Saturday, November 28, 2015

God said, “Go, my Son. Go and die.”

Saturday   11-28-15      Modesto, California

Scripture reading:     Matt 28    1 Thess 1 - 3

S=Scripture O= A=Application P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.


S.  1 Thess 2:7-8 “... we were as gentle among you as a mother feeding and caring for her own children.  We loved you so much that we gave you not only God's Good News but our own lives, too. NLT


O.  On Paul and Silas’ first visit to the Thessalonians they had just been beaten and imprisoned in Philippi and then ordered out of town.  Yet, although they knew that the same kind of treatment was on the way, they lived among these people and won a group of them to Jesus. 


A.  Today we have many ways to communicate without going: television, radio, internet, email, snail mail, the printed page and more.  We must use all these for the propagation of the message of Christ, yet none of these methods can replace the effectiveness of a real live messenger who not only speaks the message, but lives it out as an expression of God’s love.  Jesus’ command is still: “GO and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matt 28:19-20  NLT


P.  Lord, You did not give Your messengers the promise that it would be problem-free.  On the contrary, You warned us of rejection, beatings, imprisonment and even martyrdom.  But You still said, “Go!  And I will go with You.”  Every one of Your “sent-ones” has to realize that this could be a one-way trip.  Every parent of a missionary has to know that his or her “Good-bye” could mean “I’ll see you over on the other side.”  It is a price that every one of Your messengers is prepared to pay for the privilege of not only sending words... but modeling Your love-driven life in living color before the hearers... just like You did.  I’ll never forget the day You said to me, “Go, my son.  Go and die!”  Amen.


Ralph


Friday, November 27, 2015

Hope your Thanksgiving Day was just as nice

For five years now, since Frances left us for a higher abode, I have missed this wonderful family time since I been ministering in Argentina at Thanksgiving season each year.  I was happy that my ministry time in both Spain and El Salvador were finished in time for this event.

So I enjoyed a very nice Thanksgiving Day with my son, Tim, his wife Cheryl and their “kids”.  Take a look at the “family” below.



 The three Chinese boys closest to the camera are foreign students at our Modesto Christian High School, founded over 40 years ago by Pastor Roy Blakeley.  My son, Tim, has a big house with lots of bedrooms and three bathrooms, so they take in foreign students each year.  Two of the three Chinese parents of these boys are not Christians, but they all are from quite wealthy homes and their parents want their boys to learn English and be educated in a good school in the USA.  

Next comes my grandson, Evan, with the beard, now a freshman at Azuza Pacific University.  Next to him is Sasha, a Canadian student in APU also.  Michelle, my granddaughter, is a junior now (last on right).  She brought Sasha home from APU for Thanksgiving since she had no place to go and “home” for her was too far away.  

Next to me is Tim’s wife, Cheryl, who is not only a dear Christian wife and mother, she also is an excellent cook.  It was a 26 pound turkey with all the trimmings... and for dessert an hour or two later the best peach cobbler I ever tasted topped with ice cream.  So now the 26 pounds is divided among all nine of us J.  And on top of this Cheryl loaded me down with left-overs to carry me through the next few days. 

Last but not least is our son, Tim, sitting at the head of the table.  For over 15 years now he has served on staff as one of the pastors at our Neighborhood AG Church.  He also works as court interpreter Spanish/English, English/Spanish for the county criminal court. 

We spent most of the afternoon playing and singing worship music, preparing for Sunday morning. 

I thank the Lord, again and again, for so many blessings!


Ralph

Turn Down the Silence!

Friday   11-27-15      Modesto, California

Scripture reading:   Psalm 125   Matt 26 - 27

S=Scripture O= A=Application P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.


S.  Matt 26:62-63  Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, "Well, aren't you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?" But Jesus remained silent.
Matt 27:12-14  But when the leading priests and other leaders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent. "Don't you hear their many charges against you?" Pilate demanded. But Jesus said nothing, much to the governor's great surprise. NLT 


O.  There are times when silence shouts louder than sound.  Jesus was not intending to plead innocent.  He was standing before the top ranking Jewish religious leaders being accused of claiming to be the Son of God... the Supreme, Royal Deity.  Finally the High Priest could no longer stand the extreme volume of Jesus’ silence and screamed at Him, “I demand by the living God that You identify Yourself!”  Now Jesus spoke, “You have it right, boys.  And one day you will see Me seated at the Father’s right hand and coming in the clouds of heaven!”  BAM! The room exploded.


