Of Oreos and Coffee

Sitting in my refrigerator is the last pack of “birthday cake Oreos” my parents sent in my Christmas barrel this year 1.

As I finish those, I’m reminded how simple pleasures of life bring us great joy…..

and that it’s okay to ask for things.

Occasionally friends in the states will ask me if there is anything that I need. My answer to that is almost always no, because there aren’t many things needed in Saint Vincent that I cannot get here. And honestly those things we can’t get here you can easily live without.

At times people will ask “is there anything that you want?” and unless there’s a serious need, my answer to that is no as well for the same reason 2. But occasionally you run into people that won’t take that for an answer 🙂

While in the States last summer for eye surgery, my mother instructed me to write down a list of simple pleasures that my family could send as presents in my Christmas barrel. The list included small things.

  1. Like good pens
  2. Oreo cookies
  3. Flavoured coffee
  4. Gatorade powder
  5. And a favourite kind of body wash, and deodorant

The truth is I felt kind of silly requesting these simple pleasures because they weren’t huge necessary things. In fact my life may have been better without them (the Oreos have made me fat)! But the The Lord through this experience reminded me it’s okay to ask for the silly things

Because the Lord has provided a family of prayer supporters and friends who take great joy in providing for my oreo cravings. And I serve a God who takes great joy in providing for my insignificant needs.

  1. They won’t last long!
  2. You can live without the things you can’t get here

Winning the War not the Battle With Our Sin-Nature (Joshua 15:14)

A theme from the book of Joshua is to “claim the land.” This theme comes because Joshua is called by God to conquer the land of Canaan, so Jews can then claim it by driving out final enemies, and building their own houses.

Joshua fulfils the call of God by conquering almost all of the land till he can no longer fight. Sadly the Jews do a very poor job of claiming that land.

In Joshua seventeen the tribe of Joseph complained that Joshua had not given them enough land, but were unwilling to expand into new territory, because they were afraid of the Canaanites (Joshua 17:15-16). Then in chapter eighteen Joshua confronts many tribes who because of fear, had refused to claim the land that God had given (Joshua 18:3).

As a contrast to these passive individuals, the Lord gives us the example of Caleb. Who at the age of eighty-five (Joshua 14:10-11) conquered the areas that young men were afraid to attack (Joshua 15:14).

There are many things that we can learn from the life of Caleb….

But the most important is to win a complete victory

For most of the Jews, gaining large victories over the Canaanite enemies was good enough. There was no reason to drive them out, since they were so weak. Of course in Judges those enemies allowed to survive would eventually drive the Jews out.

In other words, most Jews were satisfied with winning the battle, instead of the war

But not Caleb!

The application the Lord brought to my heart through this passage is I settle for winning battles over my sin nature instead of the war.

After defeating a sinful habit enough times it will become weak, or something that we don’t struggle with anymore. At this point it’s easy to overlook that sin as something unimportant, and we allow it to remain.

But winning the battle makes little difference if we let sin win the war.

Of course it’s impossible to completely eliminate sin from our lives till the Lord gives us a glorified body. So like Caleb we must just keep fighting.

Continue to wage war on the indwelling sin with a sharp sword until the day God calls you home, or your’e taken up. Then, and ONLY THEN can you lay your sword down.

Studying the Culture Instead of Consuming the Culture

Over the weekend, I finished book two for 2022, the audio version of Pandemia by Alex Berensen. He is a former reporter for the New York Times who during the coronavirus pandemic gained a reputation for being anti-lockdown, and going against the use of masks as well as the vaccine.

I don’t agree with Berensen in all of his views as someone who is fully vaccinated, and uses masks. However, I was impressed with the fact that all of his views were backed up by facts.

Throughout the book Berensen used articles from scientific journals and medical experiments to prove his views were correct. During the initial 2020 lockdown he read and researched everything that he could get his hands on regarding the pandemic.

This isn’t a book I personally encourage others to read because of the profanity in it, and Alex Berensen himself admits to being a “jerk on twitter.”

But it has a very important principle for Christians….

Do your own research.

The pandemic has brought up many challenging situations, and hard questions. Those questions can only truly be answered by individuals who do their own personal study or research instead of simply using the answers given to them through social media, or the news. Those who become students of the culture instead of just consumers.

This idea of being a student of the culture is incredibly important because the surrounding world is continually trying to pull us away from the Lord. Therefore we must pay very close attention to the worldview, and belief systems of those around us.

That doesn’t mean lockdowns, masks, or vaccines are wrong (I don’t believe they are). It does mean just as Alex Berensen did his own research and study of the effects of the lockdown, we must study the message our culture proclaims.

I do appreciate this book, and an author who was willing to ask the hard questions when nobody else seemed to do so. It is a challenge for Believers to think for themselves, and take a stand against a pagan society.

A Very Precious Gift

In 2016 veteran Child Evangelism Fellowship missionary Betty Hoover asked me if I would like to have any of her teaching materials once she retired that year.

I immediately accepted, expecting her to send a few items…

Instead she sent me everything!

Around Christmas 2017 I received more than entire carload of teaching material that had been used to share the Gospel with countless children.

I was honestly overwhelmed by this gift, but understood why Miss Hoover sent it to me. She wanted her ministry to continue. And it does in a powerful way.

This afternoon I drove to an area of Barrouallie to hold a “bible club.” The kids are always looking for my car, and start excitedly jumping up and down whenever they see it.

As a little girl ran to give me a hug this afternoon, I thanked the Lord for a dear missionary who faithfully served the Lord for many years.

And whose legacy of ministry will last for many years to come.

Missions Teaches Me Communication Must Be Real

In late 2021 (around October) I decided to stop communicating with individuals on Facebook. My communication from that point would primarily come from blog updates shared on Facebook, and direct email.

My reason for this is simple……

The goal of communicating through Facebook often ends up trying to get as many “likes” or “shares” as possible. While the true goal should be clearly sharing the needs of the mission field.

Since then I’ve returned to communication on Facebook, but only using my ministry updates group. This means it’s only seen as those people who are members of that specific group (prayer supporters of my ministry).

The interesting thing is I feel less successful since making this change (lots less likes and comments) but I know this form of communication is much more successful in the long run.

Because communication isn’t about me

Of course the communication itself has to be about me in some way, but I am not the focus. In basic terms. It’s not a show putting a spotlight on my own accomplishments. Instead my online presence is meant to share the lessons, experiences, heartaches, and blessings from the mission field.

And for that to happen, I must be real.

Sadly missions isn’t always happy or one effortless blessing after another.

  1. Somedays you fail
  2. Somedays you become discouraged
  3. Somedays you are weak (physically or emotionally)
  4. Somedays you want to quit

Real online communication reflects real life instead of saying everything is awesome when it truly isn’t. And that kind of communication done effectively (not for sympathy) gives prayer partners a glimpse into the daily struggles a missionary experiences.

Somedays I’m tempted to use Facebook as my major communication platform again, because it will get lots of responses.

But it’s far better to share real life with a select group of prayer partners online.

Missions is Pulling Others Out of Their Pit of Sin (Galatians 6:1)

Gal. 6:1   Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

When people think of Biblical confrontation, their mind usually goes right to Matthew 18, and church discipline. This view of actually unbiblical, because confrontation of sin (and restoration of Believers) should be a day to day ministry of the church.

This isn’t a public confrontation found in Matthew 18, but a personal confrontation of sin carried out by a loving friend.

The word “overtaken” in Galatians 6:1 gives the idea of someone falling into a trap or pit. This sin comes from a moment of weakness instead of a stubborn habit. In those situations, individuals must be restored, or “pulled out of pit spiritually.”

A confrontation of sin is part of this restoration process since the person in that pit must display genuine confession and repentance. But the goal of it is restoration of the individual, in a spirit of humility.

Confrontation must be a normal part of ministry since we all fall Into pits of sin from time to time….

And often those in the pits need help getting out.

I have a friend my age who struggles with alcoholism. He will stop drinking for a period of time (sometimes weeks), but then drop back into the habit. A big part of this is because drinking here is a social thing, and many of his friends will be at a local rum shop most of the day.

I was pretty worried about him because he hadn’t been around for two-weeks. This usually means my friend was spending most of his time drinking close to home.

He responded to some text messages last week, and then I saw him on Thursday. In love I confronted him about spending all of his time drinking with people who often took advantage of him. And encouraged my friend to come spend time at my house if he needed a place to relax.

Since then my friend has been calling, sending text messages, attending a church service, and came by to read Scripture this morning.

There is nothing truly magical about what I did in that situation. I just loved him enough to stop, and through loving confrontation, pull him out of the pit.

If we open our eyes as Christians we will see countless of our Brothers and sisters in Christ have fallen into pits of sin. And they are desperately calling out for someone to help pull them out.

Growth Comes Slowly

Over the weekend, I finished the audio version of “Deliberate Church” for my first book of 2022 after starting it last week.

As you can imagine from the title, the authors emphasised a deliberate or intentional view of church growth. Paul Alexander does an excellent job of challenging ministers to focus EVERYTHING that they do in church on the Word of God.

Another emphasis of the book is an encouragement to patience, or a long-term view of growth.

This means focusing on slow, consistent growth of ministry over a long period of time (say five to ten years). A ministry philosophy that focuses on consistency and faithfulness instead of excitement.

Change that takes place slowly over time is always better than change done quickly because it lasts. Yet very few ministries commit themselves to long-term growth, because it isn’t as exciting.

That’s just a nicer way of saying it doesn’t attract attention!

Everyone notices the ministry that experiences explosive growth….

Very few notice the one pastor that serves quietly and consistently for over ten years.

But thats okay, because spiritual maturity is the goal of ministry instead of popularity.

Can God bring true change overnight? Of course He can!

But that isn’t how He usually chooses to do HIs work, because then the glory comes to us.

Instead God chooses to work through men and women who quietly and consistently do His work year after year so the glory comes to Him.

From the Archives: Facing My Vincentian Driving Nightmare

IMG_0990

Originally Written January 13, 2016

After being on the island over four months I’ve gotten used to pretty much everything here.  In fact there’s only one part of Barrouallie life that strikes fear into my heart…and that’s the driving.

The good news for me is it’s almost impossible to get lost in St. Vincent since there’s only one main road.  The bad news is that roads are a lot smaller than American ones, and the fact that they are doing construction makes them even smaller!

