Monday, September 16, 2019

Who is your Savior?



    “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow in His steps; ‘Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth’; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live to righteousness---by whose stripes we are healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:21-25)

   It is very hard for most of us in this day and time to really comprehend all that Christ endured for us on the cross and the time leading up to His death on that cross. But He was willing to do that for you and for me and for everyone who calls upon His name. “whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
   
   Occasionally, I like to put down in the form of a poem what I want to say about my Savior and Lord and what He has done means to me. Here is one of those feeble attempts:


My Savior


Oh that there were words to tell,
Of the Love my Savior has for me.
Could any mere poem hope to express,
How He freely gave His life on that cursed tree.

He settled that day, once and for all,
There can never be a single doubt.
His nail scarred hands, His bloody brow,
Demonstrate how our sins He freely bought.

He could have called down myriad legions,
Of mighty angels to stop the bloody show.
But He freely suffered my pain and shame,
Because no one else loved us so.

Our sins required a perfect, spotless lamb,
To make known that atonement was assured.
And there was no other one capable to bear,
The pain and suffering He endured.

Jesus lead me to that glorious cross,
To look upon your beaten and swollen face.
To see the agony You endured for me,
When You gladly and obediently took my place.

Let me see your spear pierced side,
Where the blood flowed freely down.
And brand in my weak and feeble heart,
The knowledge of the price You paid for me alone.

Oh let me never forget or misunderstand,
That I have been bought and paid for with a price.
That You have forever shown Your love for me,
And I will always know that I owe You my life.

Oh Jesus keep me near the sacred cross,
Forever obedient to hear You, and Your glory see.
And if You should ask: “Who shall I send?”
I will shout with joy; “Here am I Lord, send me!”


Your obedient servant, son, and friend,


PRAY

1.    Lord thank You for paying the ultimate price for my sin and for adopting me as you son or daughter even though I have done nothing and can do nothing to deserve Your love.
2.    Thank You for pursuing me when I was lost and dead in my sins and You called me to You and showed me what a glorious Savior, Master, and Father that You are.

3.    Help me this day to live totally for You and for Your kingdom. Give me patience, love, wisdom, and boldness to speak to others about You and all that You mean to me.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

I am the same God!



“Now the LORD said unto Abram: Get out of your country, From your family And from your fathers’ house, To a land that I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1)


   I love reading stories in the Bible where God has called men and women to do things for the kingdom of God and I also love to read books about missionaries or other godly men and women who have stepped out in faith to reach others for Christ in one way or another. For the first time in my life I was allowed to meet one of these awesome men of faith in person, Pastor José Dos Santos.

    My wife, my son Adam, and I were privileged, in May 2019, to meet with pastor José Dos Santos in his church office in Cucuta, Columbia, prior to a midweek service. (Cúcuta is located on the eastern border of Columbia with Venezuela.) His church has about 5000 members who worship in the principle building and another 10,000 meeting in other locations in the city. Additionally, his church has started 140 house churches in neighboring Venezuela! This year, the church is celebrating its 44th anniversary. Someone asked him how he came to start this church 44 years ago and this is his amazing story:

   Pastor José was a pastor in a small church near San Paulo, Brazil. He was in his house praying one day and he felt as if he was transported to an unknown country. There were 6 men standing in a semicircle in a field, and as he approached them one man came to him and took him to a house and brought him into the dining room. Then Pastor Jose sat down at a table and they served him some bread, cheese and coffee. He looked on the wall in the dining room and saw a sign written in red: “Welcome to Columbia.” The man then took him outside on a hill and showed him a city down below and told him: “This is the city where you are to go.”

     The next thing that he knew was that he was on his knees back in his home in Brazil. He wondered if he had fallen asleep and had just been dreaming. Then he was aware that he could taste the remnants of bread, cheese, and coffee in his mouth and he had not eaten anything prior to starting his prayer time! He was puzzled about what had happened, and was afraid to tell anyone what he had seen and heard.

    He struggled with what he had seen for six months. While he is pondering what he had witnessed he searched the Scriptures daily and God kept leading him to miracle after miracle that had been performed by God for His people. One day as he studied, he asks God this question: “ Are You the same God who performed these miracles? And God answered him: “I am the same God!”  Finally, he had the courage to tell his wife:  “I have something to tell you,” He said. She responded, “I know what you want to tell me.” He was astounded! “How can you possibly know what I am going to say?” She answered,  “God already told me.”

