One of the main things that my wife and I know is that what we are called to do is minister God and His Word to expats here in Panama. Plenty of us expats are here and we are informed of many more coming. Our calling and desire is to reach the saved and unsaved, and some who think they possibly fall somewhere in the middle. We want all to understand what it means to know God, follow him through Christ and the Holy Spirit, and to understand clearly the difference between living by Christ as opposed to mere religion, which Christianity is not.
To understand things like our title, our message to you is not at all the same as surrendering to avoid humiliation, torture, and maybe death. We born-again, Spirit-filled Christians are not to be looking at ourselves and the world the way the common world does. It sees fellow humans as a physical being, which probably is soulish, and may or may not know of the spirit issue. If we look at the world the way its Creator-Sustainer does, we will realize that we are a spirit, we have a soul, and we live in a body. That’s the way God teaches in His Word. That makes us quite different.
If we are set on living life our way, it being independent of the plan and desire of the Father, then we will view life and its encounters as a worldly, Godless person. For instance, we think we can handle our challenges our way. This is the soulish, godless viewpoint that truly puts God on the back burners. This is playing games with His sovereignty as Lord, Creator, and Sustainer. We begin to think that if we are truly winners, we have to prove our stamina and resolve. We say we are going to be a winner come heck or high water.
Especially in human relationships, as complex as human nature is, we can confront differences our way and hope everything turns out our way. Has this victory measured up to God’s way? What good has been accomplished in light of the pain, rejection, or suffering to the other party? Have we reduced vital relationships to the analogy of a sporting event? Has God’s essence been side-tracked to the reign of mere ego? Are we measuring victory only in our terms? These difficulties occur in employment, business relationships, family, social organizations, and the list goes on. Should we set our minds and spirits to win regardless of the consequences?
Ever heard of the occasional interchange where biggest enemies become best of friends or allies? This doesn’t come from man’s brain. It demands a type of compromise, or more clearly, a surrender of “My way or the highway.” This hints of the essence of wanting the God-way, the real victory. Ask yourself, “Have I really spent honest time before the Lord to grab hold of His solution even if it means doing it His way instead of mine?” He will set the pace, and the outcome will be true victory. This is the only way to arrive at righteous justification and wholeness.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
My guess is that most of you who have heard much preaching have been challenged to pay attention to the verse from Hebrews 10 which says, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Too often this emphasis is used to exhort everyone to be faithful in worship attendance. Not a bad thought, yet not always striking home, either to the incapacitated, or those who avoid the conventional and institutional church which failed to spread the Good News to people where they are. That’s where intimate sharing reaps great spiritual benefits, through house groups, just like the early church. The Holy Spirit is free to lead and reveal.
This brings to mind a 28-year-old American Christian minister, Saeed Abedini, who has been in jail and tortured for many years in Iran. He has family there, who occasionally are able to visit him, but not his wife and children who are in the U.S. He was beginning an orphanage and was in Iran to finalize arrangements when he was captured. Much pressure has been exerted on Iran to release him. Many other Christians are there and all used as rejected pawns in order for Iran to get its way in the U.S.-Iran treaty talks. One important point in this saga is that Saeed was charged with attempting to create Christian home, groups. Of course, this is a giant No-No in the Islam indoctrinated empire, often punishable by torture, imprisonment, and even death. Even if this were the case, we wonder what kind of god they worship. Our God, Jehovah through Jesus Christ, the only true God, is too big and too great to pay any attention to threats, which brings us to an emerging issue.
We at Home Church International (HCI) are followers of the early church pattern where, though disliked by many, continued to meet, encourage, and equip the saints for ministry. Under severe persecution, they met in homes and other private settings to avoid being discovered. Often in shopping areas they would hang out the sign of the fish in which were the letters IXOYE, our English attempt for Greek letters. These letters spelled out “fish”, the letters of which were the first letters of words meaning “Jesus Christ God’s Son Savior”. Christians then knew this was a meeting place. To have been more obvious would have meant immediate arrest and unspeakable treatment. So, they used these house churches as a way to continue their mission. This approach is employed in many countries. China, who has a few ‘government approved and monitored churches’, is believed to have some 50 million of these Christian house churches.
Though HCI is not under any kind of threat, at least at this time, we find that the intimacy through teaching and sharing in a smaller house church setting has real advantage over weekly pew occupation. If pastor Abedini was involved in this approach, it would seem evident that this would be an effort which might have a better chance of succeeding and surviving. We at HCI experience growth and maturing in our private settings. As we mature in faith, we enjoy the freedom to question and share during our meetings. We grow close in our fellowship. All are blessed during intercessory prayer. We are not limited to Saturday nights or Sundays because each house will meet any day of the week, or easily change as the need presents itself. Each home gathering has its own pastor-in-charge, all operating under the headship of my wife, Susana, and me.
We see this type of ministry because is not threatening and is family-like in its structure, as a growing trend in today’s world which is beginning to experience growing opposition. We don’t judge this splintered world. We grieve yet pray for it to come to know and follow our triumphant and loving God.
In His Grace, your pastor,