To be honest I’m getting a lot better at my island driving so most times I can get from one place to another without making a fool of myself.  However if I have to back up (sometimes its necessary to back down a road when another vehicle is approaching)  my driving resembles that of your ninety year old blind grandmother.

Last October the Lord used a simple trip to the grocery store to illustrate just how much driving in St. Vincent affected me.  I went with a friend to get some groceries and his cousin was there so we decided to give him a ride home.  Everything was fine on the way home with our groceries till my friend told me I had to back up a road in order to drop his cousin off.

That ended up being a very humiliating (and frustrating) situation 

From that point on my greatest fear was having to back down or up a road to the point where I would literally pray before turning the van keys “Lord please don’t let anyone be coming down this road!”

Of course sometimes God doesn’t answer our prayers for our own good 🙂

Last Sunday afternoon there was a large funeral in town and people quickly ran out of places to park so by the time I went to pick up Church members a very long line of vehicles had parked along the main road. This meant you could barely get one vehicle through at a time.

On the way back things had gotten much worse because a truck had parked the wrong way (facing traffic) so it had to be moved before anybody else was able to do anything.  After lots of arguing in Vicentian, I was forced to back up pretty much blind (being directed by those in the back seat) and reveal to dozens of island people my horrible driving skills.

Now if I had faced a situation like this in October my response would have been to calmly lock the van, and then run for my life!  But Sunday night I was able to keep myself calm in a very stressful situation surrounded by Vincentians critiquing my driving.

What made the difference?

I had done it before.

See I still pray that vehicles won’t be coming when the engine starts, but I’ve also faced my fear of backing down tight roads, and got better at it every time.

There will probably come a day when island driving doesn’t bring stress (probably about twenty years) but I’m incredibly thankful that God forces me to face my worst nightmare.  Because it’s facing it and living that helped me keep calm on Sunday.

Update 12/30/21-Though some of the small village roads still heighten my stress level, I can confirm the fact that the more we face our nightmare, the easier it is to deal with.  

Missions Has Taught Me You Can’t Do Everything

Over the years I have seen many missionaries leave the field. Some were forced to leave because of sin that disqualified them, others just quit.

Those who become disqualified do so because of a serious issue such as sexual-sin, or financial misconduct. But what about those who simply choose to leave the field?

In many of those cases its discouragement that brings this about. But if we dig deeper, randomness or “unplanned ministry” is the source of that discouragement.

This makes sense because a ministry that tries to accomplish everything will in the long-run accomplish very little.

One of the most dangerous things about random ministry is it comes from a heart that truly wants to serve God. The missionaries heart is tender towards every need, and therefore tries to meet each one. The problem is our energy (as well as time) are limited. So random ministry leads to burnout.

Satan also uses random ministry to deceive us into seeing busyness as being the same as success. The random missionary at the end of the day asks “how many tasks have I accomplished?” or “how many hours did I work?” in order to decide whether or not that day is successful.

Of course God wants us to be busy! But the random ministry emphasises “hustling” or running from one ministry opportunity to the next. So the many ministries they accomplish end up being quite shallow.

A Biblical response to random ministry is “purposeful ministry” which focuses on accomplishing the specific tasks God has given for that day.

Practically Purposeful Ministry Means:

  1. You have a Calling: A specific ministry focus (such as evangelism, or discipleship)
  2. You have a Burden: A more detailed area of your calling (God has given you a burden for young adults)
  3. You have a Mission Field: A specific group of people (fitting within that burden) that God has called you to reach
  4. You have Goals: Specific ministry goals that you want to accomplish in that mission field
  5. You have a Plan: Steps that been thought out carefully and prayed over, to complete those Goals
  6. You Have Open Hearts: Individuals within that mission field that are open to the Lord’s working in their lives
  7. And you have a Schedule: Specific times on specific days set aside to work through that plan with open hearted individuals.

Okay so you want always have all of these things, but the more that in place, the more focused your ministry will be.

This doesn’t mean you aren’t open to the Holy Spirit opening up a door of ministry that isn’t planned. But in most cases, God honours those who have done the hard work of planning more than those who spend their day looking for open doors.

As someone who has spent too many days hustling and accomplishing little more than exhaustion, the Lord has taught me few things give ministry more power than a clear purpose.

The Gospel Prioritises Worship Over Work (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

This week with the new year coming I’ve been spending lots of time brainstorming and planning for 2022.

Lots of questions come to mind in seasons of planning like this

  1. What went well (and didn’t go well) last year?
  2. How can I do better?
  3. And what should be my ministry goals?

Along with this I try to create daily schedules that revolve around ministry habits. This doesn’t mean I can’t change the schedule, but it helps to have an idea of what would come next each day.

Things like evaluation, ministry schedules, and goals are very important because they help me become efficient. Or accomplish more things in less time.

When efficiency becomes the goal of ministry however, it creates serious problems.

Part of the new year is defining success, or asking “what will make this year successful ministry wise? The temptation with this is to focus on activities, such as the amount of hours spent working, or how many new ministries have been launched.

This is dangerous because it forgets God cares much more about my worship than my work.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 is a very well known passage of Scripture because Jesus quoted it as part of the greatest commandment along with, “and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

These verses help us understand that God cared much more about the Jews heart relationship with Him, or level of commitment than their outward obedience. This is because it was possible for them to continue obeying the outer rules of the law such as giving sacrifices or attending feasts, and have a sinful heart.

Throughout Scripture God always placed a priority on worshipping Him above all other things. The first of the ten commandments is “thou shalt have no other God’s before me.” And through the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, God calls outwardly religious people to turn from their hidden sins.

Applying this to life and ministry means success should be defined not by how many hours I serve, but how close I am to the Lord.

Obviously this doesn’t mean I become lazy and never do any work…..

Instead it means that worship comes first.

Practically this calls me to prioritise habits that focus on spending time with the Lord.

  1. Deep Bible study
  2. Uninterrupted prayer
  3. Reading strong Christian books
  4. Furthering my theological education
  5. And Memorisation of Scripture, along with journaling

To describe it a different way, I must serve the Lord with a full spiritual cup. It’s only as my own cup has been filled by quality time with the Lord that I’m truly able to serve others effectively.

Change takes Time

As the new year begins, many individuals (myself included) will begin creating goals for 2022. January is actually a great blessing because it brings an evaluation of the past year, confession of what we could have done better, and development of new habits that can bring success in the new year.

Sadly most of those goals are completely abandoned by mid-January

Not because we don’t want to accomplish them….

But because we try to accomplish too much at one time, or aren’t patient enough

Drew Dyck in his excellent book “Your Future Self Will Thank You” has a quote this defines this problem very well.

While we may be tested in dramatic moments, the fabric of life is stitched slowly, through a thousand tiny choices that end up defining our lives.

Dyck shows that we often look or a massive change that will transform our lives almost overnight. The truth is one decision cannot really do that. Instead change comes through many small decisions done over a long period of time.

This philosophy is backed up by James Clear, who wrote the equally excellent book “Atomic Habits.” One of his major points is small habits done repetitively can make a dramatic change.

But there is a drawback….

You have to wait years.

In the first chapter of his book, James Clear describes how healthy habits developed his freshman year of college had their greatest impact three years later as a senior. A difference can be seen before that time, but the true transformation only comes after repeating healthy habits over a long period of time.

The real question is whether we want “spectacular change” (something that everyone can see) or “consistent change” a habit we continue for the rest of your life. Though the slow change isn’t as glamorous, this is the only true change.

Anybody can work out five days a week in January when the gym is crowded……

few do it in the winter when it’s almost empty.

This principle applies to ministry as well. I recently started a book that emphasises “patience” as one of the most important attributes of a Pastor in ministry. Often we are tempted in ministry to begin changing things right away, but those dramatic changes rarely last. It’s those ministers who consistently bring small changes in over twenty, thirty, or even forty years that make a true impact.

The application is to embrace true change in life.

The goal isn’t to be doing something different tomorrow.

The goal is to be doing something different five-years from now.

A Tale of Two Marathons

Editors Note: Originally Written November 21, 2014

Last Saturday I officially completed my second marathon. Actually in my opinion this is the only real one since the other ended in disaster.

Pretty much everything you need to know about my first marathon can be found in this picture at the finish line.

  1. The stomach cramps that kept me from standing up straight
  2. An inability stand on my own
  3. The forced smile that tries to cover up the severe pain I’m in

Now compare that with the picture from Saturdays finish line

  1. A real smile
  2. Not overwhelmed by pain
  3. Standing on my own power

A lot of things made the difference between these two finishes. But one of the most important was listening to my body

During the marathon I had the privilege running with one of my training partners who is faster than me [1]. Together we ran the first twenty miles at race pace (very fast), but after that my right leg started cramping.

At this point I had a decision to make. Do I start slowing down a bit and let my friend continue at her fast pace? Or do I try to keep up with her?

Thankfully our running coach reminded us last week about listening to our bodies. So I realized the beginnings of a cramp in the leg were my bodies way of saying. “Okay John you’re running an awesome race but now it’s time to let your partner go because this pace is a little too fast for me.”

So for the last six miles I slowed down and simply ran my own race.

And that’s what made the difference

In the first marathon my body started warning me about pushing too hard but I chose to ignore them. Hence the picture of me doubled over in pain.

In the second I listened..so the last mile was an awesome experience

Instead of people asking if I was okay like first marathon

  1. They cheered me on as I went faster
  2. Gave at least three “aussie aussie aussie” chants which I responded to with a loud “oi oi oi”
  3. And joked with them about just rolling me down the hill

I’m not really sure how it would have finished if I hadn’t listened to my body…but I can guarantee you sprinting and playing to the crowd wouldn’t be involved.

The most important thing that marathon training has taught me about running is this: Don’t chase the rabbits.

There are always people who are faster (rabbits), or better than you in certain situations. And there often will be voice in the back of your head that says “you have to keep up!”

Don’t listen to it…

Just let them go and run your own race

That may mean your pride takes a hit, but it makes the difference between celebrating and collapsing at the finish line.

Missions teaches Me Darkness Will Come

As a child growing up I used to believe that missionaries were super-spiritual individuals who never had a bad day. While it’s true those called to missions have more endurance or strength from the Lord, they still have bad days.

I will never forget how the Lord taught me that lesson…

Two weeks after arriving in Melbourne Australia as a full-time. Missionary I closed the door to my room, and with tears streaming down my face, asked God why he had brought me there. Culture shock and homesickness among other things had resulted in a little bit of self-pity (okay a lot of self-pity!)

