Posts filed under Second 30

Don’t Call Me a Sissy

By Brian Lowther

My brother is five years older than I am. When we were kids, he was bigger, stronger and better than me at everything. This gave him plenty of reasons to pick on me, make fun of me, call me names, you know, brother stuff. I think my experience was pretty typical. He wasn’t a terrible brother, or a bad person. I probably would have done the same if our roles were switched. But when he’d call me a name, or make fun of my big head—which was admittedly disproportionate—I would lose my temper. I'd scream at him and then I'd go inside and tattle to my mother.

One fall afternoon we played wiffleball in our front yard, something we did most every fall afternoon. He was the pitcher. I was the batter. He threw a fastball. It blew past me and then I swung. I missed—of course—and struck out. He celebrated. I threw a tantrum. This gave him yet another reason to lampoon me. Ordinarily he was fond of garden-variety insults like “Lame-o” or “Idiot” or “Dipstick.” But on very special occasions he’d call me a name that would make my blood boil: “sissy.” He knew how to push my buttons, as most siblings do. I hated being called a sissy with a white-hot hatred. So I went inside.

“Mom, Tim called me a sissy,” I said with seething fury.

My mother's advice: “You go outside and you tell your brother that he is a typewriter.”

A typewriter?

That was her impenetrable comeback that would cause my brother to reevaluate his browbeating ways and immediately apologize?

You can understand why she would say this. She didn’t want one son to insult the other son. So she chose the first harmless inanimate object that came to mind. As a six-year-old trying to one-up my older brother, anything was worth a shot. Perhaps there was a magical insulting quality to the word typewriter of which I was unaware.

I went outside, and the very next time Tim called me a sissy, I looked him dead in the eye and shouted, “Oh yeah? Well you’re a typewriter!”

I was proud, and angry, certain that he would immediately repent, “Oh my. Am I a typewriter? I better change my ways. I don't want to be a typewriter. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me, dear, sweet brother.”

To the surprise of no one, Tim didn't repent. Instead he replied, “Did mom tell you to say that?”

I was deflated. My mom-infused weaponry was a monumental failure. But suddenly an epiphany struck. I could go back inside to tattle and my mother would likely advise me to call Tim a saucepan or a coffee table. Or, I could attack my brother and try to beat him to a pulp. That would put an end to “sissy.”

Now, I don’t know if what I decided at that moment was right. I'm sure there is a very Christ-like way that I could have handled the situation. But you know what I did? I attacked him. From that moment forward whenever Tim would pick on me—especially when he'd call me a sissy—I would summon all of my six-year-old, Incredible Hulk-like ferocity and I would charge at him like a wild animal. I'd try to hit him, kick him, bite him, anything to catch him off guard. He was generally able to brush me aside with relative ease. But every once-in-a-while I would get in a good shot.

And you know what? He stopped calling me a sissy. In fact, he started calling me Billy the Kid, after the hot-tempered manager of the New York Yankees who would storm out of the dugout in a belligerent rage at the hint of a questionable call. I could live with Billy the Kid. That was almost a badge of honor. And it was certainly better than sissy.

This disposition has never left me. Now, don't get me wrong. I like to think of myself as a peaceful person. I try to exude gentleness and love. I know that violence only begets more violence. But inside, I still have the urge to belt somebody if they call me a sissy.

I think this is what drew me so strongly to the Roberta Winter Institute. Like most Christians, my attitude toward Satan was passive resignation: avoid him, try not to sin, resist temptation. Ralph Winter on the other hand, spoke the language of revolution, in defiance of the devil's tyranny. He championed proactive resistance against systemic evil. He wanted to overthrow the powers of darkness, or die trying. Given his intelligence, he could have been a NASA engineer, or a successful computer programmer or a rich businessman. Any of these titles would have garnered him respect. But he knew that men don't follow titles, they follow courage. I loved that about him.

Satan has spent all of human history sending us a message: that he can take whatever he wants and no one can stop him. But I think it's time to send HIM a message: the call of the RWI is to go out as fast and as far as the Holy Spirit will carry us to recruit those who follow Jesus to destroy the works of the devil. Let's show the prince of this world, that he cannot take whatever he wants, and that this world and all its inhabitants are meant for the kingdom and the glory of God.

