Watch Aaron in the film Holy Wars

Monday, July 31, 2006

Divine Foreknowledge

Something rather interesting happened here in San Bernardo yesterday where I preached to hundreds of people in the local Assembly of God Church. While we were talking with our interpreter yesterday several hours before I preached, I told the young woman that I would be preaching on the story of the prodigal son, which is one of my more popular messages( see Luke 15). When I told her that, her face lit up with a big smile. She told me that this was her first time interpreting for a preacher and that she was very nervous, but the day before she asked the Lord what I would be preaching and the Lord told her that I would be preaching on the prodigal son. She said that she had spent several hours the day before studying the story to prepare herself for the message. My did that give me confidence! Last night, when I preached the message, several people came forward to receive Christ. Many people were crying tears of repentance, including the interpreter's cousin for whom she had been praying a long time. God used her diligence to win her cousing to Christ! Experiences like these humble me as a preacher. I am nothing more than a pawn in the master's hands in the great chess match for souls.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Tongue talking demon smashing Baptists

The other night I preached at a church that reminded me of an inner-city Black gospel church in America. The difference was that they were Baptists, not Pentecostals. But, then again, in Brazil, as in many other parts of the world, the difference is in name only. Many of the Baptists here speak in tongues, cast out devils, and heal the sick, just like the Apostles did in the New Testament and just like 500 million Christians around the world are either doing or believe it should be done as well. Of course, there are traditional Baptists in Brazil as well that believe in none of those things, but, unlike America, they are in the minority when it comes to the religious life of the average Brazilian evangelical Christian. Here in Brazil, it would seem that even the non-Pentecostals and Charismatics would think it rather strange if I didn't pray for the sick at an evangelistic crusade.

I remember when I attended Christ for the Nations Institute, I had a roomate from South Korea who told me that the Baptists in Korea were more Pentecostal than the Pentecostals. I have heard this from many others as well. This shows me that the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement that was one time on the fringe of Christianity is now mainstream. In light of this, the recent decision of the Southern Baptist denomination to forbid future missionaries from speaking in tongues seems rather silly, especially in the light of the admonition of the Apostle Paul, "Do not forbid to speak in tongues." In light of this, I would say that the current bias against tongues, healings, and exorcisms in American evangelicalism bears more resemblance to the philosophy of Aristotle than to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

But, to be fair, let me give a clear warning to the world's Pentecostals and Charismatics as well. Do not get stuck in tradition! Because just as the early Pentecostals were rejected by mainstream Christianity in their day, it would be very easy to miss the move of God's Spirit in our day just because it doesn't have official approval from an established Pentecostal denomination (or should I say "apostolic network?"). It appears that even the world's Pentecostals and Charismatics may need new wineskins from time to time.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Beautiful Brazilian colors

One thing I forgot to mention in my last post about Brazilian culture is the degree of racial integration. Here you do not see black neighborhoods and white neighborhoods or black churches and white churches. They are all integrated in the Church and in society. Black people, white people, and the indigenous tribes inter-marry very easily here without the social stigma that we have in America. This has produced ,in my opinion, a very good looking people of all different shades of color. Not to say that there is not racism here. There is a slight problem with prejudice here as some of the pastors and other Christians have told me. But it is not near the problem that we have in America. I think our society in America could learn a thing or two from our far away southern neighbors on this issue. It seems that Martin Luther King's dream has largely come true-at least in Brazil.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Life in Brazil

I would like to take a moment to share with my readers what life is like here in Brazil. As I travel to different countries in the world, as I can, I would like to share what some of the differences are between the countries I go to and America, my home country. This will not always be possible because some countries I go to I will not be able to let the broader public know that I am there for security reasons. But since Brazil is a Christian country, it is totally safe for me to write to you.

