Blog Archives

Last Man Standing – the eBook is now discounted at Amazon.com!

Available now on Amazon.com – http://amzn.com/B00K2NSZIE

Order via Amazon Smile and select Open Arms Worldwide as the beneficiary organization.

cover last man std

 

 

 

Actions & Words

Whether it be the crisis of fatherlessness or failing marriages or violence or drug abuse or any of the other social ills on the front page today, Jesus’ church is the only institution with the complete answer.  Jesus is the “last man standing.”  As His people, the children of the King of kings, we are called to imitate His character in a world gone wrong, to share His good news and grace with a world in need. That is the ultimate message of this blog.  One of the ways in which my family and I have chosen to put our actions where our words are is through the ministry of an organization we founded in 2006 called, “Open Arms Worldwide.”

OAW partners with Christian churches to implement and maintain gospel-based programs to reach at-risk children in the church’s local community.  Their vision for the future is a world where all children grow up understanding that they are beautiful and precious in God’s eyes and are enabled to discover the Hope and future that He has for them.

We have been blessed to be a part of this organization as full-time missionaries as well as Board members over the years.  If you haven’t heard of OAW then I invite you this Christmas season to check out their 2014 Year in Review which just came out.  It is an encouraging read and I pray it will be a motivating one as well.  Enjoy!  http://www.openarmsworldwide.org/2014-year-review/

Merry Christmas and a blessed 2015 to you and yours,

Mike

Shark Wranglers continued…Lucas’ story

Continued from previous post… I learned a lesson that day. When our mission is just and godly we cannot let fear stop us. 

The Great Claim & The Great Promise

What could be scarier than going on a rescue mission into a hostile world in the name of Christ?  Most of us are familiar with the Great Commission as recorded for us in Matthew chapter 28. In this famous scene Jesus commissioned the disciples, and those disciples not yet born, to go into the world and share the gospel with the nations.  What most of us forget is that there are bookends to the Great Commission, namely the Great Claim and the Great Promise.  Let’s take a look.

     “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me [the Great Claim]. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.[the Great Promise]”

Number one, Jesus first claims the authority, all authority, to say what he is about to say.  No one in their right mind charges into battle on the orders of a Private 1st Class.  It just doesn’t happen.  We want to know authority backs up the orders. Jesus has been given all power that exists, in heaven and on earth.  This command comes from the highest of all authorities.

After Jesus lays this very scary battle plan on us, he follows it up with a promise.  “Not only do I have the authority to send you on this mission, but I myself will be fighting along with you every step of the way.”  Do you believe him?

Lucas continued

When we left Lucas he was beginning to attend a new school, a gathering of the worst of the worst from the city’s overburdened school system. Their first “field trip” would change his life forever… Lucas’ class would be going to a local swim school that had been contracted by the city to teach swim lessons.  A shark wrangler by the nickname, “Zinho,” is the school’s owner as well as a former coach for Brazil’s Olympic program and a follower of Jesus Christ. He was on hand that first day.  He looked on as these unruly delinquents plunged willy-nilly into the pool. One of them in particular caught his well-trained eye.  This smallish, Afro-Brazilian boy dove in headfirst and, although he had no idea how to swim, he seemed to be at home in the water. Zinho called Lucas from the pool and asked if he would like to learn to be a competitive swimmer.  Lucas wasn’t sure what was involved, but he sure liked the pool and figured it was a good chance to spend more time there.

Zinho, Lucas and Michael

Right to left – Lucas, Zinho, and my son Michael

me and lucas

Lucas & me

In those days our organization, Open Arms, was also beginning to lead Bible-based, civic and moral education classes in Lucas’ new school.  Because my sons were also swimming at Zinho’s academy, he and I talked a lot together about the school and about Lucas.  We agreed that Open Arms would start a Bible study with the children on the swim team. Zinho recruited an older gentleman from his church to also meet with Lucas for one-on-one discipleship every week. Lucas began to split his time between our home and the swim school, where Zinho had made up a room for him. 

DSC_0139

Our Family at Christmas in Brazil

It was a bumpy road, as Lucas had no experience with limits or personal discipline of any kind. His brothers were drug users and well-known thieves and tough guys in one of the most notorious neighborhoods of the city (coincidentally one of Lucas’ brothers was incarcerated with Eduardo from our earlier story). His mother had no interest in caring for him but held on to legal guardianship in order to receive a small pension that was intended for his care. He once asked me tearfully, “Why did GOD give me such a terrible family? Why couldn’t I have a family like yours? Why couldn’t Maikinho and Rapha (my two boys) be my brothers?”

