Wednesday, June 28, 2017

I plead for my fallen nation.

Wednesday 6-28-2017 Modesto, California

Today we read: Amos 1 – 3, Psalm 80 and 2 Tim 4

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

S. Ps 80:3, 7 and 19 Turn us again to yourself, O God. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved. NLT

O. Psalm 80 is a desperate prayer for God to turn their nation back to Himself. I noticed in the NLT that verses 3, 7, and 19 are identical (above). The NLT is prepared for easy reading and I enjoy it a lot. But whenever I am in doubt about minute details, I always return to the old King James Version, which often seems to be the closest possible word for word translation… and if still in doubt I go to the original Hebrew or Greek. Here I discovered that these verses were not identical. In fact, they are progressive in both the KJV and NIV. And the original Hebrew backs this up. Verse 3 uses only one word, Elohiym for God. Verse 7 uses Elohiym Tsaba (God of a mass of persons) (God of Hosts KJV) (God Almighty NIV). Verse 19 closes this psalm in crescendo with Yahweh Elohiym Tsaba (Lord God Almighty NIV).

The psalmist is appealing to the Almighty Creator God of Heavenly Hosts to intervene and call His people to come to their senses and return to Himself. It is one tiny voice appealing to his sovereign Creator, “God, please tip the balance of man’s free-will just a little… just enough to awaken his senses and call him back to You”.

A. This psalm reminds me of the powerful reach of a whispered prayer in some dark corner of this world. There is no answering machine with, “Your call is important to us, please leave a message and we’ll get back to you during our work hours.” There is no tiny, echoing delay due to a distant satellite. I have a Creator Who is listening, waiting, maybe even anxious for my call.

P. Oh God: Today I walked with Your Son, Jesus, and we had a delightful time of fellowship. We didn’t fix the nation or the world. We just walked and talked. Father, it is so good to know that I have a hot-line to the Top Brass anytime I need it. Your Son, Jesus, broke the sin barrier and left the door open for unworthy, forgiven sinners like me to enter the Holy of Holies. So along with the psalmist, this morning, I plead for my fallen nation. Amen.


Thursday, March 2, 2017

Who is the king of the mountain?**

Thursday 3-2-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Num 30 – 31 and Mark 9
S = Scripture,  O = Observation,  A = Application,  P = Prayer,  SOAP for the soul.

S. Mark 9:33-37 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the road?" But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all."  He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me." NIV

O. It was difficult to get the disciples alone with just Jesus. The Master has just clearly told them of His coming death and resurrection, but now they are arguing about which one of them should be their leader.  He calls them to Himself, sits down and says, “Boys, I noticed that are discussing leadership.” A little child now has now crowded in behind the twelve. Jesus beckons for him to come to Him. He feels no fear in approaching Jesus. Jesus first had him “stand among them”. He is not tall and strong like they are. He is just a little “nobody”… until Jesus lifts the little one and sits him on His knee. “Take a good look, boys, here is your model for leadership.” And one more thing, “Open your arms to a little guy, like this one, and you will have just opened your arms to Me. And if you open your arms to Me, you will have just opened your arms to God, the Father.”

A. So, how much time and effort, energy and money should I devote to little children, whose offerings only add up to one dollar on a good day? If I open my arms to show that little scamp some love and care, I have just opened my arms to welcome Jesus, into my embrace. Do I dare to risk popularity, fame and yes, money, to bring little children into a relationship with King Jesus? Maybe our Master’s eyes are focusing out behind that group of deacons that has gathered for instructions… Maybe He sees a little child that hasn’t a clue about what is going on. “Come here, little one. Sit on my knee for a minute. I want to make a leader out of you!”

P. Lord, we Americans are concerned about making good investments. Wall Street rises and falls. Our currency loses its buying power. And You are beckoning to a little child to lift up in Your tender arms. You are going to invest in a potential leader. Open my eyes Lord. Help me to see that little “nobody” that is looking on from the outside and make him or her to become one of Your very own. Amen.

**When we were kids we played “king of the mountain”. We found a little hill and we would try to beat all the others to the top. We were the ‘king of the mountain” until some bigger kid pushed us off our “throne”. Hmm. We were learning about leadership. Leaders get pushed off by challengers. Oh dear!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Who do you say am I?

Wednesday 3-1-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Num 28 – 29 and Mark 8
S = Scripture,  O = Observation,  A = Application,  P = Prayer,  SOAP for the soul.

S. Mark 8:27-30 As they were walking along, he asked them, "Who do people say I am?" "Well," they replied, "some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets." Then Jesus asked, "Who do you say I am?" Peter replied, "You are the Messiah." But Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. NLT

O. Jesus has walked throughout Galilee, Judea and even Samaria accompanied by his disciples for close to 3 years now. They have heard His messages, probed Him for answers about His parables and witnessed His miracles. Now He hands out the exam paper to His class. It has only two questions on the page. “Write below who do other people say that I am?  And: Who do you personally say that I am?” Everybody got in on the first question with multiple answers. But Peter turns in his exam paper immediately… while others are still thinking. He had already made up his mind, “Jesus is the Messiah, the long-awaited Christ, the Anointed One, the Son of the Living God.” (Matt 16)

A. My eternal salvation rests on how I answer the last question on that exam. Others may answer, “a great man”, “an excellent teacher”, “a prophetic voice”, “a godly man.” But the Apostle John writes: Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God. (1 John 5:1) NLT It is imperative that I get this answer correctly.