     Not really believing her, he told her to go ahead and tell him what she thought he was going to tell her. She said, “You are going to resign from the church and we are going to move to another country and start a new church.” Then she added, “I have only one request; that we leave quickly.”

    So he resigned from his pastorate the next day and prepared to leave. Because Brazil was under a military dictatorship at the time, he was not allowed to withdraw the money he had in the bank to purchase the airplane tickets to fly to Columbia. So the local churches took up a love offering in cash and he and his family set out to drive/walk from Sao Paulo through the Amazon River basin to Columbia. It took him and his family 43 days. That trip, in itself, has to be another great story!

   Upon reaching the border of Columbia they arrived near a military airbase. Someone approached him and told him that a colonel at the airbase would fly him and his family the rest of the way if he could get to the airfield by a certain time. He was able to do so and even though the colonel was not there, one of his subordinates put them on a plane and flew them to Cucuta, Columbia.  When they got off the plane in Cúcuta, the colonel was waiting there with 2 jeeps to take them to their new house. Pastor José asked the colonel why he had arranged the flight and he explained: “This morning in my prayer time God told me I was to fly you to this city, so that is what I did!”

   When the colonel took them to their new house, it was the same house that Pastor Jose had seen in his vision! He and his family lived in that house for the first 5 years in Cucuta and that is where the new church was born! (What He didn’t explain was how long it too Him to learn Spanish instead of his native tongue, Portuguese.)

   Today his church is on the front lines of evangelism in two countries and they are working hard to meet the needs, both spiritual and physical of the people of Venezuela and Columbia. May God grant them continued success in increasing the knowledge of Christ in both nations!

PRAY

1. Lord, thank you for leading Pastor Jose to Cúcuta, Columbia and continue to bless him and his church as they lift high the name of Jesus in this part of the world.
2. Lord help me to be the same kind of obedient servant Pastor Jose and his wife have been and to always be listening for Your still small voice to guide me on the path You have chosen for me.
3. Lord thank You that You are such a personal God that You know just what I am capable of doing and I can rejoice in every opportunity You chose for me to serve You and Your kingdom on this earth.



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Sunday, August 4, 2019

Hidden with Christ



    “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1-3)

    In the book of Colossians, the apostle Paul really speaks to us about how to live out the Christian life. He tells us that our life is to be “hidden with Christ in God.”

    Oswald Chambers says this about that statement: “‘Your life is hidden with Christ in God.’ Christ is our entire life. When once we realize this, certain forms of doubt and perplexity vanish forever. If we set our affection on things above, those perplexities will never trouble us anymore because we know the Lord Jesus, and He is not distracted by these present perplexities.” (Oswald Chambers, Reading 286, Oswald Chambers Devotional Bible)

    Are you setting your affection on things above or are you letting the everyday worries of life drag you down? Hide your life in Christ, He has everything under control and He is watching over you every single day and night. He does not take any days off! (Psalms 121:4)

    Paul continues: “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.” (Verses 5,8-10)

    We are to put off, or put to death, those things in our life that characterized our lives before we were saved. We are new creations and made in the image of our Creator who gave His life on the cross that we might be conformed to His image! Then once we have put off these things, we can put on something so much better!

    “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, mercies, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things, put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” ( Verses 12-14)

    Yes, that is a tough list that Paul, guided by the Holy Spirit, has told us to do! We are to put on kindness, meekness, longsuffering, and to forgive those who have wronged us. We cannot do it on our own strength. We need the Holy Spirit to control us and fill us daily! Lastly, we do all in love!

    “Let the word of God dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word and deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” (Verses 16-17,23-24)

     Read and study God’s Word so that it can dwell in you richly! Praise Him with song and music with your whole heart and whatever you do in word or deed do it for Him and not for what others might say or think. We belong to a Him, (Praise God) and a thankfulness and joy in our service to a Him should flow naturally from our hearts and minds. 

PRAY 

1.   Lord we praise you and thank you for saving us and adopting us into your family for eternity. Help us as we put off the old man and become new creatures in Christ.
2.   Fill us with Your Spirit today that we are able to be kind, merciful, and loving to those You put in our pathway today.
3.   Bring to mind anyone that we need to go to and ask their forgiveness and help us to forgive those who have wronged us, just as You, so graciously, have forgiven us.




What do you have to give?



