Separate Thoughts on Chávez and The Pledge

The way Hugo Chávez is funding his “Bolivarian Revolution” in Venezuela demonstrates that socialism cannot exist without capitalism. In his mad grabs of private industry in his campaign of “nationalization,” he still depends on income from the sale of petroleum to fund his endeavors. Collectivism cannot exist on its own. Chávez is showing us how true this is by utilizing international capitalism in order to finance his agenda.

Collectivism does not produce wealth. It squanders it.

Lately over on Mike Cope’s blog there’s been heated discussion of whether it is appropriate to say the Pledge of Allegiance in worship services. Essentially, I agree with what Mike says in his posts. The church confesses that Jesus is Lord, and we are good citizens because we are faithful to Him.

Not Bad

Last night I taught my first ESL class in over a year. Really, the first class was more of a conversation and get-to-know session. Tonight and for the next couple of weeks I’ll have another obligation on Thursdays, but after that I’ll be teaching this group from Monday through Friday. It looks like I’ll also substitute from time to time on Saturdays.

Later today I need to call one of the men of the Brazilian church to let him know I won’t be able to teach the Friday evening small group in Kearny, NJ any longer. This really bothers me. I hate to stop the series on Abraham so soon after we started, and I don’t like backing out of the commitment. It is, however, a necessity.

Second Job

Not too long ago I wrote about how Christians can minister through teaching English. Well, circumstances have brought me to where it looks like I’ll have to put this into practice. The northeastern United States is notoriously expensive, and we’re finding that I’ll have to get a second job to keep things going. So, I sent my resume off to a school in the franchise I used to work for, Harvest, and got a call back asking me to come in.

This evening I’ll be heading to the Harvest English Institute on Ferry Street in Newark, NJ shortly after my first job. Tonight I need to be there early to look over the material and become familiar with the school. If all goes well, I’ll be teaching every night, Monday through Friday, from 8 to 10.

As I approach this, there are definitely mixed emotions.

First, I’ve wanted to get back into a little English teaching for a while now, but it will cut into my family time and will prevent me from continuing the study of Abraham for the Friday night small group.

Second, it’s been over a year since I last taught ESL, and I wonder if I’m too out of practice. On the other hand, I began ESL teaching again pretty quickly after arriving in New Jersey from New Mexico, having not taught ESL for well over a year then.

Third, I’d much rather be carrying out ministerial duties. Then again, how will I ever meet new people and share the Good News of God’s reign without getting out there?

As always, prayers are appreciated.

Ministry to Them?! – Part Two

David’s grandmother was in her nineties, but was remarkably vital and lived alone near where he worked. He made it a point to have lunch with her at least twice a week, and it was now the Tuesday after the scene he made at church. Since she was a lifelong member of a different church and denomination, when she brought up the topic of immigration he knew that either someone in the family had told her…or worse, word had spread through the community. It was already embarrassing enough.

“You know, Davie, my father came to this country illegally.”

David almost choked on his fried mush. Half a glass of water and a lot of coughing later, his voice returned.

“Grams, he came over in the 1800s. There wasn’t any such things as illegal immigration back then.”

“Of course, your right,” she replied nonchalantly, “he didn’t need a passport or too many papers when he came. It would have helped if he’d had some money, though.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, he was around twenty and both his parents had already passed, so he was an orphan. He never spoke of his siblings, so when he came, he came alone. He wanted to take a one of those ocean liners across to America – oh, this was well before the Titanic went down – so some friends at the port helped him hide inside one of the crates.”

“He was a stowaway?”

“Yes, yes,” the small white-haired lady smiled to herself, reflective for a moment, “he did a very foolish thing. He was lucky. If he had been put inside a crate that was completely enclosed by other crates, he likely would have suffocated. As it was, he waited until several hours had passed and used a crow bar he had with him to get out.”

“Didn’t someone notice?”

“No, and that’s the funniest part of the thing. Your great-grandfather was so clever. He slipped out of the crate and managed to pass himself off as a crew member for the entire voyage. It was a large crew, and nobody seemed to notice. How likely is that?”

A moment or two passed as David mulled this new information over and munched on a chicken leg.

“But Grams, that’s still not the same thing as illegal immigration. He didn’t commit any crimes to get in.”

