Our Generation Summit 2014

The next couple of days I am involved in the Our Generation Summit put on by Vision Baptist Missions.

Creative Access Nations

Yesterday, the first day of the summit, included a “getting started” session and then we broke up into workshop groups for a couple of hours. I attended a session by a missionary in a “creative access nation” (what we sometimes call a closed country). The missionary talked about various ways missionaries get into these countries legally and how they stay. He mainly focused the effectiveness of the creative ways we get into these nations. Many of these countries can be entered by being a businessman or teacher, but many missionaries who go in these capacities don’t fulfill the real work to which they are called.

It is not wrong to enter into a country legally, but he said that only about 5% of missionaries who go in a tent-making capacity to a field are actually involved in church planting. Yet, 80% of them are supported by churches for the purpose of winning souls, making disciples, and planting churches. Many missionaries can easily get caught up in the day-to-day work that they think they have to do to justify being in the country without doing the work for which they were sent.

What is a Christian Nation?

The second session I attended was taught by my friend Jason Holt, missionary in Chile. Jason spoke about what it means when we say a country is a Christian nation and why they still need missionaries. When tabulating statistics around the world, “Christians” are considered to be anyone who has the Bible as a basis (or loose basis) of their religion. This would include Catholics, Jehovah’s Witness, Mormons, and Charismatics. While some of these people may be saved, as Bible believing Christians, we don’t believe the majority are. Therefore, we can’t assume that these “reached” countries are no longer in need of the Gospel.

The Summit

In my mind, the purpose of the summit was focused on high school and college aged young people who want to get a greater burden for reaching the world in our generation. And, for the most part, the demographics are that specific group of people. However, there are plenty of people who are middle aged looking for the same results. I would encourage any pastor, missionary or young person who has a burden–or needs a burden–for missions plan to attend the summit in the future.

If you are reading this while the summit is still in session, you may be able to catch some of the sessions being live-streamed.

Merry Christmas 2013!

At the Christmas Eve service last night the pastor talked about how last year’s Christmas Eve service seemed like it was only a month ago. I completely agree! This year has been so packed with activities it is hard to believe that it has gone by so quickly.

Monday I went to the retirement home and read Christmas stories to the residents. It is a good group of ladies who come to hear me read. We have been reading The Book of Missionary Heroes, but I wanted to do something special for the ladies because of Christmas. I read Gift of the Magi, Twas the Night Before Christmas, The Elves and the Shoemaker, What Christmas Is as We Grow Older, Luke 2:1-20, and Matthew 1 and 2 (the pertinent parts).

Christmas seems different to me this year. I hear people talk all the time about the “reason for the season.” Of course, as a Christian, I know what is meant. But I have reflected quite a bit on what Christmas is all about for those who do not believe in the truths of the Bible. What is the point of Christmas for them? Obviously it is a festive time for everyone, but it seems that mere festivities would be an empty reason for a holiday. But, I guess it would be like people celebrating Cinco de Mayo in the US who have no idea what the purpose of the celebration is all about (and, no, it is not Mexico’s Independence). You can celebrate someone else’s holiday without really being a part of everything that the holiday means.

I trust that God will use this time to help them reflect on the purpose of the holiday.

May God richly bless you and your family as you celebrate Christmas this year.

I leave you with a great video of the poem, Twas the Night Before Christmas. No sound, but you can figure it out. The better you are with sign language the funnier the story is.

What Christians Want to Know

I have been given the opportunity to share my writing on What Christians Want to Know. It is a new website dedicated to encouraging and equipping Christians in their daily walk with the Lord. Every few days you will see one of my articles over there along with the articles of a couple of other writers.

Please take some time to see what the website is all about. The article that appears at the top of the page now is one I wrote about following God’s call to the mission field. If you want to look at all of my articles at the website, you can read through my author page which will be updated each time one of my articles appears.

Tierra Santa in Buenos Aires

Wailing Wall

A couple of weeks ago we went to a Bible based theme park in Buenos Aires called Tierra Santa. A friend mentioned it at church and so we decided to jump on a bus and make a day trip. We were there on opening day for their winter hours this season. That means that they were open earlier in the morning and close earlier than they do in the summer. For us that works out well since we didn’t want to be out too late on public transportation.

Aren't we a cute couple?

When you first arrive you are hooked up with a tour group by going into a manger scene and watching an animatronics rendition of the nativity. Though having live actors would have been much better, this wasn’t bad. There was a dramatic soundtrack with nice music (they ended the program with the Hallelujah Chorus in English). The lights were done in such a way as to draw your attention to where it needed to be at the moment. The theater itself was inside their “Mt. Calvary” so we had to go through a cave entrance to get in.

