NEVER Stop Growing!!!

Recently I began to read some books that brought a great conviction to my life.

Not because I was sinful…..

But because I could do better.

Last month I went through again “Christ Centered Preaching” by Bryan Chapell, and it greatly challenged me to preach “redemptive sermons” instead of sermons based on works. Currently I am going through “The Seven Laws of the Learner” by Bruce Wilkinson, and am INCREDIBLY CHALLENGED by the thought that teaching’s goal is to help the students understand instead of cover the material.

The interesting thing is, there’s nothing wrong with my preaching or teaching skills. Honestly these are my strengths in ministry! But I want them to become stronger.

The interesting thing is that speaking being a strength actually became a weakness in my ministry! I emphasized growth in other (weaker) areas and became somewhat complacent, EVEN LAZY in my preaching and teaching!

And accepting good speaking skills instead of great ones was a dishonor to the Lord.

Missions has taught me that even the strongest skills will weaken over time when we stop developing them. In the same way a sword grows dull over time and needs sharpening, skills, our abilities need to be “sharpened” from time to time.

So we NEVER stop growing!!!!

This doesn’t give the idea of explosive growth, but slow consistent growth

  1. By growing in our knowledge of the subject through books, and podcasts
  2. By constantly evaluating our effectiveness
  3. By continually making changes to the process
  4. And by making effectiveness the goal (doing our VERY BEST)

Satan doesn’t try to make us completely rebellious friends (he’s far too smart for that)……

Instead he tries to make us complacent and lazy by saying we’ve done enough.

He wants us to go to war with a dull sword.

The Lord wants us to continually grow in every area of life through study, personal development, and walking in the Spirit. This way when the day of battle comes, we don’t have a dull sword in our hands.

Grace for Wasted Days

Last week wasn’t a very good one….

I made the foolish decision to indulge in jelly beans and Oreos friends sent over. This resulted in headaches, and lack of energy Monday along with Wednesday. A pretty ineffective week when lots didn’t get done because of my mistake had me feeling pretty blue on the way home.

That’s when I saw the sky.

The sunsets here in Saint Vincent are almost always spectacular. Most nights I can turn towards the sea about 6:15 and see a picture of breathtaking beauty, But there was something special about Fridays sunset, it was somehow extra spectacular.

That beauty of that sunset wasn’t just physical though….

it was in the message it conveyed.

Part of me wanted to sit down at 7:00 Friday night and desperately try to catch up on all of the things that I didn’t get done. But that sunset was Gods way of saying “rest now John, there will be time to work tomorrow.”

The beauty of the Gospel isn’t that we are perfect, but that there’s grace for each new day

Christ comes to offer us not only Salvation, but cleansing and restoration when we fail. Therefore when we fall (and we will) the response shouldn’t be to try harder! Instead the response is to repent saying we CAN’T DO THE WORK, and beg Christ to do the work through us!

It’s interesting that Satan tries to get us to do the exact opposite

When we fail he fills our hearts with shame, and tells us to “try harder” instead of relying upon God for help. This creates a vicious cycle since we cannot serve God in our own power. A cycle that blinds us to God’s grace.

So walking home Friday I confessed to the Lord that laziness and lack of motivation had creeped in since I’d eaten too much junk food. I asked Him to forgive me of that laziness by His grace, and empower me to stay focused instead of distracted. I thanked the Lord that effectiveness wasn’t based on how hard I worked, but how close I was to Him.

Yesterday (Saturday since I wrote this Sunday) was a VERY productive day without junk food (a few handfuls of jelly beans last night).

It felt good to be back on track

But it felt better to know that God gives grace when I am off track.

Stop Eating Junk Food!

A little over a week ago, I received a shipment of Bibles from my home church Salem Baptist. Along with those Bibles they sent my FAVORITE treats, starburst jelly beans, and birthday-cake oreos!

The plan was to eat just a few of them at a time….

But that didn’t happen 🙂

In just over a week, I’ve crushed almost an entire large container of jelly beans one handful at a time, and polished off two large packs of Oreos. Part of this is due to the face that I don’t usually have things like this, and partly because they are irresistible.

I indulged in that junk food thinking it wasn’t a big problem (I’ll lose the weight after all)

But I was wrong.

I woke up Monday morning with a splitting headache, and didn’t feel like myself almost all day. Tuesday was better, but I spent most of Wednesday feeling exhausted and lacking energy. All of those extra sweets had resulted in a “sugar spike” that affected me physically till Thursday.

Realizing the source of the problem, I’ve stayed away from the sweets for the most part since Wednesday (Okay I did indulge in some jelly beans at night).

The Lord has reminded me through this experience that you cannot eat junk, and expect to be effective

This message can also be applied to the food that we fill our minds, and hearts with.

You cannot expect to serve the Lord at 100% while feasting on

  1. The worlds entertainment
  2. Music that heightens our emotions, but doesn’t draw us closer to God
  3. A lifestyle of comfort, or rest
  4. or compromised convictions

Things like this FEEL GOOD at the moment, just like jelly beans and birthday cake Oreos! But filling your heart and mind with the worlds junk food will not bring happiness.

So what is the answer?

Feast on Christ!

  1. Study and meditate upon Scripture
  2. Pray constantly
  3. Discipline yourself for the purpose of Godliness
  4. And surround yourself with Godly friends

There is nothing wrong with an occasional handful of jelly-beans

But they cannot constitute your diet.

In the same way may we reject the worlds junk food, and feast on Christ.

Feeding the Body before the Soul

A few weeks ago I shared with you a burden for a friend Jamie (not his real name) who struggles greatly with an addiction to alcohol. You can read more about his needs by clicking here.

As I shared a few weeks ago, one of the saddest things about Jamie’s alcoholism is it’s enabled by other people. He is constantly doing work for people in the community (usually rum shop owners) and instead of money or food, they pay him with shots of rum.

There is a responsibility on Jamie’s part of course because he wants the rum more than food or money, this is why he does jobs for the rum shop owners! However it’s still incredibly sad to see him penniless and starving at the end of the day with no food at home.

The truth is Jamie just needs someone who can give him some guidance…..

This means I must meet both his spiritual, and physical needs.

And in most cases his physical needs should be met first!

This definitely doesn’t mean that Jamie’s lack of food is more important than his eternal soul. Obviously living with Christ for eternity is a far better than a full belly. Yet the most pressing need in his life that moment is taking away his hunger pains. And it’s as I meet his most important immediate need that his heart will be ready to hear the Gospel.

Often in ministry (and missions especially) relationships must be developed over time in order for evangelism and discipleship to take place. Giving someone a tract or a gospel witness can be done quickly, but the deeper one on one process of evangelism takes lots of time.

And few things build a bridge into someone’s life more than taking their own needs seriously

  1. By buying them medication
  2. Bringing a bag of essential foods (flour, sugar, rice)
  3. Making them a meal
  4. Checking in on them to see how things are doing
  5. And just being there when times are rough

To use an illustration, evangelism is often like planting a garden. It is possible to simply put a seed into the ground and get a crop. But in most cases growth takes things like watering, weeding, cutting back other plants that take it’s nutrients, and fertilizing the soil. In the same way “loving on people” encourages the soil that has already received the Gospel.

Honestly we probably feed the body and the soul at the same time. But and emphasis on feeding the body (meeting their own needs) creates an openness to Christ.

So over sandwiches, pork chops, hamburgers and hot dogs, or fried chicken I’ll explain the Gospel to Jamie. And as his physical hunger is met, he will realize it’s his soul that’s truly starving.

A Ministry of Big-Print Bibles

The Lord has allowed me to plant the seeds of the Gospel in many hearts through tract distribution over the last five years. This ministry brings me great joy, but there is also a burden to go deeper.

Part of evangelism is sowing the Gospel near and far…

But it also involves entering into a deeper outreach with those whose hearts are tender

The Lord has opened the door for me to begin Bible studies with friends (a number of them unsaved) where we meet one morning, and then read through a passage of Scripture. I’ve seen the Lord greatly use these studies as it gives opportunities for them to ask questions, and more detailed explanation of Scripture.

One of the things holding back these studies was the lack of quality big print Bibles in SVG. Most individuals here have severe cataracts or other eye problems, so reading fine-print Bibles are extremely hard. Adding to the problem is you cannot find many big print Bibles here, and those that can be found are very expensive.

A few months ago I asked friends to send money to purchase twenty big-print Bibles that would then be used to start bible studies in the community. The Lord responded in a way I couldn’t even imagine!

A friend from my home church Salem Baptist contacted me about helping raise some money for the Bibles they could send. After a while they realized they had put the old pew Bibles (they’ve been replaced) in storage. So with the churches permission she sent twenty-five big print Bibles at no cost for me!

I am overwhelmed by the generosity and love of Salem Baptist Church in meeting this need!

Please pray for me as I begin meeting these individuals to deliver their Bibles. Pray the Lord would allow us to meet together during the week, and through the reading of His Word, they may be led to Christ,

Satan is at Work Around You (and you don’t even know it)!

A few weeks ago I was using a visual of this power-point slide from Good Soil Evangelism describing how Satan was cast out of Heaven after rebelling against God.

A girl looked at the picture and said, “that can’t be Satan!”

I asked her why and she said, “Satan is red with pointy horns and a long tail!”

Thankfully I was able to explain that while people may THINK Satan looks that way, he was actually a very beautiful angel.

That conversation reminded me how often we expect Satan to work in huge, or massive ways. When something like persecution, false doctrine, or Believers falling away from the Gospel take place that’s obviously Satan!

Yet Satan doesn’t usually work that way….

Instead he prefers to work in subtle ways so that we don’t actually realize he’s at work till it’s too late.

Satan knows that a direct attack would lead us straight to God since we cannot face him alone. So instead he prefers to take the “back door” so to speak, sneaking slowly but surely into our lives.

It’s helpful then that we understand ways Satan is at work around us without our even knowing it.

  1. Satan opposes our message by blinding the eyes of the unsaved (2 Corinthians 4:4): The unsaved have countless excuses why they cannot accept the Gospel. This is because Satan is continually whispering in their ear “you have plenty of time!”
  2. Satan opposes our witness by making the unsaved believe they are saved when they aren’t (Mark 4:15): Countless unbelievers rely upon works (baptism, church attendance, a prayer they prayed) instead of Christ’s death on the cross
  3. Satan opposes our ministry through Discouragement (1 Thessalonians 2:17): We become so focused on results or activity that a daily walk with the Lord is ignored
  4. Satan opposes our growth through Shame (Revelation 12:10): As the “accuser of the brethren” Satan brings shame and guilt into our hearts when we fail the Lord, and tells us to just give up

These are just a few ways that we are daily surrounded by the work of Satan and his demons.

There are two responses to this

  • Understand we are fighting a spiritual battle
  • And recognize the work of Satan

First we understand just how much of life is a spiritual battle. Many of the challenges that we are face come from Satan himself who is trying to discourage, or distract us from the work of God. So Believers have to wear the armor of God so that during those attacks they can stand firm (Ephesians 6:11-14).

The second is actually more important to me…..

Satan is continually trying to gain a small foothold in my life. Not enough to bring complete rebellion, just a subtle compromise. But that small part will slowly begin to grow bigger and bigger until it consumes my life. So the encouragement of Ephesians 4:27 is needed, “neither give place to the devil.”

Satan wants us looking for someone with big horns and a tail! Because as long as we are doing that, we won’t see him quietly infecting our lives.

From the Archives: French Toast Sticks and Unique Challenges

Originally written July 2015

Last week I had the opportunity to spend five days at the Annual Conference of Baptist Mid Missions [1] in Elyria Ohio. It was an absolutely amazing time that the Lord used to encourage my heart.

  1. Through strong Biblical preaching
  2. Through workshops that gave practical help for challenges Missionaries face
  3. Through fellowship with other Missionaries
  4. And opportunities for short-term ministry placement while the Visa process is completed (this was before coming to Saint Vincent).

