Mission Update July 2020

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Philippians 3:20-21 20For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the LORD Jesus Christ: 21Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

It seems the world is evermore lost and dying. The enemy has used sickness and disease to separate and divide us. He has used sociopolitical issues and causes to polarize us. But in the end we know that nothing and no one will ever prevail against the Kingdom of God, because He is able to subdue all things to Himself.

Here in the US, I’ve been encouraged to see churches open back up in many places. Home bible studies supplement where and when those services lack. Two of those bible studies happen weekly as a part of this ministry.

We’ve helped to provide churches with small public address systems for outdoor events. Our feeding ministries continue to help a few in need. We helped a family repair it’s car, and helped another to replace their kitchen stove in connection with a local church.

In the Philippines, where social restrictions are greater and more seemingly oppressive than here because of COVID, special few continue to operate in love and obedience to God’s Word by showing love and sharing the Gospel through visitation and home bible studies. We’re still helping bring food to families in greatest need. In 3 of the churches we’re involved with in the north central region of Luzon, 2 more souls have been saved, and 3 more have been baptized.

We’re working through our local missionary and one of our church partners to get poor kids the things they need to continue their schooling in the upcoming year.

I’m not saying these things to glorify the mission, but to glorify our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Can you imagine how much better this world would be if believers at least tried to love the way Jesus loved?

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Some day He’s coming back. On that day I want to be known as one who focused on Him instead of problems.

We’re running out of time.

Mission Update June 2020

A friend of mine from Cabanatuan City, in the Philippines died just a few weeks ago.

Ever since I came to know him more than a year ago, he was mostly bed ridden. He could sit up and sometimes, when it was necessary, he he could walk with assistance for a few steps, but his earthly life was primarily sedentary, in bed, in the most humble of homes, in a neighborhood that was far less than desirable…

Then he died…

But his eternal life was secure in Christ, so he left this world in peace. I remember going to see him once or twice each week to have bible studies with him and his family. He got saved during one of those visits, as did each member of his family. (there are lots of stories to tell about those visits)

I was introduced to him by his oldest daughter, who got saved as an adult in Vacation Bible School. She had only come to watch over the kids from the neighborhood. But someone saw an opportunity and was obedient to it.

All that came about through what, at the time, seemed like happenstance or coincidence, but God will always use obedience to His will and purpose. The details of the story are much deeper, but it’s enough to know that God is always with us, working in us, giving us both the desire and the ability to do his good pleasure. (Philippians 2)

I’ve written about this story before. And I do it again because it has had such a profound effect on me. It has brought me to a deeper understand of why pursuing a life worthy of the gospel is so important.

The world isn’t going to change by itself, so let’s stop waiting for it to do that. If we really want to spread love, let us please start by being open and obedient to God’s will and purpose for us in our own lives.

Mission Update: The COVID-19 era

God is sovereign over all things.

Philippians 1:12 But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;

This pandemic, as we have been taught to call it, is really nothing more than a device of powers and principalities (the enemy) designed for the specific purpose of separating us from one another. We’ve been taught to call that “COVID RESPONSE” and “social distancing”.

It’s funny how the devil’s tools come complete, each with its own nomenclature and terminology.

But to what end? Well, to hinder and even stop the advancement of the gospel. But our God and Savior is sovereign over all things. He not only knew this was coming, He factored it into His plan and used it for the opposite purpose. He always does that. I can’t pretend to understand it completely or explain it adequately, I can only say it’s true and point to Paul in prison and then to the cross as the best example.

Let’s look around at the creative ways and at the ends to which believers have gone in order to meet, share and hear the Word, and worship together. Think about how much effort God’s children have put into taking care of each other.

We only know what we hear and see here in the US, where some might (rightly) feel that the Government‘s COVID RESPONSE has been overreaching, even to the point of infringing on our constitutional rights.

But there are places in the world where the RESPONSE has been much farther reaching, much more drastic. Many are places where most people do not have the resources that are available in the US. But even in those places, God is good. He is sovereign. And even in those places He has been seen moving and working, giving believers the will and the ability to be used to advance the gospel, and love and be loved of each other, which is His will and plan for all of us.

