Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It's Still the Bible Belt

Mississippi. The butt of so many bad stories. The disdain of many as an undesirable place. Well, we're number one! We are the most religious place in America. You may laugh at our overweight populous. You may snicker about the rednecks that live there. You may overlook them for so many things. But you will find that we are the buckle of the Bible belt. You will find more people willing to pray for you there. More will invite you to church there. More will stand up for the Lord there.

So, come on down and enjoy a plate of fried catfish and fried dillpickles; and then come on to church with us...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

May It Never Be!

The desperate Demmies in Washington have planned a nasty Christmas for you. They want healthcare passed on Christmas Eve. Why such a rush? Why the hurry? Here is one opinion: they have more taxes they need to impose on Americans. Did you know that they have not even allowed the Senate bill to be seen outside of Mr. Reid's private circle? If you are American, your senators have not even seen that bill! And they want to vote on it! They need to force it down your throat before you discover how damaging it will be for you.

I have another opinion, not that men like Mr. Limbaugh are necessarily wrong. My opinion is that the ultraliberal democrat party members believe that they have finally arrived and that now is the time to impose their socialist agenda on America.

Why is that a problem? It denies the foundational principles that have been a part of America for well over 200 years. And one of those principles is the God principle. That is, God Almighty is to be at the heart of any well-governed nation. Socialism and freedom through Christ do not mix. They are antithetical. And there is no synthesis that can lead to anything righteous. Anywhere such a synthesis has been attempted has resulted in such a secular humanist society that Christianity is actually bound and prohibited in much of public life. Oh, wait! Now it sounds like what America is becoming!

Many oppose the healthcare bill for economic reasons. Me? It's a matter of righteousness. So I am praying against this thing. Please join me in praying against another move towards the fall of America.

Copenhagen 2009: What's it all about?

You want to know what the summit on climate change is about? Look at who gets the hearty applause: none other than the likes of Hugo Chavez.

Folks this meeting is not about climate change--not the kind you are thinking about. It's a climate change, to be sure. The perpetrators want to globalize the nation. They want the wealth of Australia, New Zealand, the US, England, Canada, France--anywhere that has even the slightest semblance of capitalistic ideology--to be seized and passed on to the rest of the world.

To sign on to Copenhagen 2009 means signing away the sovereignty of one's nation.

Beware the buyer!

Was it a Revival?

Last Sunday I took a trip to a city north of here, not far from the equator. I had promised to make this trip and speak to the leadership and church in this particular city. I had also heard for a long time what an exciting thing was going on up that way. So I was looking forward to this trip. Sort of.

The night before I took my bride to the airport so she could celebrate Christmas with our girls and our grandson. When I got home at ten, my neighbors had cranked up a party. As it so happens with such parties, the music grew louder and louder as the alcohol bottles grew emptier and emptier. Sleep was not going to come.

I had to leave the house at 2:30, anyway; so I got on up and headed to the airport for my 4 AM flight. It should be against the law to fly at that hour. It means being up all night for most of us. I mean, I don't live there; I don't even live close to the airport. So, with no sleep to rest my eyes, off I went, arriving at my destination at 5:30. There is not a lot one can do at 5:30 AM. But I had investigated and found a 4-star hotel there with a nice breakfast buffet. And off I went, polishing off a nice breakfast and settling in on a very comfortable leather couch. There, I managed a thirty-minute nap to give my brain a rest before preaching.

The time finally crawled on to the hour the local pastor said he would get me from the nice hotel. The pastor showed up and drove me to the rented facility. His church would not hold all the leaders that would be there. I asked how many would be there; he told me only about 4oo, or more. This was their "small" meeting. Now for you megachurch types, that may be small. But these are missionaries and lay preachers, plus cell group leaders. It's quite a sight.

I watched and listened as the pastor called forward each one of these. This is where I was so impressed. This church has started 31 churches over the past 10 or 15 years. Thirty-one. They train a leader and head out to a new village or community. There they preach the gospel and let God go to work.

I am amazed at their response. They are hungry for the things of God and want to be more involved. Is that revival? Is that what I saw? Or is it just simple obedience--the church being the church?

Whichever it may be, we should all be so motivated by the things of God. They get excited over spiritual things. Do you? When they are stirred, they do something about it. Do yo? Do I?

It was a great ending to an exciting year. May we see yet more of it next year!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Enough, already!

Okay, guys; I am sick of it. "It" refers to all the press coverage of Tiger Woods' personal junk. While what the man apparently has done is repugnant and indicative of an unregenerate nature, I don't think it is any of our business. But you cannot turn on the tube, or go online to any news site without seeing extensive coverage of his dirty deed. Please, if we did not have such a morbid sense of curiosity, such a desire to dig up dirt on any and everyone we can, we would not be facilitating the media's desires to publicize this garbage. But we love to read about it, we love to see stories on it, so we foment the gossip.

Yes, gossip. True or not, it's gossip. Gossip is poison, ladies and gents. Gossip is unbridled tongues that wag faster than my dog's tail. Gossip is sipping from a teacup filled with sewage water. God hates it. And God loathes our hearty approval of those who engage in that, along with a long list of other sins (read Romans 1 and you will see).

Some argue that people like Mr. Woods are public figures, and therefore have no private lives. Wrong. My single right to Mr. Woods' life is what he does publicly, unless he personally invites me into his private circle. All of us are public figures to some extent; the size of our public is the difference. Our influence is the difference. Do you believe we should apply that same standard across the board? Shall we contact the local media and report our gossip on one another?

With that in mind, I have chosen to ignore all news articles and broadcasts that spread this poison. It's not "news." It's trash. God help Mr. Woods and his wife to heal their relationship. God help them to find forgiveness in Jesus Christ. God help us to learn to ignore such junk.

Friday, November 27, 2009

They're Going Home

Did you think that the economic downturn in the world stopped at the steps of the church? Think again. Many are headed home. They don't want to--most of them, that is. But many are leaving with tears in their eyes.

The latest public announcement came from Southern Baptists. The International Mission Board (IMB) has reached a point that it can no longer increase its missionary force. Not only that, but it cannot sustain its current level of 5,600 missionaries serving around the world. In spite of 12 billion dollars in offerings in the churches in 2008, Southern Baptists did not or could not give to missions at a level that can sustain its missionaries. If just 3% of that 12 billion dollars reached the field through the IMB, there would be a budget of 400 million. Three percent. Three. JUST THREE.

When I think of the reduction in personnel, the consequences are not pleasant. Less people will hear the gospel through IMB efforts. Less of those who are called will have a venue to fulfill their calling. Let me put that in very clear terms: more lost men and women will go to hell because we cut our giving and reduced our personnel.

Do not misunderstand me. The IMB is not the panacea for the lostness of the world. We are not the savior, Jesus is. But the downturn is unmistakable. Some would say this means we have to step up and do something else, and we do. Some would say that means the national believers will have to step up in their own countries, and they should. But let's be realistic. If God is still calling, and he is, then God must have a reason for wanting to send out the ones he has called. God has some in mind that only those he called can reach. God has plans in mind that involve the ones he has called. It should not be an either-or situation; it must be a both-and effort.

Now then, what the article I cited does not say: those remaining 5,000 (or less) missionaries must learn how to do more ministry with fewer resources because the remaining force will still be significantly challenged by the overall level of funding.

This year we Christians must demonstrate our willingness to make sacrifices for the sake of the gospel. This year, we around the world as you to step up to the plate. Perhaps that means you will ask your church to reconsider its giving plan to be sure more funds make it to missions causes. Perhaps it means giving more than ever. What it certainly means is that we must show ourselves faithful.

While you read this, some were were preparing the bags. Because they are going home.

May we change the trend now!

Friday, November 20, 2009

What Are They Thinking?

The House of Representatives has passed an historic tax and destroy bill, one known by many names: Obamacare, Pelosicare, and by the oxymoronic Healthcare Bill. Congressmen and women, like the proverbial lemmings, hurled themselves off the cliff. They got their votes by bribing so-called conservatives with the abortion-exclusion clause. So they got their majority and crammed it down our collective throats.

Now it is the Senate's turn. This week--tomorrow, in fact--they will begin debate on their version. Madame Pelosi's bill was 2,034 pages. Mr. Reid's bill is over 2,075 pages. We have not heard the same ruckus over his additional pages; nor have we heard a lot about the built-in bribes within the bill, those which will satisfy the senators who have chosen to prostitute themselves in order to ride the party wave. Nauseating does not begin to describe the idea...

The Repubs and few Independents in the Senate are strangely silent. Have they also prostituted themselves over this destructive piece of legislation? What are they thinking? Why so silent?

