Sometimes I Don’t Pray Boldly

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I want to talk about seizing the life God has planned for us

Too many believers play it safe and never seize real life

Last time we were talking about boldness and we learned… I hope we learned that:

BOLDNESS is behaviour born out of belief

In other words: If you believe in a powerful and sovereign God then you will be bold in your life as a disciple of Jesus

Today let’s look at boldness as it relates to prayer

Key thought: How you pray reflects what you believe about God

Key insight: Most of us need the spiritual gift of spunk Read more


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I have been reading the book of Acts

Often referred to as The Acts of the Apostles when really it is a book of the Bible all about The Acts of the Holy Spirit

And, I notice, once again, the boldness of the apostle 

Men who were just normal people who were committed to following Jesus and spreading the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 24:14)

We tend to make superheroes out of them – stain glass heroes – who were special and extraordinary when really they were just regular people like you and me

Their boldness is amazing Read more

Sometimes I’m Not Bold In My Conversations

Sometimes I’m Not Bold In My Conversations

We have been talking about being bold

Doing so through the book of Acts in the New Testament – chapters 4 and 5

The story of the early Church and the first believers in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead

We have seen:

Boldness is behaviour born out of belief

How you pray reflects what you believe about God (bold prayers)

Today – let’s talk about boldness in the way we speak and what we speak about

There is a problem today in the Church:

We don’t want to offend anyone and so we are careful to be politically correct and thus we don’t speak boldly about what we believe

As a result: we decide that we are just going to let our life – the way we live – be a witness to others

It sounds good and is a good place to start Read more

Sometimes I Don’t Trust God

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Truth: “When you can’t see God’s, hand, trust His heart”

Emily Freeman

It seems that in life… You are either coming out of a difficult season, in the middle of a difficult season, or about to go into one.

That may not be particularly encouraging, but, I have to admit, it seems to be true

Fact: Life is difficult

Even when we are not in a rough season, it seems like there are often others close to us who are

Each of us know someone – a family member, a friend, someone we work with or work for – who is going through a rough season

Fact: Life is tough Read more

Sometimes I Don’t Pray In Tongues

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Let’s talk about “tongues”

A fast disappearing part of the life of the Church in most nations 

A very controversial and often misunderstood experience 

A very important and powerful part of our spiritual life and a trigger to walking in supernatural power and releasing the Holy Spirit to move and minister

A main part of what allows us to call ourselves “Spirit-filled” Christians

I am going to go real basic to get us started …

Jesus is speaking to His disciples who, at this point in time are not born again (saved)

Because Jesus has yet to die and be raised from the dead there is no way to be forgiven and become born again

John 14: 15-17 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

The Holy Spirit is “with you”… Present tense Read more

Sometimes I Forget to Stay Calm

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Funny how it never rains in Beijing when American presidents arrive for high-profile visits

It’s no coincidence

Military meteorologists in China seed the clouds and empty them of their moisture in advance

The weather is tailor-made for the occasion

Using an arsenal of rockets, artillery, and aircraft, Chinese scientists blast the clouds right out of the sky

“We can turn a cloudy day into a dry and sunny one,” boasts Miam Donglian of the Beijing weather bureau

That is nothing to what is already on the drawing board Read more

Sometimes I Feel So Insignificant

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I read a sign the other day:

“No lives matter. The universe doesn’t give a s*** about any of you”

In other words, in the universe we are rather insignificant as a planet and a race … and you and I are definitely insignificant as individuals

At times I think that just may be true

At times I feel insignificant

At times I think of all the rushing around and the activities I get involved in and how, in the long run, they just might be seriously insignificant – not ever amounting to anything important

And, at times I wonder what difference the church – this church, any church – is making if any

Is anything we are doing having a significant impact on anyone? Read more


Sometimes I Lack Bold Obedience

When I was a young Christian – I had a young family and I made very little money each month

In fact – the amount I earned was totally inadequate to meet the rapidly increasing needs of my young family

The man through whose ministry I was healed and born again was in the area still and so I went to listen and receive

The time for the offering came and I asked God what I was to give – He said $100.00

I had $150.00 in the bank and it was still three weeks till pay day and that in itself was inadequate but take away $100.00 and it was past seriously inadequate into dangerous

So I’m thinking – no way Hosea

So, I turned to my wife – more spiritual – and asked her what God had told her we should give – $100.00

We wrote a cheque for $100.00 boldly trusting God

The next day – went and picked up the mail and there was a letter from another town – where I also had a small church which I was working with

