Rejoicing in the Valley

Yesterday morning I sat down at a kitchen table, and for the first time in over a month, had devotions from an actual Bible. For some this may not seem like a very big deal, but for me it was an incredible blessing.

Many of you know that in March, I began to have serious eyesight issues because of cataracts in both eyes (with my left being more severe). As time passed, my eyes continued to degenerate, till in mid-May reading my Bible was almost impossible.

Because of the greater medical technology in America I after prayer decided to take a medical furlough at the end of June instead of getting the surgery done in Saint Vincent. While this was definitely the right decision to make, it meant putting up with blurred eyesight for a long time.

Over time, the frustration of not being able to do things I was used to doing (like reading my Bible) grew and grew. I finally reached the breaking point, and allowed the quiet anger about my situation to become discouragement and depression……

That was three weeks before the flight!

Thankfully the Lord convicted me of my self-pity, and I submitted to a life with massive cataracts (though it was frustrating).

God through the Holy Spirit brought verses to mind that helped me submit to the frustrating situation. One that was particularly encouraging was Jeremiah 29:5

Jeremiah 29:5 Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them;

Jeremiah here is speaking to Jews who were in Babylonian captivity. Many of them were frustrated by their lack of freedom, and would later try to escape Babylons control with the power of Egypt. Jeremiah though encourages them to do something different….

He tells them to submit in captivity

Instead of trying to escape the situation that they hated, they were encouraged to continue there long-term. As they flourished in a painful situation, the Lord promised to give peace.

The application is to stop fighting the plan of God. There is no way that we can escape it anyways! Instead of looking for a way out, the Lord calls us to humbly accept the trial that comes from His hand. Because we know the Lord who brought us in, will bring us out.

For me personally that verse meant accepting both the good times, and bad times from God. It’s amazing how we praise God on the mountaintop, but have a terrible attitude in the valley isn’t it? But as we commit ourselves to consistent service in the valley, God will do a great work.

I can honestly say living with severe cataracts wasn’t enjoyable, but I thank God for it. Because its in the valley that He drew me closer to Himself.

When Snack Cakes are a Luxury

In about four days I will board a plane in Saint Vincent, and early Sunday morning, arrive in Richmond Virginia.

the interesting thing is though I am excited about being home, a big part of me doesn’t want to go.

Please understand that doesn’t mean I don’t love America. But SVG has been my home for so long, believe it or not, America feels strange!

Having said that, there is one thing I miss about America….convenience

In the States you can get just about anything that you need at a local store thats about fifteen minutes away. Whereas in Saint Vincent (and on most mission fields) you just can’t get many things.

For instance, in late February my iPhone battery died. In America thats an easy fix since you can get a new one tomorrow from Amazon, or go to any number of stores. In my case, a proper replacement battery was never found. I’m sure there were some individuals who had one, but no phone technician in Kingstown could find one.

Though this lack of convenience is frustrating at times, it’s actually a blessing. Because it shows just how many things we enjoy in life that are actually “luxuries”, or things we could live without.

When I first came here, there were certain things from America I truly missed

  1. Pepsi and Coke (they are expensive here, so only an occasional treat)
  2. and high quality American coffee (they do have Folgers and Maxwell House here, but I am admittedly a “coffee snob’

At first I really missed things like this since they were a habitual part of my life

And then something strange happened…..

I didn’t want them anymore!

Now I still like soft drinks, and good coffee. But my desire for them grew weaker. And over time I learned that I could actually live without them!

when most things in life are luxuries we learn to live without them, and we also greatly enjoy them when they are experienced

While going through the relief barrels that were sent from the States, I set aside two different things for some children who visit for Bible stories.

  1. The first was a box of crayons and colouring books
  2. The second was a box of “little Debbie snack cakes”

now to be honest these items would be appreciated by a child in the States, but it wouldn’t really bring a lot of excitement

for the Vincentian children who had never eaten something like that, it was a treasure!

In the end I’m thankful that the Lord has helped me leave behind some conveniences of home. Because now they can be appreciated more.

As I prepare for a medical furlough I’m planning to greatly enjoy the luxuries that America provides. But at the same time, those luxuries will lead to thankfulness and praise to the God who provides them.

Missions is embracing Rest

Last week this time I was getting ready to visit a local clinic, and get my second vaccine shot.

I don’t share that to start a big debate over whether or not a person should be vaccinated. It’s my opinion you should be for your safety and others, but the point of this post is what happened AFTER the shot.

I fully expected to feel awful the day of the shot, so didn’t plan much afterwards. I ended up getting home around 2:00, and spent most of the day in bed after that.

Following that day of rest I woke up Wednesday sore, but with good energy, It felt great to have strength during the day that helped me catch up on what wasn’t finished Tuesday.

Then Thursday came

I woke up not feeling too great, but was able to get stuff done that morning. But around 2:00 though my whole body started hurting! So I ended up spending much of that day in the bed or resting as well.

Thursday really frustrated me because I wanted to do work, but my body just wouldn’t co-operate. Yet looking back on it, I believe it was Gods way of teaching me a lesson.

I love being busy, which is not a bad thing. However, it’s easy to begin worshipping my work, In other words, i find my identity (happiness) in how much is accomplished during that day. When productivity becomes something that I worship instead of God. It is a problem.

So the Lord gave me two days last week with little work accomplished.

As the frustration faded Thursday afternoon, the Lord reminded me that effectiveness or “getting things done” wasn’t something to be worshipped. Instead it was a form of worship to God.

This makes all the difference because my identity and happiness doesn’t have to be found in how much I accomplished that day. Instead it’s found in the cross of Christ, and Gods placing His righteousness to my account.

This doesn’t mean I should sit around and do nothing all day. It does mean that God in His grace gives me days of rest. And those restful moments come because the work of Salvation doesn’t rely on me.

Thankfully my body is back at full-strength and I’m slowly but surely catching up on unfinished tasks. But I’m grateful that even if the to-do list is never finished, I will still be Gods child.

A Testimony of Peace

Things have been incredibly stressful for individuals here since the volcanic eruptions began.

Anxiety is heightened for those who live in communities like mine who are already struggling with poverty before the eruptions began. However, the greatest anxiety is for those who are displaced from “red zone” areas.

One of the sister-churches of Tabernacle Baptist is in the area of Fits-Hughes, which is very close to Chateaubelair, where the volcanic eruptions did serious damage with ashes.

At this time it isn’t possible to travel there by vehicle, and the area itself is viewed as “unliveable” because of the amount of ashes on the ground. It will probably take six to seven months before individuals can move back in comfortably.

A Believer from the church in Fits-Hughes came by a few Sundays ago to make sure we were having services. He told me that he’d be back yesterday. Sure enough, he showed up before church, so we were able to have some fellowship together.

I was struck by the calmness and peace in this mans heart, which was remarkable considering he had to leave not only his home. but his livelihood since he was a farmer.

Again and again in our conversation he thanked the Lord for His goodness, and expressed a desire to serve Him in good and bad situations. We were also blessed by a short testimony of Gods goodness during a praise time during the service.

More than anything, this mans life and attitude was marked by a peace. A peace n a very stressful situation that can only come from God.

As I thought about his testimony yesterday, my mind was reminded a Christians life should be marked by peace

There will of course be experiences of emotion or anxiety, but for the most part, the Holy Spirit gives to us a calmness in a crisis. This peace is an incredible blessing since it loudly proclaims the Gospel through a transformed life.

This peace is also in contrast to the world, that is filled with anger and frustration.

last Wednesday afternoon I took some short-term missionaries from Campden Park down to my side of the island. Driving past the church, we saw two women standing near each other in the road loudly shouting and cursing. In a small way, this illustrates the sinful response to pressure or stress.

Life is frustrating and heaps great amounts of anxiety upon our hearts. This is why we must turn to the Lord with our burdens. When we give everything back to God with an open hand, He fill our hearts with a peace.

A peace that shines brightly in the world of anger and bitterness.

Giving What They Really Need

As April comes to a close, I am incredibly thankful for the opportunities that the Lord has given to minister in a practical way to the people of Barrouallie and surrounding villages since the eruption on April 9.

There is still a definite need for immediate help through relief packages, and bottled water 1. But slowly but surely, it is time to transition into a deeper ministry.

by this I don’t mean providing food isn’t important (it obviously is). But there Is a deeper need than just physical relief.

that is a need for discipleship.

By using the phrase “discipleship” I am referring to evangelism (bringing them to Christ), teaching of Scripture, and sending them out to do the work themselves. I referenced this idea in a post last week you can find here.

Its incredibly important to understand that a persons greatest need is for discipleship. Someone who will listen to their needs, explain the Gospel, and lead them to Salvation.

But its even more important to understand people crave this kind of relationship in their hearts.

The Lord has opened the door for me to have lots of conversations about the Gospel, and what the Bible teaches during this time of crisis.

Along the way I’ve realised what people want far more than a bag of food, or a case of water

A listening ear…..

Attentive eyes….

And Gods truth

Again this doesn’t mean the food isn’t important. It means long after that food is gone, a true friend who will give Godly counsel is far more important.

So we keep giving out relief to those in need. But understand taking the time to sit down, understand their need, and minister to it with an open Bible is more important in the long run.

  1. You can’t currently drink the water

How Quickly We Forget God

Sunday morning we had our first service at Church since the eruptions of La Soufrière began. Since a lot had happened since our last meeting, I gave an opportunity to share some testimonies.

one lady referenced an experience the day after the initial eruption on April 9 when the ashes caused everything to grow dark as night at 5:00 in the afternoon. She said that the Lord in that moment reminded her of sin 1, and she prayed in tears with her son.

I am incredibly thankful that God used experience like this to get the attention of this woman and her son, along with others.

Yet as the ashes are cleaned up, and things start getting back to normal, it seems as if many individuals are already beginning to forget God again.

This isn’t surprising since Satan does not want us to focus on God at all. So as quickly as possible, he brings crisis situations that “distract us from the Lord.”

In a deeper sense, God is forgotten because we aren’t experiencing the big “God moments.”

a “God moment” is something huge like the ashes blocking out sunlight that bring fear or anxiety into our lives. These moments are good because they lead to repentance. The problem is, God does not choose to speak to us regularly through moments like this.

The Lord chooses instead to speak to us as we read and study His Word on a daily basis.

Scripture teaches that as we meditate on the Bible, the Holy Spirit will reveal Gods truth to us. The important thing is that we must constantly be looking back at the Lord.

The world is filled with distractions that take our mind off God, so we must continue gazing at His truth throughout the day.

In situations like the volcano eruptions, many people come back to Church, and recommit themselves to God. This is wonderful of course! But it is often motivated by a “God moment” or their emotions. Sadly they soon lose sight of God, and fall away again.

The only way to end this cycle is to see God daily…..

This begins by proclaiming Gods truth to others through devotionals, bible studies, or a biblical reasoning ministry that answers questions. But the goal is for individuals to have a PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP with God where they look EVERY DAY into His word.

My heart breaks to see friends slowly lose sight of Gods power and love for them. But in the end I can only point them towards their true need.

They and they alone get to choose the closeness of their relationship with God.

  1. She wasn’t coming to church,. Or reading her bible

Being Thankful for Gods Daily Mercy

La Soufrière’s eruptions have definitely brought a time of crisis to SVG. Yet, even in that crisis, there are things to praise God for.

Today I am especially thankful for Gods daily mercies

A daily mercy is Gods blessing upon our lives that we don’t really recognise. Often it’s something that has been there for so long, that blessing is taken for granted.

There are countless daily blessing the Lord provides, but the eruptions have focused my mind on one in particular…..

Running water

Because the water supplies in Saint Vincent come from natural rivers, individuals were encouraged to fill up barrels or bottles before the eruptions took place. This is because the sulphuric ash would contaminate the water system.

The general idea was we would be without water for one or two days. Instead because of the magnitude of the eruptions, we were without water for a week!

There were occasions when the water would come on for a brief time in the morning or evening. Also one day the water was on from the morning till late afternoon. For the most part however, the water was not running.

as you can imagine, the lack of water caused many problems. Especially because this made cleaning the house, and washing clothes difficult. There was a greater need for these jobs of course since the ashes got on your clothes, and in your house.

