Archive for December, 2008

Christmas Dinner 2008

Posted in Mission Updates 2008 on December 29, 2008 by filerofish

december-2008-030The annual Christmas Service and Dinner, is one of the most important outreach events that the Colonia Jalisco congregation offers to family, friends, and acquaintances. The program usually consists of uplifting seasonal praises, special music and a Christ-centered message. The children prepare and perform their plays and/ or skits to help drive home the message about the incarnation of the Messiah Jesus. It is a time of sowing the Gospel seed among seekers that sometimes produces a harvest of souls during the following months.

We usually enjoy a pretty good turnout, and this year was no exception. I counted between 70 and 80 people. Another conservative estimate was between 65 and 70. It’s not easy to keep an accurate count because there are always people coming and going throughout the duration of the program. This year my sister Cynthia helped to sponsor the event, so we were able to offer a delicious hot meal to our invited guests as a tangible expression of our Christian love toward them. Other church members helped with the food preparation and service. december-2008-037

Over the years, I have heard a few arguments against the practice of “celebrating Christmas”, and I am sure that they are probably valid to some degree. However, I have found that the best time to present the message of salvation is when people are most sensitive and open to listen. Many of those who come to this yearly occasion would never darken the door of a church building otherwise. For them, this will be the first time that they will have heard the Biblical message of redemption through the all-sufficient sacrifice of the Son of God. We want to be there with the answers to their spiritual questions when they are ready to receive them.

Another very good reason to celebrate the birth of our Lord during this season is the children. For the most part, Mexican children don’t receive much of anything on Christmas, so it gives us a perfect opportunity to exhibit God’s eternal love for them through the tangible acts of love displayed by His people. It is much easier december-2008-040for a child to make that connection in his or her mind than adults, as theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

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THE GREATEST CHALLENGE AHEAD IN THE MEXICAN CHURCH

Posted in Mission Updates 2008 on December 17, 2008 by filerofish

bautismos-anteriores-al-2002-135One of the greatest challenges for the church in Mexico is a good solid educational program to ground believers in the word of God and train them for ministry. There is a huge deficit in preachers, elders, and teachers that a traditional academic model will not even begin to address. The time has finally come for the RESTORATION of the Biblical approach to theological and ministerial training!

The apostle Paul declares that Christ has appointed evangelists, pastors (elders), and teachers in his church for the purpose of “equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head–Christ– from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:12-16 NKJV)

It needs to be pointed out that the traditional church has fallen short of this Biblical mandate, and has generally relegated this all-important task to formal institutions of “higher education.” These academic centers have often failed to produce the promised results, and they have invariably played a key role in the growing apostasy in these last days (one good example of this is the Emergent Church). It is high time that the local churches reclaim their God-given directive and begin an in-house/ hands-on teaching and equipping ministry that reaches out to all members, regardless of their limitations! Some may choose to call it non-traditional, informal, distance-learning, et al. I just call it BIBLICAL! It seems like we have become so enamored with accreditation, degrees and the accolades of men, that we find it difficult to see things as God sees them. We must constantly remind ourselves that His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are our ways His ways. (Isa 55:8)

A Biblical training program does not need to be substandard. In fact, it can be more demanding than an on-campus approach, depending on the particular requirements of a growing community of believers. But one of the greatest virtues of an in-house paradigm is that it can be made flexible enough to address the real needs of those who will be ministering to others. Another benefit is that it restores the church as the saving community that God has always intended it to be. As the present economic crisis continues to worsen, it will soon become the only viable solution for the church. We can choose to regroup and retool now while conditions are still in our favor, or we will be eventually forced to do it later under dire straits. It’s our choice to make.

I realize that a prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house. (Mat 13:57) A few years ago, no one really believed that this economic meltdown was coming or that it would last as long as it is going to last. As recent as the GOP race for the nomination, Ron Paul was pretty much the laughing stock of all of his competitors in his own political party. I don’t think anyone is laughing now. I am not a politician or an expert in economy, so in 2004 God had to communicate this same message to me the only way he could: through the language of his Spirit, who indwells every true born-again believer in Christ. I issued a warning to the church to the effect that God was getting ready to poor out His judgment on a wayward nation, and no one paid much attention then. I suppose that it’s merely human nature to ignore the warning signs. Maybe they will heed the call to restore the church back to its New Testament paradigm now.

