March 30, 2011

Words Of Wisdom For Ministry

"You ought to rejoice when God asks you to proceed in the work of His kingdom because you know the victory is already secured. Don’t focus on the problems and failures of others. Focus on God’s assurance of victory. If you have trouble praising God with a song in your heart as you serve Him, it may be that your focus is not on God, but on your circumstances."      - Experiencing God devotion

These are wonderful words of wisdom for anyone that is serving the Lord and joining Him in His kingdom work, and they are very helpful to me as well. Because we work with many churches, pastors, and people in various projects and events to share Christ, we inevitably work with some who lack passion for God and are without passion for reaching those who are without Christ. In our "Qualidade De Vida" (Quality Of Life) project in public schools we always work with a church located near the school, and at times the participation of the church is very weak and the pastor does not even participate. There is a huge contrast, because on one hand hundreds and even thousands accept Christ, and you can see that God is doing a powerful work in the hearts and lives of students, teachers, and school leaders - and yet there is the disappointing performance of the pastor and the church at the same time.

We have had 2 awesome outreach events in schools this year so far, and in both of them many accepted Christ and committed their lives to Him. In both of these events the participation of the church we worked with was weak - we ask the churches to send 4 or more people to help us each day of the event, and in these 2 events the churches each only sent 1 person per day, and the pastors did not participate. Personally I feel that the pastor needs to lead by example and participate, since reaching lost people and having a reconciled relationship with them is one of God's top priorities (as is taking the next step of making disciples of the new believers). Typically if the pastor and the church does not have good participation in these outreach projects, then there will be little if any effort to do the important follow-up work to begin to help and teach and disciple the new believers.

At times the occasional poor participation of the churches is very bothersome to me, and if I let it my focus can be moved to these bothersome circumstances and away from God and His assurance of victory. Rather than having an attitude and spirit of praise and anticipation, I end up with a heavy heart and a spirit of frustration. For me and for others, these are very helpful and wise words from the Experiencing God devotion. Let us keep our focus on God and on His great promises and assurances of victory (2 Cor. 2:14, Exodus 14:14, Ephesians 3:20, Deut. 31:7-8, 2 Chron. 20:17,...)

March 28, 2011

How Strong Is Your Faith ?

"Lord if it's you, Peter replied, tell me to come to you on the water. "Come" he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out "Lord save me !" Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith" he said, "Why did you doubt ?".  - Matthew 14:28-31

Does this represent your faith ?

March 23, 2011

School Outreach In Praia Grande

On Monday and Tuesday we held our Qualidade De Vida outreach project at a state school in the city of Praia Grande. We worked with Igreja Batista Vila Antartica, which is located close to the school. The school is located in a poor area of Praia Grande. On Monday we spoke in 5 classes in the morning period and in 6 more in the afternoon, and on Tuesday night we spoke in 7 more classes. All of the students are in high school. God moved in a mighty way in the hearts of many in the school, and the students, teachers, and the school leaders loved the project and really appreciated our help. More than 500 accepted Christ and committed their lives to Him, including 7 teachers and the principal Edson, and the vice-principal Monica. Edson and Monica asked us if we could come back and continue to help the students, but unfortunately we do not have the time to do the follow-up work. Since we speak in many schools during the year and have many other projects and events, we are not able to do more. That is why we always work with a church close to the school, so that they can try to do more to help the students and their families after our project. Unfortunately only 1 person from the church came each day to help during the project, so we are not sure how well they will do in the important follow-up work to help each new believer grow spiritually and find a good church home. One of the challenges we have is to find churches that have a desire and passion to reach people for Christ and also to do the important follow-up work to disciple new believers and help them to grow in their new relationship with the Lord Jesus.

March 22, 2011

Armed Robbery At A School

I read almost daily an online news site that covers the city of Santos and surrounding cities. Today there was a story that jumped out at me, because of our work in many schools. We have not had the opportunity to do our Quality Of Life project at the school in the news article as of yet. A state school located in a poor area of Sao Vicente was the scene of an armed robbery today at 10:00 am. 3 armed men burst into the school at the exact time when there is a scheduled 20 minute break for students & teachers. Normally the doors to the school are locked during class times, but during the 20 minute break period they are open and the men knew this. They armed men went into the teachers lounge and office area and stole money, cell phones, and other items from teachers and administrators at the school. As of now 2 of the 3 men have been caught and arrested. Fortunately no one was hurt during the robbery.

Unfortunately there is a lot of crime in Brazil, especially in the poorer areas of the cities. Although crime is much better where we live now in Santos than in Sao Paulo, where we lived for our first 3 years in Brazil, there still is a good bit of crime in some of the poorer areas. Earlier this morning in the same area as the school there were 2 men that were shot and killed by someone on a motorcycle.

