result, the Bedford Falls communites of our society are falling into ruin, lacking the love and sense of community it takes to maintain them.
Where did all the George Bailey's go? Perhaps they realized their dreams of greatness overseas. Perhaps they were taken in by Potter's offer of employment. I rather think, however, that in their hour of darkest need, there was nobody praying for them, so they simply drowned. The George Baileys of the world are often taken for granted.
George, if you are reading this, I cannot help but think that there are other like-minded souls out there who will stand up with you if you make your voice heard. Continue to fight the Potters, and those who by their complacency aid and abet him. Remember, you never know the influence one person can have.
August 23, 2003
Slow News is No News
Not much to write today. I have been working on a study called "Christ in the Genealogies", but have nothing ready to publish at this point.
The only other thing I can think of to write is to ask for prayer for Kevin Davis as he arrives today in South Africa. We (especially Mikey) miss him alot around here, but rejoice at the burden God as given him for that country, as well as the present opportunity he has for ministry there.
August 22, 2003
Why I Love Brazil
The subtitle of this weblog informs that these are the "musings of a missionary to Brazil." It occured to me that up until now precious little had been said about Brazil. I would therefore like to use today's space to share several reasons why I am in love with Brazil.
Reason #1: Brazilians
Brazilians are absolutely the most loveable people in the world. They have a graciousness and a gentleness which are sorely lacking in our American culture. At the same time, the value sincerity in their dealings with one another. Their concept of friendship-amizade-is much more profound than our own. I have spent about three years in Brazil, but in that 10% of my life (you math whizes now know my age!) I have made about 50% of the lasting friendships that I have.
Reason 2:Brazilian Life
Life in Brazil is great! There is an easygoing rhythm in day-to-day existence that stands in stark contrast to the frenetic pace of the North American lifesyle. Sitting here at my computer, I can picture the waving palms, the swaying hammocks, the cheerful bustle of outdoor markets, and the cathartic Bossa Nova music in the background. This is not to say that life in Brazil does not have its drawbacks, but once you have been hooked on Brazil, there is no cure.
Reason 3: Brazlian Pride
I am a red, white and blue, flag-waving, apple pie-eating American. Yet, because of my time spent in Brazil, coupled with being married to the most gorgeous Brazilian woman in existence and having a Brazilian son, I am probably equally Brazilian in my outlook. As a result, my pride for being a Brazilian (albeit an unofficial one) is right up there next to my pride for being an American. I get choked up when I see the Brazilian flag. I get passionate when I talk about the Brazilian soccer team. I can tell you at length the Brazilian contributions to the world (I am not ready to say that Santos Dumont invented the airplane, but he most certainly did invent the wristwatch!).
I love Brazil! If you haven't gotten that from this article, I need to seriously re-examine my communication skills. I hope that you, the reader, will have the opportunity to rub shoulders with Brazilians, and, better yet, go to Brazil and experience it for yourself.
August 21, 2003
This evening Itacyara, Mike and I went to Lamoka Baptist Camp to see some friends and hear some good preaching. While we were there, we had the opportunity to see the newest release from Veggitales. Not exacly an art flick, but we enjoyed it. In the movie, a reference was made to the song Desperado by the Eagles. As I reflected on the words on the way home, I began to realize that this song comes as close to giving the message of the Gospel as any secular song ever came. I'm sure these parallels were purely accidental, but they are there none the less. I will share them with you.
Desperado, why don't you come to your senses?
You been out ridin' fences for so long now
Man in his natural state, doing what is right in his own eyes (Isaiah 53:6a)
Oh, you're a hard one
I know that you got your reasons
These things that are pleasin' you
Can hurt you somehow
Man desires to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a moment. However, in Romans 6:23, we find that the consequence of this pleasure-seeking lifestyle is death.
Don' you draw the queen of diamonds, boy
She'll beat you if she's able
You know the queen of hearts is always your best bet
This is a vivid image on the part of the songwriter about chosing love over money. Too bad he couldn't go a step further and talk chosing the perfect love of God (Romans 5:6,7 and 8)
Now it seems to me, some fine things
Have been laid upon your table
But you only want the ones that you can't get
This is an acute observation on human nature. The same concept is seen with Eve, who had all the trees in the garden available to her--yet she ate of the forbidden one. Mankind still finds himself in that position. The love of God is made available to us, yet we want wat we cannot have.
