Some Personal Thoughts on Saving and Spending…. It’s NOT what you think

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Some Personal Thoughts on Saving and Spending…. It’s NOT what you think

piggy bankI’ve been thinking a lot lately about the subject of saving and spending. Most people my age (65, and very happy to be here!!) are looking at collecting Social Security, dipping into the 401K and enjoying the retirement life. Granted, today’s economy makes it a lot more difficult than it was when my parents retired, but that is sort of the normal “season of life” thing that you do when you get to be my age.

But I told you this is not what you think… sure, I’m starting to make plans to utilize my Social Security and retirement ( a very, very small plan), but that is not what I have in mind when I talk here about saving and spending. You see, Jesus used this kind of terminology in Matthew 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24 and 17:33.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  –  Matthew 16:24-26 (NKJV)

In all three gospel accounts, Jesus is not talking about money but our lives. He is talking about what we spend our lives on; whether we have a mentality to hold on to our lives – saving, or spend our lives for Him and the Gospel.

Jesus makes it very clear that if we have a mentality to hold on to our lives, we lose. If we spend our lives, we win. So, I want to share with you what I have been thinking about saving and spending in this context.

I have been in ministry in some form or another for nearly 40 years. I am 65 years old. There are those who would say that at this age, I would deserve to settle back a bit, retire, and enjoy a more laid back lifestyle. Ministry? Sure in some less demanding form… part time ministry, and more time fishing, or painting, and taking it easy. I have thought about that. And I know friends who have at this point in life been on many varied points on this scale. Some have retired from ministry and are enjoying the fruit of their retirement. Others, some variation of continued ministry and retirement. Sounds nice, I have to admit. And don’t get me wrong… there is nothing wrong with that, I’m not criticizing anyone. I’m reflecting to you my own thoughts.

That would be what I call the “saving” aspect of my meditations. Now, here is the “spending” aspect, and how I have been thinking. Jesus tells us of another aspect of this that have been an exceptionally strong motivation for me in my ministry and life. It is found in Matthew 25: 14-29 and Luke 19:11-27 in what is known as the parable of the faithful stewards.

His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ – Matthew 25:23 (NKJV)

One thing in these parables is branded into my heart, mind, and soul. I want to hear on that day (Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10), from the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ, those words; Well done, Steve!! Enter into the joy of  your Lord.  No other reward could be as sweet. No effort too much in order to hear those words from my Lord Jesus.

judgment seatHere I am in Brazil. A crazy adventure that the Lord actually invited me on, in December of 2011 in what I would describe as a dream or vision. Even here, people ask me if I am going to retire. Well, yes and no. I will draw the monies that are mine in order to live here, and hopefully some support from those who believe in this ministry, but that is only a means to an end.

I want to spend my life. I want to spend my life on others. I want to spend my life pouring into others whatever little the Lord can allow me to spend so that they will love the Lord more, desire to serve Him more, and that they might here those words, “Well done.” I do not know how long the Lord will give me here on this earth. None of us know that for sure. My wife’s life was cut short, but she is now enjoying the joys of heaven. I am here, and I want to spend my life giving into the lives of others, so that on that day, I will know those precious words of my Lord Jesus. It looks at this point, that that kind of spending may take a very radical look. A kind of spending that most people would not expect at my age, or maybe understand. I have thought and prayed a lot about this. I could take a different road. But I believe the Lord would have me choose the “road less traveled.” The road to spend myself into the lives of others.

path of life2It will not be easy. It is not the “norm,” but then again… when have I ever done anything according to the “norm?” It will be demanding and tiring at times. But I actually get excited thinking about being able to pour my life into others in a way that could affect them for eternity. My guess is that you will be hearing more about this in the months to come.

Have you given much thought to this subject of saving and spending? Have you considered allowing the Lord to use you to spend your life for others, and shunning saving the last years for yourself? The Lord has a plan for each of our lives, and we need to discover what that is, but the words of Jesus echo through my being, and I long to hear them on that day, Well done, Steve!! Enter into the joy of your Lord.   May God guide you as you pray about and consider saving and spending.

“till next time…

 

 

 

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Wanted: Theolgians

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Wanted:  Theologians

As you read this title, you might be thinking of excluding yourself. After all, you are not a theologian. That is someone who has gone to seminary, and studied for years and is an expert in religion.

theologians

But wait… before you leave the room. Let me remind you of who we are REALLY looking for here.

