Thursday, April 15

¿Diezmos al alfolí o al reino de Dios?

Para mí en lo personal, el problema no es tanto si un seguidor de Cristo debería diezmar, sino a dónde llevar los diezmos y ofrendas del Señor. 

En Malaquías dice que debemos llevar los diezmos al alfolí para que haya alimento en la casa del Señor. Desde el año 70 d.C. no existe un templo en Jerusalén dónde podemos depositar nuestros diezmos para que haya alimento en la casa del Señor. Se supone que hoy en día el alfolí ha llegado a ser la iglesia local dónde uno se congrega. Pero antes de saltar a esa conclusión, ¿no deberíamos ver lo que el mismo Jesús dice en cuanto al tema? 

En mi biblia solamente existen dos páginas entre este pasaje de Malaquías 3 y el Evangelio Según San Mateo. Comenzando con Mateo 3, Juan el Bautista aparece en la escena predicando Arrepentíos, porque el reino de los cielos se ha acercado... En los evangelios Jesús menciona a la iglesia dos veces. Pero habla 127 veces en cuanto al reino de Dios, o reino de los cielos. 

57 veces en Mateo 
19 veces en Marcos 
40 veces en Lucas 
4 veces en Juan 
7 veces en Hechos 

Jesús vino predicando el mensaje del reino de Dios. Él mismo manda a sus seguidores, buscad primeramente el reino de Dios y su justicia... (Mat. 6:33). Es un mandato de Jesús, no una sugerencia. Buscar primeramente el reino de Dios abarca mucho más que cumplir con el programa de una iglesia local. 

Por supuesto, la obra de la iglesia local ciertamente cae bajo el dominio del reino de Dios, pero la iglesia local no es sinónimo con el reino de Dios. 

Y será predicado este evangelio del reino en todo el mundo... (Mateo 24:14). Para que todo el mundo pueda responder, nuestros reinos tienen que menguar y Su reino crecer. Invertir menos en nuestros "reinos" y más en el reino de Dios fuera de las cuatro paredes dónde nos congregamos. 

Mi problema no es con el diezmar--siempre lo he practicado desde la primera vez que logré ganar un ingreso. Lo que sí me sorprende de muchos pastores es que enseñan a sus congregaciones que sus diezmos tienen que ser llevados enteramente al alfolí--o sea la iglesia local dónde se congregan. El argumento va enlace a la idea que si uno "come espiritualmente" en una iglesia, ese alimento debería ser "pagado" en forma de diezmos y ofrendas. 

El único problema con este argumento es que ni Jesús o Pablo, o ninguno de los apóstoles, o Cristianos en la iglesia primitiva, ni en las generaciones que les siguieron, interpretaban esta enseñanza que hoy aceptamos como la "norma" en las iglesias evangélicas. 

¿Qué, entonces, fué lo que enseñaron Jesús y Pablo en cuanto al tema? 

Jesús: buscad primeramente el reino de Dios y su justicia (Mat. 6:33)
 
Jesús: Dad, y se os dará; medida buena, apretada, remecida y rebosando darán en vuestro regazo; porque con la misma medida con que medís, os volverán a medir (Lucas 6:38). 

Pablo: El que siembra escasamente, también segará escasamente; y el que siembra generosamente, generosamente también segará. Cada uno dé como propuso en su corazón: ...porque Dios ama al dador alegre (2 Cor. 9:6-7). 

Jesús: ¡Ay de vosotros, escribas y fariseos, hipócritas! porque diezmáis la menta y el eneldo y el comino, y dejáis lo más importante de la ley: la justicia, la misericordia y la fe. Esto era necesario hacer, sin dejar de hacer aquello (Mateo 23:23). 

Este último es el único pasaje que encontramos en el N.T. dónde Jesús--quién era Judio y bajo la Ley de Moisés--afirma que los escribas y fariseos que también estaban bajo la Ley--deberían diezmar al alfolí/templo de Jerusalén. Pero a mi parecer es un claro ejemplo de eisegesis (mala hermanéutica) al insistir en lo que Dios dice en Mal. 3:10 sea interpretado como un mandamiento para que todos los diezmos y ofrendas sean traídos al alfolí de las iglesias locales. Si vamos a usar la ley de Moisés como argumento para que los hermanos traigan todo su diezmo al templo local, ¿no deberíamos también insistir que cumplan los hermanos con toda la ley y no solamente este versículo aislado? 

