BLOGS FOR INDIA 2013
BLOG 159: PRAYER THAT CHANGES THINGS – THANKFULNESS (1)
The sermon and blogs I present immediately before going to India are very special to me. I pray and seek God’s guidance for several months because what He leads me to focus on becomes the theme for my trip, both for me personally and for those who pray and support me. This trip God has led me to Colossians 1:3-14, how to pray so that lives are changed.
We know the importance of prayer, and that God answers prayer, but often we don’t really know just what to pray for concerning ourselves or others. We know prayer is powerful and touches the heart of God Who, in turn, touches the lives of those for whom we pray. The power is not in the prayer itself but in the God Who answers the prayer. Often our prayers become a series of directions to God, explaining how we want Him to make life easier for us and those we know. When those kinds of prayers aren’t answered the way we think they should be we start doubting the power of prayer. Our prayers must line up with God’s will for others if we are to see answers.
So just how are to pray in a way that changes lives? Paul’s pray to the Colossians, which was similar to his prayers for other churches and individuals, gives us the pattern. It is simple, yet profound. It shows us what God wants to do in our lives and the lives of others so our prayers can line up with His will.
Remember, though, our prayers to see peoples’ lives changed should not be motivated by selfish reasons. We can’t demand God change circumstances or situations, only that He uses them to work in the person’s life. In fact, because of what you are praying, it may make situations worse than they were to begin with. That may be necessary in order for God to accomplish what you are asking Him to do. One more thing, this prayer will only be effect if you pray it on a daily basis for a long time. It is no quick fix, nothing that will change things over night. I encourage you to apply these truths to your prayers for yourself, others you pray for, me and the pastors and Christians in India.
Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1:3-14 breaks down into 2 main sections: Paul thanking God for the believer in Colossae (3-9) and asking God to fill them with knowledge of His will (9-14). He thanks God for them because of the testimony of their faith, love and hope. He asks that they would know God’s will so they can live a life worthy of Him and please Him in every way. Let’s look at this passage and see how it applies to each of us today.
Paul begins by writing: “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you.” (3) All of Paul’s prayers begin with thanksgiving and that’s a good habit to have. It changes our attitude and greatly impacts how we pray in the rest of the prayer.
Every time you pray or communicate with God today, start with thanksgiving. Make it sincere, heartfelt appreciation. Think of new things to express gratitude for whenever you talk to Him. Don’t rush through it but be sincerely grateful to Him. (Saturday, Jan 5, 2013)
BLOG 160: PRAYER THAT CHANGES THINGS – RFAITH, LOVE & HOPE (2)
In my first blog on Colossians 1:3-14 I talked about the importance of starting prayer with giving thanks, as Paul did. Paul then explains why He thanks God for them. “Because we have heard” (4). Whenever you hear a good report of someone, including something from me in India, do not give me or the ones involved the credit, thank God and give Him the glory for it wouldn’t happen if it weren’t for Him. I don’t send blogs to draw attention to myself but so God can be thanked for all that is happening, so your faith can be strengthened, and so you can know how to pray.Paul thanks God because of what He heard about the Colossians. What did he hear? Did it have to do with how busy the church was or its size? Was it their budget, their music program or even their outreach program? It was none of these. What impressed Paul and brought glory to God was three things: the faith, love and hope of the people themselves.
We have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus” (4) is the first reason Paul is thankful. Evidently the story of their conversion went all the way to the prison in Rome where Paul heard of it. Their walk with the Lord began in faith and has continued on in faith as well. But that’s not all.
“And of the love you have for all the saints” (4). Love is the fruit of faith, the evidence of God’s Spirit at work within (Galatians 5:6; James 2:14ff; 1 John 3:14). When we experience God’s love and are filled with His Presence the natural result will be love for others (Galatians 5:20). This is clearly from God for they have love for “all” saints, and we know not everyone is easy to love without His help. Only God can bring about unconditional love for all in us.
The third trait he is thankful for, hope, is mentioned next. “The faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about” (5) Faith rests on the past and looks up to God, love works in the present reflecting God, and hope looks to the future in confident assurance that God is in control of everything. This life may be difficult, but better things are stored up for us in heaven! We endure today with the assurance of what will come.
We know God is in control through His Word: “That you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.”
It is God’s Word which is the only dependable source of truth in the universe. It alone produces changed lives, in the Colossians and those throughout the world. Knowing God’s Word is the basis of our faith, love and hope Having stated that his prayers always begin with giving God thanks for the Colossians. Pray God would give you and others a hunger and thirst for His Word, and a clear understanding of it.
“You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.” (7-8) Pray that, like Epaphras, I and the pastors in India would be able to clearly teach these things to the people in India. Pray for your pastors and leaders in the same way. Pray for yourself as well, that others would see faith, love and hope in you. Pray they would see it in me, and in the pastors and Christians in India. (Sunday, Jan 6, 2013)
BLOG 161: PRAYER THAT CHANGES THINGS – KNOWING GOD’S WILL (3)
It’s very important to understand that this prayer concerning the Colossians wasn’t just a one-time event, or something Paul said when times got hard for them. He prayed it continually, in good times or bad. “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you.” (9) Paul prayed regularly, daily, sometimes hourly, for them. He also prayed for the Christians in Rome (Romans 1:9-10), Ephesus (Ephesians 1:15-16), Philippi (Philippians 1:3-4) and all the churches he heard of. Consistent, faithful, persevering, regular prayer for those God puts on your heart is a must. Pray for yourself, your loved ones, me and the pastors and Christians in India daily, several times a day. A prayer here or there is OK, but it is when we “never stop praying” that God changes lives.
Having stated that he thanks God for them because of their faith, love and faith, Paul now gets to the heart of his prayer for them, how He prayed for their lives to be changed. ”Asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will.” (9) We can’t do God’s will unless we know it! It’s not something we take a guess at, or just do what we want and ask Him to bless what we do. We can and must know God’s will so we can do it. Pray He will “fill you” with the knowledge of His will – give you total, specific, precise awareness of His plan and purpose for your life. We don’t pray to tell God our will but to know His will for us. “THY will be done, THY Kingdom come…” Prayer is not giving God instructions, but it is us reporting for duty.
Pray you would know and follow what God has for you to become the person He created you to be. His will for us starts with who we are, not what we do! Then He also reveals to us how we can best serve Him. Pray I would know clearly what He wants me to speak about each time I speak (an average of 4 or 5 times a day). Pray the words I use would be His words. Pray I would know His will as to how to pray for each person who comes to me after a session, asking me to lay hands on them and pray for them. Pray the pastors there would know God’s will for their lives, their family and their church. Pray Pastor Moses would know His will as he makes last-minute plans and decisions of where we will go and to whom we will speak during my time in India.
How are we to know God’s will? Paul says it is “Through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” (9) Spiritual wisdom comes through knowing the Bible and spiritual understanding is provided by the Holy Spirit within. Be sensitive to God using His Word and His Spirit in leading you in all you think, ccsay and do. Pray that for us in India as well. Spend time reading your Bible while being sensitive to what God will teach you through His Spirit.
The key to seeing lives changed is continual, persevering prayer that God would reveal His will to the person through His Word and by His Spirit. This prayer is for those who are following Him and seeking to live for Him (“faith, love and hope” characterize them). For those who aren’t following Him allow God to use difficulties in life to bring them back to Him. Don’t pray for those things to be removed, but for them to be used to open their eyes to their need of Him. But for those living for Him pray they would fully know His will for them! (Monday, Jan 7, 2013)
BLOG 162: PRAYER THAT CHANGES THINGS – PLEASING GOD (4)
Having stated that he thanks God for the Colossians because of the testimony of their faith, love and hope, and that he prays they would know God’s will for their lives so they can continue to grow and serve Him, Paul concludes this prayer with two reasons for praying this.
The first reason is so they will bring honor and glory to God by their lives. “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord” (10) If you carry the name ‘Christian’ your life must reflect well on Him. Pray you would live a life that would cause others to think better of Jesus because of you. Pray that for me in India, and for the pastors and Christians in India as well.
The second reason Paul prays they will know God’s will is so they can bring pleasure to Him by their lives. “And may please him in every way. (10) What are we to do that brings Him pleasure, that puts a smile on God’s face? How are we to do this? How are we to pray for others to do this?
1. “Bearing fruit in every good work” (10) We are alive to produce fruit for God, good fruit: love, joy peace, patience and the other fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24). Everyone produces fruit, for the Christian ours must be “good” work to bring glory to Him.
2. “Growing in the knowledge of God” (10) God wants every one of us to grow in our knowledge of Him. This starts with mental knowledge in our heads as we learn His Word and know more about Him, but it doesn’t stop there. It means ‘knowing’ Him in a more intimate way, not just knowing about Him but experiencing a deeper personal relationship with Him (Philippians 3:7-11).
3. “Being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.” (11) He doesn’t change circumstances and make life easy for us (so stop praying for that to happen in your life and the lives of others). But He does promise He will give us power and strength to overcome, to resist, to stay faithful no matter what. “Great endurance and patience” is required, though, because victory seldom comes quickly or easily.
4. “And joyfully giving thanks to the Father.” (11-12) Paul started with thanksgiving, and now He concludes with it as well. We bring happiness to God when we joyfully give thanks, no matter what is happening in our lives. Paul concludes this prayer with his own personal words of thanksgiving to God because of His greatness to all of us. “Who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (12-14)
This classis prayer of Paul’s, typical of how He prayed for all the churches and believers, gives us great insight into how we can pray to see lives changed, both here and in India. Pray for yourself, those God puts on your heart here, for me and for the pastors and Christians of India. Pray each one of us would be characterized by faith, love and hope. Pray we would have a clear and full awareness of what God wants us to be and do for Him so that our lives will bring glory to Him as others see us and bring pleasure to Him as He watches us. Pray we would bear good fruit in all we do, grow in our knowledge of and intimacy with Him, experience His power and strength over temptation and difficulties around us, and that we would continually and joyfully give thanks to Him. And don’t pray this just once; make this your prayer daily, several times a day, for yourself and your loved ones as well as for me and the pastors and Christians in India. (Tuesday, Jan 8, 2013)
BLOG 163: NO GUARANTEES
I sit in the airport writing this, awaiting the departure of my flight to India. I’ve seen numerous signs offering guarantees: of cell phone reception if you purchase a certain company’s product, of ease of flying if you travel with their airline, of satisfaction if you purchase this produce, and on and on. What I’m looking for is a guarantee, not from a phone company, an airline or a merchant, but a guarantee from God. I’d like a guarantee I’ll make it safe and sound to India, that I’ll be healthy while there, that my ministry will impact lives, that I’ll be able to endure being away from family and loved ones, that the time will go quickly and I’ll soon be home safe and sound. I’d feel much better if that was guaranteed.
But there are no guarantees from God, are there? Certainly if anyone could offer a guarantee about the future it would be He holds the whole world and all that happens in the palm of His hand. When one signs on to serve and follow Him there are no guarantees. Of course there are none for those who don’t serve Him, either, are there? But they wouldn’t expect any. The problem is that when I sacrifice for His sake I expect something in return. I feel that He owes me. I am doing this for Him. The least He can do is guarantee success, safety and an enjoyable time, right?
No, there are no guarantees with God. Or are there? Does living for Him and serving Him offer any securities? Do we have any assurances from Him when we live for Him? We may not be able to write our own list of benefits, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any. There are many, and they are out of this world. We may not call them guarantees but we call them promises. Same thing.
God makes many promises for me when I follow Him. He promises (guarantees) that He will never leave me or forsake me, never give me more than I can handle with His help, always be with me, use whatever happens for my growth and His glory and fill me with His Spirit and Presence. Pastor Tim in the Mitford series talks often about “praying the prayer that God always answers.” What is that prayer? “Your will be done” is the prayer He always answers. He doesn’t guarantee that my will be done but that His will be done.
What could be better than that? While I’d like guarantees that assure my safety and comfort, His promises focus on His will being done. And as I think of it, who am I doing this for, me or Him? If I want safety and security I should stay home. If I want His will to be done I need to trust Him as He leads and guides whatever may happen. If I truly want to live for Him and serve Him then I just report for duty and let Him give the orders, trusting He knows best and He will be glorified in all of it. That’s what it means to be a servant.
No guarantees? Maybe not the kind I want, but I need to put my faith in His promises to be with me no matter what, not in promises to keep me from any difficulty that may come up. No guarantees? No, but yes, the best kind – that His purpose will be done and He will be glorified, and that He will be with me helping me no matter what happens. No guarantees? I think that’s the best guarantee anyone could ever want! (Wednesday, Jan 9, 2013)
Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Is God calling you to do something, or has He put you in a place in your life, where you would like some guarantees from Him before moving ahead? What assurances are you expecting from Him to make it easier for you to trust Him? What promises has He given that you can rest on instead?
BLOG 164: “GOD IS EXPECTING TOO MUCH!”
The days before I leave for India are always very difficult because the time to say good-bye to family and loved ones draws closer. The magnitude of what looms before me expands to awesome proportions. When it is time to go I am tempted to say, “God, this is too much. It’s too high a price you are expecting me to pay! I can’t pay this great expense! It’s too hard!” How many times do we tell God He is expecting too much of us, that the price He is asking is too high?
Immediately I am convicted, though. I can’t help but think of the price Jesus paid for me. A mental image of Him on the cross immediately flashes in my mind and heart. He paid a much higher price for me than He ever expects me to pay for Him! He left His Father and loved ones (the angels) to come to earth for me, to face rejection, shame, mockery and pain beyond human imagination. He didn’t say, “It’s too much!” He submitted to the Father’s will no matter what the cost. Leaving Pennsylvania for India is nothing compared to leaving heaven for hell! How can I not be willing to pay any price for someone Who would pay the ultimate price for me? (Thursday, Jan 10, 2013)
Mark 14:32-36 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” 35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
When are most apt to think God is expecting too much from you? Do you have a high or a low tolerance for emotional, physical or spiritual pain? How does the pain you suffer for Jesus compare to the pain He suffered for you? Pray and thank Him for His great love for you that mean that no pain was too great for Him to bear for your sake.
BLOG 165: DIFFERENT
All my life I’ve tried to fit in, to belong, to not draw attention to myself. How ironic it is that here in India it is being different that is my biggest advantage! I have a different skin color, language, home country and culture. Because of that I find I have a hearing, an immediate interest arises, and people will carefully listen to what I have to say. That is true of young and old, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, Christians and unbelievers. My difference is my calling card, my open door to speak about Jesus. They are all curious what this different man has to say, so I talk to them about Jesus.
Yet while I may be different, He is always the same. Any place, any culture, any time, any situation – He is the same. The Jesus I present on the other side of the world in India is the same Jesus we serve in America, the same the early church served 2,000 years ago. He is no different, He applies to all. ‘One size fits all’ is certainly true when it comes to Jesus.
Because I am different I have a unique opportunity to talk about the Jesus Who is no different than He ever was, Who is always faithful, Who always keeps His Word, Who loves unconditionally and saves eternally any and all who put their faith in Him. I may be different but He is not. His message is the same, so my message about Him is also the same. Speaking to Americans or Indians, rich or poor, men or women, young or old, the message of Jesus and about Jesus never changes. Even half way around the world it is true. All around us may change and be different, but never so Jesus. He is just as real and available, just as appealing and compassionate to the poorest of the poor in India as He is to the richest of the rich in America. He is the same as all of us. He is no different, ever. He never changes. He always remains the same. (Friday, January 11, 2013)
Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
What does it mean to you personally that Jesus is always the same, that He never changes, that His Word is always true, that He can be counted on no matter what? Pray and thank Him for always being the same in your life.