The Webster online Dictionary defines Theologian this way: one who specializes in Theology

They further define Theology as: the study of God and of God’s relation to the world

A Theologian, simply put, is someone who studies the nature and character of God  and how He relates to this world and it’s people. Theology is simply, the study of God.

Does that sound a bit like the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:10 – 11? that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead (NKJV).

We need theologians in the church… NO! I am not saying everyone needs to go to seminary… please no!!  But, I am saying we need more people who give themselves over diligently to the study of the nature, character, and ways of God. We need people who are growing in their knowledge of God.

bible fire

We do not need people who are studied in religious systems and theological debates. We need people who are growing in a personal knowledge of the Living God!

Why? Why is this important for you? What difference does it make? Friend, it makes all the difference in the world!  And here is why:

If you are not a theologian, a person who is growing and learning the person and character of God, you will not know how to handle the challenges, and storms of life. You will be tossed about as a dingy in a hurricane. You will be left to try to figure things out by your own perception, and that is a sure formula for failure, depression and wrong thinking.

I HATE using myself as an illustration here, but for the sake of this point, I am going to use my own experience to make the point. Two years ago, my wife, Marilou was in a hospital in the Seattle, Washington area, and finally being given the news from an oncologist that she had stage 4 cancer of the pancreas that had spread to the liver. There was no cure, no treatment except to relieve pain. The doctor said we had, at the outside, two to three months. Thirteen days later, she left this life.

My experience is not unique. Many people have travelled that road. I know of a friend whose wife died in a similar fashion. His response was to retreat into his home, avoid contact with others, gain weight and start drinking to mask the pain.

But if we are a theologian, one who knows and seeks to understand the character of God, we will know that our God is a God who gives strength, hope, and a future to those who grieve. I sure did, and continue to grieve the loss of my wife. But because I am convinced that God is who He says He is in His Word, I decided I would step out into the new territory of His character. He invited me on a new adventure, and today I am experiencing new dimensions of Him that I would never had known if I had not decided many years ago to be a theologian.

Are you a theologian? Are you actively seeking to learn more and experience more of the character and personhood of God? Is your life dedicated, as Paul’s was, to “know him?”

glory to godBecoming a theologian will prepare you to be able to weather, and be victorious over any circumstance that this life may throw your way. And you and I both know this life on earth can be difficult. I urge you to decide today to become a theologian. It’s the greatest decision you can make because you will find in Him, a treasure trove of grace, and love, and mercy, and hope, and so much more that you can apply to your everyday life.

 The church, and this world needs more theologians!

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Why Should We Care?

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Why Should we care?

The other day, a friend on Facebook asked a very good question. “Why is it important to us what is happening in Egypt and Brazil?” She was speaking specifically regarding the public demonstrations that have been taking place in these countries (and others by the way).

FireShot Screen Capture #009 - '‫والله اروع فيديو رأيته عن ثورة مصر 25 يناير __ هايبكيك‬‎ - YouTube' - www_youtube_com_watch_v=sNVsvEo46YY

I asked if I could have some time to put together a response. These are my thoughts. Certainly not complete, or exhaustive, and others may have better answers, but perhaps here is the beginning of a discussion.

 

 Why is it important to us what is happening in Egypt and Brazil? ( and other countries)

  1.)   God cares about the nations.

The Scriptures are full of the evidence of God’s heart that the nations know Him as Lord. Psalm 2:7-8 (NLT) states: The king proclaims the LORD’s decree: “The LORD said to me, ‘You are my son. Today I have become your Father. Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, the whole earth as your possession. The condition and the destiny of nations matters to our God, and by implication, they should matter to us. God’s puGod painting the earthrpose for Israel was not isolationism, but that through them, the nations would know that He is God. As the nations observed their submission to the Lordship of God in their nation, other nations would be drawn to them, but also they were to be emissaries for Jehovah to the nations. God cares about nations because nations are made up of people, people for whom Jesus died on the cross and rose in resurrection power. We should care what happens in other countries because God cares what happens in other countries. The Old and New Testaments speak about the conditions, and activities of nations, and God’s responses. But His heart is always toward redemption and restoration to Himself. We should care about what happens in other countries because God cares enough about nations to set their boundaries (Acts 17:26). We care about nations because God continues to care about these nations.

2.)   We are to understand the times in which we live.

Jesus chided the Pharisees because they were not aware of the times that they were living in… the time of the Messiah…in Matthew 16:2-3 (NLT) He replied, “You know the saying, ‘Red sky at night means fair weather tomorrow; red sky in the morning means foul weather all day.’ You know how to interpret the weather signs in the sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the signs of the times!

I am among those who believe that we are living very near to the return of the Lord Jesus. It would be unwise and even disobedient, according to Jesus admonition, for us to not try to be aware of the times in which we live. The “end times” involves the nations of the world that will be in turmoil. Or look at it from another perspective. Luke tells us about two people, Simeon and Anna (Luke 2) who were so in tune with the Spirit of God and the times in which they lived, that they were privileged to greet and pray over the young Messiah. I personally believe that we as believers need to be keenly aware of the times in which we live, and be ready at all times to share the hope of the Gospel with the world around us. And, be prepared for the imminent return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. clock Jesus taught us this as well in Matthew 24 and other passages. Peter asks the question in 2 Peter 3:11, as we are aware of the future of this world, what manner of people ought we to be? A question that perhaps is not asked enough in these days. And a question that is relevant to this discussion.

3.)   We can make a difference through prayer.

History is replete with the accounts of how the informed intercession of God’s people has made a difference in the history of nations. There are many books that give us examples of this. One of the classics is “Shaping History Through Prayer and Fasting” by Derek Prince. One chapter in his book is entitled, “Seeing History Shaped Through Prayer.” In other words, we are not helpless victims in the stream of history. Many events in history have been turned around in answer to the prayers of God’s people. Time does not allow sharing these here, but they are plentiful. We are called to be active participants in the history of nations, and peoples. This was true in Scripture as well, Think of Abraham, Jeremiah, and Daniel only to name a few who through prayer changed the course of nations. praying man This is not triumphalism, but it is realizing the power of prayer and intercession that God has placed in our hands to bring glory to His Name, and people into His Kingdom. The many stories of transformation and healing of the land that The Sentinel Group have documented are further evidence that God calls us to be agents of transformation through prayer, intercession and our lives in the world in which we live. Passivity is not a virtue in the Kingdom of God.

4.)   It allows us to be touched by the heart of God for people.

To watch the people on the streets, whether in Brazil, Egypt or the many other countries that are in this time in chaos, reminds me of the words of Joel 3:14 (NKJV) Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.    I earnestly believe that the heart of God aches and is broken for those who are in that valley of decision… believing there is no hope, or believing that the only hope is in a political figure, or institution, or in the power of the state, or any other of a number of false gods that people are grasping for in these days. If we are truly in touch with the heart of God, our hearts too will be broken for the lostness of men in our day, and that will motivate us toward taking the Gospel of Hope in our Lord Jesus Christ to them by any means possible.  missionsThe promise of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 24:14 (NLT) is, And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come. We are to go into all the world with the Gospel and reach every nation and hasten the coming of the King of Kings. If we are in touch with the heart of God as we see those scenes from this current turmoil, our hearts will be moved to pray, and give and go for the sake of the commission He has given to us, and the sake of His Kingdom.

These thoughts are surely not exhaustive, but I trust they will stimulate our thought about how we view the images that confront us of the world and times in which we live. These are indeed challenging days. It would be easy for us to want to isolate ourselves from the nonsense, violence, chaos, and confusion that is all around us, yet we are called to be salt and light in this world, not to hide our light under a cover. There are two verses that I find very interesting, especially in these days. This is not to say I believe we are in the Tribulation period, I do not, but Revelation 13:10 and 14:12 describes that in that time of trouble the saints will be characterized by patience and faith. looking

I believe we are approaching those days, and we are also called to exhibit those same characteristics in our world… patience and faith. Placing ourselves in the Hands of God and believing Him to carry us and direct us how to live in our present world. May God grant  us each one, His patience and faith by the power of His Holy Spirit. AMEN.

Even so, Come, Lord Jesus…

Steve Loopstra

 

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Taking a Look at 2 Chronicles 7:14 – Another “If-Then” passage

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Taking a Look at 2 Chronicles 7:14 – Another “If-Then” passage

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Probably one of the most familiar of the Biblical “If-Then” passages is 2 Chronicles 7:14:

2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV) … if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

And perhaps our familiarity with this passage makes it more important to look at this more carefully. Especially in the light of where our country seems to be headed.

