Friday, March 28, 2008

Embracing Reproof Joyfully

He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. He who neglects discipline despises himself, but he who listens to reproof acquires understanding, (Proverbs 15, 31-32, nasb).

Correcting someone is difficult, but receiving reproof is worse, but should it be? In the words of the International Director of ACTION Nelson Reed, “Should we not embrace reproof joyfully?”

Proverbs 15: 31-32 says if we listen to reproof we are wise; if we accept it we are humble; if we have an open ear to correction we grow in our walk with God and in understanding.

So today, if someone talks to you about your anger, it will hurt, but listen; or if they mention your lack of servanthood, learn from it. If you become aware of your lack of generosity, lack of grace, or lack of concern for others, embrace the rebuke from the Lord joyfully as one who is wise!

If you and I begin to embrace reproof joyfully, we, as well as our family, friends, our ministry, will truly glorify God.

Street Boy Becomes Academic Dean

He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker, but he who is gracious to the needy honors Him, (Proverbs 14:31, nasb).
Street boy in Manila

Sometimes there may be a subtle slight in the way we treat the poor, the needy, and the orphan. Although we would never knowingly oppress orphans, are we gracious to them?

In Christian history a man of faith cared for thousands of orphans. This was wonderful! However, since the children were orphans, they were considered low class by society. Instead of sending these children to college and encouraging them to enter ministerial training, the boys and the girls were apprenticed out as laborers and servants at age 15 and 17.

The love and care given to these orphans were exemplary, but none were ever known to become lawyers, doctors, educators, pastors, or missionaries because of their social standing.

Praise God for this man of faith who cared for thousands of orphans. As many of God’s people worldwide care for street children and orphans, let us follow in faith as this great man did, but let us go further. Let us make sure that we care for them as we would our own children and give them the same opportunities to serve God whether as a bus driver, civil engineer, doctor, educator, missionary or pastor. 

An underprivileged boy of Manila went to an evangelistic camp. He came to faith in Christ and was later trained in a mission's Second Mile Discipleship and Vocational Training program. Later he got a welding job, but felt that God was calling him into ministry. He took a job in maintenance at a large church in Manila so he could attend all the services and seminars to prepare for ministry. 

Later a small church in the US with the help missionaries paid for him to attend Bible school at Philippine Mission Institute (PMI). Even though he was from the streets and had little education, the faculty helped him through school and he graduated with honors. He became Dean of Students and attended part time at Asian Theological Seminary (one of the largest in Asia), graduated, later became Academic Dean PMI. At one time he was even considered for the presidency of this same institution. Today Fidel is pastoring a Conservative Baptist Church. 

Praise God for the people who did not give up on this underprivileged boy. They instead encouraged him to be all he should be to the glory of God.

Monday, March 24, 2008

First Fruits to Prisoners

Thousands of prisoners struggle just to stay alive in the jails and local and national prisons of the Philippines.

Will and Joanie Feuerstein, an ACTION missionary couple from Cincinnati, minister the Gospel and compassionate care to the forgotten in the major maximum security national prison 15 miles south of Manila.

Several thousand men there have indicated they have trusted Christ in faith! Some of these believers have planted gardens in the prison compound to supplement their limited diet. When they began to harvest the first vegetables, they wanted to present “the first fruits” to the Lord. As they prayed, God led them to give this nourishing produce to sick and elderly prisoners in their same prison in Christ’s Name.

As a political prisoner and a communist leader witnessed this along with other good works of the Gospel of Christ, he stated, “I want to know the God who leads His people to reach out to the oppressed as you do.”

