Tuesday, March 31, 2009

videos about forgiveness

Slate is not known for it's Christian testimonials. But a story about forgiveness is a story about Christ whether acknowledged or not.

Here is a Christian version.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The cruel irony awaiting embryonic stem cell advocates

There is nothing for me to add to this essay.

In 1973, Feminists promoted abortion as their route to liberation; a way to elevate their status in society and secure for them what they believed was rightfully theirs.

Due to their efforts, the evil of abortion was unleashed. Once an evil is unleashed, no person, group of persons nor government can limit or control it.

In the Guangdong province of China today, 144 births out of every 200 are male. The reason for the disparity of the normal 50% ratio is that this province (and government) specifically targets female babies as undesirable and aborts them. So 44 female babies are aborted out of every 100 female conceptions, or 44%. Chilling, isn't it?

So the Feminists in this world thought abortion would free them as second class citizens, but now it targets them as a second class citizens ten fold.


Those disabled advocates (who struggle with horrible diseases and face the difficulty of lost mobility) who promote embryonic stem cell research as their way out are in danger of making the same mistake that the Feminists did 30 years ago.


Their efforts will be unleashing an active evil that will eventually turn on them ten fold and seek out the disabled, elderly and infirmed defining them as less than human with no legal rights nor deserving of any protection. They, themselves, will become the hunted.

6 ways to get kicked out of church

Paul boils the list of ejection-worthy offenses down to six in 1 Corinthians 5:11; fornication, greed, idolatry, verbal abuse, drunkenness, thievery. Sounds like 5 of the 10 commandments and an obnoxiousness clause. The commandments I'm thinking of are #7 Adultery a, b, c, #10 Lust a, b, #2 No idols a, b, c, d, e, f, #9 Lying, perjury, slander a, b, c, #8 Stealing a, b, all the links are too my previous series on these commandments. My intention is to revisit these topics in the context of church life and try to figure out how to apply this to my church and my life today.

Here's how a bunch of different translators or paraphrasers make English of Paul's Greek. I really like the paraphrases in the Message and the Bible in Basic English.


But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who calls himself a Christian 1 who is sexually immoral, or greedy, or an idolater, or verbally abusive, 2 or a drunkard, or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person.


But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.


But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.


What I meant was that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a Christian yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or a drunkard, or a swindler. Don’t even eat with such people.


But I am saying that you shouldn't act as if everything is just fine when one of your Christian companions is promiscuous or crooked, is flip with God or rude to friends, gets drunk or becomes greedy and predatory. You can't just go along with this, treating it as acceptable behavior.


But the sense of my letter was that if a brother had the name of being one who went after the desires of the flesh, or had the desire for other people’s property, or was in the way of using violent language, or being the worse for drink, or took by force what was not his, you might not keep company with such a one, or take food with him.


But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother or sister who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber. Do not even eat with such a one.


But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner––not even to eat with such a person.

blogs I commented on March 27

I belong to Toastmasters International and I'm currently President of my club. I think it has provided tremendous benefit to me and my audiences, which is why I seconded Nadia's recommendation at the Springboards Blog.

I let CMP know I would pray for his 2 year old son who might have leukemia. Could you as well?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Loss of self-control and church discipline

I've been digging into the concept of character lately and its relationship to self-control and long term perspective. For many people, someone without self-control, basically an adult that acts like a child, is usually unpleasant company. In the church though, the story is much more complicated. We are to be a community of grace and mercy. Jesus's religious opponents frequently complained about the company he kept. In Luke 15 they were muttering about his mingling with tax collectors and "sinners" (Luke 15:1-2). This resulted in three amazing parables of his about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. His point was, every sinner who repents, who was lost but now found, who was dead but now alive, causes celebration in heaven. So like a good shepherd, a poor woman, and a prodigal father, he seeks those that are lost. The lost are usually notorious, yet Jesus sought their company so he could tell them how to get "home," back with their Father. Hence, followers of Christ need to seeking out the lost and telling them the good news and inviting them to our Father's house.

