Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Dawn of a New Year

The Dawn of a New Year...
As 2016 comes to a close we reflect back on what God has taught us this year in our ministry and family life. Hebrews 12:12 summarizes it well: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” This year has been a year of learning perseverance - joyfully pressing on with homeschooling and support raising; patiently waiting for injuries to heal; praying for ministry opportunities and grace for each day.

In regards to ministry, I (Ben) did not travel as much this year due to low support, which meant a less active year in the advancement of our creation care initiative goals. My heart’s desire is to teach the church about the biblical stewardship of creation and I’ve spent countless hours praying for opportunities to share with the church in the US. My role at TEAM is very broad and I have been praying for others to join me in helping to organize trips and handle some of the detailed logistics. There are so many creation care needs around the world and this past year has been a time to pray through how God wants the ministry to grow and what countries and projects I need to focus on. I need to persevere in prayer and wait with joyful hope for what God is going to do.

Becky and I have also begun co-leading a small group from our church, meeting regularly in our home with an average of 10 adults and 16 children! It’s a full house on Tuesday evenings, but we are so thankful to be building deep, lasting relationships and putting down roots in Tennessee.

We continue to “joyfully” homeschool the kids, which takes lots of prayer, patience and overall perseverance. Caleb is in 3rd Grade and loves drawing and anything art related. Samuel is in 1st Grade and is really enjoying Math and figuring out how things work (often by breaking them and trying to fix them). David is our Pre-K athlete who loves sports and is excited about “building words” now that he knows his ABC’s.  Lilianna is our girly princess who loves to wear pink and play with her babies, but can “hold her own” with her big brothers.

We have begun “team” homeschooling with Ben teaching the core subjects to the boys while Becky prepares the materials and handles the extra-curricular activities. Due to our low monthly funding, Becky has returned to work at the hospital as a part time nurse to supplement our income. She has been working night-shift for the past year, but by February will be switching to days. Becky is thankful for her ministry opportunities at the hospital— and if you know her, you know that the light of Christ clearly shines through her smile, kind words, and compassion for those she cares for.

Yesterday morning as I was sharing with the kids, we talked about how God cares for us and we can be content in all situations because we have Christ. We have an Acappella song that we like to sing from Philippians 4:19 that says “and my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches, found in Jesus Christ”. That is what we cling to as we continue to serve Him and His Kingdom. Here is a link to the song:

So, as we head into 2017 we will persevere, committed to the Lord’s call on our lives to lead the Creation Care Initiative around the world, to minister to our kids, and to shine the light of Christ at the local hospital here in Maryville, TN. We look forward to what God is going to do and are thankful for your faithfulness in prayer and in giving. We hope you are encouraged to press on this coming year, regardless of how wonderful or challenging the past one has been. Our God is faithful and he calls us to “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer”.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Giving Tuesday?

Every email I receive around this time of year is either talking about the "#GivingTuesday" that is after Thanksgiving...or the Year End Giving. Honestly, it makes me sick to my stomach to write such an email to anyone I know--or even to those I don't know! Sure, we are missionaries, and we depend on the generosity and sacrificial giving of people to keep our ministry going, but I really struggle with this extra focus on the money! Here are a couple of reasons why:

1. We Christians are called to be generous people. We don't give because it's convenient, and we shouldn't give because we get a tax-deductible receipt. No, we give because we have been given so much in Christ! We can never repay the debt He payed for us on the cross. In fact, we are told by the Apostle Paul that our God will supply all our needs according to his glorious riches, which are found in Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:19). I cling to that each and every day being a missionary; God will provide for my family's needs, somehow, and I believe his Word!

2. We Christians shouldn't bow to the cultural pressures of "giving" in a politically correct way. Who decided that the Tuesday after Thanksgiving was a great way of raising extra funds for the slow winter season? As if the "end of year" requests we all get bombarded with weren't enough already? If we are going to give, we should give wholeheartedly, out of joy, not out of pressure.

3. We Christians should PLAN our giving as much as possible, allowing for extra funds for spontaneous giving, if possible. We are called to be generous people, and shouldn't be pressured or "guilted" into giving, so make a PLAN to give regularly to the things you value, but especially to those activities that will earn you a reward in Heaven. We are told not to store up treasures on earth, but to store up treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-20)--that which will last for eternity!