Creo firmemente que un discípulo de Cristo debería dar más que el 10%. Los primeros cristianos dieron todo lo que tenían para el servicio del Señor (Hechos 2:44-45). Todo lo que tenemos, no nos pertenece, sino que ha sido "prestado" por Dios para sus propósitos. Somos mayordomos de lo que él nos ha confiado para que busquemos su reino. 

Si las iglesias van a continuar exigiendo a sus miembros que diezmen al alfolí, también esas mismas iglesias tienen que diezmar. Es hipocrecía insistir que cada miembro diezma cuando la misma iglesia no lo hace. Una iglesia puede "robar a Dios" tanto como sus miembros. Vea el presupuesto de su iglesia local. ¿Está aportando con el 10% de lo que ingresa para ser utilizado fuera en el reino de Dios? 

Si yo fuera el "papa" de las iglesias Bautistas, diría a todas las congregaciones que hagan dos cosas: 

1) que los sueldos de todos los obreros/misioneros/pastores/líderes sean DUPLICADOS, y 
2) todos los demás dineros sean invertidos en el reino de Dios--o sea, todo lo que es fuera de las cuatro paredes de dónde nos congregamos. 

Así hubiera más que suficiente para cumplir con la última palabra de Jesús de hacer discípulos a todas las naciones... (Mateo 28:18-20)

Tuesday, April 6

In My Name They Will Cast Out Demons (Mark 16:17)

Sunday evenings we meet at Angel and Katty’s house for church. Our normal crowd is usually 8-9 adults, several youth and children, along with an assortment of dogs who wander in and out entertaining themselves by barking at every passing vehicle on the nearby street. Due to Covid restrictions, we space ourselves in a circle of plastic chairs out under the stars.  Little did we know how bizarre the evening would end up being.

Maritza, our fellow Ecuadorian missionary partner, shared an evangelistic message. There were a number of first-time visitors who received Christ as Savior. Two of the couples present asked forgiveness of their spouses and children for the way they had acted. It was a beautiful time of reconciliation and healing. A visitor asked a question about baptism. An offering was collected for a sick member who could not afford medication. Our meeting ended about 10:15 pm.

As we were loading the car to go home, an unknown man arrived. Angel introduced the man as "Pedro" reminding us that he was the same Pedro he had asked the church to pray for.  Pedro arrived in a state of visible anxiety and tension.  He looked physically exhausted and said he had come for us to pray for him in that he could no longer bear the load of his troubled life.

Though we were very tired and ready to get back home, Maritza, Linda, and I walked him out to the street and began ministering to him. Maritza, the evangelist, began witnessing to Pedro asking him if he had ever had a personal encounter with Christ.

Pedro seemed confused and unresponsive. There seemed to be some kind of invisible barrier. As we continued to talk I noticed another man headed towards us from down the street. As soon as Pedro saw this person approaching, he pulled a foot-long knife out of his sleeve. In an instant Pedro's countenance transformed into what was clearly a demon-possessed person.  He was filled with hate and rage as he tightly gripped the knife in his hand.

Linda, Maritza and I were only steps away from Pedro who then turned his attention from the other man and directly faced us. We began shouting at Pedro en el Nombre de Jesús to drop the knife!  After a minute or so of him glaring and hissing obscenities, he dropped the knife. I quickly scooped it out of the street and threw it into the back of our car.

For the next 30-minutes, we were in an all-out spiritual battle casting out the demons who were clearly in control of Pedro at that moment. I have never heard such hatred and vitriol coming out of anyone's mouth. Mercifully the Lord blocked our ears from the horrid things the demons were saying. Maritza began to read aloud a Psalm. Other church members including Angel gathered around us to pray. Some began to sing praise songs, but still, nothing was happening with Pedro.  

By then a small crowd of bystanders had gathered out on the street to watch at a distance. Neighbors peered from their windows.  The small band of new believers gathered around us and began singing all the praise songs they knew from our green songbook. The three of us continued to pray over Pedro casting out the demons in Jesus’ Name.  