As a result, people in the church building will be at different levels of self-control. Some won't even consider themselves part of the family. However, baptism is usually the symbol to identify those who belong to the family. It's partly why I favor believer's baptism over infant baptism. The question for churches is what to do with those in the family who are regressing into their sinful past or discovering new avenues of sin instead of maturing in their faith and becoming more Spirit controlled and less flesh controlled. Jesus warned his disciples that belief and acceptance of the good news will not guarantee ever upward maturity in his parable of the soils, Luke 8: 1-15. Some receive the word with joy but have their faith has no root and wilts under hardship, Luke 8:13. Some receive the word and it takes root but life's worries, riches and pleasures choke it and they do not mature, Luke 8:14. But there are those with a "noble and good heart" who hear it, retain it, and "by perservering" produce a crop, Luke 8:15. Obviously, we'd all like to have good and noble hearts that return a harvest to the One who gave everything to redeem us.

But what can our church community do with those stuck in the weeds? How do we love them? How do we practice mercy and grace? It's a narrow path and the church usually responds in two extremes. They'll point to every green nub poking out of the soil and proclaim it a weed and begin digging to uproot them. Alternatively, the church will see so many weeds that they'll leave things to the divine gardner or rename the weeds altogether, denying their reality and destructiveness.

The first approach is called legalism. It will make a person insecure. They will fear every inclination of their heart. It will make them dependent on people instead of the Holy Spirit to guide them into maturity. It also makes their faith very weak, because the soil around them is constantly torn up by over-zealous gardening. It makes the person inward looking and afraid of contamination by the sinners Jesus wants us to reach out to, and the entire church loses its mission to a lost and dying world in need of Jesus's good news.

The second approach calls itself grace, but is really licentiouseness, which is the opposite of self-control/character/maturity. This church looks like an unruly garden the produces no fruit and attracts no one from a lost and dying world in need of Jesus's good news.

The Bible offers a response to the second kind of behavior. Paul writes a letter to the church in Corinth and rebukes their acceptance of a man who shacked up with his step-mom. Ick! The details are in 1 Corinthians 5.

5:1 It is actually reported that sexual immorality exists among you, the kind of immorality that is not permitted even among the Gentiles, so that someone is cohabiting with his father’s wife. 5:2 And you are proud! Shouldn’t you have been deeply sorrowful instead and removed the one who did this from among you? 5:3 For even though I am absent physically, I am present in spirit. And I have already judged the one who did this, just as though I were present. 5:4 When you gather together in the name of our Lord Jesus, and I am with you in spirit, along with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5:5 turn this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

5:6 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast affects the whole batch of dough? 5:7 Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch of dough – you are, in fact, without yeast. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 5:8 So then, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of vice and evil, but with the bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.

5:9 I wrote you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. 5:10 In no way did I mean the immoral people of this world, or the greedy and swindlers and idolaters, since you would then have to go out of the world. 5:11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who calls himself a Christian who is sexually immoral, or greedy, or an idolater, or verbally abusive, or a drunkard, or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person. 5:12 For what do I have to do with judging those outside? Are you not to judge those inside? 5:13 But God will judge those outside. Remove the evil person from among you.

Paul demands a harsh response, by today's standards anyway, to this couple. He says stop being proud of your tolerance, in fact, repent of it, and kick them out! Tell them they aren't welcome to worship with you anymore. This is an example of a seed that is being choked out by pleasure. Paul is concerned with that weed spreading to other parts of the garden, the church, as weeds tend to do. He is NOT concerned with the sin of unbelievers, but that of believers. He is concerned with specific sins within the family that can spread and cause great harm. They are listed in v. 11 and those who are sexually immoral, or greedy, or an idolater, or verbally abusive, or a drunkard, or a swindler earn themselves ejection.

I think I'll look at these individually over the next few posts.