A little while later Jesus was on trial before Governor Pilate.  Again Jesus is silent before a raging crowd of accusers.  Jesus’ silence was roaring in Pilate’s ears, when his wife crept over to him and warned him to back off... she had suffered a horrible night-mare because of this innocent victim.  So he calls for a basin of water.  He sends Jesus to be beaten and crucified... and now two millenniums later he is still standing over there trying to wash the blood of Jesus off his hands.


A.  So, who is guilty of the blood of this “innocent Man”?  I must recognize that this Man is, in fact, the very first innocent Man.  All the rest of us are sinners.  He was the pure Lamb of God sent to die in my place.  I am the guilty one.  My sin, my guilt, my wickedness... drove Him to the bloody beating, the crown of thorns and the cruel cross.  The crowd screamed, “Let his blood be upon our hands and on our children!”  Oh!  And it is!  It is on all of our hands!  He went to that cross for me!


P.  Bloody hands are ugly, God.  That crowd wasn’t satisfied to get their hands bloody... they poured their guilt onto their children’s hands.  But somehow I see now that You are not trying to identify guilty, bloody hands.  You are offering the free gift of pardon to all of us.  Your blood becomes the antiseptic cleanser to wash my sins away and cleanse my guilty soul.  I was just a little child.  I did not understand all this.  Yet, at my cry of repentance, You took me in... erased all doubt... and made me know that I was a recipient of Your divine love.  Thank you, Lord.  I pled guilty and that opened the door for Your forgiveness.   Amen.


Ralph


Thursday, November 26, 2015

He wanted to save them.

Thursday   11-26-15    Thanksgiving Day, Modesto, California

Scripture reading:   Matt 23 - 25

S=Scripture O=Observation A=Application P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.


S.  Matt 23:37-39  "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God's messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn't let me.   And now look, your house is left to you, empty and desolate.  For I tell you this, you will never see me again until you say, 'Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord!'"  NLT


O.  Jesus could see a few decades ahead when in 70 AD Jerusalem will be devastated.  The Roman army will overwhelm a Jewish rebellion and with respect for nothing and no one... will wreak havoc and destroy its people and even its temple of massive cut stones.  He lets them know that He, Who wanted to shield them from danger, has been rejected and will soon disappear from the scene and not return to this doomed city until they cry out, “Blessed be the One who comes in the name of the Lord!”


A.  Something of the broken heart of God seems to be revealed in the pathos and love expressed in Jesus’ metaphor of a hen gathering her endangered chicks beneath her wings.  He will soon be displayed as a condemned criminal, covered with his own blood from the cruel lashes, the blows, the nails and the crown of thorns.  He will be cursed by the religious elite and hung naked to die.  Yet His tender heart cries out, not for His own rescue, but for the innocent war victims that will suffer.  And wonder of wonders... He is dying there in my place... the perfect sacrificial Lamb of God!


P.  Father, give me a heart like the heart of Jesus... a heart that beats for the lost and dying victims of this doomed planet.  May I not measure my personal sacrifice!  May I abandon myself into Your hands with no holds barred!  Push me forward by the power of Your unchanging love... and may I give and give again... until I breathe my final breath... and there is nothing more to give.  Consume me in Your quest to save the lost.  Amen.


Ralph


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Let’s get the pecking order straight

Tuesday   11-24-15    Modesto, California

Scripture reading:   Matt 17 - 19

S=Scripture O=Observation A=Application P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.


S.  Matt 18:1-7  About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Which of us is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?" Jesus called a small child over to him and put the child among them.  Then he said, "I assure you, unless you turn from your sins and become as little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.   Therefore, anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.  And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.  But if anyone causes one of these little ones who trusts in me to lose faith, it would be better for that person to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around the neck.  How terrible it will be for anyone who causes others to sin.  NLT


O.  A group of men were following Jesus day and night.  When He decided to go to His home town, they went with Him.  Whenever He traveled to Jerusalem, they traveled with Him.  Perhaps they slept in homes that welcomed them, or sometimes along the roadside.  They ate together.  They hiked together.  They talked a lot.  Keep a group of 12 guys together a few months and soon a pecking order will surface.  Right up to the day of Jesus’ arrest, they were still arguing about who was top dog.  Jesus called over a little kid that was playing nearby and sets the record straight. 


