Tuesday, March 31, 2015

"Now about the money..."

Tuesday 3-31-15 (Martinez, Argentina)

Scripture reading:    Judges 9-10     Ps 49      1 Cor 16


S.   1 Cor 16:1-4  Now about the money being collected for the Christians in Jerusalem: You should follow the same procedures I gave to the churches in Galatia.  On every Lord's Day, each of you should put aside some amount of money in relation to what you have earned and save it for this offering. Don't wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once.  When I come I will write letters of recommendation for the messengers you choose to deliver your gift to Jerusalem.  And if it seems appropriate for me also to go along, then we can travel togetherNLT


O.  We read "Now about the money..." and our mind shuts down or goes into a spin… “Oh, no!  Another lecture on giving!”  Check it out.  This is how the Apostle Paul did world missions:  He had the home church lay hands on himself and his companions and send them off into the wild blue yonder.  There was no monthly support line for the missionaries, no e-mail or other instant communication to keep the home front people advised if they were still alive, in prison or wherever. 


So Paul, whose hobby was making tents, went to work in many of the cities where he landed and lived off this income.  He must have been good at it since he even supplied support for his companions.  But he also encouraged his converts to take up generous offerings to help the struggling, persecuted church in Jerusalem.  “Come on, you Gentile Christians, let’s generously help the people that sent us out to you.”  In a word, Paul taught his new converts to be generous givers, not just takers.


A.  This is doubtless an area of my early ministry where I failed the most.  I just couldn’t make myself say, “Now about the money…”  The official state church was highly criticized by some people for making themselves wealthy, with sparkling gold and silver altars, gems crowning their icons and obese priests… so I found it hard to teach delicate new converts the blessing of tithing and giving offerings.  One of our younger pastors had a special talent to build the joy of giving into his converts.  I watched his church prosper although located in a poverty area, while a church I had founded in the heart of a large city still struggled financially to support its pastors after many years.  The Apostle Paul was not even bashful about taking up an offering for the church back home.


I wonder what would happen if I found a pastor and church in the USA that was struggling financially and took up a generous offering from our Argentine churches to help them pull out from under economic disaster?  That’s exactly what Paul did and he got away with it.  There was nothing in it for him.  But he knew that his converts needed to learn the joy of giving. 


Today our Argentine churches are bit by bit learning the blessing of supporting their own missionaries all over the world.  It requires great sacrifice since their own economy is so weak, but many are giving from the heart to bless others.


P.  Lord God of heaven, You have been so generous with us!  You have lifted us from the mud and mire of sin and set us upon a firm foundation.  You have prospered us so in many ways.  Help us all to learn the blessing of not only tithing Your 10 percent of our blessings to our local church, but of giving from our hearts generous, sacrificial offerings far above Your requirements.  For You have said and I have found it true, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)  So, Lord, "Now about the money..." Help us all to experience the wonderful joy of sacrificial giving.  Amen.


Ralph




Monday, March 30, 2015

Church of the Bridge


This dedicated couple, Pedro Ibarra and his wife Gertrude, just married in 1972, took a small failed church in a corner of the large city of Quilmes, southern suburb of Buenos Aires.  For several years they struggled along with only a handful of people.  Little by little over decades they outgrew small rented buildings and finally purchased this theater on the main avenue downtown. 


This picture is the second Sunday morning service (10:30 AM) where I was ministering yesterday… and the first service (8:30 AM) looked just like it.  You would not be allowed to pack a building like this anywhere in the USA.  Pedro’s wife, Gertrude, was off preaching in another of their newer churches in an adjoining city where they lease another hall for about 500.

About 12 years ago, they purchased a full city block in an industrial area and built a sanctuary for 2,500.  That’s where they do their Sunday evening service with a totally different congregation… also packed to the walls.  They had intended to move their “theater church congregation” to the new location, but although their faithful congregation had sacrificed to purchase the land and build the building, they opted to remain in the theater.  So now they have two churches and a third one recently started.

