Monthly Archives: May 2012

GUATEMALA JOURNAL 5.31.12

Miguel Angel and his family

The day began attending weekly devotions with the ASELSI staff. Carlos led in worship and I spoke on the topic of spiritual warfare, which is their theme this year. I wove together the “fight” of faith from I Timothy 6:12 with our “shield” of faith from Ephesians 6:16. Satan attacks our faith by trying to distract us with anything that will get our eyes off the Great Commandment to love God with all that we are. I laid out the biblical framework of this battle and then tried to bring in examples from daily life. The devotional was a good reminder for me!

Each year ASELSI has a luncheon for graduates of ILIO. Today I got to be part of it. It was exciting to see many students I have known as well as meeting others before my time. Both here and in Belarus it is exciting to see my former students and hear how God is using them. It is a wonderful encouragement to see how God has used my weak offerings of service, and it is simply joyful to be reunited with old friends.

The program began with Carlos leading us in worship. I had heard one of the songs “El Gran Yo Soy” (The Great I Am) in the morning devotions. Although many of the words were unknown to me, I knew enough to sing enthusiastically. In other songs I could only recognize a word or two, but my soul could still rejoice in that one word and in the praises of God’s people that enveloped me.

Carlos invited Rosa to lead us in prayer for John Harvey who has had struggles with his health and is the U.S. for a couple months. Others students came up as we prayed to show they are standing with John and Sharon. As Rosa prayed I could not understand her words, but my eyes flowed with tears. My thoughts were filled with the great expanse and depth of ministry they have had in Guatemala and beyond. No human mind can know the full extent of how they have affected thousands and thousands of lives. Just what I have seen over the past 9 years gave me cause to thank God for their service.

A few students shared testimonies about their ministries and the influence ASELSI has had on them. The consistent theme was that ASELSI encouraged and equipped them to move further in ministry than they would have on their own.

When it was time for me to speak, I told the students I had good news – bad news – and good news. The good news is that I have a chance to teach them again. The bad news is they had thought they were done with my teaching – and the good news is that there will be no exam this time!

My message from Habakkuk covered how we respond when life is hard. The prophet ends the book declaring that even if everything goes wrong (Habakkuk 3:17), “I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (3:18). This passage has been precious to me and is often in my prayers. I turn to it when my experience of life seems to be going wrong. I finished with an encouragement to preach the gospel to themselves as a way of keep the wonder of our salvation in our mind and in our actions.

I have been eager for my trip today ever since I knew it was scheduled. Carlos and I went to the town of Chuabaj and the church of Pastor Miguel Angel. Miguel was an ILIO student during my first visit to ASELSI (along with Eman and Eliseo). Each visit to Guatemala I try to spend time with Miguel. He is a gifted and charismatic man who has developed a vibrant church and a strong discipleship ministry that helps other churches. A few times over the years, Miguel has appeared to sit in for one my courses at ILIO.

Miguel asked Colleen if I could teach a worship series I gave at ILIO as a conference for his church. When we arrived for the “conference” it was the regular Wednesday night service. When after one song I was introduced, I looked at Carlos and asked what should I do with the three sessions I brought with me. He said “just preach”. I had to juggle the material while I was teaching, so I could cover the essential material, but not preach for three hours. One benefit of preaching through a translator is that it provides a few extra seconds to think between sentences. This helped me to look ahead to what could be cut and bridged over. Hopefully it worked from the listeners’ perspective.

Early in the message another pastor from Chuabaj named Thomas came in with a dozen people in tow. Thomas also graduated from ILIO. I preached at his church six or seven years ago. With his group the church was filled from front to back.

We went to Miguel and Juanita Angel’s nearby house after church for a delicious dinner of fried chicken and black bean puree with the omnipresent stack of tortillas. They have three daughters, the two youngest look to be 4-5 years old. They warmed up to me fast and I entertained them with pictures and programs on my phone.