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16, nasb). What good works of the Gospel and compassionate care to the glory of God are people seeing in our lives today?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Death of Father (even in death we can trust God)

Let me mention something I wrote down soon after the death of my father several years ago: “My mother and I were with my stepfather when he died Wednesday at 3 P.M. I spoke Sunday morning three times in a church in San Jose, California. Margaret and I then drove south, eight hours to Indio, arriving at my mother’s house, then to the hospital by 11 P.M. Margaret was able to get some sleep as I helped my sister, Pat, with dad all evening. At 95 years of age, he was still strong, fighting the pneumonia in his lungs, thrashing throughout the night, pulling out his tubes, ripping off his oxygen mask, and crying out in pain. I held him through the night, his head resting in exhaustion most of the time on my arm. Monday, Margaret sang for dad through much of a hymnbook, and we prayed and read Scriptures at various times through the day. It was a difficult but great day. Tuesday morning (after speaking to a nurse of Christ and the wonderful difference between reincarnation and the resurrection), a little Mexican Christian hospital utility man stopped my mother and me in the hallway, took our hands and said, “I am praying for you. Remember God always accomplishes His purposes. He is in control. You can trust Him!” What a tremendous assurance and encouragement. (Later I discovered that this man, Jesse, had been in prison for 30 years and was gloriously converted when someone shared the gospel with him soon after being released.) Margaret and I were able to share the gospel with several in the hospital. People seemed to be extremely open to kindness and the Word of God or especially hard and bitter. A passage of Scripture that has been very encouraging these days is Psalm 138:8, ‘The Lord will accomplish what concerns (us).’ He is in control of each aspect of our lives for our good and especially for His glory!”

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Questions to Ask at Dinner Time

Recently we were at a dinner in which everyone pulled out a question from a box and then commented.

We decided to do something similar at a dinner with two families with children. We developed our own questions, some serious, some funny, some with Scripture, and some not. You might want to try something like this at your home with guests to get the conversation going. Some of the questions are as follows:

Do you like to dress up? Why? What places do you like to go to when you are dressed up? With whom?

What is your favorite place to go out to eat? Why? What do you like or dislike about church dinners together?

Who is/was your favorite teacher and why?

What is your favorite sport? Favorite team? Why?

What is most important: eye glasses, shoes, hearing aides or clothes?

What is your favorite food and why? Who cooks it the best: your mom, grandmother, who?

What is your favorite soup? Who makes it best?

When was the last time you laughed (or smiled big) and why? Do you like to laugh?

When was the last time you cried (or had tears) and why?

What is your mom’s favorite color? What is (was) the best thing you liked to do with your mom (and dad)?

What is your favorite day of the week and why? What do you like to do on this day?

What is your favorite animal? Why?

What is your favorite book in the Bible? Why?

Describe your most favorite hot dog. How do you make it the best?

How long should a sermon be? 15 minutes? 20 minutes? 45 minutes? Why?

What is your most favorite book (not the Bible) you have ever read? Christian book? Non-Christian book?

How many times do you say “thank you” to others everyday? Give one or two examples of when you said “thank you” today, to whom and why.

What makes a good friend?

Where if your favorite place to go and visit? With whom?

Who is your favorite person in the Old Testament? Why? In the New Testament? Why?

What was the last present you received? From whom?

What was the last present you gave to someone? To whom?

So when you have people over for lunch or dinner this week, you might want to use some of these questions or ones that you develop. The key thing, however, is to have people over. Do you practice hospitality? Have you opened your home to others in the name of Christ?

Even though hospitality is one of the basic requirements of a leader in a local church, many ministry leaders never practice hospitality. That does not mean the rest of us can’t. A simple meal and your home open the door for you to minister the grace of God in people’s lives, to share the gospel, help you disciple, and work on issues that need to be dealt with in the Word of God.

In closing, let me share a great verse with you from Hebrews 13, Through Him (Jesus) then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased (Hebrews 13:15-16,nasb).

Monday, March 17, 2008

Experience in Olongapo

Several years ago in Olongapo (then referred to by Filipinos as Sin City), Ron Homenuke (ACTION Canada missionary to street children in the Philippines) took me to visit Rodney, a boy of 13 who trusted Christ the week before at an ACTION camp for 68 underprivileged children (54 indicated they trusted Christ!). Rodney has leprosy, and it was really sad to see the filthy 3-room home (under an old staircase) he lives in with his mother, her live-in partner, and 3 other brothers and sisters! I encouraged the mother to do all she could do concerning cleanliness and then expressed the importance of inner cleansing through the blood of Christ! Mike and I then prayed for the children, as well as the mother and boyfriend.