Last night in the large new sanctuary, the workers in white kept this wonderful mob of kids from climbing the steps up to the platform.  I have seen it many times before.  Like water flowing up-hill… a mob of little kids almost always creeps slowly up onto the platform until they are reaching up to touch Felipe.  Ha!
  
I love this shot the photographer took.  It says, “Daddy, Look at that!” 


Smiling faces of all ages… hundreds of them.  I love it… and so does Felipe.  Jesus knows and loves every one of them.





I had just dismissed this huge mass of kids to go back to sit with their parents and was beginning to preach when… POP… all the lights went out!  No amplified sound.  The whole neighborhood had a black-out.  I grabbed my accordion and we all began to sing in the total darkness.  Suddenly I was surrounded with little flashlights aiming at me.  God was with us even in the dark.  Ten minutes later I had just given up the idea of preaching when suddenly the electricity was restored and I was able to finish my message followed by a blessed, extended time of prayer on our knees at the altar.  Good job, God!

I thought afterward how good it was that the lights did not go out with that mob of kids still up front… and all trying to find their parents among 2,000 or more out there in total darkness.  That might have been havoc.  

I believe God gave a fresh new start to many last night… both new visitors and long-time Christians alike.  The Gospel of Jesus is all about new starts.

Ralph

**What’s with the church name: “Church of The Bridge”?  The downtown theater church is located on the main central avenue right next to a bridge that spans the commuter railroad.  The name refers to its location, but doubles for Jesus, the Bridge to heaven for us unworthy, repentant sinners.



Hidden Heroes

Sunday 3-30-15 (Martinez, Argentina)

Scripture reading:    Judges 8     Ps 42      1 Cor 15


S.   1 Cor 15:58  So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord's work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.  NLT


O.  The Apostle Paul connects our enthusiasm and faithfulness to our service in the Lord’s work to our assurance of a resurrection of eternal life with Christ.  This must remain fresh in our hearts.  We serve and serve again.  We may see wonderful, mighty results, feeble results… or even no visible results at all, but in all cases we carry on knowing that “nothing we do for the Lord is ever useless.” 


A.  We once visited a “New Tribes” missionary living with a primitive tribe on an island in Paraguay.  Among all other things they had done, they had started a school, hoping to break the hold of ancient evil customs by raising a new generation with Christian values.  This missionary family was very encouraged because after 6 years of ministry among these people they had their first convert.  He was a ruined alcoholic, who had been saved from his disastrous life.  The missionary expressed how hopeful they were that this man would remain strong in his faith in Christ and not fall back into his former ways.  I heard rumors years later that many people in that tribe had become strong Christians. 


As Frances and I traveled with our mobile home to small towns in distant places in Argentina we often found faithful men and women, some pastors and others laymen and women, who served people with the love of Christ faithfully.  Often we found women cooking a huge pot of rice with chicken and other healthy foods sometimes over an open fire out behind the church… with tables all set and hungry neighborhood children waiting for their noon meal, their only healthy meal for the day.  And they often gave the children prepared food to be carried back to their unbelieving parents.  Nobody ever came to congratulate them on their labors.  Their names were unknown.  Their church was in the corner of nowhere.  But their faithfulness was certainly being notice by our Lord.  These became our “hidden heroes.”  Before leaving the area, Frances and I would try to give them some much needed encouragement.  Then we told their stories everywhere we went.  


P.  Lord some day we will be surprised when the trophies are passed out in heaven… unknown hidden heroes will be called to the front.  They never looked for acknowledgment or fame.  They were just doing Your work strong and steady, always enthusiastic knowing that nothing they did for You was ever useless.  Lord Jesus I pray for our large, “healthy-wealthy” congregations in the USA.  Many come to sit in church to be spoon fed another well prepared spiritual meal, but never learn the joy of committing their time and effort to be “doing Your work.”  And if they do anything at all they expect to be honored.  Jesus, I think we need You to raise up a new generation of “hidden heroes.”  Amen.