Then He takes advantage of the moment to add a heavy warning about leading a child to lose his tender faith. 


A.  It is much easier to preach to adults than to children.  Most adults have learned how to sit still and listen attentively.  A child’s attention span is often very limited and interruptions are frequent.  Yet, without asking for it, God has thrust me into many situations where I am challenged... yes, and privileged to share the Gospel of Jesus with children of all ages and various cultures.  And every time I read of the importance Jesus gave to little children, I know I have been given a choice gift. 


P.  Yes, Lord, I know.  Children’s ministries often are the lowest on the budget.  In fact, they are mostly made up of dedicated volunteers, as it should be.  But You, Jesus, gave children a high ranking of importance.  Help me to get my pecking order in line with Yours.  I have been amazed at how quickly little children become young adult leaders.  And my life style, my attitudes, my choices will either draw them closer to You or contribute to driving them into doubt and disbelief.  I don’t want that millstone around my neck, that heavy sense of guilt for betraying the tender faith of a child.  May I welcome them and in so doing welcome You.  Amen.


Ralph



Monday, November 23, 2015

Jesus called him the voice of Satan

Monday   11-23-15    Modesto, California

Scripture reading:   Matt 14 - 16

S=Scripture O=Observation A=Application P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.


S.  Matt 16:16-17  Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Jesus replied, "You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you.

Vs 22-23  But Peter took him aside and corrected him. "Heaven forbid, Lord," he said. "This will never happen to you!"  Jesus turned to Peter and said, "Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, and not from God's."  NLT


O.  When Jesus asked his disciples “Who do you say that I am?” Peter declared Him to be the Messiah, the Son of God.  Jesus recognized Peter as speaking for God.  But now a few moments later when Jesus was preparing them for the shock of seeing Him beaten, crucified and killed... Peter takes Jesus aside and rebukes Him for such nonsense.  This time Jesus accuses him as speaking for Satan.  What a sudden switch!  Peter could speak for God, but he certainly wasn’t infallible. 


A.  What a wonderful privilege I have... to be a spokesman for God!  I can address great crowds and proclaim Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the living God.  Peter was probably feeling pretty good about himself.  Jesus had complicated him for being God’s mouthpiece.  “Did you hear that, boys?” 


Okay, sometimes after I have ministered under the anointing of the Holy Spirit and have seen many lives touched by heaven, I am feeling pretty good about myself.  Danger!  Pride and self confidence can quickly become an open door for the enemy.  At that moment I may be most vulnerable to Satan.


P.  Oh Lord God, I plead with You to keep me from feeling that I have done something great.  When they come to me with compliments, help me to never forget that I can do absolutely nothing without You.  It should be, it must be... a moment of recognition of Your faithfulness.  If King Herod was eaten of worms and died because he accepted the praise of the public (Acts 12) help me never to fall into that satanic trap that has marked the decline of some of Your most effective servants.  Amen.


Ralph



Jesus vs Mohammed

Sunday   11-22-15    Modesto, California

Scripture reading:   Matt 11 - 13

S=Scripture O=Observation A=Application P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.


S.  Matt 12:18-21  Look at my Servant, whom I have chosen.  He is my Beloved, and I am very pleased with him.  I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not fight or shout; he will not raise his voice in public. He will not crush those who are weak, or quench the smallest hope, until he brings full justice with his final victory.  And his name will be the hope of all the world." NLT


O.  Matthew often quotes Old Testament prophecies to prove that Jesus life and actions are certainly their fulfillment, proving Him to be the long-awaited Messiah.  The above is a quote from Isaiah 42.  It is a beautiful picture of my powerful, yet humble and meek Jesus.


A.  Yesterday I went on the internet to see for myself if there are actual violent quotes in the Quran, the writings of the “prophet” Mohammed.  And there were many.  It is clearly the work of a troubled leader encouraging his followers to torture and kill those who refuse to believe his doctrine, even proposing to cut off one hand and one foot on opposite sides of the body or cutting off their fingers.**   It seems to me to present the exact opposite of Jesus’ message of love and sacrifice for the healing and benefit of others.


