Welcome to anyone picking up my blog in the midst of our ministry in South America. It has been quite an amazing drive of over three thousand miles starting in Bogota, Colombia over seven months ago. You can back log that time throughout the various countries. It has become obvious to us how much the Father so cares for those in prison. No other group of people does God so express His concern than these suffering souls. In Matthew 25: 36 and Hebrews 13:3 God straight out commands those who call themselves His to care for them. It has been such a privilege to be welcomed into some of the worst prisons in the world. I document these times throughout my blog.
The border of Argentina is only an hour from where we were in Santiago, Chile. On the morning we planned to leave a dense fog smothered Santiago. The visibility was a block. “Lord, please, lead us” was my cry. We decided to head out. Slowly, the sun broke through as we began to climb the Andes Mountains. It was terrifying but awesome. Like so many times when we have had to find that extra “kick” to move out beyond any obstacles by faith. Then blessing of the Son will break through beyond the fog. Soon afterwards, the second largest mountain in the world came into view against a beautiful blue sky, because we did not let the fog hold us back. It’s so cool to realize the purpose of what we are doing and how we got here by shipping our van long ago to Colombia. When we stand back and think about things it is so obvious that the very hand of God has brought us here for the sole reason to live love and proclaim His Son.
The mountain range looked like it was divinely air brushed with a soft, pristine snow. It’s weird for us to see winter beginning in what we know as summer. The pass had also just opened after being closed two days from ice and snow. We made it though a small window without having to be delayed. We began to zig zag up it for some thirty switchbacks of fifty yard runs that snaked all the way to the top. We were excited, taking pictures and praising God. Our 43rd country at the 33 latitude. (33 Was my jersey number when playing college football.) It was pretty cool at the border except that our van is so high we almost ripped down a gas line in the tunnel. Guards got a bit uptight until they saw Elizabeth up there pushing all our stuff down. Amazing how God really uses personality. It’s ours to give and no one else has what you have. When they saw our stuffed dog on the front of our cattle guard they cracked up. The Dog is like a secret weapon. He gets his picture taken like a folk hero. One time, prison guards asked us if there was some type of deep symbolism to it. Nope. Just some of our ridiculous humor. The hardest thing was having to pay almost 1500.00 for visas to get into the country. Ouch. That hurts.
We were going to go to Bolivia first but decided instead on Buenos Aires then to Bolivia through Paraguay. Got a witness in Mendoza and stayed the night there then headed out. What a sweet drive. Woke up early to a phenomenal orange filled sky at sunrise. The song “Fragile” by Sting was playing softly in the background and we were all together as a family, driving to share the gospel, on the other side of the world, in love with Jesus and each other. Hallelujah. Moments like this radiate with destiny. On our way we passed flocks of parrots and flamingos. God’s grace empowered us to be able to make a two day drive in one day. Abraham is an excellent driver. Also Sarah, David and the others all want to get their time in the seat. Hit a huge traffic pile up because of an accident on the way into the city. Five motorcycles had slid under a huge tanker. So many ambulances. Just terrible. Buenos Aires is an enormous traffic laden city. It’s always tough constantly figuring out how to get around a new huge city and start from scratch. First on the list was an apartment. Sarah found a place for thirty bucks a night, which is a steal. It should cost at least four times that but they have a natural gas leak they can’t find, so they dropped the prices. Hopefully no explosions. It is a profound privilege to do what we do. Whether we find open or closed hearts it is always a “first love” joy to proclaim the gospel in another country.
