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Change

For most of us, the older we get, the less we tend to like change.  We get used to things the way they are, we get comfortable, and then–“Boom!”–change.  Change can come in all shapes and in all sizes.  Sometimes we see it coming on the horizon and sometimes it sneaks up from behind.  Change can happen in every area of our lives.  There can be changes in our health, our financial status, our job, and in our relationships.  Sometimes there are changes in the way that God calls us to serve Him.  Sometimes these changes in life even involve moving to a different house, or town, or state, or even a different country.

One reason why the subject of change is on my mind is because I am writing this post in a house that is filling up with boxes, ready to be moved to another town in just a few more days.  Also, there have been several people who have recently talked with me about changes in life they are now facing.  Change can be intimidating.  Change can be overwhelming.  Change can be awesome and exciting!

When we know the Lord, we do not have to face the changes of life alone.  In thinking about change, I cannot help but remember the conversation Jesus had with His disciples in John 14-16.  For three years, Jesus had been the very center of the disciples’ lives.  He had become their everything.  Now, He tells them that He is about to leave them. Hearing about this change shakes them to the core.

I want to encourage you to read John 14-16 again, this time, in the context of change.  Look at all that Jesus promised His disciples and remember that He makes these same precious and powerful promises to you.  He promised that even in the midst of change we can know His peace, His comfort, His presence now within us (the Holy Spirit), His purpose for us (to bear much fruit), His love, His joy, His truth, His power, His victory, and so much more!

God loves us too much to leave us in a comfort zone for too long.  That comfort zone can become a rut and as Vance Havner use to say, “A rut is a grave with the ends kicked out.”  That’s no place for a child of God to remain.

There are three more truths I want us to remember before I wrap this up and get back to packing.  The first truth is this, whenever we face change or we are trying to discern God’s leading in our lives, remember, we are not following a plan, we are following a Person, the Lord Jesus.  Don’t be so caught up in trying to figure out the plan or sticking to your plan that you take your eyes off the Person we are supposed to be following.  Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, The Author and Finisher of our faith.  If you stay more focused on the plan instead of the Person, you may miss where Jesus is wanting to lead you.  Secondly, even when the changes of life first appear in a negative way, the Jesus of John 16:33 is also the Jesus of Romans 8:28.  God can take every situation of life and when we are fully surrendered to Him and His purposes; He can use it for our good and for His glory.

Finally, the Bible tells us that, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed-in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed.”(1 Cor. 15:51-52)  I don’t know about you, but that is one change that I am definitely looking forward to!  Maranatha!

In Christ’s service

Allen

 

The Call

Three years ago, the Lord led Lisa and I to step out on faith and go full-time with the work of the AMEN Ministry.  I have absolutely loved these three years.  God has blessed, He has kept all of His promises, and I also feel like I have been in His seminary.  He has taught us much about Himself and the work of His Kingdom.

During these three years, I have had several churches talk to me about the possibility of being their pastor.  I basically told them all the same thing, “I am honored that you would consider me, but we are doing what we are supposed to be doing.”  In January of 2014, a pastor search committee contacted me and we did not feel led to talk with them.  From time to time, they would contact me again to see if there was any interest.  A few weeks before our November trip to Romania, they called again.  At this time I told them that I would meet with them after our mission trip.

When we met I shared with them that I still wanted to do the work of the AMEN Ministry.  What they said next got my attention.  They told me that one of the reasons they contacted us was because of the AMEN Ministry.  After two months of praying and seeking the Lord, He confirmed to us that this was His call.

On February 8, we were invited to The Fellowship, a Southern Baptist church in Albertville, Alabama.  The Sunday morning service was one of the most Spirit-filled times of worship we have ever experienced.  The church voted unanimously to call us and we accepted.  We begin serving there on March 15.

One of the reasons that this was a year-long journey was because, in my heart and mind, we were going to serve the Lord full-time with the AMEN Ministry for the rest of our lives.  The good news is, we still are!  We are still going to do the work of evangelism, missions, and spiritual awakening, but now we will do it in the context of our ministry at The Fellowship.  I have two overseas trips already planned for this year.  We are still supporting pastors overseas, encouraging them, and also helping with the Houses of Hope Children’s Home in Romania.  We need your prayers and your financial partnership as much as ever before.   We are praying that our friends and partners will understand this and continue to stand with us.  The work of the AMEN Ministry goes on by the grace of God.

When we pray for God’s will and seek His leading, we must remember, we are not following a plan, we are following a Person.  If I keep my eyes on a plan, I may miss where the Person, the Lord, wants to lead me.  That’s one reason why we must stay close to Him and keep our eyes on Him.  His call is to serve Him however He chooses.  It is His call and His Kingdom, not ours.

We ask for your prayers as we begin this time of transition.  God is good and His will, His plans for us, and His call on our lives is perfect.  We love you all and we thank God for you as you continue to love us, pray for us, and stand with us for His glory.

In Christ’s service,

Allen & Lisa

Soon

Sometimes when a believer tries to share with others about the imminent return of Christ and how that everything going on in the world is pointing to the nearness of the Day; we are often met with criticism, mockery, and scorn.  When you mention the signs of the season of His return given by Jesus Himself and the Apostle Paul, the response from others can range from doubt to outright vitriol.

People will say that we have always had these things going on in our world.  They will say that we have always had wars and rumors of war, disease, natural disasters, and wickedness in the hearts of men.  Yes, we have, but Jesus taught that the closer we get to His return these things will be happening simultaneously and with increasing intensity and frequency, like labor pains.  As we look around the world today, are we seeing the beginning of the birth pains?