Miguel discussed a few of the struggles he has in his pastoral ministry. I could tell it was a chance for him to talk about things that he normally keeps inside. We had a nice time together. I have brought him theological books the past couple years. He was very grateful for them. I joked about testing him next visit on one 800 page book, but with sincerity he responded that he would be ready.

We drove up to the Hospitality House at 7:00; this is the earliest I have been back in several days. Typically I arrive back, finish my blog and then go to bed. Tonight I could call Debbie, read and relax a little while eating one of the mini flans Emily (easily) talked me into buying at the store.

Thank you for continuing to follow my daily journal, I do not take your commitment to read lightly, and the knowledge of your prayers is a great encouragement.

GUATEMALA JOURNAL 5.30.12

Our view during the drive to EL Pinal

Angel picked me up at 5:50 a.m. and then we rounded up Michael, Jorge and Chepy for our drive to El Pinal. My job was to teach a group of pastors and church leaders with Jorge translating, while Michael and Chepy were scouting out arrangements for a U.S. team which is going to come up here in a few weeks.

Here is our drive by the numbers:

2 washed out roads were traversed

7 hours total hours of driving

50 meters was the longest stretch of straight road

7000 feet was the highest elevation

22,000 scrawny dogs were seen trotting along the road

635,000 speed bumps were navigated

1,289,000 rocks were passed with political symbols painted on them

El Pinal is a rustic place and the place we met was the epicenter of rusticality. The church is a metal roof over dirt in the midst of coffee trees and corn plants. The homes of attending families are close by tucked away under the foliage. The nearest outhouse consisted of four branches embedded in the ground with pieces of old plastic tarps strung between them; a metal roof covers a rectangular wooden box inside which has a lid with a handle in the middle.

The people were welcoming and introduced themselves one by one giving a little information about themselves. The first person to speak was 87 year old Buenaventura.  He was energetic and got around quite well. He said he became a believer at 12 and started evangelizing this area in 1945, a work he continued for 55 years. Buenaventura is married to his third wife who is 23 years old.

In a situation like this I am a little unsure what to teach, but people generally struggle with the same core issues and they are in need of the same God-centered answers. So I worked from that premise. They listened well and expressed their thankfulness afterward. I told the group I could tell they were good listeners because no one coughed while I taught. However I let them know I did see my translator yawn twice.

This small gathering of believers included people from Guatemala, the United States, Argentina, Nicaragua, Mexico and one man’s grandfather came here from Germany. I told the group we were experiencing a foretaste of heaven. We were people from many nations and tongues gathered to glorify Christ. They enjoyed the thought.

Pastor Juan took us for a walk before lunch. There are beautiful views nearby looking over a valley. Some cattle were scattered over the fields and in the nearest edge of the valley women were grouped under a covered area washing clothes over a line of sinks. I think this could be a great way for the women of our church to build community and get their work done – or maybe not.

Eman told me ahead of time that it was advisable for me to take my own food with me, since this was the type of setting that sent me to a Guatemalan hospital four years ago. I thought this made sense considering I no longer need to add Guatemala to my list of countries whose hospitals have treated me.

As I watched the plates set with freshly made tortillas, soup and whole fish, part of me was glad for my sandwich and part of me wanted to dig in with everyone else. But some forms of bravery buy shallow victories and this would have been one of those times if I got sick.

Between arriving back at the Hospitality House and leaving again to meet with another church, Carlos called to ask if I could say hello to a pastor from Chichicastenango who wanted to meet me. Carlos and Dina Aganel are a delightful couple. I enjoyed our conversation. Dina has been taking course at ASELSI and is excited about what she is learning.

Their church has struggled and Carlos cannot leave his job as a bank manager. He wants to give more time to his church but his job limits him. Pray that God will provide Carlos the ability to serve his church well and that he and Dina will be encouraged as they serve God. I spoke to them about God’s greatest desire for their ministry, which is how they give God all their heart each day. In God’s eyes that is a faithful servant.

