Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A New Direction, A New Ministry

There are certain times in life when we all face major changes, and major decisions.  It is in these times, we must follow the Lord where He leads.  My family and I did just that when we left Alaska for Papua New Guinea over eleven years ago.  Now, the Lord is leading us to return!  Mariann, Levi and I will be leaving Papua New Guinea in just a few short months.  The Lord has led us back to Alaska, where I will be serving as pastor of my home church, the Independent Baptist Church of Anchorage.  

I will leave behind in PNG two churches and one other man, whom I have helped train, who is pastoring in the capitol city of Port Moresby.  Both churches in New Ireland will have national pastors and be self-supportive.  I do not see this as an end to my ministry here in PNG.  Lord willing, I would like to return each year to be a help to the churches and continue to help the pastors I have trained. 

Below I have put down the details on how the Lord clearly led me to make such a major decision.  A decision which was months in the making:

Back in October of 2013, I began to feel a nudge that the Lord was leading us in a new direction.  I was not certain of anything at this point, and highly doubted within myself the Lord could be leading us to return to the States.  However, the nudging grew stronger and I began to pray about it every day.  I knew this tug on my heart as I had certainly experienced it in the past; a time when the Lord led us to leave Alaska and head to Papua New Guinea.  I told no one of what I was praying about, with the exception of my wife.  As I prayed, I kept asking the Lord to do just like He did when He called me to PNG, and make it very clear so I would be certain.  I prayed and told the Lord with the nudging I had on my heart; it was not enough to get me to make a decision to leave the field. Every day when I prayed, the nudging would happen and I would ask the Lord for more certain direction. 
Mariann and I also had several things going on in our life which we felt were circumstantial in leading us to return:  We had a daughter that would be graduating college; Mariann had a few health issues, as well as Levi, and two other items as well.  I did not see any one of these items as a need/must return, as I could also see the Lord intervening in each in different ways without us having to return. I continued to pray each day, telling the Lord I need to really know You are in this.  Without that, I could not make a decision to return. 
Then on January 22nd, 2014, I decided to get counsel from my pastor.  I called and told him what I had been praying about. I talked about the things going on and the nudge on my heart.  I told him I was trying to determine if the Lord was leading us back, or if this was just me.  After I finished speaking, the phone was silent for a second or two.  Then pastor asked me, “So you are praying about coming back?”  I said, “yes”.  He then told me that the first week of January he met with the leadership in the church and informed them he was going to retire and go into evangelism in the next 12 to 36 months.  He told them he wanted the church to have the next pastor settled before he retired.  He believed this would be the best way to go about this type of major transition.  He started the church back in 1989, and has been the church’s only pastor.  At the meeting my name was brought up to come back and pastor the church.  Pastor, however, did not want to call me and ask me to leave the field.  The next week the church leadership met again, and it was decided that pastor would call and ask me to pray about returning to pastor the church.  After the meeting, Pastor Roach began to pray that he would not have to make that call, but that I would call him and let him know I thought the Lord was leading us to return, which of course is exactly what happened!  When he told me that, I knew clearly now the Lord was leading us to return. 
In May of 2014, we flew to my son’s graduation from college.  After that we headed to Anchorage, for three weeks.  On our last Sunday, I was voted in as the next pastor of the church. 
We plan to arrive in Alaska in late June or early July.  We have my son’s wedding and daughter’s graduation from college to attend first. 
It has been a privilege beyond measure to have served in PNG for more than 11 years!  This is what missions is about, planting churches and moving on.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Rejoice in thy Youth!

Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:1

(9)  Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.

(10)  Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.

(1)  Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;

(Four of my five children are 18-23 years old.  A great age to be, and yet an age that must be approached with wisdom.)