My greatest fear is that they are going to allow this bill to pass, then make all kinds of political noise about it after the fact, all so that they can make political hay in 2010. So many are so corrupted by power that I would not put it past them. This tactic has been tried in the past; sometimes it works, sometimes not. It is not a good strategy. Country must come first.

Make no mistake about it, this bill will damage America in so many ways. It will be a nail in its coffin. It will strap your children with great debt. It will sap your wallet within 2 or 3 years of its implementation. Your healthcare costs will not go down, they will go up. Way up. Fox News has reported it to be as high as 2.5 trillion dollars, not just the totally insane 1 trillion that they promised to stick you for. You will be forced to pay an abortion tax. It's there. The president wants it and will not settle for anything less. Listen, please: YOUR TAXES ARE ABOUT TO GO WAY UP AND YOUR FREEDOMS WAY DOWN!

So what are they thinking? It's time for action, ladies and gents. It's time to spend time on your knees and seek the Lord. Perhaps he will be pleased to show us some mercy...

Friday, November 06, 2009

Lesson from a Mite

We live in a place that has a very unwelcome guest: a wood mite. Those little critters burrow into almost all untreated wood, slowly chewing away everything in site. They are merciless. And they are hard to eliminate.

Today, our house helper came to me holding a dust pan filled with the residue those pesky things leave behind. But this time there was more than the very fine wood dust. This time I could see the fully developed adult mites roaming around the dust pan, searching for their next meal. They are usually unnoticed. They seldom grow to such a size that we can see them. Not these; some were almost as large as BBs (remember those, guys?).

So we grabbed the chemical treatment, the only one we know will eliminate them, and began to apply it to the basket where they had taken up residence. This powerful liquid overwhelms the senses, making one sneeze, making one's eyes water, making one's sinuses hurt. It's not good on the skin, either. But it kills quickly, so we endured the unpleasant effects and attacked their latest home.

Then I thought of those sin habits that creep into our lives. Like the mite, they can be small--almost unnoticeable. They find their way into your soul. They begin to chew away, leaving a small trail of evidence behind: a short temper; a greater tolerance for other, larger sins; an ability to not think about God all day long and not even miss him. The list could go on...

Those spiritual mites must be eliminated from the life. They must be destroyed. Jesus said we would be clean through the word he speaks to us. We must apply the water of the word. That is what will kill those spiritual mites. That, and an intentional determination to keep our defenses against them in place.

So thanks to the Lord for the wood mites he used to teach me another good lesson.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

When Personal Beliefs Become Hate Speech


I am now a potential criminal. The President will sign into law a new Hate Crimes bill. What does this mean? Well, some say this bill will spell the end to prejudice against a certain group within the United States. But those who understand God's word also understand that this piece of legislation has created a wall of protection around those who choose to live an aberrant lifestyle. Yes, people, scientists have debunked the genetic myth surrounding homosexuality and lesbianism. It is a personal choice. But now it is a protected personal choice.

I fear the domino effect will shortly follow. If this type of perversion is now protected, why not pedophilia, bestiality, polyamory, and even necrophilia? Do you believe this is a stretch? Google the words; you will find hundreds of sites, along with scores of protests to legitimize every form of perversion I just listed. Now some jerk of a lawyer who thinks with the wrong organs will get the bright idea to use this Hate Crimes Bill to slither up under the umbrella of its perverted protection.

If America's Christians do not exercise some intestinal fortitude and begin again to aggresively evangelize the United States, we will see the end of our freedoms. And maybe that is what we need to begin to grow. But it is coming. Just wait. You are not far away at all from having your Christian beliefs to labeled as hate speech. God have mercy on America.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Persecution: Not Just "Over There"

We who read Christian-oriented news find that there is a lot of persecution in this world, especially in some Muslim-dominated countries.

But it is not just "over there." The western hemisphere suffers from this kind of persecution, as well. Just last week a Colombian pastor was killed, brutally murdered for preaching the gospel. The terrorist group, which some would try to call a legitimate voice in Colombia, feared the freedom that the gospel brings. It's not surprising. The gospel is liberating. It frees men from the tyranny of godless rulers, especially because Christ's kingdom is not of this world.

We should not be surprised when we read of such things. Paul told Timothy that those who choose to live godly in Christ Jesus would suffer persecution. You can have a form of godliness, you see; Muslims do, as do Buddhists, Hindus, New Agers, and a long list of others. They will even tolerate you if you are a nominal, compromising Christian. But you will not be tolerated if you live godly in Christ Jesus, for it is He that makes the difference. Dare I say it? Jesus is the X-factor. Add him to the equation and it upsets the balance of things in the minds of those who follow the prince of this world.

The day is now upon us in the west when we will pay a price for our commitment to Jesus Christ. It will seldom be televised or reported. After all, we're just Christians; we are dispensable in the world's eyes. But it will be recorded and noted by the Lord. And those who suffer for Christ's sake should rejoice (see the Sermon on the Mount, as well as Acts 5). They have been given a special honor when it happens for Christ. Rejoice and pray. And remember: they persecute us because they hate Jesus.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


The weekend was everything we had hoped for, and then some. While the world continued to debate all those issues that seem important to it, more than 45 of us gathered together in a small retreat center, where we concentrated on the true things that matter: things like lostness, salvation, ways to get the message out. Those things occupied our minds.

Now that is not unusual. In our line of work, it is our passion. We think on these things almost daily. What made it unusual were the 45 who sat there. They ranged from age 18 to 70. These were women and men from different parts of the country. Almost all were poor; they barely had enough to pay the small registration fee for this retreat. Yet, each one sat there trying to figure out exactly how to get from here in South America to the farthermost parts of the world.

Yes, these very poor men and women are men and women who feel a strong need to be involved in foreign missions. Some feel the call to go, others just feel the need to be mobilizers. All agreed, however, that now is the time that South Americans rise up and take the baton that we are passing on to them, and heading out with the greatest message ever told to any man.

The significance of the weekend is seen in the approximately 25 who surrendered to go, no matter what. They are ready and willing. Now, if we can only find ways to send them....

It was truly, wonderfully indescribable. It was a God thing. It is a new day for this fledgling evangelical work in Peru.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Signs of the Times?

Suddenly we are witnessing the unfolding of disaster after disaster. The islands around Samoa and American Samoa; the Philippines; and once more Indonesia all took their turn in the unwanted disaster spotlight this week. Pray for these stricken nations. Pray for hearts to be turned to the Lord, as well, as a result of these tragedies.

Does this mean something for us? Are these disasters signs of the times? Scoffers may say that all things continue the same since the beginning of time; we just have not heard about it before the modern technology that we have. Maybe, maybe not. Seismic geologists have long ago demonstrated that the earth shakes far more now than ever before. Even historical accounts reveal more earthquakes than before.

But there is more out there than earthquakes. There are newer strains of viruses that turn out to be resistant to our sophisticated drugs. There are more nations poised to strike one another. We worry on every turn about terrorist plots, nuclear plots, and deranged mass murderers.

All this must be so before Jesus steps foot on this earth again. But we should wake up! It may be that time that the Restrainer is taken out of the world. Who is the Restrainer? The Holy Spirit of God is the restrainer, according to what most scholars believe. Just before the end, the Restrainer is removed. It's a sign of an imminent event that some call a heresy, others call it a fallacy, and others call it their hope. That is the rapture of the church. I believe it will happen sooner, not later. And once it does and the Holy Spirit's influence is removed from this world, watch out. Those who remain will find suffering beyond comprehension. It will be the end of life as we know it.

Yes, for me, these events are signs of the times. It motivates me to work hard to bring as many with me as I can once the "end" arrives. Watch. And pray.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

To Whom Do You Pray?

As far back as I can remember, I was taught to pray. I remember (vaguely) being in Diamond Springs, VA, sitting at our kitchen table as a little boy of not even 5 yet, praying that prayer all children were taught to pray before a meal. Remember it? "God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food." I remember it still after all these years. We prayed in church, we prayed in school. We even prayed that little prayer before we left our classroom for the cafeteria for lunch. Please do not gasp too loudly if you are among those who now find praying in school to be abhorrent; there were a lot less social ills then than there are now.

We have come a long ways since then. That is why I chose to publish this link; you need to see where we are going.

Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, but by me." No one else is the way; no one else gives life. When you pray, it should be to the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ. Anything else falls short at best, and is idolatry in most cases. We are now resorting to idolatry of the worst kind. God have mercy on America.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Enough Is Enough

Some things just ought not to be. Go to the following link:
Shock video: you will see what many hope comes to pass all over America. I hope you are offended and repulsed by what you see.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Jude: A Letter for Today

I am in the process of preparing for a spiritual retreat. My part includes teaching the little letter of Jude. The more I read and meditate, the more convinced I am this little letter is as relevant as the day it was written, way back around 30 years after the death, resurrection, and some 40 days later, the ascension of Jesus. Time after time, the apostles had prophesied that a group of false teachers--apostates--were on their way. These men and women were unscrupulous perverts. They knew the truth and rejected it wholesale. They used their gospel for gain. They thought only of their immediate pleasure. They laughed at the idea of their impending judgment. Ungodly men. Ungodly women. People who mocked God, who mocked God's people, who made a mockery of Christianity had slithered under the cracks of the doors and become a part of the church. Some stand in the pulpits. Some sit on the benches. Some teach Bible study. Some sing on the praise team. All are condemned and headed to hell.

The message is hard to hear. It penetrates the fanciest of veneers that we can cover up with. Perhaps that is why so many scholars have said it is one of the most neglected messages in the entire Bible. Or perhaps those who believe it is due to its brevity are the ones who are right. It does not matter why; this little letter needs to be read from every pulpit around the world. These 25 short verses should be heard again and again. Take the time to read it today. But be ready to search your heart when you do.

Friday, September 11, 2009












I won't forget it. I purpose to remember how my country was attacked. I recall the vicious slaughter of innocent people. But I also remember the healing grace offered by our Lord Jesus Christ. This event reminds us why we need to be ever so vigilant to send out men and women around the world--not as foot soldiers, though they may be necessary for a short time--but as fearless evangelists of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, more than ever, Americans must stretch forth their hands and support those who seek to bring a heart change to ruthless villians as those who attacked on 9-11. Now is the time to remember that only Jesus can truly change a heart for good. May the photos above stir you to dig deep and give to your Christian missions ministry.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Oh, Lord! How Majestic Is Your Name!

Our great God has numbered all the stars; he calls them each by their name. - Psalm 147:4
In the case of Omega Centauri, that would be more than 100,000 stars. Think of it! God named each star as he made it! And this is one "small" part of the heavens that God created with a single command.
Nothing can rival the majesty of God's creation. Our great inventions have only served to show us just how great and majestic our God truly is.
How can we not want to worship such a poweful, wonderful, delightful Lord?

Friday, September 04, 2009

God at Work in Muslim Nations


The conversation reported below took place during June, 2009, in a Muslim nation.

A pastor here was visited by a Muslim asking prayer for sleeplessness. He reported being awakened every day for ten months by voices saying, “Wake up, wake up!”

When asked what had happened, he related a dream he had ten months ago. Two angels picked him up from his bed and took him to the foot of the cross. There he saw the women who were watching Jesus’ crucifixion, the Roman soldiers in their armor, a spear that was used to pierce Jesus’ side, and the crucifixion itself. He saw nails driven into His hands and that His blood was used to write the sign over His head. When asked if he had ever read the Gospels, the reply was “No, I am a Muslim.” He affirmed repeatedly that Jesus was indeed crucified.

The angels picked him up and took him to a beautiful place in Heaven, so beautiful that all the architects on earth could not have designed even a small part of it. There he was visited by a man dressed in white with light shining all around him whose face he could not see. The man offered him a bowl of beautiful fruit and told him that he should go and share the fruit with everyone.

He was then picked up again and taken below the bottom of a very deep hole at a Muslim holy site in Iran where he could hear the voice of the ruler of Hell shouting that he would still rule the earth. And he was finally taken back to his bed.

Two pastors heard the telling of the dream, then told him that God was telling him he had to make a choice. His reply was, “I’m a Muslim. I’m a Muslim.” Each day since, he has been awakened to reconsider the dream. He has been given a Bible and told to read for himself.

If God is beginning to shake those whom He wants to have as Muslim evangelists, we are truly in a new day. Pray for more such dreams and visions. Pray for more evangelists from within the church and from outside, in numbers like we've never seen. And pray for the church to be made ready to receive men and women like Cengiz (not his real name) when he and they come to Christ.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Another Attempt to Destroy Your Freedom

One thing that the world enjoys, and has so for more than a decade, is this amazing thing called the internet. The world wide web changed how the world communicates. I have had comments from readers on the other side of the world. I have noticed site markers from people on almost every continent. This has truly brought to pass what Daniel said in his prophetic book; knowledge has increased and runs to and fro about the world.

That is why when I read this story on CNET's site, I was very concerned--for America, at least. The idea that any one man can unilaterally seize control of the internet and shut it down in the name of a cyber security emergency is beyond the scope of reasonable government. Do you know where the internet gets shut down? Try places like Iran and China--places where the government feels threatened by free speech.

Granted, it has been demonstrated to an extent that there could be kooks out there who can hack into a system and control it. There are many who can and do use the internet for fiendish means. The idea that extreme pornography is permitted so freely, for example, is disgusting. But our courts, though wrongly it may be, decided that such trash is an acceptable form of free speech. In short, the internet is a tool that has been used for any number of purposes. But many, many people use this tool for good, not evil.

What is the danger of such sweeping powers for the president? He can be persuaded, or decide for himself, what constitutes a cyber-security emergency. What if he decided that speech against the socialistic healthcare bill was an emergency? What if he decided that disagreement with his economic policies was an emergency? What if he decided that your personal blog was a threat to national security?

I am not especially surprised to see such an attempt to further control America. As America has turned its back on its foundational Judeo-Christian beliefs, America has sought a replacement for the vacuum that this created. Secular humanism, socialism, and any number of false religions have all rushed to fill that void. It is, unfortunately, an inevitable step that America will take if this great country does not repent and return to the Lord Jesus Christ. Our founding fathers insisted that the only way for America to thrive was to do so as a Christian nation. Repent America. Repent.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Government WHAT? Spies?

Is it a conspiracy? Are we being watched, so to speak? I was in the middle of a strong post, expressing my dissention to this current administration. I was almost finished, reviewing my lengthy treatise, when to my amazement, the entire post disappeared. My fingers were nowhere near the keyboard. My hands had written nothing for almost 20 seconds. The post just disappeared. Do they "watch" us as we write? Or am I spooked by the typical glitches that can happen with these machines we now depend upon?

So what was it I was saying, exactly? Nothing much. I was just reminding the few readers that I have that the latest news reports reveal that someone in the current administration has requested some of you to be spies, reporting the dissenters you encounter online. Whoever that man or woman is, they want you to be their support system. And for what reason? Do they want to silence dissent? Are you not amused that our government so fears disagreement with their socialist policies?

Mr. Goverment Spy, I want you to know who I am:

First, I am a Christian. I am a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am born again and heaven-bound. My ultimate allegiance is to the Lord Jesus Christ. That is why I find myself somewhere in South America as I write this. He sent me here. He is my boss, so I go where he says to go.

Second, I am an American. I served in the United States Navy. As such, I swore an oath to defend and protect the United States of America from all enemies. I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

Third, I am what the hippies of the 60's called an "American Capitalist Pig." I reject socialism in all its forms. But I also reject capitalism that is not governed by the Judeo-Christian principles of love, mercy, and equity.

Let me continue to describe myself:

I fear no one, but God, Mr. Government Spy. You may find a way to take away my online words, but you cannot silence me. I am found in large cities and small towns. I am white, black, brown, yellow, and red. I am male. I am female. I am young. I am old. I am from the North, West, East and South. I am not a Democrat. Neither am I a Republican. I am fiercely independent. No party can claim me and hold me.

I agree with the Founding Fathers of America: the best government is the one that fears its constituents. Conversely, the worst government is one we constituents must fear. This current government hopes to create a government of the few, for the few, and by the few. We must not allow that to happen.

Send forth your spies. We welcome your demonstration of your stupidity and fear.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Don't Sit Around Talking About It, Just Do It!

Southern Baptists formed a new task force. They are tasked with figuring out what's going with SBs and the Great Commission.

I have a piece of advice for SBs. Don't sit around talking about the Great Commission. Just do it! Don't talk about all your churches that baptized no one. Go out yourself and win more, if you can. Don't talk about the efficiency of your state conventions (which are not technically "yours," but partner groups), just go out and win some more to Jesus.

When your task force meets in Atlanta and in Arkansas in the coming months, forego the meetings; go out into the highways and hedges and compel more to come in to the great banquet.

Do what Dr. Paige did in Texas earlier this year: find a group of struggling churches and hold a weekend meeting with those good folks. Modeling a little bit of the Great Commission might be shot in the arm for some of them.

Too simplistic? Maybe. Maybe not. I am not convinced that our collective personal evangelism amounts to much. We have, albeit unwillingly so, yielded to the cultures that surround our cities and communities. If you listen carefully, many will tell you in so many words that you cannot effectively share your faith on a personal level anymore.

