Missions Teaches me to Preach Themes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Confrontation is followed by an Invitation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Write the Bad Songs Too”

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

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

Write the bad songs too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because He takes great pleasure in using weak things.

Missions is Sharing Random Experiences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Missions is Giving Quietly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I like to explain it this way…..

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

Who gave you more?

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

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

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

Missions Is Learning From Your Failures

Last week I made a pretty dumb mistake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And for me, that means embracing it.

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

This means asking some hard questions.

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

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

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

Missions is Deep Study

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thankfully I had a West Virginia house

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

My morning ritual stayed the same

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

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

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

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

Make it a top priority

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

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

Missions Is being a (Spiritual) Father

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

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

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

Boys need fathers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Berry through everything gave them a Biblical view of manhood

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

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

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

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

Missions Is Feeding Who You Can

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

In other words, “I’m hungry!”

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

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

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

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

But I CAN feed some of them

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

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

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

But they gave it to Jesus…..

And Christ did a spectacular thing with it.

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

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

Missions is Showing Them Works Aren’t Enough

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

Eventually they almost always make the same statement….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We will all answer to God for ourselves.

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

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

Nothing else satisfies the Holiness of God.

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

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

Missions is Working in Hard-Soil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because so many have not accepted Christ.

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

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

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

Missions is Finding Tender Hearts

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

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

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

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

That’s God’s job.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How God Used My Quiet Anger

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

There is a very special reason for this…..

We were going to Disney world!!!

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

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

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

The Lines were long…..I mean INCREDIBLY LONG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Missions is Not Cleaning Yourself Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Missions is Moving Away from Facebook

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

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

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

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

actually you can…but not a very strong one.

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

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

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

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

Missions is Cat Naps

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

Instead I ended up in bed at 7:30.

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

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

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

Which is where cat naps come in

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

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

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

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

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

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

Missions is Listening Instead of Speaking

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

I figured they had called me by accident…..

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

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

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

And asked the Lord to keep my mouth shut.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Missions is Appreciating Gods Protection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Missions is Calming Conflict

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The answer is very simple…..

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

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

This should NEVER be the response of a Christian!

Instead we calm the situation

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

It isn’t just about calmness though…..

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

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

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

Missions is Learning New Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

Really, really bad!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Not quite ready for that yet

Missions is embracing the silence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Cannot Reach Everyone

SAMSUNG CSC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Missions is Admitting Something Isn’t Working

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Missions is Not Taking the Bait

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

In recent months he has told me:

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

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

But I didn’t respond…….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of course he hadn’t.

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

Missions is Taking Advantage of God Moments

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

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

Which is sadly something I forgot Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

That was a mistake…….

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

The God moment was gone!

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

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

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

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

Missions is Not Forgetting the Forgotten

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They forget because it’s too late

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

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

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

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

Missions is Taking the Hard Road

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

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

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

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

So obviously he couldn’t really be lazy right?

Well actually, the answer is yes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Missions is Being Safe, but not Scared

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

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

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

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

We also encourage safety in Church services:

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

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

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

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

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

Ministry cannot be done this way!

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

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

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

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

Missions is Eliminating Distracting Voices

Tuesday afternoon I was stuck in the house (we have been getting lots of rain, and its difficult to do ministry because people stay home). In a moment of boredom, I pulled out my phone, and checked the Facebook app.

More than ten minutes later, I was still scrolling away….

In that moment the Holy Spirit convicted me. “Why is it?” I thought to myself, “that anytime I’m bored or things are slow that I immediately go to Facebook or twitter?”

What truly convicted me is down time could be an opportunity to bring myself closer to the Lord. I could read Scripture, pray, get into a good Christian book, or (gasp) just be silent! But instead I reach for my phone when the least hint of boredom comes.

I knew what the Holy Spirit wanted me to do, but it took a while to do it

I deleted the Facebook app

And then I deleted the Twitter App

Now I can still communicate through them, but this means using a web-browser, which is more difficult.

I thought that was the end of my cutting back on distractions, but then the charger to my Alexa broke on Thursday (getting a replacement next month).

Without apps, music, or audio-books I’m suddenly left with a lot of silence! But it is in that silence that the Lord does HIs work.

Since Tuesday I’ve noticed that my mind is clearer. In other words I have a very clear understanding of what the Lord wants me to do.

I’ve also found I’m spending a lot more time praying to the Lord. And its a lot easier to memorise the Scripture verse on a notecard when your phone doesn’t have social media!

The Lord has reminded me since Tuesday that the world offers a lot of distractions:

  1. Social media is a distraction
  2. TV (including streaming services) is a distraction
  3. The internet is a distraction

The voices of these distractions are trying to do one thing…..drown out the voice of God.

I’m not saying that everyone should delete their Facebook and Twitter apps, or stop watching TV. But we must make sure that the voice of God drowns out the voice of the world.

God Brings Fruit

Monday night I was walking up the road to my house when a man stopped me in the road. “Your going home?” he asked, when I told him I was, he told me he’d come by the house in a few minutes to read some Scripture.

When he came back about ten minutes later, I could tell something was on his mind. So I asked why he had come.

He told me “I need to repent.”

This man is someone who the Lord has really placed a burden upon my heart for. He’s in his mid-forties, and works hard, but spends much of his time at a local rum-shop drinking. Sadly, because he has a slight learning disability, some people there take advantage of him.

I was praying that the Lord would save him, and protect him from people who were taking advantage.

Earlier that day, he had been talking with his sister in the States. She told him that he needs to “change his ways”, or turn back to God. Step one in that process was to accept Christ.

