Saint Patrick – Hero of the Faith!
I have heard that repetition is the mother of learning – and I believe it’s true! Why do we remember the words of songs better than we do most sermons? Because we have heard and sung those words over and over. Therefore, without apology I want to share with you what I’ve shared before – and if you can tell me when you read this before, I will give you a free copy of one of our books (your choice!).
Patrick – Pure, Powerful, Prayerful Passion!
March 17 is labeled Saint Patrick’s Day on our calendars. That’s great! Let’s brush aside the frivolous myths about snakes and shamrocks and avoid the degenerated drinking festivals. Let’s actually celebrate the truth of the historical person known as Patrick. He was an Englishman, who when a 16-year-old teen, was taken captive to Ireland as a slave. During his captivity and lonely service as a herdsman on Irish hills, he pondered the powerful passages of Scripture he heard as a child, and he turned heart and soul to trust in Jesus Christ as Lord. After several years, he escaped, returned to England, allowed the Holy Spirit to transform his hatred to love for his pagan captors, and returned to Ireland as an evangelist, passionate promoter of the love of Christ, church planter and trainer of church planters. He is believed to have died on March 17, around 460 A.D. I’ve read that Patrick and his followers planted over 200 churches, reached thousands of pagan Druids for Christ, and totally transformed the culture of Ireland for centuries. That’s the power of one devoted disciple! So, if you are a frustrated, furtive believer wringing your hands and thinking, “What can I do? I’m only one person?” – look up to Jesus. Ask Him, “What would You have me to do?” So open up your heart and let the SON shine in!
I’ve read that one time when Patrick was baptizing a man in the sea, he had a Christian flag on a spear, and jammed it into the sand on the sea floor. However, when he dipped the man under water, he noticed that the flag also dipped down, and when he brought the man up out of the water, he noticed some red floating to the top. Shocked at the sight, he realized he had jammed the spear through the man’s foot, so he asked, “Why didn’t you cry out?” The convert responded, “I thought it was part of the ceremony!” Obviously, this convert understood the seriousness of his commitment to the Lordship of Christ. He was coming to Jesus in the water of the sea, but ready to seal his testimony for Jesus in the blood of sacrifice. Perhaps he had even heard Patrick preach from this portion of 1 John: “This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.” 1 John 5:6-8 (NKJV)
When Patrick was asked what it was that made him so successful in his mission, he replied: “Christ above me! Christ beneath me! Christ on my right! Christ on my left! Christ before me! Christ behind me! Christ all around me!” What a powerful perspective for persistent prayer and progress!
Loving the World Enough to Share the Gospel
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 (NKJV)
What Is the Gospel?
Have you heard this oft-repeated advice: “Preach the gospel continually – when necessary, use words!”? No matter who originally gave this lame advice, I have some probing questions:
1. How does it measure up to the inspired Word of God? For example:
How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” Romans 10:14 “…faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Romans 10:17
“For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.” 1 Thessalonians 2:13
“I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” 2 Timothy 4:1-2
2. The gospel is good news. How is it possible to share good news without words?
3. Yes, a good example is very important, but is it possible for a non-Christian to set a good example? Yes! But is his (or her) good example proclaiming the gospel? Is his good example bringing glory to God – or to himself? The Word of God says: “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31
4. Are we confused about what the gospel actually is? Here is God’s Word to clarify: “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,” 1 Corinthians 15:1-14
Concerning, “Preach the Gospel continually – when necessary, use words!” This is a tricky false gospel and is sometimes being used as a cop-out for Christians who aren’t bold enough to witness for Jesus with their words. How does this saying measure up to the Word of God? First of all, it sounds appealing because it is a half-truth. It is vitally important for Christians to back up their witness by a good example, which Jesus and the apostles make very clear. However, a good example is not the gospel. Without using words there is no gospel! The words that declare the gospel are the good news! Good news must be shared with words – spoken, written or sign language!
My dad was not a Christian and made no claim to be a Christian. He was a strong believer in evolutionism, so he told me that when you’re dead, you’re dead – you just go back to the dirt – there’s nothing more. However, Dad grew up in an era when Christian principles were the standard, and he had adopted many of those principles as his own. For example, he believed that a man’s word is his bond. So, in his business, when he gave a customer his bid and shook hands on the agreement – that price was solid! His word was his bond. I worked with Dad during my teen years and saw him more than once work many hours, or even days past the time he expected to work on that job. But he did not change the price, because his word was his bond! (I also noticed that he was never out of work as a carpenter/contractor.) Dad was a great example of integrity – but was he preaching the gospel? No! He was living by a Christian principle he had adopted! May we also be shining examples of integrity – and share the gospel!
