Day Five (Jan 1) – A Brand New Year [Ukraine Missions Trip]

This entry is part 5 of 9 in the series Ukraine Missions Trip 2009

This is the fifth entry in the series I am writing about my trip to Ukraine – I didn’t have daily internet access while there so I recorded each day for later publishing.  And later [much later actually] is now.

  • It was a beautiful bright sunny day today (although cold!)
  • Today we didn’t have breakfast until 10am allowing us some time to sleep in because of the late night before.
  • It was a bit of a slower day today because almost everything was closed with it being New Years Day
  • Ed Dickson with some of the kids who were at McJoyful
    Ed Dickson with some of the kids who were at McJoyful

    The entire team went to McDonald’s for McJoyful and we ended up having lunch there.

  • Following McJoyful we came back and got ready for the New Years day service at 4pm at the Krivoy Rog church (Pastor Gregory’s church).
  • The service was not a typical service but it was awesome with a wide variety of skits, special music, the worship was amazing, loud, special guests and of course I had the privilege of speaking.

I stumbled across this site thanks to a Catalyst Post and it’s a useful look at varying perspectives on God. This site gives voice to the raw thoughts of many that the average Christian would never hear. At the very least it gives insight into the struggles some face with the whole “faith” thing and serves as a good reminder of the people God wants us believers to share His gift with… (and take a careful look at just how well we’re sharing!)

Which comes first (why faith matters)

Can a flame exist over ice?I just read an interesting post by Seth Godin called, “Which comes first (why stories matter)“. In it, Seth points out the interesting relationship between the work we do and the story we have. Two points caught my attention:

The work is what people talk about, because it’s what we experience. In other words, the work tells a story.

Then a bit later he goes on to say,

…if you decide what the story is, you can do work that matches the story. Your decisions will match the story. The story will become true because you’re living it.

As I read this article I immediately thought of James 2,

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. – James 2:17-18 (NIV)

The Christian story is one that should have influence over everything the believer does and everything we do should flow out of the gospel narrative and how it has transformed us (the story). James articulates that faith (the story we believe in) is connected with the “works” we do and if there are no works then there really isn’t any faith.

So, if churches and Christians already have an incredible story to tell, is what we’re doing telling it?

Choosing Blasphemy?

I recently came across this article in Newsweek (January 8, 2007, Jerry Adler) – here’s an excerpt,

‘Hi my name is Lindy and I deny the existence of the Holy Spirit and you should too.’

With that five-second submission to YouTube, a 24-year-old who uses the name “menotsimple” has either condemned herself to an eternity of punishment in the afterlife or struck a courageous blow against superstition. She’s one of more than 400 mostly young people who have joined a campaign by the Web site to stake their souls against the existence of God. That, of course, is the ultimate no-win wager, as the 17th-century French mathematician Blaise Pascal calculated?it can’t be settled until you’re dead, and if you lose, you go to hell.

I went and visited the site and discovered that the “blasphemy challenge” offers an incentive for those who would do what Lindy did. Guess what the incentive is? People who take up the challenge and follow the instructions (which include the requirement to explicitly say, “I deny the existence of the Holy Spirit” in their video) will receive a free copy of “The God Who Wasn’t There”.

Here’s what I don’t understand. First, there are actually people willing to risk an eternity in hell for a video that basically promotes there is no God and mocks Christianity? C’mon there’s gotta be a bigger payoff than that! But then I get thinking of the Lindy’s and the Michael Lawson’s who are meeting the challenge for their free video. What has happened in their lives to give them such a bad taste for God and such a willingness to rush into the opportunity to “blaspheme”?

Second, this viral vitriol against Christianity and God is getting ridiculous (getting? it’s beyond that)! Does belief in Jesus Christ really pose that much of a threat to those who choose not to believe? Ah, but perhaps it does…perhaps its the fear that one’s “freedom” might be infringed or trodded upon if this religious monstrosity is allowed to flourish. Forget the fact that most significant historic accomplishments were done by believers, forget the fact that almost every school of higher learning was founded by believers, forget the fact that nearly every major hospital, orphanage, or some sort of social care organization was begun by believers. Oh but faith must be stopped because our “freedoms” and “intelligence” and “progress” will suffer… hogwash!

Jesus spoke of himself when he said,

…if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36, NIV)

Freedom from what? Freedom from sin, from slavery to sin – that propensity to place self above everything else (even God) and constant dissatisfaction in life. What the proponents of don’t seem to realize is that the very subject of good vs. evil predicates some universal absolute standard of measure from which conscience is formed. The very presence of our present day imperfect (because of sin) civil law and order, government, and “justice” finds it’s roots in the perfect justice and order of God.

Now am I saying the unbeliever is incapable of good, or is incapable of placing others before themselves? No. The corollary is also true – Christians and believers aren’t perfect either and sadly we too do things contrary to the teaching of the one we follow. However – the very fact that the good is recognized in the non-believer and the bad is recognized in the believer is significant in any discussion on the existence of God. Truly, if God really didn’t exist then why are atheists so concerned? Why the battle? Does it really matter then if there is good or evil? If the Christian is hypocritical or the non-believer a saint?

And finally, the question that keeps my head shaking through the whole thought process is the question I’d ask those posting their “blasphemy” on YouTube. “What if you are wrong?” Let’s reverse things for a moment. I’m a Christian. I believe that I have been saved from death (hell) and saved to life (here and later in heaven) by my faith in the work of Christ on the cross and His resurrection from the grave – a work that dealt with my sin (which separated me from God). I believe that Christ now works in and through my life and He has a unique purpose for me in this world. My life is richer because of my faith in Him. My love is fuller because of Him. My joy is more complete because of my faith in Him. My hope is more sure because of my faith in Him. With that said, if you were to ask me, “What if you are wrong?” My reply would be simply, “then I haven’t lost anything…” Can the “YouTube blasphemers” say that with the same degree of certainty?

Book Review- Chasing Francis

Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale

Rating: 3 out of 5

Author: Ian Morgan Cron

Year: 2006

Publisher: Navpress

ISBN: 1576838129

“Chasing Francis” is the story of a pastor in a large church struggling with his faith in the light of different personal tragedies encountered in the first few pages of the book. After being forced to take time away from being a pastor Chase Falson embarks on a pilgrimage led by his Uncle (a friar in the Franciscan order) in which he learns about Saint Francis. In the course of this pilgrimage, Chase is forced to rethink some of his faith-positions in the past and his relationship with God. If you think I’m going to tell you everything that happens think again :lol:!

Ian Morgan Cron introduces in the preface of this book that the reasons for writing this book arose out of a discussion he was having with NavPress about how Francis’s,

…unique spin on ministry and the spiritual life might add something to the conversation about church in these postmodern days.