Steph Curry’s Brings His Favorite Bible Verses Onto The Court

Published on June 6, 2017

From a guy who many thought was too little to play at the highest level to becoming the league’s most valuable player, Stephen Curry’s journey has been one propelled by hard work and dedication.

Some years back, Alan Stein attended the inaugural Kobe Bryant Nike Skills Academy and noticed something unusual about Curry.  In a YouTube video recapping the event, Alan noted that it was Curry’s habits and work ethic that shined brighter than any other player’s talent.  Before each session, Curry had already drained 100 – 150 shots and was in a full sweat by the time his peers hit the floor.

For Curry, success is not an accident, it’s a choice. But there is much more that separates the 6’3’’ all-star point guard from the rest and it’s his faith in Jesus! Steph Curry was raised in Charlotte, N.C., by Christian parents who began every morning with a required family devotional time before school.  As a result, Stephen Curry has developed into solid man of God, one who never shies away about sharing his faith.

Sometimes while on the basketball court, Curry points his index finger upward as an outward sign and reminder that God gets all the glory for his success. But regardless of his health or how he plays on any given night, Curry remains rooted in one of his favorite bible verses -  Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

It’s not too often that we get to see athletes bring the Bible out on the court, but that’s exactly what Stephen Curry does each game through his trademark shoe with Under Armour.

In an interview with Decision, Steph acknowledged that, “Obviously, there’s a lot of hoopla and fanfare that follows you wherever you go, but I know where my talent comes from. I know why I play the game, and it’s not to score 30 points a night, but it’s to use the stage I’m on. I’ve been put here for a specific purpose: to be a witness and to share my testimony as I go through it.”

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.


Memorial Day - A Day of Remembrance

Published on May 27, 2017

Memorial Day is an important day in America. It’s a day to give thanks, to pay tribute and to remember those who gave their lives to protect our country. In reality, we should be thankful every single day of the year, but the last Monday of May is the official day where our nation comes together to honor our fallen soldiers.

The holiday originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans founded in Decatur, Illinois, established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions, celebrated on different days, had merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service. It typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.

Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day; Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans.

Remembrance

“They defended our nation, they liberated the oppressed, they served the cause of peace. And all Americans who have known the loss and sadness of war, whether recently or long ago, can know this: The person they love and miss is honored and remembered by the people who enjoy the freedom of our land - a land of the free.”

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To Have a Healthy Church, You Must Have an Active Prayer Meeting

Published on May 20, 2017

Every church needs an active prayer meeting. Here are several reasons why:

1. God’s house is to be a house of prayer (Matthew 21:13).

Some would argue that we already have enough prayer in our congregations. We may pray before the service and before the offering, but are we collectively crying out to God together? I would suggest a special service be set apart just for praying.

2. Prayer requests deserve to be prayed over.

Many times we collect names for our prayer list but we hardly pray for them. We may spend 10-20 minutes collecting names only to then pray a prayer that does not specifically mention the requests that were voiced. James tells us if anyone is sick, for example, they should call on the church to pray for them (James 5:14-15).

3. We may lack resources or revival if we are not praying.

Again, James tell us that we have not because we ask not (James 4:2). The Lord will provide our needs but He waits for us to offer them. James would also say that we have not because our motives are wrong, so we need to pray for things that are within God’s will. When this happens, we will experience God’s provision.

4. Our missionaries need our churches to pray for them.

We are so grateful for our missionaries who are serving throughout the world, and they need us to pray for them. Missionaries face many challenges that will attempt to hinder the Gospel. Let’s heed the apostle Paul’s exhortation for all churches to lift our missionaries in prayer for God’s Word to go forth (1 Timothy 2:1-3).

5. Churches may die if they don’t pray.

This is a sad reality but a real one. Without a vital connection to the Holy Spirit, churches may lose their candlestick. Churches that return to their first love will experience a dynamic power within their congregations (Revelation 2:4).

If you don’t have a prayer service in your church, you’re urge to begin one. Invite people to prayer, call on the Lord, wait on the Lord and experience the value and vitality of prayer.

