Posts Tagged ‘Gospel’

When He had said this Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” John 11:43-44 NIV

This event triggered the Pharisees to crucify Jesus. Lazarus had been dead four days. Jewish tradition prompted the family to bury soon after death, but the Jews also believed the spirit hovered over the dead body for up to three days. This time too had passed. Lazarus was a fully dead man! It was a real miracle to bring him back to life, and this was too much for the Pharisees. What the Pharisees underestimated was that this power would continue to be exhibited in the life of Christians for thousands of years to come. If you are a child of God, you have been brought from death unto life.

Jesus had raised Lazarus from the grave. We should love the story because it shows the power of the Savior. We can know that if He can raise the dead to life, we can trust Him to help us make our house payment or whatever struggles our life may hold. We need to remember that today. Since Jesus has power over death, is there anything in your life that He can’t handle?

Jesus came to give us life! Jesus told Lazarus to take off His grave clothes, to quit “living” like he was dead. Shouldn’t we do the same thing? Have you received Christ as your Savior? Is your name recorded in Heaven as a child of God? Have the angels sung “Glory” over your salvation? Have you personally, without reservation, believed that Jesus died for your sins, and that the only way you will enter Heaven is through the grace of His shed blood on the cross?

Well, TAKE OFF YOUR GRAVE CLOTHES! Quit “living” among the dead. Look alive! Jesus saved you by grace, through faith, not unto death, but unto life! Shouldn’t that make a noticeable difference in your life today? SO LIVE! Don’t let this world steal your joy. Don’t let Satan rob you of your peace. Stop worrying over tomorrow.  Start living!

Take off your grave clothes and LIVE!

I’ve been browsing through Randy Newman’s book, Bringing the Gospel Home: Witnessing to Your Family Members, Your Close Friends, and Others You Know WellThis is an incredibly important topic as I have come to find it harder to share the gospel with family members as it is with an unknown person in my community. I imagine this is true for most if not all Christians.

In the conclusion of his introductory chapter, Newman provides four steps for sharing the gospel with your family. I thought they were very thoughtful and practical. Check them out.

1.  If you don’t already have one, develop a system for prayer for your family. Perhaps you can set aside a section in a prayer journal.

2.  Begin your prayers for your family with thanksgiving. This may be more difficult for some people than others. Regardless of your family’s well-being, thank God for the family you have and all the accompanying benefits you can identify.

3.  You may need to include prayers of confession as well–confession of your lack of love for your family, your idolatry of control in trying to change them, your reliance on your ability to convict them of their sin instead of trusting the Holy Spirit to do that, your coldheartedness, haughtiness, and self-righteousness, etc. Ask the Holy Spirit to shine his light of truth on your darkness of sin.

4.  If you haven’t already done so, “come out of the closet” as a Christian to your family. Pray for gentle words and a gracious demeanor mixed with bold confidence. . . . Aim for your announcement to be informational rather than evangelistic. You can trust God to open evangelistic doors later.

#3 nailed me.

One thing I might add, especially if you have a large family: look for opportunities in the course of the day when it is not so hectic where you might be able to enjoy a sustained conversation with a family member who is not a Christian. In a large group setting, conversations tend to stay on a superficial level, but if you can get alone with one or two family members for 10-15 minutes or longer, you will have a greater opportunity of magnetizing the conversation to the gospel and how Jesus has changed, and is changing your life.

Chris Russell recently published a blog post called “8 Keys to Knowing God’s Will For Your Life.” That post was directed toward helping believers to figure out the big picture in regard to God’s will. For instance, those keys have much to do with God’s plan for you vocationally, in ministry, and in the important stages of life.

This post, on the other hand, lends help for the “smaller” decisions that we make from day to day.  In order to continue in the middle of God’s perfect will, it is vital that we make right decisions each day and each week. But that is not always easy. As a tool to help you make right decisions from a biblical perspective, I have pulled together 13 questions you should ask when facing a choice. Here they are:

1)  Does God already have a clear teaching about this?

Joshua 1:8
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

If God has already spoken clearly about this, you do not have to wonder any longer. Just do what he has told you.

Simple, right?

Well, the problem here seems to be that most people in our culture today seem to have a fairly low level of knowledge of the Scriptures. They are “low-information believers.”

So, I would encourage you to saturate your mind as much as possible with God’s Word. Read it. Study it. Memorize it. Learn it. Once you have done so, you will be amazed at how much better you are at making good, solid decisions in life.

2)  What do my top spiritual advisors tell me about this?

Proverbs 11:14
Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.

It is vital that you surround yourself with godly friends who will be able to speak into your life about life’s decisions. Do you realize that you are basically a composite of the five people you spend the most time with? It is crucial to choose those people carefully. If you don’t have those types of friends, I would encourage you to increase your involvement in church and small groups and ministry in order to establish those godly relationships.

3)  What do authority figures in my life have to say about this?

Titus 3:1
Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work.

