Monday, August 30, 2010

Som sex offenders not welcome in the NFL

The NFL has a number of felons in it. My new secondary team, the Cincinnati Bengals, since the Bucs won't be on TV up here (but they won't be on TV in the Tampa area either for half of their games anyway!) have boasted their fair share of not-so-law-abiding citizens. Now there is a player conduct policy in place by Commissioner Roger Godell, so that athletes like Ben Rothlesberger rape (allegedly) young ladies but get off through loopholes, they still get suspended. Even if that 6 game suspension will probably go down to 4 games for being nice.

But here is a story of alleged rape, that the victim even recanted, which has this lad unable to break into the NFL. Apparently there is a line that the teams won't cross and here it is. But I wonder whether this sex offender did anything worse than many other NFL players.

As heinous as this act was, I'm reminded that in Christ we do truly do have a clean slate. While its hard to tell from the article, the athlete may actually get that. Hopefully because probably won't experience that truth anywhere else.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Almost Christian?

One of the article's points is that many teenagers don't believe in the gospel but this:
....."a moralistic therapeutic deism." Translation: It's a watered-down faith that portrays God as a "divine therapist" whose chief goal is to boost people's self-esteem.

Unfortunately very accurate in my experience with youth. But also accurate was the author's challenge for parents to explain WHY they do certain things. Is it their faith which moves them to show love for others, or are things done out of moralism? Without explanation, because truth is best taught while it is being caught, we leave our children with nothing but "the gospel of niceness." I love that line.

The last very helpful point the author raises, which all centers around Kendra Chrissy Dean in her book Almost Christian, is the negative affect parents can have on their children's spirituality. Youth are now growing up noticing there is little difference between Christians and non-Christians. Here's but a small suburban example.

The parents next door don't claim to be Christian, and have no qualms about skipping church for sports or any other activity that pops up. But I wonder how many Christian parents even ask the question, "What is this teaching my child, and what will be the best for HIS or HER faith down the road?" Regardless of where you land with the church and sporting events, and what is acceptable or not acceptable in regards to participation in such Sunday activities, it's hard to argue against simply asking and honestly answering that question.
With Connar growing up loving anything to do with "balls," I'll soon be fighting this battle-but battles can be well worth it.  It is foolish to think that years of any behavior which ignores Jesus' daily Lordship will go unnoticed by our kids. Guess what commitment to the gospel and church they'll soon have if they don't see it in us. Will we continue to see kids grow up to be "Almost Christian?" I hope not, but this is a sobering reminder to parents, pastors, children and youth workers. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

"shorter" thoughts

In order to graduate from RTS-Orlando, we had to pass a bible proficiency exam as well as memorize the answers to many questions from the Westminster Shorter Catechism. The WSC includes a number of questions and answers that help sum up some main teachings and themes of the bible and form part of the "constitution" of ours and many Reformed denominations.

Sometimes people elevate the overall document we call the Westminster Standards too highly, and put them on par with the bible. Folks like me, who take a few exceptions (conscience bound disagreements over applications of the documents) here and there, can soon become the "bad guys" and may have some fun getting ordained. 

Nevertheless the misuse of something potentially good, by people who consider themselves "Truly Reformed" shouldn't cause us to throw the whole thing out. I don't want to be that Angry Reformed "likes-to-theologically-fight-guy" who is just always angry at the unrighteousness of others (often overlooking his own arrogance or lack of joy). I recently met a pastor like this. 

But we need not turn into likes-to-fight guy, just for knowing the same stuff. I used this C.D. put out by a seminary buddy named Bruce Benedict to assist in my memorization. The thing I like most about this music is that it is actually good. And memorizing it to music with a guitar and percussion has allowed much of the lyrics (simply the Q and A) from the catechism to stick even now. They're not like Barney songs which stick and then you want to get rid of them.
In fact, when I was preaching on Ruth 4 a few weeks ago, I noticed the book didn't end with Naomi holding a baby, but with a genealogy ending in David. The book was really about King David, who then points us to King Jesus. So the sermon's application questions were 1.) what does a King do 2.) and what would it look like in your life today?

I thought back to how "Jesus executes the office of a King." WSC 26 includes his duties as "ruling" and "defending." There's other stuff, there, but the main ways Jesus operates as King is by ruling and defending. So I emphasized letting him rule (Lordship over all of life) and letting him protect (trusting him to deliver). 

