Sweet! The stains are gone!

vapoorizeDecent pants are expensive in Romania. I have a few pairs of blue jeans in various conditions, but I don’t have many pants I can wear for work at the school (i.e. not jeans). Two days ago, I found two of my pairs of pants got these big blue ink stains on them somehow. I quickly grabbed some soap and started scrubbing, but there was absolutely no change; the stain didn’t even smear.

Finally, I “prayed” something like, “Well, God, this sucks. I don’t have any money to buy more pants. I’ll get over it; they’re only pants, but still… You made the Israelites’ clothes last for 40 yeras, so you can make my clothes last, too. And they weren’t even trying to be faithful to you; I haven’t been perfect, but at least I’m headed in the right direction.”

And then I stuck them in a bucket of water, no soap, and thought to myself, “Maybe they just need to soak for a while… Maybe God will do something. And if not, I guess I’ll just have a couple pairs of shorts.”

Continue reading

Every Bird Poops – or – God’s Power to Protect His Word

birdI remember one time beginning preaching open-air by shouting out, “There are two things that will happen to everyone.  Number one, you are going to be pooped on by a bird.  Number two, you are going to die.”  I don’t know how effective it was in drawing people to hear the gospel, but it always made me snicker.  (Seriously, who doesn’t enjoy yelling the word “poop” in public?)

While I don’t condone using birds or their digestive systems as a form of entertainment, probably the funniest video I ever saw involved bird poop.  Picture it, a group of teenagers are gathered at the beach pouring bags of potato chips onto a tray.  One teen looks at the camera, smiles, holds up a package, and almost sings, “Laxatives.”  They cover the chips liberally with the magic sprinkles.  Hardly able to contain their excited giggling, the teens carry the tray to a populated area of the beach, set it down, and then ran for cover.  Within seconds, seagulls descend upon the glorious treasure, gorging themselves on delicacies normally jealously guarded from them…  And then the white rain begins to fall…  It’s hilarious.  Completely disrespectful and rude and should never ever be repeated but outrageously funny.  (You can watch it here if you want a good laugh.)

So, bird poop.

Jesus tells a story about bird poop in Matthew 13:3-9.  Okay, so really it’s a story about seeds and soils, but there are birds in the story, and every bird poops.  Anyhow, he tells how a man is scattering seeds all over the place; some of them land on amazing soil and bring a harvest, others fall on rocky or thorny soil and don’t really grow so well, and the last of it lands on the path.  The path is the worst place because the seeds don’t even start growing at all; the birds come along and eat them all.

“Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up.”  (Matthew 13:3-4)

Continue reading

Noah and the Flood

[In the Communion with God class, each student this year was required to research a story from the Bible and then write a paper about what he learned and what it means for us today, incorporating all we learned about studying the Bible and hearing the voice of God.  Every assignment I give our students, I also give myself.  The following is the result of my research into Noah and the flood.]

The single most devastating flood in modern history occurred in 1931 when the Huang He (Yellow) River flooded; 88,000 square kilometers of land were completely inundated, 80 million people were left homeless, and anywhere from 850,000 to 4 million lost their lives[1].  While grievous, this flood cannot compare to that which occurred during Noah’s lifetime when nearly all of human and animal life was eliminated from earth.  When we hear news of any natural disaster, we find it difficult to face, and our reaction is even stronger when we read about the flood in Genesis.  We wonder, “How could a loving God kill so many millions so casually?”, and we question the goodness of our Creator.  While our first reaction to the story is often one of disgust and bewilderment, the thrust of the narrative as told in Genesis 5:28-9:29 is not, in fact, the catastrophe.  The narrative of the flood is far more a story of redemption than of retribution, and we see this most clearly by examining the relationships within the account, in particular, the broken bond between man and nature and, by extension, the redemption of that between man and God.

Continue reading

The Law, the Conscience, and the Gospel

A few years ago, I was driving to Spring Green from Madison after watching a movie at the theater late one night.  It’s an hour drive from Madison to Spring Green, and most of the ride is through small towns where gas stations aren’t open very late.  Knowing it might be difficult to find a bathroom so late in the night (and believing public urination probably wouldn’t be the best thing to have on my record), I remember thinking maybe I should go to the bathroom in Madison before I left.  But then my Y-chromosome called me a sissy and convinced me I could make it all the way home.

