Teaching, TravelsJanuary 27, 2018

One Drop 01.27.18

I am writing to someone who realizes they don’t have it “all together”. At times you feel like, just below the ‘happy’ surface, is an undefined grief. Unguarded moments totter on the verge of depression.  Such pain can get the best of you and without realizing it influence your life. Mere thoughts can cause failure, dysfunction, and desperation. I know this from experience.

 I am writing to my suffering-brethren throughout the world who know the cold, dark caves of loneliness and the pain of falling into, and getting caught in, the deep crevasses of life. Of doing things you regret, of thinking thoughts you never thought, or having feelings that seem to draw you where you don’t want to go.

The truth is, all men hide such thoughts and feelings. But they deny it and never dream of sharing it. Why? Because of the ‘something’ that lives within each of us called self-pride; image. It won’t let you be totally honest. We are surrounded by a wicked world that breaks us but then rejects us for being broken.

Well, my friend, despite what ‘they’ say, a broken heart is not a weird or a bad thing. Jesus came for the broken. He was broken to death. He rose out of the tomb to become an Expert at turning death into a beautiful life (Mt.5/Jn.12:25/Is.61).

I am not offering some weird psychoanalysis. I’m saying that when Jesus promises “the truth will set you free”, He means it for the deepest aspects of our life. Such a short well-known phrase contains one word we all desire; freedom, and one that makes us apprehensive; truth. But freedom can only come from truth.

A while back I gained weight due being laid up from some head and back issues. But recently, I finally lost 25 pounds.  At first, I hated the scale. It was my enemy. I hid from its truth because it depressed me. Then I realized the truth was not my enemy but my necessity to get beyond who I was to become who I wanted to be. I had to stop saying “I don’t feel that bad”. I had to weigh myself.  We don’t need to fear the truth because God is for you, not against you. He is not a self-righteous “preacher” Who winks at our self-strength. His power is realized in our lowest moments (1 Cor.1:26, 2 Cor.12:9).

God is a deeply compassionate Father Who, not only knows our weakness but, yearns to comfort those who draw near to His truth. There are real answers to the most difficult struggles. It is human nature to view hard times with a macho attitude. But God looks to the contrite (Is.57:15).  He promises to give such men “life abundantly” (Jn.10:10). There is a third avenue beyond “I’m fine” and “I’m losing it”. It starts with a contrite attitude; “Maybe I don’t know everything about You, God. Maybe I could learn”. It involves not going to others but directly interacting with the One Who sees our hidden motives.

“There was a moment…..when I was all alone out there in the ‘dark’…

I felt….nothing.

Everything and everyone I ever knew or loved… suddenly was nothing.

I was all alone.

My life was paper…

and I thought…

and concluded….. nothing mattered.

Then I beheld the sky and the ocean so alive.

And I wondered

“Could I ever be so alive?”

Could I ever know such symmetry and meaning?”

And I contemplated “Could God be? Could He really be?”

I defied cynicism and cried

“Could You care about me?” 

I made a decision to believe… 

 the story of a Father…

Who sacrificed His Son to death…

to draw me into His love.

If everything was nothing that had I to lose?

And I woke up.

And it was as though I disappeared from the world of paper. 

I became alive… in another world.

  Then I spoke to my fears and said ‘Oh darkness, oh loneliness…. oh ya, ya… so what?”.

I am alive

to love… 

to show others

Jesus lives

Before…  I hated phonies. But I was one. I hated being ignored. Yet, I ignored everyone. I hated men who hurt others. But I hurt so many. I despised the arrogance of men but saw it in me. I mocked others to feel superior. But was crushed when I was mocked as inferior. I was hostile and angry at those who irritated me and this irritated me. When I lived in the dark I felt nothing. I just didn’t care. I was haunted by my own existence; burdened by my own contradictions. But as I hid in the castle of my ego, I found no will to defend its walls. So I surrendered to faith and it led me to truth in Him. 