“Didn’t he? I’d call not paying for passage the same as stealing. He thought so too, because when I was ten we started going to the Lutheran church, and Papa’s conscience got the better of him. He actually sent the price for passage with a full confession to the liner’s offices in New York!”

“Still, we’re living in different times. You remember 9/11, right?”

“I’m not senile yet, Davie.” Grandmother’s eyes darkened at any hint she was thought of as infirm.

“Sorry Grams.”

“That’s fine, Davie. Eat your green beans.” The grandfather clock ticked away in the otherwise silent room for a minute or two, and then,

“Davie, I remember 9/11, of course. I saw those people jumping out of windows, choosing to fall to their deaths rather than be burned alive. I remember the moment the first tower fell, feeling all those deaths in my bones and dreading what I knew had to follow. I also remember that those men believed in a radical religion that filled them with hatred against our country and the entire western world. I remember how some of them even came to our country legally. I also remember World War II. I remember how the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, bringing low so many young men in the prime of life. Some of them died slowly, entombed underwater in their sunken ships. I also remember how the German people were driven by an insane ideology to kill Jews, Christians, Jehovah’s witnesses, the mentally ill and anyone else who wasn’t like them. Now we don’t think twice about the Germans, and the Japanese are friends of our county.”


“I also remember how we treated colored people when I was a girl. I didn’t see a thing wrong with it, and folks said they had to be kept in their place so they wouldn’t take white people’s jobs. Did you know that was an argument for slavery before I was born? So, when I think about people from other countries wanting to breathe free, wanting to find better opportunities and are willing to risk everything for it, I think of my father. When I think of the terrorists and their fanatic beliefs, I remember the Germans, Italians and Japanese and know that people from the Middle East might someday be our friends too. When somebody tells me a Hispanic man might take an American man’s job, I think of Martin Luther King Jr.”

“It’s not that simple Grams….”

David had finished his plate and now was staring blankly down at its floral pattern.

“Listen to me prattle on…would you like some apple pie? I baked it just this morning.”

Scattered Comments

Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday, though the church I attend made no mention of it. The historic church calendar is meaningful to me, and coincidentally I was already reflecting anew on the person and work of the Holy Spirit these days. Looking around the basement over the weekend I came across a book entitled “Charisma vs. Charismania” by Chuck Smith. This is apparently a Calvary Chapel pastor, and the book can be bought on here, or you can read it for free online here. I’m not recommending the book, but the author tries to take a third approach, rather than the excesses of a lot of Pentecostalism or the absolute rejection by most fundamentalist Christians. It remains to be seen how successful he’ll be.


As I reported earlier, my mother-in-law succeeded in getting the tourist visa. It is only for one trip…a three month stay. This would be great, but now my poor wife is scrambling to find $1400 for airfare. We don’t have any credit cards with this limit, and so far she hasn’t found anyone willing to help with theirs. Please pray with us that the means will become available soon, so the validity of my mother-in-laws travel visa doesn’t expire without her making the trip.


Today is Memorial Day. When I was growing up, my mother would go every year on the weekend before this day to put flowers on the graves of people from our family. Some years I went with her. Though I believe I remember all their locations (in cemeteries in Knox County, Missouri) and I may even remember how everyone is related to me, I can’t say that I remember all of their stories.

For others, Memorial Day is a day of remembrance specifically for friends and family that lost their lives in service to the United States. With the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, there are surely many families grieving this year that were not last year. I hope and pray this ends soon.

God bless those who have lost loved ones over the past year, whether in battle or by other means. I know the pain.

O Aniversário da Igreja

“Chegando o dia de Pentecoste, estavam todos reunidos num só lugar. De repente veio do céu um som, como de um vento muito forte, e encheu toda a casa na qual estavam assentados. E viram o que parecia línguas de fogo, que se separaram e pousaram sobre cada um deles. Todos ficaram cheios do Espírito Santo e começaram a falar noutras línguas, conforme o Espírito Santo os capacitava” (Atos 2:1-4 NVI).

