I wanna go back…

Me in the ruins of Alexander the Greats palace in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Me in the ruins of Alexander the Great's palace in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

I would give a lot to be waking up in Samarkand today. I would walk down the street to get break baked just a few minutes ago, and I would come home and eat it for breakfast with sweet milk and tea.

Or I would fast and walk around the city all day and pray against the demonic strongholds that make a miserable place to live.

Someday, Lord?

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What do you think?

Brace yourself.

For the first time in a while, I’m making some time to write something somewhat meaningful here.

It’s strange. Although these past couple of weeks have had me busier than ever (lots of driving back and forth between Greensboro and Creedmoor and working really hard to get up to speed at work, plus focussing a little bit more on church stuff), I seem to be experiencing more clarity than I have in a while.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s just ’cause of the John Mayer song. Actually, I hope not. (Isn’t the point of that song that as soon as you realize that you’re having a moment of clarity it’s too late, because that realization will take away the clarity?)

But I digress…

To be honest, it’s not nearly that complicated. I think the bottom line is that I’ve had at least 2 1/2 hours a day to sit in a car and think and listen to some fantastic teaching from guys like Mark Driscoll and Francis Chan. And at least equally importantly, God has been doing some amazing things in Stephanie’s life too. She might not even realize it, but she’s more beautiful than ever — in every way. I feel more encouraged and supported than ever, and that makes more difference than any woman will ever understand.

So, all that rambling because I want to ask for some feedback. I had a rare moment this week when a Bible story became completely new to me — the meaning and value for my life right now came through in a way it never has before.

In our ‘Spiritual Gifts’ Bible study that our men’s group is studying through at work, the author makes a point using the life of Moses, and he focusses specifically on the story from early in Moses’ life where he kills the Egyptian. The author challenged me to consider the question: “Why did Moses kill the Egyptian?”

It seems like a simple enough question, but the answer is powerful for me: I think Moses killed him because he was beginning to get a grip on God’s calling for his life. God put in Moses’ heart a burden for His people. Moses felt God’s compassion and righteous anger towards the conditions of the Israelites.

And before he probably realized that God had put this in his heart, and certainly before he consulted God about it, he did something rash and chalked it up to passion.

The result: a man died, and Moses spent 40 years hiding out in the wilderness.

And I got to thinking: Did it really have to be that way? If Moses had realized that his passion came from God, and asked God for direction on how to act, and then waited, could it have played out better? What if God was ready and willing to lead the people out in 1 year? What if those 40 extra years of toil and death that God’s people experienced weren’t necessary?

But then again, God is sovereign. Someone in our discussion put it this way: What if God planned for everything to happen just the way it did? What if He wanted Moses to go out to the wilderness so that He could mold him into the redeemer of His people that He wanted him to be?

This definitely seems reasonable. Think about all the people who spent time in the wilderness before God really fulfilled His calling in their lives. There’s Moses, David, Paul, John the Baptist… even Jesus it seems to some extent.

So all that leaves me in a funny place because I have such an overwhelming passion for God’s church. I seriously feel the Gospel like fire in my bones and everything in me screams to give my whole life to see the world changed by the Gospel. I want to spend my life being poured out for the Bride of Christ in America until She is a true reflection of Him, and truly cares about His bride around the world. And I try to wrap my head around the story about Moses, and how God seems to send His servants into long seasons of waiting where He prepares them, and I try to think about how that applies to me, and I just don’t know what to take away.

In the sermon I listened to this morning from Francis Chan, he said that in Uganda alone (I think — that part wasn’t clear), 43,000 children are orphaned every day, and 29,000 orphans die every day.

Every day.

Part of me fights God about that.

“What can You teach me in 5 or 10 years that is worth so many wasted lives?”

I know. It’s an audacious question to ask the Creator. I ask it respectfully. I know that I have so much to learn that I don’t even know how much I have to learn.

But what’s the balance in the meantime? How do I stir up the passions God has put in me and take full advantage of what’s available for me to do in THIS season, while simultaneously resting in God’s sovereignty and just waiting for His leadership?