(Also see Romans 13:1-7Hebrews 13:17)

God often works through authority relationships in our lives. For instance, it would be extremely rare for the best choice to be something that is illegal. Look at this choice from the vantage point of authority figures in your life, and at least use that as an important reference point for you.

4)  How will this affect me spiritually?

1 Corinthians 10:23
All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.

There is much more to this life than just earning a bigger paycheck or improving your status amongst peers. When you make choices, make sure you consider how this decision will affect your spiritual development. Will this draw you nearer to God or further from him?  Will this decision interfere with your ability to attend church, maintain godly relationships, or spend time cultivating your spiritual disciplines?  If it harms you spiritually, then I would suggest pulling the plug on that choice.

5)  How will this affect my family? Will this draw us closer to God or further from God?

1 Corinthians 8:9
But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.

Not only must you consider how this decision will affect your own spiritual development, but you must also consider the affects it will have on the spiritual state of your family. Will this help your family to grow in Christ, or will it interfere with that spiritual growth? Will this pull them away from godly friends and away from a healthy, godly church environment? Will this divide your family in any way? Be careful not to make decisions that will cause your family to pay a big price.

6)  Is this going to bring more peace or less peace to my life?

1 Thessalonians 4:11
That you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you.

Did you know that God actually wants you to have a peaceful life? Of course, this is not the “American way,” but it is definitely an important consideration when it comes to making decisions. Be cautious that you are not stacking your life with more and more “stuff” that will send you over the edge with stress and anxiety. And make sure it is not going to steal the peace from your family as well.

7)  Is this consistent with the way God has wired me?

1 Peter 4:10
As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

God has created you for a purpose, and He has designed you specifically to fulfill that purpose. You are a gifted individual, and His plan will be for you to function within that area of giftedness. When we veer outside of the way He has wired us, we often feel excessive stress, anxiety, and burnout very quickly.

When it comes to making decisions, make sure you evaluate the choice in light of the way that God has designed you. Are you creative? Are you detail-oriented? Are you relational? Are you task-oriented? Are you a communicator? Pay attention to how God has wired you.

8)  Am I paying attention to the risks that are associated with this?

Proverbs 27:12
A wise man foresees evil and hides himself; the simple pass on and are punished.

When making decisions, it is very important to honestly assess the risk that is involved. Sometimes we can become so mesmerized by a “golden carrot” that we overlook the risks that are associated. For this one, I would suggest that you have an outside voice speak into the situation.

In his book Entreleadership, Dave Ramsey says that anytime he has made a business decision that has gone against his wife’s advice, it has cost him at least $10,000. Sometimes others, like a spouse, can see the risks that we overlook.

It is a sign of wisdom to be cautious. Not fearful, but cautious.

9)  Do I have total peace from God about this?

Philippians 4:7
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Sometimes everything can look right on the outside when I’m making a decision, but there will still be angst within my spirit. I have learned that making a decision without that inner peace is nearly always a mistake. God gives us peace as a protection and a guide. Seek His peace, and be cautious of making decisions that move against that peace.

10)  Are the doors of circumstances clearly open here?

(See Acts 16)

God often works through obvious circumstances. For example, He did that for Paul in Acts 16. In that chapter, Paul and his entourage kept facing closed doors as they were seeking where they were to minister next. And then, one door to Asia flew open while all other doors were closing.

God often directs me more by closing doors than by opening them. But there have been times in my life when I have attempted to force open a door that was not truly open. That never ends well.

It’s always good to look at how God is opening or closing doors in front of you. And while an open door does not always mean that you are to pass through, it is often an indicator that God is at work. Pay attention to open doors, and be cautious of forcing doors open when they are closed.

11)  Is now the best time for this? Could waiting be better?

Ephesians 5:16-17
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Haste does not always produce the best decisions. Sometimes everything might seem right about a choice, but making the decision at a later time might make more sense. This isn’t always easy, because we often want to move forward quickly when we see an opportunity. But sometimes the wiser decision is to slow down, plan more, get more input, and give it more time to develop.

12)  Am I willing to let God close this door?

(Again, refer to Paul’s journey in Acts 16.)

An important element to making good decisions is to make sure that you are completely submitted to God’s ultimate plan for your life. Sometimes we get it into our heads that we want to do a certain thing, and then we struggle immensely when we begin to realize that God may not want us to move forward with that particular choice.

The disaster comes when we place our desire above God’s plan. Let me be clear here. That never turns out well. The best decision you can ever make is to submit your choices to God’s plan and be willing to give up an opportunity when you sense God does not want you to move forward with that decision.

13)  Am I willing to trust God if He asks me to step forward?

Hebrews 11:6
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Closely related to the above question is this: Are you willing to trust God if He asks you to step forward? This is basically the flipside of question 12. It’s important to stop when God says, “Stop,” and it is equally important to move forward when He says, “Move forward.”

