Tuesday, June 5, 2018

March Madness–Surprises and Help for the Helpless

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Every March, S.O.S. Ministries sends down a team to Central America to minister and to run some women’s conferences in the various locations, and it’s an amazing trip. For the men who ask about such trips, I always encourage them that it’s not a ladies trip but that the conferences are a backdrop that often involves some amazing meetings with their husbands who wouldn’t normally set foot on the property. (It’s amazing what serving a family and serving food will do…)

Even with that being the case, this trip was unique…

Lost in Translator

We were on our way to Hondruas and picked up a new translator, Francisco, who turned his life over to Jesus a few months ago after living a disordered life of drinking and drugs. Last December he seemed to be going through the motions, but this time, he seemed genuinely excited to go.

As a primary translator for the team, I was doubly excited, because it meant I wouldn’t have to carry the main burden of translating for the team, which would free me up to do other things… like breathe.

When we got to the border, Francisco took a long time to come back from the office, and when he finally returned, he told us that there was a crime committed in his name that he’d have to clear up, which meant he couldn’t come with us.

He was upset, saying, “I’ve come to serve the Lord and now this happens?”

Anyone who’s been in the same situation knows what it’s like to have a closed door – it’s frustrating, and I was bemused and slightly frustrated that after telling everyone how happy I was not to be a team translator, I’d just gotten another promotion. A friend of mine reminded me of God’s faithfulness and the feeling quickly passed. Yes, He can and does use even my Spanish, and He also even used being turned back at the border to grow Francisco in his faith.

The team gathered around him and prayed, assuring him that God had some kind of purpose for this, and that he would be joining us on the ministry soon enough…

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Children’s Ministry and the Main Thing

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven… so shall My word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” – from Isaiah 55

In Honduras, we usually have a ministry team that takes care of the children while the women’s conference continues, which allows the women to relax and hear the word of God without distractions. This time, our ministry team was four men, and most of the children were pretty young. Our team did an admirable job of keeping them entertained but we were getting worn out and the kids were in danger of getting bored. We went to put on a movie when we felt we couldn’t do any more, but the projector wasn’t bright and the sound wasn’t working.

One of the team members told me he’d done kids ministry in the past and could give a lesson, but I was doubtful that we could keep their attention. Still, we gave it a shot, and the moment we began teaching them the word of God (the parable of the unmerciful servant), they became completely still and even asked some really good questions. We shared the gospel about how Jesus had completely forgiven us of our sins and that we should share that same forgiveness with others and several of the kids locked eyes with us the whole time.

This happened two days in a row and I realized, sheepishly, that the real purpose for the children’s programs should not be to distract the kids while their mothers hear the gospel; it is another venue to share the gospel. God worked through us the moment we were obedient to that calling and befuddled all our attempts to entertain outside that main thing – preaching the word to the least of these.

Hats off to the team… that was quite the adventure.

Someone to help us

You may remember this, but back last December, some of the young men from Honduras told us that their parents did not care for their spiritual growth and that no one would teach them the scriptures.

This trip, we played a game of soccer with them that went on for quite awhile and we invited the young men to join us for a Bible study. For a moment I thought that everyone left – something that does happen sometimes in the ministry – but two of the young men stayed behind.

One of the young men on the team and I went through parts of Matthew 5 with them – that murder and adultery are not only sins of action but sins of the heart. When we told them that even looking at a woman with lustful intent was the same in God’s eyes as committing the act itself, their eyes grew big. “No one can do this,” they confessed. We finished with Jesus saying that you must be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect and about how He had provided a way by living the perfect life for us. We gave them notebooks and a Bible and they told us that when we returned, the notebook would be full of questions. It was an awesome answer to prayer, and we’re hoping to continue that ministry in July.

Just so you know how difficult it will be for these young men, their cousin had been coming to the church, but according to our church leaders, his parents told him that if he continued to attend, he would be thrown out of the house. Pray for them – the road to salvation will not be an easy one.

