Jesus Will Not Be Syncretized


The smell of marijuana–sickly sweet and unforgettable–clung to the porch where I was standing. I was listening to a man talk.  “I love Jesus and I love to get high.”

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  • The man talking to me was busy with his fingers, rolling the marijuana into cigarettes. A tall Icehouse beer was on the floor next to his chair. The man’s three female companions who were sitting on the porch cackled, questioned, and ridiculed him as they listened to him defend his salvation. I just listened while an intense debate proceeded.

    While visiting neighbors in my Jerusalem, my friend Andrew and I happened to come across this group of people enjoying a front-porch Sunday afternoon–drinking, talking, and rolling grass. I didn’t come to bust up a drag weed party. I came to tell them about Jesus. And like other pushers, hookers, child molesters, and criminals that I’ve met, they were born again believers. Or so they claimed.

    I am not the judge of hearts. I do not know who is saved and who is not.

    What I do know is simple:  Jesus will not be syncretized. Jesus is King. Jesus is sovereign. Jesus is the Way. Jesus is the Truth. Jesus is the Life. Jesus is the way to the Father. Jesus is Lord.

    The problem of syncretism isn’t unique to African animists or Asian Buddhists who want Jesus + False gods. The problem of syncretism is a worldwide highway to condemnation. I am grieved over the blindness and hardened hearts of sinful people. What they need to hear is the Good News of Jesus–the One who will deliver them. This Jesus–this Loving Savior, this compassionate Friend, this God-Man–will not be syncretized.


    04 2010

    The Mark of a Christian


    Schaeffer (1912-1984) had a blazing intellect, but rarely had a good hair day.

    This past summer, I had the chance to read Francis Schaeffer’s little booklet The Mark of the Christian. Of all the books that I read apart from the Bible in 2009, this was one of the most powerful. It’s a very short book, but it packs a powerful punch. I recommend you carve out an hour or so to read the book yourself. The entire text of the book is available for free online. Click here to access it.

    This recommendation doesn’t imply an endorsement of Schaeffer’s works in toto.


    01 2010

    22 January 1973: Roe v. Wade

    I will occasionally post articles on this blog that may not be about Madagascar specifically. This is one of them. Since our nation today remembers an unpleasant anniversary date, that of Roe v. Wade, I wanted to share this video:

    Issues like this compel God’s people to pray.


    01 2010

    Survey Trip Video

    The above video is one I put together shortly after the trip to give a brief overview of my time in Madagascar this past August. We were finally able to upload the video this month.


    12 2009

    A Thought and a Picture

    Below is a picture from Madagascar. It was taken from a helicopter. We were leaving a village that had heard of Jesus and the Bible for the first time that day. We spent a few hours teaching them the Story, and left them with Bibles.


    Here is another picture. We did not stop at this village. We flew right over it. The people that you see in this picture have never heard of the Bible nor of Jesus. I don’t know if they ever will.

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    If a live creature was being held captive, the hatch would be locked.


    I needed to see these pictures again, because my comfortable Christianity tries to lull me from the compelling reality of the world’s unevangelized. I also needed to hear again what Jesus said when He looked at needy people:

    Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

    (Matthew 9:36-38)


    09 2009

    David Jones: Pioneer Missionary to Madagascar

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    David Jones was one of the first missionaries to Madagascar during the early 1800s.  He faced many hardships, but pressed on for the Gospel’s sake.  Through his faithful labors, he developed a written language system for Malagasy (still in use today). Shortly thereafter he, with the help of coworkers and Malagasy nationals, translated the entire Bible into the Malgasasy language.  The Word of the Lord spread rapidly and had free course among the people.  But within 20 years of Jones’ arrival, severe persecution took place at the hand of Queen Ranavalona, including the enslaving and killing of many believers.  God used the affliction to purify His people; and, as so often is the case amongst the persecuted, to strengthen and spread His kingdom in Madagascar.  The years of trial were followed by a period of religious freedom, after which came the bondage of European colonization.  To this day, millions of Malagasy have never heard the true Gospel.

    How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?

    Daniel put together the video posted above for a class project several years ago.  At that time, the population of Madagascar was 18 million.  The census now reports over 20 million.  (It seems that ever since we’ve been researching this country, the population has grown at a rate of 1 million per year!)


    09 2009

    Thoughts from Steve Hafler


    My friend Steve Hafler is a veteran missionary who has spent ten years in Africa. He filled a crucial role in our Madagascar outreach last month through his familiarity with foreign cultures, sensitivity to unreached peoples, and motivating passion for souls. Below is an account that Steve wrote for his monthly publication, “Across Africa.”

    As the helicopter hovered to find a “reasonable” landing pad, in an area where there seemed to be none, the entire village began to gather below us. What do you say to an entire village that was not expecting you today?  When you do locate the chief how do you explain why “you” just dropped out of the sky and why “his” village was chosen over hundreds of others we just flew over?  It gets real simple.  We are here as ambassadors of Christ to give you the most wonderful message in the world, and we are gong to leave you God’s Word to read even after we depart.


