Sunday, December 11, 2011

Soteriology

In the first Century, Christians came up with a symbol to show if they were a Christian.  They did this because of the persecution of Christians that was prevalent in the first few hundred years after Christ.  The symbol was a fish.  Christians today still slap a bumper sticker of the “Jesus fish” to their cars and call themselves Christians.  The reason those first Century Christians chose a fish was because of its letters.  They made the acronym utilizing the letters that made up the Greek word for fish, ichthus (ἰχθύς).  Each letter stands for Jesus, Christ, God’s Son, Savior.  That last word is where the title of this article is derived.  Soteriology is the study of salvation (from σωτήρ (sōtēr) meaning “savior”).  You have to start from why salvation is needed.

When God created the world, he was fully present with his creation.  When men sinned, that made a separation between humans and God, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (Isaiah 59:1–2, ESV).  God cannot look upon evil, “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong,” (Habakkuk 1:13a).  There is a need for a savior because sin and evil are prevalent in the world and God wants to be fully present again.

Stanley Grenz noted, “In his response to Arius, Athanasius showed that the deity of the Spirit is necessitated by soteriology.  If the Spirit who enters our hearts as believes is not the actual Spirit of God, then we have no true community with God.”  In other words, you are not saved if you do not have God’s Spirit.  Paul lays this out beautifully concerning the Ephesians’ salvation in 1:3-14, but look specifically at verses 13-14, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”  It is impossible to have salvation (sōtēria) without “the promised Holy Spirit.”

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Trinity


            People through church history have been hesitant to use unbiblical terms.  One of the restoration pleas that developed was from Alexander Campbell, “Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent.”  Because of this mentality, which is helpful, many stay away from any term that cannot be found in the scriptures.  If Christendom was to follow through with this, topics like “providence” and “restoration” must be avoided because of their lacking appearance in the Bible.  Christians are affirmed that God does provide and he desires to restore his people back to fellowship with himself.  Thus, providence and restoration are topics Christians cannot afford to avoid.  The same is true with the Trinity.
            The Holy Spirit as part of a divine Trinity may be confused as tri-deism.  The divine plural seen in Genesis 1-11 has similar implications to the concept of a Triune God.  The Holy Spirit is not some arbitrary thing or “glorified ‘it’” as Earl Edwards puts it.  The word for “spirit” is a neuter noun, but when the personal pronoun is used in conjunction with the Holy Spirit it is the masculine, “he.”  Let not the believer in God be confused about the oneness of God,

And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God… (Exodus 20:1–5a, ESV).

            The eternally present, divine, equal, and unified Trinity does not consider its three “persons” as separate.  The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit make up the one God of Abraham, who formed Adam and created the world, who came in the flesh then died leaving the Comforter until judgment day.  These three persons of God are evident in the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:16-17) and his great commission before he ascends to be with the Father (Matt. 28:19).

Friday, December 2, 2011

Theology


           Theology is a fancy word for the study of God (theos).  People carry many different ideas about who God is and what his nature entails.  There is a plural nature to God seen very early in the Bible, Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26).  The narrator uses these plural words (us and our) to describe God.  Some theologians explain these plurals used in Genesis 1-11 and other places in the Bible to portray a divine counsel of sorts that includes celestial beings.  Since God and the Spirit of God are mentioned in the text, that suggests that the plurality of the one God is solely at work in this creative act.  As seen in Christology, God’s son was present during the creation process and is an entity of the unified Godhead seen at work in creation and certainly part of these plurals.

            The study of God encompasses the Trinity.  One cannot get around the idea of three “persons” in one substance when Paul writes things like, “…be filled with the Spirit…giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Ephesians 5:18c, 20).  There are truly three parts of God and man has come up with countless metaphors to try and explain this.  Sometimes metaphors can be very dangerous though because they may leave someone with the wrong idea.  Let us stick to the Bible when trying to explain the plural nature of the one God.  Deuteronomy 6:4 does this beautifully, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”  Trinitarian Christians are not polytheists or tri-deists, but believe in one God that has different roles that are named in the Bible as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

            A temptation might be to make God modal who puts on different masks through history to play different roles.  The problem is we see all three “characters” on the seen at Jesus’ baptism.  The Son was baptized, the Spirit of God descended on him, and the Father spoke from heaven declaring favor for his son. (Matthew 3:16-17).  We must be careful to explain God to others and not give the impression we worship three different gods, but only the one God who is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christology

            Christology may sound like a confusing and scary word, but do not let it be.  Break down its parts and you get simply the study (from –logia) of Christ.  This study within Christian theology deals specifically with the person and nature of Christ.  There are many conflicting views about who Christ is and what his purpose was while he walked on earth in the 1st Century A.D.  Some of these differences people hold include his deity, humanity, status as “son,” the resurrection, and his eternal reign.