We live in a culture which places great value on youth.  This is a good thing, even the above Scriptures place great value on how you use your youth.  We live in a time in which the older spend their time and energy trying to be young again.  They are constantly seeking the fountain of youth.  A vast majority of advertising is done in the name of regaining or maintaining youth. People seeking for their youth try pills, exercises, creams and even surgeries, but the reality is there is no such thing as a fountain of youth on this side of eternity.  It does not matter how many pills, dyes, surgeries, or the fact that you are president of the hair club for men, your youth will vanish quickly.  Therefore, how you spend your youth is of great importance.
Your younger years are a great time:  A time of promise, strength, boldness, and excitement. If you use your youth wisely there is much you can accomplish with purpose.  In order to be successful there are truths in the above Scriptures which will direct your paths.  How you choose to spend your younger years, the Lord leaves up to you.  He will not force you one way or another.  He has given you free will to choose your path.  The Lord makes it clear in verse nine the decision is up to you as to what you do.  Choose wisely!

4 Truths from the above text to help you make wise decisions in your youth.

1   God wants you to enjoy your youth  “Rejoice… in thy youth”
-        Do not be fooled by pleasure in sin. The pleasure of sin will NEVER compare to the joy of the Lord.
-        Sin is deceitful – Many, “live for the weekend”, and miss out on enjoying every moment of life.
-        Let me discuss some lies about joy in our day:  
o   It is sad today as it seems people associate alcohol with a good time.  The bondage alcohol can produce is not worth the tradeoff.  I have counseled with people for years and witnessed the destruction of alcohol.  It leads to wives being beaten, children being beaten, adultery, fighting, sickness, families in great despair as a result of a drunk driver, etc.  These things are not the result of a true, “good time”, but of sin.  Most today fail to see the Creator in this life.  They think the joy they have is a result of the alcohol.  It is not!  The joy they have during these times is a result of the God given relationships.  The fellowship of family and friends!  These are relationships God gives us to enjoy, the alcohol simply ruins it, and many times just serves as a cover to greater problems.

   o   There is no joy in failed relationships -   People today are busy seeking their, “perfect match”.   Soon, they discover the person they are with is very far from perfect and they move on to the next, leaving behind pain, broken homes, guilt, despair, etc.  The key is to wait for the person the Lord has for you.  This person will not be perfect and will have faults.  As you draw close to the Lord, He will enable you to love them with grace even with all their imperfections.    

  o   Joy is not based on your possessions or worldly success.  You can have achieved great success in your career and have all the money you need and yet be full of despair and miserable.  How many have thought this to be the key only to be sadly disappointed when they arrived at this point.

  o   The key to joy is found in the Creator.  Therefore, the following truths the Lord gives are not to take away joy, but to help you find true joy. 

  o   Also, do not fall into what I call the, “miserable Christian syndrome”.  There are some who think you could not be right with God if you have joy!  They could not be more wrong.  They live to be miserable and want others to be miserable and somehow think this is godly.  You will burn out quickly with this attitude and your life will be like an engine running with no oil.  As verse 10 tells us, “Rejoice”!  I am glad the Lord desires that my joy might be full!  John 15:11.

2     Know God will judge you for your decisions and actions – 11:9   The Lord makes clear, that whatever you decide, He will judge you for it, so choose wisely!
-        I enjoy watching the Olympics; especially gymnastics.  The talent displayed from the gymnast is incredible.  They show strength, courage, discipline, etc. Yet everything they do, every move they make, is for the judges.  They know they are being looked at and judged and every move they make is important.  They compete knowing they are being judged.  Everything they practice they have the judges in mind as to what they might like.  What will impress the judge?  Well, we too have a judge for our life!

-        God is our judge!  We need to see we are being judged for what we do.  This helps us stay on course, and use our life with wisdom and not for vanity.  If you know there are consequences to your actions, you will respond accordingly. 

-        The Bible will show you what the Judge is looking for.  The Olympian gives his best before the judges, so he might get a medal and prestige that will fade, but we do it for an incorruptible crown.  (I must stress something here for those reading.  There are different judgments that will come.  One is for the Christian and how he lived his life for the Lord; I Corinthians 3.   However, there is another judgment called the Great White Throne Judgment; Revelation 20:12-15.  You do not want to be present at this judgment. Why?  Because we all have sin and are guilty before God.  All those guilty are cast into a lake of fire.  The Lord God has provided a way to avoid this judgment:  Because God loves us He sent His Son Jesus Christ to become a man.  He became a man so that he could fulfill the law, (live a sinless life).  He is the only one who could stand innocent at this judgment, but instead he took our place.  He took our guilt and punishment; II Corinthians 5:21.  When He went to the cross, He suffered the judgment of God, that you might be saved.  He died for you.  However, because He was God, He defeated death and rose again.  We must repent and place our faith solely in Jesus Christ for salvation.  He is the way, the truth, and the life!    If you would like to know more, email me.) 

