An Olympic Size Rant

For my newer subscribers, this is the type of random post I warned you about. But thanks for reading anyway.

NBC’s coverage of the Olympics is way overdue for a fresh approach. In the age of instantaneous and social news, they have not adapted the way they broadcast. The most popular sports are still tape delayed for prime time. But the frustrating things is, the rest of the world gets to see it live. Results are out. There’s no excitement or suspense by the time we see it. I understand the desire to show the best stuff in prime time, but show them live too! Evening can recap the best of the day.

It’s funny how last night, the show opened with Bob Costas reminding how everything would be recorded but there would be no spoilers. Except that the NBC Nightly News led with the results of the Lochte/Phelps race. And we had no opportunity to watch it on TV.

And there is actually very little sports in the prime time broadcast, compared to daytime when we get to see full events. Rather, they fill the time with awkward interviews that bait the athletes or do fluff pieces like going through Ryan Lochte’s shoe collection. I’d be interested to see how much time of their 5 hour broadcast actually showed the events.

And then there’s the big stink of how NBC cut away from the part of the Opening Ceremony that was dedicated to the subway terrorist victim’s in the UK. Rather, they showed an interview with Ryan Seacreast asking Michael Phelps if he felt like he was the greatest Olympian of all time. (How does one answer that? Who asks that?)

Today, during swimming qualifying (live), the announcer said we could watch the final of the race tonight. So naturally, I immediately hopped online to see when it would be on live. At least we have that.

I don’t care that they re-air the big events in prime time. Heck, make it like a Sportcenter style recap show. But to not show them live is ridiculous. Then to be audacious enough to say “we have a spoiler-free show” when the whole world knows the results and got to see it live–and also they give the result in their own news broadcast–is idiotic. Their daytime coverage is vastly better, if for nothing more than actually getting to see full events,

Couple of my favorite tweets when you search #nbcfail sum it up pretty nicely. And it’s worth noting the NBC executives said they are aware of the chatter, but also said their viewership is higher than ever so their model must be working. Billions of dollars are at stake in these broadcasts, but isn’t a little some change due? Guess we can plan on more inane coverage for many more games to come.

Kudos to NBC for steadfastly refusing to allow athletic competition to get in the way of its Olympic coverage.

NBC pays billions of dollars to give us coverage of the Olympics instead of actually showing, you know, the Olympics.

I can easily imagine people watching the Phelps defeat live tweeting their heads off telling friends to watch it in primetime. I can imagine people thanking NBC for curating the best of the day at night and giving folks a chance to watch the highlights.

An Olympic Size Rant

A Person of Peace

Today we had plans to visit a temple that is set high on a hill that overlooks our entire city. But some opportunities from earlier in the week changed our plans. The boys we had learned cricket from had invited us back at 11 am to play with them. We took an American football with us. Boy was that a hit! It wasn’t long before we had a crowd of boys, though most stayed on the railing that surrounded the little dirt patch they play on between classes. One young man, who I’ll call Manny, grew particularly attached to us. After a while, Jake and I walked down he street with Manny to a small bowling alley. We played a game and asked if Manny had Facebook. He did so we wrote our info on a track that is written in his language. Unfortunately, because of the loudness and chaos of all the boys, there wasn’t really an opportunity to talk with him.

After bowling, we went back to the field. Now a huge crowd of boys had gathered. As Jake was throwing the ball, the crowd was big enough to attract the attention of the police who told the boys to scatter. Some did; most didn’t. After the police left, there was suddenly some shouting. I looked over and saw Manny yelling angrily and trying to get over the fence at a guy, who was being held back by the others. It turns out, the boy had insulted the way Jake was throwing (ha!) and Manny was ready to climb over the fence and fight him to defend Jake! Pretty funny. Well, we decided we had better go and return after lunch. And we would have except it started raining. Hopefully, I’ll have time to go later this morning to say good-bye.

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After some rest, we headed back to the university, this time with our friend here. Jake, of course, got in on some basketball. As I watched from the side, some boys came up and asked if we could show them some tricks. Our friend started showing them how to dribble between their legs and some basic basketball drills. They all loved it. I fell into conversation again with one of the team members, who I’ll call Abe. He wasn’t playing because he is the guy who just got his cast off. As we talked, I asked him who was the best player on their team. He said that they did not believe in boasting, but was having a hard time relaying that in English. So I prompted him, asking if he meant they were humble people. He said yes, he believed in humility because that is what is taught in the Bible! WOW! I said, yes, as a Jesus-follower, I believed that too. And he replied that he is a Christian!

I was immediately excited and began asking more questions and talking about our experiences. I tried to gauge his foundation in the bible a little. I asked if he shared his faith with his teammates. He said yes, that it was his responsibility to do so. After I told him how apathetic most seemed, or that they just believed Jesus is another god, he said that that was true, many believe those things, but the Bible teaches Jesus as the Son of the One God! I called our friend over and connected them. Abe invited him to their church, telling us they have prayer meetings every morning for the city and Bible study on Thursday nights.

