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Brazil, 2014

It is now a bit over a week since we entered Brazil. I wanted to give a bit of an update one what is going on and how you can pray. Philemon and I arrived at Sao Paulo in the morning of the 9th. Right when we got off of the plane Philemon received the news that his father had died so grief was his companion. We came with our wives this time and were able to get to Atibaia with no problems. We are staying in a small apartment on the church campus that is sufficient to our needs. That evening we all went to another town called Terra Preta where I taught a bible study to the men on marriage and Kim taught on the attributes of God to the ladies. This is a very small church that is one that PIBA (stands for First Baptist Church of Atibaia in Portuguese) supports. It is a church that they are trying to revive for it was close to dying not that long ago.

The rest of the week was teaching. Philemon is teaching the seminary students the synoptic gospels, John and Acts while I am teaching Apologetical Methodology. It is good to see the men again and Philemon and I both see a definite growth in all of them from last year. Their questions are deeper and more informed and they show a growing maturity. All these men are very busy ministering in a multitude of ways through evangelism, serving in various churches, leading bible studies and such. The seminary is definitely church-based and is actively allowing these men the chance to practice ministry as they learn the Word.

Kim and Linda continue to teach the ladies. I was happy to hear the report from Kim about how her time with the seminary and pastors’ wives went. She was able to give a lot of practical advice and encouragement to them all. Several expressed their appreciation hearing her stories because they too have experienced similar situations. It gave the seminary wives a chance to really begin to understand what they can expect, both good and unpleasant, as their husbands take a church to shepherd. They still have two more sessions to go before they are done.

Philemon preaches at PIBA this last Sunday in the AM service. He taught out of Romans 8:31-39 and did an excellent job encouraging us all to remember that God is for us and all we need to do is to look to the Cross to remind us. The church received him well. What was very touching was that they announced (without anyone translating for us) that his father had passed away. Then we watched people begin to file forward to give money to Philemon as an expression of sorrow with him. Very humbling and very touching.

I then preached that evening at the small church in Terra Preta. My text was from 1 Peter 1:3-9 and was exhorting them to see that through the resurrection of Jesus we have a living hope that allows us to not merely endure suffering but to rejoices even as we weep. It was a bit of an adventure because my Surface was not charged as I thought and it ran out of power shortly after starting so I was winging it the whole way. Regardless the text was well known to me and the sermon accomplished much. Kim and I find ourselves “connected” to the pastor and his wife (Jeremiah and Anna). They show a genuine love for the people and yet they also have a difficult road to walk. Small churches (25-30) are so vulnerable to the smallest changes. Just consider what would happen in one family left?

How to pray? First, that all four of us would continue to be faithful in our labors. Second, that we can continue to encourage one another as we interact with each other. Third, while here, things in our “real” lives continue and Philemon and I both have several issues we are addressing from afar. Pray that we not become discouraged nor become distracted. Fourth, pray that the students truly absorbs what we are teaching. Fifth, pray that when we travel (we are driving ourselves) at the end of this week we will be wise and there shall be safe travels.

The Hole in The Reversal of World Vision

Well that was fast.  Shortly after the news of World Vision’s decision to redefine marriage and hire same-sex couples, they now have reversed that decision. On one level that is fine and good.  I am glad they did it but I am not impressed by it.  Consider how it is framed:

  • “they made a mistake. . . .”
  • we were merely trying to serve the poor but in the process “we failed to be consistent with World Vision U.S.’s commitment to the traditional understanding of Biblical marriage and our own Statement of Faith”
  • “We are brokenhearted over the pain and confusion we have caused many of our friends, who saw this decision as a reversal of our strong commitment to Biblical authority. We ask that you understand that this was never the board’s intent.”
  • “While World Vision U.S. stands firmly on the biblical view of marriage, we strongly affirm that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are created by God and are to be loved and treated with dignity and respect.”