Tonight Carlos and Eman took me to visit the leadership team from the Admirable Prince of Peace Church. This is Colleen’s church and she arranged the evening. Eliseo who was my student at ILIO several years ago, is pastor over the main discipleship and outreach focus of the church. Eliseo introduced a small group program to the church which is proving very fruitful. Most of his leadership team who I met with tonight consists of young people who he and his wife are mentoring. A few of them live in their home.

Each of the leaders gave a presentation about their area of small group ministry (to youth, single women, young couples etc). I was impressed with the group; they have a lot of energy and commitment to this small group program. Eliseo asked me to share whatever I wanted with them. I went right to my theme for many of this week’s conversations, which is to focus on our own heart above all else. I added to that an encouragement for them to preach the gospel to themselves as a habit of life.

We had dinner together and had a chance to talk more to Eliseo and a couple of his young leaders. I was a joyful time for me. How can you spend time with young people excited about serving Christ and not be energized?!  Ask God to fill these young leaders with wisdom and help them to remain faithful.

I am fading fast; it was a long and good day. I am thankful for God’s flow of graces. What a privilege it has been to sit down and talk with His faithful servants about their blessings and burdens. My heart has been touched repeatedly.

Are you bringing your life to God daily so he will use you to honor him and encourage others? It will be a better use than anything else you are now doing

GUATEMALA JOURNAL 5.29.12

The air was colder this morning, but it was nice not to have the rain that has been my greeting the past few mornings. My schedule today was made up of individual meetings with students from ILIO.

Sadly, Colleen will not be part of these meetings. Colleen McLaughlin who is from our church has been working at ASELSI for two years. Her major responsibility is to oversee the teams that come to ASELSI. Colleen arranged my trip schedule and my appointments for today. On the day I arrived in Guatemala Colleen was stuck along the road with car trouble. She ended up having to go to Guatemala City for the weekend to get it fixed. Then last night she received word that her aunt had died. So today she flew home to be with her family. I did not see her at all and our travel plans will cause us to miss each other as she returns and I leave. Please pray for Colleen and her family.

Mt first appointment was with Pastor Lucas who pastors a church in Chichi and his son Mario who works with him and is an ILIO student. Last year I preached at their church, so I was familiar with their situation. As a church they have faced challenges completing their church building and the congregation is becoming weary.

Pastor Lucas is a good example of not judging people by how they look. He is a small man with sleepy eyes that can give the impression that he is detached from what is happening. But that is far from true. We should consider people by the commands of God’s Word and the character of their heart.

I focused most of our conversation on heart issues. As pastors our highest ministry priority is the condition of our own heart. Then as we seek to lead our congregations we should focus on growing them and the church from the inside out. A church is healthiest when members see that every issue of life starts with God and his role in it. Love for God is the highest motivation for obedience and service. Mario and his father asked that we pray for encouragement in their congregation to serve God with fresh enthusiasm.

This meeting was immediately followed by one with Miguel Simaj who had many questions in class and came with more today. He first shared his conversion through reading the Bible and seeing that we can only come to God through Christ. His family had still been bound in Mayan worship and trust in witch doctors. Eventually these things failed his family and they were willing to turn to the Bible. A big grin then broke across Miguel’s face as he exclaimed, “Now I can say I come from a Christian family”!

Eman who translated was as impressed as I was with Miguel’s questions. He focused on justification and asked various questions about how it relates to the law and to prayer etc. Without any knowledge of the Protestant Reformation, he asked if I thought that justification by faith in Christ might be the reason for the conflict between the Protestant and Catholic churches. I told that was the very heart of it.

Miguel wants to keep learning so he can teach these truths in his church. Pray that God will help him in this godly desire.

Jorge came by the Hospitality House after Miguel left so I made lunch. I enjoyed being the host for a change instead of having everyone at ASELSI always serve me. However, Eman only had a packet of snacks instead of the lunch I made – I wonder if he has heard something about my culinary skills?

Jonathan came by the Hospitality House at 2:00. He is a sincere 20 year old who along with several questions from Romans wanted my advice on having the Holy Spirit’s direction in teaching and preaching. I told him to focus on knowing the truth of the Bible because we know that is the Spirit’s voice to us. As he keeps his heart pure and studies faithfully, the Holy Spirit will direct and use his teaching. Jonathan asked if we could pray for his family because they have drifted away from the church. Also pray for his ministry of visitation to a hospital where he weekly shares the gospel with patients.

