Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Avoiding Hell

I have been following the Ft. Hood murders from Brazil. It is interesting to see the way these events are covered in another country. For most, americans are people who are suffering and need compassion. For some, americans are violent and in love with guns. For others, americans are a culture in decline. For a small few, americans are getting what they deserve.

One thing that never comes up in the news report concerning radical Islam here or from the USA is the question of hell and how a radical Muslim thinks he can avoid going there.

Most people in the USA hardly believe in hell these days. Even evangelical Christians hardly talk about hell. People in radical islam clearly believe in hell, talk about it repeatedly and want, at all costs, to avoid it.

I remember reading a comment from C.S. Lewis that I have never forgotten. He said that people in England and America stopped burning witches at the stake many years ago. For some this is a sign of human progress and enlightenment. For C.S. Lewis it was more a sign that people in the USA and England don't believe in witches any longer. He went on to say that a return to truly believing that the woman next door can curse and kill your children would start the fires sooner than we think.

I found it interesting that the man who killed the Fort Hood soldiers went to strip clubs before he went on his killing spree. Here is a man who is desperately trying to please God and end up in heaven. Even so he is taking his last moments indulging in behavior his religion condemns. This man is in trouble if he does not find a way to cover his sins.

What this says to me is that this man was down to his last hope of heaven which would be to kill God's enemies to prove his worth to God and guarantee heaven instead of hell. He could not live up to his religions basic laws against lust and liquor so only a radical action of submission to his God could guarantee heaven.

I don't think we will understand radical Islam until we understand that they truly believe in hell and we as a culture in the west do not. If we believed in hell like they do and we thought the only way for those desperately trying to avoid it was killing God's enemies, I believe we would be surprised just how quickly the gun sales would go up in the west.

When the choice in man's mind is heaven or hell and not just the USA against its enemies, you can be sure people who believe in hell will choose avoiding hell and going to heaven over an oath to defend their nation.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Abide Retreat in English

We have just completed our very first english Abide Retreat in Brazil. It was wonderful and very strange. Teaching here in English seemed so out of place for me.

Brazilians love to learn. When you offer a great spiritual retreat about abiding and add the opportunity to perfect a second language, Brazilians get interested very fast.

I never cease to be amazed at how open Brazilians are to spiritual things. They make significant sacrifices to add to their spiritual lives by learning new things. I am am spoiled by how easy they are to teach.

I am praying that my dear american brothers and sisters in Christ will begin to invest more seriously in spiritual formation, too. It seems at times that my friends in the USA are too busy to make the investment in a two day retreat. That is sad and I am praying the day will come when taking two days to focus on Jesus as our true Vine will be seen a a great investment.

Consider this example. We had four people attend this retreat that came from southern Brazil. They took a ten hour all night bus ride and then another 1 and 1/2 hour bus ride just to get to the retreat. As I am writing this blog they are on a bus for another all night ride back. They have to work tomorrow when they get back to the city of Londrina. One of them was 73 years old! She has a class to teach tomorrow morning at 9:30 A.M. (This lady is near the center of the group photo on the front row)

This kind of effort is humbling and inspiring. I believe God is at work here in people's hearts in a very deep way. Pam and I are so thankful to see this moment in Brazil. We are also burdened for our dear USA. So much pain and so much anger. Our prayer is that we will all abide.

(Click on photos to enlarge.)

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Caixias do Sul--Southern Brazil

I am just completing an abide weekend in the very beautiful city of Caixias do Sul in the southernmost part of Brazil. I am almost in Argentina.

This is Brazil's vineyard country. The church that invited me has only 70 members but they were so excited to learn about abiding that I accepted their invitation. I am glad I did. Over 50% of the member spent the weekend doing the Abide course with me and we have experienced a wonderful time.

I never cease to be amazed at how powerful it is to tell people that the entire Christian life they will ever live already abides in them. When this thought takes root, it is truly powerful for changing how a believer sees their potential. Nothing makes this more clear than John 15. It is an honor to tell thousands, to tell dozens or to tell one. The joy is the same.

These folks understand vineyards far better than I do! They took me on a tour today. I have a lot to learn. I am already making plans to come back very soon.