Joining Together

IMG_2711Because we had a smaller team this time, we brought the entire group of Hondurans (the cooks and leaders and their families) to eat with us in Copan, and the next morning, we invited everyone, even the cooks, to join us for breakfast. Laughter and amazing conversation followed – even across language boundaries. How good and pleasing is it for brothers to dwell in unity!

At first the younger Honduran girls balked at the idea, thinking it wasn’t permitted to eat with the Americans – wow. No wonder they seemed a bit stand-offish. No one had ever told them this, but they assumed it was the case, and I’m glad the team corrected this.

How beautiful is team unity? When we got ready to depart, several of the Hondurans told us that their favorite part of the team being there was the times we ate together as a group. Is this not what Jesus prayed for in John 17 that all believers would be one even as He and the Father were one? I’m excited to see what the next trip brings.

Surprise

IMG_2785When we returned, we were looking forward to a baptism for our new translator (Francisco) and his familiy. But the day of, we found out that he and his girlfriend of ten years were living together but not married, even having kids together.

Baptism into Christ is a baptism of repentance – turning from your old sins, so what would you do? I’ll tell you what would have been the easy thing, to turn a blind eye to the whole thing and just baptise them and hope they made it right.

But that’s not the way of the Lord. He desires His people to be holy and pure, so we confronted them in this, and it was… really… awkard at first. But the Lord began to work in their hearts and they went from being taken aback to getting excited about obeying the Lord.

IMG_2774He agreed to move out and to stay with the team at La Esperanza for the sake of obeying God’s call to purity in their lives. Just to show how excited they were to get married, he woke up at 4 AM the next morning to go pick up his future wife and get the process started, and later that day, they brought their entire family out to minister alongside us.

Now normally, the process of getting the paperwork and everything lined up for a marriage takes a week, but they were so excited that they got the process done and we celebrated the wedding just two nights after we had confronted them. Praise the Lord when His children obey Him. Pray for our brother Francisco and his wife, that they would pursue the Lord with all their hearts, and that their marriage would be blessed. Lord willing, we will be baptizing them in July.

The team that “gets it”

I needed to spend some time abiding in the Lord the last day of the trip, because things had been so chaotic and quite frankly, I had not prioritized my time with Him. The team had things under control with the last womens’ conference, so I decided I needed to go. On the way to the room, I saw the soldiers and some of the men outside and had a strong urge to evangelize them. Yet it was almost as though the Lord were urging me to spend time with Him instead – that He was able to do His work (John 15:5).

When I came back, all of the men from the team were sharing the gospel with the men on the property and the soldiers – one of them even using google translate to communicate the message. Some of the girls had befriended a local doctor and were making sure that the doctor and her sister left with Bibles.

It was incredible. The team just “got it”, and many people not only heard the gospel, they heard it compassionately from members of the team. God is good – it never ceases to amaze me what He is able to do when His people come together to serve Him. The same invitation I give to people in person I’ll give to you, come join us this summer. I would love to serve with you.

School funding

As one last thing, there are many in El Salvador who are seeking to get a higher education but who are unable to attend. One of them is a fine young man named Roberto who is constatly serving at the church and seeking to grow in the Lord. He’s brilliant – top of his class – but because his father abandoned him, he has no way of going ahead to the university and may not even be able to finish high school.

Please pray for those who are looking to further their education, and if you are interested in donating to the education fund for El Salvador, please contact me or go to www.soshope.org/donate and be sure that whatever you give is earmarked “El Salvador Education”. We will make sure that 100% of the funds go to that purpose, knowing that whatever we have done for the least of these, we have done for Jesus Himself. (Matthew 25)

In His strength,
the least of God’s servants,
- Paul

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Christmas Joy

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Ministry in Central America
Our Honduras team was the smallest it’s been for 7 years, but that didn’t mean it felt like that. Every member of the team contributed in an awesome way, making sure that the hundreds of children we ministered to in many different areas not only received Christmas gifts but also the good news of the Savior of the world, brought into humble circumstances 2,000 years ago.