P. Lord Jesus, You descended from heaven to be born into a wicked, cruel world. You came to show us God the Father. Through Your Holy written Word my eyes have seen You in action. I have believed and witnessed personally your powerful miracle-working power. I have been taken to the scene of Your cross.  I have entered and looked around inside Your empty tomb. Now I must confidently declare to a dying world that You are their only hope, the Christ, the Son of the Living God! That declaration both saves me and offers salvation to others. Amen.


San Francisco Comunidad Cristiana

I enjoyed a great service last Sunday morning with my friends, Pastors Stan and Magdalena Lindvall at their delightful Spanish speaking Comunidad Cristiana Church in San Francisco. Stan is an MK (missionary kid to El Salvador) and we knew his parents who are long ago with the Lord.

We had the children come into the service just for the time with Perfume and Felipe. They obviously loved petting my skunk, Perfume. 

My voice was not in top shape, but Felipe did okay and the kids (and adult kids, too) were very responsive.

Felipe did his thing and everybody seemed delighted.

I keep my accordion in Argentina, since I hardly ever would use it in the USA.  But I mentioned to somebody at our Neighborhood Church and an elderly couple loaned me an ancient accordion that nobody had played for many years.  Inside the case is a plaque saying “Patented in 1931.” I was born on the last day of that same year.  It is a good brand “Hohner” and in remarkably good shape for its age (kind of like old me, ha ha). I took it home last week and tried to play it. I thought for a while that I would never get used to it, but behold… in a few hours I was getting the hang of it. My accordion has 96 bass buttons and this one is has only 80… which means that a whole row of buttons with the diminished chords are missing.  

I taught a chorus for the kids to sing with me and another to the adults to go with my message. I couldn’t believe how many times the fingers on my left hand went searching for one of those 16 missing buttons, but I doubt that anybody noticed, except me. 

I felt led of the Lord to preach to them a message directed mostly to Christians. Latins are much more fun than us stoic Anglos. They actually laugh when you are supposed to laugh and weep when it’s time to weep (Just like Brother Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 3:4) And that is what was happening, as many of them responded to kneel at the altar.  And later when some were rising from their knees, I donned the accordion again and we sang the song again that I had taught them.

After all had returned to their seats, Pastor Stan gave a clear call for the unsaved and several new visitors responded to receive Jesus, thank the Lord. I probably should have done that, but I was concerned about having preached until 1 PM… and I left it up to the pastor, who knows his people.

After the final “Amen” I noticed that people were purchasing my book and waiting in line for me to dedicate and sign it for them.  So I did that for the next 30 minutes or more.  They ended up buying all 29 of the Spanish books that I had taken and one man had to wait until next time.

Before driving home, their church cook provided us with an abundant salmon and salad dinner… delicious!

Thank you, Jesus. (I have one more service scheduled before leaving for Argentina… at a church called “The Tree” in Santa Rosa on Friday evening, March 3 at 6:30 PM.)


The Mystery of Balaam

Tuesday 2-28-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Num 24 – 27 and 1 Cor 13
S = Scripture,  O = Observation,  A = Application,  P = Prayer,  SOAP for the soul.

S. Num 24:9 Like a lion, Israel crouches and lies down; like a lioness, who dares to arouse her?  Blessed is everyone who blesses you, O Israel, and cursed is everyone who curses you."
Vs 17 I see him, but not in the present time. I perceive him, but far in the distant future. A star will rise from Jacob; a scepter will emerge from Israel.

O. As I study the life of this man, Balaam, I am perplexed. He is a heathen involved in divinations (apparently like the cults of Spiritism) and actually has contact with Jehovah God Who speaks to him. He initially resists the temptation to get rich by cursing the Israelites for Balak king of Moab. Later three times he goes out to curse Israel and each time God uses him to bless them with beautiful prophecy in poetry.  So why does he go down in history as an enemy of God’s people?

A. The secret is revealed in the words of Jesus through John to the church in Pergamum Rev 2:14 You tolerate some among you who are like Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to worship idols by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin. NLT  Balaam was a servant of Satan in disguise. His public message was true and beautiful, but in secret he taught King Balak how to destroy Israel’s effectiveness by sending sensual foreign women into the Israelite camp.  Soon many young men had sex with these women who then taught them to worship their heathen god, Baal. And since they had no free access to “Planned Parenthood”, they took their little newborn babies and sacrificed them to Molech (also spelled Moloch). I will never forget an artist’s picture of the god Molech that I saw when I was a little child. It was a hollow iron furnace shaped like a huge beast with arms stretched out to cradle a baby and once fried would slide into a hole in his belly. Apparently they would take their unwanted babies, the result of sex with these sensual women, and lay them in these red hot outstretched arms to hear them scream and die.
Dear friends, our wonderful Christian America has been tricked by Satan, who is promoting Balaam’s sex game among our children and teens… and mercilessly killing the resulting babies before they can be heard to scream… resulting in teens who sometimes contemplate suicide as they cannot escape from condemning themselves as murderers. In the case of Israel many thousands died of a plague.

P. Lord, today I am praying for America and for Argentina. Our once Christian United States of America has become leaders in sensual movies and the addictive cult of pornography that has now polluted the entire world. I pray for our youth, yes, our Christian youth, who cannot escape the deluge of sensual temptation, the religion of Baal, surrounding them. Why, Oh Lord? Why are millions of our babies being sacrificed into the arms of Molech, in an attempt to cover up secret sin?  Lord Jesus, I cry for mercy. I cry for grace!  I cry for your great salvation to push back this heathen religion of lust and sex… and reveal its resulting devastation. Amen.


Holy Disturbance

Monday 2-27-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Num 21 – 23 and Mark 6 - 7
S = Scripture,  O = Observation,  A = Application,  P = Prayer,  SOAP for the soul.