After some 15-minutes of praying out loud, Scripture reading, and back-to-back songs, Pedro began heaving—as if throwing up—as the demons were expelled from his body. This happened over and over for several more minutes.  When he finally stopped heaving, Martiza asked if he wanted Christ to come into his life. Pedro said yes, and we asked him to pray aloud inviting Christ in and confessing Jesus as Lord. We prayed again over Pedro asking the Lord to forgive his sins, cleanse him, and rid him of any remaining demons that still might be refusing to leave.

Pedro seemed soothed by the singing and kept asking us to “sing another song.”  Not knowing what else to do, we continued to sing and pray as he stood there with his eyes closed soaking in the Spirit’s presence. By this time Pedro was very weak.  Angel and I had to physically hold him upright. 

Finally, though, he collapsed into my arms like a dead man. We gently laid him down in a dry spot on the muddy road. He appeared to be in a deep sleep. After a few more minutes Pedro again opened his eyes but had NO IDEA where he was, or what had happened. It was surreal. He looked all around him and asked who we were and why was he lying in the middle of the road. We calmly explained to him everything he had been through. Everyone was amazed at what they had witnessed—as were we!

I asked two of the men to accompany me in our car to take Pedro home. We set up a time for the following day to visit and follow up on his decision to follow Christ. What transpired during that first visit and other visits is another bizarre story altogether. Suffice it to say, we have seen a dramatic change come over Pedro from that Sunday night to the present! He sleeps with his new Bible and goes out fishing with a new partner who is also a believer.


Last Sunday Angel and I baptized Pedro along with seven others in the ocean a few feet from our back porch. To God be the Glory; great things He hath done!  Please pray for Pedro. He still has many serious issues to deal with in his life and very much needs our prayers.

Saturday, March 4

Personal Book Survey

1. What author do you own the most books by? Fiction: Jeffrey Archer. Non-Fiction: Elisabeth Elliot. I was surprised to find I owned so many titles by Watchman Nee and Amy Carmichael.

2. What book do you own the most copies of? The Bible. I also collect hymnals and just counted 37 sitting on my bookshelf. My favorite is a facsimile of the original 1779 “Olney Hymns” by John Newton and William Cowper.

3. Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions? No--I end sentences all the time with prepositions and don't even realize when I do it.

4. What fictional character are you secretly in love with? I have read hundreds of books in my life time but can't recall any characters that I am secretly in love with.

5. What book have you read the most times in your life? The Bible.

6. Favorite book as a ten year old? I loved any book I could get my hands on about the Civil War. If there were pictures, that was even better!

7. What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year? My rule of thumb is if a book doesn't capture my interest in the first 100 pages I will simply stop reading and usually never pick it up again. However, it has now been a couple of years since I last failed to finish a book that I have started reading.

8. What is one of the best books you’ve ever read? I don't know if it was the best but definitely one of the most helpful to me personally was “Walking With God” by John Eldredge. I highly recommend this book.

9. If you could force everyone you know to read one book, what would that book be? Of all the questions, this is the hardest for me to answer. There are just too many good books out there that I would like everyone to read. 

OK...here are some I'd like to "force" on certain people I know: “Love Does” by Bob Goff, “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis, "Velvet Elvis" by Rob Bell, "The Sacred Romance" by Eldredge and Curtis, "Blue Like Jazz" by Don Miller. All of these express for me the essence of what Christianity is all about without all the religion that distracts from Jesus’ teachings.

10. What book would you most like to see made into a movie? I understand William P. Young's "The Shack" is being made into a movie. If done well, I think it could have a profound impact on its viewing audience. Other possibilities would be “Bruchko” by Bruce Olson, or maybe Barbara Kingsolver's "The Poisonwood Bible."

11. What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read? Miguel de Cervantes “Don Quijote de la Mancha” in the original 1615 version for an advanced Spanish class I took in Costa Rica (I understood only about 20% and guessed at the rest!)

12. What is your favorite devotional book? A tie between Oswald Chambers “My Utmost for His Highest” and “Dare to Journey with Henri Nouwen” by Charles Ringma.

13. What is your favorite play? “The Mouse Trap” by Agatha Christie, the longest run of any play in the world. My wife and I saw this classic in London and count the evening as one of our most memorable.