Its not just good for preaching, but for life. How would you define sin, which can be nebulous at times? Well the WSC gives us a fairly complete definition to work with: a lack of conformity or transgression against the will of God. Now others have come and fleshed that out a bit more, but at least you have a foundation. At least you can share or defend what sin is to others in a simple trustworthy way.

Anyhow, just wanted to share with you the benefits of having some grasp on the WSC.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Finding the life you've always wanted in retirement

I came across this book the other day when I was searching through I've learned over the years that publishers often get the final say when naming books, just as newspapers do when they publish articles from "contributing religion editors" like myself in Bradenton (even though one of my "spiritual gifts" is naming sermons and articles.)

Anyhow, I think the title of this book is quite telling of an American audience that either embraces its career as an idol or considers it non-redeemable: The Joy of Retirement: Finding happiness, Freedom, and the life you always wanted.  How sad a picture of work and life that "the life you always wanted" would really be found upon retiring. I'm thankful for those retired folks like my Grandma who continues to use her retired life to graciously and generously minister to her family, friends, and church family. I'm wondering if this "life we've always wanted" means self-autonomy or real love for others. Standard untamed American retirement almost always leans toward the former.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sacrifice and Joy: Lessons from an NFL Fullback

Here's a cool story by Sports Illustrated that a facebook friend brought to my attention about NFL fullback Tony Richardson. If Jesus were to speak highly of one particularly position in football, it would definitely be the Fullback. Before the book and movie The Blind Side, I would have been tempted to say offensive line, but now they're getting more publicity and lots of money. Fullbacks make MUCH less.

The fullback position is all about blocking, and sacrificing yourself for the good of the running back. Of course, in that sacrifice, there is great joy, and that comes out very clearly in this well done article. This is definitely worth the read, and I'll be rooting for this 39 year old to make some NFL roster. The NFL needs more Richardson's for sure.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Introverts are people too

First of all, I'm hoping this post makes at least a little sense, because I'm constructing most of this post in the midst of a "restless leg v. insomnia" battle at 1 am.

Anyhow, I have to admit that I really don't understand extreme introverts. I'm not one. Like my son Connar, I usually need to be around people to get energized. That's not saying that I don't like to be alone at times and fish, or watch a Bucs game.  And I don't love being in places where I don't know people just to meet people-that to me is hard work. But for the most part, I'm pretty extroverted.

As a pastor, I'm trying to learn more, and encourage all kinds of folks to be involved in serving the church in all kinds of ways, consistent with their gifting and even personality. I want to meet people in their introversion. That's not to say that I accept the introverted excuse to ignore visitors sitting near them (I've seen this in churches and it drives me nuts when folks play the "introvert" card). Introverts need encouragement in this direction, just like extroverts need to be encouraged to have deeper and more meaningful relationships.

With personalities in mind, I know its probably not best to put an introvert as a greeter. But there is probably much more to ministering properly to introverted folks than this. Looks like I may have found a good resource in this blog, Introverted Church, and also in this book: Introverts in the Church
If you are an introvert, have introverted children, minister to introverted folks, this blog really offers some things I haven't seen anywhere else.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dungy vs. Ryan III

This is my last post in this brief blog mini-series. 

Public figures tend to speak about or against other public figures, well, in public. That is never a good idea. For Tony Dungy, he was simply asked a question and candidly responded, according to his convictions. So I do get that. I can also understand how hard it would be to speak privately to public figures, particularly when both are so busy. 

But the good news in this situation is that both busy men were able to speak to each other "man-to-man," and clear the air. Each apparently unapologetically explained his point of view, and it looks like Dungy may even head out there some time this Fall. 

Christian leaders, theologians, pastors (and all Christians for that matter), can learn from these two coaches. Nothing is better than speaking "man-to-man," but very often our public examples simply blast each other publicly, like opposing politicians, all in the name of truth. Sometimes they forget love, and the simple application of love: a courtesy phone call. How many churches could be saved from pervasive anger, division, splits, folks leaving by simply talking with each other? Talking doesn't solve all problems, but you would have to think it would really solve some.

I'm glad these two coaches, who probably still hold fast to their own convictions regarding cussin'-N-coachin', could at least talk it out.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dungy Vs. Ryan II

Well, you know the Rex the "F-bomb" Ryan would respond to Dungy's comments (which I think may be ill-advised) over his cussing.

