A Lesson from Pakistan: Preparation

pakistan inside group

Missions Spotlight: Pakistan

Did you know that less than 3% of people living in Pakistan are Christians?  Pakistan is mainly a Muslim country.  Because of religious persecution and the law, our Christian brethren meet in homes.  Currently, we support seven home-congregations that believe as we do.

 

Why do you believe in God?  Have you ever been asked this question?  After being asked this question, I would often flounder around saying things like “Ummm because I was raised in it” or “because the Bible says it’s true” or “God and Jesus changed my life” (meanwhile I didn’t really know how they changed it).  When it came right down to it, I didn’t really know why I believed in God.  If we take our faith seriously, we are not allowed to stay in ignorance; we have to be ready.  There has probably been a time and place when we all had to give an account for our faith to someone, or at least when we have questioned our own beliefs.  Let’s take a look at 1 Peter 3:13 – 18 to see what a very wise man had to say about this subject.

 

“13 Who is [c]there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you [d]are blessed. And do not fear their [e]intimidation, and do not be troubled, 15 but [f]sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a [g]defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and [h]reverence; 16 [i]and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. 17 For it is better, if [j]God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. 18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the [k]spirit”

 

Verse 15 blankly states to always be ready to share your defense, or your testimony of the hope that lives in you!  So let’s get practical and dive into the nitty gritty of what a “defense meant to convince” might look like.  Here are several starters to get you thinking about what elements of your personal faith story are powerful to your testimony.

 

  1. Align your actions with Christ’s.

It’s not enough to just be different from the world.  Buddhists, Muslims, even moral atheists live differently from the world.  If you aren’t living like Christ than anything you say after that can as easily be dismissed as saying the word ‘hypocrite’.

 

  1. Highlight your personal change

Show how you lived before and how your life is different now, only through the power of God’s grace and strength; you couldn’t do this alone!

 

  1. Highlight your hope for the future

The kingdom of God resides here on the Earth now and in the future!!! This belief has given you purpose.  HOPEfully your peers will be able to perceive this from the way you have been living.  Our actions and mindset produce joy!

 

  1. Highlight the coming judgement

There is a judgement day approaching; it is sooner now than it has ever been.  This aspect is meant to help others perceive the urgency of believing

 

  1. Historical/ontological/teleological arguments for trusting the Bible

If you feel like you can articulate these aspects well, go for it! These are very valuable reasons for believing.  However, you do run the risk of appearing uninformed if the person you are talking to is studied up on these subjects.  You wouldn’t want someone to tear apart your arguments and thus misinterpret your testimony.

 

  1. Highlight the changes in others

Express stories of growth and change that you have witnessed in others.  This is a great time to offer a friend the chance to believe!

 

I encourage you to take some time and write out your testimony on paper.  That way, when the time comes you will have a “defense meant to convince” ready to go.

 

In Pakistan, people are not Christians because it is casual, it is the exact opposite.  With only 3% of the country practicing Christianity, our brothers and sisters are not doing it because of the trendy churches, or latest fad.  These people believe in God and Jesus because they have experienced it; they have a powerful testimony to share.  They have done the preparation and know that this is the best way of life.  Although it is not the popular belief, they are prepared disciples.  I am inspired by our brothers and sisters in Pakistan to testify boldly, and to stand ready to share my defense.

 

If you would like to support our family in Pakistan with Bibles and money for meeting grounds, please follow this link. Thank you! https://www.givelify.com/givenow/1.0/MjM0MDg=/selection

Love,

Josiah & Amber Cain

 

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A Lesson from Africa: Leadership

Missions Spotlight: Africa

africa church inside

400 CoG Churches spread across the plains and mountains of Malawi, Mozambique and Kenya.  This past year alone, there have been 23 new church plants in Mozambique and 7 in Malawi! This year, new Church headquarter buildings will be established in Mozambique and Kenya. God is moving in Africa! Pictured is a new church building in Kenya.

