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Fire: Keeping the Flame Ablaze

During this summer, I have spent some time clearing out a worship spot at my house in the back of our woods. I must say, I really enjoyed doing it. I wanted a spot that I could go and spend time with God in solitude. I gathered old down trees to use for seating, found various pieces of old furniture to place back there, and Tiki Torches to help keep away bugs. In the middle I built a good-sized fire pit for bonfires. The other evening I went out to that spot to spend some time with God. My brother was with me and we were trying to light the fire. The pit had quite a bit of wood in it so if we ever got it lit, it would be a very big and nice fire. The problem was we couldn’t get the fire lit.  Granted the top pieces were a little wet, but the rest of the pile was dry, so we didn’t think it would be much of a problem. We had pieces of cardboard to help start the fire, but it didn’t work. We lit some of the dry leaves in the midst of the sticks, but it didn’t work either. We even found some straw to light to help with the process, but all it did was burn. It didn’t stay lit and the fire died quickly. So finally after much frustration, we got the gasoline. Now, I realize this is not the smartest choice nor safest, but I wanted a fire! Luckily nothing bad happened! So we light a few more pieces of cardboard and paper just enough to keep it a flame for a few minutes. Then we doused the places we didn’t have lit with some gasoline so with the fire caught it, it would light up. The finally we applied the gasoline on the flames that were going and instantly, the fire went ablaze. We experienced the thrill of getting our fire lit and the fire was glorious…for about ten minutes. But soon, that gasoline had burnt away, the wood had never really caught a flame, and the fire died out again quickly. Now I realize that there are better ways to light a fire, and if I did some other things I could have probably got that fire going. However, I’m glad I tried to light the fire the way I did because God used it to teach me something.

When the fire began to die out again, I was getting kind of irritated. Then I felt God speak to my heart saying, “I need people who will tend and stir the fire, not just light it.” I immediately knew what God was saying to me. In order to keep a fire going, you have to constantly add fire to the pile, you have to stir the fire to keep the fire going, and you have to watch it. Gasoline is a nice help, but it is only a temporary fix. It only lasts for a moment. It looks glorious and the flames are huge, but they don’t have much life. God doesn’t need followers who will be like the gasoline. Who will become very passionate and devoted to God one day, and have a devotion to Him that dies at the end of the week. He wants followers who will fan the flames. Who will keep the fire going, even if that means taking longer steps in doing so. Followers who will spend the extra time in prayer, reading of His Word, and living out the life He calls His people to.

I think you would be very hard pressed to find a church, if you asked them, would not want to see people come to know Christ. I mean, that’s just a ludicrous thought. The Church may have many different denomination and beliefs of theology, but I don’t really think there are many people in the Church who do not want to see souls saved. In fact if there are any, I really think those people need to evaluate their life and see if the are in step with the Spirit. But all too often the Church tries to witness to the world with gasoline. With big and glorious displays of various ministries, emotional appeals, etc. Those of you who serve the Lord know exactly what I’m talking about. But those things don’t last. People who come to the Lord on those terms won’t last unless that fire is cultivated. Unless their flames are stirred and wood is added to the fire. If the Church and Christians want to set this world on fire, we first have to cultivate the fire in our own hearts, then also be willing to take the time to minister properly and effectively to help keep the fire lit the hearts of others as well. Jesus told His followers that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them and they will be His witnesses. The Holy Spirit gives Christians the power to witness to others about Jesus powerfully. God is the source of that fire. I pray that believers everywhere will submit to the Holy Spirit and allow God move in their hearts. I also pray that Christians all over the world will fan into flame the gifts of God and take the steps necessary to keep that flame going. When the fire rises true and proud, the world around us will catch fire too. Don’t use the gasoline. Cultivate that fire.

“Therefore, I remind you to keep ablaze the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands.” ~2 Timothy 1:6

“Fire must be kept burning on the altar continually; it must not go out.” ~Leviticus 6:13

May God be with you.

-Joey


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Defend The Defenseless

photo_lg_egypt

“Learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.” -Isaiah 1:17

Today is my 24th birthday. I didn’t want to make much of a big deal about it, but part of me wondered if this would be one of my loneliest birthday’s yet. God on the other hand didn’t forget about it; He has made this day a blessed one and it is only half way through so far. I woke up at 6AM for our daily prayer then rode my bike over to my Kung Fu class. I have started to learn another form of Kung Fu besides the Ip Man Wing Chun system called Black Flag (or Hek Ki Boen for those of you who speak Cantonese). It is a much more powerful system but combines well with the Ip Man Wing Chun that I am already learning, not to mention both are taught by Sifu Oscar Choco. I didn’t have to pay much more to take the extra classes (80 dollars for a year, that’s the price of about one month in the states) so its a really good deal. It keeps me active and over half of my fellow students are Atheists, Agnostics or non-practicing Catholics. I have already seen a lot of opportunities to be an example and share the love of Christ with these guys.

I'm the one white guy in the back, if you couldn't tell.
I’m the one white guy in the back, if you couldn’t tell.

