*This is part 3 of a series of excerpts from my journal documenting my recent trip to South East Asia
We are completing the God’s Plan For Church Planting course this morning with the group. Each student is doing a final presentation of their personal church planting strategy. They are going through the 4 points of Evangelize, Establish, Equip and Expand. As they are completing their 7-10 minute presentation, our translator asked that we would lay hands on each one and pray over them and commission them to their respective regions and people groups.
I just prayed for one of the guys and I felt Jesus strongly. As I put my hands on his shoulders, I just felt the power of God upon him. Wow I’m not even sure what else to say about that.
About halfway through, we presented certificates to all the students since Tim had to catch a plane at noon. We took pictures of all the students holding up their certificates.
We prayed for the first few students but since then, they have begun to pray for each other. It is a powerful thing to witness.
We’ve been keeping the presentations to a maximum of 10 minutes and some of the students are eager and hit the 10 minute mark. One of the guys in the front has been keeping track of time for us through the whole training and when time is up, he emphatically rings his bell!
After we completed the training and said our goodbyes to the group, Sherman and I went back to the hotel for a short rest before heading out to Bogyoke Market. This has been one of the most intense parts of the trip so far. We walked around the market and picked up some gifts. We saw street vendors, beggars and all types of people in the streets. You see VERY few Westerners in Yangon. I guess that is why the street vendors are not overly obnoxious. Surprisingly, most could speak decent English…good enough to bargain a price with you!
We saw this boy on the street doing finger paintings which were absolutely phenomenal. He was doing them so quickly. Literally he was making these beautifully detailed and colorful paintings in less than 10 minutes. He was selling them for a dollar a piece! Sherman bought 3 and I bought 2.
I was telling Sherman that Burma has a unique smell. I could pick it up everywhere we went. I told him that it is too bad that my camera can’t capture smell!
We stopped for dinner and had great conversation about many different subjects. Somehow we brought up Watchman Nee and I asked Sherman if he had read Sit, Walk, Stand. He said no but he had something better than that. He said he met him in Oakland when he was about 9 years old. He said that he remembers clearly meeting him and what he will never forget was how humble he was.
The market was so much to take in. It was pretty overwhelming since it was my first experience in a 3rd world country. It was definitely a sobering experience seeing the extreme poverty and the way people live on a daily basis and how much I take for granted.
Today has been quite an adventure already. After breakfast, Sherman and I headed to the Shwedagon Pagoda. It was absolutely immense and something you have to experience first hand to fully understand. There is the main structure which is hundreds of feet tall, then within the complex there are tons of smaller temple-like structures and hundreds of golden statues of Buddah. I just watched as the people sat and worshippped, prayed and meditated before the statues. Some would constantly pour water over the Buddah and washed it. We saw monks walking through and many would talk to people to practice their English. There were very actually very few Westerners there and I found that to be refreshing. It seems like as soon as a country gets flooded with tourism, everything becomes commercialized. You really get the feel of genuine culture in this country.
We sat down in one spot for awhile just to watch the people walk by. I haven’t had the opportunity to see a lot of children but every time I do, I fall in love. Asian children are beautiful. I got a few great pics of kids walking by.
It was was profound to see the dichotomy of the poverty of the people of this country and the wealth that has gone into building, maintaining and expanding this pagoda. If all of the money that was poured into this place was used to feed the poor, the situation would be so different here. But the oppressive government controls every aspect of society. It was saddening. Here is a short video clip I took there:
Sherman and I returned to the hotel and took a 10 minute walk to the river. On the way, every few feet I saw people selling everything from food, tires, tools and random trinkets. There are tons of vendors on every block.
We made it down to the harbor and watched the men loading and unloading the supplies from boats. There were smaller river taxis taking people back and forth across the Yangon River. We sat out and watched the people work for awhile. As we walked back, I noticed strings on the street level that went up to apartments on different floors. It looked like it could have been a way to either let someone know that you are downstairs or to send something up. Either way, it is ingenuity at its finest. It was just fascinating to observe the different aspects of how they live.
Our translator from the training came to pick us up at 1pm and since his car was being repaired, we took a taxi to the Yangon Education Center for the Blind. A lady from his church works there and took us on a tour through the classrooms. We had an opportunity to meet with the principal of the school and she told us that there were over 160 students enrolled. They teach them up through middle school, then they go into public school. They are taught a trade in the school as well. The women learn basket weaving and sowing, the boys learn to work with bamboo and both boys and girls learn Japanese massage.
It was pretty intense walking through the classrooms and observing the blind children. My heart broke to see these beautiful children and know that they could not see us. One class sang the ABCs for us. We went into a few different classrooms and watched them working with braile machines. In one of the classrooms, the teacher was blind as well.
We went over to where they were doing the Japanese massage. They were offering a one hour massage for $7 US! I told the lady there that in the US they charge $35 for half an hour! We also got to see the guys working with the bamboo. They made these intricately woven stools that I know took hours of work and they were selling them for $5 US.
On the same grounds as the school, we visited the Myanmar YWAM base. We met the director and another guy from Switzerland that runs the school with him. After Sherman shared what we do, we came to find that this base focuses on church planting as well.
The conversation we had here was one of the most profound ones that I’ve had in my life. The guy from Switzerland was sharing that how when the students come in, one of the first things he has to do is to deprogram them of many things that they learned which are not “supra-cultural principles”, Tim calls them. He said that the missionaries are to be honored for bringing in the gospel and laying the foundation, but they also brought in their culture and put that on the people, robbing them of their culture. In the courses, they try to establish the mindset that the church is not a building and they can meet anywhere to worship God. That they are not required to sing hymns associated with any particular denomination and they can sing traditional Burmese songs to worship God. That they are not required to forfeit their culture when they come to Christ. He talked about how when missionaries came in, they saw that when the people would play their harp they would worship the spirit of the harp. Needless to say, the missionaries did not like that and told them that they could not use their instruments rather than show them how they could redeem that and use it to worship Christ.
