Monday, August 29, 2011

Explosion of Spontaneous Worship

Last night here at the Centro Familiar Cristiano (founded by Missionary Donald Exley)in Martinez, a suburb of Buenos Aires, Missionary-Pastor Nathan Grams (Rocky Grams’ son) preached a beautiful message before serving communion.
He told the story of Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan and grandson of Saul. (II Samuel 9) A nurse snatched this child to save his life and ran to escape from the raiders that were determined to kill every living descendent of King Saul. She was carrying this small child in her arms as she ran. Suddenly she tripped and he fell from her arms breaking both his legs and leaving him crippled for life. She saved his life, but his life was not a pleasant one. He probably suffered low self esteem as a useless cripple plus fear as a fugitive. He was carried far away from Jerusalem to Lo Debar and remained there a fugitive, hidden from King David’s angry warriors.
Then one day, years later, King David, who had a heart after God, asked if there were no descendents of Saul left anywhere. Probably the informers thought that David was wanting to stamp them out if there were any left. Someone told him about Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth. And David sent for him to come. When the king’s men knocked on Mephibosheth’s door, surely he thought that his day had finally come. He had been in hiding all these years, but finally he had been discovered and would be condemned and killed for his grandfather’s crimes. Instead, David shows him love and takes this crippled fugitive bringing him and his family to the palace, giving them a place to feast at the king’s table with all the richness of his blessings for the rest of their lives!

Then Missionary Nathan compared this act of David to the kindness of Jesus. We were fugitives, trying to hide from God, guilty of treason, deserving of death, when Jesus found us. God knocked on the door of our heart and called us out of our hiding place. It was judgment and death that we deserved, but Jesus intervened for us and paid the price for our sins with His blood. Now He invites us to His table. He does not just say, “Come and find a seat somewhere.” He has a special place for each one of us. Our name is on it! My name is on it! And this is not a “one meal” visit… this is to become our permanent dwelling place, close to the King of kings!

Then Pastor Nathan compared all this to the communion table and invited us to draw near to God without fear. If we have trusted in the work of Christ upon the cross, our sins which demanded eternal damnation were paid in full by the death of the perfect Son of God. Surely Mephibosheth was taken into the presence of King David fearing for his life and were it not for the washing of our hearts by the blood of Our Savior, we should certainly fear in God’s presence. But Jesus has opened the way to the Father. So…“Let us come boldly into His divine presence.”

After the communion service there followed a time of spontaneous worship. The team of worship leaders sang on the platform as the people continued standing to worship. Several times Pastor Nathan took the microphone and it appeared that he began to close the service and dismiss the people, but then suddenly the glory of the Lord seemed to overwhelm us all canceling all possibility of dismissal. Nobody was leaving! God was there! And He was doing a work in our souls. Nobody was going around laying on hands. Nobody was falling down, although I fell to my knees in worship. Nothing weird was happening, except powerful spontaneous worship. It was an extended time of heavenly glory as crystal clear waves of God’s presence seemed to rise high and then break over upon us. I don’t know how long it lasted. Time loses all importance in the presence of the King of kings. I cannot speak for others, but I was bathing in the richness of God’s glory… and today, Monday, I can still feel it bubbling up from somewhere deep in my soul!
Ralph

Sunday, August 28, 2011

"Pull the Plug!"

I made up my mind to take it easy on my voice these first 10 days or so here in the Buenos Aires area accepting very few of many tempting invitations. This morning I preached in a very nice little church. The pastors, Juan and Silvia Ferrer, are the ones that picked me up at the airport, helped me find a car and this coming week will be helping me do several other things to prepare for my long trip into the interior. I surprised them by offering to minister at their church in Boulogne this morning. They and their people received me with great joy.





I have only preached there once before. I did a trial run and gave them the full package, the whole shebang; played my Hawaiian guitar, taught a chorus with my accordion, my little skunk Perfume charmed the little kids, Felipe did a Bible story and of course I prayed with the kids.
Then I preached. My voice held up quite well. At the very end it was clogging up and cutting out a little, so I cut my message down to 45 minutes or so… ha. Maybe it was the Lord telling me to “Shut the machine down, look for the off-switch! Can’t find it? Just pull the plug!” But it is really hard to stop when the people are so obviously into it with you. In many of the Argentine churches they are accustomed to 3 hour services or even much more and seem to feel cheated if you cut the message too short.

Have a great day!

Ralph

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Vehicle Already Purchased!

