29 April 2020
a blessing in disguise…1
Yes, yes, but what about your spiritual supplies?2
Often God’s blessings come in disguise — the disguise of a closed door, financial reverses, the loss of a loved one, the termination of a job, a move away from friends. Usually it’s only in retrospect that we see the Lord’s hand working in us through what transpired. It’s then that we see afresh that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 nasb). That’s one of those verses that is easier to quote “after the fact,” and much easier when someone else is “going through it”!
Do we “love God”? That’s one of the verse’s qualifiers, and it’s probably a given, if you’re reading this. But what about the “called according to His purpose” part of the verse? What is God’s purpose in your heart and life during this period of international quarantine and “shelter at home” orders, with the extra time many of us now have?
“Take Time to Be Holy”
cover to cover?3
Do you remember the last time you lingered
and pondered and meditated over it?4
It would seem that the Lord is trying to speak
to the world, our nation, and His Church.
That makes this a special time for seeking Him.5
Will the aftermath of this time of God’s mighty hand moving in the earth leave us insensitive? Indifferent? Or more spiritually attuned?
It depends on how we spend the time.6
While some of us are busier than ever (moms with school-aged children, and health-care workers come to mind), many of us have been given extra time from God, like the servants given the talents (Matthew 25:20-30). How can we spend it for God? How can we best invest that time? In God, that is, in His presence; and for God. Let me deal with two practical examples of “in God” with these questions:
- Are you one of those who have said, “Oh, if only my schedule weren’t so pressing, I would spend more time in prayer.” So, now that you’re forced to curtail your normal schedule, giving you more time — are you spending more time with Jesus in the prayer closet? Or are you, say, binge-watching some unedifying TV series?
- Perhaps you fit in here: “If only I had more time, I’d be more consistent in my Bible reading, reading the Bible through cover to cover every year.” Now that you have more time, what are you reading?
Brother, Sister, let the Holy Spirit search your heart. Now that you have the time, has your relationship to these important matters of prayer and Bible reading changed at all? Yes? Wonderful! No? Then the “not enough time” excuse has been just that — an excuse. It’s time to repent of our apathy. If you’re “called according to His purpose,” then I pray that you’ll look back on this pandemic-isolation time and say, “That’s when God convicted me and I began walking in daily obedience in real prayer and devouring the Scriptures. It’s when God worked it all out for good in my life!” Even if you don’t find yourself with extra time on your hands, find out what God wants to speak to you, how He wants to draw you to Himself. And trust Him with each day!
Wise William Longstaff wrote a wonderful poem which was later set to music, becoming a much-loved and deeply challenging hymn:
Take time to be holy—
speak oft with thy Lord,
Abide in Him always,
and feed on His Word…
Take time to be holy—
the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret
with Jesus alone.7
Take Time to “Reach Out and Touch Someone”
or even a card or personal note are okay…8
…but right now people are hungry for personal contact, for reassurance, for human interaction.
Often hearts are more open at times like this.9
“Communicate,” as it turns out,
used to be a synonym for “share.”10
Among Longstaff’s other “timely” exhortations are these:
Make friends of God’s children,
help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing
His blessing to seek!
Back in the late 70s/early 80s, America’s telephone-monopoly company, AT&T, launched a legendary series of long-distance ads with the memorably ear-wormable lyrics:
Reach out, reach out and touch someone.
Reach out, call up and just say, “Hi!”
People from coast to coast
Calling up friends to keep ’em close;
Families who care so much
Keeping in touch…
Right now, there’s some good, practical, “shoe leather” theology in those lyrics. Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, because there will be individuals whom He’ll almost certainly lay on your heart. How can you pray for them? Call up and find out! Yes, you could text or instant-message or e-mail; but none of those communication options has the positive emotional impact of calling and talking. And listening. Folks are bored, lonely, and even scared. Bless them (and yourself!) by giving them a call to catch up and find out their needs.
Back on April 9th, I received an encouraging e-mail from a dear friend. She had an uncle, whom she said was “the only person on my mom’s side of the family who had not given his life to the Lord.” A cousin “felt strongly impressed in her spirit that she needed to contact” this same uncle, who had been diagnosed with COVID-19. This young woman “tried to get through on the phone repeatedly all afternoon. Finally, in the evening, she was able to talk with Uncle V___. She shared God’s love, the gospel and asked if he wanted to receive Jesus as his Savior [and]… she prayed with V___. Later that night he was rushed to the ER and died the next day. We are confident that he is with Jesus in heaven now. Hallelujah! I am so thankful for [cousin] J___. Because she listened to the Holy Spirit and was bold to persevere, my uncle is with Jesus today. Hallelujah! I had given up on Uncle V___ but God had not! Hallelujah!”
