Wednesday, November 11, 2015


The missionary journey from Astoria, Oregon to Kabaale Village, Uganda is a long one.  But not far-at-all in comparison to the journey that our Savior made when He left heaven’s glory for this sin-cursed place when He came into the world to save sinners.  Though He was rich, for our sakes He became poor that we, through His poverty, might become rich (Cf. 2 Corinthians 8:9).  As His ambassadors we are privileged to bear witness, wherever we are, of Him and His great sacrifice for our sins. 
Our team from LCBC flew out of Seattle on Friday, October 23rd and returned to Astoria two weeks later.  It was my seventh trip to the village.  I was joined by my wife, Laura, and two teens, Sayla and Anna Davis.  It was Laura’s second trip and Sayla and Anna’s first (and their first time flying).  We had a layover in Amsterdam where we met up with the other eight members of our team, all from Maine (Pastor Bob Emrich, Julie Smith, Tiani Smith, Sue Hoffman, Nancy Van Dyke, William Cole, Zachary Cole, and Jan Wood). All but Will had been to Kabaale Village before.

We arrived in Entebbe late Saturday night and then drove to Kampala where we spent the night.  On Sunday morning we visited Glorious Church in Kampala and Pastor Bob Emrich gave the message.  Other members of our team conducted children’s ministry in the church.  It is a very large church, unlike the ones we minister to in the villages. We arrived in Kabaale later that day and were launched off into our various ministries the next morning. 


The chief task of Pastor Bob and myself was to conduct the pastor conferences.  What began as a ministry to a couple dozen pastors in one pastor’s alliance six years ago has expanded to include over 200 pastors in five different alliances.  To ease the traveling burden of the pastors we conducted three different conferences in three different locations.  Each of the conferences was well attended by eager listeners.  Pastor Bob and I took turns sharing from God’s Word.  The main theme of the conferences had to do with serving Jesus from the heart.  Pastor Bob spoke of the hazards associated with legalistic religion as opposed to living and serving according to the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.  He also shared from 1st Thessalonians regarding the characteristics of a model church and a model pastor (using the example of the Apostle Paul).  My messages were mostly pertaining to the person and work of the Holy Spirit.  This is a study that I’ve done recently both in Sunday School and in the morning messages.  I was especially blessed in preaching a message I entitled “The Miracle of Pentecost.”  The gist of that message was about how God birthed the church in miraculous fashion.  Previously cowardly Peter was made courageous and previously hardened hearts were convicted by the power of the Holy Spirit.  The church was borne according to Jesus’ promise, not as a result of human planning or effort, but by intervention of the Spirit who empowered ordinary and imperfect people to do things that they never could have done on their own.  Along the way, in preaching that message, I came up with this quote: “The life and ministry of the believer lies in the realm of the miraculous.  It is impossible for any of us to do what God has given us to do in the power of the flesh.  We are miraculously born again by the Spirit and by the Spirit, in a similarly miraculous way, we grow and serve and do everything else God has given us to do.”

In another message I worked through the passages in John chapters 14-16 having to do with Jesus’ promise to His disciples regarding the soon-coming Spirit.  The main points of that message were simple—the Holy Spirit is a Divine Person who indwells every believer in Christ.  He is the Helper and the Spirit of Truth.  His ministry is to exalt Christ.  We can discern a work of the Spirit in this way—His work is always in accord with the truth; His work is not to draw attention to Himself, but to Jesus Christ.

Our messages to the pastors raised questions, and Bob and I would respond by going to the Scriptures for answers.  The pastor’s wives were invited to join their husbands for the final day of each conference.  This is something that we hadn’t done before.  In a morning session the women met with women from our team.  The wives rarely have an opportunity to meet like this, so it was a good opportunity for them to voice some of their difficulties and concerns.  Ladies from our team, including Laura, were a part of this ministry to the pastor wives.  Laura enjoyed encouraging the wives, by way of her experience as a pastor’s wife, in how best to respond to the various challenges they face.  After lunch the wives joined the husbands and Pastor Bob spoke to the couples regarding oneness in marriage and how it relates to life and ministry.  He caused a bit of a stir in one of the conferences.  The husbands were all sitting in the front of the church and the wives in the back.  He had the husbands leave their seats to find their wives so that they could sit beside them instead.  It was a good opportunity to reinforce the matters to which he was speaking.

At the end of every conference we heard reports of how the pastor alliances were doing.  The chairman would report on ministry accomplishments and challenges.  The reports shared some of the same themes.  The alliances were experiencing much unity, and when not, were working to address the cause of their disagreements.  The pastors were working together to conduct outreach ministries and prayer sessions.  When a pastor had a particular need other pastors would work together to help.  In one instance the pastors assisted a pastor whose building had fallen down.  In another instance, a pastor’s wife had died, so the pastors worked together to come along side and help.  We heard in their reports of the progress made with respect to the piggery projects.  And they spoke of the various challenges that they faced and steps that were being made to deal with these challenges.  These reports were incredibly encouraging!  We addressed the various alliances and presented them with some gifts (notebooks, pens, gifts for pastor’s wives, First Steps with Jesus books, Luganda gospel tracts) and financial assistance.  We also spoke to them of the startup of Faith Bible School (more on that later). 

Rain delayed the start of the last day of the last conference.  But after a great, albeit hurried, afternoon of ministry, our team joined with the pastors and wives to share in the Lord’s Supper.  Pastor Henry and I alternately read various Scriptures passages.  Pastor Bob and Pastor Joseph joined the two of us in leading the congregation in prayer.  We then spoke to how God has worked through Christ’s death on the cross to join us all—regardless of nation or color or language—to His body, the church.  And how we anticipate the day of His return when we will be gathered together around His throne in worship of the Lamb who was slain, who is worthy (Cf. Revelation 5:9).  It was a fitting conclusion to the last of the three pastor conferences. 

