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The late Amy Carmichael, missionary to India, once wrote, “There are no shortcuts to holiness.”  She is right, but sometimes I wish there were shortcuts.  For example, wouldn’t it be nice if there were, “three steps to holiness”, or if there was a holiness pill you could take and instantly become “Super-Christian”!  But, as you know, there exists no such thing.

Only God can make you holy.  Only the Holy Spirit can make you more like Jesus.  You and I cannot live the Christian life in our own ability, but Jesus can live His life in us and through us.  Holiness isn’t a formula to follow or a state of moral perfection that we can create.  It is the life-long, daily process of the Holy Spirit making you more like Jesus.  The Holy Spirit transforms us more and more into the image, the likeness of Jesus Christ, and that takes time.  The Divine Sculptor, the Holy Spirit, takes the hammer and chisel of the Word of God and chips away everything in our lives that doesn’t look like Jesus.  We must have the desire and we must daily choose this separation from the world and the flesh and separation unto the Lord, but even the desire must come from the Lord.  The Apostle Paul wrote, “…for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:13)

Everyday you and I must choose death to self.  For a life of holiness, it is self on the cross and Christ on the throne of our hearts.  We choose the resurrection life of Jesus as our own.  The Risen Christ in us is our hope of glory and our only hope of holiness.

As I stated earlier, this takes time.  Satan would love for you to get discouraged and give up.  He would love for you to try to find a shortcut.  God, however, is not growing a squash out of your life; He desires to grow us into, “trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:3)

There are no shortcuts on the Highway of Holiness.  It is a journey of walking with Jesus and walking in newness of life, His Life, everyday.  It is the road that you and I need to be traveling on.

In Christ’s service,

Allen

 

Romania 2014

We want to thank all of you for your prayers during our recent mission trip to Romania.  God is so amazing.  He answered every prayer for our trip.  The weather was the best we have ever experienced in Romania.  There were no problems with our flights, and everyone stayed healthy while we were there. Most importantly, the Lord blessed with many opportunities for ministry and for sharing the Gospel.  Everyone on the team contributed in helpful ways.  Because of your prayers and gifts, we were able to:

-Provide several hundred Bibles and hundreds of Gospel tracts

-Share the Gospel with over 700 people in the clinics and evangelistic services

-Leave much needed vitamins, antibiotics and other supplies at the House of Hope

-Provide all 24 children at the Houses of Hope with winter coats and two pairs of shoes

-See 50 people pray to receive Christ!

We were able to have a medical clinic in three different villages.  In these same villages, we held evangelistic services at night.  On Thursday, Chad Ward, pastor of Forest Hill Baptist in Linden, was able to go with Pastor Mihai and speak to a high school class at a state school in Satu Mare.  Chad was able to talk with the students on a variety of Bible related subjects and to share the Gospel.

On Friday, in the village of Tataresti, we had an unexpected opportunity for children’s ministry during the medical clinic.  School was out that day and about seventeen children spent most of their time outside the church with some of our team.  They played soccer and other games and we were able to feed them lunch.  The Gospel was also shared with them.  You could tell that several of these children were physically hungry and also hungry for someone to love them.  What a blessing it was to minister to them.

Saturday we spent several hours at the House of Hope #2.  While the rest of us spent time playing with the children, Dr. Eric Harding and his wife, Katherine, gave the children flu shots and an examination.  As I stated earlier, we were also able to leave medicine and a generous financial gift for the Houses of Hope.

Our translators, as always, were incredible.  We thank God for these young people who love Him and the people of their country.  They worked tirelessly alongside of us all week.

I must share with you one story of a young lady who worked with our team during the week.  She grew up in another religion and we were able to sow seeds of the Gospel in her life all week.  She observed us closely and we knew that all week she was counting the cost.  During the Sunday morning service at Bethel Baptist, she indicated that she prayed to receive Christ.  After the service, I talked with her to see if she had any questions.  Earlier in the week I talked with her about Jesus being the only door to Heaven and that she must go through Him for forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life.  All week as various team members shared with her and expressed God’s love toward her, she said she felt that God was drawing her closer.  So I asked her if she had walked through the door.  She said, “Yes, and He was there.”  Praise the Lord!  Testimonies like hers are what it is all about and you, dear partner in this ministry, were a vital part of her story.

In preparation for this trip we read and prayed over some of the passages in the Gospels that talked about Jesus and His disciples going from village to village preaching the Gospel, having compassion on the people, and healing the sick.  What a privilege it is to be a part of His Great Commission.  Those of you who gave and prayed were also on this team.  God answered your prayers and multiplied your gifts for His glory.  We could never thank Him or you enough.  So once again we say along with the psalmist, “And blessed be His glorious name forever!  And let the whole earth be filled with His glory, Amen and Amen!” (Psalm 72:19)

 

Mild, Medium, or Hot?

