Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Treasures from Scripture

Here are a few more powerful verses I encourage you to commit to memory.

  • "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." 1 Peter 1:3

  • "Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you are living as an alien the same kindness I have shown to you." Genesis 21:23

  • "On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat—that is all you may do." Exodus 12:16

Friday, December 18, 2009

Aim at the Target, Part 5 of 5

The Book of Acts is a record of the missionary work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit works through men such as:

  • Peter
  • Mark
  • Philip
  • Luke
  • Paul
  • Silas
  • Stephen
  • Barnabas
Each of these men served as a missionary, men who were sent by God. These men were sent for a purpose, a purpose of helping others find salvation in the Messiah! Whenever a denomination, church, or person loses their passion for God’s purpose paralysis can set in, which is followed closely by death. Jesus came that mankind might have life, not spiritual death.

It is the belief of this author that the churches which remain strong, healthy and vital in a community are the churches that give themselves away. A church gives herself away through:
  • Replication church plants
  • Humanitarian aid - food, clothes, Christmas, benevolence, adoptions, school outreaches
  • Prayer
  • Financial support of missions
Jesus taught, “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again.” He truly gave Himself away!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Aim at the Target, Part 4 of 5

Maybe the reason so many churches are dying is that at some point they have lost the desire to accomplish God’s goal. After all, even a small church can support a missionary, help send a student to Bible College, or help the homeless. Once the wagons are circled, death is imminent. Death is certain unless a church is willing to open up and love those for whom Jesus died.

The New Testament is replete with “one another” passages. The truth is these passages can never be fulfilled without a zeal for missions. A partial list is given below.

  • Love One Another, John 15:17
  • Confess Sins to One Another, James 5:16
  • Pray for One Another, James 5:16
  • Forgive One Another, Ephesians 4:32
  • Bear One Another’s Burdens, Galatians 6:2
  • Teach & Admonish One Another, Colossians 3:16
  • Be Subject to One Another, Ephesians 5:21
  • Encourage One Another, 1 Thessalonians 5:11
  • Serve One Another, Galatians 5:13
  • Rejoice with Each Other, 1 Corinthians 12:26
  • Weep with One Another, Romans 12:15
  • Care for One Another, 1 Corinthians 12:25
  • Depend on One Another, Romans 12:5
  • Be of the Same Mind Toward one Another, Romans 12:16
  • Show Hospitality to One Another, 1 Peter 4:9
  • Fellowship with One Another, 1 John 1:7
The only possible reason for Jesus leaving His church here on earth is for the church to help others find salvation in Jesus. Therefore if that is the church’s objective, is it any wonder why God blesses churches that are focused on people getting to know our Savior?

“Churches grow best if they find a model God is blessing.” –Carl George

More tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Aim at the Target, Part 3 of 5

Being focused on missions is obviously one of the keys to the growth of the local church. Churches that keep all of their resources for themselves will end up having few. Failing churches, like failing believers, make statements like “Charity begins at home.” The Biblical response to that statement is “No, responsibility begins at home, charity begins next door!”

It was no surprise to me that every strong, growing church whose leaders I have interviewed had a power commitment to missions both domestically and globally.
“A man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder.” -Thomas Carlyle

The same can be said of churches, but the purpose must be God’s. The only purpose of the church of Jesus should be to see more souls saved. This theme is developed in unending ways.

  • Church planting – local/ U.S./among nations
  • Supporting missionaries – Prayer/finances
  • Sending missionaries from the local church
  • Inner city work
  • Feeding the homeless
  • Christmas to the poor
  • Pregnancy crisis centers
  • Short term missions teams
  • Aids outreach
  • Orphan and widow ministry
  • Emergency hurricane/tornado, flood relief
  • Building homes
While each of the churches surveyed supported missions differently, each gave at least 10% while one gave 33% of the total income of the church. Some churches gave a percentage of their general fund, some also tithed on their building funds and, some utilized “Faith Promise”, and almost all took up special offerings to give away. When we give to God’s heart, God gives back to His people.

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”–Malachi 3:10

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” –Matthew 6:33

It is one thing to read those truths, while it is another to obey the text and live the message individually and as a church.

“Someone has said that the church does not exist FOR missions, but rather BY mission. If you peek inside the fastest-growing churches in the world, you will discover that, without exception, these churches are missions-minded, and have caught a vision of “world-conquest.” Our own church really became alive when missions was placed on the front burner and became a top priority, visible for all to see and hear.” –Bob Moorehead

The local church grows as she gives herself away. God’s way is the opposite of the world’s way. The principle will not make sense, but God’s way always works.

“The preacher, the governing body, and the other key leaders must start the process. Missions isn’t optional. It’s what the church is all about. What we call the Great Commission has too often been the Great Omission. Yet, Jesus declared that missions is why the church exists. That’s why the Great Commission appears five times in the New Testament. (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8.) What oxygen is to fire, missions is to the church. As fire exists by burning, so the church exists by missions. No missions, no church. I once read where an artist was asked to paint a picture of a dead church. Masterfully, he worked day and night, and finally the portrait was finished. When it was unveiled, it showed a box on a table in the church foyer. On the box was printed the word MISSIONS. There was a slit in the top of the box for the offerings, and across the slit was a spider web. It could never have been said more eloquently! Until the leadership of the church acknowledges the centrality of missions, then provides the members to become personally involved in the support of missions, that church will not grow beyond just a few hundred people.” –Bob Moorehead
Part four tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Aim at the Target, Part 2 of 5

Often the pastoral staff at Tomoka Christian Church, where I am privileged to serve, is asked this question, “What do you do for evangelism?” We pondered this question the first time we were asked, but now have a standard response of “Everything!”

Every ministry that Tomoka Christian Church is a part of is an evangelistic weapon. The church was given only one mission.

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ ” –Matthew 28:18-20

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” –Acts 1:8

Why do churches think they exclude evangelism and still please God or even be called the church of Jesus Christ? We have one target, one aim, one victory: SOULS SAVED! Paul said it this way in 1 Corinthians 9:19-26: “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.”

What an amazing statement of purpose. Paul says that whatever it takes we should win souls for Jesus! He also says we should become all things to all men so that some might be saved. This vision should drive the church of Jesus to work both locally and globally. Soul winning should be the goal of all ministries. If it is not, the ministry should be eliminated as dead weight from the body of Christ.

Therefore, a few of the evangelism ministries that Tomoka Christian Church is involved in are:

  • Nursery Ministry
  • Preschool ministry
  • Grade School ministry
  • Middle school ministry
  • High school ministry
  • College ministry
  • Amazing Grays (Senior citizens)
  • Daytona Outreach Center
  • Celebrate Recovery
  • Worship & Creative Arts
  • Sandwich Ministry for homeless
  • Prayer Ministry
  • Church Camp
  • Vacation Bible School
  • Nursing Home ministry
  • Prison/jail ministry
  • Food Pantry
  • Hispanic Ministry
  • Home School Ministry
  • Jesus Clinic – free medical care
  • Sports Ministry
  • Angel Food Ministry
  • Biblical Counseling Ministry
  • Hospital Visitation Ministry
  • Life Groups
  • Holy Ground CafĂ© (benefits mission teams)
  • Sermons on CD Ministry
  • Thrift Store (proceeds benefit missions)
  • Biblical Counseling
  • Adoption Ministry
  • Celebrate Recovery
  • Parking Ministry
  • Christian Motorcyclists
  • Fall Carnival to the community
  • Legal Counsel Ministry
  • Community Clean-up Ministry
  • Guest Relations
  • Military Ministry
  • Homeless Sandwich Ministry
  • Pro-Life Ministry
  • Radio Ministry
  • Transportation Ministry
  • Sermons online
  • Weekly Email Express
  • Ministry to shut-ins
  • Widows Ministry
  • Griefshare Ministry
Collectively, we get to be one big evangelistic weapon, namely individuals who love their Savior and their church.