BLOG 166: CHANGED LIVES
I awake to a new day feeling much, much better. Thank you so very much for your prayers – I depend on them more than you know. Yesterday is a bit of a blur since I was not doing well at all, but I feel like a new person on a new day. Pastor Moses’ apartment is small and everything is crowded but they offer loving hospitality. The noise and smells of the city continually enter in. Windows are always open, temperatures will in the 70’s at ngiht,80’s in the day. It’s impossible to forget where I am!
Yesterday was the first pastor’s conference. About 60 pastors and wives attended. I spoke about what God expects of pastors, marriage and ministry, how to measure if you are growing spiritually and spiritual warfare. It went very well.
Today we go to Pastor Moses’ church for a family life conference: husband wife relationship in the morning then parent child in the afternoon. In a culture where marriages are arranged, sons are valued much higher than daughters (and spoiled where daughters are often used as slaves) it is a challenge to apply Bible truth (minus 21st Century American culture) to the believers here. They are hungry and open for there is virtually no teaching about these things for Christians here.
They know the Indian culture is not correct but don’t know God’s way – haven’t seen it in operation and don’t know where to start in their own families. So my desire is to translate biblical truth into Indian culture with giving them a simple place to start. I don’t want to just drop something foreign and large on them, they must start at the first step.
The gospel changes lives, there is no doubt about that. It changes marriages as well. Here in India, in America, in my life and yours – when the Spirit enters we are changed, different people. It’s not something we learn from others around us but starts with God’s new life within us. I see it across age and caste lines here in India. The believers here have a joy and peace, a smile and openness, that others don’t have. It’s even visible in their children. Light has replaced darkness, joy removes fear and hope overcomes the emptiness of all round them. A meaning and purpose come into life that cannot be given by Hinduism, Islam, education or government programs. It is Jesus in each one of us that makes the difference. Truly Jesus changes lives.
Pray God would use my words to help them be able to apply this change to their marriage and family, so they could reflect Jesus to each other and the hungry world around them. (Saturday, Jan 12, 2013)
2 Corinthians 5:17-18 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
Take a moment to think of how God has changed your life. What would your life be like without Him? Try to imagine that, then thank Him for all the changes He has made in your life.
BLOG 167: ANSWERED PRAYERS
I don’t have much time for it is very late and I must get up early for a long drive after church. I will be gone form Moses’ home for 3 weeks. We leave after church (I’m speaking about spiritual gifts).
I must thank you for your prayers for they have made ALL the difference. After one of my worst days ever in India yesterday, today was probably the best ever! I felt completely better. We went to Moses’ church where I was prepared to speak for 2 sessions. Instead I ended up speaking for 5! The people were very open and responsive – the first time I’ve ever had that in India. I know many of them personally from my many years and visits there. I’ve prayed with them, ministered with them, eaten in there homes, even been in touch with some through email and Facebook. They didn’t want a break, nor to leave for supper, they just wanted me to go over various topics. They asked questions and I answered. They wanted a session on spiritual warfare so we conclude the day with that – very in depth and personally applied to them. I led them in prayer afterwards then prayed for them as a group, then individually as they came up to me one by one. It was very powerful and moving. God gave me the words to say throughout the whole day. It was the freest I have ever felt in thoughts and word-finding that I can remember – all God’s Spirit answering your prayers so thanks so very much. Prayer does make a difference!
I don’t know when I’ll have internet again we have a very busy schedule of long drives, late nights and early mornings, with a conference in between. Monday night (Monday morning your time) should settle down a bit for us. So please keep praying. It most definitely makes all the difference!!!! (Sunday, Jan 13, 2013)
James 5:16-18 The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
Where have you lost faith in prayer? What have you given up praying about? What should you be praying about more fervently? Is there any unrighteousness in your life that may be hindering your prayer? Spend some quality and quantity time in prayer for this ministry in India as well as other needs God has put on your heart.
BLOG 168: MUSINGS ON A LONG DRIVE
I’m writing this in the car as we drive from Hyderabad to Vijayawada and then to Rajahmundry to stop for the night Sunday night – 10 hours of driving. Tomorrow we leave at 4 for the rest of the drive to Visakhapatnam where we will have our first pastor’s conference of the week. The scenery is lush and green: rice patties, palm trees, a clear blue sky. Despite being on a modern interstate highway, a herd of water buffalo is slowly walking toward us spread out over both lanes. Just recently we had to navigate through a large herd of goats. We stopped for a break at a modern rest stop that included Subway and Baskin Robins while sacred decorated bulls paraded past the eating tables. Hindu shrines and signs of idol worship seen no matter where one looked. Moses’ wife and son are with me in the back of the car while Peter is in the front with Moses who is driving. It’s a bit crowded but we are all family and enjoying the time together.
I spoke in their church this morning. I’ve been attending that church several times a year since 2007 – the year it started and my second year in India. I think I’ve ministered about 40 times to and with them, maybe more. I’ve seen many of the children become teenagers and some even marry. On the other side, several of the older ones I have grown to love have gone on to heaven. I talked with and prayed for each family, one by one. I remember their situations and requests and it’s great to see how God works. One family with a girl who had serious eye problems told me that after I prayed last time her eyes were healed. There are not many medical options, even for the few who can afford them. If Doctor Jesus doesn’t heal there is no hope.
The people know me and love me, and I know and love them. They remember Nancy and ask about her. Teaching about marriage and child raising has been an enjoyable challenge. I’ll be doing it about 20 times this trip. In summary, I told them husbands initiate in the relationship by showing unconditional, sacrificial love. Wives are to respond with a submissive and trusting hear which is manifested in showing respect in all she says and does. While that is very contrary to Indian culture they were very glad to hear it. When I dismissed them for a break after the first hour they said they’d rather stay and hear more, so we kept on going.
Our extended teaching and discussion times yesterday were very special and meaningful, perhaps the most I’ve ever experienced in India. At the end of the day they asked for an evening special session to go into more detail about spiritual warfare. I didn’t have any of my notes but didn’t need them anyway. I was wondering how many would come but they spread the word and we had over 70 on a moment’s notice, twice what were present in the afternoon. The group and individual prayers for deliverance at the end were very touching. Coming from idol worship and living in a land dedicated to darkness has brought most, if not all of them, in contact with demonic forces. It is great that my book on spiritual warfare is available for them in their own language.
Christian love, which is a reflection of God’s love, is not limited by distance, race or language. I thank God for the beautiful privilege of getting to know these special children of His!
Galatians 3:28-29 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Monday, Jan 14, 2013)
John 15:12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
Who are some of the special people God has put in your life? Thank Him for each one of them by name.
BLOG 169: “I AM YOR VERY GREAT REWARD”
One of the clearest ways God has chosen to minister to me so far on this trip has been through your emails. Some have written out their prayers, others send a special scripture, words of encouragement or something God has been impressing upon them that applied to me. Each one is greatly appreciated. I meditate on them and read them over and over. God uses them to touch and feed my soul. He brings them to mind throughout the day. Thank you so very much for sending your thoughts to me.
One comment that has especially burned into my heart is that God wants to reward me by allowing me to see more of Him. God’s words to Abraham keep going through my mind. Genesis 15:1 After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” God chose to bless Abraham for his obedience, and the greatest gift He would give Abraham was more of Himself.
I’ve always know God rewards and blesses His people far beyond what we deserve. I’ve always seen these as physical or spiritual blessings. But the dear sister who shared this with me opened my eyes to something I never thought of before. God wants to bless me (us) with something far greater – Himself! He is not just the gift giver – He Himself is the gift. What greater gift could He give than Himself! That’s what Jesus gave on the cross, and what God wants to give to each of us. So often we settle for lesser blessings but what could be better than a deeper revelation of Who He is. I am thrilled to think He wants to do that and eagerly anticipate it happening. It is something that won’t happen unless He chooses to do so. Who can know anything about God without Him revealing Himself to us! Clearly there are varying degrees of that revelation.
For many, many years my goal in life has been to know Him better. Philippians 3:7-14 has been the passage that has most spoken to me as well as expressing my heart’s desire over the years of my life. I’ve incorporated into the ‘motto’ of our church. Truly I want to know Christ – not just know about Him but to KNOW HIM. In fact part of that verse is my login to this laptop, something I type several times a day (sorry, I won’t tell you the exact phrase, only my IT man knows that!).
So instead of rewarding me with blessings that focus on me, the Lord wants to reward me with allowing me a closer revelation of Himself. How that will happen I do not know. Through pain or pleasure? Sudden or gradual? With deep feeling or none at all? Through missing Nancy and loved ones or through enjoying their presence? I have no idea. I know it is something He wants to do for me, and for all of you as well. Even just realizing this has given me a greater appreciation of and closeness to Him. (Tuesday, Jan 15, 2013)
Philippians 3:7-11 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Pray I would be alert to what God wants to do in my life during this time in India. Pray for yourself, that you, too, would be desiring above all things, even above His other blessings, to know Him better. Pray that you would be open to Him being your great reward as well.
BLOG 170: RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
DRIVING IN INDIA: Driving in India is exactly the same as the USA, except that there is no GPS coverage, no MapQuest and no internet help. Also there are no printed maps, street or highway signs, traffic signs, stop signs and virtually no stop lights. It’s just like the USA except they drive on the other side of the road, very fast and very close together, the largest and fastest vehicles get the right of way, with virtually no traffic laws or speed limits, and you can drive on either side of the road. Also there are cows, ox carts, water buffaloes herds and hundreds of goats on all roads including the major highways. There are no sidewalks so everyone walks in the first lane of traffic. Where there are sidewalks the people use them for toilets so no one walks on them. And there is no car insurance like we have here, no seat belts and no state inspection. But other than that it’s just like driving in the USA.
CAN I GET SOME SYMPATHY HERE? I don’t suppose I can get any sympathy from you by complaining of the heat here? It gets into the lower 90’s each afternoon. Humidity is low, but it would still be more comfortable were it only to go up to the upper 80’s. It does hit the low 70’s at night.
The lobby of our hotel last night was so large it took forever every time we walked across it! Isn’t that terrible?
I finally ate my first meal since arriving here when I had breakfast this morning. Then I had a fresh, home cooked Indian meal for free at lunch. But they kept wanting to give me more food than I wanted to eat. Isn’t that awful! Now I’ll have to eat this great Indian food for the next 4 weeks! Any sympathy coming my way????
KEEPING THE SAME OLD THING FRESH We had the 3rd of 14 scheduled pastor’s conferences today. They are virtually all the same for we hold them in new places to train unreached pastors. Only a couple of them are places and pastors we are familiar with. Sometimes I wonder how I can deliver 4 45+ minute sessions every day, and have it always the same, without getting bored or distracted. Last year God kept it fresh in me each time by giving me a special connection with and burden for each group of pastors and wives. Thus I could do every day as if it were the first day, therefore putting my best effort into it. This year God has convicted me of the importance of the material I present, deeply convicting me of just how excellent and important it is for pastors. I am deeply humbled at the privilege of being part of the tube (Moses being the other part) through which God has chosen to deliver these key truths to His people here. As I speak I am amazed and impressed at the wisdom and guidance being given. The 4 sessions dovetail perfectly, supplementing and building on each other. The 2 books given out afterwards take everything taught and give it more depth and personal application. It is truly an amazing package that has God’s handwork all over it. Because of this I can focus and be fresh each morning no matter how many times I say the same thing or how physically tired I am. Having a front row seat to watch what God is doing is something I constantly thank Him for. (I wish it was a seat, everyone else sits all day while I stand barefoot on concrete 4 hours a day.)
BEAUTIFUL FEET Isaiah 52:7 How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Wednesday, Jan 16, 2013)
Romans 10:15 As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
I’ve seen the feet of hundreds of pastors in India and believe me, they are beautiful. Think of those who have had a good spiritual impact on your life over the years. Thank God for their ‘beautiful feet’ and ask Him to bless them this day.
BLOG 171: MAKING WAVES
At times I feel like what we do here is like dropping a stone in a lake. After the initial ‘plop’ the stone disappears. But then God reminds me that the ripples continue long after the pebble is gone. In fact, they get larger and larger as then move away from the pebble, until they touch every part of the lake. That’s the assurance that keeps us moving ahead with our work here. What is invested in these men and women will grow in them and through them spread to others here and in following generations.. It’s all about the pastors of India.
One of the many joys and privileges of being involved with the pastors of India is getting to know them and watching God work in and through them year after year. We go to new villages and have pastors’ conferences in different places each year so we can train men who have not had the opportunity. That is the main focus of our ministry – train untrained pastors in India. So far we have had about 2000 pastors and 500 wives attend our conferences over the years.
But several years ago God added a new dimension to our work here – building in a deeper way into the lives of key pastors who train and oversee other pastors in their area. These gifted, influential men also lack training and resources, but find themselves in influential positions in the church structure in this part of India. In addition to attending the daily conferences year after year and learning there, we have the books I have written for them which have been translated into Telugu. They can use these and pass them on to other pastors who can never attend a conference. Each year we bring 40 or 50 of them together in one location for 2 full days of advanced training. We build on the individual conferences, as well as what we taught in previous years. It gives me an opportunity to go in depth with men I have gotten to know over the years. I have eating in most of their homes and preached in most of their churches. They then take these truths and skills in pastoring and spiritual warfare and pass them on to other pastors, who will then do the same themselves.
Out of that group of 40 or 50 pastors, there are about a dozen we have chosen to help support financially. Some of you have been led to commit to sending $25 a month for their support. Many people spend that much for coffee at Starbucks or Wawa each week, but for a pastor’s family in India $25 a month makes all the difference. Most of the pastors survive on $50 a month and their families really struggle. The extra money allows them to have more time to minister, more funds to travel, provide an education for their children and makes it much easier for their wives to feed the family. For $25 a month we help someone who is already on the field, knows the culture and language, has acceptance by the people, and who will stay on the field for life.
I have NO problem with missionaries who come to India from foreign countries. That is wonderful, and is a special calling from God. But when the cost in dollars, time and energy is compared to supporting a pastor who is already here for $25 a month it’s easy to see what an effective ministry this is. It doesn’t just add, it multiplies. They will train pastors I never speak to, and they will follow up with them. These pastors will train others. The children of these pastors will be trained as they grow as well. Beyond my lifetime, God will use this in a very special way to bring many lives from darkness to light in this part of India.
Pastor Moses stays in touch with these men regularly as he distributes the money. He visits with them several times a year holding follow-up conferences using materials we provide and paid for by funds you contribute. He is a great discipler of pastors and does an excellent job maturing them as Christian men and pastors.
A side benefit is that these pastors have someone in America committed to praying for them regularly as well. I keep those who give informed about needs and requests from these pastors and share pictures as well.
If this is a ministry God would lead you to commit to please let me know. There are many, many more pastors we’d like to include in the program. Dollar for dollar, I can’t imagine a better investment in the Kingdom now and for eternity! (Thursday, Jan 16, 2013)
2 Timothy 2:1-2 You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.
Pray for me as I teach these men in our Leadership Conference on Friday and Saturday, January 18 and 19. Pray for Pastor Moses as he stays in touch with these men throughout the year. Pray for them regularly. I won’t publically announce their names to protect them and their families in India, but can send you names and specifics if you email.
BLOG 172: TRAINING PASTORS THROUGH BOOKS, CD’S & DVD’S
It is a great joy and blessing for me when I enter the home of a pastor or church member here and happen to see one of my books among their possessions. Yesterday a pastor at the conference had a copy of my book on spiritual warfare, translated into Telugu, with him. It clearly showed the signs off being read over and over, with many notes I couldn’t read inside. Throughout the year I receive a constant stream of positive feedback about how the book and truths in it really make a difference as churches and Christians find freedom from the stronghold Satan has on them in this dark country. The same is true of the book on what god expects of pastors. They have spread the main teachings of the pastors conferences to literally thousands of people for thousands of copies have been carefully distributed throughout a wide area. It was quite an initial expense to translate and print 5,000 each – about $15,000. But it has been well worth it. That was done 2 years ago and many copies remain to be distributed as needed.