He came on my porch because he wanted to be saved, but didn’t know the words to pray

I led him through some Scriptures that presented the Gospel, and he responded by accepting Christ as His Saviour. I do believe this was a genuine conversion since he sought me out.

This experience reminded me that God is the one who will bring fruit.

It is tempting sometimes to try to take the place of God and “bring people to Salvation” myself. But my job is to simply proclaim Gods truth. The Holy Spirit will convict, and lead towards Salvation.

Please pray as I begin to disciple my friend. He does have an addiction to alcohol that must be dealt with, and desperately needs Christian men who will be a Godly influence upon his life.

I am grateful for this reminder that if we are faithful in sharing the word, it will bring fruit.

Missions is Filling Your Own Cup

Last Thursday I came home from teaching the last session of an Eschatology class, shut the door, and didn’t come back out!

Thats a bit abnormal since I’m usually out doing ministry in the community. When afternoon ministries started back Monday some were wondering where I went, but most said “oh he’s teaching at the college.”

The thing is they are used to me not being around during College classes…….

Because they drain me not only physically, but spiritually

Teaching in a way that glorifies the Lord takes a strong mind, energetic body, and passion for the Truths of Scripture. This means your physical cup (personal health) has to be filled, but your spiritual cup (devotional life) must be full as well.

It is possible to teach without a strong devotional life. But the lessons will become lifeless, and worse than that done in your own strength.

Paul David Tripp in his excellent book “Dangerous Calling” explains the danger of studying the Bible for a sermon instead of personal life change.

He found himself in his devotional time coming up with lots of information for an upcoming sermon he would preach. As he left the room, God convicted his heart about focusing on what he would say to others instead of what the Lord would say to him.

Tripp explains this as one of the greatest dangers Pastors face. Studying Scripture (coming up without outlines) instead of actually meditating upon Scripture

It’s possible to have a head full of knowledge, but a heart that is distant from the Lord.

Last Thursday with the Lords help I filled my cup

  1. With a nap
  2. Something good to eat
  3. And time with the Lord

Because only a heart that is full can truly impact lives for God.

Missions is Checking In

A few weeks ago I was sitting in a kitchen after teaching an eschatology class when a friend in Barrouallie called. She asked if everything was okay because I hadn’t been by to see her as usual on Monday.

I apologised to her, and explained the class kept me from visiting regularly. After hanging up I put my face in my hands and groaned.

There’s a lot of things I do very well, communicating with people isn’t one of them. It isn’t that I don’t want to communicate, usually I just forget to do it like a few weeks ago. When life gets busy, communication with others through text, or phone call doesn’t seem important.

The problem is it’s incredibly important

During the global pandemic people just don’t gather as much as they used to. This means it’s easy for some individuals to be suffering, and nobody knows.

I recently was having a conversation with a friend who was frustrated that friends don’t check in on each other anymore

  1. They don’t call to see how things are going
  2. They don’t make sure they have necessary things like food
  3. They don’t come to visit

Now more than ever before its important to make a habit of “checking in” with people

And often thats through a phone call, or text message.

Checking in digitally is a small thing, so it’s easy to think it doesn’t make a difference at all. But we have all had friends whose text message, or quick phone call have brightened our day. Or got that call out of the blue to say “I’m praying for you.”

These loving messages are a HUGE form of ministry!

I put my head in my hands because I kew that I’d dropped the ball…..

A sister in Christ had been waiting for my weekly visit, and I never came.

She was waiting for my usual text messages, but her phone was silent.

I’m grateful for the conviction God brought to my heart that moment, because it reminded me just how important daily affirmation and encouragement online is.

Missions is Reading the Bible Slowly, and Repeatedly

Last month I read the short book “how to eat your bible” by Nate Pickowicz. It’s an excellent resource on basic homiletics (how to study the Bible), but his main point is what made the book so powerful for me.

Pickowicz shared how like many, his devotional life used to be dry, lifeless, and inconsistent. He had no love for Scripture! After God convicted him about this, he went home and opened a MacArthur study bible his father had given him.

In it he found what John Macarthur’s Bible reading program that focuses on reading a book of the Bible every day for thirty days.

Here’s how he explains it……

“My method when I was in seminary was to read 1 John every day for thirty days. You can do it this way, too. The first day just read 1 John all the way through. It will take you only 25 or 30 minutes. The idea is to read it through the first day, then on the second day read it through again; on the third day, read it through again….Basically, this is what I do all the time. As I prepare messages, I just read through the particular Bible book over and over again until the whole book fills my mind in a kind of visual perception. I would also suggest that you take a three-by-five card and write down the major theme of each chapter.” – How to Study the Bible, pages 111-112

The author in his book breaks this reading program down to taking around seven years.

I know what you’re thinking…….

How could I take seven years to read the Bible???

The beauty of this program is the goal isn’t just reading the Bible through, but actually internalising, and meditating on what the Bible says.

Pastor Pickowicz throughout the book says reading the Bible through in a year is a good goal. However to do this, we usually end up reading very quickly. He explains it as “glancing a truth”. So it’s easy for the busyness of the day, or other issues to push that truth from our minds.

However reading the same passage every day for thirty days is closely examining the truth instead of just giving it a casual glance. Over that time, we will begin to understand everything that book teaches, and be able to apply it to life.

Sunday I finished my 30-day reading of 1 Timothy, and began 2 Timothy (started slightly late). After doing this for a month, along with the author, I can tell you Scripture becomes sweeter as you meditate upon it more.