Hallelujah, indeed! Those smartphones that can text, surf the ’Net, send photos, interrupt you constantly, guide your travels via maps and GPS, as well as remind you of appointments — they can also make phone calls! (Who knew?!) So “take time… to help those who are weak” — “reach out and touch someone”… for Jesus! Use the time from God for the work of His Kingdom.
Trusting God’s Timing for El Salvador and Beyond
(Welcome to El Salvador).
We arrived on March 2nd.
Pastor Ángel recorded our entry for posterity.11
Superintendent, pastor, and new friend,
An opportunity to preach in San Salvador,
the capital of El Salvador13
In the last newsletter, I promised that I’d give a report on last month’s side trip from Honduras to El Salvador, so here is how God unfolded His purposes during that visit. My friend, Pastor Ángel, and I (courtesy of our driver, Brother Ulises) drove for seven hours in order to spend about 40 hours with Superintendent and Pastor Fernando Olivo in his home.
No doubt teaching seminars could have been arranged by phone and e-mail, but I really felt that “reach out and touch someone,” in this context, necessitated a face-to-face encounter with a man I’ve never met. (Special thanks to Antonio Rodríguez for arranging this meeting!) The intimate times of fellowship over meals, at his church building, and on the small covered patio of his home allowed me to touch his spirit and hear his heart, his “gran carga” (great burden) for the work in El Salvador and for his up-and-coming leaders. When we left, I had great respect for this man of God, and a better sense of the needs of his leaders. I also preached in a weeknight church meeting, where God ministered a timely, encouraging word to the attentive listeners.
The original intent was to append an El Salvador teaching outreach to the end of my April Guatemala trip. Now the Guatemala gathering has been postponed until October (tentatively), pre-pended to our Perú ministry trip. The Lord will make His timing clear.
Take time to be holy—
let Him be thy Guide,
And run not before Him,
We have no desire to “run ahead” of Jesus. It’s His ministry, and we seek to run it on His schedule. Meanwhile, I was able to successfully teach a “virtual” Bible class at North Florida Theological Seminary on April 18th. (The videos of this class, Woman in the Kingdom of God, Part 1, may be available. If you’re interested, let me know.) The second part of the class is on the calendar for May 16th. And as of this writing, my week as Bible teacher at the Iowa Holiness Association Camp Meeting (June 14-19) is still on the books, although the IHA leaders are seeking God’s counsel regarding holding those meetings.
In the meantime, our goal is to spend our time from God for God. There’s plenty of praying, studying, preparing, counseling, reaching out, and writing for us to do. Our month-to-month needs continue, so thank you for continuing to support us with your prayers and giving and encouragement!
Much love in Jesus,
Take time to be holy—be calm in thy soul,
Each thought and each motive beneath His control;
Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love,
Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above.
Tax-Deductible Donations Gratefully Received
- Photo of children looking through the window is used by permission from Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash.com: Kelly Sikkema ↩
- Photo of man laden with household supplies is used by permission from Mick Haupt on Unsplash.com: Mick Haupt ↩
- Photo of boy reading a worn Bible is used by permission from Samantha Sophia on Unsplash.com: Samantha Sophia ↩
- Photo of praying hands resting on an open Bible is used by permission from Patrick Fore on Unsplash.com: Patrick Fore ↩
- Photo of man kneeling in prayer is used by permission from Samuel Martins on Unsplash.com: Samuel Martins ↩
- Photo of praying woman wearing a surgical mask is used by permission from Engin Akyurt on Unsplash.com: engin akyurt ↩
- You can find the complete lyrics to Longstaff’s poem on our website: Take Time to Be Holy ↩
- Photo of man on a cell phone is used by permission from Jim Reardan on Unsplash.com: Jim Reardan ↩
- Photo of young woman on a cell phone is used by permission from Fezbot2000 on Unsplash.com: Fezbot2000 ↩
- The graphic for Hebrews 13:16 was created by Jim Kerwin based on a photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash.com: Toa Heftiba ↩
- Photo of Pastor Ángel Álvarez with Jim Kerwin at the Salvadorean border by Ángel Álvarez. ↩
- Photo of Pastor Francisco Olivo by Jim Kerwin. ↩
- Photo of Jim Kerwin preaching by Pastor Ángel Álvarez. ↩