Ryan's retort actually makes some sense to me. Here's a summary and my take on it:
1.) Self-justification and "judgment" Whenever someone "judges" someone else-though very often, and in this case, I think its more of an evaluation-you inevitably get the "don't judge me b/c I'm a good person" card. And this case is no different. If Rex Ryan really claims to embody this "I'm going to be me" attitude and F$%# everybody else, then why even feel the need to fire back at Dungy? Why feel the need to defend yourself and tell the world you are in fact a good person? 

Whenever we forget who really justifies us, we'll always fire back with the "I'm really a good person" defense. Always. Most people who say they don't care about what others think actually do. Only Jesus can take this need to defend ourselves away, because he nails it to the cross and exchanges our badness for his goodness. Notice I didn't use quotes this time.

2.) Cussing and "bad" people. Ryan is right. There are many "good" people who cuss, and plenty of "bad" people who don't cuss. There are many folks who cuss, but they love better than those who don't cuss. Words are part of the way we love others, and build them up, but as I John 3:18 reminds us, "Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." Humanly speaking, there are many "good" (relative to other people) who cuss, but have loved me better than non-cussers.
Sometimes we think people are acting Christ-like when they're not cussing. Christianity can become overly reductionistic: don't cuss, chew, or go with girls who do (I'm not sure what the King James translation of this would be-which unfortunately is all too apropos in my setting). But they may well be cussing and living a life more Christ-like than their clean mouthed neighbors.

In the end, I do think Ryan has a point that he was "unfairly" judged. Positives were ignored.

We've got to be careful not to make the dividing line between someone doing right and wrong, cuss words. Again, I'm not arguing that expletive tirades are good. I rather think they are bad. But this can't be our sole evaluation, nor is it one which scripture places on a higher plane than the failure to actively love others.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dungy Vs. Ryan

I appreciated all those who commented on "Seminary Thoughts." Thanks for the input.

I'm a Tony Dungy fan. I've read one book of his and started another. There's no football coach I respect more than Dungy. 

Now enter the anti-Dungy: Rex Ryan the white, overweight, cocky, loud mouth, cursing football coach. And everyone is enamored with this joker, with the exception of Dungy. Check out his reaction to Rex Ryan's expletive laden  Hard Knocks (behind the scenes HBO video series on different football teams).

When asked if Dungy would hire Rex Ryan to be the coach of his team, he says, "no." He even went so far as hoping commissioner Roger Goodell would tell him to tone it down.

Most people, who think solely on the pragmatic level say, "Dungy does it his way and it works and Ryan does it his way and it works."

So could you, in good conscience, hire a Ryan type if a Dungy type weren't available?

Can or should you expect a non-Christian to act like a Christian (assumption that cussing, without using the Lord's name in vain as a football coach is never allowed)? Let's just say that a coach wins games, genuinely cares about players and their families, promotes social activism in the community, disciplines, suspends, or releases repeat offenders, but cusses profusely. Would you then not want him to be your coach? Should you not want him to be your coach?

While none of you-no offense to my few blog readers-will likely ever be the GM of an NFL team, or any professional team for that matter, it does raise a good question. What should I expect in regards to behavior of n0n-believers?

Dungy believes in integrating his faith into all of his life, and for that I think he sets forth a wonderful example. Nevertheless hear are two truths to consider when approaching something like this.

1.) Total Depravity
We should not expect non-Christians to always act like Christians; they ultimately can't because the don't have faith. When a Great White Shark eats a seal, we shouldn't be angry or surprised with that Great White. He's only acting like a Great White, the only way he knows how to act. The Holy Spirit's work of regeneration is a pre-requisite for real life change.

2.) Common grace
We should also not expect non-Christians to be as sinful as possible. We should not be surprised when they follow the law, help old ladies cross the road, love their spouses. So in some ways, we can expect them (minus the ability to please God b/c that only comes by faith) to act certain ways.

I'm working off the assumption that profuse cussing at people probably is dishonoring to God. If I'm right, then the question remains: can we expect certain sins from unbelievers, and even overlook them if they are performing their jobs well?

I think in this case, I would probably be more influenced by #1, and realize Ryan is probably a good coach, probably cares about his players, and is probably concerned with discipline. I would then probably overlook his cussing.

We need to be careful not to expect real life change without the experience of grace. Sometimes I think Dungy lands a bit too heavily on #2. 

However, you could also perhaps argue that I do as well, because I expect humility, not  arrogance, with those in all forms of leadership. Still, these are some helpful grids to think through when dealing with expectations of unbelievers.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Seminary thoughts

Over the last several years I've begun to wonder whether our (evangelicals who value theologically educated pastorate) system is a.) the most faithful to Christ's commission and b.) doesn't eliminate pastors who may be truly called.

