Father Son Chats with a Child Who Isn’t Your Son

There are many things Bible College and personal study prepared me for…but nothing can prepare you for having “father-son talks” with a child who is not your son.

After reading  a Bible story about Sampson this morning a boy motioned to a girl walking by my house and said: “see her she’s pregnant!”  I asked why that was important and he (a 12-year-old) proudly told me he had slept with her.

Now the truth is he hadn’t done this, but at the age of twelve like most children on the island, he was sexually active.  

Sadly I’m used to talking with children who lost their virginity before teenage years and find my being a virgin at forty-one hilarious (definitely wrong by Biblical standards).

As we continued talking about the Biblical principle of sex within marriage I asked him a question.

  • Me:  so what happens if your girlfriend gets pregnant
  • Him:  That won’t happen
  • Me:  But let’s just say it does
  • Him:  I will leave the Country
Don’t rush by that…here is a 12-year-old boy who has already committed himself to sexual activity, and is also prepared to leave whenever his girlfriend gets pregnant (according to him he’s already set money aside to get himself to another Country)

You have to ask yourself “where did he get an idea like that?”

it’s simple really….

From his father

Now this young mans father happens to be in Barrouaille but I can tell you there are a large number of young mothers left by themselves with small children because the father either left the Country, or ran to another part of the island.

To put it bluntly, one generation of gutless cowards (refusing to take responsibility for actions) has raised up another generation of gutless cowards.

As I explained to him that manhood isn’t about strength (or how many women you’ve been with) but character and commitment it didn’t seem to make a difference but that’s okay.  I’m perfectly willing to have awkward father-son chats if that’s what it takes for the Gospel to shine through.

The Curse of Bachelor Missions

Yesterday serious preparations began for my parents visit in three-weeks on August 10th.  This involves things you would expect like giving the house a thorough cleaning and stocking my fridge, but it also involves things you wouldn’t expect like fixing the AC in my car.

Since I bought my car last summer the air-conditioning would only work in the morning and evening when the weather was cooler.  So most of the day I just drive with the windows down.

The truth is I needed to get the AC fixed, but it’s a lot easier to “put up with things” as a bachelor missionary.

 

Being a bachelor missionary (single adult male in missions work) is I believe a specific call from God which has special blessings.

  1. It gives more freedom (lots easier for a single man to pack a bag and go alone than organizing travel plans for a family)
  2. All energy is focused on ministry
  3. And more time can be used to reach others for Christ

Bachelor missions can become a curse however because it’s easier to put up with daily frustrations (like having no air-conditioning) when it’s just you.  If I had a wife or children the AC would be fixed for their comfort, but being a single man made it a lot easier to “put up with” the lack of comfort.

Actually the curse of bachelor missions has nothing to do with AC (having my window down makes things cool enough) but about making the denial of comfort a badge of honor.

Being on the mission field makes very clear most things we look upon as necessities are actually luxuries. Of course, this means most things on the “luxury list” you live without, but it’s not a bad thing experiencing a luxury from time to time.

In other words….just because I CAN “put up with” no AC in my car doesn’t mean God WANTS me to.

Monday morning I will leave my car with the local auto mechanic and Lord willing by Wednesday have the air-conditioning fixed.  I’m grateful that mom and dad will enjoy the cool air as we drive through Saint Vincent, but also thankful for God’s reminder that enjoying a luxury isn’t a sin.

Why I Hate the Boom-Boom Truck

John 6:25 And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither? 26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. 27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.

Saturday afternoon I came home from the grocery store (a Saturday tradition) and after carrying bags inside started getting ready for my second tradition on Saturdays.  Since Bible club and computer-tutoring ministries keep me away till dark a few hours each weekend are reserved for playing with the kids.  A few weeks ago this included frisbee, football, and wheelbarrow races (which I didn’t participate in).

I always get excited about Saturday night because those games give awesome opporutnities to build Gospel-bridges into their lives, and allowed me to share Christ more than once.

I quickly put the groceries away and got out my tennis shoes but then the boom-boom truck came up the road, and I knew there would be no games that night.