Next we address the big issue of global evangelism. One of our goals at Tomoka Christian Church is to plant a church in every nation in the world and every state in the United States, in every major city in Florida, and in key cities in Volusia County. This is being carried out through our Missions Ministry.

More tomorrow!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Aim at the Target, Part 1 of 5

I recently completed coursework for a doctorate in theology. I worked for months on my thesis on church growth, researching thriving churches and interviewing their leaders on various topics. I thought I’d share a chapter, one portion of it each day this week.

During World War II, America was focused on one objective, simple enough, to “Win the War.” The goal was not to make politicians happy, build relationships with other countries, or to appease Americans. The goal to win the war was obvious, so all of America participated.

  • Men went to war.
  • Women went to work.
  • Everyone contributed goods for recycling for the war effort.
  • Families planted victory gardens.
  • Families bought war bonds to support the one aim – defeat our enemies.
Today, in the midst of a great battle against terrorism that is far more global in scope than our enemies in WWII, America cannot seem to find the target. One writer has stated: “America is not at war, our military is at war. America is at the mall or a Hollywood screening.”

With multiple objectives and no reason or passion for victory, even if victory could be defined by the politicians, victory is nearly impossible. The only way that war can be successful is with one target as the goal and that target being victory over our enemy.

I penned these thoughts for they are an exact replica of what has happened to leadership in many local churches in America today.
  • No consensus about what war to fight.
  • No consensus that there is a war.
  • No consensus on what victory is in the Kingdom.
  • No consensus as to how to invest resources to reach a victory.
  • No consensus as to a spiritual purpose or calling.
This is a tragedy of immense proportion when we remember that Jesus left the local church on earth to finish His work of building the Kingdom of God. One writer has said, “The local church is the hope of the world.” We are the “Body of Christ,” therefore:
  • We bring good news
  • Visit the sick
  • Feed the hungry
  • Build hospitals
  • Clothe the naked
  • Build orphanages
  • Plant churches
  • Train leaders
  • Disciple believers
  • Go into every nation, city, and house with the Good News of Jesus
Part two will be posted tomorrow.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Secular Indulgences

In 16th century Europe, the Catholic Church came up with a great fund-raising scheme. The scheme dealt with what were called indulgences. Basically, the plan worked like this: You would give money to the church and it would release the souls of deceased family and friends from purgatory, a made-up place where sin is purged after death, or even from hell.

This horrible, sin-filled trick preyed upon the guilt of the peasants, many who were illiterate and none of whom owned a copy of the Bible that they could read.

In a review of “Against the Sale of Indulgences,” by Martin Luther, Jim Jones of West Chester University of Pennsylvania shares this candid assessment:

The sale of indulgences was a byproduct of the Crusades in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Crusaders were promised immediate salvation if they died while performing a good deed, such as fighting to "liberate" the Christian holy city at Jerusalem. The Church based this on the argument that good works earned salvation, so paying money to support good works could do the same. To justify the sale of indulgences, Church leaders argued that they had inherited an unlimited amount of good works from Jesus, and the credit for these good works could be sold to believers in the form of indulgences. In other words, indulgences were something like "confession insurance" against eternal damnation. If you purchased an indulgence, then you wouldn't go to hell if you died suddenly or forgot to confess something.

In later years, the sale of indulgences spread to include forgiveness for the sins of people who were already dead. Examine the message in this passage from a sermon by John Tetzel, the monk who sold indulgences in Germany and inspired Martin Luther's protest in 1517. "Don't you hear the voices of your dead parents and other relatives crying out, 'Have mercy on us, for we suffer great punishment and pain. From this, you could release us with a few alms . . . We have created you, fed you, cared for you and left you our temporal goods. Why do you treat us so cruelly and leave us to suffer in the flames, when it takes only a little to save us?' [ Die Reformation in Augenzeugen Berichten, edited by Helmar Junghaus (Dusseldorf: Karl Rauch Verlag, 1967), 44.]”
Luther, other reformers and eventually the Catholic Church realized this was erroneous and phony. Only the blood of Jesus can bring us salvation, as described in Ephesians 2:8-9: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast."

You may be asking why I am telling you all of this crazy German theology from the 16th century. I will tell you why. No one would be more critical or outspoken against the abusive behavior of selling indulgences than the secular culture that speaks so piously throughout our media. Yet they are the ones selling the modern indulgences, called “carbon credits.” They have the same motive — that you can be saved if you:

• Buy phony carbon credits
• Buy proper light bulbs
• Avoid plastic bags at Publix
• Drive electric cars

All of these play on “guilt” that the secular world wants to feel. Here is the truth: You will not be good, righteous, or a better person by loving or worshiping the earth. Paul warned in Romans 1:25: “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.”

We are to be good stewards of the earth, but we are to worship God!

Just a few thoughts to ponder.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Needs are Real!

Missy Creggar and team just got back from a mission trip to Egypt. It was anything but ordinary! They spent lots of time loving on children – including having a music- and balloon-filled festival. They sailed down the Nile River on a wooden boat. It was, overall, a wonderful time of personal growth and bonding as a team. Below is a day-by-day account of the trip by Missy.

Day 1: Sunday brought us lots of rest! We slept and ate most of the day. We practiced our lessons for the kids and rehearsed a puppet show. That evening we were sent to Safaa and Mona's church. It was all in Arabic, and the kids didn't fall asleep as it was an hour and half long! We went home and ate hot dogs for dinner. Everyone is doing very well!

Day 2: We all went to the first festival with over 500 Sudanese children! They sang songs for us! Renee and I did our Zacchaeus skit and Stephen held our tree! Needless to say with interpretation in between Stephen and I couldn't feel our arms after we were done. The kids loved it. We also did David and Goliath using a Sudanese boy as David and Stephen as Goliath and they all cheered when he was defeated. We ended with a big song with two sides competing as to who could be the loudest, singing “Praise Ye the Lord!” What a great day!

Day 3: Day of play! Got up and ready by 8, but did not leave until after 9. We toured the great Pyramids of Giza. Visited the Sphinx and everyone got pictures. The newbies road the camels and all said it was fun. We had lunch at Pizza Hut in front of the Sphinx! We ended our day in the famous Cairo museum. Tomorrow will begin five straight days of work beginning with another Sudanese church, then on to the boys’ orphanage. Can't wait for tomorrow!

Day 4: This very long day started at the Sudanese church with over 500 very loud kids! They sang for us, showed us tribal dancing and even a skit! We shared a dance led by Niki and a story by Stephen and Miranda. Madi and Missy led the music. After that, we came back to pack sandwiches for the boys’ orphanage, and then rode an hour and a half to see them. We found that many of them were not there due to the holiday, so the boys played soccer with the ones who were left. They were very excited to see us again! We are all very tired and have another very long day tomorrow. Debbie has lost her voice but feels okay. Everyone else is doing great. Eating the food, joining in clean up and helping out whenever needed.

Day 5: Happy thanksgiving from Egypt! We ate camel this morning in our eggs.
The rookies said it was a good experience. We proceeded to the first Egyptian church that had about 200 kids and they loved our stories and songs. They started to play musical chairs and Stephen felt the need to join in. He won, too! The second Egyptian church had about 300 kids and a program for us to watch. Afterward, we taught them a new song. Miranda led the team with singing and the story of Jericho. We are all doing very well!

Day 6: Today we are hitting a brick wall. We did not get up until 9 or so and did not leave for the Egyptian church until 1 pm. We arrived at the church and watched Safaa's praise team from his first church do the program. We did not understand anything. We even watched Veggie Tales in Arabic! We ended the day with Kentucky Fried Chicken (NOT as good as ours!). We are longing for the Sudanese, but it doesn't look like we'll see the kids from last year. Niki and Miranda led devotion and they were awesome! We are truly missing home!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Scripture Memorization

Here are a few more powerful scriptures that I encourage you to commit to memory.

"He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ."
2 Thessalonians 2:14

"For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?" 1 Thessalonians 2:19

"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it." Revelation 2:17

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Power of Compassion

Below is an encouraging note from family members of Bill Simpson, a longtime member of the Tomoka Christian family. Bill’s children, Wendy and Brian, who live in Washington state, attended a service at TCC while in town visiting their father.