Jesus wanted to know, “Who do men say that I am?”  How people answer this question is the core of christology.  Jesus is eternally divine.  Everything was created through him making him present in and responsible for the creation.  He was called Immanuel, “God with us,” because he was God in the human form.  The historical implications to this claim are affirmed in Jesus’ own claim of his divinity and the confirmation of that claim through his resurrection from the dead.  Jesus’ humanity is strongly affirmed through his birth to Mary.  He was born of flesh and blood.  The book ends of his life point to his humanity maybe more than anything else.  While he was born of flesh and blood, he died because of that same flesh and blood that he allowed to be abused and poured out during his crucifixion.

Christ is God’s one of a kind son.  Jesus’ discourse with Nicodemus in the gospel of John carries one of the most descriptive christological verses in the Bible.  Jesus said in 3:16 (NASB), “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son…”  The description “only begotten” is also translated “only” and “one and only.”  The notion that Jesus came from or was created by God the father does not line up with his eternal nature.  The second verse of the Bible expressly mentions God and the Spirit of God during the creation narrative.  Later in that same story, the divine plural is seen for the first time, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26).  It is a little easier to understand why the Jews could understand the Spirit, but not a third substance of God.  John 1:1-5 tells of the son’s presence also during creation.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Campfire Christianity


            One hobby I enjoy thoroughly is camping.  A “must do” while camping is building and maintaining a campfire. The fire is used for several different activities while in the woods.  Food is often cooked on the campfire, marshmallow roasting is a sure hit, heating up chocolate Hershey bars to make "smores" wets my taste buds, keeping warm during the night’s cool breeze, and “chewing the fat” are all events that I love to take part in around the campfire.
A good campfire starts out as a dead pile of brush and small twigs that will catch a spark easily.  As the base is broadened, larger sticks are used for the endurance of the fire.  Once the base is set up a spark is needed to ignite the flame either from a match, lighter, or the old school hard core way of friction from a stick.  The campfire is now going, the food has been cooked and the time is at hand for gazing into the fire being mesmerized by the red hot coals.
Kurt Kaiser wrote the song “Pass It On” which speaks of a fire.  The first verse says,
It only takes a spark to get a fire going,
And soon all those a round can warm up in its glowing;
That’s how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experienced it:
You spread His love to everyone; you want to pass it on.
Jesus speaks of this “spark” in John 13:34, A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (ESV).  Jesus provided the spark which started the fire of Christianity.  The fire started out small and then turned into a blaze.  Often in our lives though, the fire weakens.  When a campfire is built, the spark starts the brush, the brush starts the twigs, then the twigs catch the logs and a big fire is made.  Once the logs start to burn out though, the fire will lose its flame.  Is our Christianity burning out?
            It is not a new concept or weakness to allow one’s Christianity to burn out.  Peter was on fire for Jesus and stated in Matthew 26:35 “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.”  Peter’s fire soon died out when he was approached three different times that night being accused of being associated with Jesus and denying the accusation all three times before the rooster crowed (Mt. 26:69-75). Do not be discouraged if your fire dims down, but do not become slack concerning the matter.

Monday, November 7, 2011

It’s a Boy!