The boom-boom truck (not sure what it’s technically called) is a large truck that blasts rap music loud enough to be heard three streets over.  Last Saturday it came over for an impromptu “concert” at the local square which is less than half a mile from my house.  On days like that its impossible to get sleep, much less share Christ 🙁

My first response to the boom-boom truck was frustration since it meant I wouldn’t be able to minister to the children (I did take the picture above and then ran back home). The fact that booming rap music made it hard to read or concentrate didn’t help my mood.  But slowly I went from anger to sadness…sadness for a culture of people who gathered from all around for something that couldn’t satisfy.

Christ in John chapter six has compassion on the multitude who listened to him teach and fed 5,000 with a little boys lunch.  Sadly instead of believing in Jesus as God’s Son the crowd wanted to make Him king (thinking they would never have to work for food again 6:15).  The next day they searched for Jesus till they found Him on the other side and asked why He left (6:25) but only because they wanted more bread (6:26-27).  They basically rejected the Bread of Life that offers eternity in Heaven (6:35-36) for something temporary.

As Christians, we realize the Unsaved around us reject Christ for temporary satisfaction through things like the boom-boom truck.   And this should make us angry, but it should also burden our hearts because one or two days later the happiness will be gone, and they will need another visit from the boom-boom truck.

And that’s why I hate to hear the boom-boom truck

  1. it’s bad enough that they blast music filled with profanity
  2. And play it loud enough for people three streets away to hear
  3. And usually, keep it going until  midnight
  4. The worst part is it tells children and adults who I share the Gospel with all they need is the world’s bread

As the music started up a boy came by and asked for a Bible story, while we read Scripture I noticed his lips were moving, but not to the words on the page.  It took a moment to realize as we read the Gospel of Mark this child was singing along with the rap music down the street.

As he was offered the bread of life…he chose bread instead

It’s easy to blame the boy but honestly, I feel sorry for him because he has grown up in a culture that says the world’s bread can make you truly happy.  As a Christian, I am called to not only denounce the boom-boom truck, however, but explain Christ offers something so much better.

As a Christian, I am called to not only denounce the boom-boom truck, however, but explain Christ offers something so much better.

A Ministry of Dead Leaves 

Psa. 1:3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.   

Psa. 1:4 ¶ The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

Last week I began praying through the Psalms after devotions (praying through Scripture keeps my mind on track) and partway through Psalms 1:3 became extremely convicted.  The idea of “fruit” led me to thank the Lord for people who were growing spiritually as a result of the ministries of Tabernacle Baptist Church or its outreach programs.  I began “Lord thank you for working in _________”  but had a hard time thinking of anyone (particularly children I work with) who display true spiritual fruit.

Now the kids I minister display good works

  1. They come to church or Bible club
  2. Have a strong knowledge of Scripture
  3. And will be on their best behavior
  4. But at the same time, few of those children display true fruit

Many of them cannot give a strong testimony of Salvation and tell me they are going to Hell

Few read the Bible for themselves daily

And they spend much of their time in Church talking, sleeping, or not paying attention

So in reality instead of fruit, they are displaying dead leaves (“chaff” in Psalms 1:4) which will blow away when hardship enters life 

Recognizing my children viewed dead leaves as fruit was convicting, recognizing my way of ministry developed dead leaves was heart-breaking.

Kneeling beside my bed I saw the children of Barrouaillie needed to be taught the hard truths of God’s Word through discipleship…while I fed them a diet of “The Jesus Storybook Bible” and “Jesus Calling” (editors note-I do enjoy using both of these books, but they give a very basic understanding of Scripture, and eventually should lead to deeper truths).

The Lord used that moment of conviction to reccomit myself to the ministry of discipleship (spiritual parenting) with one or two children instead of trying to reach as many as possible.  Theres nothing wrong with reaching lots of people of course, but it usually means they receive a basic ministry (lets say 30 minutes a day) instead of intensive teaching within spiritual parenting.

