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Showing posts with label Missions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Missions. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession . . .

Peter to whom Christ handed the keys to the Kingdom at first failed miserably, even denied Christ and following the Crucifixion seemed to prefer fishing to preaching. He was impulsive—not a good trait for any leader—cowardly at times, and had a tendency towards violence (think of poor Marcus’ ear which he lobed off) and was therefore, in my opinion, a most unlikely candidate for any form of leadership, certainly not that of handling the responsibility for the keys to the Kingdom.

Now, just think about it for a moment, would you have chosen Peter to be the inaugural speaker on the Day of Pentecost based on what you knew about him prior to that point? I think not. It doesn’t stop there either. If you were going to mention someone’s name more than that of another would you have picked Peter over Paul? Well, the facts are that Peter is mentioned more times in the New Testament than Paul. Think of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15—James presided, but Peter cast the deciding vote. Who would have ever imagined that based on what the Scripture tells us prior to the Resurrection?

We Pentecostals, I believe, love to vaunt the charisma of Paul—he gives us a basis for our theology that is his epistles are our refuge. Peter is kind of put on a side burner, as it were. Yet, it was Peter not Paul that was commissioned to introduce Christ to the Gentiles and it was he and that little band that went with him that gave testimony to the fact that even Gentiles was acceptable to God as evidenced by the fact that they received the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues.

I will confess, I have always been more fascinated with Peter than Paul. Perhaps, it is because I can really identify with Peter.

Not only can I identify with Peter, but I think that his epistles have a lot to offer us. I recall that during the short time that I pastored here in the States I seemed to gravitate towards first and second Peter, particularly Second Peter because he seemed to be so pastoral and practical—at least that is the way I saw it.

Well, all of that to say this,

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. (1 Peter 1: 1-2)

There are a couple of observations here that I would like to make.

Firstly, we must take into consideration that the author was not just an ordinary person who decided to send out a newsletter to a group of friends.

This was a special messenger, an Apostle, as a matter of fact many feel the chief Apostle commissioned by Christ. So, although on the surface it appears that it may have just been yet another newsletter or pastoral letter designed to cheer up the flock, it was not. The whole content of the letter was first and foremost God’s message, His letter to these men and women scattered throughout that part of the ancient world.

Secondly, we must also note these people had been scattered abroad—that is, as the original Greek indicates, they were sown, or scattered like dried leaves abroad without seemly a purpose. In other words, on surface it would appear that they were just more of the same nameless, and faceless people that struggle through life from day to day without an obvious purpose except to survive the best they can.

This is not the case, however. Notice it says in essence that God the Father was aware of their plight long before they were even born. He knew and He cared; therefore, He did what?

He set them aside for His holy purposes. He sanctified (that is set them aside for His holy purposes) by the Spirit. This was a spiritual matter, a spiritual decision. He knew what he was doing, even though at the time they may not have known and even complained of their circumstances.

So, one good thing we can learn about this is that nothing, absolutely nothing ever happens to us at random. God knows, and cares. So, we must be thankful. In that regards Peter writes (1 Peter 1:3-5):

“Let us thank the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It was through His loving-kindness that we were born again to a new life and have a hope that never dies. This hope is ours because Jesus was raised from the dead.  We will receive the great things that we have been promised. They are being kept safe in heaven for us. They are pure and will not pass away. They will never be lost.  You are being kept by the power of God because you put your trust in Him and you will be saved from the punishment of sin at the end of the world. (1 Peter 1:3-5)

Then in the very next verse, we find that Peter says,

With this hope you can be happy even if you need to have sorrow and all kinds of tests for a while. (1 Peter 1:6)

Many times these ancient text leave us baffled. Well, we say to ourselves in this instance, I haven’t been scattered abroad in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia—as a matter of fact, I am not even sure where these places are, so how may this apply to me, today?

Well, first of all, you may feel that you are a nobody like these nameless Christians, just another Christian that lives in an insignificant little fishing village or that you are lost in the masses of a great city like New York, Dallas or Delhi.. A nobody. No purpose. Just flung as if by chance by the forces of fate and dropped without purpose in some small remote place, or lost in a forest of anonymous faces. But that is not true.

You have been chosen by God. You are someone important in His eyes. As a matter of fact, just like these people that we have read about today,

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10)

You may wonder, why you of all people was chosen? What is your mission in life? Is there any purpose? Well one of the salient reasons is found in verse 9 which was just quoted. You were chosen as God’s special possession

“[T]hat you may declare the praises of him that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

That’s your purpose. Your purpose is to share with others what has happened to you, and help them understand that this great truth offers hope. The hope of a wonderful treasure that has been reserved in Heaven for us! (1 Peter 1:4)

That is the good news. The Gospel.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Don't sweat the small things . . .

Funny thing, my wife asked me to explain the difference between Lutherans, Anglicans, and Methodists the other day.

"Well," I replied, "for one thing they are not Catholic, that's for sure."

The discussion continued: "Then what are they? Protestants?"