            Becoming a parent is one of the most intimidating experiences I have encountered to date.  There is so much responsibility needed for the proper care of a child.  We found out back in July that Kayla was pregnant…our first child was officially being formed!  Last Monday we found out that the baby is a boy.  This news came with much relief on my part because I grew up in a house full of boys (God bless our saintly mother) and knew somewhat how to handle them.  Of course, if he does half the things my brothers and I did, then Kayla will be bound for the crazy house as I am sure we almost did with my blessed mom. 
            It has been said before that one of the most important mission fields is your own home.  I am blessed to have parents and grandparents that prayed regularly about us growing up to find the LORD and find a mate that would help us get to heaven.  Saturday, October 29 marks the final answer to those prayers as Daniel marries Amber Wiginton.  Amber has amazing parents that prayed the same prayers for her.  My prayer for our baby boy is that he too grows up to find his heavenly father, trust in his son Jesus, and be sealed by his Holy Spirit so that we will one day all be reunited in eternal heaven. 
The most intimidating thing about becoming a parent is the responsibility of training children up in the way of the LORD.  This is so nerve-racking because I am certainly not a perfect person.  How am I qualified to help someone figure out Christianity when I do not even have it figured out myself?  Thankfully there is a loving father who teaches and guides his children on how to be better parents, not perfect parents.  The saying stands true in parenthood as it does anywhere else, “Practice what you preach.” 
To lead by example is what God the Father does for us through his son.  Jesus was the perfect example of a servant leader.  This type of leader certainly does not allow people to trample on him, but rather takes a stand for the truth and is willing to be killed for it.  That is the type of leadership I strive for and the kind I pray can be passed on and lived out better than I ever could.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I Can Depend on You


            At the Arnold Youth Retreat in Bloomfield, MO, Andy McDonald had everyone take a favorite song and rewrite it in their own words for one of the activities.  The song entitled “I Can Depend on You” written by Pat Moon in 2002 is very encouraging.  The song gains inspiration in part from Isaiah 41:10, “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (ESV).  I reworded the song like this:

            1.  When I’m in an airplane looking out over the puffy white clouds, Lord, I find you.  When I snorkel in the clear blue Caribbean, there you stand.  From snowboarding in the Colorado Rockies to fishing in the deep Atlantic Ocean, you made them, Lord they are yours to command.

            2.  On the warm sunny beach, Lord, I find you.  And in the starry moon-lit night there you stand.  Every sun, moon, star, and solar system…the universe brags on your brilliance because they fit in the palm of your hand.

            3.  In the innocence and mouths of babes, Lord, I find you.  And by your Spirit and Son, there you stand.  You sent your Son at such cost and left your Spirit to seek the lost, such love deserves nothing less than my all.

            Chorus: I can depend on you, Lord.  I can depend on you.  No matter how high or low, far or near I go, Lord I can always depend on you.

            This was a fulfilling exercise that helped bring the words of a song into focus and reshape them to relate to personal experiences.  God can be seen all around if we will just open our eyes to his glory.  In the visible attributes obvious all around and throughout history, the fact that God is dependable screams to humanity.  “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19–20).  Strive for the point where you say, “I can depend on you, Lord.”

Friday, October 21, 2011

Hatred, Love, and Everything in Between


            Hate is a strong word.  The words “I hate you” should never come out of the mouth of Christians.  Children ought to associate the use of that phrase with a mouth full of soap or a swat on the rear-end.  How can a Christian possibly fulfill the great commission of Christ with hate for another human dwelling in their heart?  The natural opposite of hate is love.  One simply cannot uphold these opposites and still follow Christ.  It is with this in mind that Solomon wrote.

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found, but a rod is for the back of him who lacks sense. The wise lay up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near. A rich man’s wealth is his strong city; the poverty of the poor is their ruin. The wage of the righteous leads to life, the gain of the wicked to sin. Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray. The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool” (Proverbs 10:12–18, ESV).

            Hatred infects the heart like a cancer.  The only thing in this world we ought to hate is sin.  No matter what evil someone has done against another, Christians are called to love instead of hate.  Jesus even said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:43–45).  The ironic thing about this statement from his Sermon on the Mount is that nowhere in the scriptures is the command to “hate your enemy.”  Leviticus 19:18 commands us to love neighbors, but the concept of hating enemies was fashioned only in the minds of people, never from the mouth of God.

            Peter quotes this Proverb when he too emphasized the importance of love, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).  Much more can be said for the wisdom between this inclusion of hatred, but the bottom line is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

How Will You Be Remembered?