We then briefly visited a government center for about 70 children (ages 3 to 17). Ron usually ministers in the center twice weekly. The children saw us coming and began to shout Ron’s name. When the main gate was unlocked and we stepped in, the children overcome with excitement jumped all over us, all wanting to be touched and hugged! As we left about 30 minutes later, each of us had to take kids off our backs, shoulders and legs, children who were holding on to us to the last moment. I was the last to exit. As I stepped outside the gate, it was shut and locked. I turned to say goodbye especially to a little ugly boy with many sores on his face and body, runny nose, and oh so dirty! I put my hand through the bars of the gate and he grabbed on for one last squeeze. By the time I reached our van, I was crying. “Dear loving Father,” I began to pray, “please have mercy on that scar-faced little boy. Bring him to salvation through your Son, the Lord Jesus. Help him to respond to the Gospel which he has heard through Ron. Please care for all these abandoned children for Your Word says, ‘for in You the orphan finds mercy’.”

Pray for more missionaries to work with Ron and the Filipino churches of Manila to take the Gospel and Christian care to the thousands of needy, sick, dying, lonely, and dirty children for the glory of God!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Results of David Brainerd's Ministry

David Brainerd (1718-47) was a missionary to the Indians in New York,Pennsylvania,and New Jersey. Have you ever wondered what happened to the many Indians converted in the revival spoken of in his biography written by Jonathan Edwards? Not much is recorded, but there is an interesting paragraph in the book, The Light in Dark Ages by V. Raymond Edman published in 1949. He writes:

“The American frontiersmen, on their part, vented their wrath against Christian Indians, who had done them only good, by brutal outrages such as that at Gnadenhütten on the Muskingum in March 1782. Taken unawares by those who were considered to be friends, the Indians were condemned to the tomahawk. The Christians begged for a short delay, that they might prepare themselves for death. "Then asking pardon for whatever offense they had given, or grief they had occasioned to each other, they kneeled down, offering fervent prayers to God their Savior—and kissing one another, under a flood of tears fully resigned to his will, they sang praises unto him, in the joyful hope, that they would soon be relieved from their pains, and join their redeemer in everlasting bliss. Ninety-six believers in all were massacred, sixty-two adults including five native leaders and thirty-four children. Two of the natives, Samuel and Tobias, WERE CONVERTS OF DAVID BRAINERD in New Jersey long years before. Two lads escaped, one Thomas, after being scalped and left for dead, and the other by hiding in the cellar of the house where took place the slaughter of the women. Defenseless, offenseless, these Indians followed the lowly Lamb of God, Who Himself gave up His life because of man's greed and perverted sense of nationalism.” (The Light in Dark Ages by Dr. V. Raymond Edman, published 1949, page 365.)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Ministry to Elderly: Homebound

By Linda Ann Fumea

Many who are confined to their house are desperate for some human interaction and assistance. Your church can help.

Imagine being stuck in your home day after day, unable to leave for even the
simplest errand. Many of our elderly share this fate, but even worse, they no longer have any contact with their church family. No one calls; no one visits. They feel all their years of faithfulness in attendance and commitment have gone unnoticed.

Don't leave them feeling abandoned. There are many ways to reach out to the homebound. The simplest way is to ask your church office for a list of members who have not been attending and call or visit them. Another idea is to evaluate the financial needs of the homebound and develop an adopt-a-senior program.

Since the elderly often depend on their Social Security checks to cover their living expenses, they must prioritize their spending. For example, they may cancel Meals on Wheels to pay for prescriptions or go without air conditioning or heat. Church members can sign up individually or as groups to pay for utilities or meals every month. Alternatively, a benevolence fund could be set up to help with these or other specific needs.

