Archive for September, 2008

 

Sometimes the most beautiful moments in our lives are spontaneous reactions to circumstances or emotions that are tied to a specific place or event.  Without this place or event, we may still experience a superficial moment but it would not transcend itself into a world that our soul visits to find simple beauty and inspiration when we can’t find it otherwise. 

Standing in front of Audrey at the altar located in the Gospel for Brazil church, surrounded by our American and Brazilian brothers and sisters in Christ, we found ourselves in that place.  It was July 15th, and we were celebrating our 13th Wedding Anniversary by renewing our vows in a little church that we helped start in the middle of the Brazilian desert. 

We didn’t come to Brazil with any such plans.  Actually, we had always thought we would renew our vows in some quaint, picturesque village in Dolomites, Italy.  Why?  Simply because we had seen a beautiful picture years ago that depicted a little church off in the distance surrounded by awe-inspiring mountains overlooking a valley.  I was drawn to the picture and thought it would be the “perfect” setting to renew my love for Christy someday even though we had no connection to this place.  It was just a picture.  It did not tell the story of us though, and it did not define any part of us or our love.

However, this little village and this little, God-inspired church in the desert region of Brazil does.  Who we are today as individuals and as a couple is rooted in the mercy, the grace, the forgiveness, the love and the hope that God has rained down onto a spiritually oppressed village in Brazil in the middle of nowhere, and onto two spiritually immature babies that did not know the ways of God. 

Before we rededicated our lives to Christ over four years ago, we defined ourselves by the things of this world.  We didn’t point anyone to Christ, and any difference we had made in anyone’s life seemed to be superficial.  We have always had a tremendously close relationship, and the love we have for each other has never been an issue for us but we were spiritually bankrupt.  We weren’t in church, we weren’t reading the Bible, we weren’t praying, we weren’t seeking God, and we definitely weren’t placing anything into God’s hands but rocks made of this world.

But God didn’t turn his back on us, instead he brought Joe and Arimar Carr into our lives, and the “little” mission organization called Gospel for Brazil.  He sent us 5,000 miles away to a place where our faith could not be manipulated or controlled.  The culture, the people, the language and the food were all novel to us.  We were completely reliant on God’s Holy Spirit to guide us.  We had nothing to offer but it was in this vulnerability that God began to cleanse us and reshape our souls so that we could begin to become the Godly couple that He could use to build His Kingdom.  He began to turn our eyes away from the things of this world so we could begin to see the world through the eyes of His Son, Jesus Christ.  He began to show us that it isn’t the legacy that we leave on this world but it’s the Legacy that we allow Christ to leave on this world through us.  He began to show us that a life lived that does not point others to Christ is a wasted life. 

Most importantly though, He began to build a passion in us for the lost souls of this earth that would become a consuming fire in our spirit, fully dependent on and fully flamed by the Holy Spirit of Christ Jesus.  God is far from finished with us, and we don’t know where God will take us in our faith but we do know where it all began; in that little village in the desert of Brazil called Ubauna. 

So maybe we didn’t make it to Dolomites, Italy to that little church but we did find our way to a little church in Ubauna, Brazil that has touched us, and our faith deeply.  It wasn’t perfect…it was late at night, we were exhausted from sleep deprivation, we didn’t have rings other than the one that Arimar gave Christy that read “Love” and the one John allowed me to borrow from him, we didn’t have our parents or our birth family there, we didn’t have on a nice tux or a beautiful wedding dress, we were chomping on gum throughout the entire ceremony while wearing O Evangelho O Para Brasil shirts that would cause the donkeys to look at us with suspicion but we were exactly where God had lead us.  We were surrounded by our brothers and sisters in Christ, and by people that mean so much to us and our faith.  We were in the church that God had allowed us to play a small part in founding, and in our eyes, that made it a picture-perfect celebration of the love that we share for each other and for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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As I was reading a post today discussing the “coming out” of a Christian music artist as “gay and happy”, I had this thought:

“There’s either going to be a lot more people in Heaven than I thought there would be or a whole lot less people than I thought there would be in Heaven.”

