Saturday, August 19, 2017

Seven Billion and Counting


Seven billion people. It’s a big number. I know that there are more than seven billion people living on this planet, but I can't comprehend what that really means.

God doesn't see the number, He sees faces; behind which are personal histories and heartaches, individual predicaments and potentials. He sees actual people with names. Each one lives in a particular place, wakes up each day, faces their issues and deals with the obstacles that confront them. God feels everything each one of them feels. He sees every detail of every experience that has gone into making each of them exactly who they are at this very moment. He loves each one of these people so much that he gave his only Son as a sacrifice for them.

Let’s remember how much we are of value in God's eyes! All of us! And remember to be kind and loving to all the people in this world because of what Jesus has done for us, and the great worth He has placed on each of his children.


When God looks at His children today, he sees billions of people selfishly divided and opinionated. He sees people who were created in His image to be like Him, to love mercy and do justly and walk humbly. He sees people who claim to follow Jesus and yet feel superior to others.

We as Christians have been given a message to spread around the world, but we have failed. We have passed judgment on many of those around us. We say "they don't deserve the love of God; they don't deserve my time because they are no good.

How much are you and I truly worth? And what value should we place upon others? Often we'll look at the work someone is doing, and if they're doing a poor job, making mistakes, then we view that person as of little value. We often judge others by their race, religion, gender, economic or social strata but is this the correct way of seeing value in someone?


Think about it, if we truly saw the value of people as God does, would we still treat each other the way we do?  Mathew 25:45 tells us, "I tell you the truth, anything you refused to do for even the least of my people here, you refused to do for me." The key to seeing and understanding the value of you and me and all other people in the world is to see our value in light of what Jesus did to save us!

There’s no question that Christians should want to be loved and to love others. But it’s not enough to tell others that you love them – you must show you love others! Love is not an abstract idea. Love must be manifested. True love is not just something you feel – it’s something you demonstrate! Demonstrate your support for those who are diminished by others. Stand up to those who speak out against any of God's seven billion people.

We all need to grow in this area because everybody needs to know they are loved. You especially need to know how to show love if you are a follower of Jesus because He said, "All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other." John 13:35


In 1 John 3:17-18 the Bible says, “What if a person has enough money to live on and sees his brother in need of food and clothing? If he does not help him, how can the love of God be in him? My children, let us not love with words or in talk only. Let us love by what we do and in truth".

We show our love through our actions. God has asked us to love others to help them thrive. There are so many people in this world who are failing to thrive. Are there those that we know who are failing to thrive because we are not loving them – by what we do?

Let’s remember how much we are of value in God's eyes! All of us! And remember to be kind and loving to all the people in this world because of what Jesus has done for us, and the great worth He has placed on each of his children.

Seven billion people and counting. It’s a big number. But God loves them all. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Are they precious in your sight?



Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Video Shoot Miracles

My An Arkie's Faith column from the August 16, 2017, issue of The Mena Star.


Last month, the producer of the Advent Heralds Quartet contacted us about the possibility of using one of our classic cars. They were planning a video shoot in multiple locations in Texas, including Houston, Galveston, San Antonio, and Wimberley, for their upcoming DVD and wanted to feature a classic car. After several calls and reviewing photos of some of our cars, he decided to use the 1940 Plymouth.

I enjoyed meeting the producer, Craig, and his family when they came to pick up the car. I learned that the video was much more involved than I had originally thought. I had assumed that the car would be used in a music video for one song. The plan was to spend a week shooting video for the songs from an entire album. The 1940 Plymouth was to be used to help tie all of the songs together. The quartet members would discuss the key spiritual thoughts that lead the audience through the gospel; building on the messages of each song and tying it all together while driving in the old car.

Throughout the week, I enjoyed getting messages and photos from Craig about the progress of the video shoot and how the car was doing. The constant message that I got from him was how God was leading. Their schedule was very tight, and they had numerous problems with the weather and their vehicles. But in each instance, things worked out, and Craig gave the glory to God and even considered them miracles.


To begin with, he had planned to shoot with one cameraman. The group had a video director who loved to shoot solo, and that was his style. Not long before the video shoot he resigned and took another job, so to fill his place for this shoot, Craig reached out to another cameraman. The miracle was that this cameraman took the job on short notice, and said that he had two young men who had just returned from an extensive shoot in Europe who would love to come along and assist him for the experience. Craig said, “God knew what He was doing—we could never have made it without all three men on the team! Working as we did, to film as much as possible in the ‘golden hour’ lighting near sunup and sundown, we desperately needed the efficiency that three on the team brought. God is good!”