Everywhere we went, we preached the gospel, and people were listening, even going out of their way in some cases to be sure they could overhear the conversation. Here are a few stories from the trip:

Dealing gently with others
One of the houses we visited was home to a family that is staunchly opposed to the gospel. A 17-year-old from El Salvador boldly engaged the man of the house while we spoke with a woman we’ve spoken with before. At one point in the conversation, she asked, exasperated and in an accusing tone, “How do YOU know you’re going to heaven?” to a young woman in the group.

How should we respond to people when they act like this?

The young woman answered her gently, and all of us were very gracious to her and she settled back and listened to the gospel, then went out of her way to introduce the rest of her family, even putting a smile on her face.

When we share the gospel and others oppose us, we must remember that it was in kindness that our Savior rescued us, and we should show that same mercy to others.

No one to help us
IMG_2178_thumb1One of the last nights of the Honduras trip, we invited several of the local youths to an impromptu soccer match, which turned into a miniature tournament. One of the young men on the team volunteered to preach the gospel before we presented the prizes (prizes we put together on a whim because we didn’t know it was supposed to be a tournament), and many of the young men gave their full attention as we shared the gospel, even hushing those who weren’t paying attention.
In a conversation later on, one of the young men told us that there was no one to preach the word of God to them and no one to teach them right from wrong, and their parents didn’t take them to church or teach them the Bible because they only cared about whether they were living an outwardly quiet life.

There is a great need in Hacienda Grande for someone to teach the youth the scriptures. Please pray that God touches someone’s heart to do this.

Pastors’ Conference
While we were serving in Honduras, our local elders traveled to El Salvador to a pastors’ conference (thank you Lakeside Community Chapel!) and on their return, each of them spoke about what an incredible blessing it had been for them to learn how to preach the scriptures more effectively. The men are hoping to return to the conference in July. Please keep praying for these courageous men.
An incredible note about these men is that one of them was not even literate before he became an elder, and he learned to read for the sole purpose of studying the scripture. These men are unequipped by the standards of the world, but as Paul wrote, “the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29).

If you should find yourself feeling discouraged and useless, remember this – God uses the foolish and weak things of the world to shame the strong (1 Cor 1:27-29). The race doesn’t belong to us – He does the work and He works in us.

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New Frontier
In El Salvador, we have been visiting some of the same villages since the first year I came (2005), and it’s a huge privilege to see the Lord work in those places through our continual visits. But every year we also visit a new location with a special need recommended by one of our local contacts. This time, we found ourselves in the beautiful village of San Jose that sits on a hilltop opposite the local volcano (no worries folks, it’s probably extinct).

IMG_2131_thumbThe people were extremely welcoming, and the program went off fairly well. Afterwards, my friend Casey and I went over to speak to some of the men of the village. Now usually the men won’t engage us in deep conversation, but Casey was very vulnerable with them, sharing his testimony and how the Lord had rescued him from the folly of his youth, and for some reason, the story resonated with the men. They told us at first that they believed that everyone was going to heaven, but that some of them had had struggles.

We dialogued on man’s brokenness and his inability to please a holy God – how every one of our good deeds is defiled and how only the sacrifice of Jesus can cover over the filth of our sin. By the end of the conversation, one of the men said, “We are trapped in the mire, and unless we grab God’s outstretched hand, there is no hope for us.”

IMG_2133_thumbThe men thanked us repeatedly for coming to their village and for sharing the word of God with them, and we were amazed by their openness, especially considering that both of us were younger than most of them. When God opens a door for ministry, none can shut it.

Afterward, the medical worker briefed us on the sad conditions of the people in the village – teenage pregnancy, malnutrition, and family issues, and I felt a strange tug on my heart.

Could God be calling us to plant a church here?

Please pray for San Jose.

Personal
It amazes me that God can or would use me. I remember at one time thinking that I was invaluable to the kingdom, but now He is showing me more and more just how little I have to offer in my own strength. He really does use the foolish and weak things of the world to shame the strong. I’ve been in awe of how He uses even the smallest grain of faith to move mountains, and I’m looking forward (hopefully) to sending a part two with an update from our latest trips.