What encouraged me more than anything though was the knowledge that other people have struggles like mine

You see Missionaries are “unique people” who therefore face “unique challenges” that few people will understand except for other Missionaries

Unfortunately missionaries have little opportunity to discuss those challenges, and how God helps them since all of the time is spent ministering to others. This becomes a problem because over time Satan can make us (missionaries) believe that we are the only ones who struggle with those challenges.  And of course this leads to our acting as if everything’s fine when it isn’t.

Something like the Annual Conference allows us to step away from work for a few days and become honest about some our needs, which always reveals we aren’t the only ones struggling.

Thursday morning I ate breakfast with some missionary friends from India who had never eaten a “french toast stick” (poor souls). As we finished one of them asked why my return to Australia was delayed and I spent about five minutes giving an answer (Editors note-I could not receive a Permanent Residency Visa in Australia because of changed immigration laws). Once I finished she looked at me and said “that’s exactly what’s happening to us!”.

That simple phrase had an incredible impact because Satan loves to tell me that I’m the ONLY ONE who EVER experienced a delayed return to the mission field…and that’s just not true.

Thinking about that breakfast reminds me of the Prophet Elijah in the Old Testament who in discouragement complained that he was the only one who still stood for God in Israel. God responded by telling Elijah there was there still 7,000 people faithful people in Israel, and soon provided Elisha as a prophet to continue Elijah’s ministry

It is true that most people haven’t gone through the unique challenges I face, but that’s okay, because each of you go through struggles I couldn’t comprehend. We can praise God however that there will always be individuals who can not only understand that challenge, but share how the Lord brought them through it.

A Frugal Generosity

Ministry takes money!!!

There is no getting past this because they expenses of daily ministry (fuel, ministry material, etc) and needs of those around you are definitely going to add up. This is why I’ve had to put a lot of though and prayer into a philosophy of money that’s called “frugal generosity.”

The basic idea goes like this……

I live frugally (simply) myself, so that I can give generously to others

Practically this means I save as much money as possible by being frugal (I prefer that to the word cheap)! Then the savings are organized in a lockbox since I deal mostly with cash. As needs arise for friends or church members the Lord leads me to help, I give out of the savings.

The Lord has greatly used those savings as a ministry to help others! Recently I was able to:

  1. Purchase a plane ticked for a friend who couldn’t afford it on his own
  2. Pay for a church member to have an infected tooth removed
  3. Give out groceries to two family’s without food
  4. And bring a friend to the house for Easter weekend for a time of relaxation

The important thing isn’t the giving though

It is the frugality so that I’m able to give

Living in an area where there isn’t a lot of work means many people have great financial needs. Obviously there are too many for me to reach every one of them, but the Lord has burdened me for those who are struggling (particularly close friends, or strong believers). Commonly individuals in great need will approach me to ask for some help (a few dollars, a bag of sugar, a bag of rice).

So my frugality isn’t just about saving money, its goal is to make sure I have something to put in the hands of the needy.

This basic way of living allows my money to become a tool in the hands of the Lord. For many, money is used for their own comfort, but frugality uses money to share the Love of Christ. Obviously this doesn’t mean I cannot have nice things and take care of myself, or I have to help everyone (I can’t). But frugal generosity ensures that money isn’t all about me.

It’s about those who have very little.

The focus of this post isn’t to make myself look good or ask for pity. It is to encourage others to embrace the frugal life, so that they can give away in a generous way.

Defusing the Bomb

Image taken from a post entitled “stop being so angry” at https://hassemanmarketing.com/

Last Saturday a man living close to me was having a really bad day

I believe that stress, and lack of money led him to spend the day smoking marijuana and drinking rum. This led to some bizarre actions (He would openly weep about the lack of money one moment, and respond in anger the next).

Saturday evening I heard a commotion outside and saw him standing in the middle of the road. At almost the same moment, a friend came down tell the neighbor to leave my dog alone (I later learned he had been hitting my dog who was securely leashed with a stick). Things calmed down, and then the man came out again loudly cursing me (he claimed my dog bit him, which didn’t happen) and the friend.

My friend responded by coming back down ready to physically attack him…..

thankfully I got out the gate before that happened.

As I approached the neighbor he started to immediately calm down. Within a few moments he apologized for how he acted, and asked me to forgive him.

This experience was a vivid reminder that many of us are walking time bombs!

All of us experience stress in life. Normally that stress is at a manageable level, but occasionally the stress of life begins to overwhelm us. Slowly but surely we become more and more burdened, like a rubber band that has been stretched too tight. And like that rubber band, eventually we will have to snap!

Interestingly, it’s usually a small thing that causes an explosion. My dog can peep his head just over the wall surrounding my house (but not bite anybody). I honestly believe in his inebriated state my neighbor THOUGHT the dog had bitten him, and began hitting the dog with a stick to defend himself. It’s also possible he was just trying to play with the dog. But a small thing may have become violent if I hadn’t come to intervene.

Which is why God calls us to defuse the bomb!

The temptation in situations like this to respond with anger or hostility. But that only makes the situation worse! God only gets the glory as we enter into that volatile situation, and bring peace

  1. With a calm (but firm) voice
  2. By separating the individuals (I asked my friend to walk away in order to calm the situation)
  3. By finding out exactly what is making them so angry, and empathizing
  4. By apologizing for what took place (if possible)
  5. And by asking them to help calm the situation

Most of all defusing the bomb illustrates the Gospel which brings peace into chaos!

I was angry when I walked out of my gate Saturday since the neighbor had been acting foolish all day, but by the Grace of God, the Holy Spirit calmed my heart as I walked across the road. So as I walked down the steps towards him it wasn’t with a shouting voice, but one filled with concern.

It was amazing how the peace I displayed affected him….

  1. He immediately put down the cutlass he was carrying (I don’t believe he would do anything with it).
  2. Kept repeating the words “your my friend”
  3. and held his hand out for me to shake (in that moment I didn’t shake it, but made clear I cared about him)
  4. He then told me there would be no more trouble, and left

Later some friends told me the situation went from rage to calmness because I acted like Christ. I’m not sure about that, but know the catalyst of that change was the Holy Spirit’s peace in my heart. As Colossians 3:15 says, “let the peace of God rule in your hearts.” When the peace of the Holy Spirit controls our lives (we rest in God’s sovereignty) we not only keep from being bombs ourselves, but defuse those around us.

Adding to The Family

Last month a boy and his mother had to move out of their home in the area because the rent was too high. They ended up staying temporarily with a friend while organizing money for a new rental property.

The son is a sweet boy I will call “Billy.” He is very good natured, but also incredibly shy, and speaks with a very quiet voice. When he started coming to church with my friend on Sunday nights I wanted to find a way to minister to him. We met a few times at the house for bible lessons, but his being shy made conversation difficult.

Finally Thursday I invited him to come play with some other friends from the neighborhood the next day (we occasionally have “sports days” on Friday so kids can learn to play as a team. He was VERY excited about doing this with them tomorrow.

The other children were less than enthused….

Not because they didn’t like him, but because they didn’t KNOW him.

Since sports days are about learning to work with others I informed them there were two options. Option A let him come and play with them, or Option B stay home. Understandably they chose Option A 🙂

After starting things Friday I went to get Billy. He spent a few minutes off by himself. but then started to play with the other kids. Of course after a while they were playing together as if they’d known each other for years. After sports he sat down alongside them to feast on mangoes from a nearby tree. One of the kids told me they had to make a kite out of sticks, a plastic bag, and thread for school Monday. I offered to help them make the kites, and she immediately said “bring Billy.”

That’s the moment I knew he was accepted

We all built kites yesterday, and were even able to practice flying them at the local park (while trying out the playground equipment). I finally walked Billy home around 3:00 with a huge smile on his face.

What probably drew me to Billy is he’s like me as a child; quiet, shy, and introverted…..

Someone who just needs a friend.

A big part of the Christian life (and missions in general) is finding that individual who needs a friend, inviting them into the family, and making sure that they are accepted. This process sadly can’t involve every child who needs friendship, but it can bring in an as many as possible.

This afternoon Billy asked me if Jamie (not his real name) could come to our reading help ministry. I promised to let him come once I’d go permission from his mother.

May the family keep expanding!

Stop Saying “Stop It!”

picture used from Good Soil Resources Power Point Slides

Last Thursday, Dr. Bob Kelleman founder of RPM counseling ministries, wrote a blog post entitled “Shepherds please think “protect well.” Stop saying “suffer well.”

In it he described the experience of having to pull his drunk father off of his mother who he was beating. The next day his mother secretly began to file for divorce due to repeated abuse by her husband (I don’t believe in divorce, so personally feel she should have made formal charges, and had him arrested. However there is no excuse for staying in an abusive relationship).

Sadly a Christian neighbor came by and “shamed her” for trying to get out of an abusive marriage. This led to five more years of abuse till his mother finally had enough.

Dr. Kelleman takes his own experience and used it to challenge the response of many Christians to those who are in an abusive situation they should “suffer well” by submitting to the abuse. Instead you should “protect well” by confronting the abusers (even if they are in the church).

The principle of telling someone to “suffer well” is to simply throw out Scriptural truth without ministering to the person. Dr. Kelleman describes the Christian neighbor as “marching over to Mom without a shred of empathy, without walking in Mom’s shoes, without entering Mom’s soul.”

He brings up a classic tv sketch with Bob Newhart that I’ve included below where the counselor just says “Stop it!”
countless times to the counselee. In the same way we tell the individual who struggles countless times just to stop with no compassion.

The application isn’t to keep saying “stop it.”

It is to be a friend who helps them do the will of God!

The thing is they don’t need someone who yells “stop it” continually, and most strugglers WANT TO stop it! The point is they can’t without a transformed heart. They need someone who will indeed share the truth, but do it in an attitude of love and humility. Someone who gives them a shoulder to cry on, and a listening ear. Someone who walks a mile in their shoes.

From the Archives: Why God Led Me Away From Volunteering

Originally written June 5, 2015

In early April the Lord told me to do something really strange…step away from every volunteering ministry

This was weird since this was a wonderful way of connecting with the unsaved, and sharing the Gospel. The Lord’s allow me to have an impact on many lives through these ministries for the cause of Christ. And to be honest I still loved doing it.

However realizing the Lord knows what’s best for me more than I do [1] my focus began to revolve around studying and writing instead of active ministry. That was fun for a few days but soon I found myself getting bored.

My first response to this boredom was going online and looking for any new volunteering opportunities in the area, then I remembered God was leading me away from this.

After a week of this different philosophy my frustration was building and I began asking the Lord to open a door of opportunity instead of trying to force it open myself.

God answered in an incredible way

On June 17th I will be on my way to Chittagong, Bangladesh to teach two classes on behalf of Piedmont International University.

The first is an overview of Christology that uses forty Biblical events to describe the Bible’s big story. The second class is an Introduction to Classic Christian Literature which interestingly will be using films on major Christian books since we don’t have time to read them.

In late April when I was asked to teach this class [2] immediately it became clear why God wanted me to step aside from everything else…He was calling me deeper

That’s the thing about God, He loves to open huge amazing doors for us if we let Him.

The problem is we (I) are totally focused on our own strength, and end up pushing with all of our might against a much smaller door (but one we are just sure is God’s Will).

Because God loves us and wants us to choose Him willingly He will give us what’s behind that door.  But He knows they won’t satisfy because the door we walk through is too safe.

Drew Dyck in his book “Yawning at Tigers” (awesome book by the way) describes our choosing safety over God’s Will using the illustration of a lagoon at a resort, and the actual ocean

The problem really wasn’t what was in the lagoon. Its what wasn’t. There were no waves, no spray from the surf, no tides, no coral reefs, no danger, no depths. It wasn’t the ocean (pg.20, par.3)

If the ocean is like God, the lagoon is a poor, but useful replacement. It’s domesticated Christianity. It’s engagement with a letter deity (pg.20, par.5)

In a thousand little ways, we’ve chosen the comfort of the shallows over life in the deep (pg. 21, par.3)

As I prepare for Bangladesh I’m dealing with some conflicting emotions. Part of me would prefer to teach kindergarteners English instead of flying to a foreign Country and teaching Theology, but at the same time I know thats a door that I would have opened instead of God.

