May 29, 2008

A Great Finish For May

May was a great month, and God has done some wonderful things here in the Sao Paulo area. Today we finished speaking in a public school in the Sapopemba area of Sao Paulo, which is a poor favella (slum) area in the east zone of the city. We worked with Igreja Batista Luz Para As Nacoes, and we spoke in 34 classes on Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday night, and this morning. We are tired after speaking so many times, but we are rejoicing for what God has done. Over 900 students accepted Christ, including 99 adults that are finishing their high school education at night, and 21 teachers also accepted Christ. Wednesday night was a real blessing for us, when we spoke to the adult students. Sometimes they can be more difficult to reach than younger students, but eveyone in our group felt the Holy Spirit's presence in an unusually powerful and strong way. We felt it so strongly that it was a very emotional time for us, and at the same time it is a very humbling experience to know that you are in the presence of the Almighty and Living God. You begin to understand how Isaiah felt in Isaiah 6:5 when he saw the glory of the Lord, or John when he fell at the Lord's feet in Revelation 1:17.

In the month of May we spoke in 4 schools and I also preached on a Sunday night at Igreja Batista Ministerio de Reconciliacao. Over 2240 people accepted the Lord, including 57 teachers, 1 director (principal), and over 100 adults. We praise the Lord for opening these doors for us to share the Good News of Jesus, and give Him all the glory and honor and praise. We just get to go along for the ride with Him. Please pray that God will continue to show His glory and will continue to open many doors and opportunities to share Christ with others.

May 25, 2008

What Is A Missionary ?

The following is from Oswald Chambers' "My Utmost From His Highest" daily devotion: What Is A Missionary ?

"Again Jesus said to them ... As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." - John 20:21

A missionary is someone sent by Jesus Christ just as He was sent by God. The great controlling factor is not the needs of people, but the command of Jesus. The source of our inspiration in our service for God is behind us, not ahead of us. The tendency today is to put the inspiration out in front— to sweep everything together in front of us and make it conform to our definition of success. But in the New Testament the inspiration is put behind us, and is the Lord Jesus Himself. The goal is to be true to Him— to carry out His plans.

Personal attachment to the Lord Jesus and to His perspective is the one thing that must not be overlooked. In missionary work the great danger is that God’s call will be replaced by the needs of the people, to the point that human sympathy for those needs will absolutely overwhelm the meaning of being sent by Jesus. The needs are so enormous, and the conditions so difficult, that every power of the mind falters and fails. We tend to forget that the one great reason underneath all missionary work is not primarily the elevation of the people, their education, nor their needs, but is first and foremost the command of Jesus Christ— "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations . . ." (Matthew 28:19).

When looking back on the lives of men and women of God, the tendency is to say, "What wonderfully keen and intelligent wisdom they had, and how perfectly they understood all that God wanted!" But the keen and intelligent mind behind them was the mind of God, not human wisdom at all. We give credit to human wisdom when we should give credit to the divine guidance of God being exhibited through childlike people who were "foolish" enough to trust God’s wisdom and His supernatural equipment.

May 22, 2008

God's Desire & Passion

God has a strong desire and passion in His heart to save all people and to have a reconciled relationship with everyone. I Timothy 2:4 tells us that God wants all men to be saved, and 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that God does not want anyone to perish but for all to come to repentance. How strong is God's desire & passion ? So strong that He sent His only Son Jesus to suffer terribly and to die a horribly painful death on the cross, in order to make it possible for us to have a restored personal relationship with Him ("God so loved the world..." - John 3:16).

God wants to take His desire and passion for all men to be saved and place it into our hearts. When we have a soft & moldable heart for God, then He is able to place His desires & His passion into our hearts. Then we, God's people, God's church, will live passionately and purposefully to try to help all people to have a restored relationship with God through Jesus, and to help them to be true disciples of Christ. In Luke 19:10 Jesus said "I have come to seek and to save the lost." Jesus did not wait around in church for the lost people to come to Him ... He went out to seek them and then to try to help them to be saved. Like Jesus the church needs to be outwardly focused and actively seeking to reach people in their community and beyond.

In Romans 1:9 Paul says "I serve God with my whole heart in preaching the Gospel of His Son." Paul gave everything he had and everything he was to join God in His work. Acts 19:8-10 are some interesting verses. Paul went to Ephesus to preach the Good News of Jesus. Verse 10 tells us that he worked hard for 2 years, until all the Jews and Greeks in that area heard the Word, the Good News of Jesus. That is one of God's main plans and goals for His church - to work hard until all the people have heard about how to have a personal relationship with God through faith in Christ. Is your church working hard in this way, so that everyone in your community and beyond is hearing the Good News of Jesus ? If not then you are falling short of God's desire and plan and design for your church.

May 20, 2008

Life In Sao Caetano / Sao Paulo, Brazil

When most Americans think of Brazil, they think of the Amazon, jungles & rain forests, Rio de Janeiro, and Carnival... Life in a 3rd world country... And there are supposed to be monkeys and other animals running around in the streets. This is what most of America sees on TV about Brazil. Life here in Sao Caetano/ Sao Paulo is vastly different than the perception most Americans have.