Ralph


Just An Old Wimp

Sunday 3-29-15 (Martinez, Argentina)

Scripture reading:    Judges 6-7     Ps 52      1 Cor 14


S.   Judg 6:11-16  Gideon son of Joash had been threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites.  The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said, "Mighty hero, the LORD is with you!" "Sir," Gideon replied, "if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn't they say, 'The LORD brought us up out of Egypt'? But now the LORD has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites." Then the LORD turned to him and said, "Go with the strength you have and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!" "But Lord," Gideon replied, "how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!" The LORD said to him, "I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man." NLT


O.  The Midianites terrorists are making life impossible for the Israelites, burning their fields of grain and attacking continually.  Gideon is hiding from them while threshing some wheat for his family to have something to eat.  Suddenly a powerful angel of the Lord appears before him with this greeting, "Mighty hero, the LORD is with you!"  “Excuse me,” Gideon answers, “You have got the wrong address.  I’m no hero.  I’m a wimp!  Can’t you see I am down here behind the wine-press trying to keep out of sight of the Midianite terrorists?  I’m a nobody.  I am the weakest of my family and my whole tribe is the weakest of all Israel.”  And God’s angel says, “Good!  That makes you just the man I am looking for to drive the Midianites out of here.”


A.  I can identify with brother Gideon.  I have always been a wimp.  My mother taught me to be a wimp.  When the big boys beat up on my skinny frame, she quoted scripture… “I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” She believed that the King James version came straight from heaven.  It was good enough for her… and for us.  I guess God prefers wimps sometimes so that all can know our victories and really not ours, but His.


P.  God, You sure got yourself a ground-level-wimp when You called me to ministry.  I was a “walking inferiority complex” just like brother Gideon.  That’s why I know that every victory is Yours.  All Your hero Gideon did is follow Your instructions and You scared that whole massive enemy army out of their wits so that in the middle of the night they fought each other in the confusion. 


Lord, I need You once again today.  I preached my heart out last night and now have two more opportunities to minister today, but I am too weak, too ignorant… just a wimp… and what’s worse is that I’m an “old wimp.”  If any victories are to be won today… You are going to win them.  You did it for Gideon back then so, I am counting on You today.  Amen.


Ralph


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Putting it All in Perspective

Saturday 3-28-15 (Martinez, Argentina)

Scripture reading: Judges 4-5   Ps 39, 41   1 Cor 13


S.   Ps 39:5-7  My life is no longer than the width of my hand.  An entire lifetime is just a moment to you; human existence is but a breath." (Interlude.) We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.  We heap up wealth for someone else to spend.  And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?  My only hope is in you. NLT


O.  Psalm 39 puts life in perspective.  Even the interlude emphasizes it.  It says, “Just stop and think about that!” We are “moving shadows… busy rushing… going nowhere… heaping up wealth… and dying before we can enjoy it.”  So where should I put my hope?  I will put it in my Eternal Loving God!


A.  Someone said to me years ago, “We have it all planned out.  We will be able to retire in 5 years and just enjoy life.”  But then came a major economic crash and years later they are working hard trying to crawl out from under the rubble.  Another heaped up a massive fortune and died in a freak accident.  These were good people, successful people, even generous people… yet life is uncertain and God’s word encourages us to store up our riches in heaven where thieves cannot break in nor rust corrupt. 


P.  I thank You, Lord God for miraculously and generously providing for my every need during this latter time of my life here on this earth.  You have been and continue to be my Supplier and the Source of all good things.  I praise You for these blessings.  I know that my life is no longer than the width of my hand and the years pass by like moments.  But I have placed my hope in You and soon I will step into another realm where time shall be no more.  There, although unworthy… yet considered worthy through Your perfect sacrifice on the cross, I will bow down before Your magnificent glory and I will see My Creator face to face.

Ralph  
Face to Face
Carrie E. Breck (1855-1934 ) and Grant C. Tullar (1869-1950),

Face to face with Christ, my Savior,
Face to face, what will it be,
When with rapture I behold Him,
Jesus Christ Who died for me?