There is a mysterious component to this passage. Handing over a believer to Satan, v. 5, is bizarre in my mind. But the offender has already handed himself over to Satan. The church is told to simply acknowledge what already has occurred and not stay in denial about it. It seems by the time Paul writes his 2nd letter to the church in Corinth, the guy has responded to the discipline. He has recognized the weeds and has disentangled himself from them. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 2: 5-11
2:5 But if anyone has caused sadness, he has not saddened me alone, but to some extent (not to exaggerate) he has saddened all of you as well. 2:6 This punishment on such an individual by the majority is enough for him, 2:7 so that now instead you should rather forgive and comfort him. This will keep him from being overwhelmed by excessive grief to the point of despair. 2:8 Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. 2:9 For this reason also I wrote you: to test you to see if you are obedient in everything. 2:10 If you forgive anyone for anything, I also forgive him – for indeed what I have forgiven (if I have forgiven anything) I did so for you in the presence of Christ, 2:11 so that we may not be exploited by Satan (for we are not ignorant of his schemes).
The goal of saving his spirit by the destruction of his flesh worked and Paul encourages his restoration. The goal of all discipline is perfection. If we are unable to discipline ourselves then our brothers and sisters are supposed to help us, but the method of love is a tough one.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Planned Parenthood protects statuatory rapists - again

Abortion seems to be right no matter what to Planned Parenthood staffers. At least that is the impression they make on the Mona Lisa Project journalists who nail two more clinics assuring claimed underage girls that their adult impregnators won't get in trouble.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Character and self-control: More thoughts

After I published previously, I was able to do more thinking on my bike ride home. I know one of my weaknesses as a writer is that I make long mental leaps between points that tends to leave readers mystified. Sorry.

Part of what I wanted to say yesterday is that if character is who we are when no one sees us, then, looking at just our sinful thoughts alone, we all fail miserably. Our minds are filled with good and bad. Some of us in equal proportions and some more good, but all of us have evil within us. Even God tells us this through his prophet Jeremiah. The human mind is more deceitful than anything else. It is incurably bad. 1 Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9

But Jesus himself points out that there are good and noble hearts in his parable of the soils. Regarding the soil that enables the seed to produce a hundred fold he says, But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience. NKJV Luke 8:15

I don't think there is a contradiction here, but a discrimination of levels. At our core, we are sinful. But how we respond to our sinfulness and the sin around us begins to separate the good from the bad hearts. How do good hearts respond? I think Jesus addresses this in his Beatitudes in Matthew 5: 3-11

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you falsely on account of me. Rejoice and be glad because your reward is great in heaven, for they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way.

Hearts that Jesus commends are the ones that recognize their poverty of spirit, regret and weep over sinfulness, have humility, who fast for what's right either voluntarily or involuntarily, who are merciful because of their humility, who seek purity in themselves, who pursue reconciliation, who withstand trial that they could easily avoid.

So what is character? I still think it depends a great deal on perspective. I think it depends on self-control. I think it depends on a commitment to that which is right no matter how hard keeping that commitment gets. Sometimes circumstances around us make that commitment hard. But other times it's difficult because our own selfish wickedness beckons us.

We find strength by focusing on others, loving them as ourselves, and by focusing on God, loving him with all of our being. Matthew 22:36-40

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
Perhaps character strongly depends on love.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Character: some thoughts

I've been mulling over a proposed definition of character today.

Part 1
The popular definition in my church circles is that character is determined by your behavior when no one is watching. It sounds pretty good.
Part 2
I watched a debate with Christopher Hitchens yesterday in which he complained about the cosmic despot who holds us guilty for every thought that wafts through our minds.
Part 3
Jesus says the fantasy of adultery is just as wicked as the act itself. Matthew 5:27-30
Part 4
Fantasy is what one does in one's own mind where none other, but one, God, can see.
Part 5
Everyone fantasizes of good and evil. Hence, who has character?
Part 6
Hitchens misses Jesus' point. Our thoughts affect our souls and usually affect our actions. Even the moribund, those trapped by physical paralysis, are sinners in need of a savior. Jesus calls for a radical response, by hyperbole, to wicked thoughts, amputation, Matthew 5:29-30.
Part 7
Is there a difference between the character who acts out and the character who doesn't? Yes. One character has self-control, which is a highly desirable ability, and is commended by God.
Part 8
Where does self-control falter? Encounters with the appetites of the flesh; Sex. Gluttony. Addictions. Physical pleasures above or outside of what God has deemed sufficient. What is the solution to these weaknesses? Perspective.