Our newest venture in our India ministry is through audio and video means. Last year the sessions were recorded in audio and video and with the help of those with much more technical ability than me we now have the 2 main session on what God expects of pastors and spiritual warfare on CD and DVD as well. I brought some copies to India to distribute and we will be putting both on our India web site so pastors throughout the world can have free access to them. This trip I am again making audio and video copies of my sessions with the hope of making more available and putting them on line. Once the initial time is given to making a master copy the reproduction and distribution cost of CD’s and DVD’s is inexpensive and on line it is virtually free.
I see this as an important part of the future work of this ministry. I will not always be able to do what I am now doing in India, but through this media any who know English or Telugu can watch and learn from conferences already done. Eventually I would like to have a full library of topics I have taught available, but it will take time from those with technological ability to prepare my raw audio and video for production and use. While not many of the pastors in the villages have the ability to watch or listen to these, more and more are advancing to the point where this will soon be a possibility. Those with the necessary resources can have other believers and/or pastors join them in watching and learning. Pray God would guide and lead in this ministry as He would have it develop.
As to future projects, there is a desire to have my second spiritual warfare book translated and printed for it builds on the first and gives more advanced help to those ministering in this work. That would require more money than our India fund has, though, so it will have to wait until funds are available. There also is a great need for a third book, that on marriage and raising children for Christians in India, for there is nothing Biblical available for them here. Many have asked for it. I would enjoy such a challenge but again it depends on the funding. When God want us to go ahead with these things He will provide the finances. Pray for the truth to spread even without these means. (Friday, Jan 18, 2013)
Ephesians 4:11-13 It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Thank God for the multiple resources He has made available for you to learn His word and share it in your culture. Pray for those less fortunate. Pray for wisdom and guidance for me to lead this ministry as God would have it led.
BLOG 173: RANDOM THOUGHTS
Thursday’s day off was a new experience. It was much needed physically and mentally. I found a small exercise room with a jogger, bike and hand weights – I spend an hour there each day now. Pastor Moses was able to locate some much needed medicine at a local drug store and I am thankful for that. On the down side, though, I got a few drops of water on my keyboard when opening a water bottle and thought I lost my laptop for the rest of the trip. I did some serious praying and later, when Peter returned, he was able to get it working for me again. It’s not perfect in all ways, but definitely usable.
Peter left on Friday and I miss him. He was a great help, companionship, someone to talk to and a great friend. Now I am my own backup – well obviously God is and always has been my backup. I do miss Peter, though, and am very grateful for the time he was with me here. Thanks!
Reports from the pastors. Pastor Moses was sharing with me the notes he was mailed from some pastors who he didn’t know but who came across our Spiritual Warfare book. One wrote about how he was delivered from that which was demonizing him by reading the book. He said he used it for sermons to teach his people. Other pastors who have received the book from friends said they, too, taught it to their people and the results are wondrous. One pastor we don’t know got a copy and wrote asking more so he can give them to a group of pastors he is training. In the USA we have seemed to move past printed materials in our information distribution but in a culture where that has not happened, and where many places are without electricity most of the time, people love books to hold and ready. There are not many good books for the pastors, so we are privileged to provide this and the book What God Expects From Pastors to them for free. They are really well used.
Many thanks to those of you who have dropped me a line through email. They are greatly appreciated, a life-line back home. They are encouraging and greatly supportive. Thanks and keep them coming!
Please keep praying for me. Normally I am a very good sleeper, but it seems every time I come to India I sleep for a few hours then lay awake the rest of the night. I can easily fall asleep sitting up in a moving car which is starting and stopping and bumping along with continual horns honking outside, by lying in a quiet bed seems to continue to be a problem. I brought 2 kinds of sleeping pills and neither makes a difference. Prayer does.
Pastors’ conference results. The reports from all the pastors who come is overwhelming appreciation and gratitude for the things we teach them, things they say they have never heard and are hungry for: pastoring, marriage relationships and spiritual warfare. Pastor after pastor tells about how these things have changed them so very much. They are grateful beyond words. Thanks for your prayers and gifts that make this ministry possible.
Doing this ministry in India is privilege and blessing beyond what I can possibly imagine. The blessings of being the instrument for such a far-reaching ministry are beyond my wildest imaginings. Yet it is hard to get excited about what is happening because there is so much happening to me as well. It seems the price I personally pay gets higher each trip here. The price is physical, emotional, spiritual and social. Details aren’t important. What is important is that, for whatever these things happen, God uses them to help me grow closer to Him. “Weak” is the word I keep thinking of when I think of myself – so very weak. Of course God brings Scripture to mind about when I am weak I am strong (II Corinthians 12:10). Every day I teach that our strength is in Him (Ephesians 6:10). Perhaps this is to help me better identify with the people here as well (1 Corinthians 9:22). I know God chooses the weak things of this world to work through (1 Corinthians 1:27). I know, too, His grace is sufficient for His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). So if you are feeling week today – look to Him as your strength and help. (Saturday, Jan 19, 2013)
2 Corinthians 12:10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
Do you feel weak physically, emotionally or spiritually right now? Look up the verses I referred to and ask God to speak to you through them. When do you feel the weakest? What is God trying to do in your life during these times?
BLOG 174: INDIA THROUGH MY EYES
By the end of this trip I’ll have logged almost 6 months total time in India. While I’ll never get used to the idea of being in India, I do notice changes in how it has impacted me over the years. Here are some observation, in case you are interested and have nothing else to do at the moment!
I CAN TELL I’VE BEEN IN INDIA BEFORE WHEN:
I no longer count the number of people on a motorcycles or animals on a bicycle.
A 10 hour plane ride sounds like a great opportunity to rest and read.
I can travel for 4 weeks with all my clothing, food, magic, teaching materials and personal items in one carry-on suitcase.
I can calmly ride in a car without even watching the traffic zipping crazily in front of us.
I know which spice leaves to not eat and which are OK in the food I’m given.
Converting dollars to rupees and vice versa becomes second nature, and so does figuring out the time back home.
The horrible poverty of the masses starts to look commonplace and loses its shock value.
The smell of the air in the cities no longer surprises me.
I can say common greetings in Hindi and Telugu.
I automatically clean my hands with sanitizer after shaking hands with a stranger.
I drop from taking 6,000 pictures a visit to 600.
Children and animals defecating in the rod in front of me only cause me to veer a past and miss them without giving them another thought.
Open sewers are hardly noticed.
I don’t take pictures of raw beef and chicken covered with flies hanging out in the sun all day.
I am no long self-conscious about being the only white person within miles.
I’m more interested in keeping sand from between my toes all day than standing in the Indian Ocean.
It doesn’t bother me that only one or two people within miles can speak fluent English, and even then it is their second language.
I can ignore cripple children who beg from me without being tempted to stare at their infirmity.
I no longer try to understand how or why people live in such awful conditions.
Traveling on the left side of the road seems natural.
I know what a food item is going to taste like by looking at it, without having to take a bite.
I can read while driving without having to look up every time a horn honks.
It seems more natural for people to go to the bathroom any time and place.
My body no longer expects food or sleep at preset times. It’ll take either whenever.
I no longer reach for my camera every time I see cows laying in the road.
I automatically go by my rule: never pass up an opportunity to go to the bathroom, you never know when the next opportunity will be!
THINGS I DON’T THINK I WILL EVER GET USED TO (AT LEAST I HOPE NOT)
The hospitality and giving of the Christians in India just blows me away.
The vast numbers of people everywhere all the time is hard to grasp.
The great love, joy and appreciation of the believers in India.
The extreme amount of human and pain and suffering everywhere, and the hopelessness with it.
The amazing variety and beauty of the sari’s the women wear for every activity.
The darkness that surrounds everything Muslim.
The privilege of coming here with a message of life and hope.
The wonderful feeling of going quickly through customs entering the USA, knowing it is my country and I am always allowed to enter! (Sunday, Jan 20, 2013)
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: 2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, 6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, 7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, 8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
How has your perception of the things around you changed over the years? Think of your surroundings, job, relationships, etc. Have they changed or has the way you look at them changed? How has your perception of God changed? We know He doesn’t change.
BLOG 175: A MESSAGE FROM PASTOR MOSES
Today’s blog is from Pastor Moses, the man I’ve been ministering with here since 2007. I asked him to say something for you. Here it is:
“I would like to come and see all of you who are praying and supporting us in India. I want to thank you for your prayers and support for the pastors here in India. I would like to talk to you and tell you about our ministry in India with Pastor Jerry. We want to support more pastors here who are doing a very good ministry. We are thankful to all the donors who are supporting the pastors here. The pastors all say, “Thank you very much for supporting us.”
“The pastors and their wives have been blessed by the marriage conferences about how to live together with each other and the Lord. Having a book will bless them and help them teach this to their church members.
“The pastors who are coming to the conferences are very much blessed. They don’t know how to treat their wives before but now they know and are very grateful. They wives are greatly blessed as well. They are blessed by the spiritual warfare teaching and the teaching about spiritual growth. They want to live as God expects them as pastors and husbands.
“Through the Leadership Conference many of the leaders come to be trained, like Paul, so they can train disciples like Paul trained Timothy and Jesus trained His disciples. There are 5 leaders who want to make more Timothy’s in their churches and plant many new churches.
“I am appreciative especially to Main Street Baptist Church for the car. With it I can go places much better and get a lot more ministry accomplished. Thank you very much.
“I have a desire to go to Uganda, Africa, where I have been invited to come and teach pastors. I want to teach the pastors about spiritual warfare and What God Expects of Pastors. I will use the books that Pastor Jerry wrote and give them out to pastors there. The books are very helpful to the pastors who are ministering to the people who are suffering. The pastors who read the books are blessed. They are using them for their own spiritual growth and they are also teaching them in the churches. We would like to have the next spiritual warfare book, from Genesis to Revelation, so we can give that to the pastors as well. We would like a book on marriage, about how we can live together, as well.” P. Karunakar Moses, Hyderabad, India
What a blessing and privilege to be used by God in such a special way. And to have the messages and books we use here now be used to teach pastors in Uganda is a real blessing. Books will be left there to spread as well. Since English is one of their national languages the English copies of the books will be great. During the past year several other pastors in various parts of the world have asked if they can use my books, especially the spiritual warfare one, for training pastors or seminary students. Praise God for that! (Monday, Jan 21, 2013)
Philippians 1:3-6 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Thank God for the privilege of partnering with these fine Christians here in India. Let their devotion and commitment bring joy to you as it does to me. And remember God’s promise that HE will carry it on to completion. Thank Him for that as well. Make your prayer a time a time of thankfulness to God as Paul says in this passage.
BLOG 176: MEET THE FACES
Today, Monday, we had the first of 6 pastor’s Conferences in a row this week. It went very well – God blesses them all. I’d like to tell you about 2 of the people who attended, though, for that will help you meet the pastors of India, the faces you see in the pictures.
DAVID is a young man in his late twenties. He is of Gypsy background – they were the original inhabitants of India before the Hindu’s moved in thousands of years ago. They are like our Native Americans, and have been treated much the same. They are looked down as below the lowest caste. David had a good factory job but was demonically oppressed. He tried cult remedies but nothing happened until a pastor prayed for him and he was delivered. His life totally changed. He was baptized and joined a church. He told his family about his new faith but to this day none have followed him. He helped his pastor whenever he could. Seven years ago he felt God calling him to leave his good paying factory job and start a church full time. People mocked him and said he should do both but he knew God’s calling and quit. He has used the money he saved to start building a church building for his 2 congregations of 10 and 15 people to meet together. He lives in a tiny shack on the property while working on the building.
He has a deep burden for the poor community where he lives. (We had to park the car and walk across stones in a creek to even reach the village.) He calls his church Victory prayer Hall. He wants to build a room on the back for a home and is looking for a wife. We helped him a bit financially and will do so in the future as it is possible. If we have enough resources we’d like to include David as one of the pastors we sponsor.
MATTHEW & ESTHER took those names 25 years ago when they became believers. They grew up Muslim but didn’t want their Muslim names any more. Esther had been severely demonized and nothing helped her. She tried Muslim healing techniques and special locations, then Hindu temples and some of the most popular pilgrimage sites for healing in India but nothing set her free. Then she was invited to a church and went. A Christian prayed for her and she was immediately delivered. She and her husband both became believers and were baptized. Ten years ago, in their early 50’s, they built a house in their village with a second floor that could be used for a church. They have a small congregation of exHindu and exMuslim people coming. The local Muslim community has officially banned them and forbidden any of its people from having anything to do with them, but a small church meets regularly for worship and prayer. I first met them today when Matthew quickly hobbled up to take my brief case so I wouldn’t have to carry it.
Several members of the church came by for prayer while we were there. A young mother started having eye and head problems as couple weeks ago. Doctors in the biggest nearby city couldn’t help her. One eye ball is growing and moves about on its own, out of her control. The sides of her face are getting hard and numb. It is progressing fairly quickly. She asked me to pray for God to heal her. A woman in her 70’s was also present. She suffers from arthritis and joint problems and can hardly get around. She is a fairly new believer but has faithfully told every single one of her relatives about Jesus, and families in India are quite large! A man in his 30’s was there asking for prayer for a lung condition. A 12 year old boy came for prayer also. It was quite a variety for a congregation, but Jesus clearly was with them. They are the church Jesus loves and died for!
These are the people and the situations we work with each day, multiplied many times over. Usually 50 pastors plus a dozen wives attend each day. Neither one of these 2 had any church background or any Bible or pastoral training. They work independently so don’t have any resources or support. Still, they faithfully do what they can out of a heart of love for Jesus. Our teachings, books and fellowship with other pastors is a real lifeline for them. Thanks for your part in praying and giving, God answers your prayers and blesses all you do. Thanks! (Tuesday, Jan 22, 2013)
Matthew 18:19-20 “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”
Pray for David, and for Matthew and Esther. Pray for the thousands of pastors and wives throughout the world who are similar to them. Pray for the faithful pastors God has put in your life as well.
BLOG 177: A TYPICAL DAY FOR ME IN INDIA
What does a typical day for me look like? Let’s see if I can describe it. I usually am up by 6 at the latest, depending on if I am able to go back to sleep when waking up during the night. It does give me a good opportunity to pray for there are many things to pray about. There are certain Psalms and passages that God provides on each trip, often through what others like you share with me, which bring comfort and assurance. I often read through them as well, bed time or awakening.
After getting ready for the day I send the blog I have prepared the day before. If possible I IM with Nancy through our Google email account. That is an important way for me to start the day. We then have a free continental breakfast in the hotel restaurant: lots of fresh fruit and juices, bran flakes with milk (usually hot, for its all they have), toast, and various India breakfast foods (ones not too spicy).
Moses and I return to the room pray, and leave for the day. We leave about 8 AM (which is 9:30 PM the previous evening your time). We drive usually an hour or two, sometimes more, to the site of the pastor’s conference for that day. Moses takes care f last minute details and I set up for the day. If there is time I stroll around the village and take some pictures.
After singing and testimonies I present my first message: What Does God Expect of Pastors. Then after a chai break I talk about Marriage and Ministry – what God expects of husbands and wives, and apply it to pastoring as well. We have an hour break for lunch, fresh home-made Indian food cooked right outside the door. I always eat whatever they make. I have as shorter session on How To Tell If You are Growing Spiritually, 10 questions for themselves and their churches. The final session, on spiritual warfare from Mark 5 and the demonized man in the Gadarenes, is our most powerful. It ends with all praying for themselves, their families, homes and churches to be free from anything demonic.
