Monday, March 31, 2014

Supernatural Love for Muslims (April 2014 Newsletter)

After eating dinner with a mission team who was working with Acts 29 Fellowship and International Hope Center, I felt to bring some tea that I had been given at the restaurant over to a storeowner I knew. He was sitting and talking with five other Bangladeshi men, so I joined to conversation and shared my testimony. My testimony provoked a lot of questions and we were talking for over an hour about Jesus, the straight way, the New Testament and the Qur’an. Much of the conversation was in a language I didn't understand. They often conversed with each other in Bangla.
Finally, one of them asked how I knew the New Testament was true. I talked to them about the manuscripts we have. He asked how I knew what it said was true, and how they could test it right now. I told them that God performs miracles in Jesus name and asked if any of them had physical problems or pain in their body. One said he had a shoulder problem. I asked if it hurt right at the moment. He said that it did. I asked him if I could pray in Jesus name for his shoulder; if he was healed it would show that God does miracles in the name of Jesus. He agreed to let me pray. I prayed a short prayer. I asked him to test his shoulder to see if it was better. He started laughing and moving his shoulder vigorously while speaking in his own language to his friends. I kept trying to find out if the pain was gone. He nodded his head, and his friend’s eyes bugged. Three more asked me to pray for physical problems. All three said there was change, and one could physically do something he couldn't do before because his rotator cuff was healed. While none of them was ready to follow Jesus that day, they all agreed that if God answered my prayers that they had to believe that what I said was true. They got the Jesus Film and my contact information, and they told me where I could meet them again.
Since that time I have had a number of meetings with different gentlemen from the group. We are continuing to talk about the truth and helping them understand God’s revelation and plan of redemption from creation to Christ. They have been inundated with apologetics and need the continued witness of the Spirit in their lives. I once thought that miracles would instantly convince, but Jesus often struggled with unbelief in spite of the miracles He performed.
I was telling a co-missionary this testimony, and he interrupted me to say, “You know what I really appreciate about you? You pray for the sick because you really believe God loves them and wants to heal them, not to just get your foot in the door.”
God is love. He has many attributes, but He is love. As God of all creation who holds all things together by the Word of His power, He defined love as the greatest of all things. He defined love as self-sacrifice. He told us to love the world as He loved them, to take up our cross and lay down our lives, not only for the King who loved us first, not only for our brothers and sisters in Christ who share in that love, but for a lost, dying, and hostile world that has never seen or known love. They can know it through us.
We love Him because He first loved us. My heart’s desire is that the whole world would love Jesus Christ as I do. I’m in tears writing this, thinking about the lostness of humanity and remembering what it is like to not know hope or love. The whole world is waiting to experience the love of the Father. The whole world is longing for a loving God who will intervene in their lives. God is speaking, yet many never hear His voice.  God is reaching out, but many never receive His touch. You are His voice and His touch to this lost and unloved world.

Read the rest of April 2014 Newsletter.
Read previous Newsletters.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Review: Nine Lies People Believe about Speaking in Tongues by Steve Bremner

Have you ever believed or been told that speaking in tongues is not for today? Or do you believe that it is for today, but not for everybody, or that its contemporary use is suspicious? 

These are some of the most common misconceptions people have about this particular gift of the Holy Spirit. In this book, Steve Bremner Scripturally answers these and other objections to modern-day glossolalia. 

Other objections covered in this book include: 
"Tongues are not for today." 
"Holy Spirit baptism already happened at salvation." 
"Speaking in tongues is the least important of the spiritual gifts." 
"You aren’t supposed to speak in tongues unless there’s an interpreter." 
"You can't just speak in tongues at will." 

This book will help you destroy the traditions of man and the lies of religion that nullify the power of God in your life. Begin a new love walk and experience depths in God you never knew were possible through praying in tongues.

I often joke that 1 Corinthians 14:18 is my life verse. Though it is a joke, I'm such a truth oriented person that my humor often barely escapes being blunt honesty with comedic phrasing. I genuinely desire to speak in tongues as much as possible. My passion for this good and perfect gift from my Father above makes me incredibly grateful for Steve Bremner's down to earth apologetic for an accurate understanding of the presence and practice of the gift of tongues and the baptism of the Holy Spirit today.