I spend a lot of time helping Christians who sin and need to properly repent think through the process.  I would never counsel anyone who has sinned to use this type of terminology.

Note first how it is framed in “oops” terminology.  We made a mistake.  You know, like turning left instead of right at the intersection.  Or maybe it is like taking down measurements of a room and writing down 12 1/2 feet instead of 12 feet.  We all know there was no mistake.  No one in that room who crafted and approved the change of policy that created this whole mess looked at it later on and said, “Dude!  Where did those words about homosexual Christians and marriage come from?”  An organization that size doesn’t write formal policy changes on a whim, it flows from many strategy meetings and discussions at the highest levels.

Second, note how it keeps this whole discussion on a interpersonal level.  There is no sense in any way that there was sin even though the board was approached in a Matthew 18 sort of way.  Where is the sense of dismay because they sinned against God?  Read it in its entirety and you will find nothing there.  This is the most egregious aspect of the whole thing.  A couple of days ago they decide that marriage is something that man defines and they don’t want to tear apart churches on such a divisive thing such as same-sex marriage.  You see, it is all about Christian love and unity.  They decide that you can be gay and Christian.  But then, when all hell breaks loose they decide it was an oopsy and they are sad that people are sad and hurt.

When you find yourself on the wrong side of what the bible says you are not resisting man, culture, or belief systems.  You are resisting God.  You sin against Him and you are accountable to Him to repent and actively turn from that sin.  You are to embrace what He calls true and you are to hate evil.  I am glad they reversed their decision.  But I am not impressed.  Nothing at all has really changed if we are judge this through the lens of their apology.  The same convictions that ultimately led to their first policy change are still there, they just pulled back on policy so that they could not be smacked about anymore.

Here are a couple of other posts from men who speak well on this whole subject.  Dr. Trueman and Dr. Jones.

Reflections on Brazil, Part 4

I hear the rain outside and I smile.  I think of the young student who prays each night that his old car will start and there is a deep affection for him as I remember my days of bad cars and much prayer.  I walked by his car tonight after class and heard it laboring to start.  I prayed, knowing he was praying to and with much joy I heard it start up.  Small thing, yet God is in the small things if we would just ask.  Then I think of the student who was missing today due to a kidney stone.  I am sad for the pain I know he is in and pray for relief.

I think of the class tonight where we discussed a lot of somewhat boring issues but then we settled on the plagues of Egypt and the sobering reality that God hardened the heart of Pharaoh.  I reflected with the class how we can discuss the sovereignty of God in cold words but it actually intersects our lives in radical ways that are painful and shocking at times.  I exhorted them to not shy from pursuing an understanding on the doctrine and to consider how it is revealed in our day-to-day lives.

Tomorrow Philemon and I will, Lord willing, go for a driving tour of Atibaia with my translator.  At times I think he should be teaching the class rather than me, but he is a kind man who faithfully translates for me.  I laugh when I think of the couple of times he asked if he might take over for a bit to teach since he is well versed on a specific key point of theology in the Pentateuch.  I am able to stand to the side and let him help the students understand.

All of this to say, my God is sovereign and kind to me.  I am tired and ready to go home.  I am truly encouraged with what I see God doing with these young men and ask that you pray with me that God shall impress upon each of them to own the text of the Scripture.  To exegete it carefully and faithfully.  To embrace what they see and learn.  And teach it to their people.  May God continue to pour His grace upon this nation.

With that said, I think I shall sit and relax before starting it all up again tomorrow.

Where I Am Right Now

I am relaxing before bed and found out that Google maps has my location in good resolution. So if you are interested here it is:

R. Santa Rosa, 226-396 – Jardim Alvinópolis, Atibaia – São Paulo, 12943-050, Brazil
http://goo.gl/maps/tmFjW

I might add that when you come off of the highway the first thing you see is the church. Normally it is a Catholic Church instead. Something that is one of many things that makes this a unique church.