Here are some examples of what others in the Restoration Movement are doing:

Summit Theological Seminary:

http://www.summit1.org/

Examples among non-instrument Churches of Christ:

Larry White

http://www.cbpoc.net/index.php

Sunset International Bible Institute:

http://www.sibi.cc

Internet School of Biblical Studies

http://www.thebible.net/ISBS/



AN INCREDIBLE WEEKEND OF REVIVAL – MISSION UPDATE

Posted in Mission Updates 2008 on December 8, 2008 by filerofish

2008-evangelistic-campaign-070What began as an evangelistic campaign rapidly turned into a unity and restoration meeting, as nearly all the local churches were represented there. The Lord did crown the event with one baptism toward the end, and there are three more on the way. On Saturday night we had a special time of prayer for the sick, and at least 20 people walked up to the front for that. We had the preachers and elders of all the churches come forward to pray for them. It was great to see the church ministering together for the common good of the needy.

On Sunday night, Tito prayed for the local leadership and asked the church members to join him in intercession for these men. We also celebrated the Lord’s Supper in unison together. It was probably one of the most symbolic and touching moments of the entire program. Each congregation was able to embrace all of the other congregations as part of the body of Christ. What a precious time of healing this turned out to be!

There are many lessons learned from this brief but substantial experience. My job was to coordinate the entire 2008-evangelistic-campaign-072event and make sure that all of the needs of our evangelist were cared for. The sister church from Granjas El Gallo was in charge of the children’s program and the meals for the visiting team. They did an excellent job! Ruben, Elery, and Neftali presided over the evening program. Our members were in charge of preparing the final evening meal for Sunday night and clean up chores. Both the Empleados and Lomitas churches brought special music. The synergy created by the combined efforts of everyone working together surpassed even my expectations. It makes me wonder what could be done if we decided to form a city-wide team for prayer, evangelism, leadership-training, etc. There is certainly a lot of work to be done in the days ahead, but we must decide now if we will do it in unity or continue on our separate ways.

2008-evangelistic-campaign-090Everyone is asking me “what comes next?” I tell them that it’s up to them to decide. Brother Mark Northrup came and preached a message of forgiveness and reconciliation. Tito Garcia came and shared God’s call to church unity. It is only proper that some of the other leaders shoulder part of the responsibility and show some initiative. And I think they will too, possibly even sooner than expected. Ruben has already requested to meet with me for ongoing dialogue in order to set some dates for further discussion among all the preachers and elders. Personally, I intend to move full-steam ahead and form a solid team with all of those who have captured that vision and want to work together for the Lord. At this time, there are several candidates that have expressed their desire to do exactly that.

During our private conversations, brother Tito said something to me that has stuck in my mind. He told me that “unless God moves you to somewhere else, you better stay put where you are.” He was speaking of himself and his own ministry in Tijuana, but it was God’s way of confirming something that I have been praying for. About a week or so before the campaign, I had asked God to please show me a sign or give me some direction as to what I should do with my life. After all, I have asked and prayed many times for a ministry opening someplace else, even in the U.S. During the campaign it became increasingly clear to me that God wants me to remain right where I am now. He has undeniably confirmed my leadership role among the churches in Ensenada, and he has shown me that there is a huge task for me ahead in training a new generation of servant leaders for His church in Mexico.2008-evangelistic-campaign-081

Things To Be Praying For:

Another important lesson learned is that we will need to find someplace else to hold our meetings very soon. Growth is forcing us to face reality, and our little facility is just not capable of dealing with larger crowds. An ideal solution would be to find a large plot of ground on which to start building. That way we would not have to face the monthly rent fees. However, the pressing need would probably require some transitional or intermediate solution as the Lord leads.

Miriam, Santiago and I have been fighting off cold and flu symptoms for several months now. Kimberly has had tonsil infections twice already, and now her digestive system is suffering the consequences. Miriam has developed a chronic laryngitis that doesn’t want to clear up. I started having bronchial congestion almost five months ago, and now it has moved back into my sinuses. We just can’t seem to lick this thing. We need a miracle!

I have been watching the Spanish version of CBN called “MundoCristiano,” and they had featured a news clip documenting the effect that the financial collapse is having on the U.S. missionaries around the world. It has been reported that missionaries have lost between 35% and 50% of their income and purchasing power, forcing many of them to downsize and even leave the mission field. It is not a pretty sight any way you look at it.

Please pray for our future in ministry.