Archive for July, 2011

Who Will Stand Up

July 29, 2011

This morning I was shocked when I read about a bill that is before congress this morning.  The bill would establish a new diplomatic post that would be charged with defending religious freedom overseas.  The intent of this post would be to discover areas of persecution and to offer ways to stop the persecution.

As I thought through this proposal the truth of my scripture reading from Acts 2-4 came into focus.  When the church began, it was with great demonstration of power as the gospel went forth and three-thousand people embraced the gospel.  By chapter four  the number of men who have come to Christ has grown to a number of five-thousand.  But as is always the case with the gospel, when Christ is glorified Satan is angered and he attacks.

Chapter four tells us the story of persecution. Peter and John are arrested and told, “To speak no more to anyone in this name,” Acts 4:18. The fact is religious freedom is given to everyone except those who stand for Christ.  Look around the world, if you are a Muslim you have freedom, if you are Buddhist you have freedom, if you are an atheist you have freedom.  All have freedom except those who name the name of Christ.

But the question is, “Who will stand up?”  In Acts 4 we discover the Apostles stand up. “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge.  For we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard,” Acts 4:19-20.  Their stand would cost them their very lives, but to them it was worth it to be able to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.  They knew it was God’s sovereign purposes that they would face persecution (Acts 4:25-31).  They only asked for one thing, “Grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness,” 4:29.

Question, “Who will stand up in our day?”  The cause of the gospel demands that true followers stand up in every venue of life.  Today, I challenge believers in the work place to stand up.  Today, I challenge believers in the political arena to stand up.  Today, I challenge moms and days to stand up.  Today, I challenge college students and teenagers to stand up.  Today, I challenge missionaries to keep standing up.  The gospel demands that we stand because we are the light on the hill. If we do not stand up, there is a basket placed over the gospel and people will die in darkness without hope.

The bottom line is this, no post appointed by congress will stop the persecution in our world.  The persecution is allowed by God to magnify the gospel. Only when Christ returns will this persecution end.  Until then give your best and be totally spent for Christ.  What we have to look forward to is beyond all imagination, “The times of refreshing will come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, appointed for you, Jesus,” Acts 3:20.  Come Lord Jesus come!!!

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Home Sweet Home!

July 28, 2011

This morning for the first time in 11 days I awakened in my own bed and oh what a blessing it was.  I was excited about many things including hugging my wife and children, showering with warm water, and sitting in my familiar chair to meet with God.  Whoever first said, “There is no place like home,” gets an amen from me!

However there is one problem with home sweet home.  Home can become the place where we become self-focused.  While we were away I had the honor of meeting a sweet 17-year-old Romanian girl who served as one of our translators.  Each day she would travel with our team to do ministry.  On the last day she traveled with us to the city to purchase souvenir gifts for our families before we did our last VBS.  During this two hours we walked into the only McDonald’s in that region.  While there a group of Gypsie children began begging and I spotted that one of them had a cut on her foot.  Our nurse, Ms Paula knew what to do.  As I stood there holding the little girls hands I notice our translator was crying.  Afterward she said, “Pastor Keith, I am so ashamed that you have to come from America to do what we Romanian Christians should be doing.”  This morning I received an email from her thanking me for helping her get back on track with the gospel for her home sweet home.

Here the word of the Lord, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go to heaven,” Acts 1:11.  Our challenge, wherever we live, is to not stand around and miss the very purpose we were created for.  This very day is God’s gift to us and the very place where we live is God’s gift of a mission field to us.

May God unite my heart to His and may God empower my mind to speak His words to those in my own city today.  Brothers and sisters we do not have to ask God if He is wanting us to minister in our hometown.  “In the last days, I will pour out my spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophecy, and your young me shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams;” Acts 2:17.  We are in these days and we must seek His filling and we must severe ourselves from our self-focus.  This is the only way we can be what we are called to be at home.

So, its time for me to put into practice what I have heard.  So it is off to Mount Washington Community ministries, children’s camp, and my neighborhood today for His glory.

Hey, just for my benefit, drop me a line today, kjoseph@kingsbaptist.net, letting me know what you are doing in your home sweet home today.  I promise to pray and to encourage your efforts as you drop me a line.

Who Cares About The Future?

July 26, 2011

This will be a tough day for our team as it is our last full day of ministry.  This evening we will do one more day of VBS and prayerful many will come to Christ.  As we finish our day, the tears will begin to flow as we begin to say our goodbyes, for now, to the translators as well as our missionary partners Brenda and Achim.  It will be very hard to leave such precious people.  But because of Christ we have a future together.