Each session is 45 minutes to one hour, depending on how the schedule is flowing. I use 3 or 4 magic tricks with each presentation and that is very well accepted. We do this 6 days a week. Usually one day a week we will be at a group of pastors who have come in the past. In that case I go over different subjects, depending on the group.
At the end of the sessions we give a certificate saying they have attended, copies of my books, and a small amount of money to help with their travel expenses coming and going. Many of them will come up to me afterwards, asking me to lay hands on them and pray for them. That is a great blessing and privilege.
By then I am really exhausted. The four hours of standing and focusing so completely on what I will say next, culminating with the intense battle the spiritual warfare teaching and prayer always is, always really drain me. The heat doesn’t help. I think of Paul’s words about being poured out (2 Timothy 4:6) and understand a little better what he was talking about.
On the way home we often stop at one or two of the churches of the pastors who came so they can show us their ministry and have us pray over them and it. That’s very rewarding, and humbling!
We then drive back to the hotel, arriving between 6 and 7. We used to have one or two church services in the evening with pastors who would invite us. That was very enjoyable, but it meant we got back at 10 or later so we have not been doing that this trip.
Driving back I’ll download my pictures, audio and video recordings, organize and catalogue them. I’ll write a blog, too, if possible. In the evening I’ll use the ‘exercise room’ in the hotel if there is time, IM with Nancy if possible, and read my emails. That is a special time for me to refresh and reenergize. Many thanks to you who email; it is a wonderful link to all of you at home. I also unpack and repack for the next day, getting ready for what I will be doing. If it is new or different I’ll review my notes as well.
We’ll often go to the hotel dining room for supper, although I won’t eat a lot. Big, late meals are traditional in India but not with me. I’ll eat a little something or some of the food I brought from home. I try to get to bed between 8 and 10 at the latest, depending on what time we get back. Lying and reading for a few minutes is a great joy. Then I get up and do the same thing again. (Wednesday, Jan 23, 2013)
Lamentations 3:22-23 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Think of your ‘typical’ day and thank God for it. Thank Him for His faithful love and compassion so that you are not overwhelmed. Thank Him for providing it anew every morning, if you notice and appreciate it or not.
BLOG 178: WHAT TO TEACH THE PASTORS?
Our Pastor’s Conferences focus on the theme “What God Expects.” We apply that to pastoring and to marriage. The two are woven together and complement each other quite nicely. Spiritual Warfare teaching and prayer always concludes the day, having victory over what would keep us from doing what God expects in these areas. It’s pretty obvious that covering what God expects of pastors would be essential as basic material for pastors with no training. And why I always go over spiritual warfare is obvious as well. But some may wonder why, of all the things untrained pastors need to know, do I put such a high emphasis on what God expects of husbands and wives. Mainly, God has put that deeply in my heart and Pastor Moses’ as well. Let me try to explain why.
God makes it clear that being a good husband is more important to Him than being a good pastor. In fact, if a man isn’t a good husband he shouldn’t even be a pastor (1 Timothy 3:4-5). If a husband-wife relationship isn’t what it should be we can’t grow spiritually (1 Peter 3:7). God’s chosen way of showing the world His love for us, the Bride of Christ, is through marriage (Ephesians 5:22-33; I Peter 3:1-7).
A godly marriage is our greatest witness to the world – a husband reflecting Jesus’ unconditional, sacrificial love for the church and her loving, trusting submission in faith to Him. That is especially needed in India where women are poorly as anywhere in the world. Pastors’ families must reflect the difference Jesus makes to the world around them, to other Christians and to their own children.
Satan works hard to defeat the pastors in India, and attacking their marriage is one of his most successful tactics. He first used it in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) where Eve was used to mislead Adam. Pastors need peace and support in their families. Encouragement and prayer at home is essential to face all they face in ministry.
The testimonies of those who attend bear this out. The material about pastoring and spiritual warfare is recognized as essential and ministry changing, but it is always the training about marriage that they say will change their life. Testimony after testimony says they never heard this teaching before but they see in the Bible it is true and want to lives their lives in this way. It is what is most commented on long after the conferences and the reason they want me to come back and hold other conferences for other pastors in their area. It fills a great need they didn’t even realize they had. It will change their marriages, lives, churches and help them grow spiritually in ways nothing else can.
Perhaps this shows, too, why we feel a small book on marriage is so essential. It will follow up on what is taught, add more details in information, be something pastors will use for sermons be something that can be given to those who weren’t at the conferences. There is nothing like it in Telugu speaking India. Praise God for the opportunity he has given us of being pioneers in this much needed area. We’ll also have video and audio copies of this session available on line as well as for free distribution in India.
God instituted marriage before sin even entered, long before He instituted the church. The church can only be as strong as its families. May God help the pastors in India lead the way to stronger churches through stronger families. (Thursday, Jan 24, 2013)
Ephesians 5:22-33 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. … 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Is your marriage a good reflection of Christ and the church? Even if imperfect, is it moving in the right direction, more godly than it was last year? Is it your top priority or are you letting it drift? What can YOU do TODAY to help your marriage better reflect Jesus and His love for us?
BLOG 179: MEET THE FACES – 2
Naltau was considered an enemy of the state. He was part of a political group that used violence to further their cause. He was strongly caught up in the movement –it was his life. Then he was arrested and put in jail in Hyderabad where little justice is shown to political prisoners. While in his cell, though, he heard someone talking about Jesus. God spoke to his heart and gave him a thirst to know more. Before long he gave his heart and his life to Jesus. Eventually he was released from prison, a changed man. Like Simon the Zealot, one of the twelve chosen by Jesus 2000 ago, Naltau changed his cause from political overthrow to spiritual transformation. From battling India’s government, he is now fighting against Satan’s kingdom in India. His wife, Ribca, became a believer as well. They moved to the coast near Koduru and started a church among the fishermen. They call their little group the New Testament Church. The going has been rough but he remains faithful. He is not a young man and his face clearly reveals a hard life of crime, but when he smiles the love of Jesus in his heart in unmistakable. His is one of the faces in the pictures of the pastors’ conferences.
One of the pastors we support and who comes to the Leadership Conference every year is Sudhakar. He faithfully comes to all the Pastor’s Conferences that are near him to help with the behind the scenes work. He is one of the native peoples (‘Gypsy’) from the Arukala tribe. His mother worshipped Dorga, a female deity with a temple in nearby Vijayawada but when she couldn’t find freedom from the demons who haunted her through Dorga worship she attended a Christian service on the invitation of a friend. There she found freedom in Jesus. She continued attending and took her son, Sudhakar, with her. He grew to follow the Lord and be baptized. They are the only believers in their family. His w ife, Yitamala, is a Dahlit who is a believer. They have a son and daughter. Five years ago, while reading Isaiah 42, God called him to be a pastor. He lives in a colony of Gypsies, a relocation project by the government who removed from their roadside huts to widen the road. This face is well known to me. This year he hosted a Pastor’s Conference in his church on January 24. His church is very, very small and he wants to enlarge it and build a home in an adjoining room. Pray God provides for these needs. Sudhakar is a faithful behind-the-scenes worker and one of the who has come year after year to learn more and grow. It’s been a joy mentoring him. He is one of the pastors we support financially as well. (Friday, Jan 25, 2013)
Ephesians 2:1-10 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
You may not have as dramatic a testimony as some of these people in India, but sin is sin. We are just as lost as them without Jesus. We are as dependent on His grace as they are. We are no closer to heaven without Jesus than the worst of them. Take time to thank God for your salvation for it is as truly miraculous as anyone else.
BLOG 180: GOD’S GPS
My Samsung Tablet has GPS capabilities, even without internet connection. It’s interesting for me to use it to see where we are and where we are going. Roads in India have no pattern or clear direction. Very few even have names. Every road goes right through the middle of crowded village after crowded village. I have no idea where we are or how to get where we are going, even though I usually have a very good sense of direction. Often Pastor Moses isn’t sure which way to go either. When that happens I turn on my GPS, wait for it to connect with its satellite system, locate where we are and the direction where we want to go, and then I can tell Moses if he needs to go right or left at the next crossroad.
God’s Word is like my GPS. We need to open it, connect with God through His Spirit, and let Him show us where we are and help us move in the direction we need to go. Without His Word we are lost, adrift in a sea of darkness and confusion. The use of GPSs has changed the way we drive. Oh that the user of God’s Word would change the way we live! (Saturday, Jan 26, 2013)
Hebrews 4:12-13 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Have you taken time to read God’s Word today? This is a day you have never traveled so make sure you face it with the GPS of His Word clearly in your mind and heart.
THE ‘INDIAN’ IN ME
You’d have to trace my family tree all the way back to Noah himself to find any family connection between me and the people in India. However in some ways I fit in quite naturally and comfortably here . Below is a list of the ways I fit in nicely. The better you know me the more you’ll understand the following:
Nobody thinks I’m short
Nobody thinks I’m Japanese
Gray hair is respected
Eating with your fingers is not frowned upon, actually its encouraged
You can deeply connect with someone, soul to soul, without having to say a word
A few hand gestures and the conversation is over – no need for small talk
Being shy and quiet is respected behavior
Women look up to me
Children are enthralled with me. One smile and they follow me everywhere.
If I say the wrong thing no one knows – no one understands me
My poor hearing is covered up by the fact I couldn’t understand them even if I could clearly hear them
Sandals are the perfect footwear for any occasion
Yogurt is served with every meal
A simple magic trick makes the people think I am the best entertainer ever
Small feet are ‘in’
No one comments about me having a dark complexion
Putting things off is an accepted lifestyle
A protruding belly is a sign of prosperity and good health
No long, cold winters – every day is perfect to get outside
Sitting on the floor shows good manners.
Long sermons are the norm
Singing doesn’t have to be on key as long as it is loud
Women are always waiting to carry luggage or bring food
I can ride on the back of a motorcycle without causing any undue attention
A blank stare in response to a question seems perfectly acceptable
Men aren’t expected to know how to cook or do anything in the kitchen, just how to eat
My confusion is covered up by all the people around me who are even more confused than me.
Dunking cookies (in chai) is done by everyone everywhere.
I’m not expected to smile for photographs – a straight face is the norm.
Fashions never change – anything is fine any time anywhere.
A simple “Hello”, followed a few seconds later by a quick “Good-bye,” constitute an acceptable conversation.
Maybe you are finding you have some long-lost Indian blood in you as well! Great! There’s plenty of room in India for everyone!
BLOG 181: HOME, SWEET KODURU
If I ever had to choose a place in the world to make my second home, the choice would be easy – Koduru, AP, India. I’ve had pastors’ conferences there for 4 years now. The first year I spent a week there and got to know the people and countryside very well. It’s a very poor area. The huts only have electricity part of a day. Water, sanitation, etc., are worse than in most rural areas of India, partly because of the poverty of the people but also from lingering results from the tsunami that killed thousands of people there several years ago. What makes it special to me is the love and closeness I’ve developed with the Christians there.
It’s the only place I go to every year, partly because of the closeness that has developed and also because it is Pastor Barnabas’ home church. He and his wife, Anasuya, let me stay in their hut the first week I visited there. It was truly like living in a National Geographic magazine. He oversees the churches where most of the conferences are and of course wants those in his home area trained as well. After speaking there over 35 times I feel I have laid a good foundation of truth and have been able to build upon it. The pastors come back year after year, encouraged that I would return each to see them and teach them more.
A side benefit for me is that the church has one of the nicest bathrooms I have seen in any church. Understand in India this is very relative, but it still beats finding a bush by the road as is required in the other places we’ve met. Our India fund paid for its construction years ago so the women would be more comfortable when we had our week of meetings.
I have many, many wonderful memories of sessions and services there. They always honor me with a shawl and garland. My memories are of a hot, sometimes stifling, room packed with way too many people, and with the fans not working because there is no electricity. But it’s the people that draw me back.
Jesudos is a big bear of a man with a continual laugh and wide smile on his face. He reminds me exactly of what Peter must have looked like. His wife, Kumadi, is about as big as he is. He is one of the most loving, friendly men I have met anywhere. Watching he and his wife interact during breaks and lunch touches my heart for they clearly have something very special between them – very rare in Indian marriages.
For years we have prayed for Esther. She is a servant, a sacrificial worker. One year she helped me hold an impromptu service for 100 local school kids who found out an American was in the church and stormed the place. We had an excellent evangelical service, her and I, working together like we’ve been doing it for years despite the fact we couldn’t say anything in each other’s language and didn’t know we’d have it until they showed up . The difficulty, though, is that her husband, Asuraj, has a demonic anger problem and beats her and sometimes the children. His father is even worse. He wants to be a pastor but has never had victory over this. They came to me for prayer again after the conference today. and I prayed for deliverance the best I could. You can remember them as well.
It’s rewarding seeing the young ones grow and marry. A wonderful young pastor who attends the leadership conferences each year is Samuel. He looks like a teenager, but introduced me to his young wife (who looks like a preteen) and their newly born baby. It’s been a fruitful year for him.. The down side is seeing some of the older ones, like Paul, fade. He was a pastor who was a wonderful singer and took every opportunity to sing praises from his hear. Our fund helped him repair his church roof for it was unusable during the rain. There are many others I could speak of as well, men and women, young and old. Each one special in God’s sight – and mine.
We have had wonderful times of praise, happy times of laughter, exciting children’s programs, some tense moments of spiritual warfare when some demonized pastors started acting out, many serious times of teaching, and great times of prayer and fellowship amongst it all. And of course there is always food every time we meet.
It is always very wonderful to come to the church in the morning, but very sad and very hard to leave at the end of the day. I wish I had time to spend a week there, and so do they, but that doesn’t seem possible again. They keep wanting me to bring Nancy, for she has never been there. This year they kept saying that over and over, finally insisting I promise to bring her next year. So I promised. I’m not sure she’d want to have a second home in Koduru, although you can easily get a nice straw hut for a few hundred dollars, one of the best in the neighborhood. As far as real estate goes, it’s all about location, and Koduru is a very special location for me! (Sunday, Jan 27, 2013)
1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
Who are some of the people God has put in your life to provide love, encouragement and comfort? Who are those you feel most comfortable and ‘at home’ with? Thank God for them. Ask Him to bless them. And ask Him to make you able to fill that role in the lives of others as well.
BLOG 182: SCHEDULE CHANGES….
My time here is half way over finally already. (Notice I have very mixed feelings about that.) Things have gone as expected and planned, except for a series of very annoying but not overly ’serious’ physical ailments. Those weren’t in the plan, but such is life. I and Moses as well, continue to be amazed at the continual stream of reports, both in person and on the phone, from pastors who have attended the conferences. They are unanimous in their praise about how very, very beneficial the sessions have been to them. God is using and blessing these conferences far, far, far beyond anything I ever imagined. It’s not just a surface, emotional excitement. It’s a deep in the heart sowing of seeds that will grow and produce for literally generations to come. “We never heard anything like this.” “Now we can have a completed marriage.” Over and over we hear this. By allowing me to a channel He uses to convey this to these people God has given me a privilege far beyond anything I could have ever imagined. The deep joy and complete humility at being chosen to be used in this way are something I can’t find words to describe. Surely this is a tiny taste of what joy, peace and blessing will be like in heaven! These first 3 weeks have been difficult and draining but have been worth more than any cost.
While the first half of this trip has gone as planned, the second half will not. If you know me you know I am all about planning ahead, having all my ducks in order. Life has enough surprises without me adding to them! My original plan was to have Nancy along for part of the visit, and then a friend was to come instead but had to cancel at the last minute. Now the last week’s travel has been changed as well. Instead of flying to Pune and then traveling to Ahmednagar to see the orphan children we support and speak to the churches there, I will be staying in Hyderabad with Pastor Moses. While I feel badly because I will not minister there or see the children, I know God is behind this and I feel great peace about it. It has come after much prayer and seeking God’s will. I’m not sure of all God’s reasons for doing/allowing this, but that is true of other plans changing concerning this trip as well. I know God wants us to do more pastors’ conferences during that time, for that is the reason I come to India. I will have some free time to start writing the book on marriage which is so needed here and which will take some uninterrupted time to pray, think and plan. Pray for us to know and do God’s will during this time. What other reasons for this we may or may not ever know.