I’m so blessed to say that at least 2 of the churches we’re connected to in the Philippines have found creative ways and means to minister in love to those in need. I’m also blessed to say that in this place, during a time when people are not permitted to socialize, 3 have been saved by Grace, through faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord through the ministry and witness of believers. I don’t know how, and I’m not sure I want to know. But I know the people who are ministering the gospel and I have the testimony. This mission has been a part of that, so it means if you’re taking time to read this, you are probably a part of it too through giving and prayer.

The mindset of love and the life’s priority of sharing the gospel… God wants that from all of us… in spite of our circumstances… especially now. -Philippians chapters 1 & 2.

Praise God. Seek Him while He can be found. The suffering isn’t over yet, and all believers will be called upon in some way or another into ministry to this lost, dying world.

The Resurrection

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Holy Week – Resurrection Day

Mark 16:6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.

Luke 24:5-8 King James Version (KJV)

5 And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?

He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, 7 Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. 8 And they remembered his words,

Matthew 28:6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

Jesus told His disciples and others about his death and resurrection several times:

Matthew 16:21, Matthew 17:22-23, Matthew 20:17-19, (Matthew 12:39-40, John 10:17-8)

We serve a RISEN Savior. Not just spiritually resurrected, BODILY resurrected by the same power of the same Holy spirit that allow Jesus to heal, forgive, save, and raise other people from the dead.

Our forgiveness is sealed by His death. Our justification is sealed by His resurrection.

Holy Week – Black Saturday

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Holy Week – Black Saturday

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” -Romans 8:32

Jesus’ body rested in the tomb on Holy Saturday; it was a rich man’s tomb, fulfilling the prophecy (Isaiah 53:9)

Preparations were made for Jesus’ body and placement in the tomb until 6pm, when preparations for the Sabbath began. “The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.” –Luke 23:55-56

There are lots of opinions about where Jesus’s soul was between His death on the cross and His glorious resurrection. There are passages in the epistles that speak about it, but that’s a study for another time.

The gospels don’t really say much about it, but they do say this:

Luke 23:43 and Jesus said unto him, verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise.

This paradise is referred to in (Revelation 2:7) as “the paradise of God”.

“Holy Week is relatively silent on Black Saturday. The tomb has been sealed, the guards stand watch, the disciples are hiding in confusion and fear. The Savior has surrendered all to save his people from their sin. And that even includes the ones who cried “let His blood be on us and our children.” (Matthew 27:25)

What more condemning words could there possibly be? Still that is, in effect, what is said every time a person rejects and refuses to believe in The Christ. It happens every day.

But it’s interesting how the meaning of words and phrases can change when the context changes. As true believers, we can rejoice and shout, “let His blood be on us!” We say it with a different meaning.

Not defiantly as the crowds that crucified him, but desperately because we depend only on his sacrifice.

“Jesus, let your blood be on us. Let it cover us. Let the blood that flows – from your head, your hands, your feet, from your side, from your stripes – wash over us and cleanse us from all of our iniquity”.

We proclaim Jesus’s death. We rejoice in his death, not because we believe he was a fraud or a lunatic, but because it is by his death, by his wounds, by his blood that we are healed.

What a wonderous thing this is!

Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Amen, and Amen.

But the best news is still to come

 

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Holy Week – Good Friday

Mark 15:1-47

Good Friday was the last day of Jesus’ life on earth before His resurrection. He was betrayed by Judas, just as He said, and denied by Peter, just as He said. His disciples scattered, Just as He said.

He was arrested and was placed on trial falsely. (Isaiah 53:7) He was condemned, scourged, and mocked (Isaiah 53:8).  He was forced to hear the cries of the crowd to crucify Him. (Isaiah 53:3) The soldiers made a crown of thorns and put it on His head and continued to beat Him and mock Him. He was led away to a mountain and made to carry His own cross (John 19:17, Genesis 22:6-7) to the place where He was crucified. He was mocked, ridiculed, and taunted along the way, but there were some who mourned after Him. (Luke 23:27).