Over time I learned that this kind of discouragement is normal. In fact, it’s one of Satan’s most powerful attacks on those in ministry.

The thing about “darkness” (my personal term for discouragement or depression on bad days) is it can come out of nowhere. Twice since November a slight setback has triggered some serious darkness for me.

Thankfully even though I cannot always see the darkness coming, by God’s grace, I can be ready for it.

My first response to darkness is a spiritual one since I’m often focused on circumstances instead of God. As Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones says, we must “preach the Gospel to ourselves” in times of spiritual depression. In other words, we remind ourselves of Scriptural truth.

Here are a few truths I’ve found useful while wrestling with darkness.

  1. Faithfulness (consistency) is more important to God than success (always winning)
  2. God reveals my weaknesses (things I need to work on) so that I can turn to Him in repentance
  3. I never have to earn the love of God
  4. God will NEVER leave me
  5. And as Jeremiah says God’s mercy is “new every morning” so instead of feeling sorry for myself, I should try again in God’s strength.

The Second response to darkness is physical since discouragement or depression comes when I’m weak physically. This means after getting my eyes on God.

  1. I take a nap
  2. I eat a healthy meal
  3. I drink a cup of coffee
  4. And I take a long walk

My final response to darkness is social since Satan loves to isolate us with depression saying “your the only one who feels like this.”

  1. My social response begins with a chat, call, or video chat with my parents
  2. Going out and doing something fun with friends
  3. And confiding personally with a trusted mentor

These responses aren’t perfect, but honestly they aren’t supposed to be. The important thing is having healthy habits in place that respond to the dark days.

Sadly I cannot always control when the darkness comes. But I can make sure it draws me closer to God.

God is Always At Work

This picture from February 2017 is an incredible blessing for me. It marks the FIRST TIME I received a one-year visa to minister in St. Vincent and the Grenadines!

Up till that point I’d always served with short-term visa’s. And every time asked if there was a way I could get something that lasted longer. It seemed as if nobody knew how to get that visa!

Finally I was able to meet with a manager who explained how to obtain a one-year visa, and a few weeks later it was in my hand!

This visa (and those I’ve received since then) remind me of an important truth….

The door is not closed yet

it’s easy sometimes to be discouraged by countries and cultures that have turned their back on the Lord. I pass out tracts almost every morning, and pretty much everyone takes them. In fact, they ask for them, and re-read them on later days!

There are places today where nobody would take a tract out of your hand, and they may even view it as something illegal!

Satan loves to tell us that God isn’t at work anymore

That the Gospel is no longer transforming lives

That nobody cares about the things of God

But that simply isn’t true! There are open doors of ministry where the Gospel flourishes.

I’m beyond grateful that the Lord has allowed me to be involved in a mission field where He is at work.

It may be someday SVG becomes cold towards the things of God, but even if that happens there isn’t any reason to be discouraged, because God will always be at work.

You are Not Strong Enough (Matthew 26:40)

Christ in Matthew 26 has a supper with the disciples bearing not only the pain of Judas coming betrayal, but the disciples abandonment.

Jesus knew that in His moment of greatest need, the disciples would not be there.

Of course that doesn’t mean they did want to be there! We all know the words of Peter who promised that he would NEVER deny Christ.

And we also know how that turned out

  1. Three times Peter fell asleep instead of praying
  2. He attempted to defend Jesus with a knife (failing badly)
  3. He ran away instead fo helping Jesus
  4. He followed at a distance so the chief priests would not put him on trial
  5. And he denied knowing Christ three times

The words of Jesus in Matthew 26:41 are significant….”the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

that sentence describes the constant battle for Christians between a desire in our hearts to serve the Lord, and a lack of strength to do it.

Thankfully Christ gives to us the power of the Holy Spirit so we can accomplish His work…..

But there will always be in our hearts a desire to do the work in our own strength.

As a missionary one of the greatest temptations is to do God’s work in my strength. The Lord often calls me to do a great work for Him on the mission field. This leads to brainstorming, and planning, along with prayer.

There is nothing wrong with this! In fact, the Lord wants me to go through this process of planning because it clarifies the next steps.

The danger comes when I try to accomplish those plans on my own.

The most detailed strategic plan in the world is absolutely useless apart from the presence of God. So instead of charging up the hill to accomplish the victory myself, the greatest power is found on my knees.

I Can Love You, and not Agree With You

Stephen Kneale in late 2020 wrote an article entitled, “It’s affirmation or nothing” about a government official forced to resign after she argued for a conscience clause protecting ministers who don’t want to perform same-sex marriages

You can read the article here, but there was one sentence that stuck in my head.

Asking me to offer you the freedom to make your own decisions is reasonable, asking me to completely agree with a sinful act is unreasonable.

This is a powerful because it asks a very important question.

Is it possible to love someone, and not agree with them?

In the past it was possible to completely disagree with someone, but still treat them with respect. Humbly “agreeing to disagree” was always seen as an act of great love.

Sadly today the idea of love has been redefined….

If someone doesn’t completely accept you, then they aren’t being loving!

The problem is love isn’t about complete acceptance

In fact, sometimes the most loving thing we can do is disagree with someone!

That statement may sound a bit controversial, so allow me to explain how disagreement is an act of love.

I have male Christian friends who have permission to call me out on things, and I’m encouraged to do the same for them. Sometimes we can get off track, or develop sinful habits without even realising it. This is when a true friend will put their arm around your shoulder and in love say “this is something you need to work on.”

Disagreement or Biblical confrontation should never be done in an attitude of anger. We shouldn’t look upon those in the LGBT community as “disgusting individuals” who are somehow lower than us. We are all sinners apart from the help of God!

Instead disagreement is motivated by love for the individual

It’s not uncommon for children here to play in the road. Most of them keep an eye out for vehicles, but let’s say a car is coming, and the child doesn’t see it.

I would yell “get out of the road!”, and if the child still didn’t obey, pull them to safety myself. My love for that child (and desire for their safety) leads me to rescue them.

In the same way anyone living in sin (not just LGBT) cannot be allowed to play with their ball in the road while a car is speeding towards them. Instead I in love will deliver them from that dangerous situation.

There’s much more that can be said about this. But I pray these simple illustrations show disagreement is an act of love. And because that’s true, acceptance is an incredibly unloving act.

A Battle Plan for “Look Away Moments”

87T8CJMC4P

As a single missionary I’m well aware that integrity online (as far as what I will or won’t watch) is a very serious issue.  That’s why I have accountability partners, Bible verses to use when temptation comes, and the latest Internet filtering software for all my electronic devices.  It is a little uncomfortable asking my parents to put a password on a new internet filter, but it keeps from much more awkward conversations taking place later.

Having a battle plan against things like pornography is absolutely necessary…yet it’s getting to the point where I need a battle plan for what comes on every night.

I happen to love television drama’s that have long story lines and plenty of action; think something like Lost (in its first three seasons), or 24.  That’s why I loved streaming services like Netflix that allow me to watch my favorite episodes over and over again.  Eventually I got tired of watching those programs though so the search began to find a new favorite action/drama program.

The good news is there’s no shortage of tv shows that fit these requirements 

The bad news is there’s also no shortage of things in those programs that don’t honor God

While these programs don’t show pronographic material the relationships in most of them are patterned after the worlds philosophy that simply uses one person after another for your own benefit.  This subtle message doesn’t destroy as many lives as porn, however in a way it’s more dangerous because people watching it begin to view others (particularly the opposite sex) as people to be used instead of honored.

Apart from that there were “look away moments” where I had to either look away from the screen, or turn it off (including things like profanity and violence).  At first they only came once in a while, but I began to notice look away moments becoming more and more frequent.  While dramas may have more of these then others it’s becoming incredibly difficult to find shows that don’t have look away moments, and in a few years I’m afraid it will be almost impossible.

Because the morality of television is dropping lower and lower in my opinion it’s time for Christians (men in particular) to develop an intense  battle plan against those “look away moments.”  A plan that involves a simple but difficult choice…if it’s not news or sports don’t watch it.   Now I am aware men watch a LOT of sports so this doesn’t seem too difficult, however watching just sports is a conscious choice or commitment to place massive limits on what enters your mind.

This commitment led me to start an experiment Saturday by only allowing myself to watch sports and news for two-weeks, up till now things have gone well and I’ve kept up my end of the bargain except for NCIS last night (old habits die hard).  Lord wiling by the end of those two-weeks it will be a habit so sports will make up 98% of my television viewing.

I’m not doing this today because NCIS is filled with “look away moments” but because the days coming when all our programs will be filled with “look away moments.”   And if we wait till then to start looking away it will be too late.

Pursuing Lost Sheep (Luke 15:5-6)

I have a close unsaved friend in the community who is close to accepting Christ. Shortly before my medical furlough to care for my eyes during the summer, we had a long discussion about the Gospel, and I truly believed he would accept the Lord soon.

Sadly that didn’t happen

During my medical furlough he stopped coming to church, and our relationship just wasn’t the same after I returned. Satan I believe used that time away to draw my friend back into sin.

I wish this was a rare, but it’s actually incredibly common

Many close to accepting Christ have been lured back into the world by Satan.

But these frustrating situations give us an opportunity to display the gracious love of God.

In Luke 15 many wicked sinners come to heart Jesus teach. The religious leaders immediately begin complaining among themselves that Christ is spending time with sinners (15:2. Jesus responds by saying the wicked coming to hear is a blessing, because Salvation brings the greatest joy to God (15:7, 15:10).

The principle of this passage is God will pursue us when we wander from Him.

We in our sinfulness continue to stubbornly wander away from God. His response is always to find us, humble us (through punishment if necessary), and restore us. He does this because of His love for us, not because we deserve it.

The rest of Luke 15 is an illustration of that truth through the parable of the Prodigal Son. God bings great sorrow and suffering into his life so that he finally “comes to himself”, repents, and returns home.

The attitude of the religious leaders is also seen in the parable through the oldest son who refuses to accept his younger brother. He had an attitude of superiority that felt himself much better than the son who had wandered.

Missions is not about looking down on those who have wandered.

Instead it’s about pursuing lost sheep…..

This is not easy since the sheep are often stubborn, and selfish.

But we continue going out to rescue them, because our loving Father never fails to restore us.