 

How did Jesus set up the church to work? Well I’m so glad you asked that question because that is the perfect question to help us lead into today’s topic which is leadership. Christ designed the church around a leadership, evangelism, and then discipleship model. This work begins when a leader who is strong in the faith and well educated on the gospel talks to people about it – a.k.a evangelism. So once this leader has effectively spread the gospel to someone and they decided that they want to become a follower of Christ they start down the path of discipleship. Discipleship is a Christianese word that means to train and grow someone in their faith. Once a person has spent a sufficient time studying the word and learning about Jesus they themselves become leaders and the cycle starts all over. This is how the early church went from 12 people to the official religion of Rome in 300 years! Jesus was our first leader who trained his 12 disciples and then they took it from there. Now that is a simplified version of the New Testament record but that is essentially what happened. The amazing thing is that this model of church has overcome persecution, death, plagues, famine, and time to reach us today. We can be proud that some 2,000 years later we are still carrying out Jesus’ great commission, “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” Matt. 28:19-20.

 

A perfect example of this leadership are the pastors of Africa bringing the gospel to their people. About 25 years ago a missionary from our conference discipled a single individual and today there are over 400 churches in Malawi, Mozambique, and Kenya. That is amazing – from 1 person to 400 churches in 25 years! God must be blessing these pastors and no small part of their success is due to their understanding of Biblical leadership. Even though these pastors don’t have the resources we have here in the states they still get the job done. They walk miles on foot to spread gospel, they live morally righteous lives, and sacrifice of themselves to spread the good news. If that isn’t a perfect model of leadership, I don’t know what is.  When I saw them in Africa, I saw Christ in them. I saw them spreading the gospel, making disciples, and empowering believers to be leaders themselves. I saw their undying loyalty to the truth and devotion to live righteous lives despite famine, war, death of children, and poverty; they do not give up and they effectively spread the gospel.

 

Let’s learn from and be inspired by our African brothers who spread the gospel with no fear or hesitation. They are living proof to one of my favorite scriptures Acts 1:8, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The best part of talking about all of this evangelism and leadership is realizing that the mission field is just as big here, in the USA, as it is in Africa. We need leaders now and in the next generation to come and speak truth. We also need to support our leaders now to continue to carry the truth.

 

If you would like to support our brethren in Africa with new church buildings along with fertilizer and seed for crops, please follow this link.  Thank you! https://www.givelify.com/givenow/1.0/MjM0MDg=/selection

 

Love,

Josiah & Amber Cain

 

A Lesson from Haiti: Perseverance

haiti

Missions Spotlight: Haiti

Under the direction of Lesly Bertrand, our conference supports 24 orphans with shelter, food and an education.  In addition to tending to the children, Pastor Lesly shepherds one of the 25 Haitian churches that share our beliefs.  He also meets with 21 ministers in the region for Bible study and leadership training each month.

 

This past week, some of our beloved family from Ohio came to stay with us.  Among the company, was our adorable 4-year-old niece, Melody.  The thing about Melody is, from 8AM to 9PM, she does not slow down.   From visits to the playground, building box forts, and painting masterpieces, to singing, dancing and acting on the fireplace hearth, Melody is in constant motion.

 

As I am worn out and ready to head to sleep at 7PM, I am reminded of Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 18.  The disciples come to Jesus and ask him just “who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus responds, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”

 

Melody is innocent, she trusts, she is content, and she makes friends at the Chick-Fil-A play-place within a matter of seconds.   Melody and her buddies fly through the play equipment and zip down the slide over and over and over again.  I get tired just watching her through the glass as I shove another french fry into my mouth.  Melody runs with perseverance.  As long as the sun is up, she never stops.  This zeal and energy brings me to 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

 

We are called to be children of God like Melody. We need to be going for his kingdom from sun up to sun down we can’t stop. I think that is what Jesus meant in Matt. 18. Children are fully reliant on their parents for everything. Like children, we need to be fully reliant on our heavenly father. Children trust without reservation. In the same way, we need to trust without reservation. Children are excited about life. Therefore, we need to be excited about this life and the life that we have to look forward to in the kingdom of God. If we can’t accept God in the simple way children accepts their parents, then we can’t live our Christian life the way Jesus wants.

 

Our conference supports 24 children in Haiti just like Melody.  While I have never met them, I can imagine they are full of energy and life.  When hurricane Matthew hit our brethren in Haiti a short time ago, they did not let the hurdles and obstacles of life defeat them as their churches and homes were crushed.  Instead, they had the mentality of a child.  They understood that their Creator provides for them, that He is always worthy of our praise.

 

Today, I am inspired by the orphans in Haiti to play harder.  I am inspired to take each step one at a time, and remember that God sees me through each situation, no matter how big or small.  I am inspired to run the race with perseverance and consistency; not just choose to serve Him or trust Him when it is easy.  I am inspired to live every moment, whether I am alone in my thoughts, or surrounded by friends and family, for the glory and honor of God.

