Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Bad soil that needs to be plowed.

Living in a culture that not only embraces depravity but celebrates it can be arduous. A casual perusal of the news could plunge the Christian into a state of despair. It seems that on every front evil is gaining ground. Regardless of how it seems, Christians should not loose heart. I was recently encouraged through my study of the parables found in Mark's gospel. Christianity is not going to be stomped out. The nations can rage, but the Lord will be victorious. He is working and His kingdom is advancing.

Over the past month and a half, I have been reading through the Pastoral Epistles in the morning while my kids are getting ready to leave for the bus. I will read a chapter or two and last week I was using my CSB Spurgeon Study Bible and once again the Lord filled my heart with peace and hope. I have a love for Valdivia, but it is a very difficult place to do ministry. Over the past year and a half I have had seasons of weariness in the ministry. There have been moments when I have questioned many things in my heart. But last week when I read Spurgeon's comment on Titus 1:13-14 a rushing wave of God's grace swept me into His comfort. Spurgeon commenting on Titus's ministry in Crete said this:

                     This was bad soil, but it had to be plowed, sown; and, with an Almighty 
                     God at the back of the gospel plower and sower, a fruitful harvest came 
                     even in Crete. We need not be afraid of the adaptation of the gospel to 
                     the lowest of the low. If in any quarter of the town the people are 
                     more sunken in vice than anywhere else, there the gospel is to be 
                     carried with more prayer and more faith than anywhere else. Depend 
                     upon it: God can bless His word anywhere.

That was something I desperately needed to hear. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. I would dare to say, that sometimes, we as Christians are so focused on the evil that prevails that we forget that it is the gospel that is powerful. It can, and will, overcome the evil of this world. Our focus or perspective needs constant adjustment. We always need to get our eyes back to where they belong. Get our hope set in the right spot. The Lord is doing great things. When I look at what He has done in the last year and half since we planted the church in Valdivia, I should be nothing but encouraged. When I look at my partners in other locations, hard and dark locations, locations where the soil is bad, the Lord is working. There is much to be encouraged by. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation so we plow and sow and wait eagerly for the Lord to bring the harvest.

I am excited for fresh encouragement and motivation. I have been praying with new fervor for Valdivia and for my brothers in Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, Colorado, and Cleveland. Would you please join me in prayer for Valdivia and wherever the Lord puts on your heart. 

Soli deo Gloria

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The Holy Spirit

We begin a new series on the Holy Spirit. There is much confusion with regards to the third person of the trinity and so we will take a look at what the Bible teaches concerning the Holy Spirit.

Text-John 14:12-19

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Tuesday, March 5, 2019

In Heaven there will be no more wrong and everyone will be right.

Last week I made a quick post about our ESI program. I also mentioned that on our radio program we are doing a series about the fruit of the Spirit. I briefly mentioned how not all the aspects of the fruit will be needed in heaven and I specifically brought up patience. Along the lines of ESI, which is an interdenominational program that focuses in on the gospel; and the topic of patience which is an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit that I mentioned will not be needed in heaven; consequently, I couldn't help to think about some comments I heard recently. As humans we like to be correct. I think even within my marriage how if my wife and I disagree about something we will be quick to google search the answer to prove each other wrong. Pray for us!!!! But the comments I heard had to do with brothers and sisters in the faith. And I am seeing this so much more as of late within the church. I see lines being drawn in the sand and if you are on the opposite side of the one drawing the line you are dismissed as not even being Christian. How tragic! But we can take heart because like patience, this  will be no more once we get to heaven. Because when we get to heaven we will all find that we were all wrong on certain things. There is no room for such pride in our lives.

You know how we think and how we act here on earth. "I am right and you are wrong!" That is a terrible attitude, yet it can and does creep into our hearts. I see it and deal with it. Now, I know there are certain things where there is NO ROOM for being wrong on. Such as justification by faith alone or the deity of Christ ect. We need to stand on those to the death.  There are plenty of supposed "Christian" ministries and ministers that are very popular who do not hold to biblical teaching. And it is so sad that so many Christians won't speak out about certain churches and teachers for whatever reason. Maybe because they think they don't want to be divisive or whatever. Well there are things we need to be divisive over. And just because people use Christian sounding terms and language doesn't make them Christian. Do people even listen to the words that some of these people say? There are plenty of people we shouldn't listen to or associate with. There are essential beliefs that we must stand on. Those who don't hold those essential beliefs, not matter how Christian they might sound, we are to have no part with.