From a man I did not know and had not met YET

Inside the envelop was a cheque for $1,000.00 and a note saying it was something he promised God he would do the year before and God reminded Him about it a week before and told him to send it specifically to me

A week before I obeyed the prompting of the Lord He was already blessing me because of my yet-to-be obedience to His prompting and giving of $100.00

“Your Heavenly Father knows what you have need of before you ask” 

I want to talk about BOLD OBEDIENCE today… Read more

Sometimes I’m Disappointed With God

An apostle from North America was meeting with a group of leader of the underground church in China
During the evening there was a fellowship time among the leaders as they shared what was happening in their lives and how God was moving in their homes and in their ministries
The apostle from North America took the opportunity to ask a question of these Chinese leaders of underground house churches … He asked:
“If I were to visit your home communities and talk with the non-believing families, friends, and neighbours of the members of your house churches — and if I would point out your church members and ask, ‘Who are these people? What can you tell me about them?’ — what answer would I get?”
The apostle writes: Many people started to answer at once. The response that jumped out at me, though, was the answer of a man who told me that his church’s neighbours would probably say, “Those are the people who raise the dead!”
As we read the gospels we see that Jesus raised the dead…
These believers just assumed that because Jesus did it that they too could do it
After all, Jesus was living in them and working through them
Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:12-14)
“I tell you this timeless truth: The person who follows me in faith, believing in me, will do the same mighty miracles that I do—even greater miracles than these because I go to be with my Father! For I will do whatever you ask me to do when you ask me in my name. And that is how the Son will show what the Father is really like and bring glory to him. Ask me anything in my name, and I will do it for you!”  (TPT)
“The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it. From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I’ll do it. That’s how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it. Whatever you request in this way, I’ll do” (MSG)
Sometimes I am disappointed with God
Because I believe these verses and have prayed in line with what I see Jesus doing in the gospels … and from my point of view, nothing happens a lot of the time
I have prayed overseas to raise the dead a number of times … and nothing happened
I pray for the sick … and sometimes they are healed and sometimes they are not … and I am disappointed with God
I read the book of Acts and wonder why the things that happened in the early Church don’t seem to be happening in the Church today … and I am disappointed
I desperately want to see multitudes saved and I work hard at being a good witness of His grace and His mercy … and few respond and become believers – disappointing
The list could go on…
The same apostle was in Ukraine and as his time there was drawing to a close…
The believers had been sharing their testimonies and stories of prison, persecution, and God’s provision for His people
He writes: “Once again I was struck by the power of their testimonies and stories that I was hearing. As we came to the end of our time together, I asked: ‘I just don’t understand why you haven’t collected these stories in a book? Believers around the world ought to hear what you have been telling me here today. Your stories are amazing! These are inspiring testimonies! I have never heard anything like them!”
An older pastor reached out and took my shoulder. He clamped his other hand tightly onto my arm, and looked me right in the eye. He said, Son, when did you stop reading the Bible? All of our stories are in the Bible. God has already written them down. Why would we bother writing books to tell our stories when God has already told His story. If you would just read the Bible, you would see that our stories are there.”
He paused and then he asked me again, “When did you stop reading your Bible?”
Without waiting for me to answer, he turned and walked away. There was no friendly smile, no encouraging pat on the back, and no kiss on the cheek.
His convicting question still echoes in my mind.
This older pastor was simply living the faith the way Jesus said we could and should … doing today the things that Jesus did 2000+ years ago
For him it was not something special to write a book about … it was simply normal Christian living
As we read the Bible – Old and New Testaments we see God doing amazing things…
Releasing His people from prison – Peter in Acts 5
People being saved in the thousands – Acts 2
People being baptized in the Holy Spirit – Acts 2
People being healed
The lame beggar – Acts 3
Aeneas – Acts 9
Dorcas – Acts 9
Believers being bold in the midst of life and death persecution – Acts 4
Building shaking in answer to prayer – Acts 4
People dropping dead for lying to the Holy Spirit – Acts 5
Miracles, signs and wonders – Acts 5
Angels opening prison doors and setting leaders free – Acts 5
People martyred for the faith – Stephen in Acts 7
Holy Spirit sending Philip and a revival breaking out in Samaria – Acts 8
Confronting a powerful sorcerer and seeing multitudes saved – Acts 8
Philip sent by the Spirit and bringing new life to the Ethiopian Eunuch – Acts 8
God knocking Saul off his horse and speaking audibly to Him – Acts 9
 The dead being raised
Visions directing believers
Peter on the rooftop having a vision – Acts 10
Ananias receiving a vision and going to Saul to bring healing – Acts 9
