We were at the University of Utah for the eclipse. Really good. In Cincinnati where we were preaching at the second largest Octoberfest in the world. Just amazing ministry. So much suffering. So many lost souls. So many people from all walks of life, young and old, coming up to us. So many stories of pain. So thankful to be there to bridge the gap with reconciliation and touch their pain with His love and hope.
At the Detroit Lions football game, and often in many places, sharing the gospel is just very tough grunt work of standing for hours and sharing with sometimes only a few. Sex, drugs and rock n roll can’t heal the soul. They can’t patch the wounds or fears. No eternal substance. No invisible Messiah. They offer no Father’s hand to hold. No shoulder upon which to lean. All this sounds so obvious but why then do millions from around the country and world flock to a beer festival? No matter how much they drink, no answers are found in this “holy” beverage. Of course, it does cause worse problems. Abraham and Ruth also had an amazing witness in Dayton, Ohio which is the opioid capital of the U.S.
Paul says “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this … that One died for all therefore, all died…so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him…”(2 Cor. 5:14ff). Why is this so hard to “conclude”? Pride. Stinking old smelly pride. We think we are something. The Father loves us enough to break us so we can see that we are nothing. There is not one iota of our flesh that is any different than any wicked man. Christ does not make one cell in our body “better”. But no matter how much He loves us in such ways He always leaves it up to us to choose our response.
Have you ever stopped to realize life on this earth is absolutely meaningless? Have you “concluded”, yet that you are “worthless” (Rm.3.12)? From a doctor, lawyer or president, every walk of life and accomplishment means nothing in light of eternity. The world calls many very wicked men heroes because they do some good act. In light of eternity, no matter how “good” the act, it means nothing. It’s great that people help people but it won’t get anyone to heaven. If good works could get a man to heaven, Jesus would never have had to come to earth and suffer torture. All that matters is the gospel of Jesus because this is eternal.
I have “concluded” that I am nothing. I will never be liked, popular or well known. I fully accept I will never have any friends or home or medical or financial security. Just won’t happen. I have “concluded”, none of it is worth the effort to achieve. I am weak, tired, and frail. But I can talk about Jesus, carry a sign, and walk. I am worthless; because I was born this way.
I fully understand people’s rejection and accusations. I don’t blame them one bit. I love them. I accept that I contradict everything this world says is acceptable. I have, and am, absolutely nothing in this world. I represent nothing people want, because who wants nothing? I will never have a respected “ministry” or be asked to speak somewhere. Everything I do, and everywhere I go, is up to me.
No, this is not some self-pity “Poor me”, rant. Actually, it is my greatest joy. Paul says he boasts only in the cross, and in his weakness (2Cor.12:5/Gal.6:14). No schedule, no identity, no respect, no life… but eternal life (Jn.12:25). How God longs for a son who would be willing to learn to be led by His Spirit rather than the dictates of this world. I could never have imagined the living Jesus. All these things, and many, many more, have brought me to “conclude” that the only thing that matters, is “that I might no longer live for myself but for Him”. The only thing I can do that matters, is to bring eternal life to someone else.
You’d think such a confession would be that of some very miserable and depressed dude. Quite the opposite. Having nothing, in Christ, means having everything, because He is all in all. His comfort is immeasurable. In my saddest hours, He is there. In my most lonely times, Jesus loves me. His love has met me, in countless times, and places where I have given up. Where my mind is torn, He holds me in His arms. I love the Lord because He hears my prayers. When the ego is smashed Christ is unleashed. Brokenness is such a treasure. It just makes so much sense, that this is the one thing that God does NOT despise (Psalms 51:17). I am a broken and dead man and I love Him so.
How do we find the Father’s care and love? How do we learn to love complete strangers, when we ourselves are subject, like all men, to a nature of laziness and selfishness? These two issues are the very essence of the two commandments Jesus says to sum up salvation: to love God with everything and to love your neighbor as yourself (Lk.10:27). Wow. But how? This is no little demand. Impossible, in fact.
