The Power of God’s Word

The Bible is unlike any other book for many reasons.  God’s Word is the only book inspired by the Holy Spirit.  It is the only book that God has promised to use to change lives.

Recently one of our families passed on this letter from a missionary they support.  It is a powerful story of God at work.  I hope you enjoy it!

The Day Jesus Miraculously Stopped a Suicide Bomber

I wish I could divulge the location where it happened, but security is too tight.  Lives would be endangered.  Let’s just say you would be astonished!

A “JESUS” film team had taken a courageous step, going into a village in a dangerous, mountainous area.  They brought a DVD of “JESUS.”  The team gathered about 250 people into a community hall.  They plugged a small DVD player into a television already there and closed the windows for secrecy.

It was crowded and tight and the screen was relatively small, but everyone stayed and watched the entire “JESUS” film.  The film, perhaps the most biblically faithful film on the life of Christ, is part of the JESUS Film Project, a ministry of Cru.

When it came time for the team to give an invitation to receive Christ (another courageous act here that could get them killed), a man sitting on the floor stood.  He opened his shirt so all could see.

Strapped to his chest were explosives…a suicide vest.  Panic set in…

“Wait…wait! Don’t leave.  I’m not going to blow myself up.  I need to tell you what just happened.” It took several minutes to convince the people to stay, and at last they did.

“I heard that you were going to show a blasphemous film.  I went to my leaders and they agreed you should die.  I strapped on this bomb and came to kill you all.

“When the film stated I reached for the detonator and tried to push the button.  But as I watched the film, Jesus turned and pointed right at me.  He called my name and said, ‘Don’t do that …follow Me.’

“Over and over I tried.  Every time I reached for the button He pointed to me and said, ‘Don’t do that …follow Me.’  My hand froze every time.  I couldn’t move my thumb.  I gave up and just stayed to watch.

“Now I believe.  I want Jesus to be my Savior.  Can you help me know more about Him?”

The team leader said, “Yes, of course, but first you must take off that vest!”The would-be suicide bomber went out from the building, far away, took it off, disarming the explosives.  He returned and the team prayed for him – but that’s not all.

Remember that this is an extremely dangerous area, one intensely hostile to Christianity.  Anyone leaving their traditions can expect to be killed.

The Word of God contained in “JESUS” had just spoken to the people.  It was a powerful experience as they learned the truth of the gospel for the first time ever.  Further, the people were amazed by this man’s testimony.  He was a radical who would stop at nothing.  They know they had just seen a miracle.

When the film leader asked who wanted to receive Christ and pray, everyone did…all of them! The next day, the team held a service where 250 new believers were baptized in their new faith, including the man with the suicide vest!  Again, if I told you were this happened, you would be astonished.

How powerful is our God!  How loving that He claimed a would-be suicide bomber as His own along with everyone in that room the man had come to destroy.

The account comes directly from ministry leaders of high character and eyewitness teams.  They are just as amazed as we are – and they work in these areas!  May God alone receive all the glory, honor and praise “…that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, so that you may fear the LORD your God forever” (Joshua 4:24, NASB).

 

 

Urgent Prayer for Liberia

Ebola Update from Liberia

Friends, the situation in Liberia is desperate and our friends really need your prayers.  Please read the below email from Kim Smith and Don Riley, our partners in Liberia.  Please Pray!

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Liberia 1

Sep 09, 2014 01:45 pm

Here is a letter from Kim Smith concerning Ebola.  Kim is our partnering missionary who is in Liberia.  Please pray for Liberia!

Liberia 2

“Liberia has suffered!  They just finished a 15 year civil war that killed 250,000 people.   And, even before Ebola, Liberia was rated as the most corrupt county in the world and tied with being the most miserable.

Recently, in one day there were 60 new Ebola cases in Liberia.  We also had our greatest increase of new cases, 300, in one week.  The many treatment centers have far exceeded their capacity.  They cannot accept new patients.  The unexpected influx of patients has forced them to reduce their level of care.  It is not currently possible, for example, to administer intravenous treatments. The situation in Foya, Lofa County, is chaotic, with shortages of essential protective equipment, and not enough resources to transfer patients or safely bury the Ebola victims.  There is growing number of those sick and exposed that are running away which now makes contact tracing ineffective and containment impossible.

Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, arrived in Liberia to assess the Ebola outbreak. The situation “is overwhelming,” he said.  The outbreak “really is a crisis and is affecting most if not all the counties in Liberia already.”  He emphasized that the toll is “far larger than has been recorded, not because they are trying to hide anything but because they are really overwhelmed by these numbers.  Beyond this, he said, the cases are increasing at an extremely quick rate, and this is very alarming.” As bad as the Ebola situation is, Frieden warned that the worst is yet to come. “Unfortunately, we are definitely not at the peak. It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” he said. “The real question is how much worse will it get? How many more people will be infected and how much more risk to the world will there be?”

The death toll of Ebola will never be accurately known.  The workers of one hospital got scared and ran, refusing to return to work.  The hospital closed and 70 non-Ebola patients died and were buried in a mass grave.  Many hospitals and clinics have closed.  Those that are open have about 10% of their normal patient load because the sick are scared to go to the hospitals.

The president announced a State of Emergency.  All public meeting have been stopped.  All schools have been closed.  Most travel between counties has been stopped.  Most government workers have been laid off and are unpaid.  Only essential government employees are to report to work and those reporting to work are not being paid because most all government money is being used to fight Ebola.  The price of rice, the primary food of the Liberian, has doubled.  Political rivals of the president are using this crisis as an opportunity to increase the instability of the government.

I am at a loss for the right words to express the suffering of the people of this country and it is getting worse.  Pray for Liberia!  Pray for us as we commit to reaching the lost for Christ.”

 

Wordsower International: Liberia Branch

August, 2014 Ministry Report

The mission of Jesus; “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9 NIV), is also our mission.

Liberia 3

 

Our mission is that every village of Liberia will have a healthy church.  Most of the towns and villages of Liberia have no church. We have worked in over 400 villages in 12 counties.  This month we made 107 mission trips, visiting 129 villages and other locations and we made many other local mission trips. Some of the towns we were in multiple times. We went into 32 new communities.  Our longest mission trip was 6 days the shortest a few hours. 21 were baptized and 53 completed our extensive Bible study program. We had 4 marriages. We printed and distributed approximately 122,000 pages of training material.  Several factors affect how many mission trips we can go on each month; illness, injuries, and availability of money are some.

Liberia 4

 

Sacrificial Soldiers of the Cross: Many of the villages are very remote.  The “bridges” are sometimes 3 small logs over a big creek.  The logs are spaced apart.  The center log is for the bike tires the two outside logs for the feet of the driver.  The logs are sometimes slick, old, and weak and they break.  Twice crossing such bridges this month the bike and driver fell.  One fall was about an 8 foot drop!  The bikes landed on the drivers in the creek trapping them, an easy death trap.  Praise God their injuries were not major.  No death.  Another driver had to put his bike in a large canoe to get to a village.  While there heavy rains sunk the canoe causing problems on his return.  This is the rainy season there were many wreaks, some of our disciples were wounded and bikes were damaged.Liberia 5

DK and Larpoo on the right

Ebola and Gbarnga, Bong County:  Delka, his wife and 2 young children are manning our new base in Bong County.  Where they live is a serious hotspot for Ebola.  Gbarnga, the capital city for the county, has several communities under isolation.  Gbarnga is in chaos and a very dangerous place to live!!  Please be in prayer for them.

Leberia 6

 

Panic Increases:  One morning at about 5:00 AM I was taking a man, on motorbike, to town to find him transport to the next county.  On our way in the rainy darkness we came across to 2 gangs, at different points, blocking the street, waving machetes and yelling for us to stop.  Each time I chose not to.  One grabbed the handle bars and jerked trying to cause me to wreck, but I was able to recover. After passing the gauntlet we inspected ourselves.  No injuries or damage.  I waited until daylight to return home.    Zwedru’s Ebola Isolation Camp:  Zwedru has an Ebola isolation camp.  It currently houses 9 who are under observation.  No one has shown signs of the sickness but each was with family members who had died of Ebola.  I have been allowed to enter for Bible distribution and teaching.  Of course, I have a captive interested audience!  They are eager to hear the Gospel of Christ and how to gain their salvation.  I have been going to them almost every day.

One Testimony of Many:  Mohammad, a Muslim and former high ranking rebel solider, met WSL while in prison.  He participated genocidal massacres in Serra Leon (remember Blood Diamond?). Upon his release from prison he came to us.  We have been giving him yard work and been teaching him about Christ and salvation.

Wordsower Bible Institute:  Our school has been closed.  The president has announced a State of Emergency.  All schools have been closed throughout the country to help to stop the spread of Ebola.  We do not know when the state of emergency will be lifted and schools allowed to reopen.