Paul gave Timothy the charge, Preach the Word! One of Jesus’ own titles is “The Word.”
Paul declared: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Romans 1:16
Consider this excerpt from The Ambassador magazine of Ozark Christian College:
12 Churches in 12 Cities
by Amy Storms
“’Gospel proclamation to the unreached is the heartbeat of Mustard Seed Network,’ Jay says. ‘Romans 1:16—the truth that the gospel is the power unto salvation—is so important. Our character or kind deeds are not the power unto salvation. Our acts of service, morality, winsomeness, or cleverness are not the power unto salvation. Faith comes by hearing the message of what Jesus has done (Romans 10:17). Therefore, our ministry is filled with sharing the gospel with as many people as we possibly can.’
‘The biggest need in Japan,’ Jay continues, ‘is the good news of what Jesus did to reconcile us to God forever.’ To meet that need, Mustard Seed began a campaign to plant 12 churches in 12 major cities in Japan.
‘Planting in these 12 cities will put 78.6 million people—or 62% of the second largest unreached people group in the world—within reach of Mustard Seed Network churches. Each of these 12 churches will become ministry hubs to catalyze further church planting in their regions. Less than 1% of the 126 million people in Japan claim to have faith in Jesus. Japan needs more gospel proclamation, more churches, and more disciples shining the light of Jesus in Japan’s massive cities. By God’s grace and through the prayers and financial support of gospel partners, we endeavor to complete this task by 2025.’”
Note: The “Jay” that Amy refers to is missionary church planter, Jay Greer. (Used by permission. The Ambassador, Fall 2019. occ.edu/ambassador.)
May we be as faithful and diligent in sharing the foundational truths of the gospel and the Biblical Christian worldview with America (and all of the English-speaking world) as Jay Greer and his team in Japan and Sergei Golovin and his team in Ukraine (and beyond)! (See our January prayer letter.)
Pray for God to grant health and strength to Sergei for many more years or until Jesus returns!
Also, I want to express my deep appreciation to Georges Carillet for mentoring Sergei early in his Christian life and for forming a continuing (ongoing) partnership with Sergei for outreach in the Former Soviet Union nations. Please pray for Georges as he continues his ministry of Teaching Ministries International as much as possible while also caring for LaVerne with her poor health issues.
“Wherever He Leads, I’ll Go”
By Amy Storms (Director of marketing and communications at OCC)
“Of all our Ozark distinctives…the sayings, traditions, and moments that identify and unify us as the OCC family…one of my very favorites is singing, ‘Wherever He Leads, I’ll Go.’ For as long as any of us can remember, that song has closed the final session of our annual Preaching-Teaching Convention in February.
‘Take up thy cross and follow Me,’
I heard my Master say.
‘I gave my life to ransom thee;
Surrender your all today.’
Wherever he leads, I’ll go,
Wherever he leads, I’ll go,
I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so,
Wherever he leads, I’ll go.
As a student, I sang those words as a promise. They meant a lot to the 18-year-old who was excited to ‘go’ but had no clue what ‘wherever he leads’ would entail. Now, 25 years later, the song means so much more. I sing with the same pledge of obedience, but also as a vow renewal—a prayer of recommitment. ‘Wherever he leads, I’ll go,’ I sing each year, often through tears, as I recall the places God has led—through highs and lows, joys and hurts of ministry, through seasons of growth and fruitfulness as well as the barren spiritual winters—and all of it, always, held in the strong and tender faithfulness of ‘my Christ who loves me so.’
My son is a senior at Ozark, so he’ll sing this song only once more as a student. My daughter, a freshman, will sing it for the first time. As their faith becomes their own and they look toward the future, excited to follow to the ends of the earth, God will lead them, too:
It may be through the shadows dim
Or o’er the stormy sea:
I take my cross and follow him
Wherever he leadeth me.
Wherever he leads, I’ll go,
Wherever he leads, I’ll go,
I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so,
Wherever he leads, I’ll go.
At Ozark, it’s both a private prayer and corporate commitment. It’s a reminder that ‘we are ‘Christ’s Ambassadors,’ trained for Christian service’ and sent out as ‘workers into his harvest field.’ It’s a pledge of our obedience even as we recognize that our own efforts—our hard work and service and ‘all we bring’—are nothing apart from the goodness and grace of Christ, our ‘Master, Lord and King.”
My heart, my life, my all I bring
To Christ who loves me so.