I appreciate your prayers for God’s will to be done in tis. Below is an updated prayer list. It is attached as a document as well. Please use this instead of the one I gave out before I left. Thanks for your prayers!!!!! (Monday, Jan 28, 2013)
Acts 16:6-10 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
How do you respond when God changes your plans at the last minute, when He keeps you from doing something you wanted to do and thought was His will? Can you think of such times in your life? Is something like that happening now? How should you respond when it happens again?
BLOG 183: MEET THE FACES – 3
Solomon is not the typical Indian pastor. He is very much a sanguine temperament, loving to talk, smile and be in the center of every conversation. He loves action and always is in the center of it. He is of the tribal people (Gypsy) – Jagala tribe. For most of his life he was a committed devote e of the Hindu god who was worshipped locally. In fact, he became a Hindu exorcist, an expert in using Hindu rituals to free people from demonic oppression. For 9 years after marriage he and his wife were unable to have children, and she became greatly demonized. He tried everything he could to free her but nothing worked. Eventually they went to a church where the people prayed and she was de livered. They kept going to the church and became Christians. Within a year they had their first child. They now have 4 daughters and one son. God called him to the ministry several years ago and he pastors 4 house churches, including one in his own home. He oversees other works as well. He is a fine, faithful, hardworking servant of God. He is one of the pastors we have been supporting so he has more time to devote to his ministry. Remember him when you pray for the pastors of India.
Each year one pastor seems to step up to serve me: carry my things, bring me food, etc. Baskar is the man this year. He is in his 30’s, maybe 40’s. He is a sharp dresser, usually wearing a motorcycle jacket and sunglasses. He has one of the biggest motorcycles I have seen any pastor have. Baskar grew up in a Christian home but never followed the Lord. He became a smoker, drinker, and critic of others when he became an adult. He loved to spend money and was deeply in debt. He earned his living painting Hindu temple and had a very well respected reputation doing that work in the Vijayawada area. His wife was a believer and sometimes he would go to church with her. One Sunday he visited Pastor Barnabas’ church (he is Moses’ father in law and right hand man, and one of the men I most respect in the world). God spoke to him one Sunday and Baskar wanted to change and become Christian, so accepted the Lord and faithfully attended church. He was a good student of the Word and after a year was baptized. He attended a training class on witnessing that Pastor Barnabas and Pastor Moses held in his church, and was challenged to start a church in a churchless village near where he lived. He still works, but paints churches and Christian homes now. He has several men working for him. Wherever he goes Pastor Barnabas takes him alone, like Paul with Timothy, and disciples. I have seen him at numerous pastors’ conferences for the last several years. His wife, Jyoti, is a nurse in the local hospital. They have no children and want to adopt. He is one of the next generation of pastors being trained in India and is a fine servant of Jesus.
Pastor Barnabas is a man I greatly respect. He is one of the finest pastors and men I have ever men any time anywhere. I have known him for many years. In 2009 I lived in his hut in Koduru for a week, drawing water from his well and shaving using a piece of metal tacked to a coconut tree. While he and his wife knelt on the stone floor of the church for most of each night, praying for God to bless my sessions the next day, I slept in their bed in their hut. He is Moses’ father-in-law, a farmer who grew up in a Hindu family. His mother became a Christian and then he followed. He entered the ministry in the later years of his life. He oversees more churches and entire church districts than anyone I know of, traveling hours and hours on his motorcycle. He is my age and we share several gifts/interests, ministering in spiritual warfare, mentoring and pastoring. He attends almost every pastor’s conference since most are locally arranged by him. We work closely and well before, during and after the conferences despite the fact that he doesn’t know one word of English and I don’t know Telugu. Several years ago he knelt before me for me to lay hands on him and pray for him, which I did. Then I had him stand up and I kneeled before him, signaling him to pray for me in the same way and he did. I don’t know what he said, but I feel the results of those prayers continuing today. I really look forward to many long conversations with him when we can finally freely communicate with words. (Tuesday, January 29, 2013)
Colossians 1:3-6 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints— 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you.
These people don’t realize we are watching their lives and are greatly encouraged by them. Think of those who are watching your life and are encouraged by you? Is the change in your life visible to others so their faith can increase because of you? Commit to being a living witness for Jesus today.
BLOG 184: A PARTNERSHIP FORMED IN HEAVEN
I never stop being amazed at how perfectly God put Pastor Moses and myself together to form this team. We comment often about what an unlikely but perfect union it is. We are both independent men who work best alone, not with others. Yet we spend 3 to 5 weeks together every year, 24 hours a day 7 days a week: eating, walking, driving, sleeping and living in the same room. We are different ages, different cultures, different language, different backgrounds and different personalities, yet we have the same heart for this ministry to the pastors in India. We are, literally, worlds apart. We are complete opposites, but we fit together perfectly.
Moses is an idea guy, a big planner, an entrepreneur who gets things done. I am none of those. I work quietly behind the scenes studying and preparing lessons. We are opposites, but we have totally the same philosophy, goals, motives, reasoning, priorities and working strategies as each other. We continually feel the same about every decision, every problem, every challenge and every situation (and there are plenty of them). In this ministry here we are like the same heart in two separate bodies. That carries over to our almost daily communication through the rest of the year as well.
We never really planned it, it just fell together that I would do the teaching, sermons, books, etc. and Moses would take care of the plans and schedules as well as the money needed to do everything. He has never ever once asked me what I would be speaking about or told me what to say or not say. I ask his opinion often and he gives it, but he totally trusts that whenever I speak that I will say what God wants me to say to the people. These are his friends, his burden, his reputation and He trusts God to lead me.
I, on the other hand, send him thousands and thousands of dollars to use for this ministry. I let him plan the whole schedule and follow wherever he leads. I have never ever questioned him or demanded proof of the money use or what he does. Of course he starts with a budget and keeps records of expenditures. I get an overall summary at the end, but I have no way of checking out the accuracy of what He writes. I totally trust Him, for He is accountable to God. He does this because God has burdened Him to do it and it comes from his love for the pastors of India as well. He would no sooner be dishonest with the money than I would be irresponsible for my teaching. I have seen many proofs of his total honesty and trustworthiness over the years.
Not only do we plan, live and travel together, but we teach together. He has been my translator for pastors’ conferences starting in 2006. As often as I have taught these things he has translated. He’s one of the very few Indians whose English I can clearly understand, and who can understand mine. I talk with him ahead of time about tricky phrases, theological points, and word comparisons so we can make sure he knows what is coming and can accurately translate it. He knows my material by heart, as well as I do. In fact, during the year when he goes to new groups of pastors he uses those messages himself. He will use them, too, in Uganda in August. We have been doing this so long we can read each other very well. We what the other will think and how they will respond when emergencies or interruptions occur. We both know the right timing for him to take over and apply a point or conclude a message in a way culturally appropriate for the specific audience. I back off and he takes over. Other times he lets me take the lead. Like me, he tries to make each session a little better done than the last one. Despite doing the same 4 lessons 20 times while here, we each audience as in need of the material we have to present and that keeps it fresh for both of us. I know his English skills and limits and stay within them. He knows what I am thinking even if I don’t express it the best way and passes it on what he knows I want to communicate.
We have become best friends, sharing everything in life, talking about every subject imaginable, and laughing together long and often. I feel I really, totally know him inside and out, and I feel he knows me as well.
Only God could have taken this shy, stay-at-home guy from the USA and teamed him up with a fire-ball of an Indian and have it work out so perfectly. Not only are we efficient, but we enjoy each other. Our similarities bind us together; our differences balance each other out. Truly, this is a match made in heaven! (Wednesday, January 30, 2013)
Colossians 4:7 Tychicus … is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.
Romans 16:3-5 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.
2 Corinthians 8:23-24 As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you.
Who are some of the ‘fellow servants’ God has placed in your life to help you walk to path He has chosen for you? Think of them, thank God for them and pray for them one by one.
BLOG 185: WHAT THE PASTORS ARE SAYING…
After each conference a time is given for testimonies from the pastors and wives. This gives them a chance to share what God taught them, affirm the accuracy of what has been taught, and give us some feedback. There is lots of laughing, applause and looking at me (usually when they laugh). I can’t understand a word of it, but in the car going home I’ll ask Moses what they said. Here are some of their comments in their own words:
“Pastors wives have never been able to come to pastors conferences before so when I found out I could come today I wanted to come. It was 8:30 so I got ready quickly and we left at 9:30. I thought today was going to be special because a foreigner was coming so I thought I would hear a good message. I wanted to hear from God. I prayed for God to use it to speak to me and He answered my prayer. I was greatly blessed by learning how to submit to my husband and how we can have a good marriage in God’s sight. I have never heard anything like this before. Now we know what God wants us to do as husband and wife. We will go home and do these things that God wants and our home and marriage will be much better. I am very glad I came. I almost missed a great blessing by not coming. Thank you very, very much.”
Her husband, Pastor Isaac, also shared a testimony about how this will help him know how to be the husband God wants him to be and make their marriage so much better. He said many pastors’ marriages are not good. If we have a good marriage we can reach the world, if we don’t have a good marriage we won’t be good pastors. He also went into detail explaining how God’s Spirit touched his heart during the spiritual warfare prayer after that session. He felt something change and God come into Him in a very special way. He said he is very grateful for the teachings.
“The prayer for victory over the demonic is a great blessing for the pastors. Now we can be free from the demons and help our people be free. No other conference ever had this kind of teaching. We are very blessed by it. The books are a wonderful help as well. Now we can read and study more. We can use them for sermons for our people. It was a wonderful blessing and we want you to come back very soon.”
“The ten topics about spiritual growth were a special blessing. Now we know how to grow. We can measure our spiritual growth and the spiritual growth of our church. Thank you very, very much. We have had many gatherings of pastors but never one where we were taught like we were here today. Thank you very much for coming and please come back soon.”
“We never knew our wives are to be our number 1 sheep. It is very eye-opening for us. We have never heard such things. Now we know how to have a marriage like God wants us to have. Please come again and teach us more.”
“It is a great blessing to hear these things. No one ever taught us these things. Now we know how to submit to our husbands from our heart, not just in what we do. I now understand that when I submit to my husband I am really submitting to the Lord. I know God will use our submission from our hearts to change our husbands so they aren’t angry and so they love us more.” – a pastor’s wife
“Now we know what God expects of pastors, how we are to lead and train others. Now we know how God wants us to preach, how we are to prepare ahead and teach God’s Word to our people. It is wonderful to know these things. No one ever told us these things before.”
Many wives said that they now have a chance to share among the women and with the children in the church. “Our husbands have not let us minister with out gifts in our churches. Now they are letting us talk and minister in in the church to the glory of God. It is wonderful to be able to minister together and help each other. We did not know we should do this. Someone told our husbands that wives should not speak in churches so we were never allowed to say or do anything, even with the women and children. Thanks so much for speaking to us from God’s Word and showing us these things we didn’t know. We will do them and God will be honored and our church blessed by them.” (Thursday, January 31 2013)
2 Corinthians 13:1-2 This will be my third visit to you. “Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”
Look for any opportunity you may have today to testify to the goodness and love of Jesus. It could be a short few words or an extended time of sharing. Ask God to give you opportunities to testify for Him and then be alert to when they come.
BLOG 186: A TYPICAL INDIAN CHURCH SERVICE
Sunday in India is no different than any other day for the Hindu and Moslem masses, but for the Christians it is the most special day of the week. They gather in homes, open public areas and church buildings throughout the nation. Sandals are left outside and the barefooted worshippers enter and are seated, men on one side and women on the other. A time of private personal prayer to prepare their hearts for worship is observed by each one as they enter.
Seldom do people come to anything on time in India, and church is no exception. Very few people are present at the given starting time, but when a few arrive the singing starts. Women outnumber men in many Indian churches about 5 to 1, and the women lead out in the singing. Small drums played with the fingers or palms are the main instrument and when the singing starts the player picks up the beat. Tambourines of various sizes and styles are also used. Except in the very poorest of poor churches there is a basic, crude PA system which is set to maximum volume. Women will sing into the mike leading various songs. There is always a loudspeaker outside the meeting place blasting at full volume everything that is sung and said throughout the whole community.
Services usually last about 3 hours. Try sitting Indian style on a hard concrete floor for 3 hours and you’ll find new reason to admire these people. If they have even one chair, it is given to me to sit on in the front. Children stay with their mothers the whole time, sometimes wandering back and forth between mother and father. Most churches meet in small homes and are packed so tightly one couldn’t move if they had to. I barely have room to stand upright in front of the chair I am sitting on. People gather outside the open doors to hear as well. Sometimes a canopy will be erected right in the street for people to gather to worship. Rooftops are often used as well.
The services consist of lots of singing, announcements, a message, testimonies, and long times of prayers. Of course I can never understand the prayers, but the fervency and intensity of those praying tells me all I need to know. These people are talking to someone they know well and are very used to talking to.
The offering time especially touches me. To see these poor people sacrificially giving is very touching. I feel like Jesus watching the widow put in her 2 mites. Those without money to give will bring a cup or 2 of rice and leave that. Everyone gives something, Often they will slip a few rupees into my hand when they greet me as they leave. That is very, very touching. I give it all, along with a gift of my own, to the pastor when I leave.
Messages vary in style, length and content. Many of the pastors are recent converts from Hinduism, Islam or Gypsy animism. They have little or no knowledge of the Bible, no ‘history’ of how a church is run to fall back on, no precedent, and no examples, nowhere to go for advice or training. So they stumble along doing the best they can. In many ways the church here reminds me of the church in the book of Acts. Armed with God’s power and a testimony of what God has done to change their lives, they move into the darkness to advance the Kingdom of God.
If I can come in the evening or some time word is quickly spread by word of mouth that a special meeting is being held and everyone will come at a moment’s notice. No one has a day timer and they love gathering whenever possible. It is the highlight of their life!
Meals often follow services, a time of fellowship and enjoyment together. Women cook rice and whatever sauce they choose to add to it. Everyone helps and enjoys the time together. When they leave they are swallowed up into the masses of unbelievers. Their mission field is all around them. But for a few short hours on a Sunday they have a taste of heaven on earth as they gather with fellow believers to pray, praise, learn the Word and fellowship together. (Friday, February 1, 2013)
Hebrews 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Thank God for your church fellowship. Don’t think of its faults or shortcomings, but thank God for the good it provides for you and others. Ask God to bless it and use it, and you, for His glory.
BLOG 187: TRAINING LEADERS OF LEADERS
One of the many things Pastor Moses and I talk about when we drive, eat or are in the hotel room is how the ministry is going this trip and what changes we should make in the future. God always seems to give us both the same ideas at the same time. One of the things that is becoming clear as we look to the future is that we are moving more and more in the direction of training the leaders of pastors who can then train other pastors. For 3 years we’ve had multi-day leadership training sessions for key pastors who can influence and train other pastors. These have been our most expensive meetings for it requires renting a facility with rooms to meet, eat and sleep. All the food must be provided as well. Roman Catholic conference centers seem to be the best to meet these needs. Although it takes more money than the daily meeting in local churches, it is well worth it because we give in-depth training to the same men year after year who will go and train other pastors in their local area.