It was such a pleasure to meet you and worship in your awesome church. The Holy Spirit is powerfully present in your church and my heart was filled with joy as I sat holding my Dad’s hand. I would like to express my sincerest gratitude for all of the love, prayers, support, and kindness that you surround my Dad with. Words cannot express the feelings of my heart, but please know that the blessings that you helped to provide have touched hearts 4,000 miles away.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Book of Acts is Still Alive

I received a report from a missionary, David Giles. He wrote about his time on the Ethiopian mission field and about the legacy established by his father, Ray. The elder Giles, a longtime Ethiopian missionary, is battling cancer but responding well to treatment.

Since I just got back from Ethiopia I thought I would add a note about that trip. The promise that Jesus made to the disciples that "whoever leaves home and family for my sake will receive 100 times in this life and the life to come" was proven true. Everywhere I went, whether among the Ethiopian believers or the missionary community, I heard of prayers lifted up for my Dad's health. I saw Ethiopian believers weep when they spoke of his illness and the impact that my parents have had on their lives. It was a blessing to be reminded again of the fruit of their ministry.

The seed sown continues to grow and multiply. While I was in Ethiopia I attended a meeting of the church leaders for both the Oromo and the Gumuz. I asked, “There are 35 churches among the Oromo, right?” based upon the last numbers I had received. “No,” they replied, “there are 54.” They shared about the churches and daughter churches.

On the way back into Addis Ababa from down country, I decided to pass through Nekemte, the regional capital, and attend our church there. I had heard that it was full to overflowing and our missionaries and church leaders have plans to expand our facilities there. Church went quite well, and as they said, it was full to overflowing with about 40-50 having to sit outside (about 200 total). There were many university students present as well, as Nekemte has a number of universities.

One thing that is really taking off in Ethiopia is that each church really wants to have a sound system with a loudspeaker and keyboard. No one really knows how to play it, but it is the center of attention, much like the Coke bottle in the movie, “The Gods Must Be Crazy.” On this particular Sunday the keyboard was blaring along with the rest of the sound system. Thanks be to Jesus that the power went out halfway through and the loudspeaker and keyboard would not work. A young man got up with a kerar (traditional Ethiopian guitar) and sang and led worship. It was beautiful. I think keyboards will win the day for a while, but I was sure glad to be able to experience the more traditional worship.

After the service, I was visiting with Negatu, the key leader of the church. I told him I was impressed with the service. He said, "It was your father’s vision to have a church in Nekemte. He helped us get this property and plant the church here. We have him to thank for what we see today."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

More Treasures from Scripture

A few more verses are here that I encourage you to commit to memory.

  • “On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.” 1 Thessalonians 2:4

  • “I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.” 2 Timothy 1:3

  • “These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead.” Jude 1:12

Monday, November 9, 2009

One Child At A Time

Andrew Ward, whose organization heads up Good New Clubs across the nation, wrote recently regarding the brand new clubs Tomoka Christian began last week at the Ormond YMCA and Pine Trail Elementary. Both were a success beyond our expectations! A portion of Andrew’s note is here.

I imagine that you’ve heard the great news about how God has blessed the efforts at the clubs -- at Pine Trail we had 48, and there were 42 children at the YMCA club. Praise God, your children’s ministry just grew by 90. Thank you for your help and support in efforts to reach the children of Ormond Beach. What an answer to many months of prayer this has been. I am so humbled to work with such a great team of volunteers as those from Tomoka. We now look toward growing the clubs and working to establish those children and families that don’t have a church home in TCC.

Thank you for your wonderful work and for allowing me the privilege of helping with the ministry of Tomoka.
FYI: The Pine Trail club meets on Tuesdays from 2-3:30 p.m. The Ormond Beach YMCA group meets from 3:30 -4:30. Those interested helping with either group may e-mail Marc Wooten here.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Scripture Memorization: Acts

Here is another list of powerful Bible verses that would be good ones to commit to memory. From time to time, I'll publish others.

  • But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:8 (NIV)

  • Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38 (NIV)

  • They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42 (NIV)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

They Will Know Us By Our Love

God is moving in unbelievable ways through the ladies of the Power of Love ministry to area strip clubs. You’ve got the read the story below from ministry leader Jennifer Colella about one lady whose life, through Christ, may never be the same.

I wanted to give you an update on some things that have happened since our last outreach. The Sunday after our October outreach I received a phone call from one of the dancers we met at a lounge. She was very anxious and upset explaining that she had been abandoned, abused and was far away from home. When she told me her name was Susan,* I immediately remembered her and her story from the night of the outreach. When she called, she was a few hours from being homeless, had about $15 to her name and it became clear to me we were in a crisis situation. I told her to sit tight and I would make some phone calls. One of our team members met with her and spent many hours talking and praying with Susan to better understand her situation and figure out how we could help. We realized that Susan had come to a fork in the road. She had been abandoned by a man who had hurt her and would likely continue to do so if she went back to him. She had family members that care about her, have been praying for her and trying to keep her sober and in the church for many years now. Susan knew that going home was the right thing to do but, she was afraid, ashamed, embarrassed and convicted. The bottom line was, we couldn't force her to do the right thing. She had to make that decision for herself. So we explained to her that we wanted to see her start over and begin trusting God with her life. We told her we'd get her a bus ticket back to her family in New Jersey if she decided she wanted to start over. She was still undecided so we told her she could have until 6 PM to make a decision, then the offer expired. The following hours were tough, but we prayed and prepared for whatever would happen next.

Praise God, Susan called and asked us to purchase the ticket! We picked her up at her hotel and drove her to the bus station. As her departure time approached, we reached for her shaky hands and gathered in a circle at the bus station to pray with her. All the time I kept praying, Lord, she's not a waste, please stay close to her and don't let her go. As we departed and walked back to the car, I just kept wondering: What would become of her? Did we do enough? Did we do too much? What would have happened to her if we didn't help her?

All night and the next morning I kept picturing Susan's bloodshot eyes, the weary look on her face from all the years of drug use, abuse and pain. I thought to myself: Will she really try and turn her life around, or did she hop off the bus at the first stop and get herself right into another crisis situation? That afternoon, my outreach partner called me to say Susan has been in touch with her and is “doing fine so far." When Susan finally made it back to New Jersey, she continued calling and my partner has even been on speaker phone with some of Susan's family members! Susan is living with her sister, going to church, asking spiritual questions, considering work and school and still needs lots of prayers. She is working on changing her life. She needs prayers for emotional and mental stability and prayers that she will maintain her sobriety.

Your prayers, encouragement, donations and support are what keep this ministry going into our mission field to help these ladies find their way out of these strip clubs. This is the second time we've met a woman on an outreach in a crisis situation who has called us and we were able to pray with her and see her leave the business. If it weren’t for your faithfulness in donating the items for bags, volunteering your time and the financial support to be able to purchase a bus ticket, we wouldn't be a part of the lives of these ladies. I'm already looking forward to the December 11 outreach, anxious to see what God will do next! Thank you for your commitment to the Kingdom. May God bless your faithfulness. You are all loved and appreciated!

* The lady's name was changed to protect her identity.

Monday, November 2, 2009

"Carry Me Back to Old Virginny"

One of Tomoka Christian’s mission teams each year heads up to Virginia to help with Equipping the Saints (ETS), a nonprofit provider of necessities to missionaries all over the world. Gene McCullough, who headed up the industrious team, shared below some highlights of an extremely productive trip.
Tomoka sent 10 team members to ETS. Eight more joined us from a church in Michigan, who called themselves the Michigan contingent of the Tomoka team. It was their first mission trip and from what I heard it was a huge success for them. We all worked together Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Each morning started with a devotional. Then a list of the projects was discussed and team members worked where their skills were most needed.

