Posts by daviddawson462742281

Walking with Jesus learning to be like Him. Human Development Consultant. BA Humanities University of the Nations, MA Global Leadership Fuller Theological Seminary. Married to Kati and dad to Emily, Gabriel and Laura. Love surfing, cooking, expat life, jazz.

Is Spiritual Warfare Important in Missionary Training?

Making the Case in Favor of

My topic is the relationship between spiritual conflict/inner healing and missionary training. After 30 years of full-time missionary service, I believe that biblical, contextualized teaching on demonization and deliverance ministry is essential to preparing candidates for cross-cultural Christian service. It is necessary for missionaries to have an introductory knowledge of differing cultural attitudes towards spiritual conflict. Western reductionary perspectives on the influence of evil spirits on earthly life have limited the focus of missionary service, which contemporary candidates need to be aware of. 

My focus here will be deliverance ministry for Christians, which brings up the question of who can and cannot be demonized. I draw from Jesus’ own ministry to support the argument that Christians can have demons. Those who came to Jesus for help with physical and spiritual bondage were exercising faith in doing so. Someone who comes to Christ believing that He can set them free is what I understand to be a “believer” or “Christian” (Kraft 2010). I will not go into detail regarding the level of demonic influence or the difference between possession and oppression. The level of demonic access definitely differs between those who have and have not been regenerated in Christ.  My premise is that Christians can suffer a level of demonic influence that varies from light to extreme, whether or not we categorize this as possession or oppression.  If the term “possession” were used, I would mean “he possesses” a demon, not “he is possessed’, i.e., completely dominated by a demon. 

By stating that a Christian can be demonized, I do not intend to cast any doubt on their salvation. Rather, I distinguish between the believer’s spirit – which cannot be inhabited by a demon – and the will, body, mind, and emotions, which apparently can. Experienced deliverance ministry practitioners attest to this. Every human being’s spirit is the part of them that died through Adam’s sin, in which the Enemy can dwell until we are born again in Christ. When Christ moves in, we become filled with His life, and any evil spirits present till then must leave (Kraft 2010). 

But the problem of sin continues to be a reality in a Christian’s life after regeneration, and some sins give the enemy a foothold to continue to oppress. The Christian must recognize any opening he is leaving available to demons, such as the sins of unforgiveness, unbelief, and unrighteous judgement. In addition, believers should be vigilant of deception and wounding that leaves them vulnerable to demonic influence. The power of sin continues to be a reality every believer contends with until the final glorification of our bodies in the fullness of Christ’s kingdom. Demonic harassment is an unfortunate possibility in the life of Christians who unwittingly allow it. 

So, to repeat, this paper will address specifically how missionaries can engage spiritual conflict in the life of believers. And until Satan’s access to a Christian’s life has been shut, simply casing him out in Jesus’ name is ineffective. There is also much to be said regarding spiritual warfare on the corporate level, involving the mobilization of prayer warriors that storm the gates of hell in intercession. However, this paper focuses on dealing with spiritual conflict on the individual level. Certainly the Holy Spirit also direct His servants to cast demons out of unbelievers who are truly possessed and living in miserable subjection. But as already stated, my reading of the New Testament is that most deliverance ministry is to individuals who had faith in Jesus and a desire for His salvation, i.e., believers. 

Having clarified the ministry demographic to be emphasized here, I return to its relevance to contemporary missions. Why do we need a greater emphasis on spiritual conflict and deliverance ministry in missionary training today? The modern missionary movement sought to hold together, “on one hand, fidelity to the command of Jesus Christ to disciple the nations in his name and, on the other, a commitment to modernity” (Shenk  1992).  The conflict between the universal rationality of the Enlightenment and the universal scope of Christ’s kingdom resulted in “the emergence of indigenous movements in most of the colonies” and a “growing movement of religious independence, usually in reaction to Western missions” (Shenk 1992).  The types of Christianity that have boomed in the global South have been “very different from what many Europeans and North Americans consider mainstream (…) far more enthusiastic, much more centrally concerned with the immediate workings of the supernatural” (Jenkins 2011). Omitting spiritual conflict in missionary training is to ignore a foundational aspect of contemporary global Christianity. Leslie Newbigin (1995) summarizes: 

We are forced to do something that the Western churches have never had to do since the days of their own birth – to discover the form and substance of a missionary church in terms that are valid in a world that has rejected the power and the influence of the Western nations. Missions will no longer work along the stream of expanding Western power. They have to learn to go against the stream. And in this situation we shall find that the New Testament speaks to us much more directly than does the nineteenth century as we learn afresh what it means to bear witness to the gospel from a position not of strength but of weakness. (p. 86) 

If the church is to go against the stream of Western power, it must train missionaries to deal with spiritual conflict. Newbigin (1995) states starkly that “The world of religions is the world of the demonic”, which the cross-cultural minister must enter “with complete exposure (…) in order to bear faithful witness to Christ. The reality of spiritual conflict is intimidating enough for a missionary who has been prepared to face this reality and can be completely overwhelming for one who enters the battle unaware and naïve. Those whose evangelism simply seeks to catechize people into correct doctrinal positions without addressing the reality of spiritual conflict preach a deficient gospel. As stated earlier, I believe that Christians are not immune to demonic oppression after conversion. New converts should not be told they will never experience demonic influence hence forth. Such a denial of the spirit world is also offensive and condescending towards majority world cultures. Demonic activity is a fundamental reality of the both majority world and the world the Bible describes. 

Effects of Contemporary Views of Spiritual Conflict

As cited earlier, missiologists use the term Global South to refer to a transition of the center of worldwide Christian leadership. The present and future source of Christian influence and growth is moving from Europe and North America to Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America. However, the influence of Western thought upon missiology and theology is still predominant, which also affects understandings of spiritual conflict and deliverance ministry. Western seminaries tend to teach leaders to answer ultimate questions in theistic terms and to deal with the empirical world in naturalistic terms (Hiebert 1982). This is particularly detrimental to missionaries – Western or not – who go to the field believing that curses, demon possession, witchcraft, and shamanism belong to the world of fairies and other mythological beings. 

What has been omitted from much Western missionary leadership training is emphasis on the “middle level of supernatural but this-worldly beings and forces” (Hiebert 1982). As a result, ministries like exorcism receive little attention. It is uncommon for demonic causes to be considered for problems such as sickness or poverty. This two-tier world understanding emerged in the West in the 17th and 18th centuries under the influence of platonic dualism (Bufford 1981). As a result, emphasis on the middle level in theological studies began to die out. As long as Western theological education neglects questions regarding the middle level, a gaping hole exists in the worldview of contemporary missionaries (Hiebert 1982). In the two-tiered worldview, God is limited to the supernatural, and the natural world – for all intents and purposes – operates according to autonomous scientific laws. If this is the church’s predominant worldview, Christian missions will be a “secularizing force” in the world (Hiebert 1982). The missionary leaders of today need a holistic theology that recognizes God’s intervention in history – even in the mundane details of individual’s lives. This approach will keep missionaries relevant to the value systems of the majority world, by addressing the needs these cultures prioritize. 

So far, I have been speaking of neglecting the middle level spiritual conflict: that which pertains to the earthly life of a believer. In this I express the continuationist position which acknowledges the continued expression of charismata such as healing and deliverance ministry. In contrast, cessationism holds that expressions of charismata are limited in their need and use, albeit on different presuppositions. For the cessationist, the charismata “was needed during the writing of the New Testament and its usefulness ceased when the books were completed’ (Ryrie 1980). The cessationists positions holds that “miracles or ordinary charismata were terminated at or near the end of the apostolic age” (Kärkkäinen 2002).  Cessationism claims that “since demons were restricted to a different world after the cross, there is no need for deliverance” (Dumitrescu 2015). 

The reason I cite these opposing theological positions is that many continuationist Evangelicals today are functional or experiential cecassionists (Sappington 2022). Contemporary missionary work that omits spiritual conflict is in stark contrast to Jesus’ and the apostle’s ministries. In the gospels and the book of Acts, we frequently see evil spirits being confronted and defeated as a manifestation of Christ’s kingdom. The forces of evil had diverse capacities to attack the material world, including the human body, mind, and emotions. Continuationist Evangelicals profess belief that God has continued to intervene supernaturally to meet the temporal needs of His church throughout its history. However, the way functionally cessationist Evangelicals address matters like physical sickness, relational conflict, and mental disorders tells a different story. These Evangelicals are quick to use medical and psychological resources to treat people’s bondage and reluctant to use biblical tools of spiritual warfare. 

Misunderstandings of Demonization and Deliverance in Missionary Training

The multitudes who witnessed Jesus’ and the apostle’s ministry of signs and wonders showed no sign of surprise or offense at these phenomena. In its context, the supernatural aspect of Jesus’ ministry was seen as an essential realization of the prophet’s predictions regarding the Messiah (Sappington 2023b). Jesus was aware of these prophecies, but He also exceeded them by ministering physical healing and spiritual deliverance indicating that His work was expansive. In other words, Christ showed that the scope of His Kingdom would extend into new places and needs in history (Sappington 2023b). 

Missionaries today need not limit spiritual warfare and deliverance ministry to that which is identical to Jesus’ and the apostles’ ministries. In the gospels, phases of Jesus’ ministry are bookended with summary statements of the supernatural works He performed. However, these recapitulations are not intended to restrict the ministry of the Kingdom to the works recorded there (Sappington 2023). Rather, the ministry of the New Testament reflected the needs of the people at that time. Today, for example, prevalent needs would include depression, panic attacks, eating disorders, sexual addictions, and gender dysphoria. Certainly, the church today suffers for lack of openness to possible spiritual causes of suffering and bondage. 