Lucas swim 2011

Lucas still has a lot of hurt to overcome, but in the context of a safe, healthy relationship with godly men and their families, Lucas gave his own life to Jesus.

Today Lucas talks of college and eventually a wife and family.  He told me recently, “I will never quit now. I know what I want and I know what GOD wants of me.”  For Lucas, the psalmists’ words are his own, “Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.” (Psalm 27:10).

 

The Spirit of GOD works through the lives of men committed to be fathers to the fatherless.  It’s time for the shark wranglers and bull elephants of the Church to stand up and step out. It can and will make difference in the lives of the children you touch. 

Shark Wranglers continued

see previous post...https://lastmanstandingchurch.com/2014/02/21/shark-wranglers/

Substitute “Strong Man”

Brothers, we all know it is our GOD given duty as men to care for our own children, to protect them, to fight off the sharks of this world and guide our children on the narrow path that leads to life.  But as Christian men we have a call that goes beyond just our own little ones.  “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” 1 John 3:16.  It is not enough to hide with our children, or the children of the church on shore, within our homes, our safe neighborhoods or the walls of the church building, when there are still children in the water with the sharks.

Ladies, are you laboring with the men in your life as a team to pull more children away from the sharks, like the aunt in our story, binding up the wounds of one child while he goes back for more?  Jesus Christ laid down his life for us, as a substitute.  When the “strong man” in the life of a child has been removed we, as Christ imitators, the last men standing, have the privilege to step into the gap, in the name of the Savior, as a substitute and sure up the walls in the life of that young person. bridgingthegap

Does that sound scary?  Sure it does.  But “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18).  If this is a mission from our Father, and it is, then we must trust in the words that GOD said to Joshua and to all those warriors who would follow, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your GOD will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9).

 

Shark wranglers

Continued…(click HERE to read previous post)

Sound Scary?

“At-risk children in my house?  Drugs dealers and thieves?  Juvenile detention centers?  Are you crazy?  That is the kind of thing best left for professionals, missionaries or folks without their own family to care for.  Besides, in this country you can get sued for looking the wrong way at a child. The risks are just too great.  What if I just write a check?”

As the President of a non-profit organization that survives on the giving heart of GOD’s people, I would say, yes, please do.  Better yet, you, your family, your business and your church could purpose to become regular financial partners with an organization, like Open Arms Worldwide (www.openarmsworldwide.org), that is working to get more “bull elephants” out into the places where children have been left most vulnerable.  But, if you stop there you are missing out.  Is it dangerous and risky? Absolutely. But with great risk comes great reward.

Do Not Fear

That leads me to my second animal story.  This one took place in the warm gulf coast waters of Florida in 2001 and was picked up and reported by most major television news networks at the time.  A man was relaxing at the beach with some relatives when he heard screams and looked to see a pool of blood forming around his nephew who was standing in the shallow water.  A seven-foot long, 250-pound bull shark had a firm hold on the boy and wasn’t letting go.

Shark Wrangler

The uncle jumped into the water, as most of us would, and, taking hold of the sharks’ tail, pulled the animal away from the boy.  The shark released, but had taken the child’s arm just below the shoulder. He was losing a lot of blood as his aunt began caring for him onshark finshore.  At that point the uncle would have been perfectly justified in releasing his hold on the shark and returning to the safety of shore to care for his nephew, but that would have to wait, there were other children still in the water.  Holding on tightly to that tail, he wrestled the beast, which was all the while trying to turn on him, up on to the beach where a park ranger shot it with his 9mm service pistol. The boys’ arm was retrieved and reattached, and the immediate danger to the other children in the water was removed.

Is there a lesson for us here?  Stay tuned…

Eduardo continued… From “Last Man Standing” the book

Eduardo continued

…When we left Eduardo he was serving out his time in the infamous FEBEM juvenile prison system of Brazil, never hearing from a single “friend,” his only visitor being his mother.  But then he got a letter that would change everything. The letter, came from a an old P.E. teacher from his grade school years, Marcelo, and was accompanied by a photograph of the two of them together with some other boys from one of the many schools he had passed through in his childhood.  Marcelo wrote that he had heard from some friends of the trouble Eduardo had gotten himself into and let him know that he was praying for him and would like to catch up with him upon his release.  It was a simple letter, but it was also the only letter Eduardo would get from anyone throughout his 18-month sentence.