Prayer requests:  Pray for Liberia!  Pray that this Ebola plague will bring many to repentance and salvation.  Pray for a great revival to sweep through this country.  Pray for a healthy church in every village in our generation, that every Liberian can walk small and find a healthy church.   Please make this prayer part of your daily prayers.  Our roads have been blocked to stop the spread of the disease.  We need Bibles, paper and press supplies from Monrovia, the capital.  Pray that our Lord will give safe passage of these essential supplies.

 

Let’s Pray Everyday for the Persecuted Church in Iraq

All of us have heard the reports of the persecution and execution of Christians in Iraq. There has been pressure to convert to Islam, leave or die. Many have died and others have fled. Each day their lives are in danger with new threats and actions. We have people in our church whose families in Iraq are facing these challenges on a daily basis.

What can we do? PRAY. We must take the plight of our brothers and sisters in Iraq to the throne of God in prayer. Let’s pray for their protection, for the international community to respond, for God to mightily work in and through Iraqi believers, and for the church worldwide to recognize we are in a war against demonic and evil powers. We must stand together as the body of Christ.

May every daily news report from Iraq be our reminder to pray.

It is All About Perspective

As many of you know, I went through knee replacement surgery a couple of weeks ago. The surgery went well and the rehab process was coming along nicely. The pain was managed and the range of motion improving; it would just be a matter of a couple more weeks and I would be back in the swing of things.

And then it hit. The pain in my lower leg spiked to a nine on a ten-point scale. Pain medication could not bring comfort as I struggled on and off for a couple of days. A Doppler test ruled out the possibility of blood clots, so the medical staff began antibiotic treatments for infection. It worked. The pain started to subside and the recovery process resumed.

Carolyn and I feel so blessed to be covered by the prayers of so many of our friends and family and the incredible Woodside family. The cards, texts, emails and calls have been so overwhelming and humbling.

Carolyn and I were sitting in the hospital food court last Friday late afternoon waiting for the blood clot test, when I received a text from my friend and fellow pastor, Kevin Ramsby. The text was simple and straightforward, “Just heard that you had surgery and wanted to let you know that I am praying for a speedy recovery. If I can serve or help in any way, please let me know. Blessings, Kevin.”

It wasn’t what was said but who said it that God used to impact me that Friday afternoon. You see Kevin’s home was broken into a few years ago and in the middle of the night the intruder stabbed him 37 times. Miraculously, he was carried from a pool of his own blood to a neighbor’s home. Except for the intervention of God, he should not have lived.

That Friday when my pain hit a nine on a ten-point scale, I was restless and had to keep moving. But that “nine” I could endure and it would not have even registered if “ten” involved stab wounds.

God’s lesson to me was not to deny my pain, but to put it in perspective. In the midst of our pain, it is so easy to lose our perspective and become self absorbed, thinking that no one has ever suffered more. It happened to Elijah in 1 Kings 19 and it still happens today.

The author of Hebrews was basically telling his suffering readers of the first century to “look at it from a different perspective.” “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or faint hearted.”

Later I found it both ironic and embarrassing that I had used the word “spiked” to describe my pain hitting a “nine.” The physical and spiritual pain that came with Jesus’s spikes could not be charted on any of my scales. Let’s look to Jesus not only for his help and his prayers, but for his perspective.

I want to thank each of you for your thoughts and prayers during this time. Every day brings improvement and I cannot wait to get reengaged in life and ministry. May The Lord bless you today!

Sticking Your Neck Out

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Years ago somebody gave me a molded turtle with the following inscription: “Behold the turtle who only makes progress when he sticks his neck out.”  There is a lot of truth that little statement. This is not a Bible verse, but rather a well-known quote from the American scientist James Bryant Conant.

I thought of that turtle – safe in my office today – when I went on a long bicycle ride north on M15. I saw the remains of about one dozen turtles that stuck their necks out to cross the road, but did not make it. They did make progress, but lost their lives doing it.

While it is true we often cannot make progress without sticking our necks out, sticking our necks out alone cannot ensure progress. To be sure, I don’t expect turtles to be able to calculate the speed and distance of cars coming from both directions and compare it to his own speed and motivation to cross that two lane road before he sticks his neck out and makes the first big step. But, we humans can do what turtles cannot do.

First, we can think. The writers of Proverbs challenge us to think and live wise lives.  We are not to be foolish by ignoring obvious dangers and obstacles. We may still choose to stick our necks out and cross the road, but we are doing so with our eyes wide open to the dangers and the challenges.  Disappointment and despair are often the results of lunging forward in denial of the dangers.