            Sunday, September 25th, a great warrior in the kingdom of God headed to Paradise.  Brother Neale Pryor will be remembered by countless people for many different reasons.  The Proverbs writer talks about two different perspectives of how someone’s life may be remembered, Blessings are on the head of the righteous, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. The memory of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot. The wise of heart will receive commandments, but a babbling fool will come to ruin. Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out. Whoever winks the eye causes trouble, but a babbling fool will come to ruin. The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence” (Proverbs 10:6–11, ESV).
            It can be said without a doubt that brother Pryor had blessings on his head while he journeyed through life.  As the Proverb says, our memory of him is a blessing as well due to his righteous life.  Even while he is in eternal rest, his memory inspires and convicts people to be better.  His name will be cherished in the years to come because of his character, example, and role he played in the life of the church and the world by showing others Christ.  His wisdom was evident with his diligent pursuit of God’s commands.  He shared those instructions with others in the classroom, from the pulpit, and with personal relationships speaking with grace and truth.  He certainly walked with integrity and because of that people trusted him.  He was not one to stir the pot of discord, but had a mouth of righteousness which was a “fountain of life” for all who were around him. 
            The passing of loved ones makes people consider how they themselves will be remembered.  The Proverb above has an inclusio “…the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.”  When something is concealed it is covered completely or overwhelmed by something.  This is the idea here, that the mouth of the wicked is overwhelmed with violence.  There are two ways people can be remembered by: righteousness or wickedness.  Brother Pryor is remembered in righteousness.  How will you be remembered?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Which Son are You?


            A method used by Solomon in some of his proverbs included what modern commentators call an inclusio.  This technique mentions similar things at the beginning and ending of the proverb.  There is a theme between these two verses that are sealed by these book-ends.  Proverbs 10:1-5 uses this technique with the theme of a prospering family between the inclusio of a wise/prudent son and a foolish/shameful son in verses 1 & 5. 
Hear the wisdom, “The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother. Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death. The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked. A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.”  Notice with each positive statement there is an adverse statement to accompany it.  Both types of sons play a part in the make-up of a family.
Godly children desire to please their parents.  Sometimes their actions may say otherwise, but they generally seek to please.  On the other hand, there are children who have no delight in making their parents proud and their actions and words speak loudly about their lack of desire.  These verses have much in common with the child who shows honor to his family and that family prospering as a result.  Not only prospering financially, but also medically.  Righteousness delivers from both death and hunger!  This reality makes one consider how raising children plays into the well-being of the family.
There are many get-rich-quick schemes out their and pills that claim to melt the weight off an unhealthy body, but Solomon enlightens us with true wisdom.  Live righteously and work diligently to bring wealth and health to you and your family.  The problem Satan poses is an alleged “quicker” way to get what we want.  Remember his deception from the very beginning though.  Anything worth having will not require you to risk your soul and will very likely take time.  Which son are you?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Folly’s Appeal


Just as the proverbs writer personifies wisdom throughout the book, so is folly embodied with character that brings it to life.  The NRSV translates Proverbs 9:13a, “The foolish woman is loud...”  The Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon translates the Hebrew phrase as, “the woman Stupidity.”  These descriptions do not sound anything like what someone would be attracted to, but we forget, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8, ESV).  Stupidity, or folly, has a certain appeal of which you better beware. 
The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive and knows nothing. She sits at the door of her house; she takes a seat on the highest places of the town, calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way, ‘Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!’ And to him who lacks sense she says, ‘Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.’ But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol” (Proverbs 9:13–18).
It is somewhat humorous when someone forgets to silence their phone before going into a meeting (unless that someone is you) and the phone inevitably rings.  Some phones may even notify you with a creepy voice letting you know it is your turn now in a game with which you are involved.  When the room is silent, or the presenter is speaking, and the phone sounds everyone looks around to find the culprit of the loud noise.  It has done its job and drawn your attention to it.  This is exactly what folly does in our lives.  She grabs our attention in order to steal us away from her adversary wisdom.  There is no doubt that the devil is behind this scheme.
          Jesus said plainly, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13–14).  As you go out, do not allow foolishness to distract you from your path.  Folly will look good, but keep your eyes focused on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2).

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How to Solve Economic Problems--Prezintation

Scroll down to almost the bottom of the Podcast player to listen to this sermon as well...