He was offered something to dull the physical pain, but Jesus refused, choosing to face the pain of death head on (Matthew 27:34). He was nailed by the hands and feet to His cross. But knowing that his death was to atone for even these who drove the nails, Jesus begged the Father to forgive them. (Luke 23:34)

They stripped Him of His clothes letting him hang there naked on the cross, and cast lots for them, Fulfilling another prophesy. (Psalm 22:18)

All of these things happened just as He said.

Matthew 16:21-23, 17:22-23, 20:17-19

Mark 8:31-33, 9:30-32, 10:32-34

Luke 9:21-22, 9:43-45, 18:31-34

Two prisoners were crucified alongside Jesus, again fulfilling prophesy (Isaiah 53:12).  One mocked Him, but the other said, “‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise’” (Luke 23:39-43). While suffering the most cruel, unfair, unjust, and painful death a human body could endure, Jesus chose to respond in grace to the criminal beside Him teaching us there is always hope in His forgiveness – right up to the point of death.

Even in His disgrace He cared for His mother and best friend. (John 19:25-27).

Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Isaiah 53:6). He accepted the drink he refused before, fulfilling another prophesy (Psalm 69:21)  And then He died.

Jesus was taken down from the cross, wrapped in linens, and placed in a tomb, fulfilling prophesy again even in death. (Isaiah 53:9)

This is what He did for us. To satisfy the wrath of God against sin. To close the separation between us and our God. To make peace between us and God by His blood.

Holy Week -Thursday

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Holy week – Thursday – The Commandment

Mark 14:12-72

On Holy, or Maundy, Thursday, in an upper room, Jesus and His disciples shared the Last Supper. We notice how, like the donkey, everything was supernaturally prepared ahead of time and the disciples always found things the way Jesus said they would be.

On this day, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. And, He broke bread with them for the last time. It’s still observed and partaken today as an ordinance for believers. The bread broken and the wine shared represented, then and now, the body and blood of Christ, broken and shed for them, and for all of us.

During the meal, Jesus predicted His betrayal by Judas, and Peter’s denial.

After the meal, the disciples accompanied Jesus to the Garden at Gethsemane. He warned that they would flee from Him soon, fulfilling prophesy (Zechariah 13:7).

In the garden, Jesus prayed in agony for Himself, for His disciples, and for us             (John 17:1-26).

He prayed in such agony that an angel came to strengthen Jesus in the garden as the sweat fell from His face as drops of blood (Luke 22:42-44).

There, in that moment, He taught His disciples, and us, what to do when we come to the end of our own strength and need The Father to help us press on.

Jesus is betrayed by Judas, just as He said – with a kiss (foretold in Proverbs 27:6). Jesus is arrested and led away to a secret, joke of a trial by the Sanhedrin in the middle of the night, and He is condemned. Peter weeps as he denies his even knowing Master, just as He said.

“Just as He said” has been a common thread throughout Holy week so far. But starting now, it becomes a theme.

The word “maundy” comes from the Latin root madam, and means “commandment” or “mandate.”

On that Thursday Jesus gave His disciples a new commandment à The word in this context is used by Jesus after He washes the feet of His friends. “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another: just as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” –John 13:34

Can you imagine that God, having left His place in Heaven, would humble Himself to wash a man’s feet before intentionally giving His life to save him? That’s exactly what is happening. And He did it for you.

Are you starting to see why LOVE is the greatest commandment? Can you see How important LOVE is to God? Can that kind of love be seen in our lives as believers?

Can the world see that we are believers using this standard?

Holy Week – Wednesday

Holy week – Wednesday – A day of rest for the Savior, but not for those who served Him or for those who would betray Him

Mark 14:1-11 After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death.2 But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people. 3 And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head. 4 And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? 5 For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her. 6 And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me. 7 For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always. 8 She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying. 9 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her. 10 And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them. 11 And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. And he sought how he might conveniently betray him.

