Friday, January 29, 2010

Tim Tebow's Super Bowl Ad

Tim Tebow and his mom are appearing in a Focus on the Family sponsored pro-life advocacy ad during the Super Bowl. CBS reported it has received many critical messages for its decision to air this ad. Most of the criticism has to do with the possibility this ad may carry an anti-abortion message. During Pam Tebow's pregnancy in 1987 with Tim she became sick after a mission trip to the Philippines and her doctors advised her to abort her child. She did not abort her fifth child, Tim Tebow, who has become the most famous college football player ever. So, I guess you could say his life is an anti-abortion message. And I guess you could say if those pro - abortion groups had their way Tim Tebow might not be here to make the ad that they are protesting.

Will Our Children Have Faith?

How to pass on the faith? Miroslav Volf, a theologian, and a Christian parent reflects on passing on his Christian faith to his children ( the book is Against the Tide). It is a thought and a desire every Christian parent has. It can be a disappointment, too. Most Christian parents feel they have done less than a competent job passing on their faith to their children. Volf says he is not interested in just passing on his faith so that his sons are Christians, "in some sense". He would rather his children not be Christian at all than be indifferent ones. Nor, does he want his children to posses a Christianity that is zealous to the point of manipulating faith to promote ones own selfish ends. What he hopes to pass on is a faith by which to live and for which to die.

Statistics tell us that most children adopt the faith of their parents. But, what kind of faith is passed on? Franz Kafka once wrote to his father that his attempts to pass on his Jewish faith to his son were unsuccessful, "it all dribbled away while you were passing it on.", he said. Volf's father was the child of a Catholic father and Baptist mother and he drifted away from their faith when he was in his teens. He came back to it when he was in a European concentration camp. At first, he turned away from God, cursing God for allowing so much human misery and suffering. But, then he encountered another man who was going through the same deprivations yet he still helped others all the while keeping a sparkle in his eyes. This strange man spoke to Volf's father about God's power and love in the midst of hell. No sooner had Volf's father embraced the Christian faith than he was appointed head baker for the camp who then appointed his evangelizer as his helper. After the camp, Volf's father became a pastor whose faith was "genuine, deep and intense." None of it dribbled away as he passed it on. Yet, Volf, the preacher's kid, decided believing in God was too much trouble intellectually and practically. Volf says he found his father's faith too much to bear: "his faith was too demanding and was at odds with the prevailing cultural sensibilities." So he rejected it. He was brought back to it later in life, he says, through his mother's prayers. Every night when her prodigal went out she was on her knees praying for him. "It was not enough for me to be handed a robust faith; I had to be made to want a faith that in Bonhoeffer's words, "bids me come and die."

Right language about God matters; godly life matters even more. Yet, neither will suffice, he concludes. If the seed sown by word and deed is to grow and bear fruit, it will need the life-giving water of God's Spirit. So I abandoned trust either in statistics about religious belonging or in the genuineness and strength of my own faith. I vowed to pray.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Time Savers

Life in 1815 in America was dirty, smelly, laborious and uncomfortable. People spent most of their waking hours working, with scant opportunity for the development of individual talents and interests unrelated to farming ( the rest of the description of 1815 American life is well worth reading, too. Its from What Hath God Wrought - The Transformation of America, 1815 -1848 by Daniel Walker Howe in the Oxford History of United States series).

Many would say that we have come a long way, baby. Who wants to go back to the early 1800s where most people never took a bath! This week I saw the results of a study of how young people use their time. Seems that the average teenager is plugged into electronic media 7.5 hours a day, on average, of course. Some more, some less. This is apparently outside of school and before and after sleeping. Texting, cell phoning, internetting, video gaming, ipoding, and just plain old tv viewing. Studies confirm that the average adult spends most of his or her "free" time plugged in, as well. Look what all our time saving devices have allowed us to do with the time they have saved. Now we have the newest addition to our electronic gadgets: the Ipad. So we can take all our tunes, videos, shows, photos, and now our entire library, too, to the beach with us! Just don't get any sand on it!

There is a very real question how much we have advanced from those primitive times in our young country when we had to work hard all day to survive. Kids were employed in the family household business. Howe comments: "Children could perform many of the necessary errands and tasks: fetching water from the well, feeding chickens, collecting firewood, etc." Children were an economic necessity to run the family farming business. The white birthrate in 1800 was 7 children per woman (according to Howe). With a high infant mortality rate and much work to be done in the household big families were typical.

Today, with so few household chores to be done, there is much more free time. The issue as always is, how do I use this time ( the author Russell Baker who wrote the Pulitzer Prize memoir, Growing Up, overheard a friend remark how he had so little time to read as he sat down to watch a 3 hour baseball game on tv). We all have the same amount of time and we all have the same decision about how we use it. Unlike our forefathers and foremothers in 1815, we are fortunate to have discretionary time to develop our interests and talents. But, will we?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Some Thoughts from a Haitian Theologian

Here are some thoughts from a Haitian theologian currently teaching at Denver Seminary. Dieumeme Noelliste is president of the Caribbean Evangelical Theological Association, as well. He says: one story that has not been told is the loss of many Haitian pastors in the earthquake. Haiti had a great shortage of trained pastors before the earthquake. Many churches are now without a shepherd. The American church should know about this and think about what can be done to help.