14. Poem? “The World Is Too Much With Us” by William Wordsworth

15. Essay? “On Church Music” by C.S. Lewis.

16. Who is the most overrated writer alive today? The lady who writes all the Harry Potter books.

17. What is your desert island book? The Message.

18. What are you reading right now? “Biblical Foundations of Freedom” by Art Mathias, “Psychology” by David Myers and Nathan DeWall, “The Book of Mysteries” by Jonathan Cahn, and “The Gospels” by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

19. The “Top Ten” books that personally impacted your life? (You don’t have to necessarily agree with everything they write.)

1.     “Love Does” – Bob Goff
2.     “Walking With God” – John Eldredge
3.     “Shadow Of The Almighty” – Elisabeth Elliot
4.     “Houses That Change The World” – Wolfgang Simson
5.     “Blue Like Jazz” – Donald Miller
6.     “Hind’s Feet On High Places” – Hannah Hurnard
7.     “Organic Church” – Neil Cole
8.     “Velvet Elvis” – Rob Bell
9.     “The Sacred Romance” – Brent Curtis and John Eldredge
10. “The Shack” – William Paul Young

[Honorable mentions: “Prayer” by O. Hallesby, “Heaven on Earth” by R. Alan Streett, “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn, “Pagan Christianity” and “Reimagining Church” by Frank Viola, “The Present Future” by Reggie McNeal, “Love Wins” by Rob Bell, “The Shaping Of Things To Come” by Michael Frost & Alan Hirsch—all of these are books that have greatly impacted my thinking.]

20. Five authors who have most influenced your thinking (again, one does not have to agree with everything they write.)

1.     John Eldredge
2.     Philip Yancey
3.     Elisabeth Elliot
4.     Neil Cole
5.     Rob Bell

Honorable mentions: Watchman Nee, Frank Viola, Wolfgang Simson, Tony & Felicity Dale, A.W. Tozer, and Henri Nouwen.

Feel free to copy the questions and fill in your own answers. If you do so, please leave a comment below so we can check out some of your favorite books.

Monday, February 6

Barbara Lynn Rivers (1954 - 2017)

De los 299 misioneros de la FMB/IMB que han servido en el Ecuador, pocos han logrado un mayor y duradero impacto como lo hizo BARBARA LYNN RIVERS (9 abril 1954 – 5 de febrero 2017).

Barbara llegó a Guayaquil, Ecuador como misionera en 1986 y retornó a los Estados Unidos en Febrero del 2010 por motivos de salud.  Antes de su llegada al Ecuador, Bárbara fue una misionera en Guatemala por dos años, y estudió español en Costa Rica.

Durante sus 24 años en Guayaquil, Barbara sirvió a su Señor en una variedad de roles: educación teológica, obra con la Unión Femenil Bautista (UFBME), SAS en Acción (obra misionera con señoritas), consejera de Teleamigo, ministerio a jóvenes delincuentes institucionalizados, ministerio a mujeres en prostitución, fundadora de la Fundación Dorcas y su obra con los ancianos, maestra en temas relacionados a la educación Cristiana, maestra de la Biblia, autora de material didáctico y de lecciones bíblicas, guerrera de oración, y capacitador de líderes en el movimiento de plantación de iglesias en las casas.    

Lo que siempre recordaré de Bárbara era su gran amor por el pueblo ecuatoriano. Su lenguaje de corazón era el EspañolEn muchas ocasiones conversando con Bárbara, ¡ella no se daba cuenta que estaba hablando en español en vez del inglés!   Ella prefería leer y estudiar su Biblia en Español. La mayoría de sus amigas más cercanas eran ecuatorianas y consideraba a la familia de Humberto e Isabel Riofrío como su propia familia. Bárbara era una fanática de los deportes, especialmente todo lo relacionado con el programa deportivo de la Universidad de Texas dónde ella estudió. Su risa contagiosa era algo que le seguía dondequiera que iba.

