Saturday, December 25, 2010

Why Was Jesus Born?

The sound and the fury of the Christmas holiday is mostly over where I live. The cold rains fall slowly outside; the paper from the few gifts we bought has been collected and placed into a bag. Music about Christmas (some carols, some not) caresses the sound waves in the background, muffled by hair dryers as my ladies prepare for our next event--a brunch with family.

With all the activities around us, it is so easy to forget what Christmas is truly about; why exactly Jesus was born. He came to put a stop to things like the murder-suicide just north of us. When Jesus rules, insane acts like this one are dispelled. But it is more than that....

2,000 years ago, about ten miles from Jerusalem, in the tiny town of Bethlehem, a baby was born that would change the world. He was given two names: one was Jesus, meaning Jehovah Saves; the other, Emmanuel, meaning God with us. Both names bring great news and great promise.

God is with us in all of life. He is with us today. He is with us in the hard times; he is with us in the good times.

God is with us in the beginning, in the middle, and in the end of our lives. God with us.

That, neighbor, is what this season is all about.

That is why Jesus was born.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Faith Giving

This one is to the point: we set a missions offering goal in our church of 13 thousand dollars. We surpassed that goal by more than 3 thousand today.

Do you think God will not bless this group for their generous spirit? I tell you that he will give back so much more that they won't know what to do with the blessings!

How Great Is Our God!

I challenge you to give, as well. Give of those blessings so that others may hear. We are not yet where we need to be in sharing the gospel. God is calling out men and women to go; but many cannot because we have not given to our potential.

Be generous today.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Reality Check

I read some amazing headlines today:
"VIDEO: Crazed shoppers stampede at TARGET..."  "Marine stabbed at BEST BUY..." "Shopper arrested after packing gun in belt; knives, 'pepper grenade'..."

I promise you, I was not motivated to go out and join the throngs. A friend said she went to the "other" discount chain that much of America shops, only to see women tussling over toys, cursing one another; men pushing back and forth, battling for position in the aisles. This kind of insanity baffles me beyond words.

It's time for a reality check, ladies and gents. This sense of desperation and anger is not a healthy sign. In the last days, Paul said, perilous times will come. Men will be selfish and godless. They will think more of pleasure than they do of God. They will have a some kind of godliness, but not the kind you get by knowing the Lord Jesus Christ.

This time of the year is supposed to be about the Lord Jesus, first; then it is about showing our families their love. I hope you find that true in your life.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Tale of Two Pastors

I read today two news articles about two pastors. One has chosen to turn away from the truth, perverting it to fit his life. The other has chosen to teach the truth, letting the truth of God's word sway the men in his community.

Yes, Mr. Swilley, of Conyers, Georgia, has chosen to come out of that proverbial closet. He grew tired of hiding his sin. But instead of repenting and renouncing sin, he has reveled in it. Mr. Swilley's motivation, according to the article, was the death of a student from Rutgers U. He ignores Scriptures like 1 Cor. 6:9, 10. He attributes to God what God attributes to our fallen nature.

Are you not amazed that it is always God's fault when sin overtakes us? I am! David said in Psalm 50:21 that the evil man thinks God is completely like him, because God kept silence while the evil mann sinned. Know this: the day is coming when God will no longer be silent about any sin.

Equally amazing to me is the fact that this man was married for 20 years, or so, and that his former wife still attends and works in the church where this man is allowed to be pastor. Heaven weeps today.

A few hundred miles away, in Jackson, MS, Pastor Dwayne Pickett stands before 5,000 congregants each Sunday to preach the gospel. His church grew from less than 200 to this great number as Pastor Dwayne gave himself to teach the truth of God's word to the men of his community. He taught them that sin was sin, not to be tolerated in one's life. Today, 45% of his church members are men he has won to Christ. Heaven also rejoices today over men like Pastor Dwayne.

What a contrast. One man circumvents the Word to live in sin. The other man proclaims the Word to liberate from sin. It is the best of times, it is the worst of times...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Those Choices We Make

Saturday afternoon the University of Southern Mississippi football team stood tall in Central Florida University's stadium. The Golden Eagles soared away with a big win. The team was beside itself. The coaches were elated.

Sometime later, an undetermined number of those young men made a choice that will live with them for the rest of their lives. They visited a local "club." That is a cover name for a place of raucous behavior. Reports reveal that as many as 1,000 people will visit this "club" on Friday and Saturday nights. It's an accident waiting to happen.

And it did.

But it wasn't an accident.

Three of those young men found themselves at odds with an unidentified individual. For whatever reason (very few of them could be good reasons in a place like that), he wanted to put them in their place. Security personnel sent them out into the parking lot. The unidentified person pulled a gun, aimed it at the three young men and pulled the trigger. One is now paralyzed. One's vocal chords were severed. One was hit in the chest.

Thankfully, all will live. Sadly, all three lives have been changed. One, barring a miracle from the Lord Jesus, may never walk again. One, barring that same miraculous presence, may never speak again.

I pray for the miracles.

I grieve for the young men and their families.

I also grieve for the choice that motivated them to follow their passionate desires and to visit a place like that.

I grieve for the nation that has created the expectation that, if it is fun, it must be okay to do. So choose "fun," whatever form it takes.

I grieve for the expectation that we must sow those wild oats, as they were once called. So choose to sow those wild oats.

Those choices we make have consequences. Many of the consequences are good. Some are bad. Some lead to tragedy.

Pray for these three unnamed (by me) young men. Pray for the next choice to be one that brings them under the care of the Great Shepherd.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Life, or Something Like It

Amazingly, keeping up with current news and doing things like blogging is becoming more and more challenging. I find myself occupied with a great calling. And it is great.

This past Sunday was a very stirring time for me, personally. I listened to an "M" to Oaxaca, Mexico challenge us to reach the lost with the gospel so that all nations may glorify God. His words carried great authority, far more than he realized in the moment (he had told me he was not good at public speaking). The conviction of the Holy Spirit swept over our congregation.

Then Sunday night I shared from Mt. 24. If I could preach on the return of Christ each week and keep it fresh, I would. The greatest news we can share is that Christ came, that he died for us, that we can be redeemed and forgiven in His name; but also that he is coming again. As the hymn says it, the skies will roll back like a scroll and Jesus will step from eternity into time once again.

Then came last night--Monday. What is special about Mondays? Nothing, really; but last night we saw fruit from our outreach ministry, called "Beyond Our Walls." Close to ten of us went beyond our walls and we were able to share the gospel. My associate pastor for youth has a great group he calls his E-Team. They converge on one of the two university campuses and witness to the students there. Last night one of those students repented and believed the gospel. I mention him because I am acquainted with him. What are the chances that our E-Team would find one out of 16,000 that I have seen and spoken with in another town? It was a divine encounter. Before the team left him, the young man was giving his life to Christ. My heart soared when I heard the great news. I was a half mile away with another team when this encounter took place. I thought I heard thunderous praise from the angels in heaven...

One more now stands with arms outstretched, hands raised towards heaven, singing hallelujahs to the King of kings.

And now we are looking at Tuesday. Aside from enjoying the presence of the Lord, I find that life goes on. Dishes are still staring back at me in the sink. The dog still stinks and needs grooming. And I ran out of Oreos, an all-important staple in this household's daily life. Now THAT comes close to a crisis...