The lack of water also caused me to realise just how much I used it! Its funny how I didn’t think about how many things use water till it was no longer there.

Friday morning, at around the same time the original eruption occurred, the water was turned back on. I cannot describe to you the joy that filled my heart to see water coming out of the tap again!

This experience has reminded me that many of the things that we take for granted such as water, electricity, or vehicles that run properly are forms of God’s mercy and grace upon our lives.

It’s sometimes difficult to be thankful for those items since they are so readily available. So God in His sovereignty removes them temporarily so we appreciate them more.

I definitely didn’t enjoy being without running water for a week 1. But I am thankful for the experience, because it reminded me of Gods daily mercy upon my life.

  1. Thankfully I had a large water barrel filled so did have water. It had to be used carefully though

The God of Short-Term and Long-Term Relief

The eruptions of La Soufrière have brought a great crisis upon the people of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Particularly for those in the “red zone” where the ash and damage of buildings makes it unlivable.

At the same time, Soufrière’s eruptions have brought blessings upon our lives! One of the greatest is seeing God provide for our needs in absolutely amazing ways.

Since the original eruption on April 9, I have received a gift of $1,000, along with another $1,000 coming, and yesterday got a check for $500 1. This doesn’t count the gifts that are sent directly to Baptist Mid-Missions without my knowledge.

These and other funds will provide short-term help:

  1. Through relief packages
  2. Bottled water
  3. Replenishing of the food bank at a Church in Kingstown park
  4. And establishing smaller food banks in other Churches for those not in the Kingstown area

This is reason enough to praise God, but the Lord has also provided for what I would refer to as long-term help.

the road to recovery is going to be very long for those in the “red zone” areas. It will take many months before things will return to a form of normalcy. Because of this. There’s also a need for larger amounts of food and goods that can be set aside for future use.

The provision of long-term help is far more difficult because it costs more money, and there needs to be a large amount of goods.

it’s amazing to see how the Lord has not only met our need for short-term relief, but also the need for relief in the long term.

I could list many long-term blessings. But let me just share one.

A friend from my home Church in the States called a few Saturdays ago to ask about the possibility of sending some barrels. I was incredibly grateful, and gave him the information for a shipping agency that could help.

In my mind, I could see them sending two or three barrels……

He called back Saturday to say they are planning to send TEN!

These and other experiences are wonderful reminders that the Lord is indeed still at work.

He may not provide the way I want Him too…..

But He will provide

And His way is always best

  1. All of these funds are sent through Baptist Mid Missions, and are put into Vincentian Pastors hands to fund a food bank in SVG.

Missions is…not just relief work

Since the first eruption of La Soufrière, my schedule has been thrown off. normal ministries centred on evangelism or discipleship. Ministries after the eruption involved cleaning, distributing relief, and transporting needed items.

While we are very far from recovered from the volcanic eruptions 1, things have thankfully calmed down in Barrouallie to the extent that life is beginning to return to normal.

While I’m very thankful for “boots on the ground” ministry that involved practical things like delivering goods, and clearing yards. I’m excited for the opportunity to return to my Scripture based ministry of Evangelism and Discipleship (or reach and teach).

This may seem strange since the very practical ministries during the crisis following the initial eruptions had a deep impact upon the lives of individuals.

But the “reaching and teaching” is more important because individuals are dealing with their eternal destiny.

experiencing a natural disaster like the eruptions of La Soufrière is an important reminder of our weakness when compared to God. It also makes individuals think about their eternal destiny following death.

In these moments God has individuals attention. And while it’s incredibly important to make sure their physical needs are met, it’s more important to clearly explain the Gospel.

  1. Because things cannot bring happiness
  2. Because sin always destroys our lives
  3. Because their true need is to be saved for eternity
  4. And because Salvation brings the hope the world never can

This is important to remember because I’m spending lots of time these days doing relief work, which does glorify God.

But I am not called to meet the physical needs of others…..

I’m called to lead them to Christ, and train them to reach others.

Obviously this doesn’t mean I don’t overlook financial needs. But filling their belly with food is not as important as placing their faith in Christ

So I happily feed the needy…..

But make sure my goal is a transformed heart instead of a full belly.

  1. We actually still have them, experienced the thirty-first this morning

Missions is…helping those who you can

A blessing of the volcano eruptions is it has highlighted the need for financial help in many areas of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Poverty is a huge issue in many of our communities even without a natural disaster, so now more are needy than ever before.

The generosity of friends and local Churches has allowed me to begin meeting the needs of those in the community. Twenty bags of food were distributed over the weekend, and I’ll distribute another fifteen this afternoon. Along with this, I’m in the process of distributing thirty cases of bottled water.

The Lord has also provided funds from the US that will fund a food bank in Kingstown, and barrels that will arrive from the States in coming months.

While I am encouraged by the opportunity to give, its discouraging because the need is so great.

For every family that receives a bag of food relief, there are three or four families who need it!

The sad truth is you cannot help everyone. So while doing your best to meet everyones needs, it’s necessary to emphasise help on a small group of people.

As a missionary my primary responsibility is to those who attend Tabernacle Baptist Church. So relief is given first to members of the Church, as well as those who attend faithfully.

That’s actually the easy decision

The hard choice is what to do with the relief thats left over…

I’ve thought and prayed over that question a lot. For me personally the answer is those who are in the greatest need.

These are individuals who I would define as being in the “greatest need”

  1. Shut in’s: Older saints who cannot leave the house, and are often forgotten
  2. Families with lots of children (three or four)
  3. Single mothers
  4. And those men who are looking for work, but cannot find any

This doesn’t mean of course that you don’t help others when they ask for it. While delivering water yesterday two families who weren’t on my list asked for some, and I gave it to them with a smile. But there must be an emphasis of help with individual families.

There are four families who live near a church member. Over time, I’ve developed a relationship with them, and the Lord has really placed a burden upon my heart for these families at this time.

This burden led me to help them in practical ways….

  1. Like filling bottles with water, and delivering it to them when they didn’t have any
  2. Giving out bags of food
  3. And checking in to see how things are going every day

There is also a woman who is in GREAT financial need in the community who the Lord placed upon my heart. I’ve been able to provide bread, groceries, food, and even ripe bananas to her.

There’s another single mother near me who has very little, and is struggling to make ends meet. The Lord let me help her with money for her stove-gas when it went out Friday, and groceries Monday.

I do realise there are a huge number in need. And if I could, I would minister to every one of them individually. But because that isn’t possible, I minister to those the Lord places upon my heart

Missions is….seeing Gods Protection in the storm

Sunday evening the volcano erupted for what I believe is the thirtieth time since the eruptions began. It’s kind of hard to tell since they are smaller now, and often come in the early morning.

By the looks of it, I could tell that this eruption was a big one. Possibly one of the biggest yet. It was a bit discouraging since things were beginning to get back to normal.

About fifteen minutes after the eruption a huge cloud of ashes began descending on the community. It made for a very strange and eerie sight.

About a half-hour later it was very dark, which is usual here for 6:30. Part of me worried that there would be a lot of cleanup to accomplish the next morning.

Instead this is what I found

To be fair, this picture was taken at 11:30 yesterday morning after a work crew had come by to scrape the road clean.

Thankfully the wind was strong Sunday, and the huge cloud of ashes instead of falling on us was carried out to sea. Its my understanding that a lot of it fell on Barbados.

Though there is still a long road of recovery ahead of us at SVG, Sunday was an important reminder that things could be worse.

When we think about the protection of God, many of us think about the Lord protecting us from the tough experiences of life. This is definitely a way that He protects us, but not the only way.

One of the most common ways God protects us in a trial is not by removing the trial itself, but giving us grace within that trial.

This protection is harder to see because Satan wants us to focus on the pain or hardship instead of God goodness. However, Scripture is clear that Gods with us in the storm. We just have to look harder than usual sometimes.

I honestly wish the protection of God would always be clear as the wind blowing a cloud of ashes out to sea.

But the daily protection of God usually comes in more subtle ways……..

So we have to look closer, and trust His goodness even when the cannot see His presence.

And if we look hard enough….we will see the Lord blowing the ashes away.

Missions is….doing the job right

The last few days I’ve been going to bed early, and sleeping in late. That has something to do with feeling as if I’ve been run over by a truck!

Sunday cleanup began following the volcano’s eruption Friday morning. Since then a huge part of my time has been spent shovelling ashes either from the church, or my own yard.

Sunday was actually the hardest day since there was a very heavy ash fall from Saturday, and it then rained that morning. The consistency of the ash became like mud which was not only hard to shovel, but incredibly slippery.

The physical work is at the same time exciting and exhausting. Exciting because most of my work is usually either mental, or social (interacting with others). The exhausting part is self-explanatory 🙂

Much of my ministry now revolves around clearing and cleaning instead of visitation or teaching since people stay home, and going to their houses makes cleaning harder for them. So I keep in touch through text messages, and phone calls.

To be honest, cleaning and shovelling ash isn’t what comes to mind when I think of “ministry.” Yet I’ve learned that doing hard or frustrating jobs well is a great testimony for Christ.

Cleaning ash takes time, and is very frustrating:

  1. It tends to kick up dust
  2. You end up covered in ashes
  3. And often you need to do it again a few hours later!

At the same time, doing these frustrating jobs well is a ministry because people see your hard work.

Tuesday morning I had lots of hard work to accomplish since the church roof was swept of Monday afternoon. This left lots of wet and heavy ashes on the ground that had to be scraped up with a shovel, put into a bucket, and transferred to the church yard.

While I was doing this, a man came by and offered to sweep the front yard of the church for a small fee. I promised to pay him, and went back to my work, only for him to declare ten minutes later that he was “finished.” As you can imagine, he didn’t do a good job at all, but because I promised money he got paid something for it.

Yesterday morning I did the front yard spending over an hour on what he did in ten minutes. Honestly it will have to be done again this morning, but that doesn’t matter because people noticed my work

Of course I don’t always work hard, like everyone else I have my lazy moments. The point is that ministry involves having a “work ethic.” And part of that is doing the hard or difficult work the right way.

  1. Taking your time
  2. Going above and beyond 1
  3. And having a positive attitude

I’m still feeling the affects of this weeks work (lots of Advil) but those short-term aches and pains are worth a testimony of hard work done the right way.

  1. I swept the church neighbours yard to keep the ash out of ours

Missions is….remembering God is bigger than you

I’ve had lots of interesting experiences since the La Soufrière volcano erupted on Friday. But the most exciting, and memorable for me came Saturday evening.

I was sitting at home working on my computer when things started to become dark. Not just dark, but incredibly dark! I eventually went outside and video-called my parents so that they could see just how dark (and cold) it had become outside. About fifteen minutes later, the darkness had passed.

in talking with friends, this passing darkness was either an eruption, or a large cloud of ashes that literally blocked out the sun. Its my understanding Barbados had a similar experience shortly afterwards.

I wasn’t really frightened standing out on my porch, but it was definitely an eerie experience to see such darkness in the afternoon.

in that moment I felt small and insignificant

Which is believe is the point

The Lord sometimes brings what I call “God moments” into our lives. These are moments that remind us of His immense power, and our weakness. These moments are necessary in life because we can very easily become arrogant and self-reliant instead of depending upon Him.

I recently finished reading Job in my devotions, and was again struck by his pride and arrogance towards God. Because the Lord was not doing things the way he wanted things to be done, Job questioned his love and justice. Repeatedly in the book he challenged God to show up and “defend Himself.” Promising that the Lord would have to admit Job’s way was right.

When God finally showed up, Jobs attitude completely changed….

The Lord asked rapid-fire questions beginning with Job 38 about His creation and animals. These questions left no doubt about Gods power, and more importantly, Job’s weakness.

By Job 40:3-5 he is sufficiently humbled, but God continues His questioning till the beginning of chapter 42.

Job’s response after God’s done speaking is absolutely marvellous

Job 42:5-6. 5 I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. 6 Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.