Churches being planted – Acts 11 and onwards
Believers dying for the faith – James – Acts 12
And that was not even the first half of the book of Acts
And the older pastor in Ukraine said the the young apostle … “When did you stop reading your Bible”
With the point being that the same God who did these things in the early Church is still working with and through believers today
And, reading the stories in the Scriptures should build our faith to believe for and walk in the supernatural as a part of our regular, daily life
“I tell you this timeless truth: The person who follows me in faith, believing in me, will do the same mighty miracles that I do—even greater miracles than these because I go to be with my Father! For I will do whatever you ask me to do when you ask me in my name. And that is how the Son will show what the Father is really like and bring glory to him. Ask me anything in my name, and I will do it for you!”  (TPT)
And Sometimes I’m Disappointed with God because this is not happening on a regular basis in my life and I wonder why
I want to know why!
A True Story From Russia…
The young father and husband had been arrested for teaching the Bible to others …
He had recently been saved – a miracle in itself – and began to read a Bible that he had obtained – a second miracle in Communist Russia
He began to teach his wife and children the Scriptures – reading them together late at night and discussing them together … they received Jesus
In time neighbours joined them, and then more neighbours … until the house was full every night – people hungry to hear the Word of God … and they got saved
It’s like reading a story straight from the pages of the book of Acts
He was arrested – just a believer, not a pastor nor a leader – and moved a thousand kilometres away from his family and locked up in a prison because he was influencing people for the Kingdom
His cell was so tiny that when he got out of bed, it took but a single step either to get to the door of his cell, to reach the stained and cracked sink mounted on the opposite wall, our to use foul smelling open toilet in the “far” corner of the cell. Even worse, he was the only believer among fifteen hundred hardened criminals.
He said that his isolation from the body of Christ – his house church – was far more difficult than even the physical torture. And there was much of that. Still, his tormentors were unable to break him. Dmitri (not his real name) pointed to two reasons for his strength in the face of torture.
There were two spiritual habits that he had learned and that he took with him into prison. Without these two disciplines, Dmitri insisted, his faith would not have survived.
For seventeen years in prison, every morning at daybreak, Dmitri would stand at attention by his bed. As was his custom, he would face the east, raise his arms in praise to God, and then he would sing a HeartSong to Jesus
HeartSong … a song he had learned that was very meaningful to him and expressed his heart and his love for the Lord
The reaction of the other prisoners was predictable.
Dmitri recounted the laughter, the cursing, the jeers. The other prisoners banged metal cups against the iron bars in angry protest. They threw food and sometimes human waste to try to shut him up and extinguish the only true light shining in that dark place every morning at dawn.
There was another discipline too, another custom that Dmitri told me about. Whenever he found a scrap of paper in the prison, he would sneak it back to his cell. There he would pull out a stub of a pencil or a tiny piece of charcoal that he had saved, and he would write on that scrap of paper, as tiny as he could, all the Bible verses and scriptural stories or songs that he could remember. When the scrap was completely filled, he would walk to the corner of this little jail cell where there was a concrete pillar that constantly dripped water — except in the wintertime when the moisture became a solid coat of ice on the inside surface of his cell. Dmitri would take the paper fragment, reach as high as he possibly could, and stick it on the damp pillar as a praise offering to God.
Of course, whenever one of his jailers spotted the piece of paper on the pillar, he would come into his cell, take it down, read it, beat him severely, and threaten him with death. Still, Dmitri refused to stop his two disciplines.
Every day, he rose at dawn to sing his song. And every time he found a scrap of paper, he filled it with Scripture and praise.
This went on year after year after year. His guards tried to make him stop. The authorities did unspeakable things to his family. At one point, they even led him to believe that his wife had been murdered and that his children had been taken by the state.
They taunted him cruelly, “We have ruined your home. Your family is gone.”
Dmitri’s resolve finally broke. He told God that he could not take any more. He admitted to his guards, “You win! I will sign any confession that you want me to sign. I must get out of here to find where my children are.”
They told Dmitri, “We will prepare your confession tonight, and then you will sign it tomorrow. Then you will be free to go.” After all those years, the only thing that he had to do was sign his name on a document saying that he was not a believer in Jesus and that he was a paid agent of western government trying to destroy the USSR. Once he put his signature on that dotted line, he would be free to go.
Dmitri repeated his intention:”Bring it tomorrow and I will sign it.”