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Thought for Ministers of the Gospel

A friend sent me the following from Charles Spurgeon's historic and holy works. Nothing more needs to be said than is said below:

Excerpted from INCENSE AND LIGHT, March 11, 1883

I desire, in the third place, to show SOME SPECIAL PRACTICAL CONNECTION BETWEEN THE INCENSE AND THE LAMP. Let us read the text again: "And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it." So, then, there should be prayer especially at the dressing of the lamps: that is to say, when preparing our minds for that ministry by which we enlighten the people among whom we dwell we should be specially earnest in prayer.

Preparation for preaching and teaching is most important: God's work is not to be done carelessly as boys shoot arrows at random in their play. We must prepare both by reading and pleading: we must, like the apostles, give ourselves to the word of God and prayer. We are told by ancient Rabbis that when the priest who was appointed for that office went into the holy place he took with him the golden snuffers and the golden snuff dishes, and a vessel full of pure olive oil and by the help of these be attended to the trimming of the golden lamp. There were seven lamps on the candelabra:

some of these might have gone quite out during the night; he would have to take away whatever of snuff remained, wipe out the lamp, place a new wick, fill up with fresh oil, and then kindle the flame anew. In another lamp it may be the light was still burning but feebly: he might have simply to snuff it, take away the "the superfluity of naughtiness" in the golden snuff dish and make all things clean and right. Sometimes the light might be burning well and nothing was needed but to replenish it with oil. Thus all was set in order for another day. The like was done in the evening. In the process of trimming lamps there is a measure of offense: snuffs do not give forth a very dainty perfume, and the smear and smelt of oil are not altogether of sweet savor; therefore, before he trimmed the lamps, the priest kindled the incense. No snuff would then be offensive, for the overpowering fragrance of the incense killed it all and prevented the prevalence of any odour unfit for the house of God. When we go into our studies to try and trim our lamps let us remember that our first business is to pray. Alas, we have much of smoking wick about us; much negligence, much ignorance, many mistakes and errors; and thereby we shall grieve the Lord if Jesus is not called in to cover all. When we are preparing in secret to serve the Lord in public we shall make poor work of it if we do not beforehand draw near to God in prayer. We need that our garments should be made to smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia by being covered with the merit of Jesus, or else we shall offend even while engaged in the holy act of preparing to spread abroad the light of divine truth. You have to trim your lamps, brethren, and sisters, when you go into the Sunday-school - at least, I hope you do. I hope you do not run into your class with anything which first comes to hand: if you do not snuff your candles and fill your lamps with fresh oil your children will sit in darkness before a lamp which does not shine. No, there ought to be careful preparation, according as your time and ability will allow, and above all the pouring in of the holy oil of the Holy Spirit, by fresh fellowship with Jesus. In that process one of the chief elements is prayer. Dr. Adam Clarke used to say to young ministers, "Study yourselves dead, and then pray yourselves alive again"; and that is an excellent rule. Work in your study as if it all depended upon you, and then go forth and speak, trusting in God because all depends upon him.

Remember that the chief part of all study of God's word must be prayer.

This is the boring-rod and the powder by which we burst open the great rocks of truth. "To have prayed well is to have studied well," said Martin Luther, and so most certainly it is; therefore let none of us when we dress the lamp forget the incense.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Secret to Greater Strength

I shared with a group from our church today. The thoughts motivated me so much that I wanted to share them with those few who may read this blog.

Isaiah 40:31- But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

I want to show you one of the secrets to finishing well. I think this is one thing that may occupy the minds of all present. I know it is in my mind almost every week. I want to finish well. I want stay the course, to keep the right focus, and finish well.

I think we can apply this to three parts of the Christian life:

1. Spring – mount up with wings as eagles. These are the warrior years. We have the passion of the greatest of the birds. We soar high and far. No challenge is too great. We are ready to charge forward in the strength of the Lord.

2. Summer – run, and not be weary. These are the working years. As we look forward we realize not much is left. As we look backward, we see where God has brought us. And we want to take advantage of every single day while we can. So we set a pace that lets us work hard and steady in the kingdom of God.

3. Winter – walk, and not faint. These are the wisdom years. We have learned to pace ourselves. We measure each step carefully, but do not fail in it. We see the Great City not far ahead and we want to reach it without growing tired of the life Christ has given us to live.

The operative promise is to renew our strength. The Hebrew word for “renew” means, “To replace with something better.” God takes away one kind of strength and replaces it with another.

The Lord has a lot to say about strength. Let me remind you of a text I preached in 2008 while furloughing here: Ps. 84:7 - They go from strength to strength, appearing in Zion before God. God wonderfully and miraculously gives you the kind of strength you need for each day and each situation and each stage of your life.

One kind of strength is praise – God inhabits the praises of his people.

Another kind of strength is grace – Be strong in the grace that is in the Lord Jesus.

Another kind of strength is God’s word itself (compared to meat, manna, and milk).

This is all conditional. There is a process. I want to show you the secret: you have to wait upon the Lord. For these things to happen, we must wait on the Lord. How do you wait on the Lord?

You look for him. I don’t mean necessarily “search for him,” though sometimes you have to do that, too. I mean you keep an eye peeled for him. I was given lookout detail more than once when I we went to sea. I would stand on the wing of the bridge on the ship with binoculars and look for small craft that may escape radar as we put out to sea. Sometimes we would scan the skies for low-flying spy planes while out at sea. The thing that both had in common was that we had to keep our eyes open. Waiting on the Lord implies you keep your eyes open, looking for him.

Waiting on the Lord means to wait eagerly. How excited are you about meeting with the Lord? You should be waiting eagerly.

Waiting on the Lord means to wait expectantly. It means to hope for his coming. Now I am not speaking about the second coming, though I wait for that. I am speaking about when I pray I expect that God will show up. When I come here to worship on Sundays and Wednesdays, I expect God to show up. If you don’t come here expecting God to show up, you will probably miss him when he does.

Do you remember Elisha’s waiting for Elijah to be taken? Elijah told Elisha he would have that double portion of strength (spirit) if he saw Elijah being taken away from him. So Elisha looked expectantly. He looked eagerly. They tried to distract him on the one side. They tried to distract him on the other. But Elisha persevered. They tried discouragement when distraction did not work. But Elisha persevered. Soon Elisha saw the chariot of fire, drawn by horses of fire. Behind it was a whirlwind. Before anyone knew it, Elijah was gone. But there stood Elisha, watching the whole thing. He saw it because he looked for it. He waited for it.

You and I will be renewed if we wait eagerly and expectantly. That, good friend, is the secret to greater strength.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Trying to Remember What I Forgot

Today I took a drive in a part of the country I have not seen for decades. When I was a boy my grandfather would drive me up and down those roads. Sometimes it would be a trip to "the big city." Other times it would be a drive to visit a church member (he was a pastor), or a cousin. Sometimes it would be his route to one of the few small towns in this part of rural Mississippi. He had one town for shoes, one for farm supplies, and another for the basic supplies. You only went to town when it was needed. You only went on a Saturday, except for emergencies. You NEVER went on Sundays, except to go to church if church was in town.

The back roads held so many forgotten, buried, but great memories. There were the stores we would sometimes visit. They always held promise of a 6 ounce Coke and some kind of candy bar. Never far away was the RC Cola and the Moon Pie if we wanted a change from the ever popular Coke.