There is no doubt! The prayers of my spiritual partners are heard in heaven! One wrote that they would be praying that I would find the right car quickly. I arrived in Buenos Aires last Wednesday and on Thursday found a 2000 model Peugeot car with only 35,500 miles on it, which is very unusual. It was being sold by a used car dealer for a private owner. It is 11 years old, but appears to be in excellent condition, almost like brand new! It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that some do, (no electric locks or electric windows) but the engine is diesel powered, whereas many Peugeots are gasoline powered. The diesel engine is a benefit here since they usually keep running about 100,000 miles further than the gasoline powered engine before needing rebuilding. Besides diesel fuel is cheaper per gallon in most places here and a gallon typically takes you further than a gallon of gasoline.

The low mileage and general excellent condition, the diesel engine, the large trunk allowing space to carry my Hawaiian guitar, accordion, amplifier and suitcases out of sight and the fact that is not a fancy car that will attract attention, convinced me that I had found what I was seeking. It is almost identical to the one Missionary Eddie Echevarria has loaned me during my last two trips here, only this one is several years newer than his.
I had thought that I might have to spend up to $20,000 or even more for a reliable vehicle, but I purchased this car for $9,600 (and $2,072 of that was supplied by a special offering from Pastor Wayne Clark's 1st AG in San Antonio Texas)! I will still spend some money on it however. It is due an oil and filter change and new serpentine belt. Next week I intend to complete the registration and add an alarm system and electric locks for security.

I am staying in the prophet’s chamber above the Martinez Church and Christian School and have committed myself to minister to the children here next Friday morning. Some of the teachers remember Felipe since when they themselves were little kids. They came running to greet me with their Argentine kisses on the cheek. One darling little school girl who remembered me with Felipe from last February, came running up to me with a big hug and just hung on! That made my day complete!

I just can’t stop thanking the Lord for His many blessings! He just keeps raining them down on me non-stop!

Ralph

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Gotcha Covered!

The past few days I have been basking under the covering of the prayers of God’s choicest saints. Thursday it was the students and leadership of the School of Urban Ministries in Oakland as they gathered around me at the close of that great meeting. Then again last night, after I had ministered to the nice group of seniors at my home church, Neighborhood Church in Modesto, they gathered and prayed for me.

Finally this morning at the main service of Neighborhood Church, Pastor Lance Lowell called me to the platform to send me away with the blessing of the Lord. And to cap it off, it was my son, Tim, who serves on the pastoral staff there that stood behind me, with his guitar hanging on his shoulders and led in that prayer! That was an awesome moment that I will treasure. Frances and I have prayed daily for each of our three sons for years, but it was powerful to sense this gift of love as Tim led in prayer for his dad.

Ralph

“Perfume” the Skunk

Last night I enjoyed playing my Hawaiian guitar along with Joe Jones on the rhythm guitar while we led the singing with the “Cruisers”, the growing group of sparkling seniors at Neighborhood Church.

Felipe came out and did his thing for all these grown up kids and Julia caught this wonderful picture of her mother, Florence, trying to get up the nerve to pet my little “Perfume” that was wiggling in all directions trying to kiss her hand which kept dodging the kiss. (Double click on photos to enlarge.)

It was a beautiful time of spiritual and physical refreshing with the Word of the Lord and ice cream sundaes! Not a bad mixture!
Ralph

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Oakland's "School of Urban Ministries"

Although I have been trying to reserve my voice for ministry in Argentina, I could not resist the invitation to minister again at Oakland’s School of Urban Ministries. SUM is an exciting center of theological learning which couples classroom education with practical ministry. For me, each visit has been an exciting, blessed experience.
Of course, Felipe had to show his face. Reverend Ken Searle, Dean of Student Ministries held the famous suitcase.




And my accordion did its thing as I presented them with an old chorus that was new to them.





About sixty students listened to the challenge… not just with their ears, but also with their hearts as I shared a brief testimony.





In response to the altar call their lives were scattered on the floor like seeds planted in the earth. God’s eternal law of the harvest guarantees “much fruit”. So tighten your seat belts for take-off… as God is up-to-something bigger and better than you expect.




Some of these students, armed with the Holy Spirit of God, will become “world-changers.”
At the close the service, Rev. Ken Searle and Mrs. Jimenez, Dean of Student Life, joined the entire group of students as they prayed for me. Believe me! I need all the prayer backing I can get as I set out next week for almost four months of concentrated ministry in Argentina.