            Most of my own missionary service has been in pastoral and teaching ministry. Regardless of my gifting, I have always sought to heed Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist” (New International Version, 2011, II Timothy 4:5). However, I feel the Lord has called me primarily to train and disciple believers. And in this capacity, I have often been reluctant to confront demonic presence and activity. The primary cause of hesitation is the fear of having my lack of spiritual authority exposed. The messianic power of Jesus was demonstrated by His authority over demons. When Jesus rebuked demons publicly, He was aware of what this demonstrated. It is intimidating for a missionary to attempt to rebuke demons with the same boldness we see Jesus and the apostles doing in the New Testament. If the demon does not obey our command, we may deduce this is because of our own sin, or deficient prayer and fasting, or inadequate intimacy with God. If we decide to become more verbally emphatic, subsequent failure to cast a demon out becomes even more embarrassing. I empathize with many cross-cultural ministers who avoid confronting demons as the flock watches on. 

But this is a false dilemma because there are recourses when a demon doesn’t obey, even when rebuked in the name of Jesus. The person praying can pause and ask the Holy Spirit for discernment. Perhaps we need to change our approach. The person manifesting demonization may have other underlying issues that need to be addressed. The kingdom of darkness is “sterile and cannot create something from nothing”, it can only “take advantage of conditions that already exist” (Kraft 2010). As we have seen, the enemy seeks to find weaknesses he can exploit, like the garbage rats feed upon. If there are demons, there is “deep-level damage that needs to be healed (…) and it is this garbage, not any ‘rats’ attached, that is the major problem” (Kraft 2010). Many experienced deliverance ministry practitioners testify to the fact that once these underlying issues are dealt with, the demons leave with little resistance. 

The Effective Use of Spiritual Authority and How to Grow in it

Jesus calls His children to live in freedom and victory, unfortunately many are unaware of this and choose to simply bear the attacks of the enemy (Kraft 2010). After Peter betrayed Jesus, the enemy could end the disciple’s ministry through condemnation. But Jesus’ plan for Peter was restoration, which happened when the Master gave His disciple the opportunity to confess sin. Then Peter could receive forgiveness and grace for a renewed commission to ministry (Kraft 2010). 

Victory in Christ over physical illness also depends on holistic restoration, not just partial intervention. Missionaries often neglect the task of seeking to deal with the underlying issues in people’s lives. As a result, prayers for physical healing often see only temporary results, or none. This of course is a misrepresentation of the will of Jesus in healing – to heal both surface and deeper-level issues (Kraft 2010). These deeper areas of healing often relate to a believer’s relationship with God, others, and themselves. 

            The Master’s way of addressing sin was to lead people gently on the path to forgiveness. Like Jesus, we are called to minister love and restoration rather than heaping on guilt (Kraft 2010). It is important to address the underlying issues in our brothers’ and sisters’ lives, including sin. However, we should not probe too aggressively during ministry sessions. Convicting people of their sins is the Holy Spirit’s job, and if we choose to take this responsibility upon ourselves, we do harm. To exercise spiritual authority, it is important to understand what sin is and how it leads to bondage. For example, temptation is not sin, and many people condemn themselves without cause in this area. The roots of demonic oppression are often attributed to “big” sins such as witchcraft and sexual sin. But sins such as covetousness and unforgiveness are just as likely to be causes of demonic access. 

            The spiritual roots of deep-level problems in people’s lives include sin, neglect of relationship with God, wrong view of God, anger at God, satanic harassment, demonization, generational spirits, and curses (Kraft 2010). Therefore, some types of bondage have to do with an individual’s choices. Other struggles, however,  are rooted in circumstances that are beyond a person’s control – even pre-natal events. Through wise questions and patient listening, we can uncover underlying issues, but nothing can replace the need for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. 

            Lastly, for us to grow in the use of our authority in Christ, we must always remember where it comes from. As Christians, we already have spiritual authority, but we need to recognize it and use it for the glory of God. Our authority in Christ does not increase with experience, we already have all we need to minister effectively. What experience does give us is help in understanding how to use our authority (Sappington 2023c: 3). 

A Balanced Approach to the Three Sources of Spiritual Conflict

The Bible describes three sources of spiritual conflict – the devil, the world, and the flesh. In training for cross-cultural Christian service, we must provide tools for dealing with every threat. The term “devil” refers to Satan as well as the subordinate evil spirits that serve under his authority (Sappington 2023d). The expressed aim of the kingdom of darkness is to thwart God’s work and take away from His glory. The devil seeks to keep people from being “rescued us from the dominion of darkness” and being “brought (…) into the kingdom of the Son” (New International Version, 2011, Colossians 1:13). Scripture warns against willful ignorance of demonic strategies that cause us to be “outwitted” by Satan (New International Version, 2011, II Corinthians 2:10). The enemy is aggressive and takes the initiative. But we can also give our adversary an opportunity through wrong beliefs, bitterness, and sin. 

            The prologue of the book of Acts indicates that Jesus continued to do His ministry through the apostles, a ministry characterized by physical healing and deliverance from evil spirits. Therefore, if missionaries are trained in a way that underemphasizes spiritual conflict, they will not minister faithfully to the New Testament model (Sappington 2023e). 

            As stated earlier, sin creates an opportunity for demonic attack. But missionaries need training on how to seek the Spirit’s discernment on the roots of these assault. For example, sexual promiscuity may be linked to a desire to escape by someone who experienced abuse in their childhood (Kraft 2010). Unless these root issues are dealt with, the door for demonic influence remains open and the person will continue to suffer. These infected wounds contaminate the person, plaguing them with feelings of shame, anger, abandonment, and rejection. 

            As missionaries are trained for cross-cultural service, they also need preparation for differing forms of the second source of spiritual conflict – the world. The system of beliefs that exist in opposition to the vision of Christ’s kingdom exists in every culture. However, each fallen human society embodies this wicked system in a unique way. Missionaries need to be trained to recognize the positive, neutral, and negative aspects of a culture in relation to the kingdom of God. Some features of culture should be retained, and others rejected outright (Sappington 2023d). A missionary must help their constituency prayerfully examine their culture and discern what comes from God and what comes from the world (Sappington 2023d). Unfortunately, the history of missions is full of situations where errors were committed in what cultural aspects were denounced as well as what were approved. 

            Differing interpretations exist in relation to the third source of spiritual conflict, the flesh. Some understand it as a tendency towards sinfulness inherited from Adam, while others see it as the continued existence of temptation, even in the lives of the redeemed. Either way, a key to victory over the flesh is comprehending the authority we have in Christ to say no to its appeals. A balanced approach will recognize Christ’s victory over and the persisting reality of temptation. Only on the day of ultimate glorification will the Christian be definitively freed from all influence of the flesh. 

            One aspect of the old self that missionaries need to be familiar with is spiritual inheritance. It is not surprising that western individualism downplays the influence of ancestral context as it relates to one’s spiritual life. However, in collectivist majority world contexts the individual is seen as intimately connected to their ancestors. If the old self represents sinful tendencies, then the question is whether our lineage has anything to do with the proclivities towards sin that we experience. Those who deal with deliverance ministry regularly testify that bondage of deception and vice are passed down through the generations (Kraft 2010). 

Memories trauma are also part of the old self that the Lord wants to free people from (Kraft 2010). Faith picturing is a useful tool for helping people retrieve painful memories and be healed of them. In Scripture we see God revealing truth through images, and Jesus Himself often used word pictures in His teaching. Faith picturing is “the use of our God-given ability to picture under the leading and power of God” (Kraft 2010). The counselor invites a person to close their eyes and return to a moment when they suffered emotional damage. The next step is to help the person understand that Jesus was present in their moment of trauma (Kraft 2010). It is important not to tell the person what they should see but to allow the Holy Spirit to reveal and heal in the way He desires. 

How to Diagnose the Source of Strongholds

Missionaries in training need to know that one key to determining the source of a stronghold is looking for unforgiveness in a person’s life. Indeed, lack of forgiveness is considered by specialists in deliverance ministry to be “the greatest block to receiving healing at the deepest level” (Kraft 2010). Simply put, when people refuse to forgive, “both they and the person they are angry with remain captives”, but when they surrender their right to revenge, “both people go free” (Kraft 2010). Missionaries must recognize that people need to be held responsible for wounding people.  But much of people’s bondage results from ungodly judgements they have made against others, themselves, and even God (Sappington 2008). A general rule of thumb in deliverance ministry is that more important than the events are a person’s reaction to them. A person’s healing is not dependent on understanding why they got hurt or to what extent their reactions exacerbated the damage. The painful events of the past cannot be erased, but a person’s responses to them can be redeemed, substituting guilt and shame with forgiveness (Kraft 2010). The roots of strongholds can be memories from as early as the womb.  Experience in deliverance ministry helps us to determine the types of wounding that occur in different phases of life (Kraft 2010). 

            Missionaries need to research the field where they will be serving to determine what attitudes towards the demonic are prevalent. In some cultures, people actively seek demonic possession to gain the power of that entity, which is often accompanied by physical effects such as sickness and convulsions (Bennett 2013). Some communities put so much emphasis on venerating spirits in connection with their ancestors that they build them dwellings more expensive than their own homes (Bennett 2013). Some Western candidates for missionary service in the majority world may find it inappropriate to seek a contest between Christ and the local deities of the communities they are sent to. However, it should be recognized that in many cases the demonstration of the superior power of Jesus in curing sickness, delivering from demonic possession, etc. have often been missionaries’ key evangelistic tools in animistic settings (Cole 2023). 

Ministering to Deceptions in Cross-cultural Settings

The last area of spiritual conflict and deliverance ministry I will treat in this paper as it relates to missionary training is deception. In the primordial text of the 10 commandments, we find that in some way sin is transferred through generations. Yahweh is a jealous God, “punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation” (New International Version, 2011, Exodus 20:5). For example, an evil mindset – such as a father who influences his son to despise all women – can be inherited by children from their parents (Sappington 2008). It could also be something more subtle, such as the implicit values that a child observes in their parents, such as the idolatry of materialism (Sappington 2023f). 

            Another way deception enters a person’s life is through trauma, but we can help free people from deception by explaining that God can use painful events to grow closer to Him (Sappington 2008). As a result of trauma, some common deceptions people develop are those directed towards our view of God, ourselves, and others (Sappington 2023f). 

