Monday, January 29, 2007

Cultural Differences

(This post I originally wrote in response to a question on how to handle cultural differences. The person asking wanted to know how a missionary determines what is right or wrong in a culture and how does one go about changing something that is not right within the culture. I thought it would make a good post here.)

I am in a missionary working in a jungle village on a small island in the south Pacific. The culture here is incredibly different then what I am used to as an American. When I first arrived the culture shock was incredible and almost paralyzing.

After some time, I began my first church plant. When preaching and teaching on Sundays, I would have some women with no tops on. These women were usually breast feeding mothers who did not cover up after feeding their children. The children here breast feed until two to three years old. The children would be running around while I was teaching, and then run to their mother to feed. I am in a culture where fornication is rampant and expected. Most youths have lost their virginity by fourteen, especially if they’re female. Rape is against the law, but none the less it too is a cultural norm. A wife is almost property here and husbands beating their wives is common. Having more than one wife is also common. All of these items are clearly against Scripture. (Not the breast feeding of course, but the nudity, which occurred in between feeding the children.)

Now, my primary mission was not to end the nudity, remove the fornication, or stop the rape and wife beatings. My primary mission is to preach the gospel and as a result establish local churches. However, if a true church is established those things will change. The more who truly trust Christ, the more the local culture is affected and changed.

Let’s remember as Christians, in any part of the world, we will be different. We will be strangers and pilgrims on this earth. The people should begin to reflect the culture of heaven instead of the culture where they physically live. The missionary does not change the culture, but the Holy Spirit does as He changes lives. It is not up to the local people to decide what is culturally right or wrong either, it is up to God and His Word. Based on the authority of God’s Word, not my own authority, I teach against the unscriptural practices. There is something wrong in any part of the world where people make professions and yet there is no change.

“If any man be in Christ he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” The Lord

As a missionary my focus is not on what part of the culture is wrong, but on drawing the people closer to a holy and righteous God. As a result, a new culture is formed in the church. This is not a western or village culture, but a heavenly one!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

How is Your Vision of God?

Isaiah had seen the Lord as he never had before in Isaiah chapter six. The event forever changed his life. He saw the Lord “high and lifted up.” He saw a holy God with amazing strength. He saw the true “King” and “Lord.”

Today, many see God wearing a Hawaiian shirt and wearing flip flops, as one popular preacher described him in a book. They see the “man upstairs,” or their “buddy.” How we view God is very important, because it is directly tied to how we serve God. Yes that’s right; your view of God does determine how you will serve God. The devil has done a good job at painting a distorted picture of God, and it has affected Christianity today.

So, how do we get a proper view of God? Has God revealed himself to us? Yes he has! First through creation and second through His Word. In creation we see an all powerful God, who is remarkable. In His Word, we see a special revelation of God. We learn of his attributes. We see how He works, and what He desires. We see, first, a holy God. A just God; a perfect God, a righteous God. We also see a God full of mercy, love and grace.

As we get a clearer picture of God through His Word, this affects how we serve Him. You see in His Word, God is not my buddy or the man upstairs. He is not sitting down on a beach some where in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts. He is HIGH and LIFTED UP! He is holy! As you get closer to the Lord you realize, as Isaiah did, that you are “undone.” That you are a wretched sinner in need of grace and cleansing. The closer you get to God the more you realize how far from being like God you really are. The devil paints the opposite picture: one in which leaves off the holiness of God. The holiness of God is what drives me to try and be holy. Did the Lord not say, “Be ye holy for I am holy”?

This in turns affects our standards such as dress, music, social standards, and others. Our music is less holy, because we do not see the Lord as we should. The same applies to the other standards as well. Too often, standards in fundamentalism are solely based on what the preacher says and not a vision of God. When this happens people simply conform to where they are. This is why you see some people change their standards when they move to a new location and change churches. Their standards were not based on their view of God, but on the preacher. In other cases, their standards ARE their god. It is here where they judge their spirituality. This, too, is because they lack a clear picture of God.