    “And they said to Him, ‘We have only five loaves and two fish.” He said, ‘Bring them here to Me.’ Then He commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass. And He took the five loaves and two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes. So they all ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained. Now those who had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children.” (Matthew 14: 17-21)

     My wife and I went on our first short term mission trip overseas in 1997. Miriam had been talking to our sons’ orthodontist and found out that he and his church were going on a medical/ dental mission trip to Honduras. She told him that she would love to go as a translator since she was fluent in both English and Spanish. She received an invitation to go and had to raise $1000 for the trip. She was able to do so quickly and I went with her for the first team meeting. I was so excited to hear about what they were planning to do that I asked if I go go as a translator also. 

    They said yes, but that I had only a week to get them the $1000 so they could purchase the teams tickets. There was only one person that I could think of in our church that was mission minded and had not already contributed to Miriam’s trip, so I called him hoping that he could help a little. He called me back the next day and told me that he and his wife had received a windfall the previous month and they had been praying about where God would want them to put it and had now decided that it was for me. He wrote me a check for $1000!

    The trip was a life changing experience in many ways. There were 27 men and 12 women and we spent the week in a small village in rural Honduras that was about as poor as it could be. The 27 men slept in an unfinished town hall on the floor with sleeping bags and air mattresses. Never have I heard such loud snoring in my life. There were about 12 men who, I believe, were trying to out snore each other! Our showers were “sun showers”. (Bags that you hung out during the day and then had some hot water at night.)

    Miriam slept in a house with the other 11 women, about 4 to a room. Miriam says that there were two elderly gentleman who showed up each night as their night watchmen. When they arrived one of them proclaimed: “Don’t worry about a thing. We are here to protect you and keep you safe.” They were both in their eighties and one brought a Bible. They would sit down, put on the new reading glasses they had received from the team and one would proceed to tell a story from the Bible that he remembered. The other would throw in an occasional “Amen”, and then they would switch roles. It was evident that neither could read but they talked back and forth about the Bible all night! (Later in the week we found out that there were many dangerous men in the village but none came near the ladies house that week!)

    Every day 10 of the men would work construction repairing the local church and the remainder of the team would travel to a different village where long lines would form for the dentists and doctors. Miriam translated for one of the doctors and I translated for a dentist or for the person sharing the gospel to all who waited to be seen. Days were long but at night we gathered together after dinner to tell what God had done during the day and to pray and praise Him for allowing us to be a part of what He was doing. 

   The 3rd or 4th day we ministered to a village that was even poorer than the previous ones. It was an indigenous Indian tribe that had a chief in charge and the people lived in mud huts with dirt floors. Most were barefoot, skinny, and obviously malnourished. Half way through the clinic that day someone approached the pastor of the church and asked if there were any way we could provide some food for the village. He said there was no extra funds he had brought from the church but the team could take up a love offering and we could send someone to the nearest store and buy what we could. 

    So we took up an offering and two people went to the store and bought as much rice, beans, shortening, sugar, and butter as we had money for. They returned and the pastor told the chief what we had done and how would he like us to distribute it. He said that there were 40 families in the village and he would tell each family to send one person to receive the food and he would be present to ensure that there was only one person from each family to receive the gifts. 

    We broke the rice, beans, shortening, sugar and butter into little bags not knowing how many bags we had of each item. When the 30th family had come through we looked and saw that we were going to run out soon. Someone said: “Let’s pray.” So we all prayed that the food would make it to the end. When the last family came through we handed out the last bag of each item to the last family! God had ensured that everyone would receive a share!

   That trip started Miriam and I on a 23 year adventure serving Him on the mission field in 14 different countries. We have witnessed many make professions of faith, many baptized, some healed, and many more have had their lives transformed to serve our Lord better. We have been on many trips together but also some by ourselves. Miriam has been on 34 trips and I’ve been on 20. We also spent 2 & 1/2 years in Manila, the Philippines, teaching at Faith Academy, a school for missionary children.

    We have seen God move and accomplish many miracles in peoples hearts and lives and He has blessed us much more than we have ever been a blessing to others.

What do you have that you can give to God? He has given you the ability to do something. You may say that you only have a little to give but that is all you need! God is the one who multiplies your gift and makes it meet the need He has sent you to fill. 

PRAY 

1.   Thank you Lord for allowing us to be a part of what a You are doing to transform peoples lives at home, around town, around our country, and around the world.
2.   Give me a vision Lord for what You want me to do today to minister, physically, and spiritually to whoever You put in my path today. 
3.   Thank you that it is not me that has to do anything other than to be obedient to Your leading and to watch You do all the work.