Nine Lies People Believe about Speaking in Tongues presents an entertaining and readable explanation of the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues, dismantling misconception after misconception with precision, tenacity, and a heavy dose of personality. Rather than presenting a succinct, academic answer for each lie or misconception, Steve Bremner weaves his own story of receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues as well as his encounters with each lie into his teaching. His journey from complete ignorance of the gifts of the spirit into cessationism and then into Pentecostal and Charismatic experience is bold and honest. The result is a highly personal, but effective argument for the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues.

Though unexpected and jarring at first, I was immediately thrust upon a couch listening to a friend's impassioned arguments complete with exaggerated inflections of "Put that in your Bible and read it!" While at first riling, the transparency of the author's own personality and communication style quickly became what set the book apart. The book left me feeling that I received information in a very personal and oddly intimate way. The extremely familiar style creates an affection for the writer and the content and attaches a person to every argument. I never found myself thinking, "I agree with that," or "I disagree with that," but "I agree with you" or "I disagree with you." This may not affect all readers, but was tremendously impacting for me. I was moved to tears by Bremner's story of receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and provoked when he brought up points that I had not thought of before. His personality was as much a part of the book as the arguments.

The weight of the verve in the prose keeps the book from being stuffy, and it also keeps the book from being for or from an "expert." This may be detrimental to readers who choose not to see the lucidity of the arguments over the flair. The content engages the reader immediately and is out to persuade with insights into Greek, exegesis, wit, imagination, comedy, and plain old rants. The variety of styles of argumentation, the witty storytelling, and the contemporary humor and attitude compelled me to finish the book in two sittings.

The book gets better as it progresses both in its arguments and its passion. Bremner moves from an explanation of the baptism in the Holy Spirit and a brief explanation of how this baptism relates to tongues, to common objections to the current presence and practice of tongues, teasing out the relationship between tongues and the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and exhorting the reader on the value of exercising the gift of tongues. I especially appreciated the later sections and appendices on receiving and helping others receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Though I received certain points within the book with nuance, I concur with the author's conclusions and was poignantly reminded that we don't know how to pray as we should, but that the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses with a good and perfect gift from heaven. I am tremendously grateful.

My thanks to the author for providing a complimentary review copy. I have given an honest review.

Steve Bremner is a co-laborer in the harvest. Please consider supporting his gospel work by purchasing his books or supporting him directly.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Review: Seeking Allah Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi takes the reader on a riveting journey into the mind and heart of  a man passionately seeking and receiving revelation from the one true God. The book succeeds not only as a gripping narrative autobiography, but as a poignant presentation of the truth of Jesus Christ as revealed to a brilliant young Pakistani Muslim. This is a life-changing book that stirs the heart, arrests the mind, and brings the reader into a step-by-step revelation of Jesus as the Savior for all the world.

Nabeel Qureshi does a phenomenal job of taking the reader into his mind and heart to reveal a cultural background and mindset that remains mysterious to most of the world. His vivid portraits of his life as a child, the discomfort of teenage years as a third-culture kid, and the challenges of fighting for truth and identity as an adult thrust us into a different world. His honest descriptions of his struggle with the truth, his foundations, and his own understanding and relationship with God are unlike any biography I've read before, yet they seem so familiar and close to my own heart. In writing a book about himself, a young Muslim seeking the truth, Nabeel Qureshi has managed to capture the inner wrestling for and against the truth of God in Jesus Christ.

Nabeel's story is beautiful. It is so much more than a testimony of a Muslim meeting Jesus. It is a thrilling account of intellectual honesty in the midst of extreme tension. It is a powerful story of supernatural encounters, dreams, and visions. It is a crash course in apologetics taught through riveting dialogue. It is the story of how God loved the world so much, that while we were still sinners, He sent His Son to die for us. It is the story of how God reaches down and intervenes in the lives of His creation, guiding us into all truth. As a minister who works with Muslims everyday, has been through numerous trainings and read numerous books, this book has contributed so much to my understanding of Islam, Muslims, Pakistanis, apologetics, evangelism, and even relationship with God. Even more than that it has given me fresh hope and inspiration as I share the truth of the Gospel with a world that longs for the truth and a God who will intervene in their lives.

My thanks to Zondervan for providing a complimentary review copy. I have given an honest review.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Review: Birthing the Miraculous by Heidi Baker

Birthing the Miraculous by Heidi Baker weaves the story of Jesus' miraculous birth with the story of the birthing of Iris Global and the movement of the Holy Spirit that is sweeping Mozambique and the world through the lives of Rolland and Heidi Baker. The parallel is fitting. Both stories are intensely personal for those involved and tell of great humility, obedience, and sacrifice as women of great faith and favor surrendered to the call of God and the work of the Spirit in their lives. Both stories contain valuable principles for our lives and ministries, and both stories tell of miracles that touched the whole world.

