Sunday, December 18, 2011

Advancing the Kingdom of God

Christmas is a lovely season for so many reasons. Gift-giving aside, the family time and renewed friendships is a great blessing. Today we saw some who were home visiting family. It was a delight to hug their necks and shake their hands. My great surprise was to be able to eat lunch with them and many others from the classes of one of our Bible Study departments.

For me, however, I think the most joyful thing about this time of the year is the opportunity to participate in the advancement of the Kingdom of God. I am speaking about missions giving. We were blessed to serve on the front line of missions for some twenty years. Now we are back in Mississippi, where we are encouraging others to head out to the front lines. And we are encouraging others to step up their financial participation.

Our small church has never been stingy; but they gave their largest offering last year. This year we have given the second-largest to date. Perhaps we could have done better, perhaps not. I only rejoice that we have given a significant gift for the glory of God and the advancement of the kingdom.

More will hear the word of God because of this. More will believe because someone gave. More missionaries will have needed supplies. More families will have needed support. Logistical support will be eased in some cases. The list goes on...

Be a part of advancing the kingdom of God by giving, going, and mostly praying. Be one of God's warriors for his glory.

Pray for North Korea

North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il, is dead. Now is the time for us to redouble our prayers for this nation where the Holy Spirit sent revival and an awakening some 100 years ago. Perhaps this will be the time for a new visitation, a new day for the expansion of the kingdom of God.

Pray for North Korea.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In Pursuit of Godliness

Two passages in the New Testament define my passion: Romans 12:1, 2; and Phil. 3:10 - 17. Both describe the pursuit of godliness that should characterize every Christian life. My wife Pam has often kidded with me that all my preaching centers around the concepts found in these verses. She may well be very close to the truth with that! I believe that all preaching should persuade men and women to pursue godliness.

I have discovered something recently, though, that bears a mention. It's not new, this thing I have discovered. It is as old as history itself. The concept I have discovered is the sinister imitation of godliness. Paul described it by saying there are people who have a form of godliness, but deny its power. 

Let me try to explain what I see in this. A person with a form of godlines, but who denies its power, is a person who may consider himself as spiritual. But his or her spirituality does not reflect the results of godliness, thereby denying the very power that characterizes godliness. To be godly is to reflect the attributes of God. To be religious or spiritual is a form of godliness that denies the power of godliness. There are also those who deny the power of godliness by perverting that power into a self-serving thing. The inherit power of godliness is to make you more godly in your lifestyle, not to make you more appealing to the world. Remember, the crowds left Jesus when he told them what it really meant to follow him.

I counseled with one recently that spoke of how much he loved the Lord. He told me how he carried his Bible around, how he read it, how it blessed him. Then he told me of his regular activities. Those activities, including his sexual activities, all denied the very godliness he claimed to have. He had a form of godliness, but denied its power with his life.

The true pursuit of godliness transforms us from glory to glory. We are transformed from the great glory of the new birth, to the greater glory of a full-aged son of God. The pursuit of godliness reveals more of the fruit of the Spirit. The pursuit of godliness creates a greater intimacy, a deeper relationship, with our Lord Jesus.

Beware the type of godliness that denies the power of God.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Black Friday?

I saw a news item this morning that became the final push to write these thoughts in this post. I saw some young men camped for the past 3 days in front of a Best Buy, somewhere in Tennessee. They are preparing for the best deals for what our merchants call Black Friday. What I saw stirred me beyond words. What I saw stood juxtaposed in my mind with others in other places that I have personally met.

 We Americans, irrespective of race, gender, or religion, will begin our race to the malls and stores to make our annual pilgrimage to the shrines of plenty. We will amass great piles of goods to bestow upon others, but (if we were to be brutally honest with ourselves) that sometimes serve more to make us feel good about ourselves. Some of us will do it in the name of Jesus; many of us won't. In a matter of a few hours, all the hustle and bustle will be over until next year. And we will resume our normal patterns of life--except for that of paying off the credit cards we used to make our pilgrimage worth it.

In other parts of the world in which I have lived and served I have seen similar sights. People have waited for hours, if not days, for a great event. People have walked miles and miles, enduring sleet and other harsh elements. People have camped out under the evening stars. Some have risked their lives for these events. They slept where they could in front of or near the place of the big event.

The events I speak of are chances to hear the word of God preached. Yes, I know personally people who give all they have to be able to hear the word of God. And they really do walk for hours and days. I have known some to walk for 2 days, just to catch a bus they ride for 12 hours. Did I say bus? Sometimes it is a cargo truck. Sometimes they hitch a ride in the back of a pickup truck. But they press on so that someone will teach them the word of God one more time.