But there are other areas, such as eschatology, the coming of the Lord, for example that we have freedom in. While I may have my views on that, I will never say to any brother or sister in Christ, "You are wrong," because I could be wrong. I have seen way too much division over things that aren't worth dividing over. That is one of the great things about ESI. Here is the gospel, we agree on this. The main thing. Some side, peripheral issues, there can be freedom in that. There are things in which we need to be very careful on. But when we all get to heaven, at that point we will be right. All of us. Won't that be great. We are all sinners right now. We all are not 100% correct in our thinking (and it is so arrogant to think you are). But when we get to heaven, then we will all know what really is and there will be no arguing and no bickering no backbiting, no division, it will all be gone.

I don't want to be guilty of theological pride. I see too much of that. It is so arrogant and almost cultish to think you are 100% right in every view you hold. I have seen people break fellowship with others over non essential issues. We should never be so hung up in the non essentials that they become lines drawn in the sand. Someone says, "We shouldn't major in the minors and minor in the majors." In other words, why are so many of us making non essentials the standard for orthodoxy or fellowship? The comment mentioned to me recently was that a group of people were not even believers because of their view of election. You might disagree with another's position in regards to election, but to say that those who hold an opposite view that you hold aren't even Christian is a very condemning statement. In Bridges book, Respectable Sins, he deals with this issue. He writes this:

                      If your Calvinism or Arminianism or dispensationalism, or your view

                      concerning the end time, or your distain for all doctrinal beliefs causes

                      you to feel doctrinally superior to those who hold other views, then you

                      are probably guilty of the sin of doctrinal pride. I'm not suggesting that

                      we should not seek to know the truths of Scripture and develop doctrinal

                      convictions about what the Scriptures teach; I am saying that we should

                      hold our convictions in humility, realizing that many godly and

                      theologically capable people hold other convictions.

I have been blessed by ESI, Kep, Alistair and his team, and Pastor B who have helped develop in me the fact that as Christians we can have fellowship and learn and grow with others even if we have slightly different views on non essentials. As Augstine said, "In essentials unity, non essentials liberty, but in all things charity."

Soli Deo gloria

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

ESI, Patience, and Heaven

It has been a minute since I have taken the time to write anything. There are numerous factors that play into the why's but this morning as I was doing my daily reading I felt compelled to get back to sharing from time to time. As I was getting onto the computer I received an incredibly encouraging email about ESI (the pastoral training program we partner with). We are going to be starting a group here in Valdivia hopefully within the next month or so. Next week Don, Dorian, and Francisco will be heading to Santiago to do a two day Facilitator training crash course. Luckily for Don he has gone through a week course a while back so it will be a review for him. After that we will fire up. The program in Cajamarca is still striving and growing. The email I got shared how ESI is probably now going to be taking off in Spain and Portugal! I can't express how great it is to see these tools being made available for the edification of the church. I am excited to see how ESI will impact Valdivia for the gospel as church leadership here begins to gain a deeper understanding of biblical ministry and how the growth in our own personal walk will impact those we shepherd. And what a blessing it is to see church leaders, from all sides of the theological spectrum, come together with open hearts and a desire to be teachable to the truths of God's word.

On our radio program "Notas de Gracia" we are currently in a series on the Holy Spirit. This week we are covering the fruit of the Spirit. As I was preparing the message I couldn't help to see how several aspects of the fruit of the Spirit will not be needed in heaven. For example, faithfulness. We will not need faith in the heavenly state because we will be there and we will see the Lord face to face and so faith will give way to sight, as the Bible puts it. Here and now we need faith. We need faith to be saved. We need faith to live the Christian life….because.......well…we walk by faith the Bible says.
We are continually dealing with the invisible. We don’t see the Lord and we are in a battle and we are going through this world and we desperately need faith now. And of course faith is a gift of God and faith is developed and increased in our hearts and lives and at times it is up and at times it is down. So we need faith, but when we get to heaven we won’t need faith. Another one is patience. And it struck to the core. Here we need patience, but when we get to heaven we will not need patience. Why? Because there will be nothing there that will try us. We won’t need patience in heaven. We need it now because we live in a world of trial. So many things try us. And you know...…it all starts with ourselves. We are a trial for ourselves, in the sense that we are such great failures. We are filled with so many faults and so we need  patience with ourselves; to put up with ourselves. That is where it starts and then we work it out from there. Yes we live in an ungodly world and we we need patience to deal with it. And sadly, there are times even when we need patience with other Christians and they need patience to deal with you. It works both ways. But when we get to heaven, there will be nothing to try us, no afflictions, everyone will be perfect. Everyone will see things exactly the same. I long for that day. What about you?