Are you willing to do that thing He might want you to do? What if it makes you feel uncomfortable? What if it moves you out of your comfort zone? What if it requires faith?

I can testify to you that the most exciting moments of my life have been when I have submitted to God and stepped forward with Him in faith. I hope you can experience that same joy.

Wrapping It Up

OK, so when you have a tough choice to make, I would encourage you to go over these questions before confirming your decision. Perhaps print these questions out and keep them as a reference point for the future. Talk through each of these questions with your spouse or a friend in the context of a decision you are currently making in your own life. I know of some parents who have used these with their kids to help train their children to make good decisions as well. In essence, these questions can serve as guidelines for helping you and your family make decisions that you will not regret.

* All Scripture quotes are taken from the New King James Version of the Bible

FORGIVENESS: YET I SULK

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Last year I was hurt by a close friend, and my reaction was to cause hurt in return. Actually, it may have been the other way around. The entire incident was so passive and internal that it’s hard to say how it all started.
Either way, it resulted in sulks, resentment, licking of wounds, and finally, grudging apologies. We’ve been on relationship probation ever since. When we see each other out in public, we smile and try too hard—neither one admitting our resentment. Feeling like I was owed something, I never made an attempt to mend our relationship. Why should I give in first? After all, it would be foolish to make myself vulnerable to that person.
But the last time I checked, Jesus doesn’t bless the ones who hold out the longest for an apology. In my reading of Matthew, I found quite the opposite: He blesses the peacemakers. And in the Sermon on the Mount, He shows us exactly what peacemaking entails:
“If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matt 5:23–24).
Jesus doesn’t say “go and ask for an apology,” “go and make excuses for your behavior,” or even “go and tell your side of the story.” He says go and be reconciled.
Jesus goes on to explain what a response to being wronged looks like:
“But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you” (Matt 5:38–42).
He uses examples of some very public wrongs—a slap across the cheek and a lawsuit.
It’s often harder to back down if it means losing face. I don’t swallow my pride easily, and I know exactly what I would do if I were literally slapped across the face: I’d turn the other cheek with such an exaggerated, provoking attitude that I would deserve that follow-up slap.
Jesus is describing a much more humble attitude—one that perhaps includes a tacit recognition of the other person’s hurt or anger.
His words within the Lord’s Prayer are a reminder of why we should forgive: “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt 6:12).
Forgiveness isn’t grudging or passive—it’s actively showing acceptance. And it’s not contingent on whether I feel the other person is deserving of that forgiveness. It’s in response to the unbelievable and undeserved forgiveness that Christ offers me.

Jessi Gering

___________________________________________

Biblical references are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV).

Before and after: two simple words frequently used to describe a city in western Guatemala named Almolonga.  The locals consistently refer to their city in terms of two eras: before the power of God came in the mid- 1970s, and after, when it is reported that 90% of the 18,000 residents became born-again Christians.  The way the people of Almolonga say “before” is reminiscent of how others might say, “in the dark ages.”

After:  The word signals a new epoch for the city, marked by family harmony, prosperity and peace in the Holy Spirit.  The contrast is stark and real to these people who remember how, just 25 years ago, demons, fear, poverty, disease, idolatry, and alcohol dominated their region and their families.

Some call Almolonga the “Miracle City” because of the radical   transformations in many dimensions of this ethnically Quiché society (descendants of the Mayans).  Some Christian leaders say Almolonga is the best example they’ve seen of how intercession, spiritual warfare, and evangelism can transform a community.

Driving into Almolonga, one is immediately struck by the brilliant green hues of the fertile fields spreading throughout this magnificent valley.  Even before the onset of the rainy season, when much of the Guatemalan landscape is still dry, Almolonga remains vibrant and lush.  Hence, Almolonga is nicknamed   “America’s Vegetable Garden”.

Almolonga, Guatemala

A weak church

But it wasn’t always so.  About 25 years ago, the Church was small and weak, the fields were undeveloped and the city was characterized by an alcohol-induced lethargy – the fruit of serving an idol named Maxirnon.  This perverse idol is associated with the vices of smoking, drinking liquor, and immorality.  Maximon is a 3-foot idol consisting of a clay mask and a wood and cloth body.  He receives the kisses of the faithful who kneel before him.  Placing at his feet bottles of liquor purchased with their meagre earnings, they hope against hope that their offering will bring blessing and healing.  The priest   offers lit cigars to the idol, and taking a mouthful of the liquor offering, spews it over the devotees.  The followers leave expecting a blessing, perhaps receiving a demonic display of power, but nonetheless slipping deeper and deeper into an abyss of oppression.

Sadly, his influence is so strong that he is considered the patron saint and protector of many Guatemalan mountain villages.  In addition to serving Maximon, many of the residents of Almolonga once sought the blessing of other idols as well.  Pastor Genero Riscaiché, one of the pastors at Almolonga’s largest church, Mission Evangelical Monte Calvario, notes, “Before, this was a very idolatrous town.  There were many different types of idols.  Many worshipped the silver image of Almolonga’s patron saint, San   Pedro.”