No calendário da igreja, hoje é o dia de Pentecoste. Era uma festa judaica, mas num dia específico, depois da morte e resurreição de Cristo, se tornou um dia especial para os discipulos. Hoje comemoramos o nascimento da igreja, a inauguração do reino de Deus em toda sua plenitude na terra, preparando para a volta de Cristo e os novos ceus e nova terra.

Se você faz parte de uma igreja evangélica, é possível que não vai ser comentado nada sobre este dia. Meus amigos e parentes católicos vão ouvir leituras e talvez uma mensagem do padre sobre este assunto, e pode ser que em algumas igrejas pentecostais terão celebrações da vinda do Espírito Santo.

Pretendo escrever um pouco sobre assuntos relacionados ao evangelho, o Espírito Santo e a natureza e obra da igreja. Nas próximas semanas vou escrever aqui sobre estas áreas, e espero que você volta de vez em quando para ler. Normalmente escrevo em inglês, mas esta séria vou fazer somente em língua portuguesa. Eespero que de qualquer jeito o que escrevo pode iluminar o caminho de alguem, fortalecendo fé.

Volte para ler sobre estes assuntos:

– O coração do evangelho é que Jesus é o Senhor

– Batismo

– A missão de Deus

Vou criar uma nova lista do lado direito deste blog só para artigos em portugûes.

Ministry to Them?! – Part One

David cringed every time he drove by the Home Depot on the way to work. 8am every day, rain or shine, there was a crowd of Hispanic men out in the parking lot waiting for contractors to pick some of them up for a day’s work. David kept wishing that either Home Depot would come to its senses and make those illegals get of its property (isn’t it called “loitering”?) or else the city could step in an pass laws prohibiting the hiring of illegals or even renting to them. After all, all these illegals were bringing crime and drugs. Just the other night on Lou Dobbs he saw how cases of leprosy had risen in the United States, largely because of the immigrant population.

Taking his family to church every Sunday they drove through a main street of the downtown that had been nearly taken over by Hispanic stores and restaurants. He remembered that in his childhood he had ridden his bike down that same street, stopping at old man Thompson’s pharmacy for a Coke every now and then. Sure, business had dried up until the arrival of the Mexicans 10 years ago, but surely those storefronts would have been occupied by regular Americans eventually anyway.

What really irked him was that, just a week ago, his pastor had announced that the church would be starting a new “Hispanic ministry.” He presented Pastor Rodriguez, a man who would be working bivocationally while getting the new Hispanic church going. The church building would be used by the new ministry on Sunday afternoons, before the regular American evening service.

After church, David cornered his pastor.

“Pastor Tom, I’m not sure about this new ministry.”

“Really Dave? Well, why don’t you tell me what’s on your mind?”

“Ummm…okay, well…it just, you see, do you really think it’s a good idea to give those people free reign over the building?”

The pastor rocked back visibly on his heels, but recovered quickly and calmly said, “Go on.”

“Well, it just that I know everyone has invested a lot of time, money and energy in this building. Remember how I was there every evening when we were putting the finishing touches on the construction? And my wife Stephanie headed up the committee that decorated the nursery rooms. We just…you know…don’t want it getting messed up.”

“David, I’ve known Pastor Rodriguez for several months now, and he comes very highly recommended by our denomination. The church council here is very impressed with his past work. He and his wife are trustworthy folks and they have a very good team of people to work with them. They will keep a very good eye on things, and even if anything is damaged, I know that the Hispanic brethren will take care of it.”

“I hope so,” David mumbled.

“Was there something else?”

“Ya, actually there was. I just don’t like the whole idea of encouraging these people. I know Pastor Rodriguez and his wife are probably good people, but they’ll be working with illegals. The way things are today, especially after 9/11, it just doesn’t seem patriotic or even safe to be giving a green light to foreigners to come in and do as they like.”

“Dave,” the firmness in the pastor’s tone was now very clear, “you seem to be confused. We aren’t talking about Saudi Arabians or even Muslims. We’re talking about Hispanic people who have come to this country looking for a better life. They are not terrorists. And even if they were Arabs or Persians…Muslims of whatever variety…they need Jesus. The church is all about preaching Jesus and bringing people into a personal relationship with Him. We are not a border control agency here.”