S. Mark 6:20 And Herod respected John, knowing that he was a good and holy man, so he kept him under his protection. Herod was disturbed whenever he talked with John, but even so, he liked to listen to him. NLT

O. The ministry of John the Baptist had affected many Israelites. His fame as a fearless, outspoken preacher was shaking the area. Some spies reported to King Herod Antipas that this preacher was using him as an illustration of a bold, immoral sinner, who had stolen his own brother’s wife. Now the king’s woman goes into a rage. So, one day John is out there alongside the Jordan river, preaching his message of repentance from sin and here comes a troop of soldiers on horseback pushing through the crowd. John is arrested and thrown in prison. But Herod liked to call up this man of God now and then to listen to his message… even though it “disturbed” him.

A. Many authorities were captured by the messages of Billy Graham, giving him opportunity to be heard by top officials.  Without doubt his message “disturbed” many of them and hopefully some responded by humbling themselves before Christ. Others, that may have enjoyed hearing him, were doubtless “disturbed” by Holy Spirit conviction, but chose to push his message to one side and continue their godless lives. 

P. Lord, I am reminded that I can shake the preacher’s hand and say, “Great sermon today, pastor!” But if I have not responded to the “disturbance” of Your Holy Spirit, calling me to fall humbly before You, seeking Your mercy and Your soul cleansing, saving power to change my life, I am still lost. I may have only inoculated my own spirit to make it easier for me to hear and walk away untouched the next time. Oh God! I pray for divine, holy “disturbance” that will leave me flat on my face before You, crying out for mercy and grace… and for changes deep in my soul that will affect my attitudes and actions. And one more thing, Lord. Please send Your “holy disturbance” to lost sinners whenever I preach. Amen.

Just as I am
By Charlotte Elliott
Just as I am, without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me
And that Thou bid'st me come to Thee
O Lamb of God, I come! I come
Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt
Fighting and fears within without
O Lamb of God, I come, I come
Just as I am, and waiting not
to rid my soul of one dark blot
to thee whose blood can cleanse each spot
O Lamb of God, I come, I come
Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind
Sight, riches, healing of the mind
Yea, all I need, in Thee to find
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!
Just as I am, Thou wilt receive
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve
Because Thy promise I believe
O Lamb of God, I come, I come

Sorry, Jesus, You cost too much. Good-bye!

Sunday 2-26-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Num 19 – 20, Psalm 28 and Mark 5
S = Scripture,  O = Observation,  A = Application,  P = Prayer,  SOAP for the soul.

S. Mark 5:16-17 Those who had seen what happened to the man and to the pigs told everyone about it, and the crowd began pleading with Jesus to go away and leave them alone. NLT

O. On the one hand we have a demon dominated area without Jesus. A screaming man out of human control, dominated by perhaps 6,000 demons (one legion). Everybody knows this guy. Nobody dares to go near him. And we have a nearby huge herd of 2,000 pigs. This is status quo. This is balance for this area. They are accustomed to live like this. Now Jesus’ little boat scrapes on the submerged gravel on the beach and the King of heaven steps onto the shore.  A few minutes later we have one sane, converted, man ready to return to his family and preach, testifying to Christ’s power to 10 cities and, oh yes, 2,000 stinking drowned pigs floating near the shore. Now the public leaders survey the scene and take a vote. Sorry Jesus, your ministry is too expensive for us in this area.  Please take your heavenly power and go. And Jesus doesn’t push the issue. The King of Glory sails away.

A. Jesus is not always welcomed. Everything had been under control… the devil’s control, and now we are introducing Jesus into the equation? Well, Jesus was just too expensive. It is true that Jesus can change the look of a community. Demons flee and sometimes leave behind some stinking dead pigs for us to clean up.

P. Well, Jesus, some of us think You are worth a lot more than 2,000 smoked hams. Please know that You are welcome to my neighborhood. I am grateful that You are more powerful than all the demons of hell. Maybe we can form a team of volunteers to bury the garbage after You sweep the devil’s mess into one stinking heap. Amen.


God’s Voice

Saturday 2-25-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Num 17 – 18, Psalm 29 and Mark 4
S = Scripture, O = Observation, A = Application, P = Prayer, SOAP for the soul.

S. Ps 29:3-4 The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD thunders over the mighty waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic. NIV

O. Seven times, in seven verses, “the voice of the Lord” is described. It is ‘over the mighty waters, powerful, majestic, breaks great cedars, makes the mountain skip like a calf, strikes like lightning, shakes the desert, makes the deer give birth, and strips the forests bare.’ The sound of God’s voice seems to be shaking things up. But the psalm closes with verse 11 The LORD gives strength to his people; The LORD blesses his people with peace. NIV

A. In Mark chapter 4 Jesus commands the wind to be silent and there is a sudden calm. The disciples are learning Who this Man is… Who sleeps through the storm. The elements just heard the “voice of the Lord!” Sometimes the “voice of the Lord” does not bless us by pulling us out of the danger zone. Instead, even as the earth shakes beneath our feet, the Lord blesses His people with peace.

P. Oh Lord God of the heavens above and the earth beneath, please give me that special kind of peace that calms my heart even while the earth below my feet is trembling. Amen.


Just in Case

Friday 2-24-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Num 14 – 15 and Mark 3
S = Scripture,  O = Observation,  A = Application,  P = Prayer,  SOAP for the soul.

