Monday, December 31, 2007

Assimilating Scripture

Eugene Peterson has a very helpful book, seductively entitled, "Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading. You can check it out on Google Books & Amazon. Vintage Peterson, it is chock full of great quotes, like this...

Christians feed on Scripture. Holy Scripture nurtures the holy community as food nurtures the human body. Christians don't simply learn or study or use Scripture; we assimilate it, take it into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolized into acts of love, cups of cold water, missions into all the world, healing and evangelism and justice in Jesus' name, hands raised in adoration of the Father, feet washed in company with the Son [p. 18]

Do you have a plan to read and assimilate Scripture for the coming year? Whatever plan you have, whether focusing in on a few books and seeking to master them, or reading through the whole, commit yourself to seeking to know the glory of God in the face of Christ and assimilating this book. Check out these plans here and here and here.

Need some extra motivation? My son, Jason (8 years old), read through the NT in 2007 using the 5x5x5 reading plan. This is his advice:
"Make sure that you keep on schedule, and if they are any verses you like you should memorize them."

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Last Meeting of 2007

RUF/ SSA finished off the year by celebrating a Christmas dinner together. We ate chicken & rice & panatones, and we capped off the evening with a fun game nominating students for noticeable virtues. A fun time was had by all, and it was a great way to end the year. We took over 170 pics, but here is a little slide show of about 50 of them.

Special thanks to Gerardo & his wife, Isabel, and the leadership team of RUF for making this an enjoyable year.

SALI Graduates

Our San Agustin Language Institute just graduated its first class of five students. These folks have been studying for years to get to this point, and we are very proud of them.

Ana Haro Chalón
Carol Ponte Roncal
Cory Luz Marina Vásquez Valles
Juan Eduardo Quiroz Aldave
Miguel Placencia Velarde

Thanks to all the staff who have poured into this branch of our mission over the years.

This Can't Be What It's All Cracked Up To Be

From the Founder's Ministry Blog:

"Tom Brady, the 3-time Super Bowl champion quarterback of the New England Patriots was featured the week in a 60 Minutes interview with Steve Kroft on CBS. Brady is already a sports legend in one of the citadels of professional sports in America, Boston. His current team is 15-0 and is poised to finish the season undefeated, something that hasn't been done in the NFL in 35 years. He has won the Super Bowl MVP twice and been named to the Pro Bowl 4 times. He also was recently named the Associated Press' "Male Athlete of the Year."

"He has dated actresses and supermodels and makes millions of dollars a year. He has been called America's most eligible bachelor. By most popular standards, he has it all. That is why I was struck by hearing him make the following statement during the interview:

"Why do I have three Super Bowl rings and still think there's something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, 'Hey man, this is what is.' I reached my goal, my dream, my life. Me, I think, 'God, it's got to be more than this.' I mean this isn't, this can't be what it's all cracked up to be."

"When Kroft asked him, "What's the answer?" Brady responded, "I wish I knew. I wish I knew. I love playing football and I love being quarterback for this team. But at the same time, I think there are a lot of other parts about me that I'm trying to find."

Read the article.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Peru Mission Christmas Newsletter

Here is our Peru Mission Christmas Newsletter in jpg.

To click on the links, check out the newsletter here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Prayer Requests

* Praise for the apologetics class I have been teaching in Spanish which will conclude this week (which also explains the scarcity of posts on this blog). It was a good exercise for me, and I trust, very useful for our students. Pray that these students will be effective witnesses and defenders of the faith in Peru.

* Pray for continual acquisition of the language. We are conversant, but not fluent, and I think it is pretty ugly if not torturous! Since language is our primary tool, mine definitely needs sharpening and I need much more skill.

* Pray for personal holiness. This whole journey has been what my wife calls 'fast-track sanctification.' God is growing us in many ways, but we still need to grow in love, patience, trust & joy (and probably a lot of other areas that we don't know about!)

* Finally, pray for our university ministry here. Geraldo (the main campus minister) and I will be working over the Christmas break on our plan of action for the upcoming year. We will be trying to gather students into small groups, develop our philosophy of ministry, and become more effective in outreach. Pray that God would go before us, give us wisdom, and enable us to speak the Gospel in meaningful ways to the students here.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Free Audio Book: Jonathan Edwards

Not a few of you will be interested in this. In addition to having an All Saints weekend sale (which expires tonight, lo siento), the good folks over at Christian you can download the audio book of Jonathan Edwards' Religious Affections (unabridged). Fortunately, as Edwards might say(!), this offer doesn't expire tonight. During the month of November, you can download this classic work of New England spiritual theology for free. You'll need this code: NOV2007.