Part of the team replaced 16, 10-foot windows on the second story of an old school building. The wooden windows leaked so badly that vinyl plastic was taped to the trim to keep the weather out. After the plastic and trim had been removed, members of the team sanded and painted the trim. We completely remodeled an old school room so that it could be used as a dorm and meeting room. Ten-foot blackboards and frames were removed from the walls, and then the walls were mudded, spackled, sanded, primed and painted by team members.

Other members were able to sort out a variety of new light bulbs that ETS had purchased at a great discount. The bulbs were sorted, counted and cataloged so that they could be sold on e-Bay. One team member helped the staff with Quickbooks. Members of the team also moved a kitchen cabinet, including the sink, from a room that was being used as a library for children’s books to another room that will become the new kitchen. Now, the library no longer has the kitchen in it.

Some members of the team packed boxes of clothes for an upcoming shipment to Papua, New Guinea. Other members worked in the electronics area repairing wireless microphones that will be sold on the Internet or provided to worship leaders who need them. The office supply room was cleaned and organized. Another group addressed and stamped envelopes. We were all blessed to work with the Michigan contingent and the staff at ETS.

We look forward to a return trip the second week of August 2010. This is an inexpensive trip that gives help and relief to a team of volunteers and the staff of ETS. We welcome new members who can commit to the trip within the next couple of months.

Thanks for providing us with the freedom and opportunity to go. It was a real blessing for all of us.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Pure Religion

I recently heard from two missionaries who founded and continue to run Christian World Adoption. Bob & Tomilee Harding’s note below illustrates how God is moving in Ethiopia.

We have just returned from our Ethiopian trip with our spirits and batteries recharged!

It was so good to visit the children’s homes and have the opportunity to see two new homes recently added to our growing list of locally run homes that we support. Some of this support goes to children who are able to stay in their homes with their families or guardians with some financial aid from us through the local centers.

The major thrust of our trip was to visit and approve finishing touches on the children’s home in our new Acacia Village complex. This building is nearing completion, and we needed to approve some final layout decisions. Thanks to all of you, this is becoming a reality. It will be housing children this coming year! This is a big project for us but God has been faithful to guide us. Several more buildings are about to start, including a mission outreach apartment building, a clinic, and an enrichment center (school).

We were honored to have another audience with the President of Ethiopia including a short photo opportunity where he offered his continued support and thanks for our programs in Ethiopia.

The trip was truly blessed. CWA’s future programs in Ethiopia look very positive and we will continue to place the rights and concerns of the children first.

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Get Me My Hat!

In front of 65,110 screaming fans in Pittsburg, the 2009 NFL season got under way. The Steelers against the Titans, a showdown of powerhouse defenses on display at Heinz Field.

At the end of regulation, the score was a 10-10 tie. As the Steelers were about to get the ball, Ben Roethlisberger, the defending Superbowl champion quarterback, turned to a ball boy and said, “Get me my hat. I’m about to take us down the field for the winning score and I want to cover my sweaty hair when I do the postgame interview with Andrea Kremer.” That play yielded the game-winning drive in overtime.

Now I have to tell you that from age 5 to at least 23, if I wasn’t in class or church I had a baseball cap on. I had dozens of options. I had my St. Louis Cardinal caps, of course, caps of teams I played on, caps bearing the logos of banks, farming equipment and seed companies. I’m not sure why I wore them — security perhaps, or team pride. Or maybe cap-wearing was just a habit that made me feel more like others around me. What I do remember is that I never left home without a cap.

While I never will lead an NFL team or drive for a final score, I have a much larger task: Leading people to heaven. The Bible is quite clear about who will go to heaven. In Acts 4:12, we read: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."

Research shows that on our current course, America will be less than 14% Christian in the next generation. Christ followers need to be more aggressive in sharing the story of Jesus. After all, the opposite of heaven is hell.

Heaven = In God’s presence, joy, worship, peace, rest, celebration
Hell = Cut off from God, weeping and gnashing of teeth, fire and pain. See Matthew 25

The apostle Paul reminds us that Jesus will be returning soon in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 to 18:

Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.
Are you ready to go?

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:37-38.

  • Have you accepted Jesus as your Savior?
  • Have you repented (turned from sin)?
  • Have your been baptized (buried in water)?
  • Have you committed to following Jesus even unto death?
We all want to go to heaven, yet most are unprepared for the most important trip they will ever take. So are you ready?

I guess what I’m saying is, get your hat!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Scripture Memorization: More from Romans

Here is another list of powerful Bible verses that would be good ones to commit to memory. From time to time, I'll publish others.
  • He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Romans 4:25

  • Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1

  • But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Man Of My Word

This is an e-mail I received from my friend, Steve Jones, that illustrates the kind of obedience God desires from us. It begins with Jeremiah 35:5:

I set cups and jugs of wine before them and invited them to have a drink, but they refused. “No,” they said, “we don’t drink wine, because our ancestor Jehonadab son of Recab gave us this command: ‘You and your descendants must never drink wine'...Then the Lord gave this message to Jeremiah: "Go and say to the people in Judahand Jerusalem, ‘Come and learn a lesson about how to obey me. The Recabites do not drink wine to this day because their ancestor Jehonadab told them not to. But I have spoken to you again and again, and you refuse to obey me.' "
Talk about a legacy! Here's a clan of families that were so zealous about keeping their promises that not one of their family members had drunk a drop of wine for TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY YEARS! And what does God say? "Learn a lesson about how to obey me." The abstinence from alcohol is not the point, (though that would serve you well), but the determination to obey God no matter what. Let's keep our promises, men. The Recabites prove that it can done. I pray that today you will keep your promises. Please pray that for me.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Scripture memorization: Romans

One of the best ways to keep God's Word close at all times is to memorize Scripture. The Bible is full of truths that can help keep you on His path, as well as help you minister to others you know during the day.

Below are a few of my favorites. From time to time, I'll publish others. You might choose to write or type the verses on index cards or paper and tape them up here and there around your house.

Romans 1:16-17: I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

Romans 2:1: You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.

Romans 3:23: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Obeying the Call

Lysa TerKeurst, a nationally known speaker and author with Proverbs 31 Ministries, published an inspiring post about the joys of adoption and of obeying God. Check it out on her blog here.

While you're there, scroll down and check out the video of Lysa and her amazing adoption story that appeared on Oprah. Or just view it here.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Tacos, Anyone?

We received word from our missionaries in Mexico, Steve and Kay Carpenter. A team of nine from TCC are serving with them right now. Below is an excerpt of the letter.

It is great to have nine excited men ready to go to work. But first they will attend worship services at the Northside Church this morning and then, after tacos, we all head up to the Eagles Church for the afternoon service. They came armed with small wooden crosses to hand out and enough toys for over 100 children. That's a good thing because this last Thursday we had 85 children and adults in attendance with at least 65 of those being children. Looks like we're in for a good week.

The Northside Church is the main project for the team. They will be digging, doing plumbing and mixing concrete. They may also lay brick, put in some lights and do a small bit of painting. All the tasks they will accomplish will move the construction along its schedule and bless the church congregation in a big way.

The rain seems to be a big story right now in lots of places. We read about the flooding in the Southeast and pray for those people. There was a need for rain but now I think the need has passed. Hopefully we will have some clear days, at least during the hours that we are working at the church. As an update for those of you who read about the flooding near us due to a break in a huge drainage tube and a lot of runoff water, the city gave appliances and items to the victims of the flooding. Alejandra received a new refrigerator, her son received a new bed and they received new tile for their floors. Their house isn't back to normal yet, but it is getting there.

The community ministry known as Community Health Evangelism is set to begin with a Vision Conference with community leaders from the Eagles neighborhood this October. We have two nights set aside for the presentation to community leaders. It is our prayer that from this Vision Conference that momentum can be built for the ministry in the neighborhood. Please keep this conference and the community leaders in your prayers. We need to bathe this in prayer!

Thank you so much for your prayers and support. You are the ones who make this ministry possible and we praise our Lord for each of you.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Answering the Call

Tomoka Christian Church is truly a body of Christ followers. Your response to the call for an adoptive family for Sheila was amazing. Thank you for answering the call of Christ which was heard through the cry of a lone teenager in Ghana.