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Thousands Baptized in Florida on ‘Acts 2:41 Sunday’

Published on May 13, 2017

Florida’s beaches, rivers, lakes and even pools came alive May 7 with the gospel testimonies of 1,285 new Christian believers as 112 Florida Baptist churches partnered for “Acts 2:41 Sunday — Baptizing Coast-to-Coast.”

From the sandy white Gulf beaches of Perdido Key in Pensacola to the blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean that stretch from Jacksonville to Miami; from the Suwannee River to lakes and state parks in every region, thousands of Florida Baptists and onlookers gathered to celebrate and witness the hundreds of Christians who publicly professed their faith through baptism.

Several churches reported that following the public baptisms, those who watched from the beach and other public places listened to gospel presentations and were led to the Lord and baptized right on the spot.

Tommy Green, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, created Acts 2:41 Sunday and challenged Florida Baptist churches to engage in the effort. “My desire was to celebrate the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a unified manner across our state,” Green said. The idea was sparked after a conversation with David Uth, pastor of First Baptist Church of Orlando, about the church’s annual beach baptism celebrations.

“I thought it would be exciting for churches to join together from coast-to-coast. The conversation stirred my heart to extend the challenge for Acts 2:41 Sunday.”

With nearly 1,300 baptisms reported, Green said, “The results of the day demonstrate the power of the Gospel and the evangelistic passion of our churches. It is thrilling to witness the incredible reports of our Florida Baptist churches celebrating baptisms throughout our state.”

While a handful of Florida Baptist churches baptized large numbers of new believers, the majority of churches baptized less than 20 and some in single digits. Each soul making a public commitment to Christ was cheered and celebrated.

Many pastors baptized their own children or grandchildren, as did Elbert Nasworthy, pastor of Myrtle Lake Baptist Church in Land O’ Lakes. “It was such an exciting time,” Nasworthy said referring to the baptism of his grandchildren Isabella and Anthony Cobb. “Tears were flowing as I was able to say ‘I baptize you my brother and sister in Christ.’”

More than a dozen Hispanic churches united through the Miami Hispanic Fellowship of churches to celebrate the public professions of faith together. Led by Pastor Moises Robaina, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Adonai, as many as 300 people gathered at Virginia Key. Located at the entrance to Key Biscayne with the Miami skyline looming in the background, the crowd saw the testimony of 83 persons who were immersed in the water.

That strait was the one many of the Cubans crossed as refugees to reach America and now it has become their waters of baptism and testimony of transformation by Jesus.

Through an interpreter, Robaina, a Cuban native, said he had not seen this kind of public demonstration and witness since arriving in this country many years ago. He said he had been asking the Lord to send revival and the opportunity to see a great movement of the Gospel as he had seen in revival in Cuba. On Sunday, the pastor said his prayers were answered as churches and believers gathered to give a public testimony and the Gospel was preached.

More than two dozen Hispanic churches across the state participated in the Acts 2:41 emphasis. They were rallied by Pastor Javier Sotolongo, who serves as first vice president for the Florida Baptist State Convention, when he spoke to the pastors at the statewide Hispanic pastor’s retreat.

The day was filled with amazing stories of new believers coming to know Christ and following in believer’s baptism.

Andres Lavanderos, pastor of Oak Harbor Church in Jacksonville’s Mayport region, baptized a 73-year-old man the pastor had led to Christ the week of the baptism. Paula Phillips said she had been praying for her husband Ron to be saved for 50 years.

Another divine appointment came in the Oak Harbor church parking lot. A young man who had once attended the church approached Lavanderos upon the pastor’s arrival on Sunday morning. Explaining his life had been in a downward spiral, the young man reaffirmed his Christian faith after speaking to the pastor and was baptized that afternoon as a new creation in Christ.

First Baptist Church in Dowling Park began Sunday morning singing “Shall We Gather at the River” as pastor Shawn Johnson shared with the congregation the significance of the ordinance of baptism. Six salvations resulted that day.