Why does Job repent in dust and ashes?

Because he sees God!

Now a God moment is obviously not the same as the Lord directly questioning us. But just like Job understands his smallness or weakness compared to God, these moments help us see how weak we are.

Things like the sun being hidden by ashes makes you remember how majestic God is, and how much you need His grace daily.

Saturdays experience led me to begin seeking out other “God moments” in my life. They may not be as significant as darkness, but these are the Lords way of taking our eyes off circumstances, and putting our attention on Him where it belongs.

May the Lord help us daily seek reminders of His greatness. And understand the free parking spot in town, or the deluge of ashes should both bring a heartfelt worship.

Missions is…Listening to the 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.

La Soufrière Update

Below is the text of brief email update I am sending this afternoon to prayer partners. Thanks for your continued prayers at this time

April 9, 2021

Dearest Friends,

In January we received word that La Soufrière, the volcano in Saint Vincent, displayed increased activity. This brought a danger of its erupting for the first time since 1979.

Since that time things thankfully calmed down with the volcano. Though those close to it were encouraged to remain cautious, the threat level was lowered.

Yesterday (April 8) those on the other side of the island were told to prepare themselves for evacuation because of increased activity, and the warning level was raised. This was followed by a evacuation order at 4:30 Thursday afternoon.

Thankfully, most individuals from the danger zones were transported safely by boat or van to safer areas, with many coming to Barrouallie where I’m located. This morning at approximately 8:50, the volcano erupted. This resulted in a large amount of ash going two-miles into the sky, with little actual lava (an article can be found here).

It’s currently about 4:30 in the afternoon, and the ash has resulted in limited visibility, but little has accumulated on the ground. Currently the greatest concern in our community is that the ash will continue to settle on the ground, making breathing difficult, and keeping everyone inside.

I’m incredibly grateful for the mercy and grace of God as we have experienced this volcanic eruption. I can hear people talking to each other walking up and down the road while writing this update, which is blessing considering how serious the situation would be if the eruption had resulted in more lava.

I’m also thankful that the Lord has continued to protect myself, and others in Barrouallie during this time.

Please pray with me in the coming days:

  1. For those who may still need to be evacuated from danger areas
  2. Continued protection from the ash, particularly for those who have breathing problems
  3. That the ash can clear in coming days
  4. For the safe return of those evacuated from their homes
  5. There will be little or no damage to homes from the volcano
  6. For those who may not have adequate shelter from the ashes
  7. And that Vincentians would see their need of Christ in this crisis.

Thanks so much for your continued prayers.

In Christ,

John Wilburn

Missions is…Checking In

This morning I took this picture from my porch at about 7:00. It was significant because I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to come outside of the house this morning, much less take a picture.

The La Soufrière volcano began showing signs yesterday of an imminent eruption which would bring large clouds of volcanic ash into the community. This would keep everyone inside of course, since the air itself would be toxic and harmful.

Though the volcanic activity is stressful, I’m thankful for it, because it reminded me about the importance of “checking in” on people.

Life gets incredibly busy for all of us. Because of this, we don’t take the time to slow down, and contact friends or loved ones as often as we should. Usually there needs to be an important reason to get in touch with somebody through a phone call, or personal visit. In reality, just calling to check on someone to make sure they’re okay is an incredibly loving act

A blessing of any crisis is that it forces us to check in on those we love….

but the question is, why does it take a crisis?

I spent a lot of time on my phone last night checking on friends, and making trips to ensure they had what they needed. Of course this was an absolutely necessary thing since the volcano could erupt at any time. At the same time this kind of ministry would be needed in times when there isn’t a crisis as well.

So why don’t we check in on one another?

I can think of a few reasons

  1. We are too busy with our own tasks
  2. We wait till there’s something important to tell them
  3. Or we just don’t think about their needs at all

Sadly I believe the last reason is one of the biggest ones

We often forget about those around us who are in need, or may require some extra help. We only remember them when something huge comes up like a volcanic eruption. But it’s incredibly easy after that just to drift back into not thinking about them.

The Lord used last night to remind me one of the most powerful forms of ministry is just a simple phone call to make sure someones okay.

This call is meaningful in a crisis, but its even more powerful when there isn’t one….

When you just call because the Holy Spirit brought them to your mind.

May the Lord help us remember an encouraging text message, phone call, or visit isn’t an intrusiuon. Checking is an incredibly loving act.

Missions is….Dealing with Your Quiet Anger

Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t been writing, or sharing on Facebook lately. The reason for this is my phone started giving me problems on February 26, refusing to charge since the battery had gone bad.

Last week was incredibly frustrating since fixing an iPhone here is difficult because they cannot find parts.

My frustration level was already high after spending three hours in Kingstown waiting for them to find a part, and then another three hours last Tuesday while they tried to fix it without a new battery.

By 2:00 the phone was charging properly and I excitedly started checking my text messages, only to see it drop 40% of its battery life in ten minutes. So back to the store I went!

The frustration level reached its climax when I emailed the store the next day asking for an update on the phone, and received no reply. So I took ANOTHER trip into town Thursday, and was told they were just too busy to respond to my email.

Thankfully the Lord worked things out as they sold me another iPhone exactly like mine at a drastically reduced price (less than $200 US). So twelve days after my phone died, it was fixed. But it was pretty difficult to “keep my cool” during that time.

Life is bound to bring some frustrating or annoying moments, it is in those moments that God reveals whats resides in our heart.

This experience for me was a reminder of my impatience, and quiet anger.

The Lord has created me as someone who is ambitious, and emphasises activity. This is a good thing because it helps me get lots done in a short amount of time, but it’s also a curse since waiting makes me angry.

This doesn’t result in violent open anger, but quiet anger revealed by exasperated sighs 1.

The thing about quiet anger is it isn’t as obvious. But the bad attitude can lead to bitterness, self-pity, and lack of motivation. Most importantly the quiet anger focuses my attention only on my problem.

the point is while I was calm and polite on the outside, I was raging on the inside

Frustration is a part of life of course, but the Lords will is that we deal with our frustration in a Biblical way. Because the quiet anger can often be just as damaging as the violent.

it took a while for me to get over the frustration of my phone being fixed when it wasn’t. I spent a few days doing very little other than feeling sorry for myself. It wasn’t till Friday that the Lord graciously allowed me to see just how toxic my quiet anger is.

It took twelve days but I brought home TWO phones. The second will barely hold a charge, but thats okay, its main use is for parts. As I texted away on my new phone yesterday I thanked the Lord for once again shining a light on my quiet anger, and helping me understand your attitude makes a huge difference.

  1. My frustrated sigh is so common, my nieces and nephew refer to it as an Uncle John sigh

Missions is….risking failure

A very big part of missions is going to others with the gospel, but while “gong to them”, there is also a need to “draw them to yourself.” This is best done through weekly ministries the emphasise evangelism, and discipleship.

Finding a proper balance between outreach “or going to them” and ministry “or drawing them to yourself” is difficult. It’s easy to become so focused on ministries or programs that they become an end in themselves. The goal is to get a crowd of people, instead of reaching them with Gods truth.

A ministry focus also emphasises reaching physical or cultural needs above their spiritual ones. I have absolutely no problem meeting the physical needs of those in my community, yet their greatest need is to accept Christ as their Saviour.

At the same time it’s also easy to keep emphasising outreach above ministry because a program takes lots of planning, and hard work. There’s going to be a high risk level with a ministry as well, particularly in the beginning, so that failure is a big possibility.

Recently I realised that I wasn’t doing a very good job of “bringing them to me”, so a new ministry had to be created.

This is mostly because most of my ministries were based in schools or the prison system, both of which have been shut down because of Covid. Some new programs would need to begin even though those ministries will soon open up.

After prayer and some planning, I came up with two ideas:

  1. A reading help ministry for children
  2. And a computer tutoring ministry for adults, that teaches basic computer skills

Both of these ministries meet a specific need in the community, and emphasise being with one or two individuals at a time. This gives good opportunities for relationship development and sharing Christ.

the interesting thing is though I knew this needed to be done for a long time, I held off on starting the ministries

The reason for this is the risk and failure level of starting something new frightened me

As I planned the launch on these ministries, this fear had to be faced head-on. The greatest tool that the God gave me in fighting this battle is knowing “failure is not the end of the world.”

Of course nobody likes to fail because it brings shame and humiliation

But those failures are used by God to teach us important lessons, and reveal things we need to work on. That may not be enjoyable in the moment, but the growth that comes as a result is worth it. Our failures also reveal our need for God, and draw us closer to Him.

Taking a step of faith is difficult, but its better to live a life of risk that glories God than to live of life of comfort that dishonors Him.

Missions is….wasted days

Yesterday morning I went into Kingstown looking for someone who could replace the battery in my iPhone, which died on Friday. The battery had been giving me trouble for a while, so it wasn’t surprising that this happened.

Getting proper parts for apple phones is difficult here since they need to be shipped from the States. Covid along with other things delays these shipments, so it isn’t uncommon to have to check a few places before finding someone who has it

Around 8:30 yesterday morning I asked a local repair shop if they had a battery for my phone. They didn’t, so an employee called their boss on the phone, who asked me to come back at 12:00.

Suddenly I had a big decision to make….

Do I wait around three hours to see if he can find a part? Or do I come back another day?

Because he asked me to come back at 12:00, I decided to spend the time in town, in hopes that my phone could get fixed.

after running errands, doing sermon-prep, reading, and taking a walk it was finally 12:00. I excitedly went back to the store, hoping to get my iPhone battery.

The employee took one look at me, and called the boss…..

She said “well the man came back”, which is never a good sign

Long story short, he wasn’t able to get the part in time, and asked me to come back today.

I left the store pretty frustrated:

  1. My phone still wasn’t fixed
  2. I’d spent a lot longer time in town than expected
  3. The rest of the day would be spent trying to catch up on the things I was supposed to be doing in Barrouallie during the three-hour wait

Sometimes life brings very unproductive days, or as I like to call them “wasted days.” The truth is these days aren’t exactly wasted but instead you don’t get the things done that you planned to finish. These days are always frustrating, but particularly so when its something outside of your control like my situation yesterday,.

That frustration is a natural and human thing 1. But its how we respond to those frustrations that make a big difference.

  1. You can be bitter for the rest of the day
  2. You can give up and feel sorry for yourself since not much can be accomplished anyways
  3. Or you can accept that situation as the Will of God

Scripture is clear that sometimes our plans are not Gods plans. It may be my plan to get my phone fixed in an hour, and then be back home by 10:30. But Gods plan may be for me to get home at 1:30.

When my plan doesn’t match Gods then the attitude of my heart is revealed.

Will I submit to a wasted day because it is Gods Will? Or will I be angry because the Lord didn’t do things “my way”?

submission to the God’s Will when it’s not the same as ours is hard. But we can do it because whatever God brings into our lives is best

He will never give me a stone when I ask for bread

He will never give me a snake when I ask for an egg

EVERYTHING God brings into my life is for my own benefit

So I submit to the frustrating days spent in town while rejoicing in the productive days, because both come from the loving hand of God.

Around 10:00 this morning I will go back to the cell-phone repair shop and pray the battery can be replaced. Even if it isn’t though, and I have to come back tomorrow, thats okay.

Because that experience is the Will of God

  1. Nobody likes to wait for three hours

Missions is….giving up Convenience

As a missionary there are times when I rely on forms of technology far too much. And this addiction to technology is definitely most evident with my iPhone.

My iPhone 6s is something that I use for everything, admittedly too much. So when it started acting up on Friday afternoon my initial response was panic.

I walked into the house Friday and plugged the phone into a charger while making lunch. A while later I checked the phone, and found it had only gone up a few percentage points, which was strange. After thirty minutes, the percentage had actually gone down!

Frantically, I tried using other cords, but the result was the same. My phone would go up a few percentage points, and then start dropping. By 6:00 Friday night it refused to charge at all.

The problem is probably my phone battery that needs to be replaced. I’m planning to go to get it fixed Monday morning.

