Saturday, October 29, 2011

A alternate way to celebrate Oct31

Adult version of "trick or treat"
Teaching kids about extortion
So the time of year has begun again where we try to instill the important worldly values of how to extort what we want through threatening into our children (commonly know as "Trick or Treat"). One of my favorite activities during this time is the practice of bobbing for apples. The way was in the old days under druidism ( Called samhain) you would round up the kids for human sacrifice to appease the evil spirits loosed on the planet and give them one last chance to avoid being sacrificed. The "game" of bobbing for apples. It began with taking the already bound children and placing them in front of a barrel of boiling oil with apples or other fruit floating in it. The kids got to try to grab the fruit in their teeth which even if successful would result in at least 3rd degree burns over most of their face. This is commemorated all over the country even today in churches that claim they are Christian under the guise of a "Harvest Party". We fear our children will miss out on the fun their unsaved friends are having celebrating a pagan holiday that rather than teach them that we need to be changed and die to ourselves and follow Christ that it is ok to mix in Paganism and worldly values with the Church, and that begging rather than work is the way to get what you want.
I Suggest an alternate holiday if you absolutely feel you must do something with the kids on Oct31. On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed the 95 Thesis to the church door in Wittenberg Germany. This event began the reformation and is the root of most Bible based churches today. He suggests that the Bible is to be trusted more than the counsels of men (or popes), and that the church as a whole had turned from the faith and was doing things contrary to scripture. Back in those days it was common to use the Church door as a community buletin board for public notices, and most were made more robustly than most church doors today (many today are made from glass) so perhaps rather than a nail, duct tape would be a better choice. 
    So here is my suggestion have the kids make up notices outlining a few scriptures from the bible about turning from idolatry and pagan worship and go tape them to the door of the local church that is having a "Harvest Party" on oct 31. It might be fun to add what Luther himself used as the opening to his notice;
ut of love and concern for the truth, and with the object of eliciting it, the following heads will be the subject of a public discussion at Wittenberg under the presidency of the reverend father, Martin Luther, Augustinian, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and duly appointed Lecturer on these subjects in that place. He requests that whoever cannot be present personally to debate the matter orally will do so in absence in writing.
  1. When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said "Repent", He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

Then add in some scripture about children stumbling and millstones, worshiping mammon, and other points that you and the children find relevant to turning children from Christian homes away from Christ and into thinly disguised pagans for the night.  When you get home you could have a bit of German chocolate cake and start preparing for Thanksgiving which at least has some biblical roots, but that is material for another blog entry at another time. Until then remember that even if you fish from the swamp, it is not wise to swim in it.
Yours in Christ,
Donald C Phinney II