The day of his release came and it wasn’t long after getting home that his so called, “friends” came to welcome him back. Their first order of business was to invite him on a home invasion they were planning in the coming days.  He accepted.  In the mean time he thought he should at least track down Marcelo, this P.E. teacher who he still couldn’t believe remembered him, and thank him for the kind letter.  He found Marcelo, thanked him and, after a little chitchat, was ready to go back home, mission accomplished.  But then Marcelo invited him to come out to a party with some youth from his church.  Eduardo was leery of going to a “church” thing, but Marcelo assured him it was purely social and not a worship service.  He accepted, completely missing that the night of the party was the same night as the planned robbery.

Attending that party with Marcelo, Eduardo was taken aback by the other youth he met.  They were different.  The way they talked to each other and to him was completely foreign to him, but he liked it.  The next day his “friends” came around and asked why he had blown them off and not shown up as planned.  Eduardo made some excuses and rescheduled for another night the following week.  The day of that robbery Marcelo paid an unexpected visit to Eduardo and invited him to join them again for a night out.  This time Eduardo jumped at the chance, completely forgetting that he was “double booking” himself yet again. Once more he had a great time with Marcelo and his new friends and was more and more intrigued by what made them so different.

The next morning the old crew showed up at his home, even more frustrated with being dissed another time.  Eduardo wasn’t so sure of the sincerity of his apology this time, but

Marcelo & Eduardo (center)

Marcelo & Eduardo (center)

rescheduled once more just the same.  The day came and this time it was Eduardo calling Marcelo to ask if he could please come to a worship service being held for the youth at a local church that night.  It was the last time Eduardo would schedule a robbery, because that night, as Marcelo shared the good news of Jesus with the youth gathered together, GOD stole Eduardo’s heart for good.

Eduard at FEBEM

Eduardo outside the juvenile detention center

Soon after, Marcelo introduced Eduardo to Patricia and me at an Open Arms outreach project and we got him plugged in as a volunteer, teaching hip-hop dance to the kids.  Marcelo, Patricia and I have been walking with Eduardo ever since.  He has lived in our home, sharing a room with our boys, when things were going badly in his.  He has shared meals and holidays with our family.  Eduardo has gone on to go to college, has planted (at the time of this writing) three Open Arms outreach projects, has shared his testimony all over Brazil, began an outreach back into the same juvenile facility he spent time in, and has led untold numbers of children and youth to Christ.  Eduardo says today, “After about three months of resisting the temptation of returning to drugs and crime, my so-called “friends” stopped coming around.  Had it not been for my new-found faith in Jesus and friends from Open Arms, I don’t think I would have made it.”

DSC_0251

Eduardo and I at an Open Arms Outreach

Du e Claudia

Eduardo and his bride, Claudia

An interesting footnote to this story of Eduardo is that, on one particular evening soon after his conversion, he was invited with some of the other church youth to a meeting at a house belonging to the family of one of the girls in the youth group, one of his new best friends.  As they arrived at the house Eduardo’s jaw dropped.  It was the very same house he and his crew had planned to rob the day he went to jail, the day a voice inside him said, “Not this house.”  He knew now whom that voice belonged to.

Trail Guide Devotional

This ran recently on the Reston Bible Church blog.

TRAIL GUIDE: God’s Word is Our Strength

QUEST Trail Guide DevoThe “Trail Guide” devotional is used by our adult leaders of grade school groups in Quest as a way to prepare their hearts and minds for the topics we will be covering with the children on the weekend.  We have made them available here to help our parents of grade-schoolers engage with their children around the topics we are discussing and also for anyone else that might be blessed by following along.

FREE CLIMBING, LESSON 4: Victory Over Sin

“It’s an open-book test.”  Those words can indeed be beautiful to hear in the face of a difficult exam.  I remember clearly the first time I heard them in a high school chemistry class.  At once, my heart jumped because I had not studied well for the test.  In fact, I hadn’t studied well for the whole year in that class.  I thought, “This is a gift!”  Sadly, my joy turned to nervous sweat as I frantically thumbed pages and scoured the index of a book I had barely cracked all semester.  I quickly learned that, without a good working knowledge of the book, an open-book test isn’t much easier at all.  I needed the answers now and there just wasn’t time to find them because I didn’t know where to look.