 A Question:  Let me pose a question here. Given the assumption that the Word of God is true, and the precepts upon which this verse if founded are true. In other words, when God says that if we will do the “If’s,” He will do the “Then’s,”  why do we not see more “Then’s?” We have all been in plenty of prayer meetings where this verse has been prayed out and used to plead with God, or convince God to come and heal our land. But if so much pleading is happening, why are we not seeing more answers? Why are we not seeing more divine response to our pleading of this promise?

question mark2

If God is true to His Word, and I am coming from the assumption that He always is, then the fault must lie with our “If’s.” We are not correctly understanding what our part is. Or we are misapplying what our responsibilities are. And the reality is, that there are numbers and numbers of examples where this verse has been lived out, and God has answered with divine fire of revival, and transformation. The Sentinel Group has been documenting such cases for years. And they continue.

So, if the fault lies with us, and it always does, what must we do, what must we understand in order for us to experience the forgiveness, and healing that God promises? We do not have time to go in depth here, but let’s look at each part of the “If’s.”

 If my people who are called by my Name – This group of people is not just “anybody.” These are not simply “church people.” For there are, unfortunately, lots of people in our churches who do not truly have a personal, redeemed relationship with the Lord. Those who are called by His Name, are the ones who are not simply church members, but those who through genuine faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ in His death, burial, resurrection and ascension, paid the penalty of sin once for all, have become the children of God through faith in Christ’s finished work. These are those who have the authority to do the “If’s” in this verse. And those who know they are called by His Name have the responsibility to take that authority seriously.

praying man

 Will humble themselves –   We can get all tangled up in talking about what “humbling ourselves” means, but the bottom line is simply that there are no more excuses, no more self-justification, no more wiggle room. We are the reason that our society, our land is so messed up. It is our sin that is the source of the dysfunction in our society. Oh sure, that is not to take away from the effects of the lives of the unsaved. Sin has had and continues to have a devastating, and debilitating effect on every area of society. However, we cannot run away or hide from the fact that when the people of God are living righteously, and with the wisdom, grace, and love of God flowing in and through their lives, those affects are greatly mitigated, and the presence of God is invited into a community resulting in revival of the Church, and transformation of society at every level.

 And Pray – Ask anyone who is living in, or has lived in a time of revival and transformation and they will tell you that what came was the result not of casual, convenient prayer, but of intense, soul wrenching, agonizing, persistent intercession. It is not my intention to do a teaching on intercession here, but I believe that we do not understand well all the dimensions of what this entails. We can tend to be one dimensional in our praying for revival and transformation, when in reality this will take on many forms … which I believe reflects the multi-faceted heart of our God. There are times for bold and forceful storming of the gates of heaven, and there are times when the weight of the sin before us relegates us to silent, desperate weeping before His Holy Throne. There are times of individual intercession, and (this is the most difficult part) corporate prayer that calls for us to set aside our church, denominational, and other preferences for the sake of the greater desire to see God come to our cities, and our countries. This is broken, desperate, peristant prayer that keeps on praying UNTIL God answers.

pleasure of His presence

 seek my face – A short summary would be that the “Face of God” represents His presence, and the completeness of His Personhood … in other words all that He is. His completeness for every area of our lives. To seek the Face of God means that we have adopted the heart attitude that we cannot live another day without His manifest presence in our midst. It does not mean hiding off in a monastery somewhere, but it does mean that we seek His Presence in every area, and in every situation of our lives. Every part of our lives is submitted to His Lordship and His Presence there without exception. A complete abandonment to the desire to have Him present in our home, in our work, in our schools, in our private times, in our family times, in our churches, in our government, in our arts and entertainments. In every aspect of life we hunger for His deeper presence.

 turn from their wicked ways – True repentance, is not just a few words spoken out in a time of emotional outburst. True repentance is a change of lifestyle and habit patterns. Giving up of “pet” vices, and a recognizing of what are idols in our lives. Ancient Israel was constantly erecting idols of worship… the Lord called this spiritual prostitution. We are greatly deficient in recognizing the idols in our own lives. And of course one of our excuses is that the Lord wants us to “have fun.” Indeed, the Lord gave Israel many feasts and talked a lot about the joy of His presence, but He did not tolerate those things that they turned to “first,” or that they “substituted” for worshiping Him in spirit and in truth. Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians that those things will be different for each of us. That is why it is so important for us to be willing to be instructed by the Lord in what He sees as idols in our lives, in our families, in our churches, in our society. Then we must completely turn from those things, putting them in their proper place, and making a change of lifestyle that reflects true repentance by walking it out in a different lifestyle guided by His Holy Spirit.

if

 “IF” we will give ourselves to our part… God, who is the ever faithful One, will keep His part of the equation. Do we truly want revival and transformation in our lives, our churches, our families, our society? The choice is before us. If we will…. He will…

He only waits upon us….