Second, we can pray.  The Lord cares about our decisions and our future. “The steps of a good man are ordered by The Lord.” In Proverbs 3 we are reminded that God will direct the paths of those who will trust in Him completely and lean not on their own understanding.

Psalm 37 shares some truths that will help us with these hard decisions. “Delight yourself in The Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to The Lord; trust in him, and he will act. Be still before The Lord and wait patiently for him.”  I am so glad that we can come to The Lord in prayer and he will give us the wisdom for decision-making.

Third, we can believe. The preacher of Ecclesiastes challenges the believer to take risks. Some people are so cautious observing the wind and will not sow or gazing at the clouds and will not harvest (11:1-4). We can trust a God who loves us, knows us well and wants to see us prosper.  Our belief is in God and not our own abilities.

My life does not have to be like the remains of turtles littering the shoulders of M15. I have the God-given abilities to think through options, assess the cost and dangers, pray for wisdom and direction … and then stick my neck out to make progress.

 

Timeless Truth

This past weekend we watched the video at the Woodside services where three compelling stories were told of people coming to Christ. Throughout the video Billy Graham shared the gospel the way he has done for many decades. My wife and I talked about it on the way home, rejoicing over the simple message that changed our lives when we were children. We were so thankful that many heard the gospel again and responded positively to the invitation of Jesus. Their eternity changed.

The message that was preached is called the Gospel or the Good News. Its simplicity is often a barrier to people who want to make it more difficult or want to contribute something to their own salvation. The Bible says that it is all by grace through faith. If we could work for it, we could boast about it. We bring nothing and God accepts us just the way we are.

The gospel addresses man’s greatest need. The Lord created man to walk with him and to enjoy an incredibly beautiful world. That did not last long before our forefather Adam sinned against God. As a result, we were born in sin according to Romans 5:12: “Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin, so sin passed onto all men, for all have sinned.”  All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. The wages of sin is eternal separation from God in a place of torment.

God loved us so much that he sent his son Jesus to come from heaven to earth in order to die in our place (John 3:16, Romans 5:8, 2 Corinthians 5:21).  Jesus paid the penalty for our sin by his death on the cross. He died that we might live.  Through his death the gift of eternal life is available to all who believe. The Scriptures challenge us to repent or turn from our sins and believe in Jesus for our salvation. “Whoever calls on the name of The Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

This is an old story that should not be changed by any new generation or culture. There is no other way. There is no other name that brings salvation except the name of Jesus.

If you know Jesus, rejoice in the life you have in him and share it with others. If you do not know him yet, why not today?

God’s Eulogy

A eulogy is when someone pays a tribute to a person – usually at his or her funeral. A eulogy is statement of praise to who a person was or what he or she accomplished. In Joshua chapter one after Moses had died, God gave a wonderful eulogy to this great man who led the people of God for 40 years. God announced, “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel.”

It is interesting to note that even though Moses died, the work of God did not. Life had to go on and the plan of God had to have new leadership. Joshua was to be that man. It is hard to follow a strong leader especially when the task is to lead the people into a new, unfamiliar land with unforeseen challenges and powerful enemies. God assured Joshua and told him to be strong and courageous for He would be with him.

The old leader was gone and the new was off and running to a huge task powered by a promise from God. What about that eulogy? God said simply, “Moses, my servant, is dead.” This seems to me to be more than a simple statement. Two words by God to describe a man seem so fitting, “my servant.”

A servant is one who has relinquished his rights and is committed to do the will of his Master. The servant’s agenda is God’s agenda 24/7. A servant is not proud or self-absorbed; he simply lives and serves to honor his master.

Moses lived such a life that God summed it up by referring to him as “my servant.” I would love to live in such away over the years God has given me that He would be able to say, “Doug, my servant.”

I think that is a well-lived life that sure beats a page full of accomplishments in a Wikipedia entry. How about you?

What Size Are Your Prayers?

Last weekend I had the honor of speaking at the dedication of the new White Lake worship center. It was a very exciting time to celebrate with the good people there under the leadership of Brad Hulcy and his team. I chose as a text Ephesians 3:20-21. It is a doxology where the Apostle Paul is closing out an incredible prayer (verses 14-19) in which he asks God for some very big things for the church of Ephesus.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever, Amen.”

