Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Nation Gone Under

For several years, a New York teacher had this quote from Ronald Reagan posted on her classroom wall: “If we ever forget that we are one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.” Recently, the teacher was ordered to remove the quote, telling her it violated the U.S. Constitution.

Many of those who follow national and world events concede that Christians have lost the culture war. Our military has labeled evangelical Christians as religious extremists and conservative Christian organizations as domestic hate groups. Bibles were banned from Walter Reed Medical Center. The IRS has targeted Christian ministries to silence them, demanding from some to turn over their membership rolls and the content of their prayers. And of course, the Obama administration has been relentless in tearing apart the foundation of our nation’s Christian heritage.

The most visible loss is the rise of the “gay rights” groups, who have successfully changed homosexual behavior into a discrimination issue rather than a moral issue. Our culture now holds as hero’s Hollywood stars such as Ellen DeGeneres, Elton John, and Jodie Foster. Our culture forced out Brendan Eich as CEO of Mozilla Firefox because 6 years ago he donated $1,000 to support traditional marriage. Our culture is comfortable with homosexual CEO’s like Apple’s Tim Cook, and is fine with those who give millions every year to support their cause. And in every recent court case where business owners have tried to defend their religious freedoms against gay activists, gay ‘rights’ has won.

For most of America’s history, Christians and Christian principled people were the guardians of our culture, providing a safe and wholesome environment for families to flourish. Even during hard times, belief in God’s goodness and a strong sense of right and wrong carried us through. So it made sense to the ‘forces of evil’ that in order for their ideology to win, Christianity had to go. And with each year, their success grows. Christians are no longer the “salt of the earth.”

So why am I harping on this so much? A couple of days ago I talked with J, a Campus Crusade for Christ volunteer who disciples college students on campuses outside our city. He shared that, in rural areas, students’ openness to the gospel is rapidly decreasing, and in the city it’s almost gone. When I asked him why this was happening, he summed it up in 2 words – western culture. In recent months, I've heard the same sentiment from several church leaders. From TV to the internet, from Hollywood to Miley Cyrus, from Walmart to Wall Street, most 3rd world cultures look to America as their example of what they want to be like.

Interestingly, the places in the world where we are seeing the greatest growth in the Christian church today are in those places where western culture has yet to reach, places like rural areas of China, India, Indonesia, and in some of the former Soviet Union countries. But in places like the Philippines that has a wide open door to western culture, with its themes of greed, immorality, power, rebellion,and humanism, responsiveness to the gospel is diminishing.

In the past couple of months, I’ve been doing a self-study on the evolving content and growing influence of western culture, and the results have been shocking for me. For example, did you know that, according to some calculations, 1/3 of all worldwide internet traffic is pornography! I have been disheartened that my home country, which was once the beacon of Christianity for the world, has now become the primary exporter of the forces against Christianity. I’m currently revising our core lessons to deal with this enormous threat, hoping to open the eyes of non-believers to what is influencing their hearts and minds, the things we so quickly excuse as ‘entertainment’, as well as equipping believers to exercise discernment with what they watch and listen to.

Even though we have lost the culture war, our purpose, our task, our marching orders remain the same: to be light in the darkness, to show up the world for what it really is. As Jesus warned in John 3, most people love the darkness and will not come to the light. But for those who do, the eternal rewards of genuine love, joy and peace await. As followers of Christ, we were never to put our hope in America. And though we get discouraged, we never despair, knowing that who we have on the inside is far greater than anything on the outside, and the day is coming when western culture will be no more, when godly culture will prevail for eternity.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Stats and Global Warming

I just finished submitting my statistical report for the 1st quarter of 2014. Thought you might like to see some of the information that’s included. I have to give estimates since I don’t always hear from every church during each quarter:

# who heard the gospel this quarter: 500
# who had the opportunity to respond to Christ: 200
# who became new believers: 30
# who were baptized: 30
# of new groups started: 3
# of new churches started: 1
# who received training to start new churches: 35

The Southern Baptist of Texas Convention disaster relief team working in Capiz contributed a lot to these numbers. They have completed about 50 small shelters where an entire family will live in a 80 sq. ft. room. The American teams are a big hit with the elementary school children who can’t get enough of these tall friendly white people from far away. Students from the computer school continue to meet weekly with various groups in the village where the construction is taking place.

This is the time of year when I put on my travel agent hat to buy plane tickets for summer meetings. Since this blogspot is public domain on the internet, I’m not permitted to say much about our meetings for security reasons, except that they are not always easy to get to. What I can say is that David is planning to come out this summer. He, Martha, and I will be vacationing for nearly a week in Singapore, one of the most modern cities in the world.