We have forwarded your emails — some from out of state — to Kevin and Cara Boone, who are in Ghana this week picking up their daughter, Ruth. I am sure that we will soon have another report from Cara on Sheila (the two are pictured here) and her search for a family. When Cara returns and spends a few days acclimating Ruth to a new life, she will get us the needed information for adoption procedures and we will make sure that you are updated.

I want to remind you that “some estimates put the number of orphans at 50 million while other estimates put the number as high as 200 million. Sadly the orphans are even abandoned by the statistics.” There is never a shortage of children looking for a family. Prayerfully, Sheila’s cry has brought to our attention again the need for the body of Christ to step up and care for the orphans. And what better way to celebrate National Adoption Month in October than to have 25-30 families from Tomoka Christian begin the process to bring their child home from around the world!

I know that God has spoken to many of you whether you e-mailed us or not. I challenge each of you to take action on what He has placed on your hearts to do whether it is to adopt or to help make it financially possible for another "Sheila" to find her Mommy.
…To Be Continued

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Young girl aches for a family of her own

Cara and Kevin, friends of the Tomoka Christian family, are working through paperwork to adopt a young girl, Ruth, from Ghana. In their visits to Ruth at her orphanage in Ghana, they met another child, Sheila, who is Ruth's best friend. Sheila's deepest desire is for a family of her own. Adoption requirements are few and costs have been reduced, but time is running out. Below is a note Cara sent me about Sheila's situation. Please e-mail me if you can help her.

I am sending out a desperate plea to all my God-fearing friends: We need to find a family for Sheila, a sweet, godly, wonderful 14-year-old girl living in Ghana.

Sheila has been praying for a family for years. I told her that I would make it my personal mission to help find her one. A few weeks ago she got the chance to call me and the first thing she asked was, "Did you find me a mommy yet?" I had to tell her no. When I go to Ghana next week, I would love to be able to tell her that God has brought her a family. Someone, please be the answer to this sweet girl's prayer! Time is running out for her as she is about to turn 15. The U.S. government will not allow children to be adopted once they turn 16. The process has to be finished before they turn 16. Sheila is such a kind, humble, peaceful, loving soul. The only thing she needs is a family and a chance.

Says Sheila: "My prayer is that someone that you will send my picture to will accept me as their child and have mercy on me because I am no one. People always say that I don't have a mother. Please, please have mercy on me."

The enemy has sold this sweet girl a lie: Having her believe, because she is an orphan, she is no one. Who is willing to show Sheila that she is not "no one"? She is someone very special in Christ. He cares for her! As the body of Christ, so do we. Please allow Jesus to come to her rescue through you!

Because of her desperate situation, the fees for her adoption have been greatly reduced and several people already have volunteered to raise money to help with the cost of her adoption. Please don't let money be an obstacle!

Requirements for adoption:
  • Must be 21 years older than the child. In this case, one of the parents must be at least 35 years old
  • Must be married
  • Must be Christian
The first time I met her, she was bent over stirring a pot of banku over a small charcoal stove. When I looked a little closer, I saw that she was silently weeping as she worked to make lunch for the 30 children living at her orphanage. I bent down to look her in the eye and asked her what was wrong. She wouldn't return my gaze, but instead wiped away her tears and said, "I am so happy that my best friend, Ruth, has found such a wonderful mother. I am going to miss sister Ruth and I pray one day a woman will come for me and she will be my mommy forever."

Needless to say, my heart was broken for sweet Sheila. I promised her that day that I would help her on her journey to find a mama and a family.

Sheila looks just like her birth mother. They both have light skin and a long face. They both radiate beauty from the inside out. Sheila loved her mother dearly, but her mother passed away. Unable to care for her, Sheila's father took her to the orphanage and left her there.

Sheila is a smart girl and loves school. Unfortunately, the orphanage where she is staying cannot pay for her to go to school anymore and she had to drop out of school this year. Sheila is very sad about this. She has dreams of one day becoming a journalist.

Sheila loves to sing and dance to Jesus. As the oldest girl in the orphanage, Sheila has had to take on the mother figure role for 30 other children. She is very nurturing and a hard-worker, but she has been robbed of her childhood and forced to grow up far too early.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Getting the Job Done

Every two or three years, we publish a prayer journal listing all of the missionaries that Tomoka Christian financially sponsors. Since the last journal, called “Be the Church,” was published, we’ve added many missionaries to the Tomoka Christian support roster. They are listed below. Please remember them as you pray.

Mike & Teresa Grant — Haiti
Barry & Charlene Owensby — Cuba
White Water Christian Church, Wyoming — USA
Robert & Natalie Braden — England
St Louis Christian College (scholarship) — USA
Shelly Hilvety — Ethiopia
New Missions Systems, Halima — Kenya
Grace House DeLand — USA
Compassion International: Christian Tejeno — Philippines
Compassion International: Rachel Niyonkura — Rwanda
Eric & Shelia Jenkins — North Africa
Charlie & Fern Peters — USA
Chris & Aubri Casey — Europe
Melonnie Kelly — Haiti
Zeca & Gabia Sales — USA
Chaplaincy Endorsement Commission — USA
Bill Frans, Toba Lake Church — Indonesia
Thomas Guiteres — Timor Leste
Pastor Martin Roberts — USA
Daniel Meyers Bread Ministry — USA
Kelly Bender — USA
April Roam — Honduras
Beth Ramos — New Guinea
Barbara Beute, Justice Missionary — USA
Sam & Karen Kohler — Japan
Richard & Chris Rice — Guatemala
Garry & Weiling Klinel — Japan
Providence County, RI, church — USA
Equipping the Saints — USA
Bong Barredo — Philippines
Mary Williams — USA
Doug & Carol Baldwin — Ecuador
Christ Reaching Asia Mission — North Korea
Every Home for Christ — Mongolia, Niger & Senegal
Voice of the Martyrs — Pakistan, Vietnam, Laos & Sudan
Team Expansion — Bosnia
Assemblies of God World Missions — Algeria

For those who don't have a journal, I want to encourage you to pick one up in the Worship Center lobby. For those who already have one, we printed stick-on labels with the above names that fit on the inside back cover of the journal. You can pick up a label in the Worship Center lobby.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Power of Love ministry highlights

Below is another report from Jennifer, who leads Power of Love, Tomoka Christian’s ministry to women working in area strip clubs.

Praise God for another wonderful outreach. The team began the evening with a powerful time of prayer, then set out.

At the first club, the owner met us at the door. He was very friendly and invited us in. One of the girls would not accept a bag from us, but the rest of the ladies were very friendly. After we passed out the bags the owner invited us to come back later when more girls were working. While there we had quite a conversation with the owner, reminding me how much the men employed by these clubs need our prayers as well. They are caught up in a world of sin and bondage and are just as lost, trapped and hurting as the women.

The owner of the second club was outside when we arrived. He was very friendly and welcomed us in. One woman we conversed with told us she goes to church every Wednesday and Sunday and was embarrassed to be stripping. She knew it was wrong, but had recently been diagnosed with cancer and was working to pay for her medications. If that weren't enough, her daughter was recently killed by a drunk driver. She said she was stripping because she feels she has no other choice. She was crying tears of desperation. We need to keep her in our prayers.

A third club allowed us to give out bags to the bartender and two dancers that were working. The atmosphere at the club was very dark and depressing. Please keep this club and the employees in prayer.

Two other clubs did not allow us in. Another club’s management allowed us to leave five gift bags. We left a gift for that manager, too.

We thank our Heavenly Father for His favor and timing on this outreach. Our next ones will be in October and December.
Note: Jennifer may be reached via e-mail here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hispanic ministry shifts into higher gear

Yolanda Cintron helps lead Tomoka Christian’s Hispanic ministry, currently meeting at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays in The Point. She and Pastor Rafael and Eloisa Ortiz, at right, are excited about changes that will open the door to growth of that ministry. These modifications include switching the Hispanic worship service to 3:30 p.m. on Sundays in the Worship Center, along with preserving the ministry’s Thursday evening time slot for Bible study. The Hispanic ministry changes take place on Sept. 13. Below is a listing of ministry highlights and changes from Yolanda.