It wasn’t fun realizing much of my ministry was dead leaves, but I am grateful for the wake-up call because it changed my goal from crowds to fruit.

When the Mission Field is More Religious than America

 

I don’t usually take pictures of peoples faces but last Sunday afternoon had to make an exception.  The line of boys sitting down and reading tracts wasn’t just too good to pass up, but it also illustrated a massive shift that has taken place in Missions.

In many places the mission field has officially become more religious than America.

it used to be that missionaries left the United States to reach Countries where people had no knowledge of the Gospel.  There are some areas where this is still true, but people in most mission fields have already heard the Gospel, can quote Salvation verses (Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, John 3:3), and regularly attend Church services while still not knowing Christ.  Even more frightening they seem to have more of an interest in religious things that Americans

Though we should never stop handing out tracts, its becoming more and more difficult to do this in the States.  Handing out the Gospel can lead to hostility, and being labeled names I cannot write here, while as religious freedom laws change it can be viewed as illegal, and a “hate crime.”
The interesting thing about Barrouaillie is people love to tracts when members of Tabernacle give them out on Sunday afternoons!  They willingly take tracts (or even ask for them) and usually start reading right away.  Its a common occurrence for children to take as many different kinds as they possibly can so I’ve had to make a “three tract rule.”

There is an obvious blessing with their taking tracts since the Gospel is going out.  We have seen the Lord open doors of conversation about a persons need of Christ on Sunday afternoons as well.  However there is a serious danger with an increasingly religious mission field, it becomes more and more difficult to know who is truly saved.

While I don’t personally know every boy reading those tracts I’m friends with a few and can tell you that they are like so many others who rely on works and church membership for Salvation. 

That picture reminds me of a conversation I had with a girl last summer.

Me:  Can I ask you a question?

Young Lady:  sure

Me:  Why should God let you into Heaven?

Young Lady:  Because I am a Child of God!

Me:  And how do you become a Child of God?

Young Lady:  Do good things

It was very tempting to stop after hearing her say “I’m a child of God” but being in Saint Vincent for over a year helped me realize we were talking about two different things.  I was talking about being saved by Grace through faith, she was talking about relying on works (baptism) for Salvation. Only as I dug deeper than the “religious answer” was her need of Christ revealed.

No longer are we going to groups of people caught up in pagan idol worship.  More than ever before we go to religious mission fields filled with unsaved people who grew up in Church, have memorized the Romans road, and know all the right Bible answers.

And sometimes that’s much more dangerous

Electronic Bibles, and the “flat reading” of Scripture

As someone who uses technology for pretty much everything I never really had a problem with reading Scripture on a smartphone or tablet.  However an interesting article from late February called “How Smartphones and Social Media are Changing Christianity” changed my opinion.

In it the author Christ Stokel-Walker explains how using an electronic Bible such as Youversion instead of a physical copy affects our approach to Scripture.  He quotes Reverend Pete Phillips who explains the difference this way.

“If you go to the Bible as a paper book, it’s quite large and complicated and you’ve got to thumb through it,” says Phillips.

“But you know that Revelations is the last book and Genesis is the first and Psalms is in between. With a digital version you don’t get any of that, you don’t get the boundaries. You don’t flick through: you just go to where you’ve asked it to go to, and you’ve no sense of what came before or after.”

 

This lack of context is a problem that also affects the way we interpret Scripture.

The way religious scriptures are read can influence how they are interpreted. For example, studies suggest that text read on screens is generally taken more literally than text read in books. Aesthetic features of a text, such as its broader themes and emotional content, are also more likely to be drawn out when it is read as a book.

The Greatest danger is what Reverend Phillips calls “flat reading” (“When you’re on a screen, you tend to miss out all the feeling stuff and go straight for the information”) that approaches the Bible as “Wikipedia instead a sacred text in itself.”

Reading the Bible for information as if it was a textbook instead of God’s Word obviously creates serious problems

  1. Personal preference decides which verses to share
  2. It allows us to create a more personalized view of religion
  3. And Verses can be used in a less than respectful fashion (like Memes)

The biggest problem with flat reading is interpretation comes from our own personal opinion or experiences instead of the illumination of the Holy Spirit.

