Monday, October 24, 2016

The final embrace

Monday 10-24-16  Martínez, Argentina
Today we read: Job 15 and Acts 19 -20

S.  Acts 20:24 Paul is speaking “…my life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus — the work of telling others the Good News about God's wonderful kindness and love.
Vs 25 "And now I know that none of you to whom I have preached the Kingdom will ever see me again.”
Vs 36-38 When he had finished speaking, he knelt and prayed with them. They wept aloud as they embraced him in farewell, sad most of all because he had said that they would never see him again. Then they accompanied him down to the ship. NLT

O.  The Apostle Paul had become a spiritual father to many of these saintly leaders. He has literally poured his life into them. Now he is saying a final good-bye and tears are pouring like a river.

A.  I have had to quit saying “final” good-byes, because I keep coming back. Still many of these dear people to whom I am ministering know that this could well be our final embrace… our last time on this earth to enjoy fellowship. Last night was no exception. It happens every night. I have been tightly embraced many times, wrapped in the arms of someone who has just told me the story of how I was the instrument God used to bring them to Jesus many years ago, or maybe just last week. Their bodies shake as they weep with their head on my shoulder… and I cannot help myself… I weep with them.

P. Yes, Lord Jesus, it could well be our final embrace with tears before we, leaping with joy, hug them again over on the other side. Every night I return to my borrowed apartment feeling literally saturated with godly love.  Little children run into my arms or come to hug my legs. Grandmas tell me how they found Jesus when they were a little child and Felipe sang about His love.  Big men weep as they remind me about some youth camp where they gave it all to Jesus. Thank you, Lord, for the endless multitude of loving friends that You have given me.  Amen.


A Giant Step

Saturday 10-23-16  Martínez, Argentina
Today we read: Job 13 – 14 and Acts 17 -18

S.  Acts 18:8 Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, and all his household believed in the Lord. Many others in Corinth also became believers and were baptized. NLT

O.  Jesus had given specific instructions to not only make disciples, but to baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  So, although it is not mentioned in each case, apparently, Paul and his team followed Jesus in all that He taught baptizing those that believed.

A.  I was made aware of the importance of water baptism when I became pastor of a church in the USA. Colfax was a small town with a large Roman Catholic church building.  It was apparent that many of the founders of the city must have been from that religious background.  As a pastor, I was thrilled each time a sinner came to Christ.  I was satisfied to disciple them and lead them deeper into the things of God.  But when Ricky requested water baptism, I realized that this was a giant step for him.  His parents had baptized him when he was a baby… and another baptism was in effect a declaration to their family that now they were making their own decision to follow Christ in a new and fervent way.  And most disturbing, it was also a declaration that their infant baptism was not a valid baptism at all… nothing like what Jesus had ordered… since its value is found in a public testimony to all that they have already chosen to die to one life and rise to another, a new life that the Lord Jesus has set in motion.

P.  Dear Lord Jesus, I thank You for Your word.  Crispus was the leader of the synagogue.  It certainly was a giant step for him and his family.  Jesus was wanting true disciples, willing to make a break with the past and begin a new life.  Now serving for many years in Latin America I can see the deep meaning to these new believers.  To some it means severing delicate ties to their parents and family.  Water baptism is important to You, Lord Jesus… so it is important to us, too.  Amen.

Note: After one 30 day crusade in a park, we had several hundred new believers.  One night Pastor Osvaldo Carnival baptized 99 of them.  It was a giant step for many of those new believers.

Sing that one again, boys!

Saturday 10-22-16  Martínez, Argentina
Today we read: Job 11 – 12 and Acts 15 -16

S.  Acts 16:9-10 That night Paul had a vision. He saw a man from Macedonia in northern Greece, pleading with him, "Come over here and help us." 10 So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, for we could only conclude that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.
Acts 16:29-34 Trembling with fear, the jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down before Paul and Silas. He brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They replied, "Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with your entire household." Then they shared the word of the Lord with him and all who lived in his household. That same hour the jailer washed their wounds, and he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized. Then he brought them into his house and set a meal before them. He and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God. NLT

O.  Who actually did the cruel beating of Paul and Silas with baseball bats?  It probably was either this jailor or one of his cohorts. And they surely did it with all their might, making a bloody mess and deep wounds.  So this jailor was not being kind to these two enemies of the people.  They were jammed into the inner cell and their feet secured in the stocks.  But at midnight Paul and Silas held Holy Ghost Pentecostal worship service, praying and rejoicing in song.  Nobody was going to get much sleep with that going on.  And suddenly the doors started to rattle and things started shaking.  Paul and Silas feet were released from the stocks and all the prisoner’s chains fell off and the front door was wide open.  Maybe this jailor was the man in Paul’s vision.  He is the only male convert mentioned in Philippi.

A.  I prefer not to be beaten and thrown in jail.  Did the Lord have to set up all of these circumstances to save one hungry heathen and his family?  I have learned to never question God’s way of doing things.  When things are out of my control, I always try to “fix” it.  But I finally am made to know everything is still under His control.

P.  Yes, Lord, without the beating and bleeding backs, there may never had been a midnight Pentecostal hoedown. Lord, I guess You could see these boys needed some rhythm with their songs, so You called in Your chief heavenly drummer who apparently got carried away and shook the whole jail with his bass drum.  Now that’s music!  At least it was music in the ears of all the prisoners whose chains feel off.  Hey, boys, sing that one again!  And everybody became Quakers.  Amen.


