Honduras Report: Eating 81 Elephants!
¡Un Viaje Exitoso (A Successful Trip)!
Thanks for praying! I’m back from almost two weeks in Honduras and the “prayer umbrella” was apparent every day — divine appointments, new friendships, unction in teaching, excellent translators, safety, perfect health, and lots of energy. Even two “almost missed” flight connections were just that — only “almost.” But the greatest success of the trip may be measured within a year’s time by the number of “elephants” eaten. Let me explain.
With translator Antonio Rodríguez [L] and Superintendent Javier Cruz [R]
Hermeneutics and Elephants
When I visit these Latin American countries, the initial invitations center around teaching hermeneutics, a fancy word that can be boiled down to this: learning how to read, study, preach, and teach the Scriptures in context. We spend time in the first seminar defining and demonstrating many aspects of context — text, history, language, culture. But my overriding goal is to have the pastors and leaders remember two things: [click to continue…]
Tools: The Sacred Treasure House Initiative
A Miner's Tools
TOOLS. If you forced me to distill my recent ministry trip to Nicaragua into a single word, that would be the one I'd choose — tools. Let me explain.
Shortly after I was born again (July 31, 1968 – almost 49 years ago!) at age 16, I became an avid Bible reader. I learned that the words of Edwin Hodder's hymn were true:
Thy Word is like a deep, deep mine;
And jewels rich and rare
Are hidden in its mighty depths
For every searcher there.
Miners need basic tools to pursue their mining activities — a pick, a shovel, and a wheelbarrow, at the very least. Desiring to be a “Bible miner,” I discovered that the basic tools of mining the “jewels” of God's truth were:
An exhaustive Bible concordance;
An illustrated Bible dictionary; and,
A one-volume Bible commentary.
One of my new Christian friends pointed me to Sacred Treasure House, a small Christian bookstore in the town where I lived.
My old stomping grounds — Sacred Treasure House —
where I purchased all of my early Bible-study tools.
(Source: Costa Mesa Historical Society. Used by permission.)
Many of my part-time-job paychecks were spent [click to continue…]
Why We Go “There And Back Again”
My tattered copy of The Hobbit
It’s surprising the multitude of sources of inspiration the Holy Spirit can use. An unusual quote has guided a lot of my praying for ministry, especially over the last eight years of missions trips.
After the climactic battle in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, the victorious survivors (including, thank goodness, our hero Bilbo Baggins) journey together to their respective homes. Coming to a place where the Elven host turns off for the palace in Mirkwood, the Elvenking's farewell to Gandalf, like a benediction, has always captured my imagination. Here are his words as they are underlined in my delapidated, fifty-year-old hardback copy of the classic:
“May you ever appear where you are most needed and least expected! The oftener you appear in my halls, the better shall I be pleased!”
Thus I often find my heart expressing itself before the Throne in almost those exact words: “Lord, please [click to continue…]
The Guatemala-Peru Connection
Guatemala to Peru: What's the link between the two?
What were those strange noises coming from Denise in the kitchen? At first, I couldn’t make it out. Was she muttering to herself? Speaking in a tongue? Having a breakdown? Well, yes, yes… and yes, sort of, if you count “breaking down” sentence structure as a “break down.”
It turns out that she was beginning to practice Spanish, using a conversational Spanish book that’s been in our library for a long time. I was thrilled because it shows her level of commitment to our upcoming Perú trip (10/26-11/9), and Spanish practice bodes well for her return visit to Guatemala in 2017, Lord willing.
Our upcoming Perú trip will be exciting, no doubt, but perhaps not as exciting to me as another recent Peruvian training trip. Why? Because that recent 2 Timothy 2:2 training trip was the work of Guatemalan leaders!
Guatemalan “Go Ye” Gusto
Pastor Victor teaching in Palacagüina, Nicaragua
I’ll tell you a bit about my April ministry in Guatemala in the next “postcard.” But here’s the thing about these guatemaltecos (Guatemalans) – they not only hear, but they do! Guatemala has the potential to be a full-fledged Latin American “Antioch,” sending missionaries and trainers across Latin American borders and even overseas. Consider some of their recent activity: [click to continue…]
No Rest for the… um… Traveling Teacher
A Nicaraguan postcard. Of what? No clue!
There must be a Nicaragua for tourists, but I have yet to see it. (That postcard cathedral image you see — I have no idea what or where it is in Nicaragua!)
