Jesus' example of grace allows
people to live!
It's a toasty
100 degrees in my car but somewhere about 65 in the Grotto, the
best word to describe our apartment which is in a half-basement. I
dress in flannel and Aurelia in a sweater while at home but like a cat
soaking up the sun, Aurelia enjoys the sauna-like conditions of the old
white Benz. These are two of the greatest extremes in our
lives right now.
Social vs. anti-social
Two of the extremes that a ministry (and a missionary)
can fall into are the social gospel and what I call the anti-social
gospel. The social gospel is a common term to describe those who
only do humanitarian work without telling people the good news of
salvation. This is not our philosophy, because we believe that
when God doesn't get the credit, then man or Satan does. We don't
want to take credit for our good works, like hosting Children's Day at
the hospital (see pictures on this page and on the picture
page). Instead, we want to acknowledge Jesus Christ as the
Source of this love. We do this by constantly recognizing the
Lord and His message. Yet, we don't want to go to the other
extreme and practice the anti-social gospel. Our philosophy
is a bit different than and unacceptable to ye old-tyme missionary, but
we are looking for approval from God, not them.
I have a lot of respect for missionaries going to the
ends of the earth to bring the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ to
people who have never heard. It is essential to create
fellowships of believers who have an affinity for each other to stir
each other up to grow.
However, there are some missionaries dedicated to
planting churches of their own disciples because they don't accept or
get along with other groups of believers. We believe in living a
life of grace and lovingly letting others live lives as God lets
them--free to choose. Thus, we are more accepting of the
traditional and non-denominational groups. This irks some people,
including the ministry with which we recently broke ties. Many
don't include most of Christianity in their circle of the saved.
Much of each man's philosophy is influenced by his past and I was
born when Time magazine's Man of the Year was Pope John XXIII
who started a "revolution in Christianity", stressing reconciliation
and forgiveness, embracing all Christian faiths. (See Bawer B.
"The Other Sixties." Wilson
Quarterly Spring 2004, p. 80)
The world needs a deep grace not superficial political
"Who is wise and
understanding among you? By his good life let him show his works
in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and
selfish ambition in your hearts do not boast and be false to the
truth. This wisdom is not such as comes from above, but is
earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where jealousy
and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile
practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable,
gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without
uncertainty or insincerity. And the harvest of righteousness is
sown in peace by those who make peace." James 3:17-18
None of us are strangers to disorganization and vile
practices. We, as Christians are called to meekness. A great
example is Paul when he was asked who he was. He didn't say he
was nobody, but he said that he was a voice crying in the
wilderness. From the Old Testament, that was somebody! But
he recognized his gift and mission and he stuck to them. He had
no selfish aspirations that let him flower-up his speech, but he lost
his head for speaking out about the ruler's sin. In modern terms,
he "burned his bridge." So many high and mighty in religious
groups today are worried about burning Satan's bridges and will
compromise the truth for their selfish ambition. That will get us
promoted to success in the world, but we are called to God's success.
As Jesus wasn't a mind-numbing niceguy, but confronted
evil while extending grace to the needy. Likewise, Aurelia and I
strive to be leaders in the extending this kind of grace toward all in
the Body. We tend to be more accepting as far as
doctrine on minor issues, because God doesn't seem to us to indicate
doctrine as a determinate factor in discerning believers from
unbelievers. But, we are uncompromising when it comes to applying
Scripture to reconcile and correct. From our website
work, I am in a dialog with a man who seems to have discarded virtually
all the conventional Christians, even saying, "We DO NOT see
Billy Graham, as a preacher of the gospel."(emphasis his) The
person believes that water baptism is anti-Christian. It promises
to be an interesting dialog. Our team does not desire to
associate with people that will damage God's reputation or work.
This became more important this year as we intensified our work with
Italians who are tired of religion and phariseeism they see around
them. We recently had our advisory team go through the Matthew 18
reconcilliation process with our former agency over several issues.
Being unsuccessful, our team switched to Least of These International
None of us are strangers to disorganization and vile
practices. We, as Christians are called to meekness. A great
example is Paul when
he was asked who he was. He didn't say he was nobody, but he said
that he was a voice crying in the wilderness. From the Old
Testament, that was somebody! But he recognized his gift and
mission and he stuck to them. He had no selfish aspirations
that let him flower-up his speech, but he lost his head for speaking
out about the ruler's sin. In modern terms, he "burned his
bridge." So many high and mighty in religious groups today are
worried about burning Satan's bridges and will compromise the truth for
their selfish ambition. That will get us promoted to success in
the world, but we are called to God's success.
Some people who live the antisocial gospel
become accusatory and judgmental, with words and behavior that inflame
and instigate. The victim of their consternation may be as
ethical as retired FBI agents, but if the missionary doesn't have the
indwelling of the Holy Spirit, disagreement with his ideas will cause
him to assassinate the person's character. That is why we
encourage are training churches selecting missionaries to focus on character instead of knowledge.
Behavioral, not doctrinal, correctness is what Romania
needs. We are trying to help the Romanians here in Germany and
Romania to see the larger body of Christ which may disagree on minor
issues as we all disagree on politics. We discussed with a
gracious lady our idea that Christians with other spiritual gifts are
just as Spirit-filled as their group is that speaks in tongues.
She said to me in July, "one thing I learned from our discussion
is that I have to be more loving toward people with other ideas."
God is working so powerfully and we are humbled to be among those
He is using.
"I've got a new attitude!"
That 70's disco song could be a theme of our life and
work. Internet acquaintances of mine, the Bates family, wrote:
'An opinion poll by the Institute
for Social Studies revealed the following in response to the
question, "How do Romanians become wealthy?": Almost 50% said by
breaking the law, while 29% said that being well-connected was how
Romanians prospered. Only 9% believed work and personal merit
brought personal wealth, while another 9% said luck had
something to do with it. These views of success become
self-fulfilling prophecies. The publication of this survey gave
way to a raging debate in the media about whether it is possible to be
"successful and honest" in Romania.'