En abril del 2011 Bárbara retornó a Guayaquil por última vez para despedirse de la gente quién tanto amaba. Si no fuera por la enfermedad que padecía que forzó su retorno a los EE.UU. creo que hubiera continuado viviendo y sirviendo a su Señor en el Ecuador hasta su muerte. Durante esta última visita, el Municipio de Guayaquil honró a Bárbara con una ceremonia especial por sus años de servicio social y sus contribuciones espirituales al pueblo ecuatoriano.  Si no me equivoco, Bárbara es solamente una de  dos personas cristianas evangélicas que hayan recibido dicha reconocimiento por las autoridades locales.

Para mi esposa y yo, Bárbara siempre será uno de esos misioneros excepcionales que Dios utilizó para tocar las vidas de tantas personas. Trabajamos juntos con ella por más de dos décadas y aprendimos mucho por medio de su experiencia y sabiduría, admirándola siempre por el alto nivel de compromiso que tenía con el Señor. La hemos extrañado estos últimos siete años, pero regocijamos que por fin Bárbara está hecha completa y goza en la presencia de su amado Salvador a quién ella entregó de lleno su vida mientras estuvo aquí en la tierra.
--J. Guy Muse
February 6, 2017
Guayaquil, Ecuador

Barbara Lynn Rivers (1954 - 2017)

Of the 299 FMB/IMB missionaries who have served in Ecuador, few have made a greater and more lasting impact than BARBARA LYNN RIVERS (April 9, 1954 – February 5, 2017).

Barbara arrived in Guayaquil, Ecuador in 1986 and returned to the United States for health reasons in February 2010. Prior to her service in Ecuador, Barbara was a missionary Journeyman in Guatemala and studied Spanish in Costa Rica. 

During the 24 years she was in Guayaquil, Barbara served her Lord in a variety of roles: theological education, work with the national Women’s Missionary Union (UFBME), SAS (young women in missions), counselor with the Teleamigo counseling center, ministry to troubled institutionalized youth (María José), ministry to women in prostitution, founding of the Dorcas Foundation and her work with the elderly, teacher of a wide range of Christian Education subject matters, Bible teacher, writer of training materials/lessons, prayer warrior, and trainer for the house church planting movement in Guayaquil and on the coast of Ecuador.
    
What I will always remember about Barbara was the great love she had for the Ecuadorian people. Her heart language was truly Spanish.  On many occasions we would be talking and Barbara would not even notice she was conversing in Spanish rather than English!  She preferred reading and studying her Spanish Bible. Most of her closest friends were Ecuadorian and she considered the Humberto and Isabel Riofrío family as her own family.  Barbara was a fanatical sports lover (especially anything Longhorns), and had an infectious laughter wherever she went.

In April 2011 Barbara returned to Guayaquil for the last time to say good-bye to the land and people to whom she had given her life. Were it not for the serious illness that ended up taking her back to the USA, I am confident she would have continued living and serving in Ecuador to her dying day. During this farewell visit, the City of Guayaquil honored her in a special ceremony for her years of service and the many social and spiritual contributions she made to the people of Ecuador. As far as I know, Barbara is only one of two Christian evangelical persons to have ever received such recognition.

For my wife and I, Barbara will always be one of those exceptional “under the radar” missionaries that God uses to touch the lives of many people.  We worked closely together for many years and learned much from her experience and wisdom, truly admiring her level of commitment to the Lord. She has been missed since leaving us seven years ago, but we truly rejoice Barbara is now whole and with the one Person to whom she gave her meaningful and well-lived life.

--J. Guy Muse
February 6, 2017
Guayaquil, Ecuador

Tuesday, January 31

¿Dios está en todo?



La tierra está llena del cielo 
Y cada arbusto común en llamas con Dios: 
Sin embargo, sólo él que ve, quita los zapatos, 
El resto se sientan alrededor de ella, 
Arrancando las moras. 
-Elizabeth Barrett Browning, "Aurora Leigh" VII.821-22 

Pocas líneas capturan tan profundamente el misterio de Dios y sus caminos.

Uno de los regalos más notables que Dios ha dado a la humanidad es la libertad de elegir. Podemos optar por ver el arbusto y agarrar las moras, o ver a Dios ardiendo en la zarza. La elección es nuestra. Cómo percibimos a Dios determinará como interpretamos los arbustos comunes de la vida.

