Mexico

Living with Evil, living between the Cross and the Resurrection, and actively anticipating a New World.

Devotion to Saint Death in MexicoSo I’ve been reading steadily again. Also we are in full swing of things here at YWAM San Diego Baja. We have DTS running with 30+ students. We have the CSBS starting its 4th school now here with 15 students. And we have the brand new Titus Project running with nine students of which I am one.

I’ve been learning to improve my own teachings with more practical skills and a lot of good reminders and heart checks along the way. Also I read through the book “The Seven Laws of the Learner” by Bruce Wilkinson. Its been a great start to these new challenges I am excited to face over the next few months.

I’ve also begun to read the book “how to read the bible for all its worth” by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart. I read it for the first time 7 years ago when I was accepted to do the CSBS in LA. I’m enjoying it even more then I did then. I also just finished reading a wonderful short book by Richard Bauckham called “Bible and Mission”. What I wish to comment on though in this post is a topic I plan to read into further. Evil-and-the-Justice-of-God-0

I just finished the book “Evil and the Justice of God” by N.T. Wright. It is a basic 180 page run through on an intense topic. He quickly introduces the current problem of Evil that continues to be a relevant issue with the ongoing issues with the terrorist group Isis. There are other sensitive issues as a missionary that I am aware of but would rather not going into. Along with those sensitive issues there are some of my good friends who work down in the Red Light district of Tijuana. While people tell us we are foolish for being here and no matter how hard we try to convince them that we are safe. We also recognize with Samwise Gamgee that,

“It’s a dangerous business… going out your door.”

Truly anything can happen but more then that a good many things could happen. We don’t have to try to hard to use our imagination because the reality is that people often disappear in Mexico. People disappear in the USA. Big cities are a risk in general. So with all the potential for evil that looms it is for sure the because of the Grace of God that we step foot out our front doors and proceed to get in cars and drive down to the Red Light area to work with homeless men and women and attempt to bring some light, love, and life.

I am challenged to be proactively thinking about what the nature of evil really is. To write the word, to say the word, and to use it in a way the is consistent with the way scripture uses it and how God has dealt with it and plans to eradicate it. Beyond that I am challenged not just to have thoughts, or philosophies about evil but that when I come face to face with it I will have a response that is consistent with Gods own model. So how then should we be preparing ourselves. A couple months ago i finished listening to the dramatized version of the book by C. S. Lewis, “Screwtape Letters”.  In the preface he describes two wrong approaches to the demonic. One, an over emphasis on the power of demons, and dark spiritual forces of evil. Two, to not give a proper acknowledgement to the world of spirits and demons. So I feel no hesitation to prepare my own philosophy on evil, and to prepare myself for right actions or responses to the evils that may come. Of course we never fully know what we will do until such moments come.

What is our reaction and response to the crisis for Christians and citizens of Iraq and Syria under the terrorism of Isis? N.T. Wright points out that we can not draw the line with terrorists on one side of the line of evil and the innocent on the other side. Because no one is really innocent. In that he really means to say that evil is a line that runs through all men and women. Thought he avoids talking about that line running through children or infants is beside the point. All men and women from an early age develop rebellious, sinful, and yes the potential for evil. Well this is a more and more difficult thing to say in a post christian world. People used to say that divorce was a terrible scandal, homosexuality was an outrage, and pedophilia a an outright disgrace to the human race. This point Wright also pints out is interesting because perhaps the only remaining of these three in a category of ‘evil’ would be the issue of pedophilia. When we consider the line of evil and that it runs through all men we are reminded of another area of weakness in the Christian response to evil. We might go to another extreme and say since the line of evil runs through all men and I am a sinner just as Hitler is a sinner then there are no categories or varying degrees of evil action in the world. This is also a huge mistake and a huge immaturity when it comes to the issue of evil and justice in our world. While both myself and Hitler are sinners, both capable of extreme evils, both prone to hatred, envy, bitterness, violence, manipulation, hurt, and confusion. While I may have killed men in my thoughts toward them, committed adultery with women in my thoughts towards them, and even cursed God himself, I have not committed the same acts in space, time, and history, leaving my mark upon the human race and on Gods good creation. I have left a mark with my sin, my lies, my foolishness, my immaturity, my anger, and my tongue have done damage and the consequences I too must face up to. Among the consequences of my sin, an eternal death and separation from God does not have to be a reality because of Christ. Same for Hitler. Wild as that may sound it is true. But the overarching point here, though God forgives trespasses of those who have trespassed the most there is still a responsibility by authorities put on earth by God to prosecute and provide consequences for all human evil. There is a right consequence for theft and fraud and there is a right consequence for those who commit violent crimes such as murder, rape, child abuse, hate crime, bullying, cruelty to animals, and outright abuse of the environment. Only to name a fraction of crimes that do violence to Gods created order.