Mild, Medium, or Hot?  These are the usual choices you and I have when purchasing or ordering certain brands of salsa.  When it comes to the degree of passion we have for the Lord, we also have a choice, but choose wisely.

Too many Christians choose to be mild.  Too many worship services are mild.  Mild is safe, mild is tame, mild is, well… mild.  We should want our lives and our passion for Christ and for the lost to be flaming, set your world on fire, hot for the Lord.  We get passionate about sports, passionate about food and our favorite places to eat, passionate about our children and grandchildren, and so many other things in this life.  I believe there are actually many people who are waiting for those of us who know the Lord to get passionate about Him!  Unfortunately, there are some within the church who prefer mild.

David’s wife, Michal, was offended when David unashamedly worshiped and praised God with all his might as the Ark of the Covenant was being returned to its’ rightful place.  Apparently, she was embarrassed by David’s passionate worship of God and so, she rebuked him.  Basically, David said to her, “Sweetheart, you think what you saw today bothered you, I’ve got news for you, it’s going to get worse.  I’m going to praise God even more!”  Michal was bitter and sadly, the Bible records that she had no children.

How true of those who are mild and medium for the Lord; they bear no harvest for Christ.  Friend, ask the Lord to keep you on fire for Him everyday of your life.  Love Him, worship Him, live for Him, and serve Him with all your heart and might.

In Christ’s service,

Allen

The Sunday morning message challenged the congregation to realize there really is a way that each one of  you can serve the Lord.  Not everyone is called to be a pastor, a missionary, a Bible teacher, a soloist, or a worship leader, but we need to realize there is at least one thing we can do to serve Jesus and others.

I gave the invitation and, as always, invited people to come to faith and trust in Christ.  As a part of the invitation and decision time, I also invited all who were led to come and pray and ask the Lord to show them how they could serve Him.  Almost immediately, a young lady in her twenties came forward and asked me to pray with her.  She said to me, “Bro. Allen, I want to do something to serve the Lord, but I don’t know what it could be?”  We prayed together and I told her that I would think about it and pray about it and that she needed to do the same.  We would see how the Lord would lead.

As I thought about Toni’s question and prayed for her, the Lord gave me an idea.  I purchased the necessary items she would need and headed to her house to explain my idea.  I knew that Toni had an electric typewriter.  (This was before the days of personal computers).  I gave her several boxes of various themed greeting cards that were blank on the inside.  I asked her if she would begin a ministry of sending get-well cards, sympathy cards, and other types of cards to our members as they had need.  She was so excited!  Now she had a way that she could serve the Lord.  You see, there is something that I haven’t told you yet about Toni.  Toni has Cerebral Palsy.  She could only type those messages one slow, painstakingly patient keystroke at a time.  But type she did.  Can you imagine the blessing it was for people to receive those cards of encouragement and then realize that Toni had typed that personal message for them?

Toni has Cerebral Palsy, but she did not use it as an excuse for not serving the Lord and being a blessing to others.  Perhaps you need to quit making excuses and instead, start asking God to show you how He can use you for His glory.  Ask Him.  He will show you.  What are you waiting for?

In Christ’s service,

Allen

 

Pressed Olives-Pure Oil

In Exodus 27, as the Lord gave Moses instructions for the construction and worship of the Tabernacle, He told Moses to, “command the children of Israel that they bring… pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually.”  This oil was to be used for the Menorah, which was placed inside the Tabernacle.  The oil was obtained  by pressing or beating the olives.  One commentary states that this yielded a grade of olive oil that was clear, colorless, and gave off much less smoke than the regular oil that was sometimes used.  In other words, it burned brighter.

Not many of use would choose the press for ourselves, but from time to time God will place us in His press in order to squeeze more and more of the world and self out of us.  We should desire to be emptied of self and filled with the Holy Spirit.  It will not always be a pleasant process, but the result is a grade of oil that is purer than before.  The more pure the oil, the brighter the lamp burns.

The psalmist prayed in the ninety-second Psalm that the Lord would anoint him with fresh oil.  May the oil of the Spirit fill us and may we burn brightly for the glory of God in a world that desperately needs to see His Light.

In Christ’s service,

Allen

The Smell of Ministry

For two summers our oldest daughter worked for a national student ministry that conducted youth conferences across the United States.  One of the conferences she helped with was being held on a college campus in east Tennessee.  Since most of the conferences she worked at were in more distant states, we decided to take the opportunity to visit her.