 

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“If then’s to pay attention to…”

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“If… Then’s” to pay attention to…

In the next few weeks, I thought it would be good to look at some of the “If…then” statements in Scripture. And there are plenty of them. We will not be exhaustive here, but rather some that I hope will be instructive, and encouraging to our faith. Things that will strengthen us to continue to seek His Face, and love Him with all our heart and soul and strength and mind.

 

Since the Bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 11:10, Proverbs 1:7, and Proverbs 9:10), let us begin to look at some of the “If…then’s” related to wisdom and the fear of the Lord.

I want to focus primarily in this session on Proverbs 2: 1- 11. Of course, all of proverbs could be considered an “If… Then” but for this session let’s look at what this passage has to tell us about wisdom.

wisdomLet’s begin by looking at the “If” statements as they appear in the New King James Version. We will look at the meaning of the words as we go along.

 “If’s”

 Verse 1: My son, if you receive my words,

And treasure my commands within you

Verse 2: incline your ear to wisdom

And apply your heart to understanding;

Verse 3: if you cry out for discernment,

And lift up your voice for understanding

Verse 4: If you seek her as silver,

And search for her as for hidden treasures

 Active verbs here:

Receive – to capture, keep, acquire, or buy

Treasure –  to hide, store up or save

Incline –  to listen carefully, pay attention, to obey. paying close attention to something,
Apply –  to turn, to show love, inclining one’s heart

Cry out –  to call, or to summon

Lift up –  to put, or place something

Seek –  to seek after something, try to obtain

Search – to track down, to search with mind and imagination

 Objects:  the Word of the Lord, Wisdom, understanding, and knowledge

 “Then’s”

 Verse 5: Then you will understand the fear of the LORD,

And find the knowledge of God.

Verse 6:For the LORD gives wisdom;

From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;

Verse 7: He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;

He is a shield to those who walk uprightly;
Verse 8: He guards the paths of justice,

And preserves the way of His saints.

Verse 9: Then you will understand righteousness and justice,

Equity and every good path.
Verse 10: When wisdom enters your heart,

And knowledge is pleasant to your soul,

Verse 11: Discretion will preserve you;

Understanding will keep you,

Conclusions:     What we see in these verses is the promise that if we will give ourselves to search out God’s Word, capture it in our hearts and minds, treasure and keep it, and obey it, That is, we are truly wise when we reverentially submit our lives to God in obedience to His commandments. Then we will have a knowledge of God, and a fear of the Lord that will give us wisdom and understanding that will be a shield to our lives, give us understanding of how to handle ourselves in life’s situations, and preserve us on our life’s path.

Sounds like a pretty good deal to me! It’s a true promise from the Lord for our lives. If we will apply ourselves in this way to His Word and His ways, then He promises us the wisdom and knowledge to walk through life under His protection and shield. He will preserve us, and we will learn to walk in wisdom, and equity in all of lifes up’s and down’s. It doesn’t mean we won’t have troubles, but His wisdom will assure us that He will preserve our path through whatever comes our way.

Worth seeking out? Worth pursuing?  It is indeed, we must seek for it with the same kind of intensity as if we were hunting for hidden treasure or precious jewels. Job 28:17 (NLT) Wisdom is more valuable than gold and crystal. It cannot be purchased with jewels mounted in fine gold.

precious stones

If we will… He will.  Ready to go for it?

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The Ministry of the “Boiler Room”

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One of the exciting ministries that has now begun here at PIB (  Primeira Igreja Batista ) First Baptist Church in Valentina… is the “Boiler Room,” or  House of Prayer.

The term “Boiler Room” has reference to the ministry of Charles Spurgeon, who attributed the power and success of his crusades to the men and women who would intercede for him in the boiler. See this link: “Spurgeon’s Boiler Rooms”

Here at PIB, the “Boiler Room” was inaugurated in December of 2012 with a great celebration in front of the house.  boiler room opening1The “Boiler Room” actually  began functioning in January of 2013

Currently, we have one week per month that is 24/7 prayer and worship. The church is built upon a cell group model, so each cell group takes at least one two hour session in the “Boiler Room” each week. This includes men, women, youth, adolescents, and children. children

 

 

 

 

The “Boiler Room” is located on the first floor of the house where I live. I live on the second floor. That enables me to give oversight to the “comings and goings”  of the “Boiler Room,” and be blessed by the worship and prayer that takes place just below me.KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

The “Boiler Room” consists of several rooms and areas in the house.

