Inching Ahead

Today was a study day.  I worked on my SS lesson for tomorrow and worked on this website some more.  Little by little I am getting up to speed.  I love it when I get a response to a blog or article.  Also, I am looking forward to getting some questions on the Q&A.

This week I went to the eye doctor and will be having eye surgery on the 13th of Feb. and again on the 13th of March.  It is not real major – just cataract surgery on both eyes, one at a time.  It got me to thinking how much we depend on our eyesight.  My life would change so dramatically and I would really struggle to adjust to life if I lost my eyesight. I was thinking about how our seeing helps us to understand God’s perception of everything.

Tomorrow I will be in a teacher training meeting.  Our church has these meetings once a month.  They are to help us as teachers to do a better job.  Our educational pastor is so devoted to equipping us that he goes the extra mile all the time.  He is so supportive and helpful.  I needed a large monitor for my class on Wednesday and he got it together with just a few hours notice.

After that meeting I will be practicing with the men’s choir on some new music that we just got last week.  I am relatively new in the men’s choir and am really out-skilled  as I don’t even read music but they encourage me and so I keep going.  Who knows, I might even get better.

News update!  The translations are all progressing.  The Russian translation is in the third chapter and the Spanish translation is almost through the second chapter.  I haven’t heard about the Japanese translation in a while.  I know that the translator was on a mission trip, out of his country so I am guessing that slowed him down some.  I understand that he is working on the 5th chapter.  The translator on the Chinese translation was here a couple weeks ago and they are working on the 6th chapter. The work is slow but it is moving along steadily.

Prisoners 1

In preparing the SS lesson for today on the sanctity of life, I became burdened for the vast majority of all people who are prisoners of one type or another.  I will be expanding on this theme in the next several days.

When Jesus began his ministry, he quoted  Isaiah. 61:1 which is repeated in Luke 4:18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, It is this message that the gospel focuses on.  As you know, the word gospel means good news.  The greatest news to those who are captives and are bruised would be deliverance.  Jesus said in Joh 10:10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

I have identified a number of such prisons that hold people prisoner and keep people from living the abundant life that Christ intended.  I will address several of these in the next few post.  So what makes something a prison?  I am thinking of a poem written by Richard Lovelace in 1642 to Althea, from Prison “… Stone walls do not a prison make, Nor iron bars a cage:”  The reverse is also true, If it controls, it is a prison even if there is not walls or bars.

The first prison I will address is traditionsMatthew 15:9 and Mark 7:7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.  Also, in Mark 7:8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.  Traditions offer a sense of security that sometimes blinds us to truth.  It may be very difficult to break a wrong teaching if it has been held it for a long time.  It makes it even harder if there is some seeming justification for it.  It is much easier to go along with it even if you see that it is wrong.  You can be sure that if you rock the boat, there will be some push back reaction.  So you are faced with the choice to reject the error and receive the consequences or to just go along and become its prisoner.  I have no way of knowing how many lives have endured the consequence of going along with what they knew was wrong but I believe that there are many who have wrecked their own lives as well as being a hindrance to others who were affected by the error.

The gospel will set men free from such a prison.   Jesus said in John 8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. In dealing with traditions it is important to deal with issues not personalities.  Establish facts, not feelings.  Allow the other(s) to disagree with you if they so choose.  You are not trying to change them but you are trying to establish your own way.  Ask them to allow you the same freedom you give them in not making them a prisoner to your thoughts.  A tradition can be good when it is founded upon truth and does not take prisoners. The good news is that a person is set free in Christ.

My Ministry

I am making this post for those of you who are asking exactly what is my ministry?

I am not currently pastoring a church but I still do preaching whenever I can.  Preaching is a real part of my ministry and I do pulpit supply whenever I have the opportunity.  I have studied the subject of revival extensively and understand it well.  I have preached in the last two Senior Adult Bible Conferences at First Baptist Church, Keller, Texas.  I have preached a revival on the Sioux Indian reservation in North Dakota as well as in small to large churches.  My preaching ministry began in 1970 so nearly a half century of various settings.  Once I used a pot belly stove as a pulpit.