Right after the conference a pastor and his wife and baby sought me and Bob out.  They asked if we remembered them from a previous visit several years ago.  Pastor Bob and I had visited their church—“What Doctors Cannot Do Jesus Can Church.”  We met the Pastor, Immanuel, and his wife, Gertrude.  They asked us to pray for them as they had been twelve years without child.  And so, at the end of the conference, with big smiles on their faces they introduced Bob and me to their baby, which they had appropriately named “Miracle.” They were so happy—and praising God—for their miracle baby!


Hope and Mercy Mission is working on establishing a Bible School for pastors.  The announcement to the various alliances regarding this effort was met with enthusiastic response.  The school will enlist four English-speaking, well-qualified, Ugandan teachers.  These men have all served in ministry and teaching roles for many years.  In its first year, 20 students will attend—four from each alliance.  Their course of instruction will include classes in Bible Survey, Bible Doctrines, Bible Study Methods, Leadership Principles, and Personal Spiritual Growth.  There will also be English and computer classes.  The school will meet for one week per month at Sunrise School in Kabaale Village.  Pastor Bob and I are either providing or preparing the curriculum for the school.  The school will start in January 2016.  God has already provided much of the necessary funding for the school (but if you’d like to help visit the Hope and Mercy Website and designate a donation to Faith Bible School;  One of the great needs of the pastors in the region is to be better equipped to study and teach God’s Word.  Faith Bible School can work to address this particular need in a profound and expansive manner.  Please join us in praying for God’s blessing on this important and strategic ministry.


Under Laura’s supervision, Sayla & Anna Davis and Julie & Tiani Smith were involved in ministry to children in three different schools.  They all conducted their ministry with great enthusiasm and devotion.  These schools varied in size from several hundred to five hundred plus.  Sayla and Anna have had much experience in teaching 5-Day Clubs using Child Evangelism Fellowship materials.  They taught the lessons regarding the wordless book to the children.  Children from the LCBC AWANA club raised funds to buy the materials for wordless book colored bracelets.  They also helped to put them together in packets so that they would be ready to distribute to the children.  Besides the lessons, the team also led the children in songs and games and verse memorization.  As always, the children were eager to learn and participate.  On one occasion, because of rain, the team was delayed for hours in making their way to a school.  The school children had been disappointed-- thinking that their friends from America would not come--but were then overjoyed when the team finally arrived later that afternoon.  The children in all the schools were very glad to receive the bracelets.  And many in the three schools responded to the invitation to receive Jesus as Savior.   


Our team was privileged and blessed to be a part of an Operation Christmas Child shoebox distribution in Kabaale Village.  About 500 children were there.  Big boxes full of shoeboxes had been brought.  Discipleship booklets were passed out.  The team worked to distribute the shoeboxes to the children according to age and gender.  There was much anticipation as Paul Mwesigwa did the countdown—three, two, one and a half, one—then finally the children excitedly opened up their boxes.  There was much joy and plenty of smiles as the children dug into their boxes full of gifts.  We learned something about good and not-so-good gifts in that experience.  Many boxes contained toothpaste, and while a toothbrush might be a good idea, toothpaste will only last so long and many children won’t know what to do with it.  The operation of some toys was not easily or readily understood.  We need to think of such gifts from the standpoint of a child who has never had a toy or operated anything with moving parts.  Balls and dolls make good gifts, as do simple toys that need little or no explanation.  Clothing is good, but sometimes boxes had clothing items that were at the low end of the age range—too small for the recipient.  Better to err on the side of being too big as the child can then grow into it.  Some boxes contained stocking caps.  The children will probably use them, but there is not so much need for stocking caps in Uganda and there is no way to know exactly to what climate a shoebox might go.  After the distribution the team helped to clean up things.  It was a great experience!


Churches in Maine and Oregon both worked to prepare dresses for girls in Uganda.  LCBC ladies worked hard in a series of workshops to make over 100 dresses.  Some of these dresses, along with some T-shirts for boys, were distributed to the children of People of the Way church.  That little church was overflowing with expectant girls, boys, Sunday School teachers, and church leaders.  We lined up the girls and boys from small to tall and distributed to them the T-shirts and dresses.  There was much energy and excitement in that little building as the clothing items were handed out.  After the distribution we had opportunity to view the progress being made on the construction of a new building for People of the Way Church (LCBC has given funds to help with this project).  The brick walls have risen substantially in height and good progress is being made. 
Emmanuel Bible Baptist Church ladies made hundreds of dresses for the girls in Sunrise School.  With help from teachers and team members, Sue Hoffman led in the distribution of the dresses on the morning of our departure.  There was time for the girls, group by group, to change into the dresses.  Shouts of joy and excitement overflowed from the school as the girls received their beautiful dresses.


The team made dozens of visits to homes.  First timers were amazed regarding the hospitality of those that they were visiting.  Though they lived in quite humble circumstance, they were always eager to have visitors come to their dwellings.  Team members would go to these homes and provide food staples and other items.  They would ask for permission to share the gospel and leave Lugandan gospel tracts and First Steps with Jesus books.  In many occasions folks responded to the gospel, receiving Jesus.  On one occasion, as Laura was sharing the gospel, a man passed by on the path in the front of the home.  He heard the second half of what Laura was saying, but asked if he could hear the first part.  The team shared the gospel with him and he received Jesus.  Later he came to the Operation Christmas Child shoebox distribution.  He brought his little 3 year old daughter.  She hadn’t been able to speak at all.  Nancy determined that the little girl cannot hear.  Pray for the Dad that he will be able to find help for her.