By the way, if you are looking for a serious Bible School that is on fire for Jesus… I encourage you to go online and check out SUM, the “School of Urban Ministries in Oakland.”

Ralph

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

We Will Carry the Torch!

Thanks for your prayers. My voice held up miraculously well while sharing with the 8th grade class at Modesto Christian School this morning.
I had their Bible teacher, Mr. Martin Cross, take a few photos as I tried to teach the kids the chorus of a great song, “We will carry the torch. We will lift high the flame. We will march though the darkness with the light of His name. Till the glory of God is seen by the world. We will carry the torch of the Lord!”
The kids seemed attentive as I challenged them to light up their world with the One who said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12) I even brought my own torch.

Years ago, deep beneath the surface of the earth in a huge cavern at the Oregon caves the guide turned out the light. There was total darkness as Frances and I and other tourists clung to the railing. Then suddenly one tiny match flame lit up that entire huge dark cavern!
One Christian life, washed by the blood of Jesus and filled with His Spirit can make an unbelievable difference in this dark world. I briefly shared my call to missions and closed with the story of the ParanĂ¡ Delta River island ministry… a dark sub-culture now illuminated by Jesus, the Light of the World! May God call some of these brilliant youth into His service!

Ralph

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Answering Machine Message

My son, Ron, just wrote me:

“Dad: It may be intentional, or maybe you just haven't been able to bring yourself to deal with it, but I thought I should remind you that your home answering machine still says, "You have reached Ralph & Frances Hiatt”… I hope this doesn't sound wrong, but I miss the two of you, together, as much as I miss Mom. I'm not saying you’re less than a full person. I'm saying that together you made up a "super-person"; even more than what two people can be separately. 1+1 = 2 is only true in silly things like math.” Ron

Dear Ron,

Oh my! Who ever listens to their own answering machine message? I’ll have to change that! Mom now lives at a new address where communications operate on a different frequency. Think of it! No daily calls offering to lower your interest rate! Must be quiet up there… except for that ultra-harmonious background music of angelic singing.

Your right, Ron. I’m really only half here… actually a little less than half. Mom was my brain. I always asked her, “What’s that pastor’s wife’s name?” and “Do you remember that paper I did in Bible School on Sermons in the book of Acts?” (Back in Bible School days I hand wrote everything and she typed my papers while I handed her the script. We were crammed together in that little 27 foot trailer house… and baby Ronny was crying and our pet parakeet kept landing on her head. 40 years later at my request she could dig up that term paper out of the heap of old boxes. She listened and observed and retained almost everything. I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without her. Beside all this, she was so nice to everybody (even to me) that she was loved by all.
Knowing what a “fly by the seat of my pants guy” I was as a teenager, it was only God that kept me from marrying a gorgeous girl named Jill. She was very talented and beautiful. I was madly in love with her and (“God be praised forever!”) she jilted me for another guy and broke my heart. She married that guy… I later heard they divorced and who knows what happened after that and where she is now, if she is still living? I didn’t often pause to think things through as I should have. I was far too “happy go lucky” and emotionally driven. Only one thing saved me from major shipwreck. God! I really did want to do His will and sought His plan for my life over and over. But He never answered me. Or so I thought. He never clued me in on the future. No words from heaven. He knew I couldn’t handle that. So I just ran full speed ahead until I hit a wall and bounced off and then ran full speed in another direction. As you know I haven’t changed that much really. I still run full speed and bounce off walls. It just takes me longer to pick myself up off the floor these days, but you’ll soon find me running in some other direction with all I’ve got.

And all the time I still feel like that teenage kid trying to do a man’s job.

Love,

Dad

Monday, August 8, 2011

Hawaii in Modesto

Life seems never to get too boring for me. There is always ample variety. Last week it was the Assemblies of God General Council in Phoenix and today it was “Hawaii in Modesto.” In just a few weeks now school classes will start again at Modesto Christian School. So the school board created a special Hawaiian Luau celebration for the entire staff of teachers and spouses. It was held in the spacious back yard of a family in the church. I was requested to supply a part of the “island flavor” with my Hawaiian steel guitar.
I played a series of hymns and gospel songs while they were gathering and then accompanied the church secretary and her husband, Kim and Karl, as he sang and she played the ukulele with the cute Hawaiian song, “My Little Grass Shack”. What fun!
It was a lovely evening of delightful food and fun. They even brought in a family of genuine Hawaiians to bless us with their charming movements and Hawaiian music.
Our new pastor, Lance Lowell, who was just verified by a landslide vote last night at a church business meeting, capped off the evening with an inspirational message for the teachers.