As technology fills our minds with ever increasing amounts of information, we must make sure God’s Word isn’t read as a blog post, or article, but instead as the Word of Almighty God.

 

Getting Them to Hell

I walked with a little girl to school this morning who regularly attends bible club, always sits on the second row during Church, and enjoys taking notes during the sermon, but does not know the Lord.

As we walked along I asked her “if you got hit by a car right now where would you go?” without a moment’s hesitation she responded “hell.”

That answer didn’t surprise me since she told me that at least once before while sitting on my porch, but still isn’t quite ready to be saved.

Walking away from the school I began to pray that she would someday be ready to accept Christ.  But also thanked God that 8-year-old knew she was going to hell.

Lately I’ve been asking many children in Barrouaillie this mornings question (if you died right now where would you go) and it seems EVERYBODY is going to Heaven!  However when I follow-up by asking “when God asks why He should let you in what will you say?” the children are no longer confident.

The truth is many children (and adults) know they will go to hell, but are too embarrassed to say that publicly, so they just say Heaven instead.   While I would definitely prefer for this girl to accept Jesus on the way to school that open confession meant she grasped her need of Christ, and opened the door for conviction from the Holy Spirit.

Bill Faye in his book “Share Jesus Without Fear” explains that our goal when witnessing is to share the Gospel clearly.  Even when this doesn’t lead to a Salvation decision, it focuses the mind of that unsaved person on the Gospel.  He illustrates this with the following conversation.

  1. Christian:  Are you willing to accept Christ right now?
  2. Unsaved person:  Not really
  3. Christian:  Why Not?
  4. unsaved person explains reason and its clarified by Christian (so your allowing _______ to keep you out of Heaven?)
  5. Christian: Let me ask you this if you died right now where would you go?
  6. Unsaved person:  (mumbling) Hell
  7. Christian:  Where would you go?
  8. Unsaved person:  (stronger voice) Hell
  9. Christian:  Okay drive safe!

You can clearly see how this conversation forces them to meditate (think about) their eternal destiny.   

Part of me wanted to put pressure on the girl to accept Christ on the way school this morning but knew Salvation had to be HER OWN CHOICE.  So as we got closer I encouraged her to find the pastor’s wife, a fellow missionary, or myself when she was ready to accept Jesus.

A few minutes later as I walked around the other side of the school she ran up and called my name (went through two passageways to get there).  I calmly asked what she wanted (praying to hear the words “I am ready”) but she just giggled and looked at the ground.

That’s okay because the Spirit of God is working her life, and someday soon I pray the angels of Heaven will rejoice because she is ready.

Letting Them Walk Away

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“When people stop listening, they have essentially told us to stop pursuing them.” Nicholas Batzig

Tim Challies in his blog on Wednesday shared a very insightful article entitled “When They Walk Away.”  The author (Nicholas Batzig) does an excellent job of discussing the pain of watching someone we have invested in reject Christ, and why we shouldn’t pursue them.

The difficulty however is they often WANT us to pursue them, just not for the right reason

For months children have been coming by and interrupting Bible club.  They would shout my name, walk in and back out, or bother the kids that were there.  I didn’t do anything at first (our rule is “ignore the silly people”) but eventually started leading them outside of Church and down the road

This made Bible club run a lot smoother

But it was also a colossal mistake

Those children were basically playing a game of “catcha” (tag) with me that involved getting Mr. John to chase them out of Bible club.  And every time teaching was set aside to escort them out I was playing their game.

While not all unsaved people are playing a game many are interested in receiving the blessings of the relationship (love, kindness) without any commitment.  Nicholas Batzig responds to this by saying “There has to be a willingness on the part of the person we pursue to listen to the word of the God for whom we are pursuing them.”  

This doesn’t mean we write people off after the first failure, but if it becomes a pattern of life we have a problem.