Then last night I happened to see a video filmed in a section of Afghanistan which is now claiming to be a part of the ISIS nation.  As I see it these are just fervent religious people who take literally their manual, el Quran.  I watched them training little children how to kill with granades and other weapons.  My heart breaks for these children and their leaders.  One video showed a 13 year old and a 17 year old with hidden faces, who both stated that they are ready now to blow themselves up for Allah and are just awaiting their orders from their leaders.  How sad to see this deadly religion now being promoted in the USA and even being heralded as peaceful.  As I see it the only difference between peaceful Muslims and ISIS is that they take Mohammed at his word and repeat often that their goal is to have the entire world forced under sharia law.


P.  Dear Lord Jesus, I do not hate these people.  Yet I cannot help but see the contrast of Your presentation of the true Gospel!  I am so saddened to see little children taught that it is their religious duty to kill others that are no threat to them.  And I feel equally sad for their leaders that are teaching them.  They are only living the “religion” that they, themselves, have been taught from childhood.  I pray for them.  May Your message of love reach them and conquer them one by one.  And may we Christians become as fervent and courageous about presenting Your wonderful gospel of love as they are in pushing for world domination.  


Ralph


**Quran (5:33) - "The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement"

Quran (8:12) - "I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them"  



Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Touchy Subject

Saturday   11-21-15    Modesto, California

Scripture reading:   Matt 8 - 10

S=Scripture O=Observation A=Application P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.


S.  Matt 8:3  Jesus touched him. "I want to," he said. "Be healed!" And instantly the leprosy disappeared.

Matt 8:15  But when Jesus touched her hand, the fever left her.

Matt 9:21 she thought, "If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed."

Matt 9:29-30  Then he touched their eyes and said, "Because of your faith, it will happen."  And suddenly they could see!

Matt 9:25-26  Jesus went in and took the girl by the hand, and she stood up! NLT


O.  Jesus was a toucher.  It was against the Jewish rules to touch a leper.  Nobody in that crowd following Jesus that day had ever witnessed a person touching a leper.  As Jesus reached down toward the leper worshipping at his feet someone in the crowd may have yelled.  “Jesus, don’t touch him!  He’s a leper!”  Later he was on His way to touch a dead girl when an “unclean woman” (according to Jewish law) broke the rules and reached out to touch the hem of his garment... and He blessed her with healing.  It was also against the Jewish law to touch a dead body, unless it was your family member.  But Jesus shooed out the mourners and walked up to the dead girl, took her cold hand and she came to life and stood up.


A.  I notice that according to the records that we have, Jesus never touched a demon possessed person.  He commanded demons to leave and they fled.  But he often touched the sick and especially the beggars and untouchables.  Maybe they needed a caring touch of love more than any others. 


P.  Lord, You know I was not like this before.  You made a toucher out of me.  You sent me to the street to place an arm around the shoulders of a drunken beggar.  Somehow I could envision him as Your redeemed, healthy servant.  You called me to reach out to an addict and armed robber named Nito and love him as though he was my son.  You called me to love a screaming atheist named Carlos and watch him melt humbly and accept Your gift of grace.  You sent me to dead men and women... dead in their sinful life-styles... to take them by the hand and in Your strength to lift them into life with a capital L.  And if their names are written in Your “Book of Life” today, it is because of the touch of Your hand, not mine.  Amen.



Ralph

Friday, November 20, 2015

Let’s creep behind enemy lines to rescue the perishing.

Friday   11-20-15    Modesto, California

Scripture reading:   Matt 5 - 7

S=Scripture O=Observation A=Application P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.


S.  Matt 5:1  One day as the crowds were gathering, Jesus went up the mountainside with his disciples and sat down to teach them.


Matt 7:28-29  After Jesus finished speaking, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, for he taught as one who had real authority — quite unlike the teachers of religious law. NLT


O.  I have just finished reading again Jesus’ wonderful “Sermon on the Mount.”  At the beginning of these three chapters Matthew writes that... ‘as the crowds were gathering, Jesus took his disciples up the mountainside and sat down to teach them.  Was this detailed discourse one sitting of teaching directed only to his apostles and other disciples?  Or were these life-giving axioms proclaimed to the great crowd that had gathered?  If so, was the crowd so hushed by His awesome teaching that they kept little babies from crying and the children from screaming out in their play so that Jesus’ words could reach the fringes of the crowd?  


We have 107 verses in these three chapters and practically each one of them is an axiom carefully designed to bless our Christian life style! 


