Thursday, March 30, 2023

Trust Me


One of the things about living in a developing country is travel. 

Roads can be non-existent, rough, impassable if it rains, or just dangerous. Travel by air is typically in airplanes discontinued long ago by larger airlines. My ministry in Ghana took a turn I did not expect and I am being asked to preach and teach in other cities around the country. 

This means I have to fly to get there. There are two options, one of which is not an option in reality due to the horrible customer service and scary planes. So, I fly with African World Airlines. All of their planes are the same. They have twenty rows with two seats on one side, an aisle and one seat on the other. They park on the tarmac and you walk, or if you are in the largest airport in Ghana, take a people mover to it. 

I recently flew. We took the people mover. On arrival everyone got off and walked to the only entrance to the plane, the stairs at the front. They were putting fuel in the next plane to us and the smell of it was heavy in the air. After five minutes of waiting in a human blob at the bottom of the stairs, they put us back on the bus. It drove to a spot 100’ or so away and parked with us on it. They gave no explanation. I watched. The reason they moved us was the same reason I smelled the fuel. There was a spill. I guess they figured the 103 degree heat would evaporate it soon enough. So, after someone subjectively determined risk of explosion was gone, they let us board. 

I started this blog in midair. There is duct tape on the seat in front of me. The seat beside me has 1/2 of the pouch on the back of the chair ripped off and dangling against the leg of the woman in the row. My armrest is broken. We looked around and Patience said, “This is the only time I ever thought we really should turn our phones off or it might cause a problem.” 

Here is the thing. I do not know the pilots. I do not know the maintenance people. Yet, I am in midair at 20,000 feet going two hundred miles an hour. Why? I trust the mathematics of aerodynamics. I trust the pilots have the knowledge and skill set necessary. As run down as the plane looks, I have faith in the governmental aircraft oversight and maintenance requirements. I simply believe I can get on this beat up old plane and in less than an hour be in my home city. 

If we do this, and we all do it every day, if we blindly trust in human systems and engineering, why do we have such a problem trusting God?

Why is it I will trust math I do not know, yet doubt my Savior Who I do know?

Why do I believe the pilots have the necessary skills to do their calling, but God won’t give me the ability or gifts I need to do His?

I believe the main reason most Christians do not attempt great things for God is we do not trust Him. It is not we do not believe in ourselves. It isn’t about us. We do not believe God is big enough, strong enough, powerful enough or wise enough to use someone like me. I cannot do it, send Aaron. 

It is time to get in the plane. God wants to take you somewhere incredible to do things unbelievable. Just trust Him and go.

Leia Mais…

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Different Doesn't Mean Wrong


Different Doesn’t Mean Wrong

One of the biggest obstacles to effective mission, and ministry, is discerning and differentiating your culture and God’s Word. 

This sentence is foreign to any one who has not faced the challenge. This is because when you are in your culture, there are no challenges to what your culture teaches is the Bible. It is like this. 

The Bible gives us a standard of right and wrong behavior. If you do what the Bible says ought to be done, it is good. If you do not, or you do what ought NOT to be done, it is bad.

Our culture also gives us a standard or right and wrong behavior. If you follow cultural norms, it is good. If you do not, it is bad. 

Now, move to another culture and they do not follow our norms. So, they must be bad. They need to change. 

Do they?

Let me give you an example. I am almost 60. For the past 15 years, I have to use magnifiers to read and write. I wear glasses. I use these to see. I look through them at the world around me. Reread that last sentence. I look through them at the world around me. 

I look through them. 

I do not look at them. 

I use them to view and therefore understand life. I rarely evaluate them.

My wife bought me a great pair of high level UV sunglasses. I never spend money on sunglasses or readers because I break and lose them with regularity. She decided to get me a real pair that was not from the dollar store. I love them. 

Here is the thing. When I wear them, everything I see is tinted blue. They are strong. If you held up a white piece of paper, I would say it was in reality a light blue sheet. Everything, literally everything, is blue-ish. 

Now, what would happen if I did not know I had on the glasses? What if they were placed on my face when I was born and all my life wore them and looked through them? What would happen if I assumed the way I see things is, in reality, the way they are? School notebook paper is light blue. It doesn’t ‘look’ light blue. I don’t ‘see’ it as light blue. It is light blue. If I forgot I wore glasses, then I would think God created an entire world on the blue spectrum. God’s favorite color is blue. God, Himself, might be a shade of blue. Why else create and put blue into everything? God loves blue. God is blue.

Then, one day I bump my head and my glasses fall off. I reach down to pick them up and realize the air is not light blue. It is transparent. The gravel I stand on is not blue-ish in color. It is white and tan. My tennis shoes are gray. I thought they were blue. 