Speaking of Martha, she is sending out a personal letter to some folks concerning her summer plans. Again, for security reasons, I’m limited about what I can say, except that she will be using her nursing skills to serve the Father in a special part of the world for about six weeks. Those of you who know Martha understand the direction she senses the Father is leading her, and this ‘adventure’ will give her an opportunity to have firsthand experience. She needs to raise $3,000 for this endeavor, so if anyone senses the Father’s leading to help, you can email Martha at and she can share a little more about it. Both of her fathers will be most grateful!

I read in the news that the U.S. has finished one of its coldest winters on record, some say due to global warming. Hmmm. But the task for all of us is to warn others about a coming global warming that is much more certain for those who fail to follow the Savior! Heaven is too wonderful a place for people to miss out, so let’s take our task seriously.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Living Alone

Six months ago today I left my Texas homeland and flew to an empty nest. For the first time in my life, I’m living alone. There are days when I feel the sadness of leaving my youngins behind. On Christmas Day, I watched some home movies from 1991. Jan was giving a video tour of our house in Roxas City. I was lying on the living room floor, sick with a virus. David was wanting me to go outside to play. Sara was shouting at Hannah, who was sliding down my legs and crawling over my stomach. Jan was trying to get me to say a video greeting. Hmmm, maybe there are benefits to having an empty nest!

My 2-story rental house is just right for my needs. The downstairs has a small living room and a small kitchen with an eating area. A covered back porch offers a place for my washing machine and a clothes line. The front yard is small, but laid out quite nice with plants, flowers, and a couple of trees. It takes only 15 minutes for me to cut the grass, which stays green year round. A covered car port allows me dry access to the front door when it rains. Upstairs is my bedroom, just big enough for my single bed, desk, and treadmill. Two smaller rooms are used for storage and a guest room. All in all, about 1200 square feet.

There are 19 houses in this little 10-year old subdivision, all with a similar design and painting scheme. Mine is near the back, away from the road, where it is quiet, just as I like it. It’s gated, offering security, especially nice on nights when I’m away from the house. I do all my yardwork, cleaning, laundry, and cooking; no helper needed. Twice a week, I carry my trash to the street, which gives me a chance to chat with my neighbors. The subdivision is clean and well maintained. The location, along a major jeepney/bus route, is perfect for my needs, allowing me quick access to either the city or to the interior of the island.

I tell people that living alone has its advantages. I can leave a pair of scissors on the table and the next day it’s still there! If I’m thirsty, I can go downstairs to the kitchen in my shorts. There are never any dirty dishes in the sink. I control how much electricity I use. And best of all, I don’t have to hide my chocolate. But I do look forward to my Skype time with the kids. Sometimes I talk to myself and, being an introvert, I’m not a very good conversationalist. Martha plans to visit me in July for a few weeks, and I’m definitely looking forward to that.

Living alone does give me a bit more freedom for ministry. For the first time in 25 years, I have no homeschooling responsibilities. I schedule my own meals and study time. I can open up my house for meetings or small group fellowships. Occasionally visitors will drop by or I’ll have a pastor stay overnight.

Other times, however, being single and not having any of my children here can limit my ministry. Filipinos are very family oriented and it's rare to find anyone living alone. So, there are days when I miss having my family here, even with the noise and dirty dishes! But, I guess God gives grace when we need it. And for now, He’s giving me enough grace to live alone. Just barely enough.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Typhoon Relief Update

It’s been over 100 days since Typhoon Haiyan plowed through the central Philippines, leaving behind 6,000+ fatalities and hundreds of thousands homeless. Last week, I visited some of the hardest hit areas of our island and recovery efforts are well under way. In the northern coastal town of Estancia, where over 100 deaths occurred, both government and private agencies are rebuilding parts of the town. In the provinces of Capiz and Antique, most areas now have electricity.

Just west of Roxas City, Capiz (where Hannah and Martha were born), teams from the disaster relief arm of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention have been focusing on helping a devastated coastal town rebuild. Thanks to the efforts of SBTC and BGR (Baptist Global Response), the town’s elementary school has a new roof and classes are meeting there once again. About 8 small housing units have been built, with dozens more planned, prioritizing the elderly and families with small children. Building materials have also been given to other high need families.

Partnering with the SBTC building teams is Bro. Ronald, manager of the computer school that was helped last December, along with several students from the school. They have begun evangelism efforts in the town and have had 8 to receive Christ as their Savior and Lord. Bible studies are beginning. Me and another Filipino partner have provided evangelism and discipleship training for those reaching out to the town. But prayer is still needed that open hearts to the gospel will prevail.