¿Realmente está Dios en cada arbusto común? ¿Está Dios en la taza de café sentado a mi lado, o el portátil sentado en mi escritorio? ¿Existe realmente tal cosa como un celular santo o un clip de papel ungido?  ¿Es eso lo que Browning está tratando de decirnos?

Creo que ella está dando a entender que cada persona elija lo que va a creer  acerca de Dios. Elegimos nuestras respuestas a las cosas que entran en nuestras vidas. Es como la historia de dos prisioneros mirando desde detrás de las rejas - uno ve el barro de la calle y el otro ve estrellas en el cielo.

La vida puede ser vista desde ambas representaciones, barro o estrellas. Podemos ver las cosas desde la perspectiva de Dios, o elegir verlas literalmente como se presenten ante nosotros a través de nuestro cinco sentidos. Todo depende de nuestra percepción de cómo Dios obra en nuestra vida.

Cuando Moisés encontró la zarza ardiente en el desierto lo primero que le asombró era, "aunque el arbusto ardía no se consumía." 

Cuando el Señor vio que había ido a mirar, lo llamó desde la zarza: "¡Moisés! ¡Moisés!" y Moisés dijo: "Aquí estoy." 

Entonces, pues, ¿sigue llamándonos Dios desde los arbustos comunes? Creo que sí. Pero sólo cuando elegimos verlo, oírlo, y lo percibimos en todas las cosas. Nuestra respuesta tiene que ser el mismo que tuvo Moisés, "Aquí estoy, Señor." 

Cuando alguien llega tarde a una cita a la cual hemos esforzado para llegar a tiempo, tenemos la opción de ver un arbusto "encendido de Dios" o un arbusto irritante que sirve solamente para enfadarnos.  Nuestra respuesta común es la frustración y el pensar del tiempo perdido. Pero si en la realidad cada arbusto es uno encendido por Dios, ¿habrá una razón espiritual o importante para que las cosas sean como son?

Oswaldo Chambers lo dice de esta forma,
Todos podemos ver a Dios en las cosas excepcionales, pero requiere de la cultura de la disciplina espiritual para ver a Dios en cada detalle. Nunca permita que la casualidad de la vida sea nada menos que el orden señalado por Dios, y esté listo para descubrir los designios divinos en toda circunstancia.

Elisabeth Elliot, misionera al Ecuador, elabora sobre el Salmo 16:5, "Señor, me has asignado mi porción y mi copa, tú sustentas mi suerte."  
"No conozco de ninguna simplificador para toda la vida. Pase lo que pase todo me viene asignado.
¿El intelecto humano rebela al oír tal cosa? ¿Acaso podemos decir que hay cosas que suceden en nuestra vida que no pertenecen a “mi porción asignada?” ¿Tenemos derecho de decir, esto sí pertenece a mi porción, pero lo otro no?  ¿Existen cosas fuera del control del Todopoderoso?
Cada asignación es medida y controlada para mi bien. Al aceptar la porción dada por Dios las demás opciones se cancelan. Las decisiones se hacen más fáciles, las direcciones más claras, y por lo tanto, mi corazón se tranquiliza." 
Al escoger aceptar la vida tal como nos viene asignada por la mano de un Padre amoroso, de hecho aprendemos la verdad que cada arbusto común de la vida literalmente arde con la presencia de Dios.

Dios está con nosotros en toda situación.
Dios está en nosotros obrando sus propósitos eternos.
Dios está aquí en este mismo momento.
Dios está por nosotros no importa que nos pase en la vida.
Dios nos ama. Nada que hagamos pueda cambiar esta verdad.
Dios asigna mi suerte y porción para mí bien.
Dios hace que todas las cosas me ayuden para bien.
Dios nos cuida y podemos descansar en su presencia.
Dios está en control de cada faceta de mi vida;
nada me suceda sin antes pasar por su permiso soberano.

Monday, January 30

Is God in Everything?


Earth's crammed with heaven
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, "Aurora Leigh" VII.821-22

Few lines capture as profoundly the mystery of God and his ways.

One of the most remarkable gifts God has given mankind is the freedom to choose. We can choose to see God in every common bush, or we can choose to see bushes and pluck their berries. The choice is ours. How we see the common bushes of life determines how we embrace life and God.