When someone you are pursuing stops coming to worship unless you call them incessantly, you can be fairly sure that they have refused to listen. When someone you have been seeking to disciple begins to make excuses about rescheduling meetings with you, they are essentially walking away

The hardest part is the moment you realize they aren’t listening, and have to let them go.

Last summer one of my best friends in Barrouallie (the first boy who came for a Bible story) began rebelling.  Nothing serious just a bad attitude at first.  But now love for attention means he’s too cool for Bible club, Church, or stories.  Part of me wants to give him a “good talking to” and he wants me to pursue…but I can’t.

So instead of chasing him down the hill I stay behind and wait for the day God’s Spirit changes his heart.  Till the day I can run down that hill and welcome him home.

Small-Talk is Worth the Awkwardness 

“If I could have any superpower, it would be the ability to do small talk well, because anyone who does it well is a superhero as far as I’m concerned. I’m more like the Aquaman of small talk: people don’t remember much about me except that I’m weird.”

Sammy Rhodes “This is Awkward” 

I laughed at this paragraph last April not just because it was funny, but it described me perfectly.

God in his wisdom has made me an extroverted-introvert.  With friends I have no problem talking enough for everybody in the room (plenty of things to talk about), but with strangers I can go from greetings to awkwardness in one-minute.

For years that awkwardness has led me to avoid small talk, but being in Barrouallie has forced me to embrace that awkwardness 

In October a Vincentian stopped me on the street during my afternoon walk and pointed out that I never stopped to talked to people, or said hello to anyone.  I apologized to him but didn’t think too much about it.  However since then Vincy’s have stopped me on four different occasions to ask why I didn’t stop to say hello.

Now the truth is none of those people say hello to me; however that didn’t change the fact that I was gaining a reputation of being someone who “didn’t say hello.”  This didn’t just damage my ministry as a missionary, but took away from my calling in Christ.

As “disciple makers” Christians are called to initiate conversations that move past the awkward silence and uncover the deeper struggles that can be ministered to by the Gospel.  

In November I began using “hailing” (greeting everyone you meet) as part of my morning and evening walks, and starting conversations.  I’ll always be the aquaman of small talk but that moment of embarrassment creates real a real conversation.

What about you?

How has God used the awkward moment of your lives for his Glory?

What Conversations Should We Never Have on Facebook?

“Social media can be a great venue for sharing those vacation photos and pet videos. It’s not the ideal medium for most debates, especially political ones, though. Problems arise when our time spent on social media, regardless of its purpose, comes in lieu of conversation.”  

from Leaving the Screen:  Restoring in-person relationships 

I enjoy Facebook…no actually I enjoy it too much.

In the last four days Facebook was used to:

  1. Obtain 23 Netflix suggestions
  2. Seven books I must read in 2017
  3. And many suggestions for helping a sore throat

Messaging back and forth with a friend yesterday using the reply button it honestly felt like we were having a conversation on Facebook.

There’s just one problem with that…

Facebook isn’t a real conversation

In a convicting article yesterday Sean Martin made a strong case for conversation instead of Facebook:

“We need conversation more than ever when the discourse becomes complex and emotional, as it has today.”

2016 has given us many opportunities for “emotional conversations”

  1. About discussions about the presidential election
  2. Bathroom laws and other changes
  3. Racial injustice
  4. Immigration
  5. Terrorism
  6. And Our relationship with the LGBT community

The majority of these conversations took place online which allowed lots of people to get involved, but these “conversations” almost always turned into personal attacks on the other people or their opinion.

It’s my personal belief these attacking conversations took place because we couldn’t actually SEE the other person.

“Digital conversation reduces our capacity for empathy, an important emotion when engaged in passionate and polarized debate. We can’t see online how our words impact another person. It’s much easier to discern in a face-to-face discussion.

There are conversations that we should have online (like what to add to our Netflix list, or reading list) but then there are the emotional conversations that must be done face to face.

I’ve included my list of emotional conversations above, but it definitely isn’t extensive, so help me out but filling in the blank below

We should never discuss _______________ on Facebook