So this is what stirred me so: I have listened too many times to too many citizens of these United States who are far more concerned about packaging their worship and Bible study into a 60-minute box--120 minutes, if they are really spiritual and went to Morning Bible Study first. I have listened to those who groan over an extra 15 minutes of message and public invitation to respond. I have heard short-winded preachers praised and long-winded preachers plastered.

Do not misunderstand this post. It is not from the pen of Ebenezer Scrooge. I am not at all opposed to gift-giving. But when it holds higher priority for us than worship, we have missed something.

In short, we Americans of the USA do not seem to have much time for things of God. But we have a week to camp out in front of a store to get the cheapest LCD or Plasma Flatscreen. God have mercy on America! God give us hunger for His word once again!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Remembering Simpler Times

It is 4 PM on a Sunday. I am in my office, going over notes for tonight's message. This message is one that I preached some 7 years ago. I guess I preached it some 10 years before then. You don't get to preach too many messages like these while on the mission field, which is where I spent 20 years of my life.

As I looked at the outline I began to think of simpler times. I also began to think of simpler truths. Yes, simpler truths. There was time that life was simpler. Therefore, truth was simpler in some ways. So I want to show you in bullet point form some of those simpler truths that have faded out of our foremost thoughts. To share these thoughts makes the preacher look "old-fashioned." I never thought anyone would ever accuse me of that! But here I am, remembering simpler times. Here goes:
  • There are three kinds of people listed in the Bible: the natural man, the carnal man, and the spiritual man. The natural man is the unsaved man. The carnal man is the one who has believed on the Lord Jesus, repented of sin, and entered the family of God by God's matchless grace. But he has stagnated and is not growing. The spiritual man is that Christ-follower who grows in his knowledge and understanding, as well as his obedience to the Messiah.
  • There are four levels of Christian living listed in the Bible: babes, children, young men (and women), and fathers (and mothers). This is from 1st John 2. These levels demonstrate the growth (sanctification) process in the Christian's life.
  • There are three kinds of "food" listed in the Bible--four, if you count water: milk, manna, and meat. Milk is for babes. Manna is for growth, but most often symbolizes the meal of the carnal Christian. Meat is for the spiritually mature.
These truths seem to have disappeared. I only find them spoken of in older books, by older men, to older congregations. Many younger preachers and younger congregations have more interested in the self-life. You know, self-help for families, self-help for finances, self-help for friendships.

We have simple life, simple church, and not-so-simple Christianity anymore.

I think what we need to do in the church in America is get back to the cross and hang there till all that self-life is dead.

But that is just my thoughts. I am only remembering simpler times.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Missions 2011 in Peru, Part 2

We have done it! We have walked the streets of Lima and trudged up and down the sandy, rocky hillsides of one community and ministered together in the name of the 38th Family and of the Lord Jesus Christ. I may surprised you with this, but we don't have a clue how many people prayed to receive Christ on this trip; we did not count. In the end, only the Lord knows how many of those who did pray were serious, or comprehended the decision, when they prayed. But we shared with the young and the old alike.

Yesterday (Wednesday) may have been the most challenging day for us. The morning began in ominous tones. It seems that customs released a flood of containers from recently-arrived ships. The roads to our community were blocked. We slowed to a crawl and were forced to breathe the wretched pollution from myriad trucks that enveloped us. When we finally arrived at the morning destination--almost one hour late--we were already tired from the cacophany of the trucks' air horns and from eating so much of their dust and pollution.

But we headed to a market to minister and preach the word. My first stop with my small group was with a young lady who was glad to speak with us. I wondered if she was really listening as I shared the word of God. I finally told her I could return later and see if she had thought things over. She suddenly blurted out (in Spanish), "No! I am ready to do this now!" No one was more surprised than I. I could not read her, as I normally can do. "Pilar" prayed to receive Christ--the first of 7 that would pray with me that day.

Later in that same day we found ourselves before the casket of an 18-year-old young lady who gave up. Hopelessness swallowed her the night before. She drank a bottle of insecticide, thinking that was the way of escape from whatever demons chased her. Our host pastor had witnessed to her before, evidently; she had soundly rejected Christ at that time, if I understood him correctly. I was heartbroken to hear it.

We moved from one house of grief to another; the next person we visited has breast cancer. She is consumed with it. We came in, anointed her with oil, and prayed for healing, as the Lord willed. There was a moment of joy in that meeting. She said she wished she could attend the church (she received the Lord a couple of weeks ago). I suggested she could; the church could hold services there. It was well-received. Next week they will take their worship services to her place and celebrate Jesus there.