Refrain:
Face to face I shall behold Him,
Far beyond the starry sky;
Face to face in all His glory;
I shall see Him by and by!

Only faintly now I see Him,
With the darkened veil between,
But a bless'd day is coming,
When His glory shall be seen.

Refrain

What rejoicing in His presence,
When are banished grief and pain;
When the crooked ways are straightened
And the dark things shall be plain.

Refrain

Face to face, oh, blissful moment!
Face to face, to see and know;
Face to face with my Redeemer,
Jesus Christ Who loves me so.

Refrain

“Now we see but a poor reflection, then we shall see face to face.
(1 Corinthians 13:12)







Friday, March 27, 2015

The Church on “Pot-hole Street”

The Church on “Pot-hole Street”

Actually it is “paved” and called San Luis Street, but I renamed it.  The holes are so huge, deep and frequent that you cannot avoid them.  You just lower the front wheels gently to the bottom and then climb out on the other side.  But a great church has been raised up by Ruben and Susana Potanski and their family in this needy area of the large city of Moreno, a suburb of Buenos Aires!  

Notice the giant poster backdrop: “Invasion of the Love of God.”  Many of our AG churches cooperate all over the country, each in its area, in this annual outreach.  An attempt is made to visit every home simply asking if they have needs that they would like the church team to pray for: financial, healing, family needs, whatever.  These are written on a special card along with the name and address.  These cards go to a revolving team that prays around the clock, 24/7, carrying each request to the Lord with faith for results.  A follow up visit is made to rejoice with the testimonies of the miracles that happened and with an invitation to the person to come share that miracle at the church.  Last night there were at least 7 new people visiting as a result.  At the close of the service I prayed with a lady who said she had received a physical miracle.  She was sitting in the back row, but I noticed she was weeping as I closed my message.  I later picked my way through the maze of kneeling seekers to where she was kneeling in the aisle near the front, to help her into an eternal miracle that will open the doors of heaven to her.  The team will follow up. 

Pastor Ruben hadn’t played the accordion for years, but tried mine out and couldn’t resist asking to play an “accordion-steel guitar duet” with me… and people sang along.


Smiles often light up the faces of little children when they pet Perfume, the skunk.  Check out the sharp contrast of my 83 year old hands and hers!  The “old going out” and the “new coming in”!


After Felipe did his thing, I had the adult congregation join me in blessing the children.


A photographer captured these darling faces during the prayer.


This little “talk-a-thon” came to me with something important to say.  She spoke clearly and loudly into the mic.  She sounded so sure of herself and poised.  Everybody loved it… several sentences, nicely framed, but only she knew what they meant.  We needed someone with the gift of interpretation.  There was resounding applause. 

Then just as I was about to send the little children back to their seats, this little girl stepped up to me.  Many of the children reached by this church are from non-Christian homes.  She spoke quietly, “Please pray for my mother.”  I asked, “Is your mother here?”  “No.”


I held her in my arms as I prayed for her mother and her home.  Who knows all that was behind this desperate plea?

“Blessed Jesus she is only one of tens of thousands in this area.  Help us to reach them with Your love!”

Ralph





Church of Many Colors

Friday 3-27-15 (Martinez, Argentina)

Scripture reading:    Judges 1-3      1 Cor 12


S.   1 Cor 12:12-13  Our bodies have many parts, but the many parts make up only one body when they are all put together. So it is with the "body" of Christ.  Each of us is a part of the one body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But the Holy Spirit has fitted us all together into one body. We have been baptized into Christ's body by the one Spirit, and have all been given that same Holy Spirit. TLB


O.  God is a Creator of variety.  Every member of the body forms a necessary part for the proper function of the whole.  So the Church of Christ is a body.  The parts come in a wide variety of colors and sizes, but each part has an important function.  We admire some parts that are visible.  I looked at a baby’s beautiful wide open eyes and admire them.  Yet if one studies the science of the body, we discover that most of the unseen parts of the body such as the pancreas are as necessary to life and health as the eye and ear.