The only place it seems these requests we get so often for Giving Tuesday and year-end stuff would fit into my reasons for struggling with this is that I should be ready to give spontaneously if possible. However, this leads me to my fourth point:

4. We Christians should educate ourselves on what is worthwhile of our investments/giving. With so much information in the palm of our hands via our smartphones, we know of so much need around the world. Earthquakes, floods, drought, refugee crises, missionary efforts, and all the local needs such as the local food pantry and homeless shelter in our towns/cities are ever-present on the news. How do we not get overwhelmed by all the need? We can't respond to everything! What I believe we need to do is pray about what we should invest in/give to, give wholeheartedly to it, and intercede through prayer for the other needs we can't financially give to.

When I have done this, I have a peace that only God can give me because I know I am planning wisely, giving generously, and making an impact for eternity. I hope it can help you navigate this season of "giving"and beyond.

And, no, I'm not including a link to give to our ministry. What would be the point of me writing this if I did? If you wanted that, you could've asked me for it. Your job is to educate yourself and ask questions...remember?

Monday, October 24, 2016

Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountain National Park

A few weeks ago we went to Cades Cove, a beautiful spot in the Smoky Mountains that is encircled by the mountains. There are some beautiful views from within the cove, and many old cabins/homes are still there from when the park was created in the early 1900's. If you go this time of the year though when the leaves are turning, it can take you a few hours to circle around the cove b/c it's a one-way road and you are at the mercy of the person in front of you! If they stop to look at something or drive slowly, you just have to wait.
 One of the many homes still standing. They just don't build 'em like they used to!

 Fields behind an old Methodist Church and cemetery. This is a view up the mountainside.
We drove straight across the cove (shortcut--kids were getting antsy!) and got this view! Becky and some of the kids saw the black bears wandering around--I had my eyes on the road (mostly, sometimes on the view).

What a blessing to be so close to such a beautiful area, and that this area is a National Park! In fact, I believe it's the only FREE national park--so come visit us sometime!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Columbus and the rise of science: we've been lied to.

As I've (Ben) written before, if anything is true, it belongs to God, so as Christians we do not have to fear it. I believe it is important that we don't forget that this is what drove those Christians who came before us to excel in what they did, to make the discoveries they did. They knew generations ago that this world was created by God and would obey His will, laws He had established during the creation of this world, of all things. In fact, all things are being reconciled to Him, through his Son, Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:18-20)...but not everyone accepts this reconciliation offered. Ok, on to Columbus and science!

This article is from, you can read it or listen to it there too. Here is the link: BreakPoint article: Columbus & Science lie 

-Thank heavens that Columbus was able to convince the world that the earth was round. Except, as Chuck Colson explains in this classic BreakPoint commentary, Columbus didn’t have to convince anyone.

-For well over a century and a half, secular intellectuals have promulgated the myth that when it came to understanding the natural world, medieval and earlier Christians were superstitious simpletons. As we mark Columbus Day today, read what Chuck Colson said back in 2003 as he debunks that pernicious fairy tale.

To paraphrase the opening of a popular ESPN show, these four things everyone knows are true: Before Columbus's first voyage, people thought the world was flat. When Copernicus wrote that the Earth revolved around the Sun, his conclusions came out of nowhere. Three, the "scientific revolution" of the seventeenth century invented science as we know it. And four, false beliefs and impediments to science are Christianity's fault.

There's just one problem: All four statements are false.

As Rodney Stark writes in his new book, "For the Glory of God," "every educated person" of Columbus's time, especially Christian clergy, "knew the earth was round." More than 800 years before Columbus's voyage, Bede, the church historian, taught this, as did Hildegard of Bingen and Thomas Aquinas. The title of the most popular medieval text on astronomy was Sphere, not exactly what you would call a book that said the earth was flat.

As for Copernicus's sudden flash of insight, Stark quotes the eminent historian L. Bernard Cohen, who called that idea "an invention of later historians." Copernicus "was taught the essential fundamentals leading to his model by his Scholastic professors"—that is, Christian scholars.

That model was "developed gradually by a succession of . . . Scholastic scientists over the previous two centuries." Building upon their work on orbital mechanics, Copernicus added the "implicit next step."