The consequences for such crimes ought to fit the crime done. This is a basic rule of law and order. This is at least the beginning of the way in which such a discussion must go. That evil is something found in all men also conceived of biblically as ‘sin’. But though it is in all men not all evil done to man, creation, and to God is to be considered equal not the treatment of it.

The final few thoughts on the subject come to us as we engage with the message of scripture. That all of histories evils and injustices were building up as a case not only against mankind but as a case against the good nature and purposes of God. What was Gods way of addressing in the most meaningful way the problem of evil and injustice in the world?

His own death and resurrection gives us a shocking answer if we allow it. Notice we mean to say that it is God’s own death on the cross that makes a way. For it is on the cross and in his suffering that the perfect lamb of God would take on all evil, and injustice, as a way of dealing with the case that was building up heavily against man. And In a way the injustice and evil of God. At least in the minds of men and women in his good creation does the idea of God’s evil and injustices exist. That too was however addressed also with the final act of removing all guilt from men and all possible guilt previously heaped on God by men now atoned for and finished with the work of the cross. Easter then acts not only as a resurrection of the one God-Man Jesus Christ. But as the resurrection of all men and women who receive the cosmic gift of his atoning sacrifice.

While Christ has undergone his own resurrection we await our own. For we are still hear between the cross and the resurrection. We are challenged live now with the atoning work of Christ and the secure hope of resurrection in active anticipation of the new heaven and the new earth. Just as Jesus teaches in a number of parables on forgiveness, that the kingdom of God will look like a place where debts are cleared and jubilee is at last a reality. We can actively anticipate this new world by engaging in a real kind of addressing evil as evil but then trying to help people and help ourselves take steps to forgive the debts of others.

I am extremely challenged then to live not only in between the cross and resurrection but between the resurrection and everything else before. All of the previous evils, the evils we will face tomorrow once they have been committed and even my own evil. How will I actively and honestly address my evil, the evil of others, as well as find forgiveness for my own evil and the evil of others. While I anticipate the ongoing evil works around me I am also actively anticipating the resurrection and the day when all evil, injustice, and suffering will be done with for Good. These are the wonderful challenges to both philosophy, biblical understanding, as well as current and active dealings with evil that I have received in prayer while reading a wonderful little book in the issues.

Please Read: “EVIL AND THE JUSTICE OF GOD” – by N.T. Wright

Also I suggest on Topic some more balanced reading relating to the world of spirits, demons, and devil.

C.S. Lewis “Screwtape Letters”

Dean Sherman “Spiritual Warfare”

My next Three Books on the Topic

“Exclusion and Embrace” – Miroslav Volf

“No Future without Forgiveness” – Desmond Tutu

“Raging with Compassion” – John Swinton

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Categories: Bible, CSBS, Culture, Doctrine, Ethics, Faith, Mexico, New Testament, Philosophy, Theology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Divine Human Nature

What does it mean to get saved according to Genesis one through three?

This is a term I heard so much growing up in the Baptist Church. Its a term I still use on occasion. It is a word that starts to sound really weird after hearing so much.

“Do you want to get saved?”   “Are you Saved?”    “Am I Saved?”

Now nearing about 7 years of being part of the School of Biblical Studies in YWAM, I have taught Genesis 1-3  more than any other passages in the bible by far.

For the past few weeks I have been talking about the book, going through the first few chapters, with about 10-15 youth here in Mexico. All of the kids would say they are Christians. By and large, Mexican people would claim Christianity more than most Americans. It is a very religiously minded culture. Some of the boys are actually seeking discipleship and have began a real relationship with God that is evident in their life. But some of the boys are not in that place.

So I have been doing these bible studies for a mixed group, some of the boys have not been “Saved”.

So my thought has been, “what would that look like according to Genesis one through three”?  What is it to be saved?