A.  The world-wide Church of Jesus Christ is a body and He is the Head.  We tend to admire the most visible leaders.  They are necessary parts, but no more necessary than an intercessor kneeling behind closed doors holding that leader up in prayer.  Our musicians are often admired and applauded by our youth while the volunteer lady who comes on Mondays to clean the bathrooms is forgotten and never even thanked. 


The most joyful churches I know are filled with a wide variety of ethnic faces.  Black hair, brown hair, blonde hair, red hair, grey hair, white hair and no hair… little children, adolescents, young men and women… all mix joyfully with the elderly to worship the Lord with all their heart.  Their music may reflect their background, their body movements may speak of their culture.  An out-burst of spontaneous praise may surprise someone else from a more reserved culture.  It is all part of a healthy body moving in coordination.  Yet I shall add a word of warning:  When our excellent musicians, coordinated dancing flags, our ballet performers, or even our clever preachers draw our eyes off the object of our worship… it is time to change the pace and refocus on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. 


P.  I love You, Lord Jesus.  You have made us all different… even in the case of identical twins.  Some of us have more jump in us than others.  Some of us have exuberant “amens and hallelujahs” inside that just have to come out.  Others of us can hardly make a sound.  But you don’t judge us on our jump, our “amens and hallelujahs” or our body movement.  You hear the worship that rises from within our heart of hearts and Your angels in heaven rejoice singing along with Your Church of many colors.


Ralph


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Hair or No Hair? That is the Question

Thursday 3-26-15 (Martinez, Argentina)

Scripture reading:    Josh 23-24     Ps 44     1 Cor 11


S.   1 Cor 11:13-16  "What do you think about this? Is it right for a woman to pray to God in public without covering her head?  Isn't it obvious that it's disgraceful for a man to have long hair?  And isn't it obvious that long hair is a woman's pride and joy? For it has been given to her as a covering.  But if anyone wants to argue about this, all I can say is that we have no other custom than this, and all the churches of God feel the same way about it."  NLT


O.  Paul is writing to correct various activities of the Corinthian believers.  It seems that he is trying to bring them into conformity with the general customs of the churches of that time.  I have heard much from the pulpit preached from the second part of 1 Cor 11 related to Holy Communion, but I don’t recall a single sermon from this first section.  Most of us preachers would not want to touch it with a ten foot pole!  Ha!  


A.  There are some Pentecostal churches that take this section very seriously, but for some reason they never seem to stop with these pauline rules, but add many other rules and tend to become extremely legalistic and cultish. 


Frances and I were visiting a tourist city on vacation in southern Argentina.  We had no Assemblies of God church in the town at that time, but noticed a small church that looked inviting.  So we arrived right on time according to the sign outside.  The doors were open, but we were apparently the first to arrive.  We chose seats about half way down the aisle.  Soon an usher came in to greet us.  He kindly informed us that we could not sit together.  The women sat on the left side of the sanctuary and the men on the right.  Now here we were… only two people in the church, one on each side of the aisle!  Soon others arrived and greeted us warmly.  All the ladies had long hair and little crocheted, decorative doilies resting lightly on their heads, apparently attempting to obey Paul’s instructions.  Finally the pastor arrived and introduced himself to me and asked me if I was a minister.  So I let him know that I was credentialed with the Assemblies of God.  After some songs of worship, the pastor announced without warning that I was preaching.  When he invited me to the platform, he also invited Frances… and someone whispered to me, “Now on the platform you can sit with your wife.”  These were their customs.  However their customs were so foreign to the up-to-date local customs in their town that their little church was unlikely to win many converts.  Anyway I preached “Jesus” and all were blessed… including me.  These were dear Christian people that love their Lord.


