Friday, August 12, 2011

Where does strength come from?

Recently I wrote a devotion about "Where does the Horse gain its strength?" from the book of Job 39:19-20

I wanted to share with you an amazing and wonderful story. Specifically of how God used that devotion - powerfully.

Today was an incredibly exciting day for me. I just shared my testimony at a large Christian school, to the entire assembly! Some six hundred students and teachers. It was the largest gathering of people I have preached to so far. Prior to that I had given my testimony to a Malaysian church of five hundred or so. However, this was greater still. The young adults were year 8 (13 yr olds) to year 12 (17 yr olds). Thus maturing adolescents. Many were already succumbing to the temptations of alcohol and drugs whilst others were on the edge of such. I knew God wanted me to deliver a strong message of where the road, the wrong road, can lead us. The one without God inside us.

I prayed earnestly for harvest and seeds to be planted. Brothers in the Philippines were also partnering with me in prayer. Again I knew this was a very serious engagement and one that was close to God's heart. These 'kids' meant a lot to God. The night before I had feelings of  anxiety, prayer thankfully took them away. I was just getting over a fairly serious cold and an upset stomach. On top of that I had been to a funeral and visited a friend in hospital and another friend's wife was going in for surgery. All of this was bearing down on me. I needed encouragement, and I needed it from God - direct.

I decided to get a movie. Perhaps God would talk to me through it? I also felt the urge to cry, there seemed to be a lot of pain in me and it needed to come out. The Lord had long taught me that just as He cried so to can we. If we don't, the pain stays inside. It is far from being 'tough' to hold it in. In fact it's the complete opposite. I went to the video store not expecting too much. I don't watch mindless violence, frat party college flicks, vampires, witchcraft or flesh eating zombies. After filtering out all that there tends to be little left. On this night a new movie had just arrived. Its title..was Secretariat. It was a true story about a race horse. Its cover said it was filled with hope, courage and heart. I thought - this will be good.

I went home and got comfortable on the sofa. Putting the movie on I was utterly speechless at the opening verse. "3000 years ago a man named Job questioned God, and God answered with 'Do you give the horse his strength?'" I burst into tears immediately. I felt God's Spirit come upon me powerfully as the movie continued to recite God's entire speech to Job about the horse! The movie was incredibly inspiring; as it told of this courageous, fearless horse, you could sense that GOD was with him. Thus the horse (and its supporters) persevered against all odds and conquered!

By the end of the movie tears were streaming down my face and all the pain inside was gone. I also felt like I could take the roof off the house with my bare hands! I was that encouraged. I was on fire. Tomorrow we tell over six hundred people about CHRIST our Lord! Fear Nothing!

This morning I arose at 6:30. Dressed in my best trousers and shirt and headed off to share my testimony about Our God. How He had saved me from a life of drugs, foolish materialism and selfish exploit. When I arrived at the school the teachers were incredibly warm and welcoming. Everyone seemed to be shining. As I entered the auditorium I had to choke back tears. It was ENORMOUS. IT could seat over 1200 people and I was to be centre stage, with my life projected on two large cinema screens. The sheer privilege of it started to overwhelm me and I quickly prayed asking God to calm me down. He answered immediately.

The whole presentation finished exactly on time. I wasn't nervous at all really. The Lord had me deliver the FULL GOSPEL. Hell, Sin, Satan, Drugs, Suicide, Death, and New Life - the lot. It was a strong message from what I remember. The students took every single brochure I had brought (about 50) and took all my business cards (another 50). I was asked to send more. They were told if they ever needed help to contact me. Also how I hoped NOT to see them on the cold cement in Northbridge. Many came up afterwards and I could tell God was working powerfully in their hearts.

