Julie

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Sometimes I am concerned for my granddaughters growing up in secular Europe.

So today I listened carefully as my 12 year old Belgian granddaughter, Julie, a professed Christian, following the ways of the Lord, talked about her daily life as we hiked together through the mountains of the Ardennes.

“About a year ago I thought I had found a new friend from my street. She was my age, fun to be with and interested in the same things. But within days I learned that she was quite different in certain respects, which troubled me.

She resisted what her parents asked of her, demanded her own way of them and did not hesitate to lie. She said for example, that she has a brother and a horse, neither of which are true. Or when I wore my bicycle helmet because my parents instructed me to, she would not wear her helmet even though her parents had asked her to do the same.

One day she asked me to lie for her to her parents. I immediately responded, ‘you can lie if you wish but I will not lie for you or with you.’ Then I walked away from her.

Over the next month I saw little of her but I prayed daily for her. One day she invited me to her birthday party. Since that time we have become very close. She no longer lies about anything and she is more respectful of her parents. In fact her parents said to her, “‘We are glad Julie is your friend.’

She is now my very best friend and I know she will become a Christian because I am praying for her and talking with her about my faith in Jesus.”

As I listened I prayed, “O Lord, help me to be as clear about my identity in Christ and my mission to love people, yet shape the culture around me through gracious truth, even as this young child.”

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Feet on the Street

On Sunday I preached at Feet On The Street, a church in Reading, PA, experiencing a youth revival, pastored by Daryl and Rebecca Zimmerman and founded by Daryl’s parents, Marv and Bev Zimmerman.

As I arose to preach I experienced the strange but clear word from Holy Spirit that I was to give my shoes away. Now it happened that I was wearing a new pair of shoes which I really liked and I was not looking to give them away. But when the Spirit speaks you either respond or you go into disobedience.

So I announced to the Congregation that I was giving my shoes away. It happened that my shoes were an exact fit for a striking young man in the front row, Jesus Diaz. I learned quickly that just two days before he had come to the pastor and they had agreed that he would step out in leading a new ministry to early teenagers in the congregation.

The gift of shoes became a powerful encouragement to the young man and to the congregation that God’s anointing was on Jesus for this new ministry and that God would guide his steps and bring great blessings to the community through this ministry.

I went home from ‘Feet On The Street’ in stocking feet but with a full heart. God is so amazing!

My Friend, Dr. Awad

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I was recently reflecting with my friend Dr. Fayez Awad about his 80 years of life. Dr. Awad grew up in a culture that at times discriminated against him because of his Christian faith. However the favor of the Lord was upon him and like Moses he was trained in the wisdom of Egypt and rose in honor to where as a highly skilled veterinarian he was selected to care for the pets of the Prime Minister of Egypt, Gamal Abdel Nasser.

As a young man Dr. Awad was called by God out of Egypt to live in the the United States. Here he established a successful veterinary practice in Elizabethtown, Pa where he and his wife Minerva raised their two children, John and Mary. Dr. Awad was sought after for his veterinary expertise by big city zoos because of his special knowledge in camel diseases. At the same time his clients in Elizabethtown and surrounding areas came to know him as a highly skilled diagnostician of small animal diseases and as being very effective in the medical and surgical care of their pets.

Dr Awad always proclaimed the goodness of God to his friends and clients. He would pray before performing surgery on the pets of his clients and commit the outcome into the hands of God.

As he and I shared together I suddenly had the thought,which I believe came from God, “Let us have a party to celebrate all that has God has done through your life and your ministry to people through your practice of veterinary medicine.”

Dr. Awad was a bit taken back by my suggestion but after some time to digest this thought he and his family came into agreement and began to plan for the party.

So on Saturday evening June 25, 2016 at 5pm, we had a party (one week after his birthday) at LifeGate Church, Elizabethtown, celebrating the 81 years of his life. Approximately 100 of Dr. Awads clients, family and friends gathered for the joyful celebration. The evening was filled with joy and laughter as we partook of Egyptian/American food and shared favorite stories of the years of Dr. Awad’s practice . It became apparent as the stores were shared that Dr. Awad’s life was not just about caring for animals but rather, caring for pets was Dr. Awad’s way of caring for people and showing them the love of the Father who cares about all of his creation, including the owners of the suffering pets.