I look all around. For the first time, I look at my glasses and not through them. I see I was wrong when I argued and cut off fellowship with you over the color of the notebook paper. 

Those long rants on social media about the Blueness of God now do not make sense. 

God probably isn’t blue and his favorite color is the spectrum. 

Blue is not the most noble of the colors. 

I thought it was because I had on blue glasses. 

The world wasn’t blue. 

My world was blue. 

That is not the same thing.

This is missiology. It is doing your best to look at the culture around you WITHOUT your culture-lens interpreting it. 

Go back to different does not mean wrong.

If we are not careful, we evaluate other cultures by using our culture as the standard. Then, without meaning to, we think the way they do things is ‘wrong’. We feel like we should change cultural issues, not because it is sin, but because we feel like it is wrong so it must be. 

Are they ‘wrong’ in how they do not follow our traffic laws to drive?

Are they ‘wrong’ because their way of doing things is not efficient?

Are they ‘wrong’ when they make children eat after the adults?

Are they ‘wrong’ by working 6 hours a day instead of 10?

Are they ‘wrong’ because every institution has long lines and wait times?

Are they ‘wrong’ because men and women do not wear the same type of clothing?

These are cultural norms and values. They are not Biblical. They are different, not wrong.

Missiology is learning to differentiate between culture and Scripture. 

It is seeking to change the parts of culture either mandated in Scripture or proven to be wise, yet accepting and adapting to culture simply different than the missionary’s home. The challenge for a missionary is to make sure we don’t think ‘our way’ is better and ‘their way’ is worse. 

Different does not mean wrong. 

Leia Mais…

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Erratic Input.


Look at this photo from my the desk in my bedroom. In order, plugged into the wall is a $20 voltage regulator. It has a built in delay. If the power suddenly surges it switches off before my devices can be damaged. 

Plugged into the voltage regulator is a combination adapter, going from the standard Ghanian plug to one of three choices, and also a GFI plug. It serves as a failsafe in case the regulator doesn’t catch the surge. 

Leaving the GFI/Adapter you travel up to my desk. On the desk is a small converter. It takes the 230v input and changes it to a 110v output. This allows for devices running on 110 only to be plugged in. It also lets me plug in things like my computer, which can operate on 230, into a 110 just to make it run cooler and safer. 

Also plugged into the converter is a wifi extender. It is from the States, so we triple redundant protected it with another GFI/Adapter. 

This is just one plug. The same system is repeated throughout the apartment. I met with the foreman on our house and we are having it pre-wired with 230 and 110 plugs. I am purchasing a large stabilizer, actually more than one. I will also have multiple converters to take the 110v power to the designated outlets. I have a section designed in our smalll laundry room specifically for stabilizers, surge protectors and converters. A generator will be hardwired to the house as well, so when the power is out for more than thirty minutes, which happens several times a week, I can turn it on and power my home. 

All of these items, this equipment, is to solve a problem. The stabilizers and surge protectors are there because the input isn’t controlled. They call it dirty power. Instead of 230, it might drop to 150 and then suddenly spike to 350. It bounces. The equipment is not for input. It is for output. The point of the input is the output. I have these items to control what comes out. I have to manage the input to my devices. I have to control the input to my computer. I do not want a surge of bad input to destroy my equipment. All of this is a means to an end. The goal is to power my home. I control the input in order to have good and controlled power.

This is one of the functions of both our personal walk with Christ and the role of the Holy Spirit. We are to control our input and stabilize it. Our self-discipline and spirit led restrictions protect our hearts and minds. We manage the input in order to have a Godly and quality output. The Holy Spirit warns us if we need. He is there to let us know through conviction and commendation, how input is effecting our lives. Consider how much of our thinking, attitudes, actions and responses to others are the result of unbalanced input. Look at social media and you can see indoctrination and brainwashing of unbalanced input. Consider what happens to your heart/mind as you watch/listen to your favorite opinion facilitator, otherwise known as news anchor or podcast. Most likely it is unbalanced input and generates negative responses towards ‘them’. We have decades of data proving violent gaming and movies influence us to violent responses. Confirmation bias constantly reinforces our mental dams which block out any other point of view. Our input is dirty. I don’t mean in the pornographic sense, but in the uncontrolled, unmanaged and unbalanced sense. We need to do to our hearts and minds what I do to my home in Ghana.

Control your input. 


Because the point of input is output. What is your desired output? God says it is to love your neighbor as yourself. The goal of our instruction is love. Therefore fervently love the brethren. Love your enemy. Love never fails. Without love I am nothing. Speak the truth in love. 