That very night he sat on his jail cell bed. He was in deep despair, grieving the fact that he had given up. At that same moment, a thousand kilometres away his family — Dmitri’s wife, his children who were growing up without him, and his brother — sensed through the Holy Spirit the despair of this man in prison. His loved ones gathered around the very place where I was now sitting as Dmitri told me his story. They knelt in a circle and began to pray out loud for him. Miraculously, the Holy Spirit of the Living God allowed Dmitri to hear the voices of his loved ones as they prayed.
The next morning, when the guards marched into his cell with the documents, Dmitri’s back was straight. His shoulders were squared and there was strength on his face and in his eyes. He looked at his captors and declared, “I am not signing anything!”
The guards were incredulous. They had thought that he was beaten and destroyed. “What happened?” They demanded to know.
Dmitri smiled and told them, “In the night, God let me hear the voices of my wife and my children and my brother praying for me. You lied to me! I now know that my wife is alive and physically well. I know that my sons are with her. I also know that they are all still in Christ. So I am not be signing anything!”
His persecutors continued to discourage and silence him. Dmitri remained faithful., He was overwhelmed one day by a special gift from God’s hand. In the prison yard, he found a whole sheet of paper. “And God,” Dmitri said, “had laid a pencil beside it!”
Dmitri went on, “I rushed back to my jail cell and I wrote every Scripture reference, every Bible verse, every story, and every song I could recall.”
“I knew that it was probably foolish,” Dmitri told me, “but I couldn’t help myself. I filled both sides of the paper with as much of the Bible as I could. I reached up and stuck the entire sheet on that wet concrete pillar. Then I stood up and looked at it: to me it seemed like the greatest offering I could give to Jesus from my prison cell. Of course, my jailor saw it. I was beaten and punished. I was threatened with execution.”
Dmitri was dragged from his cell. As he was dragged down the corridor in the center of the prison, the strangest thing happened. Before they reached the door leading to the courtyard — before stepping out into the place of execution — fifteen hundred hardened criminals raised their arms and began to sing the HeartSong that they had heard Dmitri sing to Jesus every morning for all those years.
Dmitri’s jailers instantly released their hold on his arms and stepped away from him in terror.
One of them demanded to know, “Who are you?” Dmitri straightened his back and stood as tall and as proud as he could.
He responded: “I am a son of the Living God, and Jesus is His Name!”
The guards returned him to his cell. Sometime later, Dmitri was released and he returned to his family.
Prisoners being set free by the Lord… like in New Testament times
The apostles all in prison and set free by an angel – Acts 5
Peter in prison awaiting execution in Jerusalem – Acts 12
Paul and Silas in jail in Philippi – Acts 16
As the old Ukrainian pastor said to the young apostle:
“When did you stop reading the Bible?”
What happened then is still happening now …  But, do I really believe that?
“Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8)
And so if I really believe that — do I act / live like it is totally true?
But, if I can be so bold to ask: Why does it happen “over there” and not happen “over here?”
Sometimes I’m disappointed with God
It seems He is working hard “over there” and not working much at all “over here”
And so Sometimes I’m Disappointed With God
You read the Bible and see so many amazing stories of God moving, guiding, directing, intervening, touching lives…
You read about God intervening in regular life and revealing Himself in powerful ways…
People being saved
Prisoners being set free
Those being persecuted being warned by the Spirit of imminent danger
People being openly directed by the Holy Spirit
The sick being healed
Demon-possessed people being set free
The dead being raised to life
Churches being planted
Cities being changed and challenged by the Gospel
Jesus appearing to people and directing them
Miracles, signs, and wonders
Visions and dreams
God directly strengthening and encouraging believers
People dying for their faith – strong witnesses to faith in Christ
So, I asked myself …
Why is all of this not happening in my daily life?
Is there something I need to change or do differently?
Is it just a matter of not having enough faith?
Is it because I live in North America?
Is there sin in my life that prevents the moving of the Holy Spirit?
Do I need to change the way I am praying?
Are my priorities all wrong and thus preventing the move of the Spirit?
Do I have a wrong worldview?
Is there compromise in my life?
Do I simply not trust God enough?
Maybe I don’t really understand the Kingdom
Maybe deep down inside I don’t want my lifestyle to change?
Am I simply too comfortable and safe and secure and not wanting to be disturbed?
Maybe I am complicating the faith and making it something it is not?
Are I just being disobedient?
Am I so busy that I am missing the voice of God and direction of the Holy Spirit?
The young apostle moves on to a Central Asian country…
During my time there, a forty-three-year-old-Muslim-background believer somehow heard through the oral grapevine that a Westerner had come to his country wanting to discover how Muslims were finding Jesus and what challenges these converts were experiencing as they lived out their faith in hostile environments. I still have no idea how he learned that I was coming or where I would be.
It turns out that Pramana traveled 29 hours to find me. He had lived his entire life in a remote, tropical, and rural region of his third-world country. He had never before been on a bus. He had not even traveled on a paved highway. Yet, somehow, he found me in one of his country’s major cities. Upon his arrival, he matter-of-factly announced: “I have heard about what you are doing. You need to hear my story also.”