            Missionaries need to know that one of the most prevalent and profound forms of deception lies in the judgement of others. This process can be described in terms of the sowing of a seed, crystallization, and snowballing (Sappington 2008). Something causes the judgmental attitude to form towards a person or group, then at some point that judgement becomes articulated more clearly, and ultimately it shapes the persons expectations in general.

            Missionaries must consider the fact that the impact of deception takes on general characteristics in specific communities and cultures. For example, the general religious perspective in Thailand is a mixture of Buddhism’s affirmation that neither God nor ultimate spirituality exist, and animistic belief that the powers of many deities are concentrated in sacred objects (Dierck 2023). The predominant experience of local church leaders in that context has been that the Thai religious mindset is not automatically transformed at conversion (Dierck 2023). Much teaching is needed on the nature and character of God, merely praying deliverance prayers without this is to little affect. 


At this phase of my ministry, I endeavor to transition into dedicating most of my time to training the next generation of missionaries. I realize that my generation received the baton from men and women of faith that left us with an inspiring inheritance of doctrine and practice.  However, I also see the need for innovation. As I attend missons conferences around the world, I hear many needs vying for our attention. Needs such as improved financial sustainability, organizational structure, and communication are definitely vital to the relevance of missions in the twenty-first century. But I wonder if what is most needed today is a new emphasis on addressing our spiritual enemy, the one who has warred against our efforts since the birth of the church.  


Benett, Robert H. (2013). I Am Not Afraid: Demon Possession and Spiritual Warfare. MO: Concordia Publishing House, 38, 40-41

Buford, Roger K. (1981). The Human Reflex: Behavioral Psychology in Biblical Perspective. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 30

Dierck, Lorraine (?). The Practice of Spiritual Warfare in the Churches. In T. Sappington (Ed.), ISCL 722 Spiritual Conflicts in Cross-cultural Context (p. 3). Biola University. 2,5

Dumitrescu, C. (2015). A Historical Survey of Healing and Exorcism11(2). 37z

Cole, Harold R. Biola University (2023). A Contextualized Deliverance Ministry for the Cordilleras. 4

Hiebert, Paul G. (1982). The Flaw of the Excluded Middle. Missiology: An International Review, Vol. X, No. 1, January, 43, 43, 45, 46

Jenkins, Philip (2011). The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (Future of Christianity Trilogy). Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition. 134

Kärkkäinen, V., 2002, Toward a pneumatological theology: Pentecostal and ecumenical perspective on ecclesiology, soteriology, and theology of mission, University Press of America, Lanham, MD. 42

Kraft, Charles H. (2010). Deep Wounds, Deep Healing. Bloomington, MN: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 213, 212, 37, 38, 48, 55, 65-68, 102, 79, 80, 89, 129, 130, 113, 113-123. 

Newbigin, Lesslie (1995). The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition. 86, Loc 2525

Ryrie, C. C., 1980, The Holy spirit, Moody Press, Chicago, IL. 86

Sappington, T. (2008). Letting God be Judge: Recognizing the Impact of Ungodly Judgments and Dealing with Them. England: Sovereign World Ltd. 12, 84, 91, 95-97

Sappington, T. (2023a). Methodological Considerations (Unpublished manuscript). Biola University. 6, 8, 33

Zondervan NIV Study Bible (K. L. Barker, Ed.; Full rev. ed.). (2002). Zondervan

Sappington, T. (2023b). The Theme of Promise and Fulfillment in relation to Healing and Deliverance in the Synoptic Gospels (Unpublished manuscript). Biola University, 1

Sappington, T. (2023c). Knowing and Using Your Authority in Christ. In T. Sappington (Ed.), ISCL 722 Spiritual Conflicts in Cross-cultural Context (p. 3). Biola University. 

Sappington, T. (2023d). Understanding the Enemy. In T. Sappington (Ed.), ISCL 722 Spiritual Conflicts in Cross-cultural Context (p. 4, 1, 2). Biola University. 

Sappington, T. (2023e). Demonization and Deliverance in the Acts of the Apostles. In T. Sappington (Ed.), ISCL 722 Spiritual Conflicts in Cross-cultural Context (p. 6). Biola University. 

Sappington, T. (2023f). Deceptions that Hold us Captive. In T. Sappington (Ed.), ISCL 722 Spiritual Conflicts in Cross-cultural Context (p. 1, 2). Biola University. 

Shenk, W. R. (1992). Reflections on the modern missionary movement: 1792-1992. Mission Studies9(1). Atla Religion Database with AtlaSerials. 65, 71

Zondervan NIV Study Bible (K. L. Barker, Ed.; Full rev. ed.). (2002). Zondervan.


Intercultural Communication – A Missionary Family Experience 


This year I complete 30 years as a full-time missionary, and my wife and I celebrate 24 years of marriage. We have three children aged 19, 16, and 13. As missionaries, we are called to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ in cross-cultural contexts. In this paper I explore several paradigms of intercultural communication in relation to my family’s immigration to Portugal at the end of 2020. Specifically, I will be dealing with the first year and a half of our new life in Portugal, which I consider to be the most critical season of transition and cultural adaptation. Several different experiences will be described and analyzed using intercultural studies theory and research. Learning to communicate is crucial during an immigrant family’s initial phase of adjustment. One thirty-two-year missions veteran turned consultant observes that:

Once on the field, some missionaries leave because of unmet expectations. They struggle with the challenges of the work, the hardship of life in difficult places, or they cannot adjust to life in a culture so different from their own. Failing to achieve a working fluency in the local language reduces one’s personal sense of connection with and effectiveness in the host culture. (Vandagriff, 2017)

Many missionaries quit during the first years on the field, and I hope this paper can yield insight for increased success. 

Family dynamics are crucial to long-term intercultural ministry. The missionary vocation my wife and I share does not extend to our children. However, children of missionaries are forced to learn intercultural communication as well. My wife and I have always endeavored to center our ministry around family life. We don’t our Christian service to be something distant, irrelevant, or worse – incomprehensible – to our children. Consequently, this paper refers to the experiences of intercultural communication that our family shared together. 

I proceed then with a definition of intercultural communication. This discipline can be described as, “Interpersonal communication between individuals (or groups) who have been socialized in different cultural (and, in most cases, linguistic) environments” (Jackson 2020). Intercultural communication includes communication between individuals and groups of different races, ethnicities, cultures, and nations (Kitao 1985). 

And what means does this activity employ? People communicate through physical coding that includes language, extraverbal gestures, and media. But even distracting elements such as noise and distortion are part of this coding. Each of us interprets a message within a framework by which we hear, see, and feel the information. If our communication is not, therefore, focused equally on the audience as on the message, it will not be effective (Moreau et al. 2014). 

To the importance of intercultural communication – in particular for missionaries – various contemporary factors are significant: “Globalization; internationalization; transportation and technological advances; changing demographics; the rise in populism, localism, and xenophobia; conflict and peace; ethics; and personal growth/responsibility” (Jackson 2020). 

New Beginning in Portugal

In 2020 my family and I immigrated to Portugal from the U.S. We had only been in the U.S. for three years, having spent most of our lives as a family in Brazil (2002-2017). The initial transition from Brazil to the U.S. in 2017 was also a time of development regarding intercultural communication. Surely the time in the U.S. gave us some useful tools and preparation for the subsequent move to Portugal. 

            Our family arrived in Portugal already possessing one of the most important parts of the physical coding through which people communicate – a shared language. Language can be defined as “an organized, generally agreed upon, learned symbol-system, used to represent the experiences within a geographic location (….) the primary means by which a culture transmits its beliefs, values, and norms (.…) a means of interacting with other members of the culture and a means of thinking” (Samovar, Porter, and Jain 1981). My family and I came to Portugal possessing this primary means of cultural transmission. However, there is a significant difference between the language spoken in Brazil and Portugal. I would compare this to the difference between American English and a strong Scottish or Irish accent. There are a multitude of vocabulary and grammatical differences in how Brazilians and the Portuguese speak. 

            In addition to learning to comprehend a new accent, our family had to learn a new religious language. The religion of both the U.S. and Brazil is rooted in its colonial past. Historically, the U.S. is known as a predominantly Protestant Christian country, a direct result of the religious affiliation of its Northern European colonizers. Although Brazil was colonized by the Roman Catholic Portuguese, a 2020 study found that 26.7% of the population affirms affiliation to a non-Catholic Christian denomination (Religion Affiliations in Brazil 2020, n.d.).  The majority of non-Catholic Brazilian Christians are Evangelical Protestants like our family. Therefore, as Evangelicals in Brazil – although a majority Catholic country – my family never felt like a minority or a marginalized group. According to a 2011 census, 81% of the Portuguese population is Catholic, with 3.3% consisting of other Christian denominations such as Eastern Orthodox and Protestant (“Population of Portugal 2023 | Religion in Portugal,” 2021).  Consequently, this was the first time our family had to learn to communicate as members of a marginal minority religious group.

I will add here that according to the GLOBE cultural framework, Portugal is part of the country cluster Latin Europe, e.g., Israel, Italy, Spain, Portugal (House et al. 2004). Therefore, much of what describes Portuguese culture is true of the region of Latin Europe, sometimes referred to as Southern Europe. 

In some countries, certain religions have been significant historically but not today. The decline of Mainline Protestantism in Northern Europe would be an example of the decline of traditional religion. In contrast, Southern Europe is not only predominantly Catholic historically, the church continues to be one of the most significant factors in Portuguese culture (Medina, 2021).  Portugal is one of the oldest nations in the world, with over 800 years of history and relatively secure borders of its territory (“About Portugal,” n.d.).  This Lusitanian nation has one of the greatest maritime traditions in world history, spearheading the era of exploration in the 15th century (European Exploration – The Age of Discovery | Britannica, n.d.).  The spread of the Catholic faith was one of the foundational motivations for Portuguese explorers and the empire that sponsored them (The Legacy of Henry the Navigator, n.d.).  Therefore, the cultural identity of even secular Portuguese is intimately interwoven with Roman Catholicism. 