Today, after spending a good bit of time in prayer, we converged upon the inhabitants of the community once more. We forced our sore muscles to push us up the steep hills one more time. It was fruitful in the sense we managed to meet new families--believers--who were looking for a church home. We also met others who had just moved to the area and were interested in hearing the gospel. Our day finally came to a close and we made our way back to our "base." I left the team at the guest house and came to close out my business with my Peruvian friends. Now it's time to pack the bags...

We won't soon forget this good trip. We are returning to Mississippi tomorrow--most of us are, that is; two left tonight. We will carry with us treasures that cannot be assessed a monetary value. They cannot be seen here, either. They are heavenly treasures. They are treasures of joy and hope.

It was a good trip.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Missions 2011 in Peru

10 days ago a group of us from Mississippi parted from the Jackson airport and headed to Lima. The majority went on for a few days of tourism in the mountains. I stayed behind to do missions. I was invited to be a "keynote speaker," as they put it to me, for the first annual cross-cultural missions conference. Though I did not see the fruit from it, I was told a dozen men and women responded to the invitation to be career missionaries. I can only shout praises to King Jesus over that. I saw a dream fulfilled in their decision and the burgeoning missions agency known as Peru to the Nations. It filled my heart with joy.

A week ago the rest of the Mississippi group arrived. It was the second trip for these men. Who are they? They are the Mississippi Singing Churchmen. These men and I, plus three ladies, converged on Lima and proceeded to present concerts of praise throughout the city. Each day was better than the day before. We sang before the wealthy; we sang before the very poor. We sang before the unknown and we sang before the renowned personalities in the city. And God gave a harvest. God showed himself powerful and answered prayer beyond our dreams.

When we lost permission to sing in one place, God opened other venues for us. We wanted to sing before Congress in their daily session. It did not happen. But we did get to sing in front of the congressional palace. Broadcast live across the nation. To thousands, not hundreds. Our God does far more than we ask or think.

Each day the harvest seemed to be better than the day before. We know of at least 60 who prayed to receive Christ; the Lord knows how many truly did. But we were able to be an influence in their lives, at least.

The trip has ended--for the Singing Churchmen, that is. I am still here; my church, the 38th Family, arrives tomorrow night. And the mission continues. And more men and women will be born into the family of God. And God receives all the glory.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Why Are We Surprised, Part 2

In my last post I spoke of issues that has brought America to the point we are. I promised to make some and salient points regarding America and world relations. Please indulge me as I plead with America to look at the bigger picture.

Our nation has had three world-wide activities that I believe has produced the depth of blessing that has been ours. First, our nation has, since its inception, been a missionary nation. We have not hesitated in calling men and women out to go into the world with the gospel message. We have been increasingly diligent (perhaps until recent years) in our support of those men and women. America's Christian Church has been an example of obedience to the great commission. God has blessed this. God has smiled upon us. As we share the gospel message in all the world, God will supply our need to do so.

Second, our nation has been generous in sharing its abundance with other nations. We have not been selfish. We have been--and continue to be--a generous nation. When disasters strike in other nations, Americans are among the first responders. When famine has hit, we send food. When plagues and diseases assail, Americans respond with medical personnel and aid. America will readily offer to share its blessings with any nation, regardless of their political opinion and policy. It is born out of the Christian roots that shaped this nation over 200 years ago. May God continue to move us in that way!

Third, our nation has been a friend of Israel. Yes, that small, seemingly insignificant nation in the Middle East has had as its friend the United States of America. This is more than political. This is from the wisdom of God himself. Our Lord tells us that God blesses those who bless Abraham and curses those who curse him and his seed.

So long as America has done this, we have been blessed. In recent years, however, reaching all the way back to the late 1970's, we have shown increasing ambivalence when it comes to blessing the offspring of Abraham. Our most recent policies seem to favor Israel less and its Arab neighbors more. This is a dangerous policy. We must pray for our leaders to act wisely. I do not believe our Lord will grant us continued blessings if we insist on marginalizing those people through whom all his blessings have come. Yes, all his blessings have come through Israel. In case you have forgotten, Jesus Christ is of the house and lineage of King David. The Old Covenant was given to Moses; the New Covenant came through the blood of Jesus Christ. Any way you look at it, your blessings come through the offspring of Abraham. To spurn them is to risk the anger of the Lord God.

Discerning Christ-followers should not, therefore, be surprised when they hear that things are not well in America. To ignore our Christian heritage, to weaken our nation by compromise within the church, to curtail missions giving and thereby reduce the missionary force around the world, and to risk a policy shift regarding the nation of Israel--any of these things weaken America in more than one way. I pray we remember and repent while we can.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Why Are We Surprised?