Brazil–Initial Thoughts

There is little here that will resemble coherent thinking, it is just a bunch of thoughts that are on my mind and I want to share about my time in Brazil.

  • I slept horribly on the plane ride but other than that it was the most smooth trip I ever experienced.  Hats off to Delta.  Getting through customs was beyond easy.  Passport stamped and out we went.  I kept waiting to be stopped regarding the luggage but that never happened.
  • First thoughts of Brazil was the humidity (not bad) so that you could “smell” the air.  Second thought was how green it is.  Temperature was perfect even though the man escorting us kept apologizing for how cool it was.
  • I had a few hours before I taught the first class so I tried to get some work done.  I was so tired I found myself face down on the keyboard.  I gave up and laid down to rest but tried to read my Kindle first.  That lasted about 1 minute after I began slapping myself on the head with it as I fell asleep.
  • The people here at the seminary and church are incredibly aware of us and desire to serve us.  Very different from Cameroon.  I cannot eat a lot of carbs and they are happy to help and keep rejecting my offer to help pay the costs.  I have decided to shut up and just be thankful.
  • The first day of teaching went very well.  Gave the most boring part of the class right up front dealing with higher textual criticism.  They were engaged with me and asked the right kind of questions.  My interpreter, Alberto, is very good and I had to thank him repeatedly as he sought to make complex English thoughts clear in Portuguese.
  • I was able to teach on the nature of written text and the various philosophies connected to it.  Some of my key points was that we need to understand that there is a meaning in the text.  That meaning is the author’s.  It is knowable and it is our job to find it and teach it.  I emphasized that pastors are servants to the text and never the other way around.  Arrogance will cause a person to seek to assert his meaning and purposes into a text.
  • I used a few texts just to help them understand the value of knowing genre as well.  We talked about Joseph in Genesis and how the meaning of the story of Joseph is found in 50:20.  Then we considered how parallelisms work in Psalms by looking at and how it is usually treated (wrongly) versus a proper approach.  Then we ended with a quick survey through to show how these seemingly distinct events of healing in vss 2-16 are all illustrations of the main point in vs 17—Jesus is the Messiah prophesied of in the Old Testament.  All of this designed to help them realize that there is a meaning in the text and it is their job to work until they know it.
  • We have a little Black and Decker coffee maker in our apartment.  Stupid thing can’t pour coffee into the mug without half of it dribbling down the side onto the floor.  End result is that I won’t buy one of their makers ever.  Philemon is coffee-making challenged as well.  But I will not tell of his problems, he can start his own blog if he desires.
  • We went to a supermarket here and I am determined to introduce Philemon to frying cheese tomorrow.  He is already choosing to not like it, but I shall overcome.

That sums up what I have time for.  I am now working on my exam and trying to get a small nap in before I go and teach.

Douala Update—Near The End

Tomorrow shall be the final day of teaching and then on Friday we will administer our exams and I will head to the airport for the long flight home.  The teaching has been long and mentally tiring but physically my body has handled it very well.  I was reminded yet again that in Cameroon everything is hard and this trip was no different.  The students in my class have been a challenge at times and my ability to read them and help them is a constant question is a constant question in my mind.  Philemon had to remind me yet again that I can only seek to be faithful and leave the rest to God.  He is right. I know he is right.  He knows that I know that he is right.  But it doesn’t change that constant nagging thought that somehow I am cheating my students.

I preached in a church this Sunday and was blessed to do so.  It is pastored by a man trained by Philemon and who planted this church as a result of a challenge that Philemon gave at a conference about seven years ago.  It is the same size, if not bigger, as Missio and is solid in its doctrine.  It is a shining example of what solid doctrine, faithfully taught, can do.  I administered the Lord’s Supper as well and discovered that whatever they call ‘wine’ is something else and the only word I can use to describe it is “nasty.”  But Baptists will be Baptists and so true wine shall have to wait until the New Heavens and Earth with Jesus.