How We Did

The success of our family’s new life in Portugal – including ministry – required being able to appreciate their Worldview. Worldview is pretheoretical, “Generally not found at the conscious level, and the assumptions that compose it are not necessarily coherently linked to one another; they may even be contradictory” (Moreau et al. 2014). Of course, our family brought its own presuppositions, including those of a religious, political, and philosophical nature. Our aim was to offer Christian service to the people of Portugal –natives or immigrants – in a way they deemed valid and relevant. But the positive impact of our family’s worldview in this new context would depend on the ability to embody it with love. 

            The principle of love from the teachings of Christ is relevant intercultural communication. As the apostle Paul wrote:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is non self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (New International Version, 2011, I Corinthians 13:4-8) 

My wife and I believed that our Christian worldview gave us something of value to share with the Portuguese people. But we could only transfer the gospel vision fruitfully with attitudes and behaviors according to Christian love. 

            Any cross-cultural experience involves the experience of being an outsider. The term ingroup refers to “groups that we feel emotionally attached to (e.g., family, cultural or ethnic group members, a religious group)” (Jackson 2020). Inversely, outgroup describes, “groups that you feel distant from and may even feel in competition with when there are limited resources” (Jackson 2020). Although our family spoke Portuguese, were still part of an outgroup. We could choose the level of accommodation with which we communicated with the Portuguese. The effectiveness of communication depends on the level of accommodation being used.Communication accommodation theory explores “the reasons for, and consequences arising from, speakers converging toward and diverging away from each other” (Jackson 2020). Seeking acceptance, my family could accommodate its communication to the Portuguese in what is termed convergence. The opposite approach would be to maintain our way of speaking to draw attention to our affiliation with our ingroup – Brazilian American immigrants to Portugal. 

            To be good communicators, we also needed to be aware of negative prejudice towards us as members of outgroups. As Americans, we could be received by the Portuguese with contempt because of the huge recent influx of immigrants from that country. A majority of these American immigrants are Californians like ourselves who have been priced out of the housing market there (Welcome to Portugal, the New Expat Haven. Californians, Please Go Home, 2022). Many Portuguese resent the huge influx of remote working digital nomads and retired expats that have pushed housing prices up in Lisbon. Consequently, Lisbon has recently been cited as the third most expensive city in the world by income to housing ratio (Lisbon 3rd Most Expensive City to Live In, n.d.). 

As Brazilians, our family could be received by the Portuguese with contempt because of the tendency of their former Latin-American colonists to form cultural enclaves instead of integrating into Lusitanian culture (Tostes, 2019).  Brazilians are often perceived by the Portuguese as seeking a better life in terms of security and quality of life – if not always financially – and not necessarily desiring to integrate into Lusitanian society. The long-term goal of many Brazilian immigrants is to gradually bring as many members of their extended family to Portugal as possible. And those Brazilians who can prosper financially in Portugal often have a long-term plan to spend it back home when they eventually return. 

            The inclination for immigrants to develop cultural enclaves instead of integrating into society is hard to resist. People tend naturally – sometimes unconsciously – to be drawn to individuals and groups where language, culture, and values are shared (Jackson 2020). As a family of Brazilian Evangelical heritage, it is natural for us to gravitate towards our ingroup. As soon as we arrived in Portugal, our family began looking for an Evangelical church, which generally have a majority Brazilian membership. Even though my wife and I are missionaries, we were not immune to ethnocentrism, in which identity biases and discrimination are rooted (Jackson 2020). 

            In the beginning of our life in Portugal, the charm of the new culture was captivating. So much of the sights, sounds, and flavors that surrounded us were exciting and fascinating. But as time went by, negative attitudes toward the new culture began to emerge. Some stereotypes of the Portuguese people began to take form in our minds, related to things such as work ethic and dependence on socialist government assistance. This mindset is an example of essentialism, indicating circumstances where groups are presumed to share “universal and homogenous characteristics without consideration for variation” (Sorrells 2015). 

Another negative phenomenon in intercultural communication to which our family was susceptible was othering. Othering refers to social portrayal that entails “the objectification of another person or group” (Abdallah-Pretceille 2003). With this approach, all perspectives, and behaviors of ‘the other’ are attributed to culture, generally disregarding the complex and diverse nature that lies beneath the superficial level (Holliday 2012, 2019). Such a reductionist approach is detrimental to the development of significant intercultural connections (Jackson 2020). 

            During the initial phase of our immigration to Portugal, it became evident that each of us had a unique enculturation. As it relates to intercultural communication, enculturation includes the socialization process, by which “individuals develop the ability to appropriately use and interpret verbal and nonverbal cues in particular cultural contexts” (Jackson 2020). My wife was born and raised in Brazil where she lived until she was 20. I was reared in the U.S. until I was 18 when I left for overseas missionary service. Each of our children have experienced different cultural formations based on where our family was living at critical times of their development. Of the three siblings, my eldest daughter spent the longest time in Brazil – 14 years. My son seems to be the most impacted by American culture, perhaps because he lived there from 11-13 years of age, a very impressionable period. My youngest daughter was 11 when we moved to Portugal and has seemed to adapt the fastest to the new context, especially linguistically. 

Another factor our family has had to navigate in adapting to Portuguese culture is contexting. This term refers to a policy of choosing the proper blend of verbal and non-verbal communication to convey a message. In the U.S., low-context communication is more common, meaning what is being expressed generally exists within the specific words being used. In Portugal, high-context communication is predominant, by which most of the meaning is in the physical context or internalized in the communicants (Moreau et al. 2014). Most of what the Portuguese communicate is not expressed directly and verbally, but rather indirectly and nonverbally (Jackson 2020). 

Brazilian culture is also characterized by high-context communication. Because of her upbringing, my wife tends to read much more into non-verbal communication in her interactions with the Portuguese. Intercultural communication research indicates that non-verbal communication is the primary form of human communication. International studies have found that the amount of non-verbal communication ranges between 65% and 95% (Matsumoto & Hwang 2015). As a result of my wife’s enculturation, she tends to be much more sensitive to body language, tone of voice, and other forms of “socially shared coding systems of communication beyond language” (van de Vijver 2018). My wife’s ability to read into things like body language and eye contact is helpful not only in Portugal but Southern Europe as a whole (Hall 1991). As a missionary, if I want to have influence in Latin Europe I should observe and imitate my wife. 

As someone from a low-context communication culture, learning how to be indirect sometimes feels to me like learning how to lie. Inversely, for high-context communicators such as the Portuguese, learning to be direct can feel like developing an ability to insult people without remorse. Having dealt with this type of cross-cultural difference in Brazil, I came to Portugal benefitting from some prior experience (Moreau et al. 2014). 

             Another aspect of non-verbal communication – chronemics – represents probably the single biggest difficulty our family’s adaptation. Chronemics – the way we understand and appraise time, administer our time, and react to time – affects how we communicate (Berglund 2015). The Portuguese workday is flexible – tending to start between 9:00 and 11:00 am and ending at 07:00 – 09:00 pm. The time of day or night when people gather and communicate is an aspect of chronemics (Moreau et al. 2014). As difficult as it is for our family, we must understand that our concept of chronemics is not universal. If we are humble enough to allow them, such cultural differences can teach us patience. We have learned to schedule meals with Portuguese friends over breakfast or lunch, but not dinner because we don’t want to eat at 10:00-11:00 pm.

            Southern European countries tend to take a polychronic approach to life in which time is perceived as an immediate point in which life happens instead of a road we are travelling on. Polychronic cultures tend to see time as a river that carries all of us along, bringing us experiences along the way. In these cultures, one is considered wiser to participate in these events instead of attempting to resist or control. Instead of viewing events as occurring at a specific moment, polychronic societies view all things happening together. Therefore, we should experience life as it happens rather than attempting to organize it (Moreau et al 2014). 

By contrast, with a monochronic orientation to time, “tasks are done one at a time, and time is segmented into precise, small units so that one’s day is scheduled, arranged, and managed. Time is basically like a commodity; hence, the common saying, ‘Time is money’” (Jackson 2020). Even though Brazilian culture tends to be polychronic, under American influence our family has become more monochronic. Both my wife and I have personalities that desire planning, predictability, and harmony over spontaneity, and improvisation. Living in Portugal, therefore, has been a process of adaptation regarding perspectives of time. 

            Fruitful intercultural communication also requires sensitivity to identity – both our own and that of others. Each culture has a unique concept of identity, which is “(1) developed through primary socialization, (2) formed in different ways in different parts of the world, (3) multiple and complex, (4) both dynamic and stable, (5) both chosen and ascribed, (6) variable in strength and salience, and (7) conveyed through verbal and nonverbal means” (Jackson 2020). 

Foundational socialization in different cultures forms notions of identity related to power that influence intercultural communication. More powerful societies produce definitions of people groups and ethnicities that they intend to exploit. Such views of identity affect individuals and groups on either side of the power balance. As people immigrating from the U.S., our family could be unaware of our position of privilege in the eyes of the Portuguese. Whenever people from different linguistic and cultural contexts relate to each other, their power status is unequal (Jackson 2020). Intercultural communication is affected by the position each part occupies in the social order of power, including one’s nationality and accent (Kubota 2014). My wife and I learned, for example, not to tell the Portuguese we had immigrated because the cost of living in California was too high. I cited earlier the rising cost of living in Lisbon attributed – correctly or not – to an influx of Californian immigrants. As missionaries, we don’t want this power balance issue to undermine our relationships with the Portuguese. 

Another intercultural communication paradigm relevant to our family’s initial integration into Portuguese culture was the dichotomy between individualist and collectivist cultures. Individualist cultures define identity primarily in terms of individual expression and preference. In collectivist cultures, identity tends to be connected to the values and norms of the community. As an American, I have been formed in the most individualistic culture in the world (Moreau et al. 2014), while my wife and children were born into a collectivist culture. 