Mark 8:34-38 Then Jesus called the crowd, along with his disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the gospel will save it. For what benefit is it for a person to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his life? What can a person give in exchange for his life? For if anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Part 9
A goal for long term gain can restrain the impulses of short term pleasure with long term negative consequences. Perspective probably contributes much to character, who we are when only God sees.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

10 commands for those about to be baptized

The great church father Gregory of Nazianzus decided that just as Moses went up the mountain and encountered God and came down with 10 commandments, so those being baptized were encountering God as well, and he wanted to give them 10 commands. It's the essentials of the faith. And I really like them. And I'm very grateful to Fred Sanders for posting these. but I don't want to forget them, so I'll re-post them here. But Fred has better background to these.

But not yet perhaps is there formed upon your soul any writing good or bad; and you want to be written upon today, and formed by us into perfection. Let us go within the cloud. Give me the tables of your heart; I will be your Moses, though this be a bold thing to say; I will write on them with the finger of God a new Decalogue. I will write on them a shorter method of salvation. And if there be any heretical or unreasoning beast, let him remain below, or he will run the risk of being stoned by the Word of truth.

1. I will baptize you and make you a disciple in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost; and these Three have One common name, the Godhead. And you shall know, both by appearances and by words that you reject all ungodliness, and are united to all the Godhead.

2. Believe that all that is in the world, both all that is seen and all that is unseen, was made out of nothing by God, and is governed by the Providence of its Creator, and will receive a change to a better state.

3. Believe that evil has no substance or kingdom, either unoriginate or self-existent or created by God; but that it is our work, and the evil one’s and came upon us through our heedlessness, but not from our Creator.

4. Believe that the Son of God, the Eternal Word, Who was begotten of the Father before all time and without a body, was in these latter days for your sake made also Son of Man, born of the Virgin Mary ineffably and stainlessly (for nothing can be stained where God is, and by which salvation comes), in His own Person at once entire Man and perfect God, for the sake of the entire sufferer, that He may bestow salvation on your whole being, having destroyed the whole condemnation of your sins: impassible in His Godhead, passible in that which He assumed; as much Man for your sake as you are made God for His.

5. Believe that for us sinners He was led to death; was crucified and buried, so far as to taste of death;

6. And that He rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven, that He might take you with Him who were lying low;

7. And that He will come again with His glorious Presence to judge the quick and the dead; no longer flesh, nor yet without a body, according to the laws which He alone knows of a more godlike body, that He may be seen by those who pierced Him, and on the other hand may remain as God without carnality.

8. Receive besides this the Resurrection, the Judgment and the Reward according to the righteous scales of God;

9. And believe that this will be Light to those whose mind is purified (that is, God — seen and known) proportionate to their degree of purity, which we call the Kingdom of heaven; but to those who suffer from blindness of their ruling faculty, darkness, that is estrangement from God, proportionate to their blindness here.

10. Then, in the tenth place, work for that which is good upon this foundation of dogma; for faith without works is dead, even as are works apart from faith.

This is all that may be divulged of the Sacrament, and that is not forbidden to the ear of the many. The rest you shall learn within the Church by the grace of the Holy Trinity; and those matters you shall conceal within yourself, sealed and secure.

Friday, March 13, 2009

blogs I commented on March 09 week 2

Tony Jones calls the creation account true but not factual and thinks Paul's understanding of original sin and its transmission from Adam to us is corrupted by the confusion of true and factual. He sure acts like a typical liberal Princeton seminarian. He keeps getting hung up on the issue that somehow Adam's curse messed up his genetics which would explain original sin, and since no one has found the Sin gene, Original Sin must be an archetype, whatever that is, and not a reality. I responded You seem hung up on a materialist explanation of the transmission of sin from Adam. Perhaps we inherit some of our parents' spritual essences as well. However, it does seem mysterious, but why should mystery prevent us from accepting plain doctrine?
Thanks to Mike Wittmer for the heads up and brief analysis.

Justin McRoberts reflected on the complaints of a wealthy man.