The Mediator

Friday 10-21-16  Martínez, Argentina
Today we read: Job 9 – 10 and Acts 13 -14

S.  Job 9:32-35 "God is not a mortal like me, so I cannot argue with him or take him to trial.  If only there were a mediator who could bring us together, but there is none.  The mediator could make God stop beating me, and I would no longer live in terror of his punishment. Then I could speak to him without fear, but I cannot do that in my own strength.” NLT

O.  Job feels totally helpless before His Sovereign God.  God has allowed Satan to cause him extreme pain, loss of his children and his possessions. He feels he has no right to argue his cause with God. God is too mighty, too distant, too holy and he is but a speck of dust. He cries out for a mediator… for someone to take his case to God for him. Most scholars place Job’s life chronologically long before Moses’ and his establishment of priests whose tasks were to mediate before God for the people.  Centuries later, in God’s prefect timing (Galatians 4:4), He sent us the Mediator that Job was pleading for.

A.  Heb 12:23-24 You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. How sad to think Job’s Sovereign God seemed unreachable to him.  Job’s suffering was not taking place without God’s knowledge, but Job, just like us, could not see the whole picture. Today I can run into the arms of Jesus, my Mediator, when I am overwhelmed by sorrow or sickness!  His death destroyed that thick curtain that kept us sinners from direct contact with God. (Mark 15:37-38) NLT

P.  Oh what comfort!  What a blessing!  The door is open!  I can come running to the mercy seat.  My dark, sinful blot has been cleansed by Your shed blood, Lord Jesus.  You are interceding for me. You are on my side, my defense Mediator.  So even when in pain, suffering or sorrow, I am not alone. I place my trust in You.  Amen.

Jesus Paid it All
John T. Grape 1868

1.    I hear the Savior say,
“Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.”
o   Refrain:
Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.
2.    For nothing good have I
Whereby Thy grace to claim;
I’ll wash my garments white
In the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb.
3.    And now complete in Him,
My robe, His righteousness,
Close sheltered ’neath His side,
I am divinely blest.
4.    Lord, now indeed I find
Thy pow’r, and Thine alone,
Can change the *leper’s spots [*leopard’s]
And melt the heart of stone.
5.    When from my dying bed
My ransomed soul shall rise,
“Jesus died my soul to save,”
Shall rend the vaulted skies.
6.    And when before the throne
I stand in Him complete,
I’ll lay my trophies down,
All down at Jesus’ feet.

The Power of Hope

Thursday 10-20-2016  Martínez, Argentina
Today we read: Job 6 – 8 and Acts 12

S.  Job 6:10-11 At least I can take comfort in this: Despite the pain, I have not denied the words of the Holy One. But I do not have the strength to endure. I do not have a goal that encourages me to carry on. NLT

O.  Job is a man without a goal to strive for.  He cannot stir even a little hope. He has lost his wealth, his family and his health. He cannot see any future chance of relief. Hopelessness is a tunnel without an end. In itself it is worse than the pain of sickness. Job prays for death to give him relief from his misery. If only he could have seen the end of the story, he could have had a goal.  He would have known that the Lord would bring him health, wealth, family and joy again… that glimmer of hope could have held him steady through his extended trial.

A.  Do God’s people ever experience hopelessness? Unfortunately, we sometimes do, but only if we take our eyes off of our goal. In sickness, as in health, our future will not change. We can be sure that our salvation is just ahead. The years pass quickly and Jesus is waiting for us with open arms at the end of the tunnel.  May He help me to keep running toward the goal even when the enemy brings discouragement.
Heb 10:23-25 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching. NIV

P.  Lord Jesus, there in Hebrews You have given me the key to maintaining and strengthening my hope?  By frequently meeting together with fellow believers and participating in the joy of encouraging one another.  Job’s ‘comforters’ said many true things to this discouraged brother, but they mostly were words filled with condemnation and harshness.  So, Lord, when we get together, please help me to be a true encouragement to someone who has lost hope.  Amen.


The ‘Jesus Fire’

Wednesday 10-19-2016  Martínez, Argentina
Today we read: Job 5, Psalm 108 and Acts 11 - 12

S.  Acts 12:1-5 About that time King Herod Agrippa began to persecute some believers in the church.  He had the apostle James (John's brother) killed with a sword.  When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish leaders, he arrested Peter during the Passover celebration and imprisoned him, placing him under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. Herod's intention was to bring Peter out for public trial after the Passover. But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him. NLT

O. For Stephen, the first Christian martyr, Luke, the author of the book of Acts, dedicated more than an entire chapter and Stephen was only a deacon. Now the Apostle James, brother of John, one of the three chosen to witness the transfiguration on the mountain, merits only a short sentence and he is forever gone from Christian history.  Was he kept overnight in prison?  Did the church go to earnest prayer for his life?  Was he given a trial like Stephen?  We only know that Herod wanted to please the Jews so he ordered someone to kill him with a sword. Herod was a politician. He wanted the favor of the Jewish leaders. He cared nothing for those he ordered killed. So now he plans to finish off Peter as well. And when that didn’t work, he killed his whole team of prison guards. Then in this same chapter, this proud, bloody king Herod was finished off, eaten by worms. God said, “That’s enough big boy!”

A. Obviously God was not finished with Peter yet.  His time would come late in life.  Tradition says that he was crucified upside down at his own request, since he felt unworthy to be crucified like His Master, Jesus.  One by one the apostles disappeared from the history books, but not without spreading the message of Christ to many areas.  With each apostles’ death the Jewish leaders may have felt that they now had this blazing wild ‘Jesus fire’ under control, but it was destined to fulfill Christ’s great commission and wrap its warm arms of love around the entire globe. And here I am, almost 20 centuries later, counted among the many thousands that have been privileged to spread this ‘Jesus fire’ to the ends of the earth.

P.  Lord, only You know why some were given more time than others. I thank You for the privilege of returning to the land of my calling again late in life. You may choose to call me home any day.  That’s okay with me, but You have blessed me with a multitude of friends that seem to be carrying me on their shoulders, giving me the chance to meet their children and their grandchildren. I pray for the privilege of igniting this same ‘Jesus fire’ in their souls as well.  And may they burn brightly until You return!  Amen.


I confess, I have been there.

Tuesday 10-18-2016  Martínez, Argentina
Today we read: Job 3 – 4  and  Acts 8 - 9

S.  Acts 8:26-29 As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, "Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza." So he did, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and he was now returning. Seated in his carriage, he was reading aloud from the book of the prophet Isaiah. The Holy Spirit said to Philip, "Go over and walk along beside the carriage." NLT

O.  Obviously Deacon Phil was in constant communication with His Master, listening for the voice of God and ready to run at a moment’s notice. This time God used an angel, probably invisible to him. His message was clear and God’s servant took off heading south.  He knew his basic destination, but nothing more. Timing was everything. God had arranged a meeting with a spiritually hungry man… a man who was in a position of great authority and would doubtless affect many others.

A. I confess I have been there.  And after being led miraculously to that spiritually hungry man and seeing him respond so quickly to God’s Word, as I sped away I was weeping with joy.  But then I started weeping with grief, saying to myself… “How many times have I failed to listen to that still, small voice of the Spirit, coaxing me to stop here… and take some of my “valuable time” to reach another spiritually starved soul?” 

P. I sing, “Speak, my Lord”… and then when You do, You find me not listening, but busy on my petty project.  Please, God, forgive me and give that man, woman, youth or child another chance.  And teach me to respond rapidly to Your voice, treating Your gentle instruction as my top-priority command. Amen.


That’s our man! Go get him, Jesus!

Monday 10-17-2016  Martínez, Argentina
Today we read: Job 1 – 2  and  Acts 6 - 7

S.  Acts 7:51-53 "You stubborn people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? But your ancestors did, and so do you! Name one prophet your ancestors didn't persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous One — the Messiah whom you betrayed and murdered. You deliberately disobeyed God's law, though you received it from the hands of angels." NLT

O.  Stephen has been falsely accused of blasphemy.  So the Sanhedrin was gathered to hear his defense. But Stephen did not say a single word in his defense. He launched into a detailed history of God’s dealing with their ancestors… to which they could all say, “Amen”.  By now I imagine his accusers were getting nervous. “Is this guy never going to get to the issue at hand?” Then suddenly he does get at the issue at hand, but not even attempting to clear his own name… he lashes out at his accusers and the whole Sanhedrin and puts them all on trial.  He calls them “stubborn, heathen at heart, deaf to the truth, forever resisting God’s Holy Spirit… betrayers and murderers of the very Messiah that God sent them… deliberately disobeying God’s law.”  That did it! They murdered him… while he cried out to God to forgive them. 
And a young, brilliant, upcoming Pharisee named Saul was in that crowd approving of what they were doing.  He did not throw stones, but took care of their coats while others did the dirty work. They did not stop hurling stones until Stephen’s voice was silenced and they were sure that his voice would never be heard again.

A.  But they were wrong.  Stephen’s voice was not silenced after all.  His vision of Jesus standing at the Father’s right hand and his pleading forgiveness for his murderers would be played over and over in the heart of Saul.  It drove him to extremes… searching for other followers of Jesus and throwing them into prison.  Single handed Saul was going to stamp out this heresy.  Fervor!  Enthusiasm!  Dedication!  This young Pharisee had it all.  God looked down and said to His Son… “That’s our man!  He can do it!  Go get him, Jesus!” 

P.  Lord Jesus, I want Your Father to able to say that about me.  Fervor!  Enthusiasm!  Dedication!  “Go get him, Jesus!”  I want to be one of Your Father’s chosen men.  I want to burn for You.  You hear my cry today.  You see my tears flowing like a river.  I want You to have all of me.  I want to capture Your message and carry it to the ends of the earth.  Just let me be Your man, Jesus.  Amen.


God counted them worthy to suffer.

Sunday 10-16-2016  Martínez, Argentina
Today we read: Malachi 3 – 4   Psalm 148  and  Acts 5

S.  Acts 5:38-42 "So my advice is, leave these men alone. If they are teaching and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. But if it is of God, you will not be able to stop them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God." The council accepted his advice. They called in the apostles and had them flogged. Then they ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus, and they let them go. The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Jesus. And every day, in the Temple and in their homes, they continued to teach and preach this message: "The Messiah you are looking for is Jesus." NLT

O. At Peter’s powerful message the high council was furious and ready to kill him. Then Gamalial spoke up and called for a secret huddle.  I suspect that this wise man was beginning to see that it was entirely possible that they were fighting against God. His advice saved Peter’s life perhaps the others, too.  All he and his friends got was a beating until their bones were laid bear.