Heidi Baker uses her own life to illustrate the principles that have rooted and sustained the movement catalyzed by Iris Global. The book effortlessly moves from biographical sketches to passionate calls for intimacy with the Father. The core of the book is a call to abide in Christ from John 15. Heidi Baker convinces us with story after story, and paragraph after paragraph that the only way to bear fruit is to stay connected to Jesus. Intimacy with God is the open secret. It's something we all nod our heads to, but it's something that the Bakers have fought for and proven with their lives.

Birthing the Miraculous is a life-changing book. The stories are unforgettable as is the example of the Bakers and what God is doing through their ministry to the poorest of the world. But beyond the stories and testimonies there is something more to this book. There is that almost tangible presence of God in these words. Words string together into sentences and sentences into paragraphs, but there is something so much deeper than well written prose and well-articulated passion. It's not the writing itself, but the Spirit within the author who has inspired the words. The presence of God leaks off these pages, whispering behind the words and drawing us closer and closer to Jesus. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I cherish every one of Heidi Baker's books, and of all of them, this one is perhaps the most complete, and the most articulate. This book comes from one of the giants of our generation, one of whom the world is not worthy. May we follow her as she follows Christ.

My thanks to Charisma House for providing a complimentary review copy. I have given an honest review.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Kingdom in Uganda (March 2014 Newsletter)

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established—that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. Romans 1:11-12
Paul wrote these verses in a letter to a church he had never met in a city and country he had never visited. In spite of never having met them, he knew that in Christ he had something to offer them and that they also had something to offer him. Together they would be encouraged and built up in Christ and receive a blessings and gifts from one another.
In February I experienced a life-changing blessing from the body of Christ in Uganda, and as part of a team from Wildfire Ministries International, blessed and gave to the Ugandan people. I cannot accurately describe the amazing miracle work of the Savior that went on during those weeks. While we were there the team participated in building an orphanage complex, trained pastors, held a women’s conference and a children’s conference, and put on a large scale evangelistic event that drew 5000 people. During the trip we saw well over 200 people make decisions for Christ, and well over 1000 people reported physical healing. We led three meetings where every person who was prayed for demonstrated verifiable physical healing. These 100% results came when we only prayed for one or two people and taught and encouraged the church to pray for each other in faith. These events alone would have been a life-changing experience, but there was so much more that impacted my spirit in that time.
 One of my favorite aspects of the trip was the preaching schedule. Art Thomas’s leadership was incredible, and I have never seen a team of people preach, teach, and minister together so effectively. I was able to preach twice a day almost every day of the trip and that included messages to pastor’s conferences, Bible School graduates, on international radio, and at the Evangelistic event to crowds of up to 3500, including the final night of the event, when I preached the final message and gave the altar call. Art Thomas demonstrated a true Ephesians 4 gifting and mindset by constantly equipping the team to minister in their gifts and callings. This led to multiple meetings going on at the same time where different members of the team were leading people to Christ, praying for the sick, and preaching the Gospel.
My perspective of Heaven has been expanded as I saw my Ugandan brothers and sisters worshipping before the Lord in their own language with passion and at times with tears. I could not understand the language, but I clapped my hands and stomped my foot to the drums and voices, caught up in the presence of God, aware that this sound would be added to the roar of the worship before the throne of the Lamb at the end of time. I was blessed to be able to participate in a prayer meeting every morning with a handful of pastors. We cried out to the Lord together, often at the top of our lungs, unashamed at the noise the Muslim neighbors were hearing. I was profoundly impacted by the faith, hope, and love of the pastors and leaders in the rural villages. Some had faced angry mobs and death threats, only to persevere and flourish a ministry that had seen the transformation or retreat of every Imam and witch doctor in their village. Many more live under constant threat and persecution. Their faith in the supernatural and constant perseverance was something I aspire to everyday.
I am already looking forward to my return to Uganda and other trips overseas. It is my desire to preach the Gospel in many nations. Thank you so much for your obedience and generosity in sending me to Uganda.

Read the rest of March 2014 Newsletter.
Read previous Newsletters.