Sunday, January 21, 2007

The "John the Baptist Fast"

As someone who has fasted on occasion and realizes that I should fast much more than I currently do, I have watched with interest and some bemusement the saga of my wife Cam's blogs on food and fasting. Her Southern Baptist readership has soared when she posts yummy recipes, and yet plummeted when she posts on fasting. On the other hand, readership from other Christian groups has gone through the roof in the last few weeks as many others rush to fast in the new year (resolutions?). Many people are searching for information on the "Daniel Fast," which Biblically, would more appropriately called the "Daniel religious protest diet." When Daniel did fast, we don't have a lot of information on what he did.

On the other hand, we have a great deal of information on what John the Baptist did and did not eat while he was in the wilderness. We know that he ate locusts and wild honey. As a Nazerite from birth, he did not eat grapes, raisins, or drink wine. Jesus called John the greatest man of God who had ever lived until that point - greater even, than Daniel. So why aren't we rushing to do a John the Baptist fast?

Cam pointed out that it is difficult to find locusts in most areas. However, one can buy live grasshoppers(which are anatomically identical to locusts) and crickets in a majority of fishing supply stores and bait shops in the United States. If grasshoppers can't be found, crickets are probably a good functional substitute, as they have the same crunchy exoskeleton and succulent center. When combined with sweet wild honey, they should be a tasty treat that would appeal to even the most hard-core faster.'s to the new John the Baptist fast craze. I'm thinking of writing a book, but first, I'm off to try to track down some locusts right now - or...maybe not. All of a sudden, Daniel is looking pretty good.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Satan's Checklist

One of the huge problems in our last field of service was pastors and church leaders falling (jumping?) into sexual immorality. Practically every month, we heard of at least one, if not more pastors who had lost their ministry, run off with someone from their church, or were under church discipline because of illicit sex. At one point we realized that all five of the pastors who were leaders in marriage enrichment seminars in our city had committed adultery. A few years ago, I had a pair of beautiful teenage sisters offer to be my wives when I traveled into the interior of the state. When I told them I was married, they were quick to tell me that this wasn't a problem for them - they didn't mind that a bit. In talking to missionaries around Brazil, I have found that none of us ever faced temptations in the States like we do here. I had a pastor friend who observed that Satan had a checklist with the names of all of the pastors and Christian leaders in our state, and that he was systematically going down and checking off the names. He wondered where he, and I, were on Satan's list.

And now, we're in Porto Alegre -a much larger, more modern metropolitan area, with an even wider variety of vices available. The Baptist Seminary where I taught church planting is smack dab in the middle of an extremely explicit red light district. The students get out of class at 10:15 at night and have to walk for about 15 minutes through the almost naked prostitutes and drug dealers to get to the dorm. On the drive to the area where we were church planting in São Leopoldo, I passed at least 10 motels used exclusively for prostitution and numerous pornographic billboards. Everywhere one looks one sees flesh - and lots of it, along with a range of messages, from subtle to explicit, instructing us to give into the desires of the flesh. There is quite literally no way to avoid it, short of locking yourself in the bathroom for the rest of one's missionary career - which is not why people give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering!

So - what to do? How do I keep from getting "checked off" by Satan? I've chosen to follow the model of Joseph when confronted with Potifar's wife. First of all, I have to maintain a strong, vital relationship with God. This helped Joseph to resist temptation, and it will help us as well. Secondly, Joseph refused to sin. He decided beforehand that he would not give into temptation. Thirdly, Joseph avoided contact with the temptation. He avoided being in the house alone with Potifar's wife. While I can't separate myself from society, I can be careful. I can avoid going to news stands where porn is openly displayed, I can avoid contact with people and situations that could be tempting. And finally, when there was no other option, Joseph ran from temptation. He didn't play around with it - he split. And that is what we must do as well.

I don't want to be the next man checked off on Satan's list of conquests. I want to be true to my God, true to my wife, my family, and the mission I represent. So, if you think of it today, pray for your missionaries - not just that God will bless them in general, but that God will help them to stand strong against the full fledged, frontal assault on our purity that many of us face every day. And that our words, actions, and meditations of our hearts would be pleasing in God's sight.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

A New Attitude in 2007

I'm looking forward to what God has in store for us in 2007. That being said, I have to admit that I'm not quite sure what that is going to be. Most of our ministry wrapped up or was handed over to nationals at the end of 2006, so we are in the process of waiting on the Lord and looking to see where He would have us invest in the new year.

During this process, I have been reminded of something. Complaining is a sin. Israel whined and complained again and again in the desert, and each time, they were rebuked and judged by God. 2006 was a rough year for us. We adjusted to a new climate and culture in South Brazil, we were pulled into a theological controversy, struggled to impart new ideas to "old" Christians, faced lots of spiritual warfare, and did not see nearly as much fruit as we were accustomed to seeing in Northeast Brazil. I did my share of grumbling about it. And that was wrong.

So, what am I getting at? I want to be a more positive missionary. I want to be a less stressed-out, uptight missionary. I want to enjoy life and ministry instead of being unhappy with results or lack thereof. I want to learn to love more. I want to eliminate criticizing and complaining from my life. I want to get up and obey God each day and go to bed knowing that I walked in His will that day. I want to wait on the Lord.

Extending this a little farther, I would like to encourage our fellow bloggers not to complain or have a critical spirit. That's not to say we can't disagree, but we should be kind and respectful of others when we do so. When we started our blogs back in April, we made a commitment that they would be positive and would not contain any criticism of the IMB or the Southern Baptist Convention. We intend to stick to that commitment. Let's all commit to eliminating grumbling, complaining, and criticizing from our lives and ministries!

Ephesians 5:29 - Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Philippians 2:14-15 - Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure....