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Sunday, May 31, 2020

From Ichabod to Immanuel... Never back to normal!

May 24th, 2020 sunset - The heavens declare His glory! Dear Praying Friends and Saints:

For several weeks now I have had this phrase resounding in my heart. When I was reading about the fate of Eli the priest and his family, I was struck by the verses in 1 Samuel 4:21-22, "Then she named the child Ichabod, saying, 'The glory has departed from Israel!' because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. And she said, 'The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.'"

My immediate reaction was one of deep sorrow. But just as quickly, the Lord impressed "Immanuel" into my spirit with an unexpected wave of JOY! And then came the words, "From Ichabod to Immanuel". As I pondered this glorious and almost instantaneous change, the "traditional" context of the church came to mind with quite a wonderful realization that this is what is happening as a result of the coronavirus lockdown that has taken place around the globe during the last few months.

Let's face it. Over the last fifty years or so, the impact of the traditional church on society has grown less and less. I use the word "traditional" here, in very general terms, to include physical buildings where we go to congregate for worship and preaching/teaching, and to have fellowship with other believers. Both in larger Sunday meetings and in smaller cell-type groups during the week, that pattern has all too easily become the norm in our Christian experience. We grow accustomed to hearing from others about the Lord and His word, but a relatively small percentage of believers develop the personal discipline to spend time alone with God on a daily basis.

giantpoppy.jpegSuddenly and gloriously, that has all changed. With public gatherings, even in small groups, prohibited almost everywhere, there is a new dynamic at work. Self-isolation has obliged us to seek the Lord where we are—without going somewhere else with others. Many are joyfully discovering what it means to respond to Jesus' invitation in Revelation 3:20, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." The reality of Immanuel—"God with us"—comes boldly into the foreground.

Another result of this shift is that people's lives are changing. Believers are flourishing. As Christians by the thousands are drawn into a new level of relationship with God, there is a wonderful by-product, like that of Acts 4:13. "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus."

Another result of our physical confinement, especially through the medium of the internet, is that the Body of Christ has been coming together in The
UK Blessing songnew and unique ways. I trust you have all probably seen some of the several songs of blessing by and for nations produced collectively with most of the participants recording in their homes. They are such a great example of the church being the church at this link!

Many churches, if not most, are now streaming their Sunday meetings online, and reaching people whom they've never met, and in many cases people join in from other nations. Meetings can be watched at any time, virtually enabling us to "be in two places at the same time." Small groups are meeting using online resources such as Zoom. Unprecedented  numbers of online prayer meetings are taking place globally. People are reaching out to one another with a new-found fervor that warms the heart and blesses heaven itself.

Lupines in bloom - colors of gloryThis crisis has confronted humankind very directly with its own mortality with the numbers of death still increasing and being talked about incessantly now for months. Amidst the fear and apprehension that have gripped the hearts of people who have no hope beyond this material life, there has been a huge increase in the number of internet searches for the topics of God, prayer, and the like.

The emerging "new" church, individuals renewed in their relationship with Jesus and one another, are finding opportunities to engage with people looking for answers to the big questions that suddenly matter more than ever before. Now is our opportunity to display the reality of 1 Peter 4:10, "As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold [multi-form/color] grace of God."
 
This is a uniquely opportune time to pray for God's direct intervention in the hearts of men. Psalms 80:19 says, "Turn us again to yourself, O LORD God of heaven’s Armies. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved."(NLT) As people around the world are confronted by the vulnerability of our very existence, and impotence to do anything about it, so too we find ourselves unable to bring forth any spiritual change outside of God turning the hearts of men to Himself.

At this unparalleled time in human history, our prayer can be nothing less than a plea for massive worldwide revival as people turn to Jesus in record numbers as the living rock of their salvation. May His grace, wisdom, and love empower each one of us day by day as we rejoice in Immanuel—God with us,

Dick & Gladys


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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Remembering where home is in trying times...

You, O God, are my king from ages past, bringing salvation
to the earth.Dear Friends and Prayers:

This verse in Psalm 74 immediately brought a melody to mind from many years ago. It touched me so deeply that I just had to find out what it was. That led me to discover all the original words of this amazing old hymn by Isaac Watts based on Psalm 90, and I want to share it with you here. I hope you take the time to reflect on the significance of each verse.

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Under the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same.

Image source: https://images.app.goo.gl/4usLjWn7rby9dvnMA

Thy Word commands our flesh to dust,
“Return, ye sons of men”:
All nations rose from earth at first,
And turn to earth again.

A thousand ages in Thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.

The busy tribes of flesh and blood,
With all their lives and cares,
Are carried downwards by the flood,
And lost in foll’wing years.

Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the op’ning day.

Like flow’ry fields the nations stand
Pleased with the morning light;
The flow’rs beneath the mower’s hand
Lie with’ring ere ’tis night.