Our boy as a Roman soldier

That program runs every 15 or 20 minutes. As soon as you walk in the gate you are instructed to form a group to go into the manger program. This funnels all the visitors into groups that get led through the park. We were given an overview of what we would see through the park by our tour guide (dressed as a Franciscan monk). We stayed together as a group for about 30 minutes as he walked us through the streets of Jerusalem and showed us the highlights.

At the end of the tour we were taken in to see another dramatic program which was the scene in the upper room. Again, the program was well done, but I would have preferred live actors.

Our daughter in front of the Bleeding Heart Jesus

After the upper room scene we were given about an hour to eat lunch and free time to explore the park before we were to meet our guide again. Somehow we missed the group and spent the rest of the day wandering around by ourselves. The guide was to take us to one more show as a group before setting us free. We were able to get in on the rest of the shows throughout the park without any problem.

It is not a huge park, but they have maximized their space well. There are something like 35 or 40 different Bible scenes depicted using fiberglass and stucco figures. There were several restaurants which weren’t too badly priced.

Mt. Calvary
Mt. Calvary

It has a Catholic slant on things. So there were some exhibits and teachings that are not in the Bible at all. There were even some things that were taught from an authoritative position that I did not even know were Catholic teaching. So I learned something new about their beliefs.

I just checked the Tierra Santa website and see that the ticket prices have gone up a couple of dollars since we were there a week and a half ago. Currently the cost to get in is $40 Argentine pesos per adult. That is $10 USD.

Christ on the Cross

One of my favorite parts of the tours and shows was listening to the narrator. He spoke with a generic Spanish accent (certainly not an Argentine one). But it seemed like he was probably originally from Spain. Even though there was no definition in his voice, he still spoke with a slight Spanish lithp.

I showed my American pride at one point. Fortunately it was not in front of a group of other people. Just the family knew at the time. There was an exhibit commemorating Martin Luther. I wanted to get over and see that one to see what the Argentines had to say about the man. I was a little surprised to see a short, plump white man in a bath robe. My mind kept thinking of Martin Luther King, Jr. when I read the name on the exhibit map.


Change of thinking to get back on track (Part 5)

I have gathered little nuggets of good thinking that has helped me along my way of getting in shape and losing weight. I have tried to remember many of them to write here, but some of them have become so ingrained in me that I don’t even remember what my thought process was before I learned them.

Get a Cheerleader
Since getting in shape was more a spiritual matter to me than a physical one, I did not want to make a big deal out of it to everyone around me. However, there were key people who were a tremendous help to me. I think everyone needs to find a cheerleader–someone to pat you on the back and tell you how well your doing then gently remind you of your new lifestyle and how eating a box of jelly doughnuts does not fit any more.

For me, that cheerleader was my sister-in-law. She too had gone through a body transformation and knew the work it took to get there. She constantly told me how proud she was of what I was doing. She also pushed me to do a little bit more than I thought I could. I have to admit making her proud didn’t matter to me one bit, but the fact that she said that made me feel good about myself.

If you can get someone, especially someone you respect, to become that cheerleader it will be a big help. If you want to spiritualize it a bit more don’t use the word ‘cheerleader,’ instead talk about that person providing ‘accountability.’ To me accountability focuses on the negative while a cheerleader focuses on the positive. I like the positive.

Do more good than bad
I think it was Scott Smith over at Motivation to Move who I heard say that if we do more good than bad then we will be headed the right direction (or something like that). Some people feel like if they miss a goal, or eat one too many cookies, or miss a day of exercise, then they are doomed. However, if you only occasionally mess up, then you are not completely undone, you just made a mistake. Get over it and move on.

It is true that if I always do the exercises I plan to do and eat good, healthy food then I can accomplish my goals. However, if I make a mistake I might set myself back by a day or two. But I do not need to throw in the towel and quit. I used to be like that. I would let one bad day ruin me. The truth is, yesterday was a bad day for me as far as food goes. I did my exercises that I had planned, but I ate every cookie I could find and could not stop snacking. That doesn’t mean I can’t get to where I want to go, it just means I have delayed my arrival a bit. I hate that. But I am not ruined, only delayed.

I think it was also Scott Smith who I heard say that if you have not eaten in 3 hours, then you are back on your diet. If you do poorly for a meal or a snack then don’t wait until the next day or the next week to get back on track. You can be back on track the very next meal. A box of doughnuts doesn’t have to ruin everything. Just wipe the Krispy Kreame glaze off your face and move forward.