One crossroad brought back the memories of catching my first bass on an artificial topwater lure. It weighed all of 3 pounds, but what a memory! I was a young teen becoming the Bass Master world champion in that moment. I was so pumped I even bought a membership with Bass Masters so I could have the patch. After all, I had now joined the ranks of great fishermen everywhere.

One bridge crossed a creek where I watched Grandaddy baptize those brave souls who had given their hearts to the Lord in the most recent summer revival. That creek sure was bigger when I was a boy. I can't imagine how it shrank.

The church was called Riverside Baptist, though I have no clue as to why. The river was miles away. It must be from that old Spiritual that said, "Gonna lay down my burdens, down by the riverside, down by the riverside, down by the riverside..." It was an old wooden building, with straight (so they seemed at the time) wood pews, and a series of windows on both sides of the building. Those windows were always open in the spring and summer. There was no air conditioning. There were no electric fans. There were what we called funeral fans--a large, shaped piece of cardboard with a soothing image and an advertisment for local funeral services.

The only water we ever saw in those hot summer mornings and evenings was the glass of ice water sitting on the pulpit, condensation dripping off the cold glass. As my grandfather warmed up in his passionate preaching style, the air grew hotter and the water more tempting. We cringed whenever temptation and coveting entered his message, because there we sat, coveting that cold glass of water. It was always worse whenever he would pause and lift the glass to his lips. The fans would begin to fan at a frenetic pace. A hummingbird would have been proud of the fanning of many of us.

Riverside Baptist holds two strong memories for me, maybe three. I remember my Uncle Simp's prayer for rain (he was really a cousin, but they told us we had to call him Uncle Simp) during a drought. I have not heard many pray like him, before or since. And yes, it rained a few days later. I think Uncle Simp was the only one who brought an umbrella to that prayer meeting.

And I remember Uncle Simp's message on Elijah being fed by the ravens. I was only 9, maybe 10; but the image painted in his word pictures still sits in my mind to this day. There are days when Uncle Simp's words bolster my faith and let me strengthen myself in the Lord.

And then there was the outhouse. I remember the outhouse. I hated that thing. I hated it more for the promise of red wasps than for the other unpleasantries that come with non-plumbed outdoor bathrooms. And no, we did not have corn cobs to use in the outhouse.

This was just the first half of the more-than-one-hour-long ride. But it stirred so many old memories. So many things I wanted to remember peeked over the distant hills in my mind.

One day I will take that same journey again. This time it will be the spiritual roads with their markers that God has impressed on my heart. It will be a good journey, because there are those times that we need to try to remember some things that we have forgotten.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Should Followers of Christ Burn the Quran?

The news around the world is occupied with the promise by some to burn the Quran. It makes headlines on both the internet and television media. In Amercia, it has turned into a war of words. In other countries, the protests are loud and look violent.

The proponents of the book burning claim their motives are fueled by something greater than just the infamous date of 9-11. That would be enough for some out there; but for these folk it is even more sinister. It was not enough that terrorist Muslims attacked our nation. Please let me be clear, in case anyone has a doubt where I stand: may those who perpetrated this burn in hell if they do not repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. May all who attack my nation suffer a terrible fate if they do not repent and believe the gospel! I watched this attack, just as most of you did. I saw the second plane hit the second tower. I saw the live reports as the third plane hit the Pentagon. I was ready to sign up and go fight those illegitimate sons of the devil. I was angry. I still am.

BUT, I was also compelled to find ways to preach Christ to them. As angry as I am, I understand that their root problem is spiritual. They need Jesus. They need to repent and believe the gospel. They need missionaries, not military (this is not a treatise on the justification of wars; this is a spiritual lesson).

So now we get back to the issue. 9-11 was not enough to provoke the book burnings. The Muslim world has had the historical practice of placing a mosque on or near the site of any place they have won a battle. To place a mosque at "Ground Zero" of the WTC is a message to the Muslim world: it says they won. And the Muslim community wants to send that message out.

So the erection of a mosque is an offense. It should be seen as an offense. It should be reported as an offense. But our news media are more interested in reporting sensationalism than they are truth. If the Muslim community proceeds with their plans, if they build this mosque, it will be a slap--no, a kick in America's groin. I would cast my shoes at them for this wretched plan. I would extend to them my left hand.

Is the proper retaliation on our part to burn their sacred writings? While we know those writings are not truth with no mixture of error, as is the Bible, the writings are still sacred to them. So to physically attack their writings is an offense of significant proportion. It would be a serious setback for those seeking to win Muslims to faith in Christ Jesus. It flies in the face of the teachings of Jesus who told us to be wise as serpents, but harmless as doves. It resorts to the very things that they do to believers and to the true Word of God. We should be careful not to imitate their stupid, irrational, and blasphemous behavior.

Lest those who name the name of Christ have forgotten, this is a spiritual battle. I say to those who wish to burn their book: if you spent half as much time on your knees seeking their salvation, and the other half witnessing to them, you would have likely won many of these misguided, lost souls to Christ. If you want to be a true offense to them, send missionary teams into their lands and preach the risen Savior. Win them for Jesus' sake. That is the proper response.

Monday, September 06, 2010

The Big Question in Christian Circles: Is Glenn Beck a Christian?

Americans have been going round and round about Mr. Beck, an active Mormon and very famous talk radio host. Is he or is he not a believer? I can answer this accurately for all who wonder: I don't know.

Mr. Beck has stated emphatically that he is trusting in the atonement of Jesus Christ for his salvation. The trouble is, Evangelical Christianity and Mormonism mean two different things about atonement. Dr. Al Mohler agrees: "You're having the language, but you're not having the definitions here," he noted.

Consider the following: Mormonism teaches that the primary place of atonement by Christ Jesus was in Gethsemane, not at Calvary. The New Testament, however, teaches that the atonement occurred on the cross.

Additionally, in which Jesus does Mr. Beck believe? The Jesus of the Bible? Or does he believe in the Jesus of the Mormon books? The Jesus of the Mormon literature was not conceived by the Holy Spirit; rather, Elohim came down in human form and had sex with Mary. Also, the Jesus of the Mormon literature was a polygamist.

That's not the Jesus of the Bible.

If Mr. Beck, a former Catholic, will answer clearly that he is trusting the full work of Jesus on the cross, not on his having sweat blood in Gethsemane, we can assume a break from the Mormonism that has gripped him for several years. If he will affirm the Jesus of the Bible and publicly disavow the Jesus of Mormon literature, perhaps we can accept his testimony.

Remember this: the devil will say anything to deceive you and dilute the power of the church in this world.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Growing Churches Have Vision

Now that title may be the most understated thing anyone could ever say: growing churches have vision. I can hear some say, "Tell me something I don't know." Well, I can't. Did you know that there is no new thing under the sun? That is what Solomon said, at least. I believe he was a bit wiser than I am. He was also penning God-breathed words, making that statement authoritatively final. So I am afraid that my few readers won't be "wowed" by what I can say.

I do know a few things, though, about vision. These principles are general and apply to external church growth, better known as church planting, as well as internal church growth.

One thing I know is that you must begin with a vision. Starting out without a vision is much like putting the car in drive and not holding the steering wheel. You will go forward, but you don't know where you will end up.

