July 4, 2015

More Camp Progress

Saturday was our last day at the camp property before progressing on to Ceará. Our time in Morros was extremely profitable. Over the last two weeks we have:

1) Installed a circuit breaker box
2) Applied for an electric hookup
3) Contracted a well digger
4) Put together a construction project
5) Met with pastors and laymen to introduce the camp to them and develop the administrative part of the project
5) Cleared out the land for the construction project.

Here are some pictures of number 5, followed by a video update.

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The tractor climes the hill. At one point I thought it would not make it.

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First step, clearing away the underbrush.

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Next: cutting the hill down to size.

Video update:

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July 3, 2015

Quick Camp Update

The Comings family continues in Morros, working on the camp project. Today we officially requested an electric hookup. The time between the request and the actual hookup could be long...so pray that the electric company will be especially motivated in our case.

Pastors' meeting in Morros...
Pastors Marcelo, Andrew, and Fred, at the clearing where first structures will be built.

This morning we were joined by Fred and Marcelo, the two other Regular Baptist pastors in Maranhão. Neither of them had seen the camp property (both came to the field after the project was underway), so we gave them the walking tour. Both were very excited about the possibilities, and we spent a good portion of the day with them in planning the future organization of the ministry.

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July 2, 2015

Valentines Day, Ebenezer Style

This post is late...but not as late as you think. Brazil celebrates Valentines Day in June--the 12th, to be exact.

This year the Ebenezer congregation got together with a sister church-plant (the Hope congregation) for a couple's banquet. Some of our young people acted as hosts. Here are some pictures:

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Decorations, done by Itacyara and some of the church ladies.

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Itacyara and I with the speaker and his wife.

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Fellowship between couples from the Ebenezer congregation.

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Yummy!

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Exciting Camp Update

A couple days ago I posted a video with some exciting updates for our camp project. In case you missed that update, here it is:

I am currently in Morros taking care of some of the logistics of this project. Here are some pictures I took this morning:

Camp progress.
The view from the cleared out area where the chapel/cafeteria will sit.

Camp progress.
Circuit box installed!

For the rest of this week we will be working through more details having to do with hooking up electricity, digging the well, and building our first structures.

Stay tuned!

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June 1, 2015

A Beginners Guide to Romans

A friend of mine expressed difficulty in following the reasoning of the book of Romans. What follows is my humble attempt to clarify things for him. Perhaps it will clarify things for you as well.

Introduction

There is no better book of the Bible than Romans to expound the basics of Christian theology. However, to the modern reader, the organization and main thrust of the book can get lost in archaic language and imagery.

Hence, this little guide. In no way is this a substitute for actually reading Romans. Rather, it should be seen as a help to understanding the overall logical flow of the book.

Setting the stage

It helps to see Romans as a dialogue. The Apostle Paul asks and answers a series of questions, raised by different hypothetical readers. Sometimes he states these questions explicitly (like in the beginning of chapters 6 and 9), and other times they are implicit. In the summary that follows, I have put those questions in the mouths of the different groups of people, and then summarized Paul's answers. The references for Paul's answers are included in parentheses.

Main characters

Paul
Pagans
Jews
Moralists
Christians

Paul

‘Sup, my Roman peeps! (1:1-7)

Pagans:

‘Sup.

Jews:

Mozel tov!

Moralists:

Yo.

Christians:

Blessings be upon you.

Paul:

I’m going to talk to you a little bit about Jesus. I wanted to visit you personally…but it just didn’t work out. (1:8-14)

Everybody:

No prob…we understand.

Paul:

The reason I want to be there with you is so I can preach the good news. (1:15-17)

Everybody:

We’re all about good news. Preach away.

Paul:

Well, not so fast. You see, for the good news to be good, there has to be bad news. You have to understand that there is a need for the good news.

Everybody:

We’re with you, Paul. What’s the bad news?

Paul:

The bad news is that you’re sinners, and God is mad at you. (1:18)

Pagans:

Now hang on just a minute…that can’t include us. God has never revealed himself to us.

Paul:

On the contrary, God has revealed himself to you through his creation, and you’re just a bunch of ungrateful pagans who prefer to worship animals instead of God. And that is why you end up making stupid decisions and doing a bunch of gross stuff with each other. (1:19-32)

Pagans:

That’s harsh, dude.

Moralists:

You tell ‘em, Pauly ol’ boy!

Paul:

Not so fast, you moralist hypocrites. You condemn what the pagans do…but you do essentially the same things. Do you really think God doesn’t see that? (2:1-4)


Moralists:

Um….

Jews:

Well, at least we’re God’s chosen people, so God’s going to give us a pass because of that, right Paul? Paul?