"God is glorified not only by His glory's being seen, but by its being rejoiced in...."

Anonymous The Coward

I hate even saying anything about this, but since "Anonymous" left the comment on my wife's blog, I feel compelled to answer. I normally don't respond to folks who leave comments but don't have the dignity or valor to back up their comments by affixing their names, but I'll make an exception here.

Here is the comment made about the Christian missionaries that was left on my wife's blog [without editing]...

protestant men dressing up as Catholic priests in a culturally Catholic country. Liars all of them. Such dishonesty should not be tolerated by those claiming to be men preachng Chirst. Deceit such as this can only be the work of the Prince of this World.

Think twice before taking on a collar! There is no need to hide you are or even by sight try to decieve the locals.

A couple observations...
1. We know that "anonymous" is a hypocrite because he said, "There is no need to hide [who] you are...." Thanks for your immaculate example.

2. Who is hiding? We are as open as we can be about who we are. Check out the websites. Read our Confession of Faith. Visit our churches. Attend our seminary classes. No one is trying to be Roman priests. Nothing is hidden.

3. Since when, "Anonymous," have you been given insight into our hearts? You charge us with deceit & dishonesty, and call us liars. Wow. Now this, to use your words, "is the work of the Prince of this world." I'm assuming that you call yourself a Christian (unless you've jettisoned that as well). So much for assuming the best about fellow believers! Have you taken the time to ask us why we do this? You may not like it, but don't attribute motives and slander us. THAT is shameful, demonic behavior.

4. Until recently, Christian ministers have always been identified by ministerial clothing, Romanists, Orthodox, & Protestant. Many Protestant ministers outside of Baptist and Pentecostal circles still "take on the collar." And there is good reason to continue this practice. For those who might care to be informed on this, the Rev. Jeff Meyers (presbyterian minister) has two excellent posts of this here and here. Again, "Anonymous," you are spouting your ignorance.

5. If you have bones to pick, leave the comments on my blog and leave my wife alone, especially if you don't have the guts to leave your name.

6. And finally, "Anonymous", you simply need to repent. And I'll be glad to post your apology along with your name and extend grace and forgiveness.

For my other readers, I'm sorry about doing this here. I have mixed feelings about doing so. I hope you understand.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Prayer Requests

* As some of you know, my father is in the middle of a battle with cancer. He is about 20 days into his first round of 26 treatments with radiation and chemotherapy, and he is fairly weakened from it. Please pray for strength, endurance, faith, & healing. It is frustrating for us to be so far away, though I may be able to travel to the US in December when he is supposed to have surgery to remove a tumor.

* While not nearly as serious (and I feel a little silly requesting this in light of what my dad is going through), I have had an upper respiratory infection since the middle of September. It bothers me mostly in the morning and at night, though I have coughing fits during the day too. Our friend from Illinois, Dr. Doolittle, examined me about two weeks ago when he was here and said that there is no evidence of pneumonia. At any rate, I have need for strength, endurance, faith, & healing as well.

* In the previous post, I mentioned my seminary in Apologetics that I'm teaching. A lot if not most of the concepts would be challenging to communicate in English, let alone Spanish. Pray for my language acquisition and continued development, and pray for my students as well that God would grant them insight, a love for the Gospel, and greater abilities to engage our culture as they participate in proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom of Christ.

Reformed Biblical Seminary

I want to take just a moment to get you all up to speed about our Fall semester with Reformed Biblical Seminary (or, Seminario Biblico Reformado). The semester kicked off on Sept. 30th with a convocation service at our church in Larco. My ol' friend and classmate from Texas A&M, Wes Baker (pictured to the right), preached on Jesus as our model Shepherd.

Right now we have a handful of classes. Wes is teaching Liturgics (Worship), Allen Smith is teaching Hebrew 1, Bill Bradford is teaching Greek & Reformation History, and I am teaching apologetics.

Apologetics is a course on defending the faith against objections. I am enjoying it, though it is eating my lunch! Most of my time every week is spent studying, writing out my notes, translating my notes, reviewing my translation with my conversation partner, and teaching. My Spanish is very ugly, I know, so I've told my students that part of the design of the course is to increase their sanctification, especially in the area of patience.