Love Isn’t What We Think It is

I recently began reading “The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love” by Jonathan Leeman. It’s an incredibly well-researched book that shows we have embraced a secular view of love within the church instead of a Biblical view.

He introduces this subject by asking a question….

What if what people call love is not really love?

He expands on that question by explaining most us us hold to a “romantic view of love” that emphasizes personal liberty, and individualism.

He closes chapter one “The Idolatry of Love” with this paragraph

We have erected an idol and called it “love.” And this idol called love has two great commands: “Know that God loves you by not permanently binding you to anything (especially if you really don’t want to be)” and, following from it, “Know that your neighbour loves you best by letting you express yourself entirely and without judgment.”

This kind of love often finds itself expressed in anti-authority-ism. In other words, anyone who places rules or stipulations on them is not loving.

The problem with this view of love is it despises the glory of God

Leeman does a very good job pointing out two aspects of God’s Love that doesn’t fit in our definition.

  1. God is Holy
  2. And God is soveriegn

The Holy and Sovereign love of God will not allow me to remain in sin, because that is not whats best for me. Instead God’s Love brings me to a place of joyful submission.

One of the most interesting things about Leeman’s book is its subtitle, “Reintroducing the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline.”

He defends church membership and discipline (very well) with the idea of God’s Love!

This doesn’t mean we must become hateful or selfish individuals. Instead we display true love.

  1. True love will say the truth, even if it hurts
  2. True love will not give up on you (more on that tomorrow)
  3. True love lovingly confronts sin
  4. True love breaks fellowship (if absolutely needed) so you come to repentance
  5. And true love will always be ready to welcome you back

Our Heavenly Father loves us too much to let us walk the paths of sin, and we must be the same way.

Listening to God’s Warning

As I write this on April 13, conditions outside are like the Sahara desert. Any car driving by creates huge clouds, and we’ve had more than a few “dust storms.”

Only this isn’t dust….it’s volcanic ash

Since January, the La Soufrière volcano has been showing signs of increased activity. This led the government to encourage individuals on both extreme ends of the island to prepare for evacuation.

Things calmed down in February and people began to relax. But in recent weeks there was talked to increased danger at the volcano. Again individuals in danger zones were encouraged to prepare themselves.

Last Thursday morning the threat level of the volcano itself was raised, and those in dangerous areas were encouraged to prepare for evacuation. This was followed by an order to evacuate on Thursday afternoon around 4:00.

I had talked to Vincentian friends leading up this this evacuation about how to prepare (my area didn’t need to evacuate). Most told me just to have some food and water set aside, and in a few days things would be okay. This belief was based on the last eruption of the volcano in 1979 that brought a small amount of ashes.

when the first eruption hit around 9:00 Friday morning many people (myself included) stopped to take photos of the large mushroom cloud. Saturday morning I opened the door to see everything covered by ash, which looked surprisingly like snowfall.

I spent much of Sunday cleaning the church and my yard of ashes. And then yesterday morning things were somewhat back to normal with people out in the road doing their business.

Then came the two eruptions this morning

Thankfully we are safe with water that was turned on this morning, and electricity. However, in talking with many Vincentians, I have heard the same phrase.

“This is much worse than 1979”

And if you listen closely enough, you’ll hear another statement

We weren’t ready

many people expecting things to be just like they were in 79, did not take the threat seriously enough. Honestly I wasn’t prepared for the amount of ash experienced, and how many days we were going to be without water. Friday I spent much of the day using water for cleaning and other purposes, expecting it to come back on Sunday instead of Tuesday.

The Lord reminded me through this how many times we as individuals don’t take the warnings of God seriously. The Lord warns us about our sinful actions, but we put off repentance, believing the Lord will continue to care for us. Thankfully He often does show mercy, but in Love, the Lord sometimes shows us we should have listened to the warning.

I’m thankful for this experience because it brings some excitement to my life. But more importantly, its an important reminder to listen to Gods patient warnings.

Missions Teaches me to Preach Themes

When I began teaching classes at a local Bible College, one statement that kept coming up was “we preach themes.”

By this I meant we don’t preach beliefs that are founded on one or two Scripture passages. Instead we emphasise what Scripture emphasises.

Along that same line, preaching themes means that we find the theme (core truth) of the passage through observation.

Sadly this is becoming less and less prevalent as individuals are placing their own interpretation upon Scripture passages instead of letting the Bible speak for itself.

Friday I finished teaching a class on the major prophets covering Isaiah through to Daniel. The commentary used as a my secondary source did an excellent job of literally interpreting all of the prophecies.

That is…..until we came to Daniel seven!

It was amazing to see a scholar who had so carefully interpreted Scripture for so many chapters go to incredible lengths in Daniel to explain why “the passage doesn’t mean what it looks like it means.” 1

This reached a climax when he explained the seventy-weeks of Daniel didn’t refer to the Antichrist, but instead Herod the Great. He was able to produce many historical facts to back this up, but of course no Scripture!

Thankfully the students were immediately able to see the problem with his interpretation 2. But my heart aches for many Believers who would believe this kind of false doctrine.

In a world that looks at a passage and says “I know what that means!” may we allow Scripture to speak for itself.

  1. I personally believe the author was an. Amillenialist or Postmillenialist since he doesn’t hold to a literal tribulation period.
  2. Going from literal to symbolic just because it dealt with the tribulation.

Confrontation is followed by an Invitation

Paul in Galatians 4:11 gives one of the most scathing rebukes in Scripture when he tells the Galatians, “I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.”

Paul here is not saying they have lost their Salvation of course, but their testimony has been compromised. And he had pretty much wasted his time with them.

In the next verse, Paul’s attitude changes completely.

He begs them to be restored (“be as I am”), and promises that he wants to forgive them (“you have not injured me at all”).

Paul here is illustrating a very important Biblical principle. Confrontation is always followed by an invitation.

Biblical confrontation is an absolutely necessary thing for Believers. This doesn’t just refer to church discipline as we find in Matthew 18, but day to day “exhortation” of one another (Hebrews 3:13). Part of Christian love is being honest and clear if a brother or sister in Christ is struggling with a sin.

That confrontation is loving because the goal isn’t just repentance, but restoration. This means there must be an opportunity for them to turn from their sin, and walk in newness of life.

When I was about five my father gave me an illustration of pairing confrontation with invitation. He’d had lots of trouble getting me to go to sleep, and over time my attitude became more and more stubborn. Finally one night I told my mom and dad I’d decided to run away from home.

This of course was just an attempt to delay bedtime, but my father called my bluff. He opened the door, waited me to walk outside, and shut it behind me!

As my father looked out the window (and my mother cried her eyes out) I walked to the end of the sidewalk, and stopped.

After waiting for a while he opened the door again and said, “John would you like to come inside?”

I gratefully took his offer, and NEVER tried running away again!

The application to life is like the Apostle Paul we must confront sin in the lives of our brothers and sisters. But we must also open the door, and invite them back in.

Many proud, arrogant souls are broken when the punishment of God comes. And like the prodigal son, they find themselves taking the long walk home, wondering if acceptance will come.

May they find the door swung wide open, and a father running to welcome them home.

“Write the Bad Songs Too”

Last week I finished reading “Adorning the Dark” by Andrew Peterson for the second time. It’s an excellent resource for Believers called to serve the Lord through art (writing or creating music), but is a good book even for those who aren’t blessed with artistic abilities.

After finishing the book one phrase kept sounding in my mind…

Write the bad songs too.

Peterson tells about a young woman who had asked him when one of his first albums came out for advice on creating music.

On a CD he wrote the words “don’t write bad songs.”

This may sound arrogant, but his point was she should pursue excellence in her artistic endeavours. Put in the hard work instead of being average.

She then showed him what a fellow musician (and friend of Peterson) had written on the CD after reading his comment.

In clear letters under his autograph he wrote the words “write the bad songs too.”

Andrew Peterson tells this story because it shows the balance between creating something excellent, and creating things that are mediocre (or even bad). This balance is found when we understand it’s only after writing the bad songs that we get enough experience to write the excellent ones.

The fear of failure is one Satan’s most powerful tools to keep us from obeying Christ. The shame of trying and failing (or writing bad songs) keeps us from attempting anything at all.

What we don’t realise though is those bad songs, or failures are what make us stronger in the future. It’s those lessons we learn the hard way that make the most dramatic change in life.

We will still feel awful when failure comes, but thankfully failure doesn’t define us.

So write the bad songs too for the glory of God.

Because He takes great pleasure in using weak things.

Missions is Sharing Random Experiences

Early Thursday morning I put a simple post on Facebook asking friends to pray as I looked for something I’d misplaced.

I was totally shocked when the post got forty-two likes, and twenty-one comments!

People with much more serious problems than something they’d lost prayed for my need, and then checked back in the next day to see if it was found.

Though the list item wasn’t found (it can be replaced) I’m still incredibly thankful for the experience since the Lord used it to show me individuals are interested in the random (unimportant experiences of my life).

It’s easy to get into the habit of only sharing exciting or moving experiences from the mission field. Theres nothing wrong with sharing these experiences of course, but when they become the only thing you share, it creates a false reality.

Even worse, you find yourself looking for amazing experiences to share every day. This will eventually mean communicating for likes and comments instead of honestly sharing your heart.

The greatest problem with only sharing the big experiences is friends care about the random experiences just as much as the spectacular ones.

I am going to remain using my blog and email as the major form of communication since it’s most effective…..but with the Lord’s help, I plan to take a step or two back into Facebook.

Thanks for showing me you not only care about the huge needs of my life, but whether or not I found something that has been lost.

Missions is Giving Quietly

Editors Note: Please note that all identifying marks from the above debit card has been removed in the picture.

Last week while teaching a class on the Major Prophets, the Lord reminded me of what’s commonly called a “cash shake.”

I’m not totally sure why it came to my mind, probably because the college students are working on getting money for their bills.

As a missionary on deputation raising support It was a common occurrence for someone to shake my hand, and by doing so also hand me cash (why it’s called a cash shake). This is normally used for personal expenses like fuel, and food.

Though it wasn’t a lot, that money was an incredible blessing to me…..

The blessing was in the fact that after hearing about the work that God had called me to do, the Holy Spirit led these individuals to personally give me those funds.

The cash shake is also a blessing because it gives from what they have, which often isn’t much.

I like to explain it this way…..

Say a man with $500 gave you $100, and then a man with $5 gave you $3.