In northern Iloilo, about a dozen people lost their lives in Concepcion when a 20 foot storm surge wiped out much of this coastal town. One of our Christian Filipino businessmen is from Concepcion and he has converted some of his land into a farm, managed by two trained farmers whose work there is supporting their church starting efforts (2 churches started in the past year). They have planted a variety of cash crops, have begun cultivating the hillsides, started a fish pond, and are raising about 40 goats for meat and milk. We are exploring the possibility of using BGR funds to expand the scope of this farm to be a training center for future farmers who would spend several weeks there learning farming techniques as well as being evangelized and equipped to carry the gospel back to their home places.

Please continue praying for the ongoing relief efforts on our island of Panay, as well as in other parts of the Philippines. I talked to one farmer who lost nearly 100% of his banana and mango trees, 80% of his coconut trees used for his copra business, and his entire spring rice crop. Small scale farmers who lost everything are dependent on benevolent handouts until their land can recover. As with most disasters of this nature, there is a lot of government corruption, so please pray against that. But on the positive side, many families are back on their feet again. Many of our pastors are reporting that their members have renewed interest in their spiritual growth. And the gospel is finding open doors in places where before there was none.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

For the Showers We Plead

It was 10 years ago when Jan and I began our cancer adventure; 7 years ago today when Jan was promoted into heaven. On this side of eternity, we can only speculate on the beauty, the glory, the majesty, and the splendor that Jan has enjoyed since her arrival in her eternal home. But no need to speculate on what has happened on this side of heaven’s gate: typhoons, tornados, bone-chilling cold, sweltering summers, diseases, accidents, moral decline, corrupt governments, liberal media, and increasing spiritual darkness. I tell people that there’s little joy in being a cancer survivor. Heaven is the happening place to be!

To survive the pains and disappointments of this world, we pray for God’s blessings, for more people to turn to Him, to be changed by Him, and to live for Him. As the old hymn tells it: “Showers of blessing. Showers of blessing we need. Mercy drops ‘round us are falling. But for the showers we plead.” And mercy drops are, indeed, falling.

Because of God’s grace, He has sent mercy drops on my family. What a blessing for me to see David teaching a Sunday School class, earning well in his work, and taking on the responsibility of a home; to see Sara nearly 6 years now at her graphics computer job with Neiman Marcus and getting up early each morning for work; to see Hannah excel at so many things as she works on her Masters degree; to see Martha gaining valuable life skills as a nurse and aiming toward the mission field; and to see Jonathan show me this week his academic honor society acceptance letter.

Because of God’s grace, He has sent mercy drops in my life. What a blessing for me to see our churches, both here and in the U.S., come together to help typhoon victims. Teams from Texas are working to rebuild an entire village just outside Roxas City where Hannah and Martha were born. What a blessing for me to see our house church leaders take responsibility for the spiritual growth of those God has brought into their lives. And, it’s been over 5 years since my little cancer recurrence/surgery back in 2008 (I guess that’s a blessing, although heaven is still a better place!).

Oh, but for the showers we plead. I get discouraged reading about the spiritual apathy and moral decline of my home country. Is America too far gone to experience a recovery and revival? I get upset when I see how our depraved western culture has contaminated the ways and minds of other countries that are still influenced by America’s dominance. Bad choices we make in the U.S. spread like a virus worldwide. But I get most disappointed at how few Christians make serious efforts to turn the tide of hell’s advance that is sweeping over our world. Jesus said that we are to be the "salt of the earth" and the "light of the world!"

How liberated Jan must feel now to be free from the powers of this present darkness. I’m looking forward to that day “when this flesh and heart shall fail, and mortal life shall cease, I shall possess, within the veil, a life of joy and peace” (5th stanza of Amazing Grace). But until then, “oh for the showers we plead.”

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Parable

You are hiking on an unfamiliar trail in the wilderness when suddenly you realize you are lost. Raging rivers and wild animals are near. You dig for your trail map in your backpack, but are unable to read it because the sun has dipped below the horizon; the sky is getting darker. But you remember your flashlight, into which you insert a new battery.

Question: What is your primary concern about the flashlight? A) does the flashlight casing have an attractive color, B) does the casing have scratches or dents, C ) does the casing have a clip for my pocket, or D) does the light bulb work?

OK, it’s a dumb question. What good is a flashlight if its light doesn’t work?