P.  Okay, Lord, I do have the custom of taking my hat off (if I am wearing one) in respect to You when I pray, like Paul suggests… and most of our ladies do allow their hair to grow more than us men.  But we have never made these things a hard rule.  There are lovely √Āfrican women whose hair refuses to grow long and I believe You love them just as much as others with long hair.  Please, Lord, help us to not get hung up on minor religious customs at the risk of neglecting Your compassion and the warm heart of Your Gospel of freedom from the chains and eternal consequences of sin.  Amen.


Ralph


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Footprints

Wednesday 3-25-15 (Martinez, Argentina)

Scripture reading:    Josh 21-22     Ps 47     1 Cor 10


S.   1 Cor 10:11  All these events happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us, who live at the time when this age is drawing to a close. NLT


O.  Paul is referring to the history of the Israelites as recorded in the Old Testament.  Since many of the Corinthians were Gentiles, it is likely that they had never been exposed previously to the hundreds of stories of the victories and failures of God’s chosen people. 


A.  The remarkable fact about the Holy Bible is its frank exposure of both the good and bad “footprints” of its heroes.  Many of us, who write our devotional journals using the acronym SOAP (Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer) are following Wayne Cordeiro’s Bible reading chart.  Author Cordeiro’s book “Divine Mentor” is simply an exposition of what the Apostle Paul is saying here.  All these events are written so that we can learn from both the glorious victories and tragic failures of our “mentors” that went before us.  Perhaps the two most recognized “Hero-Failure-Recoveries” are David in the Old Testament and Peter in the New.  But there are many more.  Some fell to rise no more.  Others, like Joseph, Daniel and Queen Esther, seem to keep a clean slate.  The ‘holiness factor’ and ‘sin factor’ have never changed.  These frank, truthful records are there for us to enjoy and to learn how to live our lives in this modern age. 



P.  Lord, I confess that there are some things I don’t like to read in the Old Testament.  As I read of the horrible wars and the bloody massacres… You know how I suffer for the innocent men, women and children that were slaughtered.  There are many things I do not understand.  But as I read, I see bright lights in the lives of men and women like Joseph, Daniel and Esther whose character caused them to rise to the top even when living as captive slaves.  Help me to leave behind “footprints” that my grandchildren and theirs can safely follow.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Catedral de Alabanza in Lujan

A few months ago Pastors Walter and Rebeca invited me to minister March 22nd in Lujan to celebrate the 26th anniversary of their church, Catedral de Alabanza (Cathedral of Praise).  

I had never met Walter and Rebeca Diaz, but on the recommendation of Missionaries Rocky and Sherry Grams I invited them to come from El Calafate in the deep south to help us plant a church here.  My good friends, Missionaries David and Doris Godwin held our first crusade… while the building still had no front wall at all.  Later with the help of an architect we designed the above church front to enclose the building.  Then First AG of Phoenix sent us a team of builders that worked very hard to build that huge complicated wall with all those big windows and the main entrance. 

The Godwins donated us a keyboard, but when I turned the church into the hands of this couple, they still had no musicians to play it.  I’ll never forget their little son always wanted to carry Felipe’s case to the car, but he could hardly lift it… He is standing with the group in the photo above. 


Now the pastor’s sons and other young men and women are deeply involved in the worship music and evangelism.  Their daughter in law and sons led the worship time and the platform was blessed with a great team of young, excellent musicians. 

Little hands reached out to pet Perfume… sometimes slightly hesitant.  I don’t know why.  I tell them that she hardly ever bites.


Rebeca helped me with Felipe.


I had them sing an ancient chorus which I had translated into Spanish, “Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.  All his wonderful passion and purity.  Oh, Thou Spirit Divine, All my nature refine, Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.”  

Then I led them in prayer and ministered the Word.  Some of you know that my voice has been extremely weakened by ministering and praying for people.  But even after preaching Thursday night at the Bible School and Saturday night at the new church building near the Congress building in the heart of Buenos Aires, my voice held strong for this service.  And I have another one tonight, Monday, in a few moments, with the Castilleros youth and a team from the USA and tomorrow night closing out a seminar for 500 workers in San Justo.