March 20, 2011

You Can't Fake Passion

"The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus."   - I Timothy 1:14

"I serve God with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son."   - Romans 1:9

Paul was a man who was driven by his passion ... passion for God, and passion for reaching people for Jesus. Before he was touched and transformed by Jesus, Paul was a religious and a zealous man, but was misguided in his beliefs and zeal. After being touched by The Truth, he was filled with Jesus' love and passion for God and for lost people, and he was forever changed. He lived the rest of his life loving and serving God, reaching out to people without Christ, and making disciples, and he literally gave his life for Jesus ... just as Jesus gave His life for Paul. Jesus' love and passion for all men to be saved and to have a reconciled relationship with Him flowed through Paul.

We work with many churches and Christians here, and at times we are disappointed with the lack of passion of some people and churches. There is a distinct lack of passion in some people and in some churches. When there is a lack of passion and desire for God, there is also a lack of passion and love for other people, especially for those who are still without Christ. There is little excitement in these people and churches, and even in many pastors, for reaching the lost for Jesus, and thus their participation in our projects to share Christ with others is minimal at best. Even when some participate, there is a lack of excitement and passion to see God at work in the hearts and lives of others. They participate, but it is as though they are going through the motions.

We are blessed to know some people here who have a true passion for God and for reaching others for Jesus. It is always a joy to work with passionate people, pastors, and churches. When others accept Christ as their Lord and Savior and commit their lives to Him, these folks have a genuine joy and an excitement of being able to participate in God's redemptive work. They gladly sacrifice their time and resources for the joy and privilege of serving our Lord and helping others.

Only God can touch and change our hearts, and fill us with the same love and passion that Jesus has for God, and for reaching lost people for His kingdom. Paul said that the grace of the Lord was poured out on him abundantly, along with the faith and love of Jesus. It is that supernatural love and passion of Jesus that Paul had in him that the church today desperately needs. May God touch and transform us, His church, so that we will be passionate servants that God can use to reach many people for Jesus and to make many disciples.

March 15, 2011

A New Church To Work With

We have started to work with Igreja Peniel in Guaruja, which is led by Pastor Mesquita. We have already begun to work with another Igreja Peniel in another area of Guaruja. We will be working with the church in a nearby school in late April, and we will also be doing other things to help them to share Christ with people in their community. This past Sunday night I had the privilege of preaching in the church, which was started 4 years ago with 5 people. Pastor Mesquita and his team have helped the church grow to about 200 members, and they are committed to reaching their community for Jesus and to making disciples. The message on Sunday night was to encourage and challenge all members of the church to be missionaries wherever they are, and to faithfully join God in reaching people for Jesus and to help them to become the disciples God wants them to be. The leaders and members of the church received the message with excitement, and after I shared the Gospel to end the service 15 people accepted Christ and committed their lives to Him.

March 12, 2011

Suffering For Christ

"Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." - Luke 9:23

"I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."  - Acts 9:16

"I want to know Christ- yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings..."  - Phil. 3:10

Jesus tells us that if we want to truly follow Him, first we must deny ourselves and take up our cross daily. To truly follow and serve Him, we need to deny our wants & desires, and our will, and "take up our cross" - or in other words let go of our own will and do the will of God instead. For Jesus, doing God's will meant going to the cross and suffering terribly, and dying a horrible death on the cross. Thanks to Jesus' obedience, suffering, and sacrifice, the gift of God's salvation & peace & eternal life in heaven is available to all of us.

Many Christians believe or want to believe that following Jesus will bring only success, material comfort, peace, joy, and other good things to their lives, and that God would never allow suffering. This is not what God's Word tells us. If God's plan involved suffering and a painful death for His Son Jesus, and for others in the Bible as well, then it is very likely that it will mean some suffering in our lives too. Paul is another good example of a person suffering because he was fully obedient to God's will and calling for his life. Paul suffered a great deal because he was fully committed to doing God's will (preaching the Gospel and making disciples), and he knew beforehand that he would suffer. See 2 Corinthians 11:23-29 for a list of some of the things Paul suffered, for the Gospel and for Christ.

In Philippians 3:10 Paul talks about knowing Christ, and the power of His resurrection, and participating in Christ's sufferings. Most Christians sincerely want the first 2 things - to know Christ and to know the power of Jesus flowing through their lives; but they are not willing to radically obey God and pay the cost. There is an expression "Salvation costs you nothing; being a disciple of Christ costs you everything". Paul is writing about these 3 things in Philippians 3:10 as a package deal ... in other words if you are not willing to pay the cost and to suffer for Christ, then you will not be able to know Christ and know the power of His life flowing through you. The cost of following Jesus is great ... for Paul and the other apostles it literally cost them their lives, like it did Jesus. However, to them the high cost was worth it to know their Lord Jesus, and the power of His life flowing through them and enabling them to participate in His Kingdom work. Through them many came to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The cost was great, but the cost if they had not radically obeyed would have been far greater, in terms of many people not coming to Christ and not having peace with God and eternal life.

