Saturday, May 31, 2008
Saturday, May 24, 2008
China is a hot topic these days. Between earthquakes and the upcoming Beijing Olympic, all eyes are on China.
Christianity Today has a couple of good, missions oriented articles in circulation online. Aiding China's Shaken Church is an interesting read focusing on Franklin Graham's approach to evangelistic efforts by Western visitors during the Olympics and Unexpected Dialogue is an article discussing the book A Friendly Dialogue Between an Atheist and a Christian written by Luis Palau and Zhao Qizheng.
Graham, son of international evangelist Billy Graham, told the Associated Press that he opposes illegal missionary work at this summer's Beijing Olympics, saying, "I would not support any illegal activity at all." source
Franklin has taken heat from a few organizations for his position, but I applaud this rebel with a cause. His experience working diplomatically with foreign governments in order to help and serve alongside local, foreign churches to make a long term impact comes hard earned. Unlike the hit and run style of evangelism practiced by western tour groups. They gladly obey the law of the land back home, but care little for the laws of host countries. Why should they? They're "doing the work of Jesus." But this quick-fix style of evangelism actually sets the church in-country back. They have to work hard to un-do the damage done by cultural novices looking for self-gratification and bragging rights. I like what Graham said: "The church in China has been growing pretty rapidly without anybody's help. So I don't think a few Christian groups coming into China is going to make a hill of beans worth of difference during the Olympics."source
The Palau article approaches culture, politics, and missions history in China. The Chinese have conflicted opinions about western missions endeavors. Zhao, Palau's co-author and self-proclaimed atheist had this to say: "In history, Christian missionaries made contributions to China's development. They brought Western civilization to China. But the situation changed in the 19th century: The Western powers invaded China, and in this process some missionaries helped those invaders. So the Chinese people changed their attitude towards missionaries."source
Missionaries inserting themselves into local politics and taking sides in regional conflicts does more damage than good. It is true that Christ "invaded" humanity, but He did it in the least threatening way possible. He came as a child. He came as a servant. He brought Good News and changed the course of history with His Invasion as the Prince of Peace. I love the opening line in the CT article: "In preparation for an evangelistic tour of China, Luis Palau befriended Zhao Qizheng, then minister of the State Council Information Office of China."
Palau befriended. That's a great verb, befriend. That's a good start to getting out the Good News. Let's start with befriend. To do that, we need to put some other verbs in play: Listen. Learn. Serve. Love. None of these really fit into the context of the politics of conflict or pushy, hard-sell evangelism.
Read the articles and let me know if you have any thoughts.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Here's Allie being prepped for a walk down town. Down town is about eight blocks away. Notice how the funky pink camouflage design of the stroller clashes with the plaid print of the hat. The blind never have much to say about the fashions their caretakers and handlers dress them in. Case in point: Stevie Wonder. Can you imagine the phone calls that guy must get from friends and family members after an awards night televised world-wide?
"Stevie. Who ever dressed you the other night for the music awards needs to be unemployed."
"Stevie. Who put those God-awful sunglasses on yo' face?"
"Stevie. Did you feel something hit you in the face? Those were beads braided into yo' hair like you was Bo Derek. You need to fire somebody."
Allie and I were off to the used book store and then Starbucks, her favorite place for brownies. Starbucks is 4 tenths of a mile from my house. Add the book store to the loop and we have a little over a mile walk round trip.
She loves her cheapo umbrella stroller. She feels the texture of the sidewalk and the street. The sidewalks here in Eureka are at least 50 years old made of concrete and rock. Downtown in Old Town, the side walks are cobblestone. Allie kicks her feet, tries to look back at me, and we call out to each other yelling "AAAAAH!" back and forth. Moments like these make me so incredibly happy and thankful. Our hard times are minimized down to microscopic proportions. I'm so glad to I've been given a new perspective.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
It was so good to hear classic Gayle at the Denver Pastors' Conference.
Monday when Gayle Erwin spoke, my universe was knocked a little out of kilter when he showed up wearing a Hawaiian shirt sans suspenders. In 15 years of seeing him make appearances at various Calvary Chapel events, I've never witnessed Erwin without his trademark braces keeping his drawers hitched up. I followed him into the men's room to find out what the deal was. "Where are the suspenders?" I asked him, "what are you doing to the world as I know it?"
He calmly told me not to worry. He had his suspenders on under the Hawaiian shirt.
"Whew," I said. "I was worried that your suspenders were raptured but we all got left behind. Now I can get back to work."
