Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A God-Blessed New Year

            As we come to the end of the year, the thought that comes to mind is how it went by fast. It seems time is flying by, and we have to grab on for eternal significance. In 2015 there have been losses and gains, things forgotten and experiences remembered for always. We praise God for the opportunity to have lived this past year for Him, and we look forward to a brand new 2016. What will it bring? Heart aches and great excitement, sickness and victories, terrorist attacks and great feats of courageous love, whatever tomorrow brings, we ask, we plead that Jesus be present because with him it will all be worthwhile. Thank you, God, in everything, thank you no matter what! Our hope in Christ and heaven will get us through anything that comes our way.
            “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,  who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:3-5  
          We pray for all who have the vision to support missions because once again heaven is our ultimate goal for as many people as possible. May the Father give you a God-blessed 2016 year.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Patos Graduation, by Jeremy Newlin

I traveled to Patos for SEARA, the four-year training program.  The four years of training not only included a 15-hour intensive course once a month but also putting into practice what they were learning.  This trip was not to teach but to celebrate with five of the seven students on their conclusion of the 47 classes plus a study of one of Paul's letters complete with four Bible studies.  The graduates included 2 men and 3 women.  The women are heavily involved in prayer groups, teaching and visiting, not only to their congregation but they have visited almost every congregation in the interior of the state, encouraging and evangelizing the women of each city.  The two men that graduated are the main preachers of the congregation in Patos.  They have grown in their learning, study and teaching of Bible studies.  One of the men has been attending EBNESR in Recife, the Church's theological school.  He has said, on more than one occasion, how far ahead he is in knowledge to the other men studying in his classes because of SEARA.
            It is a good feeling to help another person grow in their knowledge of God and His Word and see that growth in practical ways, such as:  classes given, dealing with problems in a different way than before and growing in their understanding of why the Church exists and their part in fulfilling God's desire for her.
            Many of the church members came to the ceremony to show their support of the graduates.  After the ceremony, we had a dinner, cake and sweets.  May God be praised for the dedication and perseverance of each of these men and women: Luciano, Sandra, Josinete, Cida and Cicero.
            Please pray that more men and women will desire to grow in their knowledge of God and His Word.




Dan the Man, by David McKinney



    Although Dan is fairly common name is the US, I only know one person in Brazil named after the tribe of Israel. Here it is spelt Dā. He is the son of a retired Philosophy professor, and when he began to visit the church he was an adolescent. After a while he quit coming to church and took a stroll in the world. We kept praying for him and one day he showed up. He was in college studying... can you guess? Philosophy. He came to me crying, asking me to baptize him. I said we needed to talk and study the Bible. I have seen so many get immersed on a whim and fall away. During the following weeks, he told me that he understood what the world had to offer, but that it was not for him. To the joy of his parents, the church and all the angels in heaven, he became a Christian.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Men's Christmas Party

All you can eat meat.  That is what a Brazilian cookout is all about.  There were a little over 20 men present for the men's Christmas party.  The women had theirs about a week before ours.  They decorated the auditorium, gave out presents to one another and had a nice meal.  That is all nice and good but we men like things a little different.  We had just a few vegetables because only one person remembered to bring them.  We had some bread because we sent someone to buy bread after realizing we didn't have any.  All that is o.k. and fine because we had meat, charcoal and grills.  There were no presents, no decorations, only meat.  What a day!  Everyone went home satisfied.
Our boys, who are now teenagers, stood around the meat table like vultures waiting for another dead body to drop, only it was cooked.  We finally had to tell them that one round was ours and the next theirs.  In the not too distant past, they would eat two or three  rounds and then go off to  play.  When we saw that things had changed, and they were not leaving we had to set some guidelines for these newbies to the man's world. 
In the end, it all worked out great, and everyone cheered as others had to leave or got a call from the wife, asking "When are you coming home?" That is what a men's Christmas cookout is all about.  Go home, my brother, thank you for sharing your part.  It was all in good fun. And besides the meat, we did have a devo.
I wonder if that is why God told us men and husbands to "Love your wife as you love yourself" (Ephesians 5:33) because we do love ourselves well.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Men of God


             In an effort to strengthen João Pessoa’s central church, we have dedicated months to investing time, energy, and prayers on the men’s group, and we are seeing the results, male bonding, more excitement in serving the church, more trust and confidence, better examples at home – wives are commenting, and it’s positive.