If you are a church planter, a strategist, or a facilitator, someone has likely suggested a vision to you. On church planting teams, the lead strategist generally communicates his or her vision to the rest of the team. Your job is to apply that vision to your ministry; you must build on that vision. But I need you to hear me: you must still develop your own vision to complement the overall vision. The better strategists will empower you and expect you to develop your own vision. The micromanagers will balk at this. They feel too great a need (it's false, of course) to control everything.

HELLO!! You can't control it all, Mr. Micromanager! Leave that level of thinking and move on! Encourage your team to be visionary.

If you are a staff worker, or pastor, your vision is not unique to you, either. The same principles apply on both levels. Find your vision, but let your staff build off of it, so long as it does not contradict your overall vision.

Ministry teams with vision are focused teams. Focused teams get things done.

Growing churches and church planting teams have vision.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Growing Churches in North America

I have moved from growing churches in South America to the challenge of the pastorate in a southern city of the great state of Mississippi. I have enjoyed the first 3 months. I think one would be alarmed if I said anything else.

Seriously, the challenge of preaching God's infallible word each week has been a great blessing for me. I cannot think of anything else I would want to do. I enjoy discipling believers, new and old alike; I enjoy the challenge of "birthing a sermon" to feed God's flock. There is nothing like it. The major differences between the past 20, plus, years and now is the language I use. In Peru it was Spanish, sometimes translated by someone else into Quechua. Here, it is English (though I find the chance to use my Spanish from time to time). Also, the depth of my teaching is different. I spent far more time on the basics in those new churches, with those new believers. Here, I can go deeper into a passage.

The challenge of all challenges is to create a growth attitude in this great church. Do not misunderstand me; they want to grow. Many have said something like, "Just show us what to do so that we can grow."  But what many of you reading this may know is that growing existing churches is often a very difficult thing. There are some relatively easy things I guess I could do. As one writer has said, anyone can grow a church if he wants to put on a better show than the churches around him. I don't want that kind of growth, quite frankly. I am of the school of thought that teaches that God is not in "show business." So we won't have motorcycles cruising down our aisles. We won't drop commandos from the ceiling while an orchestra plays exciting music. We won't be giving away flatscreens and large (or small) sums of cash for those who visit us.

What will we do? Three things that give birth to many other things I can't write about in one posting: we will deepen our love for Jesus, stand firm on his doctrines, and seek to obey all things he has said in that infallible word that gives us his doctrine. Yes, for us it will be love, doctrine, and obedience. What we do in our great church is going to flow from those three foundational values.

Growing churches in North America can be done! God has not withdrawn his presence, yet!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

When the Spirit Speaks

Most believers are aware that the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, speaks to God's people. He speaks to churches and he speaks to individuals. But the important thing is that he speaks. How does the Holy Spirit speak to us? In what ways?

Now I could go to Henry Blackaby's and Claude King's Experiencing God and give you some pretty practical lessons. Those lessons have been made popular with us now for 20 years, or so. Lessons like, God speaks through the Holy Spirit through his word, through prayer, through circumstances, and through others to make his will known to us.

I could write all night about all of that. I want to go a different direction. I want to try to help you, the reader, see that God will speak to you according to how he has made you. Now he will use all of the above to do it. But he has given you a unique personality and wants to speak to you in a way that you will understand him.

God will also speak through the Spirit in accordance with your faith level. There are a number of levels of faith living we can be on. Some are little children. They are newly born again. The Holy Spirit has a way to teach those newly born believers so that they can grow quickly. Some are young men or young women, spiritually speaking. The Holy Spirit will address these accordingly. And some are young adults. The list goes on.

There are things I have learned about the Holy Spirit's voice. Sometimes it is a soft and gentle voice. Its tenderness is unrivaled, even by the greatest of lovers.

Other times the Holy Spirit's voice is like a gentle wind on a summer night. He moves, you feel his presence, and you are refreshed by what he says to you.

There are those times that he speaks as strong as a central plains thunderstorm. When God gave the Ten Commandments his voice was accompanied by thunder and lightning.

Some of you are like me. More often than not, God has had to speak more like a winter storm, blowing his winds across you with such passion as to push you towards his will.

This is what I have learned, though: the longer I walk with the Lord, the better I know his voice.

The question is, when the Holy Spirit speaks, will you be listening?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pray for Turkey

We who follow Jesus must pray for Turkey. You can read the latest atrocities here, or also here.

We who have traveled to Turkey find the acts mentioned in the two related articles above to be reprehensible, but also surprising. Supposedly, Turkey has been more secular, meaning they ignored to some extent the existence of Christians in that country. Not so any more.

Please join me in praying for those persecuted believers. Do not be surprised when Turkey allies itself with Iran and other anti-Christian countries. The time for the Messiah's return is close. Those final pieces seem to be falling into place.

Jesus is Lord, even over Turkey!

Friday, July 02, 2010

What's Right about America?

Once more we are at the eve of one of the greatest holidays in America. The celebrations may have changed in size and style; but be assured that celebrating our indepence is nothing new. This year we need to stop and remember what made America great. We need to remember what is right about America. We can speak all day about what is wrong and never exhaust the list. I think if we would remember what is right and apply it, perhaps we would discover that what is wrong will steadily fade away.

Sunday I will preach from Proverbs 14:34 - Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people. Believe it or not, there are some moments when America has shone brightly in light of righteousness.

With a little research, we can discover that America has the right foundation. The great majority of the founding fathers--especially the most influential of them--believed that the hand of God had guided them to establish this republic. They believed in the fundamental and absolute law of God, above all else. These men were persuaded that all moral law came from God's law and that man was incapable of governing himself apart from God's law.

Many of the men were influenced by the Puritan teachings of the age. Consequently, they believed that, due to the untrustworthy and sinful nature of man, any government needed its checks and balances. This gave rise to the three branches of our government: the executive, legislative, and judicial. They did not trust any single branch to hold and administrate all power.

Where did this foundation come from? Why such a view? It is because most had the right faith. The United States of America, contrary to the current secular-humanist and agnostic viewpoints, was founded with a Judeo-Christian worldview. And to speak frankly, there was more emphasis on the Christian than on the "Judeo." When the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress, John Adams wrote to his wife and said, "The general principles upon which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principals (sic) of Christianity... I will avow that I believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God."

Alexander Hamilton boldly claimed that two things made America great: 1) Christianity, and 2) a Constitution formed under Christianity (emphasis added).

Yes, America had the right faith.

America also had the right focus. While not stated explicitly in our great documents, there is ample evidence of the desire of man to form a republic for the purpose of the expansion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is, America was to be a platform from which men and women went into all the world to preach the gospel. We were, as John Winthrop stated, to be a city set on a hill--a light, if you will, shining in the darkness.

The desire for liberty was strong. Men were weary with the rule of a king. They wanted liberty and they wanted it for all people.

And this nation was to be a nation where one could find a better life. Even today men and women want to come here for a better life. While too many do so illegally, we must understand their desire to live among us. We are, after all, the greatest nation on earth in modern history.

My question is if America can possibly have the right future. We have spurned our Judeo-Christian values. We have so embraced the heresy of complete tolerance that we have cracked and tried to shatter the very foundation that makes America the nation it is.

We can have the right future if we do two things: we must repent of our sin. We must seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness. If we do these two things we will do well. If not, I cannot say what future we may have; probably none.