Then seven new believers — from age 9 to 64 — gathered on the banks of the Suwannee River and were baptized while church members and onlookers watched. “It was powerful,” Johnson said.

Acts 2:41 Sunday was “an incredible charge for our church and our state,” Johnson said. “The waters of baptism were stirred all across this state. The kingdom is seriously impacted on this day.”

Louis Egipciaco, pastor of Elevate Church in Miami Lakes, performed 11 baptisms in the shallow waters of Key Biscayne. He applauded Florida Baptists’ Acts 2:41 emphasis.

“My favorite part of beach baptisms is how public it is … the worst invention probably was a baptistery because it’s the most hidden form of a public testimony,” he told those gathered as he began the baptism ceremony.

Willy Rice, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, celebrated 82 baptisms and “rejoiced over powerful stories of faith,” he said.

“Specific baptism events like Acts 2:41 help our church focus on intentional evangelism,” he said. “It makes you focus, ask the question, draw the net, and seek a response. People respond when we directly, lovingly and clearly invite them to respond. Acts 2:41 gave us a great opportunity to call people to respond to the message, and I’m grateful for that.”

Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. Acts 2:41

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Young Professionals Helping to Reach Central Asia for Christ

Published on May 7, 2017

Young professionals are helping to advance the gospel in Central Asia despite strict prohibitions against religion.

CBN News reports that life is challenging for Christians in the five “stans” of central Asia: Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.

These countries are now free from Soviet rule, but the totalitarianism from the Communist age, as well as the growth of Islamic extremism is a threat to those who profess faith.

Leaders in these countries have enacted laws prohibiting religious expression. These laws are ostensibly directed toward Muslims, but Christians often end up facing brunt of these laws.

“When the authorities discover someone has converted to Christianity, they will gather relatives, friends and family of the accused and bring him or her before an Islamic Council of Elders,” said Maksim who lives in Tajikistan. “The convert then stands before the group and has to decide between faith or family.”

Dr. Michael Cherenkov, who monitors religious freedom issues in the former Soviet Union says that, due to these laws, Christians in these countries have had to find new ways to worship and share their faith.

“These laws have forced Christians to be more creative and invent new approaches to sharing the Gospel,” Cherenkov said.

One way Christians in these countries are building community despite restrictions is through the Next Generation Professional Leaders Initiative, started by Sergey Rakhuba. This event is a gathering of young professionals from across Central Asia.

Rakhuba commented on the importance of this community: “It is not possible to overstate the significance of this gathering when you have in one room over 500 of the key young leaders from across Central Asia.”

Join us in praying for these young Christians who are being equipped to spread the gospel in an area that greatly needs the good news!

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Study: Faith-Based Groups Doing Most of the ‘Heavy Lifting’ to Fight Homelessness

Published on April 29, 2017

Sixty percent of all emergency shelter beds, considered the “safety net of all safety nets,” in 11 cities are provided through faith-based organizations. And that is but one remarkable statistic, according to new social science research report released.

Before a crowd of over 100 people at the National Press Club, professor Byron Johnson, director of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University, together with co-author William Wubbenhorst, unveiled Assessing the Faith-based Response to Homelessness in America: Findings from Eleven Cities, which showcases the socio-economic impact of Christian and other faith-based groups in combating the nation’s homeless epidemic.

The study’s findings reveal that faith-based organizations lead the way in addressing key causes of homelessness and are pioneering creative, long-term solutions because they are most effective as they address the “whole” person. The scholars calculated that for every one dollar in government spending, taxpayers saved $9.42, a total of $119 million in the 11 cities surveyed, as a result of the vital work faith-based groups do.

Tonier Cain, who was featured in a panel discussion, believes “it’s almost impossible to even think that somebody can get healed and do better in their life without faith.”

Cain, who lives in Annapolis, Maryland, shared parts of her harrowing story of having lived on the streets for nearly 20 years. During that time, she was arrested 83 times, convicted 66 times, and is a survivor of sexual abuse. She now leads two nonprofit groups, including a global nonprofit organization that provides services for trauma survivors.