After service we had a celebration complete with refreshments and two delicious cakes.

God is so good to allow me these privileges!

Ralph





The Heavenly Spa

Tuesday 3-24-15 (Martinez, Argentina)

Scripture reading:    Josh 18-20     1 Cor 9


S.   1 Cor 9:24-26  Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win.  All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.  So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. NLT


O.  Certainly, just like today, in Paul’s day there were famous athletes admired by their fans.  These were people that spent hours every day tuning up the muscles in their physical bodies.  The Apostle Paul compares this to those of us who choose to excel in our Christian life.  He practiced self-discipline and encourages us to do the same.  A marathon runner cannot expect to finish the course without spending endless hours building up his leg muscles, lung capacity, balance and heart. 


A.  I have a preacher friend that does a lot of travel.  But everywhere he goes, even if he is only staying a day or two, he seeks out a gymnasium, pays the fee and uses their equipment to maintain and build his physical body.  I prefer to do push-ups and other exercises in whatever hotel room or wherever I am staying.  But here the Holy Scripture is speaking to me through my brother Paul.  How much time do I spend with God, the Source of all my spiritual strength? 


P.  Oh my Master, my King, my Lord… daily You invite me into Your presence.  At the price of Your own life, Lord Jesus, You opened the door to the throne room of our great Creator God.  I don’t have to seek out a spa or gymnasium.  I don’t need to locate a cathedral or even a chapel.  Wherever I am, I can slip away from the hustle-bustle of this world and step through that open door into Your glorious presence.  There, in Your heavenly spa, I can bathe in Your glory and soak in the warmth of Your love and care.  There I can bare my soiled soul before You without fear, because You took my punishment on the cross.  You paid the price in full.  There I feel the tender arms of God embracing me.  Then with renewed strength I can turn and step out into a turbulent world to face unknown spiritual battles, not in my feeble strength, but in Your power and in the authority of Your name!   Amen.


A Quiet Place
by Ralph Carmichael

There is a quiet place
Far from the rapid pace
Where God can soothe my troubled mind

Sheltered by tree and flower
There in my quiet hour
With Him my cares are left behind

Whether a garden small
Or on a mountain tall

New strength and courage there I find
Then from this quiet place
I go prepared to face
A new day with love for all mankind




Monday, March 23, 2015

“I Know Everything!”

Monday 3-23-15 (Martinez, Argentina)

Scripture reading:    Josh 15-17     1 Cor 8


S.   1 Cor 8:1  While knowledge may make us feel important, it is love that really builds up the church.  NLT


O.  The Apostle Paul had to do some detailed clean-up in the Corinthian church.  They were allowing immorality to survive within the church and then getting all picky about issues of lesser importance.  He is trying to set them free from the bondage of some minor prohibitions that some were promoting, while at the same time dealing with the delicate issue of damaging the weak conscience of others.  He starts this chapter with a clear statement which is the basis for all that follows.  (My paraphrase): “You think you are so smart that you can set the rules for everybody else?  Well, what you really need is a good dose of the Jesus kind of love!”


A.  “I know everything!” My grandson, Evan, was 4 years old.  He was with his dad, Tim, driving somewhere new to them when Evan points to one side and says, “Dad, that’s a church.”  Tim asks, “How do you know it’s a church?”  Evan: “I know everything!” Tim: “I thought only God knew everything.” Long silence as the car carried them another mile or two down the road.  Tim thought that was the end of the conversation.  But the 4 year old brain was churning up an answer.  “God knows everything.  God lives in my heart.  I know everything!” 


Evan is 17, now and pulling down good grades, but now he knows that he isn’t as smart as he was when he was 4.  Funny how the older we get the less we know.  Somebody said, “Too soon old, too late smart.” 


Religious people are experts at making rules to follow.  Get started down this road and you will end up with a sect… and your little group is the only one going to heaven.  So Brother Paul sets out the answer.  Love a lot.  And keep your weaker brothers in focus when you are tempted to display your wonderful freedom in Christ.