Signs point to hard times just around the corner. There are those who would see our demise so as to create a new world order. It will happen; the book of Revelation shows us that. But perhaps God will be merciful and allow us a few more years of greatness before that great and horrible day comes on the earth.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pray for the Persecuted Church

So many of our brothers and sisters around the world pay a high price for following Jesus. Many so-called "faiths" not only reject Christ, but persecute those who follow him. Most recently, I came across the following:

AFGHANISTAN: Urgent Call for Prayer

Source: Open Doors, June 10, 2010

Devastating reports have been released from various news agencies that a member of the Afghan government has called for the public execution of Christian converts from Islam. This is in response to a video broadcast by the Afghan television network Noorin TV, which showed footage of Christian men being baptized and praying. The deputy secretary of the Afghani parliament said, "Those Afghans that appeared in [the footage] should be executed in public." The video clip, along with inflammatory statements against the Christian faith, has repeatedly been broadcast on different television stations.

According to Afghan law, proselytizing is illegal and conversion from Islam is punishable by death. Many Afghan followers of Jesus have been frightened by these events and have gone into hiding while others have fled. Afghan Christians want the world to know about their situation, that in a country where they have few rights and no voice, they want their voice to be heard. They are asking for our prayers. [end quoted story]

This is one of many examples. Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and a host of other countries have those within them that persecute followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Pray for the persecuted church. Pray for those believers to stand fast in their suffering. Pray for many to come to Christ as a result of their faithful witness.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Are You Connected?

Today they turned on my phone service in our new home. It supposedly came on at 8 PM, local time. Now how the time managed to be set in such a way is a mystery to me. Almost all things related to this particularly well-known phone company that begins with the letter “A” is a mystery to me. But that is the information they sent me.

So at 3 PM this afternoon I dialed my new number from my office. Sure enough, I got an invalid number notice, along with a fast busy signal. So much for hoping for an early connection.

At 7:30 I looked at our brand new cordless phone, probably made by some outsourced subsidiary of the same company that will be my phone service provider. The phone is modern enough it had, in bold letters, “No Line.” That should have been a clue. But I am not up to speed on all these fancy things that can happen in the US of A. 20 years in Peru dulled my knowledge of technology.

At 8:04 I looked again.

Still no line.

That did not surprise me. I have never known phone companies to get in a hurry. Once we waited a week before someone called to ask what we even called about. By then I had forgotten what I had called about; oh, yes; it was a bad phone connection.

At 9:15, I called my new number, using my trusted cell phone (which is not controlled by this world-famous company). My new number rang and rang. But it never rang in the house.

Mr. Clueless was catching on. “No line” means no signal of any kind is making it into the phone jacks.

So I proceeded to set up my wireless network, making it through 2 steps. Step 3 is registering the service online. But there is no line to go online to.

Along came my latest thoughts. You can have it all in the right order, but be disconnected from God. If you are disconnected from God, you won’t get His signals. You won’t get His messages and calls. You won’t go “online.”

There are many things that can cause a disconnect. You can have a disconnect because of a broken line. You may have allowed your life to be corroded by sin and to chew through that prayer line that keeps you in touch with God.

You may have not used the proper connections. Your prayers must be in the name of Jesus. Sorry, no one else can give you access. He has a monopoly. He paid the bill. He owns the line. You pray in his name, or your prayers are disconnected.

Are you connected? If not, why not?

Get online. You won’t regret it.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Remember! You're in Charge!

Today in our morning worship, one of our men reminded me of something as he prayed for this country many call "America." He said that this country is a republic, and therefore belongs to us. I was particularly moved by that prayer, especially those words. My friend who prayed is exactly right.

America belongs to us.

America does not belong to the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch, or the Judicial Branch of government. Instead, it is ours. In fact, those three branches of government are ours. Those men and women in power would have you think and believe that they are in charge; but they are not. Folks, they work for you if you are a tax-paying citizen of this country. They are called public servants for a reason.

My friend continued to pray and made the most poignant statement. He said that he was laying his part of the United States of America at the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was declaring that his part of America was under the Lordship of Christ.

I agree. And I laid my piece down again today. My piece is also under the Lordship of Christ.

Remember this: each of us has a part of this great nation. If the followers of the Lord Jesus would do what my dear friend did, what a difference we would see in this nation's activities and life.

What will you do with your piece?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Life in Southern America

We left South America for Southern America just over a month ago. We left one style of ministry for one that is more traditional in its scope: the pastorate in a traditional church.

So imagine my surprise when the first people that I am able to evangelize, sitting right in my counseling office, were not Mississippians. They were not even "southern" Americans. They were from Venezuela. And our conversation was not in the rich southern English of Mississippi. It was almost entirely in Spanish. The Bible open in front of me was a Spanish Bible.

I came expectantly, hoping to use my years of work in South America to further the kingdom of God. The joy of seeing my first two to pray to receive Christ, and see them do it in Spanish, was delightful. May God give us dozens more!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

The Heart of Worship

It's different, this ministry in the southern United States. The very cultural atmosphere is so distinct than that which was our predominant culture for so many years. While we sang wonderful songs and hymns in this morning's worship, for example, NO ONE showed up with a tamborine. The drums were silent. There was no guitar, trumpet, or sax. It was just piano and organ. My senses, once regularly assailed by such beautiful (but too loud) music, have had to adjust to our more subdued worship styles.

Or, do they? Worship is what I make of it. The intensity of worship does not begin in the sensory canals of my ears. It does not begin with my eyes, hands, feet, or any other part of my body. It does not even begin in my soul--that place of the heart, mind, emotions, and the will.

Worship is a choice, yes; but worship begins in my spirit. "They that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." Some say that "spirit" is properly capitalized: Spirit. Still, THE Spirit speaks to MY spirit and there worship begins.

If worship begins in the Spirit speaking to the spirit of man, then something important needs to be understood: you don't need all the external trappings that we often think are necessary to worship.

Matt Redman learned that lesson several years ago. The result was his song, "The Heart of Worship."

Thanks to Mr. Redman for listening to the Holy Spirit and teaching us via that great song.

Tonight, I choose to worship. I choose to let it begin in my spirit, not in the seat of all those senses that God has also given me to enjoy and relate to this world. If my senses are suddenly surprised by something more akin to what I have grown more accustomed to, wonderful. If not, it does not matter.

It is, after all, all about HIM.

Monday, April 26, 2010

My Car Is too Smart!

In our transition to the United States and a new ministry, we have had to purchase a vehicle; before it is over, we will have purchased two vehicles. The first one we purchased has demonstrated to me the fact we both knew: time and technology did not stop while we were overseas for the past several years. In fact, I discovered that my car is far too smart. Its information center tells the driver so many things that we never figured we would need to know. Because I am easily fascinated with technolgy, I keep mashing the information button to see what it will tell me next. But when the car began to base oil changes, not on mileage, but on engine revolutions, well, that was too much. I am most certainly impressed by these things that are now at least four years old, but new to me.

We should be so easily fascinated by the things of God. Walking in the newness of life is one of those things of which we should never grow weary.

Lose some sophistication; let the Christian life become fascinating--as fascinating as smart cars!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Somewhere in Southern America, end of week one

We are once more in southern America. We have now been here one week. In many ways, life in the northern hemisphere has been the same as it was in South America. In other ways, it is quite different.

Life is faster here. Now, that's not necessarily a criticism; it's more an observation. Everything seems faster. Meals are consumed more quickly. People drive more quickly. People seem to want to do everything more quickly. Why, I would not be surprised if the speed of light was faster. Okay, maybe that's too much. But I hope you get my point.