"Well," I continued, this time trying to mimic Ronald Reagan when he used to tilt his head, smile and say his "Wells." I thought for a minute and said, "No, Anglicans are not considered Protestants."

"What are they, then?" she asked, looking a little puzzled.
I then explained that they were schismatics, but still in dialogue with Rome. Then I added, "Actually, Methodist and Anglican doctrine are very similar."

The questions continued until I finally said, "You know what? There's not that much difference in any of these that could not be solved with a little charity. At least not enough difference to keep any of them out of Heaven, and I have a feeling that there will be just as many of them as will be Assemblies of God people and, yes, a lot of others that we never expected to see on the other side, either!"

Why do I say this? Because, take for instance the Calvinist position on grace and accepting Christ as Lord and Savior, is our decision to accept Christ really an irresistible tug of grace to do so, or not? The Methodist and we Assemblies of God say that there's a tug there but certainly not irresistible. Not so, say our Baptist and Presbyterian friends because to allow that infringes on the sovereignty of God; as if, God were not also fully capable of relinquishing His hold on our freedom to give us a choice in the matter.

After saying all of that, we ask ourselves, what difference does all of this theological wrangling make?Not much, in my opinion. The end game is still the same, you're either Heaven or Hell bound in either case. So, why get all in a tizzy about it?

I know. I know. "Because," I hear someone say, "'em Baptist believe once saved always saved and that give the excuse to just do what they want to sin-wise, 'cause they're gonna get to Heaven whatever."

Really? I've met a lot of Baptist in my life, some among my own relatives, and I even attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (the larges seminary in the world at that time) and I have just to meet a blatantly sinful Baptist that tried to wiggle out of the consequences with the lame excuse of "Well, once saved, always saved." No! A Baptist conscience compels them toward repentance as does ours. On the other hand, do I agree with the Baptist theologically? Absolutely not, but the point is, these petty differences, by in large, are just that: petty differences.

"Well," I hear my imaginary friend say, "teaching that you can sin like the Devil and still make it to Heaven is just wrong."

Sure it is, but when you get right down to it we are all sinners on our way to Heaven--at least that's the way I see it. I've heard of a lot of perfect people, saints and all, but I really have never met one, including Mother Teresa. At least not good enough for Heaven, unless they accepted the fact that they were made ready for Heaven on the merits of His death not what good they had done.

That's what it is all about. "Grace. Grace. God's grace," as the song goes. Baptist, Methodists, Anglicans, Assemblies of God, what have you, it all about grace, God's grace. That's what missions is all about, too. Not making people better actors in some earthy morality play, but sinners in search of a savior, whom we have met: Jesus is his name. Hallelujah! Isn't that wonderful news? We know the Savior not just our Savior, but the Savior who died for the whole world, every last people that has or will ever live!

So, let's band together and stop majoring in the minors and vow that in the essentials we will strive for unity, in non-essentials we will exercise liberty, and above all things we will practice charity.

I am yours for the journey,

      Jim R/~

Friday, June 28, 2013

What's Trayvon Martin or George Zimmerman got to do with missions, anyway?

News these days is really disturbing. It seems as if our country takes two steps backward for every one step it takes forward. Abortionists seem to be more entrenched than ever, as do the attacks on traditional family values. Violence and mob protest plague our country. If a small minority disagrees with policy or laws then that justifies disrupting and in some cases taking over the state legislatures, or school board meetings, or wherever something they disagree with that is going on.

Christians are repeatedly portrayed as bigots with the brains of Neanderthals by the liberal media simply because they uncompromisingly defend their faith. Political hack James Carville—who engineered Clinton’s successful campaigns for the presidency—best typifies the attitude of these politically correct bigots when he writes:
"[The] so-called debate over evolution boils down to the Republicans invisible-angel theory of gravity against the Democrats' 150 years of science and the U.S. Constitution position."[i]
Carville is shifting, as you can see, the argument from the facts to a biased political agenda to issues that on the surface do not seem all that important except for religious purposes; however, the man’s not dumb. He realizes that unless liberals are unable to undermine a Christian’s faith in the sovereignty of Almighty Godwho is the creator and sustainer of allthen his liberal agenda will cave in on matters like abortion, evolution, same-sex marriages, and a host of other choice issues.

The strange thing—at least to me—is that politicians like Nancy Pelosi, Hillary, and, yes, our president can separate politics from “their personal faith.” (Well, on second thought, it is not all that strange since James reminds of that a double minded man is unstable in all his ways, doesn’t he?) Nancy chose not to have an abortion and gave birth to five, but says it is okay for others to abort if they so choose. It’s their right, she upholds. Hillary and the president have voiced similar affirmations, also.

Now, my question is, since when did God give us permission to murder at will simply because an indefensible unborn child is an unwelcome and inconvenient intrusion on our selfishness? I know, I know, we have equal rights under the Constitution. Equal rights to kill, as in abort an innocent child? I think not. Equal rights to brainwash our children in our public schools to undermine traditional religious values? No, I think not. Respect is one thing. Censoring and degrading anyone who disagrees with the liberal politically correct agenda is something else, entirely.