Thus, the idea that science was invented in the seventeenth century, "when a weakened Christianity could no longer prevent it," as it is said, is false. Long before the famed physicist Isaac Newton, clergy like John of Sacrobosco, the author of Sphere, were doing what can be only called science. The Scholastics—Christians—not the Enlightenment, invented modern science.

Three hundred years before Newton, a Scholastic cleric named Jean Buridan anticipated Newton's First Law of Motion, that a body in motion will stay in motion unless otherwise impeded. It was Buridan, not an Enlightenment luminary, who first proposed that the Earth turns on its axis.

In Stark's words, "Christian theology was necessary for the rise of science." Science only happened in areas whose worldview was shaped by Christianity, that is, Europe. Many civilizations had alchemy; only Europe developed chemistry. Likewise, astrology was practiced everywhere, but only in Europe did it become astronomy.
That's because Christianity depicted God as a "rational, responsive, dependable, and omnipotent being" who created a universe with a "rational, lawful, stable" structure. These beliefs uniquely led to "faith in the possibility of science."

So why the Columbus myth? Because, as Stark writes, "the claim of an inevitable and bitter warfare between religion and science has, for more than three centuries, been the primary polemical device used in the atheist attack of faith." Opponents of Christianity have used bogus accounts like the ones I've mentioned to not only discredit Christianity, but also position themselves as "liberators" of the human mind and spirit.

Well, it's up to us to set the record straight, and Stark's book is a great place to start. And I think it's time to tell our neighbors that what everyone thinks they know about Christianity and science is just plain wrong.
(The original commentary aired December 4, 2003). 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Drought and the need for wise stewardship of creation

If you know about the drought in Southern Africa, you'll understand why Creation Care efforts (biblical environmental stewardship) are crucial today! We can reduce the effects of drought by biblically stewarding the environment, but until we can do it widely and have a larger impact, we continue our ministries of compassion in Zimbabwe and around the world. Click on the video below to learn more.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Golden Circle

This post started as a clarification for myself and my ministry at TEAM, but it turns out it might be helpful for you to read as well. I hope it helps give a clearer understanding of the strategic role Creation Care/Environmental Missions plays in the growth of the Kingdom (Mt. 16:18). God IS building His Church, and the gates of hell will NOT prevail against it!

WHY: We believe caring for creation from a biblical perspective will restore people and their environment into flourishing, sustainable, Christ-centered communities.
HOW: Driven by our belief, we work with communities at a grassroots level, developing culturally appropriate solutions with local stakeholders and resources.
WHAT: We do this through a variety of projects and partnerships with churches, communities, and other effective NGO's.

What do these projects look like? Some are quite simple, others are more technical, but they all have one thing in common: to share the gospel of Jesus Christ in a practical way that will restore people's lives, land, and help their communities flourish in a way that reflects Christ and demonstrates the reconciliation Paul writes about in Romans 8:19-22 and Colossians 1:18-20. So, the projects are many and varied, but they involve aquaponics, agroforestry initiatives, eco-tourism trips, sustainable agriculture efforts, reforestation efforts, micro-enterprise development, urban gardening, appropriate technologies, recycling, water purification, well-drilling, and many more.

I hope this helps clarify things for you as much as it did for me. What a privilege to serve our great God through these Creation Care efforts!! As always, if you have questions or want to chat, feel free to email me!

Monday, August 08, 2016

What? Trees talk?

Of COURSE our God would create trees and forests to talk among themselves...why not?? Amazing discoveries science is making--I believe it just shows how creative God is, and how important it is that we understand our stewardship mandate!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A Heart of Stone?

Ezekiel 36:26 “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

Two weeks ago I was at our TEAM annual conference at Wheaton College, IL. I was able to spend time talking to Dave & Cheryl Jereb, missionaries who just returned from a two year commitment in Zimbabwe. Their vision was to provide sustainable food sources and job training for needy communities through aquaponics, a self-contained system for growing produce and fish. Take a look at a video they produced regarding their work:

 I had challenged them and brainstormed with them last November when I was in Zimbabwe to connect the work they were doing with the gospel more directly-through evangelism & discipleship. How thrilled I was to hear last week that God had given them a breakthrough! This year has been the worst drought in 10 years in Zimbabwe—everyone’s farms are failing. The community surrounding the Jerebs thought that Dave was a crazy old white man trying to grow food in only stones and water. He also had significant health problems so many thought he had been cursed—of course he wouldn’t be able to grow anything! But then the community started hearing about all the food he was producing—so much so that they now regularly have schools coming through the greenhouse to observe and learn about how the crazy, cursed white man grows food with only stones and water! All the leaders have seen the results: juicy tomatoes, tasty tilapia fish, and other leafy greens, all grown much quicker than any other method and using less resources--regardless of rainfall and drought!