S. Mark 3:7-9 Jesus and his disciples went out to the lake, followed by a huge crowd from all over Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, from east of the Jordan River, and even from as far away as Tyre and Sidon. The news about his miracles had spread far and wide, and vast numbers of people came to see him for themselves. Jesus instructed his disciples to bring around a boat and to have it ready in case he was crowded off the beach. NLT

O. Jesus, now followed by a huge crowd, took his disciples to the lake shore. There on the beach the sick and needy crowded him seeking a fresh start in life with new health. I can see it now, Jesus is being pushed around by the seething mass of people. He turns to Peter, “Go get your boat and bring it up to the shore here, just in case this mob crowds me off into the water.” Apparently, it didn’t happen until the next day. This time he got into the boat right at the start and used it as His platform… separated from the mob by water. 

A. “Just in case?” Didn’t Jesus know if it would be needed? Maybe He was teaching us, who do not know the future, to be ready “just in case.” I have been accused of always seeing the possible negatives, a man of small faith… since I always was preparing a ‘Plan B’ just in case ‘Plan A’ happened to fail: A generator ready if the city has a blackout, a battery powered amplifier on hand just in case the sound system failed, a fire extinguisher handy, a vehicle available just in case of emergency.  Most of the time my ‘escape route’ was not needed, but sometimes it saved the day.

P. Okay, Lord, I admit that my mind tends to go over the whole building project seeking out possible problems and preparing for each one, ‘just in case.’ Maybe it’s a lack of faith, but I call it good sense. Either way, I can’t help myself, so I’ll just take it as Your special gift to me and take the ridicule.  And when the lights suddenly all go out, may I just run over and humbly crank up the generator. And, although I am giggling inside, may I never say, “I told you so!” J Amen.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

My precious treasure is dwindling.

Thursday 2-23-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Num 12 – 13, Psalm 90 and Mark 2
S = Scripture,  O = Observation,  A = Application,  P = Prayer,  SOAP for the soul.

S. Ps 90:12 Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom. NLT

O. Other versions translate Ps 90:12 more literally: Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. NIV   These words form a brief prayer that can apply to all people of any nation.

A. But how can I number my days? I have no assurance of tomorrow. At any moment I could leave behind this tiny video clip of eternity called “time” and go where “time” will no longer be counted. I think about it more now that I have passed the 85 year mark. Since I really can’t “count” my days, at least I can value my days, and make every day “count.”

P. Heavenly Father: As I was reading through this psalm, this short prayer seemed to leap out at me. I can flitter away 16 hours far too easily. What I intend to do here on earth, I must do now… for I have no promise of tomorrow down here. When I fix my eyes on the horizon I can almost see the end of my “time.” My “step into eternity” draws closer with every sunset.  For me and for all of us, our “time” is our most precious commodity. God, please help me to use it well today.  Amen.


Lord, but they are not part of our church!

Wednesday 2-22-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Num 10 – 11, Psalm 27 and Mark 1
S = Scripture,  O = Observation,  A = Application,  P = Prayer,  SOAP for the soul.

S. Num 11:27-30 A young man ran and reported to Moses, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp!" Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses' personal assistant since his youth, protested, "Moses, my master, make them stop!" But Moses replied, "Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the LORD's people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his Spirit upon them all!" Then Moses returned to the camp with the leaders of Israel. NLT

O. Moses had called together 70 leaders to help him carry the load of the complaining Israelites. And the Lord took some if the Spirit of Moses and placed it upon these 70 and they began to prophecy.  But two men that had not been in that meeting were found prophesying. Someone reported them to Moses. Even Joshua thought that they should be hushed, but Moses said, “Wonderful! I wish everyone could worship and glorify God this way!”

A. I must recognize that my group of believers is not the only people that God can use. He might even use some teenager to bring many to Christ. God does not require a doctoral degree to be a blessing to others. A degree may prepare a chosen servant to be a great blessing, but God is not limited to our little circle. Can I rejoice when God uses greatly someone outside my denomination? I certainly can and I must! It seems that the Lord chooses the weakest for a great conquest.

P. Lord God: Sometimes we want to place you in a neat little box with our name attached, but You are big enough to use anyone You choose. Your disciples tried to silence a man who was casting out demons in Your name, And You said, “Leave him alone… He is certainly not our enemy.” Jealousy can become a vicious enemy within Your servants. Help me to recognize it immediately if it rises in my own heart. And if I see it in my brother, may I be able to speak lovingly to him or her to help them silence those dangerous, bitter thoughts. You can even use a small child. Amen.


Who, among us, belongs to God?

Tuesday 2-21-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Num 8 – 9 and Acts 28
S = Scripture,  O = Observation,  A = Application,  P = Prayer,  SOAP for the soul.

S. Num 8:14 In this way, you will set the Levites apart from the rest of the people of Israel, and the Levites will belong to me. NLT

O. Moses and Aaron were brothers of the tribe of Levi. Jewish Priests were only selected from the tribe of Levi and those Levites that were not chosen to be priests were all involved in things related to the worship of God and the maintenance of the tabernacle.  However, this did not exclude the other eleven tribes from worship. David was of the tribe of Judah, and he wrote many of the psalms and sang them to God, accompanied by the music of his harp. We know his fingers worked wonders on that harp, since King Saul hired him to give him a background of sweet melodies to calm his troubled soul. We are not informed as to the tribal background of the apostles chosen by our Lord to carry His message throughout the world. It is most likely that Matthew (Levi) was a Levite. We know that Paul was from the tribe of Benjamin. Obviously, Jesus was not choosing one from each tribe, since there were two sets of brothers among the original twelve.