A. If our preaching stirs the pot, we all will need a Gamalial once in a while.  After 9 years in prison without a trial, Mehdi Dibaj finally stood before the Muslim court and gave his own defense, a powerful message of salvation. I have the full text. The Muslim authorities were furious and condemned him to death, but the word of their decision leaked to the international press and they were forced to let him go free.  Months later the government announced that his body had been found. He knew he was marked to die. He didn’t have a Gamalial.

P. Lord Jesus, you are looking on and, even so, You often allow Your faithful servants to suffer as martyrs. Simon Peter and John were spared by Gamalial’s wisdom, but deacon Stephen was stoned to death and the Apostle James was beheaded shortly thereafter.  You promise to go with us, but You made it clear that some of us will die for Your testimony. Help me be Your faithful servant even in the case of strong opposition.


I had to made a choice.

Friends… Here is a devotional that failed to go out on the day I arrived in Argentina.  For three weeks I have just let it sit there, but today I thought… “Why leave it sitting there doing nothing.  Just maybe someone needs this word today.

 Thursday 9-23-16 (Martinez, Argentina)
Scripture reading:   Dan 11 – 12    Luke  6
S=Scripture O=Observation A=Application P=Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S.  Luke 6:17-19 There were people from all over Judea and from Jerusalem and from as far north as the seacoasts of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed, and Jesus cast out many evil spirits. Everyone was trying to touch him, because healing power went out from him, and they were all cured. NLT

O.  Jesus literally hid from the crowds to get alone with His Heavenly Father.  He prayed all night before choosing His 12 disciples.  But when they came down from the mountain Jesus was surrounded by pressing crowds, some from far away. A desperate woman had touched His robe and she had been instantly healed. The word traveled fast and now men and women, boys and girls suffering from many kinds of illnesses want to just touch Him.  And they were all cured!  Unwashed hands dirtied the robe of the Master… and He allowed it to happen.

A.  We were starting a new church in San Juan.  God had healed Mabelita, a baby girl.  The huge ugly tumor had shrunk and disappeared.  But her two-year old cousin did not survive his illness.  We had prayed for him, too.  In both cases the parents became solid Christians. I later married the couple that lost their baby boy and they became pastors, starting a church.

P.  I asked You, Lord, “Why not everyone?” I wanted everyone I prayed for to be healed. And down inside myself I Your voice. You answered me with a question: “Ralph, if everyone you prayed for was healed, what would happen to you?” I could see it. “Soon I would be swamped by the mobs coming from distant places, seeking healing. I would have no time for anything else. I would be reduced from a preacher in the “soul healing” business to a “physical healer”. Besides, I knew I could never handle that kind of fame. Then Lord, You reminded me of the day I looked at the ashes of all my accomplishments… and I could hear You saying again, “One day everything you accomplish will look like these ashes, except one thing… when you win a soul to Christ… that lasts for eternity.” Right there, standing in the middle of ashes with tears pouring down my cheeks, I made a choice for the eternal. Amen.


Lord, do it again!

Saturday 10-15-2016  Martínez, Argentina
Today we read: Neh 13   Malachi 1 – 2  and  Acts 4

S.  Acts 4:8-12 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Leaders and elders of our nation, are we being questioned because we've done a good deed for a crippled man? Do you want to know how he was healed? Let me clearly state to you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed in the name and power of Jesus Christ from Nazareth, the man you crucified, but whom God raised from the dead. For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says, 'The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.'  There is salvation in no one else! There is no other name in all of heaven for people to call on to save them." NLT

O.  Peter and John are arrested thrown into prison for the night and brought to trial the next day.  Is this the same Peter that, when accused by a servant girl, denied he had every known Jesus?  He is not the same.  He has met with the resurrected Christ, been forgiven, restored and filled with the Holy Spirit.

A.  I am trying to imagine myself as one the religious Jewish leaders that day. I am totally blinded by prejudice, by the opinion of my peers and by my traditions. Peter “filled with the Holy Spirit” stands to his feet, speaking with powerful authority like the ancient prophets and boldly accuses us all of murdering Jesus Christ, our long awaited Messiah and quotes well known Holy Scripture to back his claim.  I am trembling with rage! Or is it with Holy Spirit conviction?  I want to shut this man’s mouth right now.  I am so blind that I refuse to consider the evidence of a man for over 40 years a twisted, crippled beggar, now standing there with Peter and John as testimony to the power of the resurrected Christ.

P.  Dear Lord, many centuries have passed since then and still many of the Jewish people cling to their prejudice, the opinion of their peers and their traditions.  And now I minister among a people that are filled with other prejudices, traditions and opinions of their peers.  May I speak with the same Holy Spirit power and authority that made grown men tremble with conviction and may You, once again, back Your Holy Word by Your miracle working power!  Amen.


We’ve got something to celebrate about!

Friday 10-14-2016  Martínez, Argentina
Today we read: Neh 11 – 12,    Psalm 1  and  Acts 3

S.  Neh 12:38-40 The second choir went northward around the other way to meet them. I followed them, with the other half of the people, along the top of the wall past the Tower of the Ovens to the Broad Wall, then past the Ephraim Gate to the Old City Gate, past the Fish Gate and the Tower of Hananel, and went on to the Tower of the Hundred. Then we continued on to the Sheep Gate and stopped at the Guard Gate. The two choirs that were giving thanks then proceeded to the Temple of God, where they took their places. NLT

O.  These former slaves knew how to celebrate the completion of the Jerusalem wall and Nehemiah was obviously an expert in organization.  Two choirs, each with their special musical instruments and their respective directors, would start the double procession on the walkway on top of the wall… singing and marching in opposite directions followed by the people. Finally, they would meet still walking on the wall that circled the entire city… then they would descent the stairway and proceed to the temple and take their places.