He shared how there were many limitations on where foreigners could even go within the country. He said that this has been a blessing in disguise. He said that this has forced them to train indigenous leaders to bring the gospel to the areas that we cannot go.
He had some interesting things to say about Buddism as well. He said that if you study out the writings most of what Buddah talks about, Jesus fulfilled. He said that if Christians understood more about Buddism, they could more effectively reach the people.
The conversation made me realize how significant it was to hear how the group in the training we just completed really GOT IT. These foundational principles outlined in the Bible are so simple when you remove all that the Western church has brought in.
It was great to hear what they were doing with YWAM and share what we were there doing. It was really profound to hear the perspective from another foreigner who has been living in the country and in the culture for awhile. It really helped me understand the significance of the work we were there to do.
When we left, our translator took us to an authentic Burmese restaurant. The food was really good and really cheap. When the bill came, I asked how much I owed. He said it was about $8.50 US and when I started to give that much, he said “No, for all 3 of us.” I was like whoa! Everywhere we went, the food was delicious and cheap!
He was also just sharing his vision that he has for Burma. He wants to find 15-20 serious Christians that want to plant churches in the Karin villages. It is one of the most unreached people groups in Burma. He is half Burmese and half Karin and definitely has a heart for his people. He wants to do the church planting course with that group and commission them out to the Karin people. He definitely has an apostolic anointing. He has a ton of connections and a lot of influence in the Christian community.
We got to talking about worship and he asked if people in my church get slain in the Spirit. He has a Baptist background (like the majority of Christians here that have gone through Bible school) so I answered very carefully. :) He said that due to the Baptist background and Buddist culture, most Burmese Christians are not very emotional. However, he said that we do have to worship God with our emotions as well as our mind.
We took a cab back to the hotel and we stopped by the Baptist Convention Center. We went to see where he records his weekly 15 minute radio program for Lutheran broadcasting network. He took us to the printing press on the grounds where they print all of their materials. He showed us his church but said he isn’t able to go regularly since he frequently has speaking engagements in other churches.
It’s been quite a full day so even though we got back to the hotel at 5pm, I told Sherman that I was fine to relax for the rest of the evening. Almost 4 pages of journaling and we didn’t even do any ministry!
*This is part 2 of a series of excerpts from my journal documenting my recent trip to South East Asia
I just arrived at the building where the training is taking place. They introduced me to the group and I said a few words. I can’t describe how humbling it was to look out to those faces. Men and woman that are willing to be beaten, jailed and even killed for bringing the gospel to their people.
It is amazing to watch Tim teach, our translator relay the message and see the group engaged. They are pouring over the church planting manual. We’re doing an interactive part where each person is answering questions from each lesson. Everyone is very well spoken and the principals they are expressing are right on the money. You would be hard-pressed to find these kind of answers from leaders in the western church. This is inspiring!
Lunch consisted of curried chicken, sweet sausage, green beans and white rice. It was amazing! We ate with our translator (I won’t share his name for his protection). I found out that he has a healing anointing. I can tell he is filled with the Spirit. He has a quiet authority on him.
The training was a great success today. Both Tim and Sherman felt that this may have been the best training yet. They said how they were being taught as the group answered the questions with a profound simplicity.
The time change caught up to me at about 4pm as I was struggling to keep my eyes open. Once we hit a stopping point, a few people stayed after to talk to us. One guy showed us picture of him using the manual to teach others in his church. Tim was elated! He said “Look at that, we didn’t even ask them to do that.” He said, “Usually you have to pay people to do that.” To which our translator quipped, “No support, no report!” Another one of the women in our group was the first Christian in her village and she has led 10 people to Christ!
This has been quite a bit to reflect on for my first day!
I was asked to share the devotion this morning. I’ve been praying about what to share and I’ve decided to talk about the two accounts of Mary & Martha in the book of John. I pray that I am able to convey it with the same impact as when I first heard it from Cory Russell.
I met the guys downstairs for breakfast. Breakfast here is like a dinner meal. There was fried rice, noodles, pork & chicken. The drip coffee isn’t all that good so I’m going to be trying my Starbucks Via (instant coffee).
I’m a little overwhelmed this afternoon but I need to get these thoughts down while they are fresh. This morning I shared the 2 stories of Mary & Martha. Once I finished, the translator asked me to sing a song, then they proceeded to hand me a guitar. I laughed and told them that I don’t play music. So he had one of the guys come up and play for me. I lauged until I realized he was serious. My mind was blank and I got nervous. After a minute or so I started singing “I Exalt Thee”. I don’t know the verses so I just kept singing that over and over! :)
The training continues to be amazing. The group is sharing their answers for each lesson in the church planting manual. Each answer is really profound. They are able to take these concepts, understand them, realize if/where they fall short in their local church and figure out what they can do to change it. There was a point where someone was invited to draw a diagram to illustrate how all the people in the church fit into their roles. Three people went up and they all shared a unique perspective.
During the break, one of the ladies thanked me for sharing the devotion and told me that she was very encouraged. She speaks English pretty well. I found out that she is the translator’s sister-in-law.
As we ate, we had great conversation about how things were going overall. Tim and Sherman talked about how we’ve complicated church planting in other countries by bringing in western influences. They talked about how they are able to come in and train indigenous leaders without having to learn a new language, move to another country or even support them. These churches are self-sustaining and the Lord provides everything they need. They talked about how when money starts coming in, the focus of planting churches is hindered because once the money stops, then the growth stops. But in the method they teach, money and buildings are not necessary for the gospel to spread.
At the end of class today, one of the pastors that speaks English got up and gave a short thank you speech. He went through five points of how the course has already helped transform their lives. They then presented each of us (me included) with a small gift of thanks. Talk about being humbled! I felt so undeserving but they were happy to do it. Tim kept joking with me saying how unfair it was that this was my first missions experience! He said that this was probably the best trip for him so far (and he’s been doing this since ’95). He expressed that he was very happy that I was able to come be a part of this. At the end the guys all came up and hugged each one of us and said thank you. It was amazing!
