In recent days we all have had our lives disrupted. Stores, restaurants and places we normally would visit are closed or greatly restricted leaving us with no option but to be home more. I am reminded that after busy seasons of ministry and activity, Jesus often led His disciples into a desert place away from everything for reflection, rest and prayer. Though we all look forward to this crisis passing, perhaps we should look at this as an opportunity to find a place away from everything to reflect, rest and draw closer to God. I wanted to suggest some books, internet radio stations and even a college course that might help you get the most out of this time at home.
While it is not clear from Scripture all that Jesus was doing on Monday and Tuesday of His Passion Week, it does seem that He spent time in Bethany on these days fellowshipping with friends like Simon the Leper, Lazarus and others. Among those friends was a woman who demonstrated extravagant love for her Savior. Though we do not know her name, her act lives on as a example for every believer. Jesus is worthy of our everything.
Today we find Jesus in Bethany with some people who enjoyed fellowshipping with Him. Even though, humanly, this would be the most difficult week of Christ’s life, He still spent time encouraging His own. Remember, Jesus wants to fellowship with you today. Will you fellowship with Him?
On Palm Sunday, Jesus presented Himself as the Messiah when He rode into Jerusalem on a colt of a donkey. According to Luke 19:28-44, Jesus was received by a multitude of disciples. They received with reverence and rejoicing. However, their reception was overshadowed by the demands of the power hungry religious leaders of that day, the Pharisees. They had gathered with ill intent in the midst of the joyous crowd. As Jesus continues His approach up to Jerusalem, He viewed the city and wept. This and more was the subject of my Palm Sunday message.
As we approach this Easter, it is my desire to take a special online journey with you through the passion week of Christ beginning with the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. That will be the subject of my Palm Sunday message. You can join us for that message at watchGBC.com at 10:30am (EST). Monday through Friday, I will post a video right here on my blog, at watchGBC.com and at our Facebook page. These videos will track the events of the passion week and give a brief devotional thought. I hope this journey will encourage you and motivate your love for Jesus Christ.
Sheila and I have arrived back from an extraordinary trip to India. Our hearts are full with all that God did and taught us during our short time there. We are so thankful for the opportunity we had to travel with WorldView Ministries and to have a part in the Pastor’s Conference on the campus of South India Baptist Bible College. This Bible College is the home of the WorldView Institute of India where men and women are trained to translate the Bible. Here are a few thoughts and pictures I would like to share from the trip.
Prayer is an essential part of all effective ministry.
We are so thankful for the prayer support from our church family and others! They were felt and are deeply appreciated. It was evident that God gave His strength and power to minister. Many of the Indian pastors and Christian leaders are serving the Lord in incredibly difficult circumstances. Nearly every one of them that we talked with had a story of being persecuted or facing persecution. They spoke of the sacrifices they and their families were making to preach the Gospel. For me, the thought of preaching God’s Word to them, as an American who has never faced persecution, was overwhelming. I remarked to one of the other American pastors on the first morning of the conference, “I have never had such a sense of inadequacy.” Our team’s prayer was that the Spirit of God working in and through us would ignite the working of the Spirit of God in and through them. We believe God answered that prayer. For those that prayed for us, thank you for supporting us in prayer. Your prayers were essential!
God is actively working to advance His kingdom in ways and places unknown to us.
Before this trip, I had no real knowledge of what God was doing in India. India is predominantly Hindu and Muslim. Those two religions make up 97% out of 1.3 billion people. All the rest of the religions, including Christianity, make up just 3% of the population. This makes India a very spiritually dark land. You can see it in the eyes of the people. It is truly amazing to me how in the midst of such darkness, the light of the Gospel is shining. Being on the campus of the South India Baptist Bible College and in the Pastor’s Conference was like a spiritual oasis. The difference was as stark as midnight and noonday. Every believer I spoke with described their present efforts to take the Gospel to their people. It did not matter if they were young or old, they were passionate about taking the light of the Gospel into the darkness. I spoke with a ten-year-old young man whose desire was to be a pastor. I spoke with three young men who were working together to preach the gospel in every village. Many gave testimony of where they were preaching the Gospel, pastoring people and training others to do the same. In reality, it is hard for me to put it into words. God is not dead. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not jeopardized by the threats of rulers and religions. The church of Jesus Christ is being built by Jesus and the gates of hell are not prevailing against it.
The spiritual sacrifice of one generation provides stepping stones for the next generation.
This is the lesson that seems to be dominating all the other lessons that God taught me and I am trying to absorb. An oasis is a fertile spot in a desert, where water is found. In 1983, Dr. P. D. Cherian and his wife, Thankamma, founded the South India Baptist Bible College. The piece of land they purchased was undesirable, dry and infested with snakes. Before going, a pastor friend of mine, who teaches often at the college, told me that it would be like going to the Garden of Eden. I found this to be true. The campus is an oasis both physically and spiritually. As I heard the stories of faith and God’s provision, I was struck by this thought. What I am seeing and enjoying, along with the students and pastors, is the product of great spiritual sacrifice. This sacrifice provides wonderful stepping stones to take the Gospel further into the darkness. This is a reality in every generation. The spiritual sacrifices I make today for Jesus and the Gospel enable my children and others to go further tomorrow. This reminds me of the truth found in Galatians 6:9, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
This trip was worth all the expense and effort! God taught me more than I feel I can absorb. Sheila and I are prayerfully reflecting on this incredible opportunity knowing God is using this experience shape and grow us for the work He has called us to do.