Our city, Sao Caetano do Sul, is located next to the city of Sao Paulo. Both are fairly modern cities, and life here is not a "3rd world country" type of life. We have excellent health care here (praise God), and we have modern conveniences like cable tv (we even have ESPN Brasil), cell phones, wireless internet,... we have many pizzarias and good restaurants. There are many small specialty stores, and also some supermarkets like Extra (Brazilian) and Carrefour (French). There are many strange and different things, and also there are some familiar things like McDonalds, Sam's Club & Wal-Mart (although their prices are not cheap here), Pizza Hut, Blockbusters,... There is a GM plant here in Sao Caetano. You see familiar cars like Chevrolets and Fords and Volkswagens, and you also see Puegots, Citroens, Fiats, Renaults,...

It is definitely an urban city lifestyle, and is vastly different than the suburbs of Marietta GA (north of Atlanta) where we lived prior to moving here. There are no houses with large yards with lots of grass and trees. There are houses with little or no yards, and there are many high-rise apartments. There are narrow roads filled with crazy drivers driving small cars or motorcylces, and also many buses and pedestrians. Brazilians are very wonderful & kind & warm people, but when they get into their cars... well we won't go there. And of course there is the different language. They speak Portuguese here in Brazil. It is the only country in South America that speaks Portuguese; all the rest speak Spanish.

Life here is certainly different. There are some enjoyable things here, especially the wonderful people. And there are things that are not so enjoyable. All of the adjustments, and the learning of a new language, and the sacrifices that we have had to make to come here are well worth it, to see many people coming to Christ and to see God being glorified. It is a great privilege and joy to have the opportunity to join God in His work here.

May 17, 2008

Many Students & Teachers Accept Christ

We have been busy so far in May, speaking in 3 schools in the first 2 weeks of the month. Our special project in the schools is called Quality Of Life, and we speak about how to have a good future and a higher quality of life with joy & peace & hope. We speak about the Body, the Soul, and the Spirit, and in the final part we share the Good News of Jesus plainly & directly. Afterwards we have a prayer time for students & teachers to invite Christ into their hearts & lives to be their Lord & Savior. After this we hand out a great discipleship tool called Livro Da Vida (Book Of Life), which a ministry here in Brazil offers to all churches to use in the schools. After this we have a time for questions about the US and about the English language, which is alot of fun for us and for the students & teachers. Brazilian students and teachers have a great interest and curiosity about the US and the culture and the language, and this opens many doors for us to share Christ. Even though we are able to speak in Portuguese, we always speak in English because of this great interest.
When we speak in the schools we speak in every classroom, and we speak in 2 classes at the same time. It is more work to do it this way, and we are pretty tired by the end of the week, but doing it this way works very well and it is worth it. We are praising God for the many victories & blessings He has given us these last 2 weeks. In the 3 schools we visited, all of which are in Sao Paulo, 1279 students & 36 teachers & 1 principal accepted Christ. We worked with 3 different churches in these schools: Igreja Batista Ministerio Reconciliacao, Igreja Batista Boas Novas, and Igreja Batista Vila Primavera. Please pray that God will continue to open many doors for us to share Christ.

Working with Igr. Bat. Min. Reconciliacao

Kevin & Carol (interpretor) sharing Christ

Working with Igreja Batista Boas Novas

Nancy & Percio handing out Livro Da Vida's
John & Junior (interpretor) sharing Christ

Working with Igreja Batista Vila Primavera

May 16, 2008

Some Great Quotes

I was on the web the other day and found some great quotes, most of which are about missions and evangelism:

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose."
- Jim Elliot

"God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supplies."
- J. Hudson Taylor

"If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him." - C.T. Studd

"Do not think me mad. It is not to make money that I believe a Christian should live. The noblest thing a man can do is, just humbly to receive, and then go amongst others and give." - David Livingstone

"How little chance the Holy Spirit has nowadays. The churches and missionary societies have so bound him in red tape that they practically ask Him to sit in a corner while they do the work themselves." - C.T. Studd

"Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God." - William Carey

"We who have Christ's eternal life need to throw away our own lives."
- George Verwer

"The command has been to "go," but we have stayed - in body, gifts, prayer and influence. He has asked us to be witnesses unto the uttermost parts of the earth… But 99% of Christians have kept puttering around in the homeland."
- Robert Savage

"Here am I. Send me." - Isaiah

"I have but one passion - it is He, it is He alone. The world is the field and the field is the world; and henceforth that country shall be my home where I can be most used in winning souls for Christ." - Count Zinzindorf

May 13, 2008

God Always Does What He Says or Promises

Do you know God well enough that you know for certain that He will always do what He has told you or promised you ? God needs to teach us about His perfect character and about His perfect faithfulness. One of the best lessons that He teaches us is to know that He will do whatever He has said or promised. This is His nature, to keep His promises. He cannot do otherwise. He does not lie, and He is always the same and will never change, and He will always keep His word.