Soli Deo gloria 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

One month in Valdivia

     It has been about one month since we have arrived in Valdivia.  It has been a month of go go go.  A month of tears and smiles and everything in between.  More days than not, we wish we could snap our fingers and return to Peru.  It has been a hard adjustment and we are just getting started.  We have been dealing with culture shock.  When we are go go go everything is good in regards to missing Peru.  It is at night when we finally settle down to get some sleep that the emotions come.  Don’t get me wrong we have had some really great days.  We did a boat tour on the river.  Nicole and I went on our first date in Valdivia and it was a gorgeous night and we walked along the river.  I have been loving the salami and sausage and cheddar cheese.  The view driving from our house into Valdivia is breathtaking.  Every time I just go “Wow!”  Crossing the bridges over the rivers every time blows me away.  These are views that will never get old.  I saw my first penguin just last week on the beach that is 1000 feet from our house.  My kids have seen six penguins in the last month.  It’s great.  I have been building our house with my dad and brother in law which is such a joy.  This Sunday will be our first service at our new church plant Refugio Community Church of Valdivia. We will be starting with evening services.  The Lord has provided a great location.  He has been so faithful every step of the way.  But we still miss Peru.  But I also know this is the Lord calling in our life.  This is the location the Lord has set us down at.  But it is also crazy to me.  Because I look at this place and when the sun is out (it rains 320 days a year here) it is incredibly beautiful.  They call it the pearl of Chile.   There is wealth here.  It is a major tourist destination.  It isn’t a place that people would think of when they think of missions.  You think Peru or Africa or South East Asia.  I am sure some have looked at our pictures and sarcastically have thought, "oh it must be rough to be there.”  I get that.  It is breathtaking here.  For example just the other day we were in the immigrations office and got into a conversation with a Syrian.  Super nice guy and and a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church.  As we talked and shared he asked why are you here in Valdivia starting a church?  Why not go to the Middle East?  Why not go to Syria?  They need a church.  They need the gospel.  My thought to that was “Why did you leave if you are so concerned with the gospel going to Syria?”  I went on to explain how the Lord called us here and put a burden on my heart for this place.  I explained how some are called to Syria or Africa or Europe, but I was called here.  We don't question the Lord's calling on people's lives.  We support them.  People are called to many different things.  That is the great thing about how the Lord works.  Some plant, some water, some reap.  We all have different callings and no one's is more important or better than another.

     The issue I have seen though is many times we can be motivated by pictures.  Many times we can be motivated by the conditions in which people live in.  If I am real, there are things that are attractive when it comes to missions.  Valdivia is not one of those places.  My new Syrian friend had that exact thought.  There won’t be too many photo opps. here in Valdivia if you catch my drift.  But as I was sitting in the car the other day watching people walking down the over crowded sidewalks I saw people who were empty and lost and on a path to eternal condemnation unless they come to know Christ and Him crucified for their sin.  That is the reason the Lord has placed us in Valdivia.  Because as He told Paul when Paul was in Corinth, the Lord has people in this city.  The Lord has people in Valdivia whom He purchased with His own blood.  There are people here headed to hell.  Christ came to save.  They need to know this.  But as I have already seen in one month of being on the ground, this is not an easy place to do ministry.  I am not in danger (though there has been heavy persecution in the Los Rios region, which is our region by the Mapuche, we are not in danger).  That is not the reason ministry is hard here.   It is hard because people are hard.  This is hard soil.  Reminds me so much of my home town in Santa Cruz.  But the fact of the matter is, people are people no matter whether I am in Peru, Chile or the States or anywhere else.  All people when we strip away every thing have the same issue.   They are separated from their Creator.  They have all rebelled.  They love their darkness.  They need Christ!   This is my motivation.  This is my calling.  To bring the good news of salvation by grace alone through faith alone.  We are praying that the Lord would pour His Spirit upon this place in a powerful way.  We want to see dead people come alive.  We want the Lord to do what He did in our lives.  We want the Lord to do what he did in the lives of our Peruvian church.  We want the Lord to turn this place upside down.  This is our motivation.