Reading the Bible through in a year is not a bad goal.

But for those who have done it many times, closely examining Scripture one book at a time is a better goal

Missions is Losing Your American Weight

A few weeks after coming back from my medical furlough, I came to the Bible College in order to deliver some things. The school secretary hearing my voice walked out to say good morning, but when she saw me stopped, and her mouth dropped open.

“You look…different” she said slowly.

I smiled and said “you mean fat!”

Since that time the majority of my the weight I gained during my time in the States has been lost. The header picture was taken last weekend, you can compare it with the one taken the morning I flew back to SVG below.

Step one of the losing my American weight (slimming down) is close to complete, so I’lll shortly begin step two which focuses on strength training.

Missions has taught me that effectiveness means having a strong body, mind, and spiritual life.

It’s interesting that the discipline of physical strength is often overlooked. But a strong commitment to the Lord (spiritual life) and vision for ministry (mental life) is little good if my body is out of energy after a short walk.

For me personally having a strong body is hard because being skinny here is easy 1. But there is a difference between being skinny, and being strong.

The strength training of losing my American weight is something I’m definitely not looking forward to. It revolves around a home exercise program that hurts a lot! But over time that pain will build stronger muscles, that can climb the hills of Barrouallie with the Gospel of Christ.

So the strength training starts today

Because life’s too short to do Gods work with a weak body

  1. You walk a lot, and sweat in the hot sun

Missions is Investing in People

Tomorrow I finish my last day of teaching an Eschatology class at Baptist Bible College of the Caribbean (final exam is Friday). It’s been a wonderful experience, but my energy is usually low on the ride home.

During the first few classes I stopped at a local supermarket to buy a coke ($3.50 East Caribbean dollars, $1.30 US), and often stopped at another one to buy some cakes on the way in for $2.00 EC.

This isn’t a lot obviously, the cakes and coke are just over $2 a day! And after a solid morning of teaching, I definitely deserve the treat.

But other than one pack of cookies for $2 East Caribbean dollars, I haven’t spent any money on snacks.

This isn’t because I couldn’t afford it……

It’s because ministering to others with that money is a far better investment.

  1. Last weekend I drove a friend to an area two-hours away because he needed to meet people there, and public transport doesn’t go that far often
  2. Saturday I’m taking some young people on a celebration trip for graduating from High School. We will have a nice meal (my treat of course), drive up to the other side of the island, and take lots of pictures
  3. And Friday I’m taking the college students out for their traditional meal celebrating the end of our class

Obviously road trips, celebrations, and lunches are amazing ministry opportunities. But they also cost money.

Because ministry costs money, I therefore choose to live simply.

Living simply is just a nicer way of saying cheap :-). It means living without things like coke, cookies, or ice-cream so that more money can be given towards others.

Living simply is difficult sometimes. But the rewards of being invested in others is well worth the sacrifice.

The four hour drive with a friend gave us lots of time to talk about what the Lord is doing in our lives, and what He wanted us to do in the future. We spent almost a whole tank of gas, but the conversation itself was well worth the money spent.

Things like coke and cookies aren’t sinful, but they’re gone in a moment. Investing our money in helping others draw closer to the Lord will outlive our earthy influence.

Missions is Interpreting Scripture with Scripture

For the past two weeks I’ve been teaching a class on Eschatology (the study of end times) at a local Bible College. While all classes are enjoyable, this one was especially fun for me.

When dealing with the Tribulation, lots of tough questions arise

  1. What is the Abomination of Desolation?
  2. What Is the mark of the beast? And why does it use the number 666?
  3. If someone rejects the Gospel before the rapture, can they get saved in the Tribulation?
  4. Can Matthew 24:40-41 refer to the rapture when the immediate context clearly refers to the Jews?
  5. And what does it mean when Scripture says the Holy Spirit “he who hinders” will be removed in the Tribulation?

When wrestling with these, and other hard questions I keep coming back to a foundational view of Biblical interpretation…

We interpret Scripture with Scripture

This means we observe and study the passage itself instead of sharing our own opinions about what it means. Scripture interprets itself as we look for repeated words and phrases, as well as the major theme/focus of the passage.

Each of the above questions, and many others were much easier to understand when we looked at the ENTIRE PASSAGE, and then thought about the truth God had emphasised In it.

The true importance of interpreting Scripture with Scripture is the other option is much more dangerous.

If I don’t interpret a passage with its context, then it’s interpreted with my own ideas. And we can very easily emphasise secondary things, while ignoring the passages main truth.

Last week we had a great discussion about the mark of the beast, and “666” in Revelation 13. One of the students thought the number in particular had to be very significant. But as we looked through the passage, it became clear the beasts marking was secondary.

The primary truth was the Anti-Christs demand that all of the people in the world worship him. This demand came from Satan, who from the very beginning, wanted to be “like the most high.”

So what does the number 666 mean?

Listen to me very carefully….

we don’t know!

And thats okay, because God didn’t emphasise that in Scripture. If He wanted us to make the number of the beast an emphasis, the Lord would have put it in more Scripture.

God does not need me to speak for Him. If I study His word, the Holy Spirit promises to reveal His truth.

Missions is Enduring Bad Days

Wednesday was a bad day!

It didn’t start out that way. Actually I was feeling pretty good after two exciting days of teaching an Eschatology class with lots of great discussion. But mid-way through hour two, I began to lose all energy.

By the end of class I felt like I’d been run over by an eighteen wheeler!

After getting home, the rest of the day revolved around taking pain meds, and staying in bed.