“I’ve been in over 30 programs. Traditional, secular programs. They didn’t help. It wasn’t until I was really able to embrace faith, my relationship with Jesus, that everything changed in my life,” she said.

Cain is the subject of the award-winning film “Healing Neen.”

The 11 cities that were surveyed included Atlanta, Baltimore, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville (Florida), Omaha, Phoenix, Portland, (Oregon), San Diego and Seattle.

Byron said that the study was done in order to bring attention “where it is not getting focus” and to “start a discussion.”

“This is a very preliminary study and we would like to do something that drills down much deeper in a lot of cities, do some systematic evaluation,” he said. “Why is it that the faith-based response is better in some cities than others and how can we improve it?”

During the panel discussion, rescue mission leaders who are on the front lines serving the most vulnerable frequently discussed the tension that sometimes occurs between government agencies willing to offer financial assistance to faith-based social service providers in exchange for the groups’ removal of all things faith-based, like Bibles. Put simply, the panelists concluded, faith-based organizations are without question the backbone of poverty relief and services to the homeless but are not willing to make such compromises.

Byron was asked why the government seems to view faith as something detrimental such that it insists that in order to receive financial backing, groups must essentially strip away the religious dimension from their operations.

“Things have changed in the country. I think most people would acknowledge that we have seen a lot of changes in the last 20 years. There’s plenty of people in the community who think their freedoms are under attack today and so there’s a sense in which people are even afraid to make a pro-family statement for fear that they might be called a bigot,” Byron explained.

But it is also a matter of to whom one speaks, he added.

“If you go to Houston and you talk to people who work in government and you ask them ‘Who is doing the heavy lifting?’ They’ll tell you ‘it’s the faith-based groups’ and they refer people [to them]. Why? Because they’ve been there for 60 years and they trust them. They’ve built these relationships but that doesn’t mean that there still isn’t tension.”

“And I think there are these misconceptions about the faith community, that they don’t play well with other groups. And I think our preliminary study shows that’s a myth. They are ready, but they are not going to give up their faith.”

Cain reiterated the short-sightedness of the idea that by spending more money on poverty programs, such problems will be solved.

“If you had given me money and given me a place without my faith, I would have used the money but it would have been for all the wrong things,” Cain stated.

But with faith in Jesus, she contended, “your mindset, your thinking changes.”

“And you start to want to do better, you strive to do better. Because now you have a purpose, you don’t just exist,” she said.

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Reaching the Remote in the Amazon Jungle

Published on April 22, 2017

Although we sometimes lament the digital age, truth be told, it’s nice to be so connected. Most of us can’t remember the last time we were out of contact without a phone, a computer or even a GPS-enabled car to get us out of trouble. Everyone, everywhere on the planet seems accessible, but that’s not the case.
There are still remote, uncontacted places in the world where the Gospel has not yet been declared.

Some of those places are in the Amazon Basin, a massive area larger than the continental United States that includes portions of six countries: Peru, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela. This dense jungle expanse hosts many of the remaining people groups on the planet who live uncontacted by the outside world. Estimates vary, but there may be as many as 50 remote groups scattered across the Amazon.

To reach these isolated groups, we must give up three things our Western culture highly values: control, safety and time.

These hunter-gatherers fled war and disease decades ago to the relative safety of the river headwaters, out of reach from people such as rubber barons, lumber workers, drug-runners and gold miners who sought to exploit them. These uncontacted groups may have once been part of a larger, now-contacted tribe, but the groups likely broke away before encountering outsiders.

Due to language drift and cultural differences, they now exist as separate peoples. They may venture out only to steal machetes and other indispensable tools. And when they do, they can be violent and murderous. If they are seen, frightened villagers usually greet them with shotgun blasts.

Based on what we’ve learned from recently emerged groups, the general Amazonian tribal culture and photos shot with telephoto lenses, we believe the remaining uncontacted groups are rife with disease and spiritual warfare.