A.  I took special notice of Neh 11:19 where he mentions “the gatekeepers: Akkub, Talmon, and 172 of their associates, who guarded the gates.”  Why?  Well, the name Hiatt, also Hyatt, is derived from “High Gate” and supposedly means that, back in the days of walls and towers, my ancestors’ ancestors were gate-keepers somewhere in England. At least this is what the experts say, (those that search out such things.) So I don’t want to drop the ball. I, too, want to be a gate-keeper for Jesus. Ready to sound the alarm when I see the enemy sneaking up on my kids and grandkids.

P.  Lord, maybe it is time for us “evangelicals” to start organizing parades complete with musical instruments and singing. We need to come out of our closet and proclaim You, Jesus Christ, as our King and leader.  The Roman Catholics still do it in some cities on Good Friday to announce their Jesus as dead.  They carry a life-size body in an open coffin. They dress in black and walk all sad and stooped over, some with tears. Maybe we should follow them on Resurrection Sunday with a joyous parade singing “He lives! He Lives! Christ Jesus lives today!  Amen!


What Prayer Accomplishes

Thursday 10-13-2016  Martínez, Argentina
Today we read: Neh 9 – 10  and  Acts 2

S.  Neh 9:5-6 Then the leaders of the Levites — Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah — called out to the people: "Stand up and praise the LORD your God, for he lives from everlasting to everlasting!" Then they continued, "Praise his glorious name! It is far greater than we can think or say.  You alone are the LORD. You made the skies and the heavens and all the stars. You made the earth and the seas and everything in them. You preserve and give life to everything, and all the angels of heaven worship you. NLT

O.  The priests led the people in a long, beautiful prayer acknowledging God’s intervention in spite of their sins. Spurgeon wrote this about prayer: While it is an application to divine wealth, it is a confession of human emptiness. The most healthy state of a Christian is to be always empty in self and constantly depending upon the Lord for supplies; to be always poor in self and rich in Jesus; weak as water personally, but mighty through God to do great exploits; and hence the use of prayer, because, while it adores God, it lays the creature where it should be, in the very dust.** Spurgeon had a way with words.

A.  For me, the beauty of prayer is not only God’s many, abundant answers. It does much more for me. It brings me low before the Great Creator of the Universe. While the atheist brags about how he pulled himself up by his boot-straps, prayer helps me to acknowledge that every blessing I am enjoying is a free gift from a generous God, including my priceless relationship with Him.

P.  Lord Jesus, You paid the price to open the door of heaven to me. You did what I could never do. I sing: “I, though so unworthy, still I’m a child of His care.” Please, Lord, keep ‘Preacher Ralph’ in a humble attitude, always recognizing that my every blessing is a gift flowing like a crystal stream from Your divine throne.  Amen.

Wide, wide as the ocean, high as the Heaven above;
Deep, deep as the deepest sea is my Savior’s love.
I, though so unworthy, still am a child of His care;
For His Word teaches me that His love reaches me everywhere.

**From Spurgeon’s Daily Devotional

Let’s play house.

Wednesday 10-12-2016  Martínez, Argentina
Today we read: Neh 7 – 8  and  Acts 1

S.  Neh 8:11-12 Hush! Don't weep! For this is a sacred day."
Vs 16-18 So the people went out and cut branches and used them to build shelters on the roofs of their houses, in their courtyards, in the courtyards of God's Temple, or in the squares just inside the Water Gate and the Ephraim Gate. So everyone who had returned from captivity lived in these shelters for the seven days of the festival, and everyone was filled with great joy! The Israelites had not celebrated this way since the days of Joshua son of Nun. NLT

O. Governor Nehemiah and Ezra the priest are bringing the Israelites back to their roots. For decades they had been held captive as slaves. Now the nation is being born-again and Ezra takes them back to the written Word of God. Many of them weep in repentance when they become aware of how far they have strayed from God’s plans. But now, they are told to dry their tears. It is time to celebrate. So they did it up right by celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles, each family building little temporary shelters and eating and sleeping in them. This was a memorial of how they once lived in tents in the wilderness.

A. When we were children we like to play “house”.  We would take a blanket and stretch it from the couch to some chairs and crawl inside our tent… or outdoors we would use fallen branches or whatever to build a “hut”. What fun! Perhaps this strange custom in Israel was to remind them how temporal our dwellings are. We build beautiful homes and sit back to think we are all set for many decades. But God calls me back to remember that this world is really not my home. 

P. Today in many of our churches the most poverty stricken live much higher than the richest in many other areas of this globe. Back when I was a child during the great depression we sang with enthusiasm: “This world is not my home…” Today, I have been so blessed that it is easy get attached to my comfortable life style. Such songs have long since disappeared from among my people. Maybe I need to celebrate a “Feast of Tabernacles” once in a while and live for a few days without a soft bed and hot water for a shower… like most of the people on this spinning space ship. Remind me, Lord, today where my real home is. Amen.

