Monday, May 30, 2011

The Big Three In João Pessoa

The Big Three In João Pessoa
You may be thinking about auto makers, people, or famous landmarks but I am talking about opportunities.  This weekend (June 3-5) the church will be participating in a campaign in Mangabeira, the neighborhood with an almost year old church plant; at the end of the month the church will be hosting it's 8th annual VBS; and in July, the church in João Pessoa will be hosting "A Grande Ceia" (The Great Supper) a three day, state-wide meeting for the church to come together to have fun, enjoy one another's company and grow through classes and sermons from God's Word.

Please pray for the campaign, VBS and The Great Supper.  As a congregation and as individuals we need your prayers for:
·       God to bless us with more trust and love in Him and for those we meet during these three big opportunities;
·       Courage and boldness to share the good news with others;
·       God to lead us to people who need the seed of His Kingdom planted or watered in their hearts;

Monday, May 23, 2011

Samuel McKinney's New Life in Christ

It has been only three days since Samuel gave his life to Christ, but it
is so exciting to see my young son exercising his faith, like getting
upset when his history teacher at school taught that miracles in the
book of Exodus can be explained by natural phenomena: low and high tides
in the crossing of the sea, natural disasters for the plagues, etc. The
day after his baptism, Samuel went on a trip with his school and
received a new nickname: the boy who reads the Bible. He read 1 Samuel,
chapters 1 through 6, out loud for the whole bus to hear. His eagerness
to take the Lord's Supper for the first time was refreshing. May our
Father bless all our families with life changing faith.

Traveling Joe And Me

            Traveling?  You get excited just thinking about going on a trip to a different place, sleeping in a different bed, eating different foods, and meeting different people.  To tell you the truth, I don't like to travel without my family.  I don't like spending nights away from home when my family is not with me, although I was not alone. Joe McKinney is a great traveling buddy and a great Christian example.  We had fun, but by the end of the trip, we were ready to go home.  But some things just have to get done.
            I went on this trip to renew interest in PORmissões (Organic Missions Plan), the state-wide plan to evangelize Paraíba.  This plan is working and producing fruit throughout the state, especially in its four major cities.  Now, it is time to build up these congregations and revive their vision for reaching out to other cities.  My main focus was the congregation in Patos.
We left Friday morning, traveled 2 ½ hours to Areial, a city of around 10,000.  If you remember, about a month ago, I traveled to Areial not to visit but to bury a sister in Christ.  This time Joe and I went to visit the two Christian ladies that live in this small town.  One of them is having doubts about God and His goodness.  Her sister died after many, many people prayed for her recovery.  Does God care?  Does prayer make a difference?  I talked with her and she seemed relieved to know that it is okay to have doubts.  I told her the best way to resolve her problem was to talk to the person with whom she felt disillusioned, God.
We left for Patos.  Slept.  Visited a family.  Left for Pombal.  We visited the four Christians in this city of close to 60,000 people.  What an exciting visit!  We did not get to spend much time with them though because we had a class scheduled in Patos.  After Joe's class, evangelists from Patos and Emas and I discussed the state-wide plan and the need to stimulate each Christian to evangelism.  What an exciting impromptu meeting!  The very reason I went.  Now it is time to get to work: to set-up a meeting for all the congregations in Paraíba and help them recapture God's vision.
Sunday, we met with the church in Patos in the morning and with both the Emas and Caatingueira congregations together at night.  We met in a house, in an overcrowded small room, one person sitting in the door.  I was greatly encouraged by their joy of being together.   
Monday we left for home.  We stopped in Campina Grande only for a short visit, long enough to hear that the campaign results have been good: class has started, also some Bible studies, and if faith is found, new lives will begin.
Please pray for all of these cities.

Recognition of the Homo-affective Relationship

    Yes, homo-affective relationships - that is how same sex couples are being described in the new Brazilian law that gives their relationships legitimacy. The Brazilian Supreme Federal Court has determined that marriage goes beyond just a man and woman, giving homosexuals the legal rights to marital status: inheritance, pensions, child custody, health insurance benefits, the ability to open joint bank accounts, etc.
    According to the president of the Transvestites Association of Paraiba, Fernanda Bevenutty, this was a victory for Brazilian homosexuals, but most will continue in anonymity for fear of the social reaction. The census counted 800 same sex couples in Paraiba, but Bevenutty said that in reality there are a lot more.
    The next step the GLBT (Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Transvestites) movement will push is the controversial PLN 122 law, that purposes to add sexual discrimination to the law that punishes racial discrimination, making any type of opposition to this lifestyle a crime. That could mean that a homosexual could sue a church if banished for his or her practices, or a elementary school if rejected as a kindergarten teacher. Preachers could be jailed for repeating what the Bible says about homosexuality. So things could get interesting here in Brazil...
    Another controversial government action has been the homosexual kit it has prepared for schools, including six short movies, some animated, some not, teaching the normalcy of kids discovering their homosexuality or bisexuality and learning to be accepting of themselves and others.
    One complaint has been the 2 million reals spent on this project while many public schools lack teachers, books, material, and even desks for children to learn language, math, and other basic disciplines.
    While all these concerns create a lot of conflict in society, Brazilian and American, the tendency is for laws to be eventually passed and the propaganda to convince the herd will eventually brainwash people into consider anything, everything, normal. People without God will do what people without God will do. What can I do for me, my children, my future grandchildren to not be brainwashed along with everybody else? Homosexuality to us is pretty clear cut, but at one time divorce was clear cut; at one time certain words, clothes, and practices we now accept were not considered the norm.  How can we protect ourselves in a society bent on conforming us to it? How can we keep our families zealous for God's norm? Will we pursue God with the same determination that the world has for its twisted pursuit of happiness?