So here goes. Besides men kissing each other and people tailgating each other on the roads (which I have already written about), there are many other differences between Brazil and America. The first thing that stands out is the food. People eat a lot here! Although they have a small breakfast, they have a large lunch and then a large dinner around 10:00 at night. The napkins are unlike anything I have ever seen in all the countries I have been to. Their napkins are just like what they use at Krispy Kreme to pick up the donuts. The grease just slips right back onto your fingers. I don't get it. Having said that, the food is excellent! Most of their restaurants are either buffets where you choose your food and then you put it on a scale, or they are barbecue restaurants where they bring the meat out to you and you choose what you want. Either way, it's all you can eat! I have yet to find a sit down restaurant where everyone orders just for themselves.

The hotels are rather strange in that they make you give your key to the receptionist before you leave, even if you are only going out for a few hours. Now that I think about it, that makes a lot of sense. I bet they don't lose as many keys that way. Many hotels also have automatic lights in their hallways. That is always a little odd walking outside your room to a dark hallway until the lights turn on.

In many churches, the worship is very similar to the U.S. except that they have their own songs and they are in Portuguese. Since there are 160 million people, they have a highly developed Christian celebrity culture just like we have in the U.S. Many churches have a group of dancers at the front of the stage who wave streams and flags to the songs. It is absolutely beautiful!

Brazil is far less conservative than America when it comes to sensuality. That is a great problem here that only the Church can address. Also, although Pentecostal Christianity is growing like wildfire here, there is also a revival of satanism and witchcraft. In one of my meetings, there were two young men making satanic signs during the worship. They were trying to put a curse on us. Thank God for the blood of Jesus that defeats every curse!

On a side note, the other night I preached to a crowd of 1,100 people and several came forward to receive Christ. Several also raised their hands when I asked if they had been healed after I prayed a mass prayer for the sick. God is good!

A second side note. An evangelist from Northern Ireland today told me I looked like Boy George. What?! First Bill Clinton, then Boy George?! So who do I really look like? Feel free to leave a comment. Don't worry, I'm a man. I can handle it.

Lastly, I want to know if you like this feature of me talking about the countries I go to. When I get back fromt the U.S. I plan to write more spiritual commentaries on everyday life and pop-culture. And, of course, as always. Feel free to ask me a Bible question. I am always up for a challenge! May God bless you as you study His Word.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Speeding through the mountains

The other day, Rhiannon and I had to get up very early in the morning and endure an 8 hour car ride through the mountains of Brazil to get to our next preaching location. This wouldn't have been so bad if the Brazilian people drove like we are used to back home. But no! We were hanging on for dear life as our driver drove like he was in the Indiannapolis 500! Another thing that made it interesting is how closely cars in Brazil follow each other. What we call tailgating is perfectly normal over here. Thank God for guardian angels!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

On TV in Brazil

This morning, after a powerful meeting last night in a town called Alegre, Rhiannon and I traveled to the town of Cachueiro. About an hour and a half after we arrived at our hotel, I got a call from my interpreter that I was supposed to go to the local TV station to invite people to come to the meeting tonight. We were watching the movie "Little Rascals" at the time and I was in my shorts and a T-shirt. I told them I had to get dressed for the occasion first. About 20 minutes later, I was doing an interview at the TV station.

Later on that day, I asked how many people he thought had watched the program and he told me the manager told him that approximately 1 million people watch that program! Whether that is true or not, I don't know. But it was a Sunday morning and the program was broadcast live throughout the entire state of Espirito Santo. Imagine waking up one morning and someone telling you that you will be on the 700 Club in 20 minutes. That is about what it was like. I guess the Bible means what it says when it says to "Be ready in season and out of season."

Friday, July 21, 2006

Kissing guys and saving souls

Here is a funny story for you. I noticed that in the state of Rio de Janeiro, it is very common for men to kiss each other on the cheek. When we were there last week, I was often kissed on the cheek by pastors and other Christians. But, when I came to the state of Espiritu Santo, I noticed that nobody was kissing me on the cheek. So I asked someone if it was normal for guys to kiss each other on the cheek, he said no and that most would think that was weird. It must be a local custom in Rio but not in Espirito Santo, so I am glad I asked. Otherwise I would have been kissing guys here in Espiritu Santo and would have been thought of as rather weird. Glad I asked! That is a lesson for all you world travelers out there-follow the cultural cues and never assume!