It’s easy sometimes to have a romanticised view of ministry. We see missionaries or pastors as individuals who are always confident, and never have a bad day. But that just isn’t true!

Bad days are a part of the christian life, so we must prepare ourselves for them.

Occasionally a bad day can sneak up on your like it did for me on Wednesday. But in most cases, its possible to be ready for those discouraging experiences.

Thursday morning I was ready for the loss of energy that got me down Wednesday. In this case the preventative measure was drinking almost an entire pot of coffee while teaching. Thankfully my energy stayed strong, and we had a great day.

Throughout the years I’ve actually learned to rely heavily on coffee, prayer, taking with family, and extra rest on bad days. It’s not always possible to keep the discouragement from coming, but I can have a healthy way to deal with it.

It would be nice if every day was perfect. But in this sinful world, we will become discouraged sometimes.

Thankfully God gives grace to face those bad days, and a new day brings us renewed hope.

Missions is Learning From Your Scars

I recently had a conversation with a friend in the ministry, and when I asked him how things were going, he brought up the phrase “many stripes.”

This of course is a reference to Christ, by whose stripes (suffering) we are healed (cleansed of our sins). But he was also referring to the scars of ministry. We talked for a while about how our foolish (not sinful) decisions lead to painful scars.

Last Monday I returned in Barrouallie after teaching an Eschatology class at a local bible college. The combination of the teaching and driving (an hour up, and an hour back) had left me pretty tired. I opened the back door of my car, and then without thinking, bent down to pick up my bag. This resulted my forehead hitting the car, and giving me a small cut.

The foolish decisions of life often lead to scars, and pain (in my case physical). This is especially true for those in ministry.

The important thing isn’t to try to escape scars because they will definitely come…….

It is to learn from those scars.

The thing about scars is they hurt! Nobody enjoys failing or experiencing consequences of a foolish action. But we must allow God to use those painful experiences to make us more like Christ.

There are two major responses to painful experiences:

  1. We can learn from our scars, and commit ourselves not to making the same mistake again
  2. Or we can retreat to a place of safety, so that we never experience another scar

When our foolish mistake leaves a scar, Satan loves to come in our moment of weakness. He will say “you see! This is what will happen EVERY TIME you try to serve God! It would be better to stay where its safe, and not take any risks.

Of course this is a lie

  1. Failure is not a constant part of our lives
  2. And there is no such thing as a safe place, where we won’t experience pain

It’s far better to understand scars are Gods way of highlighting weaknesses in our lives. He does this in love, so that we can turn to Him for restoration.

The scars then are a picture not of our failure, but Gods Redemption

Missions is not Taking Gods Grace for Granted

This week the Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines began to take stronger measures to control the growth of the Covid Delta Variant. I completely agree with these measures, since this virus can affect so many people.

God has been incredibly gracious to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. If the Delta variant reached into the communities, it would prove disastrous since we are a very small Country. There would be few places to hide.

Currently most islands around us like Barbados, Trinidad, St. Lucia, and Grenada are all locked down, and under extreme measures to control the spread of Covid. Meanwhile Vincentians have no curfew or lockdown, and few safety measures in place.

This freedom is a blessing for which we should praise God! My concern though is the people are taking Gods protection for granted.

In February when the Covid numbers were very high, everyone took their safety and health seriously. But since then things have become more and more relaxed.

In a way it’s as if the people don’t believe God will do anything to them.

This is a very serious problem!

Scripture teaches us the grace and protection of God is meant to draw us towards repentance instead of taking advantage of Him. The Lord is patient with us because He doesn’t want anyone to experience the penalty of sin. However, those who ignore the repeated warnings have only themselves to blame when His judgement comes.

Reverence for God worships His grace, but also knows that grace will not last forever.

Thursday night I encouraged a group of Christian friends to “take their safety seriously” because we will experience community spread of the Delta-variant eventually.

Flights from the US are coming in every Saturday, and though the Vincentian government is doing an excellent job with quarantine, it only takes one individual with Covid to start a serious problem.

This doesn’t mean everyone should get the vaccine like I have

It does mean that we should prepare for the day when Gods grace will be temporarily removed.

Missions is Knowing My Job isn’t to Bring Fruit

I have a small stack of tracts on my bookshelf. They are the final remnants of the 2,000 tracts that were ordered last October.

I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to pass out those tracts, yet there has been no fruit from it (that I know of).

This isn’t to say that people don’t take the tracts, most do! But rarely have they led to an opportunity to share the Gospel, and there have been no decisions to accept Christ.

To be honest the lack of fruit gets me down sometimes. It makes me feel as if the entire work of ministry relies upon me. So if I don’t accomplish the work, it won’t get done.

But thats not true!

It isn’t my job to bring fruit….thats Gods job

My job is to faithfully do the work, even if I don’t see any fruit

It is incredibly important that I realise my job is to consistently obey God. Otherwise, anytime things don’t work out perfectly Satan can tell me that I’ve “failed’ , and I will believe it. Even worse. I will endeavour to do the work of God in my own strength instead of His!

On the other hand, when I understand faithfulness is my job, I can do it with confidence!

  1. So I put on my hat and sunglasses
  2. Pass out tracts in the community, and engage with Vincentians
  3. And return with a sweat-soaked shirt, but an understanding I’ve done my job

Ministry is throwing the seed of the Gospel far and wide, knowing that God the Father will bring fruit.

Missions is Dealing With the Root Problem

Friday morning I sat on the porch with a mother who was incredibly frustrated by an adult son who has struggled for years with an addiction to alcohol. With pain in her voice, she shared the fear that her son would face the same fate as her own father and brother, to die from the physical affects of alcoholism.