First is the Area of Promises. Here intercessors can post promises from God, and be reminded of His promises in their lives and the lives of others they are praying for.

Room of Promises

 

 

There is also the Room of Worship… click on this link to watch a YouTube video. You will  get a little peek at what happens here. Boiler Room Worship

Then there is the Room of Silence. A place for meditation, Bible reading and prayer for the nations. Room of Silence When I moved here from the US, I brought with me some items that we had collected in our travels over the years. In this room and the Room of Promises, I have placed these items as ways to remind intercessors to pray for the nations.

Then there is the Room of the Arts, where people cRoom of the Artsan express their hearts of intercession or adoration to the Lord through art, and post these on the walls.

 

In the months ahead, it is our goal to continue to expand the ministry of the “Boiler Room” until we do have 24/7 prayer 365 days a year.

entrance2

Please join us in prayer that the Lord would do mighty things here in Valentina, in Joao Pessoa, in Brazil and in the Nations as the incense of intercession flows from our “Boiler Room”

entrance

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The Power of Encouraging Words

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I was struck today by the power of simple words of encouragement. As you may realize, most of the time these kinds of reminders come in the simplest forms. So it was today.

IMG_1928[1]I was folding some T-shirts that had dried in the warm Brazilian air. And as I was folding my T-shirts, the words of my wife echoed in my head. A few weeks before she died, I was doing the same chore… folding my T-shirts, and she made the simple comment, “You fold those so nice and narrow.” It was a simple statement, but now eighteen months after her death, her words come to my mind. Seven simple words. She could have told me I wasn’t doing it right. She could have said I need to do it a different way, but she simply said she like the way I folded them “nice and narrow.” Simple positive words that actually come to my mind every time I fold my T-shirts.

How easy it is for us to forget the power of our words. Especially if we happen to be task oriented kind of people. We have a certain way of doing things, we know how things need to be done, and we have no problem telling other people how they should handle this or that task to be more efficient. And in our desire to “do things right” we often miss the golden opportunities to enrich someone’s life. Countless stories are told my people who had just one teach in school who spoke encouraging words to them and made all the difference in the direction of their lives. The simple power of encouraging words.

Scripture is full of reminders of this. Proverbs 25:11 tells us, A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver. (NKJV)  Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:8-9 (NKJV)  Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.  The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.  Even the Lord Himself is an example of this. Psalm 85:8 (NKJV)  states: I will hear what God the LORD will speak, For He will speak peace To His people and to His saints;

positivewordsEvery once in a while it is good for us to stop and take inventory or our lives. How is it with your words? Are you speaking words of encouragement to those around you? Are you focusing on things that are true, and noble, and pure, and lovely, and praiseworthy as you relate to your co-workers and your family? As you speak to the clerk in the grocery store? You never know what effect simple words of encouragement can have in the lives of those you encounter.

Start today to keep a watch over your words, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you to be a person of peace and encouragement. There is power in those simple words.

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2012 Year End Ministry Perspectives

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Your Servant in Christ Ministries

Steve Loopstra

 2012  Year End Perspectives

 Paul writes to the Ephesians, and in Chapter 5, verses 15 -17,

 So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.
Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.
Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do
. (NLT)

The exhortation of “…be careful how you live” has the idea of looking around, being aware of your life and what is going on around you and then “redeeming” or making the most of every moment as you understand what the Lord would have you to do with those moments He has given you. The year 2012 was a year where I desperately tried to live that way.

The year 2012 has been a year like no other in my life. The year started, still in shock and grief over the loss of my dear wife, Marilou on September 3rd. December of 2011, I took her ashes to Brazil, and returned home just before Christmas.

January of 2012 was a time of trying to find my orientation… “who am I,” “what do I do now?” I was determined not to fall into a victim mode, but to “redeem” this new season of my life. It was a time of asking and seeking from the Lord the direction He would have me to take. In December when in Brazil, Bishop Eneas Araujo, pastor of First Baptist Church in Valentina had asked me to consider coming and working with them in Brazil. In January, this was still only a seed beginning to germinate.

February brought some greater clarity to this, in a telephone conversation with a prayer/revival leader, who in the midst of our conversation told me that as they were praying for me, they had the sense that the Lord had put a “Macedonian Call” on my life. He explained,  “When a nation calls, you do not take it lightly.” It was a powerful confirmation for me of what had been stirring since that December invitation.