P.  Do I get it yet, Lord?  Jesus, help me to get it.  I see a ring in the nose and I think “heathen!” (And I might be right, too.) I can’t understand the lyrics of their song because the drums and bass guitar kill the words of the singers.  All the youth are getting blessed… while I am plugging my ears to save what is left of my hearing.  Then I notice that the lyrics are on the screen… and they are really worshipping the Lord!   Okay, God, I surrender.  I don’t know everything.  Please just dole me out a double portion of Your love.  I don’t want my sour face to cause my weaker little brother or sister to stumble.  Amen.



Ralph

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Alive and Well

Sunday 3-22-15 (Martinez, Argentina)

Scripture reading:    Josh 12-14     1 Cor 7


S.   Josh 14:10-12 "Now, as you can see, the LORD has kept me alive and well as he promised for all these forty-five years since Moses made this promise — even while Israel wandered in the wilderness. Today I am eighty-five years old.  I am as strong now as I was when Moses sent me on that journey, and I can still travel and fight as well as I could then. So I'm asking you to give me the hill country that the LORD promised me.” NLT


O.  Forty-five years earlier the Israelites had camped across the Jordan River from the promised land after a long journey through the desert.   Joshua and Caleb had been chosen to travel throughout the promised land with ten others from other tribes to check it out.  Only Joshua and Caleb had brought back words of faith, “Let’s go for it.  We can take it.”  The other ten spread fear among the people.  


Now 45 years had passed.  The entire fearful adult generation had died off except Joshua and Caleb.  Much of the land had been conquered.  But Caleb had not yet taken the land that he had been promised by the late Moses.  So he takes a delegation of his young relatives and asks permission of Joshua to go take possession of that mountain.


A.  I know what you are thinking.  Yeah, you, that are reading this devotional.  You are thinking, “I knew it!  Brother Ralph is getting old like Caleb and is hanging on to Caleb’s encouraging spirit.”  Okay, I admit it.  But there is more. 


I am impressed by the submissive spirit that brings Caleb to Joshua.  They had been comrades, intimate friends.  They thought the same thoughts.  When they were about 40 years old they traveled together and returned with one mind.  But Caleb stood by and observed while Moses chose Joshua to replace himself as the top ranking leader among all this vast more than a million people.  There is no indication of jealousy on Caleb’s part.  Now another 45 years have passed.  There are only two elderly people left in this entire multitude.  Caleb, like Joshua, was a born leader.  Still he shows total submission to his fellow comrade’s authority. 


And there is something else that impresses me about brother Caleb: He gives God the credit for his strength and long life… saying, “the LORD has kept me alive and well.”  I wonder how many push-ups Caleb did every morning before his shower.  Did he jog for 2 miles to keep his legs working?  Probably not.  But I seriously doubt that he sat for hours in a “Lazy-Boy” chair with his feet up… drifting off to sleep while watching TV… with others serving him hands and feet.  At 85 he was a man of action that probably rose with the sunrise.  Every muscle was trim and working.  Ah… but still he recognized that he was not the master of his days.  It was Jehovah God that kept him… and me… alive and well… and that for a purpose.  Our lives had not yet reached their fulfillment.  God still some a victories ahead for him… and for me… to win.  


P.  Lord God, I woke up this morning!  That is a complete sentence… for it represents a miracle.  You are the life giver.  Every breath filling my lungs and every heartbeat is a gift from Your throne.  According to my calculations You have given me 3,706,840,144 heart beats to date.  And I have to add about 70 to that each minute as I write this!  This speaks vision to the eyes of my soul.  It tells me that there is still a mountain to conquer.  It says You are not ready for me to hang it up yet.  Somebody is out there waiting for Your love to reach him or her.  Help me to be faithful to Your highest purpose for my life until that final heartbeat… which is already marked on Your calendar.  Amen. 


Ralph