This evening, our translator will pick us up for a special dinner and we are going to walk through Yangon. Tim said it was a surprise…
The surprise ended up being dinner at a place called Karaweik Palace. It was basically a big palace on a dragon ship. Dinner was buffet-style and we ate right in front of a stage where there was live entertainment. They had traditional dance, music and even a cool marionette show. The highlight was probably the dancing elephant at the end. It was an ornate costume with two guys inside controlling it.
Afterwards, we took a walk around the area outside the palace. One of the craziest things about Burma is how the electricity just randomly goes out. I think it has only happened once so far in the hotel, but just about anywhere you are, the electricity just goes out….sometimes for a few seconds and sometimes for a few minutes. I think the longest so far was in the restaurant tonight. It was out for about 3 minutes but it felt like much longer than that when you are sitting in the pitch black darkness! As we walked outside, the power went out again and we just froze where we were for a minute until it came back on.
When we got back to the hotel, we had a good time of prayer. Tim will be heading home tomorrow so we prayed for that as well as all that had transpired in the training so far. It will be me and Sherman from here on out. He has such a tender heart. He is easily moved to joy or sadness. I sense such a huge heart of compassion from him.
Tim mentioned something in conversation that really got me thinking. He was talking about how in Cambodia he knows of a lady who runs an orphanage over there with over 70 children. He said that orphanages were a good temporary solution but ultimately they were just that. He said that once the gospel comes in and begins to truly transform families and the church takes its place, that one person will not be responsible for an orphanage but that everyone in the body will take in the orphan. I thought about that even for home in the states. Whoa!
I’m seeing and hearing so many things that are stretching what I’ve thought and understood up to this point. I feel like my eyes are being opened to so many things.
And I still have 8 days left!!
*This is part 1 of a series of excerpts from my journal documenting my recent trip to South East Asia
It has been somewhat of a dramatic start to this journey. I set my alarm for 5am since my ride to the airport would be arriving at 6am. I had such a hard time falling asleep. It felt like the night before the first day of school. I woke up every 30 minutes checking the clock. Then I must have hit REM sleep because the next thing I remember is a soft tap on my door. I open my eyes and the clock says 5:45am! Thankfully my sister Lani works early and was there to wake me up before she leaves to work. I frantically jumped out of bed, threw on my clothes and brushed my teeth. Thankfully everything was already packed and ready to go.
The ride to the airport was smooth right up until we are about 2 miles from the airport. All we see is bright red brake lights and stand still traffic. As we gradually inch forward and get closer to the main exit for the airport, we see that the exit is closed off and all the traffic is being diverted to the far left lane. My foot is tapping quickly at this point but I’m calm and I’m praying. After what seemed like an hour we finally pass the exit and providentially the next exit goes to the airport as well.
I finally reach the airport, grab my bags and head to the self-check in station. On my first attempt, the system doesn’t find my flight. I try my record locator number, my flight number and slide my credit card…nothing. The computer can’t find my flight information! Now a flash of panic grips me. The assistant that walks up can’t help me either so she directs me to get into the line. The note on the stations says that international flights must check in 60 minutes before the flight. My flight is about 65 minutes away and every line is packed. As I wait in line I begin freaking out just a bit since I don’t know how long it will take to get to the front and then I may have a possibility of having complications with my ticket. As my head starts flooding with these thoughts, my dad calls. He is calling to wish me a good flight but when I tell him the situation, he is able to assure me that everything will be fine and I calm down. Finally I get through the line, they find my flight and I get my bag checked. I quickly get through security and hop on the plane to LAX.
All that and I haven’t even taken off yet!!
During the flight to California, I picked up 3 hours. Flying west, it feels like I’m chasing the sun. All of the trip so far has been in the daylight. Once we pass New Zealand and cross the international date line, I lost 12 hours. However, I arrive in Toyko after about 17 hours of travel and it is still light outside.
I now realize that smell is the most acute of my five senses. On the plane to LA, I caught a wiff of something strong that turned my stomach. I’m not sure what it was but the next thing I know, I’m feeling nauseous. I break into a cold sweat and I get that dizzy feeling like I might throw up. This lasts for about 10 minutes and I’m debating whether I should get up and run to the bathroom. Luckily, the flight attendant comes and brings a cup of water. Shortly after that, the feeling goes away.
The 11 hour flight from LA to Tokyo was INTENSE. Aside from the fact that I didn’t get up for the entire trip, I got stuck by this guy who didn’t smell all that pleasant. It wasn’t persistent, but every once in awhile I’d get a full wiff and have to hold my breath. I definitely don’t do well with foul smells.
It has been a long time since I’ve been confined to one space for so long. It’s pretty tough, especially when you can’t get comfortable. On both flights so far, I’ve been able to manage about one hour of sleep.
I love being in Japan. The people are so beautiful. I love hearing Japanese from every direction. I’m getting flashbacks of the 3 years I lived in Okinawa. I definitely want to come back here one day. The only thing kinda freaking me out is all the people wearing masks on their face. I feel like I’m going to catch SARS or something!
I’ll be boarding my flight to Bangkok soon. Hopefully I’m not too jet lagged when I get to Burma tomorrow.
I was able to sleep for about 2 hours on the flight to Thailand. I watched 500 Days of Summer for the 3rd time on the flight. That movie gets better every time I see it.
I’m having such a good time just people watching. From the Japanese, to Thai to all the other countries…they are just beautiful people. I could completely see myself marrying an Asian woman! :)
The Bangkok airport is absolutely humongous. It is really clean and all the people were very helpful in pointing me to where I needed to go. I must have looked like I needed help with my eyes wide looking for signs directing me to where I needed to go.
Once I got through passport control and picked up my bags I walked through looking for Tim and Sherman. I walked up and down for about 15 minutes and started to get nervous especially since I’ve never met either one of them! Then I started looking at all the signs with people’s names on them and finally found one with my name. They had the shuttle service from the hotel pick me up.