Before Jonathan had left, Claudia arrived. Claudia owns a restaurant, so of naturally we had to talk about food for awhile. She already heard about Debbie’s wonderful cooking skills. Claudia promised to bring me a special dish Saturday that her grandmother taught her. I may have missed something in translation, but I think it has something to do with a pig’s head. I am in gleeful anticipation

Claudia had two areas to discuss. The first was how to determine what an unhealthy or unbiblical emphasis on the Holy Spirit is in a church. The second was about the doctrine of predestination. We spent time establishing a biblical foundation for each area. Claudia seemed relieved when we were done. She had a biblical framework she could trust and that gave her confidence.

I thoroughly enjoyed today’s schedule! I hope it was valuable for the students and it gave me the opportunity to know them better. I told Eman I would like to do this during future trips

Jorge translated the final appointment. He stayed afterward and we talked about books, which are important for both of us. We have been enjoying our conversations. Jorge made sure he left in time for the staff soccer game. This is a cherished part of the day for many of the ASELSI staff. They play on a field in the back of the compound. Earlier in the week when Eman walked me through the new physical developments at ASELSI, with a smile he described this field as a “sacred” place.

Dinner was at the home of Carlos and Emily Romero. I have grown in my love and appreciation for them, and I respect the manner in which they live out serving Christ as a family. After we ate David, Jonathan and Annalyn initiated some cards games and Carlos made delicious Mexican hot chocolate. It was a fun time with family.

Before bed they pray together. Carlos asks the children what they want to pray for or assigns a request to them. Their voices were probably extra soft because of my presence, but their prayers were more than a simple God bless so and so. Afterward the adults talked about family life and challenges to raising our children to love God.

Tomorrow is a long day. We leave before 6:00 a.m. for a town to the north where we will meet with a group of pastors. So it is early to bed tonight.

Keep praying for God to speak clearly in and through me.

A DAY FOR REMEMBERING

 

As Americans and as Christians, we have many reasons to remember and be thankful for the sacrifices made for our freedom!


GUATEMALA JOURNAL 5.28.12

Benjamin and Manuella’s son Andy

The night before I left home I had an impulse to bring along “The Returning King” by Vern Poythress, which is an outstanding and readable guide to the book of Revelation. I decided to slowly work through Revelation during my time in Chichicastenango.

Reading chapter one of Revelation my first day felt as if I had never read those words before. It was fresh, piercing and quite encouraging. Our Lord is the great and eternal King whose kingdom cannot be vanquished and will not be diminished. If we will be obedient to follow him closely, we will have victory – even when we have difficulty and pain. The whole point of our life is to be who he wants for what he wants. Part of our problem is that we keep trying to make life work according to our measurements

In the morning I read chapters 4 and 5 which describe the worship surrounding the throne of God. Afterward I listened to worship music on You Tube which fit that theme. I was not surprised when the song selection at the Missionary Church also reflected that theme. Don’s sermon was excellent. It built on some of the things we talked about at his home Friday night. God’s timing for this trip has been a wonderful reminder of His grace to me.

Attendance was so high this morning the service was moved to the big conference room at Casa del Ray Hotel. There were a couple ministry teams in attendance including over 40 people from Roswell Presbyterian Church outside of Atlanta. I both enjoyed being at the Missionary Church and missed being with the people of Greentree. It would have been perfect to combine the two.

For lunch Benjamin met me at ASELSI in a Tuk Tuk. These are three wheeled taxis that are common transportation in Chichicastenango. Like taxis everywhere, Tuk Tuk drivers think all road surfaces belong to them, especially the tight shifting spaces between large trucks.