Yes, we have rights. But no state has the right—perhaps the might, but not the right!—to force or coerce a politically correct agenda down anyone’s throat. As Lincoln reminded us at Gettysburg,
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
So, just to set the record straight, I am in no way suggesting that we abandon these fundamental principles. What I am saying, however, is that it works both ways and Christians or anyone else should not be ostracized simply because of their religious beliefs.

Now, in closing I would like to discuss how this whole Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman trial fits into my thinking on all of the above. I include Trayvon Martin as on trial, too, since he is being tried in the court of public opinion. And, if George Zimmerman walks out scot-free, Trayvon Martin is ipso facto convicted posthumously—not of murder, of course, but of provoking the altercation. This trial is not all about murder; it is about latent guilt and lingering racial prejudices as well. Let’s face it; as far as Trayvon was concerned a “freaky cracker” was following him. And, who can convince me that if he had been a white boy going to visit his father that George would have followed him? So, in a real sense, racial prejudice killed Trayvon and will most likely put Zimmerman behind bars, if he is not a very fortunate man indeed. So, who’s to blame here? Society? Well, yes, in a sense society is to blame. I don’t think any thinking person can deny that.

The question, therefore, remains: “What are we going to do about it?”

You want the answer? Well, here it is; although, I don’t think most of us will like it. Society will do nothing, or at the most very little constructively. Society will just rock along like a rotten melon in a pond. However, as individuals we can do something. We can do some really deep soul searching. We need to ask ourselves—it we haven’t already—does someone’s skin color really matter; or on a broader plane should gays and lesbians have fewer rights than we heterosexual do? Or does a woman have a right to abort an unborn child; or is abortion wrong under any and all circumstances? Now, we must also ask ourselves, which of these examples among others of similar debate do we feel is worth dying for? And, if they are not worth dying for, why are we so vociferously defending them?  Are these life and death issues?

Perhaps, some will answer, yes, these are life and death issues, and I am willing to die for them. Where, and how? Surely we are not at the armed combat stage; although, Francis Schaeffer predicted it would come to that. My feeling is that not only can we do something about it, we must.

First of all, we can and we must pray. Prayer is not a cop out either. It’s tough work when done properly. Secondly, we must keep informed, so that we know how to pray. Thirdly, we must put legs to our prayers. We must do something. Anything reasonable, as long as it is non-violent. We can petition. We can protest. We can protect. We can proclaim. People simply do not get the message unless they are told. I am speaking of the gospel message here.

My primary responsibility is foreign missions by calling, but I am committed to do what I can not only abroad, but here on American soil. Because, if we lose America the rest of the world will fall in short order to death, Hell and destruction. Yes, we are rotten to the core; but name me one other nation of any political significance that is not.

Yours For A Greater End Time Harvest,
P.S. Continue to pray for our ministry in the former Soviet Union and in Southern Asia. 

[i] Carville, James, 40 More Years: How the Democrats will Rule the Next Generation:Simon & Schusterp.93 

What We're Doing
Teaching in Sri Lanka and Russia
 What We Need
We must pay for all travel expenses, room and board while in route. 
This amounts to:
Sri Lanka—$3,449 for travel and other incidental expenses
Russia—$1,900 in travel expenses while in the former Soviet Union
Total $5,349 for 3 months ministry
Please keep in mind that we minister entirely by faith. We are not underwritten by any church or organization.
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Monday, June 24, 2013

A Question of Birth: "Why were you born?"

Chuck Swindoll once remarked, “There are two great events in your life. One is the day you were born; and the other is when you asked ‘Why?’”

Strangely, the ‘Why’ has never been a problem with me. I have known as long as I can remember that my vocational calling was to serve God in one capacity or another. When I was around 5 years old I promised the little girl next door that I would give her an apple if she would listen to me preach. She agreed, and I must say was an attentive audience of one. Problem is, when I handed her the apple across the fence, she took a bite out of the apple and then announced, “I am a Catholic, and I don’t believe a word of it!” And, with that she ran towards her home with me in hot pursuit.

Galatians 6:7
Fortunately—for her, and me, too, perhaps—she made it inside and locked the door behind her. So, to really get back at her, I splattered the whole side of her newly painted home. That gave me a great deal of satisfaction, especially since it was white and the black mud really showed up.

Following that, as mother reminded me years later; I went home and immediately went to my least favorite spot: a chair in the corner. Mother then asked, “Jimmy, what did you do?”

I said, “You’ll find out pretty soon,” and just continued to sit there.

Well, it wasn’t long before I heard the girl’s mother stomping across our back porch. And, of course, the rest is history.
I learned two things that day: one was I wasn’t Catholic, and number two was that it was sure a lot easier muddying the side of the house up than cleaning it off.

Life is like that isn’t it? Sometimes—most times for some—our purposes are noble, but we just can’t see beyond mudding the situation up when things do not go our way.

Many a pastor has muddied up a congregation or particular members because things just didn’t go as he expected. Perhaps, his apple had a worm in it, or they just weren’t ready for his sermonic treat—not hungry enough or whatever. In any event things were only made worst by his reaction. This applies to missionaries and other Christians as well; so, no I am not picking on pastors since this applies to all.