3     Remove sorrow and put away evil    11:10
-        Make a conscious effort to remove sin.  Don’t play with it, laugh at it, or ignore it.  It will destroy you and take over your life.  Whenever it begins to creep in remove it!  It is there to steal your youth!  The key to removing sorrow is to put away evil.

4     Remember your Creator  12:1
-         Life is not about you! It is about the Creator!  Focus on Him in your youth.  You will find you have a purpose.  You are not here because of some random act in the universe.  This allows you to see the world in a different light.  You begin to live for a purpose!  A purpose to glorify the Creator!  Since there is a Creator there are absolutes.  There is a moral compass to life that is not based on current trends or cultures, but on the Creator Himself.  This will help you to discern what is right and wrong, in this ever confusing world.   A world trying to determine morality apart from a Creator.  It will not work.

-        Don’t wait to serve God.  Now is the time!

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Desmond's Story

Desmond in 2004 or 2005

Coming back from church two weeks ago, I heard a strange noise coming from my vehicle.  I was pretty sure something important just fell off my car!  I turned around and drove slowly down the road looking for some sort of vehicle part on the road. Then, I saw it, a large (22 metric) bolt, and I knew it must have fallen off my car.  I picked it up and drove carefully back home anticipating some type of trouble in my car.  There was nothing though, the vehicle ran just fine.  I wondered why the large bolt had fallen off.  Our road has been recently sealed so it was not from a rough road.  I hit nothing on the road that might cause damage.  I had no idea why.  I located where on the car the bolt fell off from and I decided to take to a mechanic to have him look it.  I could have easily put it back on myself, but I wanted a trained eye to look for what might have caused it to fall off in the first place.  I took the vehicle to the mechanic first thing Thursday morning.  He too was baffled as to why the bolt just fell off.  He saw no reason for the bolt to have fallen off when inspecting the car.  The reason, though, was about to be crystal clear.

At church the evening prior, we had our normal prayer meeting/preaching service.  One of the prayer requests was for a man named Desmond.  Desmond is 26 years old and during his teenage years he attended the Baptist work in Sohun.  However and sadly, as many young people do, he left church when he was no longer required to go by his parents.  Desmond simply came to church because he had to, not because he was converted to Christ.  (The answer to our issues with young people not wanting to serve the Lord is not  the youth pastor  with a "cool" youth department and great teen activities and "teen" music, but true conversion to Christ.  I think I will do a post later on this subject.)  I would see him plenty of times and always say hello and try to encourage him.  He always maintained a very kind disposition with me.  The prayer request was to pray for Desmond because he was sick.  I was told it was a swollen spleen, which is very common here due to recurring Malaria.  To me this did not sound like a major sickness since we see this all the time, but certainly something to pray about.

So again Thursday day morning I took my vehicle to the mechanic.  As I was leaving the workshop on Thursday morning, I had the urge to go and pray with Desmond.  Thursdays are usually days for studying for Sunday’s sermons, not visiting. I knew I was not very far from where Desmond lives, and felt strongly I should go pray with him.  I arrived at his house and his mom, twin brother, one of his two sisters, and one other brother was present.  We all went into the house and sat down.  It was clear Desmond was sick, and he told me it was not his spleen.  He said he just had pain in his stomach area and could not eat.  It started after a night of heavy drinking.  I was immediately concerned about alcohol poising or bad home brew, which is common here.  I know Desmond had heard the Gospel many times from his days at church, but I decided to tell him again of Christ before praying with him. After I finished presenting the Gospel he said he wanted to trust Christ and follow the Lord.  He then, without my help, with tears streaming down his face, prayed and put his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ!  We rejoiced and it was nice to see the tears of joy also flowing from his mother’s face.  I now knew why the bolt had fallen off!  The Lord used that to put me in a place to go and talk with Desmond.  The story is not finished yet, though.
 Desmond told me if he was well enough, he would be at church on Sunday. I was hoping to see him there, but I did not.  After I left him on Thursday, his Mom took him to see a doctor in Kavieng.  I was not aware they would be going to Kavieng.  Little did we know then, only his body would return.  I received a call at 6:00am the following Thursday.  Desmond had just passed and went to be with the Lord.  I preached his funeral that Saturday and hundreds more heard the gospel from the village.  Oh, how thankful I was he trusted in the Lord!  I have no doubt Desmond is doing great right now!  I am also thankful for a bolt that “just happened” to fall off my car and directly led me to go pray with Desmond on that Thursday instead of that Saturday.  I had no idea at the time, but that Thursday morning would be the last opportunity I had to speak with Desmond.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Are These Verses Really in the Bible?