He is my Master, Lord, and King,
Wherever he leads I’ll go.
Wherever he leads I’ll go,
Wherever he leads I’ll go,
I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so,
Wherever he leads I’ll go.”
(Used by permission.)
Growing Old Can Be Tough!
(But What Do I Have to Complain About?)
Recently while brushing my teeth, a lower tooth began crumbling to pieces. A few days later I was in a dental chair asking Dr. Hamblin if that tooth was worth saving. It wasn’t. Since he had some time available, I told him to extract the tooth. However, the simple extraction became much more complicated than expected, but I’m thankful that Dr. Hamblin didn’t need to put his knee on my chest and use needle-nosed pliers to pull that stubborn root! 😊 He did give me the bargain price of $135.00 for the extraction, but I remember when I was a young boy and I got paid for a tooth that came out! Also, my older brother or sister gladly pulled the tooth for me for free, and I didn’t have a gaping hole and dull ache for nearly two weeks! 😊
I also remember that when I was a freshman at BBC, I had the strength and balance to walk on my hands the length of our boys’ dorm hallway. Now walking on my feet for less than a mile leaves me tired and sweaty. Also, when I bend down to pick something up, my bones crackle and I look around to see if there is anything else I can do while I’m down there. 😊
I realize that when we pray, God always answers, but His answer may be “Yes,” it may be “No” – but very often it is “Wait.” However, I do still wonder why Della has multiple health issues even though I persistently ask Him to heal her from head to toe. I am very thankful for my very good health (especially at age 76) – and I remember that both Dick and Dee Halaas struggle with very serious health issues yet they continue to encourage others. It was Dick Halaas who said to me on the phone: “If you have an attitude of gratitude, you will likely remain on the right latitude!”
“An Attitude of Gratitude”
With this in mind, I remember that I am most richly blessed! I’m also reminded of the grieving, destitute people in the war zone of eastern Ukraine, North Korea, Haiti, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria and many other nations. What are my puny problems compared with theirs – or compared with Americans in the tornado-devastated areas of Tennessee?
I remember wonderful friends, supporters, prayer partners who love Jesus and His gospel. I view the beautiful pictures of Della and our family in our living room and on our fridge and feel the waves of gratitude washing my soul of the craziness of griping and ingratitude. Besides, we are not even having to deal with the aftermath of tornadoes, blizzards, floods or fires! I now feel like the richest man on earth!
I have the riches of God’s amazing grace and favor! I need to remember: “We give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way!”
I also need to remember these pertinent passages: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Romans 8:28-29 (NKJV) “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” 1 John 5:11-15 (NKJV)
I also need to remember: “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus! Life’s trials will seem so small, when we see Christ!”
Clarity About Sorrow and Joy
For those who do not believe in God, sorrow is fundamental, and joy is superficial; for the Christian, joy is fundamental, and sorrow is superficial.” G.K. Chesterton
Do you remember this: “If you want joy, real joy, wonderful joy – let Jesus come into your heart! Your sin He’ll take away – His peace He’ll give to stay – let Jesus come into your heart!”?
“Perhaps saddest of all, we westerners have been taken in by the presuppositions and prejudices of our modern views of time, and nowhere is the modern church more worldly than in its breathless idolizing of such modern notions as change, relevance, innovation and being on the right side of history.” ~ OS Guinness (DPhil, Oxford), Fools Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion, 2015 p. 30.
How about Starting Every Day with Three Prayers?
First – “Father, thank You so much for giving us the greatest gift ever given – Your only begotten Son. Jesus, thank You for giving us Your life, Your own precious blood to pay the penalty for our sin (my sin!). Holy Spirit, thank You for empowering Jesus to go all the way for us – to endure the torture and death on the cross for me! Thank You for empowering the prophets and apostles to write infallible Scripture; thank You for giving us the Bible!”
Second – Lord, please fill me with Your Spirit and put me in the right place at the right time with the right words to honor you!” Watch what He does in you and through you – and get prepared to be “Most Richly Blessed!”
Third – “Lord, what would You have me do today? Please give me the wisdom to prioritize the use of my time.” Then focus on one task at a time, perform that task with joy, then move to the next.
- Monday, March 2, as I write this, I received a phone call from Lori Darnell, Reggie Thomas’ daughter, that her dad had a massive stroke last evening and slipped from this life into eternal peace and joy in the presence of our Lord Jesus. I’m certain that when we one day stand before the Throne set in Heaven to sing the song of the redeemed with those from every nation, tongue and tribe – there will be thousands of them near Reggie who came to say, “Thank you for giving to the Lord!” Perhaps they will move together before the throne to say, “Thank You, Jesus, for giving Your life that we might have life! Abundant life! Eternal life! Please pray for our Comforter to hold Esther, Lori and all the rest of Reggie’s family in His loving arms as they miss him until the glorious Day when we see him again in Forever Land!