How do you view God? Your view God will affect how you serve Him! I, for one, am sick and tired of the irreverent views of God portrayed today. Is it any wonder why sin is so rampant today! The media portrays Him as a God who makes homosexuals; as a God who if exist has no absolute standard for man. Religion paints him as a God of no judgment; a God where there is no personal accountability. Most people only know of God through what they have seen in Hollywood or liberal “churches.”

I suggest we dive into His Word and learn of Him! It will forever change your life!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Books I am Reading

Here is a list of books I am currently reading or have just recently finished:

The All Sufficient Christ, studies in Colossians by Theodore Epp.
Flyboys, Non-fiction about WWII flyers
Becoming A First Century Church, Clarence Sexton
Teaching to Change lives/Seven ways to make teaching come alive, Howard Hendricks
Deadline, fiction Randy Alcorn

Monday, January 08, 2007

Truck Trouble

Sorry it has been awhile! I appreciate the faithful still coming and reading.

Last week was a very trying week. Tuesday, I headed to Kavieng to get supplies. It is a five hour drive from where I live. We finished getting supplies for the month and headed back home Thursday morning. About one hour down the road, my water pump went out in my truck. The pump went out in the same area where three years ago my entire wheel flew off my truck! There is a bush mechanic right there in that village. This man let me use his truck to go back to Kavieng and get a new water pump. I went back and, praise the Lord, they had a water pump for my truck available. We decided we would head out Friday morning again. However, this time the starter went out and seized the engine! This happened before I left town, right at the work shop. They fixed that problem in about four hours. They did not have the needed part, but they did get the truck working again to where I could drive it until the part I needed arrived.

After I picked up my truck, we decided to try a third time to get back home. This time, about 30 kilometers outside of Kavieng, a welsh plug blew out of the side of the engine block! I left the family at the truck (we had supplies in the truck) and I headed back for Kavieng. Once there, I found a friend to come and tow my truck back to Kavieng with his vehicle. Other problems also occurred: my truck blew out the head gasket at the same time, the glow plugs also fried the day before, and I was leaking power steering fluid everywhere!

Saturday morning, I hired a vehicle to take my family and I home with our supplies. We arrived home late Saturday afternoon. However, because I have no truck I could not head out to the two churches and preach on Sunday. The workshop in Kavieng tells me they will need at least a week to make the needed repairs to my truck.

When we arrived back home, I turned my generator on. Two hours into that the generator broke down! I also have a small back up generator, which is good for lights. I turned that on Sunday afternoon, and it, too, broke down, after only fifteen minutes of use!

Today, I was able to rig the generator so it is working. I simply bypassed the circuit breaker by rewiring it, and that got it working. Hopefully, by the end of this week I will have a new circuit breaker for my generator. My truck, though, is a bigger concern, please pray about that. The truck has almost 300,000 kilometers on it, and has constant problems. (The month before, on the trip to Kavieng, four wheel bearings went out!) My truck gets a lot of abuse because there is no real road here. It has to go through rivers everyday, and what road we do have is just dirt and filled with holes that are bigger than Rhode Island. Truly, the Lord has kept this truck running. I do think it is now time to get another vehicle. I can not have my family stranded on the side of the road and the ministry comes to a stand still while I wait for parts or repairs on my truck. Please pray about that. Vehicles here are very expensive and getting a vehicle loan is not an option. A decent, used, four wheel drive, diesel truck will cost 17,000 to 18,000 US. And this would be a truck three to four years old, the size of a dual cab Ford Ranger.

My family and praise the Lord for looking after us each time the vehicle broke down. It truly was amazing. We broke down once right by a bush mechanic’s house, the second time I was at the work shop in Kavieng, getting ready to leave, and the third time I was only about 20 minutes outside of Kavieng and it made it easy for me to go get help. Had we broke down two or three hours down the road, we would have been sleeping in a PNG “haus boi” for at least one night.

The one picture is of my truck broken down on the side of the road outside of Kavieng, waiting to be towed. The other picture is of the from the first breakdown. In that picture my family was loading up into the bush mechanic’s truck, so I could take them to Kavieng and get the water pump.