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Friday, June 24, 2011

God's heart for the hopeless . . .

Dear Friends and Prayers:

We drove north to the monthly prayer meeting in Blaenau Ffestiniog this week. We haven't been able to go since February so were very glad to see our friends again. It was also greatly encouraging to meet a new Christian couple that have recently moved there and joined us Wednesday evening.

In my prayer time yesterday morning, I was reading in Isaiah 53 and found this segment to just come alive.

4 Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

While looking out from this vantage point above the village, I prayed through this phrase by phrase. It was such a powerful time as I saw how every person here can be so changed by God's amazing love. Sorrows, sin and despair abound here as everywhere else, and we believe Jesus can and will work a marvelous transformation in this place before long.

On our drive home last night we enjoyed many wonderful views, but this one of the evening sun over Cardigan Bay was absolutely spectacular. Somehow photos just can't capture the fullness of it, but you can get the idea.

I couldn't help but notice how fitting Isaiah's comparison of us to sheep really is. You can see here that they are totally ignoring the breathtaking beauty around them. Well, of course. They're only sheep!

But when people are absorbed by the busyness of life and the proverbial "pursuit of happiness", they are just like these sheep. Ephesians 2:2 puts it really clearly,

"that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world."

It is such a heart-breaking pity that so many millions of people pass through this life in such a state, when the glory of God's love is so close at hand. I believe that one thing we should be praying for with fervor and compassion is that people would just look up and that God would open their eyes to His truth and grace.

Longing with God's heart for the hopeless,

Dick & Gladys


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Friday, June 17, 2011

A timely reminder and exhortation...

Dear Saints and Praying Friends:

It is time to turn to the Lord with renewed determination. There is plenty of evidence in the world around us that now it is more important that ever to get serious about our destiny in Christ. Each of us know that we have been called and given assignments from the Lord.

God's word declares in Ephesians 2:10. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."

I believe that the time is now upon us when we must step into the place the Lord has called us to. He has been working in our lives, allowing things to happen that either draw to Himself, or drive us close to Him. He has been preparing and training us for such a time as this. And now we must make a stand for what is right and just in His eyes against the current of this world, and even our own personal goals and desires.

I read a scripture this week that stood out at me in Isaiah 47:3. "I will take vengeance, And I will not arbitrate with a man. As for our Redeemer, the LORD of hosts is His name, The Holy One of Israel."

As I meditated on this phrase, I found myself filled with questions. Shall we contend with God?
Who are we to raise our voices against the Lord our Maker?
Can we present our arguments to Him as if He were our earthly father and we were like stubborn young children wanting to get our own way?

"Well, OK Lord, I know you've asked me to do this, but I just need to finish what I'm doing first." Or, "As soon as I have my financial future secured I'll be right there." We all have our own lists of excuses or conditions, and there are always more ready.

But He won't make any deals or cut us any slack as it says in Isaiah. We can't bargain with Him for more comfortable circumstances or a better deal. He call has been clear from the beginning. Listen to Jesus in Luke 9:23, "Then He said to them all, 'If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.'"

Now here is most amazing thing in all this. He calls us ever onwards to do specific things, some may be "great" things and some only "ordinary" things. But at the same time He knows that we can do nothing without Him as He states so clearly in John 15:5, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing."

I think this picture says it all. Once again it is nesting time for the swallows here, and these little guys can only do one thing - wait for food. They are totally dependent on their parents, and so they wait.

The same goes for us. And how hard that can be when there is so much to be done! Needs press in from every side, and sometimes it is hard to hold still. However, the most fruitful thing we can really do is just wait upon Him. We must fix our eyes on on Him, bury our hearts and wills in His word, and be ready to obey His instructions.

How complicated it can be at times to keep it simple!

Thank you for your prayers and continued interest in God's heart for Wales.

May you find refreshing and grace in His presence,

Dick & Gladys


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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Renewed by God's workings!

Dear Friends and Praying Saints:

While working in the garden a couple weeks ago, I found a clump of foxgloves growing right on the lower steps, and thoughtlessly yanked them up and tossed them aside. I didn't know Gladys had had her eye on them. So two hours later I sheepishly rescued them and replanted them closer to the house, badly wilted and doubled over.

When I noticed them a few days ago, they have made a surprising recovery and filling out with flowers. Although they couldn't straighten themselves back out, they were able start growing back in the right direction again, and with a new flair!

This presented such a clear message to me about our following the Lord. Sometimes we can find ourselves a bit "wilted" too. Our "pressing on" can wind up with us getting pressed out of shape. Or perhaps a change in our circumstances can throw us for a loop. But at the end of the day, the Lord is the one who can pull us through.

2 Corinthians 4:16 says, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day."
And Isaiah 40:31 says, "But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles..."

The wonderful part about following Jesus is that we are His project, and not the other way around. Paul says we are "being renewed.." It is not up to us to renew ourselves, that is His doing. We just need to remember to look to Him. And waiting isn't always easy either, but the Lord in His wisdom has made patience one of the fruits of the Spirit! And like Paul says in Philippians 1:6, we too can "be confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;"

On a family note, we were delighted that three of our four children got to have a brief visit on Memorial Day in San Diego where Peter, our oldest, is stationed now with the USMC. Grace was at a friend's wedding in L.A. area and stayed with Dicky, our youngest. Then she was on her way to Guatemala for her work with Mercy Corps, where she is until tomorrow.

She spent most of her time in the beautiful western highlands, and over the weekend she was in Quetzaltenango where we spent our last 5 years in Guatemala. It's hard to believe that it has been over 22 years since we left behind so many beloved friends in the church we helped to plant there. All four of our kids were lot smaller then!

It is especially heart-warming to know that Grace's work with food security and nutrition will really be a tangible benefit to people in the beautiful but impoverished rural areas. She was able to have a brief visit with her childhood best friend, who is now a lawyer there, and her family whom we were particularly close to. It seems somehow natural for her to be involved in projects there, and it is wonderful to recognize how the Lord orders our steps.

There are comings and going in following the Lord's callings, and as hard as it has always been in the past to leave people we've grown to love, the Lord always makes up for it with new friends in His great family! We have been so blessed by the many people that God has brought into our lives here in Wales, and we are thankful and excited at what is yet ahead. We find ourselves part on an ever-growing body of believers seeing Him at work around us and expecting far greater things with prayer and thanksgiving.

Increasingly grateful for His gift of newness of life,

Dick & Gladys


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