The news of the moment includes a downgrade of the USA's sterling credit rating, a plummeting stock market, and soaring gold. Tomorrow's futures on the other world markets reveal a continuing downturn on the world markets. The economists like to call such as this a "correction." That softens the blow of depleted retirement funds, annuities, and the like. The media are having a time with this news; theirs are the only ratings going up right now. Meanwhile, Dummy-crats point their finger at the TEA party; Republicans point theirs at the Dems, hoping for their demise next year; and no one looks under the proverbial skirts to see what the problem really is. So I want to take a look at this from another angle. And I may get it wrong; but I don't think so. . . .

While the problem the world now sees is most certainly an economic problem, there is much more to it than that. I won't spend my words analyzing the entire world. I want to speak about the USA; after all, that is where I write this from.

The problem we now face began in the early part of the 20th century, when (with respect to my Canadian and Latin American friends) "America," as we call it, experienced a radical heart shift away from God. We had just experienced a world wide awakening/revival. Hundreds of thousands around the world had been touched by the Holy Spirit and born into the kingdom of God. Then came what scholars labeled as "modernism." Man suddenly decided he was too rational to allow room for adherance to the word of God as the final authority in the affairs of life. The affairs of life, by the way, include everything, including economics, politics, and world relationships. We began a love affair with what would eventually be called humanism.

Fast-forward past WWII. Men came home from war. The nation was in a rebuilding phase. Many of those men, however, had been stung severely by the hornets of war and had become secretly cynical. They barely had time to breathe before we entered the Korean "Conflict." While men and women maintained in a cultural sense the appearance of godliness, in their homes they took off their masks.  For too many, their religion was only "cloth deep." It was surface tolerance of the Bible at best.The stage was set for yet another heart shift away from God and biblical principles. The boomer generation was born, but not adequately schooled in the things of God. One of the great battles was forming: evolution v creation. Even pastors and preachers began to doubt the literal six-day creation. It showed up in their teaching. The decline in church attendance began to show as pastors inadvertently cast doubt on the veracity of Scripture by advocating a tolerance to the religion of evolution. In the home, where children were still in the innocence of Andy Griffith and other shows, there was less and less emphasis on spiritual things.

The Boomers began to come of age. Vietnam was escalating. The nation would not stand for it. And the Boomers took to the streets. As those young men and women came of age they demonstrated yet a third heart shift away from God. They cast off the shackles of what they called "organized religion." They were anti-organized everything. Time will not allow to discuss the impact of an increasingly secularized education; but this, too, had a major impact on the heart shift of Americans.

When the Boomers began to have children they continued in their now very secular mindset. Less and less showed interest in the things of God. Sunday became "fun" day. More and more protested they needed their rest. Fewer and fewer showed interest in the things of God. Soon, between the Boomers and the subsequent generations, this nation called the United States of America was post-Christian in its outlook. Tolerance was the watchword. The only things is, this tolerance is the epitome of intolerance for those who stand for all things that conservative Christians do. The lines were made clear. For the most part, America now stood in blindness to the things of God. That's no surprise, since dead men can't see. And those who do not know Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior are spiritually dead, blind, and unfeeling to the things of God.

What does this have to do with the economy? Someone is shouting, "It's the economy, stupid!" And so it does--at least, in part.

I heard the late Keith Green say that when a nation turns its back on God, God may strike that nation in three areas: in their economy, their environment, and with their enemies. The USA has experienced all three since the mid-1990's. The economic woes are just the third blow of three slaps to her face. Unless the churches repent and return, we will see worse. Unless the unsaved repent and believe, we will see worse.

In my next post I will tie this opinion to world relations. Meanwhile, we should pray and repent. . . .

Saturday, July 16, 2011

How to Deal with Unwanted Text Messages

I got a text message from a number I did not know. It's been going on for too long and I was about to get miffed. But I think the Lord gave me an answer for those unwanted calls/texts.

I am going to share with you the exchange; forgive his language:

Texter: Whats up bud

Me: Nothing, just reading the Revelation of Jesus Christ, given by God for man to know the beginning of the end.

Texter: Thats deep and to think i thought you were just a pretty face
Me: Dude, my feet are the beautiful parts, as Isaiah said: how beautiful are the feet of them who preach good news! & I preach it all I can.

Texter: Wow i think i might have the wrong number because the guy i'm lookin for is ruthless but fine as hell
Me: I'm sure U might, but U were led by the unseen hand of the Lord Jesus Christ, who will lift us out of hell if we turn from sin to Him. Come to 38th Ave Church!