Who gave you more?

Technically it’s the one who gave $100, but the $3 was a much more precious gift. Because he gave sacrificially.

The Lord through this reminded me there are many individuals for whom $10 placed in their hand with a big smile will be a HUGE blessing.

And challenged me to live a simpler life so that I can put more money in others hands.

Missions Is Learning From Your Failures

Last week I made a pretty dumb mistake.

That doesn’t make me a dumb person, but an intelligent who in a moment when he wasn’t paying attention, made a foolish choice.

But that didn’t take away the feeling of shame and embarrassment.

Shame is a natural response when we have made a foolish mistake, so this is not sinful. Allowing that shame to affect our choices in the future DEFINITELY IS.

You see, Satan loves to tell us things in that moment of shame that simply aren’t true:

  1. “You ALWAYS make foolish mistakes”
  2. “You are a dumb person, who could never succeed”
  3. Or “You may as well not attempt the hard things, since you’ll just fail always”

When Satan told me these lies after my foolish choice last week I knew they weren’t true….

The problem was in that moment of shame they FELT as if they were true!

Failure (and the shame that comes with it) is a part of life. So the important thing isn’t to try to escape it, but deal with that embarassment when it comes.

And for me, that means embracing it.

This is a hard thing to do becuse what we FEEL like doing is moving on from that shameful experience because it’s painful. But actually the Lord uses our failures as a time for personal evaluation.

This means asking some hard questions.

  1. Why did I make this embarassing mistake?
  2. What weakness, or sin is God pointing out through this experience?
  3. What could I have done to keep this mistake from happening?
  4. And how can I keep this mistake from ever happening again?

Through these hard (and painful) questions I often, with the Holy Spirit’s help, realize the core problem of my shameful experience. And then create a habit that can keep it from happening again.

The shame of failure is God’s way of showing us how we can serve Him better. It is far better to own our failure than to act it never happened.

Missions is Deep Study

This week I began teaching a class on Major Prophets at a Bible College in SVG. While enjoyable, this is without a doubt the most challenging course I’ve ever taught.

The reason why is because of the HUGE subject matter. The class 180 chapters of Scripture (Isaiah through Daniel).

We were going through the notes (220 pages worth) when a student turned to me and asked me where I got that material….

I turned and calmly told him “I wrote it.”

now the truth is I relied on textbooks to compile the notes, but the work itself was done by me through weeks of research.

Of course the second question was, “where do you find the time to write those notes?”

Thankfully I had a West Virginia house

For about a month during my medical furlough in July and August I stayed with my parents at a small house my dad was born and raised in. This small house was a huge blessing from God because it gave me large chunks of time for study, and research.

My morning ritual stayed the same

  1. Roll out of bed
  2. Step over the dog in the doorway
  3. As quietly as possible, walk into the kitchen trying not to wake anyone else up
  4. Turn on the coffee
  5. Check news for fifteen minutes or so (enough time to fully wake up)
  6. And with my first cup of coffee, spend about 2 1/2 hours on class notes

I am incredibly thankful for a quiet environment with family where study can be done, and even wrote about everyone needing a “West Virginia House” over the summer. At the same, I’m convicted about the lack of deep Bible study and research that have been done while back in SVG.

The thing about deep study is it doesn’t come easily. It takes lots of time and mental effort, but that hard work brings great benefits.

So how can I take part in deep study without a West Virginia House?

Make it a top priority

Satan loves to offer us many things to distract us from deep study. Some of these things may even be good in and of themselves, but they don’t bring the rich rewards of deeply studying Scripture.

I may not have a West Virginia house where hours of uninterrupted study can take place. But I can put aside every distraction, and dig deeply into the Word of God on the mission field.

Missions Is being a (Spiritual) Father

Last week a friend came by in the morning to have a chat with me about his step-son. It was sadly a story that I’d heard many times before.

  1. He didn’t have respect for him, or his biological father who he lived with
  2. He regularly stole from his step-father
  3. He mistreated his bothers and sisters
  4. And most importantly, he didn’t listen to anybody

This sad story gave me one more illustration of an important truth.

Boys need fathers!

I doubt anyone would question that fact, the problem is, fewer and fewer young men have the fathers they desperately need.

Though I love the community where the Lord has called me, it has it’s problems (every place does). One of the biggest burdens God has placed upon my heat is the fathers of Saint Vincent.

It isn’t that the fathers aren’t there……instead they choose not to be fathers.

It is difficult to find work here since there aren’t many consistent jobs. Many men have to spend the day doing one odd job after another, which is obviously exhausting.

Yet once that work is done they don’t return home to take care of their children,

Instead its to the local rum shop where they will drink all night.

Worst of all this gives young men like this step-son a toxic view of manhood

  1. Men don’t protect those in their families
  2. Men are violent
  3. Men spend most of their time at the rum shop
  4. Men if they can’t find work will sit around doing nothing all day
  5. And men don’t let ANYBODY tell them what to do!

With role models like this, it’s no wonder why boys become incredibly rebellious in their teenage years!

In a culture without fathers, the Lord calls male Believers to become spiritual fathers.

A spiritual father is someone who gains the respect of a boy at any early age, and patterns for him what a Godly man looks like. Part of this is leading them to Christ, and then discipling them with Scriptural truths.

The best I’ve ever seen do this is Pastor Alan Berry, veteran missionary in the Caribbean. Countless of the men in my community fondly remember his teaching and training them in their younger years. Some of those he won and discipled were referred to as “Berry’s son.”

Pastor Berry through everything gave them a Biblical view of manhood

  1. A man who protects his wife, and those under his care
  2. A man who is calm, but never weak
  3. A man who spends his time doing hard work
  4. A man who displays an attitude of humility instead of arrogance

Reflecting on this I know the world needs many more Pastor Berry’s!

While I’m not quite on his level (working on it) I am using every opportunity God gives to teach and train the younger generation of boys while their hearts are still tender.

And by Gods grace, I can carry on the legacy of showing boys what a true man is like.

Missions Is Feeding Who You Can

Yesterday afternoon a friend came by my gate and shouted my name. When I came out, he asked “have you cooked today?”

In other words, “I’m hungry!”

My friend was asking for food in a joking way. But the truth is, things are becoming incredibly hard in communities of SVG. Because consistent jobs are hard for find, you spend lots of time every trying to do odd jobs in order to make enough money for food. And sadly there are days you go hungry.

I’m reminded of a woman who shortly after the volcano eruption in April, walked up from the main road screaming very loudly “I’m hungry!”

Though not everyone is as vocal about it, many can say the same thing.

The amount of hungry or needy people can be overwhelming since I cannot feed everyone of them…..

But I CAN feed some of them

There will always be challenges of society without an easy fix (poverty, racism, injustice). When meeting these physical needs our giving sometimes seems incredibly significant, just a drop in the bucket. The small amount of people we can help can be incredibly discouraging.

Satan tells us our small ministry isn’t accomplishing anything. But he wants us to forget that God takes great glory in using small things.

I’m reminded of the five barley cakes and small fish that Christ used to feed 5,000 men, and possibly closer to 20,000 people including women and children. The boy probably felt his small lunch didn’t make a difference (Phillip certainly didn’t think it would really help).

But they gave it to Jesus…..

And Christ did a spectacular thing with it.

The truth is it isn’t my job to fix the problems of society. Thats God’s job! My job is to minister to all those who I can with what the Lord has given to me.

The darkness of this sin-cursed world won’t be removed until Christ creates a new-heaven, and new-earth. We cannot destroy the darkness, but we can shine brightly in it.

Missions is Showing Them Works Aren’t Enough

As a missionary I have lots of conversations with individuals in the community (especially men) about their relationship with God.

Eventually they almost always make the same statement….

“I am going to start coming to church again!”

This response shows their emphasis on outer things like baptism, church membership, or wearing church clothes (shirt and tie) instead of faith in Christ.

But in their hearts, they know those works aren’t enough.

Friday afternoon I was spending some time with a friend who used to attend church, and was baptised. But when asked where he was going when he died, my friend immediately said “hell.”

Though he had done all of the things right, he knew that there was something missing.

The importance of a personal relationship with Christ instead of good works affects the other side of this situation as well. There are many “religious” people in Barrouallie who attend church, are baptised, and do all the right things. But they have never accepted Christ as their Saviour.

Good works are meant to be a fruit of Salvation, not a foundation for it.

Both the backsliders, and religious are focusing on works while ignoring the most important thing. And neither knows Christ.

And it’s our responsibility to show them works aren’t enough.

There are lots of ways to do this, but I have found one truth especially effective.

We will all answer to God for ourselves.

I’m not referring here to the Great White Throne judgement, since Believers don’t experience it. Instead we will all have to give an account of our lives, and tell God why we deserve to be in Heaven.

The thing about that question (why should I let you into Heaven?) is there’s only one real answer….Jesus is my Saviour.

Nothing else satisfies the Holiness of God.

  1. Not Bible reading
  2. Not church membership
  3. Not tithes
  4. Not prayer
  5. Not wearing church clothes
  6. Not “living a good life”

As so many build their spiritual houses on the shifting sand of good works, we must point them to the one and only solid rock. The Lord Jesus Christ.

Missions is Working in Hard-Soil

Last Sunday al man came to visit, and emotionally begged me to start an outreach in the most poverty stricken, and violent area of Barrouallie.

He had grown up in that area, and was heartbroken to see how it had changed for the worse (particularly the young people). I couldn’t help but be moved as he kept pleading “come to

Since then I’ve been thinking and praying about how the Lord would allow me to reach that area…..

At the same time, part of me is anxious because reaching this area would definitely be a challenge.

It’s easy in missions work to continue serving where you’ve established yourself.

  1. Respect has been earned
  2. Souls have been led to Christ
  3. Your discipline and training Believers
  4. And the ministry is growing

However God calls us away from the field that produces fruit, to work in the hard stony soil.

This doesn’t mean I completely abandon the established work. But I am continually looking on the horizon for fields that the Lord is calling me to reach next.

Reaching these hard fields means starting the “plowing form of ministry” all over again. This emphasises lots of hard work, and very little fruit.

It’s no wonder we would rather stay in a ministry that yields fruit!

So why leave the fruitful ministry to plow in the hard field?

Because so many have not accepted Christ.

