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.