Nancy visited Ronald (12) on one of our first days there.  He was bedridden and suffering from life-threatening bed sores.  Later Jan joined Nancy on a visit and together they discussed what needed to be done.  It was later through the father that we learned the rest of Ronald’s story.  One day at school, months ago, Ronald began to suffer a paralysis.  It grew to the point that he was no longer able to walk.  The family proceeded to seek medical help.  They took him to the hospital but they couldn’t identify the source of his problems.  Over the course of weeks and at much expense they sought help from other doctors, but to no avail.  Distressed and losing hope they went to the witchdoctors.  They likewise were of no help, and as a result of these visits Ronald was thought to be demon-possessed.  The distressed father took Ronald to a pastor.  The pastor and the congregation swept up dirt from the floor of the church and put it on Ronald’s wounds, promising that it would bring healing.  Ronald told this story to Paul Mwesigwa, Justine, Nancy, Jan, and myself.  With medical records in his hands and tears in his eyes he explained how he had tried everything that he could to help his son, but to no avail.  They had lost all hope.  After much discussion, we decided on a course of action.  I spoke to the father about the woman who had spent all that she had on doctors in looking for a cure, but was finally healed when she touched the hem of Jesus’ garment.  I asked him if he was willing to forsake the witchdoctors and trust Jesus to heal his son inside and out.  We decided that we would help him by paying the costs for a doctor to attend to his son’s immediate health needs, if he would be willing to do that.  He said yes.  Some days later Nancy, Will, and Zach went back to the house.  Will and Zach installed a trapeze so that Ronald could pull himself out of his bed.  Nancy had already made other visits and befriended Ronald.  He even called her “Mom.”  But on that day—when Will and Zach were there—they shared the gospel with the family.  And they all received Jesus!


Janice Wood is a nurse and in her trips to Uganda she has ministered in particular to the midwives.  She works with 5 midwife groups, each having from 8-10 women.  In spending time with them she discussed the various problems they were confronting in assisting pregnant women, things like hemorrhage, infection, and eclampsia.  She spoke to them of specific solutions for each and provided training to screen for proper blood pressures.  She also gave them instruction regarding when they should seek outside medical assistance.  The midwives were glad for the gifts of gloves and various medicines that were provided.  They were also glad to receive the Lugandan gospel tracts and First Steps with Jesus booklets.  These generated much discussion amongst the midwives as they read about the good news.  Jan also worked in the clinic.  On one occasion a man seriously cut his leg with a hoe.  She was able to clean and dress his wound.  She helped others in the clinic with problems like high blood pressure and ulcers.


Sue Hoffman has worked hard in recent years to establish a sewing workshop in Kabaale Village.  Treadle sewing machines have been provided.  Sue has led students in learning how to sew.  The ministry helps in two ways.  The students learn how to sew uniforms for the students in the school, alleviating the need to purchase the uniforms elsewhere.  It also provides for the seamstresses an income source.


Will and Zach have a lumber company in Maine.  They were glad to help with related projects—albeit with far less tools—in the village.  They built and painted some picnic tables for the school.  It was thought that that project would take many days—but they were finished building them in just a few.  Once painted they looked beautiful.  They also worked to cut up some firewood (used all-the-time for cooking). 


We’ve been given some gifts in our visits to churches and ministries to pastors.  On a previous visit to a church Heather, Zach and I were given a goat.  Since we weren’t able to stay for dinner after church the pastor and wife gave us some bananas and a goat.  So we decided to name the goat “To Go.”  And I’m happy to say—and Heather will be glad to know—that To Go is still happy and is fatter than he was before.  On the morning of our departure another gift—a goat—was delivered to us by the pastor alliance.  Bob named the goat “Deacon.”  I’m not sure if it is named after any particular deaconJ.  But now we have two goats in the village—along with some chickens (though I don’t think their life expectancy is very long). 

But there are other things we have received in our visits.  Some might erroneously suppose that we go there and give without receiving, but that is hardly the case.  The Ugandans are generous in their poverty.  They are so very thankful for everything they receive, not just to us but to the ultimate source, God Himself—from whom proceeds “every good gift and every perfect gift” (James 1:17).  They give not only their thanks but invaluable lessons regarding the things that truly matter.  They may be impoverished, but they are rich in faith and generous in love.  One of my favorite Ugandan phrases is “Jesu Amala,” which means “Jesus in enough.”  It’s more difficult for those living in prosperity to live according to this reality.  In dirt-floor churches having no windows or doors they gather to worship the One who was rich but became poor that they might become rich.  They might be poor in one sense, but in Christ they possess “unsearchable riches” (Cf. Ephesians 3:8; Revelation 2:9).  They are rich in the things that truly matter!  I’m glad that they consider us to be their friends.  And that God has privileged us all to have a part in ministering some assistance to them.


Thank you for praying for us!  We were incredibly blessed in so many ways.  We experienced great teamwork.  God provided for us a wide open door for ministry.  Many responded to the gospel message.  The pastors were attentive to what was being taught.  Church leaders and members were helped and encouraged.  And God taught us invaluable lessons that will prove helpful in serving Him.  Thank you too for your continued prayers for the pastors and churches.  They face many challenges, but God is at work in the Masaka Region and He is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).
Webale Nnyo!

Thank you very much!

Thursday, July 30, 2015


What do you do if you, as a Christian, are called upon by governing authorities to do something that is in violation of your conscience?  What used to be a theoretical question about something foreign to our experience--reserved for Bible School debate or Sunday School discussions--is increasingly becoming a distinct possibility or reality for the Bible-believing Christian in America.

Believers are to submit themselves to the governing authorities.  That is the clear teaching of Scripture (Cf. Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14).  But when asked to do something that is clearly immoral or unethical, the Christian has no choice but to reluctantly refuse and obey God rather than man (Cf. Daniel 6:1-10; Acts 4:18-20).  Church history is filled with examples of people who chose to do so, in spite of whatever opposition and threats they faced.  I recently came across one such example.  Here’s the story…

It was later deemed the Aktion T4 program.  The name T4 was an abbreviation of the address of a villa in Berlin which was the headquarters of the “Charitable Foundation for Curative and Institutional Care."  But there was nothing charitable or curative about the program.  The program was borne of a “trial” case in which a family petitioned the Nazi government to put their blind and disabled son to death.  The boy was evaluated by Hitler’s personal physician, Karl Brandt, and was killed in July of 1939.  Hitler then instructed Brandt to proceed in a similar manner in similar cases.  Three weeks after the boy’s death, The Reich Committee for the Scientific Registering of Hereditary and Congenital Illnesses was established.  Secret killing of infants began in 1939 and increased after the war started.  From August 1939, the committee began registering children with disabilities, requiring doctors and midwives to report all cases of newborns with severe cases.  Those identified or suspected to have serious hereditary diseases, malformations, or disabilities were to be killed.  Tens of thousands of children were eventually murdered under the program, and for a while, the government hid it from the public.  