    "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness." Isaiah 5:20.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Where to begin...

Thank you, Lord! Praise God! Hallelujah!
My son belongs body and soul to Christ!

Thank you for your prayers. Samuel and I have studied for a couple of
months, looking at the lives of young people who had decided for God and
remained true during their lives: David, Joseph, Samuel, Timothy,
Josiah, etc. Though being six months shy of twelve, he has no doubt what
he wants for his life. After studying what he needed to do, Samuel said
he was ready.

May 20, 2011, we got everybody together. We sang Samuel's favorite song:
"The joy is in the heart of the one who knows Jesus..." He recited John
3:16, and his Grampaw, aunt, uncle, mother and many others spoke words
of encouragement to him in this decision.

We went down into the water and I baptized my son into Christ. He
belongs to heaven now.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Naldo's Family Needs Prayers

Naldo and Lene began a congregation in their home last year in the Colinas do Sul neighborhood. This year, though, has been rough for his family. A month ago his father died suddenly in the interior of Paraiba. A couple of weeks ago, on Good Friday, his oldest brother, Belarmino, was murdered in Recife inside his own home. More frustrating still is not being able to find out what happened and the lack of interest of the police who work in a city where violence has become the norm. The sad part is that Belarmino became a Christian several years ago and was the very person who shared the gospel with Naldo and others, but later fell back into the world. God is in control and justice belongs to Him!

New Caruaru Christians

As reported by Paulo Rodrigues:

We give thanks to God for using the brethren in Caruaru to announce the gospel of salvation to the lost that find themselves in our city.

Tomas and Laura are children of Christians. Here are Tomas with his mother Leda and Laura with her mother Luciana.

This is the family of Pedro and Ione, and now their son Pierre is part of the Christian family. This family came to Christ through the work of handing out pamphlets from door to door.

We have two more give their lives to Christ: Stefane and Gil, but unfortunately we didn't have a camera handy at the time.

Aelson and Joseane are a wonderful couple who have opened their home for a group Bible study.

Glory to God for having reached Karla. She lived a life of prostitution, mas now lives only for Christ. We have come to know little of her life and are certain of the miracle God is doing in her.

David and Adriana McKinney have recently been with the Caruaru congregation and taught a seminar there.

Trust and Obey

     I went to Cajazeiras, a seven hour trip from João Pessoa, to teach a seminar on "Obedience and Faith". 
I first made a distinction between obedience and faith.  Faith is the "assurance of things hoped for", assurance being a guarantee.  What guarantees do we have? We don't even know if we are going to make it home tonight.  In truth the only guarantee that we have is what God says in His Word, and that is where faith comes in: it results in trusting obedience, which is not lined with fear or anger. 
Obedience is just the act of doing.  One can obey without believing; it may be out of fear.  Therefore faith is not necessary for obedience, but obedience is always the result of faith. 
We then journeyed through the Sermon on the Mount and studied how faith fit into practical Christian living. Anger and Jesus equaling its punishment to that of murder under the Law of Moses, how to deal with problems with others, avoiding adultery by not entertaining lust, and so on, all require the simple obedience that comes from faith. That is the life before us in the here and now under God's reign.   The seminar ended Saturday night.  It was a blessing to participate in God's shaping of my and other Christians' lives.
            On Saturday Rivaldo Café and I went to three different Bible Studies with groups of boys from the soccer program.  They are growing in maturity and knowledge of God's Word and learning to live it out in their lives. 
I was very pleased to hear that Café and Leila are finally able to get more rest. One of the adult members of the church along with two Christian young men from the first group of boys that participated in the soccer program are helping out with soccer training and teaching some of the morality classes.  The morality classes bring examples of other sports figures, for the good or for the bad, and tie their story in with a Christian attitude or godly act from which the boys can learn.  The church continues to grow in number and maturity with the Right Step soccer program as its tool for evangelism. 
            Sunday, a couple from the church took me to a city close by so that I could bathe in natural springs to try to help my psoriasis.  The hotel also gave me some medicinal mud to take home.  Monica, my wife, told me when I arrived that I was not going to wash that mud off in our shower.  Although she liked the idea of the mud, she told me to go to the beach and put it on and wash off in the ocean.  I am thankful to my wife for her love and concern for me and thankful to God because he doesn't mind cleaning up our messes.