This man had been born into a people group with a population of 24 million. In his people group, there were only three followers of Jesus, and no church. The only religion that he had ever practiced or known while growing up had been a sort of folk Islam. Pramana knew the Quran by rote. He couldn’t actually speak Arabic, so (as an oral communicator from an oral culture) he simply memorized the words of the book as if they were part of some sort of magic formula. He knew the story of Mohammad, of course. But he had never heard of anybody called Jesus, he had never met a believer, and he had no idea what a Bible was.
“Five years ago,” he told me, “my life was in ruins. My wife and I were always fighting; I was ready to divorce the woman. My children were disrespectful. My animals were not growing or multiplying. My crops were dying in the fields.
“So I went to the imam of the nearest mosque for help,” Pramana continued.
The imam, who also functioned as the local spiritualist, told him, “Okay, son, here is what you need to do. Go buy a white chicken. Bring it to me and I will sacrifice it on your behalf. Then, go back to your village to meditate and fast for three days and three nights.  On the third day, you will receive the answer to all the problems that you are having with your wife, your children, your animals, and your crops.”
Pramana did exactly as he was told. He went back to his village. He meditated, he fasted, he waited. Then, as he explained it: “I’ll never forget, on that third night, a voice without a body came to me after midnight. That voice said, ‘Find Jesus, find the gospel.’”
This Muslim man had no clue what that even meant. He didn’t know if Jesus might be a fruit or a rock or a tree. Pramana told me that the voice without a body also said, “Get out of bed, go over the mountain, and walk down to the coast to name of city (a city where he had never been). When you get to that city at daybreak, you will see two men. When you see those men, ask them where such-and-such a street is. They will show you the way. Walk up and down that street and look for this number. When you find that number, knock on the door. When the door opens, tell the person why you have come.”
Pramana did not know that it was an option to be disobedient to the voice (Holy Spirit). He simply assumed that he was required to obey what he had been instructed to do. So he went. He didn’t even tell his wife that he was leaving, let alone where he was going. It turns out that he would be gone for two full weeks. During that time, his family had no idea where he was.
Pramana simply got out of bed, hiked over the mountain, trekked down the coast, and arrived at the specified city the next morning at daylight. He saw two men who told him where to find the street he wanted. He walked up and down that street until he found a building with the right number on it. He knocked at the door. A moment later, an older gentleman opened the door and asked, “Can I help you?”
The younger man declared: “I have come to find Jesus; I have come to find the gospel!” In a flash, the old man’s hand shot out from the darkened doorway. He grabbed Pramana by the shirt, dragged him into the apartment, and slammed the door behind him. The old man released his grip and exclaimed, “You Muslims must think I am a fool to fall for a trap as transparent as this!”
The very startled and confused traveler replied, “I don’t know if you are a fool or not, sir. I just met you. But here is why I’ve come.” Then Pramana told the older man the story of how he had come to be there that day.
The Holy Spirit of the Living God had led this young Muslim man through his dream and vision and his obedience to the home of one of the three believers in his 24 million people group. Stunned, the older man explained the gospel to this young Muslim man and led him to Christ. For the next two weeks, the old man discipled this new convert in the faith.
That had been five years ago. Now, Pramana had made another journey. This journey was to find me and to tell me his remarkable story. He had travelled 29 hours to share how his life had changed since he had found Jesus. There had been blessings and trials and tribulations during the last five years, but his life had clearly been changed in startling ways.
You know — that sounds so much like the story of Saul of Tarsus finding Ananias to instruct him in the teachings of Jesus – Acts 9.
I read these stories and something inside me starts to cry…
There is this hunger for the New Testament times to become real once again in this day and time … and, if I may say, in my life
There is this desire for the adventure to start in a fresh and new way
There is a deep dissatisfaction right now – inside of me – that what I have, what I’m experiencing, what I know as Christianity is no longer enough
It is like my spirit is crying out “there has got to be more”
Deep inside there is a ‘divine discontent’ letting me know that major change has begun for me in my walk with Jesus and in my every day life
I am seriously “Sometimes Disappointed With God” but it is a good thing because it motivates me to move forward regardless of the cost
And, I have begun to think through what needs to change for me to experience more of God in my life
And my desire is that you will also experience this hunger if you haven’t already
And that you will think through what needs to adjust and change for this type of lifestyle to become real and an every day occurrence in life right here and right now
May I tell you one more story?
The same young apostle writes…
Before I had even arrived at the first stop on my planned Southeast Asia tour, I received an e-mail from a European doctor living and working on the border of two Central Asia countries that were experiencing a great deal of violence and unrest. The words of his e-mail were guarded and carefully worded. The message read: “Dr. Ripken, I have heard about the research that you are doing from a friend I knew and worked closely with in Somalia some years ago. I believe that the Lord needs you to come to name of country and he names his border town.”
My wife had already booked and purchased my plane tickets for the entire, tightly-scheduled trip. I responded to the man’s e-mail, explaining that my itinerary included not only Vietnam and Thailand, but also Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar. Then I explained further: “These are the last of the countries that I have already made plans to visit this year. I am expecting to be in your region late next year, so please be patient. I will be sure to get back in touch with you and I will gladly consider your invitation at that time.”
After another stop to see the killing fields of Cambodia (where very few believers survived the Khmer Rouge reign of terror), I landed in Bangkok. From there, I went up and stayed for a time among the Karen people group living in the Golden Triangle region where Thailand’s borders meet the borders of Laos. Then, I attempted to travel to what was once called Burma (now Myanmar). Several days later, I came back to Bangkok where I had another e-mail from the same doctor.
This second e-mail was more insistent, “I really think you should come now,” the man wrote.
At that point, I responded with a slightly less gracious reply: “I am sorry, but I will not come your way until next year.” At that point I set out for another country on my itinerary. Just before arriving there, however, I received a phone call informing me that all 18 pastors that I had lined up for interviews there had been arrested and were currently in jail. My primary contact in that country said, “This will not be a good time for you to visit us, unless you want to stay a lot longer than you had planned!” I certainly wanted to visit that country, but I had no interest I spending time in prison.
I wondered about the strange turn of events. Even more, I wondered if maybe it was some sort of a sign. I changed my plans immediately and returned to Bangkok. I am not sure if I was really surprised or not, but I received another e-mail from this same annoyingly persistent doctor.
This time I replied even more bluntly. Didn’t want to sound rude, but I was confident in the plans that I had made. In effect, I said to him: “Please stop asking me to visit; I am not coming to your country at this time.” A few days later, I prepared to leave Bangkok for my next destination. After leaving Bangkok and before I reached my next stop, however, I received a phone call from an in-country contact. This phone call informed me that some of the pastors who were planning to talk with me has been in an automobile accident. Several others were sick in the hospital, and ever others were under tight surveillance.
“I am sorry,” I was told, “but this is no longer a good time for you to visit. We will contact you to let you know when you might try again.”
Once again, I returned to Bangkok. Arriving there, I was startled to find yet another e-mail from the European doctor.
Again, he insisted strongly: “I really believe God wants you to come here now.”
Given the recent events and the apparent closed doors that I was facing, I was suddenly more open to his request. I broke down, swallowed my pride, and called the doctor. After introducing myself, I sheepishly admitted, “It suddenly looks like I really don’t have anything else to do for the next couple weeks. I guess I’ll be coming your way after all.”
I flew into the capital city of his country, then traveled on to a smaller city. From there, I took a smaller plane which landed on a short dirt runway outside a small border town. As soon as I exited the airplane, I spotted a man who was obviously the doctor. Standing beside him were five men in traditional Muslim dress who also seemed to be waiting at the remote desert airstrip for my plane to land.
As the doctor and I exchanged greetings, I asked him, “Who are your friends?”
“You don’t know who they are?” He reacted in surprise.
“No, I didn’t even know who you were until 30 seconds ago,” I told him.
“Well, Dr. Ripken,” he said, as he cast a furtive glance over his shoulder, “If you don’t know these men — and I don’t know these men — then we have a serious security problem. They told me that they had come to meet you.”
“So,” he continued rather abruptly, “I’m going to have to leave you now. Here’s my cell phone number. If everything turns out all right, call me, and I’ll come back and get you.”
Then he turned and walked away.
I was stunned, and it dawned on me that I was already praying. I felt that I was self-trained in being careful in the midst of danger, so there was no way that I was going to leave with these five men. As I dragged my bag towards the small terminal, I was already thinking about how quickly I could catch a flight out. The men followed me. They tugged on my clothes trying to get me to stop. I tried my best to ignore them. Finally, one of them said in broken English, “Sir, stop. Please stop. We are followers of Jesus.”
I immediately stopped and turned to listen to what they had to say. The quick summary of their story rang true. Against my better judgment, but sensing the hand of God on our meeting, I went with my five unnamed new “friends” to a room that they had rented in the nearby town.