If there is a criticism about the high velocity living of North Americans in Southern America, it's the stark reality that this kind of living may be good for business, but bad for relationships. We have even adopted a philosophy of quality time, thinking that if we pack more personal attention into five or ten minutes, we have had some kind of significant relationship. It bleeds over into everything we do: doctor's visits, sermons, time with children--everything. The result? We hardly know one another!

I purpose in my heart to avoid high velocity living. Life is simply too good not to enjoy the ride!

Kevin, in southern America

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Second Day Is Not the End

Some 2,000 years ago Jesus died on the cross. No one murdered him. No one took his life. He laid down his life. He willingly gave it as a sacrifice for our sins.

Some of his disciples watched that gruesome scene. They saw their Master, stripped, flayed open by the whips, tufts of hair ripped from his beard, eyes probably swollen from the beatings, welts from the caning. His body endured all that a body can endure. His soul endured far more. His spirit bore the brunt of it all. He bore the wrath of God. He took my punishment. He took yours. And he commended his spirit to the Father and breathed his last.

From the human side, those who saw it saw a corpse. A dead man. Those disciples who were there probably looked for those who were in hiding to deliver the news. Rabbi Jesus is dead. It's over. I don't doubt they sobbed deep, painful sobs. I would not be surprised if some were on their knees in grief. Others may have held their stomachs from that deep pain that comes from such unwanted news. It was unbelievable. Their hope died in that moment. Nothing would ever be the same again.

End day one.

Now comes day two: the second day. It may have been daylight outside; but it was black as midnight in the hearts of that group.

I wonder what they did on the second day. Could they eat? Did they leave that upper room? Was their fear of arrest greater than their grief?

Where was Peter? Did he continue to weep for his denial and broken pride?

Did John go help Mary, Jesus' mother, gather her things and move in to his home?

Were the three Marys that went to the tomb on resurrection morning gathering the spices and fragrances they would need?

Did the more practical ones in the group tell the others something like, "Suck it up, guys! We have to keep moving on." Did the more tenderhearted ones look at them with anger and angst?

Maybe towards the end of the day, which would have been late afternoon, someone finally shrugged off some of that grief and found some of the unleavened bread that had been prepared for the passover.

Maybe others engaged in some "Do you remember when" stories about their time with Jesus.

To their surprise, day two drew to a close. Little did they know in just about 12 hours the middle of day three was going to change their world forever.

I am glad the crucifixion story does not end with day two. There was a day three. And on the third day, Jesus rose from the dead. And he lives.

And because he lives, you can face the fourth day.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Yard Sale

One thing happens when a family moves: they find out what they really have. Our things looked reasonably nice, tucked away in this cabinet, hidden in that drawer, placed in this room or that one. Then you begin to pack. As you pack you discover things you had even forgotten about. You say, “I wondered I did with that!” And so it goes.

We decided to have a yard sale. Though I am writing this now, the sale is still in the near future: tomorrow morning. Now, to have this sale we had to pull out all these things that were hidden here, there, and everywhere. We had to pull things out into the light, examine them, and decide if they were even worth selling. Some of it was valuable to me; other things, to Pam. But what about Jose Q. Publico (don’t forget where we are!)? We filled the entire front yard (it’s very small, believe me) with items. Much of it is on tables, other things on the ground. Some is hanging, some is shelved. But there it sits. It was a painful process to weed through those things.

Think of your heart. I suspect that the Good Lord would be delighted to have a “yard sale” and de-clutter our hearts. But you may not want him pulling some things out into the light. You may be very comfortable with—even attached to—some of those things he wants you to “sell.” Some of it may embarrass you. Some of it may sadden you. And you might just get a little angry if he touches some of your “stuff.” Yet, to move on it must be done. Let the Lord have a yard sale in your heart. Let him get rid of the clutter so that you can continue on your pilgrimage with him.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Integrity, part 2

Tonight was a historic moment for citizens of the United States. Tonight, your congress sold its soul to socialism. Voting to nationalize healthcare is only the symptom, so hang on to your hats.

The foundations of our republic are seriously cracked. They cracked with the slow, but steady, turn from being a Christian nation to being a Christ-less nation. They cracked when moms and dads found Sunday to be "Fun Day." They cracked when we reached a point when sin and sinful leadership is tolerated and even expected. They cracked when churches began to overlook sinful behavior in the name of love and acceptance at any cost.

Only a self-governed people can tolerate a free republic. By "self-governed" I refer to people who are self-disciplined. I refer to people of integrity. I refer to people who have a moral foundation. That foundation has serious flaws and is in danger of completely crumbling.

Unless America's Christians put away pride, persevere in prayer, seek the face of the Father, and walk away from wickedness--unless that happens and happens soon, this nation will go the way of the few European nations who once stood strong, blessed by their Christian citizens.

Repent, America! Repent, or perish.


Did you notice the title change? This is by design. My address remains the same for this blog. But my place for publishing will be changed. Our ministry is in transition. We are closing a volume of this journey, opening a new one.

As of April 18th, I will be a pastor in the United States. I will be in the Southern block of those great states, in south Mississippi.

The change is bittersweet. It has been delightful to serve our Lord Jesus in South America. We have done so since 1988, except for a brief return for medical needs at the beginning of the 21st century. So we have plenty of great memories and great hopes that we will see many hundreds of Peruvians and others in heaven one day. Only the Lord knows how many of the thousands that said they believed on the Lord under our ministry truly did. But we have great hopes.

Now it seemed good to the Lord to send us north of the equator once again. And we are excited. It's an exciting time in the world. It's a great time to be an active Christian. I can't wait to be back in the pulpit, equipping believers, challenging the congregation, seeking to evangelize the lost.

So, rejoice with me. But pray with me, too. The change is just now beginning to dawn on us. I look forward to it, but also walk in fear and trepidation.

Counting the Cost?

I wonder if we realize how much of the Bible is plain common sense for every day living? That is one of the things that sometimes we overlook.

One of those common sense teachings is in the Gospel According to Luke. It's Jesus' parable about counting the cost. Now, admittedly and most importantly, it refers to counting the cost to be his disciple. But don't ignore the common sense analogy. You don't go to war against a larger enemy without counting the cost. You don't start a major project without counting the cost. Those are the simple truths that Jesus used to impress the spiritual truth that we must count the cost to be his disciple. More about that in a moment.

First I want to point to the historic vote taking place as I write this. What so many do not know is that these men and women who are voting in favor of what is now called "Obamacare" have no clue as to the real cost of the bill. They are ignorant of that fact. In fact, they don't even know everything that is in that bill. That 3,000-page bill. That monstrosity of legislation. Aside from the bill that Obama's own actuary said he cannot calculate, the Congressional Budget Office only sent an estimated cost. Read that again: an estimated cost. The Dems are pushing for a vote on an item for which they have not counted the cost.

Only a fool votes for something or someone they know nothing about.

They are praying for 217 fools today. I am praying for 218 wise men.

Let this battle be a lesson for believers. Although my heart is broken for the United States, the United States, ultimately, is not my home. Heaven is my main home. The United States is just one place in which I and all believers are pilgrims. This is because I have counted the cost. It is wiser to be on the winning side. Jesus is the winning side, no matter what happens in this crazy world we are passing through.