He never responded again. He had been texting every weekend for a month. I felt impressed to witness the next time. It was fun! Try it!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Just sayin'...

The glorious celebration of the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America has come and gone. Friends and family celebrated all over the land. In fact, they were still celebrating at midnight last night where we live. Fireworks thundered around us. The dog trembled beside me; he really dislikes such noises ever since we left South America for the Southern America of the northern hemisphere. I think thunder and lightning, something he had never experienced, has a lot to do with it.

We celebrated at a lake some 90 miles north of here. It's a nice lake, with 28 miles of shoreline. My brother-in-law carried his very nice boat up there. The majority of the family climbed in it and took off for fun on the water. I remained behind to wet a hook with my Daiwa open faced spinning reel; it was the first time since 2002, or maybe '03, that I had been able to use that rig. I think a man can't claim to be a fisherman if he hasn't fished since then  (don't lose that thought; I'll go somewhere with it).

My first cast in 8 years resulted in what I did not want to see: my best spinner bait flying freely across the lake and into the water. Somehow my handsome 2-year-old grandson had managed to get tangled in the line while the pole was sitting by the chair they set him in. And the line subsequently wrapped around the handle. So when I cast the line, the whip action set in motion a freedom my lure could have only enjoyed as it hurtled across the open waters. The bass sat below the surface laughing, no doubt.

Those bass later amused themselves by striking lazily at my attempts to lure them with other spinners. They do that sometimes. They do it often with me. I could almost hear their gurgling laughter below the water...

After an hour of trying different lures, I gave up and went back to the clan who had gathered under the trees where we had set up our picnic. I got there in time to see them run off for round two on the water. More of us stayed behind that time.

And then came the rains. Not just rain. Thunder and lightning. The park ranger made us get into our cars (the boaters had returned--a wise move). My grandson climbed into our car, which he claims as his. His mom's car is hers; my wife's car is hers. But my SUV belongs to Michael; he cries out when he sees it, "MY car!" He sat in my lap, hands wrapped around the steering wheel, steering wildly. I thought his actions reminded me of a taxi driver in Lima.

We were in the car to evade the lighting and rain. That's when I felt it: water, slowly soaking into my lap. You can guess why. I decided I would stand in the rain for awhile... The lightning was preferrable to the sensation of that kind of water.

We were finally driven away from the lake by the storm cells. One would end, but another would form just as quickly. We saw no break in sight.

I went home reminded of two things: sometimes someone is going to pee on you when you least expect it. That's just part of life.

But worse, if you don't fish more than once or twice in a decade, you really aren't a fisherman.

And if you don't win souls any more often than that; neither are you a soul-winner.

I'm just sayin'...

Friday, June 03, 2011

Going with the Gospel

This Sunday Night I will give a charge to a local volunteer group going on mission to the highlands of Peru. This is their second trip to this particular place. The group is composed of more than 50! I tried to persuade them to divide their teams and go 4 times in the year. They love one another's company too much for that, I'm afraid. So they have chosen to go once a year, descending upon the small villages of the Quechua peoples where they will work.

I will share 4 adverbs modifying the word "go" with them. It is a description of the Great Commission, as found in Mt. 28:19, 20; and in Acts 1:8.

I will challenge them to go obediently. This is for the entire church's consumption. The Great Commission is not just for some; it's for all of us.

I will tell the group to go expectantly. We have received the power of the Holy Spirit. We must expect him to go with us--even to be there before us--as we share.

I will teach the group to go courageously. In Acts 4 the disciples prayed for the presence of God to enable them to share the word with boldness. When political and religious figures oppose the preachers, fear can set in. They must be courageous in their witness, even if they face opposition.

And I will teach the church to go concurrently. To answer those who say, "Aren't there enough lost people around us, so that we don't need to go over "there?" I will say to them that we must go beyond our walls locally and internationally as we can. There is not a linear, systematic logic to Acts 1:8. It does not say we should be witnesses in "Jerusalem, THEN Judea, THEN Samaria, THEN the uttermost parts of the world." The conjunction is "AND." It conveys a concurrent action.

Most of all I will tell them to go.