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Friday, August 2, 2019

Why send me?

Why send me?

      “And as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water....that the waters that came down from upstream stood still and rose in a heap very far away at Adam, the city that is beside Zaretan. So the waters that went down to to the Sea of Arabah, the Salt Sea, failed, and the waters were cut off, and the people crossed over opposite Jericho.” (Joshua 3: 15-16)

     My wife, Miriam, traveled with one of our sister churches to Ecuador, many times as a translator for a medical/dental mission team. She became very close to many of the people who went regularly and even spent 3 or 4 years teaching one of the doctors Spanish so that he could minister to the people without a translator. 

     One year their missions pastor decided that they would not go to Ecuador that year, but to Haiti where there had been a devastating earthquake. Because they were now going to a French Creole speaking country they told Miriam that she would not be needed. Then after a few weeks they decided that they did want her to come since they would be traveling through the Dominican Republic and might need a Spanish speaker there. She agreed to go although she didn’t know what function she would have on the team.

     When they arrived in Port Au Prince they were housed in a partly constructed church in a very rough looking neighborhood. They set up their clinic on the ground floor and ministered to many during the week. Miriam ended up assisting a doctor even though she didn’t have to translate. All the patients spoke broken English! 

    At night they all slept on the partially finished second floor that was just a 10 foot wide platform all around the wall with no railing to keep you from falling to the first floor. They had men on one side and women on the other. (Luckily there were no sleepwalkers in the team!)

   The night watchmen were some teenagers that they would hear about four in the morning singing and praying. Outside the building during the night they could hear ugly sounds, but no one ever came near the building. 

    Miriam brought with her a small battery operated fan that she used to cool off for about an hour each night before going to bed. One day there was a little boy very sick and dehydrated. One of the doctors said that they needed to keep him as cool as possible but there was no no electricity that night for the fans. Miriam volunteered her fan and it lasted all night cooling the little boy in his mother’s arms.

    The week went well with many people treated during the clinics and before long it was time to go. The day they were supposed to leave, for some reason, the departure kept being delayed until it was almost 4PM. The trip to the border was supposed to be two hours and the border to the Dominican Republic (DR) would close at 6PM. The driver, a man from DR, who only spoke Spanish, was getting madder and madder, with Miriam being the only one who understood his complaints.

     Finally, they departed and the driver drove as fast as he could on the winding two lane road, muttering under his breath. They arrived at the border crossing about 545 PM and there was a massive traffic jam of cars, trucks, and buses. On the right of the traffic was a small pond but it was impossible to tell how deep the water was. It looked as if there was no way they would make it past that traffic jam in 15 minutes. 

    The driver left the vehicle to do something and someone started pounding on the bus door as the sun went down. Everyone started praying and the pounding stopped. The driver came back, started the bus, and Miriam does not know how he got past all the trucks and cars that were in front of them but somehow they ended up one car away from the gate. Then he got out of the bus again and said he was going to talk to “El Capitan”.

     When he returned he told Miriam to get all the passports. Everyone quickly responded and Miriam went with him to see the captain. While they were in the captains office he looked over the passports and started asking questions in Spanish. While he was talking to Miriam the driver took off to talk to the Lieutenant at the gate. He returned frantic and shouted: “Apurense, neccitamos cuarenta dolares!” (Hurry, we need $40!) Miriam quickly ran back to the bus and shouted to everyone: We need $40!!! 

     Everyone dug into their wallets and Miriam ran back to the driver who took it to the lieutenant. The captain handed Miriam the passports, they jumped in the bus, the gate swung open, the bus roared through the gate, and then they watched it close behind them. They were the last vehicle to cross the border that night! One of the doctors exclaimed: “Now we know why God made sure Miriam came with us! We wouldn’t have made it without her!”

   They drove another hour to the place they were to sleep and praised God for helpings them get across the border that night. Miriam then knew why God had allowed her to come on this mission trip!

   What has God called you to do today? Where has He told you to go? To visit a shut in? To minister to someone with family problems? To help out someone who is moving in or out? Look for opportunities to be a servant to those in need and be available to be used by Him.

PRAY

1.   Lord thank you for loving me enough to pursue me until I surrendered my life to You. I belong to You and desire to be used by You in which ever way You choose.
2.   Fill me with Your Spirit today that I might be receptive to Your leading and that I am quick to obey Your instructions.
3.   Help me today to spend time listening to Your voice through the pages of Scripture and to take to heart the things You desire to teach me. Give me a teachable heart today.