Also, as I have mentioned before I believe it is the duty of every Christian man to know how to fight. That might sound a bit controversial in some Christian circles, but I believe it is our duty to know how to defend ourselves and more importantly defend others. If you think that is wrong then I encourage you to take a look at the scriptures and see the overall character of God Himself. God is not a violent God, in fact He abhors violence and the man that practices it. That said though, He is known as the Lord of Hosts. He is the commander of legions of warrior angels and is Himself a warrior, but He only uses violence in extreme situations when no other options are left. In Psalm 68:5 it says that He is “a defender of widows” and in Psalm 82:3 we are encouraged to emulate Him where the psalmist states “Defend the poor and the fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and needy.” To defend the poor and the fatherless sometimes requires more then just words, as the ancient king of Israel, David, knew very well. Ecclesiastes 3:8 says there is “…a time of war, and a time of peace.” In the context of Jesus reminding His disciples that He would soon be departing from them, and attempting to get them to start thinking in the lines of common sense, Jesus told His disciples “…But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.” (Luke 22:36).

So how do we balance this with the statements of the Bible such as when Jesus said “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” (Matthew 5:38-39). This is one of my inner struggles that I had for many years, being that my entire life I had wanted to join the military and it was because of this inner struggle that when I started to follow Christ I decided not to. How could I learn to kill, especially if I was forced to kill knowing that the one I killed likely did not know Christ and would go directly to hell? I took the path of the pacifist, dedicated myself to the study of the word of God in Bible College and put this very verse into practice many times. There is a balance to be sought though. The Word of God does not contradict itself. It balances itself.

We, as Christians, are to be known as peacemakers and lovers of even our enemies. As God is. Yet, just as God does, there is a time for peace and a time for war. There is a time to fight and a time to surrender. The hard question is when and how. If God gives you a family it is your duty to defend your family, just as God defended His children Israel. There really is no easy answer to this question though, it will all come down to the individual conviction in that moment. Can the kingdom of God be advanced through your martyrdom, or is it your Christian duty to put a stop to evil when you see it, lest you be guilty of the sin for not stopping it when you could have? Those are questions you must ask yourself and they are not easy to answer. The point of Jesus teaching us to turn the other cheek is so that we would leave vengeance to the Lord, we are not to reciprocate the evil that is done to us. That does not mean you don’t defend your loved ones. So what am I getting at? Defending yourself and others is OK, more than that it is just and commanded by the Scriptures, but setting out to take vengeance on those who have done evil you is not. There should be no anger, no vengeance when we are forced by force to fight, rather it should be out of love that you do so.

Right, that concludes my little rant. This month I also got the opportunity to help out as a translator for a day with a medical mission team from the States. I actually really enjoyed it and I think I may be doing more of it in the future. They asked if I would come back the next day, and I wanted to but was unable to make time to do so. I have a feeling though Unsion (the Christian TV channel that was organizing it) will be hitting me up more for things like that in the future. Not only that, I have also been attending a pastor’s meeting every Monday morning with Pastor’s from all over Cuenca. At first I really didn’t like it, since it is a very charismatic group and the majority are Pentecostal. That said though it has been good for me and I have had some chance to encourage them to be more loyal to the Word.

People in line waiting for the free medical clinic. They also were prayed for before they left.
People in line waiting for the free medical clinic. They also were prayed for before they left.
At the Pastor's Meeting, Kelber the Worship Leader with the long hair sitting in front of me.
At the Pastor’s Meeting, Kleber the Worship Leader with the long hair sitting in front of me.

If you remember my last post I asked you guys to start praying for Basem, the guy who came from Egypt as a persecuted Christian, that he would find a job. He has since found three jobs, PRAISE GOD!!!! He is working with Unsion as an IT guy, teaching English, and at times helping to keep an eye on possible thefts in a retail shop. While we are talking about Basem I figure it is a good time to let you know the amazing things God is putting on our heart to do. Basem used to organize mission teams that arrived in Egypt, so he has connections and experience leading teams all over Egypt. One day we were walking home and he casually said “Why don’t we go on a mission trip to Egypt?”. “That’s a great idea!! Lets pray about it!”

Well a few weeks later and I was reading through my devotionals and the Lord showed me Acts 7:34 which says “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt; I have heard their groaning and have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt.” So that’s that. The Lord is sending me to Egypt. Basem and I sat down and planned out a 20 day trip where we will visit three cities; Alexandria, Cairo, and Port Said. My heart is to encourage the persecuted church there and to evangelize (obviously cautiously since you can get thrown in jail or worse there). Even though there is persecution and things have gotten a lot worse for Christians in Egypt there is still an open door there, and the people of Egypt need encouragement now more than ever. We are going to take a team from the English Service down there sometime this year (we are looking at around August-September). Please keep us all in prayer. Also, if the Lord lays it on your heart to help support the trip costs about 3,000 in all per person, so if you want to help send Basem, someone else on the team (still not sure who all will be on the team yet) or I and be apart of what God will do down there on this trip see the tab that says support on my blog or email me at matthewcamphuis@gmail.com.