First I have decided that its nothing to do with religion. No religiousness is needed to begin. In fact there is very little that is religious at all about these few chapters. If religion involves rules, than there was only one. Enjoy everything do everything your were created to do, just don’t eat of that tree. It brings death.

Of course God is involved. So if God = religion than maybe this is religious. But according the the great dreaded biblical scholar, Jesse Levi Evans, Genesis one, two, and three is not about religion.

It is about being a whole person. It is not until after man freely chose death for his race that man became somethingda-vinci incomplete. Before his choice, he had work that was fulfilling and meaningful. God had delegated to him the of job running everything he had set up. Not only meaningful work, but meaningful sex and relationships, and family. The very breath of the creator filled your lungs and gave you your full existence. Life was very good. Life was full. Man was whole. Man knew God. Man knew nature. Man knew himself.

What does it mean to be saved according to Genesis one through three? It means that being made whole again is possible. You learn what it means to be a person.

Though chapter three brings death, -death to the whole man, death to fulfillment in work, relationships, and mans relationship with his creator, man begins to set his eyes on a resurrection, on a recreation.

Studying the bible has become I hobby and a deep love affair for me. I still cry just reading specific passages. I get excited about the connections. Studying the bible is not a religious endeavor but me 1)becoming a whole person, 2) knowing the whole story, 3) knowing my environment and my role in it, 4) gaining perspective on Gods whole character.

In other words being saved is not religious nonsense found in a religious book created by fanatics. In fact that’s why I don’t use that phrase much.

Being saved becomes becoming whole, knowing myself, my environment, my friends and family by way of revelation from God and not being left to deal with only my bad choices that lead to death, frustration, toil, anger. The bible is not about becoming more religious its about become more human, which according to Genesis one through three is in the image of the divine.

Categories: Anthropology, Bible, Church, Context, Cosmology, CSBS, Culture, Doctrine, Faith, Genesis, Mexico, Old Testament, Origins, Orthodox, Philosophy, psychology, Salvation, School of Biblical Studies, sociobiology, sociology, Spiritual, Theology, YWAM | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Your Desired Spiritual Temperature: Practical and Current Assessment of what is Spiritual

Socially and Historically there has always been those who desire an “intense” or “less intense” Faith. That does not mean for instance that say, Catholic Faith is less or more intense then Protestant Faith. But within Catholicism some adherents prefer a more intense faith full of self sacrifice, and service to those in need. Some prefer a more casual approach in their faith. That does not mean one is greater then the other so long as both maintain a genuine faith. It matters weather each adherent is faithful to Gods call, and committed to his work, submitted in obedience to God. The impact of the faith to the outside world will come by having these various degrees of intensity, so long as it is genuine.

Similarly, some who desire a very high level of spirituality in the protestant movement may not be content with any particular level of spirituality within his or her group. This has led to many fractions within the body of Christ. There is pushing and shoving from both sides, to be more of less content with higher or lower levels of spirituality, and for various reasons.

For our Community: Some may be content because they feel called by God to maintain a crucial role of say, Hospitality, as we have on all of our YWAM bases. Or maybe it is the role of accountant, or registrar. What then is most needed is a knowledge of the supernatural in what we do.

Because the attack comes not only on what some deem as ‘mundane’ but on the very thing God has called us (ywam sdb) to do. For instance, Is building homes supernatural/spiritual or just practical help for someone without a house? Is 20+ years of “doing the same thing” an act of God or an act of man? Should we be expecting something more? If so, how much more, and what? Do we expect mass conversions followed by mass DTS’s and the like? I will give some answers.

  1. The truth is “mass conversion” is a myth. Growth rates in the early church was about 2% by the year and over 250-300 years a 2% growth rate took over more then half of the total population of the Roman Empire. This illustrates that a “mass conversion/Revival” expectation is not realistic and not even needed. However, human pride says that, “a complete turn around must happen in my lifetime or it must never be going to happen.” We want the results now and we push others to have a more intense faith because we don’t recognize the necessity of a job that one might consider mundane and irrelevant to ‘the situation’.
  2. As well, 20+ years of YWAM San Diego Baja “doing the same thing” is to be praised not to glorify man, but to recognize the supernatural at work through human obedience, endurance, and commitment to the call of God. The supernatural reality of what just a few people in relationship to the all-mighty God can accomplish is breathtaking and awe-inspiring. If there is a need to push others into a more intense faith the language used aught to be that of; commitment, endurance, and obedience to the call of God on a life.