Let's use this image and the subsequent fallout as an illustration of what happens when you do not count the cost. Many will suffer an eternity in hell because the failed to count the cost and "vote" the right way.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Where has all their integrity gone? Where is integrity in America? Where is it in Congress?

If you have been listening at all to what is going on in Washington, talk is strong that the healthcare bill is going to be deemed to have passed without even voting on it. How can they do that? By changing the rules in the house. It's insane to think about. Passing a bill without voting on it is chicanery. It is the lowest of integrity.

Integrity is all we have, people. You will not stand before God and be a liar. You will not see his face if you are characterized by duplicity. God hates lying. Hear that: GOD HATES LYING! He is the Spirit of Truth. Lying is counter to God.

Pray that we return to integrity, people. Pray for revival in America; perhaps it's not too late.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Why All the Disasters?

Unless you have been totally isolated in some dark part of the world, or have been held hostage and kept away from all forms of media, or have been in a coma, you know that recently there have been unimaginable natural disasters in the world. The latest of these is to the south of us, in Chile. We have a little first-hand information about that, because one lady who is from Chile is in our home. She was to have returned the night the 8.8 earthquake hit. Now she is a refugee, separated from all her family (all safe, they live well north of Concepcion). With the intermittent communication systems the lady has been able to talk to her family; she has even had to Skype video chats for about 5 minutes each. Each time she comes downstairs our friend tells us another story that her family relays to her about the earthquake.

We all know that this one did not compare with the death and mayhem in Haiti. But it was at least 500 times stronger than the earthquake that destroyed so much in Haiti.

My question may be yours? Why is all this happening? The scientists have given us their answer. The tectonic plates pushed and shifted, creating undue stress that was relieved by the seismic activity. I would be the last to argue that. Anyone who does would be trying to restrain the wind. I think, however, there is another answer that is more profound--though it may not appear to be so in the eyes of some.

A little-noticed verse in Romans 8 teaches us that all creation groans, waiting for redemption. Meditate on that for a moment. When Adam and Eve sinned, setting in motion the curse of sin, it was not just on mankind. The earth was cursed, too. That which was once perfect was now imperfect. That which was called "good" in Genesis 1, is now described as "groaning" in Romans 8.

That original sin had far-reaching consequences. Trees began to grow deformed. Thorns sprang up. Eventually, God placed fear in the animals, because he had given them to us for food (I cannot imagine being a vegetarian, but everyone was at one time).

Your sin and mine also have consequences. I don't know how far-reaching it may be; I think that depends on the sin. But they do have consequences. I believe when nations rebel, there are consequences. When we violate God's moral law, there are consequences. Does this rebellion merit natural disasters of gargantuan proportions? I am not God; I won't answer that here. Further, God did not "tell" me that they did. But I suspect that it should be considered in the realm of probabilities.

Those who find it difficult to believe that God might consider using natural disasters to get our attention are often those who find it difficult to believe that God will punish any sin for anyone. If God tolerates sin, then God is not holy. Then the Bible is a lie. Then Jesus died for nothing. But God is holy. His word is true. Jesus died to deliver both us and this creation that groans more and more.

In light of the horrendous calamity we have witnessed, we should do two things. One, pray for those in the throes of the calamity. Two, consider ourselves, because we are no better than they.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Something Has to Be Said

The primary purpose of this blog is related to all things Christian. But sometimes I just get angry at what I read.

The latest dog and pony show going on in DC right now is "The Healthcare Summit." But you need to know, it does not matter what is said at this summit; Dems have already made up their mind and have their plans in place. Read about it here.

Then write your senator or representative and file a protest over the chicanery and rejection of your wishes. Send a strong message, because something has to be said.

Friday, February 19, 2010

They Won't Take No for an Answer

Barack Hussein Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi don't play nice. In disregard to the overwhleming majority of Americans, this gruesome threesome intend to ram an unwanted healthcare plan down Americans' throats and make the very obese government even fatter. The plan is amazing. They plan to use a filibuster-proof method called "budget reconciliation." Read about it here. It only requires 51 votes in the Senate. There are 51 insane senators that will grovel at the feet of the threesome, in exchange for future (and some immediate) favors. For those less-liberal senators, they can abstain or vote against it, improving their chances to be reelected. In the mind of the liberal, this is a win-win. For America, it is a total loss.

This is not the once-famous character named Fat Albert we are talking about here. But down the road trod the trio, pulling the frightened Democrat party with them, crying, "HEY, HEY, HEY!!", running roughshod over any voter and any citizen who dare to stand against their socialist agenda.

The days of representative government seem over for those sitting in Washington. The days of the oligarchy have arrived.

This is not unlike Israel. Israel's leaders, in Israel's days of rebellion against God, simply chose to reject anything logical and godly. Even when they asked for God's guidance, when the prophets shared the plan, they would call them liars and do what they wanted anyway.

America has rebelled, true. America is ignoring God in many, many ways. More may now call themselves "spiritual," but they follow the wrong spirit. All that is duly noted.

But we don't have to take this kind of thing lying down. We can make those men pay who disregard the will of the people. After all, this is still a government of, for, and by the people. They won't take no for an answer; we can make them pay the fullest consequence of their actions. Write your representatives and senators. Tell them what you will do if they don't take no for an answer.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Do You Have Passion?

I preached for the first time in my life 32 years ago tonight, February 12th. Thirty-two years. I remember where I preached and what I preached. I still have the outline on a yellow and faded sheet of legal paper. It was at least a 12-point outline. Those poor folks!

It's been a great ride. I discovered quickly that preaching was my passion. It's more than a calling. It's a gifting for me. And because it is a gift, there is a level of passion that cannot be easily explained.

The passion a believer has to use his or her spiritual gifts has an underlying secret source of unfailing strength.

First, there is the understanding of just how much Christ paid to save you. Your sins placed Jesus on the cross. Your SIN (singular) placed him there, too. The difference is that your sins are what you did and sometimes do. Your SIN is your nature before knowing Christ. Sadly, too many believers do not understand how sinful sin (forgive the redundancy, please) really is. The one who understands just how much they have really been forgiven tends to have more passion about being with the Lord and serving him.

Then there is the fellowship and worship factor. To the measure a believer seeks the face of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, to that measure will his passion grow. As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:14, "The Love of Christ compells me..." As you seek the Lord's face, you get lost in his love. As you get lost in his love, your passion increases.

Do you have passion for the Lord and those things that interest him? If so, unleash it! Life is good! Enjoy the ride.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Who's Fault Is It?

In Haiti, some authorities are reporting the death toll at 230,000. They expect this to continue to rise as authorities uncover more bodies and continue to investigate the many private burials that have also occurred. It's nothing short of an inexpressible tragedy.

Meanwhile, strong rains pound the mountains of Peru. Thousands have been left homeless from the northernmost mountain villages, all the way through southern Peru.

It wasn't too long ago that one famous evangelical figure tried to make some kind of correlation between Haiti and their love affair with Voodoo, and this earthquake. Perhaps one could even make a correlation between Peru and the prevalence of shamans and witch doctors here. Perhaps.