The temptations or tests that we face in our spiritual lives are “open-book” tests too.  “Your Word is like a lamp that shows me the way. It is like a light that guides me.”  “How can a young person keep his life pure? By living in keeping with your Word.”    The psalmist says that the one who meditates on the Word day and night is “blessed.”  When Jesus was tempted in the desert after forty days without food, his weapon of choice against the Devil was the Word.  “It is written…” Jesus answered three times and Satan retreated.  When Satan distorted the words of God, Jesus knew how to answer him.  What if Jesus had, like Adam and Eve, simply listened to Satan’s lies and had no response?  Rather than being hyper-vigilant and sheltering our children, we must exhort them to be prepared for what WILL come.  And when they are tempted they will be able to say, “I have hidden your Word in my heart so that I won’t sin against you.”  It’s an open book test.  Know the book.

“How can a young person keep his life pure? By living in keeping with your word.” 
“I have hidden your word in my heart so that I won’t sin against you.” (Psalm 119:9,11)

“So obey God. Stand up to the devil. He will run away from you.”  -James 4:7

MEDITATING ON THE WORD:
Psalm 119:9,11
1 John 5:4-5
Matthew 6:9,13
James 4:7

Christmas edition – Remembering God Part 6

You can see the original post on the Reston Bible Church blog,

http://blog.restonbible.org/2013/12/remembering-god-part-6-in-traditions-memorials/

At the start of this series, I began by laying out four things we risk when we do not remember who God is and all that He has done.  These were:

  • Falling into idolatry/trusting ourselves or our possessions (Deut. 8:13-14)
  • Never growing in trust of/faith in God (Isa. 40:20-21)
  • Stumbling into sin and suffering the Father’s discipline (Deut. 8:19)
  • Forfeiting a generation to the enemy (Judges 2:10-11)

So how do we, as parents, make sure that our family is all about remembering God?  So far we’ve looked at remembering Himin the Word, in song, and in prayer and in fellowship. This post, I’d like us to look at how the people of God remember him in our traditions and memorials.

In the modern Bible church movement there has, in my estimation, been an almost complete purge of tradition, ceremony, and memorial from church life.  In our defense, I think that this has largely been a reaction to “traditionalism.”  This I will define as the elevation of a tradition, or memorial, to the point where the original meaning and intent are lost.  It is often replaced by the wholesale worship of the tradition itself.  A rejection of such idolatry is just and right.  I am afraid, however, that we have thrown the baby out with the bath water, so to speak.

Wouldn’t a more conservative approach be to recapture the true meaning and purpose of tradition and memorial in our lives?  To answer this question we must first understand the answer to two other questions.  First, where did we get our traditions, memorials, or ceremonies?  The second is why did we get them?  Let’s look to scripture as our guide.

“Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’  tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
(Joshua 4:4-7)

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)

These are only two of many, many examples you can find in both the Old and New Testaments, but I think they answer our two questions. Tradition and memorial are gifts to us, ordained, and in many cases commanded, by God. God intended their use as a tool for helping us to remember who He is and all that He has done for us throughout history.

Tradition and memorial are gifts to us, ordained – and in many cases, commanded – by God.

Does this mean that the only traditions or memorials that are okay are the ones explicit in Scripture?  I would say no.  You can also find places in scripture where a memorial or altar is erected, without direct instructions from God, in order to worship Him and remember something specific He had done.

Two RBC families come to mind when I think of creating tradition and memorial.  The first family told me a story of their “Memorial Shelf.”  This is a prominent shelf where they display items that remind them of something specific God did on their behalf in answer to prayer.  To most people it might look like a shelf full of junk.  But they always ask, “what is the story with all that stuff?” and then this faithful family can tell them the stories of God’s grace and mercy in their lives.

The second family created their own tradition at Christmas.  It involves the dad doing a dramatic reading of the Luke account of the birth of Jesus.  As they get to each new character in the account the children must go out and find that figure for the nativity.  When they find it is always sitting with a pile of gifts, one for each person in the family, and they open those gifts before moving on in the story.  They’ve told me this can take all day but the emphasis on the true gift of God in Jesus is rich in this family tradition and is never lost.

What am I getting at?  God gave us tradition as a tool to help us and our children and their children, to remember.  We must not forget and we must not allow the next generation to forget either.  Don’t let traditionalism rob you of this God ordained tool.  Embrace the historic traditions, make up your own, set up memorials, but don’t ever lose the reason behind the tool.