Ralph

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Holy Traffic Jam

General Council Report 3

I know you would have enjoyed this. Tonight at the altar call there were so many down front (mostly youth dedicating their lives to the Lord and seeking the Holy Spirit baptism) that the stadium guards stopped me and the huge stream of others at the base of the stairway.
The crowd was too thick for safety I guess... Holy Traffic Jam. AG General Secretary James Bradford preached. He is actually a genuine rocket scientist… and pastor. The following is just the abbreviated notes I scribbled on the back of a receipt that I had in my pocket which I just now typed into my computer for safe keeping. You will have to read between the lines.

“Unless you go with me I will not go.” Moses

Intro: The God who created us has acted to rescue us.

Jesus looked his disciples straight in the eye and said, “Go into all the world… etc… but please don’t go on your own. Wait for the promise of the Father. Exod. 33: God says to Moses, “I will not go with you. I’ll send my powerful angel to destroy the Amorites, Hitites, Jebusites and all the other ites (even the mosquito-bites). I’ll get your people into the land flowing with milk and honey, but I won’t go with you”.

Are we settling into God’s blessings without His presence? What else will distinguish us from any other people? In our churches what will make us different from the government social workers, the doctors or social clubs and community social efforts? It must be God’s presence.

In our focus on Praise, let us not forget Prayer. In our focus on Leadership let’s not forget Love. In our focus on Models let’s not forget Discernment. In our focus on Creativity let’s not forget Encounter. In our focus on Serving others let’s not forget Evangelism!

What makes us different? The presence of God! In every service there must be a tangible encounter with God! God wants us to go deep before we go wide.

In Num. 11 the people were sick of manna and were complaining, each one sitting in front of their tents and moaning. Moses said to God. “I can’t handle this… just kill me now.” But God gave him 70 new leaders. He gathered them in front of the tent of meeting, but 2 of them didn’t make it there for some reason. Traffic jam… whatever. There in front of the tent, God’s power fell on the 68 who were present and they began to prophesy. And the other two who were far away also had the presence of the Lord fall on them and they began to prophecy. Joshua got all worked up about this and reported it to Moses as though it was a bad thing. But Moses waved his hand in a wide stroke and said, (vs 29) “I wish that all God’s people were prophets!”

Well in Acts 2 the Spirit fell on the whole bunch and all of them were filled and spoke in tongues. But Jesus let us know that when we get filled the Holy Spirit we will not just speak in tongues, we will be different. He gave us tongues as a sign that He wants to use our tongues to declare His name… as witnesses. He has called us to speak as oracles of God. God was saying, “There’s going to be a lot of people in your future and I love every one of them.”

The story of Rachel Siessler of the Azusa Street Mission. (Not sure of last name. Showed her picture on the screen) As she lay on her back in God’s presence she saw a dove descending upon her, but it stopped and hovered over her as she heard the words in her soul, “Are you willing to die to your reputation?” When she answered “Yes” she says, “It was like there was a great open space in my heart and the Holy Spirit of God came in and filled it.”

I don’t want your promise, God, without your presence! If you do not go with me, I cannot go! And I was thinking Argentina!

Ralph

Full Color in Black and White

General Council Report #2

I wrote the following to a pastor friend:

Thanks for your response and comments about the churches you visited in making your choice for a home church after retiring as a local pastor yourself. Much has been said during this General Council about a “healthy church” and excellent special resources are being offered to be of help each pastor to achieve this goal.

One of the special guest speakers this morning was Pastor Rick Warren, the author of “The Purpose Driven Life” and “The Purpose Driven Church.”
I was amazed at the emphasis that he gave on the Holy Spirit, including the use of “tongues” in the church. He said he reads the Pentecostal Evangel every week and that we should not be ashamed to keep that word “Pentecostal” in the title. I cannot quote him exactly, but here is my personal take summarizing some of what he said: “It is the move of the Spirit that brought us this far. We should not curb the gifts of the Spirit. He encouraged us to allow the Holy Spirit liberty, but for the sake of new visitors to “clearly explain what was happening in the church bulletin.” He also insisted that any healthy, mature church should reproduce… not just winning the lost to fill its own pews, but giving birth to new churches. He told how he started with just his family and the work did not grow quickly. But when they still only had 80 members and a total attendance of around 100, they reached out and started another church. Since then they have helped start a church every year, then two churches a year and three churches a year and now many more every year. Some were churches started in other countries, some in local neighborhoods. He said we should not judge our churches and pastors by the size of the congregation, but by if it is a healthy church. Any healthy living organism will by nature grow. He said if a church grows from small to thousands quickly it is probably inflated with thousands of Christians floating in from other churches. He said that is not growth. That is a swollen baby! His message was exceptional. And he closed by saying he loved the Assemblies of God and that he would join the AG if they would let him. It was a “tongue in cheek” remark I suppose, but I would not be surprised that hidden there was the fact that to join the AG he would have to declare tongues as the initial evidence of the Holy Spirit baptism… which I doubt he is willing to do.