Friday did give me flashbacks to when my iPhone died in 2016….and reminded me of a worst case scenario.

I may be without a smartphone!

in 2016 my beloved iPhone 4 gave up the ghost. At the time, I didn’t have funds to buy a new phone, and bringing one from the states isn’t worth the money. Customs would tax me the price of the phone itself once it got here.

So for months I used a block phone

  1. No Facebook app
  2. No twitter
  3. No WhatsApp
  4. No easy texting

At first, this was absolutely awful for me. I would instinctively reach into my pocket in moments of boredom, only to realise my iPhone was no longer usable. The interesting thing is after a while I got used to using a block phone.

I was able to return to the States for a visit in early 2017 and purchase my iPhone 7, but the time without a smartphone was not as painful as I imagined it would be after a few weeks.

My addiction to a smartphone reveals a pretty nasty truth about myself and others….

We worship the convenience technology

Smartphones along with other forms of technology have put a wealth of information at our fingertips. Thanks for 3G, or LTE data packages we can do an amazing amount of tasks within seconds. Yet that convenience instead doesn’t give us more time.

Cal Newport in his excellent book “Digital Minimalism”. Points out that our technology, and smartphones along with social media apps especially, are designed to draw more of our time instead of create more free time.

Yes we are able to get more done in a shorter amount of time with technology. But that same technology demands more and more of our time.

In 2016, the loss of my iPhone had a dramatic affect on me because it made communicating harder. Yet I over time realised the less convenient life was in a way better because less of my time was spent staring at a screen.

Friday night I had to ask myself a serious question….

What if my iPhone isn’t fixable?

Can I go back to living without a smartphone? A life without convenience?

The truth is I believe my phone can be fixed easily, should be up and running in a few days. But my experience in 2016 showed me it was indeed possible to live without the convenience of a smartphone. And Friday reminded me that the Lord desires I be willing to embrace that life again.

Missions is….not Hitting the Snooze Button

One item of technology here I rely upon probably too heavily is “Amazon Alexa.” I use her to play music, read audiobooks, or amplify the sound from my computer while watching a movie. One of the most important jobs of Alexa though is getting me up in the morning.

I’m unfortunately one of those people who likes to hit the snooze button on their alarm most mornings. I tell myself that it will only be hit one time, but it almost never works out that way.

  1. I’ll hit the snooze button three of four times
  2. Wake up incredibly late
  3. Then run around the house trying to make up for lost time

the beauty of having an alarm on my Alexa is it gets progressively louder, and you must get it’s attention by saying “Alexa….stop”, or “Alexa….snooze”.

Occasionally I would say snooze instead of stop, but usually by time I got out of bed, walked into the room, and got her attention, my body was awake enough to turn on the coffee pot.

A few weeks ago I learned something very interesting….

If I spoke loudly, Alexa could hear me while lying in bed!

no longer would I have to get up and ask her to stop. I would just have to say “Alexa snooze” from the comfort of my warm bed, and turn back over.

And so my hitting the snooze button “just one time” began again…and again it didn’t end with one time

My point here isn’t that we shouldn’t get a good nights sleep. Instead an illustration of how easy it is to choose laziness 1 over God’s Will.

The Lord has a calling for each one of our lives. That calling requires hard work, and self-discipline, as well as consistency or faithfulness. The choices of life though complex can be broken down into two paths…..

We can choose laziness, or we can choose discipline

The problem is that our hearts sinful-nature will choose laziness by habit. We will always tell Alexa to snooze from the warmth of our bed instead of getting up like God would want us to.

I realise this is a basic illustration, but it describes a profound truth because the smallest choices we make develop habits within our lives.

Every time I choose to snooze instead of getting up my “laziness habit” becomes stronger….

Every time I make myself get out of bed and start the day properly my “discipline habit” becomes stronger

This is why hitting the snooze button is such a big deal.

Far too often we don’t pay attention to the choices we make (and choose laziness by default). But a life spent hitting the “snooze alarm” will wake up far too late, and mourn the time that has been wasted.

  1. Or my will

Missions is……letting them choose Jesus

Almost every morning I go through the community passing out tracts, and engaging some small talk. The Lord uses these morning walks to sometimes answer questions about Scripture, or share the Gospel.

Along the way there are two cousins named JJ and Azzi who enjoy listening to Bible stories, and excitedly not only read my tracts, but save them up to read later.

During my stories with them, I explain the Gospel as saying “sorry, please, and thank you” to God. Sorry is confessing our sin, and inability to enter heaven because we are sinners. Please is believing that Jesus died for our sins, and placing our faith in Him, asking Christ to save us. Thank you refers a life of submission to Christ.

I would tell them if they ever wanted to know how they can say “sorry, please, and thank you” to God, then ask me whenever we aren’t having a Bible story. And I’d show them from the Bible how they could be saved.’

Last week Azzi stopped me after I handed him a tract, and expressed interest in knowing how he could be saved. I showed him some Bible verses going along with “sorry, please, and thank you” 1. Then ended with Revelation 3:20, behold I stand at the door and knock.

In the past I would always follow this verse up by asking, “is God knocking on your heart right now? And if the answer was yes, ask if they wanted to accept Christ

I didn’t do that with Azzi though….

Instead I told him when he was ready to accept Christ as his Saviour, let me know.

now it would have been incredibly easy to lead him in a sinners prayer on his steps that morning. But I didn’t because experience has taught me many individuals, and children especially, will say yes and pray just because they respect me. That isn’t a conscious decision on their part, but just something to make me happy, therefore they aren’t truly saved.

This week his cousin JJ asked me to show her from the Bible how to be saved. She seems to be closer to salvation than Azzi, but again I asked her to tell me when she was ready.

This may seem cruel, but there is a method to my madness.

Salvation must be a choice

Often we try to take on the role of the Holy Spirt by convicting individuals, and drawing them towards the Lord. There is nothing wrong with confronting sin obviously, but true conviction comes from the Holy Spirit, through the Word of God.

The dangerous thing about me trying to take up the role of the Holy Spirit is often I will try to persuade individuals with my own arguments. While there is a place for apologetics of course, Scripture is what God uses. Therefore, my job as an Christian is to clearly teach the Word of God, and allow the Holy Spirit draw them to Christ.

It is frustrating to see children so close to accepting Christ, but not quite ready to take the step of faith. The temptation is to help them along the way, but its much better to making the Gospel clear each day.

Slowly but surely as I explain “sorry, please, and thank you” to adults and children, the Holy Spirit is beginning to draw them closer to Christ. And my heart longs for the day that Azzi and JJ along with many other Vincentians choose Christ.

  1. romans 3:23, romans 6:23, romans 10:9-10, romans 10:13

Missions is…giving away your jolly ranchers

Once a year I will bring in some barrels around Christmas time since they cost less to clear from customs. Besides my American coffee, the most important item is multiple five-pound bags of jolly ranchers candy.

While I like jolly ranchers, they aren’t really for me. Instead they are rewards for children who come to church, or work with me during the week. They’re also given out to adults along with Bible tracts

This year I brought fewer bags than usual, knowing that I’d start running out sooner. This led to a pretty important choice:

Do I give out less and make it last longer? Or give them out generously and run out faster?

Interestingly, my first thought was to give out as few jolly ranchers as possible so my stash could last longer .

In other words, I was greedy

Think about that for a minute……

I was selfishly hoarding candy!

You may be wondering “why would he be greedy about giving away candy?” And there’s actually a very good reason for that. You can’t get jolly ranchers here 1.

Isn’t it amazing how generous we are with things that can easily be replaced, and how greedy we are with something that we cannot replace?

thankfully the Lord convicted me of my ridiculous candy-hoarding habit, and I began giving out my jolly rancher stash generously. It will be gone soon, but thats okay, other local candies can replace them.

The Lord reminded me through this experience just how important it is to have a spirit of generosity towards others. An attitude that gives willingly and abundantly to those who deserve it.

This spirit of generosity searches for those who have a genuine need, honours those who are doing the right thing, and encourages those who may not have as much as others.

In a more basic sense this generosity understands God wants us to willingly give away everything….even our jolly ranchers! It is the one thing that we cling tightly to with a closed fist that He will lovingly ask for.

  1. Technically you can, but the ones sold here are very old, and not good quality at all

Missions is….explaining sin doesn’t stay sweet

Editors note: This post goes along with one that I wrote yesterday about going to the unsaved instead of expecting them to come to us. It’s true we go to them, but we must not allow them to stay the same way

Saturday night I stood in a road near my house and watched a man who clearly had too much to drink. He got up on a small wall separating a building and an individual’s yard, and I shouted out for him to be careful. He did walk along with the wall without a problem, and then prepared to jump.

I surely thought he would jump to the yard on the right hand side since the ground was much softer than concrete…

He didn’t

I watched in fear as he tried to jump to a small landing on the building only to miss badly, push off from the wall, and fall to the steps below. I immediately ran over to make sure that he was okay, and thanked the Lord he hadn’t suffered any broken bones.

the truly sad thing is I asked him about Sunday, and he didn’t remember any of that happening.

It breaks my heart that see many Vincentians like this man who drink strong rum and water for most of the day, and then are completely drunk at night. This eventually becomes a cycle where they rely on alcohol for their happiness.

It’s true that rum brings a feeling of happiness since your cares or worries are forgotten, but in the end it destroys you. As a friend who used to drink a lot explains “you keep chasing the happiness of that first drink.”

The real problem is things in this world such as alcohol and money cannot make you happy. They were never truly meant to bring happiness. This is only found in Christ.

Last week I began reading Look and Live a very interesting book written by Matt Papa. The books main focus is Christ and the Gospels the only thing that can truly bring happiness.

Here is my favourite quote from the book so far:

“The Triune God is the only thing large enough, and interesting enough to bear the weight of glory, and ultimately worship. Anything else will break your heart”

So in the end, alcoholism is not a physical or mental problem, it is a spiritual problem.

Individuals make rum their source of happiness, and it breaks their heart. The answer isn’t for them to stop drinking, but see that Christ is sweeter than anything the world offers.

Only Those who place their faith in Christ’s Salvation will truly have hope.

Recently I have been praying with a believer whose sister since early February has been deteriorating physically with what ended up being stage four cancer. It brought great sorrow to see her strong sibling go through great pain, and stop eating. But there was hope because that sister knew Christ.

Saturday afternoon she called me to say that her sister had gone home to be with the Lord. Visiting with other church members, it was amazing to notice the calmness and strength of this Christian woman had. She knew in her heart that her sister would be seen again in Heaven.

Yesterday morning she told me that her sisters last words before becoming too weak to talk was “Jesus take me now.” This woman who placed her hope in Christ faced death not with fear, but rejoicing.

The world offers many idols that offer sweetness at first, but become bitter soon. As Believers we must go to the lost encouraging them to throw away their worthless idols, and drink from the Gospel of Christ, which is the only thing that will satisfy.

Missions is…going to them

I was walking by what is commonly called a “rum shop” in the community Tuesday morning when a man called out “pastor!”, and invited me to come in.

A “rum shop” is a small store that sells a number of items. However, it’s most popular item is rum, hence the name. Its common to see men and women spend much of the day sitting in these shops drinking strong rum mixed with water.

As you can imagine, trying to share the Gospel with someone at a rum shop is difficult.

  1. They are usually blasting music filled with profanity
  2. Their language is filled with profanity and blasphemy
  3. Since they have been drinking, outbursts of anger or rage are common
  4. They enjoy attacking my beliefs
  5. And things are done in a very disorganised way 1

A part of me didn’t want to walk into the rum shop Tuesday. But I passed out tracts, and tried to share from the Bible, as profanity blasted from a nearby speaker. Finally because it was too distracting I promised to come back at a better time.

I continue to visit those rum shops though because it’s a Christians responsibility to go to the world instead of expecting the world to come to them

the great commission clearly states that the disciples, along with ourselves, are to “go and make disciples.” The idea here is we don’t wait for them to come to us, but approach them ourselves with the Gospel.