But in 1974-75 the Kingdom of God dramatically started clashing with Maximon and the ruling powers of darkness controlling Almolonga.  Following the pattern of historic revivals, God first began this community transformation in the heart of one of his consecrated servants.  Mariano Riscaiché (no relation to Genero), now the pastor of El Calvario Church, was a typical young man of Almolonga who sought the protection and blessing of idols before he encountered the living God.

At his conversion, Pastor Mariano heard the Lord say, “I have elected you to serve Me.”   He said it was like waking from a dream; his understanding was opened and the promises of the Bible became real.  Pastor Mariano’s burning desire was to see people come to Christ and find freedom.  Then, one by one, his own family was saved.

Power encounters


Jesus is Lord of Almolonga


A new season of power encounters with Maximon began shortly after Pastor Mariano’s surrender to Christ.  Mariano and other pastors in town, such as Guillermo Satey, founding and senior pastor of Mission Evangelical Monte Calvario, saw more than 400 people delivered from demons.  When believers asked a demon to identify itself, “Maximon” was sometimes uttered by the oppressed one.  This mass deliverance was similar to the book of Acts where people burned their possessions that linked them to a past consumed by witchcraft and idolatry.  “Those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them.” (Acts 19:19, NASB).  The eviction of these demons not only brought freedom to individuals, but the spiritual oppression over the city began to lift as well.

The early days of spiritual warfare were extremely intense.  Those being set free were sometimes thrown across the room, and at times coughed up blood.  The Church continued steadfast in intercession, spiritual warfare, and evangelism as the name of Jesus was demonstrated to be the dominant force in this battle.  Pastor Mariano asserts that the enemy had to be confronted directly and boldly.

One of those set free from demonic control was a powerful priest of Maximon named José Albino Tazei.  Many people in Almolonga sought him out to heal their illnesses, foresee their future, and to bless their businesses.  But one night, José, near death after a month-long drinking binge, cried out to God to save him.  At 11:00 pm, José woke his family to share the glorious news of his new-found freedom in Christ.  In repentance, the family burned all of their idols and witchcraft paraphernalia.  The following day José went to the mountains to fast and seek the Lord.

Witnessing this well-known slave to witchcraft come to Christ intensified the Church’s intercession for God to transform not only individuals like José, but their whole community as well.

Before his conversion José would abandon the family for eight to ten days at a time to drink and conduct witchcraft activities for Maximon.  He often left his family without any money for food.  As his dedication to Maximon grew, so did his addiction to alcohol.

José’s oldest daughter, Francisca, grimaces and lowers her voice as she recounts the memory of herself and the other children kneeling before Maximon, burning candies and bringing their offerings.  But quickly she diverts the subject to “after we surrendered to Jesus” and joyfully asserts that God changed everything 24 years ago.  She proudly inserts, “We were some of the first converts during the mid 70s.”

“Before we received Christ, we didn’t have any money, little food, or a decent house, and only clothes discarded by others,” she continues.  “My father started seeking God and fasting.  He began a business and started working diligently.  Now, God has given us a house, a small store, and a calm, hard-working, godly father.”

Francisca recounts, “The church accepted us and didn’t leave us in the middle.  They loved us and visited us, and really struggled with us as we became established in Christ.” This care for new converts is one of the key ways God has used to maintain and deepen the effects of this revival.

As his grip started loosening, the evil one instigated a persecution against the Church.  Some merchants would not even sell food to believers recently set free from the old ways.  Enemies of the Gospel would go into church and do witchcraft to disrupt the services.  The believers suffered under this backlash for years, but one particular incident stands out in Pastor Mariano’s memory.  Six men attacked him, tying his hands behind his back.  They knocked his front teeth out, then one man shoved a gun in his mouth.  Pastor Mariano prayed for God to cover him, and as the Lord’s presence descended he heard the  “click… click… click” of the gun, unable to fire.  Bewildered by this divine intervention, his attackers ran away.

Pastor Genero, a native of Almolonga, describes the early resistance to the Gospel as follows: “If a person from outside Almolonga came to someone’s home to share the Gospel, people would kick them out of their house with sticks, stones, and even shovels.  It was terrible!  They didn’t view the Gospel as Good News, but as something offensive.  Unbelievers circulated rumours about the Church and accused the Christians of being lazy.”  Some of the unbelievers threw stones at houses where the church met for prayer.  Pastor Genero notes, “Many of those who threw stones are now leaders in the church.  Things have now changed, for even the non-Christians respect the Gospel.”

As one who has pastored a little over one year in Almolonga, Pastor Joel  Pérez agrees and says, “Even unbelievers in Almolonga recognize the  marvellous work of God.  These few unbelievers acknowledge that the advances in their society and agriculture are due to the Gospel.  They do not resist the Church now, as we heard about in the early days.  More than once, I have been eating in a restaurant and someone has said, “You are a pastor, aren’t you?  I’m not a Christian, but let me buy your lunch.’”

