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.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Great Documents of History

As a child born in 1963, at the end of what is commonly called the “Baby Boomer Generation,” I attended school in the western civilization's finest educational system. The education I received was built upon the great writings of men, many of which are rarely seen, read, or studied in our culture of enlightenment. Well, here are a few of those great documents of history. I will let them speak for themselves.

Exodus 20, Ten Commandments

Magna Carta

Declaration of Independence

Constitution of the United States of America

Patrick Henry's speech, "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death"

Inaugural Speech of Washington

Second Inaugural Speech of Abraham Lincoln

Gettysburg Address

Winston Churchill's speech, "Never Give In"

Winston Churchill's speech, "Finest Hour"

Franklin Roosevelt's speech following the bombing of Pearl Harbor

Matthew 5-7, Golden Rule

Monday, June 15, 2009

My "YES" Moment

The link below is to an inspiring post, My "YES" Moment, from the blog of Tomoka Christian’s lead missionary to Haiti, Melonnie Kelly. She lives in Ormond Beach but is training for a long-term position with Northwest Haiti Christian Mission.

Read about Melonnie’s "YES" moment here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Love in any language

A woman at Tomoka Christian named Jennifer leads a new ministry to exotic dancers called The Power of Love. A team of ladies who stepped up to serve in that ministry went out for the first time recently to minister to those trapped in the sex industry at clubs in Daytona Beach. Below is a report from Jennifer.

Praise God! The Lord is so faithful. It was an amazing day from start to finish. We began the day with a powerful time of praise and worship, then we prepared and prayed for the gift bags. Julie went over the game plan for the outreach, and then Pastor Ray from the Daytona Outreach Center prayed for and anointed each of the team members. Ablaze with the Holy Spirit, the eight of us loaded up in the DOC van. Immediately the intercessors began praying and worship music filled the van.

God led us through five strip clubs in Daytona Beach. God prepared the way for His power of love to flow like rivers. We were welcomed into every club we set foot in!

The women and managers we met had looks on their faces as if they had been waiting for us. In the first club we entered, Julie explained to the manager that we were a faith-based organization that supported and offered help to people in the sex industry. He told us he had a girl for us, and then took us to the dressing room and introduced us to a girl who was 18 years old and five months pregnant. Julie and I gave her a hug and then handed her a gift bag with our contact information, letting her know if there was anything we could do for her she could call us for help.

At another club, the manager said: "Where have you been? I wish you would have been here last week. I had a girl that just quit. She was getting beat up by her boyfriend...and shooting up." By the end of the visit we agreed with the manager that we would work together to help these girls.

The most special part of the night for me was at a club whose manager thought we were joking when we said we wanted to come in to distribute gifts to the girls. He asked us: "Are you serious? Is this some kind of a joke?" We reassured him we were very serious and everything was free. He then took us into the club and started calling all the girls around to receive the bags, and even went into the dressing room to bring the rest of the girls out. We went back to that club later in the night, and one girl called Julie over and asked her if someone could pray for her. Three Power of Love team members gathered around her for prayer, and afterwards she asked us if we could pray for a friend of hers. She called over another girl and we were able to pray with her as well. The girls there were so open with us and wanted us to stay longer, but the manager came in the dressing room and said: "I don't mind that you're in here talking to my girls — we don't have any customers anyway — but that church van outside ain't good for my business." The team had a good laugh over that!

There are six strip clubs in Daytona Beach and God led us through five of them. The team chose not to enter one of the clubs because we didn't feel a peace about the place. Something was unsettled in our spirit and we decided it was best not to go. The name of the club is Molly Brown's and is located on Seabreeze. Please keep this club and the employees in your prayers.

The outreach team would like to thank you for your passionate prayers, your love and support. We all prayed, believed and expected God to rain down His Spirit, to open the hearts of the lost, for His glory to be revealed .... and He was, is and always will be faithful. He answered our prayers and exceeded our expectations.

Note: Jennifer may be reached via e-mail here.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Heads Up!

Anytime you are near a baseball field you might hear someone yell, "Heads up!" This announcement means that you have a split second to look up and locate a sphere hurtling at you with the velocity of a bullet shot out of a rifle. Quickly, you must make a decision to dodge it or attempt to catch it. Someone is in danger when "Heads up" is heard.

As a pastor serving our Lord Jesus Christ, part of my job is to yell "Heads up!" to what is happening spiritually and historically in our day. Take a moment to read the Apostle John's words around 90 A.D.

1 John 2:18-23
"Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also."

1 John 4:3
"but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world."

2 John 1:7
"Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist."

"Heads up" - John told us 2,000 years ago that we were in the last days. Then just where are we now? The spiritual showdown is near at hand. Now is the time to grow strong in the following areas:

  • God's Spirit - Soak God into your pores
  • God's Word - Soak God into your mind
  • God's Love - Soak God into your heart
The church of Jesus is called to stand firm on both the humanity and deity of Jesus.

"Heads up" - Antichrists are everywhere. Be aware that those who do not believe that Jesus is the Christ is antichrist. Jesus is the anointed one sent from God to be our Savior. He was the sinless man, God in the flesh, who died to bring forgiveness to every person on earth who accepts the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross. Paul stated in Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

"Heads up" - The antichrist is coming. There is one man who will rise to power, be proclaimed as the savior of the world. He will be religious; pulling all religions into a one-world religion. He will create a one-world government. The only ones not accepted will be the true followers of Jesus. Those of us who are labeled as fanatics, even fools for beliefs such as:
We as Christ followers will have to anchor ourselves to Jesus, His Word, and His people for surely tough days are ahead. Days of persecution, loss of jobs, imprisonment, perhaps even death. All of these persecutions are going on in one form or another in nearly every nation in the world. The days of soft American Christianity have come to an end. The weak or half-hearted will not survive. Dig deep, fellow followers of Jesus. The last days are upon us.