Yesterday we had another very interesting visitor speak briefly. He is a black brother representing a church organization called “The United Pentecostal Council of the Assemblies of God”. At first I was shocked thinking that they were allowing a “Jesus Only” church minister in our pulpit. But this is not the “United Pentecostals” that I have been acquainted with. Before letting this brother speak, Brother George Wood told a little bit about the history behind this movement. Many years ago during the first years of the Assemblies of God, a black brother felt called to go as a missionary to Africa. He applied to the Assemblies of God and was turned down because in those days there was still a strong racist influence in our organization. He was denied appointment solely on his ethnicity and color! This eventually sparked another organization which they called the “United Pentecostal Council of the Assemblies of God.” Their doctrine is identical to ours and they have used our AG materials for years.
This brother “Thomas Barclay” spoke with a great deal of enthusiasm typical of the blacks and got us all really excited about what God is doing among them. His brief message was a breath of fresh air tossed into the middle of a business meeting. I would not be surprised at all if there may be a close cooperative fellowship between this black group and the AG sometime in the future, perhaps even a merger.

What a privilege to be a part of an organization that is willing to admit its past errors and welcome to its pulpit at the General Council some that are not a part of our immediate fellowship!

Ralph

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

General Council Report

This week I am enjoying great fellowship at the Assemblies of God General Council in Phoenix, Arizona.

I confess that recently I had begun to think negative thoughts about the future of our Assemblies of God movement. I was looking back at the glory of our “old temple”. I even was thinking maybe the Lord will have to start over with another group who are willing to seek God on their faces until the fire falls. After hearing Supt. Dr. George Wood's message tonight my hopes were raised. I am convinced that there is still hope for the Assemblies of God. Brother Wood gave us a clarion call back to the moving of the Holy Spirit.

He took the little book of Haggai as his text. Haggai was given the task by God to stir up His people to complete the task that they had begun. 18 years had passed since work had stopped on the temple and only the foundation had been laid. Delay, Discouragement and Defilement set in. But Haggai knew that he had a message from God Almighty and He was calling them to quit looking at the past, at how great the first temple was, or even on the present depressed situation, but to focus on the future. The fourth D was Destiny. We are called to lift our eyes and know that if we focus on the future with Holy Spirit anointed leadership, anointed preaching and anointed ministry we will become a people of Destiny.

He closed with the touching story of John and Cuba Hall, missionaries to Africa. He told how He, when visiting Africa, found in a cemetery a marker with the name “Billie Hall 6 months.” Later he happened to see Cuba Hall and asked her if that was their baby. With tears in her eyes she told the story of their beautiful firstborn boy who was so sickly. They prayed fervently for his healing. And they heard the African Christians discussing if God would hear their prayer and heal little Billie. The Africans wondered how the missionaries would react if he died. Would they pack up and leave? In the extreme heat and unhealthy environment and far from doctors… their firstborn, little Billie died at only six months.

They packed his body in ice to carry him the four hours to the city to bury him in a cemetery. They refused to become bitter and accepted his death as God’s will. And this fact became a major factor in opening the doors of the people’s hearts… because the fact was that most of the mothers there had lost at least one child in infancy. Little Billie’s death allowed them to identify with them in a way nothing else could have provided. The Halls translated the New Testament into the Mossi language and spearheaded the translation of the Old Testament. John personally typed the entire Bible in Mossi on mimeograph stencils six times! When he finished mimeographing a book of the Bible they would have pastors with their bicycles lined up at the door ready to take those sheets and pedal out to distant places to preach that Word. Today the Assemblies of God have almost one million faithful believers in a country of only 16 million!

At the close he called us to our knees and many of us hurried forward for a time of fresh dedication.

Sorry, I did not intend to give so much detail, but there you have it.

Ralph