Monday, October 24, 2011

The True Church

It has been a while since I got behind the computer to write. I struggle sometimes with the politics of what I write when I am staying with or working in ministries that are struggling to set people free through the truth of The Gospel of Christ. Often in the process of attempting to breath life into a ministry you run into people so bound by traditions rather than scripture that the old wine skin needs to be discarded so that a new one can be found to contain the new wine. Such is the situation I found when I rode my bike from Seattle to Illinois to help and old friend.
    On my previous trip to Atlanta Illinois (not Atlanta Georgia) Dan had just started to pastor this small church that had been closed for many years. people were beginning to re-dedicate their lives to Christ, He helped to bring unity to the local churches and often local pastors would preach from each others pulpits or have common outreach events. Missionaries from around the globe would come to visit, there was door to door evangelism, street witnessing, revival meetings in the park, regular baptisms of new believers, and kids giving their lives to The Lord.
   You would think to yourself hearing this that under such conditions there would be rejoicing in the streets and praise from the 4 corners of the earth for such a servant of God who would be used to bring about such things. You would of course be wrong. You see this is all happening in the mid-west of the USA where most everyone has heard The Gospel but has chosen to either harden their hearts against it, or has become so wrapped up in religion and self-righteousness they would most likely kick Jesus out of the church if he were to show up because he did not wear a tie, and his bloody feet might stain the carpet.
   What most want these days is to come to church a time or two each week hear a happy feel good message, be entertained by good music (but nothing with convicting lyrics) and restrict the membership to people who dress like them and are from the same social and economic class. They have no tolerance at all for people who are just coming to Christ, preachers that tell them to talk to the people around them about Christ, or God forbid praying for the persecuted church or encouraging people to go to the missions field.
    So on the first visit about to this town when things were getting started there was a massive increase in the church, on the second the older crowd was doing their best to use political and social manipulation to remove Pastor Dan. The result was that almost all the new converts and those that had re-dedicated their lives ceased to meet in the Church building and moved to home groups where they decide things like how best to go out and evangelise their towns. Meanwhile the building the old guard removed their pastor from is all but empty, and looks very much like it is on it’s way to a full downward spiral.
     I often wondered why The Lord had me drive 2000+ miles on my little 700cc bike to such a thing and slowly it comes into focus, the why of the whole thing. while I was there I was able to help a few missionaries as they past through, and fill a short gap of time when Dan was without a helper. The big thing I see though this is a change in the way church happens. I am seeing more and more that the real life of the church is not so much in buildings and the old traditional worship services, but in overstuffed houses full of believers where kids are running between adults standing packed shoulder to shoulder in living rooms worshiping.
    I have since got on the bike and drove another 1500+ miles to the 4 corners reservation near Gallup NM where there is a ministry starting up in a little double wide mobile home. A handful of men live in the home full time recovering from their addictions while they continue to study the word and challenge each other with the word and prayer. On friday they feed anyone who shows up and pack out the living room.  This last Friday there were at least 40 adults in the livingroom of the double wide trailer and many kids running around (no idea the number would be like trying to count fish in a bowl). The fun part of this model is that because little is spent on buildings the church size is self limiting. when things get to big for the space the group is forced to raise up new elders so the group can divide and plant a new house church.
      This model is not limited to only the house church of course, just last night I went to a church on the rez where they have planted 4 churches in 3 years. While this is still a lot slower than the multiplication found in most house churches this church has also a few people raised from the dead and multiple healing from diabetes and cancer documented by doctors so I think perhaps they get a hall pass for slower multiplication as they seem to be giving strong evidence of God’s blessings.
       In short what I have been learning is that groups of people who function from fear and tradition tend to be so controlling the quench the work of God. While in theory there should be no reason why God can not move just as well in the traditional style of church we see in Norman Rockwell paintings that play organ music and are filled mostly with grey haired old people and their grandkids the tendency is for us to lean on our old perceptions of what WE think church should be rather than what the bible says it is in such enviroments.
     The word Ecclesia that was translated into the word Church in most bible translations literally means The Called Out. The word Church has it’s roots in a totally different place. the word Church comes from the root Circe and the gathering of people who worship Circe is of course..... The Circus. Now I do not blame the language for the state of the modern church, but as of late it has become more a place of entertainment than discipleship and true worship of God. What is needed in today's church climate is a drastic change, enough so that it is impossible to lean on old unbiblical traditions and force people to turn back to the bible to learn how to behave.
     The current church has failed to be salt and light to this country. With so many claiming to be Christians and all the buildings with crosses on them one can not help but wonder why we kill the unborn, allow homosexuals to adopt children, remove the bible from schools but allow the teaching of almost every other belief, and change our law of "freedom of religion" into "freedom from religion". There is a desperate need for us as Christians to lean to trust and lean on The Bible alone and to chuck this luke warm ear tickling vomit that comes out of the mouths of most of the board controlled 501c3 corporation, government regulated, hirelings we have placed behind our pulpits and allowed to lead us astray.
      Time has come for full surrender to God as the bible commands. As things are going in this country now it will not be long before the persecution we hear about in other countries comes here. This may be one of the many reasons that it would seem God is moving more in small groups, cell groups, home church, and other more persecution resistant venues than the traditional church. Jesus said a servant in not greater than his master, and that if they persecuted him they will do the same to us. The time for going to a big building with a cross on the front with weekly feel good entertainment, money chasing, like warm, and living like the rest of the world but with a fish bumper sticker will thankfully be over soon.
    If you are reading this and getting upset and feeling like I am pointing a finger at you please feel free to open your bible and dig out some scripture in context to try to justify your current behavior. However if on your search you come up empty and find nothing please do what John the baptist commanded and then later Christ himself “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand”. He is coming back soon and repentance is not something you do once to get fire insurance it is a lifestyle choice to daily die to self and take up your cross and follow him (not dead traditions). May the lord help us through his Holy Spirit to see the truth and walk in it.