I have been able to mentor these men through the years they have been hearing me, in these meetings as well as in their churches. We are discovering that out of that group of about 50 there has emerged a dozen who have really risen to the top as far as leadership skills go. They organize the men in their area who come to the Leadership Conference, oversee the conferences in their areas and become in effect Moses’ deputies to whom he delegates large amounts of responsibility. These are mature, gifted, godly men, excellent men of God with whom I consider it a privilege and honor to work. Hey are called and burdened to mentor younger pastors. Starting next year we want to have a second multiday conference just for them and a few younger one who we see potential of becoming like them. This would enable us to give even more in depth training. They have many questions they would like to ask me and subjects they would like me to cover. I won’t be coming for 5 weeks every year, I do need to have Nancy come with me, and her time from work is very limited. So we must work smarter, not harder, and this is one way of doing so. These men are doing in their areas what I do overall, so to better help and equip them would be very practical. The ripples from the stone dropped in the pond will multiply and spread in more and more directions.
Local pastors’ conferences would still be the back-bone of our ministry, and we will continue the 2-day leadership conference for the 50 or so who have been coming. But in addition we’ll add this 2-day conference as well for the leaders of leaders, or Coordinator Leaders as Moses calling these men.
These ‘Coordinators Conferences’ are something we feel is a top priority for 2014. The men already are very familiar with my basic teachings and have my books about What God Expects of Pastors and Spiritual Warfare, and hopefully by then will have the new book on Marriage and Ministry to use as well. With these they can provide the exact same material I present, but do it multiple times over all year long and reach pastors I would need months and months to reach. CD’s and DVD’s of the sessions will also be available for those with the resources to use them. These men do desire mentoring and continued training themselves and would like me to work with them in this way. They are already doing these things on their own, in response to what I have been teaching them to do. Now they need more support and help. Clearly this is what God wants for He put the idea and desire in our hearts. Pray God will help us be sensitive to His will in carrying this out. Pray for these men, too, for stepping out like this is like holding up a metal pole during lightening – they will certainly draw more and more attacks from Satan. These are pastors we are helping to support financially and are in close contact with on a regular basis. (Saturday, Feb 2, 2013)
2 Timothy 2:1-3 You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.
Pray for these pastors regularly. They are the very front line forces in the battle for India. Pastor Sudhakar, Pastor Solomon, Pastor Barnabas, Pastor Titus, Pastor Anadarao, Pastor Espadayam, Pastor Isaac, Pastor Krupaiah, Pastor Babu, Pastor Vijay Kumar, Pastor Vhyaskar and Pastor John Babu.
BLOG 188: SEEING THE WORLD THROUGH INDIAN EYES
Many times as I look at the Indians around me, the ones who aren’t Christians, I wonder what life looks like from their perspective. If I lived in their body, what would I be thinking at that very moment? Or course there is way of knowing for sure, but I’d like to give it a shot. It’s impossible to stereotype 1.2 billion people, but as best as I can understand it here’s a very simplified version of their view of the world and life.
In America we think in terms of individual privacy and achievement. We are upwardly mobile, trying to improve ourselves and our place in life. Challenges are to be overcome. We have support and resources to help us achieve our goals. To understand traditional Indian thought you must forget all that. Individuality is not emphasized. Independence is thwarted. Dependence on family is fostered from young on. Life is seen as hard and painful, but we get what deserve based on our past life (karma) so why fight it, why try to change it, why seek to improve yourself or others. What is, is. There is a new upper class of educated Indians who are more Western in their thoughts, but this is what has been the mind set of the masses for centuries. This is how they cope.
Daily existence is all that matters. They do it again the next day and the next until life is over. Life isn’t meant to have meaning so they don’t look for any. Life is cheap, of little value. There will always be another one, and it may be better than this one. Emptiness, meaningless and hopelessness are just under the surface. And driving all that is fear: fear of upsetting whatever gods there may be, good or evil, fear of what will happen next, fear of pain and loss. Appeasing the gods may cut down a bit on the suffering one is certain to face, but maybe not. Thus in these mindsets apathy reigns.
There are some, especially in the large cities, who are influenced by media and are more Western in thought, but they are the minority. By Western I mean materialistic (things, greed, power and prestige).
The Muslim world view is a bit different but equally empty and, if anything, even darker. Their religion only brings fear because Allah is capricious and without mercy or love. He is a god who judges and punishes, and there isn’t much a person can do except try to obey in all things and perhaps avoid the worst of his wrath when one dies.
And if you happen to be a Hindu or Moslem woman, it’s worse yet. You are seen as of less value than a man, a commodity to be used and discarded when finished. You are given no opinions, no needs, and no desires – just serve the opinions, needs and desires of men.
So you see the great difference that Christianity makes! The hope, the assurance, the empowerment, the meaning and significance that come only in Jesus are absent. What dissimilarity to a world system that rejects Him. The contrast between light and darkness is apt and true. No wonder the enemy tries to keep this great nation in darkness. No wonder he fights the light. But Jesus is the hope of all mankind, the hope of India. And the light is slowly but surely spreading and growing. Christianity is the fastest growing religion in India. India’s population is 74.3 percent Hindu, 14.2 percent Muslim, 1.9 percent Sikh, 0.82 percent Buddhist, and 5.8 percent Christian, according to Operation World. ‘Christian’ includes Roman Catholics (a large number here), liberal Protestantism and all the cults and sects as well. (Sunday, February 3, 2013)
Ecclesiastes 1:2, 14 “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” … I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
Spend some time contemplating how much your faith has impacted your world view. Without Jesus or His Word, how would you see your life and future? Try to imagine facing each day without any awareness of Jesus or the Bible. How empty it would be! Pray for the billions throughout the earth who wake up to just such a world each day.
BLOG 189: WHAT GOD HAS BEEN TEACHING ME
I don’t know how your mind works, but mine is always alert to what God may be teaching me, especially in a situation like this. I certainly don’t want to miss anything and have to take the course over! It’s never some flashing light bulb or new revelation in my mind. Instead, He seems to work in my heart, going deeper in some area where more depth is needed. I have been aware of two outstanding threads of truth God has been showing me since I’ve been here. The first has to do with Genesis 15:1. I’ll preach about that my first Sunday back, then blog about it later. The other I’ll write about now. I don’t know if this will mean much to you, but it’s important for me to write things down so I can process them. That’s why I blog – it’s done for me to put vague concepts into words, then I just let you peek over my shoulder at what I’ve written. This one is purely subjective, so I’m not sure how I can explain it in words, but I’ll give it a try.
I’ve gotten a much, much clearer, deeper awareness of God’s power and His love. That might not mean much to you, but for this German introvert that is big! I’ve always known in my head God is all powerful and loves me as much as He can, but I sort of felt He loved me on the group plan – I was a Christian and He loved all Christian. I’ve always believed in His power and love in my mind and they have been gradually seeping into my heart over the years, but God’s Spirit gave that a major boost the last month. My desire for many years has been to develop a closer intimacy with God, to “know” Him better – not just know about Him but to know HIM. Philippians 3:10-14 has always been the closest thing to a ‘life verse’ I’m ever had. More than anything I want to develop a deep personal intimacy with God. For this relationally-challenged introvert that is unfamiliar territory – and sometimes it’s a big scary to be honest.
I’m not given to emotional excesses; in fact I’m not given to much emotion at all. That’s not the way God wired me to work. He works through my rational thought to touch me deeply, and that’s what has been happening. It’s not some dramatic, sensational event, but a deep inner awareness as His Spirit gently points these things out to me about God.
First, I am more aware of God’s power in my life than ever. There is no way we should be doing this work here – Satan and his kingdom of darkness should be causing all kinds of havoc with us. Each conference his defeat is taught and through prayer and teaching many of his captives are set free and equipped to set others free. Books are given out to help the message spread. Only God’s great power can keep us safe through all that, and He has. And I’ve seen answers to prayers, some for me but mainly for others, that are nothing but miraculous. God is revealing His power to me as never before.
The other aspect of His which He is revealing to me is His love. I’ve always been more impressed with power than love, but power without love is empty. Love without power is weak. They are both needed to form a whole picture of God. I think it’s finally starting to sink in that He loves me for me, just for me no matter what I do. He isn’t just tolerating me or loving me on the group plan. He’s done so many things that I can explain in no other way than to say it’s only because He loves me. The fact He would choose me to be the channel to pass on these truths to these men just is more than I can grasp. This is so much just the very tip of the iceberg that we see. He is starting so much in so many ways, and He’s using me as His human instrument to do it. The gifts and training He’s given me over the years come together perfectly: teaching, spiritual warfare, marriage training, counseling, magic, mentoring pastors, etc. Teaming me up with Moses is something only He could do. It’s way too much to be coincidental. A Master plan has been at work for some time, and He allows me to get a front row seat because He loves me and wants to bless me in this way! On top of that He shows His love by giving me the most delightful, loving wife I could possibly have. I can’t begin to describe the enormity of His gift of Nancy to me as my wife. Then there are my wonderful children and their families. And He is letting me fulfill a lifelong dream, which I gave up on years ago, of writing books! I always felt the greatest privilege He could give someone is to be a missionary and I’m getting a taste of that, too. If you knew my past history, you would see there is no way I would ever in any way deserve any of this.
I still have a long way to go, but it feels good to be more aware of God’s power and His love for me. It really feels great. I know I’m just scratching the surface and I look forward to more (Philippians 1:6), but I thank Him for this now. And if you’ve gotten this far this blog, I thank you for listening to me try and put this into words. (Monday, February 4, 2013)
Philippians 3:10-14 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Don’t think this is something just for me because I am in India. I think God needs to take everything away so He gets my full attention and can finally show me these things. Hopefully you aren’t such a slow learner! Spend time today thinking about how God has been in the past and is now revealing His power and His love to you. Thank Him for it. You might want to write it down, too, to help process it. If you’d like, send me a copy – I’d enjoy reading how He works in your life as well.
BLOG 190: WHAT IS THIS LOVE-HATE RELATIONSHIP I HAVE WITH INDIA?
In my typical way of analyzing everything and trying to figure myself out, I’ve long wondered about why I dread the pastor’s conferences so much before they start but enjoy them immensely once they get going or are over. I hate them and love them at the same time! I think I know what is happening. When we minister for God, there is a battle that goes on that we are not always aware of. Our spirit is opposed by our flesh and by Satan’s forces. So naturally we shrink back. I get very tired from ministering to these pastors, but it’s more than standing and concentrating for 4+ hours a day. I’m reminded of Jesus’ words when the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years touched Him: “Jesus realized that power had gone out from Him” (Mark 5:24-31). I’m not a power source like Jesus was, but when His power flows through me it takes a toll. I also think of Paul saying “I am being poured out like a drink offering” (2 Timothy 4:6-8). I often feel physically weary, totally drained, just poured out at the end – even though my spirit is soaring. It can take immense emotional and spiritual energy to minister in ways that are hard for us or where there is enemy opposition. But understanding what is happening explains a lot and helps me face it, knowing what is coming and why.
That doesn’t just happen to me in India. I’m sure many of you have been having a very, very hard time being faithful and focused in your prayers for us here. It may be the hardest time you’ve had praying in a while and it’s easy to put it off or cut it short. You’re facing the same battle for the same reason.
Or maybe there is someone God wants you to talk with but you find excuses, a Bible passage you should study but you keep putting off, something good He wants you to do but you dread it and aren’t quite sure why. Our flesh rebels against sacrificing itself to serve, and our enemy opposes with his demons. This could be keeping you from taking time to worship, or helping someone in need, or encouraging someone who is struggling. Whatever it is, understand what is happening. “The spirit is willing but the body is weak” (Matthew 26:41; Mark 14:38). Don’t be surprised that important things are not easy things. Paul says we are in a battle and when we serve we are attacked (Ephesians 6:10-18). Don’t be surprised, as if doing these things that advance the kingdom should be easy. Expect opposition. Be ready for it. Commit to paying the price and moving ahead in God’s Spirit and power no matter what. If your flesh and Satan try so hard to keep you from doing it, you know it must be important to do! Jesus paid a great cost to serve us; we shouldn’t be surprised when we have to pay a price to serve Him! (Tuesday, February 5, 2013)
Luke 14:28-33 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? 29 For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
Luke 9:23-24 Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.
Ask God to reveal to you how this applies to your life. What is it God wants you to do but you find hard and draw back? Recommit to move ahead with it today, no matter how you feel. Ask God to give you wisdom, commitment and power, then step out in faith and obey no matter what. If there is something specific you’d like prayer about please email me and let me know!
TODAY’S CONFERENCE: Today we had a conference for slum pastors in a mostly Muslim neighborhood, very poor men with small churches. These men aren’t from this area but moved here from other towns and villages to start churches here (missionaries inside of India). It has been very hard, slow going for them. The conference was wonderful (so glad I am here instead of the original plan to go to Ahmednagar). One woman gave me back her travel money (100 Rupees, $2) and said I should give it to someone else, she couldn’t take it. In English I could understand she said I had given her words of life, golden words, words that are more important than any amount of money. She said she couldn’t take money when she was already given such wonderful words. Another woman said “We have been waiting for this for a long time, a very long time. Thank you so much for coming.” A pastor told me of how discouraged he had become but my words about staying faithful and not giving in to the enemy have greatly encouraged him.
BLOG 191: MARTYRDOM IN INDIA
I did not write this blog. It is copied from an internet news source. I send it to you because it shows a little of what Christians in India face, especially pastors and their families.
NEW DELHI (Morning Star News, Jan 30, 2013) – Four Christians in India died for their faith last year, but incomplete information obscured the anti-Christian hostility in three of the deaths, sources said. In Tamil Nadu and West Bengal states where the killings took place, area Christians assert that the murders were rooted in opposition to Christianity; specifically, radical Hindus viewing Christianity as a threat to Hinduism and Indian nationalism as a unified identify. In three of the four deaths, however, under-reporting obscured the acts or motives of the attackers. In India’s eastern state of West Bengal, where two brothers were hacked to death, villagers suspected the men’s wives were practicing witchcraft, according to local press accounts and area Christians. A mob in Palashpari village, near Malda, attacked 38-year-old Sonua Pahari and 32-year-old Baishakhu Pahari with swords, sickles, rods and stones as they lay sleeping in their homes on May 17 at 11 p.m. Area Christians and local press reported that the assailants believed the brothers’ wives had used witchcraft to inflict illness on members of the community. Express News Service cited one police official as saying, “… they were killed due to belief in witchcraft,” and another who said one victim’s family “… believed in modern [medical] treatment, which made them unpopular in the village.” In the version published by local press, the assailants were reportedly targeting their wives and ended up killing the men in the process.
Area Christians acknowledged that the two Christians’ families were not consulting the village magic-arts healer, and that the indignant shaman therefore had incited the villagers by telling them that the brothers or their wives were sorcerers responsible for ailments in the community. The families had left the shaman and other local customs behind when they became Christians, they said. “Enlightened by the gospel of Jesus Christ, their lifestyle had also become different, which caused jealousy among the villagers,” one source told Morning Star News. Out of fear of hostile repercussions, Christian leaders had kept silent about the brothers’ faith as the primary cause of the mob’s rage, so their understanding did not appear in local press reports, area Christians said. But they later told Morning Star News that villagers several times had told the brothers to leave Christianity, and as a result of their refusal to do so the families were socially and economically shunned and prohibited from fetching water from the public well.