I found the courage to admit the truth about myself… to myself. After all, who knows you… like you? You are your only chance to find you. I had to hate myself to find myself, lo and behold, this ‘crazy’ talk is the will of God (Jn.12:25, Rom.3:10).

Our journey through time can take us into a maze of unexpected twists and turns. Things happen to us that we never imagined. We come to realize that the ‘oomph’ we once had, to keep us going in a previous period of life, is just not enough to sustain us in the different stage that we now face. Every day demands more than the one before. Where do we turn? How do we turn? As strange as it all might seem, my friend, you are not alone, even in your aloneness. He waits to help you make the right move.

My son David here on the streets of Brazil with one of our graffiti signs designed to reach the many gangs that exist here. (The sign says; Dude, please, think – You are not garbage –  You are loved – Jesus was killed for us- He shed his blood for you).

People on the street have said “You have a beautiful wife and children. How can you say that you suffer loneliness?” Family can be great but it can also be overrated. Never could my wife or children give me the comfort I need. They do not supply my identity. Never could anyone understand my deepest conflicts. King David said ‘Being with You, I desire nothing (no one) on earth…there is no good besides Thee’ (Ps.73:25/16:2). No matter how much family members may “care”, the stark reality is, no human being owns the love to solve our dilemma of total depravity. Do you know what this term means? It is a theological term I came to learn and love while in seminary. At the bottom or this blog, I explain in depth what this really means. It is a bit heavy, but it is very helpful if you have not read it elsewhere on my blog.

It’s kind of obvious, hey? What’s amazing, is the more I understand the Biblical exposé on my depravity, the greater becomes the joy of my salvation. God says “…no one does good (love)…each one has gone his own way” (Is.53:6 /Rm.3:10ff). We are “sick” with self-obsession (Jer.17:9). We are smitten by an incurable “wound” (Jer.15:18,30:12 ). No one but God can comfort a man in the wound of human loneliness. Because we are not a mere body of blood, guts and bones. We have a soul. Made by God, we cry for His Presence and reconciliation.

I don’t know how people make it. Because the reality is, both family and friends can hurt you and even turn on you. They can look at you in the face, saying how much they care about you, then totally ignore you when you need them the most. They never give you what you hope for and let you down more often than not. Why do millions commit suicide, space out on drugs or depend on booze to comfort their pain? Self-awareness, apart from God, is scarily creepy. You think “Man, am I whacked. What the hell is wrong with me? I’m sure glad people don’t know this about me”. Well, guess what? People may not, but God does. Isn’t He a bit more important? You think it is your personality. It is not. Good news. God knew how depraved you and I were before we were even born, and He absolutely dealt with it (Rm.5).

People are terrified by the thought of being alone because they are afraid to face what they really are; bad memories, emotional depression, guilt, sadness, failure, etc.  I fully understand. I had no idea how to live the promises of Jesus while dealing with sin; myself. So after graduating from college, I made a decision to leave my girlfriend, beloved mother, who was dying from cancer, close friends and everything familiar, to travel three thousand miles to Fuller Seminary, in Pasadena, California.  Jesus says “My sheep hear My voice”.  I knew I could not honestly say I did. So I concluded that I needed to get all alone to learn what this meant.

I figured I had my whole life ahead of me. If I didn’t do it now, I may never do so. I feared the entanglement of the world could deprive my life of something God might have for me. Soon after I arrived at Fuller I got a job as a librarian. Weeks and months went by and I didn’t hear from those back in Michigan who said they loved me. I felt abandoned. I slowly realized how much they gave me identity and were my driving force to live. As someone who claimed to love Jesus, I felt this exposed my lack of divine relationship.

One night, after my work-shift in the library, I unlocked my bicycle and started my ride back to my apartment. Suddenly, I was overtaken by fear. I was emersed in thoughts of loneliness and despair. I got off my bike and just stood there, searching to stabilize myself. That huge empty parking lot depicted the desolation I felt within. Mental anguish got the best of me. How could I live with no one?  My heart crumbled under the weight of such a burden.  I was terrified to be all alone.

