Ethiopia: Christ is too simple for the adult

While in Ethiopia, my translator, Bareket, shared why he is compelled to teach children of the love of God through Jesus Christ. He started off with a little story.

One day a preacher came home and told his wife that two and a half people came to know Jesus Christ that day. His wife was confused about what he meant by a half a person and asked if her husband implied that a couple and their small child accepted Christ. He replied, “No, the two and a half people refer to the two children and one adult that chose to follow Christ. For the two children have their entire life before them live for Christ’s glory whereas the adult has already wasted half of her life.” Bareket went on to explain that it is much more difficult for an adult submit to Christ because the adult carried much baggage and believes many lies that must first be dispelled before he will be convinced of the truth of Christ.

Bareket focus on teaching the little children of Christ’s love. He reiterated to me that the gospel is so simple and easy to grasp that it’s easier for children to accept than adults because the adults are confounded by its simplicity. Children know they cannot understand everything and don’t need to; however, us adults think we are something greater and need to be able to understand all aspects of everything before we commit. I’m just glad that we don’t live by this mentality for anything else in life – for we’d never commit to anything (name any risk – investments, projects, pursuing new ideas, etc., marriage, children, or our word).

Ethiopia: Story of confidence in God’s power

The third day in Ethiopia, Lacey (http://kansasandcosmos.wordpress.com/) shared a story with our team that I wanted to relay to the world. It’s a story of good and evil, of deception and fear, of control and manipulation, of good over evil – the fairy tale, however, in truth and reality.

I’d like to caveat the following story for the western mindset. In America, there isn’t witchcraft, voodoo, or other eerie mysticism. That isn’t how Satan chooses to control us; he chooses much more intellectually benign things like busyness, money, status, hedonism, and pride (our own pride in our intellectual ability to reason away the reality of the spiritual).

God opened my eyes to the spiritual world in a very real way one day while I was in a rural Ethiopian village to tell the people about our upcoming clinics and share the Gospel. I walked past a hut where my translator said they worshiped a spirit, and dark smoke filled the air surrounding the home. We also came across a large tree with fabric tied around the trunk, and I found out some of the local villagers worshiped the tree. But the biggest revelation came from two small lemons on the side of the road.

As the translator Jerusalem and disciple maker Haiminot and I walked down the dirt road, we passed another house with smoke coming from it. Jerusalem told me the family of that house worships the devil and tries to put curses on people in the village. As we continued our journey through the village, we saw two small lemons on the side of the road. I thought it was odd to see the fruit in such a random spot in rural Ethiopia, but didn’t think much beyond that. I was about to continue walking, when Haiminot stopped to pick up the lemons. Jerusalem told me the lemons were actually used by the family whose house we just passed in creating their potions and curses, and then they throw the lemons on the side of the road. Whoever picks up the lemons or accidentally steps on them is supposed to get the curse. (Sidebar – this is exactly how Satan works, he uses fear and manipulation to control.)

Without any hesitation or fear that maybe he really could get a curse, Haiminot carried the lemons with him throughout the village, playfully tossing them in the air. We continued our walk down the road and Haiminot saw a young farmer who he said we needed to go speak with. We all sat down on the ground, and even though I couldn’t understand the conversation between Haiminot and the farmer, it was clear they already knew each other. After sharing the Gospel, the young man didn’t want to accept Christ, but said he did want to invite us into his home to learn more. Unfortunately his wife wasn’t home so we couldn’t speak further, but Haiminot said he’d return at a later day.

During the conversation, the young farmer asked Haiminot why in the world he was holding the lemons when he knew what potential they had. Haiminot replied that because of Christ, he doesn’t need to worry about a curse having power over him since Christ rules the world. I later found out that this young farmer was actually the son of the family who throws out the lemons.