Here is the best part: not only do people hear how to grow food in stones and water, but they also hear that God can change our hearts of stone and give us hearts of flesh with Living Water to produce abundantly! The gospel is clearly proclaimed to dozens of students and adults daily, and now the community is working to replicate this in all of the local schools, with the gospel front and center! Wow!

This project is one example of why we have our Creation Care Initative at TEAM, stewarding creation for God’s glory and the good of people. Our goal is to have the gospel front and center in all that we do.

What a privilege it is to be a part of what God is doing in bringing people to himself around the world!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Dichotomous Worldview?

We Christians have a challenge before us. It is not a new one, but it is one that still has not been resolved. It has to do with the term “Creation Care”. Most Christians over 40 years of age in conservative circles still feel a bit uncomfortable at the sound of this, thinking it means we are “green”, or “tree-huggers” in the liberal sense of these words, and that we are on a slippery slope. While I believe it is true that we all should be this as Christians from a biblical stewardship perspective, it is certainly not true that we are liberal—not in our theology, nor in our practice. So what is Creation Care after all?

To answer this, we first need to go to Scripture and understand the spiritual, social, and physical environment of the biblical Hebrews. If we try to understand his or her mindset and way of life, we will see that they did not dichotomize between the spiritual and physical, the supernatural and natural. No, they were intertwined. In our Hellenized worldview where we dichotomize the spiritual from the physical realities, we have boxed God and His commands into separate compartments in our lives. For instance, we can go to our church building to worship God and thank him for his provision in our lives, but when we walk outside and see the beggar on the city street, we ignore the command to help the needy. We have disconnected the spiritual reality we deeply cherish within the church walls from the spiritual reality of the beggar outside the church walls (in our flawed worldview we actually would classify as only a physical reality). Think of how many times the spiritual and physical are intertwined just in the last two sentences.

Our God is a very real God, very involved in our physical lives—“In Him He holds all things together” (Col. 1:17)! If it weren’t for the spiritual reality of our God, we ourselves and all around us would immediately disintegrate, or implode…all of the universe would fall apart! The fact is that we cannot separate our physical world from the spiritual reality.

As a result of our faulty worldview then, the challenge before us remains: the words “Creation Care” do not lend themselves to “missions”, as missions stereotypically is understood. Believers tend to equate missions having to do with people’s salvation—hearing the gospel and having the opportunity to respond to it. Creation Care, as we see it at TEAM, incorporates more than simply “caring for the created order”. Yes, we need to protect our wetlands, our forests, our animals worldwide. These are important. But it is more than simply protecting. It is making sure the water is safe to drink in the village in Africa, it is helping the local farmer in the Andean mountains control the erosion on his hillside farm, it is reforesting deforested landscapes, providing for the return of the flora and fauna God established in the ecology of that region—all these things giving glory to God because He called it “good” at one point.

Creation Care, as we envision it, is carrying out God’s first two commands to Adam in the book of Genesis:
1. To “fill the earth and subdue it”(Gen. 1:28)
2. To “work it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15)

When we do this in a biblical way, we are enabling believers, all believers, to share the gospel one more way. Let me explain.

Caring for Creation is important—very important—but within the biblical framework, and within TEAM’s Kingdom building efforts, God’s creation is not the end result. Our end goal is to open more opportunities to share the gospel with those who might never have a chance to hear it.
Many of the people our efforts help are those who are living day to day trying to feed their families. They are working in their fields (where rainfall is not erratic or almost non-existent), herding their animals looking for pasture to feed (but it’s too dry due to desertification), or digging in the city dump for daily food (because they can’t get a decent job to provide for their family). They don’t get a break from the struggles. When we physically and practically help these people, these communities, we are opening a door to the spiritual emptiness in their lives that only Jesus can fill. We are investing time in their lives, with plenty of opportunities to live out the gospel, but with many opportunities to verbally proclaim the gospel as well.

