We returned last night from a trip to the beautiful Arraiolas (Ahaeeolus) river, which runs north/south emptying into the north side of the Amazon River east of Almerim, about six hours from Porto de Moz. As we turned onto this river, it was like we entered parakeet paradise. There were thousands upon thousands of these beautiful, small birds and not one moment passed over the several hours of travel on this river when I didn’t hear their harsh, animated cries. Of course, we brought several home that were sold at the houses that we visited (for $1.50 each). The river was small, about 100-200 meters across most of the way, and the mosquitoes were pretty thick. All of the Brasilians used nets (which they typically see as a sign of weakness!). We visited several villages which were quite poor and located 4-6 hrs from the closest city, Almerim, which is the size of Porto de Moz (8-10,000). The people greatly appreciated the delivered filters and received them with enthusiasm. A passionate advocate from Porto de Moz, "Taco" has traveled to these villages extensively and had the people well prepared to receive the filters and to appreciate the value that they would bring to their lives. What a difference a passionate advocate makes! I was personally challenged in that as an advocate for the Kingdom, how passionate am I? We will likely return to this area several times. We saw many people medically, well over 100/day, and these folks seemed grateful for both my medical care and for my laying hands on them and praying, asking Jesus to resolve their problem, to draw them closer to Him and to remind them of His love for them. There were frank conversations of what it means to walk with Jesus and several people showed obvious hunger for the Kingdom. It was more people than I typically see (about twice as many) and I ran out of reading glasses and several key medications. They received this, however, with remarkable tolerance, without exception.
We had devotion time each morning with the eight workers on our team and the engagement in these guys and their hunger for God is beautiful to behold. The various guys come on these trips at different stages in their life journey. Some have walked intimately with Jesus for several years and some have never heard of a personal relationship with a loving God. One former gang member that has now come on several trips asked this week how he could accept Jesus and become His. The hunger in these guys is in frank contrast to the marked indifference toward relationship with God that exists in the culture otherwise. On the return trip home, for example, in the dark, I went up to the top of the boat to enjoy the stars and some solitude. Five of the guys who spent the week delivering filters were sitting next to a boom box, with the volume cranked playing vineyard worship music, with eyes closed, some with hands raised, and all belting the lyrics out into the night. The spirit of worship was so very sweet and I laid down on the roof and watched, listened, and joined in, descending an hour later quite encouraged from seeing their uninhibited hunger to worship and to draw close to their "Pai Pai".
Indifference, nonchalance, and matter of fact-ness, are what we typically see in this culture (like in the States) when we speak of God and His passion and affection for people. Here God is perceived as distant, He is believed in, He is accepted as real, but He is really not something to spend too much time dwelling on (unless you’re an especially "deep", a "religious" person, or in church). God here is religion, not relationship, and the general attitude regarding God (and religion) is one of indifference. This reminds me that our relationship with God isn’t much different than any other relationship. Any relationship is dead when one or both parties becomes indifferent toward the other. Think of all the marriages you know (the majority) where the prevailing attitude of one toward the other is one of nonchalance. The relationship becomes quite superficial and a partnership at best. What is so sad in these marriages is that the ability to build up and deeply encourage one another is lost. How we are encouraged deeply when someone shows passionate interest in us, and the exact opposite is true with indifference.
Indifference is worse than hate and certainly worse than love. Both hate and love communicate that a person has enough value to elicit a response. Indifference communicates that the person has no value and is not worthy of response or effort. It is why, in many ways child neglect can be worse than child abuse. Both are undesirable and leave wounds that to heal require extensive love and therapy. Many feel good that they don’t hate God or hate others but these same people wound far more with their indifference than they ever would with hate. We look back at the KKK in disgust and yet our indifference toward those living in different cultures and in different belief systems is as ugly. Those who passed by the wounded man in the story of the Good Samaritan did not hate him and yet Jesus made a point about them more than about those who assaulted him.
Jesus uses the term "lukewarm" to describe indifference. He says it makes Him want to vomit. I completely understand this sentiment as I discuss with people the profoundness of His love for them and the remarkable, undeserved grace that is theirs from the God who could wipe out the world with a thought and who made all there is, in all its wondrous complexity. So often conversation about such wonders is responded to with a yawn or a statement about something as profound as the mosquitoes, the rain, the water level on the rivers, or the latest soccer game. There is such a general lack of interest in spiritual things, in things unseen, in God himself, unless there is a perceived immediate reward for doing so ( a genie-type syndrome, popular in both the faith movement and the Catholic church here — "Do this and you will receive…").
What we are passionate about (the opposite of indifference) shows. If you are not passionate for your spouse, believe me they know. You will suck the life from them if they are not indifferent toward you. If you are not passionate about your kids, they will miss the opportunity to grow up knowing they have a particular value to someone; that they are not just one of millions. If you are indifferent toward God, all the good works in the world will not make up for this and you will certainly miss many of the blessings of the Kingdom, those that require our hunger and passion for God, for truth, for love.
The essence of indifference is self focus and people with self focus will drain life from all who know them, though this is usually pretty well disguised. We must choose well about what (or who) we will be passionate and toward what (or who) we will be indifferent. Though I thought otherwise in my youth, it IS a choice, and not a feeling. I am challenged again this morning to reconsider my choices. Please reconsider with me. Don’t be like the majority, indifferent about everything except themselves. Choose to have your spouse matter. Give them your time and attention. Affirm and reaffirm his/her value to you. Choose to have your kids matter. Give them your time and attention. Laugh with them, affirm and reaffirm your love for them. Choose to have your relationship with God matter. Meet with Him, share your heart with Him, listen for His counsel, follow hard after Him.
And because those indifferent toward God can die, as we have, and become new, we will continue to preach the truth of our Father’s incredible grace and we will continue to love those who don’t appreciate it.
They matter to us if we spend individual time with them, if we listen to them, if we serve them.
He who respects will be respected.
In this world you will see little just and fair, therefore be just and fair.
Worship is not singing. It is a pleasure, however, to admire, appreciate, and surrender to, God (worship) in song.
The way of the Kingdom is usually opposite of the desires of our flesh and the way of the world.
To gain experience is to experience failure. Experiencing failure provides opportunity to gain valuable experience.
Many think that knowledge equals expertise. True expertise cannot, however, be gained without much practice and experience, over much time.
To love is to experience pain, rejection, disappointment, misunderstanding, and vulnerability. Love still, for life without loving is worse than any of these.
Those things most significant in this life are unseen (Love, hate, peace, joy, despair, desire, hope, trust, faith, etc). "See" these!
The world unseen is at war. One who seeks peace, joy, faith, and love steps into this unseen, yet very real, conflict.
To neglect the unseen in this life is to walk through a rose garden blindfolded. You are able to still appreciate aroma, texture, etc, but you are unable to appreciate that part of the garden most beautiful.
Every person, thing and circumstance has within it and about it both good and bad, both beautiful and ugly, both strength and weakness. We choose that on which we allow our eyes, ears and hearts to focus.
To do good things is not "Christian". To live in intimate relationship with Jesus is "Christian".
Why do preachers need to shout and carry on so when they speak about the Kingdom? When did Jesus do that?