Redeeming Communities Update – A Seed Finally Sprouts
I just got off the phone with a friend of ours from Rainbow Village (the neighborhood in our area where we’re ministering) and a young man from there just told me how much he needed the Lord and to stop doing things in his own strength. He attended church last Sunday along with his family and he’s planning on attending more. He had a court date March 19th so please pray for him.
We preached the gospel to him almost two years ago and he’s continually rejected it, so may this finally be the wake up call that brings him from darkness to light.

IMG_0593Water for Life
Our regional director for Africa just gave us an urgent plea for us to support a new water well in a village that has no good source for water. Please pray for the Lord to provide, as it will affect an entire village and be a positive testimony of the gospel in a village that has an incredible thirst both physically and spiritually.

Prayer Requests
Thank you so much for your continued prayer and support. God is working more than I can say in a short letter and I ask for your continued prayers.

Pray that God will glorify His name in the ministry, that He will sanctify me and give me wisdom to know Him better and to reach the lost, and that He would cause the word of God to be honored and to grow rapidly wherever we go.

With much love, the least of the followers of Jesus Christ,
- Paul








































Monday, May 30, 2016

Is Anger Your Treasure?

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It feels good to be angry.

It’s a rush of energy: the confidence that you are right, letting someone know your displeasure, and the momentary satisfaction that revenge provides.

It feels good, but we don’t stop to think about the cost. What we think in private and the way we look at the world when no one is watching affects the core of our being.

I remember holding a grudge for years. It felt good to unleash on the person in my mind in battles I always won, and it felt good to shun them in public for what they had done to me, but it was affecting me to the core. My curses affected me more than it did them – my anger led me to a great dissatisfaction with life and opened the door for more and more sin.

Jesus said that the eye is the lamp of the body, and if your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body is full of darkness. (Matthew 6:22-23).

In this context, if all you view is revenge and anger, and you’re the person who wants to give people what they deserve, it will cause your whole life to be full of darkness and in the end it will kill you. Jesus was betrayed by such a man – he was full of secret cursing and bitterness, and it ended up costing him his soul. Psalm 109 speaks of him in this way:

He loved to curse; let curses come upon him!
He did not delight in blessing; may it be far from him!
He clothed himself with cursing as his coat;
may it soak into his body like water, like oil into his bones!

What you treasure up in your heart will come out in your life. People like those in Psalm 109 can only hide their wickedness for so long before it destroys them. But it need not end that way for us. Jesus took the curse for all our cursing when He died on the cross. He paid for our sinful anger, and if we repent and turn to Him we will be saved from it!

Once we are saved, we can look to His example on the cross, He responded to cursing and bitterness by saying, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

He forgave when they cursed. He returned their cursing for a blessing, and now He is forever blessed. If we follow His example and delight in blessing rather than cursing – in patience and longsuffering rather than anger, then we too will be blessed. After all, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

Brothers and sisters, let us not be angry. Instead, let us return evil for good. In Jesus we were blessed in order to be a blessing to others –yes, even our enemies.

I resolve here not to cover myself in cursing any more. I resolve to speak what is good and true and loving in the example of my Lord, that I may know Him better.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Rescued from the Enemy’s Fortress

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In one of our locations in Central America, to say that the situation is difficult would be an understatement. The people are afraid, the murder rate is up, and gangs have taken the nation in fear, but just like always, when things are at their darkest, the light of Christ shines most brightly. These are the stories of some who were rescued from darkness this past December:

Military Ministry

Our friend the governor always sends soldiers to come and protect our teams when we serve in El Salvador, and it has become a natural thing to speak the gospel to the soldiers who have come to protect us. It's a beautiful exchange: they watch over our bodies and we watch over their souls.

I must commend the team I served with – no one had to tell them what to do. As soon as the soldiers arrived, they were speaking truth to them so that within a few days almost all of them had come to faith. In total, of the 11 soldiers who came to guard us, 5 came to faith.

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One of the soldiers seemed especially broken when we spoke to him, but he was quick to turn his life over to Christ. Later, he confided in us that he was in the gangs only seventeen months prior – doing “terrible things”. He escaped and returned to his family, joining the military some time later. He told us that, “I continued to do terrible things, but God brought you all here to preach the word of God to me.”