          The last weekend of November we had a men’s retreat. About 15 of us were expecting a rough camping experience, but at the last minute someone we don’t know loaned us a huge house with a pool, near a beach for free, God’s blessing no doubt. He wanted us to concentrate on Him, on each other, on confessing sins, on praying, instead of just surviving. Our goal is to become better disciples, better husbands, better fathers, and better servant leaders, and we are having fun along the way.

          Some are taking responsibility for improving the building, others are visiting and encouraging others to take care of each other’s needs, other are praying for needs discovered in the new closeness. It’s hard sometimes for men to get close, when sports are not involved, but the guys in João Pessoa once they got the taste of true, deeper friendships, they want more and more.

          And the church is getting stronger because of it.


Monday, November 23, 2015

Do Not Teach Any Other Doctrine

            I prayed and prayed and prayed, I asked others to pray for the lesson that I was to give this past Saturday on "Instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines", 1 Timothy 1:3 (NASB).  There have been a lot of discussion about doctrine in Brazil these past years. 
            I was speaking at Elicamp, a conference for workers from all over the Northeast of Brazil.  After each lesson, the floor was open for questions on the lesson taught.  I wrestled with this subject for weeks.  I studied 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Ephesians, a part of Revelation and some of Philemon, Romans, Acts, Matthew & Luke.  Where to begin?  How to present God's Word and His Will to bring about unity?  Many other questions and fears went through my mind.
            The afternoon before my lesson, I prayed once more but this time as I talked with God, I was reminded that after study and prayer, now it was time to God to work, and His will is best. 
            I explained in my lesson what sound doctrine is as it is described in 1 Timothy and in other passages of scripture.  We looked at many passages but the summary of them all is that God, in His Word, is telling us the story of how and why He saved us from a life without meaning and His desire for us to live out His Will in our everyday lives being light to all who see us.  That is a very short and incomplete summary. 
            Some passages that might help explain better what I taught: Acts 2:42-47; Acts 7; Acts 13:14-49; Genesis 12:1-3; Exodus 19:4-6; Deuteronomy 4:5-8; Romans 1:3-4,16-18; 1 Timothy 1:3-5; 2:1-4; 1 Peter 2:9-10.  There are others, but hopefully these will give you an idea that God has a mission to reconcile the world to Himself and that He chose Christ's body to accomplish this mission.  Living a life of godliness (1 Timothy 4:7) saves us from a life of ungodliness (Romans 1:18-32).  This is sound doctrine and what we should all be teaching through our everyday lives.

Learning To Study

            I went to a long but good Bible study in Patos on Saturday.  I met with church workers from most of the congregations in our state.  We sat and studied the Bible from 9:30 to 6 p.m., yes, we did break for lunch, but that was our only break. 
           
          The purpose for these meetings is to teach in a practical way how to study God's Word with someone who does not share your same view on a subject.  I will be moving back to the U.S. at the end of 2016, so this is important. 
            
            I heard several positive comments about our meeting together and some negative ones as well. 
           
          Thank you for your prayers.  They mean a lot, and God is answering them.  Please pray that the church in Paraíba will grow in love for one another and in knowledge of God's Word and will.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Over 100 Subscribers

I thought it might be time to use Facebook to share God's word. I sent out this photo:



Get The Word on the Brain. I invited people interested in learning to memorize Bible verses by singing them to subscribe to a weekly newsletter. For the past twenty years I have been creating melodies to verses. These have helped me to learn by heart 100s of verses, and now I am sharing them online.

Sorry to English speakers, the verses are all in Portuguese. But if you are interested, send a "Eu Quero" to josephmckjr+bibliacantada@gmail.com
Reading, teaching, singing. etc.- be creative in sharing the Word.


Family Day of Joy and Tears

All four congregations in João Pessoa spent yesterday together at a small farm, 140 people present even though the day was sweltering hot. Worship, fellowship, sharing food, sharing stories, everybody was blessed, united as the Family of Christ.


This was a day of joy: we had a special moment to pray over the new converts of the year and to tell them how much they encourage us, how important their decision was, and how they can count on their brothers and sisters when facing the difficulties.


This was a day of joy: our AME class, Cristian, Daniel, Alana, Pamella, Sabrina, and Geissa,  finished their training, and the church all together sent off them off to the field, praying over them, that our Father will use them effectively in His Kingdom, according to His will.


This was a day of tears: the church has grown fond of these young people. Saying goodbye is hard, they cried, we cried. Also Micah Barnes and Daniel Norwood, on our AIM team are returning home.  We all had opportunity to share how they made a difference in our lives. We will miss them.