Years ago, I pastored a small church in Southern California. The district officials had encourage me to take the pastorate with one of them remarking, “Jim, you can’t make it any worst, they have had 19 pastors in the last 20 years.”

Upon arrival, I found a pretty sizable group in the church that were not contributing one cent to the church. In my first board meeting I asked why and was told that these members were some of the finest in the congregation previously, but absolutely detested my predecessor so they sabotaged anything he was for—things like missions, funds for outreach, the Sunday school, choir, what have you, if he were for it they were against it. Of course, one of the most potent tools in their arsenal was money. So, they tried starving the poor fellow out and when that didn’t work the ballot did.

He was gone, and probably for good cause. The way that they went about it, however, only muddied up the situation and acerbated the problem. It took us months to recover.

Why do I even mention all of this? Well, simply for this cause: Perhaps, one of us is dissatisfied with the way Springfield "runs" things, or you think your pastor is not up to par, or whatever; if so, please don't muddy up the situation by withdrawing your gifts, because if you do, you are hurting the Kingdom of God. 

Yours For A Greater End Time Harvest,

P.S. Continue to pray for our ministry in the former Soviet Union and in Southern Asia. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What's all this hoopla about that is going on in the church?

Interestingly enough, I hardly remember a word of most sermons I hear. Last Sunday, however, Bonnie and I were fortunate to attend Northplace Church in Sachse, Texas and listen to a masterpiece by Pastor Bryan Jarrett. He and Chuck Swindoll in my books are the best. Naturally, being Pentecostal I tilt towards Bryan; although, both in my opinion are two of God’s great gifts to the church.

Now, I don’t want to pick on anyone, but hey, isn’t it nice to hear someone break the bread of life and feed you from God’s holy word?

God forgive us for allowing our pastors, yes, our pastors—not all, but far too many—to lapse into the entertainment and feel good mode which they add to what little charisma they have and pass it off as preaching. Preaching is all about the good news that Jesus died, rose from the dead, and is coming back to receive a spotless bride. Now, I know that sounds old fashioned, but pray tell me can you envision one of the Apostles of Christ every preaching a feel good sermon based on the latest book that they have just read?

The problem with this craze—that is, these charisma driven motivational sermons that lay out the current me generation “how-to-become-successful” fad in 10 Easy Steps is that they work! Yeah, you read that right. They work. They succeed in making people even more of a bunch of narcissists than they were previously. Nothing like appealing to ones self-centeredness to draw a crowd.

I can just hear someone say, “All right, now that you have got that off your chest, Jim, what’s the point?”
The point is simple. Church services in many of our churches have morphed into little more than a pep rally crowd pumped up by a team of cheerleaders (aka, worship leaders) jumping around to the drum beat of a marching band. May God forgive us.

And the results?

Well, the results are that this crazy stuff is contagious. It spreads. Oceans know no distance. Mission fields are created everywhere it spreads, too. Because, I am convinced, that just a whole lot of these otherwise fine people eventually lose out on God. I say this because there is absolutely no substitute for His Spirit to fill the void in our life and shallow sermons and whipped up emotions will not satisfy a thirsty soul. Only God can do that.

Friends, we need to pray for a real revival. That’s for sure. 

En agape Christou,

Friday, May 03, 2013

One of the most disturbing verses of Scripture that I find in the entire Bible is found in Luke 18:8 in which Jesus asks,

“However, shall the Son of Man find faith on the earth when he returns?”

Matthew Henry's Whole Bible Commentary says this concerning this verse:
“The world will grow no better, no, not when it is drawing towards its [final] period. Bad it is, and bad it will be, and worst of all just before Christ's coming; the last times will be the most perilous.”

Now bear with me as I continue to build the case as Matthew Henry sees it. In that regard he goes on to point out that during the last days just before Christ’s return several things will be evident. These are:

“First, Wicked people will begin to defy it, and to say, Where is the promise of his coming? [2 Pt. 3:4.] They will challenge him to come (Isa. 5:10; Amos 5:19); and his delay will harden them in their wickedness, Mt. 24:48. Secondly, Even his own people will begin to despair of it, and to conclude he will never come, because he has passed their reckoning. God's time to appear for his people is when things are brought to the last extremity, and when Zion begins to say, The Lord has forsaken me. [See Isa. 49:14; 40:27.] But this is our comfort, that, when the time appointed comes, it will appear that the unbelief of man has not made the promise of God of no effect.”

Did you get that? If not, re-read it until the words permeate the very fiber of your soul.  He says in essence that wickedness will flaunt their wickedness and tantalize believers who in turn will become discouraged even to the point of despair—this, however, he continues, should be to our great comfort since it is final proof that Christ return is imminent.

Think about this for a while. If it stirs you heart like it does mine, a torrent of disturbing emotions will fill your thoughts and will tear you up on the inside. I ask, however, is this the beginning of the end? Are we, indeed, living in the closing days of history as we know it? I dare not set a time for Christ’s return, as only God the Father knows that. However, I do know though that Paul warned us to:
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. [2 Timothy 3:1-5]
There is enough material in that warning to write a thousand articles or preach as many sermons – that’s for sure.  Let me, however, concentrate on a couple of recent events that I think should pique our interest even more on the topic of Christ’s return.