Craig added, “The greatest miracle, honestly, was the classic car. I had followed leads on several cars, and one seemed to really be settled. It was a friend of my cousin who lives in Wimberley, TX. However, just as I was so happy that the search for a classic car was over - I had talked at length with an owner in Tennessee, and another in Michigan and one in southeast Texas - I got the call that explained that their insurance would not cover anyone else driving the car. God provided Bob and Pat Lawry. They believed in the music evangelism project we were doing. Not only that—God does everything all the way—the car they were willing to loan us fit our project perfectly.”



Well, maybe the 1940 Plymouth wasn’t quite perfect. One morning I received a call from Craig. The day before, the Plymouth hadn’t cooperated. It was a very hot day, and the car overheated and refused to run. The starter wasn’t working, so they had to push it to get it started. He wanted to know if I had any ideas about what they needed to do to get the car to run.

Later, Craig told me, “we lost a lot of time pushing that dear car in the stifling heat. That night we all fervently prayed that God would fix that car for us. We had fallen so far behind in filming discussions—the key spiritual thoughts that lead the audience through the gospel story—building on the messages of each song and tying it all together. The next day we filmed with that car for almost eight hours, and it never gave us any trouble. We did have to roll-start it a few times, so we got some exercise pushing it, but aside from that—it purred along so faithfully that we could hardly believe it has been so stubborn in refusing to run the day before! God answered our prayers again!”



When Craig returned the car to us, he recounted to me what was probably the most dramatic miracle of the video shoot. It happened on the last day of shooting. Craig said, “we had been getting to bed quite late and getting up very early day after day due to our travel and filming schedule trying to catch the early and morning daylight hours. So, every minute of sleep was precious. I arranged for the crew to rise at 4:30 am that morning. However, rising a bit earlier myself, I started doing the math on the time and realized that I had made a real mistake. We could have risen a whole hour later and enjoyed that precious sleep! I realized this about the time that the crew began to get up and pack. So, I left our schedule unchanged, and we arrive at the Alamo for what was probably the most critical shoot a bit early, for our 5:30 AM permit.


We had the permit for a whole 4 hours, and we generally only need 2 hours to shoot a song. However, the sentry on duty at the Alamo greeted us by saying, ‘You guys better hurry up with that piano and whatever singing you plan to do—a real downpour is due to hit here in half an hour!’ I must say, one look up into the night sky did reveal dark, ominous clouds, so we got into high gear and filmed for all we were worth, with God’s help. Raindrops were just beginning to fall as we put away our gear and ran to drop the ramps to load the classic car, which we had filmed driving to and from the Alamo. In just the few minutes it took us to load the classic car, the rain fell so hard that those of us doing that job were soaked all the way through to our socks—we were completely drenched! It was a miracle, a real miracle that we had awakened and started our day when we did! God had arranged that I am sure. We had had to book that film permit weeks in advance, and it was the most regulated and difficult permit of our whole production. If we had missed that 30-minutes to film that song—we could not have had the Alamo in our production. But, God knew all of that and arranged everything for us.”

Gentle Reader, on the day of the Alamo video shoot, San Antonio experienced very heavy rains, up to five inches in a few hours. Numerous people had to be rescued and homes evacuated due to flooding. But God arranged a video shoot so that the rain would not stop it. If God is concerned with a video shoot, He will also be concerned with your life. “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Matthew 6:8 (RSV)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Raw video montage of the photo shoot. It will be about 8 months before the DVD is ready to release.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Speak Out Against Hate


As I read the news stories about a man who plowed his car into a crowd of people objecting to the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, I wondered how people could be filled with so much hate. It seems that the whole world is boiling over with hatred. Here in the U.S. hatred seems to be part of our everyday life. During this past election season, there was so much hate shown by both sides against those they disagree with. My social media feeds continue to be filled with hate filled articles and posts.


I recently read the following written by Nelson Mandela. “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than it’s opposite”. How can we be taught to love? In Matthew 5:43-45 Jesus tells us, “you have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemies.’ But I say to you, love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you. If you do this, you will be true children of your Father in heaven”.


As Christians, we say that we follow the teachings of Jesus, but we all too often set this teaching aside. Jesus loves you, and as a Christian you love Him. You understand that He loves you not because you are worthy, but because He is love and you are so helpless in your sinful condition. I hope that you know his love first hand, from experience. So from this perspective, how would anyone understand the motivation of hate? How could a Christian think of Jesus as being a hater of His own helpless children? How could Jesus hate His own children He died to woo and save?