A. So today who are the ones that “belong to God”? Jesus showed us a new day when many would be chosen for specific tasks related to His Church, and that any and all of His followers really belong to Him. The Apostle Paul admonishes us to flee sexual impurity saying, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” 1 Cor 6:19-20 NIV. I am not my own, to do whatever I please. I have been bought with a price… and what a price! … the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, the Son of God on that cruel cross. I belong to God from the top of my head to the sole of my feet.**

P. Lord Jesus: May I never forget the price You paid to redeem me from the depths of sin! If the Levites were a chosen people in the days of Moses, today we have each been chosen to belong to You. You care about me. You watch how things are going for me. Like a son born into Your family, Praise God! I belong to You! Amen.

1 Peter 2:9-10 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. NIV

Yesterday, Tuesday, Feb 21, I met with our District World Missions Team.  This was only my second WMT meeting with our new District Superintendent, Bret Allen. During our discussion it was mentioned that Missionaries Mike and Judy Santiago had taken on a new role.  They are picking up where I left off about 8 years ago helping our district churches to get excited and up-to-speed in their partnership with Assemblies of God World Missions.

You gotta meet this couple! They served as Assemblies of God World Missionaries for 50 years… first in Ecuador, South America; then in Panama and Venezuela. Later they accepted the challenge to Equatorial Guinea in Africa, then to Swaziland and finally in Zambia, Africa.  They planted many churches, taught Bible Schools, founded “Charisma Leadership Seminars” and much more.  Mike grew up in New York, when as a kid he skated on the ice for fun.  California doesn’t offer much ice where they live in Roseville, so he has taken up roller blading on the street at a young 80 years old. J Wave at him if you see him zoom by. And you can talk to him in Spanish if you like… Both are bilingual.

Now that they are officially retired from AGWM, they have volunteered to step into “Missions Awareness” for the District. So when I heard this, I called them and told them that I still have some materials in my garage left over from my time with national MAT.  So last night I packed my car with some boxes and this morning drove to Roseville (Mission Villa) and left all that I had in their hands.  Among the things I gave them are many excellent materials prepared by Missionary Paul Brannan who now serves the Kentucky District as Missions Leader.  Paul is a veritable “machine” for cranking out new materials to promote missions, including many excellent Power Point inspirational and teaching aides. I gave Mike everything I had stored in my garage… and even though I stepped out of that role years ago, I kind of felt like I was “passing the baton” to this capable, younger couple.

Mike and Judy Santiago can be reached at (916) 878-1577 cell or 916) 297-7857 home.  They’ll come and inspire your church to new heights in World Missions.  They receive no salary for what they are doing, so if you want to help with their monthly support or just an offering, they have an account with the Northern California-Nevada District office.

So, Mike and Judy, “Go for it!”  You are no strangers to our wonderful district and we always can use a boost in our world missions vision!


Monday, February 20, 2017

In the middle of the storm, can I say, “I believe God?”

Monday 2-20-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Num 7, Psalm 23 and Acts 27
S = Scripture,  O = Observation,  A = Application,  P = Prayer,  SOAP for the soul.

S. Acts 27:22-26 But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, and he said, 'Don't be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What's more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.' So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said. But we will be shipwrecked on an island." NLT

O. The first time Paul spoke, nobody wanted to take him seriously. He was a nobody, just another prisoner in chains. But now after his predictions came true, the prisoner, Paul, basically took control of the ship. Everything was out of control. All hope to survive was lost. So now Paul gets all 275 men aboard together and shouts over the storm, “Take courage, every one of you! I had a visitor from my God last night and he told me that even though the ship will go down, all of us are going to be saved alive!” Then he adds, “So hang in there, boys! Because I believe God!” Without doubt the atmosphere aboard ship changed with that “word” of assurance from God.

A. When the storm rages around me and all hope is lost, can I believe God? Do I need an angelic visit? Isn’t it enough that Jesus gave me His Word assuring me that He would never leave my side?

P.  Lord, I admit it. At stormy times like that, I need a heavenly visitor. I know that You are still there, but I need to hear a personal “Word” rising over the sound of the howling wind. Your special “Word” can change chaos into stability, for now there is hope… for I have chosen to say, along with Brother Paul, “I believe God!” Amen.


That tender moment is forever lost.

Sunday 2-19-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Num 5 – 6, Psalm 22 and Acts 26
S = Scripture,  O = Observation,  A = Application,  P = Prayer,  SOAP for the soul.

S. Acts 26:17-20 Yes, I am going to send you to the Gentiles,  to open their eyes so they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God's people, who are set apart by faith in me.'  "And so, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to that vision from heaven. I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must turn from their sins and turn to God… NLT

O. Dr. Luke, the author of the book of Acts, must have been present in this solemn occasion, since he transcribes very clearly Paul’s message that day. It was a sermon directed toward these high-class Gentiles and especially to King Agrippa.  Paul discloses that he knows King Agrippa is, not only well acquainted with the prophecies of the Jewish scriptures, but he even believes they are true.  And now, with great passion, he gives this king a chance to meet the King of Kings… the Messiah that was killed and rose again.  The room is charged with Holy Spirit conviction when Governor Festus suddenly interrupts, yelling, “Paul, you are crazy!” It is so typical of the devil that wants to disturb an urgent “altar call” of a loving God for sinners to run to fall at the feet of the resurrected Savior.  

A. It is similar to many occasions while preaching to the lost. The preacher has poured out his or her heart with a passion. The message is heard. The Holy Spirit of God is touching the hearts of some who are balancing in the tender moment of decision… when suddenly someone sets off a volley of fireworks just outside the open windows or a little baby screams and will not be silenced… and an excuse is given for everyone to escape and leave the room without the miracle that Jesus had for them.