Satan has a strong grip on Romania, dragging it further
into poverty. A Romanian's purchasing power is a fraction what it
was under Communism and 84% responded to a Gallup Poll that they would
prefer a harsh leader with absolute control of Romania (dictatorship?).
The fruit of the Spirit is definitely not being felt in
Romania. They voted themselves the unhappiest people in the
world. Consider that Nigerians believe themselves the happiest
and you will see that the quest for material (a.k.a. materialism), not
lack of materiel (a.k.a. poverty) is the cause. Scripture says
the "love of money is the root of
all evil." (I Timothy 6:10) The World Values Survey
confirms that unhappiness is not caused by poverty but by preoccupation
with what one does not have. (Source: BBC
News) This can be a good lesson for any culture, but it seems
most needed in Romania where we have been teaching it. Again,
perhaps it is easier for Europeans to preach this message because they
seem to pursue wealth less than Americans, working shorter hours,
spending more time with family, receiving less pay and, if
suicide data is any indicator, being happier.
"And everyone that hath forsaken houses,
or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother or wife, or children, or
lands, for my name's sake, shall receive a hundred fold and shall
inherit eternal life." Matthew 29:29
Many people seem to use this verse as referring to
rewards in Heaven. I'm not an expert in picking this verse apart,
so I won't be making the following idea a central doctrine.
However, just by the grammatical order, it seems to be describing
earthly rewards. If I had been the author and I wanted to get
across the message of Heavenly prizes, I would write "shall inherit
eternal life where you will receive a hundred fold." As it is
written it seems like eternal life was an afterthought.
Aurelia and I would surely welcome the other
interpretation, having given up upper 5-figures to live at poverty
level, but God has made this verse true in our lives right now!
We have the chance to stay in many different houses as we travel,
hosted by friends instead of staring at the walls of Fairfield Inns--not
that finances give us a choice! We have grieved the forsaking of
brother, sisters, father and mother, being unable to frequently see
them and participate in their lives. Much as it hurt, I was
unable to visit my Uncle Dave on his deathbead this month. On the
other hand, we have literally reaped a hundred-fold, a "family" that
has gone through spiritual
battle together, making it tighter than most biological or spiritual
"Do not ask yourself what the world needs. Ask
yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the
world needs is people who have come alive."---John Eldredge. Wild
at Heart Field Manual (p. 250.)
Here, Eldredge seems to speak directly to me. One
of my favorite bosses was Dave Jeffery. His policy was to find
what made a person come alive--his God-given talents and to build the
job around him. Compare that to a recent experience where my new
boss didn't even care to look at the analysis made of my gifting.
He had a job that needed to be done and he would make the person fit
the job. He had admitted to me that there were a lot of risks to
my coming to Germany and he didn't see the sense of it. DJ had
much more leadership experience. Moving to Germany put
Aurelia and me in a place where God can use our gifting for His glory,
but it took our being wild at heart, trusting that God had what
it took to meet the evident risks. I am starting to understand
what Eldredge and our pre-marriage counselor meant by encouraging us to
pursue God's vision for our lives instead of following after the safe,
corporate vision of doing what the world, ministry, or company
needs. I am finally feeling that I am coming alive.
Attending a recent Wild at Heart conference with
the soldiers was like waking up from a long sleep. In many ways
it was a real eye-opener. Just being married and thinking of
having kids, I thought of Aurelia and me as pretty young and peers with
others at the same stage in life. I felt like I had returned from
another planet, not knowing any of the movies in discussion and not
having any pets or hobbies. Yet, Aurelia and I felt like we had
come home and instantly we had more friends than in Romania.
Those on our support team were right. This is exactly what
we needed and Satan
couldn't thwart God's plans.
New opportunities to come alive have Aurelia and I in
much better spirits. Without scientific data to support this, I
would contend that in addition to satisfaction with what you have, the
ability to achieve your potential based on your God-given talents and
interests is an important ingredient of happiness. This is
something that is newly realized in our lives. As such, our
literature program continues to grow. With over 200 visitors a
day to our websites, we are able to influence many more people than if
I were only preaching to a house-church. Publishing articles in
Romania, Hungary, and the US, we can reach many people outside our
small town. Colaboring with Casa Biblica,
we have our hands in a nerve center for God's work in the Veneto
region. Personally and professionally, I'm getting much
satisfaction from getting involved in Toastmasters, the Boy Scouts, and
proofreading medical articles for publication. Aurelia enjoys the
culture, preparing our house and hosting social events, and
participating in the Christian assembly we have found nearby.
None of these things would have been possible with our former
alliances. God's greatness doesn't depend on our faithfulness to
Him, but He gives useven more joy and productivity
when we obey His leading!
As you can see, our work continues to be very
fruitful. Although I'm still usually working late into the night,
restful periods dot my schedule. Learning to speak German and to
play the guitar are on my daily academic schedule. I'm doing more
painting and drawing, since these activities (plus the guitar) help me
relax and since pictures seem to minister to people and attract them to
our website. We are getting health issues addressed. In
Munich and Vicenza, I am getting a lot of social time with peers and
the Wild at Heart weekend gave me more revelations into God's
character. There is no shortage of items to write about and to
teach. A magazine has asked for more articles on child
development. This is a year of casting many seeds but since March
all seem to have fallen on good soil.
Please pray for the following:
- I can prepare to lead a missions
conference in Italy in October. I need to translate my lessons or
have them translated.
- For our literature ministry.
- For our trip in August to work with the children of
Interested in our work? me at