     While we miss Peru, we know this is the Lord’s place for us.  One month down, many more to go.  The newness will wear off.  Soon I hope we will be more accustomed to the lifestyle.  But the one thing I never want to wear off or get accustomed to is the need for Christ in this place.  May He do great things in Valdivia and beyond. 

Soli Deo gloria

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Full or Wanting? Our Peruvian Experience.

The time we spent in Peru was special.  Setting out on this journey we never knew what to expect.  We had a desire to see the Lord’s hand outstretched in power.  I had this want to see tangible change in lives.  I wanted to see idols broke down and grace experienced.  I can tell you that in my own life, that became a reality.  But some might read that and not see the big deal in that.  They might not see the weight.  That isn’t the Peruvian experience that many would want to partake in.  More than not, when someone hears about us living cross culturally and doing what we do, they say things like, what a great experience for your kids to see different cultures and to get to grow up in that manner etc. etc. etc.  And I don’t want to minimize or take anything away from the fact that it is a great experience for our kids.  They have experienced life situations and cultures that many people will never get to. On the flip side of that, they have also had to give up many things due to this calling.  They never have enjoyed little league or things of that nature.  It isn’t a better life or a worse life it is just different.  Here in Chile, it appears there will be a better opportunity for community style sports and rec leagues.  So we are excited about that.  We are excited to get into the community and make connections.  But what about our time in Peru? What about our experience in Peru?  Was it full or wanting?  

How do I describe our Peruvian experience.  One question I get all the time is, “have you been to Machu Picchu?”  Or I hear “you have to see Machu Picchu before you leave Peru!”  Well, after six and half years of living in Peru, I never did see Machu Picchu.  I know it is or was, one of the seven wonders of the world.  I know that the pictures don’t do it justice.   I know that it is breath taking.  Or how about the Nasca Lines?  They are literally out in the middle of nowhere, but on our drive to Chile we drove right past them.  The tower to climb up was right next to us.  My son, Joaquin, really wanted to see them.  But do to the circumstances we weren’t able to stop for ten minutes to climb the tower and have a gander.  Some might say that is a travesty.  While I would have loved to have seen those sights, I don’t believe at all that by not seeing them it has tarnished my experience in Peru.  I do believe that as a Christian, I should appreciate seeing those incredible places.  As a Christian I should praise God who created man with creativity and ability to make wonderful places like Machu Picchu.  Looking at those sights should draw us to worship such a great God.  Christians of all people should be sports enthusiasts or book worms or whatever makes you tick.  God gave man the ability to design, invent, and organize.  When I see a quarterback throw a football fifty yards that should make me in awe of our mighty Creator not the quarterback.  We don’t make sports an idol or make sight seeing an idol, but as Christians we should enjoy them.  But in regards to my Peru experience, I didn’t see Machu Picchu. I didn’t see God’s handiwork through man’s creation of an amazing archeological sight.  I feel that I saw something even more impressive.  I saw not the creation of a man made structure which would have drawn out praise to the Lord, but I saw direct creation from God Himself.  How could my Peruvian experience be found wanting?

Sure I didn’t see one of the “seven wonders of the world”, but I saw something far greater.  I saw lives changed by the power of God’s Spirit through the gospel.  Regeneration is the direct creation of God.  It is God taking a dead soul and making it alive.  It is imparting eternal life.  And by the mercies of God, I was able to see God do this spiritual work.  There is nothing greater.  On top of Regeneration I was able to see those who had been regenerated in years past grow in the grace and knowledge of God’s grace.  I saw marriages restored and families healed.  I saw people overcome fears, doubts, anxieties and even cultural strongholds.  In retrospect, what else should I have expected?  The gospel is the power of God unto salvation.  God is going to do His work and we as Christians get the benefit of seeing the Lord do his work.  

