Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick: the Hardcore Missionary of Ireland

Not hardcore.
Image found here.
All the people who go to parades, march in kilts, or drink a ton of beer on St. Patrick's Day are not that impressive. Anyone can watch a parade. Anyone can wear a kilt. Anyone can drink a bunch of beer (although it's not recommended).

Despite popular opinion, these people aren't all that hardcore.

Actually, they're not hardcore at all.

St. Patrick, however, was. He's about as hardcore as they come.

A few facts about St. Patrick that make his current fame and the stories that surround him a bit strange (and inaccurate):

  • He wasn't actually Irish; he was originally British.
  • He wasn't actually Catholic; he became a Christian in his teens.
  • He didn't wear green or drink beer. (Okay, I'm making that one up. I actually don't know if he wore green or drank beer.)

Ultra hardcore.
Image found here
At age 16, Patrick was kidnapped by barbarian Irishmen and was a slave to them for six years. During this time, he became a Christian and prayed throughout the day. He heard a voice one night, the voice of God, telling him to escape -- a ship was waiting on him. He traveled 200 miles and sure enough, he joined a crew and was ready to sail home. The whole crew almost died of starvation while on their journey. Patrick encouraged them to put their faith in God and shortly after they stumbled across some wild boar. The group put their faith in Patrick's God after this incident. 

Patrick did return home, alive and well. After six years of captivity, it would have been easy for Patrick to assume that he had been served more than his fair share of heartache. He had experienced enough troubles and was now ready for an easy life at home. God came to Patrick again, however, with a vision of all the Irishmen Patrick had left behind. The Irish didn't know Christ. They didn't know God. And God was telling Patrick to go back to the land of his captors and share the Good News with them. 

How difficult would that be? Return to the land of your enemies in order to try to save them from eternal damnation and help guide them into an understanding of a loving and forgiving God? These were pagans, for crying out loud! Barbarians! Crazy men! The could kill Patrick! 

But he did it anyway. He returned to Ireland to preach and share. Over the next 29 years Patrick planted 300 churches in Ireland and baptized at least 120,000 Irish. 

What a legacy.

And how do we celebrate?

"Another beer, please." 

Patrick really was hardcore. I think it's awesome that we celebrate him, but maybe we should go about doing it a different way:

  • Teach your kids about Patrick and the great things he accomplished in Ireland
  • Pray with your family for missionaries in the world today
  • Pray for people in today's world who might be like the Irish barbarians of the 400's to come to an understanding of Christ
  • Consider what enemy you have that may need to hear about Christ. Consider forgiving them and going to them with the Good News
However you decide to celebrate, just remember the person we're celebrating: not a Catholic saint, but a Christian missionary who dedicated his life to telling others about Christ. 

Read more details about Patrick's life here

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Point of Missions is to Edify Myself

Image found here.
Just a few days ago, I watched a documentary by an amateur filmmaker who wanted to tell the story of some orphan homes in Haiti. The filmmaker went about achieving this by following a 4 day “mission trip” conducted by a team of adults (about eight Americans) who went to Haiti to tour seven different homes where up to 12 orphans live with their “parents”.

According to the film, there are around 800,000 orphans in Haiti. That number astounds me. I knew they were poverty stricken and there were some orphans in Haiti, sure. But 800,000? That’s one orphan for every family in San Antonio!

These numbers were not the most shocking thing about the documentary, though. Despite the fact that the missions team basically went on tour of seven orphan homes rather than feed (spiritually or physically) some of the other 799,856 orphans in Haiti or the fact that they brought the orphans silly little gifts from America when the orphans they were visiting already had more stuff than they need. I’ll ignore those points for now. What was most shocking was when one of the team members said (and this is not a direct quote but only a few words off):

“The point of missions is to realize how blessed you are by seeing how little everyone else has.”

Woah. Hold up. That’s the point of missions?

And this statement is coming from a fifty-something-year-old woman. She should know better, right?


This was apparently her second trip to Haiti on this team. She was doing the exact same thing she did last year on her “mission trip”: going around the seven orphan homes to sing songs, give gifts, and craft crafts.

There are so many things wrong with this picture.

