Saturday, July 12, 2014

Martha's Visit

The rainy season has commenced. A large typhoon passed north of the Philippines this week, dumping 4 days of heavy rains. Humidity will stay high through Christmas. Grass grows faster and it takes longer for my clothes to dry.

I was excited to see Martha at our annual mission meeting and catch up on news about her experiences in the 'undisclosed' country. I have asked her to write an update which I will post in my next blog. Her time there was extremely valuable as she learned much about the culture, and about her role as Christ’s servant in a place where Christianity is not welcomed. Still, God gave her opportunities to make Him known.

Following our mission meeting, David joined Martha and I in Singapore for 4 days of wonderful vacation. We visited the zoo, the botanical gardens, watched laser shows by the ocean, rode go-carts, toured the city streets, and enjoyed some meaningful family conversations. David was especially impressed with the clean, orderly, efficient administration of such a large Asian city.

Martha and I arrived back in the Philippines in time to travel to her birthplace, Roxas City, where she and I spoke to about 50 people in a nearby village whose homes had been repaired and rebuilt by the SBTC disaster relief teams from Texas. God continues to work there as our faithful workers in Roxas City minister to the new believers in that village.

On Thursday, one of my former missionary colleagues arrived from Ohio with a team of 10. They will be involved in various ministry activities for the coming week. Today we conducted a seminar training called Learn to Discern for 54 of our Filipino church members and leaders. All of us were challenged to exercise extreme caution with what we watch and hear from all sources of media, and to dedicate our hearts and minds to be His ‘light’ shiners in a dark world. Martha’s testimonies were especially powerful.

Martha has also shared in several of our smaller fellowships, explaining how she maintains her focus on the Lord in the midst of a busy college life and among fellow college students whose priorities do not always honor the Lord. It’s been a joy for me to hear Martha quote passage after passage of Scripture that she has memorized and applied to her life. She will return to Texas in about 10 days and spend some time with her siblings before returning to college. Until then, it’s really a treat for me to have one of my youngins with me for a while.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Undisclosed

I leave in a few hours to another ‘undisclosed’ Asian country for our annual mission meeting. Martha is finishing up her trip in an ‘undisclosed’ country and will join me there. For security reasons, my company tells me I must keep our travels ‘undisclosed’. So undisclosed they shall remain, for now.

I’m excited to see Martha and hear all that she has learned. Her correspondence out of that ‘undisclosed’ country has been limited, again for security reasons. After our mission meeting, David will join Martha and I in Singapore for a few days of vacation. Then Martha will return with me to the Philippines for about 3 weeks before heading back to Texas, then Virginia. Thank you to each one who has sent support for her and prayed for her. I know the Lord will use this experience in her life to help guide her future, as well as have an impact on the ones she ministered to in that 'undisclosed' country.

Thank you also for praying for our new church opening in Capiz. Two weeks ago we baptized 8. Then last week we baptized another 8. These 16 form the nucleus of our new church in a village of several hundred families that previously had no church. We are excited to see the gospel permeate this place. Thanks to SBTC for their typhoon relief efforts there.

A big part of my ministry strategy has shifted to helping people here recognize the harmful effects of pop western culture (which is quickly copied by pop Filipino culture) and how to protect themselves from its worldly beliefs and ungodly values. I will be leading a seminar on July 12 called “Learn to Discern”. Please pray for the eyes of peoples’ hearts to be opened to the forces of evil that is at work through cultural influences. People do not appreciate the light of Christ until they realize the depth of spiritual darkness that surrounds them.

So how are you doing? No doubt most of you have some area of life that is a struggle that weighs on you and leaves you puzzled as to what to do. Such times are my reminder that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only One I cannot live without, who speaks to me along the unfamiliar 'undisclosed' journey, telling me where to place my next step. May your steps be forever guided by the One who knows the way through, who has been on the same journey before.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

New Lights

Yesterday was our third meeting in the village where 4 teams of Texans built shelters for 70 families and gave out building materials to many more. One hundred thirty villagers gathered for our first meeting (previous blog entry), about a hundred for the second meeting last Saturday, and about 70 yesterday. Declining numbers are typical and we use this to find those who sincerely want to follow Jesus. At the end of the first 2 meetings, I ask for a show of hands of those who were ready to commit their lives to Christ. At each meeting, at least half raised their hands.