“Pastor, that’s just the problem!” Now David was practically yelling, and a handful of people were gathering near. “No, we’re not a government agency, but we’re American citizens and we need to take a stand for our country. There are men and women overseas right now fighting for our freedom, and here we are opening the doors and giving away what we have. I’m not the one that’s confused…you are!”

These last words sprayed out of David’s mouth. He wiped a bit of foam from the corner of his mouth, and seemed to come to his senses as he looked around and saw the small crowd. A few were nodding their heads in agreement, but the majority just had pained looks in their eyes.

“Dave, obviously you and I don’t see eye-to-eye on this.” The pastor’s voice was strained but even. “When I look to the Scriptures, I see hospitality as one of the key virtues of a Christian. I see Abraham welcoming the Lord Himself when he welcomed three strangers, and I see God coming to us in Jesus and asking for our welcome. The Word of God tells us to go to all nations, but here they are coming to us, and we won’t share the Gospel with them?”

“It’s not that.” David was visibly embarrassed by all the eyes on him, and wished he’d never started this conversation. “I do think we should go to the nations with Jesus. But why can’t we go to them instead of help them break the law by coming here?”

“David, you know we have a work in Mexico. Pastor Rodriguez actually graduated from the Bible college we support there, and has served as our interpreter there on many occasions. In fact, he’s a Christian now because of a missionary from our denomination that went down there 40 years ago and converted his grandparents. We’re not helping people come to the United States illegally, we are ministering to them here. People come to this country for the same reasons our ancestors did: for a chance at a better life.”

“Pastor, I don’t want to argue with you. It just that if things are so bad where these people come from, why don’t they stay there and work to change it?”

“Dave, do you actually believe that a person, or even a thousand people, with limited experience and no more than an eighth grade education should be expected to bring about a democratic revolution that will work? Our Hispanic friends have children just as we do, families they need to take care of. They aren’t political activists or wealthy entrepreneurs with time and money to topple their corrupt governments.”

David was quiet, and so was the gathered group of about twenty onlookers. The pastor asked one of the deacons to pray, and the prayer focused on finding peace and fellowship in the congregation regarding this issue. Afterwards, the pastor shook David’s hand and the group broke up silently.

Everyone knew this wouldn’t be the end of it.

The Nigerian Scam

This morning I received one of those scam e-mails from Africa, part of what has been called “the Nigerian scam.” Since 1999 I’ve received more of these e-mails than I can count, and I’m sure most readers of this blog have too. This particular one actually says it’s from Ghana. Same scam though.

Normally we just delete these, but I’d like to suggest that if you get one of these e-mails, you report it. Here’s what I found on one website about how to report it, even if you haven’t been victimized:

“If you have NOT suffered a financial loss, so the matter is not Urgent, you may alternatively SNAILMAIL the Scam documents you have received to the United States Secret Service, Financial Crimes Division, 419 Task Force, 950 H Street, Washington, DC, 20001-4518, USA. But be sure to mark your documents "No Financial Loss – For Your Database.” Or, you may EMAIL the Task Force at

If you have been made a victim by one of these scams out of Africa, there is more info on the source website for what to do.

Not As Before

Sometimes fear can be healthy, especially if it keeps us from danger or turns us back from destructive way. A fear I have, one that I need and that really bothers me from time to time, is the fear that I’ll return to the way I was.

No, I’m not talking about the way I was before I accepted the path of discipleship at age 17. I’m talking about the way I was before my faith and ministry collapsed in New Mexico.

After graduation from Harding in 1999 and up until I left New Mexico in April 2005 I was a very hardened but conflicted legalist. Although I hated legalism, I was so deeply immersed in it that I couldn’t really tell I was a legalist. During my time in New Mexico I actually joined some discussion lists under a pseudonym in order to escape from my miserable spiritual reality. In my second persona I came across as a fairly progressive minister.

Apparently I was projecting the person I wanted to be.

As my recovery continues I am afraid that I will get away from my desire to serve people on the margins. Even my ministry to Brazilian immigrants might become misdirected into a focus on “respectable” immigrants, rather than the sort I believe I really need to reach.

Another area of my life that needs continual attention is in regards to forgiveness. It is a matter of ongoing repentance from an unforgiving attitude for me to stay on the correct course.

I’m not what I want to be, I’m not as I was, and there can be no going back.