Desperado, oh, you ain't gettin' no youger
Your pain and your hunger, they're drivin' you home
The mortality of man is seen here (Hebrews 9:27)
And freedom, oh freedom well, that's just some people talkin'
Your prison is walking through this world all alone
The Bible tells us that nobody is truly free. Either we serve God, or we serve our flesh (Romans 6:13).
Don't your feet get cold in the winter time?
The sky won't snow and the sun won't shine
It's hard to tell the night time from the day
You're loosin' all your highs and lows
Ain't it funny how the feeling goes away?
The futility of a life built on feelings. Very profound, considering we live in a culture built on feelings.
Desperado, why don't you come to your senses?
Come down from your fences, open the gate
As close as a secular song has ever come to giving an altar call (Matthew 7:13-14).
It may be rainin', but there's a rainbow above you
You better let somebody love you, before it's too late
The altar call continues. I can only echo the words. God loved you enough to send His Son to die for you (John 3:16). Will you let Him love you?
August 20, 2003
So Who Is More Moral?
I heard of a veteran missionary to Brazil telling a group of church people that Brazilians were a fundamentally immoral people. After my inicial outrage at such a paternalistic remark, I began to think. Is there any people in the world today who can be called fundamentally moral? Certainly not us! In case you somehow believe that our culture is superior morally to others, let me just burst your bubble by reliving some events of my day:
I was sitting in the tire shop (see the "I Love Flat Tires" entry for details) and watching the TV provided in the waiting room. There were two cartoons, back to back. Both of them were filled with sexual inuendos and overtly disguisting imagery. Cartoons! Whatever happened to Bugs and Elmer?
Decidig that there were probably more edifying things to look at, I picked up a nearby computer magazine. To my shock, in between the articles about copyright infringement and the newest PDAs were advertizements featuring computer parts and less than appropriately clad ladies.
Why do I need to see this when I am buying computers? More importantly, why do these ladies feel that their only value is to be used as merchendising for computer parts?
How, then, does it come about that Brazilians are more immoral than us? The first thing that comes to mind is Carnaval--that time of fleshly decadence for which Brazil is famous. Of course, we have our own Mardi Gras, spring break, bike week, etc. So I guess we aren't any better on that score.
So, we are back to wondering how Brazilian culture is more immoral than ours. This is made more difficult when you are familiar with Brazilian culture. For you see, the family unit in Brazil is by and large stronger than ours. The divorce rate is less. It is considered an honor for a girl to be a virgin when she marries.
Now, I am not out to say that Brazilian culture is fundamentally moral. All human culture is heavily influenced by the sin nature (Romans 3:23). I guess what I am saying is that we as Americans need to pay a little more attention to the beam that is in our own cultural eye. Every culture has issues, including our own.
August 18, 2003
The Genesis Project
My current Bible study is taking me through the book of Genesis. Currently in the third chapter (speed demon that I am!) I am interested in what would motivate Eve--resident of a perfect environment, married to the most hansome man in the world(!)--to throw it all away for a piece of fruit offered to her by a reptile. So far I find three reasons given to us by scripture in Genesis 3:6.
1. Eve believed the tree would meet a physical desire. She saw that the tree was "good for food" (Genesis). The more she focused on that fruit, the more the vast variety of fruits and vegetables around her faded into the background. That fruit was going to satisfy a growing craving. Surely God would understand! To borrow the words from a popular song, "How can it be so wrong when it feels so right?"
2. Eve noticed that the forbidden fruit was pleasing aesthetically. This was important to her. It was not some ugly, dried up fruit. (We can safely rule out prunes as the culprit!) It was beautiful! Nobody could tell her that it was wrong, because she was standing right there by it and it looked good.
3. Eve believed the serpent's line that the fruit was educational. This was all about self improvement! This line of reasoning is used to justify alot of things. (eg. I just read it for the articles!)
In essence, the reasons Eve sinned are the same reasons we sin today. It feels good, it looks good, and it will make me better. Or, as I John 2:16 puts it, "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life."
August 17, 2003
I Love Flat Tires!