 

If you would like to support an orphan in Haiti with food, shelter, and education or donate towards hurricane relief, please follow this link.  Thank you! https://www.givelify.com/givenow/1.0/MjM0MDg=/selection

 

Love,

Josiah & Amber

 

A Lesson from Nicaragua: Community

 

Missions Spotlight: Nicaragua

alex davila

Alex Davila leads a small group Bible study in Nicaragua.  He also maintains a public YouTube channel and radio broadcast, sharing the Good News.  If you would like to check his website out (La Biblia y las religions: The Bible and religion), you can visit http://labibliaylasreligiones.com. He is also a perfect Spanish-English bilingual and would love to hear an encouraging message from you! 

 

Pictured above is Alex preaching at the Lima Church in Peru.  We love it when Alex accompanies us when we travel to Peru. 

 

Community is a compound word: common and unity.  This means that we are a group of people unified by what we have in common.  This is a perfect example of the Body of Christ: unity through common beliefs. Just like our human bodies are unified by the drive to survive, the body of believers are unified by Christ.

 

Sometimes, as Christians, we can get caught up in our differences.  Quarrels over wine vs. grape juice for communion, tattoos vs. no tattoos as a Christian, and Sunday school before or after the church service take place all over the nation.  Now, some of these quarrels seem silly, but you know as well as I do that feelings are hurt over simple differences in ideas.  In Galatians 5:6, Paul reminds us “for in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love”.  It is our faith, exemplified by our love, that counts, not the small differences (or similarities) we may have.

 

Today, I want to remind you that we have more in common with one another than we have differences.  The Church should be the tightest-knit group of people in the universe.  We should have the highest sense of morale and comradery.  Watching the Olympics gets me hyped as I see hockey teams, and ice skating duos, curling teams (yes, even curling can be exciting) accomplish big things together.  Their sense of togetherness and years of hard work to achieve a common goal awakens my drive to seize the day.  Guess what, we have GOD and His son, JESUS CHRIST living in US!!! Imagine the radical acts of love we can achieve with divine power, strength and grace living in us.   Jesus says that the world should be able to know who we are by how we love one another.  What are you doing to show your neighbor your radial love?

 

You have probably heard this verse before, but I want to take it back to its original Greek.  1 Corinthians 6:19 – “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own..”. All of the times that you and your are mentioned in this verse they are actually plural which translates from the Greek into English as ‘you all’. Grammatically, this is known as the second person plural, and something our English Bibles hide from us sometimes because we do not have a direct translation for the second person plural that sounds nice in English. The closet thing we have in English is ‘you all’ or if you are in the south then ‘y’all’. Can you imagine your Bible saying “do you not know that y’all’s bodies are a temple of the Holy spirit”? Due to the mistranslation of this verse into English people usually take this verse on an individual level. The meaning of this text then becomes a verse used to support exercise to keep your “temple” nice however what the author originally intended was to mean the body of Christ is the temple. This means that how we treat each other as the body directly correlates to what the temple is like. That is a very important statement! When we are angry with or hate our fellow believers, we are desecrating the new temple that God has set up.

 

If you look at how the temple was treated in the Old Testament we see how holy and sacred it was. We need to translate the holy aspect of the Old Testament temple to the body of Christ today. So what exactly does it look like to be holy to each other? It is patience, kindness, forgiveness, and love. Next time you want to be angry at someone remember that how you treat them affects the holiness of the temple, the place that God dwells. Reading the passage for its original meaning is much more difficult than a simple command to exercise and eat well.  It is a command on how we should be as a community. Try reading the passage in this way, “Do you not know that your community is a temple of the Holy spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God”. This is Paul lifting the community of believers to a higher level. I encourage you to take up that call and to bring even more glory to God’s community of believers.

 

The latter half of Acts 2 describes a true community of Christ.  The Church devoted themselves to teaching, to fellowship, to breaking bread together, to giving to the needy, and all the while with glad and sincere hearts (Acts 2:42-47).  Let’s reach out to each other.  Let’s strive to love each other in a radical way that makes the world hunger for what we have.