Lest we suppose this kind of thing to be a moral anomaly, impossible in our day, consider the views of Bioethicist Peter Singer (A Princeton professor, abortion advocate, and animal rights activist).  In a radio interview on April 16th, he argued that it would be “reasonable” in some circumstances for the government and private health insurance companies to deny treatment – even life-saving treatment – for infants with disabilities.  He’s not the only one that thinks that way.  The founder of the American Birth Control League (which later became the Planned Parenthood Federation of America), Margaret Sanger, held similar eugenic views.  On average, nearly 3000 babies are murdered in abortion each day and in some cases for the cause of “fetal abnormalities.”   In the decades since Roe v. Wade, babies have been euthanized in America in numbers that far exceed those that occurred under the Nazi regime (~55 million babies have been killed in the “American holocaust”).  Horrifically, a recent undercover investigation unveiled evidence that Planned Parenthood has even been engaged in the practice of harvesting and selling body parts from aborted babies. 

It proved to be impossible to keep the Aktion T4 program secret from the German public.  Thousands of doctors, nurses, and administrators were involved.  Most of the children who were killed had families who were concerned about them.  In some cases, families could discern that the causes of death in certificates were false.  They sought out the truth.  Eventually, some of the staff at the killing centers started talking.  In the towns where the centers were located, people saw the smoke from the crematoria chimneys.  In a town called Hadamar, ashes containing human hair rained down on the town. 

Lothar Kreyssig was the one Judge in all of Germany who spoke out.  Lothar was born in Saxony, the son of a businessman.  After serving in WWI, he gained his law degree and eventually a judgeship in Chemnitz, Germany.  Though pressured to join the Nazi party, he refused, citing the need to maintain his judicial independence.  In 1934, he joined the Confessing Church, the church to which Dietrich Bonhoeffer also belonged. 

Before we can proceed with the rest of Lothar’s story, we need to explain how the Confessing Church came into existence.  More than anything else, it was borne out of protest to what was called “the Aryan Paragraph.”  The paragraph first appeared in the Third Reich in 1933 in a law which stipulated that only those of Aryan descent could be employed in civil service (thus excluding all Jews).  It was later broadened to exclude those married to a “non-Aryan.”  The Nazi party pressured other organizations to adopt the paragraph.  And most did.  Jews were thus barred from the public health system, lost their public offices, were driven from editorial offices and theaters, and were excluded from agriculture.  They would eventually face more horrific things.

In the beginning, the objections of the Confessing Church to the Nazi regime were not motivated by moral outrage over antisemitism.  What they didn’t like was the regime’s interference in their affairs.  The controversy was ultimately over the autonomy of the church.  In May 1934, the members of the Confessing Church met in a synod in Barmen.  The pastors denounced the leadership of the government sponsored church and declared that they and their congregations constituted the true Evangelical Church of Germany.  The Barmen Declaration re-affirmed that the German Church was not an "organ of the State" and that the concept of State control over the Church was doctrinally false.  The Declaration stipulated, at its core, that any State—even the totalitarian one— necessarily encountered a limit when confronted with God's commandments.  After the Barmen Declaration, there were in effect two Protestant churches in Germany: the officially sanctioned Church and the Confessing Church.  The Confessing Church did not offer resistance, in the political sense, with the intent of bringing down the Nazi regime.  It fought instead to keep its own autonomy and to preserve the independence of church doctrine.  Over time, they found themselves—in standing for truth--increasingly in a state of principled opposition to both the state and other German Christians.    

Back to Lothar’s story.  He was transferred to a lower district court in 1937.  His involvement in the Confessing Church resulted in an investigation.  Kreyssig’s superiors considered him to be a good judge–until he began a series of minor insubordinations such as slipping out of a ceremony in his court when a bust of Hitler was unveiled and publicly protesting the suspension of three judges who failed to follow the interpretation of “Aryan laws” favored by Nazi authorities.  Though the regime took no specific actions against him at that time, they undoubtedly henceforth kept him under close scrutiny.  One could imagine him to be tempted to lay low to avoid drawing attention to himself, but that’s not what he did.  His work as a mental health court guardianship judge made him responsible for several hundred mentally retarded children and adults.  After he observed that the number of death certificates for his wards was increasing, he began to suspect the deaths to be connected to the “mercy killings” that had begun.  He reported his suspicions in a letter to Minister of Justice Franz Gurtner, writing, “What is right is what benefits the people.  In the name of this frightful doctrine — as yet, uncontradicted by any guardian of rights in Germany — entire sectors of communal living are excluded from having rights, for example, all the concentration camps, and now, all hospitals and sanatoriums.”  He filed an injunction against the institutions, prohibiting them from transferring wards without his consent.

Four months later, Lothar was summoned by Gurtner, who laid before him Hitler’s personal letter that started the euthanasia program and which constituted the sole legal basis for it.  Kreyssig replied, "The Führer's word does not create a right," clearly signifying that he did not recognize this as a legal right.  Gurtner then told Kreyssig, "If you cannot recognize the will of the Führer as a source of law, then you cannot remain a judge.” In December 1940, Kreyssig was suspended.  Efforts by the Gestapo to send him to a concentration camp failed.  Two years later, in March 1942, Hitler forced Kreyssig to retire.

Public awareness and opposition to the T4 program grew and on 24 August 1941, Hitler ordered its cancellation.  Unfortunately, the winding-up of the T4 program did not actually put an end to the killing of people with disabilities.  Many more died after the program was officially terminated.

In his book, “Hitler’s Justice: The Courts of the Third Reich”, Ingo Muller writes of the courageous judge: “No matter how hard one searches for stout-hearted men among the judges of the Third Reich, for judges who refused to serve the regime from the bench, there remains a grand total of one: Dr. Lothar Kreyssig.” 

Lothar Kreyssig was the only German judge who attempted to stop the Aktion T4 euthanasia program.  Not only did he defy the Reich, he outlived it by forty one years.  Twenty years after his death, Germany held a memorial service honoring his bravery and compassion.  There are now four cities in Germany that have streets named after him.  In another city, there is a senior care center that bears his name.  The Lothar Kreyssig Peace Prize has been awarded every two years since 1999 by the Lothar Kreyssig Foundation in Magdeburg.