The work may ‘seem’ slow to some. It may seem ‘simplistic’ or even ‘non-spiritual’ to some. But those who have committed themselves year in and year out are to be praised for their Christ like devotion to serving the poor. Nothing has been more “heaven meets earth” then Christ’s ultimate sacrifice. And nothing says that the All-Powerful God of the Universe Loves you and has come to earth like, -when Christians make a sacrifice of their time (20+ Years) and resources (4,000+ Homes) to give hope in Jesus name.

Even in writing this I realize that I only know a fraction of the cost in dollars, actual blood, sweat, and tears. I hope for those reading that this brings to mind those moments of sacrifice, maybe for some its every day. But to also call to mind those times when you were inches from saying “I’m done, I’m going home”. Instead you stayed, and you build someone else a home. God Bless you for that a million times over. What an honor it is to serve alongside all of you.

Final thoughts for us; This comes at a time in our community where we are growing: New Staff, new schools, high level of interest in our training department from incoming students, teams who want to come to Mexico to build and give, large donations for base facilities, favor with authorities, open doors, and miracles all around us. My challange is not to press in for a  ‘mystical/unknown spiritual height’ but to press in to know the Lord, to recognize his work/miracles. Often we seek something that is already right in front of us.

In YWAM we maintain that we are inter-denominational. Often people treat the mission as though it is set on having particular high level of ‘spirituality’ thus pressuring some to limits that he or she is not willing to be pushed to and thus ostracizing some of genuine faith and love for God and people. When teaching, prophesying, and guiding the community do so with humility and honor so that God can use your gift to build ‘up’ and not tear down.

At YWAM SDB we maintain that “We Serve the Poor”. We do this because God said to. “God Said” is the most repeated words in all of scripture. It is a belief that the highest spiritual power in all of the universe actually speaks to man. Our brush with the supernatural begins here. And to gauge our own true spiritual temperature, you need only to look at yourself and ask one question; “Am I being obedient to what God Said?”

If your still interested some final ramblings on history and a few of the wonders of God that we may be passing on to the next generation:

What made one generation of Christians greater then the next? To answer that question I begin by asking another one; What defines greatness? One generation of Christians may seek to raise the bar of intense spiritual commitment. This is not bad. One generation may pursue innovative ways of doing things because God made us to be like him. This is not bad either. The first may see more converts in his or her lifetime, but the other may see more outside of his lifetime because his new idea was put into practice; it saved lives, it Glorified God, and many more came to a saving knowledge of God and deeper conviction of who God is and how much he cares about this world and his children living in it.

What we are doing on our base has the potential to do both. Reach as many in this generation as possible and build new things, have new ideas, and leave something better for those after us to use for reaching the world. goth

Aquaponics is one of these things that may seem really dumb to someone not considering the potential benefits beyond giving someone a meal, much like we do once a week in Zona Norte. But the potential it has for communities, families, orphanages, prisons, schools, churches, community centers, business, and our own base is huge. Also it encourages us to foster care for what God has made to know God better by learned lessons from what God designed to give life. Fish, poop, water, food, and a bunch of other ‘sciency’ stuff. Its Gods design, created a specific way in order to give life. But there are more innovations waiting for a person to try them, test them, and better understand Gods creation in order to bring more life for more people. Innovation is at the very heart of God for us as Christians to be at the forefront of, as dozens of Christian Scientists were long before the “Enlightenment & Renaissance” lade claim to the such innovation.

CSBS: We study the bible. Boring right? -Like thats not being done already. 🙂   We study the bible using a method that teaches our students and staff that before you take scripture in your hands to be used as a weapon for self satisfying “truths” you must admit that you are ignorant of its original purpose, that, that ignorance can cripple you from accurately applying that to your life, your culture, your family, your church. Its nerdy stuff, no doubt. But its necessary. What using this method begins to build in students is a principle much needed in the body of Christ today. That is, a desire to know the culture, history, and world view or common philosophy of our own day in order to rightly apply the principles of truth found in scripture, rather then literal/direct uniformed application of the words in scripture. This can fix some of our churchy problems, and lead the way to bringing in line some of our educational problems, family problems, and various other social issues. The bible is Gods tool for bring Godly Transformation to church, government, education, arts and entertainment, family, science and health, business and economics.