As I reflect on it, and we got home, I began to see that God had answered our prayer. We had found our person of peace. I had some doubt in my mind, I’m ashamed to say, but when we got back together in the evening, all of us were saying it. And really, why should I doubt that God answered our prayer? It is so exciting! With all prayer and expectation, I hope our friend and Abe build a great relationship and that Abe’s faith is sound in biblical doctrine.

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To round out this last post, I would ask your continued prayers for Larry, who fell ill again yesterday and was unable to join us. But we prayed that as he was at the hotel, he was able to connect with our awesome staff there. Also, although Sunday was physically restful, it was very tough emotionally. The puppy our friends got turned worse and did not make it. I believe God gives us gifts to enjoy His creation and delight in His goodness. Among the many blessings that encompasses, is the companionship of pets. They very much become our family. So pray our friends can focus on God’s goodness and look forward to a healthy, properly weaned puppy in a couple weeks.

We’ve checked out of our hotel. This morning we’re going out one more time while our friends learn language. Then we’re resting and heading to the airport at 11 pm, to arrive at 3:30 am and depart at 6:30 am. We leave on a Wednesday and arrive at home on a Wednesday, so it is literally going to be the longest Wednesday of our lives. See y’all back in the states!

A Person of Peace

Planting Seeds

We’ve learned a lot in the first four full days. We have three full days left. Yesterday was very encouraging. (When I say yesterday, I’m writing this at 10:15 am on our Saturday, and it is very late on your Friday). I think the biggest thing we have learned about trying to engage people is that walking around constantly wasn’t particularly working. So we shifted gears and went to places we could stop. Larry headed off to the mall while Charity, Jake and I prayer walked a poorer neighborhood for our friends’ future efforts there. A couple of songs came to my mind yesterday as we walked. I had such joy singing them to myself through the streets; very likely the first time such words of worship had been uttered there. One song was “Sing Along” from Passion’s White Flag album, and the other was “You Said”. I want to share a few words from the former, if you don’t know them.

From babies hidden in the shadows,
To the cities shining bright,
There are captives weeping far from sight.
For every doorway there’s a story,
And some are holding back the cries,
But there is One who hears at the night.

From the farthest corners of the earth,
Still His mercy reaches,
Even to the pain we cannot see.
And even through the darkness,
There’s a promise that will keep us,
There is One who came to set us free.

Great God, wrap Your arms around this world tonight,
Around the world tonight.
And when You hear our cries,
Sing through the night.
So we can join in Your song
And sing along.

Hear the powerful prayer for the city we are in, in these words. The darkness and real hopelessness is all-pervasive. It is heart-breaking. With a Dad’s houses nearly on every corner in our country, we really don’t have the proper perspective of the darkness in the world.

After the walk, Jake and I went back to a small dirt field where we had seen some boys playing cricket the day before. This time we got in on the action, and before long, we had nearly 20 young men and boys talking to us. For the most part they were interested in American pop culture and when we asked if they wanted to hear a story from our favorite book, they weren’t interested. But we are going back Monday morning with an (American) football to play with them again.

That afternoon, we searched out a city park and found ourselves at the university. There were some young men playing basketball, but Jake wasn’t allowed to join them because he didn’t have on “the proper costume” (meaning athletic shorts and tennis shoes). However, one guy was sitting on the bench. Jake was able to share the entire gospel message with him and he seemed fairly receptive. As I prayed as Jake talked with him, I felt that this university could be a powerful force of influence in this city. The younger generation seems much more receptive to us, definitely. These guys said they play every day at 5 pm so we definitely plan to go back there.

Unfortunately, Larry got quite ill yesterday. I myself had a pretty unsettled stomach but nothing that incapacitated me. Just uncomfortable. But Larry had diarrhea and vomiting and had to go to the hospital this morning. They gave him IV fluids and he was just back to our hotel before I began writing. Please lift him up for healing and strength. Not sure what the rest of us will do today, but I’m praying for the Lord to send us where He needs us. I also specifically prayed–and you can join me–in that I get to share my faith with someone in the same way Jake has. Charity is also still praying for the same for a woman. She’s met a couple but when we’ve gone back, they weren’t there anymore. Lastly, our friends just got a baby pug named Kuri. He’s a lot younger than they anticipated and she is really worried about him, as he seems a little sickly, having received his vaccines too early (we think). As a fellow pet owner, I get it, and ask you to lift up her concern and worries about their new little family member.