My heart broke for this mother, but I also realised she was approaching things the wrong way.

Because of past experiences in her family, this mother was entirely focused on getting her son to stop drinking. In her mind if he didn’t drink anymore, the problem would be fixed.

But drinking was not her sons problem….

A Sinful heart is

On her porch Friday I explained that its important for us to deal with the “root problem” which is his sinful heart (he does not yet know Christ). Once this young mans heart is right with God, then the outer issues such as alcoholism will be changed. But if you focus on the drinking, he could stop that, and still have a sinful heart.

To put it another way, the outer issues such as drinking, profanity, or rebellion are symptoms of the true problem (a wicked heart)

For true change to come we must deal with the problem not the symptoms.

I am eternally grateful for a college professor who used an illustration in class that drove this point home. A teenage girl used to come home from school every day depressed because kids made fun of her. She would lock herself in her room, and eat two bags of Doritos every day. Her father decided this had to stop, and told her “don’t eat Doritos for two hours every day!”

Obviously this is ridiculous because the Doritos weren’t the problem. The problem was this teenagers increasing loneliness and depression. In the same way even if this son did stop drinking, the real problem isn’t dealt with.

As Christians we must do the hard work of helping individuals make sense of their lives with the Word of God. And a big part of this work is understanding its never about the Doritos.

Missions is Doing Your Cultural Homework

One day after getting out of quarantine, I went to visit some friends at a local shop. After asking about my time in America, and commenting on how fat I got, we got caught up on recent news.

For around a half-hour many of the more controversial issues in the US were discussed.

  1. The Covid Delta Variant
  2. Vaccinations
  3. The need for quarantine before entering a country
  4. And Afghanistan

I won’t go into detail about my views on each 1. Instead I want to highlight the fact that people in foreign countries love to discuss current events in America. I’ve had MANY political discussions leading up the the recent presidential election in the streets of Barrouallie!

These conversations about what’s going in the United States shows me just how much what goes on in America affects other Countries….

And it also challenges me to do my cultural homework

In 2008 I was with a group of American missionaries in an Australian coffee shop. As we were talking an Aussie asked if we were American, then proceeded to tell us who to vote for, and why. That was one of my first experiences like that so it kind of surprised me. But as those conversations continued, I realised it was important to not only have a stance on controversial issues, but be able to defend them.

Sunday I finished the audible version of “Faultlines” by Voddie Baucham. I had read the kindle version of the book, but enjoyed the audible version better because it allowed me to listen to chapters more than once.

Throughout the book, you realise Baucham is someone who has done his homework. He understands Critical Race Theory 2 better than almost anyone who holds to the view! In a spirit of love and humility, Baucham takes apart the arguments for CRT, and shows just how damaging this view is.

This calm and technical discussion of the problem is very different than the way we (myself included) usually deal with controversial issues. We share “hot takes” that are taken as fact without any proof, then anyone who disagrees with us is mis-represented.

This is not standing for the truth friends…..

This is laziness!

It’s easy to send a tweet or Facebook post about a controversial issue, it’s hard to clearly explain and defend your viewpoint sitting across the table from someone who disagrees.

Yes we should stand for the truth, and call out sin. But have a foundation of Scripture, and clear understanding instead of personal opinion.

  1. Those who are interested in my views can contact me directly
  2. The cultural issue he challenges in the book

Missions is Seeing the Grace of God

Thursday night I was pretty busy after prayer meeting driving members to separate communities on the other side of Barrouallie, and then driving a family who were walking back over the hill.

I pulled in front of the church and turned off the car, only to realise that I didn’t pull up far enough.

I turned the key to start the engine….and it wouldn’t turn over.

I ended up having some friends give me a jump start in the morning, but thought it was odd since there was no reason for the battery to be dead. We ended up starting the battery and letting the car run for about ten minutes.

After that I turned it off, and tried to start the car again….

Nothing happened

A bit of research that afternoon revealed that it was problem with my alternator since the battery itself wouldn’t hold a charge.

To be honest, situations like this are frustrating because my car is such an essential ministry tool. But the Lord did bless me in the tough situation.

  1. I broke down in front of the church instead of on the road in the middle of the night
  2. A friend who I trust was able to diagnose the problem with my alternator
  3. A replacement alternator can be purchased in town for a reasonable price (I will get it Monday)
  4. And the same friend who found the problem, will be able to replace my alternator for a cheap price
  5. The Lord even supplied someone who will give me a ride to get the part tomorrow morning!

The Lord does not promise us that hardship won’t come. But He does promise to give grace in that hard time. It may not always be easy to see the grace of God, but we can rest in the fact that His protecting hand always cares for us.

Missions is Being Angry for the Right Reasons

Ephesians 4:26 “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:”

People in Barrouallie don’t see me angry a lot, because it takes a lot to make me angry. But they saw me angry Friday.

And thats okay….

Because it was something worth getting angry over.

Occasionally I bring some balls from America for children in the community to play with. It gives them something constructive to do, and helps build relationships.

Friday afternoon a little boy was happily playing with a ball when a teenager playing soccer nearby decided to take ball from him.

Seeing the little boy in tears because a teenager took his ball is something worth getting angry over

After we got the ball back, he went back to waiting for his soccer game. When he saw me approaching and calling his name, he immediately jumped up and ran a safe distance away.

There was not yelling or vulgar language

But I made very clear to him that taking a ball from a little boy didn’t make him a man. I went as far as to challenge him to take the ball out of my hand if he was man enough (he wasn’t).