Since the power of God started transforming the community, crime has taken a definite downturn.  Donato Santiago, chief of police, can sometimes be spotted resting in the shade during market days.  Armed with a whistle, this tranquil brother has seen it all during his 23 years as a policeman in Almolonga.  “We used to average 20 to 30 people in jail each month,” he recounts.”  Crowds would gather just to watch the drunks fight.  It seemed like I had no rest.  I was often awakened in the middle of the night to stop family violence.  Before, we had four jails and that was insufficient to adequately house all of our prisoners,” Donato recalls.  “Things were so bad we enlisted around a dozen citizens at night to help the officers patrol the streets.  But now things are different!  The people have changed their attitudes.  Crime has risen in many places over the past 20 years, but not here in Almolonga.”

What accounts for this dramatic change in the townspeople?  Donato is quick to respond, “The Word of God!  Once people were converted they changed their customs and left behind drinking.  They gained respect in the community.  Day by day the rest followed and joined the church because of the changes they saw in the lives of Christians.  People living with a deep respect for God accounts for the changed attitudes.  Crime and drinking are now viewed by the people as a waste of time and a waste of money.”

The last jail closed in 1989!  Now remodelled and called “The Hall of Honour,” it’s a place for celebrating weddings, receptions, and community events.   In addition to the drop in the crime rate, great societal changes can also be observed by the absence of prostitutes and the number of bars turned into small stores with new names like “Little Jerusalem” and “Jehovah Jireh.”  Before, there was a house of prostitution and people often waited in line to get into the packed bars.  “There was even a custom in which we threw a party and gave alcohol (in small portions) to the little ones,” says Pastor Genero.  In the 1970s, 34 cantinas did a brisk business in Almolonga; today there are only three.  After the bars started shutting down, a new one opened but the owner closed the doors when he met the Lord three months later.   He now plays in a Christian band called “Combo Israel.”

Miracles

God’s mercy over Almolonga is evidenced in many ways, but one often-repeated display of grace is the incredible number of miracles.  Many have come to Christ through signs and wonders.  Teresa and her family found new life in Christ after she received a last-chance miracle.  In 1984, the incision from her poorly performed Cesarean section became infected.  This gangrenous state progressed to the point where she couldn’t eat; drinking was extremely difficult.

Teresa continued to weaken.  Different doctors each said that she was in a very dangerous state.  Valeriano, her husband, remembers the days of just hopelessly waiting for her to die.  She died about 10:00 pm one night.  Her husband checked for a pulse and placed a mirror beneath her nostrils to see if she was breathing, but there were no signs of life.  For three hours she lay motionless.  Grief stricken, at 1:00 AM Valeriano went to look for Pastor Mariano to make funeral preparations.  As Pastor Mariano and Valeriano were walking back to the house, Pastor Mariano heard the unmistakable voice of the Lord saying, “Do not prepare for the funeral; pray for her.  I will lift her up.’

Pastor Mariano recalls coming into the home seeing distraught people frantically running back and forth.  He grabbed Valeriano and they began to pray for God’s miraculous intervention.  After 10 minutes, Teresa suddenly began stirring.  Her colour returned and she sat up on the bed! Valeriano was astounded at this display of God’s power.  Pastor Mariano began to preach the Gospel to all the neighbours and family who had gathered at the home that night.  And in the days that followed, many believed.

Teresa’s strength was restored day by day.  In deep gratitude, she and Valeriano also gave their lives to Christ.  Now people come to their home to receive prayer for healing.  Remembering her miracle inspires faith when Teresa prays for others; she has witnessed many miracles as a result.  Valeriano now preaches the Gospel and testifies of a miracle working Heavenly Father.  He joyfully says, “God is the only one who is on our side and only he can do these miracles.”

Just as Vateriano and Teresa’s family opened their hearts to the Gospel after this powerful miracle, in many cases the revival has spread through family units.  Pastor Mariano articulates a truth held dear in Almolonga when he says, “True success is when your whole family comes to the Lord.” Therefore believers seriously fast and pray to bring their family into God’s family.

Families redeemed

Although the women still weave and wear the beautiful indigenous dresses and carry heavy loads upon their heads (like Quiché women have for hundreds of years), they walk in a new dignity – a result of the redemption of the family.  Prior to God’s inbreaking, Pastor Genero recalls,  “The majority of men drank and the homes were disorderly.  Neglect and physical abuse were rampant.  It was common for men to hit their wives, sometimes even with sticks.”

“The family system before was at the bottom,” comments Pastor Francisco Garcia of Iglesia de Dios de la Profecia Universal.  Women were largely viewed simply as servants.  Pastor Genero comments, “Before, the custom was that only the men would study.  We believed that schools were not for women.  Since the Gospel came, we teach that both sexes have the same opportunities.  Today we see some women who are professionals.”