A second area of my ministry is teaching.  This may be the strongest gift I have because it is the most recognized by others.  When the Lord called me to the ministry, the emphasis was on teaching.  It seemed to me that was what the Lord wanted me to do above all else.  Explaining the scripture in a way that it is usable brings me joy.  I teach a Sunday School class each Sunday and have spoken in conferences on several occasions.  I love teaching along with the other aspects of the ministry.  One of my greatest joys is seeing the light come on in other people.

My ministry also includes missions.  I have pastured churches in pioneer areas where all there was, was a mission.  It did not have any deacons or other paid employees. I know the struggle of doing missions.  It required all that I could give to it and even then it was not enough.  As a pastor, I started a mission in a small community that did not have a christian church of any kind.  Several of my most cherished friends are missionaries.  Two of the translators that are working on translations of my book are missionaries.  I pray for them and their work.  I try to help others to see how faithful they are and how they labor in the work of the Lord.

A forth area of my ministry is writing.  I never thought of myself as a writer until I was searching for a book on Faith that explained what faith is and how it works.  I found many books with faith as a topic but I could not find the book I was looking for.  It was then that the Lord laid it on my heart to write that book.  I was the last person that I would have ever guessed should write such a book.  While it is true that the Lord had led me through many faith experiences, I was poor in English, a bad speller and totally inexperienced.  Yet the burden would not leave me so I began struggling to do something that I had no clue on how to do it.  Fast forward several years and my #3 son who majored in English, who now has a masters degree and is teaching English as a second language, started working with me. After several months I had completed the book I couldn’t find.  Certainly the Lord should be credited with that accomplishment.  Since then I have found a penchant in writing and have written some poems, songs, stories and even published some articles.  The project that I am working on now with several translators is the translation of my book into 4 other languages, mentioned in a previous post.  In addition to that I am working on some additional books.  More on that in the future.

Finally, a fifth area of my ministry is consulting for construction projects.  After working in the construction industry for over 50 years, I have learned a few things that make my skill set unique.  I have a vast experience from the contractors vantage point having worked there on every level from sweeping floors to owning my own business twice.  I also understand the church’s view, having pastored churches successfully through the construction phase.  I also understand the mechanics, having a background  in engineering.  And finally, I understand the financial side, having established my own finance organization for my own company, and borrowed a huge amount of money to do a 68 townhouse subdivision.  Now I can use that preparation for the Lord’s work.

These are the major areas of my work but I am also involved in whatever the Lord should so place on my shoulders.  I know that He is in control and He is the one that enables it to happen.  Truly God has chosen the foolish things to confound the wise.

Firewood

I was raised on a small farm with rocky ground and poor soil.  Farming was a lot of hard work and little money.  To make it even worse we lived in a depressed area at the end of WW II.  I remember the rationing of gas, the tokens made of plastic, tires were next to impossible to get, jobs were nonexistent, etc.

Our small home was not insulated and we didn’t have the basic essentials that many others had, such as electricity, indoor plumbing, a steady income, and the like.  Basically, we were poor and just getting by.  I tell you this to accent the impact the following event had on me.

My dad did not just tell me the difference between right and wrong but showed me the difference and how it works. He not only saw to it that we were in church on Sunday, but he took us to Church.  My mother was the church pianist and my dad was active in the leadership of the church.

I remember that one year our family income for the year was $500.  Even though we had needs a plenty, dad still took three days to cut wood with a chopping ax for three sisters that lived together with no other support.  They didn’t even have wood to warm themselves and were worse off than we were.  Dad didn’t just do the right thing, he used the situation to teach me the importance of ministering to others.  He made me go out in the cold with him and stack the limbs that couldn’t be used for firewood and to load the wood on the truck.  Then he made me go with him to deliver the wood.

I will never forget how those women showed us their appreciation.  After we unloaded the wood, we were invited in to share in some homemade pie.  I still remember dad looking quite serious when asked what type of pie he liked and he said, I only like two kinds.  They then asked him what they were and he said, hot and cold.  Everyone had a good laugh and the pies were great.  I even had seconds.  I will never forget the warm feeling I had inside as we rode home.