Sunday, August 21, 2011

Guatemala Campaign July 2011—Part 4


Day 8, Thursday, July 14, was the day before we left Puerto Barrios and we partly used it visiting the Racancojs.  They shared a meal with us.  We also visited a sweet lady that is in her late 90s that Paul has known for many years.  Marito did the pleasure of taking us to a Guatemalan supermarket where an unspeakable amount of local coffee grounds were bought.  We also got to go to their local mall which was very similar to ours minus the security guards packing AK-47s!  It made me feel safe for sure knowing they were justice’s side.

            That night at worship Mario spoke on the word of God being planted in our hearts and how that should convict us.  Six men responded to his talk seeking restoration and rededication.  Afterward we all circled around and sang a song for our departure.

On Friday, we caught the 10 AM double-decker bus out of Puerto Barrios and arrived in Guatemala City about 3:45 PM.  We checked into our hotel and were able to explore a little before supper time.  Saturday, Marito’s plane to Spain left early so a few of us woke-up to have breakfast with him and say goodbye.  Our plane back to the States left at 11:30 AM and we got to Houston on-time and our flight was cancelled 5 minutes before we were scheduled to board.  We could not get another flight until the next day which flew into Memphis.  Paul’s friend Roy was kind enough to pick us up and drive us back to Searcy in his large van.  We arrived in Searcy about 3:00 PM in time for a little rest before worship that night.
The trip was a fulfilling and enlightening experience for all of us.  Paul and Linda Miller did a terrific job organizing the trip arrangements and coordinating with Mario about our time in Puerto Barrios.  We look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with our brothers and sisters in Guatemala.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Guatemala Campaign July 2011—Part 3


On Day 4, Sunday, we started the morning with the baptism of Angela España at a beautiful location in the mountains in a spring fed river.  Worship was not until that evening at 4:00.  Bryan was asked to lead a song in English because they were very interested in hearing us sing.  I spoke on “How to Solve Spiritual Problems.”  Three people responded in need of prayers.

Monday, was somewhat of a “free day” and we went to a town called Livingston.  The boat ride there was on a mini cargo ship and took about an hour.  This town is on Mario’s radar for a church plant in the near future.  We met and visited several hours with a potential contact that would make a strong Christian.  The trip back was on a motor speed boat that ended up breaking down.  The Guatemalan Coastguard, which Mario didn’t even know existed, towed us to shore and we made it safe.

            We were able to eat at a very memorable restaurant on the Bay of Honduras that was outdoors and on a huge dock sitting over the water.  In the middle of dinner we got another call for a baptism.  We were able to witness a lady be baptized that night by Caesar España.  This took place in a hotel pool since that was the most convenient body of water.

            Day 6, we traveled to a town called El Estor and Bryan spoke on “Be Thou Faithful until Death and Receive a Crown of Life.”  After worship we visited the preacher’s house there in El Estor and his family graciously fed all 10 of us who traveled there.  We returned late that night since it was a six hour drive round-trip.  On Wednesday, we visited the church in Morales.  Amilcar España preaches at the church here.  Before heading over to Morales, the España family invited us for lunch.  After lunch we went to see the building progress in San Manuel about 10-15 minutes from the España’s.  We headed to Morales and visited the piece of property they purchased for a building.  The building they worship in now is leased and they have plans for their own building soon.  Mario asked me to speak that night on “How to Solve Economic Problems.”  The message was well received and they all lined-up afterward to hug each of our necks.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Guatemala Campaign July 2011—Part 2


Day three of our trip was Saturday, July 9.  The church in Puerto Barrios conducted a seminar from 8:00 AM—4 PM.  The speakers included Paul Miller, Bryan McDonald, Enrique Colon, and Marito Racancoj.  This seminar was open to the community, but the focus was on the area wide preachers to attend, which many did.  Total attendance was between 20-30 people.

            Paul spoke on Spiritual Growth in the church and within the individual.  His key texts were Mark 4:26, Acts 8:4, 2 Peter 1:5-8.  He emphasized the spiritual growth of an individual from the time of the planted seed to the birth and growth of the person.  Planting and watering is up to the Christians, but we must rely on God for the increase.  Spiritual growth must be an ongoing process without a retirement age, but has great retirement benefits.  Marito translated for Paul and was a great tool as both a presenter and translator for all the English speakers.

            Enrique (Henry) spoke on the world and the church.  He emphasized the characteristics of a Christian servant and when someone should decide to become a servant of Christ.  Marito Racancoj also spoke on struggles in the world and dealing lovingly with those who have fallen away.

