Ron and Debbie Stafford are in town! Come celebrate with us (and eat!) as we hear more about Ron and Debbie's mentoring and church planting activities in Colombia. Burgers and BBQ provided. Dinner starts around 6pm o n November 1st. Contact Amy in the Missions department to get directions and to confirm if you are going to be there!
Friday, October 24, 2008
I had the incredible opportunity of speaking with a Chinese house church leader on Wednesday. Wow, what an interesting testimony. Just like the brothers in the Middle East who have suffered all kinds of indignities for their faith (and persecution too), so our brothers in China have had the opportunity to suffer for His Name's sake. My memory verse last week was Hebrews 5:8 "Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered". 1 Peter makes it clear that we all will suffer if we are believers, and gives us all kinds of reasons why it is good for us.
Part of this man's testimony was that he has been arrested several times and was recently kidnapped for "escaping" years before (the door 'miraculously' opened and he simply walked out of the prison). If you've never read the book, "The Heavenly Man", the story of Brother Yun. I highly recommend it, as it was the best book I read in 2006. Fantastic true story that will help you understand the gracious freedom we have in the USA (for now). The passage that spoke the most to me is when Brother Yun was in a nasty prison, was treated horribly, had his face stuffed into a prison outhouse receptacle because he wouldn't deny his faith (and more). One of the prison guards commented that Yun, out of all the people there, was the only free man in the prison (including the staff). Thank God for our freedoms. Now pray that God would preserve them through the repentance of his people (2 Chron. 7:14)
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Recently, as I prepared the Wednesday message on Elijah and Elisha, I came across a fantastic quote and I felt compelled to share it.
We should beware of defining success in Christian ministry by comparing ourselves to other workers. Those who gauge their success (including spiritual success) by how they compare to other people inevitably fall prey to the twin vices of pride and envy. Read Galatians 5:26; 6:4-5.
Pride grows when I conclude that I am more successful than others in any area. It is not only corrupting, but blind because the issue is not how much I have accomplished compared to others, but how well I am fulfilling the potential God gave me to serve him. This is the perspective that keeps me humble and motivated to press on.
Envy grows when I come up short compared to others in any area of talent or results that is important to me. I know from personal experience how ugly this is. Instead of being thankful for their contribution, I resent their ability and accomplishments because I feel like a failure. Why? Because I am evaluating my success as a person by arbitrarily comparing myself to another person instead of simply doing my best to be a faithful steward for God. When I recover this perspective, I can focus on simply being where God wants me to be, doing what God wants me to do—and I then experience God's peace and empowering and fruit and satisfaction.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Our missions discipleship class for future missionaries was fantastic last night. The Knauber's, a missionary family from Papua New Guinea, were our guest speakers last night and they spoke on Cross Cultural conflict. Being German, working with a multi cultural ministry (Wycliffe) in Papua, they had a million hilarious stories to illustrate the point of the class. Several highlights for the class for me were: 1. Our culture isn't always right (or wrong) 2. Everything needs to be seasoned with grace and DO NOT jump to conclusions and lastly, 3. Do not insist on your rights. As believers, we have no rights, just responsibilities and just like Paul, we become all things to all people! They will be speaking next month to our class on Spiritual Warfare (being products of a missions environment that worshipped their ancestors). On the 28th, pastor Larry Gray will be speaking on "the Things I learned in 25 years of cross cultural ministry!".
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
We have the privilege of hosting the director of Emmaus Road International, Neal Pirolo, for a 6 hour missions seminar on Saturday, November 22nd, 2008. Neal is the author of several books on missionary care and brings to the seminar a wealth of knowledge on how to care for your missionaries while they are preparing to go on the field, while they are actively serving and when they return. We believe that this is a neglected area in missions and contributes greatly to missionary attrition. Most times it is because the sending church was unaware on how to effectively equip, send or welcome home their missionary. Since we already have Neal speaking, we thought we would open the Saturday session to any church that would be interested in sending any of their missions leaders or potential missionaries who are curious about starting a missionary care team. Feel free to send as many people as you want. We are opening the seminar up to any future missionary, missionary supporter or life group member within our body. The only thing that we request is that you send a confirmation in advance of how many people you would like to attend the free seminar. In addition, we will be ordering a bag lunch from Chik-Fil-A, and to indicate whether you would like one ordered for yourself ($5 to be paid at pickup) for our short break.