Portugal is a collectivist culture, expressed by its profile on the uncertainty avoidance parameter used in intercultural studies. A group’s tendency to feel threatened by ambiguous situations and to avoid uncertainty is a key cultural differentiator. Countries with strong uncertainty avoidance are “more averse to risk taking; they tend to favor rules and regulations and seek consensus about goals” (Jackson 2020). In our initial period of transition to life in Portugal, our family found the individualist vs. collectivist dichotomy of particular importance as it applies to relationships. In individualist cultures, relationships are voluntary associations, meaning that it is each party’s prerogative to either deepen ties or distance themselves. In contrast, in collectivist societies people are born into large in-group relationships that they are responsible to preserve for all their life (Moreau et al. 2014). This dynamic relates to the uncertainty avoidance paradigm further emphasizing the tendency to stay within their in-group. 

Inevitably our missionary family has crossed cultural boundaries and consequently the relationships we form in Portugal will be voluntary in essence. My wife and I observed that most Portuguese families tend to relate primarily to their extended families and some close longstanding relationships (e.g., childhood friends). Our children were able to develop friendships quickly enough, but for my wife and I it was difficult to develop friendships with Portuguese people in the first year and a-half. 

            Our family’s cultural, racial, national, and ethnic identities are ingrained in circumstances that are beyond our control. However, other aspects of our identity are influenced by our own choices and self-determination. For example, our religious identity, professional identity, and global/transnational identity – Evangelical Missionaries – makes us conspicuously different in Portugal. If fact, my wife, and I refer to our professional activity as members of a non-profit organization or teachers. Our children also prefer this description to, “Our parents are missionaries”, which the Catholic Portuguese would find strange and perhaps offensive. Jackson (2020) states that “Being different from the majority may stimulate deeper reflection on multiple dimensions of one’s identities (….) This experience tends to raise their awareness about the personal meaning of their regional, ethnic, and linguistic identities” (Jackson). All of us have multiple, dynamic identities which are influenced by “our desire to fit in with particular groups (…) Identities are complex and subject to negotiation; they may be contested or challenged in diverse contexts” (Jackson 2020). As much as my wife and I try to mitigate against negative perceptions, the fact remains that we are foreign immigrants that intend to influence Portuguese religious life. My wife and I must be mindful of the offensive nature of our identity and seek to communicate with the Portuguese in a way that is sensitive to the negative connotations they associate with certain aspects of our religious vocation. 

What I Would do Differently Now

The reflections of this paper lead me to several points where my family’s attitudes, thinking, and behavior could have been better. Understanding that the Portuguese are a collectivist, uncertainty avoidance culture, we could have calibrated our expectations regarding the development of friendships. Contributing to the growth of the kingdom of Christ in Portugal is a long-term project. Although God can do the impossible, I believe that change related to religion in Southern Europe tends to be gradual. Portugal is not a country characterized by a series of radical, sweeping changes in its religious life. Rather, the Lusitanian people have a relatively continuous and homogenous religious experience in Roman Catholicism. It is precisely the Portuguese’s continuity of tradition – political, religious, and linguistic – that sets it apart in the history of nations. 

Another lesson from this period is that when individuals process culture shock positively, they will do so in unique ways. My wife and I worried a lot about how each member of our family was adapting to life in Portugal. We sometimes used one-size-fits-all parameters to evaluate our progress. Looking back, I see that each of us did transition fruitfully, but that depended on our individual personalities and passions. 

I also believe that our family wasted energy trying to distance ourselves from out-group communities consisting of other immigrants such as us. Creating a cultural ghetto of expats is an error no missionary can afford to commit. However, I’m convinced that in a conservative and relatively homogenous culture making inroads takes time. Developing relationships with other immigrants is not the same as isolation. Being able to relate to people who are in a similar situation of cross-cultural transition is like a cup of water to a someone running a long race. You don’t want to stop and drink water too often, but it helps recuperate strength for the next stretch of the road. 

Essentialism and othering are two potentially negative forms of thought that our family sometimes fell into. At times we fell into generalizing attitudes towards the Portuguese which limited what we thought was possible in that context. It is important to avoid overly skeptical and corrective attitudes towards a culture. A missionary should never lose the optimism which believes that their new context is full of surprising potential. My wife and I were right to soberly accept certain realities of the Portuguese context pertaining to religion. But we became skeptical regarding the possibility of change in some areas that the kingdom of God exists to transform.

Regarding some cultural factors such as chronemics, at times our family suffered under exaggerated pressure to adapt. Although our motivation was praiseworthy, some cultural phenomena do not require emulation for fruitful relationships to develop. Our family possesses certain cultural dynamics that make us who we are. Being a relevant source of positive influence in Portugal does not mean nullifying every aspect of our family’s personality. 

I hope this paper can yield helpful insight into how missionary families can successfully transition into new contexts. The wealth of intercultural communication research is not merely a tool they may benefit from. The reality of missionary attrition leads me to the conviction that intercultural communication should be an integral part of preparing missionary families for the field. 


Abdallah-Pretceille, M. (2003) Former en Contexte Hétérogène. pour un Humanisme du Divers, Paris: Anthropos.

Berglund, J. (2015) ‘Time (Chronemics)’, in J.M. Bennett (ed.) The Sage Encyclopedia of Intercultural Competence, Volume 2, Los Angeles: Sage, pp. 800–2.

European exploration—The Age of Discovery | Britannica. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2023, from

Hall, Edward T. (1991). The Dance of Life. New York: Doubleday. 59-77

Holliday, A.R. (2012) ‘Culture, communication, context and power’, in J. Jackson (ed.) The Routledge Handbook of Language and Intercultural Communication, London and New York: Routledge, pp. 37–51.

Holliday, A.R. (2019) Understanding Intercultural Communication: Negotiating a Grammar of Culture, 2nd edn, New York: Routledge.

House, R.J., Hanges, P.J., Javidan, M., Dorfman, P.W. and Gupta, V. (eds.) (2004) Culture, Leadership, and Organizations: The Globe Study of 62 Societies, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Jackson, Jane. (2020) ‘Introducing Language and Intercultural Communication’, New York, NY: Routledge, 3, 2, 42, 42, 24, 143, 65, 145, 71, 105, 105, 82, 74-75, 112, 65, 285, 115, 140

Kitao, Kenji. 1985. “A Brief History of the Study of Intercultural Communication in the United States.”

Kubota, R. (2014) ‘Critical approaches to intercultural discourse and communication’, in C.B. 97

Lisbon 3rd most expensive city to live in. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2023, from

Matsumoto, D., and Hwang, H.S. (2015) ‘Intercultural nonverbal communication’, in in J.M. Bennett (ed.) The Sage Encyclopedia of Intercultural Competence, Volume 2, Los Angeles: Sage, pp. 513.

Medina, D. R. (2021, December 16). Top 10 Countries With a Large Catholic Population. Catholic World Mission

Moreau, A. Scott; Campbell, Evvy Hay; Greener, Susan. Effective Intercultural Communication (Encountering      Mission). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 11-12, 56, 129, 138, 118, 148-149, ,334, 245, 334

Population of Portugal 2023 | Religion in Portugal. (2021, June 3). Find Easy

Romero, Teresa (2022). Religion affiliation in Brazil as of 2020, by type. Statista. Retrieved April 19, 2023, from (“Population of Portugal 2023 | Religion in Portugal,” 2021)

Samovar, Larry A., Richard E. Porter, and Nemi C. Jain. 1981. Understanding Intercultural Communication. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. 49

Sorrells, K. (2015) ‘Essentialism’, in J.M. Bennett (ed.) The Sage Encyclopedia of Intercultural Competence, Volume 1, Los Angeles: Sage, 298

Tostes, L. (2019, October 7). Brasileiros voltando de Portugal: Veja os dados e os motivos. Euro Dicas

van de Vijver, F. (2018) ‘Nonverbal communication across cultures’, in Y.Y. Kim (ed.) The International Encyclopedia of Intercultural Communication, Volume 3, Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., pp. 1617–26.

Vandagriff, C. (2017, September 28). 5 Things That Make Missionaries Leave the Field. IMB

Welcome to Portugal, the new expat haven. Californians, please go home. (2022, May 12). Los Angeles Times.

Zondervan NIV Study Bible (K. L. Barker, Ed.; Full rev. ed.). (2002). Zondervan.

Intriguing Messianic Jewish Perspectives of the New Testament

Dr Joseph Shulam presents pharisees as precursors to the Protestant Reformers of the 16th century1. If you are a Christian who believes that the individual believer has the right and responsibility to interpret the Word of God for themselves you have this in common with the pharisees. If you believe in active prophecy, gifts of healing and miracles, the existence of good and evil spirits, and the resurrection from the dead… you and the pharisees are on the same page. Dr. Shulam calls the pharisees the “first protestants”. It is interesting that Paul refers to himself as a pharisee in the book of Philippians and we know that many pharisees were among the first followers of Jesus. Since most Christians think of the pharisees in a negative light, it is interesting to think that Paul may have continued to self identify as a pharisee after his conversion.

When we Christians read Paul’s epistles we see the narrative of a battle between the apostle and a legalistic sect that sought to make gentile converts submit to the mosaic law. This is definitely the case. In spite of this, according to Dr. Shulam, Paul can still be considered to be the greatest “judaizer” of all, envisioning the one new synagog for all nations, expressed in Ephesians:

 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation,  having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace,  and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.” (Eph. 2:14-16).

Although Paul clearly taught that gentile believers should not be submitted to the mosaic law, he did see them as being brought within the community of God’s people, whose root is the jewish nation. We are grafted into the Olive Tree of Israel:

“For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches.  And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and [d]fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.” (Rom. 11:16-18).

By Dr. Harvey’s research, the number of Jewish believers in Jesus as Messiah is only .05%. This is a great mystery as we contemplate the promises and purpose of God for the Jewish people in biblical prophecy.

I’ve often heard Christians comment that they prefer the word of Jesus to Paul because Jesus was patient and kind whereas Paul was stern and belligerent. Dr. Harvey conveys the opposite perspective. In his perspective Jesus’ discourse was much harsher because He was urgently warning the Jewish people regarding the consequences of collectively rejecting their Messiah. Think of the warnings of fiery judgement that followed many of Jesus’ parables. We know that in 70 c.e. the prophecies of Jesus regarding the destruction of the temple and an ensuing time of great suffering for the Jewish people did in fact occur.