The class I teach is a mix of Cameroonians and Central Africans, but since they speak French I could not tell who was what. However, today I found out that the class is evenly split.  The Central Africans tend to be much more softer spoken and willing to hear you out than the Cameroonians.  The reason why is not clear, but it is notable as you teach.

Philemon and I just finished a meeting with the president of the Cameroon Baptist Convention as well.  The topics were varied, but all of them tended to focus on the future and how best to honor God in it.  This man needs our prayers as he has a heavy load to bear and he needs the wisdom of Solomon to lead it. However, he was a former student of Philemon and has a solid theological footing to stand upon and that is a good beginning.  Things are starting to unwind for the evening, my eyes are getting sleepy and my mind is quite numb.  But at least you have an update.

Witch Doctors, Scripture, and other Theology

The last two days have been somewhat of a grind, yet a good grind.  Yesterday we taught a solid eight hours to our students.  At some point your brain just becomes tired but the Lord was kind to keep us both strong.  Our days start at 6:30-ish and mine usually ends after midnight.  In between the is only a little time to rest, though a pool at where we are staying is a nice place to draw the heat out of the body.

The students seem to accept me.  Many of them are older than me and so I need to really earn their respect.  Almost every one of them have been in the pastoral ministry for quite some time so I must always remind myself that they are not your typical seminary student.  When these people ask questions there is much behind them and wisdom is needed to discern what drives the questions. Sometimes what I learn is a surprise.

As an example, I taught on the inspiration of Scripture and they received it well.  However one man pressed a question on if my statement “all Scripture” was valid.  I kept pointing him back to the Scripture.  Finally he changed his question to a statement.  It was something like, “So you believe that the witch doctor’s writing are inspired of God.”  It was not an accusation, it was merely a statement and most certainly not one I expected.  I asked a lot of questions (American seminary does not prepare you for this sort of statement) and found that the witch doctors call their words and writing scripture too.  They also tend to mix in actual verses during their incantations.  Therefore, since they are called scripture and “All” scripture is inspired, their words are inspired too.  The result led to a very interesting excursis that was quite animated.  Eventually all was resolved and back to the syllabus we went.

Today we only had a half day of teaching so that was nice.  Then we went to Philemon’s family’s house to meet a young lady’s parents.  They wanted to honor me for the support my church has given to her as she pursues a doctorate in the USA.  That was a blessing, though uncomfortable.  They gave me a special garment with various symbolism on it that conveys a message.  Also they gave me a special had made from a plastic twine-like substance.  Very unique but it is also very kind.  I promised them I would wear it before the church and preach from it.  So my church has a great opportunity to chuckle very soon.

Tomorrow I preach at some church a few hours away and then I visit other churches.  It sounds like a lot of bouncing and bumping but also quite fun.

 

First Day of Classes in Douala

This post will also be on Training Leaders International’s site at some point soon.

Wed August 9, 2012

First day of class.  The school is a long distance from the rest home so we needed to travel for a bit to get there.  Once there we were met by no one and no information.  This is not much of a surprise, but nonetheless it was disappointing. But it is Cameroon so Philemon and I waited.  Slowly some students tricked in, but not the ones expected and no school leadership was still to be found over an hour later.

The students we met were former ones from Cameroon Baptist Theological Seminary in Ndu.  It was a true pleasure to see them! Two of them were pastoring and one of those men was in the process to prepare to come to America to work on his Ph.D.  I had a pleasant time catching up with them and simply sharing pastoral experiences.  During this whole time Philemon was working his skills on the phone attempting to find any information as to our situation.

In time someone with the school arrived and helped Philemon on the phone.  In time we received word that the students from Central African Republic (CAR) were somewhere in the city.  The housing that they were to receive never happened so they had spent the night in some insufficient living conditions some distance away.  To our surprise the CAR consulate called to check up on what was happening.  It was then that we found out that some of the men were rather important in the government.  In addition, all of the  CAR men are what are known as “men of dignity” and should be treated with respect.