As you know, the Boston Marathon was sadly disrupted by militant Islamicists—or perhaps, I should say, “cold blooded murders” since no thought was given as to whom these terrorists would kill. Apparently they stalked Boston in search of a soft target at which the maximum causalities would be affected regardless of age or background. Everything in sight was a legitimate target as far as these Islamicists were concerned. I don’t know about most, but I found it extremely revealing that two “all American boys” [as some in the press would have us believe] could look and act so unassuming when the explosions went off. Which begs the question as to ‘why’ or ‘how’ could anyone be so nonchalant as they mingled with the crowd to set off the devices? Offer any explanation you desire; however, if you take the Devil out of this equation, I’m really not convinced because in my opinion there is a demonic aspect here somewhere.  

So, it’s not all that surprising that even Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s in-laws were baffled by their son-in-law’s aberrant behavior. Nothing, in my opinion, is abnormal if you factor in that the Devil was a murderer from the beginning. [John 8:44]

Yes, these, indeed, are perilous times with dangerous people who lie in wait to destroy our nation and Christian civilization along with it.
Our whole secular culture breeds dissent against God and common decency. Revolting practices are not just condoned but sanctioned; yes, even promoted by an over sympathetic broadcast media. When breaking news is reduced to when some professional athlete comes out of the closet, I say it is time to read the handwriting on the wall. Perilous times are here.
I am compelled to ask, in the words of Psychiatrist Karl Menninger, “Whatever became of sin?”  As a matter of fact, whatever became of what we used to call as a boy common horse sense?

Murder a defenseless unborn child? Go for it, as long as it has not survived any longer than 26 months in the womb. Sell automatic machine guns at some gun show to an otherwise certifiable nut without a background check just so the average Joe doesn’t have to bother getting one? Nothing wrong with that, either. [Oh, yeah, by the way, I forgot to mention, “Make sure you pass your test for your driver’s license, as you wouldn’t want to get caught without one!”]  Marriage sanctity? Sure, but wait while I rewrite the Bible on that one so Adam and Steve can exchange rings. Shall I continue? I think not. Surely, this is enough to tell us that we have rewritten the definition of sin as a nation. And, common sense? There’s none. Or very little at the most.

Norman Geisler, I think hits the nail squarely on the head in describing these times when he writes,
Someone has illustrated the difference between the three periods of thought by the image of a referee.  The Pre-modern referee says: “I call them like they are.”  The Modern referee claims, “I call them like I see them.”  But the Post-modern referee declares: “They are nothing until I call them.”

The problem is, as we see in this Post-modern era, that most do call it right, if they call it at all. And, most often the latter is the case. Granted, we are not commissioned as policemen to enforce every little nuance of the moral law; but on the other hand we are in Christ both prophet and priest—indeed, we are called not just to enter the Holy of Holies, but also to serve as prophetic witnesses against sin in any shape or form it raises its ugly head.

Friends, we must pray as never before; and we must work while it is still yet day, for the night is coming in which no man shall work. We must also pray because we love our country and we want our nation to survive [James 1:15] as a God fearing one, and as a beacon of hope for the poor and oppressed peoples everywhere.

May God grant us the courage to speak out, as well as live a life of holiness as a witness against sin.

Thanks, and do continue to pray for us as we minister in the Ukraine.


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Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Retirement is for the birds!

Retirement is for the birds!

We did we ever get the notion that when someone reaches a certain age that they must hang it up and settle into a rocking chair.

I'll be 75 in less than a month. December 3rd to be precise. And, I am not about to retire. Why should I? If we really believe the Bible, as we say we do, then pray tell me where you find the word "retirement" there?

It's not there. Believe me, I’ve checked.

The sad part is that the Church has bought into this worldly idea and made it policy. How ridiculous! Imagine some board or committee of bureaucrats setting one of the Apostles down, say John the Revelator, for instance, and saying, "Well, Brother John, you have reached the ripe old age of 90 so you have got to retire. It's policy. We even committeeized and prayed about it, and we just believe that you must step aside and make room for a new generation. Besides that, you've just about worked yourself to a frazzle, and you need a good long rest! So, here's your social security check, good bye. It's been good to know you."

What foolishness.

Now, if John were half senile, hobbling around on a walker and desperately trying to figure out what all those strange visions he was seeing were, not knowing where he was or what time of the year it was, then, I say, "Okay. John, sit down and let's have a nice long talk about how you need to take full advantage of Medicare advantage policy and just enjoy what little life you have left."

No, I am not being facetious. I am dead serious.

Abraham was 75 before he really got started. Today we would have written him off and shipped him and poor old Sarah off to the adult care center. Caleb? Caleb would not have stood a chance. Give him a mountain? Are you kidding? More likely he would have been handed a room key and shuttle down to the old folks home in Hebron to relax under a fig tree.