Every villager we met had a huge fear of two small pieces of fruit. When they saw the lemons in Haiminot’s hands they would take a step back away from us. Children would say, “Dirty! Dirty!” and adults would fearfully shake their heads “No” when Haiminot asked if they wanted to touch the lemons. The two small lemons became a huge testament to the villagers about trust and reassurance in the power of Christ to protect us. After a long day of walking throughout the village, Haiminot went home…and ate the lemons for a snack, confident in the power of Christ.

Ethiopia: WOW, God loves me dispite of my future

One of my teammates, Anne, shared a profound truth with our team one morning over breakfast in Ethiopia. She opened with the idea that God is not stuck in the present like we are; he knows our past, but even our future. Of course, he is God, no big deal. But, then she put that together with another truth of God, He loves us. These two separate are easy to digest, but put them together and the purity of God’s love for me begins to reveal itself.

How amazing is this – God loves me despite of my future. He loves me right now even though he knows I will reject him, I will backstab, I will lie to his face, I will live an adulterous lifestyle worshiping the things of this world (His creation and not the Creator), I will abandon Him, I will…

This idea isn’t too hard for me to grasp until I begin to personalize it. For, this is intensely personal to God and I need to empathize a little to grasp God’s profound love. So, would I love anybody with such fervor, devotion, and unrestrained selflessness if I know that the object of supreme affection and dedication would betray me in a few short days, months, or years? How can I love somebody when I know (s)he is going to betray that love? How can I love when I know that love will be taken for granted, forgotten, rejected, and even scorned? Would I marry somebody if I absolutely knew all of her flaws, when she would reject me, that she would live adulterously, that she would abandon me, divorce me and marry another, that she would backstab, that she wasn’t completely committed, that she would not love in return? How could I? I do not know; but, I know it’s not possible for me to do that (without the divine intervention of my God).

Here we are, each of us, with the truth that God loves us despite of our future. He remains completely committed, continuously pouring out himself selflessly. His love is so deep; it’s incomprehensible (like really, give it a try). He chooses to love when he already knows the future pain, rejection, and heartache he must endure. What am amazing God we have. May we glorify His name throughout the world and at all times.

Tangent: about my tenants of life

Ultimately, the one thing I wish to say to everybody is, “be willing to give up everything you hold dear for the sake of Christ.” And, discern those things of God through the following: “Goodness, Rightness, and Beauty.” God is Good and everything I do should be “good.” Everything I do should be “right” or righteous and “seeking first the kingdom of God.” So, things may seem good and be right, but not for a certain time. An action must have both goodness and righteousness at the time it is to be accomplished. And then on top of that, God is beautiful and all of us should proliferate His beauty. One thing I like to say is that, “Truth is elegant.” When I’m attempting to understand God’s truths, I shouldn’t have to make up complicated conjectures to account of fringe-cases. I’ve always been in awe of God when I begin to understand His truths. I fully expect that all of His truths will cause be to wonder in awe at the beauty of the simplicity. For if I could grasp His truths and explain every fringecase, I would be in a place where I don’t need God. I know that my God loves me too much to let me do that to myself (run in overconfidence and live without needing Him for everything in my life).

Worship – Evangelical or Catholic or what

I spent like 3-hours today listening to a Presbyterian theologian on a topic about worship. It was quite intriguing as he went into explanation about church history, liturgy, and worship/praise. The coolest thing was the fact that he contrasted Catholicism with contemporary Evangelism. What I liked was the fact that he stated that Catholicism stuck to the roots of striving to have the congregation experience the magnificent and presence of God whereas the contemporary Evangelical church generally focuses on the comfort of its members. More explicitly stated: the Catholic Church has a focus on God and the Evangelical focuses on man’s comforts. However, I don’t think that these distinctions are so easily discerned or evaluated. So, it was cool to contemplate the fact that Evangelicals (myself included) may have “thrown the baby out with the bathwater to some degree.” But, there are so many ways to interpret the Word of God and I do see as God manifesting Himself through the same words different to each of us simply because He isn’t somebody/something that can be understood completely or fully-known. So, there’s a tip of the iceberg on some theology of worship – so much more to be contemplated.