One wonderful young lady approached me in tears. God was moving in her heart and she didn't understand it. She said to me "It Hurts". God was renewing Her heart there and then..... All of heaven and I mean ALL of heaven was rejoicing for her. I explained about what was happening as best I could, telling her of all the tears I had shed myself. The School Chaplain was beside me, a young strapping lad of twenty something. He also joined in reassuring her that he crys too. I suppose for this angelic little lady, two men telling her such gave her understanding and the support she needed. She was afraid because her soul was literally standing in the presence of the Holy One. And she could feel it as a spiritual heart transplant occurred. She spent the next 30 mins in the Chaplain's office. I thanked God this man was there to protect her.

All of the teachers encouraged me greatly. For fifteen minutes I stood with students one after another. They asked questions and took the blog address. I was elated to say the least. Many had been saved. One had been given a new heart instantaneously and over 600 seeds were planted. One teacher told me that she overheard one young boy say "Wow He really gave it to us - that was awesome!". No....God is awesome. Who gives the horse and man his Strength? God does, that's who. To God be all the glory.

God Bless

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Increase Our Faith

Street Chaplain Duty Saturday 30th July. A cold, wet and windy night in Northbridge. I imagined everyone going home by 3am (including me). Surely the downpours would dampen the punter’s enthusiasm. One could only hope and pray. Three brave men ventured out. After the initial Police briefing we prayed for protection and the opportunity to witness the Gospel. I was encouraged to find our two Bibles had been handed out the night before by the previous shift. It brought a beaming smile to my face.

Walking around the cold, wet streets the atmosphere did seem quenched. Perhaps the rain had suppressed the usual numbers or indeed had extinguished their burning desire to drink themselves to oblivion. Whatever the reason, I was thankful to God. After returning two days prior from mission to the Philippines I was still coming down from jetlag and missionary re-entry syndrome (that is where you condemn the entire western world for its affluence and feel like you have just returned to Babylon). It is actually quite common amongst missionaries, thus I get used to the emotional rollercoaster. I was sure a night out as Street Chaplain would help me readjust to ‘sin city’.

By 2am we had not really done much. A lot of walking and ducking for cover from the rain. We sat in a coffee shop and after a hot chocolate I decided to pray. The three of us bowed our heads unashamedly at our table and asked God to use us and to give us a sign that would increase our faith. That was the exact prayer. Use us to help someone and in doing so may we have a sign that will increase our faith.

As I stepped out of the coffee shop I was literally looking in every direction for either the sign or the person to help. To be honest my own faith was ignited by the prayer and thus I was highly expectant. Within four minutes the Street Chaplain phone rang. I answered it excitedly, smiling like a child opening a Christmas present. When you are completely aware of answered prayer you are almost tempted to answer “Hello God, How can we help?” Obviously you resist as the Police Officer asks for your assistance with a young unaccompanied woman a few blocks away.

The Street Chaplains were now in Holy motion. All three of us knew this was the answer to the prayer. We were about to be used to help someone. Arriving at the scene we found a young blonde girl, mascara running and in an emotional state. The three Police Officers were trying to comfort her. She was alone and they were not about to leave her. It was time for her to head home; rather than wander around herself. Predators exist in Northbridge –yet again we would discover this later in the night.

The Police handed her to us, they were thankful for our assistance. We managed to talk her into going home – to Mandurah (about 50klms away)!  The last train was in 15 mins and so we hurriedly ‘escorted’ her to the train. As we did so, she opened up to one of the Chaplains. Her boyfriend was currently in a Christian Rehab centre!  I had just returned from working in one two days before. I GOT THE SIGN CLEAR ENOUGH.
As we passed her on to the transit guards we sensed God’s presence all around her. She had been handed from one protective service to another. All ensuring she came to no harm. As she left us, one of the Chaplains gave her the Gospel of John, telling her she had time to read this on the way home. She accepted it without any protest at all.

Elated we walked back to Northbridge. By 3am it was time to go. It was incredibly wet and people were taking cover under awnings or bundling themselves into cabs. I thanked God for the rain. I knew it was sending everyone home – including me – I thought...

As we walked to our cars a young man approached us. He showed us a photograph of a girl and asked if we had seen her? He explained how she and two friends were staying with him but someone had spiked their drinks in a club. He had carried two of them home but had lost the third one. He was genuinely concerned – obviously. He was fairly sure of who had spiked their drinks. A stranger had bought the girls a round and he had refused the offer. After that they all became incapacitated - except him!