No one wants to be alone. Isolation is a form of suffering.  It is used to punish prisoners in solitary confinement. One of the most common reactions to being all alone is the common insistence  “Oh, I’m not alone. I have friends and family. I know that people love me. That’s what ‘church’ is all about”.  You may be surrounded by nice, warm, smiling people. But if you are honest you know the sense of feeling all alone despite them all. They have no idea who you really are. And you know it.  The truth is you can’t fathom an identity apart from them. But you don’t know what to do. God is not screaming at you. He says “Take my hand and let us walk” (Is.42:6).

Beneath all my Christian theology was a human nature I did not know how to deal with. Would I have to spend my whole life controlled by it, live in constant guilt and fake an abstract forgiveness millions of times? I could not escape it or make it “better”. I had to face that I was scared and wicked. It humiliated me. It broke me. I was a liar, a coward, a fool, a pig, arrogant and self-righteous. Paul said “I AM…the worst of all sinners” (1Tim.1:15). Present tense.

I heard no audible voice. No signs or visions. What came to me was “while we were yet sinners…Christ died for the ungodly…lo, I am with you always” (Rom.5:8/Mt.28:20). Either God’s Word is true or it is a lie. Either He gives new life or I am stuck with mine.

Jesus…walked… all alone;… made the decision to; leave His parents, call each disciple, rebuke the hypocrites, went fishing, help the poor, heal a leper, raise the dead… all alone; He was arrested one night… all alone; thrown into prison… all alone. Taken out in the morning by soldiers and tied to post…all alone. In each stripe, no one could offer Him comfort. Jesus was scourged… all alone; carried the cross to Calvary… each agonizing step… all alone. Jesus… hung… all alone. Pierced and mocked…all alone.

His all aloneness is waiting to come to you. His suffering can come to you in yours. Such a small thing He asks, to come to Him all alone.

I chose to believe He was with me in my aloneness. Beyond my carnal hope for some “extraterrestrial” comfort, came the hope that, if I obeyed the call to faith, I would find a hope beyond my hope. The Scriptures prophecy “with hope against hope” Abraham found faith (Rm.4:18). I began to understand the Word of God IS God’s Voice. God calls us to obey. There is no other way. In the dark, cold vacuum of our sinful “existentialism”,  we must wake up, get up and walk. I am so alive. He leaves it to us to obey in order to experience divine life.  It is a decision of pure worship.

I gathered myself, got on my bike, and….well…. here I am, 40 years later, writing of it to you today.

My wife Rachel and I portraying the phenomenal transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly. Jn.3:3

Jesus identified with our most terrible experiences. Obedience proves whether we believe Him in them. Jesus never called a group to salvation. He called individuals, one by one, face to face. Every single encounter in the New Testament is between Jesus and an individual. Paul says each of us will stand all alone before Him on the day of judgment (2 Cor. 5:10). So, if we will stand alone then, why be afraid to get all alone now? Faith is the only thing that will get you beyond yourself.

The immense pain Adam felt when he was severed from God in the Garden of Eden is part and parcel of us today. People are insistent of the necessity of a “church” because they are ignorant to the driving force of their own Adam-nature.  They seek others to satisfy feelings of loneliness and identity. It’ll never happen. Neither church nor marriage can heal the enormous wound our separation for God.  When a man is willing to stand all alone before the living Jesus, His Presence cures this incurable wound. You finally realize “I am Yours”. A man is freed from the bondage of seeking the passing comfort of people.

Elizabeth worked several jobs over the last two years to get back here to Brazil to help these prisoners. She shares a beautiful reality of how despite being alone in the soil, a tree can grow even behind bars.

The truth is if you are willing to be all alone…before God… you will never be alone. The moment you turn to Jesus, you pop up on the Father’s radar. You DO matter…. to the Father. You matter so much He sent Jesus to DO something you need done for you because you could never do it yourself. Jesus substituted Himself so that you could be released out of the dungeon of self-obsession; SIN.

