Friday, May 31, 2013

Sovereign Orchestration

Chapter 5 left us hanging. Then, like a bolt of lightning, another Wow. After reading of God's sovereign orchestration of human events in the first few chapters of Esther, chapter 5 ends with a ghastly plan to steal, kill and destroy. But like an oncoming train, Chapter 6 tells of God's double-whammy on the evil Haman. He'd built a gallows to kill Mordecai. Next thing you know, the insomniac king discovers that no thank you note had been sent to Mordecai for saving his life. So God, unnamed in text but loudly at work, has Haman forced to parade Mordecai around town like a hero instead of snuffing him out. You have to love God's perfect plans which defy logic and confound the so-called wise of this world. The invisible bodyguard beats up the blatant bully. His people are preserved and able to not just survive but thrive as they walk in the garden of His gracious turbulence (aka sovereign orchestration of human affairs), as He detoxifies sinful poison and makes even the wrath of man to praise Him (Psalm 76:10). If you think the Esther turnabout is fair play you'll love the greatest cosmic boomerang ever. God systematically turned evil against itself at the cross and triumphed over His foes, busting through man-made delusion to the most glorious of settled-before-the-foundation-of-the-world conclusions: the enemy Satan defeated, Jesus forever reigning victorious, and the glad recipients of God's sovereign grace in Christ, serving God's purposes as He orchestrates everything. Christians, we have been saved for such a time as this. Appearances deceive. Do your God-given work knowing that every knee, every tongue, every heart, everything raised up against God, will acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ. All praise will go to the Lord Jesus Christ. Align yourself with Him today. The only way to be saved is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as revealed in Scripture alone, for God's glory alone. The only way to really live is in Christ. Know today that Jesus loves you and follow Him, the Sovereign Orchestrator.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Feeling the Birth Pains

0 comments We are feeling the birth pains once again. Pain leading to glorious life, not grisly death, but nonetheless pain. Boston. Texas. National. Worldwide. Personal. Internal. Ripping at our hearts, shocking the senses. Jesus said it would be like this. In every time and place where the gospel has been preached and lives have been changed, Christians (those who have been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Christ) have believed that they were living in the Last Days. Events come one after the other, building to a time that will result in a crescendo of praise from believers and abject horror from unbelievers at Christ’s appearing. We feel the beginning of the birth pains that Jesus spoke of in life-altering events. We were shocked once again last Monday by what happened in Boston. Things like this really should no longer shock us but they do each time. Mind numbing pain but the senses still say something is terribly wrong. Evil runs rampant in the hearts and streets of men and Jesus is our only hope. We must believe Him to live. People forsake Him at their peril. And God, by His Spirit and through His Word, continues to lovingly, pariently and mercifully tell us the truth about Himself, about us and about the future. The gospel gives us hope as we live in what looks like the last days. Only God knows. --- All praise to the Lord Jesus Christ. I have been saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as revealed in Scripture alone, for God's glory alone. Jesus loves you!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

South Africa 2013 - Recap of Days 9-14

South Africa 2013 Recap of Days 9-14 Day 9 - Thursday, February 28 Working at Muphamuzi Baby Home. Prepping for Together for Adoption Conference (T4A) in Pretoria. I went to the Pastor's Boot Camp pre-Conference half-day seminar led by Dan Cruver, the leader of T4A from South Carolina. Day 10 - Friday, March 1 First day of Together for Adoption Conference (T4A) in Pretoria. Doug Plank from a Sovereign Grace church in Pennsylvania led worship. A smorgasbord of gospel-centered preaching, singing and fellowship. Day 11 - Saturday, March 2 Last day of Together for Adoption Conference (T4A) in Pretoria. A full day of amazing worship, gospel preaching and fellowship. Drenched in gospel truth. Day 12 - Sunday, March 3 Team debrief and a meal at the Mack's. In the afternoon we worshipped together with the people of Living Hope Church once again. Randy and I picked up 15 Salvokop folks for church, most of whom are from Zimbabwe. Living Hope has people from 12 ethnic groups. What an awesome mix. Doug Plank led the singing (joined by weekly regulars on the djembe and tambourine, from out in the congregation) and Dan Cruver preached. After we dropped everyone off in Salvokop, the team did some souvenir shopping near the Capitol buildings. Day 13 - Monday, March 4 Randy took the men to Salvokop where we worked on Claudius' home. We put on the roof, worked on the floor and built a front stoop in a slum-type neighborhood. Lunch and packing at the Clark's. A trip to the Lion Park capped off our time in South Africa. Day 14 - Tuesday, March 5 Flying to London, then on to LAX. Over 24 hours of travel! So many things God has done in such a concentrated time. It is clear to me that the Clarks are in the right place, at the right time, for the right reasons. Gifting, desire and team fit are all solidly in place. They are clearly doing what they are meant to do at this point in time. A gospel-focused engagement in sacrificial service is their only agenda. What a joy it was to witness this first hand. The Mack's are an exceptional family that is walking by faith and trusting Jesus every step of the way. Josh is a humble leader and a man of depth. I witnessed many things that brought joy to my heart on this trip, notable among them are these: 1. Gospel-centered living permeated everything. The 1Hope team strives to bring God's Word and Christ's finished work to bear on everything. What does God's Word say about it and how does what Jesus did and is doing inform and transform us and every situation? It really is the only way to really live. 2. Humble Hospitality. We came to be a blessing and refresh others, we ended up being blessed and refreshed. Our hosts graciously opened their hearts and homes to us. Love of the brethren continued. God was obeyed and Christ was honored. 3. Sacrificial Service. Every member of the 1Hope team and the Grace Orange team willingly did whatever was needed, for Jesus and the gospel, at cost to their preferences and comfort. A living example of 2 Cor. 5:14-15.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

