06 February 2017

Show Me Your Glory!

I have just returned from one of the most eventful ministry trips of almost sixty years of ministry.  This trip has been one of the most stressful trips in years of travel, and yet, I truly saw the glory of God.  Sometimes the level of difficulty, is an indication of the level of spiritual warfare.  The devil knows we are about to experience something great and wants to get us to quit before we see God’s glory.

For several months, I have been making plans to travel with a close friend, (whom I will call R.K for this article,) to visit some new believers in a distant land.  These new believers have been forced out of their homeland to live as refugees in a neighboring country.  My friend and I wanted to visit and encourage them in their new-found faith.  I will deliberately tell this story in such a way which hopefully will not cause problems for these precious people, as we never know who will read this.

Because of their refugee status in a non-Christian nation, these new believers must take many precautions not to get into trouble with the authorities who already view them with suspicion.  And, because of recent refugee problems around the world, security is very tight as authorities try to prevent future terrorist attacks.  Even though we’d been planning this trip for months, when we arrived in the country of our destination, we still didn’t know the name of the person we were to meet or where we would meet them.  The only information we had was the name of a city of over one million people where this meeting was to happen.  The night we arrived in the country, I sent an email to my contact and told them we were there and would be driving into our designated city the next day.  I gave them a phone number where we could be reached.  They called back that night and gave us the name of a man who would call us the next day telling us where to go.

The next day we’d been driving for three hours when our phone rang and it was our contact.  The man we were expecting to call turned out to be a young woman who was the leader of this group of believers.  She gave us the name and address of the hotel where we’d be staying and informed us that someone would contact us at the hotel and tell us what we were to do.  We found the hotel; checked in and just as we’d been told, there was a brother waiting to meet us.  He informed us one of the couples from the church was getting married that evening and invited us to the wedding.  It was a lovely wedding, and it was there we met the young lady who is the pastor of this church of 700 young believers.  She told us she wanted us to teach a large group of new believers the next evening who were preparing for water baptism.

I wasn’t prepared for such a large number waiting to be baptized.  There were 180 new believers who met with us the next evening.  It’s always a delight to be able to teach young believers; they’re so eager to learn.  We discovered they’d scheduled the water baptismal service for the next morning and wanted us to attend.  The next day, I was amazed to see they’d rented four large touring buses to transport those being baptized to the place they had chosen for the service.  These young people don’t own cars, so they rented buses.  Again, they wouldn’t tell us where we were going, just to follow the buses.  We drove outside the city for several miles to a resort hotel they’d rented for the occasion.  There was a minimum of four hundred people who attended the service which ended up lasting the whole day.  When we arrived, they immediately began with a time of worship and then asked us to share with those being baptized.

It was one of the most moving spiritual experiences I have experienced. These people come from a country known for its terrible persecution of believers.  As I watched the young woman who is their pastor leading them in worship, you would never guess the price she paid for following Jesus.  She had married a young man who pretended to be a believer, but after their marriage, he reverted back to his former religion and divorced her.  The judges deemed her unfit as a mother, taking her two-year old daughter away from her, simply because she was a Christian.  What a price most of these people have paid for their faith.  As I watched these 180 young people who are the first Christians in their families commit themselves to Jesus Christ, it was simply overwhelming.  I will never forget the look on their faces and their sincere devotion as they knelt in prayer with tears streaming down their faces asking Jesus to change their lives.  When Jesus is all you have; you discover Jesus is all you need.

The leaders led the new converts through a lengthy vow declaring their faith and commitment to Jesus Christ, and they literally shouted out their faith in Christ for all to hear.  The pastor of the church insisted that R.K. and I help with the baptismal even though we’d not brought extra clothing.  There were ten of us ministers lined around a large swimming pool baptizing the 180 new converts.  What an experience!  I have no words to describe their shouts of praise and the look of glory on their faces.  It was wonderful!  Finally, after everything concluded at the pool we returned to change clothes and meet for a communion service.  The worship of these young Christians singing and praying was amazing.  They have found Christ, and He is everything to them.

My eyes have seen the glory of God upon the faces of these young believers.  Sometimes difficult experiences can cause us to pray until our faces shine with the glory of God.

02 January 2017

HOPE: The Word for 2017

“Even a tree has more hope! If it is cut down, it will sprout again and grow new branches.” (Job 14:7) When the rain returns, the stump of the tree will produce new sprouts from an old root. I’m a simple man and live by simple principles. I believe strongly in the seasons and cycles of life. “As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.” (Genesis 8:22) We should learn to live in 2017 by the principle of “Something old, something new.”

Something Old

Everyone needs a good root system to live a productive life. Without good roots, we cannot product good fruit. A good root system comes from our covenant relationships. This is what makes family so important. This is what makes a home church so important. They are a part of our root system. Roots are what give us stability in life. We seldom see roots because they’re hidden beneath the ground, but they are there, and we are dependent upon them to produce good fruit.

We need deep roots. If our roots are too shallow, they are easily effected by the weather, and the weather is always changing. The deeper our roots, the greater the stability in our lives. Deep roots protect us against the dry times with no rain and from the storms of life which bring too much wind and rain. Good roots help us move past these difficult times that sooner or later happen to everyone. These roots give us hope for a better tomorrow.

It’s impossible to produce good fruit without good roots, because the fruit depends on the roots to provide the necessary nutrients to grow. Too many people try to live their lives without a good root system. They easily discard relationships like an old worn-out tire on their car. They see no value in past relationships and live by the question, “What have you done for me lately?” What they fail to understand is that our past is what brought us here, and every new thing we learn in life is built upon the knowledge of what we already know. Wisdom wasn’t born yesterday. Wisdom comes from the experiences of life where we learn from our past.

Something New

It’s not enough for us to have a good root system. Roots feed the fruit, but don’t produce it; only the branches produce fruit. The branches in our lives are like the new shoots which sprout each spring. In the seasons of life, there will always be springtime and harvest. The springtime of our lives brings us opportunities for new growth. It’s during these times that we are given the chance to produce a new crop of fruit. Fruit is never old. Fruit always comes from the new opportunities in our lives. It forces us to learn something new and keeps our minds alive as we learn from new experiences.

This is the problem for many people. They have a good root system. They tell story after story about things that happened years ago, but they can’t tell us of any new thing developing in their lives. Like an old story teller, they simply repeat the past and tell us about what used to be. They’re like the man who said, “The older, I get the more I like it like it was.” We must produce new fruit or we will die.

But we don’t have to die before our time; we should determine to live until we die. Don’t be like the man who died at age twenty-five but wasn’t buried until he was sixty-five. He simply kept repeating the past things he had learned year after year without learning anything new.

I have discovered that the older I get, the more difficult it is to learn new things, and the harder it is to stay alive. Churches are like that; businesses are like that; nations are like that! We must intentionally be looking for new opportunities. Without new purpose, new vision, and hope, we will die.

But remember, the new fruit is dependent on the old roots to support it. We need the wisdom of an older generation to help guide our new decisions. Before we start taking down fences, we should learn why they built them in the first place. There just might be a big mean bull on the other side of that fence. The older generation must respect a younger generation and give them opportunity to explore new ideas, but the younger generation must honor their elders and realize everything they have in life came because of an older generation. Young people must learn that all the smart boys weren’t born yesterday, and the elders need to be reminded they have made their share of mistakes.

May God help us to live us live by the principle of “Something old, something new.” We need new fruit in 2017 from new branches fed by an old root.