Yours in Christ,
Donald C Phinney II

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A few Tech tips (kindle, portable power,etc)

As many of you know that travel a lot you sacrifice a lot to save weight and make compromises based on what you can do with intermittent access to power and other infrastructure we commonly take for granted at home. We also are not accustomed to thinking about what works globally verses at home.


Lets begin with something we don't think much about and take for granted. Clean water!!! even if you see the local people drinking the water this does not mean that your body will handle it well. It is hard to do a lot of witnessing and kingdom work while sitting on the toilet. If you do not filter or boil your water you will either be doing just that (living glued to a toilet) or spending a lot of money on bottled water. I highly recommend the filter on the left it is made by MSR you can get it on amazon or a lot of camping stores. also Katadyn makes some very good ones for larger groups. Make sure it will filter bacteria and spores. Most cheap filters like the ones you have at home are only to remove chlorine taste and light sediment. This is an area I recommend you spend a few dollars on. boiling is not always an easy option and dysentery is no joke get the best filter you can afford and you may even be able to be a blessing to others with the clean water you can provide.

We have a few concerns here. first is that not every place has the same size wall plug or voltage. many laptops and cell phone chargers have small transformers that can handle American and European voltage and frequency.
    In the USA we have 105-135 volts AC at 60 hz in Europe most places are around 220 volts at 50hz. Before you head out check the transformer on your laptop or cellphone charger for what it can handle. Transformers will be stamped into the plastic or on a little sticker glued on it. If possible when buying devices check the transformers 1st to make sure they can handle 100-230 volts and 50-60 hz.
    The next problem is the physical size of the plug. there are a multitude of plugs out there, but most of Europe is one type of plug. the UK is another, and then there is American. you could get adapters for each country, or get a multi adapter like the one in the picture. these are cheap and can be found on amazon for under $4.
USB Port and plug

I do not recommend toting around gadgets that require 120v or 220v only as voltage converters tend to get heavy especially anything that requires much power like hair driers, coffee pots, etc. the best bet is to go as light as possible and try to keep everything running on either rechargeable batteries either internal (like a kindle) or replaceable (like in a digital camera) and charge them from USB. you can also charge your AA batteries from USB with a little charger that doubles as a USB port. I have This one  and recommended it highly as it puts out good voltage to charge even the most hungry Iphone or android. Lastly if you can not get the device you need to run or charge on 5v USB there is always 12v with a car charger and a small wall voltage to 12v adapter make sure you get one that handles both 110 and 220 voltage and you can use it in any country. the combination of a car celphone charger, and a wall voltage to 12v adapter is close to the size of a single wall wart style charger but gives you more options, and if you have multiple things to charge you only need one wall to 12v adapter and can use it with all you chargers so if you have more than 2 devices you need to carry the net result is lighter and smaller.With a USB charge cord for your phone, kindle and a 12v car lighter to USB adapter and your laptop you should have all the power you need. the laptop can get a plug adapter when your near regular power and be used to charge everything else off it's USB plugs, and when your not you can use the 12v plug on either a car (most all cars and trucks are 12v dc everywhere in the world) or off a small flexible solar panel .

