January 12, Thursday

Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor, Ph.D.) will present a series of blogs, dealing with various issues raised in the recent election that showed a deep divide, impacting both society at large and the church.  The thoughts presented are processed through the lens of the Radical-Middle (both/and), personal narratives, and pastoral concerns.  Your rational feedback is welcomed.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors.

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT FOR TODAY

A Pastor’s Story of Redemption from Mexico to America

Hebrews 11:34 (NIV): . . . whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.

Psalms 126:4-5 (ESV): Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negeb! 5 Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!

12It wasn’t long after I began to attend a church in Juarez, Mexico in 2000, (while attending a language school) did I realize how uninformed I was of what God was doing among the Mexican churches—they were sending out missionaries.  While the number of Mexican missionaries continues to grow, 75 percent go to just two countries: Spain and USA (David Markham).   Going to Spain is certainly understandable, since evangelicals make up only 1 percent of the population—but to America?

According to a 2013 Times cover story (“Evangélicos”), “Latinos are pouring into Protestant churches across the U.S.”, and that a shortage of trained pastors to lead what are mostly Charismatic congregations continues to be an issue. So it makes sense that pastors trained in Mexico are going to the States as missionaries.  Among the many pastors whom I was privileged to train, five of them currently pastor a Hispanic congregation in cities like Dallas, Nashville, and Porterville.  Meet one of them, Pastor Jonathan, who pastors a congregation in New Mexico.

When Jonathan, a German-descent Mexican in his late 20s, came to my class in 2004, he was a youth pastor at a nearby Assembly of God congregation—and he was eager to learn.  In his teens, he ran away from an abusive father, who forced him to sell things on the street, to live with a relative; there, he worked to support himself and finish high school.  And it was during this time of “weakness” that he came to know the Lord; God’s call to ministry came a little later.

After studying diligently with me for three years, he had progressed enough so that his superior allowed him to train other pastors with my courses.  Jonathan was happy for the opportunity but also nervous, since his students were older and more experienced pastors.  Working hard and praying even harder to prepare himself, he did great. Therefore, I was so disappointed when Jonathan informed me in 2006 that he was moving to New Mexico to take on a small pastorate; I was really hoping he would become a main instructor for the courses being produced.

Soon after we moved back to the states in 2011, Jonathan invited me to offer a course to his leaders and to preach.   Oh, how pleased I was to find that a church of 30 had grown to a congregation of over 200 adults and 100 kids!  Though the numbers do not always tell the right story, in this case, it did. Pastor Jonathan, who could have easily given up, didn’t; instead, he worked and studied hard and prayed even harder to be the right spiritual leader for his people, many of whom have led a hard life economically (e.g., working on the farm) and personally (e.g., family separation).  His radio and video ministry (“Practical Faith”) continues to impact many in the Hispanic community searching for answers.

The story of Pastor Jonathan reminds us that God is in the redemptive business of turning our sorrow and weakness into joy and strength, respectively, so that we can be useful for His kingdom work.  Trust God; work hard; pray harder. That is always the “winning” formula.

Prayer: Lord, how I exalt You for your steadfast love towards me.  Although I have given up on myself many times, You have always stayed close to encourage me.  Lord, although I cannot offer much, if at all, use me for Your Kingdom work.  Cleanse me, train me, and equip me so that I can be useful for You. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 2 Kings 12


LUNCH BREAK STUDY

Read Phil. 1:6, 2:13 (ESV): And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ . . . for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

2 Tim. 2:6 (NIV): The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.

1 Peter 2:11 (ESV):  . . . whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.  To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Questions to Consider

  1. What should be the basis of our confidence? How is this fundamentally different from humanism?
  2. What is the relationship between God strengthening us and us working hard?
  3. Ultimately, what are we trying to demonstrate by trying to be successful in the Lord?

Notes

  1. Our confidence stems from what God has promised. He promises to strengthen our will in order to produce the work that would please Him; on top of that, He is going to ensure that we finish what we have begun.  Humanism is relying on personal resources, without acknowledging or depending on God.
  2. Among several variables, one tangible connection is motivation. God’s strength motivates us to discipline ourselves to work hard and to yield the fruits desired by the Lord.
  3. We aren’t trying to tell the world how great and smart we are; instead, we want the world to know how great and awesome God’s power is to transform broken lives, thereby glorifying Him.

EVENING REFLECTION

How would you describe the day you had? Was it another mundane day?  Be silent before God and think through all that has happened today.  Perhaps you missed an encouraging voice from the Lord or a desperate cry of help from someone nearby.  Pray.   Are you down?  Remember the story of Pastor Jonathan and choose not to give in to your circumstances.  Remember Proverb 24:16b: “For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again.”  Si, se puede en Cristo! (Yes, it can be done in Christ!)

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