Michael Patton at Parchment and Pen makes a bailout proposal for the American evangelical church before it goes bankrupt and I added a simple thought, we need to be intentional in our disciple making both formally and informally. While in moderation limbo, this is what I wrote.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

cinema review: Fireproof (2008)

updated with video...
Morality plays have a long history and Fireproof plays it safe and sticks with traditional story telling of this genre. What can one expect from this genre? Nothing is left to the imagination. What could be said with a glance in any other movie, is assisted with stilted dialog. Hence, it feels like a child's movie, an After School Special. This does not make it a bad movie. Rather, it is a good story hindered by a fear of uncertainty. Several times I spoke out loud to the movie and pleaded with it to "Show me, don't tell me." That principle separates the sheep from the goats in writing class and the adults from the kids in cinema. As a visit to the reviews at Rotten Tomatoes will prove, adults are insulted by this movie. My kids did like the movie, however. About half-way through the movie, I became more interested in the story. I think any adult can because, with half the marriages in this country ending in divorce, everyone knows someone divorced or getting divorced. All of us wish we had some influence over the partners to make things better, or at least encourage them to behave in the interest of the other.

This story has a happy ending because Kirk Cameron's character, jerky husband and fire chief, is challenged by his father to romance his wife while the lawyers begin the journey to separation. Kirk does and she comes back to him. They also get born again (see John 3:3) as well. We evangelicals are threatened by art and even more threatened by ambiguous art. Bella, which I reviewed earlier, is full of ambiguity, but it is Christ-haunted (it's also ambitiously artistic). The aroma of Christ lingers on after that movie. Fireproof sprays you with the full force of a fire hose. After the movie, one leaves dripping wet with Christ. For those not eager to get soaked, they'll likely leave irritated, but they'll leave Bella intrigued.

Hence, I recommend one not spring this on your unsaved friends. Be honest that you'd like to share a Christian movie with them. It's worth recommending as a morality play about keeping the romance alive in a marriage. They will adjust their expectations accordingly.

Update: here's a 60 second video summary of the movie.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Diary of a God fearing sinner part 4

My friend makes good videos like this one, a refreshing take on the prayer of Jabez.

I linked to his first video here. He has a Youtube channel as well.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Obama restores federal funding for destructive baby stem cell research

Embryonic stem cells usually come from "extra" IVF embryos. These "extras" are fully human, which is why IVF is unethical in the first place. Sometimes these extras are stored on ice indefinitely and sometimes they are trashed. Since these cells are pluripotent, meaning they have the potential to become any cell type of a fully developed human, researchers believe there is great hope in doing something with them therapuetically. George Bush acknowledged the ethical problems of this line of research and prevented federal funding for this research with a few exceptions. Nevertheless, private and state funding was available. Research also continued around the world. In the meantime, research on adult and cord blood stem cells, without any ethical concerns, continued with demonstrable successes. Embryonic stem cells by execution have proven disastrous after implantation, usually resulting in tumors, the cells grow out of control in the host's body. Obama's administration "advisers calling the move a clear signal that science — not political ideology — will guide the administration."


Science shows that adult stem cells have been successfully used for therapy without ethical concerns. The science shows that destructive embryonic stem cells are unhealthy. Who is motivated by political ideology? Facts are not guiding the adminstration. In fact, ethics don't seem to guide it either. Science without ethics is barbarism.

Congratulations to my brothers and sisters who voted for this president. You are getting everything he promised you and everything you were warned about.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

blog feature update March 2009

I got rid of Snapshot previews. They never seem to load fast enough and so the visitors experience can get bogged down. However, I added the NETBibleTagger tool. I usually hyperlink all scripture references, but this tool supposedly makes that unnecessary. You should be able to mouse over John 3:16 and see a pop-up with the text of the verse in the window.

Friday, March 06, 2009

blogs I commented on March 09 week 1

It was really nice in Haiti. I liked being disconnected from the news and the blogs. When I came home I went to google reader and told it that all 1,000 unread blogs were officially read. Surprisingly, life continued without difficulty.

But now I'm back in the US where I blog and read blogs and sometimes comment on blogs. My friend Justin McRoberts posted a funny video about how good we actually have things, despite our bad economy. I compared things here to life in Haiti. I also made a comment on a post of his about Christian T-shirts.

Jill in Alaska couldn't finish the Iditarod Race by bike this week because of frostbite and she fears she let her fans down.

My friend Phil has started a blog for those who live in houses that weren't built with concerns of oil prices or shame of drafts. He had a great series on to replace windows or not. Like many of us, he'd love super windows, a post I inquired further about. I think his message could be summarized with the lyric, "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one your with."