We agreed to search for her. When he left (continuing his own search) we quickly formed a huddle and prayed for the girl and the young man. We then headed off for another lap of town. The rain became one of the heaviest downpours I think I have ever experienced. I was wet to my socks and underpants. I tried to laugh and not complain. I kept saying to my fellow Chaplain, it’s not acid. We looked like two drowned rats. More importantly though – we didn’t find the girl. After an hour it was 4am. We decided to go. We trusted God would look after her.

The next morning the other Chaplain called the young man. We had swapped numbers the night before. He said that after leaving us (post prayer) he was walking along and saw the girl. She was unconscious and being carried by the man who had spiked the drinks! He yelled at him at which two Police Officers arrived almost instantaneously. The man was handcuffed and the girl given to her friend. As he related this to us we could hardly believe our ears. What would have happened to her if not for the prayer and God’s intervention? At the least she was to be raped. At the worst – murdered?

Later that same day the young man texted again. He asked the Chaplain – ‘what Church do you go to?’ He was considering going himself now. He knew there was a God. Everyone’s faith had increased.

Cebu Philippines - Not Ashamed of the Gospel

Mission Accomplished. Many new men have come to the Lord, at least over twenty I sense completely reborn. The light is on behind their smiles and sparkling eyes. Such a privilege to witness such. For the others much of the seed has gone in. Including powerful testimonies, and 15 sermons in ten days! The discipleship program at House of Hope is impressive, there is no other words to describe it. This morning during my breakfast I watched all the little tots (3-5 year olds) that come here daily to be taught English and the Bible by a bunch of ex addicts. They run around in joy. Each year a complete graduation ceremony is held completewith gowns and certificates. The following year a new batch of preschoolers are herded from surrounding villages. Where else on earth but in a Godly Rehab centre would this occur? The men know it is God. The children dont see ex drug addicts. They dont judge. God is wise, God is good. I read once that children and gardening are good for depressed people. Both of these are part of the ministry here. Out the back is a vegetable garden called the Garden of Hope. I have learned a lot in my second trip to House of Hope. This time from the perspective of being the Pastor and Director. For the last ten days I suppose I have taken this role. The Director taking a backseat. It is by no means an easy task to look after fifty men. Without God it would be a mess. As many secular rehabs tend to be.

Many wonderful things have happened including a challenging confrontation on Saturday night. One resident was ready to quit and leave. He was sure his wife was being unfaithful. He was shouting at her angrily and visibly upset, as to was she. Prayer and counselling (4 hours worth) kept him here. We knew Satan was attacking his mind. Amazingly that day I gave a sermon. I displayed a picture on the screen of the Spartans from the 300 movie. Their shields interlocked awaiting their foe. I explained how Satan comes over and attacks the left flank, singles out one and then puts in his mind something like "Someone is sleeping with my wife". And thus rips off the soldier's shield and pulls him from the platoon. Three hours later that is EXACTY what occurred! It was surreal to be honest. My mind was whizzing. He is ok now - thank God. However, you realise in this ministry your guard can never be let down. If you do then their fate may well be the same as Amy Whitehouse. They all knew the song  - "They want me to go to rehab but I say, no, no, no". Today I told them she is dead. At 27. A sombre warning for leaving the program before you are strong enough to face the real enemy. A sombre warning to the entire earth.

To conclude on an uplifting note... One of the resident's family visited. All Catholic (as he once was also). He remembered my message of Romans "I Am not Ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of salvation etc". He asked his whole family - wife, brother, sister and mother and father. "How do you get saved?" He told us in church the response was stereotypical of many Catholics. A wide range of 'works' to be carried out including church attendance. With a beaming smile he explained to them Grace, God's gift, God's righteousness, God's work on the cross and our belief (faith) in such to then produce the good works born of a new heart full of the Spirit. He literally nailed it! They all thanked him for telling them the  - "TRUTH". As he told the brothers his smile was so infectious. "I am not ashamed of the Gospel" And now His whole family knew the Gospel, - Thanks to House of Hope and God's hand. I thank the Lord for Romans. Not  only had it yielded fruit, but already the seed was spreading!