Matthew 10:37-39

(37)  He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
(38)  And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.
(39)  He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
(I am preaching through Matthew and these are some thoughts from these verses and part of the sermon for this Sunday.  In context, Jesus is giving instructions to the newly selected 12 Apostles as he sends them out.)

Are these verses really in the Bible!?

 Yes, of course they are, but we certainly do not hear much about them, or we hear them being explained away! 

These verses show us what it takes to truly follow Christ.  (The truth of these verses would be one of the keys to the success of the Apostles.) Christ is much more than just fire insurance. He is much more than just help in time of need.  He is much more than just encouragement during heart-ache or loss.  He is much more than just something to think about on Sunday morning for a few hours.  Although much of our preaching focuses on the above aspect of being a Christian, Christ demands much more of us. 

Matthew 10:37-39 begins to show us the true worth of being a follower of Jesus Christ.  These verses demonstrate how very important, and what a great treasure Jesus Christ is to all.  He is so valuable, he is worth more than our parents and more than our children.  He is so valuable, he is worth having to suffer for, and bear shame and reproach.  He is so valuable and important that he is worth losing your life over!  We fail to see this because we fail to see who Christ truly is! This is a result of being too focused on the temporal.  How then could we ever accurately portray Him to the world, or demonstrate the greatness of our God?

We are losing our country because we were not willing to put Christ above all; we were not willing to bear our cross; we were not willing to lose our life.  We were willing to give God our Sundays, but not our children.  We were willing to give God our tithes, but not carry a cross. We were willing to give God 10%, but certainly not 100%.  We had houses to build, cars to buy, careers to build.  All the while our country collapsed from a lack of light or a lack of understanding of the necessity for a fulcrum for morality.  The result ... people began trying to base morality without absolutes or base it on man as the starting point.  Christians were too busy with the things of the world or trying to make Christ acceptable to the world, so as to avoid bearing reproach. (Sadly, many times this was done in the name of evangelism and produced false converts, turning many churches into entertainment houses.)  Much of this was done in the name of, “bridge building”.  The fact is, the real bridge to the world is already built, and it is the Cross.  There is no escaping, it is a reproach to many.  It is the only bridge and the only means of salvation.  

We need Christians willing to give Jesus Christ the priority above all others; we need Christians willing to bear the shame and reproach of following Christ, bearing our cross;  we need to be willing to lose our life.  Then will we began to see true life.  Then we can proclaim “for to me to live is Christ and to die is gain”!

As to the context of the verses, and the fact that 11 of the Apostles obeyed the verses, others saw the importance of Jesus Christ and who He is!  Others saw Christ was important, by the example of the lives of the Apostles.  They saw men who, even though they dearly loved their families, Christ was the priority; they saw men willing to suffer for Him; they saw men willing to lose their life!  Many people wanted to listen to see what could be of so great importance.  Their words and their lives demonstrated the greatness of Christ!  Today we put money, careers, family, entertainment, and comfort well before God.  Then we wonder why we have trouble reaching the world!  Why should they listen?  We actually worship ourselves, money, and pleasure, just like any atheist!  Oh, how others need to see the greatness and value of God, not only in creation, but in our life!

May Christ be our priority, our treasure worth suffering for, and our very life!