Another aspect of Creation Care is enjoying God’s Creation—why? Because Scripture teaches us that all creation reveals God’s glory! Look at the Psalms. Look at Romans. The Heavens declare His power! God uses His creation to point people to Him! When we cannot see the stars in the sky at night because of our excessive pollution, does that reveal God’s glory? When we look at the river and there are trash and pollutants in it to the point that we can’t even eat the fish from it or float down the river on inner tubes with our kids, does that reveal God’s glory? When our hillsides are denuded and the soils wash away from the poorest man’s farm on the hillside, are those mountains pointing to a wonderful Creator? When we cut off the tops of mountains in West Virginia to get to the coal underneath, thereby also polluting streams with toxic chemicals that cause cancer and death in small towns in that area, does God smile at His creation?

We still want to enjoy Creation, do we not? And we certainly want creation to point back to God.
From a biblical perspective, we are commanded to be good stewards and to “keep” the earth. When we do this, we will be able to take non-Christian friends on kayak trips, hiking adventures, and other wanderings, all so that we can revel in God’s glorious creation and point to Jesus as the One who brings complete reconciliation. More importantly though will be the fact that many more people will be able to live off the land God designed for them to depend on—and they will hopefully be receiving the “Bread of Life” they so desperately hunger for from the missionary who helped them with a practical need.

I often say that if we took God’s commands more seriously, all of them, then this world wouldn’t be such a bad place…because the Church, the Bride of Christ, would be shining brightly and making a difference in each cultural context it is present in. Isn’t it about time we take God for His word and start following Him passionately? Let’s all change this world we live in, one person, one field, one stream, one habitat at a time, for God’s glory, and our good.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

On Synchronous Fireflies & "Light Pollution"

“Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord!” Psalm 96:11-12.

I would love for you to learn a bit about “light pollution” and synchronous fireflies, one of God’s amazing creations! Their habitat is from Tennessee to Pennsylvania, but especially where we live near the Smoky Mountains, they are prevalent—most likely because of the moisture in the National Forest. Only a week ago, I stepped outside to take the garbage to the curb, and all the lights were out in our neighborhood. ****This is normal where we live—only a few out of 56 houses have any lights on outside their home at night. This makes for a VERY clear view of the stars at night.**** I then happened to glance at the trees in our yard—and I thought I saw Christmas lights! Yes, bright white lights flashing in a regular pattern, all over the yard! Wow! I had heard about them, but never seen them: synchronous fireflies! If you have never seen them, I encourage you to make a visit to somewhere you could appreciate them—usually the first two weeks of June are the most intense period of their mating season.

What strikes me is that if the lights were on outside, the fireflies probably wouldn’t be flashing, and most likely not in our yard—the female needs to see the males in the tree while she is on the ground looking up. This brings up the problem of “light pollution”, in that God created day and night for a more than one reason. Artificial light can often “mess up” the patterns God has established in his creation. Animals and plants depend on these God ordained patterns for their healthy life cycles. As is often the case, our focus is on our needs over those of the rest of creation. Yes, I agree, often times lights are left on for safety reasons outside our homes—but maybe we could try timers or lights triggered by motion sensors?

What is it that we can do in our little spheres of influence that will allow God’s glory to SHINE more clearly from creation? I think it is worth it when we consider the results—God is glorified in our actions, and we live more simply and in trust of God’s goodness proclaimed through His creation.

Sister's wedding & A Rocha Brasil

I’m in the airport packed and ready to head off to Brazil for my “little sister’s” wedding. She’s 21, loves Jesus, and is marrying Eric, a Brazilian who also loves Jesus. I’m thrilled to be going for the wedding. Unfortunately, again, Becky and the kids will be remaining in TN while I head off on this trip. We will appreciate your prayers for Becky with the kids, again, and for safe travels. We couldn’t do all this without your prayers.

While in the São Paulo airport in Brazil awaiting my final flight connection, I’ll be meeting a new friend, the director of A Rocha Brazil, a Christian conservation organization (part of the larger A Rocha International) that does an excellent job teaching about and helping Christians and non-Christians alike carry out biblically mandated creation care efforts locally that are world renowned. Our conversation will be about how a church planting organization such as TEAM, who cares about stewarding God’s good creation for His glory, can partner with an excellent Christian conservation group that teaches and practices creation care around the world, but specifically in Brazil as a first step. I’m not sure what will come of it, but I’m thrilled to be looking at how we can together expand the Kingdom we are a part of, with Jesus as our King.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Thinking of worms

These days have me thinking of worms. Yes, worms. Not the kind my kids want me to dig up and use for fishing, but the smaller kind, red wigglers, aka Eisenia fetida. They were actually brought to the US in the 17th century by European settlers, and are considered an invasive species. However, we are not likely to get rid of them--they are here to stay!