Isaiah 14:24 says "The Lord Almighty has sworn: Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand." Isaiah 46:11 says "What I have said that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do." And Numbers 23:19 is another great verse: "God is not a man, that he should lie; nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act ? Does he promise and not fulfill ?" These verses are telling us that whatever God says He will do - it is guaranteed to happen. And whatever God has promised us - it is guaranteed, because of God's perfect character. What an awesome God we serve.

During a mission trip here in July 2005 we saw 201 people come to Christ in 1 week, and we were amazed. God called us to come back and join Him permanently in His work on that trip, and He started speaking about how He was going to make that 1 week in 2005 seem small, compared to what He was going to do. Because God, by His grace, had taught us in many ways that He always will do what he says, we took the leap of faith and moved to Brazil to join Him. We have been seeing and experiencing what God was promising - that He would do "immeasurably more" than all that we ask & imagine, and indeed God is turning the hundreds that came to Christ that week in 2005 into thousands and even tens of thousands that are coming to Christ. All of this is for His glory and for His name sake. He will always do what He says or promises - for His glory & for His name.

May 8, 2008

Brazil Is Very Open To The Gospel

It is amazing to see how open Brazilians are to the Gospel. God has truly prepared a great harvest here in Brazil, and we are privileged to be a part of this great work of God. We are always excited about seeing God touch and save so many people, and we are happy about how open Brazilians are to the Gospel, but at the same time we are somewhat sad.

When you see such wonderful people that are very open to the Gospel, you cannot help but think about how different it is in the US. The difference is incredible. How can a nation founded by Christians and long considered a Christian nation be so closed to hearing about Jesus ? Why do so many people have hard hearts towards the things of God ? Why are many other nations and people groups in the world far more open to the Gospel ? You hear about God doing awesome things in other parts of the world, and touching & saving great numbers of people in many places other than the US. Why is it like this ?

I definitely do not have all of the answers, but there are some things that are clear when you live outside of the US for awhile. Materialism is much greater in the US, even within the church ; people here generally are more humble, and more kind-hearted ; life here is harder for people than in the US, and people are used to having less ; there are many poor people in the US, but there are far more here ; people here are needy, and they know that they need God and His help ; people here seem to have a greater reverence and fear of God than in the US ; many Brazilians have a genuine interest in God and in His Word, and in having a personal relationship with Him.

Before we blame all of the liberals and non-Christians in America for all of the problems, these Bible verses are interesting to read:
2 Chronicles 7:14 - "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
Psalm 81:8-14 - "Hear, O my people, and I will warn you - if you would but listen to me. You shall have no foreign god among you ... I am the Lord your God ... but my people would not listen to me; they would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own devices. If my people would but listen to me, if they would follow my ways, how quickly would I subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes." God is speaking to us, His people, the church. He's not speaking to non-Christians, but to His people. If we would be different, then God could and would change the way things are in the US.

May 4, 2008

Is The Church Truly Following Jesus ?

Is the church today what God wants it to be ? How does the church today compare to the church in the Bible, particularly the early church in the book of Acts ? The early church in Acts is considered the model of what the church is to be like. In Matthew 4:19 Jesus says "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." In order to truly follow Jesus we must be "fishers of men" - people who activiely share Christ with others in their daily lives. In many churches today there is alot of talk about sharing the Good News of Christ with others and of making disciples. It seems that many churches talk more about the Great Commission than actually do it. How many people in the church are being true to Jesus and being fishers of men ?

There are some very interesting verses in Acts chapter 8 about the church. Acts 8:1 tells us that a great persecution broke out against the church, and that everyone except the apostles were scattered to other places in Judea and Samaria. The apostles, the main leaders of the church, remained in Jerusalem, and everyone else in the church was scattered. If this were a modern day church, it would be the pastors and the staff that remained in Jerusalem, and the regular ordinary people of the church were the ones scattered. Acts 8:4 tells us "Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went." In the church of the Bible, it is God's design and plan for everyone in the church to share the Good News of Christ with others, not just the pastors or the staff members or the missionaries or the deacons. In most churches today only a hand full of people are true "fishers of men" that actively share Christ with others in their lives. With regards to the Great Commission it seems the church is falling far short of God's design for the church shown in the Bible.

May 1, 2008

Ipiranga Museum In Sao Paulo

Today is the Labor Day holiday in Brazil, so I have time today to post something new about Sao Paulo. Sao Paulo is not considered a tourist city, it is mostly an industrial city, and it is also considered the financial capital of Brazil and of South America. Even though it is not a tourist city and there are problems with crime & pollution & traffic, it does have some nice places to visit. One of these places is the Ipiranga Museum, which was built to commemorate the independance of Brazil in 1822. The museum is housed in a beautiful building and is surrounded by beautiful gardens. The museum includes many cultural objects and artifacts from the 6th to the 20th century that depict the history, culture, and life in Brazil. It also has alot of information on the history of the city of Sao Paulo. Here are some pictures to enjoy.