Regarding Pat Robertson's comments: His point that Haiti is cursed is really simplistic, very facile, and in fact, crude and rude. Haiti's early leaders spoke out against voodoo. Anti-voodoo campaigns were led by the church with the support of the state. So that kind of statement makes a mockery of the God we serve. Haiti is overwhelmingly Christian.

How can a country that has so much Christianity also have so much poverty? How can the two co-exist? My view: the gospel preached in Haiti has left a vacuum - has left the political landscape untouched. The church does not see its business as being a prophetic witness to those in power. The result has been a political sector left to its own devices. This is why the common people were the first responders to the crisis, not the government. This is the result of the gospel being truncated, emasculated, instead of confronting the powers that be to do what God intends for them to do: protect and enhance life.

I don't believe the earthquake will make people question God's existence or whether he is for us or not. Voodoo believers will think the voodoo god is angry and things weren't done to appease the voodoo god. This is not the first time disaster has come upon us. This may be the most brutal but two years ago we had four devastating hurricanes and even then the people did not turn away from God. The people have suffered many things at the hands of fellow Haitians and remained fast to God. Even during slavery, Haitians were treated brutally but were open to the version of Christianity the slaveowners were preaching. The slaves were even asking for more Christianity. I see the church in Haiti continuing to grow. In these situations, people turn to God. This is their only hope. (taken from Christianity Today live blog, Jan 21, 2010)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Haiti's Obstacles

Pat Robertson claims Haiti is under a curse so that is why it is such a miserable place. Rush Limbaugh rants that we already give enough to Haiti through our income taxes. Bill O'Reilly asserts giving more money to Haiti is a lost cause, we will give more money to Haiti than anyone else and a year from now it will be in worse shape than it is today. The naysayers to Haiti relief are loud and influential. Nicholas Kristof in his column in the NY Times today says Americans have already given 22 million dollars to the Red Cross by text messaging! He asks the question, why is Haiti so poor? History shows that since Haiti's independence it has been impoverished by debts due. France imposed a large debt from day one. Foreigners looted Haiti for its resources and when they took a break, Haiti's own leaders took over. Much has made of the deforestation of Haiti and it's true Haiti's peasant population continue to cut the trees that are left to burn wood for heat and cooking. But, Kristof points out, most of the deforestation was from foreigners settling debts to other foreigners. To visit Haiti, he says, is to realize its problems are not its people. The people are its treasure - smart, industrious, and hospitable - and Haitians are successful where ever they go - outside of Haiti.

Haiti ranks 42nd among poor countries in worldwide aid received per person - that equals about 108 dollars per person. The US gives about a quarter of that aid which means each American - through his/her taxes - gave 92 cents in aid to Haiti in 2008. The US gives more to Haiti than to any other poor country but, per capita, 11 countries give more and Canadians give 5 times as much.

In the recent past Haiti has had good leadership and has showed some positive gains in its economy. Kristof thinks it has a chance to turn itself around. If... According to a leading British economist who led a UN study what Haiti needs is jobs (no surprise) but he proposed garment factories. It has worked for other desperately poor countries like Bangladesh. People in Haiti's slums want jobs.

In Haiti, pre - quake, you did see schools and hospitals and churches but what was missing were factories. Haitian children could go to school but the unemployment rate was over 50 percent.

Haiti's biggest obstacle to rebuilding may be the fatalistic attitude that says it will always be the way it has been and all we can do is send aid. We do need to do that now but in the long run Haiti needs to go to work.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Haiti Update

Another good source of info from the field is Kristy is an ABC International Ministries nurse at La Romana Good Samaritan Hospital in the Dominican Republic ( Tim and Matt and I were there just weeks before we moved to Kodiak). She is with a team of 80 people including many medical professionals who just arrived in Haiti.

News from our friends (Haitifamily - find them on facebook) is encouraging. There does seem to be order in their part of Port-au -Prince. Locals are stepping up and providing leadership. They have water from wells. They spend most of the day walking around trying to help. Many, many medical needs and very few trained medical people. Most people are living in yards. Homes are gone. Their church is gone but they are feeding and caring for over 1500 people. This scenario is common. They need a vehicle, all theirs were destroyed in the quake. They report that the community is coming together as never before. Pray.

Compassion has regular updates and a blog at their site. If you sponsor a child in Haiti, they will let you know his or her status as they know. The child we sponsor is still unaccounted for.

Many places to give to and pray for.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Haiti Updates

Good blog from Haiti missionary couple with perspective on what is going on in Haiti now. Check out

Remember CBC offering for Haiti this Sunday, Jan 24, 2010. Make checks to CBC and mark for Haiti Earthquake Relief in the memo.

Tim Long writes from Mexico that ABC International Missionary Kristy Engel serving in the Dominican Republic is mobilizing a large medical response team from Good Samaritan Hospital in La Romana this week. Check out

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti Relief

Here are some of the best ways to give to Haiti:
you can give through our denomination, ABC-USA by using their website, or write a check and put it in the CBC offering plate. Make the check payable to One Great Hour of Sharing - Haiti Earthquake Relief, or mail it directly to International Ministries, PO Box 851, Valley Forge, PA 19482.