            Bryan McDonald spoke on leadership.  He paralleled and contrasted secular leadership with leadership in the church.  He pointed out the various kinds of leadership styles there are and discussed the pros and cons of each.  Good emphasis was placed on the necessity of leadership in the church in order for things to operate more smoothly and be in accord with God’s intention.

            Saturday night we had worship at Puerto Barrios and I spoke on the subject “How to Solve Family Problems.”  Angela Espana responded for baptism.  This is Amilcar’s wife who had been struggling with faith for 16 years.  Paul, Mario, Amilcar, and countless others have been working with her over the years.  This was certainly an emotional time for many who have been involved with this work.  There were also four others that responded in need of prayers for spiritual healing.  They had a potluck for us that night of hot dogs which is a rare dish for them!  More details to come…

Monday, August 1, 2011

Guatemala Campaign July 2011—Part 1


        Over the next few weeks there will be articles about the recent trip to Guatemala.  There were nine travelers total including Paul & Linda Miller, Kayla Waller, Terry Carr-Jones, Bryan & Casey McDonald, Henry (Enrique Sr) Colon, Ricky (Enrique Jr) Colon, and Mario Racancoj all the way from Madrid Spain.

On Thursday, July 7, we left Four Mile Hill parking lot at 3:30 AM.  We arrived in Guatemala City about noon and caught a bus at 2 PM to Puerto Barrios.  We checked-in to our hotel that night about 9:00 PM.  

Day two of our trip started out by helping with some building maintenance and home visits to wayward members.  At the building we moved dirt to help flatten out the church’s property and make the drive-way level.  The building had some water damage so we helped chip away the ruined plaster in order to prevent fungus.  After lunch we came back to the building and went to visit Amilcar Espana.  He preaches in Morales and recently came down with cirrhosis.  We also got to visit with his wife who was not a Christian at the time (more on that later).  He is doing well and is back preaching only 3 weeks after liver surgery.  After visiting we witnessed the baptism of a new sister, Sarah, whose husband was baptized three days earlier, Pablo.

          That night we had a worship assembly and a presentation on an effort put-on by the area congregations for training in personal evangelism.  The course will begin September 6th and will cover a broad spectrum of topics.  Biblical/historical studies will be covered including specific books of the Bible and time periods from Ancient Israel through the Restoration Movement of the church.  Denominational studies will also be studied to prepare people for encounters during studies with people.  Personal evangelism tactics will be learned specific to the culture in Guatemala.  We got back to the hotel that night about 10:45 PM after a long and fulfilling first full day in Puerto Barrios.  A general consensus among the team was to go down and help, but more than anything we went down and were the ones helped.  More to come in the following weeks…

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Friday, July 29, 2011

Wisdom Tells Her Age


            It is taboo in many cultures to ask how old someone is, at least among adults.  Asking the age of kids does not seem to pose a problem and they are proud to tell you how many years they have under their belts.  This age taboo question is also prevalent in Guatemala.  Someone was wondering the age of a particular lady and the translator said, “You ask her that!”  The older we become the less proud many people are of their age.  Wisdom is quite the contrary.  Wisdom gloats about how long she has been around.  This kind of pride puts the worth of experience into perspective.

            “The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth, before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world. When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man” (Proverbs 8:22–31, ESV).  If wisdom is so willing and even proud to share her age then why do we get so bashful about our age?  It is time we change our mindset of the older age and learn to sit at their feet to learn from their life experiences and soak in the wisdom they have to offer.

            “And now, O sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death” (Prov. 8:32–36).  Let us constantly seek out wisdom and never disregard it simply because it has a lot of miles under its hood.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Back from Guatemala

There are several new sermons in the Podcast player for your listening enjoyment that are sure to convict you.  Click on the sermon of your choice to listen to or click on the Pod-O-matic player to take you to the host site to subscribe to the podcast through iTunes.  The mission trip was great and I will have a more detailed post about it in the near future.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Wisdom’s Words


            There is a poison out there for each person.  This poison is not labeled with a toxic or haz-mat sign so it is very difficult to identify.  Satan controls this poison and knows the kind and dosage to dole out in order to get you to take some.  This poison is addictive and tastes good.  It tastes so good one wonders how it could possibly be bad for consumption.  If you are not careful, a love for this poison is easy to develop.  Consider this, “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion. The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate” (Proverbs 8:12-13, ESV). 

