Thursday, April 5, 2018

Church Development Training in Mozambique

We continue to travel to MOZAMBIQUE each month for the monthly teachings.    February looked a little different for us.    The Lord brought much needed to rain to parts of southern Africa, including Mozambique.  This caused the Limpopo River to rise and therefore, we were not able to drive across to Dumela.   We had planned for the training to be Mbuzi, which meant the pastors would then travel across by boat.   Well, a few days before we were scheduled to leave, we decided to make the call to cancel training for the Dumela/Mbuzi hub.  They had received so much rain and the forecast showed more rain was expected.  There are several factors we had to consider such as, Mbuzi does not have a building to be protected from the rain so teaching would be difficult, safely of the pastors traveling and crossing the river and the risk of the river rising once they crossed which would delay their return home.   

The Vaughan’s were still planning to go to Xikumbane in February for the teaching with that hub as they have a church building and most of the pastors in that hub do not have to cross the river to attend the teaching.  It was decided the night before they left that it would be better if we traveled with them in case they needed a second vehicle because of the muddy Mozambique roads.    So, we quickly packed our bags and prepared to leave the next morning.    It was a good time with the church in the Xikumbane hub as well as good fellowship with The Vaughan’s, Stanford and Caswell.  The pastors took turns teaching a section from the lesson they had been working on.   Some are still struggling working with the material but we can see growth and determination to understand which is very exciting. 

                                                 Thankfully we had no problems traveling, just a lot of fun in the mud coming and going.  

In March, we were able to go to Mbuzi for the training.   The river was still only crossable by boat but several managed to make the teachings.   We even had two men from Zimbabwe, who traveled 80 km by bicycle (with some walking) to attend the teachings.   Masango taught a lesson on Prayer and The Believer.   Mark taught on the importance of having a “Timothy” in your life as well as the importance of discipleship.   We are seeing a few of the pastors starting to bring someone younger with them to the trainings.   Mark was trying to get them to see the importance of raising someone up to work alongside them in their churches so that if they were to be gone or even pass away the ministry would continue.  It was exciting to hear the pastors talking as the training ended about finding a Timothy.   Stanford taught a session on scripture observation. Caswell preached a challenging message during the Wednesday night service from James 1:19-27 (hearing and doing the Word).  

Alicia continued working through the attributes of God focusing on God’s Sovereignty, Eternality, and Immutability (unchanging) with the ladies that came.   At the end of the each session the ladies were divided into groups to practice teaching by recapping the lesson they just went through.    The ladies are being challenged to “go and teach/tell” others.   Alicia is reminding them about the responsibility they have to teach the children and women in their churches what they are learning.   Proclaim the Good News!!!!  

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When Truth is Revealed

For those who don’t know, we have been going to a local village, Mentz, for several years so we could have a Bible Study group.  I (Mark) remember when we first started this Bible Study and how overwhelming it was because it was something new to us.  We found that the people who attended were active church members (various churches were represented).  

For our first study, we decided to use the same curriculum our mission organization, Samaria Mission, has been using to teach the leaders and pastors in Mozambique.  We began to ask those in the first study to turn in their Bibles to certain scriptures; we soon found out that the knowledge of the Bible was lacking.  We went home and prayed about how this Bible Study group should go.  God put on our hearts and mind to use the Fundamentals of the Faith (Grace Community Church) as some of the subjects help with the basic foundational beliefs and learning about the Bible.

Years later, the title above, When Truth is Revealed, we see growth in those who attend.  We love it when we see the Holy Spirit speaking in the lives of those who are involved in the Bible Study.  

In African village life, we hear about such things like the forbidden fruit that Adam and Eve partook was sex.  To our American ears, we were taken back, but then the Holy Spirit reveals Scripture to share.  He (The Holy Spirit) takes me to the first two chapters on Genesis and shows us the Scripture where one of the God’s first commandments to mankind is to “be fruitful and multiply”.  How can sex, when God commanded it, be the forbidden fruit?!  This command was given before chapter 3 in Genesis, so we let Truth reveal itself.

A few weeks ago, at one of our Tuesday nights with with the Mentz Bible Study group, we were prepared for the next lesson, BUT God (isn’t that an awesome statement: It is He that directs our paths) gave us a different direction.  One of the ladies began by telling us about how she has been thinking about what was said the previous week in reference to standing before God and revealing all your life.  She later explained that she believed that since God lives in her life that there will not be another day when she stands before God.  She made a statement, “why does God need to come back because He lives within her.  He already knows”  Wow, how things in our lifelong journey brings about beliefs and traditions.  But when God reveals Truth, God gives us a new outlook.  We read the following scriptures and explained that all of mankind will stand before the Judgment Seat and have to account for all we did. 

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

Romans 14:12, 
So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.”

2 Corinthians 5:10,
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”

Revelation 21:22-27
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day--and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.”

When Truth reveals Itself, we find our lives in a situation to put aside our own world views and establish ourselves in the Truth.  

John 14:6-7, 
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.””  

My question to you to answer for yourself is, what is God going to reveal when you have to account for all you did while you lived?

As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 13:14, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Be sure to check out our latest newsletter here   

Choices and Growth

As we look back over the past few months, it has been amazing how The Lord has tied together several areas of our life and ministry as we have studied, heard and taught His word.  He has pruned us and grown us and given us many things to sit and reflect on and respond to.  God’s patience with us is something so hard to truly comprehend.  