 In February, I conducted a “College of Prayer” in Wisconsin, and then began to investigate what would be needed for me to move to Brazil. I also began to seek opportunities to preach, and raise an income, since the income from The Sentinel Group had dried up back about the time Marilou died.

In March, while having coffee at Caribou with Pastor Scott McClure on the subject of prayer, he leaned over to me and said, “You need a family.” It was exactly what I needed to hear. Thus a personal and ministry relationship began with Monroe Community Chapel, who would later sponsor Your Servant in Christ Ministries, which began that month.

In April I had cataract surgery and began the process of a check list for what I needed to do to get a “Missionary Visa” to go to Brazil. I continued to work on the mission and message of Your Servant in Christ Ministries, and raise an income by preaching in various chuches.

From April until July was a matter of waiting, preaching, praying and doing what I could to prepare to move. On July23rd, the last document I needed for my visa arrived.. the FBI report arrived. I immediately made my online application and made an appointment to take the application to the Brazilian Consulate in San Francisco. The appointment was for July 30th at 11:00 am. On July 25th, I drove to California. I stayed with my good friend Mark McPherson over the weekend, and on Monday drove to San Francisco to the Consulate. I had investigated many options for my visa. The website said the processing time was 90 “Business Days” which means you exclude weekends, and Brazilian as well as American holidays. My estimate according to those figures was early December to be able to arrive in Brazil. I arrived an hour early and by my appointment time, I was heading out the door of the consulate, and the girl said I would have the visa by August 10th . It arrived the 9th.

In September I made a wonderful trip to the Twin Cities to visit friends and try to rest the rest of my support.

October was full of packing, selling and preparing to leave on October 25th – MOVING to Brazil.  I arrived here in Joao Pessoa, Saturday, October 27th at about 2:30 am.

The last two months have gone by so very quickly, and much has happened. I am working on language study, and learning the culture…sometimes the hard way.

When I began plans to come to Brazil, the Lord gave me a passage in Psalm 71, verses 17-21, which says,

 O God, You have taught me from my youth; And to this day I declare Your wondrous works. Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come.  Also Your righteousness, O God, is very high, You who have done great things; O God, who is like You? You, who have shown me great and severe troubles, Shall revive me again, And bring me up again from the depths of the earth. You shall increase my greatness, And comfort me on every side.                                          Psalm 71:17-21 (NKJV)

In many ways the Lord has already begun to fulfill this word to me.

I have a house to live in, and right above the House of Prayer… The people of the church have been so warm and made me feel a part of the family from the beginning… I LOVE the climate… no shoveling snow here!!… and…I have a wonderful “connection” with many of the youth in the church, and have had opportunities to begin to invest into their lives.

What an honor that is. I have seen multiple ways in which the Lord has confirmed over and over that I am in the right place. He is bringing me comfort on many levels, and I consider myself among men, greatly blessed.

Thank you for your interest in Prayer Transformation Ministries and my ministry in Brazil.

Only the Lord knows what awaits in 2013, but we can know that His desire is to bless us with all His heart… Jeremiah 32:41. Thank you for praying. Please continue to lift this ministry up to the Lord that I might was, as Paul says, redeeming the time that He gives me.

 

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Different Christmas Reflections #2 – Fullness

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Different Christmas Reflections – #2 – Fullness

Another different perspective on this Christmas season for our thoughts and meditation… Fullness.

I know what came into your mind… and this has nothing to do with Christmas dinner, Turkey, stuffing, or Pumpkin Pie, although we do “stuff” ourselves with the Turkey … after we stuff the Turkey!!

 

No, this fullness has to do with the coming of Emmanuel… but it does not involve physical food. I want us to look at the fullness that Paul says we are to have in his reference in Ephesians 3:16-21 –

  (NKJV) …that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height– to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (emphasis mine)

This fullness is to be filled with all the fullness of God! Emmanuel came, yes, to pay the deadly penalty of sin, but He came for so much more! He came that His own life should fill us to the max. One of the words that Strong’s uses for the word “filled” in verse 19 is, “crammed.” We are to be crammed full. Full of what? We are to be “crammed full” with “all the fullness of God.” What does that mean? The New Living Version puts it this way, “May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”

Imagine! Your life, my life lived every day, with all the fullness of life and power that could come from the very life of God living in us! This is not triumphalism. Paul certainly was not one who was without trials, persecutions, and even doubts at times. No, not triumphalism, rather a realization of the purpose of God in our lives. This is the way Jesus lived. It is the way He desires us to live.