P. Oh Lord, I pray for those that “almost become Christians”. They were so close. They felt the tug of Your Holy Spirit, but the enemy of their souls distracted them and gave them the easy option to flee from the scene. Oh God! Please chase them down. Please let Your Word and Your Holy Spirit conviction follow them and trouble them until they crumble at Your feet in surrender. Then they will find a new life walking with You from now into eternity. Amen.


You are God’s Chosen Instrument

Saturday 2-18-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Num 3 – 4 and Acts 25
S = Scripture,  O = Observation,  A = Application,  P = Prayer,  SOAP for the soul.

S. Acts 25:22-23 "I'd like to hear the man myself," Agrippa said. And Festus replied, "You shall — tomorrow!" So the next day Agrippa and Bernice arrived at the auditorium with great pomp, accompanied by military officers and prominent men of the city. Festus ordered that Paul be brought in. NLT

O. Governor Festus has succeeded Felix and immediately the Jewish leaders hound him about Paul, still wanting him killed after two years in Felix’s prison. Festus asks Paul if he is willing to go for a hearing to Jerusalem as the Jewish leaders insist. Paul refuses. He knows that they will be lying in wait to murder him. Since he sees that he can get no justice from this lower court, he appeals to the Roman Emperor Caesar, himself.  King Agrippa comes to town to welcome Festus and wants to hear Paul’s case personally.
Here they come, King Herod Agrippa II and the new Governor Festus with “great pomp” along with a huge entourage of all the elite… coming to hear the words of a prisoner named Paul. The word for “pomp” here in Greek is “fantasias”. These are the cream of society who live in a fantasy world. But they are voluntarily coming to hear Paul preach about Jesus Christ. Go for it, Brother Paul!

A. Does God care about people in high places? Is He concerned with their lost souls? A humble Christian named Ananias of Damascus had heard the voice of the Lord the day of Paul’s conversion, “For Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel.  And I will show him how much he must suffer for me." (Acts 9:15-16) NLT Yes, God cares about those who live in the “fantasy world” and later even took Paul to preach to the emperor himself… the king of the entire known world at that time.  Should I tremble when God gives me a chance to share His message of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection, His mercy and love… when He places me before the “fantasy” affluent?

P. Dear Father, Who sits high above all people of high rank, give me a heart to see the elite in their fantasy world as lost. Yes. they can be as lost as that drunkard lying there in the gutter. Their fantasy world will crumble to dust very soon as they approach their last days on earth. May I never forget that I, too, am Your “chosen instrument”… chosen to boldly proclaim Your message to any and all, when given a chance.  Amen.


Governor Felix was a wimp.

Friday 2-17-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Num 1 – 2 and Acts 24
S = Scripture,  O = Observation,  A = Application,  P = Prayer,  SOAP for the soul.

S. Acts 24:22-25 Felix, who was quite familiar with the Way, adjourned the hearing and said, "Wait until Lysias, the garrison commander, arrives. Then I will decide the case." He ordered an officer to keep Paul in custody but to give him some freedom and allow his friends to visit him and take care of his needs. A few days later Felix came with his wife, Drusilla, who was Jewish. Sending for Paul, they listened as he told them about faith in Christ Jesus. As he reasoned with them about righteousness and self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was terrified. "Go away for now," he replied. "When it is more convenient, I'll call for you again." NLT

O. Governor Felix was a “put it off till another day” kind of leader.  Did he ever call for the garrison commander, Lysias? Apparently not. He was just biding his time until he could pass the decision concerning Paul to his successor… two years later. Felix was a “wimp.” He called for Paul, but not to free him. He was seeking a bribe. And he wanted his Jewish wife, Drusilla to hear this remarkable man. But things got hot as Paul struck close to his sin with a call to right judgment, self-control and the coming day, when he (Felix) would be judged. He stopped Paul’s sermon at the altar call with, “When it is more convenient, I’ll call for you again.”

A. I’ve called myself a “wimp”, too, for I am slow to make important decisions. When the conversation is hot, with emotions running high, I have called for time to think it over alone. I need time alone with the Lord at my side. Even so, sometimes I make errors and the Lord has had to come to my rescue… which, by the way, He always does.

P. Dear Lord, where would I be without You? Certainly, I would have made wrong decisions that would have destroyed my usefulness and happiness. I am again reminded that without You, I can do nothing right. As I return to Argentina in a few weeks there will be many decisions to make. I always feel like a little boy trying to do a man’s job. I pray for Your divine wisdom. I depend upon You. And help me not to put off for tomorrow what I should do today. Amen.


Officer Alexander is puzzled

Thursday 2-16-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Lev 26 – 27 and Acts 23
S = Scripture,  O = Observation,  A = Application,  P = Prayer,  SOAP for the soul.

S. Acts 23:10-11 Finally, the commander, fearing they would tear him apart, ordered his soldiers to take him away from them and bring him back to the fortress. That night the Lord appeared to Paul and said, "Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have told the people about me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Good News in Rome." NLT

O. My name is Alexander. I am a Roman military commander. I have been made responsible to take Paul to a Jewish religious court. I do not understand the Aramaic language and much less Jewish religious traditions. The court room is crowded and noisy. Suddenly there is silence as the Jewish High Priest takes his seat as judge. Paul is standing with hands chained behind his back. He is finally allowed to speak. He barely gets out a single sentence and I hear the “judge” bark out a command and the men standing nearest Paul smash him with a blow to the mouth. I find this amusing. But within two minutes the screaming begins. Some who are dressed in the obvious habit of the Pharisees now seem to be defending Paul. Others religious men are yelling something. Some grab Paul from one side are trying to pull him from the mob that is wanting to kill him. They are going to pull him apart. I am forced to intervene. I order my soldiers to drag him out of their reach and back to the fortress. The whole thing only lasted five minutes. I muse to myself, “These Jews make no sense.”  Paul is a little beat up, but cheerful as he is ushered into his prison cell.
The next morning I casually pass by his cell. He greets me, “Good morning, Officer Alexander, I hear it’s a beautiful day out there.” “What’s up with this guy? He’s smiling like he knows something!”