In my little parable, let’s imagine the wilderness is the world we live in. You are the flashlight casing. And the battery is the Holy Spirit. Far too many of us are focused on the outside casing, my appearance, my health, my house, my relationships, my finances, and care little about whether or not the power of the Holy Spirit is using me to guide people out of the darkness. Our prayers (too many times my prayers) are centered on what we want God to do for us, rather than what He wants to do through us.

Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.” To glorify God simply means that when others see the light of the Holy Spirit (love, joy, peace, faithfulness, self-control, etc.) shining through me, they learn something about God and get a glimpse of Him through me.

Interestingly, the greater the darkness, the easier it is to see the light. But what good to God is a Christian who, when darkness comes, cares more for the container than the content, cares more for the outside casing than the inside power? And friends, the world is getting darker…

The number of Americans who don’t believe in God has increased by 10% in just the last 4 years; the fastest rate ever recorded.

As of January 1, the Boy Scouts of America are signing up homosexually active boys who will share tents with other boy scouts.

Our government is requiring The Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic charity, to provide contraceptives and abortion drugs to its nuns.

40% of all babies in America are born by unwed mothers.

More people now believe that we evolved from monkeys rather than created by a Creator.

A New Mexico Christian photographer was forced to close his business for refusing to take wedding pictures for a homosexual couple.

A bake shop in Oregon was forced to close their business for refusing to bake a cake for a lesbian couple.

Our government is again using the IRS to silence conservative organizations that do not adhere to a liberal, non-Christian agenda.

In some states, churches who offer their sanctuary for public use can no longer refuse their church facilities for the wedding of homosexual couples.

If we have the Holy Spirit in us, then we need not wonder whether or not we have the power to be “the light of the world.” The question is, on a day to day basis, what is my focus? What am I doing to overcome the darkness? Jesus promised that if showing His light in us is our focus, then He will take care of the other things. “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, then all your daily needs will be provided.”

Sadly, too many Christians live as if the darkness is not so dark, or that maybe it will go away on its own. But a big reason God allows the darkness is to show the beauty of His light through those whose hearts are focused on Him.

As the world descends further into darkness, may your light shine bright.

P.S. Here are some nonprofit organizations I support and act through in order to “contend for the faith” and hopefully let my little light shine: (a ministry of Focus on the Family), (Liberty Council defends, in the courts, pro-family legal cases), (Media Research Council exposes the liberal biases of our mainstream media).

Friday, January 3, 2014

Holiday Happenings

After non-stop typhoon relief efforts and an intensive training this past weekend for our church leaders, I decided to start the new year with a few days of rest. The house I’m renting has a little yard that needed work when I arrived in Sept., and even more so now that it has had three months of personal neglect. So for the past 2 days I have cut trees, dug holes, transferred plants, made a flower bed, and shoveled away mounds of accumulated dirt, causing some termites to wish they lived somewhere else. This morning I awoke barely able to move. I have a very sore back, aching legs, and a sunburnt face. I’m getting old. I reckon I’m going to have to figure out a different way to rest. But the yard sure looks good!

The urgency of the typhoon relief efforts has eased a bit, although the needs of those affected are still huge. On Christmas Eve, I took the pastor of Azle Baptist Church in Texas, and his family to see the results of funds they had given for building materials. After we were sang to by dozens of children, we handed out gifts and visited a few houses that were being reconstructed. The Southern Baptists of Texas Disaster Relief team left on Dec. 20, having cleaned and repainted a computer school and handed out building materials to about 20 families. Beginning Jan. 16 until the end of March, SBTC will be sending out teams to help rebuild an entire coastal community that was devastated by the typhoon.

Last weekend we gathered at a little retreat place outside the city and spent 2 full days training, feeding, and encouraging our house church leaders. We heard testimonies from each one about how God is at work in their churches, families, and personal lives. The training we gave centered on how to start new churches from the people they have in their existing churches. Much of our time was spent on practicing the lessons with each other, having learned that it is far more effective to give 20% knowledge with 80% practice (rather than the other way around as we used to do), so that they will be ready to apply what they have learned when they return home.

I spent Christmas Day morning in two of our government hospitals handing out gifts to patients in the children’s ward. It was tough being here on this side of the planet knowing all my kids were gathered at David’s house for the holidays. But I survived with a couple of lengthy Skype calls as the kids shared what they were doing each day. Hannah and Martha head back to school in Virginia on Monday. Here’s something you might enjoy reading, . David, Hannah, and Martha were asked to give their reflections about mission work and being MKs. They had some nice things to say about their dad, which is another reason why it makes such great reading!

I hope your new year is off to a great start. Blessings to each of you who stay connected with me, my family, and our ministry work here in the Philippines.