When we got there, we sat down together on the floor in an unfurnished apartment. They simply looked at me and smiled. They seemed perfectly content to wait. I had no idea what was expected of me. I shared briefly about myself, though my words were more guarded than usual. I talked a little about where I had been. How I had been travelling around the world, the research that I had done, and why I wanted to talk to believers in different parts of the world. I even speculated a little on why I had ended up in this tiny corner of the world.
One of the men spoke English. He translated my words to the others. After he finished. All five of the men began to laugh.
I was confused and I wanted to know what they thought was so funny.
They shook their heads, smiled, and said to me, “You may think you know why you have come here. But we would like to tell you why you are really here.”
They briefly sketched out their own personal stories. They had each had dreams or visions that had raised spiritual questions and prompted a long search for answers. They had each miraculously found a copy of the Bible to study. After reading the entire book several times, they had each, on their own, decided to follow Jesus. They had each been rejected and disowned by their families. Eventually they had to flee their country. They made their way across the border to this small border town. Somehow they found each other and they realized that they all shared the same newfound faith in Christ.
They didn’t really know what to do next, but they instinctively started meeting in this tiny third-floor apartment. They met daily from midnight until 3:00 in the morning, hoping that no one would notice them. They read the Word of God secretly and tried to provide spiritual support and encouragement for one another.
Two months earlier, they explained, they had started praying this prayer: “Oh God, we don’t know how to do this! We grew up and were trained as Muslims. We know how to be Muslims in a Muslim environment. We even know how to be communists in a Muslim environment. But we do not know how to follow Jesus in a Muslim environment. Please, Lord, send us someone. Send us someone who knows about persecution, someone who knows what other believers are doing, someone who can encourage and teach us.”
Chills were running up and down my spine as they explained what had happened when they had been together in this same rented upper room earlier in the day: “At 1:30 this morning, we were here praying when the Holy Spirit told us to go to the airport. The Holy Spirit told us that we were to go to the first white man who got off the plane. The Holy Spirit told us that He was sending this man to answer our questions.”
“So,” they said as they smiled at me again, “that is why you are here. Now you can do what God has called you here to do. Before you start teaching us, however, we have one other question for you: Where have you been and what have you been doing for these last two months? We started to pray for someone to show up two months ago. And, only now are you here.”
I shook my head in embarrassment. I confessed, “Well… I guess I have been being disobedient! I tried my best for weeks not to come here at all. Please forgive me!”
They did. And we had a great time of teaching and learning from each other over the next few days. I listened to each of their personal testimonies of faith and asked them specific questions about the details of how and when they encountered Jesus and became His followers.
One of the five men told me, “I dreamed about a blue book. I was driven, consumed really, by the message of the dream. ‘Look for this book,’ the dream said, ‘read this Bible.’ I began a search, but I could not find a book like that anywhere in my country. Then, one day, I walked into a Quranic book shop and saw this sea of green books lining the walls. I noticed a book of a different colour on a shelf at the back of the store, so I walked back there and pulled out a thick blue volume to discover that it was a Bible. It was published in my own national language. I actually bought a Bible in the Islamic bookstore, took it home, and read it five times. That’s how I came to know Jesus.”
Another one told me, “I dreamed about finding Jesus, but I didn’t even know how or where to look. Then one day I was walking through the market when a man I had never seen before came up to me in the crowd. He said, ‘The Holy Spirit told me to give you this book.’ He handed me a Bible and disappeared into the crowd. I never saw him again. But I read the Bible he gave me three times from cover to cover, and that’s how I came to know and follow Jesus.”
Each one of the five men told me a different variation of this same story. Each one of them had come across a Bible in some unusual, miraculous way. Each one had read the Gospel story of Jesus. Each one had decided to follow Him.
After hearing their stories, I felt drawn to open the book of Acts. With an entirely different point of view, I began to read the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. For the first time in my life, as I read that passage, I wondered: How in the world did an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a man of colour, and a foreigner get a copy of a scroll containing the book of Isaiah?
In New Testament days, even partial copies of Scripture were handwritten on scrolls. They were very rare and very expensive. What’s more the Jews had strict rules and restrictions about who was even allowed to touch the Holy Scriptures and where the Scriptures could be opened and read.
By all accounts, this Ethiopian official would not have been allowed to touch a copy of Scripture, or open it and read it, or possess it. Yet, Philip finds this Ethiopian man in a chariot on a desert road in Gaza pouring and puzzling over Isaiah 53. When I read the story on this night the fact that the Ethiopian official was actually going home with a copy of a portion of the Jewish Bible seems extraordinary and unlikely.