And it’s the safe little lagoon.

We can be thankful that God knows deep inside each of us is a craving for something deeper than the average life. And therefore He calls quietly but urgently for us to follow Him into the deeper water.

Editors Note: Soon after that call to deeper water, the Lord led me to Saint Vincent 🙂

When Your House is a Refuge

A friend came over last Friday to spend the long Easter weekend (Friday through Monday) with me, and speak at the church Sunday. Most of the time when friends come to visit I take them around Barrouallie to explain my burden for the people, and we get involved in daily ministry together.

But instead of a time of activity….

The Easter holiday was a time of rest

Those four days became an opportunity to encourage one another

  1. With rest
  2. fellowship
  3. Good food
  4. and lots of coffee!

Ministry has a way of wearing you down with spiritually, physically, and emotionally. This is why it’s necessary to take a break for rest and relaxation from time to time. Usually this calls for a place of refuge or reset where you can just be away from everyone else for a few days. For my friend that place of refuge was my house!

I used to question the importance of these breaks, after all there is still work to do! But then I realized it’s hard to minister when your exhausted.

In the past I used to go to America once a year for two-weeks every Christmas. This wasn’t an extended time away, but it allowed me to go through a time of rest and renewal. That usually involved being incredibly lazy for two or three days catching up on my rest, and then starting the work of strategic planning. By day ten I was refreshed, and ready to go back at it!

Of course not all of us can go to America…..

So we go to Barrouallie (the next best thing)!

During the weekend we went through the same basic cycle

  • Sleep
  • Eat
  • Drink Coffee
  • Talk about life
  • Repeat

I know that sounds incredibly boring and lazy, but for someone used to hustling from one ministry event to another, this is EXACTLY what they need!

The Greek New Testament has a word καταφεύγω (katapheugó) that we translate as “refuge” but is better translated “run to refuge.” The basic idea is a place where you can run for safety or rest. In the Christian life we all need to have a καταφεύγω to run to in times of stress or exhaustion. A place where we can refocus our eyes on the Savior, and draw closer to Him.

Last weekend reminded me how much my friend and I truly needed a time of rest. And it also reminded me there are countless men who need a refuge that offers food, coffee, rest, and encouragement from the Word of God. May the Lord help me keep my door open for those who long for a refuge.

What Happens When the Music Ends

The Lord has given me a great love for Saint Vincent and the people of SVG so I prefer being here to America! But there are a few things about Saint Vincent (and Barrouallie in particular) that make me angry.

Not angry at the people…..

But angry about how Satan has deceived the people.

And at the top of the list that make me angry is Vincentians love of a party culture.

Like everywhere else, the people of SVG are always looking for an excuse to have a party. Of course during that party their life is filled with happiness! But that happiness does not last. The next day they are left depressed (and usually without any money) waiting for the next party.

The sad truth is once the music ends (the party is over) they are in a much worse state than before.

I was recently reminded of that painful truth because Covid mandates have recently been removed here, which opens the door for parties. Over the Easter weekend on Saturday a huge dance party event was held for young adults and teens in a nearby facility.

Then on Sunday videos started coming in (none of which I have watched, or want to watch)

  1. Of a girl passed out on the floor while a young man dances over her with his pants down
  2. Of another girl rubbing against a young man who has exposed his penis
  3. And of another who was so drunk, her friends had to lead her along by the hand so she wouldn’t fall down

As horrific as these videos are, the truly sad thing is things like that have been happening for many years, long before smart-phones allowed them to be recorded and shared. Generations of people have learned the happiness of sin is gone once the music stops.

The Biblical response to this lie of Satan isn’t to remind them of what happens when the music ends (they are aware of that)…..

It is to show them Christ is sweeter than the world.

It is only through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that true happiness can come into a life. He is source of our peace, courage, wisdom, and joy. It is because of Him we can display Godliness in the greatest trial. His strength is what helps us in our weakest moment.

Of course this doesn’t mean the Christian life is always enjoyable. In fact, the life of sin is guaranteed to be more fun because those who serve the Lord will be attacked by Satan. However in that suffering there will be a true satisfaction that comes from the presence of God. One that doesn’t rely on alcohol, music, or emotion.

What those in the party culture must understand is the world cannot make you truly happy. This happens as Believers approach them after the music ends not with an attitude of condemnation, but love that proclaims the mercy and grace of God.

In a few months carnival will come to Saint Vincent for the first time in three years (it’s been shut down for two years because of Covid). My heart already aches for what will take place in July. At the same time I am thankful that God opens the door for the Gospel to be shared when the music ends.

Rum is not the Problem!

This morning I went to visit some friends, and almost immediately noticed Jamie (not his real name) had a very sizeable wound under his right eye.

The wound itself broke my heart, but what bothered me more was I knew exactly how it happened……

He had become drunk, and face-down on the ground.

Jamie is a very hard worker, but he’s absolutely addicted to strong rum that can be purchased here cheaply (a small bottle is about seven East Caribbean dollars). Most of the time Jamie is running errands for the owners of local shops who instead of giving him money, give bottles of rum. Because he has a learning disability, it’s easier for people to take advantage of Jamie by giving shots of rum instead of money, so he often goes a day without eating.

Even more heartbreaking the community of Barrouallie is filled with Jamie’s.

These individuals may not struggle mentally like Jamie does, but just like him, their lives revolve around strong rum.

Which brings up the question…..how do we reach people like Jamie?

The first step is understanding rum is not their problem

I visit with Jamie’s mother almost every week so we can pray, and read Scripture together. As you can imagine her heart breaks seeing the affect alcohol has on her son just like me. This pain leads her to confront her son almost daily about not drinking. Occasionally Jamie will stop drinking for a short-period of time (a few weeks) but soon he’s back to spending most of his day at the rum shop.

The point is telling someone to stop drinking is not enough because rum is not the problem!

The HEART is the problem!

The reason Jamie (and so many others) are enslaved by rum is their hearts are far away from God. Even if they DID stop drinking successfully, that won’t change their filthy heart! So instead of focusing on the rum (a symptom of the sin problem) we must focus on their heart relationship with God. Only the Gospel of Christ can truly break their cycle of addiction.

Reaching the Jamie’s of this world isn’t about telling them “stop it!” but about explaining the truths of Scripture in a loving way. Recently I began cooking for Jamie a few times a week. Eventually those meals will lead a time when we can read Scripture and discuss the Gospel on my front porch. Pray for me as I continue to build a stronger relationship with Jamie, and point him to my Saviour.

Because once someone has drank from the fountain of living waters, rum isn’t good enough anymore.

Missions is Killing the Chicks

Picture from https://thefarmingfoodie.com/everything-you-need-to-know-about-raising-baby-chicks/

There is a hen in the community who has taken a liking to my backyard. She will lay her eggs secretly, and suddenly one morning I’ll see six our eight chicks following her around.

Now I love all animals….

but those chicks have to die!

The reason why is their mother ravages the backyard finding food for them

  1. Ripping up tomato plants
  2. Destroying flowers
  3. Digging massive holes in the yard
  4. And biting into the mangoes that fall from my tree, and are given to people in the community

That last part for me is the most frustrating because there are people who don’t have much food, and really enjoy the mangoes I give to them. But the mother hen would destroy every one the moment it hit the ground!

So last week I finally decided to do something about the chicks. After putting a leash on my trusty guard dog Vincy I let him loose in the backyard for some “chick hunting.” There is actually one chick left, but I’m pretty sure mama has left him, so he gets a reprieve for now.

I realize letting my dog kill those baby chicks may seem barbaric….but the damage they were doing to my property made it necessary.

There is a good correlation between those chicks and my sin-nature.

Often a sin may seem “small and unimportant.” It may even seem cute! But that small sin will do incredible amounts of damage to my Christian life and testimony. Over time it will grow bigger and multiply itself. Soon the whole backyard will be filled with destructive chickens!

It is far better to do the hard work of putting that sin to death as Romans 6 tells us through the power of the Spirit.

I am grateful for this visual reminder that sometimes the most gracious thing I can do for my sin is kill it

An Australian Memory: Goodbye Kev

Editors Note:  The Following post was written on May 14, 2015 in honor of my Kev IV my latest inflatable kangaroo who people would sign during my furlough meetings  

Editors note: With the completion of my school ministry and a “farewell tour” for Kev IV my inflatable Kangaroo last week I wanted to write him a fictional letter of thanks for being such a huge help to my ministry.

Dear Kev,

Please don’t be offended as I put you in storage along with your Great Grandfather (Kev Sr.), Grandfather (Kev Jr.), and Father (Kev III). The truth is nothing has done more for my ministry (except for the Gospel) than a collection of inflatable kangaroos.

The funny thing is it all started as a joke in 2009 when my Aussie friends presented your Great Grandfather to me (while singing the Australian national anthem off-key). The idea was to take random pictures of Kev Sr. and put them on Facebook while in the States on furlough.

Somewhere along the line I decided to start taking your Great Grandfather to Churches with me while presenting my ministry. I’ll never forget the night a little girl walked up to me and asked in a very quiet voice, “can I sign him?”

The rest was history

Truthfully I started bringing Kev Sr to Churches because it was fun.

  1. To see the expressions on people’s faces when I walked down the hall with an inflatable kangaroo under my arm
  2. To see children’s eyes light up when I pulled him out of the car
  3. And to see motorists do a double (or triple) take when I let your Great Grandfather ride shotgun

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But I started bringing him for a different reason…to create a relationship with people.

The awesome thing about being a Missionary is it allows me to share my burden for Australia with people all around the United States. The bad news is I often only get to see them once, and we usually only spend one service together (around an hour) which of course isn’t enough to develop a real relationship.

The thing is I want to have that kind of relationship with people

  1. One that shares the bad news as well as the good
  2. That allows them to become an active part of my ministry
  3. That interacts with them (finds their needs, and ministers to them when possible)
  4. And leaves room for the random or ridiculous experiences of life to be shared

Thankfully with Social Media it’s possible to have this kind of relationship. The problem is getting the contact info from people so that relationship can be created. The sign up sheet for updates would always be on my table, but it seemed as if it wouldn’t gain much interest.

Eventually I realized that there needed to be something that created a bridge between that service, and a relationship that would continue outside of the Church building using Social Media.

Over the years your ancestors (and yourself) have been that bridge. As people signed their names on a kangaroo with sharpie it was more than just something fun…it was the beginning of a relationship.

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Now don’t worry buddy even though the farewell tours over you aren’t being “put out to pasture” just yet. We have a Vacation Bible School coming up next month, and I just know those kids won’t forgive me if Kev IV doesn’t come along. And even after that there’s always going to be a need for me to create those deeper relationships.

Besides…I still love seeing the looks on people’s faces the first time they see you

Missions is Going Back to Prison

Last week I was able to visit the Belle-Isle correctional facility for the first time in fifteen-months. It was an incredible blessing to restart our weekly services with singing, testimonies, special music, and a message from God’s Word.

Last week was a time of great rejoicing….

but we have lots of work to do!

Because this ministry is run by the prison system instead of our church, assemblies of all denominations are allowed to come and teach. This leads to a lot of confusion because groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses openly teach false doctrine, and many of the inmates hold to a view of works Salvation because of what they hear from other speakers. In 2020 we had some question and answer sessions because a group of them believed you had to worship on the Sabbath day (Saturday) in order to be saved because the Seventh Day Adventists preached it.

In a perfect situation I wouldn’t be involved with a ministry that allows other groups to teach false doctrine. At the same time, I’m obligated to preach the truth! So The best way to stop the growth of false doctrine in the prison is to clearly explain the true Gospel.

A deeper problem than false doctrine is the fact that many of these men either don’t have a personal relationship with Christ, or someone who can disciple and train them with Scripture. Within the prisons structure where they have services every day, the men do well. But few have the spiritual maturity to continue serving the Lord after leaving the facility.