Evangelists; oh, professional evangelists, I call you to spend your days out with pastors (or alone, if they are too "busy" to go win the lost), doing what you can to preach; don't just wait for night to fall, and for the lights to come on so you can stand center stage and preach your polished messages.

Why are SBs having such a time with the Great Commission? Could it just be that we are so busy looking at form that we have forgotten that the very gospel itself is the power of God unto salvation?

Southern Baptists: JUST DO IT!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Turning away from God

Turning away from God is an article that we need to read. Cal Thomas hit the proverbial nail square on the head.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Seizing the Day

Sometimes you have one of those days. Sometime it can be one of those weeks. You know the kind. Things happen that just make your day, well, to be nice, exceptional. Sometimes it is beyond your control. Sometimes it is something you did.

Today was a combination thereof. Part was beyond my control. That little pill the doc urged me to take last night did not wear off when I needed it to. So things started late. The person who showed up late for his X-ray, causing the rest of us to be late, was not something I could control. But it threw me off yet another hour. It was lunchtime before I even stepped foot in the office.

Then, when I had the proverbial tiger by the tail, other unexpected needs surfaced. I thought I had that one timed well, but then came the small (but important) detail called "parking." The good municipality that holds jurisdiction over our office has decided we cannot park on the street in front of our office. I found myself riding around and around the block, seeing that priceless parking spot in a "legal" area. So once again I was behind the clock.

Now I had two choices in front of me. I could let the situation control me, or I could practice the first lesson every missionary ever learned: be flexible. While I was tempted to react to the situation, I began looking for an opportunity to use my time. But I can't afford to let my BP spike for no good reason. Turning the situation into a "God-moment" is one of the best things I can think of in those circumstances.

One thing we can do almost anywhere at all is pray. God is really amazing. He can hear our thoughts. He delightfully listens to us. God takes joy in hearing you pray. Did you know your prayers are incense before the throne? Yes, when you lift your voice, it rises before the Lord as a sweet smell.

We can also meditate. We can think on God's word, tossing it about in the corners of our mind. Like a piece of butter candy you can turn the word over and over again, wondering about the significance of that precious morsel God has given you. He will whisper its meanings to you, for God delights in sharing his ways with those who seek him.

Next time you find your day seized by the time mongers, take advantage of it. Next time you sit in a traffic jam, turn off your audio book, turn off your cell, turn off your music, and use the time to speak to the Lord, or to let him speak to you.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Calling Out the Called

The city sits in a valley. The valley sits in the cradle of three mountain peaks, two of which are extinct volcanoes; one is still active. The valley is more than 7,500 feet in its lowest point. These are high mountains. Most days of the year the skies are clear, a vivid blue that lifts the spirits of most who see it. The air was once fresh; pollution from the seemingly endless lines of buses taxis has changed that. Now, if one looks off into the horizon, a brown cloud serves as a shroud for the outskirts of the city.

I was there for business. There would be time for pleasure--the pleasure of seeing old friends, of eating in my favorite haunts, of strolling along the picturesque streets with a Colonial Spanish flavor. The sounds and sights were mostly familiar to me. Some stores had replaced others. "Progress" had closed one main street to traffic, making it a lovely alameda for a leisurely walk.

Night fell. It seems to fall so suddenly that if one listens, he may hear the sun crash into the bottom of the horizon. There is not much of a horizon to see, of course; it is hidden by a massive, brown, barren mountain. Brown and barren because this is an oasis in the middle of a desert.

I found myself standing before a cluster of men, women, and young people that I had not seen in several months. As I looked, I thought, "These are my friends. These are my brothers and sisters." We have stood side by side in so many opportunities. We are brothers in Christ.
Together, we have battled the one true enemy, the one who wants to keep all mankind imprisoned: Satan.

Before long, some forty believers from 4 or 5 churches had gathered. It was to be unlike any gathering they had been involved in. I was there to call out the called. Because of the nature of my purpose, I decided to take my time and carefully lay out our plans and God's challenge. Tonight I would not do more than end our time together with prayer. The pastor was in agreement. At the end of the first night, he announced that we would receive a missions offering the next night. That was on a Monday....

On Tuesday, the scene looked much the same. We sang. We hugged in Christian fellowship and love. We smiled and praised God for his abundant blessings. Then I shared how God could use them with their own careers and professions to enter other countries and cultures with the intent of preaching Christ as Lord. Their eyes told it all. It was a night to call out the called. Only about forty were there. I thought if one or two responded we could call that a great success. My faith was too small. Eleven responded. Eleven. Not one or two. Eleven men and women stood with tears saying, "Here am I, send me."

Before the week's end, most had confirmed the seriousness of their response. And before the week was over we had collected the first international missions offering ever received by this particular denomination. It was not especially large, just passing $165; but it was certainly significant.

These men and women make a pittance, when compared with most who will read this. I only hope you will respond with the same excitement and conviction as these men and women, all made good by the blood of the Lamb. I only hope if you are among the called, you will allow God to call you to go out and get busy.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Yet Another Example of "Peace"

A Christian man boarded a bus for a planned trip. Along the way, the bus stopped in a remote village. The man ordered tea. When he tried to pay, the owner noticed the customer's cross. The man was beaten to death for drinking from a cup designated for Muslims. Fellow travelers tried to intervene, taking the wounded man to a clinic, but this so-called "peaceful" religion claimed yet another life.

While America's insistence on tolerance is far beyond the biblical doctrine of the same, this kind of intolerance is sickening. Such hatred should be punished quickly and severely. If it is true that Islam is a religion of peace, why so many stories of murder, rape, incarceration, ad nauseum? Why such a distaste for Christians and Jews, along with other non-Muslims?

Pray for the Muslim world. Pray they come to the feet of the one and only Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ, God-incarnate, Savior of mankind.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

How Involved Are We, Really?

Let's be generous for a moment. Let's say that there are one billion evangelical believers in the world. I think that is a little high, personally; but let's call it an even billion, as some claim.

Of those one billion, how many do think are missionaries? Go ahead, take a guess.

Would you believe about 98 thousand? I jest not. Ninety-eight thousand, give or take a few, have responded to the call of God.

Now the world is at an estimated 6.7 billion. One billion of those are evangelical believers. Ninety-eight thousand are missionaries, those men and women who carry the gospel around the world to others who have not yet believed.

I did some rough calculating, mainly because I did not want to invest all the time I have left today into the precision it would take to set this up. But let's just suppose that those 98 thousand are represented by the thickness of one sheet of paper. One sheet of standard paper is .0038 inches thick. I checked. If the internet says it, it must be true, right??? For argument's sake, we shall say it is true.

One sheet is .0038 inches thick. If that represents all the evangelical missionaries of the world, then it would take a stack of paper some 31,000 feet high to represent all the evangelicals of the world. Shades of Mount Everest, folks! I can't even get my mind around the ratio for the other 5.7 billion left in the world.

Do you think that perhaps God may be calling more than those 98 thousand who have responded? Did he call you?

What are we waiting for? How involved are we? God is calling. It's time to go.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Pray for Puno, Peru

There is an emergency in Puno, Peru. Puno is located high in the Andes Mountains. It is most famous for Lake Titicaca, the highest navegable lake in the world.

That department (state) has suffered extreme cold for many days now. 153 CHILDREN HAVE DIED TO DATE. Relief organizations of all types are working overtime to get blankets and coats to the 1.3 million habitants of that department.

Pray for Puno, especially for the children and the elderly.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Free to Worship?

This Sunday, when you are in your relative comfort and freedom to worship the Lord Jesus, whether you do it in a house church or traditional setting, remember this story, found here. New Iranian followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, along with their house church leader, were arrested recently. In Iran, you are free to worship, just so long as it is the false god Allah. If an Iranian wants to follow Jesus, he is as good as dead. Yet men and women are turning to Jesus; why? They love the Lord Jesus more than their own lives.

In Pakistan, the Christians face the same kinds of horror. Muslims told one couple that guilt or innocence (of blasphemy against Islam) did not matter; they would kill them anyway. Death is the only thing a follower of Jesus deserves, according to these twisted men.

If you think this is isolated, maybe this story will be a little closer to home, especially if you live in a state like California. San Diego (or nearby) authorities have decide his home Bible study of five years is an unlawful assembly. The pastor and his wife are facing fines of up to a thousand dollars a day for gathering to worship.

Now granted, facing a fine does not even come close to the persecution others face. But wake up! It's a step in that direction. Forces against Christianity in the Western world are feeling bolder each day. Your freedom to worship will soon fade away, if something does not change.

It may well be that is what it will take to bring revival to the Western church. Also, it may well be that this will be the final days before the return of Jesus, something we Christians are exhorted to look for and desire.