Speaking of our students, I have anywhere from 5-10 students, depending on the day, week, holidays, etc. Several university students sit in on the class as time permits, including one non-Christian. One of our desires is to see God raise up future ministers and campus ministers, especially from our campus ministry, so please pray accordingly.

Here is a photo from the commencement service....

From left to right: Allen Smith, Bill Bradford, Yours Truly, & Wes Baker.

Heather's post is here.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Screwtape is in NYC?

I've never really wanted to go to NYC, that is, until now. The Screwtape Letters are being performed on stage by the celebrated Max McLean (be sure to click on the video for a sneak preview). McLean is the voice behind various editions of the Listener's Bible, The Valley of Vision, and Classics of the Christian Faith.

The Screwtape Letters
is the classic work of CS Lewis, Oxford literary scholar and author of numerous books including Mere Christianity and The Chronicles of Narnia. In The Screwtape Letters, a senior demon, Screwtape, gives demonic advice to his newphew, Wormword, about how to keep his patient--who just became a Christian--on the wrong path.

"My dear Wormword, You mentioned in your last letter that the patient has continued to attend one church, and one only, since he was converted, and that he is not wholly pleased with it. May I ask what you are about? Why have I no report on the causes of his fidelity to the parish church? Do you realise that unless it is due to indifference it is a very bad thing? Surely you know that if a man can't be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighbourhood looking for the church that 'suits' him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches."

At any rate, I'm glad that Max McLean has this opportunity to bring this classic to life. Providential blessings! This could be enough to get me to say, "I 'heart' NYC!"

[I do hope this will be available to a broader audience in some format.]

Friday, October 26, 2007

Arequipa, Part 3: What to do with Mary?

While visiting the Monestary of Santa Catalina in Arequipa, I came across a great room of three halls (in the shape of a Cross) lined with art work from over the last several centuries. Some of it was simply breathtaking. (The above photo would be at the foot of these three long hallways).

My pictures didn't come out very well because we were not permitted to use a flash, but you can see here an interesting set of paintings. The one above is a picture of God creating the world, and the one below it is a series of paintings about the Garden of Eden. Now take a closer look at the second painting....

Do you notice anything curious? Or perhaps suspicious? The picture portrays God the Father instructing Adam & Eve regarding the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil. But who is that behind the Father? Here is a close up...

That's right. The Blessed Virgin Mary. What is she doing there? in the Garden of Eden at the creation of the world? My Bible doesn't say anything about that.

My (American) Roman Catholic friends will tell me that this is simply a misguided artist and this isn't official Roman Catholic teaching. But I think Rome sends mixed signals. For example, the RCC Catechism 971 says, "The Church's devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship." Then in the next breath it says that the devotion given to Mary is different than the adoration given to the Trinity.

And then there's folks like Scott Hahn, the poster-child for protestant converts to Rome. He is everywhere acknowledged as one of the great communicators and popularizers of Rome's teachings. I have his book, Hail, Holy Queen, and have been reading it. Listen to what he says, "God is a family...God's covenant family is perfect lacking nothing. The Church looks to God as Father, Jesus as Brother...What's missing, then? In truth, nothing. Every family needs a mother. For a family is incomplete without a loving mother." Hence, Mary. [pp. 19, 27; italics added.]

He goes on to speak of her "mystical marriage to God who is at once her Father, her Spouse, and her Son" (p. 38). You'd almost get the notion that she is the third member of the Trinity. But, he didn't say that, did he? He didn't have to. If we worship the Father & the Son, why not worship the Mother? Why not give her divine attributes if she is a part of the divine family? In reality, lots of folks do. They understand perfectly clearly what is being said.

It is not uncommon to talk to folks here in Peru who treat Mary as the third member of the Trinity. Or better yet, as the mediator between humanity and an angry Father and angry Son. BUT, the above picture and endorsed and celebrated Roman teachers are indicative of the omnipresent tendency within Roman Catholicism to exalt Mary.