As animists, they believe that everything in the physical world has a more powerful spiritual counterpart. The wind has a spirit, as do certain trees, animals and people. The spirits are seen as often malicious and cause sickness, confusion and death. These tribes perform rituals with animal sacrifices, libations and chants to appease or control the spirits. The color red is thought to shield them from evil, so they paint themselves with red dye or wear red-beaded bracelets. They are completely unaware of the power of the Gospel. If you or I had been born in one of these groups, we would live and die without hearing the name of our Savior even once, apart from the intervention of Christ’s church on mission.

How to contact people who don’t want to be contacted

How do we even begin to bring the Gospel to these peoples?

I’ve had the privilege of working with an indigenous missionary named Wilson* who has been called to reach his uncontacted “cousins,” the Iropi.* The Iropi tribe speaks a similar dialect to Wilson’s native tongue, so it’s likely that they broke off from his tribe more than a 100 years ago.

Watching Wilson live out his Great Commission calling to the Iropi has shown that in order to reach these isolated groups, Christians must give up three things that Western culture highly values: control, safety and time.

Reaching them is out of our control

Many of us have jobs, take vacations and plan our schedules well in advance. Work with the uncontacted can’t be scheduled. For years, Wilson simply waited. As he and his team waited, they worked hard to prepare for contact with the Iropi.

They built dwellings for themselves so they could stay nearby. They planted fields, cut trails and left gifts the Iropi might find useful, such as machetes or cooking pots in order to initiate peaceful contact. But they did all this back-breaking work while acknowledging that if God did not extend His hand to bring the tribe out, then there was nothing more they could do except “wait for the Lord, be strong and courageous” (Psalm 27:14), and trust that God’s plan was better than theirs.

Reaching them is unspeakably dangerous

Years later, when Wilson finally saw the Iropi, he nearly lost his life.

The band that greeted him from the deep jungle was divided. Some treated him as a long-lost brother while others snuck around to his blind side to shoot him with six-foot-long arrows.

Wilson described to me how he dodged their lethal missiles while he sang the first songs to our Savior the Iropi had ever heard.

“I was prepared to die, and if it was my day for God to call me, then so be it,” he said. “But instead, He gave this old man the strength to dodge arrows!” As King David wrote when the Philistines attacked him, “In God I trust; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:4) For Wilson, the danger was incidental to the work, and nothing compared to the blessing of working for his Lord.

Reaching them takes time

Wilson waited 17 years for first contact with the Iropi, and only then did his mission finally progress to “hello.” He’s still waiting to learn the language and culture, share the Gospel, make disciples and plant churches.

In many Western cultures, a “career” may now last only six to eight years before a person moves on to something else. Wilson lived a life of sacrifice for nearly two decades before completing the first steps of his ministry. It may be another 17 years before the work is complete. But at the end of his work, Wilson — and hopefully all of us — will be able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).”

Most people will never find themselves in the Amazon jungle, dodging arrows while singing praises to God. That particular blessing may be limited to Wilson and others on his team. However, whatever your ministry context, my prayer is that you “lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us,” and “run with endurance the race that lies before us” (Hebrews 12:1). Wait on the Lord, do not let fear drive you and stay the course to completion.

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Resurrection Sunday!

Published on April 16, 2017

The most glorious words ever spoken: “He is not here; for He is risen, as He said.” Matthew 28:6

The Bible says that early Sunday morning certain women came to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. The stone had been removed, the seal had been broken, and the body was gone. An angel at the tomb asked:

Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Luke 24:5,6

They went back to tell the other disciples, who at first did not believe their report.