Map of Egypt
Map of Egypt

This year is going to be an exciting one and I am looking forward to all the things that God has in store. Some things that you guys could be praying for is that God would move on the hearts of all the foreigners here in Cuenca to come to Him (there are around 3-5k but we only have 20-40 that attend church). I have joined a Spanish Conversational Group for Gringos and have been meeting a lot of new gringos through that, so you can pray that the Lord opens the door to witness to these guys through that. Also, we are planning a “pound party” to raise food for in need families Feb. 2nd, but we will be doing it in a “gringo” restaurant in town which will be also somewhat of an outreach to all the extranjeros. Besides that I have it on my heart to plan some sort of retreat for the English Service that is a mix of good solid Bible Study and outreach in Ecuador (maybe some good beach time too!!!). I probably don’t say this enough, but I really do appreciate all the support that you guys give me.

2nd Service in Spanish, it was amazing to see it overflowing.
2nd Service in Spanish, it was amazing to see it overflowing.

Much Love and God Bless,

Matt


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The Blood of Jesus Christ

I started reading a book by Watchman Nee called Normal Christian Life. So far I have only read the first chapter, but within that first chapter something really stuck out to me. He said “a clear conscience is never based upon our attainment; it can only be based on the work of the Lord Jesus in the shedding of His Blood”. The entire first chapter is about the Blood of Jesus Christ and how it applies to the life of a Christian. I thought that the chapter laid out beautifully what the Blood of Christ truly means to us as followers of Christ.

The chapter starts first by pointing out that the Blood of Jesus really isn’t so much for us, as it is for God. Now at first reading you may say, “Hold on a minute, the Blood of Christ is what saves me!” Yes that is very true and Nee is not dismissing that very important truth. What he means is that the only way God pardons our sin is if He sees the Blood of Jesus paying for the debt of our sin. Think about the Israelites when God commanded them to eat the Passover lamb inside the house, but spread the blood of the lamb on the doorposts. Then, when God passed over Egypt on the Passover night, God would see the blood and pardon the household. This is the same with us and the Blood of Christ. When God sees the Blood of Christ applied to our hearts, He can forgive and pardon our sin because of the great sacrifice of Jesus. So consequently, the amount we value Christ’s Blood is directly linked to the value that God values the Blood.

 

After realizing the value of the Blood, it is crucial that we base our life around that. Without the Blood of Christ, we can not go into the Presence of God without fear and shame. On the Day of Atonement in the Old Testament, the high priest alone was to go into the Most Holy Place to offer the sin offering to God. As it is with Christ. He is our High Priest who applies His blood to our sin to make retribution before God. When we allow this to become true in our everyday life, then it shapes our entire relationship with God. Some days I can feel really connected with God. I read my Bible and get a lot out of my reading. I feel like really connect with God in prayer and hear from Him. I am able to reflect the love of Christ well. I feel like I’m serving God well. Other days, it can be just the opposite. I don’t feel the same connection during my Bible reading or prayer time. I don’t reflect Christ’s love well. I may be mean or nasty. But listen to this: our standing before God is not based on our works, our merits, how we feel, or anything we can furnish. It is by the Blood of Jesus that we are able to be seen as forgiven by God!Do not allow the way you feel ditate how you think your relationship with God is based. It is only by the Blood of Jesus that we have relationship with God!

 

It is very easy as Christians to allow ourselves to get beat up when we fall short of the glory of God. We believe the lie that we have to earn our way into God’s love or we have to preform for God to be accepted. But praise be to God that it’s not about what I  can do, it’s about what I can’t do. Only Jesus can bring me back into restored relationship with Jesus. When we try to base our status with God on anything other than the sacrificial Blood of Jesus, we play right into Satan’s schemes.  The Bible calls Satan the Accuser. His tricks aren’t new. He has used the same tricks all through history; lying and accusing. He will try to accuse us of our sin before God and lie to us saying that we are failures and can’t be forgiven. By ourselves, we are failures and we can’t be forgiven. We can’t save ourselves. But by the Blood of Jesus I am redeemed and by His grace I can be pardoned of all my sin!

 

I pray that as you read this blog, you will ponder in your own heart whether or not you are applying the Blood of Jesus to your life. Does it really impact your everyday life, or is it more than a passing thought. I encourage as the Lord to reveal more of Himself to you, and share His value of His Son’s Blood with you. As always, I pray this blog encourages you or helps you! Blessings!

 

Joey

 

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The Virgin Birth of Messiah

Most people have probably heard the story about Jesus’ birth. Here’s Luke’s account:

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

There’s something about the birth of Messiah that’s somewhat controversial, even among some Christians. It shouldn’t be, but it is. Many ask, “Was Mary actually a virgin? Was the birth of Jesus truly a virgin birth?” Well let me take you back a few hundred years before Jesus Christ was born.

Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

Isaiah clearly prophesies a virgin birth here. The original Hebrew word that was used for “virgin” here is “almah.” This Hebrew word means a “young, unmarried woman who has had no sexual relations.”

The angel, Gabriel, appears to Mary in the book of Luke. Luke 1:26-38 says:

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

Notice that Mary tells Gabriel that she is a virgin. She wants to know how she will give birth to a child if she has never been with a man.

My point is this: The Messiah MUST be born of a virgin. It was prophesied by Isaiah hundreds of years before Jesus was born. Hundreds of years before the book of Luke was written. It was something that had to be fulfilled. Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. If Mary had not been a virgin, Jesus would not have been Messiah. Without the virgin birth, there is no Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah), no Savior, and we are completely lost. But Jesus fulfilled ALL of the prophesied requirements for the Messiah. Jesus born of a virgin. That fact is essential to the Christian faith.