On a more serious note, the other night I preached to a crowd of about a thousand people in a park outside a hotel. The title of my message was "The God of Second Chances." I illustrated the story of the prodigal son and told stories of both Biblical and non-Biblical characters in which God gave someone a second chance. Many people came forward to receive Christ for the first time. As an evangelist, I was delighted! Interestingly, I shared the story of Johnny Cash, how he had lost everything in his life and how God had restored him. My interpreter told me that one of the guys who came forward was a man who had just arrived in the city and had lost everything in the city that he came from. He said that was the first night he had come to a meeting to hear about Jesus. I am so thankful that our God really is a God of second chances!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Upstaged by Jesus Christ!

Hello everyone!

I am in Brazil right now in the state of Espiritu Santo, which in Portuguese is the word for the Holy Spirit. How cool is that!

Today, Rhiannon and I left our hotel at 5:30 in the morning, rode in a car for an hour and a half to get to Rio de Janeiro, and then took a six hour bus ride to get to where we are right now. Every day we get up, eat, drive to the next city and preach again. Last night I preached in another church of about 800-1000 people. Rhiannon shared her testimony as well and it was powerful. Several young people came forward to receive Christ after I preached a message on forgiveness. It was really great to see the hunger for God among the young people.

Speaking of hunger for God, that is one thing we have noticed about the Christians in Brazil. They are passionate in their worship! The other night while I was standing on the platform during the worship service, I noticed how fervent all the people were in their worship of God. I thought at that moment that, even though I was the guest speaker, no one knew who I was and no one really cared. I was being upstaged by Jesus Christ. If I were a motivational speaker or a politician, I suppose that I would have been rather jealous. But as an evangelist, I was thrilled beyond measure.

That night a lady who had a shoulder infection and had been in therapy for several months received her healing as well as a man with an ear infection. Both testified that they felt the fire of God come over them during prayer. I´m not sure if it was my faith or theirs that allowed them to receive their miracle, but then again, maybe it doesn´t really matter. When the King of Kings is present, who needs the ambassador?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Preaching in Petropolis

It is Saturday July 15th and my wife and I just arrived in Brazil yesterday. We are in the town of Petropolis and will be preaching in a different town and city every night for the next 16 days straight. This is something neither of us have ever done before, so we appreciate all the prayer we can get at this time.

Last night, we ministered in a church of 1,000 people. My wife shared her testimony for the first time. Many people do not know this, but at one point in her life, she thought that suicide would be the only way out for her. My wife used to suffer from terrible fear and low self-esteem. Her story gives hope to women everywhere who are also dealing with the same issues.

As far as the church, it reminded us a lot of Christ for the Nations Institute where we went to Bible School. The worship was passionate and beautiful-like the Brazilian people themselves,

I really enjoyed talking with the pastor afterwards. After telling him that we have been married for almost five years, he asked us if we had any children. After I told him no, I thought I would get the typical I´ll pray for you response, but then he proceeded to tell us that he and his wife did not have biological children either and that he and his wife had adopted two abused and neglected children. He said that sometimes we pray for miracles and God asks us to be the miracle. What an encouragement to us considering that Rhiannon and I are going to be taking classes in September to qualify us to be able to adopt through the state of Missouri´s foster care system! Isn´t it wonderful how God sends people along to encourage us along the way? Have you said a kind word to someone today?

On a side note, the evangelist Dario Luiz, the man who is hosting us, told me yesterday that I looked like Bill Clinton. I thought that was funny. People have told my dad that, but never me. I guess I have a lot to look forward to over the next 20 years!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Off to Brazil!