    It is hard to read your Bible without a light and often even when there is a light in a room it is not in a convenient place. Also with just a little light, a white board, and a tarp to keep the rain off your students it is possible to do a lot of teaching. I  recommended having a few different sources of light around for reading and such that run on battery or USB. the little flexible gooseneck lights that run of the USB port of your computer when plugged into the battery powered USB port/charger make a good desk lamp and reading light that requires no country specific power, pack very small and are cheap. Another thing to consider is area lighting for your workstation, and this also can be handled to some extent via USB power via cheap LED christmas lights.
Phone ;
      The next thing to consider is communications and that usually means you need a phone. I now use a Nokia e72 with a nice shockproof otterbox case. In the US most places Verison has the best signal, but unfortunatly verison phones are next to useless for international travel. what you need it a UNLOCKED quad band GSM phone. there are 2 main frequencies for USA and 2 for europe and most of the rest of the world a quad band will get you signal almost anywhere.
Verizon uses CDMA type of phones and most everyone else uses GSM, and lastly you need it unlocked so you can put in the SIM card of any provider world wide and not need special permission or have to go through a lot of aggravation with your service provider. Many androids can do all this (but not the verison one) as well as other phones.    
The next feature that is a big plus is if the phone can be tethered to your laptop. this means that you can either connect the phone to your laptop via bluetooth or USB cable and use it as a modem to get on the net when there is no other WIFI. This is usually not cheap as you are charged by the megabyte, but if you need to get a plane ticket, or check your bank account before charging something to your card it a good to have. there are several standards for this such as GPRS,EDGE, 3g, etc mostly this is a matter of how fast, but as this should not be your primary method of getting Internet, speed it not your largest concern. Compatibility to your computer operating system (windows, Mac, Linux, etc) is.

The next feature would be WIFI. if your phone can do 802.11 b, g, or n  WIFI and runs a popular phone operating system (Symbian, android,Iphone, etc)  you can use it to surf the web directly with some limitations, and to run Skype. Skype is almost a must for international calling, and I use it a lot on my computer to make calls. If your phone can run it and has wifi then you can keep the laptop in it's bag and save some battery life. Also if the phone runs Skype it is a lot easier and convenient to use. the only limitation is it is easier to do conference calling on the PC version of Skype than the cellphone version.