“…Awake sleeper, arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14).

Imagine a courtroom situation where a depraved criminal is being sentenced to death. Suddenly a “stranger”  steps forward to claim the guilt and bear the penalty. The criminal is aghast. What depth of gratitude would you see? Of course, this could only happen in one lifetime. What about a “stranger” bearing the penalty for the crimes of 10, 50, 100 or a thousand or a million vicious criminals; for a time period over 50, a 100 or a thousand years?  Jesus bore every ounce of our depravity.

This ‘stranger’ yearns to become your Brother, because He lives today.  For it was one drop of His sinless blood that covered the crimes of a trillion souls. One tiny drop of perfect blood satisfied the demand for pure holy Character of “the Holy of Holies”. All His righteous demand for justice and punishment is appeased in that one drop; never to be found in any other man. Jesus came to earth to give His entire gallon and a half. It’s called Atonement, Propitiation, Substitution and Redemption.

Forgiveness is not dependent on moral consistency. It was ‘manufactured’ and accomplished through the death and resurrection of Jesus “once and for all”. It is impartially reckoned to anyone who is repentant. Repentance doesn’t mean you will never sin again. It means you will never again doubt His forgiveness. Forgiveness is not contingent upon righteous thoughts or moral behavior but upon the historical event in time and space by the Son of God. Forgiveness is not called Tentativeness or Subjectivity.

Forgiveness is not like an unfaithful marriage partner who flees the spouse upon seeing unexpected evil. Forgiveness does not come and go. It is anchored as a lighthouse embedded in rock that beacons it’s light in our most severe storm.  Even if a ship fades from it’s view the light beacons all the same.

Picture the sprocket on a fast moving bicycle as the free will spinning in the vicious cycle of sin and propelling you in a wrong direction. You don’t have to slam on the brakes with a melodramatic “Mia Culpa”. The issue is not that you locked on to a wrong gear. What matters is that in every moment God is offering the freedom to switch gears, believe the cross and redirect your path. It’s not trite or lawless. It is faith.

True forgiveness is accompanied by clear facial recognition. There is a light. There is a lifting. Eternal life dawns upon the eyes. It is not the general smile men put on to appear nice. True happiness is the divine implosion of “nuclear” cleansing. Final. Resolved. It is finished. I am so forgiven it as though I have never sinned (1 Jn.3:9). It is a treasure in an earthen vessel

Some reject the absolute necessity of getting all alone. Others cannot fathom an existence apart from an identity with their “church”. Paul warns “when people measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding (2 Corinthians 10:12). Listening to others is like using a dictionary that has been doctored with false definitions. It is written to build a conspiracy of self-comfort. The tragedy is no one will stop you, not even God. It’s up to you to wake up. It’s your life. Don’t allow the things, job or people to get you caught up and miss your opportunity to become whom you can be in Christ.

My daughter Ruth at an orphanage during Christmas time.

I was a running back in High School. One time I overslept the departure of a bus for a football night-game. I was awakened by a  furious coach on the other end of a phone call. I have never since been so terrified by simply oversleeping. I was hyperventilating as I raced my car to the bus. I overslept because I had piled down two of my mom’s delicious gigantic ham sandwiches.  I played that game in a fog, got a concussion and fumbled the ball on the ten-yard line. It made us lose the game.

Oversleeping your life has far worse consequences. Yesterday I was 17 yrs. old. Today I am 65. Moments tick by so rapidly. The ‘game’ is on. The Father is not screaming at you on the other end of the line. You may sleep past the clock many times but His forgiveness and redemption wait for you to awaken just one time in faith. He is tender, patient and kind.  His yoke is easy. His burden light. He knows it is easy to oversleep in life.  From the womb to the tomb we are under the enormous pressure to prove ourselves. We are on the clock in a merciless world ruled by Satan (1 Jn.5:19/Jn.12:31/Mt.4:9 ).