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guard while troubles last,
And our eternal home.
             (Isaac Watts, Published 1719)

We pray This great photo taken recently from the International Space Station of the United Kingdom adds some context and dimension to the words of this hymn and all the scriptures. Psalm 73:28 says, "But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do."

So as we draw close to God during this season, let's remember to share with those around us who our source of strength and hope is.

Dick & Gladys


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Monday, May 11, 2020

A special anniversary in the shadow of His wings!

Dear Friends and Prayers:

As incredible as it seems, on this morning fifteen years ago we found ourselves standing with half of our worldly possessions outside Heathrow Airport in London! Our Welsh adventure had begun and here we were—full of expectation and wonder at how the Lord had sovereignly moved us here lock, stock and barrel. After twenty-nine years of ministry among Latin Americans, this radical change had all the markings of foolishness.

Now, looking back over our time here, we are always amazed at how the Lord has continually upheld us in so many ways. We have had challenges in many areas, but God has faithfully seen us through them all. We are so thankful that His ways are not our ways.

Yesterday morning we read the story of Ruth. When Boaz first speaks with her on the first day she goes to glean in his fields, he says in chapter 2:12, "'...The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.'" As I read those words, I was overwhelmed once again with gratitude for how secure a refuge He has been for us.

Landing in Beulah On that same day, on the drive into Wales, I stopped to take this picture as we neared our destination. The bright flowers and the name of the town for "some reason" just grabbed our attention. What we could never have known at the time was that this was the town where we would live for our first years in Wales. And even more surprising, the white entrance just ahead on the right would be where we made our home after five months of very temporary housing situations while we looked to rent a place of our own.

Isaiah 62:4 says, "You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, Nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate; But you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; For the Lord delights in you, And your land shall be married." After moving so many times, nine, in fact, we did feel a bit "forsaken". And then to find ourselves in such a lovely place was yet again more heartwarming evidence of God's care for us. And that has continued unbroken for all these fifteen years.

We also took this scripture to heart as it applied to this land of Wales. Like any other nation in this world, until its people come into a right relationship with their Creator, they will indeed be desolate. As it says in Ephesians 2:12-13, "...at that time you were without Christ, ...strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ."

And so this is our ongoing prayer, that this land shall be married—joined to the Body of Christ—through God's saving grace. Thank you so much for your continued interest and prayer support prayer for Wales and the nations, especially in these difficult times,

Dick & Gladys


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Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Confronted by a strong man's weakness...

With
thanks to: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/675047431627232673/Dear Praying Friends:

While reading the story about Samson and Delilah this morning in Judges 16, my attention was arrested by verse 20. "And she said, 'The Philistines are upon you, Samson!' So he awoke from his sleep, and said, 'I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!' But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him."

This has always struck me as one of the greatest tragedies among many in the Old Testament, and I began to consider how this could have happened. Had Samson just grown used to his extraordinary strength, and forgotten its source? I think not, because he didn't want to reveal it to Delilah. But his active awareness of God's extraordinary anointing on his life had been dulled by the things of this world. Apparently, his chief interests lay elsewhere.

To my understanding, in Old Testament times, the spirit of God would usually "come upon" people for specific messages, tasks, or periods of time. But now, through God's amazing grace, we live in the times and promises of the New Testament. Jesus has told us in John 14:16-18, "And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you." This means that He doesn't just come and go from time to time, rather He takes up permanent residence!

Old plaque from late 1800sThis brought me to take a closer look at our own condition. Not unlike Sampson, who didn’t realize the Lord had left him, we too can so easily get caught up in the process of our day-to-day living that we find ourselves oblivious to His presence in every aspect of our lives. That fact that we could even forget such an overwhelming truth is, in itself, very sobering. This old framed quote is a good reminder of that. 

Tree by the pond...David takes it a step further in Psalm 19:14. "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer." Now, this gets way closer to home, and frankly, could even make us downright uncomfortable when we take an honest look at our thought life. (It sounds vaguely like the "thought police" of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four!)

However, the truth runs gloriously in the opposite direction. How can it be that the Creator of the universe humbles Himself enough to live within us, with all our foibles and imperfections? And yet this is exactly what He has done. He redeems us, renews our ways of thinking and living, and makes us His earthly home. How incredibly marvelous is that?

And here once again, David provides the proper context in Psalm 16:11, "You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." So rather than feeling "monitored" in big-brotherly fashion, our hearts can boldly rejoice in the fact He is there in the center of our being and His new law written in our hearts is transforming us day by day.

And what's even more, Isaiah 61:3 says that He has given us His spirit "...that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified." Ours is the joyous privilege of pointing others towards His forgiveness and mercy. Now there is something so sizzling bright that it should be unforgettable!

Therefore, as Hebrews 13:5-6 says, "'...because God Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' So we may boldly say: 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?'"

Dick & Gladys


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