Fall kickoff will be on Sunday, Sept. 13, to start our first Sunday service in Spanish in the Worship Center. That service will include worship and preaching from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Child care will be available.

Tomoka’s Hispanic ministry started in October 2008 with the Thursday evening service held in The Point. We now have over 40 in attendance. We plan to keep the Thursday evening service and make it a Bible study, while the actual service will be on Sunday.

We are setting up a screening process for those wishing to help in the ministry. We will follow Tomoka’s present procedures that include a background check.

Pastor Rafael Ortiz is in the works of planting another Spanish service in Jacksonville.

Mission trips: Pastor Rafael and his wife Eloisa have already gone on mission trips to Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico and are excited to partner with Tomoka’s mission trips. The goal is to have those who attend a Spanish service go on trips with Tomoka teams to Spanish-speaking countries, where they will serve as translators and be able to share the Gospel.

Communion is offered every week at the Spanish service.

Baptism is open to anyone. We will start having a Decision Night, as Tomoka does, in a few months.

Good News Club: Eloisa will discuss with Andrew Ward assembling helpers at Pierson Elementary School to help start a Good News Club there. Linda Weaver, who attends Tomoka Christian, works as a teacher at the school and is seeking volunteers who speak Spanish to help with the club.

Angel Food ministry has menus available in Spanish, so anyone interested can contact Tomoka’s office to place an order.

We look forward to seeing what amazing things God has planned for the Hispanic community!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Sunday's Coming by Perry Noble

Perry Noble wrote something recently that really inspired me that he called "Sunday's Coming." It went something like this.

Who have you invited? (Acts 1:8)

Who are you bringing with you? (John 1:40-42)

Have you told God, “I am available!” (Isaiah 6:8)

We’re praying for HUGE things on Sunday… (Acts 4:29-31)

Eternal destinations will be altered… (John 5:24)

Life Change WILL HAPPEN… (II Corinthians 5:17)

So…what are you waiting on? (II Corinthians 6:1-2)

Let’s have that uncomfortable conversation… (Acts 1:8)

HE REIGNS… (Revelation 4)

He CAN save anyone… (Acts 9:1-18)

See you on Sunday! (Matthew 16:18)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Evangelizing in the darkest corners of the world

A 59-member team of young evangelists in Ethiopia that those of Tomoka Christian financially supported has returned to their home base after a month of mission work to dangerous Orthodox- and Muslim-dominated Ethiopian cities. Shelly Hilvety, their mentor in the capital city of Addis Ababa, recently threw a party for them all to celebrate their safe return. At the party, the young evangelists shared many victories with her — including healings and conversions of those they met, but also beatings and a failed poisoning attempt of team members by those dead-set against the gospel. Below are some details from Shelly.

Greetings from Addis Ababa. Just wanted to share with you what I know of the 59 young people who went to the countryside to cities to share the gospel in Ethiopia. In one month's time they shared with 9,964 people. Those who accepted Christ will be discipled by the host churches in those cities where the young people stayed. We still don't have a complete account of how many accepted Christ. In these cities, residents are mostly Orthodox and Muslim so the conversion rate will be lower than what we expect. But their job was to plant the seeds and God will bring the increase.

God's hand was completely upon this trip. In one city they cast out six demonic spirits. In another city many deaf people were healed and backsliders came back to Christ.

With all these victories came many persecutions. The water was bad, the food was not good and the sleeping conditions were not something that any of us would have accepted. Some had stones thrown at them. Others were told they would be killed if they shared the gospel, but they shared and no one was killed. One person was whipped and two were beaten by police in the jail. A whole team would have been poisoned if it hadn't been for a waitress telling them to order something else. This happens often when people try to share the gospel.

Upon their return, I bought three sheep for the celebration camp fire and they ate and ate and ate! But the food was not the blessing. The joy on their faces as they shared what had happened was amazing. God's glory was all over those young people. I had the chance to challenge them to continue to share the word in Addis Ababa and the villages. This work is God's work and He protected them all the way.

Thank you so much for allowing these young people to experience mission work in their own country. Thank you that your faithfulness to bless us financially, allowing for 9,964 people to hear the gospel message in one month’s time. Please keep these young people in your prayers because when victories come here, Satan in not very far behind trying to choke out the joys of all the work that was done.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The $20 Challenge

Tim Paneitz, our interim youth pastor, recently coordinated a very special summer activity for both middle and high school students called the $20 Challenge. Students struck out in small groups, each of which invested $20 to bring the love of Jesus to complete strangers. Below are some amazing highlights.

Random acts of kindness. They can bring smiles to a mother’s face, joy to a young child and tears to the eyes of a homeless man.

All of these reactions where shared by our youth during the Summer 50 $20 Challenge. Our youth were split into groups and sent into the community with very simple instructions: “Share God’s love with someone else.” The highlights of the day were amazing.

One group of our youth made their way to Wal-Mart where they blessed people in different ways. From handing out cash to families in line checking out to buying some little toys that they passed out to the children in the store and the parking lot, they made an impact that day. Mothers were thrilled beyond words to receive some cash just as they went to check out.

At the Dollar Store, another group bought soap, toothpaste, sunscreen, snacks, ponchos and a backpack. The money that wasn’t used was put onto a gift card for McDonald’s. On that very hot summer Sunday, they didn’t even mind sweating as they spent a good deal of time looking for the right homeless person to bless with the bag. After some prayer, they found a man walking solo on the side of the road. As he received the bag, the tears started rolling. He shared an amazing story of being kicked out of his house, of years of addiction and of God’s healing power.

For a third group, the dollar menu at McDonald’s was the starting place. Bags of double cheese burgers in tow, they went out into the town to bless anyone they came across. The students brought smiles to the faces of many people.

The creativity and passion the youth had for this project was awe-inspiring.

When we really think about the amount of money we spend on little things throughout our day, why couldn’t we do our own $20 or $5 or $50 challenge every day? Maybe we could do something simple, like pay for the next person in line at Starbucks, or pay the toll for the person behind us on the road.

God has blessed us with it all to begin with, so why not just share it?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Largest City in the World

A team from Tomoka Christian recently spent a week at an orphanage in Mexico City called Ninos de Mexico. Bryan Maynard was a member of that team. A report from him is here.

I was a late addition to the Ninos de Mexico mission team after someone else canceled. It was my first mission trip, but hopefully not my last! I really did not know what to expect, except for long busy days with lots of work to do. Our work project included work at the houses and at the church helping with Vacation Bible School.

We arrived in Mexico on Saturday afternoon and met some of the staff: Matt, Tiffany, and Erin. Such young people doing great work at Ninos! We also met the kids of Esperanza House and toured their facility. Afterward we played a nice game of supposedly non-competitive volleyball. We failed miserably against those teenagers!

A friend had given me Philippians 1:2 for our journey. During our devotion time Saturday night I read Paul’s words in Ephesians 6:19. I would pray this verse at the start of each day during our trip.

Sunday morning we went to the church and met the pastor and attended the worship service. It was different hearing songs we sing at Tomoka translated to Spanish. It actually made the worship service very comfortable for me. The building sits beside a busy street and sidewalk that was very noisy all morning. However, one thing that really struck me was when the worship leader began to pray before communion the street became very quiet. At that moment I felt that the Holy Spirit was in control. After the worship service two young ladies were baptized. Could this day get better?

Sunday afternoon the church staff invited us to dinner at the church. We met more of the staff and also planned some of the activities we would use during the week for Vacation Bible School. After our dinner we broke into two vans and went into the community to parks, playgrounds, and a grocery store to hand out flyers to children inviting them to VBS.

