It’s been a while since I’ve given any updates on the blog. Partly, God has simply been bringing us less exciting ministry lately; things like counseling, encouraging church members, and learning to speak Romanian just don’t make for interesting blog updates. And partly, we’ve been taking less risks in evangelism; we’ve been doing a lot of safe stuff like passing out tracts or talking one-on-one, which is good but tends not to attract those crazy cool testimonies we all like to read and I like to write about.
Anyhow, while I don’t have any wild, supernaturally-awesome testimonies, I do want to share three stories from the last week and a half.
It was 9:30 pm after the Easter Sunday service, and I was on my way home. It was a beautiful night, and as I passed by the park, I felt a pull to just go sit there for a while. I wouldn’t have called it God’s voice at the time, but I know enough about how He speaks to listen to the feelings in my heart. So I quickly dropped my things off at home and then returned to the park. As I was walking towards a bench, I saw a man walking through the park, and something in my spirit went, “Something’s not right with that guy,” and then something in my flesh went, “Ewww, I really hope he doesn’t come sit by me.”
You might be surprised to hear “persevere” never showed up as the secret word in any of Pee-Wee’s shows.
It has certainly been the “word of the day” lately for us, though. In fact, just this weekend, three unconnected people all shared that exact same message with me.
1. On Saturday, I went to my friend Adi’s wedding. There, Sorin sat down, and he said, “You know, I have a story for you.” He then began to tell me about a work Brad Hayes (who founded and works with Outstretched Hands of Romania, a ministry in the nearby town of Călăraşi) was leading. “They had a small children’s meeting,” Sorin continued. “They did little things, like teaching the kids to brush their teeth, obey their parents, and about Jesus. One kid was very naughty, but he kept coming to the meetings. He was there for three years, but he never wanted to go to church or pray or become a Christian. But he was there at every meeting for three years. One day, a bad flood came to the village, though it was far from any rivers, and many houses were in danger. The people started turning to God.” Sorin went on to tell me how after the flood, the boy and his family all became Christians, and they’ve been steadily growing since then. “But he was faithful for three years even though that boy never got any better. And then God blessed him.”
When I explain to people how I ended up in Romania, I think most people expect me to talk about sensing a calling from God or getting some sort of supernatural guidance in that direction. Instead, I tell them God simply never said, “No.”
We’re given a blanket “yes” in Matthew 28:19-20 and Mark 16:15, where Jesus basically tells us to go everywhere and to everyone with the gospel. It’s a “yes” before we even thought to ask permission to go.
So to stay in one spot requires special direction, a “No” from God.
Posted in Bucharest
Tagged acts 19, deliverance, demons, failure, faith, guidance, hearing God, missionary, prayer, risk, sons of sceva, will of god
If Josiah was having a difficult day, and I asked him how he was doing, he’d usually think, take a breath, smile, and say something like, “Well, today is difficult… but God is good.”
I always liked that. Honesty about life’s difficulties. Honesty about the reality of God’s character through it all.
Yes, life is sometimes difficult, but even more affirmative is the truth that God is good through it all.
I’ve had a nasty cold for over two weeks now. I hate summer colds. While everyone else is having an awesome time enjoying the weather, I’m stuck indoors sweating and hacking up my lungs while trying to keep the snot where it belongs. I’d like to go on, but you all know what it’s like.
Posted in Bucharest
Tagged being sick, character, cold, difficulty, disbelief, doubt, faith, God, healing, heaven, jesus, persecution, sick, sickness
I hate cancer. My friend and spiritual father Royce died from cancer; whenever I hear jazz, see a Cracker Barrel, or pass by a KOA, I think of Royce and miss him. Ron, too, died of cancer; I knew his grandkids better than I knew him, but any guy who pulls my car out of a ditch gets kudos from me. My uncle David died of cancer at 54. While I was a youth pastor in Spring Green, “Aunt” Lea and Mark Koller also passed away from cancer; Aunt Lea had lived a long and full life, but Mark was only 51.
And then there are all the survivors, the friends who have lived with and overcome cancer. These are, sadly, fewer on my list.
Today, a friend working with Campus Crusade called Jake and I. His friend Remus was in the hospital watching his three-year-old daughter die from a tumor in her brain. Would we visit them and pray for her healing?
Posted in Bucharest
Tagged cancer, death, faith, faithfulness, healing, lazarus, miracles, prayer, raise the dead, resurrection, sickness
(Note: Before reading, please understand that I am not attacking the Orthodox Church. In general, they have an amazing understanding of the majesty of God, a deep appreciation for artwork and beauty in worship, a respect for tradition, a love of history, and many more admirable qualities. However, many who call themselves “Orthodox” are desperately in the dark.)
Of all the places I’ve lived, Bucuresti is by far the most religious. Orthodox churches are on almost every block, it’s common to see priests on the streets, and most people believe God exists. So, in such a religious place, why am I here sharing the Gospel? Here is reason number five…
Reason #5 – I’ve Already Been Baptized…
Despite the religious observance, the vast majority of those with whom we’ve spoken have had little to no inward religious life. We have met many who told us flatly, “I have been baptized; I gave an offering,” as if Christianity was simply a matter of doing a few religious things. But Jesus wants to be first in our hearts. In fact, he strongly rebuked those who had the right works but the wrong heart: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me” (Mark 7:6). People need to know that Jesus came for their heart, not just for an occasional glance in his direction.
I spent about ten years living and ministering in a small town in southern Wisconsin. A number of the families in our church body were raising farm animals. One family had goats.
Not once (in all my years in that fellowship) did I ever hear that family express worry over what would happen to the poor coyotes and mountain lions if one curious little goat managed to escape the pen.
Because we all know full well the fate that would await such an adventurous little guy: coyote food.
In Matthew 10:16, Jesus gathers together his disciples to give them an encouraging word about his calling on their lives. So, what does he tell them? How he will always be with them? How he has given them every place they set their feet? How a thousand may fall at their side, ten thousand at their right hand, but it won’t come near them? How power will come on them and they’ll be witnesses to the outermost parts of the earth? How he loves them so jealously?
No, he tells them simply, “Look, I’m sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.”
Posted in Bucharest
Tagged apple ad, aslan, bambi, bible study, deer hunting, disciples, discipleship, faith, fear, George Otis Jr, ihop, narnia, onething, preaching, risk, spring green, video, wisconsin
Today, I had a very enlightening but frustrating encounter with some Christian friends of mine. I really love these people, but our conversation about living radical left me with a bad taste in my mouth and a heavy burden in my heart, a burden that weighed down the joy of a free and forgiven heart. I felt like Jesus–who promised, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28)–was quoted as having said, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will point out more areas where you are weak and heap further burdens on you and then chastise you for not being at rest.”
I love these Christian friends of mine, but I left feeling as though “faith” had become a matter of “works” for them.
This morning, I was thinking about when Moses first saw the burning bush in Exodus 3. After calling to Moses, God then tells him, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” (3:5).
My usual reaction to this verse is something like, “Since God’s holy, when Moses took off his sandals, it was like leaving behind the dirt, the grime, the sin of the world.”
But this morning I was thinking about how the removal of the sandals removed the barrier between man and what is holy. With no sandals on his feet, Moses touched holy ground… with his bare skin.