But experience has taught us that there is a big difference between acknowledging Christ as Savior and trusting Him as Lord, between raising my hand for Him verses giving my life to Him. Belief in God is easy; Satan believes in God. But God reserves His Holy Spirit only for those who openly confess their need for Him and willingness to obey Him in whatever He asks. That’s what baptism is for.

So yesterday, after presenting the gospel from a different perspective, instead of asking for a show of hands, I explained baptism. In a Roman Catholic culture, baptism is a big deal. Baptized as babies, it’s how one is cleansed from original sin and brought into the Catholic Church. Of course, we explain how Jesus was baptized as a man, not a baby, to demonstrate obedience, not to wash away sin, since Jesus had no sin to wash away. Religion had nothing to do with His baptism, but had everything to do with showing obedience.

I explained that the ocean was just 20 feet away. Raising hands is easy, but being put under dirty water with all your clothes on and everyone watching was something else. Eight people indicated their willingness to prove their obedience. So, we walked down to the beach and waded out into the water where each one was baptized. Others seemed willing, but hesitated. So we offered to provide another opportunity next Saturday for those willing to prove their obedience.

Please pray: For the 8 who were baptized. Even before they were out of the water, some on the shore were making comments that these 8 were being disloyal to the Catholic Church. They will surely face verbal persecution and possibly some form of physical discrimination in the days ahead for their decision. As we warn every new believer, Satan will be ready with his attack as well, just as happened to Jesus after His baptism.

Please pray for those who were hesitant, that by next Saturday they will hesitate no longer. After next Saturday, we will gather those who were baptized and this will be the start of the first church in this village of several hundred families. Our Christian workers in the nearby city will begin training the new church to grow in their relationship with the Lord and to become ‘lights’ in a place that, until now, had no light.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Windows to the Sea

Although I love the mountains, it seems most of my ministry opportunities lately have taken me to the sea. This morning, with the ocean just a few yards away, I shared the gospel message to about 130 people crowded into a school room good for half that many. They patiently sat for an hour and a half in the summer heat to hear about a Savior who loves them and a Holy Spirit who can empower them. During the invitation, about half of them raised their hands, indicating their desire to trust the Savior and receive His power.

Still, experience has taught me that much more teaching needs to be done before wrong beliefs are erased and the clarity of the gospel is understood. But today was a glorious response; the fruit of 4 Southern Baptist of Texas teams who labored here for 3 months building 70+ shelters for typhoon victims, and the fruit of our team in Roxas City who have been faithfully ministering in the village for the past several months. Pastor Ronald said that during their prayer meetings, they pray for specific people in the village as his 9 year old son calls out their names to the Lord. We will return there next Saturday for continued evangelism.

Earlier in the week, I spoke to about 90 of our Southern Baptist youth who had their summer camp on the west side of our island. The little tabernacle I spoke in was open sided, surrounded by coconut trees that framed the ocean just a stone’s throw away. A couple of weeks before in the same location I had spoken to over 100 youth from various denominations. During both camps, I shared about the spiritual and moral darkness that is invading our world and how God has called them to be His light.

In a different part of the world and by another sea, Martha is beginning her 3rd week of serving in an 'undisclosed' country. She reports that the Lord is teaching her deep lessons of faith as she serves families in various villages. It’s a conservative culture that requires Martha to dress the part. She has seen a hunger among the people to know God, but religious barriers are in place that blind them to God’s true nature. There is a team in this place that Martha relates to and works with.

Back in the heart of Texas, Hannah has moved in with David, Sara, and Jonathan, for the summer. The good folks at the SBTC office where Hannah worked last year have eagerly hired her back. Because of Obamacare, Hannah can only work a maximum of 29 hours, so she has taken on another internship job working with historical records. Plus, she will begin work on her master’s thesis. Already I’ve heard reports of late night giggling and laughter emanating from the Moses’ home in Fort Worth.

