Monday, October 28, 2013

Investing In God's Kingdom

I spent most of my time in João Pessoa during the months of August and September.  During this time I taught a Finance class, a 30 hour Bible course and worked with the congregation to establish a budget for the rest of the year and all of next year. 

The average offering amount for the year of 2013 was R$1,400.  It was just enough to cover the expenses at the building.  The men of the congregation made a budget of R$3,260, covering the normal expenses and adding more support for missions, an accountant as well as other expenses. After four or five meeting with the congregation to explain the budget and ask for members to commit how much they could give to meet the budget, not meeting the budget, talking to the members again and receiving new amounts, as a congregation we committed R$3.415, surpassing the original amount.  How great is that!  October, was the first month that the collection would be put towards the new budget.  After last Sunday, the collection for October was over R$3,500.   

Please pray: 
  • that the congregations in Paraíba will seek God's Kingdom first financially; 
  • that the congregations in Paraíba will continue to work towards supporting evangelists and missionaries throughout the state; 
  • that all members of the church may live content investing in God's mission. 

Thanksgiving, Part II

         Here we are in a thanksgiving service for Samuel’s cancer cure, and telling people about the new life that Christ gives, and God provides a live demonstration of the simplicity of deciding to follow Jesus. Raniere Menezes, who works with the Mangabeira congregation, announced that a couple he had been studying with was ready to give their lives to Christ. Emerson and Ana were baptized for the remission of sins. 

         Many years ago we had a Bible Study at a lady’s house; her name was Gerusa. She was not baptized, and we lost contact. Emerson, though, is her son and had participated in some of the studies when he was a teenager. He married, had a severe accident that almost crippled him, and he and his wife started seeking God and visiting the Mangabeira church meeting. He is doing physical therapy still, but on the inside, Emerson and Ana are whole, one more reason to thank our God, and pray that this couple will shine with Christ’s light so that others may become whole.


         We have so many reasons to be thankful. When Jesus brought Jairus’ daughter back to life and then told him not to tell anybody, imagine the difficulty of trying to keep something like that a secret, the joy bursting out, the uncontrollable urge to shout to the world his encounter with the Almighty God in the flesh. Fortunately for us, the Lord has given us an easier command: tell all to everybody. Jesus has cured us of the spiritual cancer that sucked our life away, resurrected us to eternal life. Go, tell everybody what he did! The Father cured my son Samuel of cancer through his love and power, a big, ugly, life-sucking tumor. We have to tell everybody!

         I never imagined that this disease could unite so many people around the world in prayer. So many congregations, so many messages, so many positive thoughts and prayers coming our way, that when God acted in our son’s body - not even chemotherapy is necessary - we had to unite everybody in thanksgiving. October 20th – two months after Samuel’s surgery – was our chosen day. We invited everybody to a thanksgiving service: doctors, neighbors, school teachers and students, friends, everybody. For those in other cities, we sent our a message to congregations to be read during the Sunday meeting, requesting that glory be given to God in prayer for his mercy. Several churches in the US and in Brazil were with us, thanking the Lord for Samuel’s life.

         The building in João Pessoa holds about 120 people comfortably; 200 showed up. There were not enough chairs for everybody, but several disciples stood to give seats to visitors. We gave New Testaments to visitors, one per family. We gave out 50. 

         Edda and I made a commitment to God to share with everybody we know what God has done in our family, and the new life has for us all. One doctor showed up; school teachers, neighbors, Catholics, Protestants, people with no belief system, even a Jewish family came. People cried and praised God when the story was told and the small melon the size of the tumor was shown. 

       At the end of a period of thanksgiving prayers, Samuel got up and shared a short message that he had prepared:  “It’s true, I had cancer, and with cancer there were bad things and good things. The bad: I had to be stuck with about 40 needles and I spent a whole week without eating. The good: I learned more and matured. I did not get worried at all because I knew that God was taking care of me and even if things went all wrong, I would still be well with God. Psalm 23 says ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, I will lack nothing.’ And also it says, ‘Though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear any evil.’ Truly the Lord took care of everything and I was not afraid of anything, except when it was time to get another shot. The best thing in life is to have God and I would like to invite you all to seek God, learn about Jesus in the Bible and discover his love. In this way, even a cancer won’t be able to defeat you.”   
         Thank you, God!

Monday, October 21, 2013

On The Road Again

I know I have not written or sent any news in the past couple of months.  I am alive and doing well.  I have been very busy and have not taken the time to sit down and write about what has been going on.  I am sorry for not writing.  I will try to catch you up on the main things that have been going on over the past three months.
I travelled to Patos this past weekend to teach a course on Minor Prophets and to meet with the evangelists throughout the state. Twelve members of the congregation in Patos participated in the course, two of these had left the church and have recently come back and are eagerly seeking fellowship with other Christians. The meeting with the evangelists had a representative from seven congregations.
The Minor Prophets bring a message of judgment and salvation with a tone of wrath and love. Not one of the students present had ever read all of the Minor Prophets. There is a great need for teaching and motivating the Christians to spend time with God and also with His Word. 
        I want to thank Joe McKinney for allowing me to use his notes and study on the Minor Prophets. What a great help his material was to this course! We talked about the historical contexts of each prophet and the people to whom he spoke. We read just one complete chapter from each  of the books; I had only 15 hours to teach all 12 books. We talked about the practical lessons one can gain from each book and how these prophecies apply to the church and to our lives today. 
       The meeting with the evangelists from different congregations went very well. I read 
Psalm 19, we spent five minutes in silence to meditate on the Psalm, we prayed and sang verses 7-10 and 14 from the Psalm. We then moved to talk about each evangelist's plans for his congregation and the communication with other congregations throughout the state. The women of Patos have been travelling to different congregations to visit and encourage the women in other smaller congregations. It is from their initiative and their showing great joy that even others, though not receiving a visit, are being encouraged. The evangelists are phoning one another, the next step is for them to begin visiting each other. At the end of the meeting, I asked for two volunteers to set up, plan and direct the next state-wide meeting. We are also planning a weekend together at the beginning of next year.