I arrived at the hotel and Sherman met me in the lobby as I walked in. He has a big smile and is very friendly.
By the time I got to the room and showered, it was about 1am. My wake up call was at 4:30am but I feel pretty good for about only 5 hours of sleep in the past 30+ hours or so. Sherman and I have had good introductory conversation. I have so many questions but I don’t want to overwhelm him! We shared a surprisingly good cup of Black Canyon coffee before boarding. It is about an hour to Burma!
Here it begins…
I ask that you would cover me in prayer as this is a huge step for me in a lot of ways. I will be traveling alone to Bangkok and in my return home. I’m going to a country I’ve never been to and one in particular (Myanmar) which has a government which is not friendly to proselytization.
More than anything I ask that you would think of me during these 12 days and keep me covered in prayer. I feel like the Lord is going to open my eyes in a huge way, and I am preparing my heart to receive that.
16th – Miami to Bangkok, Thailand
18th – Bangkok, Thailand to Yangon, Myanmar
23rd – Yangon, Myanmar to Bangkok, Thailand
24th – Bangkok, Thailand to Vientiane, Laos
27th – Vientiane, Laos to Bangkok, Thailand
28th – Bangkok, Thailand to Miami
I love you all and I am blessed to call you friends!
Nothing feeds my ego so much as winning a debate with another intelligent person. It is the nature of my pride. The moment in the debate where the other person realizes that there is no logical response to my argument is priceless. Once they succumb to a nonsensical response such as “Well you’re just a pompous jerk,” then I know I’ve truly triumphed.
But how does debate translate to matters of faith? Does logic, rhetoric and the art of debate have a place in the spiritual arena?
Debating With Non-Believers
I used to be pretty big into apologetics. I deal well with logic and rationality. Works such as C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” and Lee Stroble’s “The Case For Christ” were huge influences in solidifying my faith. The arguments for why “it makes sense” (for lack of a better term) to believe in Christ, seemed so logical to me. Why wouldn’t you choose to believe in an all-powerful God as absolute truth as opposed to subscribing to dualism, pantheism, humanism and every other “ism” out there?
I always thought that if you could just catch an atheist in a corner with your “aha” moment, they would have no choice but to make the logical choice and submit to the prevailing argument. But Paul tells a very different story in 1 Corinthians 1:17-19:
17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”
No amount of logic will cause a non-believer to comprehend the excellencies of Christ. It’s foolishness, that’s the way God designed it. This purpose is two-fold: 1) For the messenger to realize that he cannot bring someone to saving faith in his own efforts 2) So that the believer cannot boast in his salvation as an achievement, for is a gift of God, not of works (Eph. 2:8-9).
Now that’s not to say that the message cannot be relevant, even Paul’s message was relevant to his audience. We see him using a philospher’s rhetoric while preaching on Mars Hill to the Greeks and we see him appealing to his apprenticeship at the feet of the well-known rabbi Gamaliel as he preached to the Jews. He knew how to connect to his audience. However, he never preached a popular message for the sake of acceptance. Even in the midst of identifying with his audience, he was still a stumbling block and caused offense to those that were hard of heart…his message was foolishness.
We have one part to play in preaching the gospel; preaching Christ and him crucified. We are told that faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Jesus said “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (Jn 6:44). We don’t draw people, we only speak the Word of God. We have to trust that the Holy Spirit will do the rest.
You cannot argue logic to the spirit of a man. No amount of logic or wordly wisdom will provide the capacity to comprehend the deep things of God. See 1 Corinthians 2:11-14:
11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Again, we’re back to the foolishness. What makes us think that we can convince a non-believer with our logic? Our pride becomes more of a stumbling block than the actual argument we are presenting. How much more effective would we be if we simply preached Christ and demonstrated His love and mercy which has transformed us?
Debating Non-Essentials With Those Weaker In The Faith
Black and white. Deep inside, that is what we long for. Just tell me what I can and cannot do. Gray areas make everything so much more complicated. If I can have someone determine what I can and cannot do, my life would be much simpler. The problem is, not everyone can agree on things that are not specifically spelled out in Scripture. You can sum up the many different denominations as different groups with different definitions of black and white. For example, in regards to communion, the Catholics believe in transubstantiation, where the wine and bread become the literal body of Christ. The Lutherans believe in consubstantiation, where the “substance” of Christ is present alongside the elements. The Presbyterians believe in the “Real Presence” of Christ but that we are not literally eating his body and blood. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m quite happy about that.
Martin Luther had already broken away from the Catholic church and had a mutual respect for fellow reformer John Calvin. However, they later divided over a doctrinal dispute of the “Eucharist” or what we commonly refer to as communion. The Lutheran church and the Presbyterian church formed separately based on the teachings of these two great reformers. Unfortunately, it was a single doctrinal issue that broke the unity between them.
Now I’m not talking about the divinity of Christ, the Trinity or any other essential doctrine of God. I’m talking about a dispute over what is actually going into your mouth when you follow Jesus’ command to “do this in remembrance of Me”. How Jesus must grieve over the disunity on something He wanted us to do to remember what He has done for us.
The Internet has been a monumental vehicle in the dissemination of information and opinions from the most well-respected sources to the average individual. On the web, we are all on equal footing. Everyone is can be an expert.
Many Christians have gravitated to the Internet since it is such a powerful platform to get their message to a large number of people to which they wouldn’t otherwise have contact with. This has been both a gift and a curse. The Information Age has provided us with the ability to reach so many more people with the Good News of Christ. On the other hand, its given so much more opportunity for dissension between people who have never met face to face.
The anonymity of the Internet has the ability to transform a mild mannered individual in person, to a vociferous debater behind a pseudonym on a message board or comment thread.
I’ve participated in many of these debates and some I just witnessed as a watchful observer. What begins as a respectful debate, soon turns into a war of arrogance, then finally deteriorates into a barrage of insults. Everyone walks away more determined to believe their viewpoint and angry that someone else had the nerve to present such a baseless argument.