A. Paul has just heard fresh news from a higher power than Caesar. Yeah! In God’s timing, he will be given the privilege of preaching in Rome. He knows something Officer Alexander doesn’t know. I find that my spirit picks up as I am looking forward to something good, like another opportunity to preach. This coming Sunday it will be with the children of Modesto Neighborhood church. That fills me with joy. Then the following week I am scheduled to preach in an exciting Spanish speaking church, in San Francisco. That puts a smile on my face.

P. Lord Jesus, I find great joy as I look forward to coming ministry opportunities. Just the anticipation brings happiness. In a few weeks I will be back in Argentina with unlimited ministry possibilities. Help me to carry your joy and blessing wherever You send me. You do not send me alone. You have promised to go with me even to the ends of the earth. Amen.


The land below my feet is Yours, Lord!

Wednesday 2-15-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Lev 25, Psalm 25 - 26 and Acts 22
S = Scripture,  O = Observation,  A = Application,  P = Prayer,  SOAP for the soul.

S. Lev 25:23 And remember, the land must never be sold on a permanent basis because it really belongs to me. You are only foreigners and tenants living with me. NLT

O. At God’s command, the Israelites had taken over a land that had been occupied by a people that had polluted the land with horrible, sinful practices, including sacrificing many of their babies to the god of Molech.  God had Joshua divide the land into sections for each of the tribes of Israel. They would live on the land and cultivate it. But now as the Lord presents the concept of the 50th year, the year of jubilee, and he adds this important revelation. “Your land is not really yours. It belongs to me!”

A. My grandfather William Frank Hiatt was granted a section of land by the government as a homestead in the 1880s.  But there were stipulations.  A home and a farm had to be established on the land within a certain time frame. I often have thought, “Who are we to say who “owns” a piece of land?” Was it taken by force from a former resident? I have the comfort to know that the area where my grandfather homesteaded had apparently never been “home” to anyone. It was a thick forest of trees and wild brush that required blood and sweat, axes and dynamite to clear an area for a homestead. He and his eleven sons and three daughters worked hard to make it into a home.  Maybe, as a Christian family, they had read this scripture and recognized that the land was really not theirs, but belonged to God, it’s Creator.

P. Lord, what might happen to our country if we recognized that You are really the owner of our possessions … not only the land beneath our feet, but of all the trinkets that we call “ours”?  Start with me, Lord. This house is not my own, this computer is not mine, my car is not really mine. You have just allowed me to live here like a foreigner, a tenant and a caretaker of Your property.  What a responsibility I have! Please help me to remember Who the real Owner is. I am only Your steward. Amen.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

We were invited to glean after the harvest.

Tuesday 2-14-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Lev 23 – 24, Psalm 24 and Acts 21
S = Scripture  O = Observation  A = Application  P = Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S. Lev 23:22 "When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. Leave it for the poor and the foreigners living among you. I, the LORD, am your God." NLT

O. Mixed in among many detailed ceremonial laws, we find that God shows his concern for the poor, the widows and the strangers. They were instructed not to glean** the remnants of their harvests, but to leave the edges and corners of the field and all that had been missed in the harvest for the needy.
This concept is displayed vividly in the book of Ruth who was both a stranger and a widow.
When I was a teenager, although we never knew it, we were among the poor. Oregon is berry country. Each summer we worked all day in the heat, harvesting black berries, strawberries, raspberries, loganberries and boysenberries. One of the farms where I worked belonged to David Tillstrom, known to be a devote Christian. He told us that after we finished the harvest, if we wished we could come back later and “glean” the remaining berries. I brought my father and sisters and carried home enough boysenberries to can them and enjoy them all the following winter.

A. Some very wealthy people carefully count their pennies and find it hard to release their leftovers for the needy.  God reminds us at least four times with these instructions for the farmer… and applicable to all of us: When He blesses us, we should be quick to share our excess with the needy.

P. Lord, You have been so generous with me. Give me a generous heart, like David Tillstrom, ready to share my possessions to bless the needy.  Amen.

**Historically the word “glean” means to gather the leftover grain or other produce after a harvest.

** When thou gatherest the grapes of thy vineyard, thou shalt not glean it afterward: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow. Deut 24:21 KJV

Paul preached all night. What can I learn from that?

Monday 2-13-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Lev 20 – 22 and Acts 20
S = Scripture  O = Observation  A = Application  P = Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S. Acts 20:7-12 On the first day of the week, we gathered to observe the Lord's Supper. Paul was preaching; and since he was leaving the next day, he talked until midnight. The upstairs room where we met was lighted with many flickering lamps. As Paul spoke on and on, a young man named Eutychus, sitting on the windowsill, became very drowsy. Finally, he sank into a deep sleep and fell three stories to his death below. Paul went down, bent over him, and took him into his arms. "Don't worry," he said, "he's alive!" Then they all went back upstairs and ate the Lord's Supper together. And Paul continued talking to them until dawn; then he left. Meanwhile, the young man was taken home unhurt, and everyone was greatly relieved. NLT

O. Brother Paul was feeling the importance of his final message to his beloved friends in Troas. It was Sunday night and they had gathered together all the Christians into a crowded room. Lots of small lamps had been lit as Paul preached into the night. I am guessing that Eutychus was a young teenager, since most adults wouldn’t have chosen to sit in a window sill with a three story drop to the pavement below. But Paul preached on and on.