First of all, these orphans have a home. They have clothes. They have food. They have an adopted family. They also hear the Gospel on a daily basis. Daily. Did you catch that? They are already cared for, fed, and taught the Good News of Christ on a day to day basis.

Secondly, even if these orphans didn’t know Christ and the team was truly sharing something new to those children, what would the point of the mission be? Would it still be to “see how blessed you are”?

I hope I’m not alone when I state that:

“The point of missions is to bring the truth of the Gospel of Christ to people who have never experienced God’s love and forgiveness through the Holy Spirit.”

Where is the “I” in that statement? Sure, I am doing the action, but it’s not about me. It’s about the Good News. It’s about Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit.

Not me.

I can hear the other side now…

“Maybe that’s all those people can do! Maybe they really did make a difference in those kid’s lives! You don’t know what eternal impact those people made on those 144 orphans in Haiti!”

The people who say these things defend the woman (and the rest of the team) because they too have been on those types of missions. You know, the "tour of poor people" mission trip, or "the spiritual retreat" mission trip.

If the point of missions is to see how blessed I am in comparison to others, all I need to do to achieve that is turn on the TV and listen to stories of the wars going on in Syria or the protests in the Ukraine. All I need to do is look up some images of malnourished children in India or Africa. All I need to do is go to the “poor side” of my town and examine the small houses, children running the streets without supervision or proper clothes, and maybe talk to a few of the locals in that area.

I don’t need to take a four day tour of seven orphan homes in Haiti where the kids already know about Jesus.

If the point of missions is the share God’s story with others and pray for their salvation, then yes. Going to Haiti and serving some of the other 799,856 orphans might become necessary in accomplishing this goal. The location might be the same, but the mindset and mission are both totally different.

For that lady, she thought she was doing a great service to those children. What she was really doing was edifying herself; raising support from others in order to go on a 4 day spiritual retreat with God. Instead of focusing on the 799,856 orphans in Haiti without regular food, shelter, love, or a knowledge of Christ, she was doing crafts with the 144 who already know God.

What a waste of 4 perfectly good days.

What do you think? Can you do both? Can you realize how blessed you are and go on mission with the goal of reaching the unreached?
If you can only do one, which one should take priority? 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

How to Take a College Class for Free (and in Just 3 Weeks)

This semester I was able to take a 3-hour, basic requirement college class for almost free. (If I had planned better, I could have taken it 100% free.) To top it off, I finished the course in just 3 weeks. How?

What you need:

  • A little cash (you'll get this back)
  • A computer with internet connection
  • Determination

What you do:

1. Get a scholarship for your tuition. So this is the one step that I can't do for you -- you have to find a scholarship on your own. If you aren't on a scholarship, don't worry. You can still take the class for cheap. Just follow the rest of the steps.

2. Buy the textbook. I'm a huge fan of renting, but if you're going to use my method, buy the textbook. Protect the textbook. Don't highlight in the textbook. Don't rip a page in the textbook. It is gold. It is treasure. It's at least 70 bucks, so treat it right, okay?

3. Take your class online. It is impossible to finish the class early if you do not take an online, self-paced course. Some online classes only open a module per week. You don't want that class. You want a self-paced class. Check out the online reviews of the professors or ask around to find out which ones are self-paced, and which ones aren't, at your school.

4. Get a free trial. Quite a few online classes use a third-party website to do quizzes. If your online class requires this, your access code is going to cost 50+ dollars. But most sites offer a free trial of 2-3 weeks. Start with that before you buy an expensive code.

Okay, all set? When the class opens, carefully read and use your book (no highlighting, damaging, etc.) to take all of the quizzes within the first two or three weeks (using your free trial). When you're done with the class work, send the book back for a refund and never purchase an access code.

There. You're done. 3 credit hours out of the way and you didn't have to deplete your bank account.

I highly recommend this route for a core class (government, history, psychology, basic economics class, etc.) but not for upper level classes or writing intensive classes.

Image found here
If you don't feel comfortable sending your book back or miss the return date, just sell it back. Amazon or Chegg will gladly offer you cash for your book (usually at least 50% of what you paid for it).

And the brightest side to all of this? You're done with your class in the first three weeks of the semester. Now you have extra time to spend on your other, more difficult classes. You're welcome.

Now, go get 'er done.