Enjoy your freedom while you have it!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Are You the Missionary or the Mission Field?

It's been a fast and furious three weeks since I posted anything. Teaching and then playing with my new grandson has taken up most of my time.

I saw a video today that I want to share below, if I can. Since I have never been able to get this blogspot to receive videos, I will simply post a link to it; please go here. But the video should be a challenge to every Christian who may read this. Our task is clear: be the missionaries or become the mission field. Watch the video and decide which you want to be.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

New Birth

Michael Aiden Patrick
Meet Michael Aiden Patrick, born late afternoon on April 30th. He came into this world at 7 lbs, 6 oz., measuring just over 20 inches. He has a set of pipes that makes me wonder if he won't be one of God's prophets one day. Or maybe that is just my personal wish.
What's so special about this little fellow? He's our new grandson!
Our daughter and son-in-law are still in awe of the fruit of their love. Both are doing well, though we have had to tie a rope to their leg to keep them from floating off.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Little Airline Humor

I fly to many places that I must be. In fact, I flew last week, and will be flying again in two weeks. These anecdotes were a humorous reminder that life is good and we must enjoy the ride. Number 17 was one of my favorites.

All too rarely, airline attendants make an effort to make the in flight "safety lecture" and announcements a bit more entertaining. Here are some real examples that have been heard or reported:
1. On a Southwest flight (SW has no assigned seating, you just sit where you want) passengers were apparently having a hard time choosing, when a flight attendant announced, "People, people we’re not picking out furniture here, find a seat and get in it!"

2. On a Continental Flight with a very "senior" flight attendant crew, the pilot said, "Ladies and gentlemen, we’re reached cruising altitude and will be turning down the cabin lights. This is for your comfort and to enhance the appearance of your flight attendants."

3. On landing, the stewardess said, "Please be sure to take all of your belongings. If you’re going to leave anything, please make sure it’s something we’d like to have.

4. "There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this airplane"

5. "Thank you for flying Delta Business Express. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride."

6. As the plane landed and was coming to a stop at Ronald Reagan, a lone voice came over the loudspeaker: "Whoa, big fella. WHOA!"

7. After a particularly rough landing during thunderstorms in Memphis, a flight attendant on a Northwest flight announced, "Please take care when opening the overhead compartments because, after a landing like that, it is a sure thing that everything has shifted."

8. From a Southwest Airlines employee: "Welcome aboard Southwest Flight 245 to Tampa.. To operate your seat belt, insert the metal tab in the buckle, and pull tight. It works just like every other seat belt; and, if yo u don’t know how to operate one, you probably shouldn’t be out in public unsupervised."

9. "In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child traveling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are traveling with more than one small child, pick your favorite."

10. "Weather at our destination is 50 degrees with some broken clouds, but we’ll try to have them fixed before we arrive. Thank you, and remember, nobody loves you, or your money, more than Southwest Airlines."

11. "Your seat cushions can be used for flotation; and, in the event of an emergency water landing, please paddle to shore and take them with our compliments."

12. "As you exit the plane, make sure to gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses."

13. And from the pilot during his welcome message: "Delta Airlines is pleased to have some of the best flight attendants in the industry. Unfortunately, none of them are on this flight!"

14. Heard on Southwest Airlines just after a very hard landing in Salt Lake City the flight attendant came on the intercom and said, "That was quite a bump, and I know what y’all are thinking. I’m here to tell you it wasn’t the airline’s fault, it wasn’t the pilot’s fault, it wasn’t the flight attendant’s fault, it was the asphalt."

15. Overheard on an American Airlines flight into Amarillo, Texas, on a particularly windy and bumpy day: During the final approach, the Captain was really having to fight it. After an extremely hard landing, the Flight Attendant said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Amarillo. Please remain in your seats with your seat belts fastened while the Captain taxis what’s left of our airplane to the gate!"

16. Another flight attendant’s comment on a less than perfect landing: "We ask you to please remain seated as Captain Kangaroo bounces us to the terminal."

17. An airline pilot wrote that on this particular flight he had hammered his ship into the runway really hard. The airline had a policy which required the first officer to stand at the door while the Passengers exited, smile, and give them a "Thanks for flying our airline." He said that, in light of his bad landing, he had a hard time looking the passengers in the eye, thinking that someone would have a smart comment. Finally everyone had gotten off except for a little old lady walking with a cane. She said, "Sir, do you mind if I ask you a question?" "Why, no, Ma’am," said the pilot. "What is it?" The little old lady said, "Did we land, or were we shot down?"

18. After a real crusher of a landing in Phoenix, the attendant came on with, "Ladies and Gentlemen, please remain in your seats until Capt. Crash and the Crew have brought the aircraft to a screeching halt against the gate. And, once the tire smoke has cleared and the warning bells are silenced, we’ll open the door and you can pick your way through the wreckage to the terminal."

19. Part of a flight attendant’s arrival announcement: "We’d like to thank you folks for flying with us today. And, the next time you get the insane urge to go blasting through the skies in a pressurized metal tube, we hope you’ll think of US Airways."

20. Heard on a Southwest Airline flight. "Ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to smoke, the smoking section on this airplane is on the wing and if you can light ‘em, you can smoke ‘em."

21. A plane was taking off from Kennedy Airport. After it reached a comfortable cruising altitude, the captain made an announcement over the intercom, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Welcome to Flight Number 293, nonstop from New York to Los Angeles. The weather ahead is good and, therefore, we should have a smooth and uneventful flight. Now sit back and relax... OH, MY GOD!" Silence followed, and after a few minutes, the captain came back on the intercom and said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, I am so sorry if I scared you earlier. While I was talking to you, the flight attendant accidentally spilled a cup of hot coffee in my lap. You should see the front of my pants!" A passenger in Coach yelled, "That’s nothing. You should see the back of mine!"

Pray for the Mountain Villages of Peru

I received the following update from Russ and Sherri Fleetwood, two missionaries working in the outback of Peru. Many villages are facing the same kinds of things. One man spoke to me about how the excessive rains have ruined their crops for this year. Potatoes are rotting in the ground. Wheat and corn is also in danger. Pray for these villages.

April 13, 2009

Donde Corren Las Aguas (Where the Waters Run)
When we mentioned in our last update that it was raining a lot, little did we know that even more was yet to come! “It’s the worst it has been in 40 years”, some people say. We certainly hope that this year is the exception, not the rule! Landslides have been the biggest issue, but flooding has also been prevalent. One street became like a muddy river with water running through doorways into people’s homes. In other locations, foundations for walls have been eroded, leading to collapses. One hillside behind a group of houses melted into mud and was running down into doorways and passageways. Almost every roadway in the area has been blocked by slides at some time or another. As quickly as they can be cleared by a bulldozer, more hillsides give way and block the road anew. There was even a 2-day stretch when every route out of the Conchucos valley was impassable. In recent weeks, city officials have rented more machinery in an effort to keep roadways open. They have also been trying to size up the damage that has been done. At least 10 houses have collapsed and as many as 100 are in danger of collapse. The city water supply has also been in danger. The cement holding tanks had to have some emergency repairs. Thankfully, the rain has let up for a few days at a time – enough for things to begin drying out. But the occasional heavy shower or extended drizzle continues to cause problems.
As recently as last night we had a downpour. A canal up the hill behind our house became blocked, causing water to run down through a pasture and into our yard. The back wall of our adobe storage building collapsed. Water then ran through the building and into our neighbors’ living room downstairs. (We live upstairs.) We quickly dug drainage ditches in the yard in an effort to divert the water. Thankfully the rain eased up before any of our neighbors’ possessions were damaged. It was a personal reminder of how people have suffered through the rains this year.
Please pray with us that the local government will take steps to improve drainage here in town and along the roadways when the weather clears. It is likely that with dry weather the need for improvements will be forgotten – that is, until the rains return next year! But at this point, we’re just waiting for them to come to an end this year!

Good Friday
Here in the mountains, Semana Santa (Holy Week) is important. For weeks leading up to it, the custom is to gather in your local Catholic church building and review each week a different story from the life of Jesus. Two weeks ago it was the story of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, when the people laid down palm branches and their cloaks in his path, as if welcoming a king. This past week, the focus was on Jesus’ death on the cross. There was some reflection on His resurrection, but the focus here is more on His suffering and death. It is good to remember how He suffered for us – the price He was willing to pay and how He can identify with our pain. But to not celebrate His resurrection is to deny the victory and hope that Christ provided for us. As Paul said: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” (1 Cor. 15:17-19) Indeed, it is the subsequent resurrection of Jesus that allows us to call the Friday of His death “good”!