I have known Benjamin since my first trip to Guatemala. His father pastors a church in Chichi where I have preached a few times. For the past six years, Benjamin has worked in the ASELSI office. He has had a heart for youth all the years I have known him. Over a year ago Benjamin and Manuella’s little boy Christian, fell and hurt his head. He died a couple days later. Obviously this was a terrible blow to them. But I have been proud of the way Benjamin and Manuella have sought to honor God. Last year I met with them to talk through their grief and I keep up with how they are doing in my monthly Skype conversations with Eman.

As we ate, their 6 year old son Andy would shyly answer my questions with a quiet “yes” in English. He did a good job learning new words I taught him – much better than my attempt to learn new Spanish words. What I appreciated most about our meal was the simple fact of our relationship. A foundational part of Greentree’s approach to missions is that we are building relationships with partners in the gospel.

At 4:00 Carlos brought me to a newer church called Bethesda Church in the nearby city of Santa Cruz. Claudia who was one of my students at ILIO was sitting near the front. The worship which lasted an hour was vibrant. Six people who had been baptized during the day came up to be recognized by the congregation. When Pastor Byron called the name of a young woman who turned out to be his niece, he was overcome by emotion.

The congregation was encouraged me throughout my preaching by the responsiveness that shone in their eyes and came from their mouths. I enjoy preaching with Carlos as my translator. With an excellent translator, you almost forget about them. Carlos preaches the sermon with me in word, tone and actions. Afterward Byron brought me up again and had church leaders lay hands on me as the congregation prayed for me (and Debbie) and the ministry of our church. He asked me to send their greetings to the people of Greentree.

Carlos and I and dinner at nearby Pollo Campero which is like a KFC that is based in Guatemala, but now has locations in different parts of the world. We talked about ASELSI, Carlos is happy with the people on staff and the working relationships they have with each other. He spoke highly of how Eman has matured into his role as administrator.

Tomorrow will be a new experience. I have individual appointments set with several ILIO students and some pastors. These are informal meetings to answer theological questions from the students and to discuss church life with pastors. I am looking forward to it and am curious about what these discussions will be. Please pray that I have discernment, wisdom and grace to share in each appointment.

Also pray for a young couple that came up after tonight’s service. It was their first time at the church and they were committing themselves to Christ in response to my message. Her name is Claudia – I forget his name. Ask God to confirm himself and the gospel to their hearts.

Do not tire in your praying for me and this trip. I need your prayers throughout the day!

GUATEMALA JOURNAL 2.26.12

My view from the Hospitality House

Mountain air must be good for sleeping. I woke up refreshed, anticipating the day. One of the joys of traveling with a mission team is the close interaction with people you did not know well. Staying alone at the Hospitality House is providing a quiet and reflective environment that I plan to take advantage of throughout this trip.

As I sit reading, with a large mug of Guatemalan coffee, I can hear a variety of sounds in the background: hammers are pounding and men are talking as they work, someone is running water and I hear the sounds of scrubbing, the dogs now in their pen occasionally whine, feet scuff along the ground as people walk across the compact earth of the compound, and tropical birds in one of the gardens squawk indignantly.

Lord, help me to listen well during these days you have provided for me. I want to listen more than talk and to hear with my heart as much as with my ears. My natural inclination is to focus on myself. Give me grace to love and serve the people of Guatemala as I love and serve you.

This is a busy place. ASELSI has a staff of 40-45 people who are involved in a wide range of tasks; this includes a dozen “missionaries” such as Colleen, who have raised their own support to work here. Among the ministries of ASELSI:

The Father’s Heart Clinic treats 60-80 patients weekly

The Milk Program provides much needed nutrition and health care for 275 babies

Approximately 70 pregnant women are given prenatal care

The Therapy Clinic is meeting a need for special needs children who are generally ignored in Guatemala

The Little Lambs School for special needs children is the only opportunity they have for education

ILIO is a Bible institute is two year program that will expand to a second level next year

IBEX is the extension program where Bible courses are taught in 30 locations throughout Guatemala and now has locations in Ecuador, Venezuela, Mexico and Texas!