Please pray:
• that God take His rightful place in the Christians lives who studied the Minor 
• that the congregations spread throughout the state of Paraíba may be 
blessed by God to grow in love for one another;
• that the love we have for one another may spill over into the lives of people 
who do not know God.

Youth Group and Parents

What does the youth group and parents have in common?  O.k., the youth, but besides that?  Not much nowadays.  I remember when I was growing up there was no youth minister to take care of the teens at my congregation.  The parents did it.  They planned the activities and stayed with us as we learned about Christ.  They opened up their homes and had devos that they gave and taught us to do the same.   
I am not saying that having a youth minister is a bad thing.  Here in João Pessoa we have a good group of young people.  We have had some individuals couples spend time with the youth but our youth needed more involvement from the adults, the parents.  The parents were the ones who saw this need so We, the parents started meeting in August with the youth group.  We sang and prayed together.  The youth would have their Bible study and the parents talked about raising kids and difficulties we are facing as parents, among other things.  The parents have enjoyed their time together.  The youth don't feel like the parents are cramping their style.  Everything is good.  Actually it is better.  There is no substitue for parents taking care of their kids.  There is no better spiritual role model than ones own parents.   
Please pray: 
  • that parents will dedicate their time to the spiritual formation of their children; 
  • that children and youth will grow to love God more than anything else in this World. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Glory to God

One of the most experienced surgeons of Brazil said to us, "I took out an orange of cancer from your son's colon." I looked for an orange the right size, but could not find one big enough. The one in the picture is 3.5 inches in diameter; Samuel's tumor was 4.4 inches. It had swollen lymph nodes, it had burst through the colon walls, it seemed to scare the doctors who saw it, and our surgeon with decades of combating colon cancer under her belt didn't give us much hope. She imagined that Samuel would have to go through months of chemotherapy, the chance of the disease returning was high, and possibly his life would be shortened.

Our family decided from that moment to pray and fast for one purpose: for God to do a miracle, to confound the doctors by changing the prognosis, so that the cure wouldn't be just another feat of modern medicine but an act of God so as to exalt His name. We tried to be ready to accept His decision, even if it meant years of debilitating treatments or even our son dying at such a young age - we wanted to praise Him no matter what. Thousands of people were praying with us, and God decided - Praise Him, he decided! From that moment, each new result got better than the previous: the biopsy showed the lymph nodes completely free of cancer - GLORY TO GOD! the CEA test was negative - PRAISE HIM! the tumor's microsatellites were unstable - THANK YOU, LORD! Even the oncologist at one of Brazil's leading cancer centers called from São Paulo and said, "Your prayers worked - he doesn't need to do any chemotherapy!" IT'S GOD! IT CAN ONLY BE GOD! the genetic test came back negative for syndromes that cause cancer - GIVE GOD THE PRAISE!

Today at a thanksgiving service in João Pessoa, we are telling Samuel's story and the power of God present in his life. He has shown faith in the face of a serious disease, and we pray that people will start seeking Christ through this message. Please join us along with several congregations in Brazil and the US and say a prayer of thanksgiving for curing our son Samuel.

We thank the Lord for His church all over the world. Thank you for the constant prayers in our time of need. God has taken care of us in wonderful ways and one of them is giving us a family like you. Our prayer is that the Father bless you richly!

                In Him,
                    Joseph, Edda, Lydia, Samuel, and Lucas McKinney

Monday, October 14, 2013

Finances Presented Through a Biblical Lens

I have taught Dave Ramsey's "Financial Peace University" course three times here in João Pessoa. I requested permission to translate and teach the course before teaching it.
The beginning of August I began the course for the third time. I changed things up a little this time around. Instead of teaching the nine of the thirteen lessons I translated, I only taught four. The whole reason I began searching to better administer my own personal finances was because I was lacking contentment in my relationship with God and the finances He had given me to administer. In this course, the first two classes were all Bible passages looking at how God and His people see, think and handle money. The foundation is contentment forged from a gratitude of what God has given us both spiritually as well as materially. After the first two classes on contentment, I get into how to administer your personal finances using Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace material.
As the class went on during the months of August and September, peoples' vernacular changed from worry about how to make ends meet to contentment for what God has given us. That change in mentality, I did not see happen in the first two courses I gave using just Dave's material.
Please pray:
* That the Church will live a life of gratitude and hope for an eternal home in heaven and not make this world their home.
* That the members of the church will invest more in God's kingdom than in their own personal kingdom, supporting evangelists, buying Bibles for those who do not have them, visiting other congregations to encourage and share faith, and make friends who will receive them in heaven.