After you read the title for this entry, you probably have the sneaking suspicion that I am crazy. I will make no effort here to dispute that suspicion. After all, who enjoys flat tires? They are the bane of the traveller's existence, inconveniencing the otherwise smooth transit by automobile from one point to another. Yet, I do love flat tires.
I need to explain: I do not enjoy changing tires. It is, rather, the things that have happened in my life as a direct or indirect result of flat tires that I love. Here are some brief examples:
1. It was May of 1995, and I was enrout from Juazeiro do Norte, Brazil, to the city of Fortaleza--about an eight hour trip. I was travelling as part of a convoy which included three cars. Between the three cars that day we had six flat tires! The eight hours stretched into twelve. The last flat tire we had was just outside the city. The ladies and children went on to our destination, while some of the men went to find a rubber shop. That left myself, Mark Willson, and his son Jonathan, to stay by the disabled vehicle. We began to discuss how great our God is, and what a privilege it is to be in His service.
Before long, we were singing the old chorus "Lord, send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. Sever any tie, save the one that binds me to thy love. Oh Jesus my Lord, I dedicate my life, Lord to thee." A flat tire had turned into a full fleged praise service. I would not trade that experience for all the radials in the world!
2. Fast forward to June of 2003. My wife Itacyara, my son Mike, and myself were traveling from Florida to have a summer full of meetings in New York. We pulled in to Lexington, VA to spend the night, and upon exiting the vehicle I noticed that (you guessed it) the tire was flat. Grumbling about the inconvenience, I put on the spare and then we continued to our hotel room. The next day found us seeing some sights in Lexington (Virginia Military Institute, The Military History museum, etc) and waiting for the tire shop to install the new tire.
As I was paying for the tire, I noticed that my wife was talking to a man behind me--the typical kind of man you would expect to find hanging around a tire shop in old Virginia. Then, to my utter surprise, I found that they were talking in Portuguese! Remember that Lexington, VA is the home of Stonewall Jackson, and there is virtually no sign of a latin, much less Brazilian, community there. Yet here was my wife speaking to this gentleman in perfect Portuguese. Upon further investigation we found that he was the son of a former missionary to Brazil, and was currently teaching Latin American History at a local university. Those things don't just happen! As we continued on our way, we wondered at God's sovereignty of organizing that meeting (which otherwise would never have taken place) by giving us a flat tire.
3. Which brings us to yesterday. The tires on the right side of my vehicle have been soft for awhile. I have been meaning to get them checked, but have not gotten around to it. I have been letting them go. The consequences of this procrastination were felt yesterday as I backed out of my folk's driveway. The familiar "thump thump" let me know that, once again, I was to experience the joys of a flat tire. After changing the tire (and cleaning the grease off my hands and arms) I ruefully reflected that this might not have happened had not I cared for my tires properly. It was then that God gently pointed to several areas of my life and relationship with Him that were being ignored. With my car, I was so intent on getting from point "a" to point "b" that I ignored the proper maintainence. In my Christian walk, I have been so intent on getting to Brazil (where I know God wants us) that some important maintainence steps (prayer, sleep, time with family) have been falling by the wayside. Frankly, I am glad God was willing to sacrifice one of my radials for the benefit of my spiritual growth.
The other day I received an update from a missionary friend of mine who is also on deputation. He is almost ready to go to the field, and in his letter he was recounting God's blessings to him and his family during the course of the past few months. He mentioned that not once did they have a flat tire. I rejoice with him at God's provision in his life, and yet I wouldn't trade places with him. If I did, I would be missing out on some of the greatest blessings of God in my life! I love flat tires!
August 16, 2003
Me Likum Wagon Trains
The odd title for this first entry into our weblog is in homage of Kevin Davis, the computer guru, dominoes wizard, missionary to South Africa, and all around nice guy who worked patiently with me (computer layman, dominoes novice, missionary to Brazil) in order to make this blog and our updated site possible. The phrase "Me Likum Wagon Trains" originated in a puppet script used in our Vacation Bible School program. It has, however, gone far beyond that and become something of a catch-all greeting phrase. We (Kevin and I) feel that it is well on it's way to becoming embedded into American culture.
Anyway, welcome to the Comings Communiqué. Our hope is that these musings will be edifying to believers, challenging to unbelievers, and give folks a fresh look at the world of missions--especially in Brazil.