I hope your summer is off to a good start. Whether you are near the sea or far away, may the Source of Living Water be foremost in your heart.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

An Unglorified Anniversary

This month is a personal anniversary of sorts. Ten years ago, in May 2004, I was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma and had my left cancerous kidney removed, along with a couple of cancer positive lymph nodes. Four and a half years later, I had 2 more cancer positive lymph nodes removed. The survival rate for this level of kidney cancer is poor, so to still be around 10 years later is unusual.

To celebrate, I went to the hospital this morning for one more follow-up visit, probably my last, since a 10-year survival puts my odds of cancer recurrence about near the same as those who never had it. My ultrasound came back clear, no lesions or other abnormalities. My blood chemistry looks good. Cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar are all low. Creatinine as low as it has been in 10 years. All other blood counts are in normal range. I’ve gotten my weight back down to normal and, overall, I’m feeling fine.

This may seem like good news, but it really depends on your perspective. To commemorate Easter last month, I did a little Bible study on our resurrected body, the one Jan is enjoying right now. Paul says that, for those who have the gift of the Holy Spirit in them, God will transform their bodies to be like the resurrected body of Jesus (Phil. 3:21), which is real; the disciples were able to touch it and feel it (Luke 24:39; John 20:25-27). Just as they recognized Jesus (Luke 24:31, 39), so we will recognize each other in heaven, albeit with a glorified body.

The Bible says our eternal body will be incorruptible (1 Cor. 15:42-43, 53). No death, deformity, disease, or pain. It will also be a spiritual body (verse 44), meaning its primary function will be to relate to all that is godly and heavenly, as opposed to our earthly body, whose primary function is to relate to our physical surroundings using our 5 senses. Since, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 15:50), our Lord’s resurrected body is “flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39), no blood. Evidently, God will give our bodies a new, superior means of sustaining life. My favorite is that our resurrected bodies will have incredible abilities to move around (Luke 24:31; John 20:19; Acts 1:9).

The older I get the more excited I become when I think about my resurrected body. No more aches, wrinkles, pains, sickness, aging, or snap, crackles, and pops. I will have new abilities to move around without worries of stubbing a toe or breaking a bone. From heavens perspective, there is no glory in being a cancer-survivor. Unfortunately, evolutionists and atheists don’t get to enjoy the anticipation of a glorified resurrected body. But for those whose hope is in heaven, it’s a coming reality worth dreaming about. In the meantime, I’ll keep taking my nutrition supplements and see how many more years I can get out of this unglorified body.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Nation Gone Under

For several years, a New York teacher had this quote from Ronald Reagan posted on her classroom wall: “If we ever forget that we are one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.” Recently, the teacher was ordered to remove the quote, telling her it violated the U.S. Constitution.

Many of those who follow national and world events concede that Christians have lost the culture war. Our military has labeled evangelical Christians as religious extremists and conservative Christian organizations as domestic hate groups. Bibles were banned from Walter Reed Medical Center. The IRS has targeted Christian ministries to silence them, demanding from some to turn over their membership rolls and the content of their prayers. And of course, the Obama administration has been relentless in tearing apart the foundation of our nation’s Christian heritage.

The most visible loss is the rise of the “gay rights” groups, who have successfully changed homosexual behavior into a discrimination issue rather than a moral issue. Our culture now holds as hero’s Hollywood stars such as Ellen DeGeneres, Elton John, and Jodie Foster. Our culture forced out Brendan Eich as CEO of Mozilla Firefox because 6 years ago he donated $1,000 to support traditional marriage. Our culture is comfortable with homosexual CEO’s like Apple’s Tim Cook, and is fine with those who give millions every year to support their cause. And in every recent court case where business owners have tried to defend their religious freedoms against gay activists, gay ‘rights’ has won.