Is the input you allow to flow through your lives giving power to your love?

Leia Mais…

Thursday, March 16, 2023

In The Taxi

 In The Taxi And Other Places

One thing I love to do is help people see we are surrounded with opportunities to show the love of Christ and share the story of the gospel. I taught a group of pastors this truth and then that afternoon I took a taxi to the store. It went great. The driver and I shared simple small talk with included his asking me why I was in Ghana, and then why I actually moved to Ghana. I told him my passion was to help people know God better and love them more and asked if I could some way encourage him on his spiritual journey. We talked about his past and his understanding of the gospel and I prayed for him. It was a wonderful time of God honoring conversation with someone whom God is seeking. 

On the way home, it started off poorly. I left the store and there were three taxis in the parking lot. I paid 90 cents for my first taxi from the hotel to the store. I asked a driver how much and he wanted $1.35! He had the audacity to try and overcharge me by 45 cents. I knew the rates since this was not my first taxi. He would not come down. 

I cannot express how much, or why, this bothered me. After all, I believe in the free market. I told him, rather rudely, I would take another cab. The problem I discovered was the other two cabs already had passengers. They were waiting for them. If I did not want the first person, I had to carry my four grocery bags to the street. It was over 150’ away. I then had to wait for a taxi to pass by in 104 degree sunshine. I went to the driver and told him I had no choice, I would pay the extra 45 cents. 

It was uncomfortable in the taxi. This 45 cents cost me more than a dollar value. I rode in silence feeling robbed and he drove in silence angry at my attitude. Then the Holy Spirit convicted me. Was I going to let this paltry amount of money bring a bad testimony to Christ? My skin color pretty much pegged me as a missionary. 45 cents is going to destroy my testimony and ruin any chance of nudging him towards Christ? Really? 

So, I apologized. I expressed sorrow over my disrespect and bad attitude. He perked up. It surprised him and he quickly forgave me. I asked about his life, home and family. I shared again my failure, especially since I am called to love others so they can see and know God’s love. He let me know he was a Christian, and which church he attended. We talked a little about Christ and I encouraged him to pursue God on a deeper level. We arrived and I paid him $2 for the journey. 

How often do we let little things destroy our opportunity to love someone? 

Isn’t true love seen when we refuse to let little things interfere with our relationships?  The Bible says “Love covers a multitude of sins” and “It is to a man’s glory to overlook a fault” and “Love is not easily offended and keeps no record of being wronged”. 

Does your political opinion prevent you from loving, or letting God love, your co-worker?

Does your personal take on some social issue drive a wedge between you and people Jesus died for?

Does your view on some secondary doctrine stop you from fellowshipping with another believer?

Here is the deal. 

God calls us to love. Even in the taxi. 

God calls us to share His love. Even in the taxi. 

Wherever you find yourself, that is where God wants you to love and show His love to the other people He died for who are with you.

Leia Mais…

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Let God Do What God Does


I finished an interesting end of the weekend. It was a total God thing. 

I went to a city on the coast to help with a pastor training event. The goal was to participate in an evangelism emphasis. We wanted to train, challenge and motivate pastors to both participate in personal evangelism and lead their members to do so as well. I was to lead one of the sessions. 

Long story short, I discovered after arriving I was the only teacher at the conference. I went from one workshop to every session. I ended up teaching around six hours. 

God worked. The sessions went incredibly well. Pastors and church leaders felt the conviction of God to reach the lost in their neighborhoods. From my perspective, it was a wonderful success. Thank you Jesus. 

At the same church as the conference, a fellow missionary held a night time evangelistic outreach. Every day was a different emphasis designed to bring friends who did not know Jesus to the meeting. TBH, I did not attend. The morning/afternoon teaching and then meeting and greeting folks wore me out. 

Friday I finished teaching, had a Q&A session, met with pastors and denominational leaders and headed to my hotel to rest. I told Denise I planned on recording a few messages for my new radio show, “Think About It”.  I got to my room around 3:00 and realized I had not eaten since noon yesterday. I figured I would go get something to eat and then record. 

Denise called me and we chatted for an hour. I hung up and my friend called. It was a little after 4. He was the missionary holding the evangelism services at night. He asked me if I could fill in for him tonight. He cleared it which church leadership. Church started at 7. It was the last night of a week long event. I said I could do it and started praying about what to preach on. 

I decided to preach on the reality of the resurrection of Jesus and based on the truth He rose from the dead we should place our faith in Him. Put together some notes and went to church. 