This year 36 short term teams will visit ASELSI to participate in their ministry (under the outstanding care and planning of our own Colleen McLaughlin)

These are just the major ministries that take place here!  God has led John and Sharon Harvey in extraordinary ways as they have accomplished beyond what anyone would have thought possible.

Through all of these activities, the gospel is proclaimed and expressed. ASELSI is an impressive ministry. But it is getting to know the staff that makes the greatest impression. This is a collection of highly committed and caring servants of God. Each year I am freshly impacted by the affection and care they express to me and to our church.

Carlos and I had a good conversation comparing notes from the Minsk Bible College and ILIO. Then Eman took me on a tour. Since my last visit the new health clinic is almost finished and a small school building for the Little Lambs program is also just about ready for use.

At noon, all the staff gathered to celebrate birthdays. They try to do this for each month’s birthdays, but they were behind a few months, so we had a large group being honored. Michael who among other tasks, works with Colleen taking care of teams, had a few games planned that involved each of us getting to know each other better.

It was fun watching the staff guess who matched the answers to a particular set of questions. Since one of my answers had “Belarus” in it, the guessing lasted under a second. Laughter and conversation over lunch and a big carrot cake kept everyone in a grand mood.

After lunch I read through my schedule which covers more than two pages. Why did I think I was going to work on other projects from home during this trip? Tomorrow is a big challenge as I teach half of the New Testament book of Romans in 6 hours. The second half is next Saturday. At the Minsk Bible College I would have 40 hours to do this. I have to decide where I will move fast and where I need to settle in and work out the details. I am eager to start, but I do have some trepidation. Please pray for wisdom as I teach and ask God to give the students clear understanding in their hearts and minds.

Jorgi came by at one point to talk. We met last year but have never had the opportunity to get to know one another. Jorgi is from Argentina. He spent 9 years in a Catholic seminary before his theology was changed. His wife Marieta is from Holland where she grew up in the Dutch Reformed Church. How they wound up together in Guatemala I am not sure.

They recently returned from a three month stay in Amsterdam so Marieta could have their first child with her family. Jorgi described the Muslim population from all over the world who live in Amsterdam and how some are coming to Christ. He left with an enlarged heart for reaching Muslim people for Christ. Jorgi is passionate as he speaks, I really enjoyed our conversation.

Dinner was at the home of Don and Heather Logan. Don is pastor of the Missionary Church, which is an English speaking church for missionaries in Chichicastenango. At first this sounds like an unusual congregation – one made up of people in full time ministry. But it really is not much different from any congregation. Although most of us are not in ministry as a career, every believer is meant to live in ministry. We all have similar burdens and we all need to hear the same truths.

Don is an excellent preacher, I was glad for the opportunity to get to know Don the man and pastor. We had one of those conversations where you realize at one point everyone else left the table, but you don’t remember when. My soul was fed, encouraged and challenged. Don is focused on as he calls it the “engine of good theology”. True gospel theology makes life work. When life breaks down, we are not seeing the gospel and its truths clearly.

During our conversation I was able to see this in ways about myself. I was convicted in ways that also encouraged my heart. What a great way to end the day! I left wanting to get quiet before the Lord so He could lead my thoughts and help them to sink into my living as well as my thinking.

Where is God leading how you think and live? Are you willing for God to truly have His way instead of wanting Him to make your way work better? I appreciate your prayers for God to help me see more clearly what it means to die to self so that He can reign more fully in me.

GUATEMALA JOURNAL 5.24.12 On My Way

A village church I visited last year sends warm greetings to my blog readers

Today I am traveling to Chichicastenango, Guatemala, to be with our mission partners at ASELSI (which in Spanish stands for “Equipping the Saints International”).

The main purpose of my trip is to teach the book of Romans at ILIO, which is their Bible Institute.  However, the team at ASELSI have a full schedule planned for me which includes teaching in various settings and spending time with the staff and leadership of ASELSI.

In recent years I have been seeking to build into the lives of some gifted and committed young Guatemalan men who are serving the Lord in powerful ways. I am excited to have significant time built into this trip with these men. I will also have some time with former ILIO students; it will be a lot of fun to hear what God is doing in their lives!

