Archive for April, 2017

What’s really important (Matthew 22)

April 30, 2017

37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:37-39

By the time Jesus finishes His day in Matthew 22, the questions about Him and His ministry are over.  From this moment on, death was in the minds of His enemies.  The cross was their only solution for the one they could not and would not accept as their Messiah.

Question: “Could Jesus have done anything more to help them understand?”

Now, that may seem like a heretical question, but it is a needed question.  Jesus has done everything possible to show His enemies who He really was.  But the eyes of the enemy remained under the veil of blindness and willful rejection.

As I sit here on the last Sunday of our spring trip to Malawi, I ask myself, “Can I do anything more to help these people understand?”

God’s answer was clear: “If you love me with all of your being, you will tell them of me and if you love them as you love me, it is all you are required to do.  The rest is up to Me.”

Brothers and sisters, is it really that simple?  Answer, “Yes.”  We are called to love God with all of our being and then to love everyone as God loves us.  When we accomplish this task, the love of Christ will flow from our hands and from our mouths in a way that the gospel will go forth.

Please pray for our team as we are physically exhausted as we prepare for the longest and most difficult day of ministry.  We proclaim the gospel in two churches with one being deep in the heart of Malawi.  We also present the Jesus movie which means we will be about 10 Pm arriving home tonight.  May the gospel reign supreme and may the place where you go to worship today also be filled with the love of God and the love of the brethren!

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Did they understand? (Matthew 21)

April 29, 2017

16 and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,

“‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies
    you have prepared praise’?” Matthew 21:16

As I turned the page in my Bible the dust from a Malawian village had to be dusted off.  I blew the dust and then I gazed upon a chapter filled with moments where Jesus encountered people who did not understand who He was.

It was the same way yesterday in a remote village where we meet with over 300 children.  The village was about an hour off the main road.  The people were very nice and extremely gracious.  In the morning our team shared games, love, Bible lessons, and then we provided lunch.  Finally it was time for me to share the gospel story with a call to say, “yes” to Jesus.

Brothers and sisters, it was a moment of joy to share but a moment of personal horror as I saw people who seemed to almost have no ability to understand.  They listened and they participated with responses to my questions.  But I wonder, “Did they understand?”

When I gave the gospel invitation, about 200 responded by standing to say, “Yes” to Jesus.  But did they understand?

This morning I was able to blow the dust off my Bible but I could not blow away the depth’s of what happened in that village!  At the same time I cannot blow the dust off the many times I have shared at FBC Jackson, Kings Baptist, FBC Richmond Hill, and Emmanuel Baptist with the same results.  The question comes to me this morning, “Lord what should I do?”

Answer: “Share the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit and leave the results to God.”

Here is how Paul makes this answer so real to me today:

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants[c] for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. II Corinthians 4:3-6

Pray for our team as we once again penetrate this same village with the gospel.  Pray for your church and for my church to experience true understanding in the gospel.  Pray for our cities to experience a Great Awakening for the sake of the gospel.

What do you want to do? (Matthew 20)

April 28, 2017

“But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,” Matthew 20:27

The question is coming and I knew it would.  It is a question that always comes as the end of a short-term mission trip approaches.  Here is the question: “What do you want to do with your life?”  Our Malawian mission team has been amazing to work with.  Each person has given of themselves with an unselfish attitude.  The team members have seen first hand how productive their lives can be if they serve others for the glory of God.

But now the tough question comes: “What will you do with your life when you get home?”

In many ways, Jesus is now preparing His disciples to lead the church because after the cross, He is going home.

Take a few moments with me and consider what the disciples had to walk through in their decision-making process:

  • Could they trust God to lead them and to care for them as they led the ministry?  20:4.
  • Would they listen to the flesh or would they listen to the voice of Jesus?  20:20-26.
  • How long would their commitment be for?  Would it be for a year, two years, or for life?  20:27-28.

I can only speak for my life this morning.  I want to live my life as a servant of God proclaiming His glory among the nations.  Each day I have to choose to again and again, not listen to my flesh which says, “you have done enough or you need to slow down.”  Each day I have to trust that God will give me the strength and the reward for being His servant.  Each day I must live in the reality that this could be there very day the Lord calls me home!