These debates range from every topic of theology you can imagine from Arminianism vs Calvinism, Cessationism vs Continuationism, Inerrancy of Scripture, all streams of Eschatology, our freedoms in Christ, the list goes on and on.
I would even assert that there is a “spirit of debate” that is not from the Lord. The core of this spirit is pride. Debate can stir up anger, frustration and ultimately division. There is nothing positive I can see that could come from a debate with a brother or sister in Christ. Much less one that is done anonymously behind the screen of a computer.
Is There A Right Way To Debate?
For the sake of unity, should I swallow my pride and just agree with everything that my brother or sister in Christ says? What if they are wrong?
This may seem like semantics, but I would propose that we transform our debate into a conversation. Before doing this, consider the following:
- Our Relationship: First and foremost before discussing issues of faith with another, I should have a relationship with the person. That will ensure that there is a mutual respect. It is much easier to come to a point where I “agree to disagree” with someone that I have a relationship with. Debating on the Internet with someone you’ve never met (or even that you have met) will rarely lead to anything that is truly edifying and pleasing to Christ. A face to face discussion is always ideal.
- Maturity in Christ: Gage the maturity level of the person with whom you will be holding the conversation. If they are a new Christian, it may not be the best idea to find out whether they subscribe to Pre-trib/Mid-trib/Post-trib rapture and why. Find out where the other person stands on the foundational issues before delving into the gray areas.
- Love, Unity & Peace: No, Paul wasn’t a hippie but he does exhort us in Ephesians 4:2-3 to walk “with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace“. Before getting into a discussion of faith, let us be sure to keep these 3 things at the forefront.
All that said, I do believe that discussing issues of faith is healthy and edifying…even necessary. Our perspective is limited to our experience and we have so much to learn from others who have gone through different experiences. Let us explore our faith and challenge each other with our ideas. But in the end, the Word of the Lord will be lifted up and we should be found standing together in unity.
Release Date: August 18, 2009
Label: Warner Bros.
a temporary suspension of hostilities by agreement of the warring parties; truce
The aptly titled Armistice album is the result of a painful labor of frustration, in-fighting and near end to this phenomenal band. This is actually the second recording of this album. Towards the end of the first recording, the band was ready to call it quits. As they were on the verge of break-up, they did a gut check and decided if they really wanted to continue to make music together or just end it at that point. They decided to go for it, completely scrapped what they had recorded up to that point and brought in producer Dennis Herring to take the helm.
Many of the songs reflect the frustration of what had transpired over the course of recording this album. A major theme winding throughout is disillusion in regards to their faith. While never wanting to be labeled as a “Christian” band, even from their Earthsuit recordings, their lyrics always contained spiritual undertones which were very powerful. This time around the guys are much more reflective and cynical. Where their self-titled long player “Mutemath” was more of an exuberant album, Armisitice finds the band doing a lot more soul searching and the result is…well, somewhat somber.
I’m going to split up the review into a breakdown of the lyrics and the music separately because…well, because I want to.
Backfire which will most likely the 1st single off the album exemplifies the Armistice theme. “There goes another one of our sure fired plans, that backfired again.” You begin to sense the frustration dripping from the music. They put together a group of songs, everything is planned out and then they “watch it all crumble down”.
The frustration hits a crescendo on the title track Armistice when Paul says “I know it’s all my fault, I will take the fall if it takes us somewhere.” I can identify with that sentiment more than I care to admit. I just get the vibe that the whole recording process was so frustrating when you have 4 talented musicians trying to agree on everything from lyrics, sound, composition and everything that goes into completing a song. Paul stated in an interview that everyone can play eachother’s instruments and sometimes one would play a part better than the other. Trying to decide who’s part was the best and what to use and what to cut was causing major tension throughout the entire recording process.
The majority of lyrics actually focus on what I would call a theme of disillusion. They are definitely at a point in questioning their faith, if not coming to a place of losing hope completely. I can identify with many of these lyrics at some point in my life. On Pins And Needles, Paul sings “Sometimes I get tired of pins and needles, facades are a fire on the skin, and I’m growing fond of broken people as I see that I am one of them”. I know I’ve experienced that point in my life where I can identify with imperfect people once I’ve stopped to reflect on my own hypocrisies of faith. You realize that you aren’t what you are expected to be and you are tired of faking it. That identification can initially be pretty brutal, and that’s what I feel from this song.
In No Response you witness the frustrations of calling out to an empty sky. “Maybe when we reach the end, we’ll ask imaginary friends why no response?” But the most honest cry comes from the stellar track Clipping. The emotion in Paul’s voice shows the earnest cry of his heart when he says “I don’t know who to fight anymore, I don’t know what is right anymore. I don’t know what to feel anymore, I don’t know what is real anymore.” This is the most truthful song because of it’s vulnerability. Cynicism is put to the side for a moment and traded with a honest cry for truth.
The standout track lyrically is Electrify but not because it is great…because it is mediocre. Penned by Adam Laclave who was a former singer in the band Earthsuit, we see for the first time superficial lyrics in a Mutemath song. Paul typically writes songs that are poetic, profound and open to interpretation…definitely art. Here we find him singing, unconvincingly I might add, “All I can think about is me and her electrified, I hope that some day she might take me home and lose control.” It just seems like a step backwards, not just in content, but in quality.
The music may be a little of an acquired taste to all us tried and true Mutemath fans. They have definitely matured their sound and ventured out with more experimentation. Mutemath has evolved from more rock/rap and ska group with Earthsuit to the electro/pop of their 1st LP. This album finds them stretching their creativity to the limit by incorporating strings, a funk band and even a ukelele!
I’ll be honest, at first I was a little disappointed. I actually got to go the the listening party on the tour bus to hear the album about a week before it came out. I was expecting an Epic-sized version of the already insanely energetic 1st album. The combination of the more cynical lyrics and drop in overall BPM of the songs was a little off-putting due to a general drop in the energy level.
