May 23, 2011

First Pictures from Second Term

Admittedly, there's not much here. We would have many more pictures, but for the first couple weeks the charger for our camera was buried deep in luggage. It has finally been recovered, and more pictures should be forthcoming.

Reading on the Plane
Michael and Nathanael, reading on the plane.

Maranhão from the Air
Marnahão from the air.

Beautiful Cathedral in São Luís.

Andrew and Itacyara (and Nay Nay)
The happy couple...and Nathan.

In the future there will be pictures of our new house (as soon as the Brazilian Bombshell decrees that it is ready for pictures), the new missionarymobile (it's red!) and various aspects of ministry here.

Stay tuned!

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May 5, 2011

Am I YRR? Observations from the Gospel Coalition Conference

A few weeks have passed since I accompanied the pastoral staff of our sending church to the Gospel Coalition Conference in Chicago. Since that time our family has returned to Brazil, rented a house, and taken the first baby steps in our new ministry in the city of Sao Luis.

I am currently cooling my heels in the city of Juazeiro do Norte (16 hours by car from Sao Luis) awaiting approval for the purchase of a new vehicle. Since I have time (and an internet connection) I figure it is high time for me to share my reflections on the conference.

Before anything else, I want to say that the conference was a tremendous blessing. The theme, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, was expounded masterfully from the pulpit by men like D.A. Carson, Al Mohler, and Alistair Begg. Workshops on such relevant topics as church planting and church mission were very timely for me personally.

During the week we kept hearing about the YRR--Young, Restless, and Reformed. The pastors of our church and I had a running debate as to whether we fit into this category. So, am I YRR? The answer is clearly...

Yes. The TGC people have a passion for the Scriptures and for biblical preaching. If this is what it means to be YRR, then count me in.

No. The TGC people are, for the most part, five-point Calvinists. By most people's definition, I am not. So...they would probably not have me.

Yes. As their name, The Gospel Coalition, suggests, it is a group of people united around the Gospel. The denominational variety is impressive, as is their ability to disagree about secondary issues and remain friends. I listened as one Baptist panel participant told of being amazed at how the Greek Orthodox priests in the country where he worked would dunk babies in the baptismal waters because "they know what the word means". This was directed at a Presbyterian member of the panel, who received the comment with grace and good humor.

Another comment is appropriate here: It is quite evident that these men are not "rank compromisers". They are not uniting for the sake of uniting, or even for the sake of evangelism. Rather, they are brought together because of their passion for the Gospel. I found that to be truly refreshing.

No. I am a dispensationalist, and it was evident that most of the participants at TGC subscribe to some form of covenant theology. This is not true across the board, however. John MacArthur is greatly influential in some sectors of the YRR movement, and he is quite dispensational. Al Mohler, in his comments about how the Old Testament has been interpreted, had this to say: "Modern dispensationalists were right to see divisions, and wrong to deny continuity." Can't say as I can argue with that.

Yes. The TGC people are very careful that correct worship reflect correct doctrine. The worship services preceding and following the messages were powerfully theological. Kudos to Keith and Kristyn Getty, who set an amazingly worshipful tone for the whole conference. Their first session literally moved me to tears.

No. Many in the YRR movement are decidedly non-cessationist. By this I mean that they feel that sign gifts are still valid for today's church. As I have stated elsewhere on this blog, I cannot see this in Scripture, and I am constantly confronted with the dangerous effects of this idea in our work here in Brazil. It should be noted, however, that several of the leaders of TCG in specific and the YRR movement in general are indeed cessationists.

Yes. I am a confirmed Mac user, and was pleased to see that 99.999% of the computers being used at the TGC conference were Macs. I felt very hip and cutting-edge.

No. Most of the young men at the conference sported either spiked hair or Driscoll-style "faux-hawks". For kicks, the pastoral staff and I decided to adopt this style for our presentation at our church. To my dismay, I discovered that no amount of gel could make my hair do other than what it has always done. It's true: I have Regular Baptist hair.

So there you have it. Am I part of the YRR movement? The answer is clearly Yes...and No.

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May 2, 2011

A Missionary Meditates on the Demise of a Monster

The following is a rough translation of a post over at my Portuguese-language blog.

Almost ten years ago I woke one morning--after working the overnight shift--and turned on the TV. The images that met my eyes were those of the 9-11 attack, masterminded by the monster Osama Bin Laden.

This morning, when I opened my laptop, I saw the news of Osama's death. I have since watched several videos of the spontaneous celebrations that took place around my native land, and I confess a certain regret at not being able to personally participate.

Already I am seeing articles written by Christians, lamenting the American's joy at this auspicious moment. And sooner or later someone here is bound to ask me the following: How can a believer be happy over the death over another human being? or What kind of missionary are you, anyway?

Understand this: my happiness is not over the death of a man without Christ. If there is anything in this event that makes me sad, it is this. Instead, I rejoice to see justice done.

Yesterday, human justice was administered to Osama Bin Laden.

Today, and forevermore, divine justice will be reigned down upon his head.

Important detail: this same divine justice would be my own lot, if it were not for the incomprehensible grace of God. (Psalm 98:15)

And that's all I have to say about that.

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Book Review: The Fight of Our Lives

One of the great coincidences in recent times may be that the announcement of the death of Osama bin Laden was made 66 years to the day after the announcement of the death of Adolf Hitler. (or so I read in a tweet today).

A slightly less auspicious coincidence is that when I opened my computer this morning and read of bin Laden's demise, I had originally intended to post this review of The Fight of Our Lives, an analysis of the US' prosecution of the "war on terror".

Puting aside current events for a moment, Authors William J Bennet and Seth Leibsohn do a fair job of presenting the facts in this extensively footnoted work. There is very little in the book that is new, especially to aficionados of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, or Fox News. While not all of their angst is directed at the current administration, they heavily (and, I believe, correctly) criticize Obama's handling of the aftermath of the Fort Hood massacre.

The overall conclusion of the book seems to be that America is losing its nerve in the war against terror. The very use of the term "war on terror"--instead of "war on radical Islam"--is one indication of this lack of clarity. Perhaps yesterday's events show that the situation is not as bleak as the authors make it out to be.

Still, the concerns the authors make will not go away with the death of Osama, and those in policy-making positions--as well as the nation as a whole--would do well to take the observations in The Fight of Our Lives to heart in the days ahead.

One final observation: for the believer in Christ, the book does not go far enough. The ultimate solution to the "war on terror" will not come as a result of the victory of American arms and American ideals, as the authors seem to suggest. Rather, it will come as the result of a general working of the Grace of God in the Arab world. May we as believers pray earnestly to that end.

The small print: Though I received this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze program, in return for a review, I am under no obligation to write a positive review of this work.

Please check out our Amazon bookstore by clicking on the link below. Purchase of the fine resources at this store will result in a small contribution to our work.

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