Eventually the students all arrived and Philemon started the orientation with singing.  It was a joy to see these student lift up voices in thanksgiving and praise.  Because of the mishaps early on we could not teach; rather we explained the courses and gave our expectations for the classes.  After all the questions were answered we were left with an ongoing concern with how the CAR students would be housed.  At the time of this writing it appears that sufficient housing has been secured, we will see if that is correct tomorrow.

What stands out so far?  God has made a place of beauty in making Cameroon.  His handiwork is evident all over the land.  Sin has made its indelible mark on that land and with it you see much suffering and hopelessness.  As an American, solutions come to mind in quick succession but then I remind myself that what is needed first is a revival of the Gospel in the hearts of this land and then changes shall be lasting.

I was again reminded of the great, far reaching potential of the vision of TLI.  All of those who came from CAR are people of influence and the vast majority are pastors.  What they learn here in the course shall affect many people we will probably never meet.  People are starving because they do not know the Word of God and, worse yet, they have no real way to learn it.  Through courses like this, that horrid reality can change.

We finished the day with former students from years past.  We ate mutton and beef (Philemon and I had the lining of the stomach as well) with toothpicks around a table.  The food was good, the pepper powder (I think it was a curry powder) was hot, and the fellowship was precious.

Tomorrow we start teaching in earnest, the days will be about eight hours of solid teaching.  Much work to be done in such a short time.  Prayers for our faithfulness and diligence are needed and requested.  The same for the students.  May we help equip the pastors here to make much of God because God’s Word makes much of Him.

Paris

We are at Charles de Gaulle airport relaxing after the long flight over.  In a short bit we head down over Africa to land in Douala, Cameroon.  It is this second leg that is the hardest since they use older planes to go to Africa, there is that African smell that often floats through the air, and you are just plain tired.  I just read that France’s new government is going to tax the rich at 75%, I am sure that will fix everything that is broken over here.  Really.

Nice thing about this place though are the croissants and the coffee.  Just enjoyed a fresh croissant with a double espresso and looked over at Philemon and saw he was doing the same.  We are enjoying the comforts of Delta Sky Lounges this trip, it was worth the 90.00 investment.  I cannot wait to sit in a clean, air conditioned room in Douala when it is time to leave.  It certainly makes the drudgery of travel less so.

I did not get as much reading as I wanted since it was a red-eye flight.  Only got one-third of the way through the book on the Trinity that I was wanting to finish.  Perhaps on the way to Douala, perhaps not.  My eyes are still shutting on their own accord and there seems to be no way to stop it.  I am on my way for my 4th double espresso just to give myself a fighting chance.

What A Darkened Mind Looks Like

This is a disturbing story that is shocking to many and yet will not to others.  It is a sad, sick glimpse into the god of this age and how sin corrupts thoroughly.

A British citizen has been arrested in Thailand after the bodies of six babies thought to have been used in a black magic ritual were found in luggage in a Bangkok hotel room. . .

Wiwat Kumchumnan, of Bangkok police, told reporters the suspect planned to sell the remains to clients who believed they would become “lucky and rich”.

“The bodies are of children between the ages of two and seven months,” he said. “Some were found covered in gold leaf.

In Leviticus 20 YHWH warns that the children of Israel were not to offer their babies to Molech and if they did they would forfeit their own lives. By the time of Solomon temples were built under his direction to Molech all to keep his foreign wives happy. The prophet Jeremiah brought down condemnation for the nation was whole-heartedly offering their sons and daughters to Molech.  Not too much later and the ten tribes of Israel went into captivity.

Paul warns the Church in Ephesus,

This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way. (Eph 4:17-20)

The god of this age is not dead.  The dead values of this age press in against the Church and we cannot be quiet, nor can we merely cluck our tongues. Only the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ can make dead hearts alive and blind eyes to see.  Let us press on in the Great Commission.

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