Ya, I know, it’s so easy to grumble and complain, against the Lord, that He just doesn’t help you. Day after day, then it turns into year after year, “God, where are You. Why don’t you help me?”. I don’t mean to be insensitive, “spiritual” or to put an undo burden on anyone. Please, my friend, don’t read this like it’s just me, beating the same old drum. I’m no “expert” on these things, I just know they work. Don’t you see this is God’s love? This is not one of many. There is only one answer to all the struggles we face in our sinful nature; loneliness, unbelief, guilt, lust, pride, regret, depression, grief, past sin, etc. One answer; the cross.You must come to realize what it means.
Jesus repeatedly says a man must die (Mt.16:24/Mk.8:34/Lk.9:23/Jn.12:25). Paul writes over and over, continually in his letters (Phil.3:10/Rm.8:17/Col.3:3/2 Tim.2:11) and a whole chapter in Romans 6 to clearly state that death to self is salvation; IF we are united with Him in death we shall know His life. This is the answer guys. This is the resolution to all your struggles and prayers. Just “reckon” all your garbage dead with Christ 2000 years ago. God’s Solution is right in front of your nose in His Word. Don’t look away (Jn.3:14). Don’t assume you already “did it”. Start with a mustard seed of faith. You have no idea the reward that awaits you.
There is only one thing that makes it “difficult” for you. It is the degree to which pride controls you. You think you know better. You don’t. It’s not like you have to go through a physical crucifixion. Reach deep. Give in. What do you “conclude”? It doesn’t start out with trying to prove how much you love God, but rather believing how much He loves you, that He won’t leave you stranded (1 Jn.4:10/Rm.5:8). He will meet you where you’re at. Do something different. Find a new response within your heart. Find the stillness of your individual spirit. Nobody will know. It’s between you and the God Whom you will stand alone before. To die to self is not a herculean self-work. Just the opposite.
In a sense, it is doing nothing, because this is all that a dead man can “do”. It is admitting the full scope of your nothingness. It is worthy of death. What does it mean to really believe this like Abraham (Rm.4)?
The lies Satan has to launch against us are far more destructive than the US arsenal of nuclear weapons, and more numerous than the books in the Library of Congress. “Day and night”. He is relentless and peppers our mind with reasons not to trust Jesus (Rev.12:10, 1Pt.5:8). This is why Paul says he takes “every” thought captive (2 Cor.10:3-5). It is not a warfare that ceases or fades. It is full of failure but also faith that Jesus says forgiveness is “70 x 7” (Mt.18:22) . At times the warfare is moment by moment until you grow into a larger scope of resolution. Just think of how you would feel if you could clearly see Satan speaking to you.
I want to walk gently and circumspectly. I know that everything matters, in regards to how I think, because it determines my future. So I must walk absolutely contrite (Micah 6:8, Ps.517). When you hunt a deer, you must use stealth. Every step you take can determine what happens. One foot breaking a branch or crackling leaves will spook the deer. Thus it is with learning to become a son and to master yourself. The Lord will teach you to discern between soul (self), and the Spirit (Heb.4:12). Our heart is more deceitful than anything in the world (Jer.17:9). Paul says he is aware of every thought that comes into his mind because our very selves, our body of pride and mind of sin, conspire to rob and destroy us.
No matter how much you search for an answer, it always comes down to the degree you know the Father’s love for you.
How do all the particulars (atonement, mercy, forgiveness, faith, grace, understanding, etc.) of His love, wrapped up in the work of Jesus, now come to us today? Surely you already know “God is Love”, and will heartily agree with this concept. But does this practically change your life? Do you realize what an enemy you are of the cross? How do you deal with it? In lawlessness or proud self-righteousness? How about neither? Paul says our goal in life, is to “being rooted and grounded in love to be able to comprehend …the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge…” (Eph. 3:17ff). He loves you no matter what, but requires you to be broken to experience His love. Unless your pride (sin) is broken, you will never how to die with Christ.