I guess I already know what I would tell someone if they asked me those questions… but all the same, what do you think?

Some quick links

Every time I come across something I want to draw your attention to via this blog, I leave it open in a tab, in hopes that some day I’ll have time to write what I really want to write about it.

…that hasn’t happened in a while though

And now my computer tells me that it must reboot to apply some security changes, so I’m going to throw a few links at you before I have to close my browser. I hope you’ll take time to look:

Uzbekistan TV Campaign Against Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses

This is something I experienced first-hand while I was overseas. People are literally brainwashed as their own fearless (revolting excuse for a man) leader comes on national television and tells them that Christians are only in their country to steal away their culture. And it’s effective. Here’s an excerpt (emphasis mine):

On Saturday 17 May state television broadcast in prime time a report describing such groups as a “global problem, along with religious dogmatism, fundamentalism, terrorism, and drug addiction,” actively involved in deceiving young people and minors.

The documentary featured Uzbek religious and political experts, state officials as well as representatives of the other religions, all of whom took a critical view of missionaries.

People are literally taught that the Gospel is as dangerous as terrorism or drug addiction.

I guess in a way it is…

Uzbekistan: Longest-Held Political Prisoner Free After Two Decades In Jail

The United Nations has decided that Uzbekistan has the 5th most corrupt government in the world.

And cotton is a big deal.

It’s a cash crop.

Farmers are literally forced to grow cotton and sell it to their government at substandard wages, while their families starve because of the essential foods that are not grown instead. University students are forced to take 4-8 weeks during the summer to pick cotton for the government, for free. And this guy was sent to jail for most of his life, why: because he made it work. That’s why there’s such a pervasive sense of hopeless in Central Asia. Because it seems like people are punished for doing anything but suffering…

Why do I share this? Because I want you to pray.

Adoniram Judson’s Advice to Missionaries

I found this on the Desiring God blog. If you don’t know who Adoniram Judson was, then you owe it to yourself to look him up. Desiring God has some great free resources, and I believe for a dollar or two you can buy a 1 1/2 hour talk by Piper about his life. The short version of the story is: The Gospel is alive in Burmha because of Judson’s amazing dedication and sacrifice. Here are a couple of his points to anyone who would be a missionary:

First, then, let it be a missionary life; that is, come out for life, and not for a limited term. Do not fancy that you have a true missionary spirit, while you are intending all along to leave the heathen soon after acquiring their language. Leave them! for what? To spend the rest of your days in enjoying the ease and plenty of your native land?

Fifthly. Beware of the reaction which will take place soon after reaching your field of labor. There you will perhaps find native Christians, of whose merits or demerits you can not judge correctly without some familiar acquaintance with their language. Some appearances will combine to disappoint and disgust you. You will meet with disappointments and discouragements, of which it is impossible to form a correct idea from written accounts, and which will lead you, at first, almost to regret that you have embarked in the cause. You will see men and women whom you have been accustomed to view through a telescope some thousands of miles long. Such an instrument is apt to magnify. Beware, therefore, of the reaction you will experience from a combination of all these causes, lest you become disheartened at commencing your work, or take up a prejudice against some persons and places, which will embitter all your future lives.

Eighthly. Never lay up money for yourselves or your families. Trust in God from day to day, and verily you shall be fed.

Seventhly. Beware of pride; not the pride of proud men, but the pride of humble men — that secret pride which is apt to grow out of the consciousness that we are esteemed by the great and good. This pride sometimes eats out the vitals of religion before its existence is suspected. In order to check its operations, it may be well to remember how we appear in the sight of God, and how we should appear in the sight of our fellow-men, if all were known. Endeavor to let all be known. Confess your faults freely, and as publicly as circumstances will require or admit. When you have done something of which you are ashamed, and by which, perhaps, some person has been injured (and what man is exempt?), be glad not only to make reparation, but improve the opportunity for subduing your pride.

(Read all 10 here.)

Silk Road to the Present

This is an article from the Moscow Times about the city where I spent a year. It’s funny to hear someone talk about the city from a tourist’s perspective, but it’s interesting none-the-less.