On this Good Friday, we were planning to be in the community of Conopa to show the Luke Video in Quechua. Our friend, Magno, had arranged this opportunity with the local catechist and community leaders. Showing the video would have required that a heavy electrical generator be carried by hand up several hills! Due to road closures, we were not able to make it to Conopa. Magno was nice enough to come into town and let us know that the road and the trails were in horrible condition. We hope to show the video in early May. God’s Spirit is working in Conopa and we are excited. But in some ways we don’t know what we are getting ourselves into. There are a lot of traditions here that conflict with scripture. But there are a lot of traditions that are suspect or whose original purpose has been forgotten. We are always eager to share with anyone who is open. May those who are seeking a real relationship with Christ build upon good traditions while letting go of bad ones.

20 Years!
Not to trumpet our own horn, but since it is the custom here to throw your own party, we figure we should announce to you our recent 20th wedding anniversary! On April 8th in 1989, Russ and Sherri were married at Royal Lane Baptist Church in Dallas, TX. Where have the years gone? Wow! God is good to have blessed us in so many ways during these 20 years. We typically take some sort of outing on our anniversary. Last April, while in the USA, we sought out the blue bonnets and paint brushes (wildflowers) of Texas. This year, since so many roads were blocked or at least damaged, we stayed home and celebrated by cooking hamburgers and watching a movie.

Many of you prayed for our friend and sister in Christ, Natalia. On Sunday, March 15, Natalia went to be with the Lord. After her stay in the hospital some weeks earlier, she had returned to her son’s home where she had many visitors in her last weeks. She remained sure of her heavenly destination and was ready for relief from her pain. Her passing was especially difficult for her daughter, Elida, who is a single mother of two and was very close to her mom.

It was our first wake and burial since living here in Peru. Customs here are quite different than in the USA. The family endures some very difficult days not only of mourning but also trying to provide food and refreshments for visitors. They also accompany the casket all night long getting almost no sleep until after the burial. It is almost as if the culture here feels that family members should suffer physically as well as emotionally – as a tribute to the deceased. Many people joined the procession to the cemetery. It was not as “reverent” as one would expect in the USA, but it was a sign of how much Natalia was loved and respected. Some good words were shared by a brother in Christ – Natalia’s pastor from when she was part of a Pentecostal congregation.

Change Is a Part of Growth
You may have heard that the IMB is going through some restructuring. The goal is to position our agency for the future – through better use of resources, better engagement of people (both on the field and worldwide partners), better support, streamlined administration, more local ownership… Certainly, the world is changing and we must adjust to those changes. Here in Northern Conchucos, we will be affected minimally. But we will be part of a new team – the Ancash Quechua Team. Brett and Brenda Cargile will be moving to Huaraz to lead this new team, which will include those of us currently serving in Northern and Southern Conchucos, as well as others working with nearby Quechua people groups. We will also be part of a new “Middle Indigenous Cluster” belonging to the “Americas Affinity Group”.

As the Ancash Quechua Team meets next week, please pray with us that Father will give us a vision for the future that has Him at the center of creative and effective strategies for reaching our people groups. We confess that we have no genius or adequacy for the task, but pray that His power and glory will draw many to Himself.

- Protection of many homes and lives during the heavy rains.
- Protection of Maximo, brother-in-law of Eulogio, during a recent fall from a muddy trail.
- Natalia’s promotion to Heaven – freedom from pain, being with her Savior.
- Recent x-rays showed that Lucho’s fractured leg has healed. Now he only lacks exercise to regain mobility.
- Time spent with Magno (from Raj Raj) here at our house when not able to reach the communities of Conopa.

- For relief from damage caused by flooding and landslides. For preventative measures to be taken.
- Please pray that leaders will emerge from each of our Bible study outreach groups.
- For unity and the Holy Spirit’s leadership during our Ancash Quechua Team meeting in late April.
- For opportunities to build new relationships with new communities in the area of Conopa.

May you know Father’s abundant blessing,
Russ and Sherri

Let Me Be
Caedmon’s Call

Lord, You are the maker of my heart
The framer and reshaper of my soul
Master and Creator, Healer and Sustainer
I will put my trust in You alone

Teach me to be faithful to confess
In this way my spirit will be blessed
Though my sins are daily, You have loved me greatly
Removing them as far as east from west

Let me be open, let me be humble
Let me find the joy of my salvation in Your cross
Let me be broken whenever I stumble
Let me remember the great mercy of my God

Give me the full measure of Your grace
And as it is reflected in the Word
Faith and reassurance, mercy and endurance
Carry these to those who haven’t heard

Let me be open, let me be humble
Let me find the joy of my salvation in Your cross
Let me be broken whenever I stumble
Let me remember the great mercy of my God

All I have needed is laid at Your table
All my achievements, I lay at Your feet
Alive in Your spirit, I’m willing and able
You make my joy complete

Let me be open, let me be humble
Let me find the joy of my salvation in Your cross
Let me be broken whenever I stumble
Let me remember the great mercy

…You make my joy complete…

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dream Big

We should dream big. We serve a big God. Dream God-size dreams. Watch this video on You Tube and see what I mean. Take time and let it load if your connection is somewhat slow. Susan Boyle is a great illustration of dreaming a big and fearless dream. I hope you enjoy the video as much as I did.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Did Jesus Die on Friday? Is This a Good Question?

This a repeated byline on one cybernews site: "Did Jesus Die on Friday?"

Wrong question.

Completely unimportant when looking at the big picture.

I have my opinions, ones that will be reserved for academic discussions. But this is not the question we need to be answering for the general public.

The question is not even, "Did Jesus Die?" The legal evidence, found not only in the Bible, but also in history books from that time show that it was common knowledge that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified at the time of Passover somewhere around 29 or 30, C.E. (that's CHRISTIAN ERA, not "Common," folks). So we know he died. We know how he died.

The question you must answer is, "Why did Jesus die?"

Paul answered it this way, when correcting some heresies that were prevalent in that great Grecian city of Corinth:

1 Now brothers, I want to clarify for you the gospel I proclaimed to you; you received it and have taken your stand on it. 2 You are also saved by it, if you hold to the message I proclaimed to you—unless you believed to no purpose. 3 For I passed on to you as most important what I also received:
that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, . . . (1 Corinthians 15, Holman Christian Standard Bible)

The most important thing Jesus Christ taught Paul in that Arabian desert was that Christ died for our SINS.

There are four important words that we need to be clear about here: "for," "sins," and "according to."

Jesus' death sentence was handed down from the highest court--that Heavenly Court where God sits as the Judge. Think of a prison. A new guy or gal arrives and his cellmates begin to ask, "What are you in FOR?" The newbie answers, "Robbery," or whatever it may be. It does not mean (we hope) so that he can learn to rob, but instead because he robbed. Why did Jesus die? It was because of our sins. Ours.

Your sins. My sins. The sins of the world.

Though the Jewish leaders wanted him put to death out of jealousy, and though the Roman court laid down the sentence, "King of the Jews," the Heavenly death sentence was the prevailing one. It was the true sentence.

You killed Jesus. So did I.

He suffered my death--the one that was hanging over my head, just waiting to be carried out.

God turned all his wrath, his hatred of sin, that sin that kept you separated from God, onto Jesus so that he could bring you back to himself.

All this was in keeping with all of what we call "The Old Testament." Those divine and innerant words prophesied that Jesus would suffer this kind of death. This is what "according to" means. It is in keeping with what was already said.

I fear too often we have begun to take "according to" to mean, "some say;" or, "some sources tell us." In the case of Jesus' death, it is all in keeping with what God said would happen, going all the way back to Genesis 3. Everything was planned, in other words. It was not accidental, as some lost and misguided God-thinkers have said. It was planned and carried out to buy your freedom.

Jesus died. He did it to take your place.

Accept what Jesus did for you. Embrace the cross.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

A Jungle Saga

The following is from one of our IMB missionaries serving in the jungles between Peru and Brazil:

Ashéninka Team

April 7, 2009

The entrance to the indigenous community of Ashéninka people called San Pedro is a long grade at about a 40 degree angle, about 300 yards long. You have to carry all your gear from the river, across some muddy ground, across a log that lies over a small brook, then up some 50 degree clay steps to the main sloping pathway that rises into the village center. By the time you get there with a heavy backpack you feel like your heart will never slow down. In many communities the folks hear your motor and know that someone is arriving. They hurry to the river to see who it might be and quickly descend to the boat when you reach the bank. Then they generously grab your cargo and carry it energetically to the place where you will lodge. At San Pedro the river is so far from the village center that usually no one knows when we arrive and we’re left to carry everything on our own! When I’m laden with my overstuffed backpack, a bedroll under one arm, a folding camp chair slung over one shoulder, and my back of teaching materials and cameras in the other hand, I look more like a storage rack trying to walk uphill. I asked Dena today how many trips down and back up the San Pedro hill I should make per day in order to get into shape. She suggested three. I just glared and wondered when you’re too old for this line of work.