"Heads up!"

Lessons from a very special camp

Dawn Dawson, a member of the Tomoka Christian family, ministers to developmentally disabled people in this area. She recently sent a note of thanks to Tomoka for a financial gift that funded scholarships for a recent very special Christian camp.

Over 200 developmentally disabled adults attended Special Gathering’s Camp Agape this year. It humbled me to observe some of the conversations that took place, and I was faced with the reality of how complicated we make things.

Two men were participating in arts and crafts when one asked the other if he “really had Jesus in his heart.” The other said “Yep, I sure do.” His friend asked him, “How do you really know you have him on the inside?” His friend answered, “Well, I just feel Him moving around in there all the time!”

Camp Agape is safe haven for our campers and we want to provide an environment full of fun activities, but primarily instill the knowledge and gift of Jesus Christ. One of the speakers this year said, “Jesus Christ is like an American Express — just don’t leave camp without Him!” We were there to teach, but we were the ones who were taught.

After this weekend, I will never again worry about what anyone thinks as I pray, or as I worship. Also, the next time I share Jesus with someone I will simply ask, “Do you have Jesus in your heart? How do you really know you have Him inside?”

Thank you for placing me in this ministry. If this door had never opened, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be taught in such a special way. I sincerely thank the Tomoka Christian Church family for graciously providing finances for our Camp Agape scholarship fund. Due to economic circumstances, the companies that provide camp funds had been forced to cut back an enormous amount of their giving. Your financial support makes an eternal difference!
Note: Dawn teaches a special needs class for all ages each week during the 5 p.m. service in the Family Life Center at Tomoka Christian. E-mail Dawn.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Words of gratitude

Below is a thoughtful note I received from the Torres family of Tomoka Christian. They are planning to move out of state.

Dear Pastor Joe and our Tomoka Church Family,

As our time here in Ormond Beach comes to an end, we wanted to express our sincere gratitude and admiration for all that you are doing to spread the word of God locally, statewide, and across international boundaries.

It is not often one finds a place that not only "talks the talk" but actually "walks the walk" of spreading the will of Christ. From the moment that we joined this church, we have been dreading when the time would come to leave ... and, unfortunately, that time is now. Although we will surely join a church in Mobile, we know that it will be difficult to find a place of worship with such influence and, more importantly, influential action.

As a person who worked hard for years at pushing Him away, it was Tomoka that finally opened up my heart. I often tell the story of when Tomoka sent us a generous check to help us with the adoption costs, all with absolutely no strings attached. To me (to us) that meant so much and truly showed us that awesome things are truly impacting the world — all from our little church in Ormond Beach. God, through your church, has made a believer out of a skeptic, and for that, I cannot thank you enough.

May God continue to bless this remarkable church,

Roberto & Jennifer Torres
(Ariana, Mateo, David)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Mission Work in Virginia

The Equipping the Saints mission team just returned from a week of ministry in Virginia. Below is a report from the team’s leader, Gene McCullough.

We had a great trip to Virginia. We were blessed to work with such a wonderful staff. We started each day with a meeting and a devotional. Then we split into teams and went to work.

Equipping the Saints is housed in an over 90-year-old school building that needs lots of TLC. It is three stories of clothes and equipment that has been purchased at auction or donated. ETS serves as a resource and coordinating center for missions all over the world that is totally “all-denominational.” The way they love the Lord and the folks they minister to shows in their faces and in all they do. Our job each trip is to encourage them and we did that in many ways. A few of the tasks that the team accomplished:
  • Removed old wooden frame windows and replaced them with new vinyl windows
  • Sorted 200 boxes of clothing weighing 6,923 pounds.
  • Repaired old electric Singer sewing machines for shipment. The vision for the machines is to ship them to parts of the world where one machine can provide a livelihood for one or more families.
  • Refurbished computers that will be shipped to missions and missionaries around the world.
  • Sorted and shelved medical supplies and equipment for doctors to use on missionary trips.
  • Added three new electrical circuits to the building
  • Repaired and replaced exit signs and lights
  • Unloaded more than 100 bunk beds into a storage facility off campus that will be shipped immediately to fulfill an overseas request.
We were blessed to have participated in this trip and look forward to another one in October this year. We have some openings, especially for a plumber, carpenter and anyone who can paint or is willing to learn how.

Note: Gene may be e-mailed here.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Ida, the New Missing Link?

Once again the battle between evolution and creation makes headlines. Here is a great article from The Creation Studies Institute that is from the Christian perspective:

Ida, the New Missing Link: The Next in a Long Line of Hoaxes and Misrepresentations

Hold the presses! There it was for all to see, a huge headline from Sky News on May 20, 2009 that read, Scientists Unveil Missing Link in Evolution. This bold proclamation alleged a 47-million-year-old fossilized skeleton of a monkey was the direct connection between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom. What was this earth-shaking discovery? Well by their own description, it was a 95% complete fossilized skeleton of a lemur monkey hailed as the eighth wonder of the world! [Emphasis added]

Who did the journalists following up on this press release choose to quote? It was none other than Sir Richard Attenborough of Jurassic Park fame. Sir Richard is an incredibly talented actor-director and patron of the arts. But who can doubt his scientific credentials with statements concerning Ida such as, “Darwin would have been thrilled” and “This little creature is going to show us our connection with the rest of the mammals.” Sir Richard went on to say, “Now people can say ‘okay we are primates’ show us the link” and “The link we have said up to now is missing – well it’s no longer missing.” Or is it?

Read the full article.