Thankfully, defending the sanctity of life and overreach of the government doesn’t now require anything of us like Kreyssig’s courage, but the time may come when it will.  There are things that we can now do in confronting evil.  We can pray, as one of our elders did in a recent prayer meeting.  With tears in his eyes, he prayed for the mothers contemplating an abortion—that their hearts might be turned so that they might value and preserve the life of their unborn child.  We can vote, for those who stand on the side of truth and value the lives of the most innocent and vulnerable amongst us.  We can lend our support to the ministries of pro-life groups and the pregnancy resource centers who work to assist and inform mothers who are wondering about what to do regarding their pregnancies.  We can wholeheartedly enjoin ourselves, in fellowship and service, to those churches who stand for truth and speak the truth in love.  We can speak to others of the innocent One whose own life was terminated, in bearing our sins, so that we might be forgiven and find eternal life in Him.  As has been said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Despite the threat to his livelihood and life, Lothar chose to do something.  And others were bettered for it.  Amongst all of the judges in Germany, it was his one contrary voice that worked to help “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).


Saturday, July 4, 2015


The dictionary defines tyranny to be “cruel and oppressive government or rule.”  Today we celebrate Independence Day, as well we should.  Freedom from tyranny is something not everywhere enjoyed, either historically or geographically.  It is something we Americans tend to take for granted.  One of those things of which “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.” Our founders fought and sacrificed to escape tyranny and gain freedom.  The patriots who signed the Declaration of Independence, risked everything to bring this country into being.  We would do well to reflect upon that historical venture in light of the forces that are even now at work to limit that which was won at such a high cost.

There is a freedom of another kind, purchased by Christ Himself, that is of infinitely more value.  Nearly 2000 years ago He was heaven sent on a divine rescue mission to save lost sinners.  A. W. Tozer’s quote says it well: “Why did Christ come? Why was he conceived? Why was he born? Why was he crucified? Why did he rise again? Why is he now at the right hand of the Father? The answer to all these questions is, “in order that he might make worshipers out of rebels; in order that he might restore us again to the place of worship we knew when we were first created.”  Jesus Christ came to free us from sin that we might do what we were created to do—worship our Creator.

History has known of many tyrants.  They exist today and the Bible warns of more to come.  But the worst tyrant of them all is sin.  Sin is a tyrant.  A deceitful, evil, and destructive dictator.  It promises much--but as with all other lesser tyrants--it delivers instead only hardship and burden.  Most give little thought to sin, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.  You can think and behave as if there is no God, but that doesn’t alter the reality of His existence.  Men can do evil, invent evil, and celebrate evil (Cf. Romans 1:28-32), but there is a God who reigns over all and who will have the final say on such matters (Cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).  We are all born sinners (Cf. Romans 3:23, 5:12).  And we are helpless in ourselves to do anything to rectify the problem (Cf. Ephesians 2:1-3).  

Jesus Christ made His own declaration of independence from the cross.  While suffering there, for sins not His own, He declare “it is finished” (John 19:30).  He “suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).  On the basis of His finished work a repentant sinner, in a salvation to the uttermost (Cf. Hebrews 7:25), is set free from the penalty and power of sin (Cf. Romans 5:1; 6:7). 

Herein lies true freedom.  Not the freedom to do whatever you want, for many of the things we “want” to do only cause us trouble.  True freedom is the freedom to do what we “ought” to do--that which we were created to do.  We were created to know and love and worship our Creator.  Nothing in life can substitute when it comes to satisfying the longing that exists deep down in our hearts to be restored to Him.  As St. Augustine put it: “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.”  It is only when we find our rest in Him that we enjoy the true freedom of which Jesus spoke (Cf. John 8:32, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”; John 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”).

So I will celebrate Independence Day today, but my devoted allegiance in love is to the One who died to make me “free indeed”.  I will remember the sacrifice of the patriots who suffered to bring freedom to our land, but my heart has a greater investment in that glorious cross through which true freedom was made possible for all who believe, no matter when they have lived or where.

Thursday, July 2, 2015


“What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).

The believer in Christ is a person who has been incredibly blessed by Jesus Christ (Cf. Ephesians 1:3).  While we sometimes forget how blessed we are, and though we can’t even now imagine the full extent of all we possess in Christ (Cf. Ephesians 3:8), to lose sight of the cause and source of these blessings is a grievous thing.
We sometimes behave like spoiled children.  Spoiled children live in a fantasy world of prideful expectancy.  They mistakenly assume they deserve all that they are given.  They tend to look down on others who lack what they have because they do not realize or recognize that they only have what they have because it has been given to them.
It is possible for us, as believers, to act lack spoiled children.  We forget our roots and the reason why we are so blessed.  We forget that we have what we have solely because of grace.  Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus and reminded them of their roots (Cf. Ephesians 2:1-3).  They had been dead in their trespasses and sins before Christ saved them (Cf. Ephesians 2:1).  It was by God’s grace that they were made alive (Cf. Ephesians 2:5).  They had walked according to the course of this world, it was by God’s grace that they were led and empowered to walk in an altogether different manner (Cf. Ephesians 2:2, 10; 4:1).  They had been duped and led by the prince of the power of the air, it was by God’s grace that they had been delivered from his domain (Cf. Ephesians 2:2; Colossians 1:13).  They had been children of wrath, it was by God’s grace that they were given the right to become children of God (Cf. Ephesians 2:3; John 1:12; 1 John 3:1).
The sole difference between me and a lost person is that I’ve been saved.  I did nothing to earn or merit my salvation.  My spiritual resume was no different or no better (Cf. Romans 3:23, 5:12).  But by grace I’ve been saved (Cf. Ephesians 2:5).  It is important for me to keep this in mind lest I relate to others in a prideful and God-dishonoring way.  Do they do stupid things?  Do they walk in sin?  Do they take the devil’s side?  Do did I.  Are they lost?  So was I.  And the only reason I am any different now in any measure is because God has intervened in my life (Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:30).
Lost people don’t need our condemnation, they need the gospel.  To be sure, sharing the gospel demands that we address the issue of sin because the good news cannot be understood apart from the bad.  But it is important that we endeavor always to speak the truth in love—as Christ did (Cf. Ephesians 4:15).  We speak from a more compassionate place in our hearts when we remember our roots.  Someone has said that sharing the gospel can be compared to one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.  In the Bread of Life we have found One—the only One--who can fully meet our needs and satisfy our deepest longings (Cf. John 6:35).  He’s blessed us that we might prove to be a blessing to others.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