    This is a glimpse of what happened when I recently traveled to Madagascar with Jim and Paiton Wiginton as we assisted Daniel Threlfall on a reconnaissance mission.  What we saw took several days to process and we remain staggered by the needs across Africa.  We went deep interior to this disturbingly vast island country that remains 70% animistic.  Many thoughts pierced my mind while ministering to these forgotten and unreached people. Thoughts like “why is no one here telling these people about Jesus?,” “do we as God’s children really believe that everyone will spend eternity somewhere?,” and “God is still looking for a man to ‘go.’”  These thoughts can lead to a “spiritual post-traumatic stress” unless we  remember, “Shall not the judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Gen. 18:25).  Yet, the responsibility reveals our failure to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).  We looked into hundreds of dark Malagasy eyes gazing back at us who had never heard the Gospel – not even one time.  We were in villages where there is no  Bible – not even one copy.  I was reminded of the essence of missions – proclaiming to the world that Jesus Christ is the liberator of sin by grace through faith to all who believe.  I felt alive as our team taught from creation to Christ to entire villages gathered to hear “the Word of life.”


    In one village far north on the sand dune peninsula surrounded on each side by the Indian Ocean the blind chief, after hearing the entire story from creation to Christ, said “be blessed in the name of our ancestors.”  Pray that he would be unfettered from animism.  We believe many did trust Jesus for the forgiveness of their sin.  Please continue to pray (1) for the Malagasy people to believe in Jesus Christ, (2) that God would strengthen the hand of national evangelists and pastors, (3) that missionaries who are already ministering in Madagascar would be encouraged and effective in their outreach, and (4) that God would raise up and send evangelists and pastor teachers to these lost people.

    ~Steve Hafler



    09 2009
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  • Back in the U.S.A

    On Wednesday morning at the Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport, a very joyful event took place:


    I’m thrilled to be back with my family.

    Since Internet access was limited during my time away, I would like to share over the next few days  more of what God did during our visit. Many prayed for this trip, and I want to tell you about God’s answer to your prayers.


    Hana Kate is holding a ring-tailed lemur toy.


    08 2009

    Caution and the Kingdom

    Real Christianity is risky business.

    • “Barnabus and Paul: men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:25-26).
    • “Priscilla and Aquila: who for my life laid down their own necks” (Romans 16:3-4).

    We respect Paul and Barnabus for their courageous ministry. We also admire Priscilla and Aquila, a husband/wife missionary team, for their Kingdom work.

    These people were risk-takers. In fact, they “hazarded their lives” and “laid down their own necks” for the sake of His name!

    That’s convicting. As I look at my own life, I have found that our cautious culture has crippled my Christianity. Rather than bold forays for Kingdom causes, I tend to retreat into Christian huddles and debate standards, labels, or exegetical minutia. Risk-taking is an alien concept, a bit extreme actually. It’s the kind of extreme reserved for the missionary biography kind of people. Not me.

    Where is Gospelelliotthumb risk-taking today? Where are the Hudson Taylors, starting missionary organizations with no promised financial support? Where are the John Patons, disregarding ‘wise’ counsel and obeying God’s call to cannibalistic islands? Where are the David Livingstones, trekking lion country to reach the unreached with the Good News? Where are the Adoniram Judsons, openly starting a Bible study in a hostile pagan environment? Where are the C.T. Studds, who preferred to run rescue shops on hell’s doorstep than living within earshot of church bells? Where are the Jim Elliots, leading his family and others into danger-infested jungles because there were people living there who hadn’t heard Jesus’ name?


    We have given in to a timid Christian culture where the “safe,” “wise,” and “cautious” trumps biblical-risk taking. Obviously, risk for risk’s sake is foolish and presumptuous. But risk for the Kingdom’s sake is biblical and right. There may have been a day when more ‘caution’ was necessary to balance foolhardy ventures by thoughtless believers. But today, that is not our problem.

    ‘Caution’ and ‘wisdom’ may just be our pious-sounding evasion of a risk-filled Christian life. Our philosophy of risk is misaligned with the world’s ideal of safety, security, and materialism. Based on the biblical model, I would suggest that the correction we need is to return to Christlike risk-taking—a God-inspired, faith-filled, grace-empowered passion for God’s Kingdom. Sacrificing my money, my job, my health, or even my life is a small price to pay for God’s glory.

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    08 2009

    An Unexpected Stay in Johannesburg


    I am writing this from a little Bed & Breakfast in Johannesburg, South Africa. The flight I was supposed to be on is probably somewhere over Namibia right now. Since the flight had excess luggage, and I was flying as a standby passenger, the excess luggage got to go, but not me. While waiting in line for the flight, I heard some American safari hunter bragging that he shot three animals, including a Cape Buffalo. If his trophies are on the plane, than it’s no surprise…

    The little delay is a bit disappointing, because I was looking forward to seeing my family, and a 24 hour delay is…well…a 24 hour delay! I really can’t wait to see them. It’s been a long time.

    On the other hand, I’m content to be here for a day, because God has a perfect plan for it–kind of like my Fort Dauphin misadventure. Everything about this entire trip has been evidently and beuatifully orchestrated by a sovereign God–each little detail.

    My reason for being here may be as significant as the conversation I had with Kenneth, the shuttle driver. He told me, “I was raised a Christian, but I am not a born again Christian.” You can imagine the conversation that followed. The bottom line is this: Kenneth does not want to give his life to the Lord, because he is afraid of failing Him and falling away from the faith, disgracing Jesus Christ. He realizes the serious nature of a giving one’s life to Christ. Pray for Kenneth’s salvation.

    And, if you don’t mind, pray that I’ll be able to get on the flight tomorrow night. Thanks.


    08 2009