 

Reaching out is exactly what Alex is doing in Nicaragua with his radio ministry.  Our love doesn’t stop within our culture, or backyard or our nation; we are an international community.  Although we can’t break bread with our brothers and sisters in Nicaragua, we can encourage them even from afar.  Alex would love to hear from you!  Just a simple message saying hi, the church you attend, and that you are thinking of him can go a long way.  You can find him on Facebook under the name ‘Alexander Davila’.  Remember, he is a perfect bilingual, so no need to use a translator.  Radical love awaits us ❤

 

Love,

Josiah & Amber Cain

 

 

Have Confidence!

1 Corinthians 15 58

We have come to the end of I Corinthians 15, also known as the Resurrection Chapter. The last few days we’ve had chunkier denser passages but today we end with just one verse:

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”

Paul has explained a lot in the previous 57 verses, such as:

  1. The resurrection appearances of the Lord to many groups and individuals including Paul himself (3-8)
  2. The absurdity of denying the resurrection if you hold to the faith (12-19)
  3. Jesus being the prototype of those who have fallen asleep in him. Just as Jesus was raised, so too you and I will also at his return (20, 23)
  4. All those “in Christ” can and will share in the victories of Jesus and have life (22)
  5. Our bodies will be raised completely transformed and glorified and we will receive the gift of immortality. Because of this transformation through Jesus we are able to have access to God and entrance into his kingdom (42-50)
  6. At the resurrection event sin and death will finally and completely be defeated and those “in Christ” will experience victory made possible by God in and through Jesus (54-57)

Then Paul concludes, “therefore”. In light of the resurrection and its implications, this is how you you should live. Paul says four things: be steadfast, be immovable, abound in the work of the Lord, and know your work is not in vain in Jesus. I want to take a moment to look at each one briefly.

To be steadfast is to hold onto something tightly and to be without waiver. In light of Jesus’ resurrection, no adversity we face in this life should have the power to keep us from remaining in the faith and and stop us from being obedient. In the same vein, we should be immovable. Our hope and faith in Christ should be immovable with the reality of Jesus rising from the dead and God’s promise to those who are in Christ. The next phrase is a call for action. Because Jesus rose from the dead and is coming back we should strive to work for the Lord. One, because we want to share the good news with all people and disciple them, and two, he will hold us accountable for the works we have done in the body, “for we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (II Cor. 5.10). Lastly, Paul offers encouragement. Being in ministry can be a grind and sometimes you wonder if you’re making a difference at all. Sometimes you won’t see the fruit of your labor and someone else will. But you know who won’t forget or miss all the work you do and the fruit that comes from it? God and Jesus. Because God is faithful and Jesus is returning we can have confidence and assurance that our work is not in vain because even though no one may remember the work we did or see anything come from it, God and Jesus see it. And you will be rewarded as such when Jesus returns and you are given life.

Thank you for reading and live life in light of the resurrection reality.

-Jacob Rohrer

 

(Photo by Alice Railton of Lake Waubee at Camp Mack in Milford, IN)

 

 

Resurrection, Transformation & VICTORY!

1 corinthians 15 52

Today’s section is over I Corinthians 15.50-57. In these seven verses there are two themes; transformation (50-53) and victory (54-57). Paul begins by stating that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” and then the next phrase clarifies the previous. The perishable (flesh and blood) cannot inherit the imperishable (the kingdom of God). What this tells us is that we, in our current bodies and untransformed state cannot behold the nature to something such as the kingdom of God. In fact for us to be able to enter the kingdom, we need to undergo a transformation which happens at the resurrection and is only available “in Christ”. Paul says this in the next verse – that we will not all sleep (a euphemism for death in the Bible) but we will all be changed and then he specifies what change will occur in verse 52-53. He states that when the last trumpet sounds the dead will be raised “imperishable” and be changed. It it this act of being transformed that allows us to be in the presence of God and Jesus in the kingdom of God. Verse 53 restates and says that this mortal must put on immortality. In other words, at the resurrection the believer will receive the gift of immortality and will be granted entrance into the kingdom of God.

There are two things I would like to point out. First, you may be wondering, why would I have to change or go through a transformation to be with God? Well I think the answer is a practical one. For example, say I wanted to explore the sun. I want to get really close to it to explore and study it. The problem is I wouldn’t be able to get very close to it because of the intense heat and radiation. It would kill me if I got too close. However, if I somehow was made of the same elements of the sun I would be able to approach it because I would be like the sun. In a similar fashion, God is holy, bright, and other wordly. There is nothing in our experience to compare him to, he is incomprehensible. For you or I to be in the direct presence of God, we would have to be like him in some way or else we would die from his glory and majesty. The transformation we need in order to be in God’s presence happens and takes place at the resurrection. Philippians 3.21 says that we will be transformed into the image of Jesus’ glorious body. And where has Jesus been? He has been enthroned at God’s right hand.