The church was born, according the promise of our Lord Jesus (Cf. Matthew 16:18), on the Day of Pentecost.  In miraculous fashion, by a work of the Spirit of God, ordinary men were supernaturally empowered to proclaim an extraordinary message—the gospel.  3000 souls were saved on that day (Cf. Acts 2:41).  And the church continued afterwards to grow in depth and breadth (Cf. Acts 2:47, 4:4, 5:14, etc.).  The Spirit worked through the early church to turn the world upside down (Cf. Acts 16:8). 

2000 years later the church in our day bears little resemblance to what it was in its beginning.  Spirit-born love and devotion have given way to apathy and complacency and self-sufficiency (Cf. Revelation 3:17).  Anemic religiosity has taken the place of the “simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” which was borne of the Spirit of God in the church in its beginning (Cf. 2 Corinthians 11:3; 2 Timothy 3:5; Revelation 2:4).

I like this quote by Francis A. Schaeffer, and though he said this many decades ago, it still holds great relevance in our day: “The central problem of our age is not liberalism or modernism, nor the old Roman Catholicism or the new Roman Catholicism, nor the threat of communism, nor even the threat of rationalism and the monolithic consensus which surrounds us.  All these are dangerous but not the primary threat.  The real problem is this: the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, individually or corporately, tending to do the Lord’s work in the power of the flesh rather than of the Spirit.  The central problem is always in the midst of the people of God, not in the circumstances surrounding them.”

As the “Pogo” cartoon once put it, “We’ve met the problem and it is us.”  So the problem which works to threaten and weaken the church is not any external force.  We serve a Risen Savior who has availed to us surpassing power and immeasurable love (Cf. Ephesians 1:19, 3:18-19).  The Lord Jesus, who is the “same yesterday and today, yes and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), still “stands in the middle of the lampstands” (Revelation 1:13).  He, the One who promised to build His church (Cf. Matthew 16:18), privileges us to have a part in His triumphant and glorious work (Cf. Ephesians 2:10).

We would do well to evaluate ourselves according to what we find to be true in that historical church.  Those early believers believed in Jesus.  The loved Jesus.  And because they loved Him they continually devoted themselves to certain things.  These were not religious things they did out of duty or external constraint, these were things they were led to do by the Spirit of God who indwelt and filled them.  They did these things because they loved Jesus more than anything else.  Nothing mattered more to them than Him.  What was it they were doing?  Acts 2:42 tells us: “And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

What if we did the same?  What would happen if all of the born-again believers in America were to return to the same pattern of behavior that we find in the early church?  What if all the Bible-believing churches across the land were filled to capacity on Sunday?  And not for the sake of entertainment, but of out of a sense of need and worship of the Jesus Christ (Cf. Philippians 3:3).  What would happen if churches reinstituted their prayer meetings?  What would happen if we all gave attention to confessing our sins?  We’ve quenched the Spirit and grieved Him in our churches.  Let’s cry out to God for forgiveness.  He is full of grace and mercy and stands ready to forgive (Cf. 1 John 1:9).  We’ve left our first love.  He’s prescribed for us a remedy (Cf. Revelation 2:5).  There is no political or social or economic solution to that which ails us.  No church growth plan or new methodology can make up for what is lacking by way of the power of the Holy Spirit working in us and through us.  Let’s throw off all vestiges of self-sufficiency and self-confidence and depend instead fully on the All-Sufficient and Powerful Helper (Cf. John 14:16; Ephesians 5:18-21).

The Supreme Court issued a verdict last Friday which is direct contradiction to God and His Word.  God has issued a verdict too and He has called us, His ambassadors, to proclaim it.  In the courtroom of Divine Justice He amazingly declared His OWN SON guilty of OUR sins (Cf. Romans 3:23, 2 Corinthians 5:21).  In the greatest act of love ever demonstrated He has provided for the salvation of all who place their faith in Him (Cf. Romans 5:8, 10:9).  Divine justice has been fully and finally satisfied for the believer on the basis of Christ’s death and resurrection (Cf. Romans 5:1, 8:1).

The Supreme Court’s verdict made the news last news and people soon gathered in places around the world to celebrate.  In the weeks and months to come its effect will spread across our land in unforeseen and unimaginable ways.  And what will be the response of the church?  Will we, God’s people, carry on in our complacent, compromising and apathetic ways?  God forbid!  There is too much at stake.  The battle that is ongoing is a battle for the souls of men.  It is a good fight to which we’ve been called (Cf. 2 Timothy 6:12).  “So then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:6).  We’ve got a message to share.  Over the course of time it spread from Jerusalem to the remotest parts of the earth.  God did that!  He did it through ordinary men and women who had availed themselves to be used by Him.  They did not succeed in their own abilities, but by the power of the Spirit of God working in them (Cf. Colossians 1:28-29).  Let us respond to the Supreme Court’s decision with the message that God Himself has founded in response to man’s sin problem, His glorious gospel (Cf. 1 Timothy 1:11).  And may we, in the proclamation of His gospel, “spread His praise from shore to shore” (“O The Deep, Deep, Love of Jesus”).