Many soldiers have come to faith over our trips, but this man was the first to obey the call to be baptized, giving his testimony in front of our group before entering the waters of the Pacific Ocean to publically declare his faith in Jesus. Please pray for him – his life is still dangerous from the gangs, and he doesn't have much in the way of encouragement right now.

Peace at Last

IMG_1309Our time in December always takes us to a local center of idolatry where people come and pour out their prayers and light candles to idols who can neither hear nor help them. This time, I was pacing the building looking for someone to speak to when I saw a group of our team members in deep conversation with a man who was pouring his heart out to them.

He had come into the building heartbroken and looking for hope, and we began to open the scriptures to him, telling him over and over that he needed to believe and be saved while he kept telling us the good works he needed to do to please God and be saved.

Yet he continued to show interest in the scriptures, so we continued expounding the truth to him until he said, “I feel that God is telling me to share this message with everyone.”

I was concerned for a moment that he was continuing to recite his need for good works for salvation but he continued to speak, “When I came in to this place, I was contemplating killing myself or doing something evil because I can’t find a job and I have no hope for my life. I was crying, but now I have peace. Now I know that all I must do is believe and be saved.

We took him out of the place of idolatry, because our time was nearly over, and we prayed with him. Someone on the team gave him a Spanish Bible and he clutched it tight, saying, “This will be my most prized and priceless possession. I know that you did not give me this; God gave me this gift.”

This, my friends, is a changed life. We left him, mightily encouraged that it was not us or our superior wisdom but the word and the power of God that had ultimately convinced him. This is the power of opening up the scriptures with someone – the word of God never returns empty, not even in a center of idolatry.

I remember what may have been the day of my conversion – I too was reading the scriptures when an incredible peace came over me, and my life has never been the same since.

The Power of Belief

What–or more precisely whom you believe changes everything. If you truly believe that your eternity rests on the work of Jesus Christ and turn to Him for your salvation, He will not leave you the same person.

One who has not had their life transformed by the work of Jesus does not truly believe. If we truly saw His agonizing death on the cross as our only way to eternity and believed that He was our resurrected Lord, our entire life would look completely different.

But it is impossible for anyone to believe in their own strength. God is the one who grants repentance (2 Timothy 2:25), God is the one who saves (Titus 3:5, Mark 10:26-27, Ephesians 2:8), God is the one who calls us to a holy calling (2 Timothy 1:9), and I am so grateful that I was saved by His grace.

Once I hated people, now I desire to see them full of the joy of the Lord.
Once the men we spoke to in December were doing terrible things and thinking about terrible things, now they have begun their new life of hope.
Once we were lost – now we are found.

I pray that if you are reading this, you are either encouraged by the news here and glorifying God, or that you will be challenged to trust in Jesus yourself and experience the true salvation that does not depend on our ability to be good. Being good and religious is exhausting, and it will never satisfy you, nor the wrath of God due for our sins.

Only the perfect life of Jesus and His death on the cross were sufficient to cover over our wretchedness and give us true peace. Only He can rescue us from Satan’s fortress and place us into the kingdom of light. To Him be all the glory for what He has done.

Grace and peace to you,
- Paul

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Ministry in a Dry and Weary Land–July 2015

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Psalm 63:1
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

A Month Down South

IMG_8868This past July I served with about eighty other brothers and sisters in Christ as we preached the gospel, hosted a community soccer tournament, ran conferences for the youth, and ministered in some of the roughest areas of the country. God taught us all the amazing power of prayer as He worked amazing things and protected us time and time again.

Drought and Strife

Unfortunately for El Salvador, not only is the country experiencing a severe drought. We spoke with many farmers who had their entire crops dry up and die, leaving them waiting and hoping that they could plant again before the dry season. Food prices are going up in the impoverished nation at the same time that the violence is spiking. People in the country are concerned for their lives and the prospect of violence. One man we met even wears a mask to work and sent his family away because of the threats he’s received from gang members.