My suggestion? Pure and simple. Listen to God before you strategize and mess with someone's ministry. One's call to the ministry and ordination is not for someone to second guess just because a certain age number is reached. I say, quit meddling in God's business.

Not sure how many folks (at least those that need to know) will read or agree with this; but as I say, it is “One Man’s Opinion.”

And, I might add, the correct one at that!   Smile

So, this is just to let you know that we are headed out once again in January, courtesy of partners just like you and the wonderful opportunity to volunteer and channel what little funds we receive through approved AGWM channels.

As a team, you and I are going to make it happen!


P.S. Like to forward this to a friend? Click here!

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The Gospel According To Ringling Brothers Circus

The longer I live the more I am aware that religious enthusiasm in general is cyclical. 

Ron Sellers, president of Ellison Research, has noted that,

“In the typical Protestant church, about one out of every eight people in the congregation has been attending that church for less than a year.”

Sellers then asked:

“What should this mean for the typical church? Does the church have a strategic plan for involving newcomers in the life of the congregation? Does the church leadership make the assumption that everyone in the church knows how the church works and what it believes? These things are very important when so many relatively new people are in the typical congregation.”

Sellers also noted that it would be a mistake for individual churches or denominations to assume a level of loyalty among attendees that may not exist.

“What should this mean for the typical church? Does the church have a strategic plan for involving newcomers in the life of the congregation? Does the church leadership make the assumption that everyone in the church knows how the church works and what it believes? These things are very important when so many relatively new people are in the typical congregation.”

According to statistics, Pentecostal and Charismatics churches are no exception, either. Polls indicate that although we experience the greatest growth, we also have some of the largest turn over. Why is that?

In general, it has been my observation that seeker friendly churches are among the highest in the rapid turnover category. Could this also explain why we have trouble keeping our people?

I think, perhaps, so.

Denominational loyalty is highest among mainline and evangelical churches; and for a reason, I believe. Primarily, I think because of structure and polity—in a word, their ecclesiology. To cut a long story short, they can be depended upon for stability.

Now, hear me out on this one.

People embrace stability, particularly in an institution (fellowship, if you please) that claims to hold fast to eternal values.

Flippant choruses, accompanied by high strung guitars lead by barely converted punk rockers may attract youth, but it will not keep them. They will eventually be lost to the next high, and unfortunately left with very little, if any doctrinal content in their high decibel numbed brains.

Sometimes, quite honestly, I feel as if I have been to a circus; and a loud one at that, where you have to stand up all the time to see the action. The gospel according to Ringling Brothers may appeal to some, but it certainly is not my cup of tea.

Fun is fun. But that kind of fun is not church.

Sermons to entertain rather than inform are also a cause. Cute little thematic, catching titles upon which a feel good sermon structure is a disgrace to the ministry. People may not want the word of God—although, I think they really do, deep down inside—but the certainly need the Word.

Show me a church with stability, and I will show you a church whose pastor is a man or woman of the word of God. God forbid that we should ever use His word as a springboard to propagate our silly agenda for a seeker friendly atmosphere.

I am reminded of an observation that Christ made after watch some children playing on the streets of Jerusalem, he asked,
“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces . . . .” Matt. 11:16

Use all the  gimmicks available, or imaginable and this will not produce one iota of spiritual substance that has the power to sustain lasting loyality to Christ or the church. Christ in his High Priestly prayer as recorded in John 17 prays,
[Father], sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17

Anything less is spiritual malpractice, in my opinion.

Thank you for taking time out from your schedule to read this, and may God give you wisdom, understanding and courage to walk righeously before our God.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Quench Not The Spirit

I am always amazed at how un-Pentecostal we Pentecostals have become.

Take for example the fixation on the 10/40 Window approach to missions by some pastors and missions committees.

But, let's not get ahead of the story here. In case you are not familiar with the 10/40 Window craze, let me explain.

According to the Joshua Project who are leading authorities on the subject,

The 10/40 Window is the rectangular area of North Africa, the Middle East and Asia approximately between 10 degrees north and 40 degrees north latitude. The 10/40 Window is often called "The Resistant Belt" and includes the majority of the world's Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists. The original 10/40 Window included only countries with at least 50% of their land mass within 10 and 40 degrees north latitude. The revised 10/40 Window includes several additional countries, such as Indonesia, that are close to 10 or 40 degrees north latitude and have high concentrations of unreached peoples. See the original and revised country lists to the right. An estimated 4.57 billion individuals residing in approximately 8,622 distinct people groups are in the revised 10/40 Window. The 10/40 Window is home to some of the largest unreached people groups in the world such as the Shaikh, Yadava, Turks, Moroccan Arabs, Pushtun, Jat and Burmese.

The 10/40 Window has several important considerations: first, the historical and Biblical significance; second, the least evangelized countries; third, the unreached people groups and cities; fourth, the dominance of three religious blocs; fifth, the preponderance of the poor; sixth, the strongholds of Satan within the 10/40 Window.