I want you to know that I am praying for you in this moment of your life.  I am praying that you realize how much more productive your life will be when you give yourself to others for the glory of God.

Please remember to pray for our team today.  We are off to another remote village to conduct another Bible camp.  Pray for God to open our hearts to love each child and pray for God to open their hearts to the love of Christ.  Also pray for our strength, each team member is getting weak now, but through your prayers God is keeping us strong in the battle. 

Opportunities and more opportunities (Matthew 19)

April 27, 2017

29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold[c] and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first. Mathew 19

Here in Malawi, it seems as if there are opportunities everywhere to share the gospel.  Our team worked in a village deep into the remote area of Zomba.  The team came home excited about the fifty plus kids who said yes to Jesus.  But they also came home broken because of the multitudes who were still lost without Jesus.

At the same time, I spent my day with 61 pastors who came to the Pastor’s conference longing to know truth.  As I taught them how to prepare and lead a gospel-centered funeral, I sensed the many questions these men had.  It became so clear, “my greatest opportunity was in simply opening my mouth to answer their questions.”  As the Holy Spirit guided me to recall Scripture after Scripture I was able to answer those crucial questions that would equip these men of God to reach the nation.

This morning I sat in my usual spot to read God’s Word.  I thought about all the resources I had been entrusted with through the years of my life.  I wondered, “have I left houses, brothers and sisters, father and mother, lands for the Lord’s sake?”

I truly felt the most honest answer I could give was this: “In small moments and in small pockets of time.”

This morning I want to release from my hand into God’s hand every resource He has given me.  I pray the Lord will use me fully to the very end!

I feel a strong urge to pray for each of you in the same manner.  May the Lord be in possession of every ability and resource in your life.  When He is, “Nothing will be impossible in your spiritual journey.”

Its the same everywhere, even in Africa (Matthew 18)

April 26, 2017

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. Matthew 18:15

Yes, it is true, even in Africa!!!  Yesterday while taking questions at the pastors conference I was asked the following question: “If someone borrows something from me, but its unwilling to give it back, what should I do?”

Immediately my mind was at a cross roads.  I could either travel one of two paths. I could take the path of a fleshly answer or the path of a faith answer.

Question: “Which path would you take?”

Peter, much in the same way is at the cross roads in Matthew 18.  Jesus gives him the faith answer:

  1. Peter is to forgive the person who offended Him as often as He genuinely request forgiveness.
  2. Peter is to never refuse forgiveness nor is he to take matters into his own hands.

Jesus gives Peter an example that will help to understand forgiveness.  Peter is the man who owes such a large debt and the person who offended him owes the smaller debt.

As I thought about my response to the pastor, I was reminded of my debt (canceled by Jesus) against God.  I was humbled to realize how much I have been forgiven!!!

I am praying for all who read this blog today, “You will always forgive all who sin against you.”

Just a quick update from Malawi.  We had a record 57 pastors at the conference for day number two.  We also saw over 60 kids respond to the preaching of the gospel during day two of the sports camp.  God is so good.  

We ever so feel your prayers and we continue to need them.  Today is day three of our pastors conference and it is the first day for our team to have a day camp in a new remote village.  Please pray for the health of our team as well. 

A much needed view (Matthew 17)

April 25, 2017

And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. Matthew 17:2

For the last couple of days it has seemed that the enemy has been extremely upset with the work of our preaching here in Malawi.  You ask, “What do you mean?”  For the last couple of days there has been at least one major physical disturbance from the crowd wherever I was preaching.  It happened yesterday as I began to teach.  An older pastor suddenly began to shake and then passed out.  Thankfully through God’s hand he was able to overcome.

This mornings readings include the story of the father who comes to the disciples with his son who is suffering from epileptic attacks.

As I sit here reading this chapter, I am deeply challenged to have a correct viewpoint to what is happening around me.  I am to understand the spiritual warfare that takes place.  I am to understand the victorious power in Christ alone.  I am to have the correct view of Christ.

I challenge you to take time to see Christ as Matthew sees Him in chapter 17.