“Jesus was born that you might be born again. He lived that you might live. He died that you might die to sin.” ~Spurgeon
God bless you and Merry Christmas!
-Austin

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Christmas: The Day Hope Was Born into the World

For may people, Christmas means a lot of things. For some, it means lots of shopping, traveling, and scrambling all over town to get those special gifts for special people. For others, it may mean getting together with family that they are unable to see throughout the year. These are great things. There is nothing wrong with wanting to get special people gifts. It is greatly important as well to spend time with family. However, Christmas marks a day much more important than gifts or family. It celebrates the day that God sent Hope back into the world.

Picture this. From the time the prophet Malachi, which is the last recorded Old Testament book, to the time of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) there was 400 years of silence. God’s chose Israel as His chosen people. Starting with Abraham, God promised a linage that would never perish and would bless all people. Abraham descendants were enslaved by Egypt for over 400 years, when God sent a leader, Moses, to bring them out of Egypt. After leaving the bondage of Egypt, Israel remained faithful to God for a time. Unfortunately, the longer Israel lived around the pagan nations, the more they grew into to practices of those nations. They eventually started worshipping and serving dead idols rather than the one, true living God. God began sending prophets to various parts of Israel. Those prophets began speaking the words of God and pleading for people to turn back to the Lord. Eventually Israel, was broke into two nations (Israel and Judah). Israel was wiped out by the Assyrians and Judah was taken into captivity by Babylon for 70 years. The prophets began giving snapshots of a Messiah that was to come and lead God’s people and save them. After the people of Judah were liberated from Babylon, the people turned back to God. But their worship to God became nothing more than dead religion. So with the last of the prophets, Malachi, God did not speak to Israel for almost 400 years.

The people of Israel, however, still held on to the hope of the coming Messiah. Although the Pharisees of that time taught hypocrisy, there were still those in Israel who were looking forward to the coming Messiah. Then one day, prophecy started being fulfilled. The forerunner of Messiah spoken about in Isaiah, “A voice is calling, ‘Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3), John the Baptist, was born. Not too much later, Jesus, conceived by the Holy Spirit, was born in Bethlehem by the virgin Mary, in a manager because there was no place in the town inn. This fulfilled the Scripture that said, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,and the government will be on his shoulders.And he will be called Wonderful Counselor,Mighty God,Everlasting Father,Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Hope came back into the world when Jesus was born. Jesus came and ministered to all of Israel, died on the cross for our sins, and rose again three days later from the grave, overcoming death. He not only paid the ransom for Israel, but opened up the door of salvation to all who believe in His name an turn from their sin. He now seated at the right hand of God and He will return for His Church.

Jesus came in the most humble of ways. He came as a baby. He didn’t come in with an army. He didn’t come in as a conquering king. He came as a baby, in human form, to relate to us and give us hope that once seemed lost. So this Christmas season, really reflect on the fact that Jesus chose to step out of divinity, and live as a human only to be hung on a cross for the sin of the world. I encourage you to read the Birth of Christ in the book of Matthew and Luke. When you are unwrapping your gifts, spending time with family, and eating hearty meals, remember Jesus this year. Jesus is the reason for the season. Truly.

Joey

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Live Free

The book of Acts is a tremendously important book in the life of a Christian believer. It contains some of the earliest history of the early church and provides great information about the church’s growth. Such rich information about the history of the Christian faith should be treasured! Acts serves as a connector or bridge between the Gospels and the Epistles of the New Testament, providing great historical and introduction information to the Pauline Epistles. Without the book of Acts, Christians would be left with many unanswered questions about the New Testament such as who were the authors, what happened after Jesus returned to the rather, and how did the church start? Clearly, Acts has an irreplaceable spot in the Biblical canon.

The book of Acts also provides information about a crucial event in Christian history, Pentecost. This book is unrivaled in its information about the work of the Holy Spirit, the baptism of the Spirit, and the functions of the Spirit’s gifts operated in the life of a Christian. “Pentecostal theology appears elsewhere in the New Testament; however, any Pentecostal theology founded without the full benefit of the book of Acts would be severely impoverished”. It is often stated the book should be named “Acts of the Holy Spirit” because of the many circumstances that the Holy Spirit guided the early church and made a way for the advancement of the church.

It is true that the actions of a person stems out of what they believe. Some want to separate faith and practice, but this is not consistent with the Bible. The Bible uses positive and negative examples all throughout the Scriptures to illustrate lifestyles affected by beliefs. Historical information is meant to guide future generations into right living, and the book of Acts is no different. The material found in Acts is meant to guide Christians in their walk with the Lord and help them understand what they believe.

There are many theological and hermeneutical emphases found in the book of Acts. One main theological theme found in Acts is the continuity of the Holy Spirit’s activity. From the very beginning of the book, the Holy Spirit shows up and shakes up the life of believers. After the day of Pentecost, the Spirit inspired such boldness and passion in the hearts of Peter and John that they went out to preach in the synagogues of the city. The people were amazed at their teachings (much like they were at the teachings of Jesus) and recognized the authority in their words because it came with power from the Holy Spirit (Acts 3). The Spirit continued to guide the church and grow the church all throughout the book of Acts.