A. Who among us can stay wide awake when the preacher goes on and on? I wonder how many more were asleep in the dark shadows.  Suddenly there is a loud thump and Paul loses his audience right in the middle of a sentence. Everybody runs down three flights of stairs. Paul was now right behind them. He finds everybody standing around the body of this boy who is not breathing. But Paul is a man of action. He literally throws himself** on the body of Eutychus… who now takes a deep breath and begins to breathe again.  So, they all go back upstairs and Paul keeps on preaching until daybreak. Will he never learn? What can a preacher like me take away from this story? Well, it is always embarrassing when your whole audience suddenly leaves in the middle of your sermon… and worse still when they leave one at a time… until all the seats are empty except for one sleepy guy left nodding on the back row. It just might be time for the final benediction.

P. Lord, many times when I am the visiting speaker, the pastor has told me, “Don’t worry, my congregation is used to long sermons. Just feel free to preach.” But, since they have already sung for a full hour, I know heads will soon be nodding. I just start the introduction when a sister in the back picks up her purse and sneaks out. Help me, Lord, to always be considerate of my audience, since some have to rise early for their work.  Lord Jesus, please remind me of Eutychus when I need it. Amen.

** The original Greek clearly says, “Paul fell on the boy and embraced him.”

The devil made an ugly scene and Jesus’ name was greatly honored.

Sunday 2-12-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Lev 18 – 19 and Acts 19
S = Scripture  O = Observation  A = Application  P = Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S. Acts 19:14-17 Seven sons of Sceva, a leading priest, were doing this. But when they tried it on a man possessed by an evil spirit, the spirit replied, "I know Jesus, and I know Paul. But who are you?" And he leaped on them and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and badly injured. The story of what happened spread quickly all through Ephesus, to Jews and Greeks alike. A solemn fear descended on the city, and the name of the Lord Jesus was greatly honored. NLT

O. The word was getting around. Well-known Jewish priests, excursionists, the Seven Sons of Sceva” were traveling in this area casting out demons. Apparently, they were not true believers in Christ as their Messiah. But they had heard from reliable sources that believers in Jesus saw powerful results by using the words, “Come out! In Jesus name!” Probably their normal incantations were not working on this demon possessed man. So, they decided to try the power of “Jesus name.”

A. The final result was that the name of the Lord Jesus was greatly honored. One of the best way to convince a skeptic, an agnostic or an atheist is for him or her to witness the power of the devil in action as he fights back trying to resist the power in the name of Jesus. When they see their friend suddenly tearing at their clothing, falling and writhing, screaming in terror as the demon fights back… even an atheist suddenly becomes aware of a dark, invisible spiritual dimension that responds violently to the name above every name, the name of Jesus. The great successes of Carlos Annacondia’s crusades is partly due to the fact that this brother uses the power of Jesus’ name to force the demon powers of hell to reveal themselves in a public arena.

P. Lord Jesus, I do not like to see the devil in action for it is often ugly. But if You allow such a violent scene to convince a skeptic… and if that skeptic surrenders to You, I guess it is worth the mess. I am so glad that I have the wonderful power of Your name on my side of the equation. Nothing to fear… for Your perfect love casts out all fear.  Amen.


God says, “Many people here in this city belong to me!”

Saturday 2-11-17, Modesto, California
Today we read Lev 15 – 17 and Acts 18
S = Scripture  O = Observation  A = Application  P = Prayer  SOAP for the soul.

S. Acts 18:9-11 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, "Don't be afraid! Speak out! Don't be silent!  For I am with you, and no one will harm you because many people here in this city belong to me."  So Paul stayed there for the next year and a half, teaching the word of God. NLT

O. What was Paul’s goal as he traveled from city to city? I think he was hoping to leave in each city a body of believers forming an infant church. He apparently left Athens with only a handful of believers with no mention of a church being established. Now in Corinth and faced with heavy opposition from the Jews, the Lord speaks to him in a night vision to enlarge his expectations and encourage him to stick around for a while. So, he stayed a year and a half.

A. There is certainly something to the principle:According to your vision will be your results.” I entered into the La Boca ghetto with very limited anticipation.  After seven months of nightly meetings, God had to bring Pastor Claude Qualls all the way from West Virginia to speak the “Jesus vision” into my soul. I was literally changed. It was as though God had spoken. I did not have any more money or a larger congregation. I was still crowded in a 12’ x 12’ room, but God had enlarged my vision. Joy filled my heart. By faith I saw where God was taking us. And in His time, God gave us a great church. 9 years later I was driving around another area of the great city of Buenos Aires. By my side was a young enthusiastic convert, Osvaldo Carnival, freshly graduated from Bible School. He poured out to me his God-given vision of thousands of converts. I didn’t want to dampen his vision, but it sounded impossible to me. I was still learning that God is big enough to fulfill the gigantic vision He gives us… and often He even far exceeds the limits of that vision.

P. Oh Lord, I am still slowly learning that You can to fulfill any vision You give me. Keep me tuned in to Your voice. It seems I hear You saying You are not through with me yet. Just keep me truckin’ and on track. Don’t let me run ahead or lag behind. My joy is to follow You to new visionary heights just ahead. Amen.