Cebu Philippines - A New Heart

The worship songs have just started next door. I love hearing the men sing. Every morning 40 men singing to God together. Not a bad work environment for writing emails to home? Yesterday the Lord blessed all of us greatly. We went to the beach here in Cebu. A rare treat for fifty men (residents and staff). I wanted to bless them, and more importantly, give the glory and praise for such to the Lord. So for about a $150 we took along rice, barbecued chicken, fresh fish and lemonade. We used a portable oven, complete with charcoal, allowing us to cook the food at the beach. It was a feast for all. How wonderful it is when men live in harmony and appreciate the little things. How does that occur? By taking less and appreciating simple blessings when we receive them. That is what it is like here. Thus some barbecue chicken and rice and one soft drink brings 50 men great happiness. We played volleyball and other games and swam together as brothers.

When we first arrived we all stood together under the palm trees and infront of everyone sang three Christian songs as one body of soldiers. We then prayed. Claiming the ground for God. No fear, no shame. The Christians have arrived and we sing to our Lord. You could see people looking at us wondering "who and what are they, what is it they all have that makes them so different?" Some people even drew closer during the day as the joy of the Spirit flowed powerfully through the brethren. We had taken a big guitar speaker and a laptop. Christian songs proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord, Saviour and lover of our soul unashamedly filled the air - all Day.

Later I asked the men to give their testimonies. One by one, to the whole group, each had 3 mins to tell their past; why they were thankful to House of Hope and the Lord, aswell as their dreams for the future. Not one man did not thank God and mean it. I choked back tears, by the fifth or sixth one I said 'ok that is enough for now". Stories of men facing the suffering of sin, broken relationships, incarceration, violence and rejection. Human beings, just like you and me. All were thankful for House of Hope and to God. One man spoke of how he had fought his older brother and had seriously hurt him by fracturing his brother's head in the fight. How his father had told him how he had once been a beautiful little boy and now look what you have become (at 40). As he shared his shame he pointed to his brother (the one he had done this too) and how both of them were now here in House of hope together, 'by the grace of God' being his very words. He had been in the program eigth months. To me he looks angelic.

Many of them talked of secular rehabs they had tried in the past. One man was a qualified nurse with a Masters Degree. He told how he had been in and out of rehab centres and how they were like living hells. God wasn't in them. Foolish 'man made' psychology and mind altering "Medicines" combined with no Love at all. He told of how he had been with two hundred men in a previous rehabilitation centre. He told how after a year he had not witnessed even one man freed from drugs. NOT ONE. They all returned to the old patter of life after leaving the program. The smile on his face is incredibly contagious, after two weeks here he is saved and just praises God for house of hope all the time, thanking God for all the brothers. His eyes look like they have two flash lights at the back of them. This educated man had learnt only God can truly cure us. Not man made philosophy (Col 2:8). As my good friend Charles Slack states; he was literally "Shining from the inside out".

Last night I preached Romans Chapter 2. It concludes with Apostle Paul's strong message on the need for the circumcision of the heart. Prior to the lesson I showed a powerful video of Billy Graham in 1957 talking about the need for a new heart. False faith verses true faith. Outward change, outward church attendance and respectability, yet no inner change. Thus saved in the mind but not in the heart (where it counts). At the end Billy did an alter call to the thousands in the stadium. At which time, I went and stood by the projector screen with Mr Graham. I pointed in front of me at the ground, and invited the men to come down the front as part of the alter call. Every man came forward and bowed their head to the Lord. This time, most of them, where crying. Heart Change.

To those that have faithfully prayed and continue to do so, and so many of you that send me encouraging emails back, I thank you. Your own prayers are helping make all this occur. To our God in Christ be the glory - Amen.

You can see Billy's 1957 sermon here -