  • Jesus begins His teaching about the cross just before this moment of Transfiguration, 16:21.
  • God the Father again validates Jesus ministry with the added command, “listen to Him.” 17:1-9.
  • Jesus points the disciples to the trials that will come as they get closer to the cross, 17:10-13.
  • Jesus reminds the disciples of the daily importance of bringing everything and everyone to Him, 17:14-21.

Here is our victory!!!  “The Cross of Christ!!!!!!!”

This day, I find myself in a moment of great joy because of the power of the cross.  Jesus is our victory.

Today is our second day of the pastors conference with a record of 55 pastors attending.  Please pray for their ability to understand and their desire to want to openly ask their questions.

Today is the second day of the sports camps.  Please pray for John and Michael as they share messages at the camp.  Hundreds of children were blessed to be able to discover the joy of life as a Christian.

 

Where is your mind? (Matthew 16)

April 24, 2017

.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance[f] to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Matthew 16:23

Our first Sunday in Malawi has come and gone.  In the process we visited two village churches where over a hundred people responded to the gospel.  Each service was filled with worship, testimonies, words of kindness, and powerful Spirit-filled teaching.

Our evening service was in a very remote village where the bus could not make it all the way to the church.  We walked only a short distance.  Once there the people were waiting with such great zeal as these white Americans were coming to their village.  As I smiled with the people, kicked a worn out soccer ball with the kids, and participated in worship I felt the strong sense that the people were about to worship us instead of God.  Thankfully we were able to lift up the one true God.

Question: “where is your mind this day?”

Jesus is now locked into where the heavenly Father’s path is taking Him. He is on His journey to the cross.  His followers hear him say, “I must go to the cross…” 16:21. One of His followers, Peter takes Him aside and asks, “Where is your mind?”  Jesus responds to Peter, “Where is your mind?”  Peter was not mindful of God’s work but of His own will.

Brothers and sisters, be very careful as you begin this week.  God’s mind for your life could run directly in the opposite direction from where you mind is today.

God has called us to have a mind that does the following:

  • Deny’s our way of thinking and embraces His way of living, Matthew 16:24-29.
  • Lifts up Christ as the only True God, Matthew 16:13-20.
  • Is willing to suffer for the cause of Christ, Matthew 16:24.
  • Pays attention to storms as knowing where they really are coming from, Matthew 16:1-4.

As we begin a new day in Malawi, I want my mind to be in line with His mind. I pray the same for you!!!

What about those outside, Malawi 2017 (Matthew 15)

April 23, 2017

You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:

“‘This people honors me with their lips,
    but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
    teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ Matthew 15:7-8

I could not get away from the reality of what I was seeing.  I tried to look away, but where ever I looked, there is was.  I attempted to put it out of my mind, but I could not.  Finally, I gave in to what God was saying.

Let me back up for a moment, the ministry of Jesus in Matthew 15 is at a full tilt, (14:34-36).  People everywhere are coming to meet Jesus, touch Jesus, and to be healed by Jesus.  But as usual the Pharisees are looking for things in Jesus ministry to complain about.

This time it is a major flaw.  The disciples are having their meal without washing their hands.  (Imagine if they were in Malawi).  The circumstance is quickly put into perspective by Jesus.  The Pharisees are more concerned about their self-imposed regulations whereas Jesus is most concerned about obeying God’s commands.

I can picture Jesus looking directly at the Pharisees when He says, “It is well said of you…” Jesus makes it clear, Isaiah was on point when he spoke of the heart issues of the people who were supposed to love Him.

Now, back to what I could not get away from.  I was sharing the gospel with the orphans in the village where our church has adopted most of the orphans.  There sitting in the crowd was “Hope.”  This now maybe 10-year-old who Sherry, John, and I adopted 3 years ago was smiling and at least 4 inches taller than the last time I saw Him.  I praised the Lord for what He has done in Hopes life.  But behind Hope and the other kids were about 100 other kids looking in the door of the church.  They, as Michael commented, “wanted to come in, but they could not.”

I thought, as I preached, “What more does the Lord want me to do?”  How can I make a difference in just one more child’s life?  How can I help others to see the way they can make a difference in just one more child’s life?  The answer, “I must allow my heart to be touched by the Lord so I can touch other people’s hearts.”