While not liking Backfire at all on first listen, it is now one of my favorite tracks on the album. If you listen closely to everything that is happening with the instruments and programming, it is just well-crafted and Paul’s voice brings out the energy of the track.
Goodbye is a great summertime love song. It makes me want to cruise down A1A with the top down, breeze flowing through my hair and the stereo cranked to 11. This is how a pop song should be done.
While I’m not a fan of the lyrics, I can’t deny the fire and intensity of Electrify. Darren’s machine gun drumming is like a Drum N Bass song. He is amazing.
Pins And Needles is such a stand out because of the combination of the strings, drum tempo and the way Paul sings the lyrics. I don’t know how to describe it other than this is what is “sounds” like to be on Pins and Needles.
Burden is just a straight up funky song which is another one that benefits from the way Paul sings the lyrics. He rides the beat like an artist channeling the soul of his hometown.
Clipping is probably my favorite song on the album. It doesn’t sound like anything they have ever done. It is a sonic masterpiece. Paul just goes crazy on the keys and the drum beat is off the charts.
The two songs that fall short for me are Odds and Lost Year. They suffer from nothing other than the rest of the songs are so vanguard. While solid tracks, they just pale in comparison to everything else on the album.
By far, the crown jewel of the album is the title track Armistice. From the horns and percussion played by the stellar New Orleans band Rebirth Brass Band, to the extremely funky bass playing of Roy, this song excels on all fronts. From the moment the first riff comes off of Greg’s guitar, your body is already telling you to get up and dance. I love that they embraced their roots in New Orleans and showed the synergy of the soul of their city with the heart of this group.
Three weeks later and 30+ spins of the album has opened it up like an aged wine. The more I listen, I am able to hear new things on the tracks and I get a new song that I like most. That’s a solid indicator of a well-crafted album. The more you listen, the more you love it.
One thing I didn’t touch on in the Lyrics section is Paul’s voice. What sets Mutemath apart from every other band that is out there is his unparalleled voice. Words can’t fully do justice to the dynamics to it. He’s definitely one of my favorite singers of all time…which is no small compliment.
Overall this album is stellar. While it may be an acquired taste for longtime fans, new fans will be asking themselves why they haven’t heard of this band already. If that’s you, I highly recommend you go back to check out their 1st album.
The creativity and growth on this album is amazing. I’ll categorize the songs as such:
- Mutemath Squared (similar but updated feel)
The Nerve, Goodbye, Spotlight
- Mutemath Cubed (last album on steroids)
- Uncharted Territory (stretching the limits of sounds and creativity):
Backfire, Clipping, Pins And Needles, Armistice
I appreciate the honesty and vulnerability of this album. While I could go off on a whole tangent about Christian bands vs. bands that have Christian members and going mainstream, I’ll save that for another day. I think a lot of people of faith will be able to relate to these lyrics at some point. I just hope that the self-righteous won’t be the first to throw stones at these guys. We’ve all been at a place where we question our faith. I just pray that they find what they are looking for.
Talk about options…sometimes I just wish I only had one choice so I could put all my energy in that direction. So many options just gets overwhelming!
So I finally spoke to the guy (Jeff) from YWAM. It was a great conversation. He was very helpful and had a lot of feedback about the different DTS’s available and the different bases. He’s from the states but has been living abroad for over 25 years, most of those with YWAM.
He told me that not all the bases were the same, some were stronger than others, some more organized than others, some more mature than others. He was willing to give me feedback on anything that I’ve found. He did tell me that while the Kona base is very mature and there is a lot of vision from there, it is a really large base and it is easy to get overwhelmed by everything that is going on. There are a lot of people coming in and out and a lot of different things are going on at once. That was good to know.
Before we ended, he explained what they do at the Global Communications Office in England. They basically manage all communications worldwide for over 17,000 staff members in YWAM. They manage their main website http://www.ywam.org, multiple other sites, their newsletter which goes to the more remote locations with limited access to the Internet, they manage incoming inquiries and their social media sites (Facebook & Twitter). He said they have a team of 8 people doing ALL of that. He said they are obviously overwhelmed. In addition to that, they are a technically savvy team, however none of them have an IT background. He said that my background in web design and IT management would be a huge asset to their team. He said to give it some thought and pray if that was something I am interested in.
So on top of New Zealand and Hawaii, I have one more thing to think about (England). At this point I realized that it was time to present this to Darren & Gui (my pastors). I’m in desperate need of some Godly counsel!
I met with them this past Thursday. I laid out the entire deal from beginning to end. Told them about where I am in my life (debt paid, leases up, nothing holding me back from doing anything), what has been stirring in my heart for ministry & missions (including church planting), my heart for a Paul-type calling (have a business, and doing full time ministry) and all the options that have opened up with YWAM. I also told them how strong of a connection that I feel I have formed with the Harbour and how I want to stay closely connected in whatever I do. I want to be covered by their leadership and connected with the body.
Gui was the first speak after my speech. He started by saying that YWAM is definitely a legit organization. Two of his children have done DTS’s (Raquel & Gui) and other close friends as well. He said that it is a great experience to get a biblical worldview and to be with other young people that are getting fired up for the Lord. He said that it would be good for me to keep in mind who would be on these trips. He said that they typically consist of 18-24 year olds that don’t have much direction and are looking to go on these trips to experience missions and pray that God would speak to them about what He would have them do. Then there are those a little older that are somewhat in the same place. He said that they are typically going to be younger Christians in age and in spiritual maturity. Even though I am seeking the Lord for direction in what He would have me do, I am much further in my walk with Christ. He said that is just something to consider.
Darren echoed his praise for YWAM and said that they are a great organization in the sense of getting a generation on fire for missions and to bring Christ to the nations. He said that he has a lot of respect for Loren Cunningham (the founder of YWAM) and what he has done. He said that where he differs from YWAM philosophically is in their concept of bases. He said that he has spoken with leaders in other countries and while they said that YWAM is a blessing to their church, they are very separated from them. His vision is to disciple and raise up local leaders in the country to see revival break out in their nation. To do that, you must be more intimately involved with the local church, not just have relationships with them. He said that YWAM is more focused on sending in missionaries to an area as opposed to discipleship of local leaders and church planting. He said that might be a consideration for me if I am interested in church planting.