Missionary Report

To see the hand of God working in the midst of this world has to be one of the great joys of my life.  During the week I met with FYI and listened as he shared some of the things that a person in China go through as a routine of life.  Hardship is the norm and isolation from the rest of the world and the modern wonders are commonplace.  Their life is one of struggle yet Christianity if flourishing.  On the other hand, we have every comfort and freedom and Christianity is often stagnate here.  I marveled as he told me how they are working to train the pastors and leadership and how faithful they are even without the amenities we have.

This morning I was greeted by members of my SS class with the tragic news that the Chinese government bulldozed down the church building of a 50,000 member church.  But, then in the morning service I was blessed by a former member of our church and now a missionary to China.  She has been serving there for 8 years.  This is the third missionary to China from our own church that have been in our services in the past few weeks.  It seems that the Lord may be saying something about the need in China.  It makes the translation of my book into Chinese all the more urgent.

 

A Great Reunion

What a thrill it was to have FYI in our home today.  As you may remember that I told you he was coming today.  I met with him last night and we made plans to meet today.  It was like time had stopped since they left for their homeland.  We rejoice together as we shared the events in our lives.  The people there live under a much different  environment from how we do.  While we enjoy many comforts and freedom, they live under very poor conditions and restrictions.  They do not have religious training available to them in most areas and their services center around prayer meetings and preaching.  Often the preaching will last for over an hour and the singing is little to none.  The churches exist by themselves for the most part as there is no association or convention activity as it is frowned upon by the government.  Travel is limited and much of it is by train.  A typical home will be small, have little furniture, and very little, if any, decorations.

We spent considerable time discussing the possibility of a mission trip to there.  I asked how we could be used to be a blessing to the people without causing a problem with the government.  We talked about many of the considerations such as visas, time, places, schedules, etc.  He shared about the people and how warm and supportive they were.  The work there is in a very primitive state.  The people know quite a bit about the bible but structured doctrine, organization, cooperation between churches and/or regions is almost nonexistent..  Nothing was decided but many possibilities were considered.  We determined to simply pray about it and leave the plan up to the Lord.  As He reveals to us what He wants to do then we will follow.

Preparation

I spent several hours yesterday working on the lesson for this weeks Sunday School class.  After studying it in the students quarterly to get their view of the lesson, as well as going through it in the teachers manual. in addition  I have studied the material over many years, so I have a good working knowledge of the material as well.  Now begins the process of taking that information and weaving it into a lesson that will be applicable to my group.  I intend to do that in the remainder of the week.

I also spent time on finalizing the first lesson of the study that I will begin next Wednesday on, Holiness as a lifestyle.  This study is forcing me to do a lot of introspection and self examination.  I am constantly reminded that they that preach the gospel, must live of the gospel.  It is very humbling.

Today I posted another article entitled Don’t Miss the Opportunity.  As I was going through the drill of posting an article with pictures, I made several mistakes and had to ask my son, who is visiting from Japan, how to do it.  He got me straightened out and I made myself an instruction sheet on doing that one operation.  It is all a part of the learning curve and I will get better at it.

Now to continue about FYI:  He is a christian pastor from China.  He was establishing churches and was quite good at it.  He was so good that the government invited him to leave the country so he came to America.  While here he attended Southwestern Seminary, and joined our church .  Soon thereafter he started a Chinese mission church under the umbrella of our church.  He became a US ciltizen and continued to work in the mission church.  Soon he began to feel the drawing of the Holy Spirit to his home land to continue his work there.  About this time I became acquainted with him and we bonded immediately.  He applied for a visa to China as an American citizen and it was granted.  A few months later he was back in China doing what the Lord has led him to do.  Upon my pastor’s recommendation, I asked him to pray about translating my book.  He didn’t want to do it at first but after prayer he said that he believed the Lord was in it so he agreed to do it but couldn’t start until he was able to get some other things in place.  He has informed me that he is using the book as a training manual to train new pastors.