A.  When Jesus went up the mountain, he took only his disciples.  Now chapter 8:1 states, “Large crowds followed Jesus as he came down the mountainside.” NLT  I wish I could do that.  He started out with a handful heading up a mountainside and came back down with a huge multitude.  Jesus was a magnet to the public.  It wasn’t just His unusual teaching.  It was His kindness and concern which He displayed with little children, poverty stricken beggars and the suffering.  And, of course, it was His miracles.  With my limited faith I can’t do all that Jesus did.  But there are some of those qualities I can emulate.  And by God’s help I shall.


I recently read about a church that cancelled their evangelism plans for an area of their city that was known for its prostitution, drugs and liquor.  They felt that some of their own weaker participants in evangelism might fall into these traps of sin.


P.  Father, help me to become more like Your Son, Jesus.  He was a magnet to those that were wondering about as sheep without a shepherd.  He was holy, but dirty sinners were attracted to Him.  He sat with them at their table and shared a meal.  Their sinfulness did not rub off onto Him.  Instead His holiness rubbed off onto those sinners.  Suddenly they were ready to give up their life-style and follow His life giving axioms.  Please protect me as I reach out to sinners.  Keep me from evil thoughts and from falling into the same traps that captured them.  Come on, Jesus!  Stay by my side and hold my hand as we creep behind enemy lines to rescue the perishing.  Amen.


Ralph


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Admit the Bad News, then Enjoy the Good News

Thursday   11-19-15    Modesto, California

Scripture reading:   Matt 1 - 4

S=Scripture O=Observation A=Application P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.


S.  Matt 1:22-23  This will fulfill God's message through his prophets- 'Listen! The virgin shall conceive a child! She shall give birth to a Son, and he shall be called "Emmanuel" (meaning "God is with us").'"

Matt 2:5-6 ...for this is what the prophet Micah wrote: 'O little town of Bethlehem, you are not just an unimportant Judean village, for a Governor shall rise from you to rule my people Israel.'"

Matt 2:15  This fulfilled the prophet's prediction, "I have called my Son from Egypt." 

Matt 2:17-18  This brutal action of Herod's fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah, "Screams of anguish come from Ramah, Weeping unrestrained; Rachel weeping for her children, Uncomforted- For they are dead."

Matt 2:23  This fulfilled the prediction of the prophets concerning the Messiah, "He shall be called a Nazarene."

Matt 3:3 Isaiah the prophet had told about John's ministry centuries before! He had written, "I hear a shout from the wilderness, 'Prepare a road for the Lord-straighten out the path where he will walk.'"

Matt 4:14-15 This fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy: "The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, beside the Lake, and the countryside beyond the Jordan River, and Upper Galilee where so many foreigners live-there the people who sat in darkness have seen a great Light; they sat in the land of death, and the Light broke through upon them."   TLB


O.  Within these first four chapters, Matthew takes careful aim at the fact that Jesus is the promised Messiah, by showing that He fulfilled perfectly each of these seven Old Testament prophecies.


Three years later, immediately after His resurrection on the long walk to Emmaus, Jesus, himself, took Cleopas and his friend for a tour of the entire Old Testament probably showing them these and dozens of other Messianic prophecies that were perfectly fulfilled in His birth, life, death and resurrection.


A.  With so much visible evidence, why didn’t the Jewish leaders believe in Him?  They knew well these OT scriptures.  It was his scathing public revelation of their sins that drove them to kill him.  They missed the good-news because they would not accept the bad-news.  The Gospel of Jesus is both good-news and bad-news.  Until I can bring myself to admit the bad-news of my sins and my need of a Savior, I can never enjoy the good-news of his free forgiveness and cleansing.


Why is it that intelligent men choose to believe the totally impossible “miracle” that perfect order and intricate design can come about without a designer?  I believe it is, at least in part, that to believe in a designer suggests a higher power and for some reason a higher power seems a threat to them... for they... and we too, are all sinners.


P.  Lord, I am not as “well educated” as these atheists.  Being “well educated” for them means to have studied for years methods to exclude You from their philosophies and theories.  Your Word calls them “fools” for they say in their heart “there is no God.”  (Ps 14:1 and 53:1)  It is not a matter of intelligence at all.  It is a matter of personal choice.  I have chosen to believe the bad news and admit my sinfulness so that I can accept Your good news of forgiveness and cleansing.  Amen.