The future was much on my mind as I approached the day in bible study and prayer.  This mornings study was the book of Lamentations as well as Acts 20. Here is what God said about Israel’s thoughts about her future: “Her uncleanness was in her skirts; she took no thought of her future, therefore her fall is terrible; she has no comforter.” Lamentations 1:9

This morning I was reminded of how each of us give very little thought to a systematic approach to our lives.  We often live for the moment without any regard to the future.  When I look at the people here in Romania, for the most part they have very little concept of time or time management.  It is as if time means nothing to them.  One man said to me several years ago, “The only think I have in abundance is time.”  Brothers and sisters we know that this is not true.  The fact is we are not promised any more time, James 4:14:16.

However I do believe we are taught to daily live in faith for the moment and in planning for the future.  Even though Israel was in great distress, God would bring her out.  “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness,” Lam. 3:21-22.  

As followers of Christ we have an assurance of daily victory as we walk in faith relying on Christ.  However if we choose to rely on ourselves we will find ourselves facing the disciplining hand of God.  If we choose to make our own plans for the future we will fail in our plans.

This day we plan to serve in the mercy of God.  As we serve we are reminded of the words of our Lord, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” Acts 20:35.  Dear brothers and sisters the world over, we have been blessed with the mercy of God.  I plead with you to make plans to not abuse that mercy but to apply that mercy to your daily life of planning for now and the future.

Consider serving in a foreign context for two weeks this year and next.  Consider serving in your home country for one week each year.  Consider serving weekly through your local church.  Consider serving daily the God who gives you mercy.

What the future holds for you I do not know, but I do know who holds the future.  His name is Jesus Christ.

Surrounded By Idols

July 25, 2011

“Every man is stupid and without knowledge; every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols, for his images are false, and there is no breath in them,” Jeremiah 51:17.  This morning I tried to sleep in, 6 am, but a dog decided to help me to get up as he would not stop barking.  I must confess I considered having him for breakfast for one moment, just kidding!!!  In this moment I suddenly was aware that God was awakening me for the purpose of my time with him.

As I made my way to a quiet place I knew I would finish the book of Jeremiah.  As I read the last three chapters I found myself engaged with God’s words of judgment to Babylon.  God proclaimed, “But the land of the Chaldeans is full of guilt against the Holy One of Israel,” 51:3.  This nation was, as is every nation, without excuse before God.

As I read Jeremiah’s words I could almost image all the idols in the Babylonian empire.  At the same time I am reminded of the fact, “Every nation of every era has its idols.” Consider Athens during the time of Paul. “The city was full of idols,” Acts 17:16.  

The question I come away with from this text is simply this: “What idols are before us and how to we confront them?”  The apostle Paul’s response would be to preach the gospel, “The times of ignorance God has overlooked, but now commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day when he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance by raising him from the dead,” Acts 17:30-31.

As our mission team faces a new day in which we are weakened from our labor. We press on because we are surrounded by idols that many in this village worship in hope of eternal life.   This could be the very day of His judgment and we must be about his business of preaching the gospel.  We must fight the idols within that cry out, what about me and my comfort.  Many on our team have discovered the reality of this idol and they have cried out, “dear God, help me to tear down my idol so that I can give all to you.”

Please pray for us!!!  At the same time please pray for God to reveal the idols around you and please pray that God would reveal the idols within you.  As he does proclaim the gospel and allow the gospel to wash in and over you so that you can be free from idols in order to serve the true and living God.

And You

July 24, 2011

This morning I stand amazed as I sit on the balcony taking in the beauty of God’s creation.  I hear the gentle water running down the stream and I take in the fresh air.  I look across the stream and I see nothing but trees and mountains.  All is quiet and beautiful in God’s creation.  However I am suddenly jolted to reality as I hear a dog bark and I see a person walking in God’s creation.  Then I am reminded, “It was and is humanity that corrupts God’s creation.

“And you, were dead in your trespasses and sins, following the course of this world,” Ephesians 2:1.  God reminded me that I cannot point the finger at Adam (Genesis 3) or anyone around me.  I am (And You) a sinner and because of my sin the wrath of God is upon me and upon creation.

As we minister to the Romanian people it is clear that this people are facing the results of living in a fallen world, however for most of them they do not understand or even know they are under wrath nor do they understand the mercy of God.  For most they live in fear of death and they live with the fallen religion that says I must work my way to heaven.