So here’s some simple advice for myself and my fellow believers.  The other side (i.e. those lost in sin and led by the devil; Cf. Ephesians 2:1-3) are fighting hard on their side of the battle to win the right to justify their sin (though in reality that is something that they can never do).  Let’s endeavor, by the Spirit, to enthusiastically devote ourselves to the good fight (Cf. 1 Timothy 6:12).  Ours is a good fight constrained and instructed by love (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:14).  We follow in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus Himself who has set forth our path (Cf. 1 Peter 2:21-23; Hebrews 12:2-4; Ephesians 5:1-2).  We fight with “divinely powerful” weaponry (Cf. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5).  I think if you look around you might find some fellow soldiers who are discouraged or who have fallen down or been wounded in the battle.  Perhaps you could encourage them (Cf. Hebrews 10:24-25).  Let’s encourage one another.  I’ve read of the close comradery of fellow soldiers on a battle field.  Surely they need it if they are to be “strong and brave to face the foe.”  The day demands that we respond in kind.  That we stand firm “in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27).

Go to church.  Go to worship.  Go to serve.  Stop making excuses for not going.  What can be more important than gathering together with your brothers and sisters to worship your Lord and Savior?  Go to church on Sunday as if it matters, because it does.  And if your church isn’t preaching the gospel and teaching the Word—find another one that is.  And enjoin yourself to it.  And find your place of serving in it.  And take is seriously.  As I mentioned before—if all the professing believers were to take the next Sunday seriously and fill up the Bible believing churches across this land it would make a difference.  It would make a difference in the church.  We could not help but be mutually encouraged by such a thing (Cf. Romans 1:12). 

Pray.  I’ve said it before…if there ever was a time for believers in America to pray this is it.  We need to pray for our fellow believers in Christ (Cf. Ephesians 6:18).  And not just for our earthly concerns.  There’s nothing wrong with praying for such things, but let’s be careful to pray not only for the good health of others, but for good spiritual health of us all (Cf. 3 John 2; Colossians 1:9-12).  Go to prayer meeting.  Pray yourself.  Encourage others to pray.  The early church prayed.  A prayer meeting preceded Pentecost and devotion to prayer came on its heels (Cf. Acts 1:14, 2:42).  When the church faced its first great obstacle, the people gathered together to pray (Cf. Acts 4:23-31).  We’d do well to follow their example.

Devote yourself to the Word.  Those early believers were continually devoted to the Apostle’s teaching (Cf. Acts 2:42).  They were Spirit-borne to a love for the truth.  Ever since the church has been “the pillar and support of the truth” in the world (Cf. 1 Timothy 3:15).  But the pillars and the foundation are crumbling away in our day.  Too many professing believers have no appetite for sound doctrine (Cf. 2 Timothy 4:2).  And it shows.  History shows that there is a cause and effect relationship associated to the devotion to the Scriptures.  Spiritual decline is always accompanied by apathy and inattention to the Word of God (Cf. 2 Timothy 4:3, 3:1-5).  Spiritual revival, on the other hand, happens when the Word of God is taken seriously (Cf. Nehemiah 8; 1 Peter 1:22-23).  Love the truth.  Grow in it (Cf. 1 Peter 2:2).

So these are some things we need to do.  But not just do, do for the right reasons and in the right spirit.  We need to do them “by the Spirit,” because apart from Him we can’t do a thing that is pleasing to God or that is done in a way or manner that is of any spiritual benefit (Cf. John 6:63; Philippians 3:3).  And we need to do them because we love Jesus—we want to worship Him; we want to be with His people; we want to spend time with Him in prayer; we want to grow in Him through the teaching of His Word; we want to be used by Him in doing things that matter for eternity; we want to be made to be like Him.  For all these reasons—and many more besides—let’s give attention to these matters.

“Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision,
Off’ring each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
‘Twixt that darkness and that light.”
One to Every Man and Nation (Text: James Russel Lowell; Music: Thomas J. Williams).

Sunday, June 28, 2015


Pastor Henry is a little man with a big heart.  I initially met him on my first visit to Uganda.  My uncle, Pastor Bob Emrich, had invited me to accompany him on a trip to Uganda.  He’d been working together with Paul Mwesigwa (the African Director of Hope and Mercy Mission) and some folks from US churches in ministering in a variety of ways to some churches in the villages surrounding Kabaale Village in Uganda.  My daughter Carissa joined us on the first trip.  We held a conference for a group of 25 or so pastors.  Pastor Henry was in that group. 

Over the course of the subsequent visits, I got to know Henry better.  He attended the Bible Study methods training that I taught.  He served as my translator on numerous occasions.  I’d say a phrase in English; he’d provide the translation.  We’d sometimes tease our translators.  “How are we to know what you are actually telling them?” we’d ask.  And they would smile and suggest that we’d just have to trust them.  From the beginning, I’ve been blessed and encouraged in my friendship with Henry.  I’ve been to the church he pastors, People of the Way Church, on many occasions.  He loves the Lord, the Word, and the church in Uganda.  He asks a lot of questions and soaks up instruction from God’s Word so that he can then pass it on to others. 

The breadth of the ministry in the area has grown since that first visit.  What began as a ministry to a handful of pastors has expanded to encompass ~150 pastors and churches in five separate pastor alliances.  These alliances have been formed to provide for the mutual encouragement and accountability of the village pastors.  They have also allowed for a venue through which we can assist the churches in providing Bibles, gospel tracts, pastor training, and other things like tarps for roofs, etc.  Pastor Henry was chosen to be the administrator of the five alliances.  He meets regularly with the leaders of the alliances and oversees logistics.

The churches in that region have a lot of needs.  Many of the pastors have not attended Bible College.  It is only in recent years that the churches have had a more adequate supply of Bibles in their own language.  Most of the pastors do not speak or read English.  Bible study tools or books in their language are scarce.  They yearn to have such tools.  Pastor Bob and I had promised to do what we could in providing them.

It was on my fourth visit and near the time for our departure.  I sat down with Henry on the steps outside the guest house.  Pastor Henry speaks and reads English, and I had some tools, in English, to pass on to him.  I explained how each could be used.  And then I discussed with him other ways in which we might be able to help the pastors.  He spoke to me of the need for assistance in the discipleship of new believers.  I didn’t know exactly how we might be able help in that way, but his need planted a seed of thought in my mind.