Ralph


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Who is the Hero of this Story?

Wednesday   11-18-15    Modesto, California

Scripture reading:   Psalm 124    2 Cor 11 – 13

S=Scripture O=Observation A=Application P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.


S.  2 Cor 11:24-25  Five different times the Jews gave me thirty-nine lashes.  Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. NLT


O.  These two verses are only a sample.  In several paragraphs the Apostle Paul lists some of the dangers, difficulties and persecution he has survived in his life as a missionary.  If only the historian, Dr. Luke, had been with him taking notes on all these occasions, we certainly would have another best-seller!  Five times 39 lashes!  We only have one account... in Philippi.  Three times shipwrecked!  We only have one account written by Luke.  A night and day adrift at sea!  Wow!  All this and much more and Paul still was going at it full-speed-ahead.


A.  Most of our missionary life took place before digital photography.  Film was expensive and took weeks to develop.  Since I was expected to send out at least a quarterly newsletter, complete with photos, I was always at a loss.  I found that I could not hold exciting open air or tent crusades and take pictures at the same time.  I had no “Dr. Luke” traveling with me to document the thrilling events.  In those days taking photos required a certain expertise.  You couldn’t just hand your camera to a novice and say, “Take some pictures” as I do now.  So today I find myself trying to put together a book describing some “God stories”... recording some events that hopefully will reveal Him to be the Hero of my story.  


P.  Lord, I get so disgusted with myself!  I try to write some of the stories of Your wonderful rescues and accomplishments.  And then I read them over and I see that I have made myself look good... and You end up as just my Helper.  Maybe that is why the Apostle Paul didn’t leave us all the details of his story.  He did not want to be worshipped as a hero, but rather to give You all the glory.  Please help me leave behind me a book that will truly honor You.  A book that will encourage youth to surrender it all to You... and with total abandon, serve You until their legs cannot take another step and their lungs cannot take another breath.  Amen.


Ralph


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Let’s just skip these two chapters

Tuesday   11-17-15   Home again, Modesto, California

Scripture reading:    2 Cor 7 – 10

S=Scripture O=Observation A=Application P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.


S.  2 Cor 9:10-11  For God is the one who gives seed to the farmer and then bread to eat.  In the same way, he will give you many opportunities to do good, and he will produce a great harvest of generosity in you.  Yes, you will be enriched so that you can give even more generously. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will break out in thanksgiving to God.  NLT


O.  The missionary, Paul, is taking up the offering and he uses 2 whole chapters to teach the blessing of generosity.  He has been sent out of the church in Antioch of Syria as a missionary.  He has carried the Gospel of Christ to the heathens in Corinth.  Now he is taking up an offering from his converts in Corinth to take back to the Jerusalem churches that are suffering.  That’s a switch.


A.  Do I ever get annoyed when someone in the pulpit stands to take the offering and gives an extended sermonette, complete with texts and illustrations?  Okay, I will admit that I have squirmed a little bit thinking that a visitor might rise and walk out.  Here the Apostle Paul dedicates two complete chapters to take up the offering.  He uses the poverty stricken generous church in Macedonia as an illustration.  As I see it, he puts the squeeze on these Corinthian Christians and then says, “Don’t give because of the pressure I am laying on you, but do it with joy for God loves a cheerful giver.”  Nothing subtle about his tactic!


I will never forget many years ago when a minister friend took me to hear an “evangelist” in a tiny country church in California.  The “evangelist” himself took up the offering with an extended speech, then personally carried a little rectangular box and waved it under the nose of each of us about 20 people waiting for them to dig down in their pockets.  I was so disgusted, I think I gave nothing and walked out before the preaching.  I have always bent over backwards to avoid such a scene, but perhaps the Lord is telling me that the opposite extreme is just as dangerous.


P.  Dear Lord: Why did you inspire Missionary Paul to write two whole chapters of Your manual, the Bible, about giving generously to Your work?  Did I hear You saying, “Get up there and do the same with your converts?”  But Lord, they might get disgusted and walk out.  Oh, I see.  You are saying as Your messenger I should teach them... and practice myself, the joy of giving generously.  For godly stewardship is an important factor in the maturing process of a true Christian, no matter if he or she lives on the poverty level or in extreme wealth.  Hmmm.  Okay, Lord.  Got it... I think!  Amen.