Paul was consumed by a mission to plant as many churches as possible during his life. He never stopped going out into the new fields (even though it put him in danger), and at the end of his life could say “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”

Christ in the same way went from town to town proclaiming the Gospel to as many as would hear. His goal wasn’t to have a comfortable ministry, but to offer as many people as possible Salvation.

So like Paul and Christ we must leave the fruitful land, pick up our tools, and plant the seeds of the Gospel in the hard soil. Knowing that the Gospel will bear fruit.

Missions is Finding Tender Hearts

Last week was tough for me because I had to quit meeting with some young people who I’d been working with for a while because their hearts had become hard.

This is actually a very common theme. Children listen as I evangelise and disciple them, but eventually befriend young people who think it’s funny to be rebellious and disrespectful.

I used to pursue a child who had become hard-hearted, but eventually learned thats as waste of my time.

Because it isn’t my job to break their hard heart….

That’s God’s job.

The major reason why I find myself walking away from hard-hearted individuals is the Lord provides tender hearted ones to take their place.

Unfortunately it’s easy to focus so much on the hard-hearted youth, that the tender-hearted one is ignored.

I’ve used this illustration before, but it explains my point well. Often the problem student in the classroom gets almost all of the attention from the teacher and other students. This attention is a reward for bad behaviour, while the student who does the right thing gets very little attention. Eventually many of them become rebellious because it gives them attention.

In the same way, using our energy to recognise the young person or adult who is honouring the Lord is a much better investment of energy than trying to break a hardened heart.

We walk away from hardened hearts because God is the one who closes doors of ministry, and always opens up new ones. As someone who has spent a lot of time trying to open up a door that God has opened, let me tell you it never works!

It will always be hard seeing those I’ve poured my heart into reject the Lord, and wander into sin like the prodigal son. But I let them go. Because they will return with a humble heart, and transformed life.

How God Used My Quiet Anger

In January of 2017 I flew from Saint Vincent to Orlando Florida instead of Richmond VA where my family lives.

There is a very special reason for this…..

We were going to Disney world!!!

I was really looking forward to a time of fun and relaxation with family while enjoying Disney world theme parks. The closer the date for my flight came, the more excited I became.

Finally the plan landed in Miami and I quickly walked towards Immigration.

I’t didn’t take long to realise something was seriously wrong.

The Lines were long…..I mean INCREDIBLY LONG

eventually we were told the computer systems for immigration had gone down. This meant everything had to be done by hand, and of course this took a VERY LONG TIME!!!

As the time of connecting flights got closer and closer people got more and more frustrated. Eventually it became clear that because of the problem nobody (myself included) would make their connecting flight

So instead of spending time with family I slept on a cot at the airport!

I’m not going to lie, that situation frustrated me a lot. The excitement of being with loved ones was incredibly high, and to have that taken away for one more night was a bit let down.

Some time was spent in those long lines with a very poor attitude of self-pity (feeling sorry for myself) and bitterness. But then I realised that everything God brings into my life is part of HIs plan. Even the experiences that frustrate me.

Falling asleep on that cot I confessed to the Lord the anger of my heart, and submitted to one more night of waiting.

We may not enjoy the plan of God for our lives, but we can rest in the fact that it’s always whats best for us.

Missions is Not Cleaning Yourself Up

Last week I finished reading “Imperfect Disciple” by Jared Wilson, and it made me think about a common mis-conception Christians have about their relationship with God.

Wilson emphasises the Gospel which calls us to repent of our sins, and turn to Christ for forgiveness. This is very different from our sinful heart that emphasises “cleaning yourself up first.”

Satan knows he cannot remove our Salvation, but he can compromise our testimony. One of the greatest ways he does this is by making the christian life about works, or our own strength.

When we fail (and we all do) Satan encourages us to work on self-development (or clean ourselves up) instead of turning to God in repentance. Obviously this just make things worse because we could never really make ourselves clean.

True transformation can only take place when we confess our sinful weakness, and turn to God in repentance.

There was a day last week when I chose laziness over doing the work that I knew God wanted me to accomplish.

Conviction came to my heart because of this laziness, which was followed by the temptation of Satan. He said “you need to work harder on self-discipline!” I immediately started working on a battle-plan to attack my laziness.

But then stopped, and remembered my sin-nature will always choose comfort over the will of God.

So instead of trying harder I confessed my weakness to God, changed habits that triggered laziness, and re-committed myself to prayer when the temptation of laziness came instead of relying on my own strength.

Just as Christ had to wash the disciples dirty feet, we need to return to our Father for daily cleansing while walking through this wicked world. A cleansing not of the outer man, but the heart.

Missions is Moving Away from Facebook

Monday it will officially be two-weeks since I began using my website Johnwilburn.org for communication with prayer partners instead of Facebook. To be honest its been kind of hard, but I know this change will develop closer relationships with them long-term.

This decision partially came from the fact that Facebook was taken up far too much of my time and attention. The main reason however, is I wanted a stronger relationship with prayer supporters.

Communication through websites like Facebook or Twitter are sent as short updates (like a text message) to friends. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it shouldn’t be our primary form of communication.

The point is, you cannot build a relationship on text messages.

actually you can…but not a very strong one.

As a missionary God calls me to have strong relationships with those who support, or pray for my ministry. This kind of relationship comes through quality communication.

  1. Communication that is constant
  2. Communication that is transparent (shows both the good and bad of missions life)
  3. Communication that is personal (shared directly with specific prayer partners)
  4. And communication that is deep (shares updates in detail instead of just sharing short bursts of information)

I’m still doing some fine-tuning on using the website instead of Facebook for communication. But am beginning to take the next step in this process by embracing email instead of social-media as my major communication tool. This is the best way to share quality communication.

To be honest it’s still tough because I selfishly enjoy seeing likes and comments on my Facebook posts. But I understand that strong relationships quality communication develops is far more important than how many likes I get.

Missions is Cat Naps

Last Friday I came home at 6:00 after a day of ministry fully intending on catching up on some work after supper.

Instead I ended up in bed at 7:30.

I don’t mean lying on bed reading a book or watching TV. I mean turn out the lights, and go to bed at 7:30!

This weariness is partially because I get up early, and use those quiet hours for heart preparation. But the real reason is ministry (and life) is exhausting.

After a day of hustling from one place to another my energy would always be gone by 7:00. This isn’t a sinful thing of course, but it started to result in lots of tasks being unfinished, and placed more pressure on me the next day.

Which is where cat naps come in

A “cat nap” is a short nap (less than thirty minutes) used to restore energy during the day. I’’ve already made one cat nap part of my daily schedule after lunch, and because my energy still seems to struggle at night, am beginning to take a second after dinner.

Creating habits that restore energy during the day is absolutely necessary because ministry takes energy.

  1. It takes energy to study the Word of God
  2. It takes energy to reach the lost in my community
  3. It takes energy to disciple children
  4. It takes energy to have a plan for the day, and follow it

The thing about energy (and willpower) is they are limited resources. If we aren’t carefully restoring energy or strength, then it will be finished long before the day is.

This means taking our physical health (energy level) very seriously through exercise, healthy eating, rest, drinking water, and taking vitamins/supplements.

There is no shame in turning the lights out at 8:00 every once in a while. But most nights should find me finishing strong for the Lord.

Missions is Listening Instead of Speaking

A few weeks ago I was awakened at 3:00 in the morning by my phone ringing. By the time I’d realised what was happening, recognized it was a friend, and answered the phone they’d hung up.

I figured they had called me by accident…..

But a few minutes later they were knocking on my door.

I sat down on my front steps as a friend described in tears a crisis that he was going through. As he talked I listened carefully, and prayed.

In that prayer I thanked God he came to me in a time of need

And asked the Lord to keep my mouth shut.

There are moments for us to speak and teach or exhort someone, and moments for us to be silent. When someone comes to your door at 3:00 in the morning, it’s a time for silence.

We are silent because they know what they’re supposed to do. What they need is someone who will listen carefully, and help them do what they are supposed to do.

  1. By allowing them to vent or be angry
  2. By asking questions
  3. By trying to understand the situation instead of trying to fix the situation
  4. And by pointing them back to God’s truth

These listening moments are about bringing perspective. Often in a crisis we are emotional, overcome by Satan’s attacks, and have lost sight of God’s goodness. Therefore we need someone to calmly and patiently put our eyes back on God.

Satan knows how powerful these listening moments are, so he encourages us to speak when we should actually listen.

Speaking (telling someone what they need to do) instead of listening often proves disastrous

  1. The person is not in the right mind to receive the truth of God
  2. Instead of calming things down, we make them more frustrated
  3. We also become frustrated because they aren’t “listening to us”
  4. And a great ministry opportunity is wasted

The important thing about listening moments is knowing a time will soon come when God wants you to speak.

Later the next morning my friend came by in a much calmer state of mind. We were able to discuss how the Lord was working in his life through that crisis, and what he needed to do.

Since that time I’ve spent a lot more time sitting on my front steps listening to him explain the frustrations of his crisis (sometimes in anger). But those moments always lead to a time for speaking when he with a submissive spirit listens to what God has to say.

Missions is Appreciating Gods Protection

A few Saturdays ago a neighbour living beside the church sent someone to the house, and asked me to come over so he could “show me something.” I came over with another friend and immediately realised the problem.

There is a church wall built on our boundary line, and shared with the neighbour. Whoever had built this wall originally (not myself or the former pastor) was only interested in getting it up as quickly as possible, so they didn’t put any steel in the blocks to provide support.

This creates a serious problem since the wall itself can not only weaken quickly, but also fall on someone and injure them.

When he called me daylight could be clearly seen between the the bricks in the wall, meaning there was danger of the wall itself falling on someone.

Right away I contacted church members about the problem since it was a Saturday, and scheduled a church meeting the next day. We decided to hire a man who had attended for many years, and was a very good mason (wall builder).

That afternoon the mason inspected the weakened wall, and told me what materials would be needed for him to rebuild it.

Thankfully church members helped me get in contact with the proper people so that by that Thursday, all of the material was ready to go. And after another meeting on Sunday, work began last Tuesday.

It took less than a day to tear down the portion of the wall that needed to be rebuilt because it was so weak. By the end of the day, the foundation for the new wall had already been laid!

The next two days were spent building up the wall itself with steel and reinforcement so that the same problem won’t happen again.

By Friday he only needed to put on the finishing touches, and even out areas of the wall that had been damaged by rainfall. By noon the wall was done, and everyone was paid!