 

I thought about this because we, as Christians, are always quick to play “Judge and Jury” when it comes to someone’s salvation.  We’ll condemn someone to hell faster than Oprah will drool in the presence of Obama.  Now the eternal place of residence for an atheist or someone that refuses Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is straightforward.  Hell it is! 

But what about those that genuinely believe in the deity of Christ as the Messiah and resurrected Lord that find themselves bound by a sin such as homosexuality.  God is clear about homosexuality.  He views it as an abomination.  This isn’t difficult to understand.  God clearly states this in the Bible.   Homosexuality though isn’t a condition “we are born with” or a “mental illness.”  It is a spiritual condition where the person is in bondage to an indwelling demon (or many), and is in need of spiritual deliverance.  However, what if that person cannot deliver themselves from this bondage because of their inability to understand the power and authority that Christ has given to His “little Christs”?  What if no one else will take that authority and power and deliver them?  Are they doomed to a life of eternal damnation to be spent with satan in the depths of hell?  Or will God condemn us not fighting for this soul harder?  Is it the responsibility solely of the homosexual person or do we as Christians share this responsibility?

Honestly, many Christians HATE homosexuals!  I don’t have to guess about this because most are willing to tell (or show) you every chance they get.  If you hate someone, how likely are you to seek deliverance for them by going up against evil itself?  Probably not likely!  I understand that there are instances where the person professing faith clearly knows that they are in direct opposition to God and willingly continues in this lifestyle but I believe these individuals are in the minority.  Satan is the master of deceit and lies and when you are spiritually weak, you are at an increased risk of falling prey to these lies.  On some level, we’ve all been victims of satan.

Let’s take other sins, especially if habitual, that place us in direct opposition to God and His Word such as adultery, idolatry, sexual addiction, drug addiction or alcoholism.  There are many “Christians” that battle these demons on a daily basis…and are losing.  Are they automatically hell-bound?  If so, then aren’t we all in danger of spending eternity in hell? 

Many Christians do not want to acknowledge that there are millions of their brothers and sisters in Christ that are living in spiritual bondage because of indwelling demons but it is reality.  They also do not want to admit that we, as a Christian family are failing them.  Most often, we run as fast as we can from them, spewing condemnation back over our shoulders at them as we go instead of running toward them and taking the authority and power over the spirits in the name of our precious Savior, Jesus Christ so that they can be released from their spiritual bondage.

Why are we willing to take the place of Christ as Judge but aren’t willing to fight for the lost souls of this world and those that are in spiritual bondage?  I guess pointing a self-righteous finger at someone is a lot easier than wrestling with satan and his dominions.

I’m not condoning homosexuality or any other sin but God is beginning to get my attention about some things.  I don’t know…maybe I’m getting crazy.  Or maybe I’m just beginning to see this world as Jesus would see it….through eyes that reflect mercy and grace onto those that are lost or in spiritual bondage. 

Spiritual warfare is real because satan himself is real, and his primary objective is to steal, kill and destroy (paraphrase from Bible – look it up).  He hates anything of God, and will do whatever necessary to divide the Church and destroy our faith.  Whether we want to believe it, we are in this struggle against evil together.  Ignoring it doesn’t change it so we have to accept our responsibility as God’s warriors and take up our armor.  It is time to remind satan that he is a defeated foe that has no authority and power over any child of the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ.  Only then will we begin to build a strong church, and be effective witnessess for all, including our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

Gospel for Brazil was founded four years ago by a Spirit-led vision and burden given to Joe Carr for the lost souls in the Northeast desert region of Brazil known as the Heart of Darkness.  No one involved on that first trip had any idea how to go about this monumental task that God had put forth to a small group of believers.  There are over 48,000,000 lost souls just in this area of Brazil alone. Ponder this number for a moment….48 million!  It’s a crazy number isn’t it?

How do you begin reaching 48 million lost souls with just twelve people who said, “uuuhhhh, okay” when God told them to “Go” and start?  You focus on reaching just one!  Then after you reach that one, you focus on reaching just one more, and then you repeat this process 48,000,000 times.  Reach 48 million people in the middle of nowhere?  Overwhelmingly, humanly difficult and bordering on insanity.  But reach just one with the leading of God himself?  Even Forest Gump could handle this.