Brian Lowther is the director of the Roberta Winter Institute. Prior to that he served at the U.S. Center for World Mission in graphic design and publishing.  He lives in Southern California with his wife Debbi and their two children.

Posted on January 20, 2015 and filed under Second 30, Blog.

2015: It's the Beginning of the End for Malaria, Mortality, and Maybe Even Humanity?

By Emily Lewis

"In the fight against infectious bacteria, humans are slowly losing the battle . . . By 2050 it’s expected that, globally, drug-resistant infections will kill more people than cancer." Discover Magazine tells the fascinating story of a new class of antibiotic being developed that might just turn the tide.

But speaking of the future of humanity, if you've been counting down the years since TIME Magazine gave us this scoop (like we have at RWI), then you know we only have 30 more to go until technology makes mankind immortal. Happy new year, everyone!

We at the RWI are finding a lot of things to celebrate in 2015, including organizations like Imagine No Malaria  that are daring to dream of a world where diseases are not just treated or cured, but completely eradicated. "Unlike many other diseases that are awaiting a cure, malaria was eliminated in the U.S. in the 1950s. However, in Sub-Saharan Africa, malaria continues to kill a person every 60 seconds. But there is hope . . . our generation can beat malaria once and for all."

And in case you don't know the story of the elimination of malaria in the U.S., here is Malcolm Gladwell's account of the controversial work of Fred Soper, "The Mosquito Killer."

Today's Question: Did God create parasites, or are they the product of malevolent, diabolical tampering? What do you think?

Posted on January 17, 2015 and filed under Second 30, Blog.

Epic, by John Eldredge - A Review

Editor’s Note: This book review was originally published in the Summer 2006 issue of the International Journal of Frontier Missions.

From the author of Wild At Heart comes this Epic: The Story God is Telling, a small book, which, like Brian McLaren’s [The Secret Message of Jesus], is very logically structured. In addition to the important Prologue and Epilogue it tells the story, the epic, of the entire universe in four “Acts.”

In the 16-page Prologue he insists that we must see the overall story, “the larger story,” if we want to understand the sub-plots.

Act One is where all is good and beautiful.

Act Two is the entrance of evil in the form of fallen angels. (Which, my guess is, at the moment in history when predatory life first appeared in the Cambrian era.)

Something happened before our moment on the stage. Before mankind came the angels. . . . This universe is inhabited by other beings . . . Most people do not live as though the Story has a Villain, and that makes life very confusing . . . I am staggered by the level of naiveté that most people live with regarding evil. (pp. 30, 39)

He now quotes a famous passage from C. S. Lewis,

One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked so much about a Dark Power in the universe—a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the Power behind death, disease, and sin . . . Christianity thinks this Dark Power was created by God, and was good when he was created, and went wrong. Christianity agrees . . . this is a universe at war. (p. 40)

Act Three is where, he says, the Biblical story begins in Genesis 1:1, after angelic powers went wrong.

This act begins in “darkness . . . is still under way, and we are caught up in it. A love story, set in the midst of a life-and- death battle.” (p. 72)

Act Four gestures toward the final future in a brilliant, eloquent, imaginative flight of fancy which frowns on all human guesses of the grandeur of the future. He says playfully:

I’ve heard innumerable times that “we shall worship God forever.” That “we shall sing one glorious hymn after another, forever and ever, amen” It sounds like hell to me. (p. 80)

The Epilogue is a significant part of the book. He says,

First, things are not what they seem. . . . the unseen world (the rest of reality) is more weighty and more real and more dangerous than the part of reality we can see.

Second, we are at war. . . . We must take this battle seriously. This is no child’s game. This is war . . . a battle for the human heart.

Third, you have a crucial role to play. . . . We must find our courage and rise up to recover our hearts and fight for the hearts of others. (p. 102)

Here we see talk of war. But, strangely, it does not speak of a war against a Dark Power and his works, but a rescue operation for human hearts. That is certainly a basic part of it, but to liberate the French from the Nazi yoke the dark evil of Hitler had to be eliminated first.

“Most people don’t live as though the Story has a Villain, and that makes life very confusing.”