Over the years Dr. Awad was not alway certain he was being understood because of his Egyptian accent, so he would end many of his explanations with “Do you follow me?”

So tonight I answer Dr. Awad: “ Yes, dear friend, we follow you. You are coming through loud and clear as an outstanding human being: outstanding in your skill and expertise, outstanding in integrity, outstanding in generosity and hospitality and outstanding in your demonstration of the love of God to a people you have come to call your own.

Thank you for coming to us out of Egypt and expressing the heart of the Father who could Himself be called an Immigrant in that he left the culture of heaven to come among us in the person of His son Jesus. And like you, He also asks repeatedly, “Do you follow Me?”

New Testament Fellowship Assembly

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Positioning himself on his knees in prayer, John Harris prophesied to the gathered New Testament Fellowship Assembly at LifeGate on Friday night, May 20th, “ ‘From this position my Church shall be elevated’ says the Lord.”

Vaughn Martin followed this word with a teaching from Isaiah chapter 6.. Uzziah, king of Judah, became very successful and in his success he arrogantly entered the temple to offer sacrifices and was stricken by God with leprosy. In the year that King Uzziah died, Isaiah found himself in a heavenly temple. He knew that as an unclean man in a holy temple he would suffer the same fate as King Uzziah. He would be killed. However the fire that could have killed him actually cleansed him. The Holy Spirit has been poured out as fire to cleanse us of our fear of man and our love of money. In the book of Acts, Peter, who at the crucifixion had been afraid of the words of a servant girl, was transformed by the fire of God to a boldness that confronted the nation with the gospel of the resurrected Jesus. And the early Christians were so cleansed by the fire of the Holy Spirit from their love of money that they sold everything that they had and gave it to the poor. May this Holy fire of the Holy Spirt baptize and cleanse us.

Alejandro Colendres followed with the word, “ When you look out your window into the world, ‘What do you see?” You see brokenness and despair and bondage and devastation. The next question is “What are you going to do about what you see out your window?” Yes, start in prayer and in allowing the fire of the Holy Spirit to cleanse you, but then ‘Rise Up and Do Something!” You must Do Something! Go into the streets and embrace people with the love and power of God.

In the final part of the service, Alejandro demonstrated his teaching by moving into the congregation with embraces and prayers and strong prophetic words. The Spirit of God came on the assembly as the apostles moved among the believers praying and prophesying under the power of the Holy Spirit. Hearts were mended, bodies were healed and prisoners were set free.

Sonya Pena and the worship team were like the angels crying “Holy is the Lord,” as the fire of God swept though the congregation.

Yes,” the Lord is Good. The Lord is Good and his mercy endures to each generation.” Blessed be the name of the Lord.

My Mother

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My mother, Iva, was 78 when she died of complications of diabetes. I had reflected, as she was weakening in her final weeks, that there were many things I had learned from my patients over the years about their lives that I did not know about my own mother. Even though I had wanted to have this conversation with her for years, there was something in me that resisted taking on an interviewer role with my mother. But I thought, “now or never” and I began the conversation.

“Mother, what was it like when you were a girl? What was your relationship with your father? What was your relationship with your mother? With your siblings? How did your father’s mental illness affect you?

What was the most difficult part of your life? What was the best part? What was it like having me as your son? What would you do differently about your life? What is it like for you now, facing death? Tell me about your relationship with Jesus.”

For hours she talked and I listened. I learned things I had never known about her. I came to understand my own life in a new way. I learned that her spiritual life had become alive for her in the later part of her life. She said it was like the Bible came alive to her.

At the end I leaned over her as she lay on the bed and kissed her goodby for the last time, grateful that God had given me such a wonderful mother and doubly grateful that I had come to know her heart even at this late hour.