The nature of the attack demonstrated that the men’s faith was the root cause of the mob rage, they said. The mob dragged the brothers from their house, attacking their wives and children only when they tried to rescue them from the assailants, they said. One brother’s wife was injured in the attack, while the other’s escaped with her children. Sonua Pahari’s son witnessed what happened. He told a Christian leader from the area that the mob mocked the two brothers. “The elder brother, Sonua Pahari, was kneeling and holding his Bible, but the extremists took it from him and threw it away,” the Christian leader said, based on the witness of Sonua Pahari’s son. “They first cut both his hands with a knife and mocked, ‘Where is your God? Call your God to help you.’ Sonua replied, ‘It is my God’s will that I will live or that I will die.’ He did not run at all or seem frightened. Then they killed him and his younger brother.” The mob struck the heads of the brothers with their traditional weapons, and they died on the spot, the Christian leader said. Since the attack, none of the area Christians has undertaken any ministry in the area, he added; fear that a similar fate may befall them has paralyzed active faith. The brothers’ widows have since moved to another area. “It is truly a case of martyrdom,” the Christian leader said. “Once when we filmed the 2008 Orissa anti-Christian violence, Sonua Pahari told his wife that he will also be killed in the same way for Christ, and that his death will draw people towards Christ. Both brothers were humble and strong followers of Christ.” Most of the mob members have fled and are in hiding, but police arrested Bhola Bihari, Tofa Pahari and Fagu Pahari in connection with the murder.
There were 11 cases of religious rights violations against Christians in Tamil Nadu in 2012, according to the Evangelical Fellowship of India. That figure was the fifth highest behind Karnataka with 37; Chhattisgarh with 21; Madhya Pradesh with 18; and Andhra Pradesh with 13. (Andhra Pradesh is where we minister – Jerry) (Wednesday, February 6, 2013)
Matthew 24:3, 9 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” … “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.”
Revelation 12:11 They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.
Persecution will become greater and more widespread as the time for Jesus’ return draws near and the enemy increases their attacks. Thank God for the freedom He has given us to worship Him in the United States. Pray for Christians throughout the world who don’t have this freedom, whose lives are in jeopardy because of their faith.
Morning Star News is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation whose mission is to inform those in the free world and in countries violating religious freedom about Christians worldwide who are persecuted for their faith. For free subscription or to make tax-deductible donations, contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or send check to Morning Star News, 24310 Moulton Parkway, Suite O # 157, Laguna Hills, CA 92637, USA.
BLOG 192: AND IT CAME TO PASS – 1
As my time in India comes to a close and I look back on the last 5 weeks, here are some highlights, and some lowlights a well!
BEST MEMORY: After laying hands on Pastor Barnabas and praying for he and his wife, I signaled for him to lay hands on me and pray for me. He is the only one I have ever had do that for me. The first time was in 2009. I don’t understand what he prays, but I know their power goes with me. It is a very moving experience.
WORST MEMORY: Spilling a few drops of water on my laptop and watching it totally shut down and refuse to start!!! (It is working again thanks to Peter and a buying a new keyboard which I plug in.)
MOST TAKEN BY SURPRISE: The time a woman came to the front of the church during the service and handed me her newly born baby boy and asked me to name him. Actually this has happened to me a few years ago after church. I was taken by surprise this time, though. Everyone but me knew what was happening and was fine with it. God told me to name him Timothy, for Timothy knew the Bible from young and became a fine pastor. I also prayed and dedicated him to God. Then I asked the mother if I could keep him and bring him home with me. That lightened things up! (A few days earlier I had gotten to hold a one hour old baby boy – I haven’t done that for 17+ years!)
MOST HUMOROUS: We do lots of laughing and joking all day. For example, Moses is trying to be more health conscious and lose his belly which many Indian men have because of the type and amount of food they eat. He is always pointing out and joking about pastors with big bellies, so one morning I put a big pillow under my kurta and told him I was now an Indian pastor. He still laughs about that.
MOST DISCOURAGING: Pastors who pretend to want to help me but in reality want to use “the rich American” for their own prestige by having me speak to their church, or who feel I should give them a large donation because I have a lot of money. Pastors who spend their time looking for free support seldom have effective ministries anyway. Unfortunately that is not uncommon, but God makes it easy to tell who those pastors are so we avoid getting trapped by them.
SADDEST: The spiritual and physical poverty of the people, the darkness and hopelessness is heartbreaking, and to think there are 1.2 billion in India alone! Also a good friend in Pastor Moses’ church, his top elder, lost his wife this past year. Every year their wedding anniversary came while I was here so they would ask me to bless their marriage for another year. This year I prayed for him alone and it wasn’t easy! He is very sad without her.
UNEXPECTED HELP: Usually things don’t work out as well as planned and I must fall to my 2nd or 3rd backup plan, but one thing worked out better than planned. At the last minute I decided to bring my converter to power my laptop from the cigarette lighter in the car. It is bulky and I didn’t know if it would work but it has! My laptop battery doesn’t last long and we spend 4 to 6 hours a day in the car. I organize pictures, write blogs and keep records of what is happening. I would never have time in the hotel for all of it. It’s quite bumpy but I manage.
MOST TOUCHING Watching Pastor Ezra’s oldest daughter, who is 7 or 8, sing and worship in church when she doesn’t know she is being watched. Clearly it comes from her heart. Watching her reminds me of why Jesus was so adamant about letting the children come to Him. I do think God gives the best children to pastors, but then I could be a bit prejudiced in that area!
MOST ENCOURAGING: Responses from the pastors in India and emails from people at home both have been extremely encouraging. Since verbal affirmation is my love language these go far with me. Lots of good things to think about and mull over (Luke 2:19).
BIGGEST FRUSTRATION: India adds new meaning to the word ‘frustration.’ The nation seems to take great pride in creating as much of it as they can. From animals sleeping in middle of the street to pastors arriving 2 hours late to conferences, from the non-committal head wobble when asked a question to all night hammering at the construction site across the street, from wasting my time under the guise of honoring me to waiting for the last minute to do what should have been done yesterday, India has made a science out of creating frustration. It is even becoming one of their leading exports, as anyone who calls technical support knows. If you want to work on your patience, come to India (Romans 5:3). (Thursday, February 7, 2013)
(I’ll conclude the list tomorrow)
Philippian 4:11-13 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Would you say you are a content person, or do you let the frustrations of life get to you? What would those who know you say? What would God say? What frustrations are you facing today that you need to turn to God and replace with contentment? Do so now.
BLOG 193: AND IT CAME TO PASS – 2
We had a great conference yesterday. There were 50 people crammed into a tiny room with no room to move, very hot and stuffy after almost 4 hours of sessions, when it was time to stop, eat and go home, they didn’t want to go. They wanted me to do another session so I added one more! Those are the problems I love to have!
This is a continuation of some of the highlights and lowlights of the past 5 weeks:
MOST STRESSFUL: Some conferences are full of many distractions: a few men come late, talk with each other, walk around, sleep, talk on their cell phones, or just come before lunch and leave right after. In addition there are schedule changes, even after I have started talking, extreme heat, the focus needed to say everything just right, and then teaching and praying spiritual warfare the end, all adds stress. Often I have digestive problems so I don’t eat right. And I don’t know what is said around me unless Moses translates, but he is usually too busy with other things to do that. If someone feels the need to be in control of their environment India is not the place to visit.
BEST SIDE BENEFIT: Fresh, homemade Indian cuisine every meal is a great added benefit. Unfortunately my stomach has made me say no more than yes. But it does smell great. Also a nice, clean, safe hotel for 2 weeks was a great benefit as well.
MOST TENSE: Moses’ new car was bumped twice while driving, once by car and another time by a motorcycle. Neither time was his fault, but he has two new bumps/scratches as a result.
GOOD SURPRISE: Samuel, a young pastor we support in Korduru who has become a good friend, has a wife and child. I’m thrilled for him. I knew last year he wanted a good wife and he got one – and a child already.
BEST PART OF COMING TO INDIA :By far it is being used by God to touch the lives of these fine pastors.
WORST PART OF COMING TO INIDA: By far it is being away from Nancy. Next is the extreme physical, emotional and spiritual continual drain which keeps me always feeling weak in myself but strong in Him (2 Corinthians 13:9).
UNEXPECTED BLESSING: The very positive to the responses to the blogs I send home and how God uses them in so many lives really touches me deeply.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Asaraj still beats his wife Esther, despite us praying for them for 3 years. God did show us what is causing the access so now maybe he will have victory
GROSSEST, MOST DISGUSTING SIGHT: I’m not telling you. Besides, I surprised you are looking for my answer!
GREATEST DIFFERENCE THIS YEAR AND OTHER YEARS: Because I come every year at this time the main leaders and pastors see me, not as a one or two time outsider coming, but someone who is one of them. Granted I am very different from them but we have established history, a solid foundation of respect and trust. They know my heart is with them and I will keep coming back to provide these things for them. We stay in touch through Pastor Moses during the year. We help support many of them financially and faithfully pray for us. I see the same thing with the men who are the leaders in Moses’ church. I’m no longer a visitor, I’m a regularly returning friend! It’s a subtle but very good difference and I really like it.
STRANGE WAYS GOD WORKS: I am glad God sent me to a warm climate with gentle people, but I wish He would have made it so I could learn the language. I have taught myself a working knowledge of Hindi but almost no one here speaks it, especially in the villages. Telugu, along with sister language Tamil to the south, are the fastest spoken languages in the world – more syllables pronounced than any other language. There aren’t local people in the USA or internet programs to help. I’d really like to be able to communicate at least a little but this language is very, very, very hard to learn!
LITTLE THING WHICH MADE A BIG DIFFERENCE: That would definitely be Air Conditioning in the hotel and in Moses’ car. At first it wasn’t working Moses car and that was difficult. I’m not normally a big fan of air conditioning at home, but the heat can be oppressive and physically draining. The air is so very dirty its hard to breathe so opening the car windows isn’t really an option. The AC is very refreshing and appreciated.
GREATEST DAILY AMAZEMENT: Each day is filled with numerous things that amaze and astonish me. But the fact that not one pastor in one conference knew that he had a special responsibility to his wife before his church amazed me every day. Twenty conferences, almost a thousand pastors and not one ever knew who his #1 sheep was when I asked!!! The good side of the coin is that when seeing that in Scripture every one believed and committed to be the husband God wants. That brought more positive comments and thanks than anything else I taught.
The other thing that amazes me more and more each day is that, although we are clearly in Satan’s territory, God’ protection has been complete. Each day we teach about Jesus’ victory over Satan and demons, then lead everyone is a prayer of deliverance from anything working against them, their families or their church. Testimony after testimony tells of how God touched and delivered them while praying. One may shared how a neighbor hated his church and told them he put a curse on the, The church gathered and prayed. Three days later the man unexpectedly died and things are fine for them. (Friday, February 8, 2013)
Romans 8:37-39 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In what unseen ways has God been protecting you these days? What bad things could be happening in your life but aren’t? Thank God one by one for all that He is protecting you from. Thank Him for His mercy.
BLOG 194: CHURCHES IN ACTS, INDIA AND THE USA
No church is perfect. The early church suffered from greed, pride and lack of faith (Acts 5:1-10; 112:14-16). The church in India has many of the same issues. The church in India is much like the early church in many good ways, but that is another blog for a different time. There is one thing about the church here, and in the New Testament, that can be a good lesson for us in the USA. At the risk of being guilty of always thinking the grass is greener on the other side, and thinking that the best authority is the one furthest from where we live, let me see if I can convey something I’ve been thinking about.
First, There are some lessons the church in India can learn from us in the USA. One is the importance of Biblical scholarship, learning and teaching the Bible to the people. They can learn lessons from us in organization and communication as well. But I think there is one important lesson we, or at least me anyway, can learn from them. The gospel has so changed the lives of the Christians here that they are convinced it is the answer everyone needs. The pastors are committed to the fact that Jesus is the answer and they want to make sure anyone who will listen knows so. Resources are almost nonexistent so not much time, effort or money is spent on buildings, programs, curriculum or other things that consume so much focus in the USA. These are good things when they are a means to an end, but when they become the end in themselves we are missing God’s best for us.
The extreme difficulty of life here, and even more so for Christians, keeps most these people just trying to live from one day to the next. When you’re bailing water like crazy, just trying to keep the boat afloat, you aren’t thinking of new padding for the pews or redecorating the youth room. The biggest problem the church here faces is that it is survival mode, but that is also its greatest asset. The bottom line is: are they willing to sacrifice whatever it may take to believe in Jesus, live for Him, and tell others about Him? Or not. It’s that rubber-meets-the-road simple. Not all Christians are 100% committed, some are in various stages of understanding and commitment. But the vast majority of those who have put their faith in Jesus understand well the cost required to follow Him. They wouldn’t do it if they didn’t think He was worth it, for themselves and for others.
In a country with a corrupt, incompetent government, no human resources and unbelievable poverty, you don’t find people with an entitlement mentality. “What’s in it for me?” is not the question people are asking, but “Can I make it to tomorrow?” is what occupies their minds.
I can’t speak for other pastors, and I’m not about to judge other churches, but I know I lack this passionate vision for my life and my church. Keeping status quo, juggling all my responsibilities and obligations each day, fulfilling my roles and their requirements – that was not what the early church was all about, nor is it what the church in India is all about. They aren’t trying to use Jesus to make their life easier; they are willing to let Jesus use them no matter what it means to their life. Their church is not an end in itself; it is but a means to an end.
With all our blessings and resources in the USA, we should be seeing God’s kingdom advance there as it is in India. I, personally, need more of their desire and commitment to see the light advance against the darkness in America. I’ve been focused and committed to training pastors and ministering in India these 5 weeks. I have a vision and clearly convey that to you. You respond with prayer and financial support. Pray I will be able to do this in my life and in my church as well when I return, and not just for India but for the people in my church and community. It’s what the early church did and what churches in India have, and it’s what I need as well.
The USA needs Jesus just as badly as India, maybe more! In India the church is growing stronger. I’m not sure we can say that about the church in the USA. You don’t have to come to India to minister; the mission field is right outside your front door. The church in India knows why it is here, and that goal drives them on. They know they are in a battle and they know who their enemy is. It’s easy to forget that in daily life in America. I need to refocus on the purpose God has for life and my church. My desire is that I will lead with a clear, focused vision when I return home, and that you continue to support your own local church and pastor as fervently and devotedly as you have supported this ministry in India. Why does God have you alive? What does He want to do through your church? (Saturday, February 9, 2013)
John 4:34-37 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.
If your gifts and calling is in the area of evangelism or in training disciples, ask God to help you reignite your fist love if it has been fading (Revelation 2:4-5) and fervently pray for God to provide opportunities for you and your church to minister the gospel to those around you, whether for salvation or spiritual growth. Ask Him to give you His vision for your life and then do everything in your power to carry that vision out.
BLOG 195: PRAYING FOR HEALING
(Sunday, February 10, 2013)To be perfectly honest, I have a much easier time praying for God to physical heal or financially provide here in India than I do in the USA. I don’t know if that is right or night. I don’t want to judge anyone. I know the opportunity for medical or financial assistance apart from God’s supernatural intervention here in India is not existence. If God doesn’t provide there are no government, family or community resources to come to play. Praying for these needs for these people is often a matter of life and death, not convenience. I don’t mean the people who ask for prayer for financial or physical needs in the USA don’t have legitimate needs, please understanding I am not condemning or judging American Christians, of which I am one! I am simply saying that I can come to God praying for their physical healing here for I know God is the only solution to their pain and suffering.
It amazes and humbles me how often God uses my prayers for healing here to bring healing. I never know when, if or how soon it will happen and always pray for God’s will to be done and grace to endure if there is no healing, but I do have confidence to ask God to heal if it is His will. With the close connection between demonizing and healing in the Gospels I pray against anything demonic that may be behind that physical problem as well. Often when Jesus cast out demons the person was physically healed as well. So perhaps that is part of what is happening here as well. I do sense the battle when I lay hands on them and pray, and often am led to pray in a specific way. The ultimate result of what happens, though, is in God’s hands. (Sunday, February 10, 2013)
Luke 11:14 Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed.
Luke 13:10-13, 16 On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” 13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. … 16 Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”
Pray for those you know who are in need of physical healing, but before praying for them to be healed asking God to tell you how He wants you to pray for them? Does He want them healed immediately by Him, gradually by doctors, not healed at this time, or delivered from something demonic that is causing this and other problems as well?