People who hate are not cut from the cloth of God’s family. God’s children have been rescued from, transformed from the anger of our own weakness. Christ loves us because we are His children – whether we obey or not. When we love Him, then He can give us the ability to obey and to love others as He loves us. If we hate others, even our enemies, we are in need of God’s grace and transformation. How can we hate those who Jesus gave his life for.

John 3:16,17 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.


But as a Christian, shouldn’t I hate evil? In Amos 5:15 the Bible tells us to, “Hate evil, love good”. I like the way that Mark Lowry talks about this issue. “Love the sinner, hate the sin? How about love the sinner, hate your own sin! I don’t have time to hate your sin. There are too many of you! Hating my sin is a full-time job. How about you hate your sin, I’ll hate my sin, and let’s just love each other." When we love Jesus, then He can give us the ability to obey and to love others as He loves us. It is God’s grace that saves us from sin. Grace not only forgives our past sin, but it also frees us from the power of sin, and the power of hate, so that we can be obedient to the God of love.


In 1 John 4:20,21 the Bible plainly tells us, “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also." All Christians need to publically distance themselves from hate. Unfortunately, too often it is professed Christians who are showing hatred for others. My prayer is that every Christian in America will speak out against hate because God is love.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Ten Years Ago


This morning, my friend, Nic Garza, messaged me about his upcoming speaking appointment at my church. Talking to him brought back memories of when we first met.  It was ten years ago when I held a series of revival meetings in Mexico.

Valle Hermoso SDA Church


In the fall of 2007 I traveled to the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico with my friends Mike Easton and Tony Murrell.  From October 15 through 20, we held nightly revival meetings in three locations. Mike held meetings in Rio Bravo, mine were in Valle Hermoso, and Tony’s series was in Reynosa. The meetings were coordinated by Nic Garza with help from Pastor Trevino and Pastor Martinez of the East Gulf Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists in Mexico.

I had a wonderful time and met so many great people.  I was truly humbled by the people I met.  In Valle Hermoso the people treated me like royalty and everyone wanted to feed me.  Every night the church was packed even though the temperatures were in the 90's and there was no air conditioning.  I have wanted to return to the area, but there are safety issues.  Someday I hope to return.

Here are some photos that we took on our trip.

Reynosa Meeting Site
LOOKING OVER THE REYNOSA MEETING SITE



Tony
TONY VISITING IN NUEVO PROGRESSO



Reynoso Meetings
REYNOSA MEETINGS



Tony Mike and Nic
TONY MIKE AND NIC



Food Basket
RICHIE DELIVERING A FOOD BASKET



Valle Hermoso Sabbath School
VALLE HERMOSO SABBATH SCHOOL



Tony Speaking 2
TONY SPEAKING



Baptism
BAPTISM AT VALLE HERMOSO



Food Baskets
NIC AND RICHIE HELP PREPARE FOOD BASKETS



Rio Bravo Meetings
RIO BRAVO MEETINGS



Mike Delivering Food 2
MIKE GIVING OUT FOOD BASKETS



Meeting Pastor Perez
MEETING CONFERENCE PRESIDENT PEREZ



Pastor Martinez
PASTOR MARTINEZ



100_0523a
CHILDRENS MEETINGS IN RIO BRAVO



Isabell with her new Bible
ISABELL WITH HER NEW BIBLE



IMG_2930a
TONY VISITING WITH KIDS



Horse Cart
MIKE MAKING NEW FRIENDS



Children during Prayer
BAPTISM AT VALLE HERMOSO



Mechanics
RICHIE AND A FELLOW BODYMAN



Teens at Church
YOUTH AT THE VALLE HERMOSO SDA CHURCH



A Bible for Yahaira
RICHIE PRESENTING YAHAIRA A NEW BIBLE



Praying with Baptismal Candidates
RICHIE AND NIC PRAYING WITH BAPTISMAL CANDIDATES


Tres Amigos
RICHIE MIKE AND TONY AT THE VALLE HERMOSO SDA CHURCH



Tiny VW
RICHIE FINDS A CAR JUST HIS SIZE



Tony Inspects the Facilities
TONY INSPECTS THE FACILITIES



Mike and Friends
MIKE AND FRIENDS




Nuevo Progresso Sabbath School
NUEVO PROGRESSO SABBATH SCHOOL



Nuevo Progresso SDA Church
NUEVO PROGRESSO SDA CHURCH



Breakfast
NIC AND RICHIE EATING BREAKFAST



Valle Hermoso Church Service
VALLE HERMOSO MEETINGS



Tony Speaking
TONY SPEAKING



Power Breakfast
POWER BREAKFAST



Pastor Trevino
PASTOR TREVINO



A CD for Bebe
RICHIE GIVING AWAY A CD