This World Is Not My Home Lyrics
Jim Reeves
This world is not my home I'm just a passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore
Oh lord you know I have no friend like you
If heaven's not my home then lord what will I do
The angels beckon me from heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore
I have a loving mother just over in gloryland
And I don't expect to stop until I shake her hand
She's waiting now for me in heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore
Oh lord you know I have no friend like you
If heaven's not my home Then lord what will I do
The angels beckon me From heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home In this world anymore
Just over in gloryland
We'll live eternally
The saints on every hand are shouting victory
Their songs of sweetest praise
Drift back from heaven's shore
And I can't feel at home In this world anymore
Oh lord, you know I have no friend like you
If heaven's not my home Then lord what will I do
The angels beckon me From heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home In this world anymore


Tuesday 10-11-2016  Martínez, Argentina
Today we read: Neh 5 – 6    Psalm 146     Luke 24

S.  Neh 6:6-9 "Geshem tells me that everywhere he goes he hears that you and the Jews are planning to rebel and that is why you are building the wall. According to his reports, you plan to be their king. He also reports that you have appointed prophets to prophesy about you in Jerusalem, saying, 'Look! There is a king in Judah!' "You can be very sure that this report will get back to the king, so I suggest that you come and talk it over with me." My reply was, "You know you are lying. There is no truth in any part of your story." They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could break our resolve and stop the work. So I prayed for strength to continue the work. NLT

O. Nehemiah had organized and completed the building of the protective wall around Jerusalem. Now they were hanging the gates to be able to close them in times of danger. However Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of their enemies found out that they had finished rebuilding the wall and that no gaps remained and they were furious.  So they threatened to send a gossip story back to the king, hoping the scare Nehemiah from completing the task. It was war of words.

A. Many times the enemy of our souls, Satan, uses scare tactics to reduce our effectiveness.  Tobiah writes, “You can be sure that these rumors will get to the ears of the king.” I have a dear lady friend that has been tricked by the enemy to live in constant fear of some neighbors that know that she has spoken out against homosexuality as an acceptable “life-style”. At every little unimportant incident, she is terrified… insisting that her enemies are sneaking into her room. It is a satanic, psychological war. She thinks they follow her on her vacation and do things to scare her. Nehemiah took it to God, prayed for strength and kept on working.

P. Oh Lord, I know that You are more powerful than all the demons of hell. May I never run away every time the enemy jumps out from behind a bush and screams, “Boo!” May I never cower to Satan’s scare tactics. Fill me with confidence in You… for You promised never to leave us or forsake us. And when You are for us, who can be against us!  Amen.


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Martinez Centro Familiar Cristiano Church and School Argentina

Last night, Wednesday, I had the privilege of ministering to children, youth and adults in the Centro Familiar Cristiano (CFC).  This is the great church and school that Don and Melba Exley founded.  I had been invited especially to present my book, “Argentina, con Amor” and, of course to minister.  At the close of the service the altar area was filled with people of all ages on their knees for maybe 30 minutes. God was there.  Some were deeply touched.  Later at 11 PM and I was still dedicating and signing my books… and posing for pictures with families.

Then this morning, Thursday, at 8 AM I was in their school chapel for the first of four back-to-back services for the different age groups of CFC’s excellent Christian School.

The Junior High and High Schoolers came first at 8 AM.

The pastor’s daughter (right) was playing the keyboard for her first time in a chapel service.  Proud Pastors Gonzalo and Lizzy Colastian were standing in the audience enjoying the event.

The kindergarten kids were delighted caressing Perfume, the skunk.  The little guy is asking, “Is it real?  Is it real?”  I tell them, “It’s a secret.”

Here the first through third grades listen attentively.

Felipe was in “heaven” with all the cute girls (and boys) of the 4th through 6th grades.  Just check out his bright smile!  Did you ever see him smile like this before?  I never did.


The students literally smothered me with love after the final “Amen” at noon.

Later I was walking in the school hall and beautiful little children came running to hug me and give me a kiss on the cheek. You can’t put a price on that!

God has been good to this old man, who so often forgets that he is old.


Monday, October 10, 2016

We preachers are hardly ever without a job.

Monday 10-10-2016  Martínez, Argentina
Today we read: Neh 3 – 4     Luke 23

S.  Neh 3:6-8 The Old City Gate was repaired by Joiada son of Paseah and Meshullam son of Besodeiah. They laid the beams, set up the doors, and installed the bolts and bars. Next to them were Melatiah from Gibeon, Jadon from Meronoth, and people from Gibeon and Mizpah, the headquarters of the governor of the province west of the Euphrates River. Next was Uzziel son of Harhaiah, a goldsmith by trade, who also worked on the wall. Beyond him was Hananiah, a manufacturer of perfumes. NLT

O.  The walls of Jerusalem were being rebuilt and every man volunteered to help.  Here is Brother Uzziel, an expert goldsmith by trade and over there Brother Hahaniah, a manufacture of perfumes. They are toting heavy, cut stones and mud mortar and setting them into place.

A.  I was digging the hole for the septic tank for the new church building in Merlo. A little 10 year-old boy, Gabriel, was pulling up the buckets of dirt with a rope and dumping them… and then there was a neighbor man, too.  He had come over to stand by and complain to me that he was out of work. He couldn’t get anybody to hire him. “I am a truck driver,” he bragged. “I have a special license. I can drive a truck.”  I didn’t tell him that I, too, had been a truck driver for several years. I knew how to drive a truck… but I also knew how to dig a hole. 

P.  Lord Jesus, being a preacher is so much fun. It is full of variety. You get to sing, preach, lead worship, carry bricks for an expert brick layer, hang a door, and… oh yes… and dig a hole. Truth be told, I never got really good at hole digging. We preachers hardly ever have to stand around complaining that we have no work. Thank you, Jesus!  Amen.


Lord, please keep me out of trouble.