Ralph

Monday, November 16, 2015

Fading Glory

Monday   11-16-15   San Salvador, El Salvador

Scripture reading:    2 Cor 3 – 6

S=Scripture O=Observation A=Application P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.


S.  2 Cor 3:13  We are not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so the people of Israel would not see the glory fading away.  NLT


O.  Moses had met with God on the mountain and the radiance from such close proximity to God was so bright when he came down from the mountain that he had to cover his face to keep the glow from blinding the public.  But as time passed the glow faded and Paul appears to be saying that Moses kept wearing the veil long after the glow had faded away... perhaps so the public would not see that it had faded.

Observation 1: Hang around God enough and it just might show.

Observation 2: God’s glory in our lives always fades with time.  He doesn’t want us to get puffed up with a permanent dosage.

Observation 3: God wants me to frequently return to Him for a fresh charge.  He is my Source.


A.  I admit it.  Nobody has ever reached for their sunglasses to keep my face from blinding them with the radiance of Christ.  Maybe it is because I am far too busy to spend 40 days on some mountain alone with God.  Or maybe it is because the Lord knows that I would become proud of my shining face.  Whatever the case, I think I need to climb the mountain again and seek His presence for a recharge.


P.  Lord, it’s true.  I think sometimes we actually look different for a little while after spending time alone with You.  If I ever catch Your heavenly glow, I would like to keep it, but I know You would choose to allow it to fade away with time.  You are protecting me from my worst enemy... myself... with my sinful, proud heart.  Dear Lord Jesus, may I become less and less concerned about how the public perceives me... and more and more concerned about spending time in Your presence.  Amen.


Ralph




Young Wisdom

Sunday   11-15-15   San Salvador, El Salvador

Scripture reading:    Job 41 – 42      2 Cor 1 – 2

S=Scripture O=Observation A=Application P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.


S.  Job 42:5-7 "I had heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes.  I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance."


Vs 7 After the LORD had finished speaking to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite: "I am angry with you and with your two friends, for you have not been right in what you said about me...” NLT


O.  Job’s book intrigues me.  It relates his disasters and tells of only three friends that come to “comfort” him: Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar.  However there is a silent fourth man much younger than the others, Elihu.  Although the others give their discourses, Elihu holds his tongue until all have halted in silence.  Then the book gives 6 whole chapters to his speech.  I have reason to believe that young Elihu had the words of wisdom that Job needed.  After he speaks, Job does not attempt to reply in self defense as he did for the others.  Instead God Himself steps into the picture to speak.  And finally God scolds Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar for their attitudes, but He does not scold Elihu.


I am so glad that Job repented and took back everything he had said against God...  and so glad that God forgave him!  Because that means that He will forgive me, too... and you... if, like Job, we repent.


A.  God can use young wisdom, too.  People look at me and think I must be very wise just because I have wrinkles in my face.  True, I have been around the block a few times, but I do not consider myself a man of wisdom.  I often sit amazed at the godly wisdom coming from younger men and women... even godly adolescents...  Yes, and even children!  Wisdom is a gift from God.  Solomon received a wonderful gift of wisdom.  He was young, yet wise.  But he tossed this great gift away in his later life when he turned to many women and their idolatry.  He was now old, but no longer wise.  How sad!


P.  Lord, I pray for wisdom... not so that others may consider me to be wise, 
but rather so that my life may reflect Your divine character in my attitudes expressed and the decisions I make.  Amen.



Ralph

Zacatecoluca

Zacatecoluca!  A six syllable indigenous name for this pretty little city.  After you pronounce it a few times, it rolls off your tongue like strawberry jello.

This morning, Saturday 14th November, Pastor and Mrs Rodriguez took me a little more than one hour to Zacatecoluca for a special children’s event with Pastor Oscar Rodriguez. 


This church is only 13 years old and they have... purchased the property, built this church, and started two other churches nearby, plus a Bible Institute.  This morning they bussed in a total of 110 children from all three churches. 


These kids were respectful, attentive and were quick learners.  Everybody there got a chance to pet Perfume. 


Among many other things I used the “disappear one more word, one more” system to teach them John 8:12.  (Jesus said, I am the Light of the World.  Anyone who follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the Light of Life.”) After repeating it together, then one by one disappearing all the words.  Several kids came to the mike and repeated it perfectly.  Hopefully the Lord tucked that jewel down inside these lives to light up their lives. 