He left me with two things to focus on immediately:
1) He said to start praying about my business idea. He said that there are a lot of people that talk about wanting to run their own business and also focus on ministry but many times they don’t have the background needed or understand how to balance the two. He said with my background in web design and IT, all I need is the idea and I can get a website up and running. There isn’t a lot of overhead needed and I can work on it a few hours a day at night. Once I can get the business up and running, the resources that come in will provide for my needs and I can focus on the work of the ministry. The main point is that I can’t delay the process, I need to ask the Lord for ideas and get moving.
2) He said to pray about weather the Lord was leading me to a DTS with YWAM or if I would be open to being more directly involved in what they were doing at the Harbour. He said that this would be something that would need to be prayerfully considered, but that there may be opportunity to get more involved in a full time basis with the Harbour. With the relationships that we have around the world, it wouldn’t be difficult to get me connected with someone to go out on a trip for either a short trip or something longer term. For example, Willie Crew, who was a teacher in EHI (Eleventh Hour Institute) is involved in training church planters with the Live Schools. A big focus on what we are doing at the Harbour is going to center around EHI and training and discipling in all areas including church planting. He said that we are going to be growing the team of people involved to steward over this vision.
He said that he wanted to continue to meet over the next few weeks and we’ll be praying about it more.
So yeah…how many options is that now?? :)
But honestly, my heart would be to stay connected very intimately with the Harbour. YWAM sounds like an amazing experience, but I know that long-term, my heart is in South Florida and relationally connected with my church. Then again, I’m not sure what purpose is being served with everything that has been stirred up with YWAM.
I’m praying for direction more than ever. However, I am SUPER excited. It is all just becoming more real as the time passes. I just don’t want my excitement to be quenched with my anxiety to hear the Lord and follow His will.
Keep me in prayer!
As soon as my mind is made up that I’m going to go to the nations next year, you would think things would start to become solidified right? Not so fast…
YWAM has a program called University of the Nations. It is a complete program with course, curriculum, graduation, etc. Anyone that takes a DTS gets credit towards that program. There wasn’t much information about the program on the Oxford NZ base’s website so I did a google search. The site that came up was for the Kona base in Hawaii. I come to find out that this was the original base where YWAM was founded. My friend’s sister and brother both did a DTS there almost 10 years ago. As I’m perusing the site, I can see that it is a much more mature program. They have many more DTS programs, other courses and quite a bit of other things going on there.
After reading through the site, I come across a page called Information Technology. Immediately my interest was piqued. As I kept going, I find that they have an IT team that is focused on bringing technology to the nations. Their plans are to set up computer labs and train people how to use computers, set up Internet cafes and basically just use technology for the Kingdom.
Immediately my mind started racing…is this something I could be a part of? That would absolutely be a dream of mine. I know that I haven’t been equipped with the knowledge and background in IT to just exit the corporate world and leave all that knowledge behind. So maybe I should be heading to Hawaii rather than New Zealand. I just started praying. It just seemed way too random that I’m coming across this now. I got their contact email and sent a request for more information.
Recently I’ve gotten pretty heavy into Twitter (see my tweets on the right navigation –>>). Just two days ago I started following YWAM. Next thing you know I get an message from them that said “would you be into serving YWAM in IT in other parts of the world? :)” I literally was like “are you kidding me?” I immediately replied back saying “Yes, definitely! How can I get more information.” I got a reply back asking for my background and availability, so I replied right away. Just this morning I got an email from the Global Communications Office in England expressing their excitement and asking if they could have someone contact me by phone.
It just reminds me of the verse in Proverbs 16:9:
“The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his paths”
So yeah, plans may very well be changing but I’m completely excited and I’m just sitting back and praying to God saying “Lord, send me!”
More updates to come very soon!
Release Date: December 25, 2008
Plot: Set in 1964, Doubt centers on a nun who confronts a priest after suspecting him of abusing a black student. He denies the charges, and much of the play’s quick-fire dialogue tackles themes of religion, morality, and authority.
*Spoiler Alert: Skip the two paragraphs in italics if you don’t want any spoilers*
You know an actor is great when at some point in the movie you want to punch them in the face. Sister Aloysius, played by Meryl Streep, is the principal of a catholic school and she runs it with an iron fist. Capable of making young boys cower in fear with just one look, Sister Aloysius patrols the halls of the school like a nazi in a Jewish ghetto. Okay maybe that’s a bit much but you get my drift. Meryl Streep has a way of inhabiting (no pun intended…get it, habit, nun…nevermind) her onscreen personas so vividly that you really feel that she is a nasty, miserable nun with nothing better to do than bark out commands. By the end of the movie, I said to myself that if someone doesn’t smack her across the face, I’M going to do it.
No one is safe from Sister Aloysius but it is Father Flynn, played superbly by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, that receives the bulk of her venom. A new transfer from another school, Father Flynn’s compassion and lightheartedness is a stark contrast to her militaristic command of the students. All it takes is one sermon on the topic of doubt for Sister Aloysius to begin her campaign against him. “Is Father Flynn in doubt? Is he concerned that someone else is in doubt?” she quips to the other nuns while instructing them to keep an eye out for anything suspicious.
The theme of the movie is summed up in a quote from Father Flynn’s sermon “Doubt can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty.” The movie is focused around the themes of suspicion, certainty and doubt. All of which i felT at some point while watching this film.
As you witness the seemingly unfounded assault on the character of Father Flynn, you quickly begin to sympathize with him. After all its much easier to hate Sister Aloyisus when she says things like “When you take a step to address wrongdoing, you are taking a step away from God, but in his service.” Later as Father Flynn confronts the situation and asks her why she is so determined that he has done something wrong he asks her “Where is your compassion?” She responds “Nowhere you can get at it.”