Anger should not be a constant characteristic of our lives. But on ocassion, anger explained in calm terms and a controlled spirit is necessary to confront sin.

The reason this boy habitually took balls from little children is nobody did anything about it. A lady shouted at him to give the ball back, but never actually got up to make him do so. She then told me it was my fault because I shouldn’t have brought the balls anyways! Because nobody stood up and called it wrong, he just kept doing it.

The Lord reminded me Friday that I could have given the boy a break (he was a teenager after all!) but sometimes somebody needs to stand up and say “this is wrong.”

Missions is Taking Care of Yourself So You Can Care for Others

Since returning from the medical furlough, I’ve tried to make “self-care” a part of my daily ministry.

Self-care is basically what it sounds like, taking care of yourself! For me, it means making my own physical fitness a priority.

My self-care habits include things like

  1. One or two (usually two) brief naps a day
  2. Constantly wearing sunglasses to protect my eyes
  3. Eating healthy meals
  4. And setting aside time each day for relaxation

These and other habits are important because I’ve learned ministry cannot be done at 100% if I am not at 100%

The months leading up to my medical furlough was a painful reminder of this. The lack of proper eyesight affected my energy greatly since lots of my bodies strength went into helping me see. I had a desire to do the work, but lacked the energy to accomplish it.

It is possible to minister when you’re at about 75% or 80% physically, but it simply isn’t effective.

More than that….

Lack fo self-care damages ministry

I came back to the States beat up not only physically, but mentally, and emotionally because of my cataracts. Looking back, I can see this issue came because I didn’t take care of myself (my eyes particularly).

During my time home I re-committed myself not only to spiritual health, but personal health. Which means eating right, wearing my sunglasses, and making sure I get enough rest.

Because in order to help others, sometimes I need to take care of John first.

Missions is an Open Bible

Backpacks are a pretty common part of daily life in Barrouallie since you do lots of walking, and have to carry things with you.

Mine usually has the following items

  1. A book
  2. A notebook for journaling Scripture
  3. My Kindle
  4. And my carrying around bible

The carrying around Bible is a smaller one (the one above is my study bible) used in ministry during the day. Using a Bible on your phone is more convenient, but I’ve found a physical copy is much better when ministering to people. I like to turn the passage so it faces them directly, then they can read along with me.

My carrying around Bible has proved very useful in not only sharing the Gospel, but sharing devotional thoughts, and answering questions. Some people have begun asking me questions about Scripture as I pass by because they know that I carry a Bible in my bag.

The true reason why I carry a Bible however is because thats what God uses to transform lives….

And Satan hates it.

Monday I sat down in front of church with a man and we read through Psalms 91 together. A gentleman was sitting on some steps nearby, and asked me to speak louder so that he could hear. As we read and discussed, he nodded his head in agreement with what we were saying.

The same man stopped me the next day and after some small talk, started asking me questions about the Bible. It soon became clear that instead of agreeing with Scripture, he felt the Bible was a useless book.

During our conversation he told me

  1. The Bible had no facts in it
  2. The people in it never existed
  3. It was actually written by King James
  4. And the white man (his words) took the black mans story, then wrote the Bible so that they could control the blacks

Many times as we talked for about an hour he told me “I don’t want to talk about that (my open bible), I want to talk about facts.”

Now I have no animosity towards him, and the truth is, he wasn’t angry with me. But throughout the hour-long conversation, his goal was to get me to stop using the Bible.

And each time I refused….

Because if the Bible isn’t my foundation, then my own opinion is

Satan hates the Bible with a passion because it’s the Word of God. So he wants to draw us away from it. This isn’t normally done through false doctrine or complete rejection of Scripture, but using our own ideas and opinions instead of Scripture.

This is why ministry of every kind in my humble opinion must be done with an open Bible.

Though he didn’t say it this way, the man in our conversation was constantly telling me to “close the Bible” and give him “facts” (my opinion). But I reused because he wasn’t the one who wanted a closed Bible, it was Satan.

Missions is truly helping the poor

In April shortly after the La Soufrière volcano erupted, I was cleaning in front of the church one day, and heard a woman begin walking up the street shouting very loudly. At first I couldn’t make out what she was saying, but as she came closer I recognised the same words were being repeated over and over again.

“I’m hungry!”

She was an evacuee staying in a nearby resource centre who got in trouble for leaving without permission, and going to get a bag of bread. Her words actually haunted me because I knew many of the people in Barrouallie were saying the same thing.


They may not be shouting it in the middle of the road…

But they were still hungry

Lack of consistent day to day jobs means parents (usually the father) try to do enough odd jobs in order to buy food for that day. Vincentians aren’t malnourished, but getting money for the food can be a struggle.

The initial response to this problem is feeding everyone we possibly can, but that actually creates more problems .

In 2014, Steven Corbett and Brian Fikkert wrote a book called “When helping hurts.” It is without a doubt the best book I’ve read on the subject of poverty. Their main point is that relief should equip the poor to do work, instead of building dependence.

Relief can easily become a vicious cycle were individuals come for help whenever there is a need. Obviously in a time of great need we should help, but this can become a habit so when a financial need arises instead of trying to meet it themselves, they come to us. In extreme cases, this creates a sense of entitlement where individuals feel the deserve relief, and are upset if they don’t receive it.

Instead of creating a cycle that makes us their “saviour”, relief should be a reward for their effort.