BLOG 196: GUESS WHERE I AM?
Every year when I come to India and speak in churches, fields, or wherever we meet I am amazed at the scene I am looking at while speaking. The things I see outside the doors and windows (if the church even has walls) are unbelievable. Here are some of the things I watched while speaking the last few days. I saw herds of goats and water buffalo paraded back and forth all day long. Ox carts carrying sugar cane, bags of cotton or various other materials go past in trains of 10or 12. Women gracefully carry water, food, firewood or large bundles of clothes on their heads. Hundreds of colors of beautiful saris continually flow in all directions. Of course there are cripples, those with mental problems and half-naked children squatting in the road whenever the urge takes them. Wild dogs, chickens and pigs of all colors and sizes join the parade as well. In addition to all this there are merchants, peddlers, bicycles loaded with anything imaginable, children in school uniforms, emaciated sacred cows left to wander wherever they want, motorcycles of all kinds and sizes, cars and trucks. I never know what will come next. It seems all India passes by my line of vision while I stand and speak.
When I look at my audience crammed inside the building I see barefoot women sitting on the floor on one side, men on the other. The power is usually not working so we don’t even have fans to stir the hot, heavy air. Is there any chance I might, just for a moment, forget I am in India? Not a one! (Sunday, February 10, 2013)
Revelation 5:9-10 “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. 10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
Imagine the parade of people in heaven from every tribe, language, people and nation. What a glorious sight that will be. There has never been anything like it. Is there any chance you might, just for a moment, forget you are in heaven? Not a one!
BLOG 197: ON THE WAY HOME!!!
(Monday, February 11, 2013) I’m starting my trip home Tuesday morning 4 AM (5:30 PM Monday evening East Coast time). I’m scheduled to arrive in Philadelphia Tuesday, 8:20 PM. I hope Nancy remembers to come get me! Pray that everything will be safe, smooth and quick.
PASTOR’S CONFERENCES We had 19 pastors’ conferences this trip for 750 men and 290 wives. Since we started we have had 72 pastors’ conferences for 2,600 men and 770 wives! Remember we don’t try to have large conferences so we limit the attendees to those who will most benefit and use what we teach. The average cost for a pastor or wife for all these years is still $13 a person!!!!
WHAT I’LL MISS IN INDIA
Going barefoot or in sandals 7 days a week
Moses & Krupa
The Pastors and Christians here
Women whose dress is always both modest and feminine
Fresh bananas and fruit everywhere
Respect for my gray hair
Never having to convince anyone that Satan and demons are real
No phone calls
The children in the churches
Praying for people after the services
Being able to look at the tops of women’s heads!
The way people are amazed at my magic tricks
Krupa waiting on me hand and foot all day
Spending hours a day teaching the Bible
Receiving encouraging emails from those reading my blogs
Total dependence on God daily – and His very real presence
WHAT I’LL NOT MISS IN INDIA
Living out of a suitcase and drinking out of a water bottle
Carrying my own spoon everywhere
Using hand sanitizer multiple times a day
Dirty feet, even after they are washed
Mosquitoes (& malaria) buzzing in my ears at night
Sleeping in different beds
Noise and smell of the city
Dodging traffic to dash across a street
Constant honking of horns outside (and heard inside)
Scenes of unbelievable poverty everywhere
Not knowing what people are saying when they talk about me
Washing in a bucket of cold water
Carrying my Passport, credit cards and all important papers everywhere
Continual wailing from mosques in Moslem communities
Hindu shrines and idols wherever one looks
Not having to constantly make sure I step over or around stuff every step I take
Juggling my laptop on my lap while using an external keyboard
WHAT I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO IN THE USA
Nancy (get the idea? Can I move on?)
My children and their families
Main Street Baptist Church
A good long hot shower
Exercise, especially running
Salads and vegetables
Drinking from a faucet
BLOG 198: “DO NOT BE AFRAID” (Genesis 15:1 – part 1)
God always uses my time in India to show me special Bible promises or truths. Perhaps it is because I am more aware of my need of them during the times in India. Whatever the cause, I am very glad for them and depend on them. The ones that have meant a lot to me in the past continue to do so today. The verse that has been most significant in my thoughts during this trip is Genesis 15:1. “After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.’” This short verse actually has 2 promises as well as a significant point of theology which has really opened my mind in many new ways. Anyway, let’s look at this passage.
“After this” refers to the events in Genesis 14: namely Abraham and his servants freeing Lot from the kings who had captured him after destroying Sodom and Gomorrah. Melchizedek, a local priest of God, came to encourage Abraham and Abraham gave him tithes to God. The rest of the spoils from rescuing everyone he returned to the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah.
It was then that God spoke to him in a special way: “The word of the Lord came to Abram.” This is the first of 105 times this phrase is used in the Bible, showing God was communicating with man in a very special way. Usually this was through an audible voice, like when God spoke to Jesus at His baptism (Luke 3:22) and when Jesus spoke to Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:4-6).
It is “the Lord” who spoke to Abraham – Jehovah Himself, the eternal “I Am,” YHWH – the most special, personal, redemptive name for God. It is a great, great honor for Abraham to hear from God.
Not only does He hear God, but God calls him by name: “Abram.” Can you imagine God speaking to you, addressing you by your name? How marvelous that God calls us in the Bride of Christ His personal, individual friend (John 10:3), and that He knows each of our names and needs (Psalm 147:3-4).
“Don’t be afraid” are God’s first words to Abraham. This is often how God, or angels, start when communicating with humans for our natural response when seeing their holiness is awareness of our sinfulness (Genesis 21:7; 26:24; 43:6; Exodus 14:13; Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:13, 20; Acts 18:9; 27:24). This is the first in over 100 occurrences of this greeting. God’s ‘fear not’ promises have always meant a lot to me personally for fear is something I have had to battle my whole life. It is a sin passed down in my family line. I have found great comfort in God’s wonderful ‘fear not’ promises such as Exodus 14:13; Deuteronomy 31:6; Joshua 1:6-9; Isaiah 41:10. In my counseling and spiritual warfare ministry I’ve found that fear is one of Satan’s most effective weapons. It causes man to deny his faith without realizing what he is doing. Fear is the opposite of faith. A person cannot have faith and fear at the same time, only one at a time can dwell in the human heart.
Here are some of the promise God has given me over the years which I have applied to my trips to India: (Monday, February 18, 2013)
Deuteronomy 20:3-4 He shall say: “Hear, O Israel, today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before them. 4 For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.” God gave me this promise on my first trip to India and I’ve continued to lean on it and it almost daily since that time.
Exodus 33:14 The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Joshua 1:6-9 “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. 7 Be strong and very courageous. … 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Psalm 25:3, 5, 21 No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, … 5 guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. … 21 May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in you.
Isaiah 42:16 I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.
Genesis 28:15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
2 Corinthians 12:8-10 For when I am weak, then I am strong.
What fears do you most struggle with? What is that of which you are most fearful? You must be able to name them so you can recognize them. What promises of God best fit your situation?
“I AM YOU SHEILD” (Genesis 15:1 – part 2)
In yesterday’s blog I started sharing the verse God most impressed upon my heart this trip to India, Genesis 15:1. “After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.’” God Himself is speaking out loud to Abraham. He calls him by name and assures him there is nothing which he should fear. Then He makes his twofold promise:
“I am your shield” is God’s first statement. It has accurately been pointed out that God’s “I am’s” are more than adequate for our “I am nots.” I am not in control. I am not adequate. I am not able. I am not. I am not. I am not. All these are very true. Yet over above them is God’s more than adequacy to control, provide and protect – “I Am.” “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory. No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly” (Ps 84:11). “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
God first promises Abraham “I am your shield.” A shield provided protection. Perhaps Abraham was concerned that the kings he defeated would regroup and come back to destroy him. He was no match for them and without God’s supernatural help would never have defeated them in the first place. God promises him that if this, or anything else, happens that He will protect Abraham. Notice what God does NOT promise – He doesn’t promise they won’t come back and attack! God never promises to change circumstances so we don’t have to fear, but He always promises help when those things happen to us. I’ve had all kinds of things happen to me traveling and ministering in India. I wish God would have prevented every one, and He could have. He was not unable to do so. But His greater plan was to stretch my faith and show His ability to protect and provide. He was always with me whatever happened, and nothing was ever nearly as bad as it could have been! The problem is I’d rather not have to go through anything at all! We are all babies when it comes to pain and stretching, aren’t we? But at least I have His promise I won’t be going through them alone.
A shield comes between the person and the enemy. It is an analogy of battle, warfare. We are in a war (Ephesians 6:10-20). The shield protects us against that while would seek to destroy us. We have many substitute, man-made shields: money, weapons, alcohol, friends, education, insurance, etc. They all fail, though. We’ve all tired them and found them inadequate. Only God can shield us.
But here’s the best part so far. God doesn’t just promise to provide a shield; He promises that He Himself will be our shield! Think about that, make sure you realize the difference. God doesn’t promise to provide a shield for us; He promises that He Himself is our shield!!!
Imagine going into battle carrying a shield for protection, and when you look carefully you see that the shield is God Himself! This is true all the time. The Hebrew grammar shows it is continually present, all the time. Every once in a while I have to stop, sit back, and take time for something new to sink in. Realizing this was such a time for me. God doesn’t just send angels to protect me. He doesn’t just manipulate things from afar. He Himself comes to stand between me and what is threatening to destroy me! How comforting is that! I don’t know how I overlooked this before, for it is often stated in the Bible (Psalm 18:2; 119:144; etc.).
Think of an astronaut who lands on the moon. He is from a different planet and cannot survive on the moon without a shield which protects him. All the needed life-giving substance is provided within the shield – his air, his water and his food. He survives on a foreign planet because of the shield which contains his protection and life-supply and which is compatible with his own planet. The moon cannot provide him any of this and therefore without the shield (space suit), he will die. Now he does not belong there, he belongs on the earth. But he is able to do things as long as his shield is in place. He is sustained by means of a foreign life supply – not from the moon but from the earth. If the shield were to break, or were to be removed, it would mean certain death. That’s certainly what would have happened to us with all the spiritual warfare teaching and praying we have been doing! God didn’t just put a shield around us, He Himself became that shield. No wonder we were so safe!
As a born again believer filled with God’s Spirit, we are foreigners in this present world. We are in the world but not of the world. The only way to survive, therefore, is to have the shield of God from which all the supernatural supply is provided. If there is no shield then there is no life-giving substance. The only way to survive is to have the shield of God in place. You are sustained by a foreign supply – supernatural provision and protection by God Himself. This is vital for your spiritual survival
By now you should have gathered that God’s shield is not just something on one side of you. It is a total protection – front, back, over your head, on your sides and under your feet. Perhaps we can deduce from this teaching that when God says “I am your shield,” that you are protected in a “cocoon” type enclosure. Because when God protects you, the devil cannot get at you, no matter at what angle he tries to attack you. (Wednesday, February 20, 2013)
Think about this concept for a while. Maybe it isn’t new to you like it is to me, but if it is new meditate on it a bit. Its great God promises to protect us, as God He is able to do that. But that He Himself would commit to coming between us and all we face is even more special. Thank Him for it. Think of all He has protected you from in the past. Thank Him that at this very moment He is between you and that which would destroy you today.
“I AM YOUR VERY GREAT REWARD” (Genesis 15:1 – part 3)
We have been looking at a verse God used in a special way to minister to me in India, Genesis 15:1. “After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.’” God promises Abraham He will be his shield – that that He will provide protection and that He Himself will be the One who comes between Abraham and anything that tries to destroy him.
“I am your very great reward” is God’s second promise to Abraham. “Reward” can be translated “salary,” “payment,” “compensation,” “benefit” or “wage.” Was Abraham concerned about giving back the vast fortune he returned to the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah? Was he thinking it might have been something he needed in the future, or even in the present? That Abraham was thinking in terms of material possessions is clear from the next verse, Genesis 15:2, where he asks about an heir for his possessions and God reassures him that he will have a son. But God’s promise goes far beyond financial reward. God never promises to meet all our wants but He does promise to meet our needs (Philippians 4:19). He promises reward and blessing in the next life far beyond anything we can imagine (1 Corinthians 2:5). He also promises spiritual blessings for right now, in this life (Ephesians 1:3). It’s all by His grace, nothing we can do to earn or deserve it (John 1:16).
The assurance from God that He would reward me for this work in India is something I still can’t really grasp. I know the Bible says God will do that, but what can I possibly be rewarded for? I wouldn’t be doing this if He hadn’t really put it in my heart to do it. And clearly none of it would have happening if He wasn’t making it all happen! I tell Moses we are like a hose that He uses to send His blessings to the pastors here. What can a hose take credit for? How can a hose be rewarded? For what? For allowing itself to be used? How can it not do that? How can it get any credit for that? Please don’t think I’m being modest. If you’d be me you’d agree that none of this is any of my doing!
In fact, the privilege of being the hose, of being part of this, of having a front row set of watching God work, is more reward and blessing than I could have ever hoped for! It feels like something I should be experiencing in heaven, not on this earth. And yet the part of this verse which touched me most is still to come!
“I AM your very great reward.” The real blessing to Abraham was not just material blessings for Abraham, or even a son to inherit them – it was God Himself. He doesn’t just give us spiritual blessings now and for eternity, He Himself IS our blessing – our “very great” reward/payment/wage/benefit. Awareness of that truth was the foundation of all kinds of good things God has been teaching me these past few weeks. It is the first domino in a chain that is still continuing. God doesn’t just give me a reward or blessing, He Himself is that reward and blessing!
Usually we think of God as a means to our reward. He blesses us with the fruit of the Spirit, He heals us, He provides financially, He restores a relationship, and He shows His love in many and various tangible ways. Unfortunately some people follow Him just for the purpose of receiving those things. Their entitlement mentality has them thinking “What’s in it for me?” So they switch from church to church, waiting for the magic formula that will take away all their problems and make everything feel good. God isn’t a magic gene we can rub and get Him to do whatever we want! He has something much, much better than promising to grant us three wishes. He promises HIMSELF!
I’ve given that a lot of thought and meditation, a LOT of it. It’s an amazing thought that God is rewarding me by revealing more of Himself to me, letting me get to know Him better and more personally, experiencing Him in a fuller way! Not only is the concept great, but the fact He would do that for me is absolutely mind-expanding! He has been doing that in me – I blogged about experiencing His love and power in a much greater way and that helps me see Him in a far clearer light. I see His power in protecting us from any attacks despite all the training of pastors, especially in spiritual warfare and in how He answers prayers. I experience His love in the fact that He chose me to be the tube to be used to do this, to see how he’s been working in my life all along to bring the right training and skills into place for this time, to be a ‘missionary’ for Him, and even to write books. I have always wanted to write but had given that dream up years ago assuming it would never happen.
He wants to reveal Himself to each of us, not just me. He doesn’t just want to be part of our life, a dispenser of quick fixes when life gets too hard. He doesn’t want us to use Him, but to let Him use us. Don’t just have Jesus in your life. Let Him BE your life – not for what you get from Him but for Whom and what He is. Abraham’s great reward was not the material blessings or the son he would get, but God Himself, his growing relationship with the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. God wants that with you as well.
And, finally, He doesn’t just want to be your reward. He wants to be your VERY GREAT reward! If God says it is great, you can count on it being indescribable! (Friday, February 22, 2013)
God doesn’t just want to be my reward; He wants to be that for each and every Christian as well. Think about how He has been blessing you lately. Do you recognize His hand in all that is happening in your life? What new truths have you been learning about Him? How have you been getting closer to Him lately? What is He trying to reveal to you about Himself?