You almost forget that he has admitted that he has commited a mortal sin in the final confrontation between him and Sister Aloysius. I know I did at first. It was almost like I supressed it. I was so angry that Sister Aloysisus was ready to do anything, including lying and manipulation, to prove this man guilty, that it wasn’t until after the movie finished and I thought about it again. What was his mortal sin? Sister Aloyisus was so certain of what she thinks, that she never gives him the opportunity to say what he was going to say. Even if he didn’t do anything to this boy, did he do something terribly wrong in the last two schools from which he transferred in the past 5 years?
By the end of the movie you see Sister Aloysius in tears admitting that she has doubts. She was able to get her way, but now she cannot sleep because of her doubt. But I was left with doubts as well. I was so determined throughout the movie that Father Flynn was innocent. However, I thought back to the scene where he began to confess what he had done and he was obviously distraught. Did he commit some horrible sin that could have affected his behavior in this school? Was he about to confess to something with the young black student, who we find from his mother was gay? It really was a genius way to end the movie.
The sermons throughout the film by Father Flynn were on point. The story about gossip and stabbing the pillow was especially powerful. Phillip Seymour Hoffman really captures the heart of a loving, compassionate priest that loved his congregation and students. He has to be one of the most underrated actors of our time. His roles in Capote and Synectoche, New York were absolutely stellar and this performance really solidified him in my mind. He can play any role and make you feel in 2 hours that you understand everything about the essence of the character the he plays.
Overall, this movie was great. I enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it. As a Christian, I didn’t find anything which offended me (but then I’m not easily offended). If you haven’t seen it, check it out.
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Can the words adventurous, exciting and spontaneous be spoken of someone who is responsible, reliable and deliberate? I’ve always thought of the those as antonyms. In an effort to be a good steward of everything I have been given, I’ve shied away from the more adventurous, exciting and spontaneous experiences in my life. I’ve always figured that if I don’t have time to plan it, I’m probably going to do something that I regret. With life-altering decisions, I do believe that rings true. But when it comes to everyday decisions, it definitely doesn’t hold the same weight. I’ve found myself missing out on living life because of the fear of not knowing exactly how things will turn out. Over the past few months, I’ve been seeing my perspective change. Not just on the small things, but on the bigger things as well.
As I rapidly approach my 30th birthday, I’ve spent the better part of this past year reflecting on my life and what I have and haven’t accomplished. I have been asking myself, “Have I really lived?” Yes, I’ve experienced a lot but did I really LIVE? Did I make the most of every opportunity? Unfortunately I don’t think I did. BUT, I feel like that is all changing.
Just a few weeks ago, I made one of the most significant decisions in my life. Something completely out of my nature. Something that defies my M.O. which is over-planned, calculated and safe. I decided that I’m going to quit my job, sell everything I have and go halfway across the world for training and foreign missions for 6 months! How’s that for adventurous?
I’ve decided to do a DTS (Discipleship Training School) with YWAM. Not only that, I’ve decided to do it in Oxford, New Zealand. Maybe its because the Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia were filmed there, maybe its because I love the Flight of the Conchords, maybe it’s just because the country is ridiculously gorgeous…but for some reason, I’ve had this burning desire to visit New Zealand for the past 2 years.
For those who haven’t heard of YWAM (Youth With A Mission), it is an organization that equips young people to go bring the Gospel to the nations. A good friend of mine (currently on a DTS, shout out to Sinque!) was the first to introduce me to the organization. He shared his heart to be trained up and equipped to disciple young people. He got connected with the organization and decided that he wanted to live his life with purpose. He explained what is involved and how he was just going to get out there and do it. It definitely stirred something up that was always there but just lying dormant inside me. While I’ve never done a missions trip, I’ve really been wanting to for the past year or so. Everyone has told me how your perspective is so radically changed when you go. Before we even talked, I had already made a decision in the very near future to go on a missions trip. After a few discussions with him, I got an idea.
I went online and researched YWAM. As I found out more about them and realized that it was something that interested me, I started looking at their bases. When I found a base in New Zealand, I just laughed. I thought to myself, “Now that would be awesome.” You know…for someone else. I mean I could never do that. First of all, where would I get the money? Then even if I got the money, I would be gone for 6 months…I couldn’t just leave my job. Then even if I did leave my job, what would happen when I got back? There were plenty of reasons to laugh off the idea and go back to my safe and well planned life.
The problem was that I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I kept thinking of possibilities. You know planning how I could make it work. Timing seemed ideal being that my car lease is up this year, my apartment lease is up this year, all my debt is paid off and I really have nothing holding me where I am right now. Ideas abounded, but at the end of the day it just seemed like there were too many unknowns. I shared the idea with a few people and the response was much more enthusiastic than I expected. Everyone seemed to think I HAD to go. I just smiled and thought about how little they all knew about me. If they really knew me, they would know that I could never do something so adventurous and well…irresponsible, right?
Well after much prayer and a few prophetic words that confirmed a lot of things in my heart, I decided to do it. I can earn some of the money, but I’ll definitely have to raise support. And it’s going to be a lot of money. I’m going to quit my job, and very likely never return to corporate America. I don’t know where the money will come from and I have no idea what I’ll do when I finish the 6 months…but for the first time in my life, I feel like I have no idea what will happen and I’m okay with that! Better than okay, I feel like for the first time in my life, I’m REALLY trusting God to do something that I KNOW I can’t do in my own effort. It’s really exciting. I’m not even worried. I can’t really fully describe it. It’s just freedom!
This blog will document the next 3 huge steps in my life. First, the preparation to go, secondly, the actual trip to New Zealand and outreach countries and finally the aftermath. I hope you’ll join me as I walk in faith that I will raise all the funds needed by the time I get on a plane on February 28, 2010, document the journey abroad, then watch God open doors for ministry as I return a completely and radically changed man. I think you’ll be in for an exciting ride.
To quote a very good friend of mine, “My bags are packed!!”