Others will say that we Christians have been talking about the return of Jesus for two thousand years, so where is He?  Where is the fulfillment of the promise of His return?  Even in the first century A.D. the doubters were already asking these questions.  Peter reminds us in his second epistle that the Lord is not slack concerning His promise.  He reminds us that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as one day.  So when you think about it, on God’s calendar, Jesus has only been away for two days.  Hopefully that gives the doubters a new perspective!

God keeps all of His promises.  The God who kept all of His promises concerning the first coming of Jesus to this earth is the same God who will keep all of His promises related to the second coming of Jesus.  So we can, with full assurance, sing along with the late Andrae’ Crouch, “Soon and very soon we are going to see the King.  Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!  We are going to see the King!”

Soon, when the King returns, there will be no more war or terrorism.  Soon and very soon, when the King returns, there will be no more famine or disease or suffering or death.  Soon, when Jesus reigns, children will no longer be abused and sold into slavery.  We will see our loved ones who have died in Christ and we will see our King and Lord and Savior face to face.  What a day that will be!

But while we wait, in this age between the crosses and the crowns, we are not called to sit back, wait on Jesus, and let the world go to hell.  He has called us to love Him and to serve Him faithfully with our all.  He has called us to be salt and light in this world that desperately needs Him.

Soon could be today.  Soon could be ten years from now or one hundred years from now.  But when Jesus comes back to this earth, and He will, will He find you faithful?

One of my wife’s favorite movies is, “The Shop Around the Corner” starring Jimmy Stewart.  If you have never seen this great old film, a more modern adaptation is the movie, “You’ve Got Mail”, with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

One of the reasons we like the Jimmy Stewart version is because it is set in Budapest in the 1930’s.  Every time we take a mission team to Romania, we fly in and out of Budapest, Hungary.  The day before we head home, we take each group to Budapest for a time of sight-seeing and it is always a good time of fellowship.  Budapest is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and everyone enjoys our time there.

Several years ago, while walking around the Castle Hill district of Budapest, Lisa and I discovered a unique little shop around the corner from Saint Matthias Church.  To reach this particular shop, you have to walk through an archway that leads to a large courtyard that is lined with shops and cafes.  After you walk through the archway, you almost immediately turn to the left and walk through an ancient looking door that leads to a downward winding stairway.  At the bottom of the stairway you find yourself in a tiny shop that is filled with antiques of all kinds.  There is hardly enough room to walk around.  Shelves and display cases are filled with antique jewelry, coins, military medals, books, and hundreds of other items.  Some of the items may be a few decades old, while others may have been made several hundred years ago.

The shop is managed by a young man who oversees the business for his father.  One of the things that has always amazed me is that no matter what item you pick up and ask about, the son knows the story behind every single piece.  I have always enjoyed it when he tells me the stories behind the treasures.  He knows the story behind each item because his father sends him all over the country to redeem them.  Some of the things are in a rough condition when he purchases them.  However, once in his shop, they are cleaned and put on display so that others might enjoy their beauty and worth.

In some ways, this is our story.  The Father sent His Son to redeem us.  Jesus, however, did not redeem us with gold or silver or with the corruptible things of this world, but with His own precious blood. ( 1 Peter 1:18-19)  We are His trophies of grace.  You and I are, in a sense, on display before a lost and dying world.  The world needs to see what the Lord can do in a life that has been transformed by the Master’s hands.

You and I are not hidden away in a little shop, but as Paul wrote, “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor.  Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor; sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.” (2 Timothy 2:20-21)

Jesus knows our story and He loves us anyway.  He purchased us anyway.  He placed us in His great house when He cleansed us from our sins.  He has made us His treasure and His trophies of grace, not to remain on a shelf, but to be a vessels of honor, sanctified, useful for His purposes and glory, and prepared for every good work that He chooses for us.  By His grace, may we be vessels of honor that are a blessing to others and that bring honor and glory to the One who redeemed us.

In Christ’s service,

Allen

 

Why He Came

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus this Christmas season, let us remember why He came and how that ties in with our ministry to others.  First and foremost, Jesus came to save us.  The angel told Joseph that Mary would, “bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21)  He was born so that He could die.  Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would bear our griefs and carry our sorrows.  He would be wounded for our transgressions and bruised (crushed) for our iniquities.  Our iniquities were laid on Him and by His wounds we are healed. Jesus died on the cross and rose again so that we could be forgiven and be saved.  You and I have the glorious privilege of proclaiming this Good News all throughout the year, not just at Christmas.

Also, in one of His first public acts of ministry, one Sabbath day Jesus read from the book of Isaiah. He read from the passage we know as the sixty-first chapter.  This is part of the passage from which He read:

   “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good  tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.”

Jesus declared that day that He is the fulfillment of this Messianic text.  You and I, however, as His servants on this earth have the honor, the responsibility, and the calling to minister to others in His name.  There are many things that we can do and that we do under the banner of ministry.  As you read through the verses from Isaiah 61, ask yourself if your service for the Lord includes any of the things mentioned above.  What about your church?  Does your church have the anointing of the Holy Spirit upon it?  Is your church truly preaching the Gospel?  Is your church seeking to heal the brokenhearted, is it proclaiming liberty to the captives, and the other things Jesus touched upon?

As we come to the end of one year and the beginning of a new one, let us thank the Lord for giving us the honor of serving Him and serving others in His name.  Let us make sure, by His grace, that our ministry to others next year and in the years to come, will be a true continuation of the ministry for which He came.

Merry Christmas and God Bless,

Allen & Lisa

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)

 

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