This is because Satan has blinded their eyes to Gods truth, and wants to keep them from church 2. The greater motivation however is the Gospel in which Christ came to me in my own sinfulness. The Lord didn’t wait till I had “cleaned myself up” before coming, but came to me in my sin with the Gospel.

In the same way, christians must go to the unsaved.

For me personally there is a greater reason for sharing at places like a rum shop….

it keeps me from believing in my mind subconsciously, or acting as if I am better than them.

The truth of the matter is we are all sinners desperately in need of God’s help. Till the Lord takes me to Heaven, I will daily struggle with my own sin-nature.

Now my rebellion against God isn’t the same as others, but the Lord doesn’t have different levels of sinner. Instead He proclaims all of us “fall short of the glory of God. 3. Though I don’t believe those other individuals are worse sinners than me in my heart, my actions may speak this message very loudly.

To be honest it can be frustrating when individuals willingly choose sin over the church. Thursday night during prayer meeting a group of men sat on a set of steps directly across the road from where my vehicle was parked. Instead of coming in, they sat there listening to music 4, smoking weed, and cursing. Last night after the evening service I passed a large group of men just up the road from us drinking and listening to music while the service was going on.

Some righteous anger and frustration is right in a situation like this. But it should be anger towards Satan who blinded the minds of these men instead of the men themselves. And this anger motivates me to come where they are with the Gospel instead of developing a heart of bitterness towards them.

  1. They enjoy asking dozens of questions at a time
  2. 2 Corinthians 4:4
  3. Romans 3:23
  4. They did turn it down during the service

Missions is….Building Your Mind and Body

Friday I began listening to the audiobook version of a biography on the life of Theodore Roosevelt. The biographer emphasised a very important conversation in his life that I believe has a great impact upon how we should live.

At a young age Roosevelt had an incredibly strong mind because he was constantly reading, and had a photographic memory. His body however was weak because of many ailments such as asthma, at an early age he seemed to be almost constantly sick.

At around the age of eight, Roosevelts father told him that he, “had the mind, but he had to build the body.”

That conversation was the turning point of his life. From that point, he began to exercise himself physically as strongly as he exercised himself mentally. Any kind of physical activity was embraced with a passion 1.

The immediate application should be clear

We spend far too much time training our minds, and far too little time training our bodies.

To apply this thought directly to my life, much of what I do at home can be viewed as “study” 2 and can be done either hunched over a book, or looking at a screen. There’s nothing wrong with this of course, but when my body or physical strength is neglected, it keeps me from doing the work of God properly.

To put it simply….it doesn’t how much I desire to serve the Lord if I don’t have the energy to serve Him.

The appropriate response to this isn’t to stop building the mind through study, but to build the body as well as the mind through physical activity.

The specific application instead of a regimented exercise program would be to get outside!

there are plenty of adventures to be experienced that will stretch us physically as well as mentally. But we must unplug ourselves from electronics, and take the time to build our body along with our mind.

So let me encourage you my friend to build your body:

  1. Take a walk
  2. Swim in the ocean 3
  3. Play a game
  4. Explore the woods
  5. Examine nature

At first this will be difficult since your body isn’t used to strenuous activity. But given time and effort your strong mind will be paired with an equally strong body.

  1. He took up boxing, wrestling, swimming, rowing, ice-skating, and hunting among other things
  2. Bible reading, sermon prep, writing
  3. If its nearby

Missions is…Investing my Time Wisely

Missions is…Investing my Time Wisely

Friday I was able to celebrate my forty-fifth birthday. It was a relaxing day filled with rest, and fun with friends. Friday was also an opportunity to examine my life, and make goals for the future.

one of the personal goals that I made was to live with a deeper purpose. Put simply, this means wasting as little time as possible.

Though 45 isn’t considered old, I’m reminded that my mind and energy level isn’t what it used to be :-). This of course is natural, since the body wears down as we age. This is why Solomon encouraged his son to “remember thy creator in the days of thy youth.”

Though having limited energy and mental focus is a natural thing. What I DO with those limited items is incredibly important. In other words, I must invest myself in what truly matters.

This means using my time wisely. As as Jonathan Edwards put it; “Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it

in the most profitable way I possibly can.

now “not losing one moment of time” is an unrealistic goal since time will be spent on unimportant things. The focus of Edwards is instead to see time as something incredibly precious, and invest it in things that truly matter.

This is easier said than done because it’s incredibly easy for me to become distracted from the important things 1 and spend time on the more comfortable or enjoyable tasks.

Of course enjoying yourself is not a sinful thing. However, I’ve found in my own life its easy to become “constantly distracted.” There will always be something else to do that turns me away from the mission of God.

fighting distraction and investing my time wisely is hard, but it can be accomplished by focusing on my later years.

Proverbs 5:9-14 contain some of the saddest words in Scripture from a man who at the end of his life, realises that he wasted it.

9 Lest thou give thine honour unto others, and thy years unto the cruel: 10 Lest strangers be filled with thy wealth; and thy labours be in the house of a stranger; 11 And thou mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed, 12 And say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof; 13 And have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me! 14 I was almost in all evil in the midst of the congregation and assembly.

These verses remind me that energy and time are precious commodity that must be invested carefully. Those who live a distracted life will like this man say on their bed “i’ve wasted it!” Much better to say with Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I finished my course, I have kept the faith.”

Today more than ever I’m reminded every day is a gift from God to be used for His glory. And it must be invested in the things that truly matter.

  1. The hard work of ministry

Missions is…dropping the ball

Last Thursday we had our first in-person prayer meeting since the COVID protocols on crowds was lifted. It was a wonderful time of fellowship with singing, testimonies, prayer, and listening to Gods Word being taught.

I was still on a high from Thursday over the weekend, and excitedly looked forward to the Church on Sunday…..

And then Sunday came

Sunday morning was one of those services that didn’t seem to go well at all:

  1. Very little energy
  2. My sermon didn’t go well 1
  3. And it seemed as if a lot of people were discouraged

the truth is, there’s going to be both good and bad services. You’re not going to have fantastic ones all of the time. But it can still be discouraging when that happens.

Having a bad service, or “dropping the ball” as I call it, will bring discouragement. The important thing is moving past the discouragement of that moment, and using it as a learning experience

In my earlier years dropping the ball would lead to a huge pity-party 2. While this did make me feel better in a selfish way, indulging in self-pity did nothing to actually fix the problem that created my bad experience in the first place.

Its better to let the sorrow or frustration of that moment lead to evaluation

  1. Where did I go wrong?
  2. Is there any sin that I have not confessed?
  3. How an I do better in the future?

The thing about this kind of evaluation is it really hurts sometimes. You uncover weaknesses or sinful habits that you would rather overlook. But its only after getting to the bottom of why the problem occurred, and finding a way to fix it , that true growth can come.

Self-pity does make me feel better in the moment, but it does nothing to stop the problem itself, I’d just be setting myself up for a cycle of failure.

After a post-service nap and some extra coffee the Lord helped me take a long hard look at why my message went so poorly that morning. By His grace, that uncomfortable experience led to my doing a much better job Sunday night.

We are guaranteed to drop the ball from time to time

Its what we do after dropping the ball that defines us

  1. I’m reminded of Dr. Martin Loyd Jones who says that sermons are like horses. Every once in a while one bucks you off
  2. Ridiculous amounts of junk food and television

Missions is…an Aggressive Witness

Last year I began sharing Bible stories and a gospel witness with children in a particular area of Barrouallie. A family at the end of the road graciously allowed me to use their house as a “meeting place” of sorts for the children. Most times they would sit along with the small wall outside their home while we sang songs, practiced memory verses, and listened to a Bible story.

Not only did they allow me to meet there, but the family helped by encouraging the children to listen, and pay attention to the story themselves. The wife in particular would sit outside and listen carefully, asking questions afterwards.

A few weeks ago I was talking with her about coming to visit with them for a Scripture reading during the week, and she told me that someone from another church was already meeting with them on Wednesdays. I honestly didn’t think about it too much, but asked Monday about meeting with them another day of the week.

The wife replied that the lady actually met with them online. When she brought up the fact that it was a lady, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach.

It didn’t take long to figure out that she was meeting with a Jehovah’s Witness for weekly studies.

The sad thing is this woman knows the Bible very well. She should be able to see through the false doctrine and beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Yet she proceeded to tell me her personal beliefs that came through her study with that woman.

Many of those are pretty unimportant, like refusing to celebrate Christmas or Easter. But what broke my heart was she doesn’t believe hell brings eternal suffering.

Her view is that a persons body will just burn up, and then there’s nothing left

To be honest I was incredibly convicted by that conversation. Here was a woman sitting less than six-feet away listening while I shared the Gospel, and she didn’t believe in eternal punishment in hell.

this is first and foremost a conviction upon me for not directly sharing the Gospel with her, and learning about her personal spiritual views. It is also a condemnation upon Christians who are too passive when it comes to sharing the Gospel.

Scripture promises that the Lord will open the door for us to share the Gospel. This means He will lead us to the hearts of those that He’s working on. So part of evangelism or outreach is to find the doors that God has opened. At the same time, we are called to share the Gospel in an aggressive, or intentional way.

The reason why this woman started a study with the Jehovah’s Witness is because she came to her, along with many other people in my community every week sharing her doctrine. As the weeks went by she would spend more and more time at the woman’s house.

Finally the Jehovah’s Witness started saving her house for last….giving plenty of time to teach her false doctrine.

I am thankful today that the Lord gives me an opportunity to proclaim the Gospel in front of this woman’s house every day, and she loves to listen. At the same time my heart is broken because so many Christians are looking for just the right opportunity to share Christ, while cults are reaching the entire community.

Missions is…..Submitting to Chaos

Anyone who truly knows me realises I struggle a lot with patience. I find joy in accomplishing tasks, which is a Godly thing, but that can also dishonour the Lord. Its easy to become frustrated and bitter when nothing gets crossed off my “to-do list.”

I happened to experience two of these frustrating “unproductive days” this week since the paperwork for my Visa 1 and my drivers license are due soon. This meant lots of long lines, paperwork, and running to get cash from an ATM for unexpected fees.

Monday was especially frustrating since the lady at the licensing office I came to see didn’t come to work in time. After getting there a little after seven, I got finished at 10:30 because she came to work around 10:00 instead of eight

Days like this are what Dr. Jordan Peterson refers to as “chaos” 2. They are filled with frantic activity and frustrating experiences, which can easily bring discouragement or bitterness.

Referring to chaos, Dr. Peterson encourages us to “create order” instead of being frustrated or angry. In basic terms, this means slowing down, and doing things the right way.

in chaotic or unproductive days, I find myself becoming impatient, and emotional. As you can imagine, this just makes things worse for me.

In those moments I am doing my best to escape the chaos. But what if that chaos was the will of God for my life?

The truth is, God is at work in my life during the chaotic days waiting on people who were supposed to already be there, just like He uses the incredibly productive days. The difference is I submit willingly and happily to the productive days, while I fight chaotic days tooth and nail.

To give a simple illustration…..I had to pay a fee for the visa extension I forgot about, and didn’t have the cash for it. My mind told me to go home, and bring the paperwork back later even though there was an ATN within walking distance. I just didn’t feel like getting the cash, standing in another line to pay the fee, and taking it to the office.

But think about how much more time would be wasted if I had made that emotional decision!

It is true that God sometimes brings frustrating moments into our lives. Those days aren’t meant to frustrate us however, but make us stronger.

  1. It expires at the end of the month
  2. I finished his book Sunday, so the idea was fresh in my mind

Missions is…not trying to do God’s Job

The last few weeks have been pretty busy for me as I’ve been teaching a class at the local Bible College on theology. While very enjoyable, this is exhausting work mentally, so I went to visit some friends and relax Saturday.

Around 6:00 I was ready to go home and reached into my pocket for my car Key, only to find it wasn’t there fn. After checking my bags more than once, checking the road to see if it slipped out, and looking through the grass beside my car, I was becoming nervous. A visit with a high powered flashlight later simply heightened my anxiety.

anxiety is one of the most powerful sins in the arsenal of Satan. It’s power comes from the fact that it feeds off our desire to fix problems. When faced with a problem that we cannot fix, like finding a lost car key, the anxiety gets stronger. This of course creates a cycle of trying harder to fix the problem, and our anxiety becoming even greater when we fail.