Another emphasis is that of the redemptive-historical perspective. This attempts to understand each verse, passage, and book of the Bible in the scope of God’s overall sovereign plan. This theology seeks to focus on the unity of the entire Biblical message and necessarily individual stories. The focus is events in history unfolding in God’s perfect timing. A great example from Acts can be found when Jesus tells his disciples, “wait for the gift my Father promised…you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4-5). The disciples had not yet received the Spirit nor had they went out preaching the name of Jesus because it was not time for them to do so. The time would be right when God was ready to carry out His plan, which can be seen in Acts 2.

A third emphasis, but certainly not the last, in the book of Acts is the primary role of the Holy Spirit. Over the years many viewpoints have been presented about what the role of the Spirit really is. The Holy Spirit has been said to be an agent of holiness, empowering the believer for service, and increasing the intimacy of relationship between Jesus and the believer. All of these things are true and the Holy Spirit certainly works in sanctifying a believer and creating a deeper relationship with Christ, the book of Acts is undeniable in defining the primary role of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Himself said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses…” (Acts 1:8). The primary role of the Spirit according to the book of Acts is to empower the believer for service and to make greater witnesses.

Luke, the author of Acts, included theology and practice in historical-narrative that can be seen all throughout the book’s entirety. One of the most obvious methods that should be observed is that Luke wrote Acts much like the format of the Old Testament book of history. In the Old Testament, there are statements made by monumental figures that were intended to affect the practice and beliefs of those who read the books. “A look at Acts and the Old Testament accounts for many features of Acts. There is evidence that in writing Acts, Luke used Biblical language and models.”

By looking at the writings of Luke, it is clear that Luke intends to be more than just an observer or historian. Although he makes sure to record the events of history accurately, even if it means illustrating bad qualities in the early church, he also adds editorials to his work. He gives clues in his writings that reveal whether he approves or disapproves with the characters that he is narrating. Luke wants not only for his readers to learn accurate history, but also come to conclusions about the actions depicted in his writings and whether or not they are just. Pentecostals draw much theology and practice from the book of Acts and would be at a terrible loss if it were not appropriate to do so.

As valuable as drawing theology and practice from the book of Acts is to the Christian believer, it is important to exercise correct methods of doing so. It is quite possible to draw things from the book that the author never intended. When reading Acts, extra attention must be given in the clues that Luke left to illuminate what he intended for the reader to learn. An example is his tendency to report things repeatedly or report things that are similar several times. It is most likely that Luke wanted to reader to find extreme importance in those instances and repeated those things for emphasis. Again, one must not read deeper into the narrative than Luke intended. It may be tempting to add things or draw conclusions about certain topics with vague description, but such practice can potentially harm interpretation and must be avoided.

-Joey

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In Weakness He Is Strong

“And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness…For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor. 12:9a, 10b

Even though this verse was the subject of my last post I have decided to talk about it once again to start off my Mission’s Update; since it has been a constant encouragement to me lately. I have really been personally learning all about how God is so much stronger than I thought He was and how true this verse really is. It has been interesting because I feel like every week I am getting weaker and weaker and yet God continues to empower me more and more. For example, I feel like my messages on Sunday have had less time and study put into them, and yet people have been telling me how much better it is every week and how blessed they are. Last Sunday one of the guys came up after the message and said “I am just so happy right now. I feel like God has met with me with His presence. I am just so happy.” That particular message was taken from the notes of a study I had done in California. I hadn’t had time to study John because we had just gone on a Mission Trip to Loja and had gotten back that morning. I was running on 4 hours of sleep when I gave the study and had put all my hope into God. I have to say I agree, it was one of the most blessed Sundays yet and the only reason is that God showed us all grace and that it was sufficient for us.

As I had mentioned above we took a short mission trip to Loja this last weekend. We only went for about two days but managed to get a lot in. We left Cuenca around 7 AM, stopped on the way to eat lunch, then when we got there we ate lunch again. I think the first lunch was supposed to be breakfast but the way things worked out it was more like having two lunches, but hey I’m not complaining. After that we started work in setting up a puppet stage and some of us went around the neighborhood to announce that we were going to have a children’s club. Freddy, David and Estafani were at the ready with face paint for once the kids arrived; I tried painting a butterfly on one girl only to have another little girl ask “What’s that?”. “A butterfly” I replied. “It doesn’t look like a butterfly” she so graciously informed me. I decided that she was right though and tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to make it into a bee. After that Freddy put on a puppet show for the kids while Jenine played along as the MC. The puppet show was about how calling out to Jesus can help us no matter where we are or how far away from home we have gone, Jesus can always help us.

David, Estefani, Paola, and Freddy face painting.

The whole group that went to Loja from Cuenca. It is cool to see nationals doing mission trips in their own country.

Puppet Time!!!

David keeping the fun going.

After that David preached it up some and then we had a Christian concert by a guy from Colombia who also told his testimony. We had a pretty good turn out and I think God touched a lot of peoples hearts with it.

David preaching it up.

The next day we did some door to door street evangelism and handed out tracts. There was one woman who was just ready and waiting to receive the gospel, she ended up praying to accept the Lord and had a bunch of questions about the Bible. It seemed like she had just been waiting for someone to come talk to her about all of this, it was that easy. It was a good reminder that we never know who is ready to receive the gospel and sometimes we just need to step out there and try it. Granted there were many rejections before her, but they were worth it.