My comments are always moderated at Queermergent, a blog for gay believers. John Starke, I presume, had the same experience. So he wrote as compassionate letter as he could asking Adele to reconsider her decisions. Comments at his blog are not allowed, only emails. So I did write him and complimented his effort.

Someone smarter than me, Rick Brannon, shares complaints about assertion of Greek grammar categories. I think, like him, that language is not binary. It's complicated.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

How hard our hearts

I've been reading the Greek New Testament and have been in Revelation. The Greek forces me to take it real slow, one chapter a morning. This morning I read Revelation 16. The seven plagues in this chapter recapitulate some of the 10 plagues sent on Egypt, blood, fire, darkness, boils, hail, and the reaction of the afflicted is the same, unrepentance, verse 9. In fact, it's worse than unrepentance. The afflicted blaspheme God, vv.11 and 21.

We sometimes hope a person hits "their bottom." When the fruit of their sinful lives are no longer deniable. We hope alcoholics reach bottom. We hope drug addicts hit their bottom. But sometimes, death comes first. It's tragic. This passage tells me that for many people, death is the only "bottom" they'll acknowledge.

We are entering, perhaps, an economic depression. But is there a country wide repentance? Will God be acknowledged? Will hearts soften? Jesus did say the rich have a harder time entering heaven than the poor, at least more difficult than a camel crawling through a needle's eye. I read the reactions of these afflicted ones in Revelation 16 and think, how stupid. Then I look around and wonder if our current culture is any smarter.

We read Luke 12 in our work church gathering yesterday. Jesus warns us against being stingy(v.21) towards God. But he also tells us, don't worry (v.22). He'll feed us and clothe us. He doesn't even promise housing! He doesn't even guarantee life. He just warns us to fear God more than men, because men can only kill the body, v.4 , but God can send the soul to hell, v.5. Jesus was not messing around. That's an important message the world needs to hear, even if they'll cover their ears and scream at God because they don't fear him, even when he is sending judgment on them.

Is our economic crisis a judgment? It sure is uncomfortable. I hope my friends who don't fear God, will take this moment of discomfort to reconsider who they serve? Worship of any one or any thing other than Jesus Christ results in hell. Jesus says to cut off whatever is keeping you from following God because that thing will be of no help in hell. But it takes a soft heart to submit to God.

Excessive Celebration Win- IMO

How can this be a FAIL if he knows he's a winner in his heart?

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Haiti: crisis in Fonds-Verrette

Beware, this is a long story. But it also has many pictures from my trip to Haiti.

Some of our stories are too painful to reveal plainly to new friends. Some of our stories have fractured our identities so much that it's almost necessary to fabricate one that will enable us to function in our community. The identity She shared with us yesterday in Her town of Fonds-Verrettes had collided with truth today as we passed back through Her town. She wasn't a widow. In fact, Her husband met our truck coming back down from Oriani in the mountains and rode with us back into town. Everything spilled out before us and the townsfolk at the open air market in front of the chain across the road, intended to slow traffic, especially the large Tap-taps. It seemed like the merchants were ready for entertainment by domestic dispute as they hoped these trucks of white visitors would stop and make purchases or hand out dollars. It was also getting dark. We hadn't purchased anything from them yesterday. Yesterday could have been a week ago. How could I have experienced so much in only one day?

The road from Port-au-Prince into the mountains traced the washed out ravines carved by recent hurricanes.

The ravines are tempting places to build a town. They are flat. Some water runs through, providing easy access to water for the family and the garden and the chickens and goats. There is not a long walk to wash the clothes. Previous storms have washed rich soil down and concentrated it for abundant vegetables and fruit. Yet when the rain does not stop, when a hurricane or a tropical storm overstays, the water finds the path of least resistance down the mountain sides devoid of trees and into the ravines. As had happened in Fonds-Verrette in 2004 with Hurricane Georges. A seven foot wall of water washed through the town killing at least 680 people and leaving so many homeless. More than 500 homes were washed away. This devastation is still making its cost felt almost 5 years later. Specifically, Her child was swept by the flood out of her arms into oblivion. We find this out from one of our interpreters who listened to the exchange in the road, alongside a washed out valley that used to be a town. I took this picture above the town from a church I was helping. The view is of the town, growing away from the path of the flood 5 years ago. The building across the exposed rock was empty but had probably been simply another building near the center of town.