Neal Pirolo is best known for his seminars, Bible School classes and books such as "Serving As Senders", "I Think God Wants Me To Be A Missionary" and "The Reentry Team". Serving as Senders has more than 300,000 copies printed in 14 different language and is recommended by countless missions leaders such as George Verwer of O.M.; Ralph Winters of the US Center for World Missions. Neal and his wife have 40+ years of cross cultural ministry in 60 countries and currently live in California.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to sign up for the seminar.
Friday, October 10, 2008
One of the things I had the privilege to do was to visit with many incredible men and women of God who are serving and pouring out their lives as a drink offering in the Middle East. For me it was incredible to see the sacrifice and the commitment that they were making in order to further the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We had the opportunity to attend some missions training classes at a base in Amman Jordan. Where young people were being raised up with a passion for reaching Muslims. It was exciting to hear from their perspective what God was doing in this part of the world. Each one of them had a sense of expectation that God was doing something and was moving in the midst of some very hard soil. We also had the opportunity to meet up with some fellow believers returning from a conference in northern Iraq. It was amazing to hear what God was doing in the Christian church throughout Iraq. It could only be described as nothing short of revival. God is definitely on the move in that country. Please pray for Iraq and
From there we traveled to Egypt to continue meeting with the brothers in that ancient land. Even though our time was very short we were able to establish significant relationships within the Christian church in Egypt. I will never forget one dear old saint, playing the accordion with the biggest smile on his face, his toothless grin spilling out the joy of the Lord as the "I love Jesus" sticker on the accordion baffles expanded and contracted in time with the music. The praise and worship in that extremely poor church was unbelievable. I could definitely sense the Holy Spirit move in that church even though the music was completely different and the words were beyond my comprehension. It truly was praise and worship.
I recently got back from a trip to Jordan and Egypt. We had 3 objectives. 1. To explore what God was doing in the Middle East, 2. Meet up with a CC St. Pete sponsored missionary working in the Middle East (name withheld because of the nature of working in this part of the world) and get more familiar with their work and lastly expose a member of our church with a calling to the Middle East to what is going on (and to participate in ministry opportunities while we were there).
Many people are asking how things went and what I learned. So, we'll start at the beginning, some of the stuff discussed is sensitive, so some specifics will be "veiled". Shockingly, around the time we got to Jordan, a woman was stoned to death with her children because she converted to Christianity. I have several thoughts on this. One, obviously this is a horrible event that almost seems surreal. It is almost unimaginable that this stuff still happens in the 21st century! And it is sobering to know what people without Jesus are capable of. I don't think we fully comprehend in the west the threat of orthodox Islam. This is normal behavior in most of the Middle Eastern world. The second thought is that of LAW. A person who converts is to be considered anathema. It is the duty of the family to kill the person who leaves Islam. Additionally, you didn't have to go very far to see the effects of law in Islam. The women in the full birka with just a simple slit exposing the eyes, the mandatory prayer times, etc. all speak of impersonal ties to an unknowable, uninterested God. Rules really sum up the Muslim relationship with Allah.
A friend recently commented that the reason Islam is growing is two fold: 1. Muslim birth rate is way higher than in the west so for example, every year, Egypt's population of 77 million grows by 1 million because of birth rate increase. 2. Because people want structure/parameters/rules in their life. They want to know how to make sense out of living in this crazy world and even strange or deceptive rules provide this. Our human tendency is to embrace rules/legalism because it makes us feel like we are "doing" something to reach heaven. People don't want grace, they want rules, the law. But… as we know, it is impossible to live by the law because we can never live a perfect life (Rom. 3:23). One thing that was ironic to me was to walk the streets of Amman, Jordan, and see the woman in their "penguin" like birkas (the full covering with tiny eye slits) that could make any womanly figure look like a square block or a linebacker, and the more contemporary Muslim girls in their veils and very tight fitting, fashionable attire (also fully clothed but also not very modest). Both were conforming to the letter of the law in terms of being covered up, however, both miss the spirit behind the law and that is a heart matter. Doing something out of obligation versus something out of love. The problem is that "When a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation" Romans 4:4 But rather, lets have the same heart as Enoch- Hebrews 11:5 For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. Is that our heart? To please God, by faith? To love God and seek to please him? Or is it out of duty or law? More to come tomorrow….