Downtown Buenos Aires is just packed with people. They have quite the reputation for being arrogant. A popular T-shirt says “I’m not just perfect. I’m Argentinean”. The arrogance is grievous but preaching Jesus is awesome. It was 34 degrees yesterday. That’s not awesome. Our signs and cross are extremely effective as all eight of us spread out and preach Jesus in both Spanish and English and sometimes Portuguese. Joshua and Abraham made some incredible new signs and also a new tract. It is just so exciting to actually be an integral part of God’s eternal purpose! Every day, in ministry and practical living, we face a war zone (Eph.6:12). I remember in college when I first read that this world belongs to Satan I was, in a strange way, very relieved. It never made sense to me to “help make this world a better place” (Mt.4:8/1 Jn.5:19). I had no desire to strive to be accepted by any system of the world. The primary name Jesus gives Satan is “a murderer” (Jn.8:44/10:10). This is not “extreme” thinking. It is basic Biblical truth. I think Jesus knows what He is talking about. Satan is constantly using relationships and circumstances to destroy you. You may not take it seriously, but he does as the “god of this age” (Eph.2/2 Cor.4). Satan is not thinking about it. He is constantly working every minute, every hour, every day to do so (Rev.12:10).Don’t ever buy the lie that Satan is NOT intimately at work in your life. Yet your response should not be to focus on him but on talking to Jesus.
When you accept Satan’s lies you don’t realize how ridiculous they are. It’s terrifying when you stop to realize that it hasn’t been a couple of days or weeks, that you have wasted, by listening to him, but rather it has been YEARS. Satan has stopped you from so many things(2 Cor.10:3). Get angry. Get scared. Get grieved. Get up and fight! He really is stealing, not just time, but the quality of your only life (Jn.10:10). If you don’t change NOW what makes you think that you will ever change? God WILL be there.
How many times have you felt you’re on your own, as if nothing you do really matters? The most essential need in your life is motivation. Agreed? Motivation comes from first, breaking beyond a lie, so you can get a hold of God’s truth and love (Heb.4:12). God offers His divine sense of purpose as your motivation. It is not about whether what you DO matters. Rather motivation comes from WHO YOU ARE. If you are not anchored in rebirth, you will have no real understanding as to the ways of His Spirit (Jn.3:3-8). You are on your own and Satan knows it.
The blessing beyond the fog is in retrospect, when you realize that the decisions you made in faith were the outcome of your identity in Christ (Jn.10:29). God blessed Jacob, not by bestowing on him some vague “blessing”, but by calling him into an identity that changed his consciousness. Jacob had always fought with men. God transformed him into Israel: (Hebrew)-“one who fights with man and God and wins“(Gen.32). Most people think that being a Christian means surrendering to oblivion. Nothing they think or want matters any longer because God is going to do what He wants regardless of they think. Boring religion breeds “the lazy hillbilly” (2nd paragraph below). God is a living Person Who yearns to be actively engaged in your life. Like Jacob, you can WIN with God.
People meander down a river of self-pity without a paddle or a clue. They claim to be “Christian” but have absolutely no divine sense of identity or motivation. As simplistic as it sounds, they are just too lazy to talk to God. When I was in Fuller seminary, all I ever heard was the chit-chat over what their identity would be when they graduated. They sounded like little children telling their 1st grade teacher what they wanted to be when they grew up. Most said “a pastor”. Others said apostle, teacher, evangelist or umpteen kinds of “ministries”. They were motivated by filling slots in a religious system, not answering the call of a living God; “the harvest is plentiful…the laborers are few…” (Mt.9:37). My only thought, my only security was that I knew I was a son in dynamic relationship with myFather (Jn.8:32ff/Rm.8:15/2 Cor.6:17/Gal.4:6). He can use me in any capacity, whatever the need dictates.
A sluggard is full of excuses (Pr.26:13). He has no identity or recognition of belonging to a higher accountability. So he has NO motivation. Picture the image of the hillbilly and a dash-hound dog, sleeping away on an old dilapidated porch up in the backwoods of Tennessee. Grogginess is not a passing feeling but a way of life. He relies on which way the tail of his dog wags for making decisions. “Should I chew my soup or just swallow it?” He inhales on an old corn cob pipe, thumb-grabbin those suspenders as he watches life pass by from his rocking chair. He can tell you umpteen reasons why his way of life is right and he has no reason to change. He just doesn’t care.