This morning I met with an older man who asks for money every time he sees me. Because he spends all of his money on rum, I refuse to do so. Friday I made a deal with him, if he sat down and read through a psalm with me, I would give him a bag of rice (enough for one meal).

He was standing at my gate early this morning ready for his bag of rice! But after I reminded him of our deal, we went down to the church, and spent some time reading through Psalm 91 which describes Gods as our refuge, and stronghold. At the end I explained how God would meet his needs if he gave the Lord control of his life.

He left very happy (with a bag of rice) and promised to be back next Monday to study another Psalm (and get more rice)

Later this morning I gave some money to three men at a local shop so they could buy chicken to enjoy for supper later that day. In return they promised to help me burn a huge pile of brush in my backyard (we cut back some bushes recently).

In this way the relief encourages and builds them up. Because this isn’t simply charity, but recognising hard work that they are doing for me.

It is true that in times of extreme need we give relief……

But most of the time what people truly need is a reward after a job well done

Sometimes God Makes You Wait

Last Saturday I returned from the States to Saint Vincent at the conclusion of my medical furlough. The trip itself was actually incredibly easy! The only time I waited was for thirty-minutes before my flight left Miami for SVG.

The easy trip also reminded me how hard it used to be to travel from home to SVG!

Today American Airlines does all of the flights. In past years however, no US airlines went into SVG. So instead American Airlines would bring me to another island, and from there I would catch an island airline for the trip to SVG.

Being at the other island didn’t bother me, but other issues at that airport made things frustrating.

  1. They would not let you inside The air-conditioned airport till the afternoon, so you spend hours outside in the sun
  2. You had to get all your luggage (both checked bags and carry ons) then keep them till the airline allowed you to re-check them
  3. The airlines at this particular island had an incredibly strict policy about baggage weight. Not only did the checked bags have to be under 50 pounds (extra bags were not allowed) but our carry on couldn’t be more than 20 pounds!

The most frustrating thing about that airport though was the planes never being on time.

I can remember the first time flying with the island airline to SVG. My flight was boarding in about half an hour, and over the intercom they gave an announcement that another flight had been delayed. Passengers on that flight were told that they would get more information at 8:30

A lady on the delayed flight started getting very upset and shouting. The louder she got, the more passengers on it started agreeing with her. Around a half-hour later, they announced a flight for HER DESTINATION was now boarding!

About ten minutes after that an announcement came to say MY FLIGHT had been delayed, and more information would come at 8:30. I leaned over to a friend who was flying over with with me, and whispered, “they gave her our plane!”

Though I can laugh about that experience now, it was pretty frustrating in the moment. Yet the Lord used this experience especially to teach me patience.

One of the greatest blessings of life today is we live in an “instant society” where almost anything can be obtained in a few minutes. This is an incredible blessing, but at the same time it’s a curse. When we DO have to wait, it often feels like the end of the world.

A huge issue with the instant society is we expect God to work “instantly”, or on our schedule. And when He doesn’t we become bitter.

This is why the Lord often makes us wait…..

These waiting experiences teach us patience, and remind us that Gods the one truly in control. They also often reveal the sinful attitudes of our hearts that need to be dealt with.

And more than anything, they remind us that God doesn’t work according to our schedule.

Missions Teaches Me God Shows Up in My Darkest Moment

Friday morning my bags were packed, weighed, and standing in the garage waiting for my flight to Saint Vincent. I went to have coffee with a missionary friend excited about boarding a plane and going back to the Caribbean early Saturday morning.

There was just one thing left

A negative Covid test

For obvious reasons that I totally understand, the St. Vincent Government requires a negative Covid test before entering the country. This test, referred to as a PCR, takes twenty-four to forty-eight hours to complete. This test must be taken no more than three days before leaving.

Thursday morning I took the test, and began checking my email, as well as the clinics website for my test results.

When they weren’t there by 12:00 Friday afternoon I started getting nervous…..

When they weren’t there by 6:00 Friday evening I got really scared.

in hindsight, it would have been better for me to go to a clinic that guaranteed results within 24-hours. By Friday evening there was nothing I could could do about that however. Before going to bed that evening I made plans with my parents to go to the airport at the regular time, and if the PCR wasn’t there, reschedule the flight for next Saturday since the SVG flight only happens once a week.

I woke up early Saturday with a pretty bad attitude to be honest that didn’t have a lot of faith. After checking the email for results (there were none) I decided to check the clinics website one last time.

To my incredible joy, it came in during the night!

I personally believe the Lord allowed me to use a clinic that didn’t guarantee 24-hour results (though I definitely will use one next time). He did this to give me yet another illustration of His redemption.

The Lord takes great joy in redeeming us in our darkest moments, when we have given up hope. This way the glory is given only to Him, because we ourselves have lost faith.”

I’m reminded of the disciples when Christ sent them out onto the sea while He prayed. During the night, a huge storm came up that threatened to kill them, then in the early morning Christ came walking to them.

The disciples thought they had already died and said “it is a ghost!” But then they heard the voice of the Saviour saying “it is I, be not afraid.”

I’m also reminded of another storm Jesus calmed for the disciples. Then He turned to them and asked “where is your faith?”

It is sometimes the Will of God that we endure setbacks, and we should be prepared for them. But I was reminded (and convicted) yesterday morning on the way to the airport that its in the darkest moments God shows up.

And we should be looking for Him.

Rediscovering Fellowship

One of the things I miss during the medical furlough is the cooler evening hours. Actually it isn’t the cooler weather that’s missed, but what happens in Barrouallie when the sun starts to set.