Later on that night we put on a Biblical Dinner and spent the whole afternoon and evening preparing for it. A Biblical Dinner is a recreation of the last supper, along with a teaching about the cultural meanings of a lot of things that happened that night; such as what did bread mean to the Jewish person. Everyone sits on the floor and they eat the same type of food that they would have eaten in the days of Christ, and the only lights are the oil lamps on the tables. Biblical Dinners have been an extremely successful way to evangelize as well as to teach here. There are a lot of people that have a misunderstanding of the gospel, communion, and how much God loves them and wanted to have fellowship with them. The Biblical Dinner is a great way to help the many different people, from many different backgrounds and ideas to understand the simplicity and yet depth of the actions of Jesus during the Last Supper.

Every Biblical Dinner I am so blessed to see all the happy faces enjoying the message, the fellowship and the food.

This last month has been a real blessing and God has been doing a lot here in Cuenca. With all the good though there have been plenty of hardships. The worst is that Julia, our beloved sister in Christ who is a Missionary from Ireland, was told she has a 70% chance that she has MS and was told to return to Ireland immediately. We are still praying that God works a miracle, and I am inviting you guys to pray to do the same, but she will be leaving on a rush flight back to Ireland this Friday to get it all sorted out. She wants to come back and Lord willing she will. We know that she will be missed here; since she has been a constant source of blessing, encouragement, purity, and strength to all of us. One thing is for sure though it has been bringing the English Service group a lot closer, and everyone has been showing love to one another. I am so proud of Julia and I am so proud of the English Service for how they are taking this and how encouraging and loving they have been to each other through it. I personally am very sad to see Julia go; she has become something of a big sister to me and a person I could always confide and trust in. She actually reminds me a lot of my big sister Chris. Julia has no fear except the fear of the Lord and she is a true woman of God. She has given God and Ecuador everything and she has been an amazing example to me of what a true missionary is like. She is a hard worker, she is honest and has no hidden motives or agendas; she simply lives to serve God. We are praying and waiting in hopeful expectation until the Lord brings her back to us. In the mean time, I will be moving over to the mission house to assume the responsibilities over there.

 

This is the group that helps out with the English Service, with Julia to top row second to the left. We call ourselves the servant leaders.

All in all God is faithful, and His grace is sufficient. We have all been going through weaknesses here, and I ask that you would please pray for us diligently since we are all feeling attacks daily from the enemy. Just recently I have been having severe heart pains that persists throughout the day and at times feels like it is seizing up. I have been told that it is probably just stress and am going to get it checked out tomorrow, but prayer would be appreciated. That said though, God has also been showing Himself stronger and stronger despite all our weaknesses.

Praise God for His grace,

Matt

 

 

 

 

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Count the Cost: What It Means to Follow Jesus

Jesus gave many commands and teachings during His ministry here on earth that the Bible accounts for in the Gospels. Many of those commands and teachings are very easy to take in. For example, Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). That’s sounds pretty good doesn’t it? I know in my life personally that I find myself weary of everyday life and would appreciate rest. So that commandment, teaching, promise, whatever you want to call it, sounds pretty good to me. Jesus also says, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Pretty easy to accept, right?

However, Jesus also says some things that are pretty hard to swallow. “But I tell you who hear Me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28). Woah, hold on a second. What did Jesus just say? Love my enemies? Pray for those who mistreat me? No, He couldn’t have said that right? I have to actually love them? I have to pray for them? As crazy or backwards that command seems to us, Jesus meant it. Jesus did not say, be nice to them or don’t be mean to your enemies. He said love them. Jesus didn’t say, wish well for those who mistreat you, He said pray for them. You may say, “There is no way I could do this, Jesus must not really understand what He’s asking.” Doesn’t He? Jesus portrayed this command no better than when He was on the cross. Jesus cried out to God while He was on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). While Jesus was being crucified, suffering the consequence for OUR SIN, He asked God to forgive those who were crucifying Him. Jesus continues to pray on our behalf, if we are maintaining a relationship with Him, for God to forgive us of our sin (Romans 8:34).

Another teaching that sounds pretty crazy to us can be found in the Sermon on the Mount. This is probably one of the most important teachings Jesus gives us. During this sermon, Jesus says, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12). So I’m supposed to rejoice and be glad when I am suffering? My reward is great in heaven when I am persecuted for my faith in Christ? According to Jesus, and many other writers in the Bible, this is true. This flies completely against what the modern “Christian” message that is taught today, especially in the America. So many today want to follow Jesus, or accept Jesus, but they do not want to have to do anything that will cause them to be uncomfortable. Many want the blessing from Jesus, but do not want to suffer. Many want to reap the rewards of heaven, but don’t want to do any sowing themselves. The Bible is very clear; you reap what you sow. If you are in Christ, and are “making every effort to add to your faith” (2 Peter 1:5), then we as a believer in Jesus Christ you will have an inheritance in heaven. If you are not, you do not have that security in God.