The “bus is waiting for you”. Certain times arise in life that God arranges so He show you His love. Reading this right now can be this moment. Seize this opportunity.  Get out of bed. Instead of cynicism, self-pity or unbelief, respond with a different response. Don’t settle for instincts of Adam’s lazy tendencies.  Break the paradigm of human nature.

One time when I was a kid I found an old relic pistol behind a gas station. When one of my friends saw it he said: “Hey man, where did you find that?”.  Such a response made it clear that I really did find SOMETHING.  It was a setting where issues of rarity and personal discovery were the result of an obvious individual search. This is the precise context of facing who you are all alone and finding faith in Jesus.

An old pagan, named Abraham, was the first one to “find”  faith (Heb.11:8ff/Rm.4:1). Abraham was all alone. When you stand all alone before God it is up to you to find faith. Find something no one else has. Find courage. Find heart. Find love. The result is enormous blessing from God. Abraham authored the hope beyond human hope.  Faith is found in the setting of total obscurity. It sprouts in a desert; “a root out of parched ground”(Is.53:2). Abraham had to hope against everything that made sense and hope in a hope that made no sense.

Go someplace all alone where you can really think. No one else is around. It is on an open path surrounded by hills of grass and forest. It is warm. The sky is full of perfectly intermingled variations of grey and black clouds, to compose a majestic but yet sad sense of deep solitude. A subtle thunder bounces between the clouds and echoes across the distant skies. A subtle mist of rain sprinkles the air. Be alone. All alone. Fear not. He is by your side. Here’s your chance.  Talk to Jesus. Find  faith.  Let Him redeem your broken life. 

My family and I have been working for the last few months here in Brazil. So much corruption. The people are so oppressed. Next week we will go up to Rio De Janeiro for a week at Mardi Gras. Millions and millions searching to find an escape from the misery hiding within. They don’t know. They don’t understand.  It is very rewarding to work in the many prisons, city streets, orphanages, etc. Countless stories of the gospel changing people.

My daughter Sarah engaging a little orphan in a “Favela” during a Christmas time event for three hundred children. David was Santa Claus. Talk about a funny, young-faced and skinny Santa. Just looking at him was hilarious.

The other day we got a message from a gang leader in a prison we just went to. He was a bank robber who used a machine gun to rob banks. One day he killed a man who was attacking his sister. We watched God change this man from absolute hopelessness and near suicide to gratitude for beginning to understand the gospel. He said he was getting out this year. We found out he had forty years to go. Many men tell themselves this because it is unbearable.

God has given us an open door into the prisons throughout the country. It is remarkable. Of all the places we could be in the world we are sitting in a “harvest field” of lost souls. When some people find out that we also work in prisons they say “Why do you help them? They get what they deserve”. Obviously, these people do not understand forgiveness.

Often it is necessary to drive 3-4 hours into the country to reach the more remote prisons. Many gravel and dirt roads. Can you say… forgotten.

Prisons here are like a House of Horrors which renders them a daily life of relentless punishment.  Jesus says as we treat prisoners, so we treat Him (Mt.25:45/Heb.13:3). I praise the Father, that in every single prison we have ever been in, we have seen His mercy move upon men. Every single time I hear those steel gates open and close, and walk on, down the cold dark hallways, I marvel over where we are.

To read some notes about our recent ministry during Carnival in Rio De Janeiro, click here.

We are just an ordinary family of eight. We gladly live in obscurity to take the gospel to those who would otherwise never hear. We have no group or organization that support us.  To get here, we worked many jobs in the states.  Our savings will only last so long. So obviously any support would allow us to go longer, farther and help others more.

Paypal account is: whatwouldyoufightfor@yahoo.com

I only share this in a hope that someone might read this, who has the means and cares about others.

We are all alone with Him, to reach those, who are all alone without Him.

May you open your heart to His love for you.

This is a small group of guys in a local prison we’ve been able to have ongoing contact with who are getting released soon.