Ramon Cotzoy’s wife recalls the earlier days.  “My husband would sometimes treat me harshly and try to throw me out of the house.  Things have changed.   Now he is a humble man of God.”

Ramon admits that he neglected and mistreated his family prior to surrendering to Christ.  Now he ministers to men in the community and exhorts them to stop drinking and start loving their families.  Ramon observes, “Because the unbelievers see the peaceful example of how the Christian men are living with their families, they are treating their wives better now.”

“Today there is more communication within families and very little abuse in Almolonga.  In the church, we teach a lot on biblical family orientation,” says Pastor Genero.  “Couples solve their problems through dialogue and communication.”

This renewal of family harmony has opened the way for the Spirit of God to span the generations and impact all age groups, including the youth and children.  The youth do not view Christianity as simply something for the older people.  There is a new thrust of youth-motivated home groups with the focus to bring the remaining unsaved youth in the city to Christ.  Pastor Joel observes, “The youth are getting hold of God.  In different churches some of the youth groups even go on special fasting retreats.”

Chief of Police Santiago says, “The parents are taking better care of their children now.” Santiago explains why there aren’t teens loitering around town.  “The youth work hard to buy farm trucks.  This atmosphere of diligent work is the best atmosphere to grow up in.”

Seeing the youth and children cheerfully working alongside their parents in the fields and marketplace evokes a smile in visitors to Almolonga.  Pastor Mariano’s father, one of the oldest men in the city, observes, “Everyone in Almolonga works.  Even the 12-15-year olds fill a truck with vegetables to sell.   They throw themselves into God and into their work.”

Community transformation

This work ethic has produced an economic renewal, an incredible dimension of community transformation throughout Airnolonga.  There is no evidence of the unemployment, the beggars, the drunkards asleep in alleyways, or the loiterers that so often characterize similar places.  In other cities around this region people often appear exhausted with life.  Not so in Almolonga.

The people’s diligence and tenacity have seen this valley come alive with multiple harvests each year.  Celery, leeks, cauliflower, turnips, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, radishes, and watercress thrive under the skilful care of Almolonga’s farmers.  These vegetables are often incredibly larger than the size of those grown in the surrounding villages.  Pastor Joel attributes this agricultural blessing to the Lord of Glory.  He mentioned a time when agronomists from the U.S.A. visited Almolonga to test their scientific principles to produce better crops.  The result?  Pastor Joel says, “The wisdom God gave the farmers of Almolonga produced more than the scientific methods yielded.”

A subterranean stream provides a constant source of water for the farms.  These lucrative products have elevated the lifestyles of many of the believers.  Pastor Mariano’s father was one of the former bar owners who now runs a tienda (small store) and raises vegetables.  He reports that the greatest changes in commerce came in the 80s because the farmers not only quit spending their money on liquor, but they began to incorporate principles from God’s Word, saving and investing their profits.  Before the farmers would farm just enough to support their drinking habit; they had no vision beyond that.

Then God started giving the farmers understanding.  They began to plan ahead and invest in topsoil and fertilizers.  Some farmers have even paid cash for Mercedes trucks, emblazoning them with names like Regalito de Dios (“Little Gift from God”).  Many farmers have now hired others to work their fields.  They are even developing farms in the surrounding communities as they shift from being farmers to businessmen.  Mariano’s father marvels, “We never dreamed of selling our produce outside of Guatemala, but now we export to other nations.”

Church unity

Since this relatively small town has so many growing churches, a question often arises concerning the relationship between the pastors.  Pastor Joel describes the fellowship among pastors as “a tight fraternity of ministers.”  He further notes,  “We have an agenda of prayer and fasting.  We go outside the city to a hill to pray and earnestly seek the Lord …  When we have little things come up or if the enemy tries to interrupt our unity, we quickly restore it through seeking the Lord for more souls to come into the Kingdom.”

Pastor Genero says, “Presently we are strengthening our fellowship.  Years ago there was an association of pastors, but it faded out because of individuality.  This year we have restored the pastoral association again.”  Two Christian radio stations service Almolonga.  Pastor Joel reports that these stations enhance unity by allowing air time for all the evangelical pastors to use for a token price.

Reaching 90% of the city with the Gospel doesn’t satisfy the pastors’ evangelistic zeal.  Pastor Francisco emphatically asserts, “We are applying God’s guidance for the churches to keep growing.  We have the goal to reach the whole town!”

Pastor Mariano believes God is giving the Church insight into the strategies to deepen and extend this community impact into future generations.  His heart breaks when he hears about powerful revivals which were not passed along to the next generation.  To maintain the results already reached in Almolonga, Pastor Mariano’s strategy encompasses a fivefold focus:

living in the fear of the Lord,

maintaining intense prayer and fasting,

building Christian schools,

caring for new converts,

and establishing strong families.