Uzbekistan: International Groups Blast Tashkent’s “Media Freedom Conference”

Excerpt:

The idea was that major international rights groups — including Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, the International Crisis Group, and the Open Society Institute — would attend and contribute to a frank exchange on a topic that generally makes the region’s leaders squeamish.

At the last minute, however, Uzbek officials scrapped the plans for an EU-Uzbek conference on civil society. Instead they staged an “Uzbek version” of the gathering that participants and would-be participants said fell far short of Brussels’ goals.

This is how they role in that good ol’ corrupt country.

Pray for Uzbekistan y’all.

Romans 5:15-21

15But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for(A) many. 16And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For(B) the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought(C) justification. 17For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness(D) reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

18Therefore, as one trespass[a] led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness[b] leads to justification and life for(E) all men. 19For as by the one man’s(F) disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s(G) obedience the many will be made righteous. 20Now(H) the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased,(I) grace abounded all the more, 21so that,(J) as sin reigned in death,(K) grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Perspective From “Voice of the Martyrs”

I have my default webpage on my personal computer set to “Voice of the Martyrs“. I do this for two reasons:

1 – I need to see this page on a regular basis

2 – I probably wouldn’t navigate there very much if it didn’t come up every time I open my web browser.

Why wouldn’t I go there? Because it can be depressing. They have a little news feed right on the homepage with updates about missionaries being persecuted around the world.

It doesn’t give me the quick, fun distraction of a silly blogpost somewhere. It doesn’t give me a warm fuzzy feeling I get by checking out the latest series by a pastor. It doesn’t give me the self-righteous indignation I tend to fall victim to when I read the news about how messed up our world is.

It just makes me sad.

But it also helps me remember.

It helps me remember that this world is temporary.

And Jesus has overcome the world.

And He left me with a mission.

And it has nothing to do with my bank account or the size of my TV or the number hits I’m getting on my blog.

And that gets me excited.

Here’s the headline I clicked on this morning:

CHINA – Children Arrested for Attending Bible Study
March 3, 2008
On February 28, 11 children and two adults were detained by Public Security Bureau (PSB) officials while attending a house church Bible study in Qingshuihe township, Xinjiang province.

According to China Aid Association (CAA), “PSB officials disrupted the gathering and detained the minors along with Ms. Fu Jun, 41, owner of the house and Ms. Lu Lanxiang, 42. The children, aged, between 16 – 17 years of age, were brought to the Qingshuihe township PSB office in freezing weather and were not allowed to bring adequate clothing.”

The report added that CAA had confirmed PSB officials had imprisoned the believers under the charge of “illegal religious gathering;” their wellbeing was unknown and their families had been denied visitation.

Christians in China remain faithful despite the Chinese Communist government’s increased persecution leading up to the Olympics later this summer. The Voice of the Martyrs supports believers in China with medical costs, Christmas Care packs for Sunday school children and literature to strengthen believers spiritually. Pray for these courageous children and adults as their faith is tested. Ask God to encourage and protect them. Pray He gives them grace to forgive their persecutors and for the Holy Spirit to draw them into fellowship with Him.

Take five minutes and pray for this situation with me…

Any Questions?

Hipper-than-thou pastor

So, if you know me personally, or if you even read this blog very regularly, you know that I have somewhat of a love-hate relationship with Rob Bell.

And right off the bat, let me tell you that I hate that, because self-righteous ‘christians’ who think it’s their goal in life to tear down everything their brothers build in the name of ‘constructive criticism’ drive me insane.

And to be totally honest, I’m somewhat of a hypocrite when it comes to this matter…

About a year ago, I read “Velvit Elvis”, and I like it so much that I read it again and then bought the audio from iTunes so I could make Stephanie listen to it :0)

(I wrote this about a year ago when I was thinking through the book)

The whole concept of interpreting what Jesus said through the grid of first century Judaism was amazing to me. And Rob really shed some light on some passages of scripture that never quite made sense.

I started listening to the Mars Hill Bible Church podcast. And for my birthday, I asked for the book ‘Sex God’, which I got and eagerly read…

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