Because of our short-handedness during the last several years and our emphasis on the farther extremes of the Pichis River valley, we’ve simply not been able to get back to the Río Azupizú to visit and encourage our friends at San Pedro since 2007. In September of that year, along with volunteers from South Carolina, we built upon previously started ministry at nearby Puerto Pascuala as well, but we’ve since not returned. This outing will be to check on the status of the San Pedro church which we helped initiate back in 2003, and to look in on and encourage believers at Puerto Pascuala.

In San Pedro, Pastor Alejandro and his wife Ana, have labored with a solid commitment to the local church, and have weathered criticism and the opposition of errant sects. The formerly strong Adventist community no longer has an Adventist church, but throughout the region there is still much adherence to that group’s emphasis on keeping the Saturday Sabbath, as well as strict rules about which foods can be eaten. Alejandro has faithfully stood for an evangelical doctrine of salvation through grace, and liberty in Christ. They have faced additional obstacles as well. In 2006 their bamboo church building was blown down by a storm. The church rallied with small financial gifts and the Lord sent them outside help as well. Today they worship under a metal roof with walls of sawn lumber.

Please pray for this visit to these two Ashéninka communities and that the Christians in both places will be encouraged in the Lord and will deepen their commitment to following Him, even when persecuted.

Quilmer has been continuing teaching in the Río Negro communities since I left him there in March. He will be joining me again for this Río Azupizú trip. Please pray for the following:
1. Safety in all travels
2. Growth from all teaching and training in Río Negro communities
3. Transportation to San Pedro from town of Puerto Bermudez; we no longer keep a boat in Bermudez
4. Fruitful times of teaching and personal ministry in San Pedro and Puerto Pascuala
5. Leaders Alejandro and Ana in San Pedro, Giovana and Ernesto in Pascuala.
6. Dena, Jacob, and Berta who remain in Pucallpa

We love you and thank the Lord for your support in prayer.

Marty McAnally
Strategy Coordinator
Ashéninka People Group
International Mission Board
Pucallpa, Peru

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Ode to a Dog

Like many of you, we have a dog. He's nothing extraordinary; just a 5 year old Miniature Schnauzer. His name is Rufus. He does no tricks. He barks more than we would like. But his loyalty is without compare.

This morning, Rufus taught me a lesson.

A lesson about God.

When I got up this morning Rufus was there at the bedroom door, waiting as he does most mornings. He was standing against the door, but quickly moved to raise up and stand against my legs as I came out. All the way down the hall Rufus bumped and pawed at me. He stood, tail wagging, head moving from side to side, doing that thing that dogs to to let their masters know they are excited to see them. Rufus stood by my side, moving along with me, looking up expectantly. He wanted his morning attention.

The desire for attention was when I learned my lesson this morning. Rufus' tenacity reminded me how we should be when we pray. Jacob told the angel, as they wrestled, "I will not let you go until you bless me." Rufus would not leave my side until we engaged in his favorite game of tug-of-war with his blanket. I was reminded from that insistence that I must be so tenacious with my Lord. I must cling to him, remain by his side, and otherwise call out to him until he answers me. He promised Jeremiah, "Call unto me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things which you do not know."

God used a dog to remind me of this. God took a simple created animal and taught a great spiritual lesson.

Learn from the dog. Cling to our God, through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Pressing for a Victory, Part Four

I watched some of the NCAA Elite Eight playoffs the other night. One thing I noticed in some of the games that I saw was that the winners seemed to have a higher level of concentration than the losers. They kept their eye on the goal when they shot, on the ball while it was being dribbled or passed--by either team. They concentrated and they won. That was the culmination of their efforts and training.

The Culmination of Israel's 40 years was their entrance into The Promised Land. It was a glorious morning. Forty long years had passed. The only original Hebrews in this group where Caleb and Joshua, the two God-fearing spies who had tried to convince Israel to go in and take the land 38 years earlier. But, as often happens, the majority prevailed. And as often happens, the majority was wrong.

Joshua 3:7 - 17 tells us the culmination of their wilderness time:

7 And the LORD said to Joshua, “This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. 8 You shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, saying, ‘When you have come to the edge of the water of the Jordan, you shall stand in the Jordan.’” 9 So Joshua said to the children of Israel, “Come here, and hear the words of the LORD your God.” 10 And Joshua said, “By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Hivites and the Perizzites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Jebusites: 11 Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is crossing over before you into the Jordan. 12 Now therefore, take for yourselves twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one man from every tribe. 13 And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap.” 14 So it was, when the people set out from their camp to cross over the Jordan, with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, 15 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 (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest), 16 that the waters which 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 into the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, failed, and were cut off; and the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan.

I need to point out a couple of things the experts tell us. One, it's flood time. Harvest time is flood time along the Jordan. In the rest of the year, the Jordan River is about 100 yards wide. But in harvest time, the Jordan swells to as much as a mile wide, according to these experts. And it was time for a flood.

Why is that important? I think it shows that God brought these people to where they were at such a time that they could not possibly take the slightest credit for it. They were going to have to give God all the glory. Joshua told them, "By this you will know that the Living God is among you." (v10) The "this" is the fact they have to cross this swollen river at the least convenient time for them. It was very convenient for God. Anytime is the right time for Him!

You may be struggling for a victory over something in your life, and you may be trying to set aside a specific time to deal with it; but you may be discovering that, as soon as you set the day or the time, something comes up. Why do you think that is? One, the devil likes having you bound up and defeated. The other is that God needs this to be something that glorifies Him and Him alone.

The priests marched into the water; they were some thousand yards ahead of the rest of the group. There they stood, water rushing across their feet. I don't know how much time passed, but after awhile the water began to slow down. Slowly, but surely, the waters receded and dried up, the priests standing firm all the while.

Forty years earlier Moses stood by another body of water: the Red Sea. He stretched forth the rod God had told him to carry and God caused a strong wind to blow and part the waters. He did it in front of them.

This time God chose to do a different thing. He parted the waters, but did it a different way. He stopped the waters some 20 miles upstream.

My point is this: don't expect your victories to come the same way every time. God is God. He does things in a way that brings him the glory. Not only that, but when God does things differently it keeps our relationship fresher.

It was finally done. Israel had finally crossed over. They were finally in the land. The Promised Land. Canaan. A place where they were going to experience victory after victory.

Press on! The victory awaits you!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Pressing on for a Victory, part three

In the last post, I urged the readers to consider the importance of consecration as a key part of victory in the Christian life. Our lives are consecrated--sanctified--positionally before the Lord. Christ's holiness is our holiness. He was made to be sin so that we may be made the righteousness of God in [Christ]. We are in Christ, seated at the right hand of God.

But practically speaking, I don't feel all that consecrated; not every day, anyway. So I must make a conscious decision to separate myself from the ways of the world, from the practices that would not be seen as "holy" before God. I must wash myself in the water of the Word of God. I must repent of evil that may be in my life.

Consecration is only the first part of pressing on for a victory. The second word I need to share is concentration. We need to learn the fine art of concentrating on Christ. Joshua had told Israel to let the priests bearing the ark on their shoulders to proceed on before them. Then he told them something important: "Watch the ark (paraphrased). Keep your eyes on the ark."

That ark represented the presence of God, among other things. It is a symbol of Christ for us. You will find some important truths in the New Testament about walking with the Lord. You have to keep your eyes on him. Jesus, speaking of his relationship with the Father, said, "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does." Now he can only do what the Father does if he has his eyes on the Father. You can't see what you aren't looking at. You have to keep your eyes on Jesus.

You can't go forward if you are looking backward. Now some of you are about to say, "Yes you can!" You try to walk on a sidewalk while you are looking over your shoulder. See how far you get before you walk into something, or walk off the sidewalk. See how straight of a line you walk. Farmers will tell you that, in order to plow a straight furrow, you need to fix your eyes on a target ahead of you and keep them fixed there. Otherwise, your furrows will be crooked.

You can't go up if you are looking down. Colossians 3 tells us to keep our eyes fixed on things above, not on earthly things. Your job is a good thing; but it's not the greatest thing. Your home is a good thing, but not the greatest thing. Fix your eyes on things of the kingdom, not on things of this life.