I pray, on the Lord’s Day, you and I will allow the Lord to be no just close in our hearts, but to have our entire heart!!!  The truth is, there are many just outside our door who we will see when the Lord is Lord of our entire heart!

Saturday from Malawi (Matthew 14)

April 22, 2017

“And He said, bring them to me.” Matthew 14:18

This morning is going to be a long day with lots of village driving and village ministry as we visit two orphanages where God has blessed Hope for the Future to adopt over 170 kids.  I am so thankful for brother Ovi and Ms. Lita’s vision for this nation.  I can never imagine the weight they carry as entire families survival and future lies in their hands.

This morning I wonder, what lies in your hands?  For me, each mission trip reminds me of how helpless apart from Christ my best efforts are.  I am much like the disciples in Matthew 14 who see the massive need with considering the unlimited power of Jesus.  The disciples look over the situation and they say, “send them away…”

However, Jesus had a different plan!

Question: “How many times has God spoken to your heart about ministry and you simply said, I can’t do it?”

Each time God speaks and we say “no,” we are just like the disciples when they said, “send them away.”

Brothers and sisters, “God has all power to accomplish every ministry He is calling you to join Him in.”  The power is His.  The mission is His.  The results are His.  The glory is His.  All we are called to do is to simply say, “Yes Lord, I will be your hands and feet.”

Think about this story.  Who other than Jesus is remembered?  It is not the disciples or the people who are fed.  It is the little boy who gave what he had for the ministry.  What did Jesus say, “Bring them to me.”  Once the little boys insufficient resources got in Jesus hands they were transformed into more than enough!!!

This morning I am praying for that kind of love and faith.  I want to love Jesus enough to place everything in His hands.  I want to have enough faith in Jesus to be His hands and feet to carry the more than enough message to the world.

Many who read this are in a place where the Lord is saying or has been saying for a long time, “bring yourself to me.”  I pray with all my heart that you place yourself in Jesus hands.” You ask, “why?”  The lives of millions are at stake!!!

So off we go to visit children who have, with Jesus, the ability to change the future of a nation!!!  That’s a big deal on a Saturday morning!!!

 

What the little girl heard (Matthew 13)

April 21, 2017

“But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.” Matthew 13:16

This mornings reading comes from Matthew 13 where Jesus engages in the telling of eight parables all relating to one subject: “Salvation.”  With each parable we see the richness and seriousness of the gospel.

The first parable is very familiar to most who read this blog.  The familiar words of Jesus flow through our minds, “a sower went out to sow…”

This morning I have to pause and publicly praise the Lord for the seed of the gospel.  Jesus is the one who sows the gospel in our lives.  Jesus identifies no less than 4 different types of soil (hearts) that He sows the gospel toward.

  • The first heart reminds me of those who openly reject the gospel.  Their heart is hard and easily they reject what Jesus says.
  • The second heart reminds me of those who have no investment in the gospel.  They hear the gospel, pray to receive Jesus at someone’s request.  However they never surrender their life to Jesus.
  • The third heart reminds me of those who see no benefit in the gospel.  They also hear and pray, but for them, the things of the world hold more benefit.
  • The fourth heart reminds me of the little girl who truly heard the gospel yesterday.  She immediately bore fruit because she was saved.

Who was this little girl?  She was the first of over one hundred children in a remote village in Malawi who responded to the gospel that I was honored to share.

This little girl stood up in the midst of a crowded small church building and said by her standing, “I want to be a follower of Jesus.”  I was so amazed as she stood up.  No one else stood at first.  They all just looked at her.  But then as my interpreter pleaded with the rest of the group to respond to the gospel, they one by one began to hear and then to respond to the gospel call.

The gospel began with Jesus and then it spread to the Apostles and then it began to spread to the world, finally it came into my hometown in nowhere Eastern Kentucky.  Now it has come into a little girls heart in Malawi Africa.

Brothers and sisters, “I am so thankful for the gospel.”  The words of Jesus in this chapter ring so true:

31 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

May you and I have the same fruit bearing faith as that little girl to stand up for Jesus in the crowded places where we live this day!!!