Or take the example of the influential St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori (1696-1787), bishop and Doctor of the Roman Church. From his book, The Glories of Mary, (which I also have and which can still be bought on Amazon; it has a Five Star rating, BTW!) in which he teaches among other things the omnipotency of Mary (p. 96), he offers this prayer in a section of teaching called, "Mary is an Advocate Who is Able to Save Everybody",

"We are great sinners, but God has enriched you with mercy and power far greater than our iniquities. You are both able and willing to save us; and the more unworthy we are, the more we shall hope in you in order to reach heaven ourselves and to glorify you there...You have only to open your lips and ask your son. He will deny you nothing. Pray, then, O Mary, pray for us!"

Or his prayer from the Catholic Forum:
"I worship thee, great Queen...; most of all do I thank thee for having saved me from hell, which I had so often deserved. I love thee, Lady most worthy of all love, and, by the love which I bear thee, I promise ever in the future to serve thee, and to do what in me lies to win others to thy love. In thee I put all my trust, all my hope of salvation."

[Aside: How is it that Martin Luther was condemned as a heretic and anathematized, and Ligouri is celebrated, canonized (made into a Saint) by Pope Gregory XVI in 1831 and made a Doctor of the RCC in 1871 by Pope Pius IX? Come on, Rome!!!]

Now, for the average Protestant, or for that matter, for any Christian who takes the Scriptures seriously, this is beyond just plain silly. This is pretty much a textbook case of, say, blasphemy. This makes every fiber of our being cringe. When will the Pope B16 come out and quash this nonsense??? Of course, the answer is he can't, at least without losing his power base.

So what do we do? I think most Protestants swing to the other extreme and have nothing to do with Mary, the mother of Jesus. I think this is a mistake. Just like Christians love and honor St. Paul, or St. Peter, or St. Augustine, or St. Anselm, or St. John Calvin, so we can love and honor Santa Maria. Jesus loved her and honored her. And there is no reason we cannot do this. Just because people abuse her (and I do think the above would qualify for this--I think she would be embarrassed!) doesn't mean that we should leave her to their abuse. We need nothing less than a Reformation of true honor and true love for Mary.

If you are interested, I recently read a simple, balanced, & sane approach to the subject of Mary. It is called The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christians Can Embrace the Mother of Jesus by Scot McKnight. He says from the start that this is a book about Mary for Protestants, though I'm convinced that it would be a welcome relief for weary and misled Roman Catholics. I enthusiastically recommend it.

"Why write a book for Protestants about Mary? Here's why: Because the story about the real Mary has never been told. The Mary of the Bible has been hijacked by theological controversies whereby she has become a Rorschach inkblot in which theologians find whatever they wish to find. In the midst of this controversy the real Mary has been left behind. It is time to let her story be told again....Because the real Mary always leads us to Jesus."

Mary is indeed blessed among women, she whose soul glorified the Lord and whose spirit rejoiced in God her Savior (the Magnificat, Luke 2). Any serious Christian can and ought to join their voice in calling her blessed.

Arequipa, Part 2: The Monestary

While in Arequipa, I did a little exploring. I came across the Monasterio de Santa Catalina. This was a convent founded in 1579 under the Dominican order and is considered to be one of the most important and impressive religious monuments in
Peru. It resembles a small village behind walls in the middle of the city with lots of nooks and cranies. It was interesting to imagine what life must have been like.

The convent was largely a mystery until 1970 when local authorities made the convent install modern infrastructures. Interest was sparked and it was opened for tourism. Originally, more than 200 nuns were sequestered here, though now only around 30 live in the convent behind walls and away from the public.

For $30, I got to wander around by myself for about 3 hours, taking lots of pics, and enjoying some solitude. Must have been nice!

I loved the contrast of the buildings with the beautiful clear blue skies of Arequipa.

This was how they washed clothes!

This is one of many rooms where you could kneel on one of the comfy kneelers and prayer to a statue (if you are into that sort of thing, and are so inclined).

This is a typical kitchen with charred walls.

This is a typical room, though this one was atypical in that it had chairs and a desk.

Below is a picture of the confessionals. This is where nuns would confess their sins to priests who were on the other side of the wall. This is the closest they would come to outsiders and to the sound of a man's voice. I wonder how popular these confessionals were?

Arequipa, Part 1: Language School

We moved here to Trujillo without having attended language school in order to learn it the old fashioned way. I'm glad we did it this way, but we did miss out on being able to focus only on Spanish for a period of time. Here in Trujillo, my time is divided among (1) Peruvians, (2) the interns with our SALI language institute and also with various meeting with the mission team, and (3) my family. So easily two-thirds of my life has been spent with "the Gringos" and hence in English.