They may want to serve the Lord and turn from their old ways, but the temptation of friends, and difficulty of taking care of their own needs leads them right back to prison. A former prisoner explained it this way, “the only people who were waiting outside the gate for me when I got out of prison were the people who put me there in the first place!”

The false doctrine, and demand for spiritual maturity makes it incredibly important that our prison ministry emphasizes Salvation.

I firmly believe many of the men know exactly what to say so people think they are saved, but they don’t know the Lord. They may even deceive themselves by relying on good works, or a prayer (just saying words not really a conscious decision) for Salvation instead of faith in Christ. This is why the true Gospel must be clearly, and patiently explained.

Please pray for me as I move from a “teaching focus” in the prison ministry that emphasized doctrine, to an “evangelistic focus” that emphasizes personal faith in Christ. Pray that the brief time I have with them every Wednesday can be used by the Holy Spirit to convict hearts, and lead them to Salvation. Also pray if it’s God’s will I could begin discipling some of those men, either in the prison or outside after they have left.

May the Lord help our time on Wednesdays lead towards transformation instead of rehabilitation. Because rehabilitation only impacts the outer symptoms of the problem, while transformation changes the heart.

Missions is Remembering the Truth…..

We used to have a visitation team that would go out every Sunday afternoon visiting senior saints. Because they couldn’t physically come to church, we “brought church to them” by singing older gospel songs, sharing from the word, and encouraging their hearts with fellowship.

All of them loved our visits because not many people came to see them, but one was particularly excited when we came. Everyone called her “granny” (not her real name).

She became so excited about our visits she wanted to see us more often!

Because this wasn’t possible (our list of saints to visit keeps us from visiting each one every week) I promised to come see her personally. And so, in early 2017 I started visiting granny on Thursday mornings. We’ve been doing that consistently over the last five years, except for an extended time she spent outside of Barrouallie during the pandemic.

Thursday mornings with Granny have been a great blessing to my heart as she excitedly shared stories of her childhood, read Scripture, and sang some of the older Gospel hymns….and many Sundays I brought her to church (possibly the highlight of her week).

But the pandemic changed that…..

When Covid was strong I told Granny I couldn’t bring her to church because she was almost eighty, and had breathing problems (asthma). Sadly since that day in 2020 she hasn’t come to church. Not because of protocols, but her health and strength has taken a downturn during the pandemic. She used to walk up the steps to her house after church without much of a problem, now it takes all of her strength to come off the porch.

Worse than her physical weakness is Granny’s mental weakness.

During the pandemic she began to forget more and more, then recently she started to adamantly tell me things occurred that never happened! This loss of mental focus is probably due to the fact that she doesn’t leave the house.

It is frustrating to see a woman who a few years ago pre-pandemic had an incredibly strong mind struggle to understand what she said a few moments ago……

But she still knows the truth!

Last week I wrote a short devotional (you can read it here) about my visit with Granny last week. She was angry because being home was incredibly boring, and she wanted to go to church. To brighten her mood I spent lots of time singing older hymns with her. It was amazing to see the smile on her face as I started in on one of her favorite hymns (I know her favorites), and two or three words in, she joined me without missing a single word!

I will miss the Thursday mornings discussing Scripture with Granny on the porch when her mind is strong. But as this dear saint nears the end of her journey I will enjoy Thursday mornings reminding her of the truth she’s temporarily forgotten.

Satan Hates the Church!

Last Sunday night I was speaking from 1 Timothy 4:1-5 on the subject of Satan’s lies. Two men were there who didn’t know the Lord (one has been consistently coming on Sunday nights, the other came for the first time) so I prayed as the sermon began to close that the Lord would work in their hearts.

My closing challenge was “Satan has right where he wants you” and used the well-known illustration of a painting that depicted Satan playing chess with a man. In the painting Satan is getting ready to take the mans king ending the game (and taking his soul) so it’s named “check mate.” However, a famous chess player studying the painting realized the man had ONE MOVE LEFT! Of course the application of that illustration is Christ’s the only way we can escape Satan’s condemnation.

As I told the story of the chess painting the Holy Spirit was at work…..

But that’s when the drunk man decided to come in.

I believe he had no interest in coming to church, but seeing his friends inside, decide to come in too. But being drunk he became a huge distraction by changing seats three times (eventually sitting on the front row!) and talking very loudly. So I asked him in a kind, but authoritative voice to leave because he was distracting everyone.

Sadly the moment was lost after he left. My unsaved friend talking with me Wednesday night said the Holy Spirit was really working in his heart, but the distraction made him angry about the drunken man interrupting church.

The next morning the drunk man (now sober) immediately gave me a hug, and apologized profusely for the way that he had acted last Sunday night. I forgave him because he was truly repentant, and explained the best way to prove he was sorry was showing up sober.

Last Sunday was a painful reminder that Satan hates the church, and will do anything he can to keep people from accepting Christ!

But this hatred of Satan can never keep us from doing the work of God

Because God loves the Church!

These setbacks of Satan are frustrating, but they give opportunities to live out what we preach. People saw my gracious response to the drunk, and willingness to forgive him for his foolish actions. And that made my testimony stronger!

The two men who came last Sunday returned last night with three of their friends! I spoke to all three today who said they really enjoyed the service, and will be coming again.

Satan will always persecute the church because he hates it…..

But he cannot prevail against it.

Missions is Redemptive Sermons

Over the weekend I finished “Christ-Centered Preaching” by Bryan Chapell. It is an excellent resource on the development, and delivery of sermons that I’d encourage every preacher or missionary to read.

I learned many things from this book….but one of the most important is understanding the difference between what Chapell calls a “be sermon” and “redemptive sermon.”

He explains the difference like this

  1. A “be sermon” encourages someone to do something (be confident, be wise)
  2. A “Redemptive Sermon” encourages someone to rely on Christ and the Gospel

As I thought about this, it occurred to me that many of the sermons I preach emphasize human works instead of giving God first place. By doing this I inadvertently convey that the Christian life is lived in your own strength!

It’s hard to honor the Lord when hearing a works-based message that says “just try harder!”

Of course I don’t WANT to preach a “be sermon” on Sundays, the problem is it’s hard to know what a “Redemptive sermon actually looks like!

With that in mind, allow me to share some characteristics of a Redemptive sermon (taken from Bryan Chapell’s book)

  1. The foundation of the message is a sinful problem we cannot fix (he calls is a fallen focus): I used not wanting to go to church last Sunday morning. As a child when I didn’t want to go to church hearing “God wants us to go” was enough, but as an adult you need something more than that.
  2. This sinful problem is cured by a Universal Truth from Scripture: Last weeks was God loves the church, and has chosen to use it
  3. The main points of a Redemptive Sermon clarify the truth instead of giving the people something to do: God Loves the Mission of the church (it refocuses us on Him), and God loves the message of the church (it reminds us of Him).
  4. The closing a Redemptive Sermon is a challenge to respond to this Universal Truth in faith: The church service reconnects us to our true source of power Jesus Christ by refocusing us on Him, and reminding us of Him.

The sermon could have been better, but you get the idea.

What “Christ-Centered Preaching” helped me understand is people on Sunday don’t need a list of things to accomplish.

They need someone to focus their attention back on the cross.

Missions is Being Healthy, Not Just Skinny

During March I’ve been trying to lose some excess weight that I gained in January and February (results of the oreos, gatorade, and other goodies in my Christmas barrel)! I’m getting there with the weight loss (need to lose four or five more pounds) but was feeling good about myself.

Until I remembered the hills of Robinhood Road at my parents home……

Last week I wrote an devotional about my original weight loss in 1999, and how it developed a love for running (you can read the post here). That post brought back fond memories of many runs on that old road, but it also convicted me since I haven’t run on Vincentian roads for YEARS!

There are some reasons for this

  1. There are a LOT more hills here
  2. The heat makes training difficult
  3. And one of my running is sure to attract attention, as well as some laughter 🙂
  4. The real reason why is I’ve confused being skinny with being healthy

Trust me there is a difference!

Something I’ve noticed while emphasizing weight loss (being skinny) is my weight did go down. However I continued struggling with lack of energy, mental focus, and strength.

On Fridays I sometimes play games like football with children in the community because its a form of ministry, and gives me a good workout. A few weeks ago I found myself sitting on the sidelines instead of interacting with them because my body had NO ENERGY.

That’s when I realized being skinny was not enough….

I had to be healthy.

And to be healthy I had to start training again!

To be honest I’ve known for a long time that training and exercise should be a daily habit. But I kept putting it off because it was going to hurt! This is especially true for the core-exercises (stretching exercises) that would go along with the running itself. But more painful than the exercise is the shame involved.

None of us like to do something challenging, it makes us look foolish or incredibly weak at the beginning. So it’s easier to be skinny and “look healthy” than to struggle my way up a hill that shouldn’t give trouble at all.

So why embrace fitness in the first place?

Because I need to be stronger.

I am not looking forward to the pain (and REALLY not looking forward to the laughter) but with the Lords help I’ll put on my running shoes again. Because success comes as I meet the physical demands of ministry as well as the spiritual.

Missions is Asking for God Sized Things

In February I asked prayer partners to help me raise $500 to bring big print bibles to Saint Vincent.

Not only did I raise over twice that amount (one gift of $1,000) but the first twenty-five are being sent for free!

Salem Baptist Church in Winston Salem, North Carolina (my home church) has sent a shipment of pew Bibles in good condition that should arrive on April 21. The cost of the Bibles and shipping are completely covered by them!

A few weeks ago I shared how this situation taught me it’s okay to ask for help…..

But more than that it reminded me that no need is too big for God.

All of us have “God sized needs” in ministry. These are needs that make raising $500 for Bibles look like spare change. For me, this is raising money for a church van that can be used to transport members to and from church. The cost for one of these will be around $14,000 US.

To be honest this kind of need is overwhelming for me, and cannot be achieved without an extensive furlough. There were plans for a furlough that would raise funds in March 2020, but of course then Covid hit 😦 .

Though a furlough is probably needed, that doesn’t change the fact that I should be sharing my “God-sized” needs along with my smaller needs.

This gives the idea God can meet some smaller things (like raising $500 for Bibles), but isn’t strong enough to provide a church van.

So as of this morning I’m making the church van one of my major goals.

Because God is big enough to supply one.

The Life of a “Sophisticated Sloth”

About a week ago Greg Morse wrote an article entitled “The Subtle Way to Waste Your Life.” In it he challenges readers about being what he calls “a sophisticated sloth.”

What hid this realization from me for so long is that I never thought of myself as slothful. I get things done. At times, I’ve worked very hard. No one would have looked at me and said I sleep too much, or that I neglected my studies, or that I put off difficult things indefinitely. But looking back, I have realized in my work life that I have lived too often as a sophisticated sloth.

He describes sophisticated sloth as someone who rejects laziness, but ends up wasting far too much time.

This leads to his sharing four major time-wasters

  1. Slow to Begin
  2. Quick to Break
  3. Open to Interruptions
  4. and Puts Off Harder Work

Reading this article is incredibly convicting for me because it shows the difference between being busy, and using our time wisely.

Spending time wisely means focusing on effectiveness and efficiency (getting things done as quickly as possible) instead of activity. It’s one thing to finish a job, it’s another to finish it in a productively focused way. Or as Greg Morse puts it, “How many hours have I wasted ‘getting in the mood’ to start something difficult?

The word this post brings to my mind is “distracted”, and sadly it describes my life far too much. And while a distracted life isn’t as bad as a lazy life that doesn’t attempt anything, it’s not much better.

Getting Better At Goodbyes

According to my iPhone, the first picture in this post was taken at 4:07 AM on January 3, 2018. Yet another goodbye hug from mom and dad and wave as I walk through security. There were no tears (though I’m sure there were some when they got in the truck) just smiles, and reminders they love me.