RESOLUTION IS ESSENTIAL TO PUT YOURSELF IN THE WAY OF ‘THE WIND’ (Jn.3:8). MOVE TO THE SOUND OF AN INAUDIBLE VOICE THAT APPEALS TO YOUR WILL WITH GRACE (Jn.3:8). That still voice in back of your mind that has told you to do this or that, for so long, needs to take over the front of your mind. You need to push away all those old, dead thoughts. Put your foot down. It is the time you say “Enough is enough!”. Tell everyone of those lazy scoundrels who run your thinking “You’re fired!”. Out with the old, in with the new (2 Cor.5:17). Obedience is not born out of fearful response to laws etched in stone. It is a HOPE that God cares so much about you, in your personal insignificant situation, that when you move out by faith He WILL let you taste a new identity (beyond the fog). It is an individual choice to defy Satan’s greatest weapon…yourself.
Every time we go out to face hardened strangers on the streets or campuses, we default to silence, stillness and solitude before God. If He does not move we have nothing. What do I really mean? Who is this distant …SOMEONE…. we call God? Who is… the FATHER? What does it mean to “believe that HE IS” (Heb.11:6/Ex.3:14). This …SOMEONE….is waiting for you to find your own words to talk, by the only substance which alerts Him to your sincerity; FAITH. He PROMISES to be “ present” (Ps.46:1). This means whenever,where ever you choose, He WILL be there. You say “He just doesn’t seem to care about me”. Yet, this SOMEONE says that He cares for you. Satan looks for any opportunity to tell you that God does not hear you (1 Pt.5:7). He is a liar.
Everything starts with a hope (about anything) and it leads into faith (where you walk out the hope) and it all ends with the effectual blessing of the Son breaking upon you (Heb.11:1). It is not based on how you feel or what you think. It is not based on your circumstances or living situation. Abraham was in a tent. Rahab was a harlot. It does not come from someone or something. God doesn’t promise to make things better. He promises to make you new (2 Cor.5:17). It always starts with a full resolution of will. I am doing things I never imagined because I do not hold onto my old self. The eternity of others is at stake. So I am not concerned with what people think of me, but of how I can communicate Him to them.
We are staying a couple miles from Pope Francis’ home church. Buenos Aires, like all South American cities, has a catholic basis. It’s always so funny when the little old catholic ladies come up to us on the streets. They shout something about Mary, then quickly scurry away. We call them ‘drive by shooters’. Just hit you hard and they’re gone before you can turn around to see them. Sometimes however, they stop and talk, and we have had many a beautiful sharing with them. They realize we are NOT the Brazilian evangelicals whose goal is to attack Catholicism.
I’m just so thankful that change (repentance) is the integral essence of relationship with Jesus. Oh, how I have changed. I first met Jesus as a catholic, who went to Mass and continued to pray to Mary. Some thirty five years ago I even attempted to be a Dominican priest and studied at Aquinas College. Then I graduated from the largest interdenominational seminary. My first thesis was on the role of Mary as the “Mediatrix” in salvation. I remember the look of shock on the face of Dr. Wilums when I submitted the title. He said “As long as you can prove it in the Scriptures I’ll accept it”. I thought “Ha. No problem”. Actually, I found it to be impossible. The theology of Mary is rooted in St. Augustine and St. Jerome not the Scriptures. Being in a non-catholic seminary made me doctrine minded. I learned exegesis (translating from Greek) on all the relevant Scriptures that exposed the doctrines of Mariology, the sacrifice of the Mass, the infallibility of the Pope, etc as being unbiblical (Lk.1:47/Mk.3:33/Heb.9:26,10:10/Mk.7:6/ Mt.16:23, 23:9). Slowly, I became anti-catholic. I could out-quote and out argue anyone with God’s Word. Love? Oh ya. Forgot about that one. As fellow seminarians would sit around hour after hour attacking the Catholic system, I began to question what practical purpose this served. I didn’t realize the pride that accompanies knowledge can easily cause one to lose focus of His love. I have had to draw from these early experiences long after I left seminary. My thinking is never out of the reach of my Father, Who over years, has had to discipline this son on his back and forth journey into wisdom and compassion.