I realized pretty quickly that I had made a wrong decision, and so at every little town I came to, I looked left and right for any sign of some place where I could pull over and use the bathroom.  After passing through a few unpromising towns, I remember finally seeing ahead of me a gas station brightly lit up.  I could even see the attendant inside working at the counter.

I was so happy that, without turning on my signal or looking behind me, I immediately turned left from the right-hand lane and aimed towards the gas station.

Bright blue and red flashing lights behind me quickly revealed I had cut off a police officer in my pursuit of a toilet.

The law had found me.  And there was no escape.  I was caught red-handed, guilty.

When I came to a stop, I rolled down my window, held out my driver’s license, and shouted, “I really have to use the bathroom!  Can I give you my license and go run to the toilet?”

The officer nodded his ascent, so I ran as fast as a guy can run whose bladder is about to explode and took care of business.  When I returned to the car, the officer explained that under the circumstances, he’d let me off with a warning rather than a ticket. Boy, was I relieved! (In more ways than one.)

I share this to illustrate a truth:  To share the gospel effectively, my job is to help a person to see that he has broken God’s eternal law, that there are red and blue flashing lights behind him, and he’s been found guilty. Only then will he find the peace and the relief his soul needs, and only then will he gladly surrender all to Jesus.

Continue reading

Jonah by Ben

[I gave an optional assignment last week in the Communion with God class to take a story from the Bible and re-write it.  It's an awesome exercise that will help to draw out details from the actual events.  You'll have to figure out what was really going on, why it happened the way the Bible reports it, what people were thinking and feeling...  I highly recommend it as a way to interact with the Bible!  Just don't go around thinking you might as well write your own, more interesting version of the Bible and throw out that boring one you bought in the book store.]

Within minutes, the pale blue sky had disappeared entirely, replaced by a rolling mass of thick black and gray storm clouds.  The sun, once shining boldly, struggled now to reach even her fingers around the enveloping clouds.  Beneath the lead casket, the small ship appeared helpless on the blue-green back of a heaving, waking sea monster.  The sea was a giant stirring.

Aboard, every man took notice of the quick change in temperament, from the ancient Philistine captain borne in the womb of the sea to the newly-wed Egyptian couple on their first venture from solid land, and what a venture it will prove to be.

A cold wind brought with it the scent of rain, heavy and hell-bent.

“By Dagon, get ready, men!” the captain shouted and clenched his jaw tightly shut, his eyes challenging the sea and the wind and the rain.

A strike of lightning split the sky, and a blast of thunder shook the timbers of the small ship, the trumpet blast of some great sea god declaring war, announcing the coming of the rain.  The wind blew hard and stiff, and the ropes creaked, screaming under the pressure.  The sailors scrambled about the bridge, from starboard to port, loosening this, tightening that, attempting to anticipate the moves of the storm, most capricious of enemies; while, below decks the remaining sailors urged the vessel forward with herculean effort at the oars.  But for all their pushing and pulling, striving and straining, their most trusted ally had now by all appearances joined herself to the wind and the rain and, as a traitor, refused to obey their orders.

Another crack of lightning ripped the sky in two, and from the gaping hole the rain began to pour.

Continue reading

It’s been a while, so… What have we been up to?

final 0 scoalabiblica-logo-image

Well, it’s been almost a month since my last update, so I figured It’s about time to let you know how things have been going here in Romania.  Since my last update, we started teaching classes at Scoala Biblica Piatra Vie.  It’s our very first semester teaching these courses in Romania, and many books are not available in Romanian, so it’s been far less organized than I like, but God is working in and through us.

We have a total of 12 students taking 3 different classes.  They represent three different continents (Africa, Europe, and North America) and speak four different mother tongues (English, French, Romanian, and Swahili).  Yes, we’re pretty diverse!  Culturally (Romanians, Africans, and Americans), intellectually (from graduate school students to high school dropouts), and spiritually (a one-month-old believer from a Muslim background, Baptists who were taught to believe the charismatic gifts ended in the first century, Pentecostals who never learned to study the Bible, and even a few who don’t know what to call themselves)–we have a wide variety of students!

Continue reading

I’m not dead, just not posting…

And… that’s all I have to say about that.

Okay, a bit more.

We’re busily working to build the church here, and lately we’ve seen less exciting testimonies, so I really haven’t felt like posting.  I like posting when we have exciting stories.

Plus, with things getting super busy at the school where I teach English, and with starting our first semester of Scoala Biblica Piatra Vie… I’ve been on the busy side…

But I’m not dead… in case you were wondering.

I’m just boring.