Because Satan wants us to respond to anxiety by working harder, we must develop a better response……

Just do your job.

I have learned that the majority of anxiety in my life comes because I am trying to do Gods job. The moment I trust in Him, He steps in and works things out.

Many years ago I heard a sermon where Proverbs 3:6 fn was described as having man’s job, and God’s job, and between those jobs is a large wall. On one side of a wall was mans job, to give God first place in their lives. On the other side of a wall is Gods job, He will work things out. The preacher explained anxiety comes as I get on Gods side of the wall.

Anxiety in this way is actually a blessing because God through it is often saying to us “hey, you are on my side of the wall!” Its also a call to do what we can in the situation, and trust the Lord to do His job.

I did have a peace in my heart Saturday knowing the Lord orchestrates and plans everything that comes into life. If it was the will of God for me to get a locksmith to break into my car and have a new key made, so be it.

Sunday morning while reading my Bible and drinking some coffee my phone rang. It was a church member who asked, “did you lose your keys?” Ten minutes later I was driving my car home!

A man in the area had found my key in the road, and understandably put it on a nearby wall so that nobody would take it. He didn’t realise at the moment it was mine, but once he did had it delivered to the church member who lived nearby.

The thing about anxiety is it never really goes away. We will never apart from heaven ever have a life without worry or concern. But even those anxious moments bring glory to God as we get on our side of wall, and let Him do His job.

Missions is…toughening up (buttercup)

One summer before coming to SVG, I spent a week speaking at a local christian camp. Like most camps the experiences there are built to not only build camaraderie, but challenge teens to push their comfort zones.

I believe it was during one of the challenging games that one girl started to lag behind, so another turned around to her and shouted “suck it up buttercup!“

This phrase was her way of exhorting or “challenging” the other camper the step up in the face of a challenge. It was done in a joking manner, but I remember the young lady who lagged behind immediately pushing herself harder after her friends challenging words.

I actually found the phrase kind of funny, and use it myself as a form of exhortation today, thought I prefer to the better sounding “toughen up buttercup.” Bible College students have heard me use it often this year during a challenging theology class, and they have shouted that mantra back at me more than once.

I personally believe that phrase stuck in my head because in a deeper way, we all need to hear that sometimes. We all know that challenges should be faced with courage and determination, but it’s very easy to become passive or back down instead.

The problem with this is we are created to flourish in challenging situations

Dr. Jordan Peterson in his book “twelve rules for life” explains that facing challenges with confidence is what men in particular are created to do fn. This is true for males and females of course, but especially with males since they are created to find their identity in accomplishing tasks, and protecting others.

the problem with that is today we see fewer and fewer men, as well as women, facing challenges with confidence. There are many different reasons why this is true, but one of the most basic is they don’t have that voice exhorting them to “toughen up.”

Between my ministries in Australia and Saint Vincent, I got serious about running. It eventually became a form of relaxation and enjoyment, mostly because I got involved with a running group. At least twice a week, we would get together for either a long run on Saturday, and speed training on Tuesday.

The truth is I could have endured speed training on my own. But there is absolutely no possibility of surviving the long runs that were part of my marathon training without running partners.

There were many Saturday mornings when I’d have simply turned around and gone home after a few painful miles, or not showed up at all! But my partners were always there to encourage, challenge, and give a push if needed.

The picture at the top of this post was from the most painful and miserable run in my life, don’t let the smile fool you. It was a few weeks before our marathon, and we trained in the cold rain for about twenty miles. Honestly the marathon itself was NOTHING compared to the misery of that morning! But I was able to stand at the end with a smile on my face because of the friends who wouldn’t let me quit.

Life is filled with challenges that will weaken anybody’s confidence. Which is why we need friends who will comfort, encourage, and on occasion tell us to “toughen up”.

Missions is….Noticing when Laziness creeps in

About a week ago I had an emotional experience while watching an episode of “Little House on the Prairie.” My being mentally drained while teaching a college class may have had something to do with it, but the impact of that episode was still real.

it was season two episode one entitled “the richest man in Walnut Grove.” In it, the family goes through a very hard time financially since a job that promised two months wages fell through. Their problem is intensified because they have a very high bill at the local store that needs to be paid.

The father after learning the money he’d counted on wasn’t coming, immediately started looking for jobs. Including draining a lake and digging trenches by hand fn.

The part that got me was when his daughters asked permission to begin doing jobs on their own to pay off the family debt. After being quiet for a moment responds with emotion in his voice, “a family like this makes a man proud.”

Now I realise those aren’t real people, but characters from a book. Yet I couldn’t help but get choked up thinking about how hard they worked for everything they had.

The convicting thing to me is to see how “laziness” can creep in while lives become more comfortable.

Now please understand, I am all for every modern convenience in life. But as convenience and comfort grows, so does our laziness.

  1. We procrastinate on jobs
  2. We are easily distracted from what needs to be done
  3. We are great “starters” but very poor “finishers”
  4. And we have little purpose or planning to life…things are simply too random

The response to this isn’t to eliminate all comforts or conveniences….instead its to notice when laziness creeps into our lives .

The best way to do this is developing a “work ethic” based upon the Puritan work ethic….”work is a gift of God”

  1. Do the work now
  2. Do the work with excellence, no more “thats good enough” jobs
  3. Have a plan in place…know what comes next
  4. And focus on finishing

The Lord doesn’t want me to drain a lake and dig ditches today thankfully. But He does want me to focus on finishing the work of today, while fighting off laziness.

Missions is….Staying Home

Last Wednesday I woke up with a bit of a sore throat, raspy voice, and a lack of energy. It wasn’t anything serious, just the beginnings of a small cold that comes form weather changes 1 and my sleeping with an open window.

Normally I’d just drink some tea to soothe my throat and go on about my business. But last week I spent the day at home instead, because the COVID pandemic which demanded that my immune system be strong.

My day at home became what I would refer to as a day of “rest” but its not actually that doesn’t mean resting from work itself, but resting from ministry. In other words, it was spent catching up on things that I had been neglecting.

  1. Like reading  2 
  2. Organising the house, and doing laundry
  3. Ironing cloths
  4. Editing notes for this weeks class
  5. Filing paperwork
  6. And brainstorming future ministry opportunities

These and many other jobs are incredibly important in ministry . The problem is, they are pushed out by the more public forms of ministry.

  1. Like outreach and evangelism
  2. Relationship development
  3. Counseling
  4. Discipleship
  5. And Visitation

The truth is that “home ministry” which emphasises organisation, and preparation is absolutely necessary if pubic ministry is going to be effective. Public ministry can be accomplished without the behind the scenes work, but it will be random  3 and average  4 .

While a day spent at home doesn’t give exciting experiences or stories for the missions newsletter, it lays the foundation for effective ministry.

I ended up feeling better after a morning of meds and hot tea, but stayed home always.

Because sometimes a day spent at home catching up on your to-do list is the most important ministry.

  1. Rain has been coming and going, which means we have been switching between cooler and warmer weather
  2. I was able to finish an audiobook that day
  3. You have no plan
  4. You don’t complete it with excellence

Missions is…making time for fellowship

Missions is…making time for fellowship

Earlier this week I had lunch with a Vincentian pastor, and missionary who is serving here short-term. It was a wonderful time of fellowship as we talked, shared what was going on in our churches, and encouraged one another.

These afternoons of fellowship are always an encouragement, and challenge to my heart. But to be honest they don’t happen often enough, because fellowship takes time.

True fellowship means scheduling a decent amount of time, and stepping away from your ever growing “to-do list” for a few hours. The amazing thing is even though fellowship with pastors or missionaries is incredibly important, we struggle creating the time for it.

One of the reasons why is ministry keeps us especially busy…but I don’t think thats really the reason.

The reason why is Satan hates christian fellowship

One of the greatest dangers in all of ministry is isolation. I’m not referring physical isolation because ministry means we are constantly around people. I mean isolating our “true selves” 1 from others.

Of course we must be careful not to share our burdens openly with everyone. But there must be a close circle of friends in the ministry who you can share your heart with.

Satan hates fellowship because he knows people who isolate ourselves buy into one of his favourite lies….

your the only one

Your the only one who ever feels this way

Your the only one who has ever made a mistake

Your the only one who struggles with fear or anxiety

The sad thing is the more we believe “your the only one”, the more we will isolate ourselves. This creates a destructive loop which in my opinion has destroyed hundreds of ministries. Because isolation feeds into the deeper sins such as depression, sexual immorality’, and pornography.

Fellowship, on the other hand, brings perspective that proves you aren’t the only one

  1. Other pastors are struggling with the same issues
  2. They don’t have all the answers
  3. and they definitely aren’t perfect

Fellowship does take time and energy, but it is worth every moment, because we are investing in what Satan hates.

  1. Our struggles, needs, personal prayer requests

Missions is…..checking in digitally

I was talking last night with a friend about the affect that COVID had on ministry here. “How are you dealing with how hard it has made ministry?” He asked, I gave him a confused look, so he explained . “I mean how are you going to meet individually with all of those people, and still say safe?”

I smiled at him and said “I don’t”

among the changes in daily ministry here, a great emphasis is placed on digital ministries through texting or phone calls instead of personal visits. The interesting thing is, I’ve seen the Lord use those ministries in a greater way than the face to face meetings.

There are many reasons that texting encouraging thoughts to fellow believers is a powerful ministry, but the greatest is it’s a regular or “constant” relationship.

Personal visits are better because they allow you to give your full attention to the individual. In this time the persons needs can be clearly understood, and Scriptural principles that meet their particular need can be shared. Most importantly, the relationship is greatly strengthened through that one on one conversation.

There is one drawback with the personal visits though…..

You normally only do them once a week

This is why along with personal visits, there must be a ministry of “checking in” on people through text message, or phone calls. Sadly we often overlook this part of ministry. This Is usually because our lives become too busy, or even worse, we don’t think its important

This kind of ministry is vital for the local church because its through this Believers edify, and equip one another. Satan knows this of course, so he gives any excuse he can to keep it from happening:

  1. You don’t have anything important to say
  2. You will be interrupting their important conversations
  3. They don’t want to hear from you anyways
  4. Or you can always check in later 1

The COVID pandemic has focused most of my ministry on texting or phone calls, which means “checking in” is now a big part of what I do. It’s honestly not anything serious:

  1. I share bible verses
  2. A video of a choir singing an old hymn
  3. A quick note written to encourage them
  4. Or a quote, or article that is encouraging

But those brief check-ins have had a deep impact, and now others are sending me their own digital devotionals.

The Lord through this has reminded me constant communication with our brothers and sisters in Christ is a huge part of the local churches ministry.

It is easy to overlook texting because it isn’t as meaningful as a personal visit, however there is a transforming power in a digital relationship focused on helping others grow to become like Christ.

  1. Of course “later” never really comes

Missions is….Ministering while their hearts are open

Close by the church is a house with a brother and three sisters. The Lord has allowed me to have a strong influence upon their lives through Bible stories, reading help, and church services that they would attend regularly.

A few weeks ago I finished teaching a class at the Bible College and came to visit them (hadn’t been by a lot during the class). They weren’t able to come out, which wasn’t too surprising, since we are under stronger safety protocols as a result of the COVID pandemic.

Sadly I haven’t been able to reconnect them since getting back….

It isn’t because I’m not trying

But because they no longer have an interest in me.

This actually isn’t a new thing. I learned a long time ago that as young people get older they feel as if they’re too “cool” to listen to bible stories, or spend time with me. This is actually a natural thing as the teenage years approach. I’ve learned to emphasise ministry in a Childs life before the turn twelve.

The Lord through this experience reminded me of a very important lesson…your time of influence is limited.