And I will tell it to you now: go. Preach the gospel. Just go.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Praying for our Nation

First it was Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama--among other southern states. This week it was Joplin, Mo and towns in Oklahoma. The heartache is extensive. The death toll continues upward. One woman dropped dead when she learned her father had died in the Joplin storm.
Undoubtedly, many are crying out, "Why us?! What did we do?" The first answer that must be given is that both good things and bad things come to the good and the evil (the righteous and the unrighteous) alike. Many good Christian families were ravaged by these storms. Many morally decent people lost everything. What God will do is show himself through their godly response to the horrible storms and disasters that have now tatooed their lives.
Yes, what is inside of us comes out in the worst of times. If a professing Christ-follower gets squeezed by disaster, like a large-fisted weight lifter may squeeze the juice out of an orange, whatever is in that professing Christ-follower is going to squirt out. If he or she is full of Jesus, then Jesus gets mixed in with the tears and anguish. People around that person see it and marvel at God's peace in that person's life.
But if we profess to follow Christ, but are in fact filled with deception, anger, bitterness, explosive wrath--and the like, then that is what squirts out with our response to disaster and devastation. I would add carefully that some are either thin-skinned or so full of these negative, sinful traits that it flows out rather quickly. Like the recent volcanoes in Iceland, they spew out ash and lava, disrupting things for anyone within miles of them.
While our compatriots suffer these disasters we who are untouched are held responsible to hold them up in prayer. We must pray for the God of peace to unleash His peace in their lives. And we may need to put feet to our prayers when we say, "God bless them!"
But start with praying...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pray for Israel

This is Israel's anniversary. While some in the world may rejoice over this news, there are others who are angry, dismayed, and even hostile to their existence. Some protest that Israel "stole" the land on which they now live. Others claim they displaced millions when the new nation of Israel was formed. Those are they ignore the convenient fact that the land was mostly unoccupied until word got out that Jewish people were moving in. Too many are praying for their demise.

Biblically, this was their land, given to them more than 3,000 years ago. Politically, the Jewish people were reinstated into their land in 1948. So whether you look politically or biblically, Israel is a legitimate nation living within their granted territorial borders.

Our position as Christ-followers cannot be clearer than God tells us in Scripture: ours is to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. This is the place to which Christ will one day return. God blesses those who bless Israel. He curses those who will curse it. Pray for Israel. Pray for peace. Pray for their repentance and faith in the Messiah, whose name is Jesus of Nazareth.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pray for Congress

There is little more important to ask of anyone who reads this, who calls this nation home, than to pray for our Congress. I hope many of you paid close attention to the recent debates over the current fiscal year's budget. You probably recall that, after a few continuing resolutions to avoid a governmental shutdown, we reached a point where they pulled off a "last-minute" deal to "save" the government. Our military were held hostage to the threat of withholding their salary if Dems and Repubs did not reach a deal. Finally, our president appeared with the great announcement that a deal had been reached. All was once more safe. We could breathe easy once more.

As the ink has dried and the dust has settled, one can see the truth of the whole matter. We were played. This was not a Democrat trick; this was not a Republic con. This now appears to be a carefully orchestrated move by both parties to create a win-win situation. Dems won and so did Repubs. Why does that matter? They won, but I believe at our expense. It made both sides look good to their constituents. Repubs could say, "We tried; this was the best deal we could eke out." Dems could say, "We tried to hold ground, but we had to give up a little."

The truth is, no one gave up anything. It was an accounting trick. We were duped. They see you, the voting taxpayer, as gullible.

We must pray for these men and women who now appear to be far more concerned with keeping their jobs than with corralling their lust for a big-dollar government. Pray for a change of heart for each one. God can do what looks impossible. He can turn their hearts as easily as he turns a river this way and that. I believe we can see it happen; but I believe it must begin with those who are Christ-followers. We must lead out in prayer.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pray for Japan

News reports now place death tolls above 10,000. Some scientists fear catastrophic aftershocks. We must pray for this crushed nation.

Baptist Global Response will help you channel your donations for relief in Japan. See for more information.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Pray for Japan

Re: Japanese earthquake/tsunami - Drudge reports the death toll in one area alone will top 1,000.

We must pray and we must put into practice our Christianity and seek to minister to these suffering people. For my brothers who would be tempted to point their fingers and proclaim that this is what happens to a non-Christian society, remember this: Jesus said the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. Don't cry judgment yet; I still see a log in some eyes....

Friday, February 25, 2011

Newt Gingrich Is Right

This week our president made a serious error. He chose to ignore his constitutional responsibilities because he does not like a law that was duly passed by our United States Congress. The legislature makes laws. The Judicial branch tests those laws' validity, and the executive branch administers those laws. When Mr. Obama chose to declare the Defense of Marriage Act an undefensable law, he chose to usurp both the legislative and judicial branches of our government. Newt Gingrich is correct: this is a clear violation of the presidential powers and responsibilities.

What should Christians do about this? They should do the same that all conscientious citizens should do: they should register their profound disagreement with these actions, which are possibly impeachable offenses. They should take one step beyond the common citizen; they should pray passionately for our legislature and judiciary to reprimand the president for the violation of his role. They should pray for the president to repent of his unconstitutional actions.