Oh how awesome it is to see a fearful life turn to a joyful life as Jesus opens their eyes to the truth, “For by grace you have been saved by faith,” Ephesians 2:8.  This very day I have the joy of preaching this very message to many in this nation.  This very day I have the honor of seeing 19 people baptized.  Oh the joy of knowing the Lord.

As you prepare for worship today, celebrate the light you have and the liberty you have in Christ.  Ask the Lord to break your heart for the people groups who have never heard.  Ask the Lord to give you the courage to sacrifice and carry the gospel to these people groups in Jesus name.

What Really Counts

July 22, 2011

“In vain you have used many medicines; there is no healing for you,” Jeremiah 46:11b.  These words were spoken by Jeremiah to the nation of Egypt.  God would judge this nation for her futile and useless attempts to serve other God’s.  It was as if they were going to a spiritual doctor and every God they were told to try, turned out to be useless.  The nation had invested it energies into serving what could not heal them.

This morning, I had the honor of sharing the message of the gospel with around 100 children at our mission VBS.  As I sat on the stage and proclaimed the gospel, my heart overflowed and my eyes filled with tears as I thought about what really counted.  These children, even though impoverished, have dreams of making it big in the world.  However, today they heard about what really counts which is the gospel.  Many of those children listened and heard the gospel for the first time.

My interpreter was so moved that she could barely translate.  The work of the Holy Spirit was so clear.  Our team had prepared to have a game with the preschool children who had been rough during the bible time.  But when God moved in they all became quiet.  God’s presence always comes with God’s power.  We could see conviction and we could see God’s work of regeneration in their lives.  Several of the children began to wipe their eyes and we could see God’s hand.

Now is the time for all believers to start to do what counts in the day.  We need men and women to volunteer to come and disciple and to help establish a church.  A bus needs to be purchased so the children can be hauled to church.  We need believers to awaken to what really counts.

The Cost Of Mercy

July 21, 2011

This morning I found myself awake at 5 am which is 10 pm in the USA.  As I began the morning I found great joy and humility in the word of God.  Jeremiah is speaking for the Lord who is directing Israel to obey the Lord.  Chapters 42-44 encompass God’s direction about being obedient to God’s call to stay where He placed them. “Do not fear the King of Babylon, of whom you are afraid.  Do not fear him, declares the Lord, for I am with you, to save you and to deliver you from his hand.  I will grant you mercy, that he may have mercy on you and let you remain in your own land,” 42:11-12.

In the midst of their persecution God was saying, “I am in control.”  In God’s mercy He would provide for a people who were totally disobedient.  As I read those words I reflected on two things. First I reflected on God’s great mercy to humanity in sending Christ to be the Savior of humanity.  What a great cost to the Son of God in dying for my sin and your sin.  Secondly I reflected on my experience with people who had no mercy.  Our team was completing the Sports camp, which Brother Mark is doing an excellent job in leading, when I noticed several young men sitting around the river where most swim.  In the river were three Gypsie girls swimming.  Suddenly I realized the boys would not swim while the girls were swimming.  Then to my shock the boys told the girls to get out.  I must admit, anger swelled up inside of me as I felt hurt for those being oppressed.

In that moment I had to pray.  As I prayed the Lord reminded me of how many times He has shown me mercy and I did not show mercy to those around me.  I have been just like those boys so many times.  I found myself repenting of my prejudice attitude toward many things.  When I had finished praying the Lord burdened me to go and share with those boys.  I found an interpreter and began to share the love of Christ with those young men.  As I shared I could see these young men struggling to see and understand God’s mercy for themselves and they refused to see God’s mercy for those around them.

Please pray that God would open the eyes of these people who struggle so much with mercy.  I am so thankful that Jesus paid the price so mercy could be given when judgment was deserved.  It is now 9:45 and the team is ready for VBS and the rest of the day.  In His mercy we have been given this day to share His love with the world around us.  May you share His mercy wherever you find yourself today in Jesus name.

If You Had A Wish

July 20, 2011

This morning we began our first VBS day with the children of Romania.  The children came and as usual they were all looking at the Americans to see what we brought for them and they were looking to hear more about our nation and maybe the hope that someday they could come to our great nation.

As I think about this scene, I realize how many people think the American dream is the answer for all the problems in the world.  Certainly America is, I believe, a very blessed place to live and we have so much more than other nations of the world.  However, what we have does not solve the world’s greatest problem, which is sin.

Jesus in the midst of explaining to Nicodemus the need of being born again, shares about the work of the Holy Spirit, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear it’s sound, but you do not where it comes from or where it goes.  So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit,” John 3:8.  Notice, it is God who chooses who is born again and it is always his wish that people would be born again.