Therefore, the argument follows, this is where sensible people put their missions' dollar. The problem with putting all of missions' dollars into this basket is that historically it is not Biblical. True, much of early Christianity focused in that area ~ that is, the original, not the revised 10/20 window. However, the command was to go into all the world, not just that little pocket of people who just happened to be occupying the towns and cities along convenient trade routes that fit into the then undefined 10/40 window.

Now, just stop and think a minute with me. This approach excludes all of Latin America (pop. 572,039,894), but includes The Maldive Islands (pop. 328,536). It by passes the poor United States of America (pop. 314,362,000) in favor of Djibouti (pop. 923,000) a thinly populated stretch of stony semi-desert land, with scattered plateaus and highlands on the Horn of Africa.

So, pray tell me how any of this makes sense, unless a missionary is sensitive to the urging of the Spirit? Paul wanted to go to Asia, but was prompted in God's timing to first go to Macedonia instead. Think of Philip basking in the success of a rip-roaring revival in Samaria ~ demons cast out, people speaking in tongues, hobnobbing with Apostles Peter and John, and by all accounts well on his way to becoming a legend in his own time. But, then, out of the clear blue an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go south down the road which runs from Jerusalem to Gaza, out in the desert.” (Acts 16:6)

And whom did he meet? An Ethiopian eunuch of all people. This poor fellow couldn't even reproduce himself. Not much logic here. Well, perhaps not, but it may account for the fact that 2/3rds of the country considers themselves Christians. Historically, Coptic orthodoxy has stood the test of time. Not my brand of Christianity, however what a fertile land for missions activity.

One other thing, before someone gets into a hissy and hits the "unsubscribe button," I have nothing but the utmost respect for missionaries who answer the call to places like Djibouti (where I have never been but do know someone appointed there) and the Maldive Islands (where I have been and wish we had a permanent presence there). I respect their choice not because they are ministering in the 10/40 Window, necessarily, but because they heard the call and responded, regardless of where the country was located.

My basic contention is that, we as Spirit filled Christians, should remain sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit even when our decision seems to contradict all logic for we as children of God are led by the Spirit. (Rom. 8:14) We walk by faith, not by sight.

Again, standing with you for what is right, 


 P.S. Please continue to pray with us as we trust God for our travel expenses to minister in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the Urkraine.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Back to school implies that you have a school to which to return. Unfortunately  at least half of all school age children in the world are either unschooled or under-schooled.  

Roughly a third of the world’s children are educated in a Muslim dominated area, many of which are satisfied with a madrasa to indoctrinated them in the Koran with just a smattering of the sciences thrown in for good measure. In many cases girls are prohibited from attending school either by a mullah’s edict or in some cases proscribed by law.
The bottom-line is, as a matter of fact, that in any eventuality, in most cases girls don’t count.

Similar attitudes are also prevalent in many non-Muslim countries, also. Take for instance, rural India or the slums of such metropolitans as Mumbai (Bombay) or Kolkata (Calcutta), or even relatively modern Chennai (Madras), most of the school age children are left unattended to wander the streets or work in sweat shops to help put food on the table for the family. Little or no education is available, and when it is, it is simply out of reach financially.

This is a small part of the problem, however.

The major fault, as I see it, is that many in the West have become immune to the plight of these children. Kind of like snake venom, if you get bitten enough and don’t die during the process, you eventually will become immune to even a cobra bite.

Flash a picture of a malnourished kid on the television screen often enough, and before you know it you are immune, void of sympathy  or any empathy at all.

It’s not that we are calloused ~ at least, we didn’t start out that way ~ it’s that we’ve grown immune, dull, dead to these pitiful circumstances.

Interestingly, Jesus never grew calloused or desensitized. While on the Cross, he cried, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) He was still sensitive to the plight of the poor victims of circumstances and culture.

No doubt the Master had seen many dead bodies, or passed hundreds of beggars; yet, in each and every case on record, he reached out in sympathy, and as necessary, mercy. Think of the Syrophoenician Woman in Mark 7:25-30 and Matthew 15:21-28. Her persistence, annoying as it was, still did not irritate him beyond doing something for her daughter—whom, he had not even met.

A busy schedule never kept Jesus away from his purpose in life—that’s for sure.
Once while a missionary in India, I was asked by Mark Buntain to evaluate the hospital ministry there and come up with some suggestion, if I had any.

I did a careful evaluation, but outside of a few minor recommendation, I could not offer any constructive criticism. Just before I left to go back to Nepal, I spoke with the then administrator of the mission and he said, “Jim, Mark needs to get organized by setting a proper system of priorities.”

I said, “Give me some examples, if you have any on hand.”

He said, “Well, like last night. We were asked to sing several courses to fill in the time before he was to preach.” He went on to explain that they had three ambulance drivers sitting in the congregation when the service started, but some desperate mother caught Mark on the way into church and pleaded with him to take her daughter to the hospital. So, Mark jumped into the ambulance and drove her and the daughter to the hospital in a mad rush, and stayed with her until the emergency room physician diagnosed her with a classical case of appendicitis.
I stopped for a moment, thought about the incident, and then replied, “No, I am sorry. Mark has his priorities straight. Others come first, and he is not willing to delegate his involvement or responsibility to see that those that suffer come first.