If Congress and the judiciary ignore this, they will run the risk of setting a very dangerous precedent. If the president can pick and choose which parts of the law and which laws he will enforce, it will be a short walk across the face of the Constitution to the Bill of Rights.

We already have one Hugo Chavez in our hemisphere. We don't need another.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Do you believe in the power of prayer?

Do you believe in praying? Do you believe in the power of prayer? Better said, do you believe in the power of God who answers prayer? Consider the following humorous story, related as true. It may or may not be. But it points out a fundamental weakness that grips all of us from time to time.



Texas Beer Joint Sues Church In Mt. Vernon, Texas. Drummond's Bar began construction on expansion of their building to increase their business.

In response, the local Baptist Church started a campaign to block the bar from expanding with petitions and prayers. Work progressed right up until the week before the grand reopening when lightning struck the bar and it burned to the ground!

After the bar burning to the ground by a lightning strike, the church folks were rather smug in their outlook, bragging about ??? the power of prayer???, until the bar owner sued the church on the grounds that the church . . ."was ultimately responsible for the demise of his building, either through direct or indirect actions or means."

In its reply to the court, the church vehemently denied all responsibility or any connection to the building's demise.

The judge read through the plaintiff's complaint and the defendant's reply, and at the opening hearing he commented………

"I don't know how I'm going to decide this, but it appears from the paperwork that we have a bar owner who believes in the power of prayer, and an entire church congregation that now does not."

True Story. [end quoted story]

What a story! What about you? Where would stand in this story?

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Faith Comes by Hearing

Yesterday (Monday) we loaded up after staff meeting and we headed to Meridian, MS to the evangelism conference. It was a longer trip that I remembered; we got there just in time to hear them dismiss us for lunch. But it was a worthwhile journey.

I stopped on the way in a town with gasoline much cheaper than in our town. To my delight, they offered ethanol-free gasoline. My vehicle despises ethanol. It burns up the plugs and plug wires. To my greater delight I met a man from Yemen. By the way he shook my hand after our conversation, I gathered that touching me was not what he wanted to do. Little did he know that I made a point of taking his hand to establish contact with him. Neither does he know that our evangelism pastor just ordered a supply of tracts in Arabic. I will be back soon to see my new acquaintance.

The next divine encounter was the joy of sitting at the feet of three very good speakers/preachers. My heart was stirred. The men held up a mirror for me to see myself. They held up God's standards. I needed to see it. I was hungry for that. Some may wonder how a preacher can possibly be hungry for preaching; after all, he hears himself each week. That is precisely the problem. We hear ourselves. If you hear yourself long enough you will become the standard by which you measure all others. Elijah fell for that. He told God he was all alone in his work and tired of it. Every preacher needs to sit at the feet of others from time to time. It does not happen often enough, in my opinion.

The more I heard, the more excited I became. Faith truly comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. So be it!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The World, or Something Like It

I am stateside now. I have not seen an international airport for over 9 months. I will travel again, but not to live in another nation.

Still, for me, the world is my parrish, much as it was for John Wesley. I find myself tormented at times over what goes on in the world. I read world newspapers (online, of course) to see what I can see about places that the Lord places on my heart. At other times I find myself rejoicing; God is still at work.

One place that has caught my mind of late, as it should have, is Egypt. I know people there. I can't and won't say who it is I know. But I find myself concerned for them. It's not a safe place these days. In spite of that insecurity, I think the Lord is up to something that will shape the final days before his great appearing.

But for the sake of those who bear the good news, often with great peril to their lives, I would ask you to pray for peace in Egypt. Pray for the safety of those believers who live there. And most of all, pray for the gospel to advance in the face of the current friction.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Power of the Word of God

I just read the following from Baptist Press. I trust it blesses you as much as it did me.

Chinese woman leads dozens to Christ with 70¢ tract

By Sue Sprenkle

Jan 28, 2011

THAILAND (BP)--No one notices the young Chinese woman silently crying in the back pew. It's the only place she finds solace from her deep depression and fear of death.

She's not even sure why she sits in this church every afternoon; her communist education and Buddhist religion teach against a belief in God. Yet something keeps drawing Lily Wang* here.

She pulls a Bible from the pew. It's not in her native Mandarin, but she flips it open anyway. She learned to read a little Thai after moving to Thailand a few years ago to teach school, but she hasn't learned enough to really understand this.

So many questions cloud her mind that she finally musters enough courage to speak to a man carrying the same book. He brushes past the petite woman and goes about his business. The rejection reinforces everything she's feeling -- no one is interested in her; no one cares.

Distraught and angry, Wang walks to the foot of the cross and screams, "Are you real?