God offers His love to Catholics, Protestants and pagans despite any of their deception. Love does not prohibit me from speaking truth but enlarges my character to do so. There is a time for confrontation and rebuke but the goal is to do so in love, not in provocation. Jesus died to save a soul from hell not to put “right” doctrine on the books. It’s easy to blow people off. It’s love to take them on. I constantly change with goal of being bigger; being like Christ. I constantly praise Jesus for bearing my sinful ways in such abundant forgiveness. His mercy gives me “The Kick” that He is personally involved in molding His perspectives within me. I die and and rise every day (Rm.6:6). Jesus does not lead a man to become self-righteous about “right” doctrine but rather to lay down YOUR righteousness to touch unrighteous men who may have no doctrine (Phil.3:9).
The process of THINKING enters a higher dimension in Christ that you could call “synchronizing”. God gives access to His thoughts which are in a context of destiny (1 Cor.2:11-16). His desire is to make us actually think with the thoughts of Christ (ibid.). Thus, it is not circular or clever thinking like any natural man. I deal with impossible and obscene situations and people. People don’t understand their own need for personal redemption. How will they hear without someone who loves enough to figure out a way to tell them, to win them. It is beautiful to actually see the Holy Spirit bring His things beyond my things. What He sees as important is not what I may see. How do you reach a vehement pagan, a prisoner without hope, an upper class businessman or a naive young person? Jesus.
We are in the middle of ministering to three different prisons a distance outside the city. One is rated as one of the worst in the world. One woman’s prison and two are for men. God has opened the doors, the bars, into the prisons of every country we have been to. Surely Jesus cares so much for them (Heb.13:3). It requires a lot to effectively reach people of all ages and walks of life. It is inevitable, with human nature to make mistakes and fail. Who doesn’t wish they could do certain things over? However, in Christ, the Father promises to cause those very things to work for our good, if we are willing to be like a humble child. To believe Him and learn (Rm.8:28). There are those who thoroughly condemn me. Perhaps they are perfect, but I will always be an imperfect sinner trying to preach a perfect gospel. Hallelujah, God is bigger than all my failures. All those whom I have preached to, over 40 years, remain accountable to God for every word of His gospel. We have this treasure in earthen vessels.
When a man lives with leading of the Spirit, he becomes broken of his own will (Ps.51:17). I KNOW I am nothing. I am a dead man; “crucified with Christ” (Gal.2:20/Rm.6:3-6/Jn.12:25). Failure is a normal part of following Jesus. I am free from the fear of doing something wrong (which keeps many from ever doing anything) because I believe God can make everything right by His blood. It is good to fail because it exposes our sin and weakness. So we don’t build on self-pride. It is the only way to learn the difference between soul and spirit (Heb.4:12/1 Cor.15:45). To learn to “walk in the Spirit” does not happen from listening to a sermon or CD. It comes FROM the Spirit in the school of every day life (Phil.2:12).
The apostle Peter was partying with a bunch of pagans. When Paul came in the room, Peter got up from the table so Paul wouldn’t think he was being carnal. Peter thought obedience meant legalism and moral righteousness. He was wrong. He had to learn that obeying Jesus is realistic not legalistic. Paul rebuked Peter because he was not being transparent (Galations 2). Actually, it was obedience for Peter to keep partying because it was consistent with the freedom a man finds under the blood of Jesus. It’s like me and the catholic thing. I thought being doctrinally “righteous” was obedience when in fact I was being just as unrighteous as the Catholic I attacked for holding to religious standards rather than the Spirit.