And these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them. Luke 24:11

However, they were persuaded to look for themselves, and they also found the tomb empty. This caused them confusion. The confusion vanished as the resurrected Christ Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene, then to some other women, and finally to the disciples. After being with the disciples for forty days, Jesus ascended into heaven. Ten days later, the disciples publicly proclaimed to all Jerusalem, and to the world, the fact that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is important because it validates who Jesus claimed to be, namely, the Son of God and Messiah. According to Jesus, His resurrection was the “sign from heaven” that authenticated His ministry (Matthew 16:1–4) and the proof that He had authority over even the temple in Jerusalem (John 2:18–22). The resurrection of Jesus Christ, attested to by hundreds of eyewitnesses (1 Corinthians 15:3–8), provides irrefutable proof that He is the Savior of the world.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is not only the supreme validation of His deity; it also validates the Old Testament prophecies that foretold of Jesus’ suffering and resurrection (see Acts 17:2–3). Christ’s resurrection also authenticated His own claims that He would be raised on the third day (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34). If Jesus Christ is not resurrected, then we have no hope that we will be, either. In fact, apart from Christ’s resurrection, we have no Savior, no salvation, and no hope of eternal life. As Paul said, our faith would be “useless,” the gospel would be altogether powerless, and our sins would remain unforgiven (1 Corinthians 15:14–19).

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), and in that statement claimed to be the source of both. There is no resurrection apart from Christ, and no eternal life. Jesus does more than give life; He is life, and that’s why death has no power over Him. Jesus confers His life on those who trust in Him, so that we can share His triumph over death (1 John 5:11–12). We who believe in Jesus Christ will personally experience resurrection because, having the life Jesus gives, we have overcome death. It is impossible for death to win (1 Corinthians 15:53–57).

The resurrection is the triumphant and glorious victory for every believer. Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3–4). And He is coming again!

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Is God’s Door of Salvation Still Open?

Published on April 9, 2017

“I assure you, today you will be with Me in paradise” Luke 23:43

When the criminal hanging next to Jesus on the cross asked Jesus to remember him, Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise” Luke 23:43. With His response, Jesus was also giving us four characteristics of salvation that we can trust and believe in.

First, He said, “today.” That means, salvation is immediate. The moment you ask Jesus Christ to save you, it is done. And when you die, your destiny is immediate: you either go straight into the presence of God or you go straight into separation from God, depending upon whether or not you are saved.

Second, salvation is certain. He said, “Today you will” - not “You might,” not “I hope,” not “Let me think about it.” When God says, “You will,” you will. When you accept Christ, you can be certain of your salvation.

Third, salvation is a relationship. He said, “You will be with Me.” Salvation is not a religion. It’s not rules or regulations or rituals. Salvation is a relationship. That relationship doesn’t begin when you get to heaven. It begins here on earth. Jesus Christ wants to be your best friend (John 15:15), and He wants to talk to you all the time. God made you to have a relationship with Him!

Fourth, Jesus said, “Today you will be with Me in paradise.” Heaven is a real place, and it is forever.

There were two criminals crucified with Jesus, one on either side. Jesus gave them the choice of salvation, and He gives you the same choice. He’s not going to force you to love Him. He’s not going to force you to trust Him, and He’s not going to force you to accept Heaven. There are two responses. One of those criminals rejected Jesus, and the other turned to Him in faith. You can make the same choice.

Romans 10:13 says, “Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved.” If you’re ready to call on the Name of the Lord and you acknowledge these truths about salvation, then settle this issue of your eternal destiny once and for all.
“Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” 2 Corinthians 6:2

The Next Step

If the Lord is leading you to call on His Name for His mercy and salvation, then simply pray. Praying to Him is talking privately to Him, as the thief on the cross did.

This is a sacred time between you and God. So, let your heart lead you in your calling out to Him, as Romans 10:9-11 suggests:

“…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’”

Taken from a devotional by Rick Warren

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Reaching the Remote in the Amazon Jungle

Published on March 4, 2017

Although we sometimes lament the digital age, truth be told, it’s nice to be so connected. Most of us can’t remember the last time we were out of contact without a phone, a computer or even a GPS-enabled car to get us out of trouble. Everyone, everywhere on the planet seems accessible, but that’s not the case.
There are still remote, uncontacted places in the world where the Gospel has not yet been declared.

Some of those places are in the Amazon Basin, a massive area larger than the continental United States that includes portions of six countries: Peru, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela. This dense jungle expanse hosts many of the remaining people groups on the planet who live uncontacted by the outside world. Estimates vary, but there may be as many as 50 remote groups scattered across the Amazon.