But then I read the words of Jesus, who asked the, in Luke 13:1 - 5:

Some present with Jesus reported to him about how Pilate mixed the blood of some Galileans with their sacrifices. Jesus asked them, "Do you think that these Galileans were more sinful than all other Galileans because they suffered like this? I tell you, no. Unless you repent you will also perish. Or do you think the eighteen who died when the tower of Siloam collapsed were more sinful than all others in Jerusalem? I tell you, no. Unless you repent, you will also perish. [somewhat paraphrased by this writer]

Do not miss this. Jesus is saying we are all in the same boat. All of us. Several years ago a prominent man in my home church lost his home to a fire. The preacher who happened to be there that Sunday actually insinuated that this prominent man lost his home to the fire because he had failed to tithe (give a tenth of his possessions). So God took his home. That very week, the preacher's home caught fire and burned. Someone went to him and asked, "What happened? You forget to tithe this month?"

Do not think that we are better than those poor, Haitians. Do not think we are better than those thousands of Peruvians wading through knee-deep (and deeper) mud, whose rivers have swept away their houses.

Do not think you are better than those snow-bound folks on the East Coast of the US, or those in California, fighting their own natural disasters.

You live today because God allowed it. You were blessed with the wonderful mercy of God. So weep with those who weep and rejoice with those whose rejoice.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Above the Law?

Many of us have followed the tragedies in Haiti, wondering what could be done to help them faster. Then arrives a group of missionary volunteers, armed with information about how to help orphans. Their desire is to help. But, from all appearances at this moment, someone coordinating the group made decisions that has cost this group their freedom. Why does such as this happen? What entered into the mind of the "leader" that would justify what some news sources report as an attemt to circumvent the law? Are missionaries and their volunteers above the law? Or should we also follow the norms and statutes of a country where we may happen to be serving?

I am speaking from personal experience. Not that I have attempted to be above the law (that I am aware of!); there have been volunteers and others who have come down and decided that their cause is a noble one and, therefore, they do not have to obey the law.

Take, for example, those who arrive here, rent vehicles, and then drive off as though they were in a cross-country rally. Speed limits mean little or nothing. Respect for local laws in the target community may be ignored as well. The thought seems to be, "I am an American (or Candadian, or Englishman, whatever) and I have my rights." Those rights do not include trampling local laws, though, to the surprise of many.

Others have arrived here in the airport with as much as 20 thousand dollars of meds that they intend to smuggle in. Why? Because they don't agree with the tax laws! Neither do I, for that matter; but the law is the law and we leave a bad testimony when those bags are opened and the customs agents discover a swimming pool of prescription drugs.

The group melting in the oven-like jail in Haiti serves as a stern example for us. If they had gathered the proper paperwork for their trek into the D.R., this group would be newsworthy for a different reason.

We can only hope someone shows them mercy for their recent attempts that led them down this unfortunate road.

Meanwhile, let's try to remember: our heritage does not give us the right to trample the laws of our host countries when we travel out on mission for Jesus. As said Peter, we don't need to be surprised when we suffer persecution because we broke the law, just as we should not be surprised when we suffer for the glory of Christ. This group's best move will be to ask the court's mercy. Let's pray they find it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pray for Cusco, Peru

Cusco, Peru, the home of Machu Picchu, is under water. The heavy rains have fallen for days now. In one community alone 400 families are now homeless. The rains loosened rocks in Machu Picchu, killing at least one person. Others have died in the area from the severe flooding.

Pray for those seeking to meet this disaster head-on. Pray for wisdom in sharing the gospel as a result of the open doors this tragedy will create.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Huaraz 2010

Last week men and women from Ingleside Baptist Church, Macon, GA, came to Huaraz, Peru for the annual leadership conference. This conference has been a growing annual event for the past four or five years.

Huaraz, Peru is a mountain town of about 100 thousand. It is situated at more than 10 thousand feet (3,100 meters) above sea level. On the west and the east stand tall, rugged mountains. In the hills and valleys of those mountains live thousands of people. Some live hours from the closest thing that could be called a "road."

The conference began on a Tuesday, but Pam and I could not even get there before Wednesday night. My first session was Thursday morning. I stood on the podium, looking out over more than 300 men and women. They had a look of hunger in their eyes--spiritual hunger. I did not want to serve them an empty plate.

Some of these men and women had traveled for hours to get there. We had traveled 7 hours ourselves; but we did it in a Toyota RAV. Some of them had walked more than that just to get where they could ride in the back of a truck for 7 hours. It's not an easy stroll along a meandering path, either. That walk would have been up one hill and down another, looking for places to cross streams. The night temps, for they would have left before daylight, would have been in the low 40's. And it is rainy season there, so the paths would have been muddy and slippery. But onward they came, gathering from many towns and villages.

Yes, these men and women had made great sacrifices to get where they were. Many were sleeping in less than desirable conditions while there. I did not want to leave them wishing they were elsewhere.

I took a breath, said a silent prayer for grace to preach and teach, and proceeded to try to feed this group of leaders from many Christian groups. For three hours on Thursday and three more on Friday we studied God's word together. We laughed together. We groaned together. We grew together.

It was a great moment of inpsiration for at least one of us. I can only pray the 348 men and women who had gathered felt as much. I can only wish more of us were so hungry for the word of God that we would be willing to walk a day to get to a place we could ride in a truck bed for another 7 hours to be able to be fed.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Praying for Haiti

I am, as I am sure you are, praying for the tiny nation of Haiti. The latest report on's aggregate news site says that some authorities fear that as many as 500 thousand may be dead. Many are "comfortable" with saying that the death toll will exceed 100 thousand.

Tens of thousands are homeless. Water problems abound. Food problems abound. It is, in general, a picture of complete chaos.

Pray for Haiti. Pray hard. Southern Baptists can give via the International Mission Board's emergency relief. Contact them at 800-999-3113 and ask how to help. IMB response teams are headed there in the next few hours.

Many other organizations can also help you help Haiti. Choose one and give these unfortunate souls a hand.

Again, pray for Haiti. Pray hard.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

A Look Ahead

I don't really want to do what so many others have already done, which is philosophize over all the opportunities that the new year will give us. But I am going to, anyway. That being said, I want to lay out a challenge for the few that read this.

You now have 363 days left to be able to do at least one good thing for someone else during 2010. 363 good things. Now that won't open a single door in heaven; Jesus Christ is the door and you cannot crawl in through the window. But what a difference it will make around you.

You have 363 days you can tell someone about Jesus. If even one person turns to Christ during those 363 days, you will have done more than most.

You have 363 days left to pray for others. We are good about praying for ourselves. But what about praying for others? Do not underestimate the power of the One who answers prayer offered in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

You have the opportunity to give out at least 363 smiles. There was once a song that said,

Give the world a smile each day
Helping someone on life's way...

A friendly smile may make many suspect you are up to something. But believe me, a smiling person is much more delightful to be around.

You have 363 days left to laugh at least once a day. Did you know that the Bible says that laughter does good, like medicine. Do not be afraid to laugh at the right things. It will heal your body of a lot of ills. Go see a good comedy. Read some good jokes. Laugh.

You have 363 days left to tell the Lord how grateful you are for his inexpressable love. Tell God you love him. Then live like you do.

You have 363 days to look forward. Do it. Don't spend your time looking backward. You can't accomplish a lot if you keep looking over your shoulder. If you have to spend your time like that, you probably have something you never resolved. Resolve it to the best of your ability and move on.

I am looking forward to a great year. It will be great because God is great. The Father is great. Jesus is great. The Holy Spirit is great.

Looking up,

Kevin, in South America