This Friday morning I will lead our team in devotion considering this very text. I will ask the following question, “If you had one wish what would it be?”  For our team I know the answer will be, “That many people will be saved.”  Certainly we are here to see people come to Christ.  But we must remember the wind blows where it wills.  We do not do the work of salvation, but we are responsible fo the word of sowing seed.

The better answer we should be giving is, “That God would be gloried in all that we do.”  When God is lifted up as our goal people will respond to him and not to the american dream.  So as we minister to children of all ages and their family members who stand around the walls and watch, we must focus on our lives bringing glory to Him.

So please pray for our team that they will serve for His glory.  I believe it is already happening as I watch team members like Paula, Karen, Kile, and Kim patiently prepare for each day with the passion of doing it all for the glory of the Lord.

I wonder, if you had one wish, what would you ask for this day?  Oh how I pray that you would wish for what we have talked about today. Here is how Jesus wrapped up His discussion with Nicodemus, “But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that his deeds may clearly be seen that his works have been carried out in God,”  We do not seek for the children of Romania to remember us, we want them to know Christ.

Sitting In A Place Where I Am Unworthy

July 19, 2011

This day was the end of a journey that saw 15 team members travel well beyond their comfort zone.  These team members tiredly made their way to a camp ground that has now become something amazing.  I can still recall the day when I first saw the wilderness where the camp now sits.  I can still hear the excitement in the Romanian missionaries voice as he spoke about God’s vision for a people and a place.  Eight  years later it has become a reality.

However as we talked this afternoon there were no praise given to himself, but only to God.  “Worthy is the lamb to receive glory, honor and praise, ” Revelation 5:12.  As I sat there with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes, I felt the strong presence of God in our conversation.  Whenever God is properly honored, His strong presence always comes.  Today I felt that I was sitting in a place where I am unworthy.  Today I was reminded that all we have is a gift from God and I was reminded that I have so much more to praise Him for.

I wonder, is the place where you are seated right now really a place where you are unworthy to be? It could be work, or it could be the house you are sitting in right now.  As I sit here watching teenagers dive into the creek, I think back to  my earliest days and I can see God’s hand all over those days and I proclaim, “I am not worthy!!!”  I look at where I went to school and the education I received and I proclaim, “I am not worthy.”  I look at a picture of my wonderful wife and children and I am not worthy.   I look at the ministry I have been entrusted with and I am not worthy.  Praise be to the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Please take a moment and consider all you have been blessed with.  Spend some time admitting you are not worthy and  also admitting He is worthy of everything.  Thank you Jesus for all we have and all we are in Christ.    May you become famous wherever the places we find ourselves today!!!

That They May Understand

July 18, 2011

This morning I along with 15 other Great Commission followers begin a 30 hour journey that begins here in Louisville Ky and will end in Romania.  I have made this journey may times since 2004, but I can honestly say, “I have never felt such an urgency for the gospel as I do this year.”

This morning the words of urgency from Jeremiah consumed my thoughts, “It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the disaster that I intended to do to them, so that every one may turn from his evil way, and that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin,” 36:3.

Certainly the message of the gospel teaches us about the love of God (John 3:16), but it also teaches us about the wrath of God (Romans 1:18).  I believe we are living in the days when the Lord will return and sadly most will not be ready for His return.  I am so thankful that God has redeemed me from the wrath of God.  I praise the Lord for Paul’s words, “God has not destined us for wrath,” I Thessalonians 5:9.  

This morning I along with 15 others have the blessed honor of sharing the gospel with children who have never heard.  We have the blessed honor of sharing the  gospel with men and women who have been deceived into believing a false gospel.  Yes, we are carrying the most important message the world could every hear.

This year more than any other we have an opportunity to touch a nation with the gospel.  Please pray for our second annual pastors conference as we seek to equip Romanian pastors with the blessed Gospel.  Please pray for the two children’s camps we will be conducting.  Please pray for the opportunities we will have in taking medical treatment and medical supplies to those in need.  Please pray for the sports camp as we teach God’s desire that we subdue creation for his glory.  Please pray for our day-to-day interaction with the people of many different villages.  Please pray for the many nights that we will be preaching the gospel in different churches.  Also for the first time I will be able to preach in a Orthodox church.  Finally pray for the health of our team.

Hopefully I will have internet service to be able to blog while we are on mission in Romania.  Be assured we will be on mission and be assured we will be praying for you because you also are on mission every day.  Together we must take this gospel to the world and together we must plead with heaven to open the eyes and ears of people that they may understand this blessed gospel.