To reach these isolated groups, we must give up three things our Western culture highly values: control, safety and time.

These hunter-gatherers fled war and disease decades ago to the relative safety of the river headwaters, out of reach from people such as rubber barons, lumber workers, drug-runners and gold miners who sought to exploit them. These uncontacted groups may have once been part of a larger, now-contacted tribe, but the groups likely broke away before encountering outsiders.

Due to language drift and cultural differences, they now exist as separate peoples. They may venture out only to steal machetes and other indispensable tools. And when they do, they can be violent and murderous. If they are seen, frightened villagers usually greet them with shotgun blasts.

Based on what we’ve learned from recently emerged groups, the general Amazonian tribal culture and photos shot with telephoto lenses, we believe the remaining uncontacted groups are rife with disease and spiritual warfare.

As animists, they believe that everything in the physical world has a more powerful spiritual counterpart. The wind has a spirit, as do certain trees, animals and people. The spirits are seen as often malicious and cause sickness, confusion and death. These tribes perform rituals with animal sacrifices, libations and chants to appease or control the spirits. The color red is thought to shield them from evil, so they paint themselves with red dye or wear red-beaded bracelets. They are completely unaware of the power of the Gospel. If you or I had been born in one of these groups, we would live and die without hearing the name of our Savior even once, apart from the intervention of Christ’s church on mission.

How to contact people who don’t want to be contacted

How do we even begin to bring the Gospel to these peoples?

I’ve had the privilege of working with an indigenous missionary named Wilson* who has been called to reach his uncontacted “cousins,” the Iropi.* The Iropi tribe speaks a similar dialect to Wilson’s native tongue, so it’s likely that they broke off from his tribe more than a 100 years ago.

Watching Wilson live out his Great Commission calling to the Iropi has shown that in order to reach these isolated groups, Christians must give up three things that Western culture highly values: control, safety and time.

Reaching them is out of our control

Many of us have jobs, take vacations and plan our schedules well in advance. Work with the uncontacted can’t be scheduled. For years, Wilson simply waited. As he and his team waited, they worked hard to prepare for contact with the Iropi.

They built dwellings for themselves so they could stay nearby. They planted fields, cut trails and left gifts the Iropi might find useful, such as machetes or cooking pots in order to initiate peaceful contact. But they did all this back-breaking work while acknowledging that if God did not extend His hand to bring the tribe out, then there was nothing more they could do except “wait for the Lord, be strong and courageous” (Psalm 27:14), and trust that God’s plan was better than theirs.

Reaching them is unspeakably dangerous

Years later, when Wilson finally saw the Iropi, he nearly lost his life.

The band that greeted him from the deep jungle was divided. Some treated him as a long-lost brother while others snuck around to his blind side to shoot him with six-foot-long arrows.

Wilson described to me how he dodged their lethal missiles while he sang the first songs to our Savior the Iropi had ever heard.

“I was prepared to die, and if it was my day for God to call me, then so be it,” he said. “But instead, He gave this old man the strength to dodge arrows!” As King David wrote when the Philistines attacked him, “In God I trust; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:4) For Wilson, the danger was incidental to the work, and nothing compared to the blessing of working for his Lord.

Reaching them takes time

Wilson waited 17 years for first contact with the Iropi, and only then did his mission finally progress to “hello.” He’s still waiting to learn the language and culture, share the Gospel, make disciples and plant churches.

In many Western cultures, a “career” may now last only six to eight years before a person moves on to something else. Wilson lived a life of sacrifice for nearly two decades before completing the first steps of his ministry. It may be another 17 years before the work is complete. But at the end of his work, Wilson — and hopefully all of us — will be able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).”

Most people will never find themselves in the Amazon jungle, dodging arrows while singing praises to God. That particular blessing may be limited to Wilson and others on his team. However, whatever your ministry context, my prayer is that you “lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us,” and “run with endurance the race that lies before us” (Hebrews 12:1). Wait on the Lord, do not let fear drive you and stay the course to completion.

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