You ask, “How do I get this fullness?” Paul does not leave us to guess. He says he wants us to be strengthened in our inner person so that Christ will be at home in our lives, and we will be growing in our understanding of His love for us. A love that is so high, and deep, and wide, and long that it is impossible to comprehend it, yet available for us, each day. When we are growing in our comprehension of the love of God through Christ, we will be able to live in that kind of fullness.

But this means, “knowing Christ.” It means cultivating my relationship with Him through regular Bible study, prayer, worship, witness, humility, dependency, and humility. It means that Jesus’ advent was for so much more. Maybe it means that I have not been realizing the full potential of the life of God in me. Maybe I have not been living in the Fullness of all the completeness of God’s character and power in my life each day. Maybe, just maybe there is more to this Christmas story than I had connected with the manger.

And just in case you thought it might be quite impossible for you to live such a life, Paul makes sure that we understand that what God intended for our lives in His Fullness, He is quite capable of accomplishing… so Paul reminds us in verse 21, Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen That is a pretty strong reminder that God is able to accomplish this in  your life and in mine if we live in the place of knowledge and intimacy with Him. Do you feel your heart being stirred, and drawn deeper? Me too.

This Christmas season as we remember and celebrate the advent of Emmanuel, God with us, let us remember the prayer of Paul in Ephesians 3, and seek after the greater Fullness that Christmas brings to us.

May the Lord bless you with all His Fullness this Christmas Season and each day of the New Year.

 

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Different Christmas Reflections

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Some “Different” reflections on Christmas…

 “Different” Reflection #1  – A Foreigner

This weekend before Christmas 2012, I will have been here in Brazil for 2 months.

Over the past year, the Lord has done some pretty amazing things to confirm that He wanted me here, and He has demonstrated that in supernatural ways. You can read more of the story on my ministry website at, www.yourservantinchristmnistries.org.

And, my reception here in Brazil has been truly a blessing, and very humbling. The people have welcomed me and opened their hearts and their homes to me in wonderful ways.

But the reality is, that I am a foreigner here. I am trying desperately to learn the language. I am still praying for the supernatural gift of language, but in the meantime, I’m working on it.

I tried to explain to the folks here when I first arrived that “everything you don’t even think about, is new to me.” Everything. Food, cooking, shopping, cleaning, customs, expressions, bathroom things. And with the newness comes the stresses of trying to learn and get things right.

There is the issue of communication. Not only the challenges of language, but making sure that we really do understand one another. The presumption on other’s parts that I know what is going on… the schedule, the routine, the way to dress, all of the things, again that others take for granted, it is most of the time forgotten that I have not clue!

Consider the fact that I live in a house by myself,  without much means of transport other than my feet (which over the years have not been  used to going barefoot or with sandals), so I am isolated here and completely dependent upon others for most things. My last haircut was 6 weeks ago… I really need a haircut, but I have no idea where there is a barbershop near where I live, and I am not ready yet to just wander the streets looking. I am dependent on others for the shopping needs other than what I can get at the store that I can walk to. But they do not have some items I need, so I am dependent upon others and their schedules to take care of those issues.

The isolation also plays a role in my own feelings. I have to remind myself that it has only been 15 months since Marilou died. Part of our relationship was we could just “be” together, we could talk about things. Now, there is no one most of the time. And those who are here, because of language and culture do not understand and cannot connect with the things that I feel deeply. So this deepens the sense of isolation.

Now, what does that have to do with Christmas? Maybe you have already gotten the connection. The Apostle John puts it this way in his gospel, He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.  John 1:10-12 (NLT)

The Christmas story is multi-faceted. We so often talk about Emmanuel, God with us, but John reminds us that the reception of this “foreigner” was not without difficulties. Matthew records the words of Jesus Himself in Matthew 8:20 that Jesus did not even had a place to rest His head.

He had communications issues too, even His disciples did not understand Him most of the time. The religious leaders certainly did not.

Emmanuel, God with us was a foreigner in the world He made by the breath of His mouth. A word of comfort to all who may feel like strangers in this world as well. Indeed, we are made for a different world, and Peter reminds us that we are pilgrims and strangers here (I Peter 2:11).

This Christmas season, let us take great comfort in the truth that the One who was a foreigner in His own creation has gone before us to prepare a place for us with Him where we will never be foreigners, or strangers, or alone, or isolated. It is all part of the story of Christmas.

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