Thursday, September 4, 2014

Teach These Truths

Last Saturday I visited the village where we had done typhoon disaster relief. A core group of about a dozen newly baptized believers gather each week as Bro. Ronald and team help them grow in their relationship with God. Bro. Ronald, as I may have mentioned before, is the manager of a computer school in nearby Roxas City (the birthplace of Hannah and Martha) and is also the current president of the city’s Kiwanis Club. He is married and has 2 children.

I met Ronald in 1988, not long after Jan and I moved to Roxas City following language study. I helped disciple Ronald and soon he became the pastor of our first church. In 1993, a Christian lady bought a franchise for a computer school and asked Ronald to be the manager. Knowing she had many applications for the position, Ronald asked her, “Why me? I don’t know anything about computers!” But the owner assured Ronald they could train him in what he needed to know. She wanted Ronald because of his character; he was dependable, trustworthy, and worked well with people.

At first, Ronald said ‘no’ because God had called him to ministry work. But I encouraged Ronald to reconsider, knowing a school manager could have a lot of influence. So he accepted. He’s been the manager ever since, faithfully sharing Christ in his classes and through school Bible studies and retreats. One of his job responsibilities is to promote the computer school to graduating seniors from area high schools. Over the years, Ronald has developed a presentation in which he promotes the gospel of Jesus Christ more than the school. (I wish we could do things like this in the U.S.)

For several years, Ronald had been prohibited in coming to a major high school in a nearby town whose principal was a staunch Roman Catholic. Then, last month, Ronald was surprised to receive an invitation to come to the school. Their principal had been reassigned. So, last Friday, Ronald spent two and a half hours explaining the gospel through Scripture verses, testimony, music, and film clips. At the end of the presentation, nearly all 300 students indicated their faith and trust in the Lord, Jesus Christ.

After Ronald finished, the school’s guidance counselor stood before the students and said, “I am the one who asked Sir Ronald to come today. I’m sure he doesn’t remember me, but many years ago, he came to my high school in another town where I was a student and he shared the same gospel message. I asked Jesus to be my Savior and Lord that day, and now I want him to continue coming to our school here so each of you can have the same opportunity to know God as I have come to know Him.”

“You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.” 2 Timothy 2:2

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Family Update

I just finished talking with Hannah for a couple of hours via Skype and will talk later to Martha. After driving for 2 days from Texas, both made it safely back to Virginia where Martha begins her last year in college and Hannah her last year in graduate school. I will make a trip back to the States next May for their graduations. Jonathan could graduate next May with his Associate degree in Computer Networking, but we’re thinking about him staying on another semester or 2 to also earn a degree in Computer Security. We’ll see. But all of them had a great time together at David’s house for the past few weeks.


As for their future plans after graduation, Hannah is considering a 2 year service with the Peace Corps, maybe in a needy country in Africa or South America. She may also start sending out her resume after Christmas to museums and government agencies. Please pray that the Lord will guide her through it all. The Lord has placed missions in Martha’s heart, but she will need to work at least a couple of years in a hospital setting in the U.S. to develop her nursing skills. She will be seeking the Lord’s direction on where to do that.

But before either of them set off on their careers, they and Sara are hoping to take a post graduation vacation to Europe next May for a couple of weeks. Sara has always wanted to visit Scotland and Ireland, Hannah wants to visit the World’s Fair next year in Milan, Italy, and Martha would just enjoy spending more time with her sisters. When Jan graduated from college she traveled to Europe with her mom, so the girls want to follow in their mom’s footsteps, literally.

Sara has chalked up 6 years with Neiman Marcus in their graphics department, which gives her the privilege of more vacation time each year. David continues to do well with his job as lead programmer at Texas Wesleyan University, as well as teaching a Sunday School class. Jonathan is earning some of his own money with a part-time job at a Chic-Fil-a. All of them will get back together at Christmas time, but Daddy will have to wait until next May to be with them.

Folks here often ask if any of them are close to getting married. David turns 29 this week and has his own house. The girls are all of the marrying age. Jonathan will be leaving his teen years before too long. We have discussions about it now and then, but as yet, each is waiting for God’s best. None require marriage in order to be fulfilled. Each has learned to maximize their single years to serve the Lord, learn skills, and develop a trust in the Lord for their future. I expect at some point the wedding bells will ring. I just don’t know for who. Nor am I in a hurry to know. In God's time.

Thank you for those of you who join me in praying for my kids. Nothing in this world is more precious to me than each one of them.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Martha's Update

The rainy season is in full force here in the Philippines. I’ve given up trying to keep my car washed.

Earlier this month, we were blessed by 11 folks from Ohio (led by one of my former company colleagues) who ministered here in Iloilo as well as in Negros, the next island to the south. They walked house to house, sharing Christ, helped conduct a training seminar, and renovated an old church building.

Last week, I said goodbye to my faithful ministry partners, the Lockharts, who had served as volunteers here for the past 5 years. The number of Ilonggo people in God’s kingdom has increased because of their fruitful labor. They are returning to their home in Texas for a new phase of ministry there.

Then Martha left, leaving my nest empty once again. It was great having her here. She was going to write this blog, but she stayed very busy visiting with people. Then she ate some food at a youth fellowship that left her sick for a couple of days. So I’ll post part of the ministry update she sent out to those who helped support her...

(From Martha) "I am thankful for every relationship God allowed me to make for the six weeks that I was able to spend there. I hope that the Lord uses the conversations that were had and that He is glorified in that place. I am thankful for those of you who have been praying for me and who have supported me financially to be able to go. I am thankful for my sister Sara for sending out updates and all of her help. :)

The Kingdom work there is hard, as it is in many places. There is a lot of sowing and little reaping. But the Lord is the Lord of the harvest. I’ve heard from people all over the globe that it seems harder and harder to see “results” from ministry, as we measure them. In the book of Ezekiel, God commanded the prophet to go and proclaim the words of God to the “sons of Israel”, even though as God said, they are a “stubborn and obstinate house” who will not listen. God didn’t promise Ezekiel that if he spoke the words of God, the people would receive his words.

Chapter 33 of Ezekiel tells the story of the watchman who upon looking out and seeing the destruction to come upon the city goes and warns the people of the city. If the people do not ready themselves against the danger, is not their blood on their own hands? But if the watchman sees the danger approaching and does not warn the people, is not their blood on the watchman’s hands? God called Ezekiel to be a prophet, a watchmen for the people to hear from God, but does not Jesus call each of us to a similar role?

“As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17: 18)

God has not commanded each of us to live exactly like Ezekiel, but He has commanded obedience and to love those around us. He has given us the example of His Son, Christ Jesus, who “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:6-7) “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:9)

Jesus warns us that in the last days, “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold”. (Matthews 24:12). Does that mean we stop sharing or serving in whatever field the Lord places each of us? We have the confidence that our work is not in vain; even Ezekiel was demonstrating God’s love and faithfulness by giving warnings to the people of Israel.

Pray that each of us would be sensitive to the Lord’s leading and that we would not be hardened by the changes in the world. “Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:13) Pray that each of us would surrender completely to the Lord and that He would fill us with His Spirit and use us for His glory. Pray that we would be aware of the schemes of Satan to draw us away from God.

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:11-16)

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.