Sunday 10-9-2016  Martínez, Argentina
Today we read: Neh 1 – 2   Psalm 133 – 134    Luke 22

S.  Luke 22:47-51 But even as he said this, a mob approached, led by Judas, one of his twelve disciples. Judas walked over to Jesus and greeted him with a kiss. 48 But Jesus said, "Judas, how can you betray me, the Son of Man, with a kiss?"  When the other disciples saw what was about to happen, they exclaimed, "Lord, should we fight? We brought the swords!" And one of them slashed at the high priest's servant and cut off his right ear.  But Jesus said, "Don't resist anymore." And he touched the place where the man's ear had been and healed him. NLT

O.  Jesus has on his team a traitor and trigger happy fighter. Judas sells his Jesus for 30 pieces of silver and Peter doesn’t wait for Jesus to give the order to fight. He jumps into action, but Malco saw the sword coming intending to take off his head. He ducked and only lost his right ear… which went flying through the air. I can imagine Jesus picking up the bloody ear, dusts it off and pasting it perfectly where it belonged… thinking, “Leave it to Peter! Good thing he missed his target. We might have had a murder charge against us.”

A.  I am far too much like Simon Peter. My mouth, hands and feet all jump into action before my brain has had a chance to think. I have a friend that is just the opposite from me. He studies his every sentence before it comes out and makes no steps without considering the whole process. I don’t want to have to have Jesus picking up sliced ears after me… cleaning up my messes to keep me out of jail.

P.  So here is my prayer today, Lord. Please keep me out of trouble. This has been a delightful week. I am convinced that You have touched many lives.  It is now after 2 AM and I just got in from a great altar service.  This week somehow I have 10 speaking engagements within the next 7 days.  I pray that You will use me to bless children, youth and adults in the morning meetings, night meetings and the school chapels like You did last night. Thank You for these wonderful privileges to share Your message of love.  Amen.


Lord, You bring me down a notch or two.

Saturday 10-8-2016  Martínez, Argentina
Today we read: Ezra 9 - 10    Psalm 131    Luke 21

S.  Ps 131 LORD, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I don't concern myself with matters too great or awesome for me. But I have stilled and quieted myself, just as a small child is quiet with its mother. Yes, like a small child is my soul within me. O Israel, put your hope in the LORD — now and always. NLT

O. Ps 131 “Look, Lord! I am humbling my heart and correcting my haughty way of looking down at others. I admit that there are things too great, too deep and too awesome for my tiny, finite mind to comprehend and explain. So I am calming my puzzled mind, instructing it to be satisfied with not knowing everything… just like a little child on his mother’s knee. Yes, Lord, like a little child trusting entirely in his or her mother, may my soul put its trust and hope in You… now and always.” NUHV*

A.  What is an atheist? It is a person that refuses to accept the simplistic, childlike explanations of God’s Word. Since he cannot understand his own existence on this planet and the deep, hidden, spiritual mysteries that surround these events, he concludes that the things his mind cannot explain do not exist at all. He thus acclaims himself as his own god… much smarter than those childlike men and women that trust God’s Holy revealed Word. 

P.  Jesus, You bring me down a notch or two. You show me that Your Word, simplistic as it is, is higher and deeper than my limited comprehension.  You lift a little child high in the air as You teach Your Holy truths to the crowd, “If you are not willing to receive God as Your King and Master, like this little child, you will never see the kingdom of God.” Mark 10:15 NUHV* Today, Lord, I am that little child… Please keep me there.  Amen.

*NUHV New Unauthorized Hiatt Version

Friday, October 7, 2016

Safe in the arms of Jesus

Friday 10-7-2016  Martinez, Argentina
Today we read: Ezra 7 - 8    Luke 20

S.  Ezra 7:8-10 Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in August of that year.  He had left Babylon on April 8 and came to Jerusalem on August 4, for the gracious hand of his God was on him. This was because Ezra had determined to study and obey the law of the LORD and to teach those laws and regulations to the people of Israel. NLT
Vs 22-23 I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to accompany us and protect us from enemies along the way. After all, we had told the king, "Our God protects all those who worship him, but his fierce anger rages against those who abandon him." So we fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us, and he heard our prayer. NLT

O. Here they go, about 1,400 men, plus many animals and carts, to carry 24 tons of silver, plus 7,500 pounds of silver utensils, 7,500 pounds of gold, 2,720 golden bowls worth many fortunes plus much more.  They will travel through territory with potential enemy armies and bandits for the next 4 months, camping at night as they carry these tempting treasures to Jerusalem.  They will go unarmed, no soldiers, just a prayer for safety… since Ezra was embarrassed to ask the king for soldiers after he had told him that the God of heaven would protect them.  Armies have killed for less. But they arrive safely.

A.  Most of our missionaries here in Argentina have been accosted by armed men at least once, including Frances and I and on another occasion our teenage son, Tim. As foreigners we are marked as targets by bandits. Earlier this year a robber attempted to break into my car while I was ministering in a church in Patagonia. He destroyed the driver’s side lock, but failed to get in… and all my items inside were safe. Many times I have begun to get sleepy as I drive long distances and I have parked in some lonely spot and laid across the seats to sleep for 30 minutes. Never have I felt fear. I serve the same God as Brother Ezra.

P.  Lord, You are watching over me. I need not fear. Besides You taught me not to fear those that can destroy our bodies, but to fear You, who controls our eternal state.  Some have a sign on their car “This vehicle is under surveillance via satellite.” I assume this means if it is stolen, it can be traced. Well, You have Your eye on me. You don’t promise me a bed of roses, but I can feel confident, protected in Your arms.  Amen.