It’s a tragedy what is happening there, and it’s the result of the idolatry of the people. Empty religion and tradition has done nothing to change the hearts of the people, and you can see and hear the emptiness. Yet through all of this there is hope, because in their desperation people are waking up to their need for the Lord. I have seldom seen such openness when we’ve gone to preach the gospel.

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Open Doors

Near the beginning of the month, we were planning to minister outside a school after the students were let out. As we were trying to figure out how to accomplish this I started talking to two men who were standing in a pick up truck outside the school and explained what we wanted to do. “That will never work,” they said. “You have five minutes until the busses come and pick up all the students. Let’s go inside and talk to the teachers.”

They led us inside, and we explained what we desired to do. The teachers were initially hesitant, but somehow the Lord opened the door for us to actually go inside the school and present dramas and the gospel later on the same day. I was floored; God opened the door for us.

As we waited for our opportunity in the town square nearby, we spoke with a group of young men from an accounting school about the gospel and the hope in Christ. None of them had come into a relationship with Christ, but three of them expressed that they desired salvation by the end of our conversation. Right as we had to leave to minister inside the school, a leader from our church arrived and continued the conversation with the young men, answering their questions and leaving them his contact information. That’s God’s timing.

The ministry inside the school was so successful that the teachers asked us to come again later on in the trip. In fact, we were able to minister the gospel in 5 different schools from the mountains of Honduras to a massive public school in the nearest city that holds about 2,000 students.

The Next Generation

A few days before we arrived in Central America, a gang member – a youth from our area came to Christ. We immediately gave him a job helping with construction and members of the church came around him to begin discipling him and encouraging him in the faith. We got to speak to members of his family – all nonbelievers who were amazed by the change in him. They said, “We thought he would be dead because of what he is doing.” The testimony of this youth is showing his family the power of God for salvation.

By the end of the trip, another gang member attended our youth service and two members of our team were able to preach the gospel to him as well.

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In Honduras, I had the pleasure of working alongside a young man named Alex. At 15 years old, he goes with us up into the mountains to preach the gospel in the villages, but he was very shy about it. During one of our presentations in a village, I pulled him aside and told him, “Hey, we’re going to share the gospel with someone as soon as we get done with the program here.” He looked at me with wide eyes, “Ok.”

He seemed hesitant when we walked over to speak to the first group, but he willingly shared his testimony of everything God had done for him. By the time we got ready for a massive soccer tournament, he asked me if he could share his testimony in front of the crowd of hundreds that had gathered. With the amount of time we had to prepare, he didn’t have the chance to do so, but it was amazing to watch him grow in boldness over just a few days. Pray that he will grow in his faith and continue to be bold.

Finishing Well

With so many pastors and leaders falling into sin around the world and ruining their testimony, I’ve realized now more than ever how hard it will be to be pure and holy until the day Jesus comes for me. I am not perfect–I am, like anyone a footstep away from falling into terrible sin. I would love to tell you that I am strong, but the truth is, I am weak–I am just a vessel of God made of clay, though I hold His treasure inside. The scriptures warn us with this: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.”

May it be said of all of us that we fought the good fight, we finished the course, and we kept the faith. Pray that God would help me to finish my race well.

- Paul

Hope Across Generations

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On our last trip to Africa, we ended up arriving an entire day late due to problems with the aircraft, already a great start for our journey, so we ended up already missing a day of ministry, something I wasn’t too happy about, but God’s plans are always higher than ours.

If you remember, earlier this year, we visited the chief of a village who subsequently came to faith as we preached the gospel. He died a month later, leaving the village without leadership. As providence would have it, the first of the only two places we were able to minister was the very village where this chief used to live.

When we arrived, it was strange being there knowing we wouldn’t see our friend there – I miss him. But we were encouraged that a sizeable crowd came out, among whom was a young man who had brought his Bible out. I figured that he was one of the church members, but after our Bible study and testimony time, he told us through a translator he was very happy in Islam and did not want to become a Christian.

Our translator also told me that he was the chief’s son. That probably explained why he stood out to me so much. Filled with compassion, we began speaking to him, but it wasn’t until the part where we mentioned Romans 6:23 that the wages of sin was death and the gift of God was eternal life that he opened the Bible to read that for himself.