There is so much to thank the Lord for in this situation

  1. I am thankful the neighbour pointed out the problem since it was only noticeable on his side
  2. I am thankful the wall itself held, and didn’t injure anyone
  3. I am thankful church members stepped up and helped me find people to provide material, and do the work
  4. I am thankful for a worker who did very good work for a fair price
  5. I am thankful for good weather while the work went on (little rain)
  6. And I am thankful for a strong wall that will last for many years

There will be crisis situations in life (like a wall that may fall down) but we can be calm in the crisis because we know the Lord is with us.

Missions is Calming Conflict

About three-weeks ago I was informed of a problem with a wall our church shares with a neighbouring property. Whoever built it originally didn’t put a column, or steel rebar into the wall itself. Because of this, the wall was weakened on the neighbours side.

If we didn’t deal with the problem, that wall could fall on someone, and seriously hurt them.

After discussing it with church members and having two meetings, we hired a local Believer to tear down the wall, and then build it back.

I drove to a nearby friends house Tuesday morning to pick up a shovel. And upon returning found the neighbour standing in the road shouting very loudly.

Evidently some of her plants had been cut so that the wall could be torn down. She was very upset because nobody called and asked permission to cut the plants. I could understand her frustration, but also realised the plants had to be removed in order for the wall to come down.

I jumped out of my car (leaving it parked in the middle of the road) and walked over to the neighbour. As we discussed what had happened, and she vented her frustration, things began to calm down.

The entire conversation took about ten-minutes, and we haven’t had a problem with her since.

The interesting thing is many Vincentians didn’t understand why I didn’t shout back at her, and am even planning to buy her a replacement plant with my own money.

The answer is very simple…..

As a missionary I am called to bring calmness into conflict.

Sadly the normal way to deal with a conflict in my community is not to meet with the other individual. Instead you stand about seven feet from them and shout loudly enough for people up and down the street to hear. It’s not uncommon to see individuals standing in the road involved in a very loud argument.

This should NEVER be the response of a Christian!

Instead we calm the situation

  1. By listening carefully to their complaint
  2. By understanding what the real problem is
  3. By apologising for our part in the conflict (even if they had a part in it as well)
  4. And by doing what it takes to make things right

It isn’t just about calmness though…..

Christians bring calmness to chaos because our public testimony for Christ is more important than being “right.”

I could have argued with the woman, and explained the plants had to be removed in order to break the wall down properly. But it would have done great damage to my testimony in the community.

When dealing with conflict, the question we must ask isn’t “who is right?”, but “how can I make this right?”

Missions is Learning New Things

Recently I’ve been getting some things fixed on my car. A new alternator last month, then new brakes, bearings, and bushings this month.

I’m very thankful for a local mechanic who does work very quickly for a cheap price. Usually it only takes a day to get things fixed up.

At the same time, I need to learn how to do things like this myself.

An interesting thing about living on the mission field is you need to fix things yourself.

  1. There is no Lowes or Home Depot
  2. There are no automotive superstores
  3. There aren’t a huge amount of mechanics who are trustworthy

The problem with this is I’m bad at fixing things….

Really, really bad!

This isn’t a disrespect to myself since the Lord has simply gifted me in other areas. So I’d much rather pay someone locally who can do the work properly instead of trying to do it myself.

The problem with this is a big part of missions is learning to do new things, particularly new things you aren’t very good at.

There is nothing wrong with not being good at something….there is a lot wrong with not not trying to do something.

Hidden beneath my paying someone to do a job is an embarrassment about my lack of skill with doing it. It’s just easier to outsource the job instead of attracting attention of others by my poor attempts.

But it’s only through trial and failure that a person grows.

To put it a practical way for myself, the more I try to fix things, the better I will get at fixing things. And someone who sets aside their “male ego” for a few moments and attempts something new gains the respect of many.

It will probably be a very long time till I do some work on my car….

But I can still practice fixing small things, and learn from those who do it better than me.

As the mechanic fixed my bushing Monday morning I sat, watched, and learned. I didn’t get involved at all 1 but wanted to learn how it was done. The funny thing is it wasn’t as hard as it looked.

I’m grateful the Lord reminded me anyone can excel at what they do well. Only the courageous get better at what they don’t do well.

  1. Not quite ready for that yet

Missions is embracing the silence

I recently discovered just how much I hate silence. It began when my Amazon Alexa charger broke last month, because you cannot get one here I have to wait till the new one arrives in November.

It only took a day or two to realise I use the Alexa for many different things.

  1. To wake me up in the morning
  2. To play music while I am at home
  3. For listening to audio books
  4. And as a speaker when I watch TV

Suddenly my life was filled with silence….and I hated it!

As the days passed I began to think about why silence bothered me so much. Over time it became clear that my mind was accustomed to being continually entertained.

A few weeks ago I became very convicted about boredom leading to social media apps (and far too much scrolling). This led to deleting my Facebook, and Twitter apps from my phone. In a post about that experience I referred to social media as distractions, but they are actually “competing voices.”

Satan through technology and entertainment throws as many voices as he can at us. Because the loud voices of the world can drown out the still small voice of God.

Losing my Alexa made me step back and think about how many times I entertained myself instead of actually thinking about Gods will for my life.

Though It’s a work in progress I am beginning to enjoy the silence

  1. It gives time for prayer
  2. It allows me to meditate on Scripture
  3. It keeps me focused on the job in front of me instead of becoming distracted
  4. And most importantly, it allows me to listen for the Lords leading

There is nothing wrong with entertainment that glorifies God. But we must be very careful about the amount of voices that we allow to speak.

You Cannot Reach Everyone

SAMSUNG CSC

There was a boy in the community of Barrouallie who absolutely loved my cat! The cats name was “Winston”, but he would always either refer to him as “whiskers”, or “kitty.” He would often come by to visit, look around, and ask “where’s whiskers?”

As I shared the Gospel with him, God began to deal with his heart. This ended in him asking the Lord to save him one Saturday nigh!

I wish I could tell you he remained faithful to the Lord…but he didn’t.

Almost overnight this boy who loved my cat so much turned into someone who had an explosive temper. He refused to listen to anyone (not even family) and eventually stopped coming by.

For a while my heart broke over this young man because he turned away from the Lord. A part of me even felt as if my ministry with him had been a failure.

That’s when the Lord reminded me you cannot reach everyone.

This young man had a choice to make. He could serve the Lord, or let anger control. He chose anger and it destroyed his life. Though this is incredibly sad, the blame for this is upon him. HE is the one who made the decision!

Experiences like cannot discourage us from doing the work of God. Instead we focus on reaching as many people as possible. And allow the condemnation to fall on those who have rejected Christ.

Missions is Admitting Something Isn’t Working

On many afternoons I will visit children the community, and have bible clubs. They enjoy songs, memory verses, bible stories, and the occasional jolly rancher.

Usually there are no behavioural issues, but lately I noticed bible club wasn’t working as well as it used to.

  1. The children didn’t pay attention to me
  2. They were constantly getting distracted, and interrupting me
  3. And some no longer listened to me when I asked them to do things

It isn’t uncommon for individuals (especially children) to become bored with a form of ministry. In that moment a hard decision has to be made. Do I keep doing things the same way, and lose their interest? Or do I change this ministry to keep their interest?

This is an easy question to answer……but applying the answer is difficult.

Obviously it’s better to have the interest of individuals. But that means admitting that something isn’t working, and starting again.

It’s amazing how easy it is to cling to an ineffective form of ministry just because we are too embarrassed to say it isn’t working.

It is embarrassing when something that we put our heart and soul into doesn’t work the way it should. But that shame is actually a mercy of God since He is showing us what needs to change. And through it, He calls us to a stronger form of ministry.

After giving bible club some thought, I re-instituted the Bible club mat (a tablecloth) and “reading circle.” This allowed me to make direct eye contact with all of the children during the lesson, and keep their attention. I also switched materials to something that they found more interesting.

Seeing the interest in their eyes as we talked about Moses and the plagues reminded me how often forms of ministry become more precious than doctrine itself. In earlier years when a ministry wasn’t working properly I’d spend lots of time trying to “make it work” even though I knew it wasn’t the Lords will.

I’m thankful that the Lord has taught me to hold ministry forms with an open hand. That way He can remove them, and add others as He sees fit.

Missions is Not Taking the Bait

Monday morning I was doing some work around the church, and noticed a man sitting on some nearby steps. I immediately recognised him as someone who loves to make controversial statements about Christianity.

In recent months he has told me:

  1. Jesus never rose from the dead
  2. Jesus was just a man
  3. Men wrote the Bible, not God
  4. And there’s no heaven or hell

After a few minutes, he called me over and we started talking. And of course he began saying incredibly blasphemous things just trying to get me angry.

But I didn’t respond…….

It wasn’t because I didn’t want to, but I knew from experience this man had no interest in understanding Gods truth. He just wanted to start an argument.

So instead of arguing with him, I changed the flow of the conversation itself.

As he listed sin after sin every Christian commits (among them racism, oppression, and brainwashing) I calmly turned and asked him, “am I a racist?” He immediately responded “no not you John,” and then continued explaining how every Christian takes part in these sins.

The flaw in his logic is painfully clear, if ALL CHRISTIANS are racist, then obviously I would have to be! Yet he knew FOR A FACT that I wasn’t.

Two more times he started in on his blasphemous talk…..and two more times I pointed out how foolish it was since I didn’t do the things he was listing.

Normally I don’t mind getting in conversations like this, but I don’t with him because he refuses to listen. He just wants to start an argument and yell about the sins of Christians.

Walking up a hill yesterday a man began to very loudly shout how religion is the source of all violence and slavery. Interestingly, he decided to shout this while walking beside me 🙂

Again I walked silently beside him listening as he went on and on about the blasphemous acts of Christians. After a while, I turned and calmly asked if I had any slaves. “Yes!” He told me, “because you enslave the people of the church”! I smiled, told him they all came on their own free will, and asked if he’d ever come to the church.

Of course he hadn’t.

There is nothing wrong with apologetics. But when someone with a hardened heart just wants to argue, the wisest thing we can do is keep walking.

Missions is Taking Advantage of God Moments

In ministry I experience things referred to as “God moments.” These are special moments when the heart of an individual is especially tender towards the things of the Lord.

The thing about a God moment is it doesn’t last for long….