In addition to financial aid, help with household chores is always needed. Grass grows, roofs leak, weak eyes need better lighting, wheelchair ramps and bath rails must be installed, sheds need fresh paint-the list is endless. Spring and fall are the perfect time for the church's teens to work on these projects.

Don't forget pets. Pets often become best friends to the homebound, so caring for a dog or cat is caring for its master.

The elderly who are homebound live in our neighborhoods, having worked in our communities, educated their children in our schools and worshiped with us in our churches. A phone call, a visit, a home-cooked meal or pet care would bring joy and light into the lives of those who are desperately in need of human contact.

Focus on Family, March 2008, p. 15

Friday, March 7, 2008

What's Happening in the American Church?

by Bruce Ingram with Doug Nichols

Global Challenge
At a recent mission consultation, TOPIC Director, Paul Landry passionately painted a global perspective of the explosive church growth in the majority world. Consequently there is a crisis of church leadership. Everyday there are 175,000 new Christians. 30,000 are in China alone. 80—95% of today’s pastoral leaders lack basic information and tools to effectively equip their people. Agencies like TOPIC and ACTION equipped 44,014 Master Builders in 2006. Still, in 2005 there were 3.2 million untrained Christian workers, estimated to increase to 4.2 million by the year 2025. However the USA church seems to be in decline.

American Reality
Christianity Today magazine reprinted a story from Outreach magazine last year titled “Special Report: The American Church in Crisis.” New research reveals sobering statistics on church attendance; but which statistics? Gallup and Barna’s report that church attendance grew from 37% in 1996 to 47% in 2006. This is great news if it were true.

But in reality the churches and denominations report a trend of significant decline.

· Between 2000 and 2004 the mainline denominational churches dropped 10%,while Evangelicals experienced an overall 1% drop in worship attendance.

· But during this same time, 2000 – 2004 the population of the U.S. grew by 18.1% -- more than 48 million people. So even though attendance in evangelical churches is nearly the same they are not keeping up with population growth.

· At present trends, by 2050, the percentage of U.S. population attending church will be almost half of what it was in 1990 a drop from 20.4% to 11.7% (an estimate drop to 16.6% by 2010, and 15.4% in 2020).

What We Can Do
The church in America is in decline. The status quo is not acceptable. Several movements are responding to the current situation. But there are many truth and doctrinal issues in these movements. What can the average evangelical church member do? Here are a few simple Biblical directives we can all embrace.

· Pray. When the nation of Israel found themselves in decline the Lord directed them saying, “if My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV). When we are faced with problems beyond ourselves can we do anything less than starting with humble prayer and examination of our own hearts before God?

· Guard Your Heart. Consider how our American affluence and materialism gets in the way of seeing our need for God and biblical truth and holiness. Be generous with your life and resources as you seek to trust and pursue God with all your heart and worship Him alone (Luke 12:15-21; Matthew 6:19-24).

· Jump Into Christ’s Mission. With the love of Christ constraining our hearts let each Christian reach one person with the Gospel. Each pastor and elder disciple one person for leadership and ministry multiplication during the year. Each evangelical church send out one missionary every two years. If each of us would do this then one major denomination would go from 16 million to 32 million! Church attendance and ministries would double, and there would be 400,000 missionaries by 2010 instead of the less than 50,000 now sent from the U.S.

Why Not Do Something?
It starts with us. Whatever the cost, let’s and our church move forward in faith and trust God with the gospel and compassionate care for His glory!

Statistics taken from the following:
David T. Olson, The American Church
Craig Branch, VERITAS, Troublesome Movements in the 21st Century

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Margaret's and My Engagement

Last December 27, 2007, Margaret and I celebrate our 39th wedding anniversary. God is good, we praise Him! On a radio interview regarding the ministry of ACTION, the interviewer asked how long I had been married. I told him and he said, “Oh, wonderful! 39 good years!” I said, “No, only 38.” Surprised, he said, “What do you mean?” I said, “Well, in the first year I discovered what a selfish, inconsiderate person I was. Even though I was a Christian, I was not following the Word of God in caring for my wife as I should. I was very demanding (Margaret says she doesn’t remember any of this, but I sure do).”