Firstly, he urges his flock to, “always live under the direction of the Holy Spirit.  Live your life in the fear of the Lord as a good testimony.  When we truly live the Christian life, demonic principalities are more easily overthrown.”

Secondly, to maintain the results won through intercession and spiritual warfare, the Church must continue steadfast in prayer and fasting.  Long past the breakthroughs in the 70s, many believers in Almolonga continue weekly disciplines of prayer and fasting.  At El Calvario Church, people are held accountable to participate in prayer and fasting.

Thirdly, Pastor Mariano is taking steps to build a Christian school, which he believes is critical to sustain the revival.  He says that the children not only need an education, but a Christ-centred education taught by Christian teachers.  “Education without Christian teachers can set up a counterattack from Satan by introducing traditions outside of Christianity.  Then all that we have reached [in the revival] can crumble.”

A fourth ingredient to maintain revival is an intentional plan to care for the new Christians.  Someone from the church personally visits the new believers.  They hold special discipleship meetings focusing on basic Bible doctrines.  Deliverance and a clear break with their past life are important.  “We inspire them toward diligent hard work, debt reduction and to live in the fear of God.  New believers are instructed to prepare themselves for baptism.  Fasting is one of the first spiritual disciplines taught to the new Christian,” reports Pastor Mariano.

The fifth and final major focus to sustain the revival’s impact is establishing strong families.  Christians are instructed to only marry fellow believers.  One counter-cultural measure El Calvario introduced in the late 1970s was the concept of letting people decide for themselves whom they would marry.  Today, parents are consulted and there is a process of obtaining parental blessing and approval in mate selection, but the decision rests with the couple.  Before, the parents would determine whom their children would marry.  A courtship period was also unheard of in their culture; now they recommend a 6-month to a year courtship during which the couple gets to know each other.  This has increased marital harmony within the Christianity community.  Consequently, other churches in the community also follow similar plans.

Testimonies of individuals being changed relationally, spiritually, and financially by God’s power are common in Christianity.  But the amazing distinctive of Almolonga is that Christians there tell their testimony not simply as individuals, but collectively, as families and as a people.

Visiting a service at El Calvario Church is a little taste of Heaven.  The church building is one of Guatemala’s largest and most beautiful.  This debt-free sanctuary (seating 1200+) is the gathering place of exuberant worshippers.   Their release of emotions toward the Son of God is noteworthy because culturally these people are generally stoic and very reserved in expressing their emotions.  To watch this passion for Jesus, especially among the youth and children, it is hard to imagine that only a generation back, their families were in bondage to alcohol, idols, and demons.  Perhaps that legacy of suffering explains the great abandon with which they worship Jesus: these people know they have something to celebrate!

__________

See Almolonga stories also in Great Revival Stories and Transforming Revivals

Mell Winger has a Doctor of Ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary.

This article is reproduced with permission from Chapter 17 of The Transforming Power of Revival, edited by Harold Caballeros and Mell Winger (Peniel Press, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1998). 

Share this page to bless others – see links below. 

A video called Transformation, including a report on Almolonga in Guatemala and Cali in Columbia, is available from Toowoomba City Church, PO Box 2216, Toowoomba, Qld. 4350.  Ph: 07 4638 2399.  E-mail: tccemail@tcchurch.com.au 

See also Renewal Journal # 17 Unity “Shapshots of Glory” by George Otis Jr.

©  Renewal Journal #16: Vision (2000, 2012)  www.renewaljournal.com


Reproduction is allowed with the copyright included in the text.

I’ll start with my parable of a little boy from a poor home. one day playing in the woods, he found a precious stone, he loved it dearly. He couldn’t take it home for the many questions his poor parents would ask. So at the end of each day playing with it, he would bury it. The next day, he would set out early, dig up the stone, go to the nearby stream, wash it up, play with it till evening and bury it again. He was soon getting fatigued at the route he had to take every day just to play with something he loved. So he found a beautiful way out.

You will found out at the end of this thread what the brilliant young boy’s solution was. So here goes what God has been to us forever. 

God has never been mad at you, never was, never will be. But you are too scared to accept the reality that you are loved unconditionally. God’s covenant with Abraham was independent of Abraham’s actions. In blessing, I will bless you… Abraham had no part in the covenant. Years down, his descendants, Israel are on the march out of Egypt, note there was no ten commandments, so how did God deal with Israel? Pure Grace, he did good for evil unto them because he loved them. But as with all things good and undeserved, the Israelites were sceptical. Like we do: “At what point does my sin become too much of an issue with God?” “shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” sad

The Israelites shot themselves in the foot and told God “all that you command of us, we are willing and able to do” The consequence…? They had just told God, do to me according to my own works, I don’t want to be loved unconditionally, I want my love to be measured. The Israelites wanted God to deal love unto them on a performance basis. It saddened God. His nature is love and He deals it in abundance. Before this time, their clothes & sandals grew on them, when they asked for food he gave them manna. When they complained about manna, saying “Oh Lord what is this worthless bread” God didn’t say see these ingrates and kill them, nope,  He gave them Quail. Isn’t His love pure? All that changed when the law came, you do good, you get good, you do bad, you get beat. The wrath of God was unveiled. They demanded it.