Safe in the Arms of Jesus
Frances Crosby 1868

1.    Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe on His gentle breast;
There by His love o’ershaded,
Sweetly my soul shall rest.
Hark! ’tis the voice of angels
Borne in a song to me,
Over the fields of glory,
Over the jasper sea.
o   Refrain:
Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe on His gentle breast;
There by His love o’ershaded,
Sweetly my soul shall rest.
2.    Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe from corroding care,
Safe from the world’s temptations;
Sin cannot harm me there.
Free from the blight of sorrow,
Free from my doubts and fears;
Only a few more trials,
Only a few more tears!
3.     Jesus, my heart’s dear Refuge,
Jesus has died for me;
Firm on the Rock of Ages
Ever my trust shall be.
Here let me wait with patience,
Wait till the night is o’er;
Wait till I see the morning
Break on the golden shore.

He fell victim to his pride.

Wednesday 10-5-2016  Martinez, Argentina
Today we read: Esther 3 - 5    Luke 18

S. Est 6:4-9 "Who is that in the outer court?" the king inquired. Now, as it happened, Haman had just arrived in the outer court of the palace to ask the king to hang Mordecai from the gallows he had prepared. So the attendants replied to the king, "Haman is out there." "Bring him in," the king ordered.  So Haman came in, and the king said, "What should I do to honor a man who truly pleases me?"
Haman thought to himself, "Whom would the king wish to honor more than me?" So he replied, "If the king wishes to honor someone, he should bring out one of the king's own royal robes, as well as the king's own horse with a royal emblem on its head. Instruct one of the king's most noble princes to dress the man in the king's robe and to lead him through the city square on the king's own horse. Have the prince shout as they go, 'This is what happens to those the king wishes to honor!' "  NLT

O. The story of Esther is hard to put down once you start reading it. A captive slave girl is crowned Miss Universe. An evil man named Haman rises to second to the King himself. Haman is jarred because Mordecai, the Jew, won’t bow down to him, so he sets up a plan to kill every Jew, including women and children in all the 127 provinces. Esther risks her life to go before the king. Then things happen in rapid and perfectly timed order. Haman’s pride that engendered mass murder in his heart, sends him to die on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai.

A. Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. (Prov 16:18) I must not let my guard down. Pride is a subtle enemy that can creep up on me. Every one of us is in danger whenever people start to “worship” us. I believe that as ministers, who stand in the public eye, we are among the most vulnerable. In second place perhaps our singers and musicians. I prefer applause to be reserved for Our King of kings and Lord of lords. The audience applauded King Herod (Acts 12) and God said, “That’s enough” and Herod died eaten by worms.

P.  Lord Jesus, I want only to please You. But in so doing I find myself in danger. Crowds, who are accustomed to applauding practically everything, show me their respect by honoring me with their applause. This can make me or break me. Help me, Lord Jesus, to turn this applause into enthusiastic worship directed only for You and Your Father in Heaven for only You are worthy. Today I bow low before You… and plead for You to keep my heart from this lurking, deadly danger. Amen.


The Heavenly Choir

Tuesday 10-4-2016  Martinez, Argentina
Today we read: Esther 1 - 2    Psalm 150    Luke 17

S. Ps 150:6 Let everything that lives sing praises to the LORD! Praise the LORD! NLT

O. Thus the final psalm 150 is sung by the faithful attenders in the house of the Lord. And for the final stanzas they invite every living creature to join in the song. Now the meadow lark joins the choir as they repeat the brief song. Then the tiny crickets click the rhythm as it is sung once more. Now the bass notes are bellowed out by fierce lions, the elephant trumpets and the whale’s high pitched tones carry the sopranos.  Every beast of the field adds their voice, the volume rises until the mountains are trembling and the trees clap their hands. Even the delicate flowers seem to dance displaying their silent beauty. All God’s creation stands before their Creator and honors Him each with their unique voice.
I used to direct several different choirs of dedicated youth and adults. Once they are trained, the choir leader may receive a sense of power as with the delicate movements of a hand he or she can draw out harmonious sound from each section in turn. So now I’ll join the choir standing before the Lord as a shining heavenly choir leader lifts praise from every instrument and every voice.

A. That day is coming for me soon. I will join the tenors. Frances will help carry the melody with her soft smooth voice. Of one thing I am sure: There will be music and singing in heaven!

P.  I thank You, Lord, that You have renewed my fragile voice once more to allow me to sing and preach and have my Felipe join in the praises.  I am amazed that only weeks ago I could not sing a clear note, yet the moment I stood to minister, lifted my accordion and pumped out the same song that I sang the day I was saved at only 5 years old… my voice came back clear again. When I join that heavenly choir, You will give me a new strong voice and I intend to use it to lift up praise to You. Amen.

To God be the Glory
By Andrae Crouch

How can I say thanks
for all the things you have done for me
Things so undeserved
Yet you gave to prove your love for me
And the voices of a million angels
Could not express my gratitude
All that I am and ever hope to be
I owe it all to Thee
To God be the glory
To God be the glory
To God be the glory
For the things He has done
With His blood, He has saved me
With His power, He has raised me.
To God be the glory
For the things he has done
Just let me live my life
Let it be pleasing, Lord to Thee
Should I gain any praise,
Let it go to Calvary.
With His blood, He has saved me
With His power, He has raised me.
To God be the glory
For the things he has done.