That's not a complaint, mind you. It's just that these teaching trips I take usually require going “full speed ahead,” even on anticipated days off. Schedules and venues change on the fly. The ability to follow the Spirit's leading, and “go with the flow” adaptability, are the key survival tools. The Lord works out all the details. The report in this “postcard” is a good example.
2nd Postcard from Nicaragua
April 9-10, 2016
UML President Rojas-Talaveras
A weekend off. You're kidding, right?
Bobby Hoyle had set up an early Saturday morning breakfast with Dr. José Moisés Rojas Talavera, president of UML / Universidad Martín Lutero (Martin Luther University), a Pentecostal undergrad school in Managua. Later that morning, I introduced the subject of hermeneutics to 79 UML students in a packed classroom on campus. (Oh, by the way — you only have 90 minutes to give your five-hour presentation. Adapt!)
A portion of my class at UML
Over lunch (from the school kitchen) several of the young leaders picked my brain for two hours. What other subjects could I come back to teach? Since I have a master's degree in Biblical Studies, what grad-school courses could I lead?
[click to continue…]
“The Hurrieder I Go…”
Denise and I were praying and brainstorming yesterday about our upcoming teaching ministry in Perú (Oct. 26-Nov. 9) when it hit me – there are some “postcard reports” that I have meant to send out about the ministry trips to Nicaragua, Guatemala, Iowa, and California earlier this year. Alas, my life is proof of the old saying, “The hurrieder I go, the behinder I get”!
You've been faithful to pray, so please allow me to send some brief “postcard” newsletters about these recent ministry trips.
Postcard from Nicaragua
April 3-8, 2016
Some of the pastor and leaders at the Quilalí sessions
Bobby Hoyle, head of LendAHand Mission Teams, and I headed off to Nicaragua early Sunday morning, 4/3. After a day of travel on Monday 4/4 and connecting with our Guatemalan teammates, we spent Tuesday and Wednesday teaching over 50 pastors and leaders in Palacagüina. My job was to introduce the subject of hermeneutics (the art and science of studying and preaching the Scriptures in context).
Thursday and Friday we taught 83 pastors and leaders in Quilalí (same subject, but second module in the series), where there's always such a hungry and appreciative response. Then we traveled the long road back to Managua, the capital of Nicaragua.
A Highlight of the Week
Pastor Nelson and two of the pastors he supervises
The first night in Palacagüina, I fellowshipped with Pastor Nelson (of Quilalí) for two hours – almost entirely in Spanish! Much of our discussion centered around the need of pastors in his area to obtain basic Bible-study tools – concordances, Bible dictionaries, and one-volume commentaries, (in Spanish, of course). The good news – we can get these three volumes for pastors for about $60 per set (a savings of 60%). The challenges:
[click to continue…]
Celebrating the New Year God Has Given
Not surprisingly, everyone seems focused on the fact that a New Year is upon us. We present here some of our favorite New-Year-related poems and articles from the Finest of the Wheat website. God has given you a New Year—use it to His glory!
Speaking of the Wesleys, [click to continue…]
for His Coming
We've just released a powerful, unusual, and thought-provoking Advent message by Pastor Percy Gutteridge. Is it really an Advent message? Well, yes — sort of. It was delivered as the last in a series of several Advent messages. But it's about the Second Advent, that is, the Second Coming of Jesus, not the first.
More importantly, it's about what God longs to do for and in us in order to prepare us both for the Coming of Jesus and for dwelling in God's presence forever. What's the key? Holiness: The Preparation for His Coming, episode #27 of our Grains from Gutteridge podcast.
A Gutteridge Galore Thanksgiving
Grateful for a Godly Influence
The “outdoor cathedral” where I first heard Pastor Gutteridge teach – Yosemite Valley
Here in the United States, November is the month during which we celebrate Thanksgiving. In looking over my 63 years, I find that I am very thankful for the teaching, influence, guidance, and friendship of my “grandfather in the Lord,” Pastor Percy Gutteridge. My first clear memory of Pastor is the summer of 1969. He was the Bible teacher for our church's week-long high-school-youth-group campout in Yosemite Valley, California. I was only a year old in the Lord then, had been baptized in the Holy Spirit less than five months, and all things scriptural were new and wonderful. But this man's teaching – it was deep, yet simple; profound, but practical; and (as I learned subsequently in many years of personal Bible study) not often the sort of thing one was likely to find in books or commentaries.
As he did with some other young “Jesus Movement” pastors of that day, [click to continue…]
We Give Thanks with Hymns of Gratefulness
We give thanks to God for a fruitful year!