Those times where we have chosen time with God over other things, we have found ourselves hearing, reading, studying and thinking on many things and yet when we look at it all, we see how The Lord has used the variety of things and woven them together as we continue to grow in Him.   

These are things we don’t want to forget as we get busy and sidetracked with things in our life that can distract us from the things God is busy showing us and how He is growing us.   Trust us ... we have had plenty of days where we chose sleep, tv, facebook and many other things to keep us from growing closer to God but on those day we chose Him it led to pruning which leads to growth.  Some growth is faster and some is slower BUT we trust a God who will complete it in His timing.    

TUESDAYS IN MENTZ we have been going through the Old Testament and looking at different stories that show us how God only sees two types of people … believers and unbelievers.  There are those who have repented and believed God.  They have trusted in the Lord Jesus as their Deliverer and because of that when they die they will be with God forever.   Then there are those who have not repented and believed God.  They are still children of Satan, separated from God.  If they die without Christ as their Deliverer, they will be separated from God forever.  

The last several weeks in Mentz, we have looked at how God saw a difference between: 
1-Cain and Abel
2-Noah and the world 
3-Abraham and the people of his home country 
4-Lot and the people of Sodom and Gomorrah

The next few weeks we will continue looking at how God saw a difference between 
-Jacob and Esau
-Moses and the Egyptians
-the Israelites and the Egyptians
-the Israelites and the people of Canaan

We learn from God’s Word that there are only two families in the world.  God’s family and Satan’s family. 

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him." Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'”  John 3:1-7 

Then we will begin to look at the things which God wants to teach only to His children.  

And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20

THURSDAY NIGHTS we are a part of a BIBLE STUDY with people from Christ Baptist Church, our local church here in Polokwane.   Earlier this year, we finished reading the book Awe:  Why it Matters for Everything We Think, Say and Do by Paul David Tripp.   

There are so many areas we were challenged in when we went through this study.  The chapter on Complaint caused us to reflect as the author pointed out several areas in our lives that can cause us to complain.  For example, lack of resources, problems with jobs, neighbors, friends, health issues, church issues, marriage issues and financial issues to name a few.  Paul David Tripp states, “Sure, you may be dealing with difficulty in one or more of these areas, but they are not the cause of your grumbling.  Your tendency to complain is rooted at a deeper level.  Here’s the bottom line:  we complain not because we have a stuff-of-life problem but because we have an awe problem.  Our problem is not just what we are dealing with but, more foundationally, how our view of God shapes how we see and deal with it.  We tend to think of complaining as a little thing, but maybe it’s bigger than we realize.”   

Later in the chapter he says, “If praise is celebrating God’s awesome glory, then complaint is anti-praise.  Not only does complaint fail to recognize his grandeur, it questions his power and character. If you believe that God is the Creator and controller of all that is, then it is impossible to complain about your circumstances without complaining about God.”  

The rest of the chapter was spent on asking the following 5 questions:
1-  Is God good?
2-  Will God do what He promised?
3-  Is God in control?
4-  Does God have the needed power?
5-  Does God care about me?

He stated that we ask and answer these questions as we go through everyday life.   How we think about them and answer them in our everyday circumstances reveals that we are either in awe of God or experiencing “awe amnesia”.   

We recommend this book as a great way to evaluate where you are and what you are believing.  It is very easy to get off track and put your focus on yourself and your circumstances instead of on Christ and what He has done for us and what He wants to do in and through us.   

After our Bible study finished the “Awe” study we spent the last month going through Philippians.    It is such a great reminder about encouragement.   As believers, we are called to live our lives as citizens of heaven and that is evidenced by our growing commitment to serve God and one another.   Some of the things we studied that stood out are:   thanksgiving and prayer, unity, Christ’s example of humility, sanctification, righteousness through faith in Christ, and contentment in Christ.

Here are some KEY VERSES in Philippians 
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Phl. 1:6

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Phl. 1:9-11

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.”  Phl. 1:27-28 

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  Phl. 2:1-11 

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.” Phl. 2:12-16 

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-- that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”  Phl. 3:7-11

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”   Phl. 3:20-21

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me--practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”  Phl. 4:4-9 

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Phl. 4:11-13

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  Phl. 4:19

Over the last few months on SUNDAYS we have been hearing sermons from various pastors from our local church focusing on Romans, Isaiah, Matthew, Luke, Hebrews  James, and 2 Peter.   We have studied topics such as: sanctification, materialism, forgiveness and forgetting, being a biblical neighbor, and the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.  

We have also been READING (slowly) a book on The Holy Spirit by John Bevere and listening to a few sermons on The Holy Spirit by John Piper and Matt Chandler to name a few.  

In MOZAMBIQUE we have continued to teach from Fundamentals of The Faith by John MacArthur.  We are focusing on the different attributes of God, Prayer and The Believer, Fellowship and Worship as well as the importance of having a “Timothy” in your life and the importance of discipleship.  As you know, when you are responsible to teach you learn and grow through the preparation.

This is really just a glimpse of the things we have been listening to, reading, studying and learning.   We have so far to go but we praise our Lord for His GRACE, LOVE and MERCY that He faithfully shows us as we continue on this journey of sanctification!   Some days are easier than others.  We face many choices, many distractions as well as selfish desires each day.   We are challenged to make the Bible become part of our lives everyday.   We grow through prayer, fellowship with other believers, worship, and hearing His Word preached and taught.  We also grow by witnessing!  

Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  2 Peter 3:18

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