If you want a victory, learn to concentrate on Christ and on the things of Christ.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pressing for a Victory, part two

The nation of Israel, in the time of Moses and Joshua, reveals a great illustration of the Christian life. Israel in captivity is a picture of the Christian before he is born again. The Passover lamb is a picure of the Lord Jesus' death for us. Crossing through the Red Sea is a picture of baptism. The wilderness is a picture of our struggle to grow in Christ. It's also symbolic of the carnal believer. A carnal believer is that believer who depends more on himself than on God. It is that believer who never achieves the full victory that God desires for him.

Please note: We need to be careful with our illustrations. As with every illustration, if you look hard enough, you can poke holes in it. You cannot make every single aspect of the wildnerness time, or the land of Canaan, to be a perfect picture of the Christian life. I don't intend for this illustration to do that, so please don't make that assumption. Now, on to the story....

We find ourselves on the banks of the Jordan, looking over into The Promised Land. Israel has been waiting years for this day. Now it comes. Now come the victories and the blessings God had promised. Israel, as a nation, had brought on itself the 40 years they had spent in the desert. They did not believe God the first time he had taken them to this place. But they believed him this time! They are ready to go.

You can read about this in the first few chapters of the book of Joshua. You will find an anxious nation and a fearful leader. After all, all they had known for years and years was the leadership of Moses. But God tells Joshua time and again that God will be with him as leader, to go forward. So he does. Perhaps with some fear and trepidation, but he does. And within a few days, the victories start.

I suspect all of us would like to experience more victory in our Christian life than we currently do. I think all of us hunger for a palpable presence of God with us. In Joshua, chapter 3, we have the steps for such a life. The first few verses follow:

1Then Joshua rose early in the morning; and he and all the sons of Israel set out from Shittim and came to the Jordan, and they lodged there before they crossed.
2At the end of three days the officers went through the midst of the camp;
3and they commanded the people, saying, "When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God with the Levitical priests carrying it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it.
4"However, there shall be between you and it a distance of about 2,000 cubits by measure. Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you shall go, for you have not passed this way before."
5Then Joshua said to the people, "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you."

If you truly want victory, then your victory begins as theirs did: with CONSECRATION.

Now the experts tell us that in this time period the way that God's children demonstrated consecration (sanctification) was by bathing. Water was not a common commodity. They did not bathe daily. So when the order for consecration came down, the people would wash their clothes and wash their bodies.

You and I need daily consecration to live in victory. We need to wash up. John 13 taught this when Jesus washed the disciples' feet. Jesus said we needed to wash up. Then in John 15 Jesus said this: "Now you are clean through the word that I have spoken to you."

Do you see that? The word of God washes us! If you want to be consecrated, spend time in the word. Let God speak to your heart. Let him reveal with the word what needs to change in your heart and let him change you. As God shows you what is out of order in your life, repent of it. Request his forgiveness. And let him have his way. This is how to press on for a victory.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Pressing for a Victory

Maybe this and the subsequent posts are influenced by March madness. I love college basketball, after all; and this is the time that is most interesting in that great sport. Sixty-four teams began (last week) pressing for a victory. The invitation alone was a great honor for them. I imagine that most, if not all, of the teams all imagined themselves in that final game on April 6th. I don't think any coach, team, or player began the season thinking, "I am going to to my deadlevel best to strive for mediocrity. Lukewarmness is enough for us!" If they did, they got what they deserved. At this point in the season, those remaining teams are beginning to believe that the ultimate victory is just a game away.

So I want to take a few days to speak about victorious Christian living. I scan a few blogs, read a number of Christian websites, and I seldom see a study or exhortation towards victory in Jesus. [I guess that it's not a popular way to say things anymore. After all, I am often surprised with some of the pop language I hear. It's a sign of being left behind, culturally-speaking--the hazard of living somewhere in South America.]

Victory is not automatic, even though we have the sure promise and great truth that Christ has already won the victory for us. There are many verses in Scripture that assure us that victory is ours. We even sing about it in many churches, from that great old hymn, "Victory in Jesus," to some of the modern praise songs about victory. It's there. It's ours.

There are two aspects about victory that we need to understand. One is that we already have the victory. Christ won it. We fight our spiritual battles from a place of victory; that is a "positional truth." That is, it's the truth about our position in Christ. One day I will write more about that. But for now I want to focus on a second point about victory.

That point is that, practically speaking, we have to press forward towards personal, practical victory. In your daily life--in the practical outworking of the Christian life, that victory is not automatic. But it is promised. It is achievable.

Our lessons about victory will come from the story of the Hebrews as they enter the Promised Land. Briefly, let me say that The Promised Land, Canaan, is not a good symbol for heaven. Why? There are wars in Canaan. There are none in heaven. There are enemies there; not in heaven. Canaan is not about heaven. But it does teach us about daily Christian living. It's found in the Old Testament book of Joshua.

We will learn more about that tomorrow. Get ready to press on for a victory.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

HOW Long??!!

Today is a milestone for me. No, it's not my birthday; that comes soon enough. No, it's not another anniversary. Well, "anniversary" does not exactly fit.

Today is the 20,000th day of my life. Twenty thousand. That's a 2, followed by 4 zeroes. That is 28 million, 800 thousand minutes. It's 103 billion, 680 million seconds, if I did the math right.

Twenty thousand sunrises. Twenty thousand times I have heard birds sing (and they started early this morning!). Twenty thousand opportunities to look up at the sky and thank God for his beautiful creation. Twenty thousand times. Think of it.

I don't know what God's "clock" looks like, but knowing I have lived 20 thousand days makes me take stock of my life and ask what I have done with so much time. Admittedly, I don't like all the answers I could give.

There is one answer for which I am eternally grateful: there has been more than enough grace for each of those 20 thousand days that I have lived. Romans 5 tells us that where sin increased, grace increased all the more. This is so grace could rein. In my life, that's 103 billion, 680 million seconds of God's grace; poured out; overflowing; increasing according to need.

Get the picture that God paints for us: sin overflowed like a river in the rainy season. It floods everything it can touch. I have seen that kind of flood. I saw the Mississippi River in the floods all throughout Tennessee and Missouri. They tell me it was pretty precarious down in Mississippi, too. But I was in those states when I saw Old Man River at its worst. Sin ravages us like that. But along comes grace, overflowing even more than sin. Wiping it out. Covering it up. Grace reins.

No wonder John Newton shouted out through his great hymn, "Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!"

If I have another 20 thousand days--and I would not mind it a bit--I have the joy of knowing God's grace is sufficient for every single one of them.

Yes, grace reins. All day. Every day. Forever.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Great Adventure

Today is a milestone for me. I surrendered to preach the gospel message 31 years ago today. I still remember the battle, which had begun quite a long time before that. The battle heated up on March 5th, when the revival preacher said, “I believe God has called some young man to preach the gospel.” My heart nearly burst inside me. My knees grew weak. I began sweating and trembling. I gripped the pew and held on for all I had, hoping that invitation would end. Every night during that revival meeting the story was the same. I stood there, my sweat showering every one nearby, waiting for that conviction to pass so I could relax again.

A week later another guest preacher asked us if we were right with God to show it by giving him the right hand of fellowship. He did not want to take mine; I had hair past my ears and on my collar. No one dressed like that could be right with God, so far as he was concerned. I was just recovering from spinal paralysis (a herniated disc left me unable to move my legs at all), so it was difficult to make it down that aisle. But down I went. On my way home, singing the invitation hymn (I Surrender All) for all I was worth, God spoke. He said, “You’re lying.” The conviction began all over again. I asked the Lord why he said that. He told me I knew why. And I did. I could hardly get home. I got into the family room and fell to my knees; my parents were on the coast visiting family. I cried out for mercy. There was none. The path was clear. The call was clear. I grabbed my father’s topical Bible, looking for verses about the call to the ministry. My eyes fell on Is. 6:8. And I cried out again. This time Isaiah’s words were mine. It was only then that peace came.

It was there that the greatest journey of my life began. Before that day, to stand before anyone was emotional torture for me. I trembled so badly that I could not control my motions or my voice. After that moment, if I stand to preach, I am a completely different person. God takes over. I am empowered. There is no fear. There is only a burning passion to make clear every word God has spoken to me. I would not trade it for anything in the world.

Some do not believe that there is such a thing as “surrendering to preach.” Some well-meaning theologians ignore that possibility. If you did not have to surrender, fine. But believe me: I did not want to preach. I wanted to make money. I was not opposed to the ministry; I just wanted to do God’s work on my terms. So for me, I had to surrender. I surrendered all my dreams. I surrendered my will. I surrendered my entire future. I had to crawl back onto the cross and die to self. I had to remind myself I was crucified with Christ. I had to remember that the life I live today is the Christ-life. He makes my plans. He chooses my path. I just walk where he points. I say what he says to say. I am his. And he is mine.

As I said, I would not trade it for anything in the world. It’s a great adventure.