God couldn’t hold out on anger that long so he did what only he could. God became man, and made a covenant with God on behalf of men. So as you see again, as with Abraham, man didn’t have a contribution to the covenant, because HE DOESN’T NEED YOU TO LOVE YOU! The law in itself is a stumbling block, Christ said this to the Pharisees. Notice something in the way he addressed the teachers of law… Christ called Pharisees “Brood of Vipers” that the law has blinded them. Paul said in Romans “where there is no law, there is no sin”. Some “My Pastor said” Christians will say “But Jesus said, I didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfil it”. Hmmmmmm

I will explain this now.

When you fulfil a thing, what does it mean? You satisfy the conditions in it and it is a done deal right? Let me get deeper for clarity. Lawyers on here know that you can’t punish someone twice for the same offence, even if you uncover new evidence. He is free, He is free. Hence, in the forgiveness of sins: Jesus hung on the cross like a common thief for you and I and screamed “it is finished” what did he mean? He meant: every punishment for sin, every condemnation, every sickness, has been fully paid for on the cross. He took it all on his body.

So Friends, what does “it is finished” mean to you? It means blow after blow after blow, Christ took all your punishments… And said…”… There remains no other sacrifice for sin”  Sin ended on the body of Jesus, believer, you are discharged, blameless and acquitted!!! Christ himself was the end of the law, why did the curtains of the temple tear open from top to bottom, The forgiveness of sins went in.

The law in itself is condemnation, look at the people that got healed in scriptures. they had to forego condemnation to be healed. A life of no condemnation is what we now call FAITH. Hence Christ always told those he healed… “Go, your faith has made you whole”. Put simply, Jesus meant: “thank you for coming out of the law, sin and condemnation, that’s the only way to get a taste of my pure love”.

I like to say it often but Christian apologetics hate me for this “the law was not made to be kept” Let me tell you why the law was made. The law was brought in so that the sin might increase. (Romans 5:20 NIV) I will tell you what this means. Remember the Israelites story? God made the law so that they would sin more and get burnt out, so that they would need a saviour: Jesus. The law was brought in so that man would come to the end of himself, be tired of keeping the laws and beg for a saviour, THE GRAND PLAN!

There were two people Jesus said had great FAITH in scriptures, they were the Syro-Phoenician woman and the Centurion, want to know why? They had one thing in common!!

Wait for it!!

THEY WERE NOT JEWS, THEY WERE NOT UNDER THE LAW, THEY HAD NO CONDEMNATION TO DEAL WITH!!!

I will wrap this up in a moment with the question “shall we continue in sin that grace may abound”

Let heavenly wisdom flood your heart

Paul wasn’t asking a question, he was repeating people’s popular question to him, like we do today. Paul’s answer is in the next verse…His answer was “God forbid, how can you who have died to sin live any longer in it” 

I will tell you what Paul means by God Forbid…

“God forbid” in this is context is “How can these things be?” Like: is that a question, it would be stupid and disrespectful to even answer. Paul was saying “Its impossible, you can’t live in sin, sin has been paid for, Christ is the end to sin and judgement, how can it be?” Paul even said to the Romans “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” BELIEVERS, PLEASE BELIEVE!!!
People are quick to take me to 1 John  1. Let me show you what it means. Discern what parts of scripture is yours and which is not.

FOR UNBELIEVERS:

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

FOR BELIEVERS

“…that you don’t sin. But if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, The Righteous one” (1 John 2:1)

Sons of God hear His voice.

Remember the boy at the beginning of the story? Here was what he did and he that blows my mind every time. He pegged the precious stone between two rocks inside the stream, so that he doesn’t have to dig up and wash every day. Beautiful stuff.

Believer, you are the pearl of great price, God was tired of digging you up and washing you every day, so he put you under his blood and washes you continually with his waterfall of forgiveness, his blood. Believer you are righteous once you have Jesus. It is a GIFT.

Now, “Grace has found you, Love will avail himself to you every step of the way”. The devil has no grip on you, the sacrifice on your life is an overpayment, be free of condemnation right this moment, YOU ARE FREE!!!

I Pray that GRACE AND PEACE be MULTIPLIED unto YOU. You will know the length, breadth and depth of God’s super abounding love for you. Grace will abound towards you so bountifully and tangibly that you will experience his love so thick like a mist. Grace will envelop you. GRACE HAS FOUND YOU.

Stay Blessed.

Charles Isidi @i_am_pixelhub

John Arheghan – The Blood Music Video

John Arheghan honors Jesus and his wonderful sacrifice with his new single – The Blood! Produced by Chaz Creative Chaz_creative.prosite.com