This little guy... who must be only 5 years old, just received a big applause and a prize after repeating the verse into the microphone.  


I taught them to sing “Caminando con Jesus.” (Walking with Jesus with His torch held high... a song I kind of invented.)  Check out the tiny flaming torch in my right hand.

Finally I gave them the Good News/Bad News/Good News message.  These kids will make it... not because of me, but because of dedicated volunteer workers that meet with them every week and steer them onto the Jesus Road.


This picture is from the previous night at the San Salvador church.  I want you to meet David.  He was there at every service, even those for parents.  He walks the crowded market areas selling stuff to create income.  He stuck to me like glue wanting to carry my stuff or whatever... and after 7 days of this, I fell in love with little David.  I prayed that the Lord will make a godly man out of him... maybe a preacher.  Why not?  I wouldn’t be the first time!

Ralph


Children’s Congress in San Salvador

Saturday   11-14-15   San Salvador, El Salvador

Scripture reading:    Psalm 149     1 Cor 15 – 16

S=Scripture O=Observation A=Application P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.


S.  1 Cor 16:8-9  I will be staying here at Ephesus until the Festival of Pentecost,  for there is a wide-open door for a great work here, and many people are responding. NLT


O.  The city of Ephesus was filled with deadly dangers.  The message of Christ had been so effective that the silversmiths, whose livelihood depended upon their idols of Diana (also called Artemis the goddess of the Ephesians) were in danger of losing money.  Opposition to the Gospel was strong and Paul was living under continual threats.  But there was something holding him there in Ephesus.  It was “a wide-open door for a great work here, and many people are responding.”  


A.  When God is working miracles of salvation, it becomes difficult to sail away to other horizons.  Just as I was turning the work over to our Argentine Pastor, José Manuel Carlos, in the Barrio La Boca, Buenos Aires... it seemed the Lord was blessing our efforts more than ever.  Many youth and adults had come to Christ in a city park crusade.  What a temptation to hang around!  But God had given us just the perfect young couple as the new pastors.  I needed to disappear.  And God opened for me another door in Merlo with a handful of drug addicts.  It didn’t look like much at first, but soon blossomed into a “wide-open door”, a 20 month tent crusade... and a new church plant with Pastor José Pichiur. 


P.  Lord Jesus, You are full of surprises.  Life is a constant adventure walking with You.  Your Holy Spirit is always one step ahead of me.  Your plans surprise and delight me.  Sometimes there are months, maybe years, when I seem to labor with minimal results, then I discover that it had been a time of planting and, behold harvest time comes.  I thank You for this open door in San Salvador.  What a joy to minister to children and their parents in this “Children’s Congress!”  May You call many of these darling little ones into Your service!  Amen. 


Ralph



I want to become a Specialist

Friday   11-13-15   San Salvador, El Salvador

Scripture reading:    Job 39 - 40    1 Cor 13 - 14

S=Scripture O=Observation A=Application P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.


S.  1 Cor 13:12-13  All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now. There are three things that will endure — faith, hope, and love — and the greatest of these is love. NLT


O.  The Apostle Paul had studied the scrolls of Moses, the historic record of the Israelites, their battles, their kings, the poetic books, and the prophetic books.  He had also experienced spiritual wonders, a personal encounter with Jesus and even visiting the 3rd heaven and seeing unimaginable things.  Still he confesses his limited knowledge.  It is “partial and incomplete.”


A.  How much more do I sense my incomplete knowledge!  I have never seen Jesus or had a peek into the heavenly realms.  Although I have studied the Word for years, I cannot claim to be an expert in eschatology.  Wiser men than I have studied these things in depth and still arrived at erroneous conclusions.  There are obvious mysteries that will only be revealed over on the other side.  Instead of fretting over dates, symbols and titles of events to come, I prefer to concentrate on the three things that endure throughout the ages; Faith, Hope and Love... and I want my specialty to be “Love.”


P.  Lord Jesus, we have doctors that are specialist.  They have identified a specific area of needed expertise and placed it under the microscope to examine its properties and seek its control.  I would like to specialize in Your wonderful “Agape” love... Your Love with a capital “L”... that Love that gives away its very life for the benefit of others.  I know that I am still in the “partial and incomplete” stage, but I plead to become immersed in the Love that is described so vividly in 1 Cor. 13.  Amen.


Ralph