Salvation is all about PERSONAL ENGAGEMENT WITH JESUS. If I could know Jesus as the “Crazy War”, at college, while a Catholic, then why couldn’t others find Him in whatever their lifestyle? It is God Who alone touches a man, leads a man, and loves a man out of deception and into His light. Jesus promises to do so (John 10:29/2 Cor.6: 17). Paul the apostle loved men who were involved in pagan rituals. He did not skip a beat. He knew the mind of Christ was to be all things to all men so as to reach even one… maybe even some nobody named Michael (1 Cor.9:22).
Thank God that change is not a one time thing but an ongoing growth into His glory. People who say change is a contradiction say it because they are afraid to do so themselves. What good does “righteousness” do if it’s all about YOU and you are really irrelevant to helping anyone else? It is good to be concerned with compromise because we are fearful creatures. I used to react against “Christians” who say “Where’s your love?” by saying “Where’s your truth?”. God says one is not complete without the other; “…but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him…Christ” (Eph.4:15). God is holy and just but also so big and so good.
Whether people are open or hard hearted, the gospel must be preached. Obsession with this world hardens the human soul like concrete. The majority just want to get all done with God. They don’t want any learning curve to do with Christ. Just package “IT” all up into doctrines and moral striving; do’s and don’ts. Put a lid on it called “I’m already a Christian” so you can get on with your life. Sorry, I love you with a love far beyond myself. I WON’T leave you to Satan. I will fight for you, even if you fight against me.
Hypocrites don’t want any of this “sonship” stuff to hear “His voice” (Jn.10:4,29). Nothing to do with ground-facing humility and learning. As if God is the object of what THEY SAY is right. Such arrogance is as old as the cross. They said Jesus was a wino drunk who had a demon (Mk.2:22/Mt.11:19/Jn.8:48). It cracks me up when I hear people say I don’t represent their “jesus”. I agree. I don’t want their “jesus”. I stand for the Father’s Jesus (Jn.6:40). Ever hear of a totem pole? Ancient tribes sculpted their own images of their god onto a pole. Then, they worshipped what they imagined their god to be. Truth leaves no guess work. The Scriptures clearly reveal Jesus. Jesus was a hostile “Traitor” to this world (Jn.7:7,15:18/2 Cor.4:4). He was an “Alien” (Jn.18:36). Those same people also say we shouldn’t “turn people off” by carrying 10 foot message signs. Yet we use them, like so many other things, to affect entire cities around the world for Jesus in a matter of weeks. We have abundant and amazing fruit of personal contacts and emails.
How can we say “churches” are a joke and the “Accept Christ” prayer formula is not Biblical? How about instead of attacking us and falsely accusing us, why not look deeper into why we say such things? See what sort of people we are proven to be in the witness of our lives. The same people that ask these questions do nothing to help the poor, homeless etc. or make any effort to be a witness in public for Jesus. It’s means nothing to feel bad for people. Do something to help them. Hypocrites go from sermon to sermon to sermon to sermon obsessed with finding “friends” and feeling good about their own self-righteousness lives. Don’t do this my friend. You are missing so much. It is JESUS , not me, WHO demands that anyone who claims to follow Him must stand for Him (Mk.8:38 /Mt.16:15/Acts 1:8). Don’t make your own totem pole “jesus” (2 Cor.11:14/Gal.1:8).
Why are “churches a joke”? I don’t say this in a flippant manner. Many years, hundreds of cities and campuses, so many people, five years of seminary and most of all knowing the true church of Jesus has forged this declaration to this generation. Gordon Conwell documents today’s Christianity brings in about 626 BILLION dollars a year in the US alone! That’s ten million dollars a minute. Really sounds consistent with the revelation of a homeless Carpenter, eh? How about His true followers who often went without food and were cold (1 Cor.4:11/2 Cor.11:27). How about 3.7 million “churches”; 67,000 denominations and 50,000 new “churches” every year! I’m sorry my friends but this IS NOT the church of Acts. Yet this delusion is ever more reason for us to love them with our message of truth because we are their only hope. Regardless of false accusations people make against us we say “Father forgive them they KNOW NOT what they do”.