Jesus tells us to count the cost of being His disciple. Jesus gives the illustration that if you were to sit down and build a tower, would you not sit down first and calculate whether or not you have the means and funds to build that tower? How absolutely ridiculous would it look if you started that tower, then halfway through you had to stop because you didn’t have the means to finish it? That would be foolish! That is what Jesus is saying in Luke 14:25-34. Jesus is essentially saying, “If you are going to be my disciple, you need to know what I taught, and decide in your heart whether you are going to follow through with all My commands.” When Jesus says, “whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27), He means that if you don’t share in my suffering (carry your cross) and follow me (follow my commands, live as He did, share in suffering), then you can not be His disciple.

When you pursue righteousness, you better expect to face opposition and persecution. Now, at first glance that does not sound encouraging. But Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Jesus has overcome everything (the world) by His victory on the cross. We can share in that victory by staying faithful to Jesus.

Jesus also says, “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22) Nobody likes to be disliked or likes to have hardships, but don’t be discouraged if you face trouble while pursuing God! You have a promise from God Himself that He will be with you always and you will partake with Him in heaven for standing firm until the end! (Matthew 10:22 & Matthew 28:20) Remember that God sees everything that happens to you in advance. He knows what you are going through and wouldn’t allow you to be in a situation that you couldn’t overcome. He will give you everything you need to come out victorious! “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

I want to encourage you to really count the cost of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. There are many other teachings that Jesus gave that I did not mention. Many of those commands are very easy to apply to our lives; others may be a hard to apply. But I promise you, if you devote the time to allow Jesus to come into your heart and teach you His way, you will find delight in obeying His commands. Maybe you are a new Christian and need somewhere to start reading. Maybe you aren’t a Christian at all and aren’t really sure about this whole “Jesus thing”. Take some time to read through the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Really pay attention and focus on the teachings Jesus gives His disciples. The promises Jesus gives are not full of worldly riches, comfort, and pleasure, but they are full of love, hope, and eternal life. You will face hard times in this life, but if you remain true to Jesus and follow His commands, you will be with Him forever in Heaven one day. I pray that God will speak to you and truly work His Spirit in your life everyday.

“If you love Me, you will obey My commandments”~ John 14:15

-Joey

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Do We Really Understand Forgiveness?

Let me ask a question. Do we understand what it means to forgive? I mean really? Do we? The word used in the Bible for forgive or forgiveness is aphiēmiAphiēmi literally means to send away, disregard, to depart, leave behind, abandon. There are many other ways it is used, but are you seeing the impact of the word? The Bible says we are to forgive one another of our wrongs, both to each other and ones that are committed to others. That lie that your best friend said about you that embarrassed you in front of everyone, Jesus says to forgive them. Disregard that incident. Leave it behind. What about that thief that stole the only money you had to pay for your bills? Forgive them, abandon the trespass, send it away. I could go on with example after example and make a list of “what you should forgive others of”, but you see the point. As followers of Christ, Jesus expects us to forgive anyone no matter what they have done. Does that make the actions that caused offense right? Absolutely not. But understand this, just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean that you are acknowledging what was done is right. That is not what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is so much more powerful than that. Forgiveness essentially says, “it is very clear that what has went down is wrong, it’s not fair, it is not right at all, but instead of remembering it and harboring bitterness or anger, you choose to forget about it. Let is pass. Abandon the trespass as if it never happened.” By understanding what forgiveness is, it makes the entire concept of forgiving someone so much more real. Even though what has happened is wrong, Jesus says you must forgive.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” ~Matthew 6:14-15

Jesus really didn’t beat around the bush in this Scripture, nor does He ever. Jesus Himself says that if do not forgive others of their trespasses or sins against us, God will not forgive us of all trespasses or sin against Him. We are so quick to receive the grace of Jesus Christ openly anytime it appeals to us, but what about when the tables are turned? Are as quick to extend that same grace to others? I know in my life, I haven’t always been. It’s easier to think that I am right, the other person is wrong, and just stay bitter at them. The problem with that is you never live in freedom that way. At least not fully. I heard this quote once and it has really spoke to me in this area. “We actually lose more than we win when we choose not to extend forgiveness to someone.” What do we lose? Freedom, relationships, peace, and as Jesus warns possibly our salvation.  By choosing not to swallow our pride and going to whoever has offended you and offering forgiveness, we lose any relationship we have with that person, there is no peace in our hearts when that individual is around or mentioned, there is no happiness. We are trapped. I’ve said it before, but I think that unforgiveness is one of the most deadly sins that can ever enter our hearts. I heard my friend once say “when you don’t forgive, its like taking poison and expecting the other person to die – the longer you hold on to it the more damage it does to your mind and body.”

“Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” ~Luke 23:34

Jesus forgave those who were literally killing them. He didn’t hold their trespasses against them. He forgave them. He prayed for them. He loved them and still wanted them to receive eternal life with them. Jesus never once wanted to hold resentment in His heart to those people who had did Him wrong. So as His disciples who in the world can we ever expect to live different than Jesus? A disciple literally lives like their master, experiences the same things, says the same things. Jesus died to sin, so we must die to sin. Jesus loved, so we must love. Jesus forgave, so we must forgive.

Mike Donehey, the lead singer of Tenth Avenue North, posted a video about forgiveness that I drew a lot of thought from and I think it really illustrates forgiveness well. I’m attaching the video below.