I returned from that trip with the desire to do something to address the need.  Most believers know that there are certain spiritual disciplines that are essential to the believer’s growth in Christ (i.e. devotion to the word, prayer, and fellowship; Cf. Acts 2:42).  I myself had gone through studies that address these matters and thought maybe something similar could be done.  Sometimes, the practice of these spiritual disciplines tend to gravitate to a kind of “religious” exercise, so I wanted to clarify the “how” and “why” with respect to them.  How?  By the Spirit.  Why?  To grow in Christ.  I wanted to keep the book simple.  Four chapters, I thought.  I also wanted to include the referenced Scripture passages in the book, in case the reader didn’t have access to a Bible.  I was also aware of a concern that we had regarding their understanding of the true nature of the “by-grace-through-faith-in-Christ” salvation we have received.  I wanted to clarify these matters up front in the book.  One other thought governed my thinking as I wrote—what did I myself wish that I had been taught early on as a believer to help me in my walk with Jesus.

I asked the church family to pray as I began to work on the book.  It took me a couple of months, spending some time on it whenever I had the opportunity.  I had already been doing some thinking about the translation of the book into Lugandan.  I knew of a Ugandan fellow, Alex Kmba, who lived and worked in the Seattle area.  He attended Edgewood Bible Church where my uncle Frank served as Pastor.  I got in touch with Alex and asked him if he would be willing and able to translate the book into Lugandan.  He said that he would love to, so I sent it to him.  And the church family began praying for Alex as he did the work of translation.  He spent several months working on it.  Sometimes, he would call or email me about language in the book that was difficult and ask if it could be written in a different way.  He spoke to me of how he sometimes worked until late at night, praying all the while for God to lead him and give him the right words.  Finally, it was done!  Of course, since it was now in Lugandan, I couldn’t read it!  I sent it to Paul Mwesigwa who reviewed it.  It was almost ready to be printed.

I gave a lot of thought to the cover of the book.  I’d already decided on the title, “First Steps with Jesus.”  I wanted to put a picture on the cover, something with a path on it to coincide with the title.  I have on my computer thousands of pictures from Uganda.  Some are mine and some are from teammates that have come along on previous trips.  I started looking for a good picture with a path.  I narrowed my search down to a few and finally found one that was perfect.  Using a computer program, I digitalized it.  It looked real good and I sent the book off to be printed.  On that next trip, we took 500 copies.  And we distributed them amongst the pastors to be used in the churches.  It was on that trip that Pastor Bob asked me if I knew where that picture had come from.  I honestly didn’t know.  It was one I had found on my computer, but I couldn’t recall the spot where it had been taken.  He said that it was a picture that he himself had taken and he could show me the exact spot.  We got up from our seats in the guest house and crossed the field to a path that leads to a valley.  I recognized the path as one that he would frequently transverse on walks in the morning.  We went down the path a little ways until we arrived at the spot.  Sure enough!  It was the same tree, the same path, and the same background.  He went on to explain to me how he had come to that spot on his first visit to Africa.  He had spent some time in prayer there asking God to take the gospel message beyond that valley and the hills that lay on the other side.  And I’m thinking, “Isn’t that amazing that God would work so that a picture of that place would end up on the cover of the book!”

We’ve distributed over 1200 copies in the region.  It costs over a dollar each to print them and some more for the extra baggage necessary to get them there on our flights.  But we’ve never lacked for funds in providing them to the people.  On one occasion, I was approached by one of the members of our church.  She said that her family had some money set aside to support missionary endeavors like ours.  She wondered if we could use some funds to help with the printing of the books.  I said, “Sure!”  On another occasion, a good friend and fishing buddy called me at home.  It was just before Christmas.  He said that he had something for me and asked if he could come over.  We invited him in.  He didn’t stay long.  He explained that his wife and he had talked about the work in Africa.  He wondered if I could use some help with funds for the printing of the books.  Teary eyed, he handed me a huge wad of money.  I counted it after he left.  It was $400.

The intent in writing the book was for the more mature believers to use it in the discipleship of new believers.  On our last visit, we saw that God had a different plan.  We heard some testimonies from pastors on how the book was already being used.  Pastor Henry spoke about how he was taking his entire congregation through a study of the book.  The pastors themselves suggested that they would be best served by doing the same.  How encouraging that was too hear!  During that visit, we were able to distribute 5 copies to every pastor in the alliances.  About 100 teens/young adults attended a youth conference that was held at Our God Reigns church.  We were able to give each of those attendees a copy of the book.  We did a lot of home visits on that trip.  And every time our team visited a home, they took along a copy of the book.  The book has found its way into 100+ churches!  I’ve kidded with folks that I’m the best-selling author in that region of Uganda.  Of course, that’s not too hard when yours is the only book and you give it away for free!  We’ve also passed on 70 copies of the book to Shepherd’s Heart International Ministry (located on Lingira Island in the Buvuma Island chain of Lake Victoria, Uganda).  First Steps has also been translated into the Turkish language and is being used by missionaries in that region.

LCBC commemorated our 25th anniversary a couple of Sundays ago.  We were so blessed by the services that day.  Many visitors came, including some long-time friends from St. Helens Community Bible Church where we used to attend many years ago.  My friend Mo made a point of coming to me and thanking me for the First Steps with Jesus book.  He said that the church had been using it in their Men’s and Women’s Bible Studies.  So I thanked him and thanked God.  I got an email the other day from a friend in Colorado.  He attended LCBC years ago and recently contacted me via email.  I sent him a copy of the First Steps with Jesus book.  He soon wrote me back and asked for more copies.  In the more recent email, he wrote to tell me how the Discipleship Pastor in their church has decided to use the book in a new small group discipleship class.  So I wrote him back and thanked him.  He said in that email, “I get such a kick out of watching God work.”  No kidding.  The book was not my idea; it was Pastor Henry’s.  LCBC folks prayed about it.  Alex translated it.  Paul Mwesigwa reviewed it.  Pastor Bob took the picture for it (without even knowing it).  Others helped to pay for it and paid to get copies to Africa.  The pastors are using it.  And all along the way, God was, and is, at work.  How privileged we are to serve Him and watch Him do what He does in His “exceeding-abundantly-beyond-all-that-we-ask-or-think” manner!