Here are some thoughts from seminary professors, one of which, Richard Pratt, had a huge influence on me personally. If you check this out, and read the comments below, you can tell that they didn't have him as a professor: he made us call him "Richard" not "Dr. Pratt." Anyhow, Richard argues for a more hand's on technique, evangelism, preaching, evaluation, and emphasis on rigorous spiritual disciplines like a "boot camp."

I also appreciated Al Mohler's remarks, calling us to understand the obvious inability of seminaries to give hand's on training to pastors. That's the job of the local church. That's why I found a mentor very quickly upon arriving at seminary.

One of the things that I appreciate about our denomination is that we place a high value on a theologically educated pastorate; I would NEVER argue against this. I believe this is necessary if the Reformed faith is to be passed on and serious gospel deviations are to be squelched.

An interesting lad in our Intro to Hebrew class told us that in his Baptist church (I know they're not all like this), they just voted him in as pastor. And that was it! There really wasn't any training or testing period, or ordination process. That scares me.

I'm still in the process of thinking through this, so I'm only thinking. I've personally seen the danger of people who haven't been to seminary, and have simply read a ton of books. They consider themselves theologically educated, but what they've done is simply read the books they liked. They are not well rounded.  Their ideas are not tested or challenged in community, or by former pastors, and they are far from teachable. And they too scare me. Learning from experienced pastors and dialoging in community is vital.

There are alternative ways of theological education currently available which don't require someone to uproot the family, and leave the place where they are currently ministering. I'm becoming more of a fan of these lately.

However, there is also part of me that isn't totally sold on these. I thoroughly enjoyed my seminary experience. It was in seminary where I met my wife, my closest friend, got mentored, and left with a number of fellow ministers who have been a huge resource and blessing in my life. 

But since I escaped from my three years without any debt, that probably puts me in the small minority. While I wouldn't do church the way some mega-churches do it, I wonder whether their process of ordaining pastors from within might be a better and more biblical model. Then add to that some distance education, spiritual formation, dialog with experienced pastors, and finally passing denominational ordination requirements.
I'm trusting that those in my denomination, who have begin to already consider these things, will move forward in dealing with this issue with both wisdom and proper haste.

Feel free to comment and tell me what you think of seminary education today or my thoughts.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Sauna Championships

Some things just don't sound like good ideas. Then there are some things that just sound like a really bad ideas. I would put the Sauna championships in Finland in that latter category. Check out this article, and see what can happen when dudes sit in temps over 200 degrees for extended periods of time. Not pretty, but definitely interesting to see what qualifies for "sport" when more normal ones are ignored.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dealing with Hazing

Some people like Peyton Manning have some real problems with hazing. Here are his thoughts. In summary, he thinks that rookies should be treated the same way because they are expected to come in right away and produce. Therefore, you should treat them the same way as anyone else. I guess he has one Super Bowl under his belt and almost had another one last year. And he did get a lot out of not one but two rookie receivers. Treating people with dignity and respect is biblical, so I guess I can't argue with treating them the same as everyone else. 
Nevertheless, I don't see anything ideologically or necessarily un-biblical about it. After all, most rookies come in demanding more money than the veterans make or else they hold out. They've been at the top of the food chain for so long and everyone has assisted in their ego blotation. It might help partake some much needed humility to their lives.

But I'm now turning away to the difference in ways some rookies handle it.

Dez Bryant of the Cowboys refused to carry the pads of the receiver he was brought in to eventually replace. Tim Tebow, now of the Broncos, on the other hand, gladly went with it. In fact he got something a little more lasting than carrying pads: a medieval friars hair cut. Check it out here. It's more than pretty bad. 

When interviewed, he said he thought it was fun and helped foster a sense of team. He wants to earn the respect of his teammates. Well, he got it. When other veterans Champ Baily and Brian Dawkins were interviewed about Tebow, they said the main thing that stuck out to them was "his humility." How rookie football players deal with hazing obviously speaks quite loudly. 