The cost of obeying and following Jesus will be great, but the cost of not obeying & following will be greater in terms of other people's eternal destiny. We personally do not suffer as Paul suffered, or as some others suffer who are serving Jesus in places where it is dangerous to share the Gospel with others, but there still is a great cost. We are separated from our 3 sons who live in the US, and from our families. There is a large financial cost, since we sold our business and everything else and are using our own funds for our ministry. We experience a great deal of spiritual warfare, especially when we are sharing Jesus with many people in a school or in a special outreach event. The spiritual warfare takes various forms, including many difficulties or problems during the days we are sharing Christ (car problems, relationship problems, conflicts, health problems, interpreters not showing up, and other types of difficulties). At times we go into areas that are unsafe and have alot of crime, especially at night (such as in favelas - slums), and we need to rely on God's protection. And the work can be exhausting at times, as we speak sometimes up to 40 times (20 times each) in a week. Even though we do not live in a place where it is a danger to our lives to share Jesus, it has cost us alot to be able to participate in God's work here in this area of Brazil. For us it is a great privilege and honor to be a part of God's work, and it is well worth the high cost. God is looking for more people willing to pay the cost of following Him ... are you one of those people ? If so, He can use you in great ways in His work.

March 7, 2011

Training Seminar In Praia Grande

On Saturday night we led a People Sharing Jesus seminar at Igreja Batista Vila Antartica in Praia Grande. The church is led by Pastor Eder, who we know from when he was the youth and young adult pastor at Primeira Igreja Batista Sao Vicente. This is the Carnaval holiday in Brazil, and many churches go to a remote place and have a retreat. Pastor Eder wanted to do something different - he wanted to stay in his area and do some evangelism and outreach in his "bairro", and some social assistance ministry for the poor in the area. Vila Antartica is a fairly poor community.

There is a large group of young missionaries from the Brazilian state of Parana that arrived on Saturday to help Pr. Eder and the church to share Jesus in the community, and they will be there for 8 days. They will be doing some evangelism outreach events in some parks, in the streets, and in a school. Pr. Eder wanted to have the seminar at the beginning of this special week of outreach, so that some people from his church and the young missionaries would have some good training. There were over 60 people that participated in the training, and God blessed the seminar. Most committed to actively share the Good News of Jesus in their daily lives, and to work to make disciples.

March 4, 2011

A Great First School Outreach Of The Year

We spoke at the EE Ary school in the city of Cubatão this week. Since it is now the end of summer here in Brazil and schools are starting up again, it was our first school outreach event this year. Our project in the schools is called Qualidade De Vida (Quality Of Life). EE Ary is a state school for high school students, and some students go in the morning, some in the afternoon, and others at night. We worked with Primeira Igreja Batista Cubatão in the school, and we spoke in 39 classes in 3 days (Monday morning, Tuesday night, and Wednesday afternoon).

The school principal Luis was very excited to have our project in his school, especially because we are Americans and when we give our speech in each class we speak in English. We always encourage the students to learn English if they can, because they will have better opportunities in their lives if they can speak English. We were very well received by the students and the teachers, and we had a great week at the school. God did a great work in the hearts and lives of many of the students & teachers, and many received Christ and committed their lives to Him - over 1030 students and 13 teachers. What an awesome God we serve.

March 2, 2011

What Are The Odds ?

On Saturday we received an email from a couple in Mississippi. Their 86 year old mother Florence was on a cruise near Brazil and she had a stroke. They took her off of the ship and put her into the ICU unit in a hospital in Brazil. One of Florence's 3 sons and daughter in law live in Mississippi, and they were frantically looking for a way to learn about their mother's condition. They finally did a search on the internet for missionaries in Brazil and they found many sites.

For some reason they were drawn to our site, and they saw on the site that they could contact us by email. Still not knowing where we exactly lived in Brazil they contacted us and told us that their mother was in a hospital in Santos Brazil, and they gave the name of the hospital, and asked if we could help. As it turns out, we know the hospital well, and we live only a 10 minute walk from the hospital. In fact, we live on the same "avenida" or street as the hospital. What are the odds that Florence's son & daughter-in-law do a search on the internet for missionaries in Brazil, which is a very large country, and they contact us, and we end up only a 10 minute walk from where Florence is ? God is truly amazing.

We have gone to see Florence in the hospital every day since Sunday, and have been able to relay news and information back to her 3 sons and families. She had a stroke and at the beginning could not move her left arm or leg. She is all alone in a foreign country, and does not speak Portuguese. It is a very difficult situation. Yet God has shown Himself to be faithful, and He has provided for Florence in the midst of a difficult situation. She has improved enough to have been able to enter a private room yesterday, and she can move her arm fairly well, but can only move her leg & foot a little. Thankfully her condition is stable and she is improving. 

One of her sons who lives in Florida is working on getting a visa so he can come down and stay until he can take Florence back home (she lives in Florida also). We are not sure when she will be able to go home. Please pray for Florence and her family, that she will be well enough to be able to go home soon.

One of her sons sent me this verse after we sent some good news about Florence after our first visit:

"Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land."   - Proverbs 25:25