Satan loves to tell us that we have “plenty of time”

  1. You have plenty of time to share the Gospel
  2. You have plenty of time to get that friend into church
  3. You have plenty of time to reconcile that relationship with a brother or sister in christ
  4. You have plenty of time to train or disciple that child
  5. You have plenty of time to do that work for God

Of course he knows thats just no true

Yes there may be time for us to do those things, however the window of opportunity that God provides is limited.

The Lord brings seasons into life when our hearts are “tender” or open to His work. This can be because of age, experiences, or a special work of the Lord in our lives. It is when the heart is tender that ministry is most effective.

Because of this the devil wants to “harden” the tender heart by any means necesary. It can begin by something small, but soon that individual who loved to hear about the Lord has no interest in Him.

Our response to this is simple…..

Minister while their hearts are tender

And walk away if their hearts are hard 1.

It is tempting to focus our energy on that hard heart, particularly if there is a strong relationship there. Yet often God orchestrates this as other hearts are tender or open towards the Gospel while those have been hardened. It is far more effective to join with the Lord by ministering to those He is working on.

It was sad to walk away from a house where children used to run out at the sound of my voice, but now they just stay inside. Yet I rest in the fact that God is the one who softens hardened hearts.

It is not my job to change people…it is my job to proclaim Gods truth to those who are willing to listen.

  1. There are situations of course when the Lord wants us to continue ministering to someone whose heart is hard.

True Love must be Tough

Last Friday I was able to begin a reading help program with five fifth graders (not using the material pictured). The first session was spent getting to know one another, explaining some of my rules, and showing them those rules will be enforced.

I bring different colored pens that the students can use to write out vocabulary words since they enjoy picking their favorite color. Since they like to change their mind and pick another color (taking up lots of time) I warn them you are stuck with the pen you pick, so choose carefully.

Shortly after we started one of the students began to complain that his pen didn’t write well. After making sure it hadn’t run out of ink, I told him he would just have to use that one till next week. He immediately started complaining about how unfair this was, till I calmly told him if he kept it up I would just take him back down to the teacher.

He didn’t say anything else but out of the corner of my eye I saw his hand move very quickly. Looking down I saw his pen in front of another student, and that students pen in his hand! My first inclination was to give him another chance, but because I’d warned him already, he was immediately taken down to his teacher. It was with great shame he sat down as the teacher learned the student wasn’t able to follow instructions.

This experience reminded me that true love must be tough…its not enough to have rules, you must enforce those rules

Actually Fridays experience didn’t surprise me at all…in fact I expected it. This is because we as a general rule (children especially) test boundaries or rules to see if someone will actually do what they say.

This is a clear indication of our sinful hearts. Its a well known fact that if you tell a child in very clear terms not to do something, that is the ONE THING they are certain to do! We have a sinful nature inside of us that rebels against anything that tells us no.

This sinful desire to test boundaries means setting clearly defined rules with consequences, and backing them up is an incredibly loving act.

We don’t usually think of love that way. We believe the loving act would be to give the student “one more chance” because it’s the first day after all. Yet that’s actually one of the most unloving acts we do. Every time I allow or overlook disobedience, it tells them that it’s okay to sin. This also affects their view of authority, seeing them as someone who says consequences will come, but they never will.

Contrast this with disobedience bringing consequences. This clearly shows what they are doing is wrong, and over time makes a change in their lives.

Some children think it’s funny to be loud and obnoxious while I’m trying to share a Bible story, or tell children about the Lord. They aren’t being incredibly rebellious, just being children, but at the same time this disobedience cannot be tolerated.

Once I actually stopped teaching since it was impossible to continue while three boys were constantly interrupting me. After packing my bag I calmly called them to come over so we could talk. Sitting down on a bench we had a conversation about how God wasn’t happy with what they were doing, and it was disrespectful to me. Before leaving it was made clear that the next time they disrupted things, I would take all three of them to the police station.

The next day the ringleader of the boys came and sat down as I started telling a Bible story. He sat quietly, didn’t give me any trouble, and I made sure to give him a reward for his good behavior. What made the difference? Calmly explaining I wouldn’t allow that kind of disrespect to continue.

It’s my belief young people are searching for people they can believe in. People who have rules, celebrate when those rules are followed, and bring consequences when they are broken. When they find someone who lives out “tough love” they will follow them all the way.

The Door is Still Open!

As a Believer, it is difficult seeing so much religious freedom being taken away from Christians, while more freedom is given to other religious groups.

Of course they don’t outlaw Christian beliefs outright, but there is a growing movement that views Biblical Truth as “hate speech.”

One of the more interesting illustrations of this is from Twitter that in July announced they would begin banning people who used “dehumanizing language toward religious groups.”

allow me to clarify that I don’t agree with any kind of hate speech, or violence towards other religions. However the word “dehumanizing” is obviously used to include things such as truth people don’t agree with.

It’s easy to become frustrated with the lack of religious freedom today (and we should be). However, lets also remember there are places where huge amounts of religious freedom are still enjoyed.

For almost four years It’s been a privilege for me to live in Barrouallie, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. One of the things I truly love about this town is it has a true love for the Lord. Sadly there are many “religious” people who aren’t “saved” but it is still a blessing:

  1. To be in a town where people not only take tracts, but reread them on other days
  2. School is begun with prayer, and a devotional
  3. And Principals in the school Christmas program explain the Gospel clearly

Yesterday I finished a seven-week counseling ministry in a local prison. Because yesterday was the end, we had a little celebration, that was attended by the superintendent of prisons. It thrilled my heart to hear him encourage three inmates to develop a personal relationship with God, and quote from the book of Isaiah!

As the celebration finished we joined hands and I led in a prayer asking the Lord to continue working in the inmates lives. Before letting go of my hand he gave me a very firm handshake, and said “thank you brother John!”

It is true that the door seems to be closing (very slowly) to the Gospel in some countries. But its an encouragement to know that in others the door is wide open.

Genesis 3:8-Beware of Sin

Genesis 3:7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. 8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.

This week I read an incredibly convicting article written by Sam Parkinson entitled “beware of sin.” While The whole article is well worth your time, the following paragraph is especially powerful.

But, I can promise you this: there is no climbing out for the one who refuses to let go habitual, unconfessed sin. You can try as hard as you may, clawing at the mud and gravel and tree roots with a free hand—as long as the other hand clutches onto that sin, the ditch is your home. You can’t have both. You can protect your image and refuse to confess your sins openly if you wish, but it comes at the cost of deep and abiding communion with God. That is what you have to sacrifice on the altar of pride in order to “save face.” 1

I’m thankful the Lord used that article along with Genesis 3:7-8 to remind me of some sins in my life that had been confessed, but the habit had not been broken (repentance had not come).

We know the story of Genesis three so well its easy to move past the details without really thinking.

  1. Adam and Eve had chosen to eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, breaking Gods ONE rule
  2. Immediately they realized their nakedness (sinfulness before God) and because of shame hid themselves from Him
  3. And when confronted by God, they both chose to blame someone else instead of owning their sins.

Not much has changed since the Garden of Eden

Gods voice still calls us to confession and repentance

And we still choose to hide or make excuses

Because the conviction of God (and inner guilt or shame) brings pain, and as Sam Parkinson points out “a loss of reputation.” it’s easier to just stay behind the tree. But hiding our sin, or acting as if it isn’t that big of a deal anyways hinders our walk with God.

It’s only as we step out from our hiding place, and allow the conviction of God to bring true repentance through the power of the Holy Spirit, that the relationship can be restored.

Make no mistake, God sees you hiding your sin behind the tree, and those who refuse to own their sin will experience it’s curse.

But those who allow God to break them through His judgment and cleanse them will find that their curse has already been placed upon Christ.


1 Peter 4:16-The Joy of Suffering

1 Peter4:16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf

Suffering isn’t something that many of us particularly enjoy, so verses like 1 Peter 4:16, James 1:2-3 1, and Matthew 5:10-12 2 are a bit confusing. The natural response when suffering comes is to escape it, not be happy!

However, 1 Peter explains to us that we have many reasons to praise God for trials, even though they do bring pain.

  1. Suffering for righteousness sake (not because of sin or mistakes we have made) comes because the wicked are convicted by our actions and message (1 Peter 3:14-17) 3
  2. Suffering for righteousness sake connects us with Christ, who suffered on our behalf (1 Peter 3:18) 4 (1 Peter 4:1) 5
  3. Those who suffer for righteousness sake will also partake in the Glory of Christ (1 Peter 4:13) 6

While these are wonderful reasons, the greatest one for rejoicing is found in the three words “as a Christian.”

The Christian life (if lived properly) is absolutely guaranteed to bring suffering. There is persecution from the unsaved who are convicted by our Gospel witness, from the culture because of our testimony, and from Satan who wants to keep us from growing Spiritually.

So when suffering comes, it means that we are doing something right!

Of course the phrase “as a Christian” is also incredibly important because it means we are suffering for the right reasons. Someone who suffers because of sinful actions because of sin shouldn’t respond with rejoicing, but confession and repentance. But those who truly do suffer “for righteousness sake” can rest in the fact that it brings God Glory.

1 Peter 4:16 is an important reminder that a comfortable life without pain should not be our goal. In fact this could mean we are dishonoring God, and Satan doesn’t see a reason to attack us! Instead we should daily look for opportunities to stand on the front lines spiritually, and “endure hardness as a good Solder of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3)

  1. “Count it all joy when ye fall into diverse temptations. Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.”
  2. “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.”
  3. 1Pet. 3:14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: 1Pet. 3:16   Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. 17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.
  4. For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
  5. Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;
  6. But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

Acts 15:9-An Applied Theology

Acts 15:9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.

I recently began studying the book of Galatians, which gives a strong defense of Salvation by Grace through Faith instead of works. The Lord used Paul to write this book because Jews were teaching Gentiles you had to adopt the Jewish law in order to be saved 1.

Peter strongly stood against this false doctrine, knowing that now our relationship with God is based on faith instead of Nationality (Acts 10:34-35). Later when these unbelieving Jews came to Jerusalem (15:1) he gave a strong defense for Gentiles being saved, and not Jews alone (15:6-11).

Sadly though Paul knew Salvation was for all Doctrinally, his actions didn’t always match that belief practically.

A well known passage describes this hypocrisy of Peter

Gal. 2:11   But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. 12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.

Peter was eating food with Gentiles that didn’t fit into the Old Testament dietary laws. But when men who were part of the “circumcision party” came from Jerusalem, he immediately stopped.

This wasn’t Peter excusing himself from the Gentiles to eat with the Jews. The word “withdrew” in this passage gives the idea of someone shrinking back, or sneaking backwards in a stealthy way. The word “separated” gives the idea of building divisions (walls) of separation.

Paul with his actions was clearly stating Gentiles had to live by the Jewish law in order to be saved.

Peter knew the law no longer had a hold on him (2:14) and Salvation only comes by faith not works (2:15-19). Yet for a brief moment he disconnected his theology from practice, and ended up affecting other members of the local Church (2:13).

The application is simple.

Theology cannot just impact the mind……

It must be applied to life.

  1. They were told you had to be circumcised in order to be saved

Revelation 1:18-The Problem with “Storybook Jesus”

Revelation 1:18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

I am blessed by God to be the son of a pastor so that from a very young age I was always a part of Church services. The truths taught there led me to accept the Lord as my Savior, and accept a call to missions.

At the same time there are certain things in Church that annoy me

Near the top of this list is what I like to call “storybook Jesus.”

By this I mean the picture of Jesus that we see of Jesus in storybooks or literature for children.

  1. He is almost always white
  2. WIth long brown hair
  3. Blue eyes
  4. And either holding a lamb, or welcoming a child

I do understand this picture of Jesus is necessary while teaching children. However, the idea of storybook Jesus continues outside of that young age.

Notice for instance the following picture of Jesus on the cross

I do give them credit for making him Jewish with short dark hair. But it seems as if He is having a nice leisurely chat on the cross!

The greatest danger of storybook Jesus is people believe that’s all He will ever be

  1. A gentle shepherd who seeks out the wandering sheep
  2. A loving Savior who told people not to “judge anyone”
  3. A friend who accepted everyone

what the idea of storybook Jesus doesn’t grasp is Jesus did come as a loving Savior, but he isn’t returning as one.