Paul:

Think again. God doesn’t play favorites. Not to mention the fact that you had every possible advantage—having the law written down and the prophets to explain it to you, and you still rebel against God in your hearts. Just because you had the a part of your body surgically removed doesn’t mean you are automatically cool with God. What matters is what’s on the inside. (2:5-29)

Jews:

Oi, vey…

Everybody:

So we’re all pretty much up the creek.

Paul:

Yeah, you could say that. (3:1-23)

Everybody:

So this good news you were talking about?

Paul:

Ok, there’s this guy called Jesus. The only way to escape the wrath of God is through faith in him. (3:24-26)

Jews:

But what if we keep the law and are really good, and help little old ladies across the street, n’ stuff?

Paul:

Ix-nay on the orks-way. Jews and Gentiles are reconciled to God the same way…through faith in Jesus. (3:27-30)

Jews:

But Abraham…

Paul:

Was saved by faith in Jesus. Don’t you guys read Genesis? (4:1-4)

Jews:

And David?

Paul:

Him too. (4:5-8)

Jews:

So…you mean…everybody is reconciled to God by faith in Jesus, even though they might not be Jewish?

Paul:

Why is this such a hard concept for you? (4:9-23)

Everybody:

So…this faith…what exactly does it do?

Paul:

Glad you asked. It means that God is no longer mad at us, as a result of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. It means our life has meaning. It means we have the hope of life after death. And it means we are free from the Old Testament law. (5:1-20)


Christians:

Cool. So…if we’re free from the law, that means we can do whatever we want, right?

Paul:

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Christians:

No, seriously.

Paul:

If you’ve been freed from slavery to sin, why would you want to go back to it? (6:1-23)

Everybody

Makes sense.

Christians:

Um…problem. We’re Christians, and we still sin.

Paul:

Yeah, me too. (7:1-24)

Christians:

So…what’s up with that?

Paul:

Remember I mentioned Jesus earlier? (7:25)

Christians:

Yeah…

Paul:

Well, remember that because of Him, we are no longer condemned before God. Instead, we are inhabited by the Holy Spirit, who enables us to walk as God would want us to walk, and who intercedes for us when we mess up. (8:1-30)

Christians:

Ok, but certainly there are some things we can do that can make God revoke our salvation…

Paul:

Nope. (8:31-32)

Christians:

But certainly Satan can…

Paul:

Nope. (8:33-34)

Christians:

Tribulation? Distress? Persecution? Famine? Sword?

Paul:

Paul: Nope, nope, nope, nope, and nope. (8:35-36)

Christians:

But what about…

Paul:

Look guys…what part of “nope” don’t you understand? (8:37-39)

Christians:

Wow…eternal security rocks!

Jews:

We hate to interrupt the party, but, what about us? We were God’s chosen people once…and now look at us. How can you be so sure God will keep his promise to you when he has apparently broken his promise to us?

Christians:

Good point. Paul?

Paul:

Look here…God has not rejected Israel permanently. Rather, he has set her aside as a nation in order to reach the peoples of the world. (9:1-10:21)

Christians:

Hey Jews, you snooze, you lose. LOL.

Paul:

Now don’t get cocky, Gentiles. Do you think for a minute that the God who set the Jewish nation aside, is incapable of setting you aside as well? Besides, God isn’t done with the nation of Israel. This is just a temporary hiatus. So you better be nice to them. (11:1-36)

Christians:

Did we say “you snooze, you lose”? What me meant was “Blessings upon you.”

Jews:

It’s cool.

Christians:

So…moving right along…we’re free from the law…but we shouldn’t be slaves to sin…what does that look like, Paul?

Paul:

Glad you asked. Here’s the deal: because you were bought by Christ, you don’t belong to yourselves…you belong to God. So live that way. Don’t be proud. Work together with other Christians. Run away from evil. Do good. Don’t be lazy. Be joyful and thankful. Open your home to others. Party with happy people, mourn with sad people. Pay special attention to the poor and disenfranchised. Don’t get even. Try to be at peace with everybody…as much as is humanly possible. Obey the law. Don’t go head-over-heels in debt. And keep awake and alert, because Jesus is coming back. (12:1-13:14)

Christians:

Sounds like a plan.

Paul:

A couple other things. Don’t get involved in stupid theological arguments about stuff that doesn’t matter. You’re going to have to answer to God, so make sure what you do and say counts for something. If you consistently put others above yourself—which is the true definition of love—you shouldn’t have a problem with this. (14:1-15:13)

Christians:

Okee dokey. Anything else.

Paul:

As a matter of fact, yes. Pray for me, because this whole apostle thing can be pretty stressful sometimes. Oh, and say hi to a bunch of people there in Rome who know me. (15:14-16:27)

Peace out!


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