Is God really in every common bush? Is he in the coffee cup sitting by my side, or the laptop sitting on my desk? Is there really such a thing as a "holy telephone" or an "anointed paper clip"? Is that what Browning is trying to say?

I believe she is hinting we have the choice about what we choose to believe about God. We choose our responses to the things that come into our lives. It is like the story of two prisoners gazing out from behind bars – one sees mud and the other sees stars. Life can be seen from either perspective: mud or stars. We choose whether to see things from God's perspective or see what literally stands before us. Perspective is everything.

When Moses encountered the burning bush in the wilderness what first amazed him, "though the bush was on fire it did not burn up." 

When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!" And Moses said, "Here I am." 

Does God still call us from the common bushes? I believe He does. But only when we choose to see, hear, and perceive Him in all things. Our response has to be the same as Moses, "Here I am, Lord."

When someone is late for an appointment that we have ourselves have made the effort to be on time for, we have the choice to see a bush "afire with God" or a bush to sit round and pluck blackberries (and fume!) Our common response is frustration, loss, and thinking of the wasted time. But if every common bush is afire with God, might there be a spiritual reason or significance for even delayed appointments?
Elisabeth Elliot elaborates on Psalm 16:5, "Lord, You have assigned me my portion and my cup, and have made my lot secure." She comments, "I know of no greater simplifier for all of life. Whatever happens is assigned. Does the intellect balk at that? Can we say there are things that happen to us which do not belong to our lovingly assigned "portion" (This belongs to it, that does not?) Are some things...out of the control of the Almighty? Every assignment is measured and controlled for my eternal good. As I accept the given portion other options are canceled. Decisions become much easier, directions clearer, and hence my heart becomes inexpressibly quieter."
I think the key word in the above wise words is, "...as I accept the given portion..." As we choose to accept life as it comes assigned to us from a loving Father, we indeed learn to see "every common bush afire with God."

ETERNAL TRUTHS TO CLAIM:

God is always with us in every situation.
God is always for us no matter what happens.
God loves us. There is nothing we can do that will change this fact.
God assigns to us our portion and cup—that which is best for our good.
God is here right now.
God cares for us.
God works all things together for our good.
God is in control of every facet of our life; 
nothing happens without first passing through his divine permission.

Sunday, January 22

Church in the ashes


A true story heard from a fellow Ecuadorian church planter working in a neighboring region of our province.

Luisa was eager to start with her new church plant. She had no where to go, and did not know where to start. After praying, she felt led to start under the shade of a tree near where she lived. Her first gathering consisted of herself and two other girls. Luisa was ecstatic. She was on her way to becoming a church planter!

Two weeks later, the tree was cut down by the owner of the property. Luisa was devastated. She went to her church planting mentor and cried, "Now, what am I supposed to do? I have no where else to meet. The tree has been cut down."

Her wise mentor told her, "Thank the Lord! He has now provided you with a place to sit! Resume meeting in the branches of the fallen tree."

Luisa did so, and the group meeting continued to meet for a couple of more weeks. All was going well until the owner decided to burn the fallen tree.

Luisa went back and lamented, "Now what are we going to do? The owner has burned our tree. Now we don't have anywhere to sit when we gather."

Her mentor told her, "Go back and continue to meet in the midst of the ashes. Church is not the place, but the people the Lord has given you to work with. Trust God. He is with you."

Luisa did so. She and her little band of new believers continued to meet in the spot where now only ashes remained.

Meanwhile, the intrigued owner continued to wonder at the group that so faithfully gathered no matter what he did to the tree. Finally, out of curiosity, he too began coming to the gatherings to learn more about what was going on.

A few weeks passed and he too gave his heart to Jesus. With his new heart, he donated the portion of land where the church had been gathering. Since it is hot out in the equatorial sun, he also decided it would be nice if everyone could have a shady place to sit. He then built a shelter large enough to accommodate the growing group out of the hot sun.

Many lessons can be learned from this story.

One that registered with me, is that God often has to reduce our "tree" (works) to ashes before He can build the church He intends on having.

Another lesson is the idea that set-backs, trials--and even tragedies are often viewed as detriments to the work. But more often than not, end up being the very means God uses to accomplish His purposes.

What other lessons do you see in this story?