Those early morning trips to the airport always feel strange to me because of conflicting emotions. On the one hand I am going to miss making memories with family, while on the other hand I’m excited about getting back to the mission field. But the excitement always wins out because my parents are excited to see me go.

I am grateful the Lord gives grace to both myself and my parents when the time comes to say goodbye

It wasn’t always that easy.

My first flight to Australia as a missionary fell awkwardly enough on my brothers birthday. Let’s just say my leaving didn’t leave people in a celebratory mood! It was especially hard on my parents because I was incredibly excited about finally leaving for the mission field. It wasn’t till a few weeks later that I missed my family. But through tears and hugs they finally let me go.

If you asked mom and dad why they let me go they ‘d probably simply reply “he’s doing the Lord’s work.” Though goodbyes will always be hard, I’m grateful for family who let me go into the work God has for me.

Character or Competency?

A few weeks ago I started preaching through the qualifications of a Pastor, and Deacon in 1 Timothy 3. It just worked out I finished the “Rise and Fall of Mars Hill” podcast while finishing up on last weeks message from 1 Timothy 3:8-15. That podcast was actually a great illustration for the message, because it emphasizes how much of Christian culture places a priority on results above character.

Of course those in the ministry (Pastors or Missionaries) should be successful in achieving results…..

But defining a successful ministry based on results is dangerous!

It’s dangerous because someone can receive a ministry position because of their competency (organizational skills, education, leadership skills, confidence) while their character is overlooked. Obviously competence is a part of being in the ministry, but it must be built upon a foundation of character.

It’s interesting to look at the qualifications of a Pastor in 1 Timothy 3

  1. He must be blameless (no unconfessed sins in life)
  2. He is faithful to his wife (Sexually pure)
  3. He is vigilant (On the lookout, Clear Headed, not lazy mentally)
  4. He is sober (focused, disciplined)
  5. He is of good behavior (Respectable, has integrity)
  6. He is given to hospitality (Cares for Those in Need)
  7. He is apt to teach (an excellent teacher)
  8. Not a striker, but patient, not a brawler (Doesn’t resort to violent anger)
  9. Not greedy of filthy lucre, not covetous (not greedy for money)
  10. An integrity from their family life (1 Timothy 3:4-5)
  11. An integrity from their maturity (1 Timothy 3:6)
  12. An integrity from their reputation (1 Timothy 3:7)

All of this means God cares about your character much more than your competence!

The response for all of us (Pastors and Missionaries especially) is to develop character through a close personal relationship with God. Competency or results can then come not because we are working hard, but the Lord is blessing our commitment to Him.

More importantly, when we care more about results than character, things never end well.

Richard Baxter in his book “The Reformed Pastor” has a quote that describes the need for character well….

“One proud, surly, lordly word, one needless contention, one covetous action, may cut the throat of many a sermon, and blast the fruit of all that you have been doing.”

Charles Spurgeon also points out the importance of character so a minister lives the truth as well as preaching it.

Spurgeon describes as a good preacher but a bad Christian: he “preached so well and lived so badly, that when he was in the pulpit everybody said he ought never to come out again, and when he was out of it they all declared he never ought to enter it again.” (from lectures to my students)

This can be applied to the lives of ministers as well. We can make competency our focus by emphasizing hard work and results, or we can make character our focus by emphasizing study of Scripture and prayer. The true question is what do we invest our time in? Activity, or fellowship with God?

There is nothing wrong with competency and success

But character must come first.

From The Archives: Missions is Using Facebook to Defend a Christian worldview…

Originally written January 28, 2019

One of my goals for 2019 is to be more purposeful with my online presence (particularly through facebook and twitter). In the past my posts were focused more on making people laugh or sharing experiences from the mission field, but now they revolve around three things.

  1. Share my burden for the people of Barrouallie, SVG
  2. Encourage and uplift Believers with Scripture
  3. and defend a Scriptural worldview online

That last part is the most difficult because when you take a stand for what the Bible teaches on controversial subjects, people disagree with you. And of course that also means they will challenge your beliefs..

Over the last few weeks I’ve gotten involved in some conversations about manhood, and abortion with friends who definitely disagree with my views. Thankfully they were gracious (didn’t attack me) and relied on strong arguments instead of just emotion. However there’s no doubt in my mind I will eventually be attacked for sharing a Christian view online

If that’s true then why take that stand at all?

Because those online conversations make you stronger…..

Sadly many Christians are surrounded by people who agree with their views on everything. The problem with this is you never really learn how to defend your beliefs in a humble, or gracious way (that doesn’t attack the other person instead of the issue). These kind of conversations, both online and in person, make us stop and think seriously about WHY we believe certain things.

Of course Christians shouldn’t fully embrace the world and compromise their beliefs…however isolating ourselves from other worldviews has a great danger as well.

The online conversations I have had recently (along with others) have also taught me some important lessons about communicating effectively through social media.

  1. Sometimes the smartest thing you can do is log off, and study the subject more
  2. Make sure you know EXACTLY what the person is saying…we can very easily put words in other peoples mouths
  3. When you get too personally involved (its making you angry) take a break
  4. Bring the conversation back to Scripture
  5. Understand what the conversation is REALLY about
  6. And ask lots of questions instead of making lots of statements

This doesn’t mean these kinds of conversations aren’t frustrating (they are!) but they also make us much sharper…

(added March 30, 2022) Of course these conversations can also create serious problems!

  1. Often these Facebook posts can get totally out of hand
  2. It becomes communication focused on proving the other person wrong instead of understanding their point of view
  3. There will always be “trolls” who enjoy being critical of your post
  4. And these online conversations become pointless because nobody will change each others mind

that doesn’t change the fact that surrounding yourself with those who hold to a different view makes your own beliefs stronger.

Missions is Owning Your Failure….and Doing Better

I plan by Thursday this week to finish re-reading “Christ-Centered Preaching” by Bryan Chapell. I’m going over this book again because it gives lots excellent information on preaching.

I am also going over it again because some of my messages in recent months haven’t been as good as they should be.

Oh I had a sermon outline (and even handouts!) but the time and effort put into those sermons just weren’t were it should be. It’s easy to become so busy in ministry that your study time is affected, the end result is a sermon that needs more work 😦

This came to a head a few weeks ago when my sermons fell flat, and I went home angry at myself for not putting in the work….

Thankfully by Monday my attitude changed from anger, to a renewed commitment for excellent preaching

The shame and frustration I felt Sunday night are a natural part of life. Nobody likes to fail! However what we do with that shame makes a huge difference.

Satan wants that shame to fill our hearts with anxiety, fear, or worthlessness (self-pity). This way the shame keeps us from attempting other things because “it will always end this way.” God wants that shame to become a 1,0000 watt flashlight that shines on our weakness (not putting enough time into sermon prep) which leads to confession, and repentance (doing better).

The problem is we often are so crippled by the shame that we aren’t willing to admit the sin that God clearly reveals!

Yes admitting my messages could be better intensified that shame

But the rededication to excellent preaching that followed was worth all the emotional pain.

Last Sunday both messages that came out of my renewed sermon-prep habits were definitely better than the week before! They may not have been excellent, but that’s okay (growth takes time). What matters is getting up after you have fallen.

Missions is Using Religious Freedom While It Lasts

Tomorrow I will file the paperwork to extend my visa in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines till 2023.

And like every year, I’ll do it with a huge smile on my face because the process is so incredibly simple.

Sadly it seems as if some Countries have used Covid as an opportunity to limit religious freedom. Of course there is a danger with Covid and need for protocols, but at times it seemed as if individuals could go anywhere but church! This isn’t surprising of course because the world will never view church as something important or necessary.

Seeing other Countries limiting religious freedom, it was refreshing to see Saint Vincent and the Grenadines continue to EMBRACE religious freedom.

  1. During the pandemic we did shut down evening and mid-week services temporarily for safety, but were only told by the Government services couldn’t be held for two weeks
  2. At the height of our Covid crisis the Government asked less than twenty individuals be allowed inside the church building with others gathered outside, but we still regularly had a morning service
  3. All of the Schools in Barrouallie begin with a devotional, gospel song, and prayer
  4. Renewing a Visa is an expensive process, but at the same time incredibly easy, I can bring back the application with the necessary documents in less than an hour
  5. We are allowed to enter prisons and publicly share the Gospel
  6. And people in the community gladly receive tracts, even saving them, and re-reading later!

This religious freedom is a beautiful thing, but it’s also dangerous because we believe it will always be there

Satan likes to use religious freedom to create passiveness or procrastination when it comes to the Lord’s work saying, “oh you have plenty of time!” But the truth is even here in SVG I have seen the door of religious freedom beginning to close.

Not through government control……

But through the hardness of peoples hearts.

When I first arrived in Saint Vincent six-years ago NOBODY refused a tract. I can remember a church member respond when shock when a man refused hers in 2017 because that had never happened before! But slowly that has changed. Thankfully people aren’t violently against the Gospel, but quite a few will refuse one that’s offered, or start an argument about what Scripture teaches.

This lack of openness to the Gospel begins in the hearts of individuals. But over time culture isn’t satisfied with not listening to the Gospel, they have to silence the Gospel.

The Biblical response to this is to use the open door of ministry that religious freedom gives to us daily. Plow and sow the seed of the Gospel into tender hearts because they won’t be that way forever.

Missions is Not Trying to Open a Door God has Closed

Today I get to say something I’ve been waiting to say for over fourteen months…..

I’m going back to prison!

(a traditional joke that used to be shared once a week on my family texting group).

In December 2020 I visited the prison to drop off a pair of shoes for an inmate. While there a prison guard, and two prisoners wished me a merry Christmas. If I knew that I wouldn’t return till March 2022 I would have stayed longer.

Understandably the growth of Covid kept people from visiting the prison since growth in there would spread among almost all of the inmates. It was frustrating though as Covid cases went down, and protocols were ended that the prison stayed closed.

It was annoying on my part, but I truly felt for the men who genuinely looked forward to our time together every week. It was getting to the point before Covid where they could pretty much run things themselves (one brought the message). But I’ve become concerned many of them have stopped growing since we left.

I am very grateful that the Lord has re-opened this door of ministry. And for this reminder that nobody can open a door of ministry God has closed.

Day to day missions work involves using ministry opportunities that God has given. Using these “open doors of ministry” is incredibly important because the Lord can close those ministry doors. This can come in an extreme way like Covid shutting down the prisons, but it can also come from lessened ministry effectiveness, or God leading you towards another ministry.

When God closes the door of ministry the Biblical response isn’t frustration, but faith that He will open the door again if it is His Will.

In other words….you cannot force open a door that God has closed!

Technically you could force this door open by continuing to do the work when you know it isn’t what the Lord wants. But all of that effort will be wasted! It is far better to step back, and find a door that God has opened. The beautiful thing is that often when we give up trying to force the door open, God will open it Himself!

Please pray for me and my friends in the prison ministry team as we begin meeting again a week from Wednesday

  1. Pray the men will come
  2. For excitement as the ministry begins again
  3. For unity among the men, and our team members
  4. That I along with other men can give them strong teaching from Scripture
  5. and for discipleship opportunities

May our ministry bring Glory to the God who re-opened the door

From the Archives: Competitiveness can be Healthy

Originally written March 15, 2019

Yesterday I was able to take part in a “heroes walk” to raise money for a children’s Bible camp during the summer. The walk itself wasn’t bad (took about an hour and a half) we had great weather, and there was some good fellowship with friends.

After about a half-mile something strange happened though

I started becoming competitive

Anyone who knows me realizes I’m not a competitive person (thats just not how God made me). But something about running or walking makes me competitive. This probably comes from training in groups to run marathons and half-marathons in the States

So after the first two hills my mind started saying “I wonder how close you can get to the leaders?” and before I knew, it I was separating from the pack.

I didn’t finish first, probably ended up in group three or five, maybe the last part of group two. But still finished faster than most.

It’s funny how my running training kicked in during the walk. One of the things I try to do is find somebody who is faster than me and try to keep up with them (gives me something to chase).