Foot Note Explaining our Nature of Sin:

The Father was devastated by the tragedy in the Garden of Eden. He gave man a free will and man chose evil, over God.  Adam forever defiled our human nature with the insanity of sin and inexplicable rebellion. It’s you, who doesn’t understand how wicked you are, not God. You think you’re a pretty good person because you’ve seen yourself do some “good works” and, well…”Look at that God. Pretty impressive, hey?”. No. Not at all. God sees the pride and denial of what He has revealed about you and all mankind; “There is not one who is good… all have become corrupt” (Rm.3:10/Is.59: 2ff ).

I’d like to ask anyone who has a problem with this “Why?”. Why in the world, would you have a problem admitting how wicked you are? It stares you in the face. Truth can be easy. It’s so productive. It’s so comforting. It’s so freeing. Sin is the conflict of evil inside our “Adam” nature. No, it’s not schizophrenia. It’s the Biblical truth of having a sinful human nature and God offering a divine nature (Rm.7:16ff /2 Pt.1:4 ). Sin is lodged within our mind. It is the eerie sense that something evil is hiding in the room but you can’t put your finger on it. You don’t know the real you.

Satan plays men like a poker champion. Long ago, he inlaid this world with a “society”; jobs, thinking and goals easily within man’s ability to grasp and accomplish (Mt.4:8-9/Jn.12:31,14:30). So man can easily feel “I am good. I am productive” by just doing stuff. In reality, it is all utter vanity and exists for its sole purpose to subvert man from God. So the Father has to break through everything you think is of value to establish an entirely new reality (Rm.12:2).

People say this is crazy and “Christians” try to soften the blow of being a ‘sinner’ in a world that fully belongs to Satan (1 Jn.5:19).  They become victims of fat-cat preachers who have no clue to reality. I am not saying this out of ‘attitude’. I heard and saw, first hand, the backstage scheming while in the largest seminary in the world. ‘Blind leaders of the blind’ (Mt.15:14 ). They reduce the magnificence of the Person and work of Jesus, and His salvation, to a cheap “sinner’s prayer” because they themselves are ignorant of Satan and sin. So “Christians” remain in bondage to sin while claiming to be saved.  They live by a carnal and impotent understanding of “forgiveness”. Jesus spoke the most severely to the most religious (Matthew 23).

My son Abraham sharing with prisoners how to “escape” the inner prison of guilt and turmoil in Christ.

Look, I know this stuff is heavy, but this is the truth that will set you free. It is the principal of the Adam nature within us. It will get you beyond what you think is yourself (Phil.2:12).  If we truly want to see God’s greatness we must accept our depravity. My friend, because of this nature of sin, our humanity has the capability to kill a thousand people and walk away with a smile. There are thousands of examples of the atrocities throughout history that expose man’s depravity. Our sin killed the Son of God. It is everything evil under the sun. Satan doesn’t want to ‘scare the hell out of us’. He wants to exploit this hell he put within us. He wants to arouse our hidden monster, then leave us to die in it. Satan wants to make you think hopelessness is your destiny but it does not have to be.

Sin is not you and you are not it. God wants to teach you to deal with it, as though it were a mechanical problem with your car. It’s called objectivity. It’s called discernment (Heb.4:12/2 Cor.2:11ff).  I’ve talked to so many war veterans, prisoners, and victims of divorce or drugs. They have absolutely no clue what they are dealing with. Sin ‘gets away murder’ because no one identifies it as such. There is no more offensive word in the human language than the word “sinner”.

People find a strange comfort in self-pity.  They say “God could never forgive me” as if their sin gives them an exclusive identity apart from what God has already declared about all men. Jesus bore everything evil in every one of us on the cross. Paul says “I do the very things I hate” ( Rm. 7:20). Therefore man does not go to hell for the outlandishness of some sin but for unbelief in Jesus, that His death cannot cover every sin. There is no greater sin than to shun forgiveness in deference to self-pride (Jn.16:8).

This view from our porch, the city here often floods because of the extreme tropical rains.