Another enjoyable part of the trip is sharing meals with God’s people here, both Guatemalans and missionaries. It is meaningful to build upon existing relationships year after year and start new ones.

As with my trips to Belarus. I will attempt to keep a daily journal on my blog. I hope you will join me and be part of this trip. Your daily prayers are part of how God will bring a fruitfulness to these two weeks that I could never accomplish by my efforts

So start praying now that I will maintain health & energy and that God will make my teaching and conversations effective for his kingdom’s sake

SERMON LEFTOVERS 5.21.12

“Our God Always Reigns” Acts 12

Chapter 12 presents one story in four scenes

Scene #1  King Herod misuses his power  vs 1-4

These verses use language that heightens the sense of Herod’s power

Being under the power of circumstances we cannot control is what makes life burdensome

Scene #2  God delivers Peter

The wording in vs 4-6 emphasize that Peter is in a hopeless situation

The wording in vs 7-10 emphasize the ease in which God delivers him

This is the kind of situation we use to prove to ourselves that God really does reign

Scene #3  The Church struggles to believe Peter is free  vs 12-16

In v5 the church is earnestly praying for Peter; in v12 many have gathered into the night praying

These verses are filled with the irony of believers doubting the answer to their prayers

Scene #4  God’s judgment on Herod  vs 20-24

At first we seem to be back to what we saw in vs 1-4, Herod is the feared and exalted king

But God demonstrates that he is the true King, who has the final say

Acts 12 is our story; we are in the middle of it

We live in the middle of v1; we face a steady stream of things we cannot control

We live in the middle of v24; because our God always reigns

Most importantly, this is God’s story

God was equally sovereign in every part of this story

  • When Herod violently arrested believers, and when the gospel was multiplied
  • When James was killed, and when Peter was delivered
  • When Peter was chained between 2 soldiers, and when gates opened for him
  • When believers doubted Peter’s freedom, and when they rejoiced in it
  • When Herod exalted himself, and when he died in judgment

God is never more, or less sovereign in any situation.

He proves his sovereignty by making all events his

Even though we are in God’s story, we fret about what will happen

We lie awake at night repeatedly analyzing how God will make things work

Instead, we should analyze how any power can stop God!

How can anyone stop God?  It is impossible!  And he is our King, and we are on his side!

God’s power and sovereignty is not greater than the world, it is absolute over the world

Making worship part of daily life strengthens our perspective of trust

Our mistake is when we make judgments about God’s faithfulness in the middle of the story

We know we are still in the middle, so why do we expect to live as if we are at the end?

Since we how everything ends for world and for us – we should find rest in him

Since your burdens are only the middle of God’s story for you:

Don’t accuse God, or take time off from Him, instead trust and obey him

Don’t let anxieties rule your life, instead take joy in the God who wondrously saved you (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

Don’t be fooled by what claim to be more practical paths; Herod thought his actions were very practical

Don’t remain discouraged; we often have reason to be discouraged, but we have too much glory in our pockets to stay discouraged

Since we know how our story ends:

Pursue God!  Don’t bring your hopes to God, make him your hope

Pursue people who will reinforce the value of trusting God and putting him first

THE OLD NAG IS DEAD

I came across this article by Gloria Furman on the Gospel Coalition website that addresses the topic of nagging, which she confesses is one of her own tendencies.  Gloria shares a better perspective, as well as ways to break free of this approach to making people what you want them to be.

It’s not that I think any of my readers need this article, but you might have a “friend” who really ought to read it!

WHAT ENVY WANTS

A couple days ago I shared an article on “How envy behaves” from the Tim Challies Blog. Today I am sharing this following up article he wrote entitled “What envy wants”.

Challies shows the destructive nature of envy and how it delivers a very different result than what it promises those who take up its cause. If you missed the earlier article, I hope you will go back and read that one as well. Considering the common and powerful draw of envy upon our lives, it is instructive and helpful to understand envy disrobed of its sparkle and charm.