Monday, March 21, 2011

A problem of faith

As we approach our first year living on the field as missionaries we realize we will soon enter a new season as I shared before. This has me thinking more as I go to CIAAD the boys prison, we prepare lunch on Saturdays and anything else that comes up. What prevents us from seeing success? What keeps us from trying things? Why do we tend to expect defeat and a lack of response?

Ultimately the question is about our own faith. Do we believe the Gospel can completely transform a person? It is easy to believe that a nice middle class person can accept and add Jesus to their life (though in a way it is more amazing). However when we hear a testimony of someone saved in prison or rise out of hard circumstance we consider it amazing.

We recently heard about a cousin of Melissa’s that had much stacked against her in life. She is now seeking God and expecting in faith to go on a missions trip to China. She is continuously seeing God provide as she seeks to please Him. Melissa herself should have wound up in a much different place based on the worlds standards. The truth is many people all of us know have seen God do great miracles of change.

The problem is we forget our own testimony. We don’t share it with others. We go to church to hear teaching and get smarter but we forget to share what God has done. We need doctrine but we need the balance of testimony. We need the passion that comes from seeing God change lives. We need to give opportunity for people to hear where we come from not just where we are.

I never want to quit worshiping and marveling at what God can do when he takes a sinner and turns them into His own child. I want to marvel no less at the subtle outward changes and deep unseen changes of the middle class than the drug addict. In the midst of marvel and worship I want to learn to expect the great, the impossible, I want to expect God. I want my faith to grow beyond setting my expectations low to avoid disappointment to having no expectations but excitement to see what God will do.

This last week at CIAAD we met a group of teenagers living in the prisons half way house. It is an exciting possibility in the midst of a sad reality. We also shared with a large group of younger boys. All desperate for us to pray for their families. Much less tough, showing the emotions of being separate from moms on their faces.

At lunch on Saturday, we fed men, women, and children from very desperate circumstances. I walked through the favela with Tim asking people to come to lunch. Angered that parents raise their kids to live that way. Melissa and I tried desperately to talk with a couple women and some kids. The kids went in to play, we still couldn’t get the women comfortable. In fact when I asked if Melissa could pray for them the one women looked frantic and told me if she didn’t pour anything on her head or do something strange. (The weirdness of so many churches in Brazil is several blog posts of material. I’ll just say I recently heard of chicken’s getting filled with the spirit, prophesying in tongues while the rooster interpreted. This was from a mainstream denomination.)

As Melissa and I approach the next 2 years as the time to switch from adjusting to culture and living as a missionary family to practicing ministry. The question becomes do we not just believe in God, believe the gospel can change a few lives or do we expect Jesus and His cross to transform communities? To transform family histories in the favela, the lives of boys in prison, our own hearts. Will we operate in duty and religion or with true expectant faith?

Do we, me, Melissa, my kids, you, my church truly believe that God can and will change lives. Our we going to move from belief and hope to great faith?

Monday, March 14, 2011


The nature of progress is an interesting thing. Sometimes it feels fast and you realize it is slow. Sometimes it seems like it is non existent or in reverse and you realize it is actually rapid.

Saturday, I had the opportunity to realize a little. We did another lunch for the hurting of our community, it was our most successful numerically speaking and probably had the most truly down and out so far. I got the chance to share a few of God’s truths with 3 different groups. The first and second were groups of 2 and 3 men from the favela and the third was a group of children. I was able to share a few of the words of Jesus with them in Portuguese. I had a few corrections to my grammar and verb tenses by the Brazilians with me but everyone understood what I was saying. For me this is a big deal.

As a missionary you leave your church and move to a new country because you want to share the gospel with people. You want to make a difference and discover you are useless because you can’t order a cheeseburger without pickles. Language is huge.

Later that day Warren and Sheri Yoder arrived at our house. We had spent the previous weekend with them at a retreat for Calvary Chapels in Brazil. It was great but how much more refreshing is it to have friends here we have known for more than 7 months. Warren was the first person to hire me in the cabinet business and they were mentors for us in marriage and life. Don’t blame them for our problems, we did that. Today we went to Paraguay with them and some new refreshing friends KaKa’ and Lillian. He is Brazilian and she is Norwegian, they are planting a church in Priah Grande. We had Chinese food.