Marriage is one main area of the Christian life in which we need to trust God to use us for His glory. To do this, we need to be godly people by loving our wives and husbands, children, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, mothers and fathers, and coworkers. We love them by serving them and being gracious, kind, considerate, compassionate, humble, longsuffering, gentle and forgiving. I have been spending a lot of time in Colossians 3 and Philippians 4 these days on the matter on working for the glory of God by serving others, by putting on a “heart of compassion and kindness” (Colossians 3:12). A question we all should ask of ourselves everyday is: Are we kind to our wife, husband, children and coworkers?

Recently Margaret found a letter that I had sent to her mom and dad (Walter and Helen Jespersen) on Sunday, April 2, 1967 (the month we officially became engaged). When I went to India to serve for two years with Operation Mobilisation I put an engagement ring on “layaway” for only $5 (all the money I had). Over the year, I paid the ring off (a total of $120) with special gifts which I received in a TB sanatorium in India (people are always sorry for you when you are sick!). I was able to get the ring paid off just before Margaret’s graduation from Prairie Bible Institute. I wrote Mom and Dad and asked them to pick up the ring and give it to Margaret after she received her diploma. It was interesting to read the following letter to Mom and Dad:
April 2, 1967

“Dear Mr. and Mrs. Jespersen,

Trust this letter finds you “safe and sound” at Prairie! The days have gone by so swiftly that it does not seem possible that Margaret will be graduating in just a few days.

Up to this time I have not heard from you nor my mother as to whether or not she sent the money in time for you to pick up Margaret’s ring as planned. I do hope (as well as pray) however, that everything was taken care of and that you now have the ring in hand…son to be on your lovely daughter’s finger!!!

Mr. Jespersen, I have written instructing Margaret to make her way to you as soon as possible after the program as you had something for her from me. You can then give her the ring…placing it on her finger for me. This is only temporary, as I will repeat it for myself in person some day…Glory!

I really appreciate all that you two have done to help me out in these matters. It seems strange to have to call on the bride’s parents to help a fella out; but I would rather call for help than do nothing for her at all.

Again I say…thank you for helping Margaret be the lady that she is…a beautiful young Christian lady after God’s own heart! I trust that our prayer together will always be:

Since our eyes were fixed on Jesus
We’ve lost sight of all beside;
So enchained our spirit’s vision,
Looking at the Crucified.

Sincerely in HIM,

So, dear friends, let us rejoice in the years He has given us with our spouse, children, friends, loved ones and coworkers, and that we will continue to fix our eyes on Jesus and serve Him by serving others with the gospel and compassionate care for God’s glory.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Dad (Walter) Jespersen's 95th Birthday

On Sunday (March 2) our small church had an ice cream social after the morning service in honor of Dad (Walter) Jespersen in celebratation of his 95th birthday (which will really be March12).

One of Dad’s good friends, Dave Tschirgi, gave an interesting quiz on Dad’s life asking all of us to write down the answers to the following ten questions:

1. How many churches has Walter pastored and where? (Canada 2, China 2, USA 2)

2. How many children does Walter have? (five; two boys and three girls)

3. Who is Walter’s favorite daughter? (Every one laughed thinking that he would say Margaret, but he fooled everyone by saying all three of his daughters were his favorite!)

4. In what year was Walter born? (1913)

5. Where was Walter born? (Stony Plain [near Edmonton], Alberta, Canada)

6. What is Walter’s middle name? (He doesn’t have one!)

7. When did Walter go to China as a missionary with China Inland Mission (CIM)? (1936)

8. What countries has Walter ministered in? (China, India, Canada, USA, Philippines, Malaysia, the UK, Japan, and Chile)

9. Where did Walter meet his wife Helen? (in China at dinner in an CIM guest house)

10. What next event does Walter Jespersen look forward to? (going to heaven!)