I think that this doxology was to give his readers hope and strength to know that the big prayer that Paul had prayed for them in verses 14-19 could be realized because God could make it happen. Paul uses a double superlative in verse 20 to emphasize that God could do infinitely more than what any of us could actually request, think or imagine. It is not even close; our prayers could never challenge the ability or the sufficiency of our God to answer.

Then, why don’t I pray bigger prayers? Is it because of fear, lack of faith or am I blinded by the obstacles? Could it be that I have too small of a vision of God? Frankly, as I look back at some of the things that I have dreamed and then prayed for, I am embarrassed that the prayers are so small. My prayers should reflect the size of my God!

I am determined to pray bigger prayers, to trust a big God with my burdens, dreams, desires and hopes. How about you? What are your God-sized prayers for your spiritual life? Your family? Your job? Your service to him? Your marriage? Your future? Your finances?

I am coming to the conclusion that nothing is too small to bring to God, but neither is anything too big for him.

Trust and Obey

I closed 2013 by preaching a message to challenge the Woodside family with two words for 2014. Those two words are Trust and Obey, taken form Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in The Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” We all want the result of verse six, even claiming it as a promise. We want a successful, prosperous and happy new year. And yet our part is to trust and obey.

To trust means that we put our full weight down and yield completely to God. God is the only one worthy of this unquestioning trust. God is from everlasting to everlasting. He was here before the mountains and therefore a very worthy and objective source of reference. So we seek him for his wisdom, counsel, direction and protection. God knows us better than we know ourselves. He created us, formed us, redeemed us and calls us by name. He loves us beyond measure and he wants his best for us.

The sages of Proverbs caution us not to lean on our own understanding. This is so easy to do. While we are expected to think and evaluate, our experience and reasoning should never be substitutes for trusting God.

Acknowledging him in all our ways demands complete obedience in every area of life. This means that we must know God’s word and obey it completely – no exceptions. Our relationships, our finances, our future, our plans, our vocabulary – everything falls under the authority of God’s Word.

I want God to make straight my paths. No matter the obstacles or hindrances, he goes before me on the pathway. While I want the blessing of God in my life, why would he want to bless me or anyone who does not trust him or obey him? I need to trust The Lord enough to obey him even when I do not understand, even when it does not make sense, and even when I don’t think it is going to work in the short term.

I related life with Christ to riding a tandem bicycle. Too often we want to sit in the front seat where we control the speed and direction. We think we know best and we are comfortable to know that Christ is with us. But to change seats with him changes everything. We are ready to trust and obey in all things. Tim Hansel writes that our ride can be prosperous, adventuresome and exciting. He can take us places where we never would have or could have gone.

I pray for each of you reading this that as you trust and obey in 2014, God would give you the ride of your life.

What is on Your “Must Have” Christmas List?

If you Google “must have Christmas gifts,” you will find sites that list the most sought-after watches, gadgets, toys, computers and tech devices. What is on your “must have” list this year?

This past Saturday a man talked with me in the church foyer and asked what I wanted for Christmas. I told him that I had everything I needed and that there was not anything I really wanted for Christmas.

He paused a second, then stepped toward me and gave me a hug. He explained that everyone needs a hug at Christmas. It caused me to think about my answer to him. I was too quick to say that I do not need or want anything. Truth be told, there are some things on my “must have ” Christmas list.

None of the things on my list can be found at a mall or purchased with money.

Joy is on my list. I want to experience the joy of giving to the needy. This is a great time of the year to give and serve. I am looking forward to spending time with our family with eating, laughing and sharing together. I want to hear the laughter and screams of my grandchildren as I pull them on a sled behind the tractor. These events are filled with indescribable joy.

I love the joy of giving a special financial gift of thanksgiving and sacrifice to The Lord and to the vision of Woodside. I know that lives will be changed because of it. I love the joy of hearing the stories of how Jesus changed the lives of people. Many become followers of Christ during this time of year.

I want to experience the peace that was promised in the coming of Christ. In the midst of a crazy Christmas schedule I want to reflect on that special peace I have in knowing Christ and walking with him. I am looking forward to the many opportunities of sharing that peace with others during the Christmas services.

On my “must have” list is all of the blessings that come from worshiping with the Woodside family. I love people and I enjoy our times together to sing, to pray, to greet and to hug. After all of the Christmas Eve services, Carolyn and I will arrive at home around 2 a.m. Christmas morning. We will be tired but energized having spent Christmas Eve with thousands of the most wonderful people in the world.

So, I have lots of things on my “must have” Christmas list, but all of them I can make happen by spending time with people. How about you? What is on your “must have” list?

 

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