After the retreat we feel the Lord is speaking to us that it is time to begin practicing more ministry. Not that we haven’t done any but that he is going to begin building us into the ministry he has for us. We feel this is going to be the beginning of a new season. We still have kids, the poor, and possibly vocational training on our heart. Not to mention we still feel our future points to involvement with the less reached. Pray we have wisdom as we close in on our first year in Brazil, our first year as full time missionaries and what we believe to be a turning point from full time learners that do a little ministry to full time learners that do more ministry Smile.

Love you all,

Ben and family.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

For love or for Lord?

Recently reading through Revelation and now through 2 Corinthians I am challenged in my view of missions and evangelism. So much current thought is on building relationship in hope that one day we may see that person come to the Lord. I am a big proponent of building relationship and even a bit of patience in the presentation of the gospel. I am challenged though to be certain the gospel is at the forefront of those relationships.

In the book of Revelation when I read without thought of eschatological meaning I see heaven greatly concerned with man. I see plagues poured out on man that man would repent and worship Christ as LORD. This makes me pause. So much of our efforts are concentrated on wooing the targets of our friendship evangelism into “accepting” Jesus. A loving benevolent God who wants to make you feel better for your sin.  How does this add up, I fully believe in a loving Lord who absolves our sin. However I read in 2 Corinthians of a Lord who brings sorrow and regret for our sin that we might be made glad through repentance.

It was clear reading Revelation wars, plagues, drought, death is meant to bring repentance. Whether or not the bowls, seals, trumpets and like are poured out now or in the future they have in intended purpose of bringing man to his knees. Unfortunately in the end it appears it fails with most. Ultimately it takes judgment and hell to bring man to his knees. Perhaps Christian universalism is gaining ground because we have embraced acceptance over repentance, friendship over lordship?

Galatians shows us this isn’t lacking love but in fact is love. Discipline is love. God allowing man to taste a portion of the judgment they deserve in order to bring them to Him versus pouring out the fullness of His wrath, how could this be anything but pure love? What else could hold back the anger of a holy God?

How do I put this into practice. First, it is only God who can pour wrath to bring repentance. This means it is not by any means my job to berate people with their sin and drive them to repentance. My job is to point out the death their sin brings and offer them hope. To recognize conviction is beautiful, it offers the opportunity for redemption.

Second, I can not build relationship in hopes of avoiding confrontation. The Gospel is inherently confrontational. It pits man against God with man being the problem. Therefore your new friend is part of the problem, where hopefully you are now a part of the solution. 2 Corinthians tells us we can not be yoked to unbelievers because we have nothing in common. I am not to go down the street and watch soccer to make new soccer watching buddies. I am to go down and build relationship in hopes that they repent and become disciples. Without relationship who will follow up with them?

Third I must share the same love God has for ALL men before I have attempt to point out their need for repentance. God is love. It is His love that gives all men the opportunity to repent. It is his love that sent Christ to the cross, His love that he went to the cross. If we don’t share that love for the one whom we preach repentance we are just arrogant. In fact, we are only different because the blood covers all our sin. God, without the blood, would see only the ugliness of my heart. My covetousness, my lustfulness, my self centered actions, my anger and so on and so on. I must be fully aware of how far short I fall, realize God’s great love for me and let that turn my heart to love for those around me. I can't attempt to love the whole world, I am not God, but I can love my family, my church, my neighbors.

We need Christ as Lord, He loves us and gives us opportunity for that. In the end we are rewarded with His friendship, love, and even adoption into His family. This is the reward for repentance, for indentured servitude, this is the result of making Him Lord. If we don’t make Him Lord of our lives, and preach His Lordship we miss the thing that cleans us, revives us, gives us eternal life now.

As a new missionary I needed reminded of this. My job is to be a full time ambassador of Christ, His love, His kindness, His compassion on the poor. The only hope for their lives however is His Lordship.

I still fully believe the church need to become more loving, more active, more compassionate, more accepting but it needs to do it without diminishing the lordship of Christ. Also I recognize we are living in culture where the law has been applied the way my kids put butter on bread, messily and too much. The challenge is to preach HIs lordship without piling the burden deeper. Repentance is easy.