These little guys are very useful actually, as they feed quickly on decaying organic materials. I like them because of their superior work ethic and amazing gardening benefits. In fact, if you come visit us, I'll show you my "worm farm". It's in the laundry room downstairs, but you wouldn't know it if I didn't tell you. You see, they don't stink (if you do it right), and they eat half of their weight a day. So any scraps of food we need to throw away (well, non-processed foods, like carrot and potato skins, banana peels, strawberry tops, etc.), I just take downstairs and throw into my home-made "worm bin", made from two storage bins. Vermicomposting, as it's called, is similar to regular composting, except that worms help the microbes and bacteria to turn the waste into "black gold", much quicker too. Now, I do vermicomposting for a few reasons:

Reason #1: When we toss organic waste into the trash it eventually ends up at the landfill, and eventually breaks down. One of the by-products of this process is methane gas...ever notice those white PVC pipes sticking out of the ground and landfills? That's to prevent the methane from causing an explosion at the dump as it builds up. However, it IS a greenhouse of purposefully creating a greenhouse gas by sending some of our raw foods (no meat) to the landfill, I choose to compost (vermicompost is what it's called) any organic matter I can.

Reason #2: the compost these worms create, aka worm castings, are the richest natural fertilizer in the world! I have never used any man-made chemical fertilizers in my garden. In fact, the plot of soil that we chose for our garden had been used before by the previous home-owners. They had let the garden revert to it's natural state (WEEDS), but even the weeds weren't growing well there. There's something to say about giving the land a "Sabbath rest"... However, I planted sunflowers, zucchini, squash, strawberries, blackberries, and many herbs in that garden, straight into that overused, unhealthy soil. I knew they wouldn't grow well, nor produce anything significant if I didn't improve the soil fertility. So, around each plant I put about 1/2 a cup of the worm castings. That's it! It has all the nutrients a plant could need, reduces soil acidity, and lasts for up to two months! It's a natural "slow release" fertilizer because the castings have a natural oil coating that slowly deteriorates and releases the nutrients. Wow! You should see the plants take off once I put the worm castings on, and the color of the foliage is rich green!

Reason #3: as I work with folks overseas who are dirt poor, I'd much rather the little resources they have go to buying food for their family, or paying for their children's education, than spending it on chemical fertilizers that give a quick shot to their crops but don't amend the soil over time. If I encourage them to simplify and use what resources they have, why can't I do the same?

Reason #4: it's fun to have my own "livestock" living in my own house! They ARE useful animals raised for a purpose. However, they don't complain, they can go for a few weeks with no food if needed (when we travel), and they don't stink. They also don't take up much space! People can do it in their own apartment if they want, under the kitchen sink! Then you can use the castings for your house plants! Forget "Miracle Gro", this stuff is free and won't stain your hands or clothes blue!

Reason #5: I love teaching our kids about creation; I want them to be curious and not fearful of what they don't know. I'm always trying to teach them to be aware of what's around them and how it all works. I want them to be in awe of how good God is and how creative He is to make things the way He has.

There are a myriad of reasons to add to this list...what's yours?

If you are a little bit interested in these little wiggly guys, I'd suggest you try it yourself! Just make sure to get the right red wigglers...earthworms won't do the job!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

All truth is God's truth

Flowers in the desert. View of Espiritu Santo Island, opposite Playa El Tecolote, La Paz, Mexico
Have you ever read the book titled "I don't have enough faith to be an atheist", by Norm Geisler? A few weeks ago I was painting for some friends of ours (he hates painting, and I don't mind it--I use it as time for me to think). During this time I've been listening to the audiobook version of the above mentioned book. One of the things that repeatedly strikes me is that biblical faith is based upon truth and reason, just as Paul clearly states in Acts 26:25. On the other hand, atheists demonstrate a failure to assess the evidence correctly and come to the proper conclusions. This got me thinking how so often we Christians fall into this trap and do not assess information logically, with reason, as we are called to do in Scripture (see Isaiah 1:18), but instead fall back on traditions or false assumptions.