South Africa 2013 - Recap 5-8

South Africa 2013 Recap of Days 5-8 Day 5 - Sunday, 2/24 Worshipped at Living Hope Church in Sunnyside where Josh Mack pastors. Newton was preaching today, a strong sermon on Matthew 5:8. Solid exposition of scripture and passionate preaching. Before church I went to Salvakop with Andre and picked people up for church. 19 people in a 10 passenger van! After church the team went to Nixon's flat for an authentic DRC (Congo) meal and to hear his testimony of God's grace in his life as a husband, father and seminary student and pastoral intern at Living Hope. A long day but full of sweet worship and fellowship. God is good and Jesus is Lord. Day 6 - Monday, 2/25 Up at 3 am for a 345 am pickup and 4 am departure from Pretoria, South Africa to the small country of Lesotho, a unique country within a country completely surrounded on all sides by South Africa. We will be 'roughing it' a bit, in the village of Rahomaneng, about 50 kilometers (about 35 miles) from the South African border town of Ficksburg. Lesotho is more mountainous, more remote, surrounded by mountains with Grand Canyon-esque plateaus and distant ranges, wide open spaces with dramatic views in all directions. In Lesotho, we are on what I'm calling "A missions trip within a missions trip to a country within a country" led by servant extraordinaire and quickly becoming good friend Andre DeWit. On the menu for our team is feeding orphans, building a church (including digging an outhouse) and enjoying the fellowship of the people. We arrived, got settled and promptly worked hard under the blazing hot African sun. In the evening we studied Galatians 4:4-7 and focused on how God's adoption of believers inspires human adoption. Day 7 - Tuesday, 2/26 A full day of work and fellowship! Feeding multiple groups, lots of dusty hot digging and a sweet time in the Word as Ted Dang (Sonja Kostura's brother) led us in a study of 2 Cor. 5:17-21 and how God reconciles believers to Himself and points us to serve Him rather than ourselves, and to see others according to God's holy opinion of them versus our sinful opinions. Good word from a good brother who lives what he taught. Day 8 - Wednesday, 2/27 Up at 4 am for a 430 am pickup for a 5 am departure from Lesotho back to South Africa. Every hour on the hour we prayed for God's wisdom, blessing and strength for our upcoming outreach. I got the treat of riding shotgun for Josh Mack and a six hour drive seemed like one hour! What a dear brother. We spoke of Jesus, family, and pastoring among other things. He's one of those 'brother from a different mother' kind of guys. Gracious and kind. We arrived back at Pretoria about 1 pm. A couple of hours of rest and it was off to the Salvakop area for our planned outreach of dinner and the Jesus Film at the local school. Upon arriving in Salvakop we set up, then canvassed the neighborhood reminding people about the event. Many showed up to eat hot dogs and view the film. We are trusting God to wipe away all obstacles to faith that exist in their lives; that they would turn to Jesus and be saved. Pray for Randy Clark's weekly Wednesday Bible Study there. There are many obstacles but God has opened a door for the Word. I'm envisioning outreach like this, Bible Study and relationship-building discipleship, in areas in and near Orange that we mostly overlook or ignore. A surprise late-night run to the Muphamuzi Baby Home with Randy to drop off a car and fix some blown electricity resulted in another opportunity to fellowship and hear my brother's heart for ministry in his own home, the Church and his immediate world. There is a firm resolve on the Clark's part to serve God's purposes in this generation in South Africa. They are here 'for such a time as this', as you and I are in our place of God's planting. Bloom where you are planted! By the way, on many fronts our resolve as a team to serve unselfishly for the glory of God rather than self-focused for our own comfort is being tested; and while we are weak, we are trusting our strong Sanctifier to glorify Himself in us and complete the work He started in us. Until next time. In Christ, Mike All praise to the Lord Jesus Christ. I have been saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as revealed in Scripture alone, for God's glory alone. Jesus loves you!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

South Africa 2013 - Recap of Days 1, 3 and 4!

