Wednesday, December 23, 2009


A few months ago "Roberto" arrived at my office for a pastoral conference.   He had been attending our church for a few weeks.  He told me that he that a few weeks prior to attending "El Oasis" he had had a dream where God had guided him to our church.  He had never been to our church and was surprised that the church he had seen in his dream was "just like" our church. (We know of no other "basement" church in Lima.  We know of no other church named "El Oasis de Esperanza" in Lima).  Over the next couple of hours he told me of a 15 year journey investigating numerous philosophies, religions and cults, as he sought to find TRUTH. 
He seemed like he had tried everything.  At end of each detour the result was the same, confusion and dissatisfaction.  At the end of our meeting he excitedly told me how he had finally given his life to Christ and accepted Jesus' work on the cross as the only path to salvation.  For the first time in his life he felt satisfied.  His search was over.  But a new journey had just began...

Each week I meet with "Roberto" as we work together to purge his life of the LIES that he had encountered in his pligrimage to TRUTH.  Once again his experiences have  taught me that Satan has been working "overtime" to seduce and enslave mankind.  Once again, I have learned that the power of his LIES is real.  Now we are working to flood his life with God's Word and with TRUTH in hopes that this will begin to dilute the falsehoods he has accepted over time.  This is a long process, but his smiles of joy motivate me to continue on.  The one thing he often tells me is how satisfying it is to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and to finally know the TRUTH. Once again, I have learned that the power of God's love and God's truth is much greater and more powerful than anything the enemy has to offer us. 

Monday, October 19, 2009

Evangelism 101-Find a way to share Jesus

In August we held 3 Evangelism Training sessions for members of our church, El Oasis.  One of the new church board members had received this portfolio and decided start this important ministry.  At the end of the 3rd week the students looked for practical ways to put into practice what they had learned over the previous weeks.  They were not satisfied with just learning "how" to share their faith.  They wanted to actually "do" something!

Three ministry teams were formed:
1.  Visitation--Each week visitors and people who have not attended church services will receive a phone call or a home visit by members of this team.
2.  Distribution of Literature--Every couple of weeks this team will pass out flyers and tracts in front of the church.  Hundreds of people pass by our church facilities each day and know nothing about El Oasis.  If someone wants to talk, this group is prepared to share the "good news" of Jesus Christ.
3.  Small group studies and events-These team members are using bible studies or special materials such as the book,  The Purpose Driven Life and the movie, Fireproof to share the Lord's love with friends, neighbors and relatives.

Over the next several months we hope to see many lives transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Our ultimate goal is to make "disciples."  Extending the Kingdom of God is not complete until new believers are instructed and incorporated into the local church.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Really Studying God's Word

Since returning to Peru last year we decided to redo our adult discipleship program.    In most churches the majority of the adult "bible" courses are either a study of systematic theology which utilizes "proof texting" to show where certain doctrines are found in the Bible or studies of biblically related topics normally included in the titles of the most popular books in the nearest Christian bookstore.  It is rare to see an entire biblical book being studied.  Few set out to read the entire Bible or the entire New Testament in one year.  While both doctrinal and topical studies have an important role in the Christian diet, they cannot replace familiarity and understanding of the actual biblical text.  

Now our adult "School of the Bible" includes the following quarterly studies:
--Your New Life Christ (for New Believers) --The Purpose Filled Life
--The 10 Commandments --New Testament Survey
--Old Testament Survey
--Genesis --Exodus --Luke
--Acts --Romans --Galatians/Efesians

Throughout the year we also offer practical studies on the following topics:
--Marriage --The family --Money
--The Holy Spirit --Personal Evangelism
--Missions --Inner Healing
--Praise & Worship --Prayer

We will eventually have a School of Leadership for those who complete the earlier studies.  Each year we want to emphasize that each believer should read a large portion of the Bible during their devotional time each day.  

Using this program we hope to see believers mature quickly in their daily walk with Jesus Christ.  People are hungry for God's Word.  We need to make sure this is what they are being fed in the local church. 

Monday, June 15, 2009

New Wine

In Matthew 9 Jesus used the "wineskin" illustration to help his hearers understand a very important truth about the gospel.  Put simply, one doesn't put new wine in an old wineskin because the old wineskin can't contain it.  It will very quickly begin to crack and leak.  And the new wine is lost.  Jesus' coming and his message could not be contained by the old "wineskin" of Judaism.   The emphasis on forgiveness and transformation made possible by His death and resurrection were too much for the legalism of the Pharisees.  If the precious "new wine" of the gospel was to be saved, then a new "wineskin" would have to be created.  The church became this new "wineskin."