Youth Street: Once a week I go into ‘Antorcha’ with Omar who runs “Youth Street” and about 12-18 youth each week get picked up and brought over to the YWAM base were they have 15-20 minutes hearing a word from Omar then 2+ hours of soccer on our awesome soccer field. The potential of this ministry is growing in the heart and mind of Omar and those who assist him. He has taken a handful on a missions trip to England. A handful are beginning to work along side of the aquaponics program. Most of these boys have received homes through ‘YWAM SDB Homes of Hope’ program started over 20+ years ago. How many of them will graduate college, graduate DTS/CSBS at YWAM, join staff, and begin to acknowledge and respond to the hand of God on their lives? We don’t know yet but these are people that we may be able to observe the fruit of our own work within the next 5-10 years. Some works we will not see the fruit in our lifetime, some fruit will come at the very end of our life, some will come in the next few years, some we see right now, and of course some we will not see this side of eternity. But potentially there is a way in which we can observe and have hope in the fruit all around us by recognizing the work and the gifts of others as something that the Holy Spirit is doing.

Our work is not a spiritual competition. Our encounter with the supernatural happens everyday in the natural. Our God is invisible yet always present in every believer by the Holy Spirit, and is active among all unbelievers. In our immaturity we look for signs. Not that God refuses to give signs, he already has, they are all around us, and in our immaturity we will not recognize them.

I apologize for some reading this who are not a part of YWAM because it has more relevance for us working within this community. However, I hope those who have read have gained something. Feel free to ask questions or leave comments, or corrections if needed.

Also I apologize to staff reading this because I have only touched a fraction of what we are all doing and acomplishing by each of our commitments to Gods call on us individually and communally. God Bless you guys. Be encouraged.

Categories: Church, Mexico, Mission, Philosophy, Society/Culture, Spiritual, Supernatural, Worldview, YWAM | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On Having a Mission

So I have been working with the organization ‘Youth With A Mission’ now since 2007. Over six years. For the past 6 years I have mainly worked with a Bible School in which our primary focus has been to study the bible in its original context. That means lots of time researching. However, not researching opinion on how to interpret the bible. But researching the cultural and historical world of the bible. Then you go through the books interpreting ‘as if’ we were in the shoes of those people to whom the bible was originally written to.

Lots of work. Or at times there may have been short cuts. This no doubt would result in bad theology or just uninformed opinions about the bibles meaning. But when we are not cutting such corners this pursuit ends in the discovery of ‘Truth’. If its really true true, then it ends in the pursuit of Love for God and people.

This I feel is revolutionary. That we can say that something is absolutely true and still love people. Its anti-pluralistic which I realize is anti-my culture. Which may make me an enemy of some. This is where of course I realize that my revolutionary idea is not thrilling to most. We don’t want to make ourselves into others enemies if we are to be displaying the love of Christ to people. Yet I realize its just going to happen, but my mission is still double sided. Its truth and it is love. I can bring love and by doing so hope to communicate truth. Or I can communicate truth in the Hope that for some that will be the most loving thing I could do.

My next step in this mission, I am happy to say will not be about burying myself in a cave to study more, (as was my plan) but I will be taking a practical step in more mission.ywam

2014 My Goal is to partner with each ministry associated with YWAM San Diego/Baja (Mexico). That includes children after school programs, youth boys ministry, educational program for kids, homeless and prostitute ministry in the red light district of Tijuana, building homes for the poor about 10 weekends out of the year, partner with the aquponics (with my wife) gardening system for developing poor communities, and sports ministry. It is my desire to embrace a range of practical ministries such as some of these mentioned. My main focus will be closely related to my experience in inductive bible study and teaching. I will continue overseeing the work we are doing in the bible schools, training new staff as teachers of the word, teaching in our Discipleship Training Schools, serving local pastors and churches, and developing church based higher education.

I am so thrilled to be working with a group of people who take the name to heart and are actually striving to be in the mission of Christ in effectively bringing the truth of Jesus by extension of his love.

I have had a mission the whole time in YWAM. God made sure I was, and I am so grateful for CSBS and for the emphasis on the trans-formative power of the word in the real world. I am encouraged to be a part of a community centered in a common mission for serving the poor. By the years of active mercy, many doors have been opened for ongoing transformation of Mexico. Im excited to be a part of what I believe is a missions success story that is not complete.

Categories: Mexico, Mission, YWAM | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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