When I arrived, I discovered it was a children’s emphasis night. No one told me that. There were around 200 kids from 1st to 12th grade. About 100 adults were there as well. I realized my message would not work. It was over the head of the children. 

TBH, it bummed me out. I had this great message ready and instead of an audience worthy of it, I had a church full of kids. This is harsh to read, but it is reality. 

I prayed. I forgot to mention, due to traffic we were late. We arrived thirty minutes after the service started. I had around ten minutes of thinking and praying as I stood up during the worship time. 

I suddenly felt God speak to me. He loves those children. He sent His Son for them. Why would I feel like an eternal soul housed in a 30 year old body had more worth or importance than an eternal soul living in a 13 year old body? 

I refocused. God is in control. He planned this. He brought this kids here. 

I emphasize the following truth in my ministry. 

God is. 

God is here.

God is here, now.

God is here, now, and is actively working in and through my life.

I realized it. God is at work.

Then it happened. I told my kids, “The Holy Spirit slapped me”. Not a bad way, but a great way. New thoughts came into my head. It was time to preach. 

The Holy Spirit filled me. I preach Jesus Christ. I explained the gospel, His life, death and resurrection. As I taught, object lessons and illustrations came to my mind. Three different times I called on volunteers from the congregation. I used a rope, a towel, and five chairs. I jumped and lay on the platform. Stories to apply truth and a gazillion Bible verses poured from me. I told Denise after that I could not remember the last time I felt that much ‘in the zone’. 

At the invitation I explained saving faith and repentance. I led folks in a prayer of faith, and then said, “If you prayed that, or you want to talk to someone about placing your faith in Christ, come down to the front now.”

That was it. The total invitation. Over 100 people came to give their lives to Jesus!

Read that again. Over 100! This photo was snapped right as the people started coming. More adults and children followed!

I had to adjust my thinking and let God do what God does!

I thought about this over and over since yesterday. 

How often do we simply ask God to bless our plans?

How often do we tell God to follow us as we claim to be disciplines of Him?

What do you do if God’s plan is not to your liking?

Let God do what God does. He loves people. He blesses people. He changes people. He works in and through people. His goal is His glory and our conformity to the Image of Jesus. He connects dots and lines we did not know existed. He works, not just in our lives, but in the lives of those around us. 

Let God do what God does.

Who knows? If Jesus doesn’t return before it happens, maybe tonight the next Billy Graham or Chuck Smith just got saved. 

All I know is when I get Joe out of the way, God blesses.

Leia Mais…

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Hotter Than Necessary


We arrived just in time for the hotter part of the year to hit. We always plan our lives around misery. :)

We are staying in a temporary apartment. Our room has a small air conditioner in it. Air conditioners are a luxury item, but to be honest with you, it is a necessity to me. Why? Well, a couple of days ago it was 106 degrees. Our kitchen doesn’t have an AC. It was 102 in our kitchen.

Well, our little unit hasn’t been very good. Since we arrived it hasn’t cooled the room below about 80. That is 20 degrees colder than outside, so who is complaining? Not us.

We met a fellow missionary. They came for the medical conference. We invited them over and, since our bedroom has AC, I told them, “We have a bed in our living room” and invited them in.

“What is your AC on?” They asked.

I told them we have it set on 75, but it doesn’t get cool. It was a little over 80 i our room.

“That isn’t right. We have those type of AC and it works far better than this. I bet your filters are clogged.” They proceeded to tell us how to clean them.

Guess what? After we cleaned them it got so cool in the room that night we had to use the cover on the bed and Denise turned the unit up!

All we had to do was clean the filter. We did not know it. It was like that when we arrived. We just accepted it as normal.

I thought about this.
How much of our lives do we accept as normal when God has so much more for us?
How often do we needlessly suffer because we don’t ask someone for help?
How many times do we decrease our expectations instead of increase our faith?

I thought of my new friend. We did not know them. Yet, they chose to take initiative and speak into our lives…practically, but think about it. First time meeting and pointing out our AC and my lack of such simple maintenance? Risky. They did it for me.

How often do we keep silent when speaking could bless a brother or sister in Christ?
Do we choose the risk free shallow life or the deeper but dangerous waters?

The old saying is, “If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen.” How about this instead? “If you can’t stand the heat, get a friend and put in an air conditioner then have dinner with each other.”

Many problems and discomforts can’t be avoided. So many of them that it doesn’t make sense to live with those that can…I am talking about physical, spiritual and relational. If you can solve the problem, do it.

I wish I did this last month. I sure am sleeping better now.

Leia Mais…

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is


Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

If you are old like me, you know the next line to that famous song by Chicago states, “Does anybody really care, about time?”