If you're too busy to be thankful to God for all of His blessings, then you're too busy! We of Finest of the Wheat Teaching Fellowship are grateful to God for a fruitful year that saw us ministering in Guatemala, Romania, Czech Republic, and central Virginia. We were blessed to be “about our Father's business” — Kingdom Business!
We're also grateful for our newly redesigned Finest of the Wheat website. There are still a lot of “rough edges” to fix; after all, around 500 pages were transitioned from a static-code site to a WordPress CMS (Content Management System). Remember what your “new” residence looked like the evening the moving men drove off in their truck? Boxes everywhere, key items temporarily “lost,” windows needing curtains — it takes a few weeks to get it all sorted out. We'll have the website “all sorted out” by [click to continue…]
26Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
27And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
Romans 8:26-27 kjv
his passage points out some important items for the daily needs of life’s journey. All travelers in the King’s Country are furnished with a most excellent tourist’s guide. Attention to the truths in the above-mentioned verses would save from much needless mistake, regret, blunder, and falling, it may be. God would have us all real students. He expects us to read and think for ourselves. He arranges place and time for us to sit in His library and feast on its treasures, and learn for ourselves the wonders of His kingdom that now is, and that which is to come. He wants us to look into His textbooks, to walk with Him amid the beauties and glories of the natural world. The seas are His [Psalm 95:5], the stars in heaven are His. The secrets of air and ether 2 are His. The generative forces of nature are all His. We are His children. He made this world for us. The world of mind and spirit are His. They are a step nearer Himself than the material universe. It is more to find, see, and understand God in the hidden spheres of spiritual life, than in the world of material things. [click to continue…]
Resting in Past Achievements
common cause of delay and hindrance is the constitutional trait of wanting to stop and tent in good places we are brought into. There must be a coming time for crown wearing, and coronation days, but it is after the work is done, and the call has been made “Come up higher.” 1 Now is our field of battle. The watchword is “Go work today in My vineyard” (Matthew 21:28ff). “Over there” we may have our harvest home, and sit down in quiet by the side of the river of life and sing the song of Moses and the Lamb. 2 [click to continue…]
“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.
Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols,
even as ye were led.”
1 Corinthians 12:1,2
There is a difference between a “natural” gift and a “spiritual” gift.
- A “natural” gift is born with the individual, and thus is “natural” to him, or part of his nature. It is included in his ordainment and the constitution of his individual spirit, and causes him to differ from all other individualities. It is a gift from God in the same way that sight or speech or hearing is; but as such it is a gift of ordainment in his creation, and not an added endowment coming later in life. Natural gifts are cotemporaneous with the creation of each individual spirit. All natural gifts are essential to each personality, and are therefore involuntary, so far as man is concerned, and never subject to his choice as is the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
- The term “natural” as applied and as used in the New Testament may also mean all that comes by creation, including the perishable, and all material life; or, it can mean man’s material life, as distinct from his “immortal” life. It is that “natural man” of which Paul speaks, which does not know the things of the Spirit. 1
- A “natural gift” may become a spiritual gift, or appear as such, when the natural gift is freely given up to God and becomes filled with the Holy Ghost. Natural eloquence seems thus changed under the ministration of the Spirit. David’s poetical and musical talents, under the higher inspiration of the Holy Ghost, became a spiritual blessing for all ages and times. Paul’s logical mind, and his sharp psychological and philosophical discriminations under the Spirit’s power, made him a blessing to the end of the world.
- A “spiritual gift” is that which pertains to things spiritual rather than that which is natural. It is something added or manifested later than any natural gift. It is a gracious enablement of the individual to do that which by way of his natural gifts he was unable to accomplish. It is a gift, not in a general sense, but as a real secondary bestowment coming “from above.” Before this enablement of the man, he could accomplish many natural things, he could understand moral things, he could become strong in the realm of reason; but he was unable either to understand or accomplish anything in the spiritual realm. That is the “spiritual” properly so called, or as Paul unfolds and uses the word in this epistle, where he associates the spiritual in man with the Spirit of God.
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rue faith always results in certainty. How wonderful to be certain in an uncertain world! Faith always homes in on the target; there are no near misses; there is no such thing as experimentation, because faith knows, like its Author, “the end from the beginning.” The men of faith walk with confidence, they keep their equilibrium, they press towards the mark, they are like the cherubim who have feet that are “straight feet… they went every one straight forward, whither the Spirit was to go, they went, and they turned not when they went” (Ezekiel 1:12). [click to continue…]