The principle to be learned from this is the message of the gospel must be packaged in a way that preserves its integrity and makes it relevant to those who hear it.  The packaging "wineskin" can be modified, changed or even replaced, but the "new wine" message of salvation cannot.  In recent years this principle has been freely used to restructure how we "do church." Missionaries who return from the field for itineration are normally surprised and at times shocked by these changes, as the church works hard to find new methods (new wineskins) to connect the message(new wine) with the needs of a rapidly changing society. 

While understanding and application of this truth has given the church strength to move forward in very difficult circumstances, there can still be problems when a good is pushed to an extreme.  In this case there is a danger that method (wineskin) can become message (the new wine).  One example is the lack of "pentecost" in the pentecostal church.   The baptism in the Holy Spirit and the operation of spiritual gifts just doesn't "fit" well with new versions of "doing church."  Many now believe it will offend and confuse people.  Others see it as awkward and embarrassing.  In most pentecostal churches it is still a part of the doctrine, but no longer a part of the practice.  It just doesn't work well in the church services.  Some are now questioning whether the pentecostal experience is important for a relevant "new wineskin" church.  When this happens, the "wineskin" becomes the message and the "new wine" is lost.

It is difficult to maintain a pentecostal emphasis in the midst of a society dominated by science and technology.  But it is not impossible.  Adults and young people in every cultural and in every society continue to crave an authentic experience with the supernatural.  Rather than sacrifice the "new wine," the church must be inspired to create "new wineskins" to keep the power of the Holy Spirit in its ministries and programs.  We strive to do this in El Oasis de Esperanza.  It is not easy.  We are constantly challenged to find new ways of doing this. It is still exciting to see people baptized in the Holy Spirit and flowing in the gifts of the Spirit.  At this point belief and experience join hands to equip the believer for the tremendous challenges of living life victoriously and sharing their faith courageously.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Plan "G"

I believe I have heard God speak to me many times. When He has spoken, He has often shown me where I am to go with my life and ministry.  I see the goal clearly.  I know my destiny at least for the next chapter of my life.  

The problem is I really don't know how to get there or how long it will take.  So immediately my mind begins to form plans to reach this goal.  I use reason and logic to help me.  I draw on past experiences.  I finally arrive at the best plan, Plan "A," and I begin to put it into action. God has equipped us the ability to do this and He wants us to use what He has given us.  

However, not long after forming Plan "A," it has to be modified.  It is not working as expected. It is difficult to predict all of the factors that will eventually influence the plan.  Plan "B" has to be formulated with the Holy Spirit's help.  In fact I've never arrived at any goal for my life or ministry using the "original" plan.  After a series of changes, Plan "G" (plan God) finally emerges.  Sometimes it is very different from Plan "A," but it is always better.

This has certainly been the case with our ministry here in Peru and with our vision for El Oasis. In fact I'm not even sure that we have arrived at Plan "G" yet.  We know were we are going. We are getting closer, but we are still adjusting the plan.

This is a hard lesson to learn, especially as parents.  As our children move into adulthood, plans must be adjusted.  Their destiny may be somewhat clear, but the pathway to this destiny may be very cloudy.  We have to understand that Plan "A" will need to be changed many times.  Our job is to help them make the adjustments.  Our job is to help them find Plan "G".  It is not easy. It may take lots of prayer and tears.  But with God's help we will get there and we will discover that His way was much better. 

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Faith Requires Risk

It dawned on me the other day that in leading El Oasis forward in our building program, I have taken many risks.  People will not give sacrificially to something unless they have captured a vision of the future.  They accept challenges when they can catch a small glimpse of what they can potentially accomplish to change their world.  A good leader, spiritual or otherwise, must carefully paint this picture with just enough detail to gain the support and enthusiasm of those who follow him or her.  

This is probably the reason why President Obama defeated McCain.  His speeches were filled with promises and retoric that won over the hearts of the American people.  His words created a snapshot of the future that voters could not resist.  He took a huge risk that it will all work out according to his calculations.  Americans put their faith in him.  Only time will tell if their faith was placed in vain or not.

Did I do the same with El Oasis?  Is the vision I presented to the congregation really a match for what God has planned for this church?  God cannot fail, nor can He lie.  But maybe I embellished the future too much in my own enthusiasm to see people start giving to the building project.  Will the Lord truly do all of the things I said in His name?  Did I really hear from God or am I just concerned about my legacy?  Seldom do we ask such honest questions. I find it unsettling as well. However,  I must ask these questions as we wait for the Lord to respond to our need.  I need to know He has spoken.  I need to know He will do this even though our circumstances say it is impossible to buy such expensive land and build such a large building.  We have risked much. Our personal reputation is on the line.  Our ministry is on the line.  People in the USA and people in Peru have believed in us and in the vision that we shared with them.  

And yet, I am convinced that the essence of faith requires such risk.  There is always a moment when we must believe even when we cannot see.  There is always a point when must act even when we do not know how or when He will respond.  Faith without risk is not really faith at all. Only time will reveal that we have not placed our faith in vain.