Around 6:00 every night, people will start either putting chairs out in front of their house, or going to one of the public areas like a park. By 6:30 the whole community is filled with people sitting around talking bout their day.

There isn’t a lot of serious conversation going on in the evening. Pretty much just small talk about the weather, current events, and whats going on in your life. Yet it develops strong relationships as you spend day after day just spending time together.

This gathering every evening makes the me think about fellowship.

Fellowship for a Believer should mean spending extended periods of time during the week with other Christians. The busyness of life makes this incredibly difficult, so we enjoy fellowship with one another during church services.

This is better than nothing……

But fellowship should be something we do more than twice a week.

One thing I love about the Vincentian culture is it makes time with friends a priority. There will always be more tasks to accomplish, but they will set those aside, in order to spend time with friends. Because the Vincentians know that having strong relationships is more important.

The thing about fellowship is it has to be a conscious choice

  1. You choose to take the initiative in developing relationships
  2. You choose to set aside time for that relationship to grow
  3. You choose to enjoy the quiet moments of “small talk”
  4. You choose to share more and more or yourself over time

For many of us we only have time for a Sunday or Wednesday fellowship because so much is going on. But others choose that fellowship because its easier, or safer.

As someone who has experienced both let me tell you….

Twice a week fellowship is a poor replacement for daily fellowship.

Grace for the New Day

One of the things I love most about living in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is our amazing sunsets.

Honestly almost every evening I can walk down a large hill towards our main road and see an incredible sunset over the nearby ocean.

The beauty of those sunsets is just part of it though…..

The other part is knowing God will give grace for a new day.

Life is filled with endless tasks, and to-do lists. It’s pretty much impossible to get everything done! For me, the sun setting is the Lord’s way of saying “that’s it for today! You can do more tomorrow.””

Of course this doesn’t mean I sit around doing nothing after the sun goes down!

  1. I make my plans for the next day, and prepare for ministry opportunities
  2. Organise things (clean, iron, maybe cook something for the next day)
  3. Read articles or books
  4. And communicate with loved ones

I can work deep into the night (and sometimes do). But I’ve found spending evenings in evaluation and preparation for the following day makes me far more effective.

When my “spiritual cup has been filled” so to speak through reading, prayer, and planning I’m more than ready for another day of warfare.

The world wants us like Martha to rush from one task to the next till we collapse in the bed from exhaustion. But time is better spent sitting at the feet of Jesus

Steak or Baby Food

In mid-January 2017 the Lord led me to begin going deeper in my study of Hermeneutics (Biblical Interpretation). This would help not only myself, but others as I taught Scripture, and helped them study the Bible for themselves.

One of the books I used in this study was Grasping Gods Word by Scott Duvall, and Daniel Hays. In it, they gave one of the best allegories I’ve ever heard of Bible study.

They say that studying Scripture is often like sitting down to a meal. We expect to eat steak, but keep getting baby food!

They follow up this thought with a process that can be used to find steak in a passage instead of strained peas.

The problem isn’t always that we don’t have a process to study scripture though. It’s that we are too easily satisfied with baby food.

Practically this moving directly to the easier parts of study (interpretation, application) while ignoring the hard part (observation). We find a very basic truth in Scripture, and simply satisfied with that.

I’m grateful for this and other tools that constantly challenge me to look for the “steak” or foundational truth found in observation of the passage. They also keep me from skipping the study portion, and reach for baby food thinking “I know what this passage means!”

May the Lord help us push away the strained peas, and dig deep into His Word.

Ministry Doesn’t Last

In January 2017 the Lord opened an AMAZING opportunity of ministry in the community. A local computer lab asked myself and another missionary if we were willing to run a computer tutoring ministry on weekday afternoons.

For about six-weeks we were able to work with many children teaching basic computer skills, and typing.

Sadly the opportunity didn’t last long after that.

By the end of February, that ministry was done (because a new individual owned the computer lab.)

I do mourn the loss of that ministry, but am also grateful for the time that we had there. I’m also reminded that ministry does not often last.

Satan hates it when we do the work of God. He will bring trials, tests, persecutions, and occasionally will close the door of ministry completely.

Usually the ministry doesn’t completely close like that computer lab. Instead the effectiveness begins to slowly but surely weaken. Or those who used to have open and tender hearts, became hardened.

No matter the reason, it’s important to remember that ministry does not last forever.

And because it doesn’t last, we must take advantage of opportunities

  1. By doing it with all of our heart
  2. By not putting things off until tomorrow
  3. And by eliminating distractions

Doors of ministries close, so we must do the work while they remain open.

Drink of the Living Water

Before Covid forced large gatherings to be limited, Vincentians would use any opportunity for a party. And this included funerals.

at the conclusion of a Vincentian funeral, a crowd will follow the hearse to the burial site. This is meant to show respect to those who have passed. Unfortunately, it often became an opportunity for self-indulgence.

Towards the end of the service those inside (lets say 100 people) will be joined by almost that much outside, alcohol in hand. And the procession turns into an excuse to drink, and dance in the road.

These funerals used to make me angry, but now they just make me sad.

Sad because so many drink from the worlds water that promises to quench their thirst, but it just makes them more thirsty.

That party may make them happy for a while

But soon the thrill is gone, and they are looking forward to the next funeral.

I recently preached through Ecclesiastes where King Solomon after tasting everything the world promised would bring happiness called it worthless (vanity). Many learn along with him that nothing the world offers can truly satisfy.

Satan offers us a huge banquet of junk food, promising that it will make us happy. But satisfaction only comes when we deeply drink of the living water.

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