Towards the end I noticed one of the ladies who showed lots of energy when most of us where tired. I knew instinctively she was saving her strength for the end.

Sure enough, she started to run when we turned off the main road towards our finish line. By the time I came turned off she was a fair distance away walking, but once I got close she pulled away again easily.

Thankfully she had mercy on me so I was able to pass her, and run my way to the finish.

In my mind yesterdays walk illustrated a “healthy competitiveness” that pushed me to walk and run harder, because I could. This is in contrast to a “toxic competitiveness of someone who absolutely has to win at all costs.

I believe competitiveness gets a bad reputation in Christian circles that it really doesn’t deserve. For some of us it brings the idea of people whose ego cannot stand not coming in first. So they trip children, push people out of the way, and break all the rules. Then they celebrate singing “we are the champions”, making sure to replace the “we” with “I”.

It is true that some competitive people are jerks…but not all of them

Competitiveness in its core isn’t about winning, but simply showing up, and competing. It also gives the idea of trying to the very best you can, even if that may not be winning a race or walk.

In other words, you compete not for a medal (there wasn’t one anyways) but personal honor.

I’m sure that I was a lot faster in my marathon training days (especially since I was wearing Columbia climbing boots) but the smile on my face as I jogged in the gate was the same as the one I had after finishing the Richmond marathon in 2014

both times I did my best

both times I finished strong

And both times it felt amazing

Missions is Reclaiming Innocence

There are a few areas of Barrouallie where I minister to children once or twice a week for what we call “Bible club.” Often on Fridays we play some games with sports balls, it gives the kids a chance to work out their energy, and I get some exercise!

One of the groups had an older sister who went to Secondary School (High School). I could tell she wanted to take part in our clubs, but felt she was too old for such a thing. Sadly this reflects a more serious problem because many of the children in SVG (and other countries) lose their innocence very young.

I’ve seen countless times the change in lifestyle of a child when they go from the age of ten to eleven. The young person who at 10 was respectful and interested in the things of the Lord seemingly overnight has no interest in God at all. Part of this is puberty and becoming a teenager of course, but the real problem is a culture that offers adulthood temptations to children at a very early age.

Sadly there is little structure for teens in Saint Vincent because most of them live with a single parent (usually mother) who is caring for the youngest child. This means the older ones have few rules to follow. Just to be clear, I blame the men in this situation who will not stand up and care for their family, choosing to be gutless cowards instead.

Loss of innocence comes when a teen is faced with the temptations of Satan, and has nobody to protect them, or guide them through it.

There are no easy answers to this problem, but at the same time the Lord has placed a burden upon my heart for this young lady and those like her.

That burden led me to create a place where they could just be kids.

The thing is I knew that teenager wanted to listen to our Bible stories, and play games with us. Inside of that “grown up adult” was a little girl who still wanted to relive a simpler time. My job was to be patient and let her know she was welcome.

Friday she finally started interacting with us…..

She started by throwing a ball back and forth with her little brother. This was actually a huge help to me since I try to be “referee” on Fridays who makes sure the balls are being shared, and nobody cheats (kids will be kids). Eventually she started playing less with him, and enjoying herself more. By the time I left she was bouncing a ball high in the air, and having the time of her life!

I am grateful for the Lord’s reminder Friday that ministry doesn’t have to be complex. It could be as simple as letting a teenager be a little girl for a few brief moments.

Missions Is Stopping to Help Those In Need

One of the most challenging parts of missions is financial help. When only certain individuals are struggling to pay bills and buy food understanding who to help is easy. But when most people are in this situation, things are less clear. Issues such as lack of consistent work, and not enough jobs to go around means poverty is an issue for many Vincentians.

I would love to financially care for every single family in Barrouallie….but of course I cannot do that

So I focus on helping those who are in “great need

There are a few requirements for what makes a great need, but one of them is the individuals health is affected. Most people in Saint Vincent goes to a public clinic that’s open once or twice a week and offers free examinations. The only thing you pay for is the medication!

In most cases going to the clinic will take care of the problem. But for more serious health concerns you must visit a private doctor, who is much more expensive. Sadly some individuals don’t have the money to pay the private doctor and allow the serious health problem to continue!

Last week I helped three individuals who were in serious physical need:

  1. A two-year old girl who had a chest cold (I could hear her wheezing in her chest) and was sent to a private doctor
  2. A girl who feel down and did serious damage to her mouth as well as teeth, and was sent to a private doctor
  3. And a man who because of a bike accident had a serious open wound in this side that couldn’t be dealt with at the clinic. I ended up getting him guaze, bandages, peroxide, and antibiotic cream

The important thing isn’t actually my giving, but my stopping to help those in need.

Thankfully the Lord allowed me to give the money that could be spent on visiting the private doctor. But even if I didn’t have it, there were other things that I could have done to help them.

Experiencing these individuals in great need reminded me of the parable of the good Samaritan who stopped to help the man who had been attacked by robbers. You know the story of course! Two religious men saw this person in need and instead of stopping, passed by on the other side. They probably were afraid that the thieves were close by waiting to attack somebody else! Whatever the reason, they ignored the man who was desperately in need of help.

This is convicting because like the religious men we (myself included) often pass by the individual in great need without even trying to help! Often this is because we cannot offer FINANCIAL HELP but there are many other ways to help the needy around us.

  1. With a genuine concern
  2. With a listening ear, and full attention
  3. With an encouraging word from Scripture
  4. With a shoulder to cry on

Over the summer missionary Jonathan Archer gave the following definition for missions….

Sitting with the hurting, celebrating with the rejoicing

The more I think about those words, the more powerful they are to me. Especially the part of about sitting with the hurting.

The time will come when I cannot open my wallet and help those in great need (it often does). But in those moments instead of walking on I can sit with them in their suffering, and remind them God will supply all of their needs.

Missions is Finding Something That Works

I was recently talking to a Vincentian pastor about how easy it is to just keep doing what you are doing. By this I mean churches and individuals who fall into the habit of continuing to do what they had been doing, even though it wasn’t effective. He explained how a ministry at his church wasn’t working well (“people were just showing up”) so changes were made that ensured it was helping people grow. He looked at me and said. “you have to find something that works.”

Those words spoke deeply to me…..

Because I’ve recently had to give up good ministry practices that just weren’t working

Now there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING wrong with these ministry practices according to Scripture! But over time they had lost some of their effectiveness, and there was a need to temporarily set them aside so something better could begin.

The major ministry is tract distribution which I’ve done almost every morning for years. The thing is there’s still an interest in getting tracts, but it isn’t the most effective way of sharing the Gospel. A lot of times the person will take the tract from me, and then just keep on walking. Yes I did give the Gospel out, but an effective outreach would involve a conversation and relationship development.

As good as tract distribution is it doesn’t lead to many conversations.

In the end I had to ask myself “do I want to have an outreach that is good, or an outreach that is excellent?” Obviously the answer to that question is excellent! But setting aside something I’m used to doing and starting something new is hard work work, and to be honest a bit scary.

This is why when asked to choose between a ministry that’s “just okay” and a ministry that works, we will be tempted to choose the former. But being average falls into the trap of Satan.

Satan understands that he can’t get many Christians to completely reject Christ (those who do probably aren’t Christians in the first place) so instead of encourages them to be average.

  • Just go through the motions
  • Read the Bible, but don’t apply it
  • Go to church, but don’t let it affect your life
  • Pray, but don’t spend too much time doing it

Being average is the easy road to take since everyone else seems to be taking it. But we must choose excellence (something that works) so that when Christ returns He will say “well done good and faithful servant”, instead of “thou wicked and slothful servant.” There will be many Christians who when Christ returns will leave many things undone because they chose being average.

It is never easy to give up what we have been doing and do the hard work of creating something that works

But we put the work in, because a ministry that pursues excellence or effectiveness is a form of worship.

From the Archives: Why Every Missionary Needs a Smartphone

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originally written February 2, 2017

Last month during a brief furlough I took some time to evaluate ministry in the 2016 year and came up with two big ministry goals for 2017.

  1. To disciple three young men in Barrouallie

  2. and develop a real relationship with prayer supporters as well as supporting Churches

now the truth is communication is always a goal of mine, but I would probably give myself a low “C” (and in some cases a high “D”) during 2016.  The problem isn’t that I wasn’t sending email updates.  However those updates weren’t resulting in effective communication.

For me effective communication is a back and forth conversation between two people. My emails did find their way to inboxes, however they rarely resulted in further communication.

At the same time my communication on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram exploded however it wasn’t directly connected to supporting Churches or prayer partners in a specific way (meant for lots of people not just them).

For years missionary have had to choose between an email based relationship with supporters (good for sharing info but difficult to communicate back and forth) and a social-media relationship (great for constant communication but lacks privacy or direct communication).  Thankfully with today’s smartphones you have the best of both worlds.

It’s my personal belief that every Missionary should own a smartphone…not so they can use it as a status symbol, but because it allows them to communicate directly with Churches and supporters from anywhere in the world.

For instance using my smartphone this morning I was able to:

  1. Contact a supporting Church in Virginia to make sure I had their updated contact info
  2. Leave a message on a supporting Churches answering machine
  3. Communicate with my father to make sure the 336 area code number I’m using for communication in SVG works properly
  4. And send text messages to my field-administrator who is currently in Brazil!

I am aware that smartphones are incredibly expensive (especially if you buy them without a contract) but the relationship it develops is worth every penny.

Update to post written 3/16/22:  

Since that post was written I’ve continued to work on using things such as social-media to create a more “day to day” relationship with supporters.  At the same time I began to notice that Facebook was taking up too much of my time and energy.  Because of this in November 2021 I moved almost all of my communication to a closed ministry group of prayer supporters, and just recently began using my main Faceook feed again.

But I cannot help but think smartphones give opporutnities for much deeper relationships than Facebook 

I am still very thankful for the wonderful tools that these phones give for missionaries to communicate with prayer supporters.  But I also see hwo incredibly easy it is to have “shallow” relationships that don’t really communicate in a deep way.

God has given the gift of technology so that we can go past just one click relationships with our supporting churches and prayer partners.  He has given it so we can lock arms with them, and stand firm through true relationships based on strong communication.

Physical Health Strengthens Ministry

Last Saturday I was able by God’s Grace to celebrate my forty-sixth birthday! I was aware Saturday that while 46 isn’t necessarily old, it makes things more difficult physically than in your younger. But Tuesday this week reminded me in a very painful way!

While visiting a friend yesterday I walked down into his yard, and then hit a spot that was slippery. Suddenly my right leg shot out from underneath me and I fell to the ground! There wasn’t much pain after the fall itself so I felt as if everything would be all right. But about 7:00 last night I tried to get out of a chair and couldn’t stand!

Twisting my knee in the fall had either bruised it, or sprained it slightly, which caused it to swell. This condition (commonly called water on the knee) made my knee stiff so that it couldn’t bend properly. Thankfully after rest, some pain meds, and icy hot my knee is doing much better. But it was a good reminder that a fall which wouldn’t have affected me at all in my younger years has a great affect now.

This and other experiences about things being harder physically than in younger years leads to an important truth…..

You cannot serve God effectively if you aren’t healthy.

Missions involves lots of physical exercise (such as walking) and consistent energy that can do focused work for the entire day. This demands a strong body, mind, and willpower that flow out of a healthy lifestyle. The mistake many ministers (and Christians) make is emphasizing spiritual or mental health (here I refer to the understanding of Doctrine) and ignore their physical health.

They inevitably learn it’s kind of hard to serve the Lord when your tired all of the time.

The Lord in recent years has continually shown me the importance of healthy habits

  1. Like getting at least seven hours of sleep
  2. Exercising every day
  3. Eating on time (you don’t snack between meals)
  4. Starting a strength training program
  5. And eating lots of fresh vegetables

While the difference didn’t come overnight, i slowly but surely began feeling more energy and focus because of the healty eating, and daily exercise. This allowed me to become more effective in my daily ministry!