It takes great love to have hate for your poison.  It was specifically mixed for your own liking.  If your poison tasted horrible and made you want to throw-up, Satan would not be very good at his job and Christianity would be rampant.  Sadly though, Satan is frighteningly good at what he does as a poison brewer.  Here is how wisdom can help you right now, “I have counsel and sound wisdom; I have insight; I have strength. By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; by me princes rule, and nobles, all who govern justly. I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me” (Prov. 8:14-17).  Satan’s poison for you can be identified and you can learn to hate it with wisdom.  What are you chasing after in your life?  Seek diligently for wisdom and you will find it. 

We may not give enough credit to wisdom in our spiritual lives.  This God given gift is essential in fighting the spiritual warfare.  What is wisdom’s worth?  “Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver. I walk in the way of righteousness, in the paths of justice, granting an inheritance to those who love me, and filling their treasuries” (Prov. 8:18–21).  You have an inheritance waiting for you after this life on earth.  Maybe your poison is material things instead of wisdom which is far better than that.  Wisdom is hard to measure and value because it is not tangible, but do not discount it.  Wisdom is necessary to win and that is its worth.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What’s Wisdom’s Worth?


            You may know someone who is perpetually kidding around.  This person is always predictable about joking around and making people drag the truth out of them.  They do not do this out of contempt or hatred, but simply as a sense of humor to try and get people laughing.  Some people can only take so much of this behavior before they feel like they are going to snap if they have to put up with it one more minute.  Does this personality sound appealing to you?  “Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud: “To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the children of man. O simple ones, learn prudence; O fools, learn sense. Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right, for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips (Proverbs 8:1-7, ESV).

It may be difficult for some to make every word out of their mouth righteous.  That is, not cursing, lying, or telling dirty jokes.  To find wisdom’s worth, we as Christians must learn to tame our tongues.  “All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them. They are all straight to him who understands, and right to those who find knowledge (Prov. 8:8-9).  Can you say all your words are righteous?  Sure, there is a time and a place for good times and jokes.  If you make your personality and habits to be that of just “joking around” who do you expect to take you seriously and find your words straight?  Wisdom’s worth is only found in the mouth of the straight and righteous.  

Wisdom’s worth can be summed up in these two verses, “Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her” (Prov. 8:10–11).  Some say that every man has his price.  In other words, there is something valuable enough in every person’s mind to betray everything they believe in order to obtain that “price.”  The proverbs assure that wisdom’s worth is higher than any price you may have.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

It’s a Matter of Life and Death


            Have you ever been beckoned to go somewhere or do something because it was a matter of life and death?  Kids may try to get their parents’ attention by claiming their problem is a matter of life and death only for the parents to discover they are out of shampoo!  True life and death matters are much more serious than the absence of shampoo.  If “A” happens then you will live, but if “B” happens you will die.  So, how do Christians make sure that “A” happens so they can live?  Listen to the Father’s words.
The wisdom of the Proverbs has much to say about the dangers of adultery.  Adultery is no light matter in scripture, but it is a matter of life and death!  The wise man instructed his son, “…keep my commandments and live…” (Proverbs 7:2, ESV).  Then at the end of this lesson he said, Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death.” (Proverbs 7:27).  Sheol was thought by the ancients to be a pit beneath the earth that could only be reached through death.  One way to experience that death was to mess around in adultery.  Wisdom teaches us from millennia ago to stay away!
            Words are more powerful than we often give them credit for.  They have the power to build-up and to tear down.  It should be no surprise then that one of the most effective tools that an adulterer uses is words.  It is easy to justify playful flirting as just being nice or seductive jests as harmless jokes.  The truth is that these things are neither playful nor harmless.  The scriptures make it clear that the adulteress uses “smooth words” and to keep away from them (Proverbs 7:5).  With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter…he does not know that it will cost him his life.” (Proverbs 7:21–23).  Don’t be a dumb ox!  They go where they are guided with no thought of outcome.  As God’s precious children, let us have the foresight to keep from sin by realizing its consequences.  Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths” lest you find your way to Sheol on a path unintended (Proverbs 7:25).  Choose life.