Planting Seeds

Learning and Processing

As little preconceptions that we tried to come in to this with, it is still nothing like we thought. Our greatest barriers are apathy and complacency. I the last two days, we’ve hit up so me popular local attractions, like the palace (which I think I mentioned last time), a beautiful gardens area, and a zoo. The white people are something of an attraction themselves. We’re asked to be in quite a few photos. It’s one of those things where you can choose to let it be awkward or just roll with it. For us, it gives us an opportunity to ask questions. The basics are questions like where are you from, what languages do you speak, are you Hindu or Muslim, etc? Being able to offer to take photos has been fairly effective as well. For our friends here, they need the kind of basic information we ask to determine the people groups that are in the area.

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Today at the zoo, a young man walked with us the entire way. His English was okay. He considers himself non-religious. Jake took opportunities at the lions and snake house to tell him some bible stories, like the lion’s den and Moses staff turning into a snake and devouring the Pharaoh’s. It was hard to tell if he understood, but we hopefully got across that we believe God to be Creator. You can pray for this young man along with us.

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Afterward, Charity wanted to shop to try and talk with some ladies. The thing is here, we can’t really talk to a vendor unless we intend to buy something, otherwise they are not interested in talking. In fact, we find it rather difficult to get past everyone wanting money from the white folks. Our “taxi” driver on the way back to the hotel ended up being Christian (Catholic). We had a nice visit with him on the drive. Speaking of Catholic, there is a church next to our hotel. Larry and Jake went to mass this morning and were invited by the nuns to come back to their healing house, where some terminally ill patients are.

I finished the Francis Chan book this morning. I really feel like it helped me breakthrough a barrier in understanding the Holy Spirit’s role in my life and in this. Today was much more relaxed. For some reason I felt a lot of pressure. I guess I expected to come in and at some point we would lead someone to Christ. And that may very well happen yet. It’s only the end of day 3. But if all we do is gather the information we and our friends need to more effectively minister to this area, then that is our role for now. That is why this is our vision trip. We will be spending time doing more prayerwalking in the next couple days. One place will be a market, another will be a poorer neighborhood that needs prayer support before our friends go in. Please make that your focus as well.

Learning and Processing

Day One in South Asia

After powering through our arrival day to stay awake, we all got about 10 hours of sleep last night. Woke up and went through the day pretty adjusted. I would be remiss if I didn’t first talk about the traffic here. We use horns to signal displeasure; here they are used to signal turning or letting a driver ahead know you are coming up. There aren’t really any lanes and everyone is just vying to stay ahead. Autos, motorcycles, scooters, buses…they get way close to each other, weaving in and out of everyone. Intersections are somehow both chaotic and flowing. One thing about it, there were no fender benders.

Our friends gave us a schedule of areas to visit for the week. Today we went to the local palace and a huge market. It’s overwhelming to say the least. We walked a lot. I think I can safely say we were all pretty stunned. There were a couple guys who would begin walking along with us and we were able to talk to them. We were invited in to see how this one family made incense and fragrant oils. Meals have all been authentic food; very spicy. The restaurants at home? Yah, not spicy.

There’s a very large palace that has been around for about 250 years old. We walked the grounds and met a couple folks more. After we came out of the palace, we were sitting on some benches and things started happening how we maybe anticipated. Folks came up to us and wanted to take a picture with the Americans. Ha!

The couple of people we were able to asked about what they believed and told them that we follow Jesus were largely apathetic. And that very well may be our greatest challenge. Everyone can believe what they want and all get along.

My personal struggle is feeling or experiencing the Holy Spirit at work. I’m not sure how to pray as we walk. I kind of feel like I’m saying the same things over and over. And it’s a bit frustrating. Fortunately, in Romans, we have the assurance that the Spirit intercedes for us. So as we intercede for light to come to these people, I pray the Holy Spirit will intercede for us.

The Holy Spirit is needed in this place. It is dark; there is very little light. The worship of created–or made up–things seems insurmountable. As I read a book on the Holy Spirit by Francis Chan this morning had some good and timely Scripture. If you need guidance on how to pray for us, use these verses:

Luke 12:12
Acts 9:31
1 Corinthians 2:9-10

Day One in South Asia

The Mind of Christ

At Compass, we’re going through a study on the Holy Spirit.  A couple weeks ago, the focus scripture was from 1 Corinthians 2:1-16.  The Holy Spirit is not something we talk much about around Baptist circles, for whatever reason.  But on the eve of leaving to South Asia, the Holy Spirit is exactly who I need to understand better.  Anyone who has been raised in church knows the standard lines of what the Holy Spirit does for us.  He convicts us, gives us discernment, helps us understand scripture, etc.  As we read and discussed these particular verses, an amazing insight came to me that is so relevant.  Pretty cool how as we are learning about the Holy Spirit, He was giving me an understanding of what He wanted me to know about Him.  The first few verses say:

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

In his letter, Paul was relating his previous visit when he proclaimed Christ to them.  He’s being quite transparent in this passage.  He told them that it was pretty simple:  he didn’t need flashy words or crafty quips.  He didn’t need to garnish his words or have a 3-point outline or make it relevant with “life-application” .  He just proclaimed Christ and let the truth of Him speak for itself.  What’s interesting to me is what follows.  He admitted his fear as he preached to them.  At first I easily decided that his fear was probably based on not wanting to mess up the message.  Something I’m very much in tune with right now.  But if you look at the rest of the verse, I think we get a bit of deeper look at the source of his fear.  He didn’t use his own words of wisdom, but relied on the Holy Spirit to speak as a demonstration of God’s power.  That way, the people’s faith would not be reliant upon Paul himself, but come from God Himself!  As with today, our faith does not come from our pastors.  Our faith comes from God.  As with Paul, I certainly do not want anyone we may lead to Christ to be dependent on us.  The whole point of us going is to identify potential leaders for a church plant that can start reaching their own people, and thus multiply.  Paul didn’t want to be the source of the people’s faith; He wanted God to be that source.  And rightly so!

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.  But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.  None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.

Again, the wisdom Paul imparted to the Corinthians were not Christian cliches or witty responses, but rather a wisdom that has been kept secret before time was time.  Our wisdom is fleeting; God’s wisdom is timeless.  Throughout the Old Testament, God imparted this wisdom in bits and pieces through prophets and leaders.  But with the glorification of Christ came the Holy Spirit–a piece (that’s not exactly the right word, but what word could describe such a mystery?) of God within each of His children.  What was once secret and hidden is now revealed.  That’s why Christ said a teacher even greater than He would be coming after He departed.  Jesus was fully God and fully man.  He had a choice of obedience and willingly followed the commands of His father.  He taught what His father had Him teach.  However, the Holy Spirit is the very mind of God.

For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.  For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him?  So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.   Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.  And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

I do not have access to your thoughts, nor you to mine.  (Both good things, right?)  If you want to convey something to me that is on your mind, you have to tell me or show me in some way.  The only one who fully knows the mind of the person is that person.  Paul says it is the same with God.  Here’s the crazy part!  If the Spirit alone knows what is in the innermost depths of the mind of God and we have that Spirit inside us, the amazing beauty is that we have direct access to the mind of God!  I may not be able to see what’s going on inside your mind, but God has made it possible for us to see into His!  Ever played the telephone game when you were little?  The one where a bunch of people sit in a circle.  One person says something into the next person’s ear and the message is conveyed around the circle.  In the end, you get something completely different than the original message.  We don’t have to worry about such a problem with God’s message because we have direct access to His mind inside us.  I may wonder what you’re thinking at any given moment; I don’t have to wonder with God.

Why do we tend to have such doubts and frustrations then?  There’s a thousand reasons why, but it all has its roots in the fact that we make it too complicated.  The simplicity is we are here to give God glory and make His name known throughout the earth.  When we give God ourselves, when we willingly give our lives, when we understand what it means to suffer with Christ, that’s when the promises that “all things work together for good” come to life.  As long as any part of any decision is about “me”, then it’ll be complicated and we’ll cause ourselves to wonder if what we think God is saying through His Spirit is really what we think He’s saying.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.  The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.  “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

We have an understanding of God that people who don’t have the Spirit do not have.  Many truths in scripture just don’t make sense to people who are followers of Christ, and they never will make sense until they become His disciples.  Guided by the Spirit’s wisdom, rather than the wisdom of the world, we are able to discern–of if you would appraise or judge–all spiritual matters. Because the world does not hold this wisdom, they cannot accurately appraise or judge the matters of children of God.  As an aside, I think we must be careful to not take the verses to mean we shouldn’t judge people.  Us Christians are very fond of throwing out, “don’t judge me” as much as the rest of the world.  But Paul quite clearly demonstrates that brothers and sisters in Christ are to hold each other to account for disobedience.  Paul ends by referencing a verse from Isaiah that asked who could possibly understand the mind of God?  We now have the answer:  we who have the mind of Christ, that is, the Spirit.

We go to South Asia completely dependent on the Holy Spirit’s guidance.  I have prayed ceaselessly that we don’t take one step without His stepping with us.  We can practice our stories until they flow smoothly, but it is the word of the Holy Spirit we want to come out of our mouths.  These people whom we travel to have not seen, have not heard, nor could their hearts even imagine, the love God imparts to them and how much He desires for them to enter His kingdom and give Him glory.  The Spirit is already at work as much in the people God is going to cause us to meet as He is in us.  I sense the same fear and trepidation that Paul did, but also, very likely, the same feeling of excitement and awe at watching the Spirit work.  I believe the Spirit is working in you as well, as you pray and intercede for us.  Due to the time difference, don’t be surprised if you wake up in the middle of the night, for example, and sense a need to pray.  For the sake of God’s work, don’t roll back over.  Pray!

The Mind of Christ