"I don't want to die. I want to live," she cries. "Please give me a way."

Wang storms out of the church, vowing never to return.


A few weeks later, Wang is sitting at her desk preparing lessons when a student rushes into her international school's classroom.

"Teacher! Teacher!" the girl exclaims. Wang jumps up, startled and concerned, until she hears, "I found your book."

The student hands her a soiled booklet. She found it in the trashcan on the playground. Wang scrunches her nose against the stench and explains it isn't hers. The girl must throw it back in the trash.

"But teacher, it must be your book," the girl insists. "It's written in Chinese."

Wang quickly scans the first page. Her heart leaps. The story is about Jesus' death and resurrection. She thanks her student for the book and sits down to read. The booklet, a tract called "Song of a Wanderer," answers every question she whispered in the church. The information is shocking. Her education since childhood taught only evolution, but this booklet claims life started from a complete human form, not a single cell.

"This has to be true," she mutters to herself.

The book opens a new world for Wang as she discovers a Creator-God. She stuffs the booklet in her back pocket and takes it everywhere, spending every spare second reading and rereading.

For weeks, her whole world revolves around the torn book. Finally, Wang decides she needs more. The booklet quotes Scripture throughout; she wants a Bible -- but she has no idea how to find one. In her home country, China, you can't just go out and buy one at the corner bookstore. Wang decides to write to the address on the tract requesting a Bible.

"No matter the cost, I will pay for the Bible," she adds to the letter, fearing the Christians might reject her again.

"I don't really believe anything will happen," she thinks, preparing herself for disappointment. "It will be just like when I prayed in the church -- nothing. God isn't interested."

Wang can't help herself, though. She watches the mail daily, but nothing arrives. Just as she's about to give up hope, a woman speaking Mandarin calls. Southern Cross Project, a Chinese Bible distribution ministry, received her letter. The woman offers to deliver the Bible in person.

Over coffee, Wang learns that as she was screaming at God months ago in the church, some American mission volunteers were distributing Mandarin Bibles and Christian literature packets to Chinese tourists. Somehow, one of these books made it across town to her.

"I'm in God's hands. He does care about me," Wang admits. "I need to accept these teachings."


After her meeting, the teacher rushes home to call her mother in China. She excitedly recounts her new discovery and urges her mother to tell her sister.

"How can I share if I do not understand it myself?" her mother asks.

It hasn't occurred to Wang that her uneducated mother might not understand the tract. It speaks to educated Chinese, those who learned about evolution and were taught to doubt God's existence. Wang wants her family to find the same Creator-God, so, she calls everyday, reading from the tract and talking about God. By the end of the book, her mother and sister also decide to follow Jesus.

The first time Wang visits a Chinese church in her city, she notices everyone gathered around two women. The discussion about God heats up but the two remain stone-faced, unbending in their denial of God's existence.

Wang pulls the precious tract out of her purse and discreetly hands it to the women. They read parts of it together and discuss it with the young teacher. Both ask Jesus into their hearts.

Wang takes the soiled booklet everywhere she goes. Even when she travels to England to work on a master's degree, she slides it into her carry-on. While in Europe, she uses the tract to lead more than 20 people to Christ during her two years of study -- not to mention 20 others in Thailand.

When Wang goes to China for vacation, her childhood best friend, Chen Wu*, notices something different about her. Wang starts to tell Wu about the change in her life but her friend stops her mid-sentence. Wu doesn't want to hear; she thinks God is only for lucky people. Rather than argue, Wang comes up with a compromise.

"If you promise to read this book, I promise not to talk about God until you bring the topic to me," Wang says, inwardly grimacing about leaving her precious, worn-out book in China.

Her friend agrees, not really believing something that looks like a piece of trash really holds answers for her life. It's months before Wu opens the book. But when she does, Wu reads the entire thing in one sitting, then immediately calls Wang. They kneel together -- one in Thailand, the other in China -- and Wang helps her best friend invite Jesus into her heart.

"Isn't it amazing how God uses a piece of trash to call people to Him?" Wang asks her friend about the 70-cent tract. Then she adds, "Now, give me my book back!"

Wu ignores her. She now uses the booklet to tell others in China how her life changed. She's lost count of how many have prayed with her to receive Christ.


*Name changed. The next Southern Cross project, Jan. 30 to Feb. 6, will be live-blogged at You can join six volunteer teams as they pray and distribute packets of Christian literature. To learn how to get involved in the Southern Cross Project, e-mail Sue Sprenkle has been travelling the globe for more than a decade as a writer and photographer for the International Mission Board. She currently resides in Southeast Asia.

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