He is returning as a righteous judge

  1. Whose return won’t be met by rejoicing but wailing (Revelation 1:7)
  2. Whose Glory led John the apostle to faint (Revelation 1:12-17)
  3. Who all of the unsaved will hide from (Revelation 6:15-17)
  4. Who will kill so many people at Armageddon the blood will rise five-feet, and travel for 180 miles (Revelation 14:14-20, Revelation 19:11-16)
  5. And Who will cast Satan (Revelation 20:10) and all unsaved into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15)

Yes there is a place for the storybook Jesus who died on the cross for our sins, but we must make sure people know He will return as King Jesus

Nehemiah 6:16-Finish the Work!

Nehemiah 6:16 And It came to pass, that when all our enemies heard thereof, and all the heathen that were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes: for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God.

Nehemiah chapter six is in my opinion one of the greatest pictures of consistency in all of Scripture.

As the wall nears its completion (6:1) the enemy of Nehemiah Sanballat becomes desperate to stop the work in any way possible.

  1. He calls Nehemiah to meet with him in the plain of Ono (6:2)
  2. Spread lies about Nehemiah hoping that he would stop the work and defend his reputation (6:5-8)
  3. Tried to discourage Nehemiah saying they would never finish (6:9)
  4. And had a Jew encourage Nehemiah to hide in the temple (therefore weakening his testimony) (6:10-14)

Nehemiah’s response to every attempt was the same

Nehemiah 6:3 And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?

To put it in more basic terms, I’m not coming down till the job is done!

This passage is an important reminder that Satan chooses to distract us from the work of God instead of tempting us to reject it. He will encourage us to focus on another secondary task, since you can always return to the important job. However, our moment of distraction will open up an opportunity for attack.

Sanballat asks Nehemiah to meet him in a distant place called Ono to sign a peace treaty. Of course the reason why somewhere far away was chosen is so Nehemiah cannot protect the wall from their attack that would come while he’s gone.

In the same way Satan uses our moment of distraction from the important work of God to gain a victory.

The point is the world needs finishers….

People who won’t quit on a job or become distracted from it until the job is done

May the Lord help us stay on the wall doing His work, and not come down until it is finished

Confession is Not Rpentance

Ezra 9:5   And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the LORD my God,

I was recently having a conversation with a prisoner at our weekly prison ministry about why so many of them are incarcerated again shortly after getting out. It’s not uncommon to see men return in less than three-months, and last year one come back after only three weeks of freedom!

It’s a confusing situation because most of the men (I believe) are genuinely sorry for what they had done, and have no intention of coming back.

So why do they keep returning? It seems that they don’t understand the difference between confession and repentance.

Confession is being sorry for what you have done

Repentance is making life changes, and turning from those sinful actions in the power of God

Ezra is a scribe who is in the middle of building a new temple when he hears that the people of Israel had intermarried with the wicked people around them (Ezra 9:1-2). He responds to this extreme sin with great sorrow by rending his clothes, plucking hair from his head and beard, and then sitting in astonished silence. Following this time of silence however he turns to the Lord in prayer (9:5).

This prayer includes a remembrance of Gods goodness to Israel (9:6-9), detailed confession of their breaking God’s law (9:10-14), and submission to His will (9:15)

We see Ezra turn from the sorrow of confession (I arose up from my heaviness 9:5) and turn to God in humble prayer. In my opinion this is what makes the difference between confession and repentance.

That doesn’t mean we can’t try to bring repentance in our own strength. But without God’s help it becomes an endless cycle of sinning, confessing that sin, and then failing again.

It may take longer for us to fail sometimes…but the failure still comes.

This is why the sorrow of confession must lead to hands being helplessly stretched out to God

There is definitely a place for confession and sorrow for sin life. But if there is no transformation of the heart as we turn to God then we are bound to find ourselves in the same situation very soon.

The Problem with a Sinners Prayer

Michael Ricardi wrote an article this week entitled Should I use the Sinners Prayer in Evangelism?. I appreciated this article, and others like it since many people on the mission field base their Salvation on praying a prayer instead of faith in Christ.

Allow me to clarify that I have no problem with the sinners prayer itself (neither does Mr. Ricardi). But this prayer by itself cannot save anyone. That takes confession of sin, belief that Jesus paid your sin-debt, and choosing to accept Christ as your Savior (romans 10:9-13)

Without a choice of the heart, a sinners prayer is just another form of works Salvation.

The truly sad thing about this is many pray that prayer, but then go on with an unchanged heart, and believe they will go to Heaven.

Working with children I have seen many young people pray the sinners prayer (one boy has done it at least three times!) but there is no transformation or spiritual fruit!

What are we supposed to do about this?

In my personal opinion the best thing to do is constantly clarify the Gospel.

God has promised that conviction of the heart (John 16:8-11) and revealing of God’s truth (John 14:25-27) is done by the Holy Spirit. My job is to continue sharing the Word of God faithfully, and allow it to impact lives (Hebrews 4:12). Part of this may include telling people in love that just praying a prayer cannot save them.

In other words the Gospel does the work…not me 1.

This is an incredibly freeing idea because there’s a temptation to place pressure on someone who has prayed a prayer, but not chosen Christ as their Savior. While confrontation of sin is necessary (especially if they rely on a prayer to save them), we can rest in knowing the Word of God can penetrate the heart our words cannot.

So we preach God’s word,

Clarify what it means to accept Christ,

And let the Gospel do its work

  1. You can read a bit more about this idea at the following post

Zechariah 14:9-The Coming King

Zechariah 14:9 And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.

Last Sunday I ended a brief overview of eschatology in the book of Revelation. In a way it was frightening to see God step aside and allow Satan to have greater freedom upon earth during “the Great Tribulation”.

During that time Satan through the Anti-Christ will:

  1. Physically control the entire world (13:1-2)
  2. Gain the worship of the world (13:3-4)
  3. Openly blaspheme God without punishment (for a time) (13:5)
  4. Martyr Christians (13:6)
  5. And cause the whole world to pledge allegiance to him by taking the mark (13:16-17)

When reading things like this its easy to ask “Where is God?” The truth is however that God’s still in divine control. As stated earlier He is allowing Satan freedom for a short time.

When that time of freedom for Satan ends, there is nothing he can do to extend it

Rev. 20:1   And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, 3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.

Notice the weakness of Satan in this passage:

  1. He is captured, and bound
  2. He is thrown into Hell
  3. And cannot escape that place until God is ready to let him out!

Zechariah 14:9 is an encouragement for us because we live in a world where wickedness often does reign. Its easy to become discouraged or bitter towards the Lord as we see Satan seem to win one victory over another.

But we can rest in the fact that someday the short-lived reign of Satan will end, and the eternal reign of our Savior will begin.

Even so come Lord Jesus

Psalms 141:5. The End of Excuses

Psalms 141:5 Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head: for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities.

For the last two weeks I’ve been involved in a counseling ministry with a group of prisoners at Belle Isle Correctional Facility. This program uses Biblical stories to help offenders get a clearer understanding of how their actions affect victims, and prepare them for life following incarceratoin.

this morning we went through an exercise thinking about excuses Zacchaeus may have made for taking extra tax money

  1. People disrespected him
  2. He had debts to pay
  3. In younger years he didn’t have much
  4. Somebody else would get the job anyways (why not him?)
  5. And he was trying to motivate others to fight against Rome

it was interesting through the exercise to find Zacchaeus had some good, legitimate reasons for doing what he did. And those reasons became rationalizations (excuses) as to why his sin wasn’t actually a big deal.

As we finished the session it seemed as if the men started to grasp how excuses (even legitimate reasons) kept them from seeing how their actions affected others.

It was a blessing to be used by God to show their excuses didn’t make sin right. But it was also a reminder that each one of us hide behind our excuses occasionally.

the words of David in Psalms 141:5 are strange because he calls smiting a kindness! In my personal opinion he is referring to a reproof (confrontation) that points out sin that needs to be dealt with.

This confrontation is a blessing because its goal is to bring repentance and growth in a persons life (Galatians 6:1) instead of tripping the person up spiritually (Psalms 140:1-5). Though painful, those experiences restore the relationship with God, and fellow Believers.

Of course this doesn’t mean that we can go around being “Jerks for Jesus” and condemning everyone that we see. But I’m afraid the awkwardness of these confrontations keeps most Christians from doing it at all.

The point is cutting through someones excuses and revealing their sin is a kindness, even if they don’t feel that way.

The Sovereignty of God and Toner Ink

I don’t think that any Christian would actually question the Sovereignty of God (belief that God is in divine control of everything that happens in our lives). But occasionally the Lord graciously reminds us of that fact.

A huge blessing for me on the mission field is a laser printer that I bought last Christmas. It allows me to do tons of printing without replacing the ink cartridge. However, when the time does come to replace my toner that becomes a problem since the ink can’t be found in SVG.

because of this I usually contact my parents in the States and have them ship over a new toner cartridge once my pinter starts flashing the “low ink” message.

One of the few drawbacks of living in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is it takes lots of time for a package to arrive. Mail will be delivered in about two-weeks, but a package can take closer to four. Last time my parents sent ink it took five weeks!

Obviously living without my printer for a few weeks isn’t the end of the world (ink usually ends about two-weeks after the low ink message starts flashing). But it is one of those moments I wish a Walmart was nearby 🙂

A few Sundays ago my printer ink ran out. My brother had sent the new toner, but that had been less than four weeks before so I didn’t expect it to come for at least one more week. But since I was in Kingstown for other business anyways, I decided to check the post office.

Imagine my surprise when they came back with my toner!

If my toner hadn’t arrived it wouldn’t have shaken my faith in God (I honestly didn’t expect it to be there). But I am thankful the Lord gave me an encouraging reminder He is in sovereignly in control of something as small as the mail service.

The Need for a Tender Heart

2 Chronicles 34:27 Because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God, when thou heardest his words against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, and humbledst thyself before me, and didst rend thy clothes, and weep before me; I have even heard thee also, saith the LORD.

King Josiah is an interesting contrast with his wicked grandfather Manasseh, and wicked son Jehoahaz who was taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon (2 Chron. 36:6). The contrast isn’t really about his leadership however, but King Josiah’s heart.

The Stubborn Heart of Manasseh (2 Chron. 33:10)

Manasseh could not have been any different than his Godly father King Hezekiah, rebuilding the altars for idols that had been torn down (33:1-3), and indulging in Satanic rituals (33:6). Though God warned him about these sins, Manasseh stubbornly refused to obey (33:10).

It was later after he had been taken to Babylon in chains that Manasseh cried out to the Lord for help, and was restored to power (33:12-13). Though God die bless his kingdom, the damage had already been done since his son Amon continued in ways of wickedness.

The Tender Heart of Josiah (2 Chron. 34:19-21)

King Josiah began his kingdom well with a committed return to the ways of David and Solomon (34:1-3), but it wasn’t till the law of God is found that we see his heart of humility.

During a renovation of the temple, a copy of the OT law was found, which included many laws the Jews were no longer obeying. When the law was read to the King, he responded with repentance immediately.

2 Chronicles 34:19 And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the law, that he rent his clothes.

Because Josiah displayed immediate repentance and seeking of Gods mercy (34:21-22) God kept the Babylonian captivity from coming during his own reign (34:27).

Sadly this tenderness towards God didn’t continue with Josiah’s son Jehoahaz…

The Hardened Heart of Jehoahaz (36:13-16)

Though he was given many warnings, the son of Josiah continually hardened his heart instead of submitting like Manasseh. There is a good chance that this was part of God’s plan so that Israel would be taken captive by Babylon

The difference between these three hearts was their obedience to God:

  1. The stubborn heart obeys because it has to (is forced to)
  2. The Tender heart obeys because it wants to
  3. The Hardened heart refuses to obey at all

If we think about it, most of us would find the stubborn heart of Manasseh in our lives far too often. An attitude that will obey, but only when God absolutely makes us do it!

May the Lord help us develop tender hearts that at the first moment of temptation respond with tears of repentance