I want to encourage you to make the effort to seek out those areas in your life that may be marred by bitterness and unforgiveness. Jesus wished to heal those scars and desires that you live in harmony with those who offended you. Your act of forgiveness could be a key factor in someone decided to accept Jesus. If they already know Jesus, it can push them closer to you and to God as well. Don’t allow that biterness to stay harbored in your heart. As stated before, Jesus claims that you put your own salvation at risk by choosing not to forgive. Nothing of this earth is worth that. Everything on this earth will pass away, but Jesus is forever. Learn to pick and choose what you get angry over. Nothing is so important that forgiveness can’t be extended. That doesn’t mean it will be easy. I’m sure family members of murder, rape, theft, etc, are not so quick to forgive right away. It would be easier to hate, but Jesus says to love. Be blessed today, and may the Lord guide You in forgiveness.

-Joey

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None Of These Things Move Me

Acts 20:24 NKJV

But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

I have to confess I am quite the Lord of the Rings fan. *Places nerd glasses on* I have read all the books, own books of the compiled notes of Tolkien (there are over 10 books or so just on notes), have seen all the movies and am anxiously awaiting The Hobbit movies. One of my favorite scenes is at the end of the third movie where Aragorn and his army decide to mount an offensive against the very gates of Mordor themselves. They place their hope in two small Hobbits to throw the One Ring into Mount Doom to finally defeat the incarnate power of evil, Lord Sauron himself.

Aragorn stands fast against all hope.

This offensive had one purpose; to distract the eye of Sauron long enough in hopes of giving Frodo and Sam (the hobbits) a chance at destroying the ring of Sauron (comon I know you know the story, everyone saw the movie!!!). They don’t even know if Sam and Frodo are alive, they are just taking a chance on hope.

The battle is against all odds and they become surrounded on all sides, just when all hope seems dim and death certain weary eyes look to the horizon to see the tower fall and the army of darkness flee. They did it, Frodo and Sam destroyed the One Ring and Middle-Earth is saved from certain destruction. Everyone had a part to do, but Aragorn fought valiantly and stood fast; not counting his life dear to himself. Despite having hope in such a small thing, in something that he couldn’t even see happening, he stood fast in the face of death so that hope could have a chance.

Thankfully our hope is much more sure than Aragorn’s; although it can feel sometimes like we are in the same circumstances.

There is only so much I can tell you guys on here. I have learned that part of being in the ministry means there are very few things you can talk to people about, you know too much of the in’s and out’s of a church or of people lives to talk about your day. When someone asks me, how was your day and what did you do? What can I really say? Especially if you know things people have told you in confidence. It takes a faithful spirit to serve God in leadership, to those of you who want to serve in the ministry start praying for self-control ahead of time.

What I can tell you is that I am battling. I am fighting for my faith and I am fighting for the faith of others. I have already thought a few times about going back home. You may have noticed not many posts recently, it is because I couldn’t find the strength to do so.

God is faithful though, I have learned I have none but Him to trust and rely on.

A few weeks ago I was walking home on Calle Larga and the sun had started to set. Once the sun goes down Calle Larga turns into a party street, where people gather to wait for the clubs to open. I started to remember how much of a joy it was for me to share the Gospel in the streets of York, England to the same type of people. Mostly college or high school kids drinking in the streets. Since the Lord had been stirring my heart it was an easy answer to Klever (the new worship leader for all the services, he will be going on staff in October) when he asked if I wanted to go street witnessing last Friday night. We passed out at least a thousand tracks and three girls accepted Christ, and many more were interested in learning more. We are praying about making it a regular thing.

Besides that we will be having an all night prayer vigilia October 5th, a mission trip to Loja November 1-3rd and a Thanksgiving Day Feast November 22nd. We are starting to get more and more active, but I am not really sure how ready the English service is for that. The English service is what I would call explosive. This can be both a good and a bad thing. It’s explosive because it has people from all over the world, with different backgrounds, different denominations, different ideas on how a church should be run, etc. Because it is primarily made up of people over 50 these are ideas they have had for a long time. The good news is we can use their ideas, their lifelong experiences with Christ to explode for Christ in a good way. The bad news is that there may be some things that they have been taught for years that are not Biblical and changing that might be difficult. What we need the most right now is structure, a solid leadership team, and the grace and miraculous power of God to make it work. I can already tell you if God doesn’t build this house, there is no way it will stand. In fact it is already starting to split at the seems, so pray for us.

Despite all these complications the Lord is adding to the church daily, although they are always surprised to see such a young shepherd serving the flock there.

Although for the past week I have felt overwhelmed by one thing after another the Lord has strengthened me. The secret is alone time with the Lord, in prayer and in His word. I have decided to stand fast with the convictions and vision the Lord has given me for the English service or die trying.

None of these things move me, I will finish the race that I started. The key will be endurance and laying aside the things that weigh me down. One step after another. Thankfully I am not running alone, the Lord goes before me and with me, and if I do finish this race that I started it will be for no other reason except the grace of God that caused me both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

Get back up. Purpose in your heart to fight and do what the Lord called you to do, only then will your heart begin to heal from the pain of defeat. Place your hope in the sure confidence of Christ, your God and your Savior, the promises of His Word, and the empowerment of His Spirit, only then will you be able to say “None of these things move me”.

Stand fast. Fight the good fight. Keep the faith.

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