In comparison, according to Dr. Harvey, Paul’s letters to the predominantly gentile churches are focused on laying the foundation of God’s grace. The gentiles had nothing of the background knowledge of God, His justice and purposes that Israel possessed. Dr. Shulam also suggests that it is probable that the judaizers Paul combats in the epistles were mostly gentile proselytes. Being in the minority initially, these gentile believers were drawn to the practices and demands of the mosaic law. This could naturally occur as they felt the pressure to demonstrate their spirituality in spite of not being born into the spiritual inheritance of the jews.

Lastly, Dr Harvey interprets Peter’s vision in Acts regarding clean and unclean animals as referring to accepting communion with gentiles in the church. He believes that the gentiles were clearly not required to obey the mosaic law. However the Jewish believers understood that obedience to the dietary laws was still part of their faithfulness to God’s covenant with the nation of Israel. How this perspective takes into consideration the definitive sacrifice of Christ for sin is something I still have not been able to comprehend completely in my study of messianic jewish teaching.

But as a gentile Christian raised in the church I find that listening to Messianic Jewish teachers brings new perspectives and questions I have never considered. This is intriguing and thought provoking, something I would not necessarily recommend for a new believer. However, I do believe that there are key understandings that we gentiles have missed because the practice of the church has largely been divorced from it’s Jewish context. Without comprehending this cultural-societal context there is much we misunderstand and misappropriate. In my humble opinion 🙂


  1. Dr Joseph Shulam:
  2. Ibid. :
  3. Ibid. :

Why Christian Unity Matters (in recent history)?

I’d like to give a quick overview of some factors that contributed to Christian ecumenical movements in recent history. I realize that by using the word ecumenical here I can isolate myself from some readers.

Just a reminder, the New Oxford Dictionary’s definition of ecumenism is “the principle or aim
of promoting unity among the world’s Christian Churches”. I think this concept is something
That most Christians should be able to embrace.

The Roman Catholic Church had warned that the Protestant Reformation would cause
endless sectarian division, and historically that has proven true. The 19th century was a
a particularly intense time of multiplying new Christian denominations. But there was one thing the majority of Christian churches had in common. This was the experience of being dethroned from a position of privilege and influence in Western society during the Enlightenment. This marginalisation caused many churches to seek to band together with other Christian movements to survive this harsh new reality. The church was no longer at the center of society, no longer looked to as a universal authority on metaphysics – morality, values, meaning, etc.

Also in the 19th century, the rise of technology and relaxing political restrictions contributed to the emergence of ecumenism. Advances in transportation, for example (train travel) brought an unprecedented amount of Christians into contact with brothers and sisters of other faith traditions. In addition to this, romanticism sparked interest in the past, a movement in the arts and literature that emphasized subjectivity and the individual. People were rejecting the rationalism which characterised the Enlightenment. There was much interest in the past, including the medieval and ancient church. Some Protestant groups, such as the Oxford movement in England, began to sense that something precious had been lost in severing ties with the “apostolic” Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches.

Another factor that contribute to ecumenism was the shift in the churches from addressing primarily (or at time exclusively) “spiritual” issues to social issues as well. A key historical event was the inauguration of the World Council of Churches in Amsterdam in 1948. Since then the Roman Catholic Church has not been a full member, but has participated as an observer, which is a significant step. Perhaps being a full member would amount to a recognition that the Catholic Church is only one among other equals, which is possibly the reason for remaining as observers.

After World War II there was much optimism for ecumenism, especially among mainline Protestants (Lutherans, Anglicans, Presbyterians, etc). There have been some significant moments of reconciliation. In 1958 Pope John the 23rd repealed the declaration at the Council of Trent that no sacraments outside the Catholic Church were valid. Subsequently the Catholic Church has reached agreement with the Lutheran Church on justification by faith. This is the central point of conflict that led to the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century.

However the early optimist soon lost steam. The liberalism of mainline Protestant denominations caused disunity with Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox and Evangelicals. Many Christian leaders at the highest level promote Christian unity passionately. At the grassroots level many Christians intuitively seek partnership with other brothers and sisters in order to fullfil Jesus’ induction that His disciples be united in one body (John 17). Often it is the leaders at the middle level that are reluctant to engage in projects of Christian unity. Perhaps this is because they have the most to lose – their position, influence and power. The leadership structures of the church today are based on the status quo of division and sectarianism, the body of Christ as it stands today.

Since the 1960’s considerable progress has been made between Catholics and Pentecostals. This is based on the shared experience of the gifts of the Holy Spirit – speaking in tongues, prophecy and healing. There is much work to be done, I hope that this short commentary encourages us to participate in the historical movement towards Christian unity in its diverse expressions.

Why Don’t They Just… (Take the Easy Route)

It seems basic to the human condition that most of us like to talk about other people’s lives. My wife and I often talk about the members of our family, our friends and people we’re getting to know at church and in our neighbourhood. It seems especially fascinating to us to reflect on the major life decisions other people make. Why did they do that? Why did they choose that… carrier, spouse, place to live, hobbies, etc.

This is a huge subject, but I want to focus on how other people’s decisions seem so impractical to us. To us it often seems that a simpler more fruitful path is evident if that person could only see their life the way we do. But if I look at my wife and I, our major life decisions ae often looked like jumping off a cliff, cutting our nose off to spite our face, or shooting ourselves in te foot. Just wen tings were getting stable we end up changing things up, ripping up our garden patch, and heading off into another great unknown.

I realize that to a large extent tis is the case due to my wife and my choice of career as missionaries. However I believe that the risky nature of our dreams and endeavours is indicative of the passion of the human heart for more. It is natural for all of us to want more from life, to live it to the fullest. After all, time is short. The Bible says so.

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:12).

“Show me, LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is” (Ps. 39:4)

“He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return” (Ps. 78:39)

Often in times of difficulty my wife and I reflect on how we got ourselves into a certain situation. What were we thinking? Why did we bring this upon ourselves and our children? Of course, at times we have to repent because we made presumptuous decisions overestimating our ability to deal with whatever life could throw our way. If notices that as the years go by – I’m now 45 – I have an increasingly sober notion of te limits of my mental, emotional and physical resistance… of just how much I can bear without some part of my life blowing a gasket.

So it’s true tat sometimes we hate off more than we can chew. And sometimes we took burdens upon ourselves we shouldn’t have because God didn’t direct us that way. And in these cases we can’t expect for God to spare us any discomfort and loss, although thankfully He is amazingly gracious to bail us out time after time.

But my point here is that God has put a wild and ambitious spirit in all of us as part of being created in His image. Certainly this rambunctious energy was necessary for us to fulfil the call:

“Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Gen. 1:28)

So if you find yourself in discomfort, ask the Lord if it’s the result of bold decisions you made to follow te dreams He put in your heart. If so, I believe the word of the Lord to us is what he said to Joshua: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Jos. 1:9).

Encouraging What’s Best in Our Loved Ones

The apostle Paul encouraged us, “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).  Paul also taught the early church to “Encourage one another to good works” (He. 10:24) and to “Edify one another” (I Tess. 5:11).  But recently I have felt convicted by the Holy Spirit that I haven’t been encouraging my loved ones the way the Bible teaches us to.  Many times I complain and discourage those who are closest to me in relation to their God-given gifts.  

For example my youngest daughter has a strong personality.  She is extraordinarily perceptive of what is happening around her and often feels that she needs to react to things I consider “none of her business”.  This past Sunday our family was at church and there was a minor incident with a man who was visiting.  I won’t go into details but the man had an accident that was embarrassing for him.  He appeared to have some sort of mental or physical disability.  My daughter alerted me to what had happened and asked if we should do something.  I felt embarrassed for the man and looked around to see if he had come with someone.  My thinking is that it would be more embarrassing for a stranger to help him in that situation.  I saw that a few members of the church leadership were nearby and that they would shortly realize what had happened.  My other two children were already calling me from outside the church wanting to head home for lunch.  In short, these were my reasonings for telling my daughter that we shouldn’t get involved.   Looking back I think my attitude was selfish and I was just wanting to avoid any inconvenience to myself.  

What’s worse though, and this is the theme of this text, is that I discouraged the positive impulse of my daughter.  And this reaction was a manifestation of my daughter’s God-given gift of leadership.  

My prayer for you and I is that the Lord give us the sensitivity to recognise our loved ones’ best qualities.  Lord, help us to encourage our spouses, our children, our brothers and sisters, etc.. to increasingly (not “diminishingly”) express their gifts.  Father teach us to do so, even when these gifts sometimes annoy us and spark critical, unsupportive attitudes.  

Quando é bom não estar “Nem aí”

Salmo 131: “1 Senhor, o meu coração não é orgulhoso e os meus olhos não são arrogantes. Não me envolvo com coisas grandiosas nem maravilhosas demais para mim.  2 De fato, acalmei e tranqüilizei a minha alma. Sou como uma criança recém-amamentada por sua mãe; a minha alma é como essa criança. 3 Ponha a sua esperança no Senhor, ó Israel, desde agora e para sempre!

As vezes pessoas chegam a momentos em que desistem de si mesmos, dos seus sonhos, e do chamado de Deus para as suas vidas.  Quando nos vemos nesta situação, falamos coisas como “Não estou nem aí… com o que as pessoas pensam de mim… com o padrão de ‘sucesso’ deste mundo (ou da igreja)… com o que vai ser da minha vida”, etc.  

É claro que essa é uma atitude bastante perigosa porque expressa apatia, indiferença e egoísmo.  Mas as vezes um cristão pode sentir algo semelhante a isso por motivos bons.  Aos 45 anos há muitas coisas que já foram importantes para mim em outras épocas mas agora não são.  

Por exemplo, ao longo dos últimos 28 anos que sou missionário eu tenho trabalhado com vários ministérios e até “movimentos” a nível internacional.  Fazer parte de uma comunidade que está trazendo o Reino de Deus no mundo todo através de uma variedade imensa de projetos é muito empolgante.  De fato, eu cresci no contexto de missões cercado por pessoas de todas as nações e culturas.  Eu fui criado num contexto onde eu sempre ouvia jovens falando sobre transformar o mundo e a volta iminente de Cristo.  