Wednesday is referred to as a day of rest for Jesus. While in Bethany, a woman anointed Jesus with perfume. Mary, of Bethany (John 12:1-3) used all of her “very precious” spikenard ointment to anoint Jesus for His coming death. She also broke the costly alabaster box so it could never be used again.

I wonder if maybe this was symbolic of her devotion and thankfulness for what her Lord was about to do to save her. Maybe this is the kind of surrender Paul spoke about in 2 Corinthians 5:15 and Romans 6:11.

Some also call this day “Spy Wednesday” because While Jesus rests in Bethany, the plot of the high priest and the authorities to kill Jesus is coming together. We can see in the scripture that they were not trying to decide if they would kill Him, they were trying to figure out how to entrap Him so they could kill Him.

Finding an open opportunity in the greed of Judas, Satan entered him. Judas went to the chief priests and authorities, and from that moment he looked for an opportunity to betray Him. His agreement was to betray Jesus for the price of a slave. (Zechariah 11:12)

Once that was accomplished the twelve would scatter. No one will be left at the foot of the cross as Jesus dies but John and His mother.

As the hour comes,  Jesus knows He has to bear this burden alone. There will be no team effort, But still, He keeps them close as long as He can. The Christ must go forward by Himself, as his friends and followers betray him, deny him… and hide.

Today we face a choice. Will we surrender to Him as King and Savior? Or, will we reject Him and seek out our own way?

Holy Tuesday – another day closer to the cross

Holy Week continued – Tuesday

Mark 11:20-13:37

This was a day of much teaching and avoiding the traps set for Him by the religious leaders.

On the way back to the temple the next morning, Jesus and the 12 passed by the fig tree. It was withered and dead. Good for nothing but firewood. Remember that before, the tree was alive and full of leaves, giving the appearance that it wasyielding fruit. But there was no fruit. The Lord cursed the tree, and it died as atestimony of what happens to those who give the outward appearance of spiritual righteousness, but produce no spiritual fruit. When Peter spoke about the tree, Jesus responded with a lesson on the importance of faith and forgiveness. Maybe Jesus was making them understand that, without faith and forgiveness, they would end up like this tree – like the ones cast out of the temple. But with faith and forgiveness, God would make their lives fruitful as a part of His Kingdom.

Maybe He was preparing them for the teachings they would hear that day…

As they entered the temple, Jesus was confronted by the religious leaders. They challenged His authority. They asked Him who gave Him His authority to do the things He was doing, attempting to catch Him in His words. He responded by asking them a question about the authority of John’s baptisms. It was a question they could not answer without being caught in their own words. Jesus went on (in the gospel of Mark) to establish his own authority – even over them by teaching the parable of the tenants and citing a prophesy from Psalm 118:22-23. Matthew’s account recalls 2 other parables proving the religious leaders to be lost and condemned in their stubbornness, by their own words and fruitless lives and lack of faith.

Then, His allegiance was tested by asking questions about government taxes. He answered according to scripture (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5)

Next He was questioned about the order of husbands and wives in the resurrection in an attempt to fool Him by the Sadducees, who didn’t even believe in the resurrection. Jesus explained that in Heaven we are like the angels in that we do not marry. He also taught that the resurrection was indeed true because God the Father is the God of the living and not the dead, quoting exodus 3:6&15. (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had been physically dead for many years at the time of Moses)

Finally, His tests ended when asked which was the greatest commandment. His response was that real and pure love for God and for other people was first and greatest because real and pure love for God and men fulfills all law.

There is much more. Too much to cover in one devotion.

But this is our Lord, Jesus Christ. Teaching in grace and truth, standing up to tests, and silencing all those who would try to discredit Him. He did all this with nothing but the authority and power of God’s Word.

Another day closer to the cross.

All the haters and scoffers, all the stubborn unbelievers were given yet another chance to repent and believe the Word – to believe in Him, because He is the Word. He is the King, who has real salvation.

What do you believe?