So was my Peru experience full or wanting?  I guess that depends of your perspective.  No I didn’t see Machu Picchu or the Nasca Lines or much of anything else Peru has to offer in that category.  I didn’t see what most people come to Peru to see.  But I saw something far greater.  Yes my kids got to experience several of their formative years in a different culture, but they experienced something far greater.  I saw the hand of the Lord working in power.  My kids experienced the grace of God to sustain them.  Without a shadow of a doubt our Peruvian experience was full.  It was so full that we will deal with great emptiness for days to come.  We left a huge part of our hearts.  The Lord never said obedience was easy.  To leave Peru  has been the hardest part of our journey at any time. And Chile is a whole new wild fire that needs to be brought under control.  I have great expectation that the Lord has great plans here.  It will look different than what took place in Peru, but the gospel is the gospel and it transcends cultures and no matter where and when. It remains the power of God unto salvation.  Forever we will be connected to Peru.  Forever Peru will have a piece of us.  Forever we will be able to praise our gracious God for allowing us to be part of what took place in Peru.  Forever we will be able to say our experience in Peru was full, full to the max!

Soli Deo Gloria

Friday, December 8, 2017

Cajamarca to Valdivia

    Well after a couple of the most stressful weeks of our lives, we made it to Chile this past week.  It surely has been a roller coaster of emotions.  I am still trying to process all that has gone on and I am sure it will take along time to truly get a full perspective on from that side of things.  In about a week I will make a post sharing some of my initials thoughts.  But while it is so fresh I want to just recount the events of this past week or so.  

  Our last Sunday at Refugio Community Church in BaƱos Del Inca was nothing short of special.  It was extremely hard knowing that it was my last Sunday there, but at the same time is it was so exciting looking forward to what the Lord will do once I am gone.  On Monday all the pastors and leaders in our ESI training program had a going away dinner for us.  It was another humbling and incredible night.  Nicole and I couldn’t just stop thanking the Lord for all He has done.  After that though is when things started to turn for the worst.  Four out of six of us came down with this nasty body flu type thing.  I was at the peak of it the day before I was to get on the Combi and begin the trek from Northern Peru to Southern Chile.  

   We loaded up the Combi with our stuff and my son my dog and I got in and headed out. The girls were flying down.  On top of dealing with the flu, I got crazy car sick for about the first 6 hours.  I had plenty of plastic bags so we didn’t need to stop.  We left Cajamarca at 3pm and we got to the Lima airport at 8:30 the next morning to pick up Don.  

    Let me just at this point say Don is an incredible blessing. Without even getting into the issues and the pain he is dealing with in his back and leg, this guy is a trooper. What blows me away is he has made this trip once before.  I don’t care if I had a good back and could sit in a vehicle for 5 days, I don’t think I would ever in my life do that trip again.  Miserable doesn’t describe it.  

     Well, we made it to the boarder and sparing the details of corrupt police and all the hoops to jump through with our dog we got to the Chile checkpoint around 4:30 on Monday.  Our combi drivers dropped us off in Arica and headed back to Cajamarca.  We ended up having to rent an extra vehicle cause we couldn’t get everything to fit into the truck we had rented.  The Lord was with us at every point of the way though.  For some reason the rental company has this French made delivery van thing that they let us rent too.  The downside though is now we are in two cars and will have to stop to rest.  

      We got on the road and just mobbed.  We made our first stop somewhere in the middle of the Chilean desert around 3 am.  We grabbed an hour nap and got back on the road.  We ended up stopping only three more times for a total of five hours and we got into Valdivia Wednesday around 5 pm.  That was two days ahead of the expected arrival day.   But when I got to the house, my poor wife had come down with the sickness that ravished our house.  Praying that she gets better quickly.  

      All that to say, it was a mission but the Lord had grace upon us.  As we begin to unpack and get some things organized, we have a busy few weeks ahead of us.  We were able to go already and get insurance for our car and a couple other things.  It was good to get out into the city,  but I definitely had some culture shock.  At one point I was going back to the car and I took a wrong turn andI just had to stop and breath cause I was totally about the break down.  It will be a rough adjustment.  My son earlier was also dealing with some culture shock and I am sure all the others will to.  The good thing is we can all lean on each other.   Friday is a holiday so it will be a down day of rest and relaxation which is good before we hit the ground running.  In the next week or two we will meet with Raul (the pastor of the church who is sponsoring our visas) to get our letter of request and some fellowship and then we can start on our residency.  Please be praying for that process as it is a lot to go through.  

     That was a brief sketch of our journey from Northern Peru to Southern Chile.  From one chapter to another.  Looking forward to seeing all the Lord has in store.