Mas agora eu já não sou tão levado por novas ondas de pensamento ou ativismo cristãos.  Eu ainda tenho paixão para servir ao Senhor, mas agora entendo que os relacionamentos duradouros são o que mais importa.  É uma honra ser convidado para falar numa conferência ou alcançar uma posição de liderança num ministério grande.  Porém, você pode experimentar estas coisas e ainda continua vazio por dentro.  O essencial é o relacionamento com o Senhor Jesus e com o pequeno grupo de pessoas que formam a sua família espiritual.  

Neste sentido eu posso falar que não importo mais, mas não me refiro ao meu chamado e a grandeza da missão de Deus.  Eu oro que o Senhor me ajude a nunca perder a minha paixão por estas coisas.  Eu sei que um cristão jamais deve desistir de si mesmo, dos seus sonhos, e do chamado de Deus para a sua vida.  Porém, eu creio que parte da maturidade em Cristo é não se preocupar tanto com as coisas, “Grandiosas” e “Maravilhosas demais” para ti (Salmo 131:1).  Assim como Salomão disse que não há nada melhor na vida do que “Comer, beber e encontrar prazer em seu trabalho” (Ecl. 2:24).  

É claro que a realização do discípulo de Cristo não está na glutonaria, consumismo e vanglória.  Mas entendemos as palavras de Salomão à luz da palavras de Paulo: “A piedade com contentamento é grande fonte de lucro,…por isso, tendo o que comer e com que vestir-nos, estejamos com isso satisfeitos” (I Tm. 6:6-8).  

Amados em Cristo, o meu encorajamento a vocês e a mim mesmo é o seguinte.  Vamos deixar de lado toda a vanglória humana e viver só para o galardão do servo fiel.  Se tão somente assim fizermos pelo dependência do Espírito Santo, um dia receberemos um galardão incomparável.  E não só no futuro, mas agora mesmo, se aprendermos a pensar assim… nós já teremos e temos a vida eterna que Jesus prometeu.  

Practices of Self-discipline are a Celebration of Life.

Clique aqui para português

In my mid-40s I’ve become more self-disciplined about certain areas like my diet, exercise and sleep than in other seasons of my life. Or maybe I feel like I’m more disciplined about these areas because it takes a greater force of will than it did when I was 25 or 35.

The strange thing about when I’m exercising is that I find myself thinking how good it is to not be exercising. I look at the clock over and over thinking, “I only have 30 minutes left… I only have 15 minutes left”. But then as soon as I’m done working out my mind is almost immediately consumed buy the worries of that day. I say almost immediately because there are those 30 seconds to 2 minutes that perhaps I’m able to live in the moment and celebrate the task accomplished. One more day, one more getting up early, one more exercise time completed. But the

satisfaction doesn’t last long.

Of course when we fulfil a daily discipline we’ve set for ourselves – perhaps Bible reading or practicing an instrument – there is the satisfaction that we did our best that day. We kept to the plan and if we keep doing that consistently we can expect real progress.

Nevertheless I find that I’m always looking for new mental games to play with myself to keep committed to my disciplines. Recently I’ve been trying to consciously acknowledge that whatever I’m working towards is by the power of the Spirit, especially if the goal I’m reaching for has a selfish nature. By selfish I mean goals connected to the development of my own strength, physical appearance, artistic skill or intellectual knowledge. Disciplines aimed at these types of goals are narcissistic by nature and I need to constantly remind myself that I want to work towards these goals by the power of the Spirit of for His glory.

Recently I felt the Holy Spirit speak to me that personal discipline is an act of hope in the opportunity of life, that is, future opportunity. Lethargy and self- indulgence, by contrast, are an expression of the desire to enjoy present opportunity of life. But when we cultivate practices of development it is an expression of expectation of future rewards. Maybe for someone who doesn’t have the future hope of Christ these same practices are focused on fear. The fear of death, for example, would seem to propel a person who doesn’t have the hope of the future Kingdom of Christ. A fear that would push the person who lives autonomous from God to enjoy life’s pleasures to the maximum while they last… because this is the only real value one can attain.

But for the Christian, seeking self-development – or any kind of development (serving others, for example) – expresses a hope in the continued and growing

opportunity of life. King Solomon said, “This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of people, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead. 4 Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion! For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten” (Ecc. 9:3-5).

I’m so thankful that God can redeem even our most selfish and fear-driven drive towards achievement and vanity. The Lord has gifted us with creativity and intelligence by making us in His image. He wants us to work towards improvement of our gifts and to build towards the continued fulfilment of our calling.

My prayer for you and myself is that the Lord continue to teach us to seek the flourishing of our own lives and

everything around us. I pray that Jesus redeem self-discipline in our lives as a manifestation of hope in the future, not the fear that time is running out.

Manter Práticas de Desenvolvimento Próprio é Celebrar a Vida

Com os meus 40 e tantos anos eu tenho me esforçado a cuidar da minha saúde – a dieta, exercício físico, sono – mais do que nas outras fases da minha vida.  Ou talvez eu sinto que estou me empenhando mais agora porque nesta altura isso requer uma força de vontade maior do que quando eu era mais jovem. 

Quando eu estiver fazendo os meus treinos eu tento usar vários truques mentais para não ficar almejando a hora de acabar.  A pior coisa é ficar olhando para o relógio pensando, “Só falta 30 minutos… agora só mais 15”, etc.  Eu fico imaginando como será maravilhoso quando eu puder descansar, quando eu posso sair daquela fornalha de sofrimento (que exagero, os meus treinos não são tão intensos assim).  Mas assim que eu terminar o treino a sensação de satisfação dura muito pouco.  Dentro de 5 minutos eu já estou pensando nas tarefas do restante do dia e que já estou atrasado se eu quiser resolver tudo.  Mas antes disso, há aqueles poucos doces minutos em que eu posso curtir a sensação da tarefa concluída e do bom hábito mantido. 

É claro que quando nós cumprimos uma meta nossa – por exemplo a leitura bíblica ou tocar um instrumento – há a satisfação de que fizemos o nosso melhor aquele dia.  Nós fomos fieis ao plano e se continuarmos com consistência podemos esperar progresso real no futuro.  

Apesar disso, eu vejo que estou sempre procurando novos “jogos” mentais para me ajudar a manter o compromisso com as disciplinas que quero manter.  Recentemente eu tenho tentado reconhecer que estou buscando desenvolvimento pelo poder do Espírito Santo, não a minha carne.  Isso me ajuda a evitar a tentação do egoísmo e vaidade que sempre vem quando procuramos crescimento como indivíduos.  Querer melhorar a nossa aparência física, habilidade artística ou conhecimento intelectual pode ser motivado pelo narcisismo.  Mas a Bíblia nos diz que a ambição pessoal não é ruim por natureza (I Tim. 3:1).  Apenas temos que lembrar a buscar estes alvos pelo poder do Espírito e para a Sua glória.  

Recentemente eu tenho sentido o Espírito Santo me dizer que a auto-disciplina é um ato de esperança nas oportunidades futuras da vida.  A letargia e indulgência por sua vez são expressões do desejo de desfrutar apenas as oportunidades presentes da vida.  Quem não tem a expectativa futura em Cristo provavelmente busca crescimento indivíduo com base no medo.  O medo da morte, por exemplo, serviria como motivo forte para a pessoa que só tem a vida terrestre para curtir.  Quem vive uma vida independente de Deus precisa desfrutar os prazeres desta vida ao máximo enquanto duram, porque estes são as únicas coisas ao nosso alcance.  

Mas para o cristão buscar desenvolvimento próprio expressa esperança nas oportunidades contínuas da *vida eterna.  Nós cremos que a vida eterna já começou porque o Reino de Cristo já foi inaugurado e estamos vivendo nele.  

O rei Salomão disse, “Este é o mal que há entre tudo quanto se faz debaixo do sol; a todos sucede o mesmo; e que também o coração dos filhos dos homens está cheio de maldade, e que há desvarios no seu coração enquanto vivem, e depois se vão aos mortos.  Ora, para aquele que está entre os vivos há esperança (porque melhor é o cão vivo do que o leão morto).  5 Porque os vivos sabem que hão de morrer, mas os mortos não sabem coisa nenhuma, nem tampouco terão eles recompensa, mas a sua memória fica entregue ao esquecimento”.

Eu sou tão grato que Deus pode redimir até as nossas ambições mais egoístas.  O Senhor nos deu dons de criatividade e inteligência ao nos criar em Sua própria imagem.  Ele quer que trabalhemos para a multiplicação das nossas habilidades e conhecimento para que realizarmos o nosso chamado cada vez mais plenamente.  

A minha oração por você e eu é que o Senhor continua a nos ensinar a buscar a frutificação em nossas vidas.  E que a consequência deste florescimento impacte tudo que nos cerca: pessoas, o meio-ambiente, a sociedade… o cosmos.  Eu oro que o Senhor continue a redimir a nossa busca por desenvolvimento próprio.  Que as nossas metas de crescimento sejam manifestações de esperança no futuro que temos em Cristo.  Graças a Deus nós não precisamos mais viver como o incrédulo que teme constantemente o fato de que o tempo da oportunidade está acabando.  

Are the Important People in Your Life Happy When You Just “Be Yourself”?

Clique aqui para português

Who are the people in your life who encourage you to “be yourself”?  These are the ones whose desires for you are personal freedom to express what is best about you.  These people seem to appreciate the best of what you have to offer in terms of gifting and passion.  

Another way to look at this is tho think of those people who seem to act and feel the opposite way.  These people seem generally inclined to want to change the essence of who we are.  They might do this with good intentions thinking that our deepest sources of inspiration represent distractions or pipe dreams that will only lead to disappointment.  Maybe these people themselves are disenchanted with their own dreams.  Perhaps they see the years spent following “impractical” dreams as the wasting of the most precious commodity of time.  