Just to let you all know. I am leaving for Brazil today. My wife and I are going to be preaching revivals in churches throughout Brazil for the next two weeks. We are very excited. Between the two of us, we have traveled to every continent except for Antarctica. Who says following Jesus is boring? I will try to make a post or two over the next two weeks, so feel free to leave questions or comments. We'll be back on August 2nd. Keep us in your prayers.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

What does the Bible say about suicide?

Question- What does the Bible say about suicide?

Answer- There are three incidents in the Bible that I can think of where suicide is mentioned. The first is the incident when King Saul in the Old Testament took his own life (I Samuel 31:4). The second incident is when Ahithopel, King David's personal advisor, hung himself after attempting to overthrow David and replacing him with his son Absalom (2 Samuel 17:23). And, of course, there is Judas, the man who betrayed Jesus, who hung himself because of the torment of his conscience for betraying Jesus(Matthew 27:5).

Notice that in all three incidents mentioned above, the Bible attempts to show that the men who committed suicide were in a state of lostness. Saul was rejected by God (1 Samuel 15:26). Ahithopel was a traitor and a type of the ultimate traitor, Judas, of whom Jesus said it that it would have been better for him if he had never been born. This is not to say that there might not be more noble reasons for a person to commit suicide (for example ,a person ending his or her life to spare themselves from brutal torture or to keep themselves from revealing information that might cause the death of thousands). The Bible does not address every possible situation but simply tells us that God, as the judge of all the earth, will do what is right.

Beyond this, the Bible does in fact condemn murder (Exodus 20:13) and there is no reason to believe that this does not apply to taking one's own life. The Bible says that "no murderer has eternal life abiding in Him." (I John 3:15) The reason why taking a human life is such a serious crime in God's eyes, as opposed to taking the lives of animals, is because man is created in the image of God and, therefore, has infinite value(James 3:9).

Remember that Jesus said, "What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet loses his own soul?" If you are considering suicide, remember that, according to Jesus, your soul is worth the entire world. This means that you are infinitely valuable to God as a human being. With Christ in your heart, you can have the hope not only of a changed life in the present (II Corinthians 5:17), but an eternal future in heaven as well (Revelation 21-22). Only in accepting Christ can one truly be saved from the powers of darkness. (Acts 4:12, Colossians 1:13) Remember, there is hope in Jesus Christ! (Colossians 1:27)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Why I like Sean Penn

I am sure that most of my conservative friends are falling over in their chairs right now as they read the headline to this post. Among political conservatives, Sean Penn is a famous target to be ridiculed as a far -left panzie. I even heard John Hagee, the famous preacher on TBN, denounce him in one of his sermons. So why would I choose to praise him in this post? Here is why. Politics aside, Sean Penn is a fine individual with a heart for the world's poor. When Hurricane Katrina hit,amidst the chaos, he took a boat and started rescuing people. I wonder if those who like to denounce him as a left-wing nutcrack on their radio shows and pulpits across the country ever did anything close to what Sean Penn did during the catastrophe of Katrina.

It is very easy to paint one large generalization about Hollywood celebrities as people who are in love with themselves and care little about the world's poor. I myself in my book "The Angels are Watching" criticize the Hollywood culture as being overly obscessed with self-congradulation. If taken too far, however, there is a danger that we "average Joes" of society might become guilty of class prejudice, something Jesus would vehemently denounce. It is easy to take cheap shots at celebrities because they are an easy target for resentment.

Another concern I have is that we American Christians have become so polarized in our culture that we can not even see that there might be a trace of goodness in someone on the "other side" of our politics. This is clearly wrong and I highly doubt that Jesus would be making cheap insults with those who disagreed with Him on a very complex issue such as the Iraq War.