Sadly I got of track and gained quite a bit of weight :-). The good news is the Lord is helping me make my physical health important again by once again emphasizing healthy habits.

It is possible to serve the Lord while out of shape but it’s very difficult (trust me I tried). It’s far better to combine spiritual and mental health with physical health.

Missions teaches me it’s okay to ask for help

A few months ago I gave away the last large print Bible from a box that had been sent to Saint Vincent since the volcanic eruption. Within a few days individuals found out I had them, and were asking me if they could get one. This is actually a common problem in SVG since many individuals suffer from glaucoma, which keeps them from reading fine-print Bibles.

At that point my only hope of getting more was to order them from the States, and have them sent over with a shipping agent. There was definitely a need for this but it would end up costing around $500 for the Bibles alone without including the cost of shipping.

So I sent out some updates asking for help raising money to send Bibles……

And the response was incredible!

Since late January I have received around $700 of gifts to go towards purchasing and sending big print bibles! This doesn’t include the $1,000 gift a church sent last week to help bring new shipments of them in!

My favorite way the Lord worked has to do wiith my home church however

A close friend there really felt the Lord calling her to help me with my need for Bibles. She began raising money with a sunday school class, but then happened to find older big-print Bibles that had been used in past services (they had since been replaced with new Bibles). With the churches blessing she is sending twenty-five Bibles that had been greatly used in Winston Salem North Carolina so they can continue to be used in Saint Vincent! The Bibles themselves and shipping are free (the church pays for that) so the rest of the funds can be spent on future Bible shipments.

I’m honestly overwhlemed by the way people responded to my request for help

And a little convicited.

With missions there will always be new projects or needs, and each of them costs money. In these situations it’s easy to fall into the bad habit of continually asking for financial help or support. But there is also an equally bad habit, never asking for help at all.

I must confess I fall into the second categry

Asking for help has always been something I struggled with. Often I’d rationalize it by saying I don’t want to be a burden, but the truth is my stubborn pride just refused to do it. This pride was based upon the belief that it was a bad thing to ask for help.

The truth is it’s unhealthy to constantly have a new need for financial assistance, but allowing others to meet a need financially isn’t a bad thing. In fact, its a WONDERFUL thing since it allows supporters and prayer partners to help in a tangible way. To not bring up a need is to remove a blessing for them, and you.

So let me end this post with two words…..thank you, and sorry

Thank you for giving in such a sacrificial way to help Vincentians receive a copy of the Word of God they can comfortably read.

And sorry that I often allow my pride and thoughts about asking for help being a bad thing to hinder your opportunity for ministry.

In the future I will with the Lord’s help share with you the blessings of ministry, as well as an ocassional need.

No More “That Will Do” Jobs

During my time serving in Australia, Missionary Don Winans taught me a very important lesson about ministry, and work-ethic. We were doing some projects and running a bit behind so I began trying to get them done as quickly as possible. He turned to me and said “That’s a ‘That’ll do’ job” (short for that will do).

I understood what he meant of course. A “that will do” job focuses on accomplishing as many things as possible during the day by emphasizing quantity (how many things get done) instead of quality (how well the job is done). Of course the name comes from doing as little as possible to get the problem fixed, then saying “that will do.”

That will do jobs aren’t really sinful….

but they are incredibly dangerous because we embrace being average (or just good enough) instead of excellence

Doing a job the right way with excellece is difficult

  1. It takes time
  2. It takes lots of HARD WORK
  3. And it usually involves spending lots of money
  4. It’s just easier to do things the average way

However the problem with the “that will do jobs” is they don’t last for long. Soon you will be doing the same job a second time (or third) and end up working HARDER than you would with the excellent job.

Though the average job is easier in the short-term, doing things the right way will bless you more in the long run.

I recently had some body work done on my vehicle because of a minor scrape-up. Some friends encouraged me to have him do body work on the entire car, smoothing out dings or dents and scratches. Then another brought up the idea of getting a new paint job. Parts of my car (the hood especially) had severely faded areas from paint, so both of those jobs definitely needed to be done.

There was no question the complete body work and paint job were necessary. But that would be a BIG job, which meant I’d be without my car for an extended period of time. Part of me wanted to choose the “that will do” job by just having a small area of the body work finished. But my heart knew putting in the time, and effort to get the whole job done was better long-term.

It took over three-weeks to get my car back!

But it’s worth it!!!

Looking at the vehicle that looks better than it was when I bought it, I’m reminded doing things the right way (often the hard way) is better. And I am incredibly thankful Don Winans and others who taught me “that’l do jobs” rarely work well.

Scripture Impacts the Mind, and the Heart

Tomorow is the last teaching day of my two-week module on the book of Revelation at Baptist Bible College of the Caribbean. It was a wonderful opportunity to connect with students, and take an in-depth look at Scriputures teaching of end-times.

While class has gone very well, Monday and Tuesday this week could have been better. The class just felt “dead” on those days lacking the normal energy, discussion, and interaction. Monday I figured it had to do with students ministering over the weekend at church, but when Tuesday was dead, I knew something was wrong.

It didn’t take me long to figure out the problem……..

I had fallen into the bad habit of sharing truth instead of applying truth

We were slightly behind in the notes so I made an effort to get through as many pages as possible to catch up. The good news is we did cover lots of material on Monday and Tuesday, the bad news is that material made little impact upon the students lives. To put it simply, I impacted the head by giving information, but didn’t impact the heart by applying that information to their daily life.

The result of this teaching style is a head thats filled with Bibical knowledge, but little of it is being lived out. The problem with that is we are called to make disciples who live out the truths of Scripture, and daily become more like Christ. So truth must impact the heart as well as the head.

With that in mind I came home yesterday afternoon and made some changes to the class that ensured their hearts were being ministered to:

  1. The remaining notes were streamlined to emphasize the major truth of the passage (removed about eight pages)
  2. I sat very close to the students with an open Bible during class, this helps keep their attention, and encourages discussion
  3. I purposely added points that could be applied to our current culture
  4. And moved at a much slower pace through the material, allowing students to think through the material, and formulate questions
  5. Today when class ended students were still debating events surrounding the Great White Throne in loud animated tones which brought a smile to my face.

Sadly the emphasis on ministering to our heads (transfer of truth) and not our hearts (application of truth) continues outside of the classroom. In fact it takes place in many churches, and daily Bible readings! Countless belivers approach the Word of God and observe truth (ministering to their heads) then don’t do the hard work of meditating upon that truth, and applying it to life (ministering to the heart).

There are many answers to this problem, but I personally feel the best one is personal discipleship.

A one on one Bible study with a mature Believer is an excellent way to impact you heart with Scripture. This personal teaching relationship allows them to explain the Word of God carefully, answer questions, and give specific ways you can apply that particular truth to life. It also helps you stop and THINK about Scripture.

I’m grateful that the Lord reminded me this week impacting lives with God’s truth is more important than finishing the notes. And discipleship that affects the heart is far better than material that just impacts the head.

Missions Teaches Me I’m a Sinner Too

Saturday I finished “Holy Sexuality and the Gospel” by Christopher Yuan. It was an excellent study of God’s sexual standard, particularly as it relates to homosexuals.

One of the biggest takeaways from the book is everyone (homosexuals included) must be approached with an attitude of humility, and love.

Obviously this doesn’t mean we agree with sinful actions, or compromise our convictions! Instead this loving humility doesn’t approach the sinner with an attitude of arrogance that believes we are better than them.

This attitude of love comes from a foundational truth of Doctrine….

We have all failed God

Christopher Yuan does a good job of explaining that each of us were created to glorify God, and have failed miserably by sinning against Him. Though some sins have greater consequences than others, the Lord doesn’t look upon us as “big sinners” or “little sinners.” Just ONE SIN can separate us from Him for eternity!

This truth challenges me to approach sinners not as someone who lives a perfect life, but a fellow sinner who has experienced the grace of God.

This kind of humility keeps me from falling into the extreme of isolating myself from the unsaved (never interacting with them) and compromising myself with the unsaved (adapting to them). Both of these extremes do great damage to a testimony.

  1. An Isolation Relationship with the Unsaved gives off the message that I am better than them. It refuses to even have friendships with the unsaved because it could affect their testimony.
  2. The Compromising Relationship with the Unsaved does the exact opposite by accepting everything that they do, and never confronting any sin.

Approaching them as a sinner who has experienced God’s Grace avoids both extremes

  1. I take the initiative to approach them with the Gospel of Christ
  2. I emphasize building a relationship, and taking opportunities that the Holy Spirit gives to clarify the teaching of Scripture
  3. I deal with their heart relationship (Salvation) instead of outward sinful actions (drinking, drugs, etc) but make sure they understand these actions dishonor God
  4. I give them time to change…..show patience instead of forcing them to accept Christ
  5. And I live the Gospel in front of them on a daily basis

Above all things a spirit of loving humility gives Grace to the unsaved…..

Because God continuously gives me Grace .

A few doors down from me is a rum-shop where people gather during the day. I will visit there during the week to pass out tracts, explain Scripture, and build relationships. Everyone there understands I am totally against drinking, especially in the local community where so many are addicted to rum, but I still visit there.

In a perfect world I wouldn’t have to visit a rum-shop to share Christ. But we don’t live in a perfect world! So with the Lord’s help I enter into the darkness with the light of the Gospel.

Not as someone who is better than them….

But a sinner who has received God’s Grace.

Praying For Sun, and Getting Rain

Last month I left my car with a christian mechanic to get some basic body work done, and have it repainted. Going into the job I understood something like this would take a while (around two weeks). But extra work for the mechanic along with some complications meant the job took almost three instead!

As the weeks passed my frustration understandably started to rise. Finally the mechanic promised that on Saturday the car would be finished. I left most of my things at the Bible College where I’d been teaching (had stayed up there last week) and went back to Barrouallie Friday excited about getting my car back.

Around 12:30 Saturday I saw the mechanic.

But he wasn’t driving my car….he was walking

The mechanic explained that because it had rained Friday and Saturday he wasn’t able to finish the job. A drop of water could create bubbles or streaks in the paint job. It was a real let-down not to get my car since I’d looked forward to it so much, but I did understand why the job wasn’t finished.

Over the weekend I prayed that the Lord would bring good weather without rain on Monday so the car could get done. But it was pouring rain this morning, and the job was delayed again.

My mood wasn’t very good this morning riding public transportation to the college. It actually got worse because I left my umbrella at the college (planned to use one in my car!). Things weren’t so bad till we neared the road where I needed to get dropped off, and then it REALLY started to rain. By the time I walked up the road to the college, my clothes were completely soaked (thankfully I was able to change into clothes I wore the week before)!

Sadly life isn’t fair sometimes

  1. We don’t get what we deserve
  2. Things fall through
  3. or people let us down

The worst part about these unfair situations is we cannot fix them

There is honestly nothing I, or my mechanic can do to keep the rain away other than praying God would give sunshine! Honestly though the situation is frustrating I don’t blame him, because without the rain on Friday he could have kept the promise to give me the car on Saturday.

So how do we respond to the days when we pray for sun and end up walking in the pouring rain?

Focus on what you can do something about

Frustration has a way of growing to affect every area of our lives. We fixate our minds on that one thing that is unfair, and soon can’t think about anything else

The setbacks with my car made it easy to only focus on not having it. But the Lords help I was able to begin focusing on things that could be achieved.

  1. Like teaching on the book of Revelation at the Bible College
  2. Going home to finish some projects, and work on Sermon preparation
  3. And spend some extra time with the Lord to quiet my restless heart

The Lord calls us to continually lay that thing we cannot fix at His feet (because He can fix it), and then put our attention on His daily calling for our lives. It’s amazing how much less stressful life is when we stop trying to do God’s job!

I’m honestly not sure when I’ll get my car! But thats okay, because God does. And as I do His work for the day, He will work out my car situation for His glory.

Missions Teaches Me People Will Let You Down

This is the inner pocket of the backpack that I daily use in ministry. It’s a good place to store items, but it’s also a good reminder that people will let you down.