Time does become more and more valuable as we progress through the phases of life.  I’m sometimes amazed at how some teenagers and people in their 20s seem to have so little urgency regarding life.  They just have an amazing ability to just “chill”, and I sincerely envy it at times 🙂

My wife is someone who has continually encouraged me to develop and share what I have of greatest worth.  My parents and grandparents have also done this throughout my life.  It is increasingly my opinion that talent, although valuable, is much more common than the relational support necessary to inspire someone to believe in their aspirations.  

Of course we can’t expect even those who love us to always approve every idea and priority we express.  My wife brings me back to earth if investing in my big picture projects equals neglect of immediate family needs.  

My dad loves to say that we all lead small lives, something I appreciate coming from a man that many would consider to lead an extraordinary life.  The life of a missionary is truly remarkable.  We have the privilege o living lives whose chapters are divided among nations that we invest in and experience deeply.  But a life of many transitions involves a huge amount of mundane logistics.  

It’s easy to lose sight of the vision God gave you when you first set out for a new international adventure.  Again, this is why I’m so grateful for those people in my life who remind me of God’s unique investment in my life, and the precious gift He wants me to be.  We just have to keep believing in His promises, investing daily in steps of obedience and staying near to Jesus our loving shepherd.  

As pessoas mais importantes em sua vida se alegram quando você é “você mesmo”?  

Quais são as pessoas que te encorajam assim, a ser a expressão mais autêntica da pessoa que Deus te criou para ser?  Estas são as pessoas que desejam que você tenha a liberdade e oportunidade de demonstrar o que há de melhor em ti.  E elas compreendem quais são estes tesouros especiais que Deus te deu para abençoar este mundo.  

Uma outra forma de analizar esta questão é perguntar quem são as pessoas que parecem pensar e agir no sentido oposto.  Estas pessoas parecem geralmente inclinadas a querer mudar a essência de quem nós somos.  Elas talvez o façam com boas intenções pensando que a nossa paixão e inspiração é apenas uma distração que só levará à decepção.  Muito provavelmente estas pessoas estão desiludidas com os seus próprios sonhos.  Talvez eles vêem os anos que gastaram investindo em projetos com a cabeça “nas núvens” como um grande desperdício de seu tempo e energias.  

Ao avançar pelas fases da vida o nosso tempo se torna cada vez mais valioso.  Eu fico impressionado com a forma que alguns jovens conseguem fazer nada por períodos extensos na maior tranquilidade.  Quando vejo eles eu sinceramente tenho inveja porque eu geralmente sinto que preciso constantemente investir meu tempo em algo prático.

A minha esposa é alguém que tem me encorajado a desenvolver e compartilhar o que há de maior valor dentro de mim.  Os meus pais e avós também.  Eu estou cada vez mais convencido de que o talento é relativamente comum mas os relacionamentos de apoio são o que mais falta para que as pessoas realizam o seu potencial.  

É claro que nós não podemos esperar que as pessoas – até mesmo as que nos amam – aprovam todas as nossas idéias e prioridades.  A minha esposa sabe me trazer de volta à terra quando os projetos “maiores” estão causando a negligência das necessidades imediatas da nossa família.  

O meu pai ama dizer que todos nós vivemos vidas “pequenas”, algo que eu admiro porque ele leva uma vida missionária que parece tão extraordinária.  A vida missionária realmente é um privilégio empolgante que envolver várias fases transculturais.  Mais as transições internacionais com sua esposa e família requerem um monte de logística chata também.  

Muitas vezes eu quero só fazer as tarefas diárias e imediatas e esquecer do quando maior da visão que Deus me deu.  É nestas horas que sou tão grato pelas pessoas na minha vida que me lembrar do investimento que Deus fez na minha vida.  O Senhor quer que eu seja um presente especial para este mundo, o que é maravilhoso seja para impactar poucos ou muitos.  Nós só temos que continuar a crer nas promessas de Jesus, a investir diariamente nos passos de obediência que Ele nos dá e a permanecer inspirados e fortalecidos na Sua presença.  

The Ultimate Goal of Discipline: to Reach a Joy that Brings Life

Clique aqui para português

Sometimes I counsel someone with a problem with addiction and it makes me reflect on how we develop good and bad habits.  Whenever I observe a vice in my life or someone else’s it clearly represents a source of pleasure used to fill a felt need.  The comforts vary from substance abuse to gambling, pornography to eating disorders – but all provide something of real value to us.  Apart from Jesus no human being has ever lived who hasn’t been seduced and oppressed by some false solace or stimulation.  

On the other hand in contrast to this are the good habits that exist both our lives and others – meditation, exercise, healthy eating, financial administration, organisation of physical spaces, etc.  Each of these represents something that generally begins with acting against our natural tendency towards laziness, selfishness, the desire for immediate gratification and avoidance of any discomfort. I say “natural” tendency as defined by the Bible: the sinful flesh.  The unbeliever is slave to the flesh but we believers have the right and power to say no to it.  But until we the redeemed receive our glorified bodies in the resurrection the struggle with the flesh is still a daily battle.  Our battle is not against the flesh by the power of the flesh but by the Holy Spirit.  Still, to yield to the Spirit is easier said that done, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” (Mt. 26:41).  

The majority of good habits begin with an acting against our natural carnal preferences.  Although there are some good habits that come easily, like those people who naturally prefer fruits and vegetables over chicken fried steak with biscuits and gravy… followed by peach cobbler.  Take physical exercise for example.  From childhood to young adulthood physical exercise is often mostly or wholly a pleasure.  But from middle age on exercise is a choice to go against the desire to live in submission to gravity… to just chill and veg out on the couch.  

But so many of these habits, although perhaps not all, end up leading us to a source of joy which is also good for us.  This I feel is the best thing of all in human life: finding and developing practices that bring both joy and blessing in our lives.  And if we’re talking about “blessing”, true blessing always results in an overflow to those around us.  What could be better?  I’m experiencing joy, being blessed and blessing others at the same time… and exponentially!  

So the ultimate goal of discipline should be this: to reach a joy that brings life.  These are the life giving good habits that we both enjoy and that bring blessing to ourselves and others.  When we find these things in our lives we have to grab ahold and not let go.  In your life this might be reading books by an author that inspires you to grow in Christ and takes steps of faith.  In your spouse’s life there might be a hobby that engages their unique gifts brings and benefits your family in indirect ways.  Perhaps the way a sport or creative outlet promote your family projects is simply “recharging” emotional batteries.  The Bible even teaches us to enjoy the rewards of hard work as a fundamental aspect of leading a fruitful life: “Everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man” (Ecc. 3:13).  While at the same time Scripture warns us against seeking to satisfy the flesh and its vanity (Gal. 5:16, 26).

My prayer is that the Lord teach us each day to redeem the time, not only in the sense of productive work but productive rest and recreation as well.  That we would find new sources of joy and recover those that we lost along the way.  

O Alvo Primordial da Disciplina: Alcançar a Alegria que Traz Vida

As vezes eu aconselho pessoas com vícios e isso me faz refletir em como todos nós desenvolvemos hábitos bons e maus.  Se eu estiver refletindo nos vícios na minha própria vida e na dos outros eu vejo que aquilo sempre representa uma fonte de prazer usada para suprir uma necessidade.  Estes falsos confortos variam de alcoolismo, anorexia, pornografia, etc. – mas todos fornecem algo que o indivíduo considera valioso.  E além de Jesus nunca houve alguém que não foi seduzido e oprimido por algo assim uma vez em sua vida. 

Em constraste a isso são os bons hábitos como meditação, exercício físico, alimentação saudável, boa administração financeira, boa mordomia com os espaços físicos, etc.  Cada uma destas coisas representa algo que começa contrariando a nossa tendência natural para a preguiça, egoísmo, impaciência e covardia.  

Um descrente é escravo da carne mas nós os regenerados temos a autoridade e poder em Cristo para dizer não ao pecado.  Mas até recebermos os corpos glorificados na ressurreição nós travamos uma batalha diária com a carne.  A nossa batalha não é carnal e sim depende do poder do Espírito Santo.  Mas ceder ao desejo do Espírito Santo não é fácil, “O espírito está pronto, mas a carne é fraca” (Mt. 26:41).  

A maioria dos bons hábitos começam com passos que contrariam a preferência da nossa carne pecaminosa.  Há pessoas que realmente preferem comer legumes em vez de fritura, a correr cedo de manhã em vez de comer pizza a meia-noite.  Porém mesmo as pessoas que parecem ter uma grande propesidade para o bem têm seus pontos fracos… as suas tentações peculiares.  

O que de fato é de valor primordial em nossas vidas são aquelas coisas que trazem gozo e benção no mesmo tempo… para nós mesmos e aos outros.  Quando encontramos coisas assim nós devemos reconhecê-las e priorizá-las. Talvez você goste de ler um autor cujos livros te inspiram a uma fé maior e compreensão do amor de Cristo.  Talvez o seu cônjuge tem um hobbie que não parece beneficiar a família toda, pelo menos não diretamente.  Porém é possível que liberar o seu marido para o seu “futebol” faz com que ele retorna com as energias e visão renovadas.  Talvez a sua esposa quer fazer um curso de italiano e você pensa que não tem nada a ver com as suas vidas.  Mas quem sabe quais novas oportunidades e possibilidades podem desencadear daquilo?  E você como marido realmente quer ser o limitador das fronteiras de sua esposa?  

A Bíblia nos ensina desfrutar os frutos do nosso trabalho: “poder comer, beber e ser recompensado pelo seu trabalho, é um presente de Deus” (Ec. 3:13).  Mas a Escritura também adverte a não dar prioridade exagerada aos desejos da carne e a sua vaidade (Gâl. 5:16,26).  

A minha oração é que o Senhor nos ensine a remir o tempo, não só no sentido de trabalhar mais… mas também de encontrar as fontes benéficos de deleite.  Devemos desenvolver o hábito de desfrutar destas coisas… a ter a “disciplina” do deleite.  É do agrado do nosso Pai Celestial que vivemos plenamente todas as bênçãos para as quais Ele nos chamou.