Protect yourself against your weaknesses
Book coverI read The Ultimate Weight Solution by Dr. Phil a few years ago. It was a good book. Not sure I agree with everything, but there were two things I learned in the book that really helped me know how to protect myself against poor thinking.

First I learned that I am a “social eater.” I think he talked about different types of eating habits. I don’t remember any of them other than my struggle is that I like to eat when I am around others. Some people can go to a party or church fellowship and eat just like they would eat at home, but not me. I want to enjoy everything that everyone else is eating. If there is food left, then I feel obligated to help clean up. Do you know how devastating that type of thinking is to someone who travels to churches that put on elaborate pot-luck dinners just because he is there? Tough! This is the reason I mentioned in a previous post that my worst day of the week to measure and record my weight was Thursday. Every Wednesday after church we would have cookies and cokes. The pull to eat until everything was gone did me in every week. Therefore I chose to ignore what my weight was the next 2 or 3 days. I would not let that negative period of the week pull me down.

Knowing this is my weakness has helped me curb my eating a bit. But I still really struggle with it. Since I am a social eater, I also have a different problem. When I am alone, I don’t eat much. That’s not healthy either.

Find out what situations cause you to eat in an unhealthy manner and try to avoid them if you can, or at least be aware that you are entering a potentially tough situation and be on guard in your eating.

The second thing I learned from that book is that often people around us don’t want us to change. While no one would say that they want you to stay fat and unhealthy, they often do things to keep you that way. No grandmother wants her children to go away from the table hungry. Most of the time you make your family feel uncomfortable when you start changing for the better. First it makes them feel guilty and then it makes them jealous. You will probably hear negative remarks from your family members. They may be saying things in jest, but those negative comments can be biting to you. Be aware that this may happen. Protect yourself mentally from it by arming yourself with the knowledge that this may happen and it isn’t unusual. You can stay positive through the negativity.

Food journaling
It is highly recommended that you write down what you stick in your mouth. You will be surprised as to how much you actually put down your neck if you also put it down on paper. Don’t just guess at what you are eating, write it down and be amazed.

I have never actually journaled my food. I am afraid to. But I have read it can be very motivating. It is certainly worth a try if you are stalled when you think you should be progressing. Maybe you are eating much more than you realize.

Beware the plateau
Everyone loves to see the numbers on the scale or the tape measure go down. But sometimes it seems like everything stalls out. Realize that the plateaus will come. Just keep doing what is right and you will accomplish your goals.

For me I saw a strange trend in my numbers. I think it was coincidence, but it may have been something that I was subconsciously doing. After I had lost about 30 lbs. I noticed that I lost down to 242 easily. But breaking below 240 was tough. Same thing with 232 and 230. I went back in my logs and saw the same thing happened at 250 and 260. I seemed to stall out for a couple of weeks and not break under that magic 10 digit. Then, just as magically, I would lose from 232 to 224 in a little over a week. Losing 8 lbs. in a week is not something you should ever try to do, but it happened to me twice. Normally it was 3 to 5 lbs. in a magic week. Those are plateaus. You struggle to get under them but seemingly get nowhere. Then BOOM! all of a sudden you drop several pounds. That is motivating.

Make it a matter of prayer
I realize that not all my readers are Christians. My reasons for getting in shape probably don’t apply to you. However, those who do believe in God let me ask you a question. If God made you and has a purpose for your life, don’t you think He would want you to be healthy? God does not make everyone healthy. There are people who are afflicted with horrible situations for His glory (the blind man in John 9). But if you are neglecting to do what is good and healthy to the body God gave you then your physical problems may not be because He wants glory from them. Your problems are a result of you neglecting the body that He provided (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20).

On a recent trip I had a roommate who said to me, “I can do something that God can’t.” That was shocking. Then he followed it up by saying, “God can’t exercise my body. I have to do it.” God made us free-will beings allowing us to make good and bad choices. I want to make good choices. Does this mean I do everything right with my eating and exercise now? No. But I am working on it. I want to encourage you to do the same.

Ask God to help you take care of your body. To give up and say that you can’t lose weight or get in shape is equivalent to you saying you don’t believe God can help you do it. It will still be work, but with God helping you then I am certain it won’t seem so difficult.

Thanks for taking the time to read these posts. I hope they have been an encouragement to you. I have been meaning to write about some of these things for a while. I am glad I have finally been able to get them written. This has also been a help to me to process where I have come from and how to get back to where I want to be. While I have gone through all of this once, it is a lifestyle change. I need to get back to that good healthy lifestyle.

Have you read the first post?