A second point is notice what Paul says in verse 53 “…this mortal must put on immortality”. To be mortal means the capability to die. Immortality means the incapability of dying. Yet what does popular culture and church tradition tell us? When we die our souls or spirits go to heaven or hell. However this is only possible if there is a part of us that lives on after death, in other words, to go to heaven or hell would require us to be immortal. But Paul says that this “mortal” (this body that doesn’t have immortality), will put on, or be granted immortality. In short, we are not immortal now but those “in Christ” will receive it at the resurrection. Here are three verses to further this point:

I Timothy 6.16 – “who (God) alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.”

II Timothy 1.10 – “…but now has been revealed by the appearing of our savior Jesus Christ, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

I Corinthians 15.52-53 – “…and the dead will be raised…and this mortal must put on immortality.”

In short, only God possesses immortality, it is available through Jesus and the gospel, and those “in Christ’ will receive it at the resurrection. Will we let this challenge our thinking about the traditional view of what happens after death? The hope that God has placed before Christians is the hope for the return of Jesus and the resurrection, not going to heaven. Paul finishes that once the resurrection event happens that death will finally be defeated and swallowed up. And the power of sin and death will be no more and God, Jesus, and those “in Christ” will be victorious! God has given us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ

-Jacob Rohrer

Resurrection Likeness

1 Corinthians 15_49 new

Today’s section (I Cor. 15.35-49) is a bit longer but it answers an important question. What will our resurrected bodies be like? The questions arises in verse 35 “…with what kind of body do they come?”. Paul answers this question in verse 42 but before he gets there he provides two analogies, we’ll go over just one though. In verse 36 and 37 he uses the example of a seed. A seed is sown or planted one way then sprouts a different and new way and when comparing the body to a seed he says “you do not sow the body which is to be…”, in other words, what comes out of the ground at the resurrection is not what goes into the ground at death. Paul is saying, the body undergoes a change just like a seed transforms when it is planted then sprouts.

In verse 42 he connects the analogies with the concept of resurrection, “so also is the resurrection of the dead..”. He then proceeds to distinguish two types of bodies, the one that is sown (the one that goes into the ground dead) and the one that is changed (the one that comes out of the grave transformed). To help see the contrast, I put verses 42-44 in a table:

It is sown It is raised
A perishable body An imperishable body
In dishonor In glory
In weakness In power
A natural body A spiritual body

 

Paul then picks up again the Adam-Christ parallel we saw in verses 21-22 in verses 45-49. The First Adam became a living soul but the last Adam (Christ) became a life-giving spirit. Whereas the first Adam was given life, the second Adam gives life. Paul continues this parallel into verse 47, the first man (Adam) is from earth, the second man (Christ) is from heaven. Now verse 47 is not talking about location but rather about identification. Adam is identified with the earth while sin runs rampant and the body is broken and damaged (see chart above); but Christ –  he is identified with heaven, where God is and where he is untouched by the brokenness of his creation. This is not saying that Jesus personally came from heaven to earth. Rather just as Adam is from earth in identification, Christ is from heaven in identification. Remember the context Paul is talking about is resurrection not Jesus’ origin. Then in verse 49 he concludes just as we have borne the image of the earthly (adam) so too will we bear the image of the heavenly (Christ). Here’s another chart to see the parallels:

The first Adam The second Adam
The first man is from earth The second man is from heaven
“Just as we have borne the image of the earthly..” “…we will also bear the image of the heavenly”
We are sown We are raised
A perishable body An imperishable body
In dishonor In glory
In weakness In power
A natural body A spiritual body

 

Now what does this all mean? When we are found “in Christ” our whole being including our bodies will be conformed to Jesus. Whereas our earthly natural bodies are powered by flesh and blood and will die, our resurrected bodies will be empowered by the spirit of God and will be glorified and will reflect the image of heaven. We will maintain our physical bodies, they will just be regenerated and powered by God’s spirit, this is the meaning of a spiritual body. Lastly, just as all of us have shared, in Adam, our earthly bodies, all those in Christ will share in his victory and his resurrected likeness. Thank you for your patience in reading this longer post today!

Have a blessed day and live boldly for the kingdom of God and Jesus!

-Jacob Rohrer