There is a secular adage “You are either part of the problem or part of the answer”. You are either learning to cling to Jesus in these last days, and stand for HIM or you are gradually being dragged under by the tide of delusion. There is an unseen abyss of wickedness overtaking the consciousness of the world. About 2.4 million people get divorced every year. Even amongst “Christians”. Everyone is growing cold to these things I write and the things we preach (Mt.24:12). Where is anyone who cares to labor over lost souls? Not set on a “ministry” but just plain ordinary on the streets talking to people?
We never see such people standing for Jesus. This is just a fact. I’m not lying. I didn’t say “I have seen people but choose not to acknowledge them”. Where are the two billion other “Christians” who have been commanded by Jesus to “Go into all the world…”?! (Maybe in a building on Sunday busy talking about how radical they are?) We do see plenty of nuts. That’s for sure. People become consumed with issues, doctrines and their own righteousness. It is so grievous to see so many false preachers whose only concern is their own ego. Where is just a down to earth, sincere, simple individual who is willing to bear the anxiety, stress, isolation, rejection and persecution because he or she loves Jesus more than their own life (Rev.12:11)? It doesn’t matter what others say my friend. What matters is whether you obey what God says in His Word. This is someone anointed with Christ; i.e. a Christian. This is the church.
You may think that one day you will just snap your finger and “get serious”. It won’t happen. The human soul is just not that way. I warn you my friend. Change while you can. Admit you are an orphan. Ask God for the adoption of His sonship! Stop resorting to your typical responses. You don’t have to take on the world. Just start with some small mustard seed. We are talking about nothing less than eternity in hell. Imagine the horror. Eternity.
Obviously the religion of Christianity has spread throughout the world. It does not preach the gospel of the living Christ. Jesus says “This gospel shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony….and then the end will come” (Mt.24:14). Preaching the gospel of the living Jesus is always a “first love” experience. Protestants condemn Catholics but hold to their own unbiblical doctrines. The gospel is not a prayer formula to “Accept Christ as Savior” (which is NOWHERE in the Bible). The goal is to bring the LIVING WORD to all nations and religions; i.e. people. Jesus calls men to follow HIM, individually, by the Spirit, via a religious system falsely labeled “church”. Again and again, Jesus didn’t walk around asking people to “accept Me”, but “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me” (Mt.16:24/Lk.9:23/ Mk.8:34/Jn.12:25). This is the true church as seen in the Book of Acts.
God willing, we may be able to finish South America sometime next year. My hope is then to get to Japan, South Korea or South Africa. We continue bringing the truth of the gospel to all the world. Even though men have heard about Churchianity they have not heard; “Seek the living Jesus NOT “church”. Every time we are out, so many say “I have never heard this before”. The religious saturation (as documented above) makes it harder than in the days of Paul to present the simple message of faith in Jesus. We must speak the truth in love, that the system of Christianity does NOT represent the gospel of the living Jesus.
Story after story I could tell of individuals we minister to throughout the world who hear for the first time the answer of His Spirit rather than the lie of “churchianity”. Does anyone really think that the answer for suffering people is to come to a building on Sunday? Come on my friend. Gimme a break. So much pain and sorrow. God needs your voice and your hands. We met a young man who sold tickets with his family on the street one day. Two days later he was killed in a car accident. His parents were devastated. A woman came up to Ruth who was just weeping. She told her that two weeks ago she came upon her husband who had hung himself in their apartment. He had told her how miserable and lonely he was but she didn’t pay much attention. We constantly deal with the homeless, the mentally ill, those who suffer from divorce or past tragedy. Hurting people don’t need to “Go to ‘church’ on Sunday”. They need the personal touch and healing words of the living Christ. Will you lay down your life to give His?
We will now be leaving here in Buenos Aires and continue to be led by “the wind of His Spirit” (Jn.3:8). If anyone wants to contact me you can do so through here.