It is my prayer that, as you’ve read through this series of devotions on remembering God, you have discovered new ways for you and your family to make remembrance a vital part of your spiritual lives.  In song, in prayer, in the Word, in fellowship, and in tradition – being careful, “so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” (Deuteronomy 4:9)

May your Christmas be one of blessed memories,

Mike Meyers, Director of Children’s Ministry

Being Imitators of God (continued)

If our Father GOD is a “Father to the fatherless” a “defender of widows” who “places the lonely in families,” then we, as his children, his imitators, should be mimicking these traits in our lives.

Is this line of reasoning born out elsewhere in scripture?  I believe it is.  GOD gives specific instruction for treatment of the fatherless and the widow.  His law, as laid out for us in the Old Testament, is chock-full of commands to care for the fatherless and the widow among us.  James repeats these calls in the New Testament when he makes this radical statement.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

In the following chapters we will explore what this might look like in your life.  We will hear testimonies of men and their families who are engaged in the fight in very real and practical ways and hopefully encourage you to step into the fray.

Being Imitators of God

Be imitators of GOD, therefore, as dearly loved children”

Ephesians 5:1 (emphasis added)

 The Sincerest Form of Flattery

I am a simple man, not a great theologian, and I tend to read and understand scripture in a straightforward way. The Bible makes plain that, when we are reborn in Christ, we are called to be “imitators of GOD,” that is, imitators of his communicable character attributes, those attributes GOD “shares” with his adopted children. We can know the character of our GOD because it is clearly revealed in scripture. God is loving, patient, kind, good, joyful, faithful, forgiving, generous, courageous, and holy just to name a few. These are traits we should strive to imitate.

As “dearly loved children” we are also to imitate the things the Father does. Jesus says in John 5:19, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”  Does this carry over to the adopted sons (believers) as well? Jesus implies that it does when he goes on to say in John 14:12, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”

A GOD size assignment

Be “imitators” of GOD.  Now, if you are like me, that is an amazing and yet frightening command.  To be honest, at first glance it sounds like yet another impossibly high bar to jump and frankly a little burdensome. For me it ranks right up there with, “Be holy as I am holy,” in terms of potentially discouraging expectations. But at closer examination, it really is the promise of living in the presence and power of our Father, enjoying his company and learning while working at his side.

Notice what Jesus did not say.  He did not say, “anyone who has faith in me will be required to do what I have been doing. Or be required to do even greater things than these.” Instead, Jesus uses an affirmative statement, saying that anyone who has faith in me “will” do what I have been doing and “will” do even greater things.  The idea here is that, as adopted children of GOD, walking in the Spirit, we will want to be imitators of our Father, not forced, and that we are empowered by Christ himself, to do these things.  That should be exciting and encouraging news. What dearly loved child doesn’t want to imitate dad?

Dad is at your side

Let’s look even more closely at part of that statement.  Jesus said, “Whatever the Father does the Son also does.” If you were blessed with a good relationship with your father perhaps you recall “working” alongside him in the shop or singing with him in the choir or pushing the lawn mower with him.  You might remember that no matter what you did, Dad always seemed to make the work you did together turn out well. You might recall the sense of being stronger and more capable with Dad by your side.

If you’re a dad then you’ve seen the other side of the coin. One spring Saturday several years ago, I stood preparing to stain the deck and backyard fence of our townhouse.  I had borrowed our neighbors paint gun to make things move along a little faster.  All was going according to plan until my oldest son Michael, then just four years old, showed up and, with his most earnest and eager face on, asked if he could help me paint.  I was all too familiar with this kind of “help” and I knew it was going to make my job a lot more difficult, but I couldn’t say no.  I didn’t want to say no.  I wanted to give my son a chance to work with his Dad just as I had with mine.  So, after several hours, we succeeded in painting the fence, the deck, the grass, part of our aluminum siding and one of my neighbors’ trees. Was it the easiest way? No. Could I have done it better alone? No doubt. But it was a day that neither of us has forgotten.

Be of good cheer, GOD isn’t loading another expectation on you; He is inviting you to participate with Him at his work.  It’s a heavenly “take your child to work day” invitation.

So what?

So how does all of this discussion impact the knock-down drag-out fight for the souls of the worlds children?

After reading Psalm 68:5-6, the answer should come into focus.

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,

is GOD in his holy dwelling.

GOD sets the lonely in families”

Psalm 68:5-6a