In fact, it was so extraordinary and unlikely that I blurted out a question: Where did this man get a copy of Your Word?
In reply, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart: I have been doing this for a long time. If you will take My Word out into the world, I will get it in the right hands.
What a marvellous, miraculous, and mysterious partnership this is! We have no clear understanding of what sent that official of the Ethiopian queen on a spiritual pilgrimage to Israel, Something or someone did. How did that man miraculously get his hands on that part of the Word of God? And why was he on the empty stretch of desert road, at that very moment, reading that particular chapter of Isaiah? Of course, we know how Philip ended up there – the Holy Spirit sent him.
I had to admit that I did not know the answers to any of those questions.
Yet, now, after being among believers in persecution, I was pretty sure that God must have had to work a number of small miracles for that encounter between the Ethiopian man and Philip to take place. In God’s marvellous timing, this encounter happened in exactly the right place and at exactly the right time. Almost two thousand years later, the same thing had happened when I walked off of a plane to meet five Muslim men who had miraculously found Jesus. I had never intended to be an answer to prayer that day, but evidently I was.
Reading from the book of Acts that evening was a completely new experience. Two thoughts stayed in my mind: this is what God did then and this is what does does now. Suddenly, my modern world didn’t look all that different than the world of the Bible.
Much, much later, after years of gathering stories, I came to understand that the tales told by these five new friends were actually pretty commonplace. Time and again, in the years since, Muslim-background believers from many different countries and cultures have told me about being directed by dreams and visions. They have told me about finding Bibles through amazing circumstances. They have mentioned reading the Bible multiple times. In the reading, they have talked about feeling drawn to Jesus. They have told me of a personal decision to follow Him. Many of those pilgrimages to faith involved a Philip who miraculously showed up at exacting the right time, in the right place, with the right words that finally pointed the seeker directly to Jesus.
So, As I thought about all of this … struggling with the feelings inside my gut as I read these and multiple other stories … I wondered why God’s hand is not as evident in my life
Why does it seem that God does amazing things over there but not here?
Why does He seem more active in the life of believers in the third-world nations?
What is it that I need to change or adjust so that He is free to work in and through my life in ways that are more evident and ‘now’?
After all, God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34)
And, “He is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8)
Let’s discuss this as I would like to hear why you think we/you don’t always see the supernatural in our daily lives?
My answers:
1> I don’t live with a Kingdom perspective – Live with a worldly perspective
2> I am not as aware as I need to be of the fact that there is a spiritual reality to every day living on planet Earth
3> I am not “seeking first the Kingdom…” as I often put myself or the needs of others first
4> I am not directly aware of the absolute necessity of people coming to know Jesus and the power of the Gospel to change lives (Romans 1:16)
5> Not always sensitive to the moving of the Spirit and thus not aware of what He is doing … resulting in my not being involved in His plans
6> Often see daily life as daily and natural and not part of a bigger picture – God’s plan and purpose
7> I fail to live life in an ‘expectant’ mode … anticipating that God is moving and wanting to involve me in what He is doing
8> Not fully submitted to the will of God – Lordship
9> Not depending on God — trust, faith,, flesh / Spirit
Answers during discussion:
1> Complicate things too much
2> Disappointment from the past
3> Not looking for the supernatural and the intervention of God in daily life
4> Lack of faith
5> We think we don’t have God’s power or we don’t use God’s power
6> The desire for this type of life is not there
7> Feel that we are not ready to do what God is asking
8> Too comfortable to respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit
9> Not sensitive to the Holy Spirit and so miss opportunities
10> Cares of the world and daily life simply take over and so miss hearing God
11> Confusion on the inside
12> Self-conscious and worried about what others will think
13> Simple disobedience

Sometimes I’m Disappointed With God

Sometimes I’m Disappointed With God

An apostle from North America was meeting with a group of leader of the underground church in China

During the evening there was a fellowship time among the leaders as they shared what was happening in their lives and how God was moving in their homes and in their ministries

The apostle from North America took the opportunity to ask a question of these Chinese leaders of underground house churches … He asked:

“If I were to visit your home communities and talk with the non-believing families, friends, and neighbours of the members of your house churches — and if I would point out your church members and ask, ‘Who are these people? What can you tell me about them?’ — what answer would I get?”

The apostle writes: Many people started to answer at once. The response that jumped out at me, though, was the answer of a man who told me that his church’s neighbours would probably say, “Those are the people who raise the dead!”

As we read the gospels we see that Jesus raised the dead… Read more