We arrived on a hot June afternoon just as the group leaders were coming back in from the afternoon recreation time.  As we were all cooling off in a nice air-conditioned room, one of the group leaders wiped the perspiration from her face and exclaimed, “Whew, I smell like ministry!”  I had never heard that phrase before, but I have often thought about it since that day.

Ministry is rarely carried out in a nice, clean, sanitized, sterile, or even safe environment.  Study and meditation may take place in seclusion, but for the most part, ministry happens where the Gospel intersects with flesh and blood, sweat, tears, and even dirt.  Jesus spent much time in the study of God’s Word, in prayer, and in worship at local synagogues, but He also met people where they were in everyday life.  Jesus was not afraid to touch the people to whom He ministered.  He wasn’t afraid to get His hands dirty.  You can be sure that Jesus smelled like ministry.

You may think your current situation stinks.  You may feel like you’re sweating it out dealing with difficult people and with menial duties.  In these moments you need to remember that when you serve the Lord with all your might and with a heart that is filled with a pure love for Him and for others; what is the smell of ministry to you is actually a sweet fragrance of worshipful service to the Lord.

Your fellow smelly servant,

Allen

While it is true there are many people talking about revival and praying for revival, there are also many who wonder how practical it is to be doing this.  They feel that those who constantly speak and write of revival are simply “out of touch from reality mystics” who are so revival-minded they are no earthly good.  Unfortunately, there are even pastors, church leaders, and denominational leaders who are of the mindset, “If it won’t put more people in the pews, or increase the offerings, or grow my church, why should I pursue it?”  Too many church leaders are looking for the latest, greatest program or idea that will help them “grow or revitalize their church.”  However, they want something that can be packaged, promoted, put into action, and if the truth be told, controlled.

One of the churches I served as pastor was located in a small town.  The town was not growing, but God began to work in a powerful way and in the first four years the Lord added three hundred people to the fellowship of our church.  A friend of mine who was a leader in his church in another town, called me and asked, “What program are you using?”  This is the mindset of so many in our churches.  There was no program.  Believe it or not, we did not even have a strong visitation/outreach ministry at the time.  What happened?  God happened.  For months, we sought the Lord in prayer. cleared the church calendar of all unnecessary events, and set aside a time to meet with Him.  Guess what?  He showed up!  In this blog I will not write of all the Lord did (it would take a small book), but He did what only He could do and our church was in a state of revival for months.  It changed everything, at least in the lives of those who truly surrendered to Him.

Still, there are those who think, “All this talk of something called “revival” is well and good, but I need something practical.  I need something practical to help our families, our young people, and those who are struggling with different issues in their lives.  I need something practical to grow my church.  Sitting around praying for something called revival just does not seem very practical.”

Do you think the children of Israel thought it was practical when Joshua said, “I know the Jordan River is overflowing its banks, but the priests are going to take the Ark, step into the water, stand there, then God is going to part the river and all of us are going to cross over to the Promised Land on the other side.”?  What do you imagine some of them thought when he told them about God’s battle plan for Jericho?  “We’re going to do what!?!”  How practical did that sound?  How practical did it seem when Jesus said, “Hand me that basket of fish and bread and watch me feed this crowd.”?

Revival is not something we can package, promote or control.  However, based on revival testimonies of the past, and on what I have been blessed to experience myself, when we truly meet God’s conditions He lays out in 2 Chronicles 7:14; God keeps His promises.  In a short period of time, when God visited His people in His reviving presence and power, I have seen the Lord save lost people who have been prayed for for years.  I have seen Him restore the backslidden.  I have seen God deliver drug addicts and alcoholics from their bondage, heal broken marriages and make them stronger than ever, restore relationships between parents and their children, restore relationships between church members, set people free from bitterness, enable people to forgive others, and so much more.  I have seen Him draw people to Himself in such a real and tangible way that a church would be packed out with people waiting to see what God would do next.  How practical is that?

At the same time, however, let me say that we should not expect God to send revival our way if we are not truly seeking Him, turning from our wicked ways, and obeying what He has already told us to do.  We cannot disregard and disobey His commands that He has given individuals and churches and honestly ask Him to revive us.  The church that is not obeying the Great Commission, loving their community, and working to reach their community for Christ should not expect the Lord to send revival as a cure-all.  There is a part that God has called us to do.  There are conditions that He is waiting for us to meet.  We are to humble ourselves, confess, repent, seek Him, trust Him, believe Him, and wait on Him to do what only He can do.  When God does bless us with His reviving presence; it is one of the most powerful and practical things that can ever happen in our lives and in our churches.

Practically yours,

Allen

 

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