You can donate online at or www. Or Agape Flights operates out of Florida and flies into Port-au- Prince twice a week with mail and supplies. They are in contact with over 130 missionary families.


I can't sleep tonight. It's 4am in Haiti of day 3, and I imagine there are thousands there who can't sleep either. People who have nothing have suddenly lost more in a devastating earthquake. We have heard from friends in an email simply titled death. An entire neighborhood gone, every house collapsed. Friends and family confirmed dead. Church members in one house in the middle of a teaching time, 10 escaped, 20 died. Our friends were removed to Gonaives outside Haiti in the hills by some other church friends there because of all the death and destruction and there is nothing to do now. But, wait. For the aid, the money, the bottled water, the food. But, it has all come before. Haiti just went through a devastating season of floods and mudslides off the hills which lost their trees long ago because the people needed charcoal to cook what little food they had. Before that, it was the hurricanes that seem to regularly find the tiny island community. Then, there were the dictators like Papa Doc, and his evil son, Baby Doc. Before that there was the U.S occupation, and before that the slave trade that created a slave colony from West Africa on Haiti. The slaves revolted in 1804 and fought a heroic war against their French masters and they won, but lost. The French made them pay for years. No other country came to their aid for the U.S and other Caribbean nations had slaves of their own to worry about. No one wanted the slave revolts to spread. And so it has gone for Haiti. The world watches as a People suffers. Some Christians repeat an old rumor that the leaders of Haiti way back when made a pact with satan. Pat Robertson repeated it today. It is supposed to explain Haiti's miseries. It is a convenient excuse: Haiti is cursed, that is why all this happens. Better to look at the myriad ways Haiti has been robbed and raped by her friends and foes. Millions of dollars have been spent in Haiti and yet the people remain desperately poor. Thousands of charitable organizations have been there for years yet there is little impact to be seen. There are some remarkably good efforts aimed at helping the people; doctors, missionaries, teachers, child care workers; yet there are no jobs, housing is not even inadequate, and, obviously, for this island nation that sits atop a major fault, there were no earthquake proof structures. Even the greatest source of pride, the National Presidential Palace, along with most government buildings collapsed today. As did almost every building in Port-au-Prince.

I heard from Compassion. The child we support in Haiti has not been found, yet, as well as many, many more. The searching will go on for days. People who thought they had nothing more to lose found out they did. I will pray for our friends in Haiti, and for those who have lost more than they can bear, and I will send money, and help with the rebuilding effort. I will mourn and I will cry, and I will beg the Lord God for mercy.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Night of Fire

Blaise Pascal lived in the early 1600s in France. He was only 39 years old when he died but he made his mark on the world, even the modern world. A mathematician, scientist and inventor, he invented a calculator at age 19 that became the basis of all arithmetical machines until modern times. His "Pascal's Law" still explains the principle that makes all modern hydraulics possible. No intellectual slouch. But, for all his powers of reason, he was doubtful one could reason his way to God. He said, " God inclines our hearts to believe. We shall never believe with a vigorous and unquestioning faith unless God touches our hearts; and then we shall believe as soon as he does so." In 1657, he wrote Provincial Letters, a re-emphasis on Augustinian grace. In 1658, he began a work to be called, Apology for the Christian Religion which was never finished. Instead, we have only his set of notes which were later published as Penses (thoughts). One of those well known "thoughts" is, "the heart has its reasons, which the reason does not know." It became a spiritual classic making the case for Christianity against the rationalism and scepticism of his day (and ours). He believed that while there is plenty of evidence to support Christian belief, God can only be known through Jesus Christ by an act of faith, also a gift from God.

Pascal's conversion was in 1654 and was documented on a slip of paper he had sown into the lining of his coat and was found after he died. He kept this written response to a remarkable encounter he had with Christ one night in 1654 close to his heart, always. It has been called, Memorial or Night of Fire. Here, it is:

The Year of Grace, 1654, Monday, 23 November, feast of St. Clement, pope and martyr, and others in the martyrology. Vigil of St. Chrysogonus, martyr and others
From about half past ten at night until about half past midnight,
God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob
not of the philosophers and of the learned.
Certainty. Certainty. Feeling. Joy. Peace
God of Jesus Christ.
My God and your God.
Your God will be my God.
Forgetfulness of the world and of everything, except God.
He is only found by the ways taught in the Gospel.
Grandeur of the human soul.
Righteous Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you.
Joy, Joy, Joy, tears of joy.
I have departed from him:
They have forsaken me, the fount of living water.
My God, will you leave me?
Let me not be separated from him forever.
This is eternal life, that they know you, the one true God, and the one that you sent, Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ.
I left him; I fled him, renounced, crucified.
Let me never be separated from him.
He is only kept securely by the ways taught in the Gospel;
Renunciation, total and sweet.
Complete submission to Jesus Christ and to my director.
Eternally in joy for one day's effort on earth.
I will not forget thy word. Amen.