For most of America’s history, Christians and Christian principled people were the guardians of our culture, providing a safe and wholesome environment for families to flourish. Even during hard times, belief in God’s goodness and a strong sense of right and wrong carried us through. So it made sense to the ‘forces of evil’ that in order for their ideology to win, Christianity had to go. And with each year, their success grows. Christians are no longer the “salt of the earth.”

So why am I harping on this so much? A couple of days ago I talked with J, a Campus Crusade for Christ volunteer who disciples college students on campuses outside our city. He shared that, in rural areas, students’ openness to the gospel is rapidly decreasing, and in the city it’s almost gone. When I asked him why this was happening, he summed it up in 2 words – western culture. In recent months, I've heard the same sentiment from several church leaders. From TV to the internet, from Hollywood to Miley Cyrus, from Walmart to Wall Street, most 3rd world cultures look to America as their example of what they want to be like.

Interestingly, the places in the world where we are seeing the greatest growth in the Christian church today are in those places where western culture has yet to reach, places like rural areas of China, India, Indonesia, and in some of the former Soviet Union countries. But in places like the Philippines that has a wide open door to western culture, with its themes of greed, immorality, power, rebellion,and humanism, responsiveness to the gospel is diminishing.

In the past couple of months, I’ve been doing a self-study on the evolving content and growing influence of western culture, and the results have been shocking for me. For example, did you know that, according to some calculations, 1/3 of all worldwide internet traffic is pornography! I have been disheartened that my home country, which was once the beacon of Christianity for the world, has now become the primary exporter of the forces against Christianity. I’m currently revising our core lessons to deal with this enormous threat, hoping to open the eyes of non-believers to what is influencing their hearts and minds, the things we so quickly excuse as ‘entertainment’, as well as equipping believers to exercise discernment with what they watch and listen to.

Even though we have lost the culture war, our purpose, our task, our marching orders remain the same: to be light in the darkness, to show up the world for what it really is. As Jesus warned in John 3, most people love the darkness and will not come to the light. But for those who do, the eternal rewards of genuine love, joy and peace await. As followers of Christ, we were never to put our hope in America. And though we get discouraged, we never despair, knowing that who we have on the inside is far greater than anything on the outside, and the day is coming when western culture will be no more, when godly culture will prevail for eternity.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Stats and Global Warming

I just finished submitting my statistical report for the 1st quarter of 2014. Thought you might like to see some of the information that’s included. I have to give estimates since I don’t always hear from every church during each quarter:

# who heard the gospel this quarter: 500
# who had the opportunity to respond to Christ: 200
# who became new believers: 30
# who were baptized: 30
# of new groups started: 3
# of new churches started: 1
# who received training to start new churches: 35

The Southern Baptist of Texas Convention disaster relief team working in Capiz contributed a lot to these numbers. They have completed about 50 small shelters where an entire family will live in a 80 sq. ft. room. The American teams are a big hit with the elementary school children who can’t get enough of these tall friendly white people from far away. Students from the computer school continue to meet weekly with various groups in the village where the construction is taking place.

This is the time of year when I put on my travel agent hat to buy plane tickets for summer meetings. Since this blogspot is public domain on the internet, I’m not permitted to say much about our meetings for security reasons, except that they are not always easy to get to. What I can say is that David is planning to come out this summer. He, Martha, and I will be vacationing for nearly a week in Singapore, one of the most modern cities in the world.

Speaking of Martha, she is sending out a personal letter to some folks concerning her summer plans. Again, for security reasons, I’m limited about what I can say, except that she will be using her nursing skills to serve the Father in a special part of the world for about six weeks. Those of you who know Martha understand the direction she senses the Father is leading her, and this ‘adventure’ will give her an opportunity to have firsthand experience. She needs to raise $3,000 for this endeavor, so if anyone senses the Father’s leading to help, you can email Martha at mmoses4@liberty.edu and she can share a little more about it. Both of her fathers will be most grateful!

I read in the news that the U.S. has finished one of its coldest winters on record, some say due to global warming. Hmmm. But the task for all of us is to warn others about a coming global warming that is much more certain for those who fail to follow the Savior! Heaven is too wonderful a place for people to miss out, so let’s take our task seriously.