Heaven will something like this: everybody all together sharing, laughing, praising, filled with joy, but no more goodbyes, and hopefully not as hot.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Upcoming SEARA Graduation

              I taught the SEARA course on the book of Luke in Patos. It was good because this gospel is so deep; it was frustrating because it was impossible to cram so much life-changing material into a weekend. We went from Thursday night to Sunday.
             The SEARA Program (Harvest) has the intent to prepare church workers for the work, and this group of seven (many more audit the course) have been working at it for four years. They will finally graduate on December 5th.
              Pray with us that God will continue to use these in the growth of His Kingdom.

BIBLE BOWL XII

This is the third year I have organized Bible Bowl, the twelveth one in Recife Brazil. The theme this year was Mark and James. Over forty teens and pre-teens studied and competed.

The thing I like most about Bible Bowl is that it gets kids excited about studying God's Word. It challenges them, and this young generation needs good challenges that point them in spiritual directions.

The winning teams were from these congregations:

Preteens:
1st - Boa Vista
2nd - João Pessoa
3rd - Várzea

Teens:
1st - Boa Viagem
2nd - Boa Viagem
3rd - João Pessoa

Nicholas Newlin (from João Pessoa) got 2nd place individual score teen division.

Let's encourage our young people to pause their hurried lives to study the Scriptures.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Unity in Faith

             The "Great Supper" (Grande Ceia) is a weekend of catching up with people, hearing God's Word, learning and growing in faith, and hearing about needs from other brothers and sisters throughout the state in which we live, Paraíba.
          There were people from almost every congregation in the state at this event in Patos.  Around 200 present at the Sunday meeting, 150 slept in the public school on the floor or in hammocks.  I chose the hammock.
             The theme was "Unity", taken from Ephesians 4:1-6.  I spoke on the unity among congregations in the state, the challenges, and the rewards, one of which is that we become stronger by overcoming difficulties together.
            Two men from João Pessoa talked to a brother there. When they heard of his difficulties, they decided to help.  They have already talked to other members of the church in João Pessoa and plan to travel to Pombal, about 5 ½ hours away, to help this brother share the Gospel. 
          I have been praying that God would raise up men who would be able to travel and take care of the churches throughout the state as I have been doing.  I am seeing God at work once again. This mission is His.  We are the vehicle through which He has chosen to carry out His mission.

Prayers for Victory for Victor and Friend

            I have been studying the Bible with a 19 year old for a couple of months now.  Some days he seems curious to learn, while others he just seems to show up.  Granted, he is very timid and somewhat confused.  Last study, though, he brought a friend called Victor.  Victor surprised me with his desire to learn.  We studied Matthew chapter 10.  I asked questions as usual to help their comprehension. 
          When our study ended, Victor kept on reading into Matthew, chapter 11, then chapter 12, and then on through chapter 13, all the while asking questions about what he was reading.  What a breath of fresh air.  Please pray for both of these young men, that they will continue to learn and desire to know God.

Please pray:
  • that both of these young men will go from curiosity to faith and obedience in and to Jesus.

Financial Peace in Brazil

            In September, I taught Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace course to the church in one of the neighborhoods of Recife.  Twenty-five participated in this eleven hour intensive class Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 
            One couple, who participated in last year's class, shared that the husband could not sleep the night after the first night of class.  He ended up cutting up his credit cards in the form of a cross and now uses them as keychains. 
            The church in Brazil is beginning to learn to support its own evangelists.  Money is tight and this course has helped many Christians restructure their finances and their hearts in a Biblical way.  May God be praised.

Thank you for your prayers.

The Joy of Mother and Daughter, by Rivaldo Café






         Regina was baptized in João Pessoa at the Women’s Seminar last year. She went back to her city, Cajazeiras, bringing the influence of Christ into her home. Her daughter started taking the Bible course on Thursdays, that the Right Step program offers to the public. Her name is Ravena, 14 years old, and October 18th she was baptized into Christ, and now she knows the joy of her mother.

Just Two More, by Rivaldo Café




            



               Rildo and Cida are Christians in Cajazeiras, and they have a goal to bring their whole family to Christ. The rest of the family has been studying the Bible at the church building, and two of them participate in the Right Step program. On October 16th the harvest began. Cida’s mother, daughter, and son went down into the waters and gave themselves over to God’s love. Our new sisters and brother are Francisca, Beatriz, and Leonardo, just two more to go to bring the whole family into Christ. This is the Lord working in Cajazeiras. All praise and honor to our great God.