One of the characteristics of the "Hollywood Liberals" that are often despised by red state conservatives is a genuine concern for the world's poor. I think Jesus would be quite comfortable hanging out with these types of folks. Thank you, Sean Penn for reminding us that kindness comes in all shapes,sizes, and political persuasions.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Why the world doesn't need Superman

On Saturday, I took my wife rhenium to see Superman Returns, the latest edition of the blockbuster franchise. After returning to earth from his home plant, Clark Kent (AK Superman) finds that the love of his life,Lois Lane, has won a Pulitzer Prize for her publication entitled "Why the World Doesn't Need Superman." When Superman confronts Lois on the matter, she tells him rather bluntly, "the world doesn't need a savior." Of course, by the end of the movie, after Superman saves her from a sinking ship and manages to save millions of people from Lex Luthor's evil scheme of plummeting North America into the Atlantic Ocean, Lois changes her mind and writes a new article entitled "Why the World Needs Superman."

No offense to Lois Lane, but I rather agree with her first premise- that the world really doesn't need Superman. Of course, this is a rather difficult conclusion to come by. After all, wouldn't it be nice if there really was someone who could fly at a moment's notice to rescue people from a crashing airplane or to save some helpless old woman from being robbed? Sure that would be nice, but is that what the world really needs?

No. Not really. The world doesn't actually need Superman. After all, if a Superman like -figure is what we actually needed, don't you think that God would have sent us a real Superman by now? The world doesn't really need a Superman, but it really does need a savior. The savior that God sent to the world did not wear a blue cape flying around rescuing damsels in distress, but he did save us in a much deeper way. By his life and example, he taught us to love one another, even our enemies. By dying on the cross for our sins and rising again from the dead, he showed us that love is the only real path to victory. After all, what good would it do to rescue the beauty from the beast if the heart of the beast remains unchanged? Of course, the kingdom that Jesus introduced to the world will one day blossom into a new heaven and a new earth where there will be no robbers,crashing airplanes, or natural disasters. With the hope of eternal bliss in the future and a changed heart in the present, who needs Superman when God has already sent us Jesus Christ?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Get saved and lose weight!

I'm writing this one on the fly, so here goes! How does this sound as an advertisement for Christianity: Get saved and lose weight! I imagine in our appearance-obscessed society, if Christianity were advertised like this, people would flock into the kingdom!

Joking aside, there is something to be said for the idea that we who have placed our faith in Jesus Christ will one day received glorified bodies fashioned according to the pattern of Christ's resurrected glorified body (Phillippians 3:20-21). This is part of the "hope of the gospel" that is often overlooked in Christian preaching today. Much of the modern day gospel is focused on what Jesus can do for us in this life.

I don't know about you, but I am rather glad that I am not now what I will be in the future. Here is what the Apostle John has to say on the matter, "Beloved now are we the sons of God. Yet it has not appeared what we shall be. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is." (I John 3:3) Thank God! There are some who would say that heaven is simply an extention of who we are while we are here on earth. They say that "death is not a meanns of sanctification." Perhaps that is true. I am sure that we do not lose our personalites and our self-awareness when we step out into the next life. But if we say that our final state of being is solely determined by our spiritual progress here on earth, we are missing out on a key aspect of the gospel, which says that one day we will be given glorified bodies that will no longer be subject to our current fleshly desires that tend to lead us toward a sinful lifestyle. As the Apostle Paul says, the great mystery of the faith is, "Christ in you the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:27)

Hope that is seen is not hope. So relax. If you need to lose those extra 50 pounds and quit those addictive habits that are constantly getting you into trouble, get saved. Whether in this life or the next, it will happen one way or another.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Gut-wrenching honesty

Okay readers. It's time for a little gut-wrenching honesty. I know my blog is called "Bible Answers for Seekers", but when it comes down to it, I am no "Bible Answer Man." I think a more appropriate title for me should be "Aaron the Bible I don't know man." Here is a short list of my "I don't knows." How can God know all things and yet man have free will at the same time? I don't know. Or, better yet, does God have to know all things whether He wants to or not? Once again, I don't know. Is the earth thousands of years old or millions? You guessed it. I don't know. Are the flames of hell literal or figurative? That's a good question, I'm glad you asked. The answer is I don't know. Although I have a hunch on this one, that is for another post at another time.