Now, dotted across all of North India are little schools with boys and girls carrying a satchel of books and entering class rooms each day, just because one man and those around him got their priorities straight.

I closing, I admonish you with the words of Scripture, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Gal. 6:9)
There is a harvest of youngsters out there; let us, therefore, not grow weary in well doing.

Nations by percentage of urban population living in slums.[21]

No data
Recent years have seen a dramatic growth in the number of slums as urban populations have increased in the Third World.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

The Sikh massacre ~ choices determine the consequences.

Unlike the killings last month in Aurora, Colorado, and the attempted assassination last year of Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona, the FBI is investigating a gunman’s rampage that killed six people at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee as a domestic terrorism incident.

Under the USA Patriot Act, domestic terrorism occurs when a person intends “to intimidate or coerce a civilian population” or “affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping.” The incident at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, two days ago ended when Wade Michael Page, a 40-year-old U.S. Army veteran, was shot dead by police. He appeared to target turbaned men as he moved through the building, a member of the temple, Kanwardeep Singh Kaleka, told CNN.

Now, in the aftermath, the media is struggling for someone or something to put the real blame on. Was it the motherless adolescence years that cause Wade Michael Page to commit such a horrendous act? Or was it his recent breakup with his live-in girlfriend or the loss of his job? The problem with these floundering questions is that they sadly overlook one important fact ~ that is, somewhere along the line he made a choice. And, unfortunately, choices have consequences.

So, if I were an active pastor today or an evangelist, I would take this opportunity to thunder from the pulpit that God gives us an opportunity each and every day in each step of the way to choose.

We can either choose the path to destruction or the path of righteousness.

Now, changing the subject slightly. It is obvious that Wade Michael Page thought enough to kill these innocent Sikhs; but my question is, who among us has thought enough to reach out to this community or witness (past or present) to these almost 360,000 individuals who have chosen to live in our land ~ and now, theirs ~ so that they can enjoy the freedom to practice their religion and attempt to live the American dream?

Do I agree with their take on God? Absolutely not! But that does not take away from the fact that many have fought and died in our wars to secure their freedom and ours.

May God erase any misguided hatred in our hearts against the Sikhs or Muslims or any other group with whom we may disagree, and may He fill our hearts with an overwhelming love for the spiritual welfare of each of them. After all, that is the heart of God.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Any Complaints?

Am I just getting old and forgetful or are people complaining more these days?

I'm not talking about ordinary people, either. It's Christians that seem to have the grumps. In my circles, it's Springfield, or the Missions Department, or pastors, or loud music in the church. And, if that is not enough then they are prepared to take on the world at large.

Now, don't get me wrong, there is a lot to upset good earnest Christians; however, most complaints I heard are materialistic in nature, not spiritual concerns.

For sure the economy is rotten, but that's that not the economy's fault ~ let's blame that one on crooked politicians or greedy business men who can't seem to resist the urge to keep their hands out of the cookie jar. Sure a plummeting dollar or a bankrupt company is awful. But, I've got news for you. The less than almighty dollar did not just suddenly decide to take a nosedive one day or an otherwise healthy company decide to go belly-up.

No sir, 9 times out of 10 some ungodly reprobate ~ whether here or abroad ­­~ decided to raid a company, then siphon off as much of the assets as possible and leave the poor shareholders or employees holding the leftovers. Or a greedy public asks for more and more, and politicians, eager to be elected, delivers all the pork barrel they can and more.

Well, someone says, you are sounding like all the rest. What's your point?

My point is a simple one. It is as old as the Garden of Eden. And, a point that was perhaps best expressed when "Geraldine" (Flip Wilson) used to say, "The Devil made me do it!"

These fellows are full of the Devil. That's all there is to it.

Slice it anyway you want to, and it still comes out all the same. Their hearts are, in the words of Scripture, "The most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?" (NLT)

Man is capable of the most subtle and sinister crimes, including murder; which has most recently been demonstrated by the massacre at the showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colorado, when James (The Joker) Holmes flooded the theater with a volley of shotbun blast, injuring 80 and killing 10.

All of this is true. However, I try not to concentrate on the bad things men have done, but on the good things they are capable of doing.

Things like the 80,000 appointments made at the Calcutta Mission of Mercy Hospital where my wife and I served as a missionaries. Or the work of educating young men and women for the ministry, which Bonnie and I are committed to in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and in the Ukraine. I try to remember the 1,000’s we were able to feed following the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka, and the 100’s of homes we were able to see built. In other words, at this point in life I think of over 40 years of full time service that we have been able to give to God and man. The Lillian Trasher Orphanage where we served as directors comes to mind; the University of Nairobi were I served as chaplain; the Philippine Islands; and on and on it goes. Remember, we are talking about 40 years here.

There have been ups and downs. At times a few of my colleagues have disappointed me; and, yes, that includes some of my leaders. However, through it all, I have come to the solemn conclusion that when all is said and done, everything else pales in light of the tremendous joy it is and has been to serve.

So, I really have no complaints.