Time is money. Time is life.

Time is a big deal to North Americans. It is such a big deal we turned it into a moral action. We declare people who are late to be sinners. 

No joke. I attended a seminar once, and since then several times others taught the same message. 

They say, “If you tell someone you will be there at a certain time, say 3:00, and you do not arrive until 3:15, you sinned. How? You lied. You not only lied, you stole their time. They wasted time waiting on you and you stole it from them. You disrespected them. If you are late, you are a liar, a thief and disrespectful of others.”

I am sure my readers know this teaching. 

It is a classic example of cultural values elevated to the status of moral and Biblical teaching. It is not true. 

Time management is a wonderful skillset to posses. I practice and teach it to others. I maintain daily schedules, roles, priorities, and goals. I wrote on time management in two of my books, Before You Go and Live Your Eulogy. I believe proactive time management and time budgeting are great tools. 

It is not a Biblical or moral issue. 

In Ghana, as well as in Bolivia, I learned this. Let me explain it this way. 

If you live in an area with great transportation, good roads, dependable vehicles and solid infrastructure, it allows you to plan better than if you do not. In Virginia, I knew it took me eleven minutes to drive from my house to the church. If I had an appointment at 3:00, I could leave my house at 2:45 and be a few minutes early. I drove on good pavement, well managed traffic laws and  my car was in great condition. Contrast this to other areas with no roads, bicycles or walking. There might be blockades and if you use public transportation the schedules are suggestions at best and a joke at worst. 

One day in Bolivia, I waited for a pastor I mentored. We met at 3:00 each Wednesday at a food court. This particular Wednesday I waited until 3:20. He did not come, so I left. The following week we met. Before the end of the meeting he asked, “May I ask you a personal question. It is difficult?”

“Absolutely.” I told him.

“Where were you last week?” He wanted to know. 

“I was here. I waited until 3:20 and left. You did not come.”

He looked at me and said, with total seriousness. “Does our friendship mean so little to you that you will not wait for me?”

It blew my mind. 

My mentors taught me that he was in the wrong. 

He sinned. 

He stole my time. 

He lied. 

He disrespected me. 

He felt the exact opposite. I hurt him when I chose to not wait any longer.

We talked about it. I shared my perspective and culture. He said, “Blockades near my house stopped the buses and taxis. I could not take one. My bicycle tire is flat and I do not have money to patch or buy a new tube, plus I did not have time. I value our time together so I walked here as fast as I could. It is a little over seven miles. I arrived at 3:30 and you were not here. I walked back home. I not only walked here, I planned for you to drive me to the point of the blockade and cut six miles off my return walk. 

I did not consider how my North American infrastructure allowed me to be so time precise. Bolivians could not plan to the minute. They could not plan on reliable transportation. They might have to go from a 20 minute bus ride to a 3 1/2 hour walk without notice. 

We take Dengali lessons. It is the tribal language in the Ghanian city where we now live. Yesterday I asked my teacher a question about time. “What time do you switch from saying ‘Good morning’ to using ‘Good afternoon.’ When do you change to ‘Good night’? People use all three greetings and we wanted to use them appropriately.

“It is not exact. The vast majority of Ghanians do not own a watch or clock. They tell basic time by the position of the sun and by a guess as to how long after sunset it is. They will switch to ‘Good afternoon’ from 10:00 in the morning until around 1:00. It depends on where the sun is and how good the person is at judging time. In Ghana, time is not important like it is to you Americans.”

Another Ghanian pastor told me, “In America, you have watches. In Africa, we have time.” 

He went on to say, “In America, your watch determines our relationship. You give me a certain amount of time before moving on to something else. In Africa, the person possesses more value than a watch. We do not let a clock control our meetings. We stay until we are satisfied with the outcome and relationship.”

I am not saying we should not use time management skills. I use them. My fav one is First Things First by Covey. It is the system I use. My point is we should leverage our time in order to be with, help and love people. It isn’t about getting things done. It is about being used by God in the lives of others. 

This applies so much to missionaries. 

We come from a culture of production before relationship. It is all about efficiency and making things happen. 

I have things to do. 

I have places to go. 

I do not have time to wait with you or for you. 

In other cultures, you are the reason I am here. 

I have people to see, you. 

I have things to do, be with you. 

I have places to go, here with you. 

It is relationship. 

Look at all Jesus accomplished from the individuals He touched, folks He healed, lessons He taught, miracles He did and salvation He provided on Calvary. 

He did all of that, and never seemed stressed out or in a hurry. And, He did it all without a watch or device to help Him manage His time. 

Leia Mais…