Yesterday, it took us 2 hours to drive a dozen miles from Port-au-Prince to Fonds-Verrette. We came up in a small SUV, a Toyota Land Rover, and a large flat bed truck that carried all the supplies and the extra passengers. We rarely drove over 35 miles per hour on the paved roads. Once on the dirt to head up the mountains, I don't think we ever approached that speed again. Only one woman joined the dozen testosterone junkies on that flat bed, but two of those guys were brothers, and the third and fourth were church brethren. We had only met them that morning. They had just flown in and asked a favor of Pastor Boulle who was planning on taking our Calvary Chapel crew anyway. It doesn't seem necessary to ask a Haitian if they have room on their truck. There is always room. What lacked in speed for excitement was made up with insane inclines, narrow two way traffic, and plunging cliffs only a pothole away from receiving a rolling truck, like this tap-tap. It had rolled at least 50 feet down a very steep incline.

We had to drive across the river a couple times.
When we arrived, we didn't realize we were approaching half of a town. The chain wasn't across the road. The merchant stalls were empty. It was midday and school was in session. That was exactly the right time for us, because the team from Calvary Chapel in the city, Boston, MA, had prepared several skits for the school children in the school with the principal's blessing. we unloaded the generator, the massive speakers, the sound board, the full drum kit, the keyboard, the guitars, and the props for the skits, including the wooden cross. The portable PA system had troubles though. It kept overheating and shutting down, but the skits were choreographed with music. I was given the ministry of starting and stopping the accompaniment CD in the laptop. I also took pictures.

One technical thing I learned is that the generator electrical noise will wash out the songs from the headphone jack into the PA, so the songs had to be played on the laptops battery power. That was fine for three songs, but I was lacking faith for the fourth song. Between skits, the band would play, and a short message was given to explain each skit. I asked my brothers J & JP to pray the battery would recharge enough before the next skit. Of course it did. Over and over again I became convinced God extended the range of batteries and generators and vehicles. How does a generator run so long without a refill? How do 3 trucks drive for hours, overloaded in extreme conditions without more gas? My mind and my faith are too small. When the band played the praise music I first noticed Her push her way to the front. She wanted to be near the stage in the midst of the smaller children. She enjoyed the skits. She didn't seem interested in the speakers. She really liked the music though. She danced inappropriately. Her loose clothes and provocative clothing strongly contrasted with the school children in their school uniforms and innocent enthusiasm. I wondered about mental illness. I even let my mind consider spiritual reasons for her behavior. I felt guilty about that though. After the skits it was time for a testimony from brother MM, and then a puppet show. I relocated for a different perspective.
A few of the guys, including me were asked if we'd like to do some work further up the hill. Since I felt I had more to offer than the CD pause/play ministry, I agreed. The truck still had a dozen 94lb. bags of cement in it that needed to be put to use. We drove up toward the massive new Catholic church which is in the background of the picture at top. The work crew's sand and stone for their concrete work blocked the road. I helped shovel sand out of the way while others moved rocks.
Eventually, we made enough room to get the truck through. At this point the road was only one in theory. It was wide enough for a truck, but the amount of grass on it, indicated, not many pass that way. How many could though with the inclines and declines we encountered. We had to hold on so we would not slide off the truck. Eventually, we parked on a steep "driveway" between a donkey and a small church and began to unload the cement.
Then we joined the Haitian crew mixing concrete. The recipe seemed pretty straightforward. Pour one bag of cement on the pile of crushed limestone, add a few shovelfuls of stone, and several buckets of water. Push the pile around with your shovel until it has the consistency of oatmeal, then shovel it into the waiting wheelbarrow which will deliver it to the floor area. The crew there will then smooth the pile. Those of us not participating in this were digging up rocks from the adjacent hillside and adding them to the earlier stage floor on the other half of the building.