In the middle of September, my wife and the Mission Team gave me permission to head to the south of Peru to spend two weeks in intensive language school. I attended the Casa de Avila language school which met outside everyday in a bright, sunny courtyard with near perfect temperature (lower 70s and clear blue skies)!

Here is a picture of Marta & me. She was my house mother from whom I rented a room. She was super sweet and very interested in our work as a mission.

As a somewhat jaded & discouraged Roman Catholic, she kept asking me when our Mission was going to come to Arequipa to help the people of Arequipa. Every morning for breakfast, she asked great questions about what we believed and what the Bible said and about the Gospel. She was frustrated because in her experience, her church doesn't really teach anything and it is impossible to have a conversation with a priest to ask questions. Our breakfasts always ended too quickly. She was a great encouragement. She sent me off one day saying, "Learn more Spanish so you can teach us better!" That memory sustains me often.

Here are some pics of the Plaza de Armas. Nearly every city in Peru has a downtown plaza with a Roman church or cathedral, restuarants, government building, etc. Arequipians are very proud of theirs. It is truly one of the most impressive that I have seen.

And to close with, here are some pics of my spanish teachers. Every day, I had an hour and a half with one professor, and then another hour and a half with another professor. We always went over this time, and I received almost four hours a day of instruction, five days a week for two weeks, or for a total of about 40 hours. I think it was well worth it to be able to escape English speakers and immerse myself and clarify some very fuzzy thinking in my mind with this language.

Thanks Janette & Juliana!

Colton's B-day

This is really late, but as promised, I'm going to post some pics of Colton-boy's Bday. We had a great time ushering in his 8th birthday as you can tell....

It's hard to believe that we don't have any 7 year olds left in the house. We are so proud of him. He has really grown and matured a lot in this year.

Heather, who has been blogging circles around me, has entries here and here for his bday (in case you haven't seen her blog).

Back in the Saddle...

Hey folks,

I know, it's been waaaay too long since I've blogged here. I'm sorry. Life has been pretty much turned upside down in the last month and a half. I went in mid September to Arequipa for two weeks of intense language study before the beginning of our seminary classes (the main tidal wave that has hit my ship!).

I'm teaching a course on Apologetics, that is, the defense of the faith. I'm teaching it in Spanish! Kinda of. Its pretty ugly, I suspect, but its happening.

My wife is in Santiago, Chile, this weekend for a missionary wives in South America conference. She is there with Jami Baker and Allen Bradford as well.

So, along with hanging out with the kids this weekend, I plan to get some updating done on the blog. I know that if you don't update your blog, you lose your readership. I hope to get you back, so stay tuned....

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Did You Know...Shift Happens?

Another version of it can be viewed here.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Teaching at RUF

With Geraldo gone in Lima for the last several weeks, I have filled in with the teaching & preaching responsibilities. The first week I taught on Mark 2, the passage where the paralytics friends lower him into the house where Jesus was, and Jesus both healed him physically & spiritually. I talked about the new hope & transformation that Jesus brings.

This past week, I spoke from James 4 and Psalm 39 and the shortness of life. We picked up the two images the Scriptures give us in this passage--that of a vapor and of a breath--and reflected on what our lives meant in light of these two metaphors.

Here are some pics from last week. Enjoy.

Heather Campbell & Pablo Quiroz Battling It Out

Heather & our new SALI intern, Jamie Elkin.

Crowd Mixer Led by Pablo

Yours truly, Clara Lee, & Percy

Life is a Vapor

Celebrating Joshua & Pablo's Birthdays

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Justin boy is 12 years old....

Well, since today is Colton's birthday, I was reminded that I hadn't posted anything from Justin's bday party a few weeks ago so I better do it before I get in (more) trouble. Justin is 12 years old, and as they say here, No puedo creerlo--I can't believe it!. So here goes (I'll post pics of Colton's party after we have it!):

Here is a picture of Justin vanquishing his 16 year old foe at Twister.

Here is the female contingent and Abby sporting her prize for winning a game.

Here's Justin with his buds opening a present.

Here are some participants getting their game-face on.

And this was a crowd favorite: Ninja, Warrior, & Indian (Kinda like Rock, Paper, & Scissors, but more fun).

Happy Birthday Justin! We love you!!!