Here is a thought: theoretically if every soul on earth were finally born again we would still face a ravaged creation, riddled with violence (in nature) and disease. And God would continue to be blamed for all this evil—unless Christians were finally identifying it with Satan. However, that is precisely why this “thought” is purely theoretical: we CAN’T win everyone without destroying the works of the Devil in that very process. As long as hundreds of millions of mission-field Christians have eyes running with pus and incipient blindness, as long as such horrors are blamed on God (for the lack of a Satan), WE ARE NOT GOING TO WIN MANY MORE PEOPLE. And, all those hundreds of millions of rural people and uneducated people we have recently won are eventually going to lose their faith just as they have in Europe and much of America. We are not winning very many educated people.

We must, it seems to me, accept it as our true mission to fight these horrors in the name of Christ. That is essential if we are to glorify God in all the earth, and that glorification is the basis on which we invite people to accept God as their Father in Heaven—and recruit them to help fight this war.

Both of these two books [Epic and The Secret Message of Jesus] brilliantly describe the restless pew. One of them actually speaks of war, not so much against evil as a rescue operation of humanity.

Thousands of writers and pastors are puzzling over the essential question of what a believer does as a Christian besides being religious and decent and active in (small) good deeds.

Is there something wrong with the DNA of American Evangelical congregations? Many leaders today are suggesting that we need new church pioneers with ideas so different that the very word “church” may not be ideal.

Both authors here are discontent with “normal” church life in America and in one way or another are groping toward something vitally different.

These two book writers, plus myself, plus a whole host of other restless, relentlessly inquiring Christian leaders today are aware that Evangelicals have never in any country of the world grown as prominent in national affairs, have never more closely approximated the culture of those outside of the church, and have never generated in reaction such a profound phobia of religious people taking over the country (witness the avid attention given to the Da Vinci Code book and movie which so skillfully throws doubt on the validity of the entire Christian tradition).

Here we see an outcry for something more, something different, something more serious. I believe what is lacking is a clearer idea of evil and what to do about it. 

When God Doesn’t Make Sense

 Flickr/West Midlands Police

Flickr/West Midlands Police

In this essay, Ralph D. Winter poses a chilling scenario: A couple comes home late one night. All their lights are on, the doors stand open, police search the premises.

"Terrible things have happened," he writes. "The drawers are pulled out, cupboards are emptied, dishes smashed, even carpets pulled up. The whole place is an incredible mess. And the police turn angrily to the returning couple. 'We got a 911 call that something was wrong in your house. We have been here a half hour and we are overcome with puzzlement and fury. We have never seen a house so poorly kept.' They turn to the wife, 'What kind of a housekeeper are you anyway?'"

It seems preposterous. But Winter says this is exactly what we do when we attribute to God the works of Satan. "It seems ominously clear that the Adversary has greatly succeeded in not only concealing his own existence but in persuading us to think God is the author of all evil."

God has Given us the Means to Fight Cancer

By Beth Snodderly

 HPV/LSIL On Pap Smear - Normal squamous cells on left; HPV-infected cells with mild dysplasia (LSIL) on right.

HPV/LSIL On Pap Smear - Normal squamous cells on left; HPV-infected cells with mild dysplasia (LSIL) on right.

Ralph Winter’s call to the evangelical world to include fighting disease as an aspect of mission (Frontiers in Mission: page 180) echoes biblical themes that have their origin in Genesis 1:2. In this, Winter is also echoing Edwin Lewis who said in his book, The Creator and the Adversary, in 1948 (pages 149-50): "...a speaker who called upon the American people to cease believing in God because seventeen million persons now living would die of cancer would have made a much better and a much wiser use of his time had he called upon the American people to join with God in the fight against cancer [emphasis added] by the use of the very means which God is seeking to put into their hands for this purpose, because the only way in which God can use the means is through human minds and human hands. 'We are laborers together with God.'" 

Posted on July 1, 2014 and filed under Blog, July 2014, Second 30.

But Jesus Didn't Eradicate Disease

Our theological way of understanding how to deal with disease begins to stumble at the question of eradication. We feel responsible to prevent disease because we see it modeled in the laws of the Old Testament. We feel responsible to heal disease because we see Christ healing throughout his earthly ministry. But the Bible doesn’t say anything about eradication.

Posted on July 25, 2013 and filed under Top 10, Blog, Second 30.