South Africa 2013...Recap of Days 1, 3, & 4! What? No day 2? I think it vanished in thin air somewhere between London and Johannesburg.:) DAY 1 We left on Wednesday night, Feb. 20 and the Lord brought us safely through the air and multiple security checks and customs. Great excitement and fellowship amongst the team. This is going to be good. It already is. An amazing African sunrise seen from the plane capped off some really good travel. Praise God. DAY 3 We landed in Johannesburg early Friday morning, Feb. 22. All 20 boxes for the 1Hope Muphamuzi Baby Home, the Clarks and the Macks made it safety through. Praise God. We were greeted by Randy Clark, Josh Mack and Andre DeWit, our primary hosts and men who are in awe of Jesus and savoring gospel truth as they serve God's purposes in this part of the world. Praise God. Pretoria here we come! We pushed through jet lag and the day, driving from Joburg to Pretoria, going first to the Mack's home in Pretoria for breakfast and an initial team meeting. We were foggy but excited to finally be here. We met the Mack's nine wonderful kids, including Muphamuzi, and toured the Muphamuzi Baby Home. Beautiful babies loved by God and their gospel-changed caregivers. Praise God. Dinner at the Mack's, trying to keep our eyelids from closing. We are closing in on some sweet sleep! Off to our host homes. Praise God. DAY 4 We awoke on Saturday to the fresh sounds of birds chirping in the trees. It's summer here and the days are hot while the nights and mornings are refreshingly cool. Praise God. Today we are working at MBH (the baby home). Loading tools and boxes from the US. Heading to the Mack's for breakfast and some time singing praise to God and hearing His Word. Mike Kostura led us in a gospel-focused time in Titus 2. Then off to MBH. Driving the highways and streets with fresh eyes open to the many sights reminds me to look for needs all around when I get back home. So many gospel opportunities. Praise God. A full day of baby holding, feeding, cuddling; clothes and supply sorting; bricklaying, tree cutting, supply buying, and shelf making surrounded by sweet fellowship with brothers and sisters in the shade of trees, an easy up and under the hot African sun. Words can't do justice to the goodness of God among His people as they work together for the gospel. We were made for this. Praise God. Back to the Mack's for an amazing South African dinner of Potjie (Food cooked in a cast iron Dutch Oven over hot coals all day). Weary from work yet pressing on into some great fellowship as we savored God's goodness and some really good food. And the sound of the many children on our team interacting with their new and old friends is awesome. Praise God. So much more I could say so far...about the Clark's and their God-ordained perfect fit (heart, gifts, desire all clicking along and fitting so well with the 1Hope team) in Pretoria for such a time like this; and the Mack's and their contagious passion for Jesus and the gospel; Andre's endearing sense of humor; Donovan and his wife's humble oversight of the baby home. And the Grace team: all I can say is praise God. Mike Kostura's gospel-infused leadership; getting to serve with the Manthorne's, Hughes', Bush's, and Ted (who all display the ability and willingness to help with pretty much anything needed); and the kids bringing joy and excitement into every situation. This is good! God is good. Praise God. All praise to the Lord Jesus Christ. I have been saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as revealed in Scripture alone, for God's glory alone. Jesus loves you!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Jesus, Friend of Sinners

Jesus, Jesus Friend of sinners, Jesus Christ, Friend of all who bow at His feet, and call on His Name, and trust His blood, and live because He loved and loves.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Grace and Glory

I get angry when things don't go my way. I'm a sinful man. I lose it when somone breaks something but won't fess up and I keep having to fix it. I grow impatient with slow growing souls but stay stunted in quasi-spirituality and make-believe righteousness. I'm good at pretending. I'm a class A actor on stage, when I live self-righteous on the outside and I'm harboring sin and insecurity on the inside. Hypocrisy wears a double mask. It only shows so much. It won't reveal the plain truth. I'm begging Jesus to free me. In my fog I cannot see that He already does. Where does my pride come from? What sinkhole did it crawl out from underneath? Under what rock was it hiding so Gollum-like, searching after my precious reputation? I will admit it: I want comfort. I want hope. I want everything to go the way I want. Sinful, selfish, too often preoccupied with myself. Grandeur and glory for me is on my menu, Babel-like towers to my own memory. But, this is not reality. This is where I must start my trek. Where Truth prevails. Truth wins. Love reigns supreme. God's grace and glory tower over human greed and grandeur. Therefore, I have hope, and forgiveness in Christ.