If how we respond to persecution is part of our witness to unbelievers (one of the themes of I Peter), it would make sense that the same is true of harmless hazing (I'm not talking crazy fraternity stuff). So from heckling to hazing to persecution, its a good, but sobering reminder that we're always witnessing to someone.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tiger's head

While I did not get a chance to watch Tiger's latest debacle, I did hear about it through ESPN. He played about as well as the Tampa Bay Rays did (losers of 5 straight), shooting 18 over par (one stroke more than the number of times the Rays struck out on Sunday) this weekend. I'm not a golf coach-though I did get a hold of a plastic golf ball in my front yard while hitting with Connar yesterday and it sailed into the neighboring property only to be lost in the "ruff"-but you have to wonder how much of Tiger's woes are in his head.

I mean this joker is used to being the best golfer in the world. He's clearly not anymore, and it looks like he knows it. Never having been a Tiger fan, and never will be for that matter, I'm interested to see if-though probably when-he escapes this funk. I'm always amazed at the power of psychology in sports.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Christian Sociopaths

A number of times over the years, I've asked a person here or there (how non-specific can you get!) to do something, then made this caveat: but don't worry or feel guilty if you can't do it. Several times over the years, I've received this response, "Oh don't worry, I won't feel guilty. I don't feel guilty about anything."
Now in some ways, that's OK. We need not be motivated by guilt any longer because there is no condemnation in Christ (Rom 8:1). However, I've heard this type of response from certain folks, and then thought about it within the context of their lives. Then I begin to wonder if this I-don't-feel-guilty-about-anything attitude really means that the person really feels no conviction for sin or the Spirit's leading. No convictions on being in worship, no convictions on parenting, no convictions on selfishness, isolation, hospitality, etc...We should feel conviction for sin regularly, because, well, we regularly sin. Guilt tends to be general, where as conviction is quite specific.

The grace which God has shown us through Christ (which takes away all guilt and punishment of sin) does not take away conviction of sin. In fact I think its just the other way around. Titus 2:11-12 reminds us the affect of this grace:

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.....

Contrary to making us complacent in how we live, it actually moves us toward living godly lives, "training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions."  It doesn't fill our lives with guilt, but grace does point out all the ways in which we try to find life outside of the gospel.

The next time you I hear, "I don't feel guilty about anything," it might be worth exploring that a bit further. Do we feel any conviction about not using our spiritual gifts, respecting others, loving our neighbors, not supporting a local church in worship and work, how we work, etc...? If we don't, then it's very possible this I-don't-feel-guilty-about-anything-attitude may really be something as simple, and dangerous, as quenching the Spirit. At the end of the day, it may be nothing more than living as a Christian sociopath under the guise of grace.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thoughts on When missionaries get sick: Part III

This is my final take on "when missionaries get sick" (sounds like something Fox would carry, doesn't it?).  Again, I'm just trying to provide-and work through for myself-a framework to help me think though the inevitable hardships missionaries and anyone involved in any sort of ministry or local mission work will face.

I just got through listening to Jim Rome's rant on Yoda, and how this little green guy has become some sort of spiritual guru/inspiration/mascot for the first place San Diego Padres. He blasted Yoda as a coward who simply ran into seclusion in some sort of murky forest planet. Rome claims, in Yoda's own mantra, he simply "didn't try, he simply did not." I think he's got a good point on Yoda. But I think we are all prone to Yoda moments of giving up, hiding, and waiting for someone else to step up. 

Anyhow it helps me to have a framework of how to think through these types of things, and this is my final contribution: God can and does "do" ministry through us even when we can't "do" ministry like we would normally think.

Paul landed in the slammer for preaching the gospel, so he really couldn't continue his missionary journeys nearly as long as he desired. Nevertheless, he was still able to do ministry. Sometimes when people say, "I'm praying for you," I wonder what that really means. Is that once a month, just before they saw me, daily, once a year, etc...Sometimes, if I'm in a skeptical mood, I don't even believe its true. Who hasn't said, "I'll pray for you," and forgotten to actually do it?

But when Paul said he was constantly remembering people in prayer (Phil 1:3), I believe it. He had the time;  he had a praying ministry. It wasn't so much a "hand's on, going, or preaching" ministry; his was largely a praying ministry. Now of course he ministered to his captors (Phil 1:13), but I don't know if this was his primary ministry. That joker was always praying for his churches. Prison didn't stop him. 

Sickness couldn't stop him. The other day when I got sick, I had a great day of prayer; and I think I am actually feeling the fruit of that prayer now as I'm trying to organize people into teaching positions, nursery, youth ministry, etc...

So when sickness strikes our missionaries, it is good to know that they can still "do ministry" even if they can't "do" what they thought they were there to "do." Make sense? Maybe talking about Yoda, has gotten me talking like Yoda.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Thoughts on When missionaries get sick: Part II

Well, I start this post out to say I'm a legitimately driving West Virginian now with my new license plate. 