When I took a break, children came over to visit us. Like the children at the school several of them asked me, like they asked all of us visitors for a dollar. But they also tried to teach me how to say donkey and chicken and name a few other curiosities around us. One boy was developmentally disabled. The other kids told me he was a baby. When I finally sat down by the work area, the kids followed me up and a child who looked about four years old sat down next to me and rested his hand on my knee. He didn't ask for anything. He just sat. Pastor Serge explained to us that the children in Haiti are treated much better by foreigners than by Haitians. Of course, the children thrive in the attention and permissiveness around foreigners like us. But as we learned from Her, they are no less missed when taken away from this world.
When we used up all the cement we were able to visit a project the extra crew was there to work on. In a tin lean-to lived 3 generations of women whose house had blown down in a strong wind down the mountain. The church had started to lay block for a small house for them, perhaps no bigger than an American bedroom and bathroom. The crew figured they'd have the walls of their house finished before they left in a week.
The shadows were lengthening and we had a couple more hours to drive higher into the mountains to Pastor Eddy's home in Oriani, up where the forest still grew tall. Wisely, I pulled my fleece out from under the pile in the truck. We were warned to pack for cold mountain nights. It is winter after all. But we made room for one more on the flat bed. There's always room in Haiti. There actually was room since the crew of 5 were staying here. The new wayfarer was Her. But She was different. She was subdued. She was dressed. She had a bag and a Bible. Pastor Eddy had prayed for her at the school, he had laid hands on her, and something about her changed. She seemed in possession of her right mind. Had something else been in possession of it earlier when I saw Her? Her disposition was dramatically different.

Our time in the mountains will be told in another post, but during that time She decided to travel with us away from her hometown to Port-au-Prince. She wanted to be discipled in the gospel of grace with this fellowship from Calvary Chapel P-a-P. We once again piled in the truck for the twisty roads down to sea level. I certainly thought it unusual when Pastor Boulle picked up a hitchhiker. But then again, when he escorted us up to a mountain school yesterday, he seemed to konw every single person on the road, either as a cousin or a friend. As far as I knew, this guy may have been another cousin. Instead, he was Her husband, and he was looking for the white people who took Her into the mountains. But I didn't know this. The truth showed through the disguise as the sun started to slip behind the mountain peaks. She wasn't widowed. He was her husband.

Our caravan had to stop at Fonds-Verrette as the merchants had strung a chain across the road. It was hung below the political banner in the upper right hand corner of the picture. Here we are in the hinterland of Haiti where there is no electricity and no quick response in case of emergency and there was a chain across the road. I feared the strains of Dueling Banjos would start echoing out from behind the merchant stalls. I'm glad I was in the company of Haitians from this area. Then the yelling started.

As I found out piecemeal from my interpreters, she insisted to the pastors she would have nothing to do with this man who beat her. She would not stay with him in town. This town was death to Her. It was where the flood ripped Her child out of Her hands. Quick marriage counseling by three pastors was not going to succeed. So much anger poured out from Her to him and then to the pastors who did not want to separate something joined together before God. Did this man have the influence to keep the chain up until he prevailed? Things did not look good. We prayed. The crowd enjoyed the argument and hoped we would help their local economy. Instead of hotdog vendors at a boxing match, we had bread and roll vendors at this match. Finally someone had a great idea. Let's worship God in music and song. So brother R. got out his guitar and we began to sing.

This helped the mingling crowd take their attention off the fight and onto the ad hoc choir.

Brother D. used the opportunity to share the gospel with those assembled. He realized the spiritual opportunity.

Strangely, it seemed someone else recognized the spiritual opportunity as well. There had been no traffic for the at least the last half hour we were there, but when brother D stood up to speak 3 trucks suddenly needed to pass through the crowd standing in the road. Undaunted, D. persevered and gave an invitation for any to receive Christ as savior, which some did by raising their hands.

We had to go. We had to leave Her. But She wasn't left in her husband's power. She was given a wad of cash to provide for Her and take Her out any immediate need that would return Her to dependence on him. She also had all the pastors' phone numbers.

It wasn't my best solution.

We left Her in Fonds-Verrette, all of us changed a little bit by Jesus and by truth. Pray for Her. Pray for Fonds-Verrette.

The truth became a theme for the evening afterward. We could no longer see the precipices we drove alongside of. Clouds had moved in so there weren't many stars to see either. But there was truths to be told. I ended up learning and sharing stories of lives transformed by Jesus. The stories weren't pretty. But Jesus was the hero in each of them.

I saw Jesus as Victor in Her life that day. I know He who began a good work in Her is faithful and true and will bring that work in her to completion (Philippians 1:6).