He seemed moved by this word, and we told him about the faith and hope his father had that gave him eternal life, and from that point on he was riveted in the conversation. Near the end of our dialog, we asked him if a dead man could bring him back to life. 

We told him that no matter their message or lifestyle, every founder of every other religion is currently dead and in the ground, but even Muslims believe that Jesus Christ lives to this day and is at the right hand of God. “Who then is able to save?” we asked him.

Our local ministers continued the conversation from there, and at the end the man announced that he was ready to come to Christ. Praise God for the hope he now shares with his father.

Afterward, we told him that things about his life would need to change, and deep in thought, he asked us if he should quit his job as a hunter now that he was a Christian. That’s a man who is considering the cost.

We told him, no, he didn’t need to quit his job, but that God has called him to live a holy life, even at work. We prayed for him and left encouraged - if God just sent us there for that one man, then the whole trip was worth it. What price can you put on a single human soul?

Like father, like son – two generations have come from darkness to light. But this hope is not limited to them. Jesus is not just another dead religious figure, He is our living hope. If I would trust anyone with my life, it would be the One who beat death.

According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead
1 Peter 1:3

Friday, August 21, 2015

How should we respond when Christians fall?

FullSizeRender (1)“Hypocrite! Christians are all hypocrites!”

We hear the same things every time someone who claims the name of Christ falls into sin. How do we respond to the accusations? How do we respond as the world gloats?

Don’t be so quick to dismiss the claims. Are we really hypocrites? The evidence doesn’t lie – many who claim the faith and fall are often the most outspoken among us all, so we should respond to the accusations with great humility.

The truth is that we are ALL hypocrites. Jesus told us not to judge lest we be judged, yet people – Christians and non-Christians alike come out in judgment. The very people who say “don’t judge me” one moment turn and gossip in judgment on someone the next. We all have fallen short of even our own standards, let alone God’s standards.

How many times have we said, “People should act like this,” and then turn around and do the very same thing we just said people shouldn’t do? How many drivers have I been angry with in one moment, then catch myself doing the exact same thing the next?

As a follower of Jesus, I am frequently tempted to hide my struggles because I believe that if people knew who I really was and all my struggles they would never come to the faith, but the truth is that I still struggle with anger, lust, and pride on a daily basis – my thoughts are not always pure, I don’t have everything together and sometimes, yes, I am a hypocrite.

Maybe if we told others the truth – the truth that we are not good, maybe more of them would believe us when we talk to them about God’s grace. We are not saved because we look good; we are saved because Jesus is good. I’m not saying we don’t change when we come to Christ, but what I am saying is that we need to be honest and open and apologize when we do fail. The world doesn’t need another hypocrite – the world needs the truth in love. We need to come into the light and expose our works so that everyone will know that God is good, and we are not.

Christian, it is not our job to hide our sins – that’s what the world does. Jesus said in John 3:20,21 - “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

IMG_9354So I’m coming into the light; everyone needs to know that I was a wretched sinner who was saved by the grace of God. Christianity isn’t about my goodness, it’s about God’s goodness. If God can transform even the life of someone so wicked as me, He can save anyone. I’m not saved by my good works, but by the work of Christ.

And if it’s true that we all are hypocrites – that we all need God’s grace and mercy, then remember that mercy triumphs over judgment. We need to be merciful when people fall. We must not be known for eating our wounded but for our love even when someone stumbles publically. Don’t join the chorus of mockers, be merciful even as your heavenly Father is merciful. Look to the cross – Jesus loves sinners enough to die for them, and He told us to follow in His example. Love sinners, even fallen ones.

Knowing our weakness and knowing God’s kindness, it’s about time that we started telling people the truth about ourselves and the truth about God – that He loves sinners like us. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble, so be humble and gentle in the face of accusation, and let’s come into the light and pray – pray that we too do not fall into temptation. Pray for the families of the fallen, and yes, even pray for those who have stumbled, that they may be restored.

Sincerely, the least of those loved by God,
- Paul