Anyhow, this is a continuation in how to think when missionaries get sick. The main goal I have is to invite you into my thinking process (which is not necessarily always a good thing, but perhaps it could be helpful), and get a more solid working scriptural framework. So I posited this question: is there any scriptural precedent for missionaries getting sick?

Even as the gospel was first exploding on the scene, missionaries got sick. Epaphroditus, who Paul describes as "my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, your messenger..." was very sick for a time (Phil 2:25). And from this description, you could certainly call him a missionary, yet he definitely couldn't leave as a missionary during this time. How much "ministry" did this joker miss simply because he was too sick to do it? I mean, "What's the deal, God?"

He eventually recovered and went to Philippi to strengthen the believers in that area. But it also helps me to know that there is biblical precedent for missionaries getting sick, even from the beginning. It doesn't mean that God isn't there or doesn't care about missions or missionaries.

But that also raises another point: Christ will build His church and He will do it the way He wants to do it. It will not be built around one person. While Paul did write much of the N.T., let us not forget that he spent much of his time imprisoned. If I'm 'writing the script,' I would keep Paul, who would probably be in the "missionary Hall of Fame" if they had one (and if they did, where would it be?) out of prison. I would also extend his life, and not leave him under some sort of house arrest his final years. If he wanted to go to Spain, I'd let that joker go. 

But again, I don't get a vote. And I don't need one. The gospel went forth just fine without my vote. It went forth just fine with a Hall-of-Fame type missionary spending a lot of potentially fruitful time in prison. Jesus said He'd get this thing done, and so I just need to trust Him. He can use healthy and sick missionaries, and people like you and I to get the job done. Fortunately. He doesn't need All-stars like the Yankees, but can use consistent players like the Tampa Bay Rays. Maybe that's the point.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Thoughts on when missionaries get sick

Had a fantastic 33rd birthday yesterday, watching the Rays take down the Yankees, cooking up some burgers, and hanging out with some good friends.

Anyhow, I was a little bummed in church yesterday at hearing of two of Redeemer's short term missionaries getting so sick in South Africa. When a church supports missionaries, we support them to do the work of ministry. But if they're sick, they really can't do too much; not only that but they in turn need to be ministered to. And how hard it must be for them who raised money to do ministry THERE, but can't.

How should we think about this?  Is this proof God isn't there or doesn't care? Is there any biblical precedent for what to do in this situation?

The first thought I have to continually beat out of my head is that this type of thing is NOT a good apologetic AGAINST God being there, caring, or whether missions is even worth it. I mean, if you're just going to go and possibly get sick, what's the point? That's what pops into my heart. So I need something in my head to drive that stuff out.

Sickness, death, and suffering DOES NOT mean God doesn't care. It would seem to be so, but the bible time and time again reminds us that this isn't true. In fact it just means that God doesn't lie. This is the stuff he said would happen to us in this world.

We just heard a great sermon on Revelation 6, which summarized to us what we would see BEFORE Jesus returns: Conquest, Wars, Scarcity, Famine, Pestilence, Death. Missionaries, and Christians for that matter, are not immune to this. I wish we were. I wish at least missionaries would be immune to this stuff because they are giving up the comfort of a known culture to go to an unknown culture and land. But God never consulted with me on this, and as my old seminary professor Steve Brown always said, "We don't get a vote."

So the next question then becomes, is this sickness the work of Satan persecuting Jesus' church and it moving forward? Or is it directly, as opposed to indirectly, (although I recognize this is really impossible to figure out!) from the hand of God for some unforeseen better outcome? I think Satan can make people get sick; he made Job get a bunch of sores on his skin. Nevertheless he was only allowed to go so far, and couldn't take his life. So I guess sickness could be a form of Satanic persecution.

In II Corinthians 12, Paul tells us of a messenger of Satan sent to him by God to keep him from being too proud of his crazy visions. So I guess sickness can also come directly from God to make us more dependent upon Him.

So whether God has a direct hand or indirect hand in missionaries getting sick (and its really a waste of time to figure out which is which), He's still sovereign over all. All we can know is that He's got a plan and it is coming together.

I just have to remember this when missionaries get sick. But at least someone on this team is doing better because she took this picture of some children running!

I'll deal with another question tomorrow: is there any biblical precedent for missionary sickness happening in the bible?