VBS was an amazing experience. We arrived early Monday morning only to find a few children running about. Soon after, the vans started arriving with many children. When everyone was finally counted the Monday total was 150. We thought that it couldn’t get any better. We were wrong! It wasn’t up to us. Tuesday’s total was 162. Wednesday’s total was 170. Thursday was 210, and on Friday they counted 230. By Friday there were not enough chairs for everyone to sit. The room was filled! It was a great feeling just being in the room.

Our team was very busy all week. We took care of the games at VBS. We also helped with the arts and crafts, in the nursery. Anywhere we were needed we did our best to help.

We had the opportunity to visit each of the four houses, meet the children and the house parents. We also met Dr. Noe and saw the medical clinic.

Ninos and the church are a tremendous outreach to the community there. They do so much with so little, in contrast to the U.S. culture that has so much and does so little.

As for me, it was definitely an eye-opening experience. I look at things differently than before. I can still see the look on the kids’ faces, the smiles. I remember the way they had trouble communicating with me, and me likewise. I must learn how speak some basic Spanish before going back!

I hope to have the opportunity to return to Ninos, and also have my wife and son share the experience with me.

May we give God all the glory. Adios for now.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mission trip memories

Earlier this year, I led a team of nine on a mission trip to Egypt. We spent a lot of time ministering to people of that region, then took some time for sightseeing. Want to see a video of our time there? It's online here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tomoka adds new missions

Pat Bolles recently published a post on Tomoka Christian’s Missions blog that introduces new additions to the 200+ that TCC financially and prayerfully supports. These newcomers are from the Philippines, Ecuador and the south side of Chicago. Pat’s post is online here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

God-Style Camping

A Tomoka Christian mission team recently returned from Camp Chenaniah in Honor, Michigan. They ran a week of summer camp there. Two members of the team, Scott Hale and Ryan Houser, shared some of the trip highlights.

From Scott:

My experience at Camp Chenaniah in Michigan was unbelievable. My beautiful wife and our three kids (Jay, 12; Kieran, 6; and Riley, 2 1/2) started our trip at 4:30 a.m. in the TCC parking lot and arrived at camp by 8:30 p.m. that same day. This was their first mission trip but they were all troupers!

Now I've been on mission trips overseas before, and while I'm not at all lessening those experiences, the realization that some of the same occurrences are happening here in the states just ate me up.

After you get past the "rustic" atmosphere, I thought the camp itself was an incredible scene. The reason that Camp Chenaniah may not have the latest living conditions or best of modern technology is because the owners, Mike and Belva, do not charge much for the campers to be able to come. Part of this is due to the economy, but mainly this is because the surrounding area just does not have a lot of money. In some cases they don't charge anything. They may have kids who are allowed to attend on a volunteer work basis, say, to help in the kitchen, or take out trash. The philosophy there is that Mike and Belva would rather have the kids there learning about Christ than not.

I would have to say that my favorite part of the week was the worship. The camp's chapel collapsed last winter due to weather and age. So we met in an old Army surplus tent. It was damp, dirty, and dusty and had wooden pews nailed down to two-by-fours. But the worship was pure. These kids let it pour straight from their hearts. These kids are truly looking for Christ; they are clinging to the hope of His promises.

Being out at Camp Chenaniah with these kids reminded me that it's not about the building, it's not about the facilities, it's not about how many are in attendance. It's about offering God our hearts and getting back to what is pure.

My family and I are already trying to plan our trip back for next year!

From Ryan:
I was nervous about Camp Chenaniah at first. I had never been there, and I wasn’t sure what the campers would be like. I had to trust in God that he would use me however He needed to that week.

Chenaniah turned out to be one of the best and most “Seriously Ridiculous” weeks I’ve experienced all summer. I loved every minute of it. From the team, the campers, the games and everything else, God was under control of every aspect. By the end of the week, I didn’t want to leave — despite the spiders and moths everywhere — and I wished I could have stayed longer.

The team from Illinois and Michigan were great to be with. I am blessed to have met them and still be talking with them almost a month later. It was fun to hang out with not only the new counselors I met, but the ones from Tomoka, as well, especially knowing that we all shared the same goal of reaching the kids and showing the love of Christ to them.

One of the most incredible experiences I had with the campers was on the last night. It was about 11 at night, and some of the kids were still up. They were talking with each other and just playing around. I thought it was funny and eventually they began to talk with me about salvation and baptism for a while. They had a lot of questions to ask and I just talked with them and tried to answer their questions. A lot of them didn’t know much about different Bible stories and how to get a close relationship with God. It was powerful to see such young people desiring God and wanting to know more about Him.

The last day, we all went to the lake and saw 11 baptisms! It was such an amazing experience to see the kids I had been with all week accept Christ as their savior and be baptized! Even one of our staff got baptized!

I went away from camp knowing nothing that had happened this week happened because of us. Everything was under God’s control and it was comforting to know that. I pray that the campers and even the staff take the lessons we learned and grow closer to God each day. I am excited to go back next year and see them again, and I can’t wait to see what God has in store next July!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Real Religion

I received some statistics about the worldwide orphan crisis from Duane Hull of Orphan’s Lifeline International.

  • Around the world, 42,000 children become orphans every day.
  • Nearly 150 million children are orphans worldwide.
  • The number of orphans worldwide is expected to grow to 250 million in five years, and about 400 million by 2015.
  • 10.8 million children under age 5 die each year from preventable causes (30,000 each day)
  • Almost 41% of all child deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • 50% of worldwide deaths in children under 5 occur in six countries (India leads with 20%, followed by Nigeria, China, Pakistan, Congo. Statistics show that 90% of child deaths occur in 42 underdeveloped countries.
  • Orphan children in poor nations are suffering through malnutrition, disease, abandonment and neglect. They are victimized, exploited and abused.
My question to you: Is God asking you to do something about it? Tomoka Christian's Bringing Children Home ministry helps with adoptions. Find out more about it by calling the church office.

FYI: A portion of every dollar given to Tomoka Christian goes toward this ministry.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A glimpse of the providence of God

One of our missionaries in the Arab World shared an inspiring story related to Bibles that Tomoka Christian donated. Our missionary’s account is here:

I was speaking at a lecture recently in Alexandria, Egypt. During one of the breaks, a Sudanese man came up and introduced himself. He expressed appreciation for the work of Christian Arabic Services, which I lead and which Tomoka Christian supports, then proceeded to share a story with me that is so unusual that it could only be the result of God’s hand.

The Sudanese man told me an unbelievable story that happened to the Bibles which Tomoka Christian donated and shipped to Sudan. The man chosen to deliver the books, Mongo, is a Sudanese evangelist trained by Christian Arabic Services years before. He planned to take them to the Nuba Mountain region and use them to begin mission work in that area of few Christians. But on one leg of the trip, which was by boat, he suddenly realized that two of the 13 boxes he was certain he had left with was missing or had been taken. The boxes held about 250 Bibles!

Mongo kept on with the boxes he still had, well aware that the area he was headed was full of extremists who had slaughtered (together with the government troops) thousands of Christians in the last 40 years. After a short visit with family living nearby, Mongo headed to the area where he had a vision and a plan to evangelize and start a church. Upon arrival, he stopped by to visit the Sultan of the area (like a president for the tribe) just for acquaintance — though he was strongly warned by friends not to go because the Sultan was very prejudiced.

Surprisingly, after a few minutes of getting acquainted, Mongo found a few of the missing Bibles in the Sultan’s office! He deduced from the number of questions the Sultan was asking him about Christianity that he had been reading the Bible, at least for a few weeks, and that he knew about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

To Mongo’s astonishment, the Sultan allowed him to evangelize in his area and allowed him also to start a church in the Nuba Mountain region — where there are no churches of any denomination at all!