I had wanted to be with her when she died but I was fulfilling a speaking engagement in the Lancaster area when I received the message that she had passed to her reward. I learned that in her final moments she suddenly roused herself and exclaimed, “I see angels and they are coming my way.” As eager as we were to have her stay, God was more eager to have her join Him.

I was able to release my mother with joy. I realized that part of the pain of parting is the “the unfinished conversations.” But we had finished our conversations for now.

I know we will have more to share when I see her again.

Dale Keener’s Homecoming

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My wife Ruth’s brother, Dale L. Keener, age 77, heard the final call this morning shortly after his morning prayer, “Holy Spirit, please lead, guide, and direct my steps today.”

And Jesus said,”Come on home, my faithful son.”

Dale was not only my brother-in-law he was my good friend and prayer partner. Ever since his time as a missionary in Ethiopia as a young man, he carried the world as well as his family in his heart. His greatest desire and prayer was to see all those God brought into his life, from family to neighbors to those he visited in prison, share heaven with him.

As one of his daughter’s said, “In Dale Keener’s home, there was always room for another at the table, always a place to stay.”

So, today, his work complete, Dale left unexpectedly for his long anticipated face-to-face meeting with his beloved Lord and Savior who has prepared an eternal place for him to stay.

Brussels Tragedy

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We praise God that our lives were forever impacted by Belgium when our son Vaughn married his lovely wife, Ilona, a native of Belgium, 20 years ago. They have raised their three daughters, Elisa, Ruby and Julie, to walk in faith in a very secular setting.

Today we are grateful that Vaughn’s family is safe but we grieve for the lives affected by the violence this morning in Brussels, a beautiful city often considered the capital of Europe. And we grieve for the impact this violence will have on the nation and all of Europe.

We pray that God will give great wisdom to Belgian leaders so that they will lead the nations in finding a life-giving way to respond to this devastating crisis.

“Pray … for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.”

1 Timothy 2:2-4 NLT

India (Part 8)

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Alex arranged for Marita and me to conduct today’s seminar attired in garments traditional for Kerala. Here I am attired in the dhoti, a rectangular piece of cloth wrapped around the waist at least twice and knotted at the waist(ours had velcro). It feels cool but you have to develop the knack and lack of inhibition involved in lifting your ‘skirt’ to facilitate your ease of walking.

Our seminar today was in a church of the Indian Pentecostal Church of God, the largest indigenous Pentecostal denomination in India. The language was Malayalam. Several of Alex’s relatives are ministers in this denomination. We were warmly received.

We left at 8:30 pm after the Wednesday evening service to travel approximately 2.5 hours over mountain roads to the Kochin airport for our 4:20 am departure for home on the Etihad airline.

We had a very productive trip. Thanks be to God. Marita and I are both eager to get home following this two week trip. (Marita and Todd’s 20th anniversary was the 16th)

 

India (Part 7)

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There are daily newspaper reports of attacks on churches across India. When the church complains there is often a ‘false charge’ filed against the pastor accusing him of “forced conversions” Consequently the church can expect little justice.

India has been known by the international community as a multicultural democracy. However the present administration by its silence appears to lend support to those who would desire to change India to a fully Hindu nation which would among other things ban the use of beef and restrict people to the religion of their ancestors,i. e. Hindu.

India (Part 6)

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Flew yesterday 1,500 miles from Delhi to southern India to city of Coimbatore.

Participated in a combined worship service of PTL India churches in the area. Language is not Hindi but Tamil.

I am always surprised how many people can be crowded into a small space if everyone sits on the floor-in this case over 300 passionate worshippers for a 3 hour service.

In these settings I ask myself, “What do I have to give to these wonderful believers, refined by the fires of persecution. Who am I that I should presume to have a message for them?”

Then I recall that I was not called to be a great preacher or a great expert. I was called in weakness to humbly serve my brothers and sisters with the word given to me, trusting Him to make it “strong” in the life of the believer.

A pastor came to me this morning and told me that because of intense persecution against his church he has found it difficult to keep moving forward. But this morning the Lord spoke to him and he now sees a way forward in spite of the persecution. We praised the Lord together and I assured him I and others would be in prayer for him.

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