If you want to know what it is like to have the heart of an evangelist and the mind of a philosopher, here it is. It's not very pretty, but here it is. Sometimes I have goofy questions like "I wonder if my blue is the same as every one else's blue?" Or "how can an infinite past ever arrive to the present?" (Believe it or not, I thought about these things in the first grade) And then I think to myself "Why does any of this matter when millions are dying and going to hell?" Speaking of hell, the moral philosopher in me says "How is that just? An infinite punishment for a finite crime? How can love for God be genuine when infinite suffering is the only alternative?"

And then I remember the cross. I remember the nails, the crown of thorns, the whips, the spitting, the plucking of the beard, the hunger, the thirst, the nakedness, and I remember that God suffered on the cross for me. I remember that God is love and that is all that really matters. I remember that, somehow, the answers to all of my questions are found on an instrument of wood used by the Romans 2,000 years ago to execute the worst of criminals. I remember that love is the foundation for everything. And when I think about it even more, I think to myself that maybe that is all I really need to know.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The day I became Knight Rider

Here is a little something you probably did not want to know about me, but since I am already in the habit of revealing way too much about myself to my readers anyway, I'm going to embarrass myself even more. goes. When I was 7 years old, I was a huge fan of Davd Hasselhoff. Of course I didn't know his name back then, all I knew is that I really wanted to be Knight Rider. I guess that is understandable. After all, what 7 year old would not want a talking trans-am? It wasn't till I was 24 and watching a rerun of Knight Rider that I discovered that Hasselhoff's acting will never be up for an academy award.

But then again, who cares about acting skills when you are 7 years old? Apparently I didn't. When I graduated from high school my parents displayed a story on a poster board that I had written in the second grade. In the story I took a magic pill and turned 21. Not only did I have hair under my arm pits (I'm not making this up. That is actually in the story) but I was Knight Rider as well. My exact words at 7 years old was -"Okay Kit-actervate turbo booster!" Notice that I spelled the word "activate" just how it sounded to me.

Believe it or not, I actually have a point to this embarrassing story. Sometimes I think to myself, what if things actually worked that way?" What if I could have taken a magic pill at 7 years old and all of the sudden skip the next 14 years, develop big muscles, and become a totally hip crime fighting machine? As ridiculous as this sounds, I think that is exactly what a lot of us try to do with God. We have this crazy notion that, somehow, God is going to turn us into superhero Christians without the process of growth in between. I don't know about you, but now that I am 28, I am sure glad that God did not answer the request of my fanciful 7-year old imagination. I wouldn't trade any of those 14 years that I would have rather skipped at the time, and neither would I trade the last 7 years of my life for all the treasures of the world. I think we would all do well if we could learn to enjoy where we are in life as God moves us forward to our final destination. After all, even superheroes start out in diapers.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

What does the Bible say about premarital sex?

Question- What does the Bible say about premarital sex, and if a non-virgin repents, do they become a virgin according to God?

Answer- In the Bible, premarital sex is referred to as fornication, which is a sin distinct from adultery. Since adultery is defined as either cheating on your spouse or having relations with another person's spouse, it would make since that fornication would refer to two unmarried people having relations. Hebrews 13:4 says, "Marriage is honorable above all and the bed undefiled. But fornicators and adulterers, God will judge." Also, remember that when Joseph was betrothed to Mary, although they had not had sexual relations, Mary was still considered Joseph's wife because of the vow that they had made. (Matthew 1:18-19) As far as secondary virginity, there is nothing in the Bible that mentions whether God considers repentant non-virgins as actual virgins. However, one of the chief blessings of the new covenant is that when you place your faith in Christ, God says, "Your sins and your lawless deeds, I will remember no more." (Hebrews 8:12) But there is a truth that is even greater than this. The Bible says, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away. Behold all things have become new." (II Corinthians 5:17) When a person comes to Christ, not only does God see him or her as a brand new person, he or she actually becomes a brand new person. For this reason, I have no problem with the term "secondary virginity."