As a general rule I don’t carry lots of cash, and when I do, it’s usually kept in my wallet. Once I broke that rule….and lived to regret it. I was going to visit some young people and decided to put my rent inside the inner pocket since the landlords house was on the way to theirs. Because he wasn’t home I decided to simply try again the next day.

The next morning the inner pocket was zipped open……

And the rent money was gone!

After a search of the house to ensure that I did put the money in my bag the only option left was someone stole it.

And sadly I knew exactly who did.

After visiting with the young people the day before a young lady helped me put the books and tracts back inside my backpack. She was someone who always obeyed and never gave me any trouble at all, which was why she was allowed to help me pack the bag. Because she was the only one who touched it, she was the one who stole my rent money.

I immediately went to her house and spoke with the neighbour (a friend of mine) so he would pay attention to whether or not she was spending lots of money. The Lord worked things out that she actually hadn’t gone to school that day so I asked her about the money, and she denied everything. I knew she either took the money, or knew who did because to get to the money you had to open the back part of my backpack, and then zip open another area. Nobody could have done that without my noticing since the backpack is always with me.

To be perfectly honest if it was a few dollars I woudln’t have worried too much about it. But the fact that she had taken rent money (a very good amount) meant something had to be done. I spoke to her school principal and teacher since children buy snacks at school, she would probably try to start spending lots of that money at school. I later had the police come and question her about the money, and the situation was rectified.

This story illustrates the fact that because we all suffer from a sin-nature people will let us down, and we will let them down as well. So we must be prepared for things like that to happen.

This experience though painful helped me develop a biblical response to others sinning against me. It is made up of two parts.

  1. Bring to repentance
  2. And restore the relationship

A true response to people letting you down MUST have both parts!

Bringing to repentance is necessary because often when others let us down, they don’t see it as a serious problem. Unfortunately for children in Saint Vincent stealing is just a way of life, often it’s learned by watching their own parents steal! As it’s done habitually over time, taking someones money doesn’t bother them anymore. So it’s absolutely necessary to show them it is a serious problem.

This repentance must be done the right way though

  1. It cannot be done in anger: I was very calm and spoke in a quiet voice to the young lady about stealing my money
  2. You must give them a chance to do the right thing: I made sure to explain to her what would happen if she wasn’t honest. First I’d go to her principal, and then go to the police
  3. You give clear and proper warnings: The day after she stole my money I told her that if she hadn’t given back the money after a certain amount of time, I would bring the police.

Bringing to repentance must have the correct goal. Though I was frustrated by my loss of money, it wasn’t about the money. My goal was to break the sinful habit in her heart, and draw her closer to Christ. The purpose must be to rescue her from future judgement of God and consequences of her actions.

Along with bringing to repentance comes restoration.

Restoring the relationship means that the past sins cannot affect the present and future relationship

  1. I forgive the individual in my own heart no matter what happens
  2. Take ownership of my own mistake in the situation (carrying money in my bag)
  3. I continue to minister to her with Gods Word
  4. And make sure that know’s i’ve forgiven her

Restoration can take time because they may not believe you’ve forgiven them, or trust needs to be earned again. In these cases it’s important to make things right because it displays the mercy and love of God.

Losing rent money because a child stole it was painful. But it gave an opportunity to display the Holiness of God, as well as His grace in practical ways.

Consistency Beats Excitement

Last Monday night I finished one of my favorite books “Atomic Habits” for the fourth time. So far I’ve gone through it twice as an audiobook, and once on kindle, but it felt good to finish a physical copy.

The quote at the top of this post with stars around it jumped out at me as I looked through markings and notes. It reminded me that success in ministry isn’t based upon excitement, but consistency.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t exciting periods of minsitry filled with fantastic growth, of course there are! But those seasons of excitment don’t come along very often. Much of ministry (and the christian life in general) is repeated obedience with very few results.

This is dangerous because we can easily define results as being successful, and lack results as being a failure.

This idea is incredibly unbiblical, and has destroyed the testimonies of courntless christians who quit because they “weren’t getting results.” In Scripture we aren’t promised a life without suffering. Instead , God challenges us to endure suffering with faithfulness.

  1. Suffering should bring joy and happiness instead of frustration (James 1:2)
  2. We should embrace suffering since it makes us stronger spiritually (James 1:3)
  3. We shouldn’t try to escape suffering because it is making us like Christ (James 1:4)
  4. Our faith must remain strong in suffering instead of continually falling into doubt (James 1:5-8)
  5. In the suffering we must look expectantly to the deliverance of God (James 1:9)
  6. We endure suffering so that we can honor Christ in eternity for His redemptive work (James 1:12)

The Lord doesn’t define success by getting results……

He defines success by being consistent

The thing about repetition is it doesn’t draw attention to ourselves. It doesn’t give us an adrenaline rush…..in other words it’s boring. But repetition is also an incredible act of faith. The consistent christian life believes that God is at work even though it doesn’t seem that way, and acts on it.

Coming into missions as a young adult I expected it to be one adventure after another

Well let me tell you something….it isnt!

Instead missions is what Kevin DeYoung has called “plodding.” Doing the work of God day in, day out with quiet excellence not worrying about whether or not results will come. Yes there are mountaintops in ministry dear friends, but there are also many days filled with plodding steps.

So why keep going???

Because eternity isn’t here yet!

The consistent life of repetition at the end can say with the Apostle Paul “I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” Though I’m not at the level of Paul, I understand the consistent life prepares me for the final day. I don’t want to meet my Saviour with tasks left unfinished. The individual who defines success as getting results meanwhile will face the Lord having quit on many things.

God honors the good and FAITHFUL servant, not the one who seeks results

I am grateful for the spiritiual mountaintops that God has given. But I am more thankful for the days of boring repetition, because those are the days that make me stronger. And those are the days that draw me towards my Saviour.

From the Archives: Letting God Speak

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Originally written March 16, 2016

A few weeks ago a missions team came to Barrouallie to run a fee health-clinic during the day, and then VBS at night. After seeing one of the doctors people would walk down to the pharmacy (located at Church) and wait for their prescription to be filled.  I was lucky enough to be one of the counselors who witnessed to people while they waited for their prescriptions, and had many conversations that went something like this.

Me:  To you who is Jesus?

Them:  He is God’s Son

Me:  Do you have any spiritual beliefs?

Them:  Yes I believe Jesus died for me

Me:  Do you believe in Heaven and hell?

Them:  Of course!

Me:  If you died today where would you go?

Them:  Heaven!

Me:  Okay if God asked why He should let you into Heaven what would you tell Him

Them:  (looking at the floor) I don’t know

Editors Note:  I really enjoy using these questions that come from the book “Share Jesus Without Fear” by Bill Faye

It was really interesting seeing the confident look on their face suddenly change when I asked why God would let them into Heaven.

In some cases they told me things like good works, loving Jesus, or going to church would save them. Others answered my question about where they would go after death with “I hope Heaven/guess Heaven.”  And in my three days of counseling about ten told me clearly they would go to Hell.

As one after another individual displayed confidence til those last two questions a thought occurred to me.  These people KNOW the right answers Biblically, but they haven’t THOUGHT ABOUT that truth, or applied it to our lives.  This became apparent when I started reading Romans 3:23 and Romans 6:23 to them, both verses that pretty much everyone knew by heart.  However when I asked them “what do you think that means?” Suddenly a look of confusion mixed with panic came on their face followed by lots of uh’s and um’s.

I must admit using questions to make them think about Scripture (and illustrate their wrong beliefs) became way too much fun…especially when we got to John 3:3

John 3:3   Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God 

Me:  (after reading the verse) how does a person become born again?

Them:  (with confidence) be baptized!

Me:  (with a confused look) wait a minute…if I become baptized does that change my heart?

Them:  (looking at the floor) no

Notice in these situations I haven’t really told them what to believe because in all honestly they know the Scripture.  So instead I am (with the Lords help) making them stop and think about those Scriptural truths.  

The thing is for many unsaved people giving the right answer is something automatic, like press a button and the verse is quoted.  Yet that truth is simply in their head…it has never impacted their heart.

This is why it’s important to center a conversation on Scripture.  When this is done the Holy Spirit will reveal the truth to them, and bring true conviction to their hearts.

It’s easy to argue with me, but very difficult to argue with God.

These conversations challenged me to examine an individuals relationship with God instead of just listening for the right answer.  Hell will be filled with individuals who have correct theology, but never placed their faith in Christ.

God Will Bring Them Home

Over the weekend I finished listening to “Out of a Far Country” the biography of Christopher Yuan who went from homosexual drug dealer to Christian in prison. The book itself is excellent because it not only describes his conversion, but the conversion of his mother (and father). Most of the book switches between the experiences of Christopher as he wandered from the Lord, and his mother as she prayed for His Salvation

Numerous times in the book his mother prayed the same prayer over and over again “Lord do whatever it takes for Christopher to become saved.” That prayer continued for almost five years while her son fell deeper and deeper into drug addiction, and then was finally answered when Christopher’s apartment was raided by police.

One thing that truly spoke to my heart was the burden God placed upon this mothers heart for her son

  1. She took a guest shower and turned into her prayer closet, spending hours and hours on her knees praying for Christophers salvation
  2. Early on she would fast every Monday for her sons Salvation
  3. Later the Lord led her to go through a deeper fast that she didn’t entirely explain….she continued this deeper fast for three-years before Christopher came to know Christ
  4. And she constantly sent Christopher cards with Bible verses and presentations of the Gospel

This deep burden for her son, and the prayer that went with it, convicted my own heart.

Many of us have lost loved ones or friends who the Lord has placed upon our heart, and we pray for their Salvation. But how many of us are willing to go to the lengths that this mother did? How many of us are willing to consistently and passionately pray for almost five years for Salvation?

The problem is our burden is just too weak…….

We pray for a while and then lose heart

This is a terrible thing to do because the Lord WILL bring that soul to a place of Salvation! But we must be faithful. It is only those willing to continue praying and never quit that will see their prodigal come home.

At the end of the book Christopher is taken by his parents from the prison back to his childhood home. There in the yard is a huge yellow ribbon tied in a large tree outside. Some of you may remember the song “tie a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree” a song about a prisoner who told his girlfriend if she still loved him, to tie a yellow ribbon in the oak tree in front of his home. As he neared the house on a bus, hundreds of yellow ribbons could be seen tied in the trees on both sides of the road.

Walking into the house Christopher saw hundreds of yellow ribbons taped to the wall of his parents home. Looking closer he could see writing on each one. His mother told him each ribbon was given by a person who had prayed for his Salvation.

The Lord is faithful to bring the prodigal home. But we must be faithful to continue praying till He does so

One of the most powerful teaching tools I received from Child Evangelism Fellowship missionary Betty Hoover was a huge chart listing all the books of the Old and New Testament.

I started using it in Bible Clubs during the week encouraging kids to learn as many books of the Bible as they could. At first we would loudly chant the books of the Old Testament together with the chart in front of us. Within a few weeks they could go from Genesis to Proverbs by memory, and a few weeks after that they could make their way through most of the minor prophets.

A few of them who particularly good at memorizing was able after a few months to recite all sixty-six books from memory, and can do it to this day!

But it meant more to me that the children who struggled learning things could recite almost every book of the Old Testament without missing one.

That chart taught me it is indeed possible for young people to learn complex subjects, all it takes is patience, and repetition. As we chanted the Old Testament books together those words started to stick in their long term memory, they would even chant them months later the same way we did at the beginning.

It’s true that working our way from the short-term memory (that forgets things quickly) to a long-term memory takes LOTS of repetition. But it is worth the effort put in because the information sticks with them for a lifetime.

I’ve seen repetition work not only with books of the Bible, but Bible verses that kids don’t believe they could EVER learn become something they could say without even thinking. Even children in pre-school over time can learn to say MULTIPLE memory verses alongside their brothers and sisters!

Ministry is sometimes repetitive going over the same information over and over again. This can sometimes be frustrating and boring, but that same repetition hides God’s truth in a child’s heart.

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