Please pray for Mongo’s safety, because since that report no word has been received from him. Prayers also are needed for mission work in Sudan and the Arab World.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Report from the Haiti mission field

Members of our Haiti mission team are back, still catching their breath from a whirlwind two weeks of serving. Melonnie Kelly, our lead missionary to that region who now lives and works part of the year at the Northwest Haiti Christian Mission, shared an inspiring personal account of the weeks. Some highlights included a baptism, distribution of shoes, and an emotional experience during prayer time at a voodoo temple as animal sacrifices were taking place outside. Melonnie's blog post is here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Calling

This sounds a little mysterious, yet it is really not that difficult to figure out. Why am I here? What has God gifted me to do? Answer these questions and then go do it. We are not on this earth to collect fancy houses, cars, clothes, or anything else. In fact, use all of those items to fuel your calling. Instead of envying those who have more we should be selling out to leverage resources for the Kingdom of God. These are radical words. He is what Jesus said:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Matthew 19:23-24
In place of "movin' on up" we have been called to "move on out." Selling out for the calling that Jesus has on your life is a little scary, but carries with it eternity's rewards. I think this is what the Bible calls faith.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Only two earthly entities will be found in God’s eternal kingdom. They are God’s Word and God’s people. The simplicity seems obvious: Spend time learning the Word and loving people into God’s Kingdom. Here are a few key verses for reflection and memorization:

Deuteronomy 8:3
He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

Psalm 19:7-8
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.

2 Samuel 22:31
As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.

Psalm 119:11
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Colossians 3:16
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

Act 1:8
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

There is no substitute for the Word, however there are some great reference materials available to help you learn the Word. Here are a few of my favorites:

Archaeology Study Bible

NIV Study Bible
Thompson Chain Reference Bible (supplements in the back are fantastic)

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Frightening Moment

As a parent we have all felt that moment of panic when we have lost sight of one of our children. There is no describing that feeling when your heart falls into your stomach. Try this story on for size from Luke 2:41-52.

Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you." "Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" But they did not understand what he was saying to them. Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
Mary and Joseph lost Jesus, their son. But think about this — they lost God. Can you imagine their prayers? "Father, we don't know what we did with your only son." They lost God! That is a moment of fright beyond what any of us can imagine.

Tragically, millions of people who once knew God have lost Him somewhere along the way. Perhaps through anger, divorce, grief, sin, or laziness — however it happened God was lost as a result. Jesus teaches in Matthew 6:33 that if we seek Him, He will meet our needs. The key to this statement is that we must seek Him first above all else. In Hebrews 11:6 we read, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."

Is it time to go looking for Jesus again? Where is the anxiety, the passion? How can you lose the Savior of your soul and not be in a hurry to find Him? Joseph and Mary stopped at nothing to find Jesus. How about us?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Camp bears fruit

Pastor Craig and his mission team just returned from a week of camp in Show Low, Arizona, at the American Indian Christian Mission. The highlight of the week of camp they staged for high school Native Americans began as a simple time of invitation at the end of one night. It turned into a revival as nine campers gave their lives to Christ and were baptized. Read Craig's blog post, Laboring in Love.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

You Never Know!

A few weeks ago, I once again had the rewarding experience of serving as dean during a week of camp at North Florida Christian Service Camp in Keystone Heights. Eighty third and fourth graders, a dozen sold-out adults and 10 teens spent a memorable week serving our Lord. We loved the swimming, diving, archery, BB guns, basketball, carpetball, sno-cones and cotton candy. It was a lot of fun.

Then there were times of memorized Scripture. I can only imagine what our God will do with His Word now planted in these young minds. Which ones will become church planters, pastors, missionaries, Sunday school teachers? Who will be that Christian doctor, nurse, teacher, mom, or dad? It was long ago that I was the one running around at camp and enjoying all the fun. Once God's Word is unleashed in someone's life there is no telling what will happen.

Eternity alone will unfold the stories of these young boys and girls who spilled blue sno-cones all over me. Maybe one of the children will translate the Bible into a new language that will reach thousands for Jesus. Investing in the future and eternity is always exciting even if there is a lapse of time before you see the results.

Keep praying for our children's ministries, camp weeks and teen ministries. After all, you never know what God is going to do.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Death: The great equalizer

“He is the most popular man in the world,” said Shepard Smith for Fox News, speaking of Michael Jackson. “He’s the greatest entertainer on the planet.” Another news anchor questioned, “How could this happen?”

Here is the simple answer, written 2,000 years ago in Hebrews 9:27: “…Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…”

In fact, 3,000 years ago King Solomon said it thusly: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

Death is the great equalizer. Death knows no talent, race, economic situation or political position. Death comes to all. Armed with this information, we are once again reminded to make eternal preparations our priority. Secondly, we should help others with their own preparations.

What should we do? Our task is spelled out in Acts 2:38.

  • Accept Jesus as Savior and Lord
  • Repent, which means to turn from sin
  • Confess Jesus publicly
  • Be baptized
  • Follow Jesus
The reality is that death is a transition into eternity, not the end. But there is no certainty of our own day of transformation. Therefore we need to work now — starting, restarting or renewing our relationship with King Jesus. As I’ve heard stated, “You can live without Jesus, but your eternity will be a mess if you die without Him.”

Perhaps the Apostle Paul’s words to the church of Philippi in Philippians 2:5-11 will serve as motivation for us:
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A young adult on the mission field

It inspires me to see the young people of our congregation taking on ministry leadership roles and being God’s hands and feet. One of these servants in our church family is Jocelyn, who attends the University of Central Florida. Below, she shares a report of the mission work she is doing in the Dominican Republic with an Orlando-area organization.

The first time I visited the Dominican Republic was this past March during Spring Break. When I was first preparing myself for the trip, I thought I knew exactly what to expect and I was not anticipating much. God is so funny though, because he completely broke me down and I fell absolutely in love with the country. The culture, the people, the food, the language — everything about it swept my heart away.

We stayed in Santiago in a Catholic Retreat center. All of our meals were provided for us by the pastor of a church in the city who we called Pastora. She opened her home to us for every meal and fed us delicious Dominican food. She was one of the first pastors in Santiago and her church is growing every week. She praises the Lord that they need more space. It's been 10 years and the church is still in the process of being built. Her church sends out two vans to two small villages — Cuesta Arena and Los Cocos, about 25 minutes away — to transport people to the church and back every Sunday. The service is very passionate and I love watching the congregation worship God.

Each day, we went out to the village of Cuesta Arena to help with a water filtration system. The water in the Dominican is very unsafe to drink and the people of Cuesta Arena are surviving off of this water. A lot of the kids down there have discoloration in their faces and some are very sick because of this. Once they brought back some of the water to be tested in the United States. It was so bad that nobody should be even living near this water, let alone drinking it. A couple of students on this trip were engineering majors, so they helped assemble the final details on the filtration system. They were able to complete the system, but the well needs to be dug 100 more feet before it is usable. The community is excited but it is also hard for them to understand why it is so important to have the clean water.

My favorite part about Cuesta Arena is the kids. They are so much fun. They are innovative, loving and curious. They ask a lot of questions about your family and where you live and they just love giving kisses on your cheek. One girl said that she had the best day of her entire life because someone hugged her, loved her and wanted to play with her. What was so neat about this trip is that since we were out there every day, we were really able to start developing relationships with those kids. You learn their stories. I cannot even begin to describe how rewarding it is to see those kids looking up at you, telling you they love you. We had a little Bible lesson for the kids every day and they love hearing about Jesus. They all ask when you're coming back and it truly breaks your heart to leave.

It is a very giving community for both the kids and adults. The men are eager to help with the construction and digging. The women can't wait to offer you some fruit or vegetables. The kids will give you anything they can find — a slice of cheese, a cough drop, a hair tie. It's amazing to see the generous hearts of these people.

I returned in May and all the people remembered me, even the kids. They remembered the dances we taught them and the games we played. When they saw me they started yelling "Yoselin, Yoselin” — that's how they pronounce my name. I couldn’t believe they remembered it!

The purpose of that trip, and all following trips, is the construction of a missionary house in Cuesta Arena. There will be four different mission teams coming in and out during that time and I will help lead devotions in the mornings for those weeks. I am elated to be going back and I cannot wait to see what God has in store. He is so good and He truly is moving throughout the Dominican Republic. Thanks for keeping me in your thoughts and prayers.
Note: Jocelyn is presently on her third trip to the Dominican Republic and will return home later this month.