 Printed books, magazines, and tech manuals.
    The next thing I highly recommended is a kindle. My laptop is advertised as having a 6 hour battery, but in reality gets an honest 4. A kindle get 2-4 weeks of use on a single charge. can do a little light web surfing as well as check e-mail, but most of all is like reading off of paper and as you will not be packing a printer around you will find this indispensable in a hurry. Most of the things you would normally rely on your laptop for you can start to off load onto the kindle.
A good example of this is a service called Instapaper you start a free account and place the little shortcut button on the favorites on your web browser on your laptop and when you come to a page you want to read later you click the button. at the end of the day it will come to the kindle with all the other pages you saved as one e-book you can read at your leisure off the nicer screen on a device that fits in a coat pocket and runs 2-4 weeks on a charge. When you get the kindle you will get a e-mail address so you can send things to your kindle it will be something like if you have the 3g version and you are not on wifi at the time you will incur charges for the data transfered. it is not very expensive but you can avoid charges all together by setting up your Instapaper account and sending all documents to this will hold all documents until you come in range of free wifi and keep you from running up a charge on your 3g.
   The next trick is PDF documents. In short the way the kindle displays PDFs is less than stellar (same goes for the Nook, and the Sony reader) to overcome this amazon has provided a conversion service. simply send the file to your kindle e-mail account with convert in the subject and 1st line and then attach the PDF. it will come to you in e-book form and your device can even read it out loud to you if you wish. Lastly if you follow rss enabled blogs those can go to your kindle as well for offline reading via Kindle feeder.
Often you will have intermittent internet and have to use WIFI hotspots at cafes and places where it is loud and hard to work. I suggest either getting a free Gmail account, or paying to upgrade your Yahoo or Hotmail account so that you can use IMAP. with IMAP you can setup your phone and your laptop to download all your email to your computer so you can read it and respond to it when you do not have internet. This means you can take your phone or laptop to a place with internet, download all your mail quickly, then later when you are somewhere you can take the time and have a nice place to work read and reply to all your mails. When you next go to the WIFI hotspot you can quickly send all the e-mails waiting in the outbox of your mail program and get any new mail waiting. This is an option you will grow to love as many of the Internet cafes have loud irritating techno music playing with kids playing video games making it hard to concentrate. much easier to go there for less than 5 minutes at a time to toss email back and forth to your laptop and leave, or use the time in public for witnessing.
While we all have our favorite print version. I recommended getting the bible on every gadget you can. A bible on kindle is a great tool as it is easy to read off from, and if you get a good case for it you will also have a book light. the kindle can give you large print with better readability than a printed bible of any reasonable size, and it is a lot lighter to carry and fits in a coat pocket. HOWEVER navigation or finding verses in a hurry is not the best. I like it when I am just reading the bible a book at a time rather than preparing a sermon or trying to witness. For preaching, witnessing or sermon prep there are a few other options I like better than the kindle. My 1st choice is e-sword or bible time on a laptop both have multiple bible translations in multiple languages with concordances, greek and hebrew lexicons, commentaries, study guides, maps, and other supplemental works like foxe's book of marters and Luther's 95 thesis and many others. All keyed to the verses you are viewing and easy to navigate or search.
   However if your in motion like at a pulpit without power, out on the street, or waiting for a plane/bus/train etc it is easier to use your phone. I have used the Jolon Go Bible a lot. it comes in many languages, is easy to navigate, and like e-sword and bible time it is free. In addition to having it installed on your phone it is good to keep a copy of the installer stored on your phone as well. Tracts are cheap, but sending someone a bible via bluetooth is free. if you send one person a bible and they in turn send it to a few of their friends and so on you could make a massive impact for Christ in a very short period of time for almost no money in an area open to the gospel but lacking the materials.
   Last but not least a paper bible is handy. when all the other tech is out of batteries or your trying to communicate to people over 40. Often older folks are put off by to much tech and rather than press your culture upon them it is easier to pull out a GIANT PRINT king jimmy and avoid friction over generational or cultural differences. However I would note that most of the time you are limited as to how much stuff you have in carry-on or you can jam in your pockets for a trip out and about town. considering your gonna need things like passport, visas, cell phone, maps, and perhaps a phrase book. smaller is better and the kindle and the phone can hold the bible, the phrase book, and the maps. leaving your hands empty and you looking less like a tourist and a potential victim.
You will find that many of the places you go will not have clothing driers. It seems clothes driers are only very popular in the USA. most other places I have been in east and western Europe as well as western and central Asia they don't use them. They hang everything to dry. This is not a big deal if your stationary but if your trying to be mobile you will find yourself doing a lot of ironing, or traveling with wet clothes. consider your clothing choices carefully before you head out. In cold places it is better to have a lot of thin layers both because of the trapped air between them, but also because they dry faster over the radiator in your room, hanging on the bathroom shower rod, or near the camp fire. You may find yourself with no real laundry facilities and have to hand wash in a sink. consider how heavy that pair of jeans or sweat shirt will be when wet and how long it will take to dry before you toss in in your luggage and head out. Often fashion has more than one cost.
     You must also consider where you are going and the local culture. Many cultures find our way of dressing offensive so before you go to the mid-east wearing a tube top and mini skirt, or wearing a T shirt emblazoned with a picture of Mohamed being kicked in the but by a cartoon Uncle Sam consider the possible blow back.
   People will forgive your lack of polish attempting to speak their language much faster than mistakes in local etiquette. Often small mistakes can get you killed. A good example of this is in many places in the middle east you sit on the floor to eat. If the bottoms of your feet are pointed to someone else at the table it is considered an insult. If you plan to go visit and witness to Islamic extremist groups, or other folks that may lack a sense of humor these are the kind of things it is good to know in advance.....

Go Ye .......
    When God tells you to go, do not let lack of preparation or resources stop or slow you. God will always provide for any mission he sends you on. Remember if it's God's will its God's bill and he always pays his. Do as much as you can to prepare without dragging your feet. Equip and train yourself as best you can without using any lack as an excuse to delay or prevent going. I have given a few tips that may help you in your travels, but know that even if we do everything wrong and opposite of common sense and logic if God tells you to do something don't let logic or man's reasoning prevent you. Walking around a walled city and playing some trumpets and shouting does not seem like a sound military strategy but it worked and they did not even have a decent electronic sound system or overhead projector.
As it says in the book of  1 Corinthians....

1:25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
1:26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
1:27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
1:28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
1:29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.

May God bless you in your mission where ever that may take you.
Yours in Christ,
Donald C Phinney II