Imagine if you could instantly counter Satan’s lies with truth because you were so grounded in knowing the Father’s love. If you are not rooted and grounded in love, you will never be able to build and expand upon an understanding of the Father’s love for you. Imagine being so disciplined as to have your impulses trained, not to react out of the flesh, but to respond in the Spirit.
I have no air valve that I fill with God’s love. No pill. No button. There is no way, other than to choose to initiate dying to self. This is love. Sorry, guys. No little prayer. Obedience. It is tough at times, but the joy from obedience is a fountain of life. The cross is not a matter of abstract theory. It is seen and proven in time and space. It was real. It is real. Paul proved it “I have been crucified….” (Gal.2:20) . There is just no other way to live, than to die.
The disciples were no brain surgeons. The concept of dying to self is as common to all men as breathing. Coaches, athletes, businessmen, politicians all talk of “dying to self”; “I’m dead to you”, “I died to that”. I have heard many football coaches talk of how they had to die to family times, in order to prepare for a game of fame (a bit warped). Rich men get rich because they know well how to deny themselves. They “deny themselves” constantly to ‘make a buck’.
Sorry. No excuses. Everybody understands death. Death is death. It’s the utter end. No more place to live. Denying yourself is denying yourself. In the blink of an eye, you can die. Stop. End. No more. Of course, if you don’t have real access to Christ, it’s pointless. Sure, you’re going to fail and rebel, but you “conclude” and resolve you don’t want to initiate a life for yourself, but for Jesus. It is faith that separates the decision of dying WITH CHRIST from the pagan dying to self to live for self.
We are preparing to go back to work in the prisons in Brazil in two months. The transition of tracts and signs from Spanish to Portuguese is no small work. But the image of those men suffering is etched in our hearts and minds, and propels us on. We are very excited. Seeing the power of God’s love is the other side of dying to self. It is the reward. The things we have seen are just beyond amazing. To actually change lives into eternal life is the greatest joy God offers. Jesus said the same (Jn.4).
People ask how we do what we do. We never ask for donations, we work for the money to do what we do. Once in a while, someone asks how they could help us if they wanted to. If anyone would like to help us, the plane tickets cost $4366.64 and our monthly lodging is $1560.00. Obviously, we have the money but, as I explained in previous times, whatever we use, takes down our savings and moves us closer to leaving the harvest field to return back to working. There are 657,680 prisoners in Brazil and God has given us an open door. So anything will help and I mean anything. There is only so much we can do depending on the means we have. Our paypal is: [email protected]
We have faced great danger in facing prison gangs, but love is so profound. Sarah did pick up a 3rd world bacteria last time we were there, from which she has been suffering quite seriously for many months. And Ruth also bears a tough time walking due to the steel rod in her leg. I too have been dealing with something weird in my head that causes vertigo and sometimes, I stop breathing in my sleep. Maybe due to a lot of brain trauma over the years.But nothing compared to the multitudes suffering from so many things, all alone.
We are so grateful that God enabled us to continue to minister effectively even while working full-time, most of the time working two or three jobs, by taking time off here and there. We were able to reach throughout Asia on an extended trip to China, Japan, South Korea and the Philippines all for the first time. We reached hundreds of thousands in Seoul’s largest gathering ever, the largest street crossing in the world in Japan and some horrible prisons in Manila and even touched Shanghai. We also reached many events here in the States, including about 5-7 million when the Cubs won the Series, events in Texas and Seattle, many universities across the country as well as the Presidential Inauguration.
If we can be of help to anyone in anyway, please feel free to contact us. We also have a new music CD and a beautiful new track, if anyone would like, just ask, and we will send them to you freely. God bless any person who reads this. He loves you so much.
“Come Lord Jesus. We await. Mount your white horse.”
Also check out the blog of my daughter Ruth: Broken Is Beautiful