I’m so thankful for the fact that we put a picture of Reggie & Esther on the last page of our February prayer letter. Also, I want to share with you an excerpt from our November 2017 prayer letter where I quoted from a letter I had written to Victor & Evelyn Knowles.
“Thank you for sharing Reggie’s amazing record of ministry on the front page of your September issue. What a joy and honor for us to also partner with Reggie. And it was at your 5th year “convocation” in Joplin that Della and I ate breakfast with Reggie and began to get acquainted personally. Then he opened the door to us for what has become our most exciting ministry – Overseas Outreach.”
2. Please pray for those in the devastated region of tornado alley in Tennessee – comfort for the grieving and healing for the injured.
3. Praise God for answered prayer! Soon after I heard the reports of the powerful tornadoes, I started praying for rescue workers to be able to find people trapped in the rubble. Later I heard that Samaritan’s Purse workers were already boots on the ground and actively involved in the search and cleanup process. Then later came the wonderful news that first responders found and rescued a mother and her son who were trapped in the debris. Praise God!
4. Let’s pray for massive spiritual awakening in the USA!
5. Please pray for healing and protection concerning coronavirus and the flu, plus comfort for the grieving hearts of those whose loved ones have died.
6. Please pray for the funds to help those living in devastation along the war zone in east Ukraine, and funds for my trip to Texas to participate in a fossil dig at the Paluxy River plus some speaking appointments.
7. Please pray for wisdom for me about planning a mission trip to Ukraine and Germany this fall. Our mission account is diminishing.
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Joni Eareckson Tada testified that these ten words from a friend changed her life when she was so depressed that she wanted to die:
“God permits what He hates to accomplish that which He loves!”
Tribute to Georges & LaVerne Carillet
We first got acquainted with Georges and LaVerne Carillet in the early 1970’s when we were living in southern Germany while serving Alpine Christian Mission and Georges became the director of Haus Edelweis near Vienna, Austria. Haus Edelweis was the TCM launch pad for widespread outreach into the Iron Curtain nations. Later the Carillets moved to Papua New Guinea because he became the director of Pioneer Bible Translators in that area. Georges told me a few years ago that his heart for outreach into the Soviet nations had continued, so he accepted the challenge and opportunity to plant and build Crimean American College in Simferopol in the late 1990’s. In that position, God used him to reach many students for Christ and train them to reach others. For example, Natasha Reimer, who is now director of Mulberry International (which reaches out to multitudes of destitute families and orphans in and near the war zone on the east side of Ukraine).
Also, Georges helped mentor Sergei Golovin, who was still young in his faith at that time. Georges launched the “Man and the Christian Worldview” symposiums and conferences as an outreach to the intellectuals of the Former Soviet Union Nations and recruited Sergei as his right-hand man. Sergei invited me to come as a presenter for the symposium in May of 2001 – which opened the door to a long and fruitful ministry partnership for Ukraine and other Former Soviet Union nations. I’m very grateful to Georges and Sergei for allowing me to continue coming as a presenter, even though I do not have the educational credentials that most of the presenters had.
LaVerne has served as Georges’ faithful co-worker, hostess for many guests, and his prayer partner. She also served a very important role in persuading John Murphy not to give up and go home to the U.S.A. when he felt discouraged with his outreach mission to Crimean Tatar people (who are traditionally Islamic). The breakthrough conversions came shortly thereafter. Also, John taught Christian Evidence classes at Crimean American College and had a strong influence in winning Lena Osipchuk to Christ – even though she was an atheist and youth worker for the Communist Party when she first came to C.A.C. When I arrived in Crimea in 2001, Lena was using her musical talent on the worship team for Simferopol Christian Church. The next year, she was designated as my interpreter for the symposium. John Murphy and his Crimean wife, Ira, are serving Christ by church planting in Odessa, Ukraine – and they are also ministry partners for our Overseas Outreach ministry.
LaVerne now has a debilitating disease requiring constant care – and Georges is her primary caregiver. They moved to Florida when Russia took over the Crimean Peninsula, but Georges still makes many short-term mission trips to Ukraine and other locations. He is praying for a few other good caregivers for LaVerne in order to be able make six short-term trips this year.