Starting out, we didn’t have past experiences to guide us.  We didn’t have “little” victories in our memory banks to withdraw and hold onto to get us through those frustrating growing pains.  All we had were ourselves and a deep faith and child-like hope that God was going to do a great work in this area of Brazil.  There was a spiritual innocence underlying our conversations, our prayers, our imaginations and our expectations. 

Standing in the lake water, watching Audrey, our pastor in Ubauna, baptizing our new brothers and sisters in Christ, I knew I was witnessing 19 “little” victories that I could deposit into my memory bank to hold onto.  In our numbers-driven world, this number may seem small and insignificant but Jesus tells in the Bible how all of Heaven rejoices when just ONE soul is won for the Kingdom.  Nineteen souls won for the Kingdom and being baptized just as their Lord was over 2,000 years ago?  A powerful testimony to the working of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the people in this little village.  A “spiritual barometer” measuring the pressure that God is putting on the darkness in this area, causing the spiritual oppression to be broken by the Light of His Son, Jesus Christ. 

Sitting here at the computer, I find myself back in Ubauna, surrounded by the mountains rising out of the parched desert earth.  The morning sky is a beautiful Tar Heel blue, and the Holy Spirit-infused wind whispers to my spirit, “I Am here with you my children”, as it blows across the sun-draped lake.  I can hear the worship music playing, and the laughter and singing of those around me provide the perfect soundtrack for this moment in time. 

I look over at Joe, standing alone, and my spirit senses the deep contentment and happiness that is being reflected in his face, in his smile.  At that moment, I wish that his mind was a large, outdoor drive-in movie screen that was replaying every emotion, every thought, every memory that had been stored in his soul over the past four years. 

I couldn’t help but think about that first trip we took over four years ago.  I thought about Linda and Larry and Terry and Trish and Miranda and Greg and Kevin, and I wished that they could be here to see how far God had brought this “little” mission.  I thought about those first eleven that accepted Christ as Lord and Savior on our trip in 2004. I thought about all the people that had opened the Gift of Salvation through Gospel for Brazil.  I thought about the little girl from Ubauna, Racquel that God had healed when the doctors had told her parents there was no hope, and about the old woman that had worshipped satan and led the Macumba temple for over 50 years accepting Christ as her Lord and Savior two months before passing away.  I thought about how God had shown favor on Christy and I and had chosen us to do His work in Brazil.  I thought about how Gospel for Brazil had changed our lives and deeply affected our faith, and this filled me with unspeakable gratitude at the Grace of our Lord.

The moments that actually exceed our expectations or imaginations are rare in this life.  When they come, they become seared into our memory, branding our souls forever.  It doesn’t matter how many years pass or how many things come and go, we can always think about these moments and be transcended back to them.

The baptisms of our Brazilian brothers and sisters by Gospel for Brazil’s pastor in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit were one of those beautiful, soul changing moments, and I feel honored and humbled that God allowed me to be a small part of that.

Please pray for my friend and coworker, Bonnie and her son, Waco.  Waco is a Marine and Iraqi veteran that has a mysterious illness that is ravaging his body. Bonnie received a call today that he had taken critically ill and the doctors are giving him slim odds of recovering. Bonnie told me that he got sick, along with several of his platoon soldiers while in Iraqi and he had been experiencing “weird” things physically such as body and skin tumors since.

Please lift him up in your prayers, interceding on Waco’s behalf to our Lord and Savior, Jesus. Jesus is the Great Healer, the Great Physician and we are praying that Jesus will touch Waco and heal him and restore him. Pray that this mystery illness will be shown and illuminated. Pray that Waco will experience the Healing Miracle of Christ and he will be used as a great testimony to the power of Christ. Also, pray that satan, if he is playing any role in this, will be rebuked in the name of Jesus and any demons or dominions causing him to be sick will be cast out in the name of Jesus.

Pray for Bonnie that God will provide all needed resources and provisions to get her to Waco tonight so she can be with her son. Pray that she will be comforted at this time.

Join me in praying for a healing miracle in this young man’s life. As Christians, lets take the power and authority that Christ has given to us to intercede for Waco and to pray healing in his life.

In Jesus’ name, AMEN!