Which is sadly something I forgot Saturday

There is an unsaved friend who I’ve been sharing Christ with for a few years. He’s incredibly close to accepting the Lord, but not quite there yet. Last Saturday he came by to visit, and I knew that he had something on his mind.

He told me a story about riding a motorbike when he was young and getting into a wreck. The wreck itself should have resulted in some serious injuries, but he ended up walking out of the hospital. A cousin who he’d been with reminded him of the story.

My friend was deeply burdened remember that story, and kept saying “God must have kept me alive for a reason!”

We talked about the Gospel, and his need for Christ. He knew this was needed, but said “something is holding me back.” I explained that is Satan, because he doesn’t want anybody to be saved.

After talking some more it became clear the Lord was really dealing with his heart. So I encouraged him to pray and think about what the devil was doing to keep him from Salvation. We were supposed to meet Tuesday, so I was fully expecting him to accept the Lord then.

That was a mistake…….

Tuesday ended up being cancelled till Thursday, and then our busy schedules didn’t allow for much time in our weekly Bible study.

The God moment was gone!

I thought a lot about our conversation last Saturday this week. In a way, it was wise to allow the Holy Spirit to continue working on his life so that my friend could choose Salvation in that moment. But more importantly, a very important moment when he was thinking seriously about eternity was squandered.

I came to the conclusion waiting was a mistake….one that by Gods grace I won’t make again.

Satan loves to tell us we have plenty of time, that the God moment is going to last, so we can challenge them to accept Him later. The thing is he is lying in these situations, and we forget just how quickly God moments pass.

Though I’m frustrated about missing this opportunity, I’m thankful that the Lord has reminded me just what a precious moment God moments are. And they must always be treated with the utmost seriousness.

Missions is Not Forgetting the Forgotten

About three-years ago I began visiting an older saint on Thursday mornings. We first met during the churches weekly shut-in visitation on Sunday afternoons. A few weeks later a church member who lived nearby told me she wanted a visit.

We would read a passage of Scripture, sing, and she’d happily share stories from her childhood. Eventually I’d heard those stories enough to tell them myself, but it was worth hearing her testify once again of God’s goodness.

Last year she moved away for a time to live with another daughter (usually lived with the oldest one), so for months I couldn’t meet with her. But when she returned to get the Covid vaccine, we met again with much joy.

Our visits aren’t very long these days because she’s in her eighties….

She doesn’t have a lot of energy, struggles reading, and sometimes can’t remember what we were talking about.

But every Thursday morning she is sitting on her porch with the Bible I bought her in America. A huge smile on her face.

Experiences like this remind me part of ministry is remembering the “forgotten.” These are individuals who cannot leave the home easily (either elderly or informed) and long for human interaction. Sadly because they aren’t seen daily, people forget they are there.

They forget because it’s too late

A friend sent me a message Sunday morning informing me of the funeral of a man who we had used to visit on Sunday Afternoons named “Mr. Black.”

He was blind, but always excited to hear us come, and ready to give a testimony for the Lord. He loved an older hymn “through all the changing seasons of life” and would sing the words with all of his might when we visited.

Because of Covid, we haven’t had Sunday afternoon visitation in over a year. I believe this is a wise and safe choice, but part of me wished I could have heard Brother Black sing again.

May God help us remember the older saints around us. For as we read, sing, and listen to their stories again the Lord brings great joy to their hearts.

Missions is Taking the Hard Road

This week I finished reading “Your Future Self will Thank You” by Drew Dyck. It’s actually my second time reading the book, read it first in December 2019, but honestly think I enjoyed it more the second time.

The book itself is excellent because it focuses on a problem that we receive little Biblical teaching on….self-control.

One of the refreshing things about this book is Dyck openly admits he has terrible self control when it comes to eating habits, and how much time he spends online. The book itself shares the lessons he learned on the journey towards self control.

What struck me while reading the book is how many times the author referred to himself as “lazy.” This is interesting because he is a published author, bible teacher, and seminary graduate. All of these things are hard work!

So obviously he couldn’t really be lazy right?

Well actually, the answer is yes

The laziness that he refers to isn’t one of inactivity. It’s one that chooses to be safe, or comfortable.

He explains that many choices in life offers us an easy, and hard road.

The easy road is to do what’s comfortable for us

The hard road is doing whats right, even though it’s painful.

That got me thinking. “How many of us would fit with that definition of lazy? How many prefer what is easy instead of whats right, but demands lots of work?

Your hand should be up right now….because mine is

The application to life and ministry is very clear. We would rather be safe than successful.

This is a problem because God rarely lets us stay where it is safe.

As I returned from my medical furlough in September the Lord had given me many personal and ministry goals to pursue. But a few weeks later, I found myself stuck in the same old routine! This is because my sin-nature craves what’s safe and comfortable instead of a life focused on doing more for Christ.

I’m thankful the Lord used Drew Dyck’s book to remind me though my heart longs for comfort, God calls me out of my safe place.

Missions is Being Safe, but not Scared

Beginning last month, we had a huge growth in Covid cases, and deaths in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Most of this is because workers have been sent back to SVG from a nearby island that is currently locked down because of Covid cases.

As the cases continue to spread, I am encouraging individuals to be safe, but not scared

Being safe means doing everything possible to make sure that you’re healthy. That way if you do get Covid, your body is able to fight it off. I have personally taken the vaccine to help with this, and also use vitamins with a healthy diet, as well as an exercise routine (lots of walking).

I have close friends who don’t want to take the vaccine, and thats okay (it’s their choice). However, for them being safe means working very hard to make sure their immune system is strong.

We also encourage safety in Church services:

  1. Through sanitising our hands
  2. Wearing masks
  3. Social distancing
  4. And staying home if we don’t feel well

there is nothing wrong with being safe, but being scared is very wrong.

Being scared is constantly thinking about Covid, and allowing it to control our lives. There are currently no serious lockdowns or safety restrictions regarding church services (we may have some soon). Therefore, I’m actively pursuing ministry opportunities as the Covid grows. In fact we recently started back Sunday School (it was ended shortly before my medical furlough).

The point is there’s a big difference between being safe and scared

  1. Being scared keeps me at home because I “might” encounter someone who has Covid
  2. Being scared keeps me from visiting individuals through ministry.
  3. Being scared panics whenever someone is not wearing their mask properly 1
  4. Being scared is constantly worrying if someone else has Covid

Ministry cannot be done this way!

The recent lockdowns since 2020 have taught us that freedom is something that we can take for granted. We only realise that too late when Covid takes it away from us.

Every moment of freedom we have must be spent actively doing the work of God….

Because the day may come that freedom is taken away from us.

  1. I do wear masks, and make sure everyone in church wears them properly for one anothers safety, But at the same time allow others to make their own health choices for the most part

Don’t Waste Your Singleness

Dear Single Christian,

On Valentines day (or as I like to call it “the day of the Black Death”..just joking) its easy to feel ashamed or less than important because you aren’t married, or in a relationship.

So today especially let me remind your there’s an incredible blessing serving God as a single person.

As a forty-two (next month forty-three!) year old single person I definitely understand the frustrations with serving God as a single.

  1. the Bible clearly teaches God is glorified in the marriage relationship between a husband and a wife
  2. Marriage is especially necessary if you are serving within the local Church like I am
  3. Obviously this also presents purity challenges which God gives help with
  4. And serving as a single makes it easy to become isolated from others, just doing things on your own

At the same time there are blessings for the single Christian. One of the greatest being a large amount of free-time.

A great privilege within marriage (speaking from the husbands perspective) is protecting your wife and children, as well as caring for their financial needs. The wife’s privilege within marriage is caring for the day to day needs of children (a HUGE ministry) and encouraging her husband.

Obviously between work and these responsibilities there is little free-time left for yourself. This isn’t a bad thing since family is your priority. However there is little extra time or energy for deeper study or ministry.

The single person on the other hand has lots of time to themselves….

At the moment as I type the only other sound is a wall fan, and occasional snoring of a sleeping dog. That silence allows me to get MASSIVE amounts of work done in a short amount of time since I’m not interrupted.

Its possible on a good day to complete in 30 minutes what would take other people an hour or more. Thats not because I’m incredibly gifted, but because I have silence.

So Christian single let me exhort and challenge you to use wisely the free-time you been given as a gift of God.

  1. Use it for deeper Bible study
  2. Extended prayer
  3. Reading a challenging book
  4. Focusing on intense uninterrupted work (called “Deep Work” in Cal Newports book)
  5. Creating something (writing, building, etc)
  6. Ministering to those around you in a strong way
  7. Taking well-calculated risks
  8. And being purposeful with your life

There is still a part of me that seeks marriage if it is God’s Will because marriage is clearly commanded by God. But until that day (if it ever comes) I am committed to using the gift of singleness to the greatest effect possible.

Remembering the Forgotten

This is my friend Claude, but most people call him “viking.” He spends most of his days walking up and down the road in great pain from arthritis picking up plastic bottles that can recycled, and he gets a few dollars.

Claude is an individual who sadly wasted his young years on alcohol, and now in his later years has to try to find money in order to buy things. I’m pretty sure he still drinks a lot too.

He is what I sometimes refer to as a “forgotten individual” or someone who everyone ignores and overlooks. Because Claude constantly begs for money (which probably goes towards rum) few people will spend time with him.

Last month I started meeting with him on Monday mornings with the deal that if he would go through a Psalm with me, I would give him a small bag of rice. So far he’s come by three times, and even sat in with me as I visited with another lady in the community a few weeks ago.

Please pray with me that Claude would turn from his addiction to alcohol, and through these studies he may accept Christ.

Finding Time to Read

Reclaiming a Lost Love

One afternoon in 2017 I found a large selection of Hardy Boy Mysteries at a store in Kingstown, Saint Vincent. Those books immediately took me back to my childhood where I read many of the old hardback hardy boys mystery books (even one in a day!)

In this days reading was a passion for me because it was a form of learning, and also escape. An escape in the sense that it fed my imagination, and led to dreaming about what the Lord could do in my life.

I wish I could say that books are still a passion for me….but they aren’t

Literature and reading has been replaced by other “more important things” such as social media, and television.

Of course by my phrasing you can tell they aren’t more important since screens do little to feed my brain like a book does. In fact they make it weaker!

With the Lords help I am committing myself this year to reading physical books (kindles don’t count because I’m already looking at screens enough). Pray for me this year as I invest my time and energy in things that strengthen my mind, and calling from God.

« Older Entries