One more plane ride to go and I'll be home.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
I arrived Denver Sunday night and immediately got lost. I went east on interstate 70 when I should have drove west. It took twenty minutes of driving through totally open plains for me to figure this out.
Denver's got strange weather. Sunday night, it was around 65 degrees and clear. Yesterday it was sunny and the temperature climbed to about 85 degrees which coming from the Redwood Coast, is heat wave. I ran the air conditioner in my rental car. At the hottest part of the day, the temperature started to free fall. By 6pm, it was raining and 45 degrees. Today, there's snow in the foothills and cold rain here at the conference. All I brought is a sweat shirt.
Tom Stipe is Pastor of Crossroads Church of Denver. He is host and master of ceremonies at the Calvary Chapel Regional Conference here in the Rocky Mountain and Plains Region. He's a veteran Calvary Pastor and a seasoned man of God. He opened the conference with a refreshingly simple message about becoming a leader. "We tend to let people in cheaper than we got in," Stipe said. For some strange reason, pastors, once they have their churches up and running want to create a path of least resistance for those coming up in the ministry rather than allowing God to use difficulty and trials to refine and perfect. Pastors ad leaders in training need to learn that they're in ministry to serve, not working toward greatness, popularity or prominence. "Will I associate with people 'lower' than myself? The poor? The unwanted?" Stipe asks, rhetorically.
Stipe told of his time as a pastor in training under Calvary Chapel hero L. E. Romaine. Romaine is a legendary figure in our movement. The former Marine Drill instructor was as much of a leather neck in ministry as he was in the Corps. Stipe didn't say it, but a guy whose first name is "Laverne" has got to be tough.
The quote that Stipe ended with and I made sure to scribble down was: "Defy human nature which says go to the high place."
I need to remember that I need to be willing to serve the least of the least.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Rena, Alli's occupational therapist was so pleased. She was very frank. She let me know that when she first met Allie, her expectations for significant progress was not that high. Allie has exceeded expectations by far. Shoulder movement is still limited, but Allie is working against gravity with her movements which will continue to improve. Th muscles around her ribs need to loosen up some more.
The biggest hurdle Allie faces is the brain damage. But it is evident that she comprehends much more than she is able to communicate or make happen with her body. But this is good for now. It seems that the brain activity for necessary movement is present. So continue to pray for Alli as her rehabilitation progresses.
Then this morning, while the charming and beautiful Susan and I were having coffee, Allie went from her belly onto her back pushing off with her right hand. So were seeing this more and more. We're pretty stoked.
Sunday, May 04, 2008
At least that's what Allie thinks.
We discovered Allie's quirky affection for a dome that's often scraped smooth by a Bic when lifting her over my head to play.
She puts her hands down and the stubbly texture of my skull makes her giddy. The charming and beautiful Susan isn't all that crazy about me shaving my head every other day (she would rather me buzz it with clippers every other week, but what's a quarter inch of hair between lovers is what I say), but we love Allie's laughter.
This is a phenomenal documentary about Jim Elliot's death in the jungles of Ecuador. It demonstrates how following Jesus is an amazing, unpredictable adventure.
I was a little disappointed when I hit play and found out this was a documentary. It put me in the wrong frame of mind. I looked forward to a movie with a building plot and twists and climaxing story. What I got was the story of normal people told by surviving family members as they were interviewed. But I was drawn in by the simple descriptions of the characters lives. They loved God, they loved life, they loved the work of the gospel. They did whatever they could to find people untouched by God's Good News wherever they may be or however they may live.
God doesn't need the strong or the wise. If you are faint of heart you can be used if your willingness to follow Jesus can somehow out weigh your fear. The work they did and the people they made contact with were dangerous. But the missionaries chose to be peaceful. They wouldn't carry guns. "They're not ready for heaven," they said, speaking of the unreached, "but we are." That's my favorite quote from the movie.
They were normal Christian college graduates. Not overly pious. Definitely zealous to change the world.
Here's the thing about missionaries: often the impact they make goes unnoticed by the world unless their blood is spilt. Nothing ever seems to get done that's lasting or makes a difference in the Kingdom of God unless blood is spilt. What makes the difference is whether spilled blood is avenged or if its forgiven. When blood is avenged, nothing changes and the cycle violence and hate is perpetuated. But when offended survivors forgive spilled blood, everything changes. The offenders' universe changes. It takes on new meaning. That's the Gospel in action. And this flick is definitely about the Gospel in action.