However, our faith in our Creator is based upon infallible truths that are only proven stronger each passing day by all fields of study such as archaeology, science, history! We know that all truth is God's truth because He created this universe and holds it together in his hand (Isaiah 40:12, Hebrews 1:10, Job 38:5, and especially Colossians 1:17). As a result, we need not fear the truth as it is revealed.

So, as a biologist, pastor, and missionary, when I read the scientific data, or experience something that tells me the natural order of things isn't what it used to be, I have to start asking questions--questions that help me find out the facts that will help my reasoning. Things I have seen, experienced, or read about from first-hand accounts are: the rains aren't as consistent as they used to be in Brazil (something I've seen myself having grown up there and lost crops while serving there), when they do come, they are very powerful and they are torrential downpours. The poorest of the poor cannot grow crops on their land anymore (this is commonplace around the world) because it has been overused without a period of rest (fallow). In many places erosion has washed away the rich topsoil in the powerful rainstorms that drench the land in three days versus the ordinary three months. The water table has dropped in Mozambique due to the rampant deforestation going on there (which I also have seen and experienced) causing water shortages and widespread famine.

The results of these questions I'm asking tell me something is wrong! Call it what you want, but as a Christian, I know that we have not been given a spirit of fear! Paul says that we have been given a spirit of power, of love, and self-discipline or sound mind/sound judgment (2 Timothy 1:7). So I know that when I see the environmental realities around me, I'm called to be LOVE, to remember that I have a voice as a Christ follower, and it is a "sound", or disciplined approach I am to take with ANY challenge I face. I don't need to fear what the world says, because I am a STEWARD of creation, or the environment, and I take my responsibility and privilege to steward the environment seriously. Why? Because God created it and told it to flourish, and then He told me, and YOU, to help it flourish (remember that in Genesis?). So, I challenge you to interpret what you read and hear through the lens that all truth is God's truth. Whether it is scientific data about the environment, or different conversations you have at work or school, our faith is based upon the TRUTH that God created this world, holds it in His hands, and we are His stewards responsible for caring for this world He's put us in. Let's start to live like this in the public sphere and take back our voice--the world needs to hear it!

Monday, May 02, 2016

It's in the little things

It's in the little things
Last week I went off a planned day-trip to the mountains to spend some focused time in prayer and worship of our Creator and Savior, along with trying to do some planning for the year of ministry ahead of me. I was excited to go on a long hike to Abram's Falls in the Smoky Mountains, not too far from our house. However, going down into the valley area where the river is, on a one-way narrow road, it was blocked by construction vehicles. "What??" I thought. I talked to the park rangers and workers there, asking if I could even walk through--they said it was closed. A large tree had fallen the night before and broken up half of the paved road that allowed access to the trailhead.
Honestly, I was quite depressed after this. I was really looking forward to this hike and subsequent swim at the cold waters of the falls, then some focused time of planning and prayer. I opted instead to drive back up to the top of the mountains and walk around an old, closed campground. And therein lies the lesson for me, and possibly you too. I was so focused on the big picture of my plan that I wasn't flexible enough to see the little detour God had planned for that day. Instead of a hike where everything passes me by, I was forced to slow down and look for the beauty in an old campground.
Part of my role at TEAM is helping the Church, you and me, remember that it is our responsibility and privilege to care for God’s Creation. There’s no alarmism in this reminder—it is simply something we do for the glory of God. We do it for His name to be clearly proclaimed through His creation (Romans chapter 1) so that men are without excuse. But we also do it because God’s desire is for ALL OF CREATION to flourish! That’s in Genesis 1 and 2, and all throughout the rest of Scripture—God LOVES to see His creation flourish since it brings Him glory, pleasure, and it provides for our well-being—humankind depends on the fruitfulness of Creation. Wouldn’t it make sense that we care for that which God has established to provide for our needs? What a blessing it is for me to work with our cross-cultural missionaries at developing projects that bring the whole of the gospel message to those who have never heard, and to see their lives and the created order around them flourishing! For some amazing videos and photos click on this link to see some of the results of caring for God’s creation in La Paz, Mexico. Thank you for your partnership in giving and praying to make this possible!